Saturday, 22 September 2018

Zman Simchateinu

The Nishma website at www.nishma.org presents various "Hot Topics" regarding important Torah concepts. One of these is simcha which has specfic importance to the holiday of Succot as this is to be the happiest time of the year. We invite you to look at the Nishma Hot Topic on simcha at http://www.nishma.org/hottopics.html#simcha, read the material sited and comment here as you wish.

Eqev, Mishnah, Sukkah - Perfect Misunderstanding

The Land Of Israel is Unique:

Dvarim 11:12

A land that the L-rd Your G-d always Seeks

Always Hashem's Eyes are upon her.

Rashi s.v. Tamid to See what she needs and to INNOVATE edicts sometimes for the good and sometimes for the evil.

##############

The mishnah was developed and redacted in the Land of Israel [EY]

Thus, it is logical and reasonable that the above supposition is a given premise - at least running in the background of the minds of the Tannaim.

##############

Mishna Sukkah 2:9

When it rains - they made a parable: like a servant who fills the goblet for his master and the master dumps it in his face.

Based upon Rashi, this is a case of a negative Gezeira that HKBH might C"V might create when Israel misbehaves in EY

##############

Perfect Misunderstanding

That is to assume when it rains in the Golah - such as in North America, that Hashem is altering the weather pattern of the masses to smite the few Jews - say in North America. This may be beyond mis-understanding and approaching hubris that the weather IN THE GOLAH - Sukkos or not - is only Jewis-centric.

This is because the context of this Mishnah has been ignored! And reasonable premises about a Jewish Society are illogically applied in a Gentile Society!

----------------------

May we all Merit to sit in the Sukkah in our Holy Land EY bimheira beyameinu

KT

RRW

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Parsha: Ha'azinu, "He Measured the Seas in the Hollow of His Hand"

We chose this article from  Nishma's Online Library  relating to the week's parsha, both to direct you to this dvar Torah and to start some discussion.

We encounter the artistic and poetic within Torah through the reading of Ha'azinu. It is with specifically this in mind that we direct you to the following article


Shalom,

RBH

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Parsha: Noah, "Cappara vs. Teshuva"

first published October 10, 2015

Parshat Noah, 6:15 S.V. "v'chafarta", R.S.R. Hirsch, New edition p. 182

The basic meaning of CPR is a protective or restrictive covering. In a sense, then, Copher means "Cover". Cappara is a covering.

V'al kol pesha-im techashe b'ahava...

In other words, to pray for Cappara is to pray that one's sins - or that the negative impact of these sins - will be covered up.

Teshuva is "returning to the state before sin". It is a retroactive process. Teshuva is the undoing of a sin.

Here is a mashal: A man gains weight and as a result his blood pressure rises.

Cappara would be to take blood pressure medication. The man is shielded from the deleterious effects of his weight, even though he is still heavy.

Doing Teshuva would involve the man's dieting and exercising, losing the weight and reducing the hypertension. In other words, restoring his body back to the healthy way it was before the weight gain altered its body chemistry.

Of course, Teshuva is a more complete process. A thorough Teshuva might take years.

Yom Kippur is more of a quick fix.  Perhaps it's necessary to take the palliative of Cappara before the cure of Teshuva is available.

Shalom,
RRW

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Parsha: Vayelech, "National Torah and Personal Torah"

We chose an article from the archives of Nishma's Online Library that relates to the week's parsha, both to direct you to this dvar Torah but also for the purposes of initiating some discussion.

This week's parsha is Vayelech, and the topic is the self. We invite you to look at an article on this topic. 

Shalom,


RBH

Haftarah -Scheduling of Shuvah and Dirshu

« In addition to the three haftarot of doom and the seven haftarot of consolation familiar to us, the Tosafot speak also of "two haftarot of repentance" belonging to this set of haftarot, namely Dirshu Hashem be-Himatzo that is read on Tzom Gedalya and Shuva Yisrael that is read this Shabbat.  This means that this entire set of haftarot constitutes a response to Tisha be-Av. 
The destruction of the Temple necessitates a two-fold response: 1) mourning over the loss of the Temple and the members of Israel who fell in battle; and 2) a process of repentance "in order to stir up the hearts and open the paths of repentance.  This should serve as a reminder of our own evil deeds and those of our forefathers that were as our present deeds to the point that they caused them and us these troubles, so that by remembering these things we should repent and do good."[1]
The first and immediate response to the destruction is consolation; it is urgently needed in order to revive Israel's dejected spirit and strengthen their broken hearts.  Following the great effort that was invested in this cause over the course of the summer, the time has come for the repentance that is required in the wake of the destruction as a repair of Israel's evil deeds that led to it.  We see then that reading the haftara of Shuva stems from a double obligation of repentance: a) the special obligation of repentance generated by the Ten Days of Penitence[2]; and b) an obligation of repentance in the wake of the destruction of the Temple, which is rooted in the laws of fasting, as is emphasized by the Rambam in the aforementioned passage.  Formulated in a slightly different manner, it might be argued that now that we have finished reading the haftarot of consolation, the time has come to act toward their realization and bring about the redemption.  This requires repentance and therefore we must deal with the issue of repentance in the haftarot that follow the haftarot of consolation.»
Torah on the Web - Virtual Beit Midrash
http://www.vbm-torah.org/archive/haftara/54shuva.htm


Kol Tuv,
RRW



Friday, 7 September 2018

In the Name of Religion

With Rosh Hashanah approaching, we wanted to direct you to various articles on the Nishma website that are connected to the day, including material on Akeidat Yitzchak. 

We have also reproduced below one these Insights connected to Rosh Hashanah and the Akeida -- INSIGHT 5762-#01: In The Name Of Religion --  which was, also, originally written in response to 9/11:

Insight 5758-19: Simcha and Rosh Hashana
Insight 5761-2: THE RENEWAL OF AUTUMN
Insight 5770-01: TESHUVA M'AHAVA
Update 5755-1: G-d
Journal 9: TSHUVAH
Update 5755-2: The Faith of the Akeida
Insight 5762-1: In the Name of Religion

 

INSIGHT
5762 - #01
In The Name Of Religion

Belief in a deity is one of the most frightening thoughts within human existence. Projection of an all-powerful divine being and an afterlife allows the human being to ignore the parameters of rationality and define life within totally different perceptions. Black can be white and white can be black. Right is potentially wrong and wrong is potentially right.

The monumental tragedy that befell the world last week is an example of the potential evil that can be the product of a belief. The intensely sad realization that these terrorists were, probably, shouting in praise of their deity as they flew the hijacked planes, filled with innocents, into their targets, causes one to shiver. Their religion turned black into white, declaring this heinous crime a divinely-ordained act; rather than fearing death, they embraced it as they expected a result of divine bliss. There are those that argue that atheism is the root of the greatest evil. History in general, and Jewish history in particular, I believe, cries otherwise. The greatest evil is done in the name of religion.

Of course, there are those who will contend, pointing to Nazism as the strongest proof, that atheism is still the root of greater evil. Still, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
1 insists that the Holocaust could not have taken place if not for the Catholic Church's preaching against the Jew over the centuries. It is religion that can define a person sub-human and deserving death even as our eyes only see a human being like all other human beings. It is religion that can turn evil into good. Atheism can cause one to act destructively but only within the borders of concrete self-interest. Religion can cause one to act beyond these parameters.2 Ramban writes, at the end of The Disputation, that King James of Aragon declared, in reference to Ramban, that never before has he seen one who is without justice argue so well. Logic and arguments do not sway the one who acts in the name of religion. He is locked into his conclusion; his belief in his deity - and what he believes his deity to command - inherently defeats any argument. There is no point of conversation; there is no point of connection. The result is frightening.

But Judaism and Torah are different - that is what we would say. That is what we would like to believe. But is it so? And if so, how? When Khomeini came to power, a friend of mine told me that he felt that it was a great shame that Khomeini was not Jewish. What a wonderful Jew he would make, was my friend's declaration. I shuddered at the thought, but on the surface was he not correct? Do we not praise overall commitment to faith? Is there not a value in remaining adamant in our convictions even as the nations of the world challenge them?
3 Do we not place the Will of God above the parameters of human morality? Even as I am revolted by the actions of these religious terrorists - and I stand in total opposition not only to their faith but their very idea of faith - I recognize that the language of Torah could be similarly hijacked to present a false defence of evil. How do I show that this would-be hijacking is not within the truth of Torah?

Akedat Yitzchak, the binding of Isaac,
4 is read on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. It is a most powerful statement of faith but, more importantly, it is a statement of the priority of the Will of God over our moral senses. Yet this idea opens the trap for the pitfalls of religion. Parameters are lost; belief opens the realm of possibilities. Akedat Yitzchak is frightening. Without this idea, however, God is no longer God. God is no longer above all for God becomes subject to parameters. Unbridled belief is frightening but with any parameters God becomes bound. As such, religion, to truly reflect God, must be boundless and accept the possibility of that which is beyond us. To accept God means to accept the possibility that what He declares white is, in fact, white even as we see black. This is not only part of Torah, it must be part of Torah. And it is frightening.

It is Akedat Yitzchak itself that provides the answer - and the answer is confusion. Avraham says to Yitzchak that God will show the lamb for the sacrifice. Avraham says to the servants: we will return. Notwithstanding Rashi's comments, the simple reading is confusion. This is reinforced in Yalkut Shimoni, Bereishit 101 which describes Avraham questioning God at the conclusion of the episode. If God already declared that Yitzchak was to be the father of Avraham's generations, how could God call for his sacrifice? The question is not a challenge of God. The question is the greatest statement of the Omnipotence of God. When we question, we recognize the chasm that exists between us and God. And God's answer to Avraham was that Avraham was mistaken - God never ordered a sacrifice. If a chasm exists between Man and God, how can Man ever be sure that he has heard God correctly? We are called upon to listen to God but as human beings - and that must demand confusion. Are we ever sure? As human beings the answer must be no even as we strive to act in accordance with the Divine command. Thereby, we recognize the Awesomeness of God.

The problem of belief lies in the need for the human being to be sure. He thinks that his belief is sure when he ignores all other voices - within himself and within humanity - and gives himself up to his "beliefs." He thinks he then hears the true voice of the deity. But he in fact only hears his own voice - exactly because he is sure. Reliance upon our Divinely-given human perceptions is how we approach the world - they are necessary. They cannot be forsaken. But in recognition of the Divine, they also cannot be relied upon totally. When there is collision - there is confusion. It is at this point of confusion that we truly find God. Dogma and fanaticism believe that they find the deity in certainty - a certainty that declares normal human perceptions incorrect. Torah declares that we find God in our own recognition that we do not understand. We wonder, we question, we challenge, we strive for synthesis of our internal perceptions and the external directive; we wish to make sure that we truly hear God's voice - and we doubt. Not because we doubt God but because we doubt ourselves and our ability to hear God. We are overwhelmed by His Presence.
Khomeini could never have been a good Jew because he could not question himself. He could not be unsure; he could not be confused. Certainty results in the creation of a deity in the image of a man. This is the realm of evil - the source of the greatest evil for there is no parameters on such human beings. The perception of Torah is that God has no parameters - but the human being does. We are not God. The more we understand the awesomeness of the gulf between us and God, the more we must recognize our lack of comprehension even as our lives, through the study of Torah, are devoted to that comprehension; even as our lives, through the commands of Torah, demand action.

Ultimately this is the lesson of Akedat Yitzchak. We stand in confusion in the presence of God. On Rosh Hashanah, as we declare God, King, we are called upon to recognize the chasm that exists between us and Him. It is in this unsurety that the Jew remains unique and Torah can never be hijacked by evil - the evil of Man thinking he is sure, of Man pretending to be God.

Rabbi Benjamin Hecht
Notes
1 As presented in Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff, The Rav, Insight 18.10.
2 Another response to the challenge that atheism is a greater root of evil can be found in Rabbi Soloveitchik's further argument that the various modern "isms" - communism, fascism - are, in fact, forms of idolatry. See Rabbi Abraham Besdin, Reflections of the Rav, "Profundity of Jewish Folk Wisdom" and "Teaching with Clarity and Empathy." Belief reads into reality constructs that are not otherwise there; the "Isms" do this as well as conventional religion. In the movie Schindler's List, the chilling execution of the Nazi commandant drives home this point.
3 See Rashi, Bamidbar 19:2. Furthermore, the various attacks, throughout history, upon circumcision always demanded such Jewish conviction. See, for example, Tanchuma, Tazria 5.
4 Bereishit 22:1-19.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Limits of Rabbinic Authority


Originally posted 8/26/07, 3:15 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.

Are there any objective limits to Rabbinic Authority? Or can rabbis rule subjectively and perhaps capriciously to advance their opinions, ignoring Black letter Law or the concept of Eilu v'Eilu? This subject was previously broached on Nishmablog, here. More than ever, it is something to consider seriously.

Here is an e-mail I sent to The Jewish Week that was recently published. More background on this matter is available and BEH will be published on this thread or subsequent threads.
(08/24/2007)
Rabbinic Decisions
I would like to echo the remarks of Rabbi Noah Gradowsky (Letters, July 13). Certainly Orthodox rabbis should be empowered to render decisions concerning halacha [Jewish law]. That said, I have two caveats: First, they should not make decisions that are absolute when the matter is in dispute. The Lower East Side eruv controversy comes to mind. Some Orthodox rabbis are prohibiting making an eruv. Instead, they should be merely rendering an opinion as to the eruv"s validity.

Second, rabbis should not be "thought police." People should be entitled to think for themselves. The hidden thoughts are for God alone to determine. At most, rabbis can rule on prescribed behavior. However, the philosophy as to how best to implement laws should remain a matter for open-minded debate.
Rabbi Richard Wolpoe
Teaneck, N.J.
NB: The Hidden Thoughts refer specifically to "hanistaros L'Hashem Elokeinu" - [end of Shlishi in Parshas Nitzavim]. While a Beth Din has every right to enforce behavioral standards "v'haniglos lany ul'evaneinu" nevertheless our intimate thoughts [and possibly intimate behavior] are "bein Adam Lamakom" alone.

Lo Bashamayim Hee

Originally published 5/27/08, 12:37 AM.
 Some give and take on Avodah with regard to Parshat Nitzavim

First Cantor Richard Wolberg:
«The Sages relate that the angels complained to Hashem when He chose to share His precious Torah with His people. They argued, "Your glory (Your Torah) should remain among the Heavenly beings. They are holy and Your Torah is holy, they are pure and Your Torah is pure and they are everlasting and Your Torah is also." One of the answers to that is three words from the Torah: "Lo bashamayim hee".

However, Midrash Shochar Tov 8 says that Hashem responded that the Torah could not remain amongst them because they are perfect spiritual beings with no mortality, impurity or illness. Hashem's true glory would ultimately come from man plagued by impurity and mortality.
Cantor R Wohlberg»

Then RRW:
«Hazal wanted us to know that once the Torah left the heavens it would no longer remain the pristine Perfect Handiwork of HKBH, but would henceforth be managed and interpreted by error-prone humans. Nevertheless - despite the loss of innocence for the Torah - this step was necessary. The time had come for the innocent Torah to mix it up with the mortals and to help us even if if would not remain in its original state.

------------------------------------------

Hence though Torah started miSinai, it is not necessarily purely miSinai any longer. It is now an admixture.

~*~*~*~

Now for Michael Markovi:
A much-expanded version of a previous post of mine to this thread, regarding my...err...radical view of TSBP:

Rabbi Moshe Shmuel Glasner makes a large point of this, saying that the truth of Torah She'be'al'pe is not what Hashem says but what we say (Rabbi Eliezer and the oven), in line with Drashot haRan #5 on theoven and Sefer haChinuch on the mitzvah of following the judges, that
we follow our rabbis even when they're wrong.

See also Rabbi Gil Student's "Halachic Responses To Scientific Developments"
(http://www.aishdas.org/toratemet/science.html)
citation of Yad Yehuda 30:3, quoting Rambam Hilkhot Shekhita 10:12-13, that we cannot question Chazal's decisions regarding which animals are treifa, because all we have is Chazal's decisions, and they are sealed.

According to Rambam, drashot can be overturned by a later Sanhedrin.

In fact, Rabbi Glasner, quoting the Midrash Shmuel on Avot, "aseh sayag laTorah", says that the Oral Law was oral davka to make it flexible and subject to change. This explains the Gemara's apocalyptic permission to write the Oral Law, viz "eit la'asot lashem"; by writing the Oral Law, to save it, a vital piece of it was destroyed, part of its raison d'etre in fact! Because once a piece of the Oral Law was written, it became authoritative, and no longer subject to change and
evolution as was previously the case.

Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits (who received semicha from Rabbi Glasner's son, Rabbi Akiva Glasner) expands extensively on this point, that the writing of the Mishna, Gemara, and the Codes successively ossified the halacha in a way that the Oral Law was never meant to be, making us Karaites of the Oral Law.

See Rabbi Glasner's hakdamah to his Dor Revi'i, perush on Chullin. It is partially translated by Rabbi Yaakov Elman at
http://www.math.psu.edu/glasner/Dor4/elman.html.
See also the biography by David Glasner at
http://www.math.psu.edu/glasner/Dor4/Dorrev7.html.
As for Rabbi Berkovits, he makes his points in a variety of locations, including Not in Heaven: The Nature and Function of Halakha (aimed at secularly-educated scholars), Halakha: Kocha v'Tafkida (aimed at rabbinical scholars), Towards Historic Judaism, and Crisis and Faith.

Rabbi Glasner simply takes this entire philosophy a bit further thanmost. Likewise Rabbi Berkovits on Moshe seeing Rabbi Akiva's class andnot understanding and learning from this that Torah does evolve overtime; both are more extreme than most, but the gist of what they say is quite normative, as far as it seems to me. In fact, once we say that

1) halachot could be forgotten and had to be recovered by humans, 2) many drashot were in fact used by humans to actually derive the law(often **but not always** they were asmachtot for laws already knownas kabbalot)

(See, for example, Dynamics of Dispute by Rabbi Zvi Lampel, "Interpretation" by Menachem Elon in Encyclopedia Judaica, Rabbi Isidore Epstein's introduction to the Soncino Midrash Rabbah, Rabbi Gil Student "Midrash Halakha" at
http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2004/11/midrash-halakhah.html)

we are admitting the human element of many halachot, and we can no longer say it is purely m'Sinai as most say Torah She'be'al Pe is, and we are forced, as it seems to me, to adopt some sort of opinion similar if not as extreme as those of Rabbis Glasner and Berkovits, as least as far as theory goes (Rabbi Berkovits's actualization of thisphilosophy is a matter for a separate debate.)

Therefore, for example, we ought to realize that an Amora's explanation of a Tanna may be his own personal thoughts, similar to any rav's understanding today of the intent of a prior authority. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in his Essential Talmud remarks on the peculiar Talmudic method of okimta, remarking that it aspires not for historicity, but rather, it attempts to make as many pieces of evidence agree as much as it possible.

There is thus no guarantee that a creative drasha is the correct intent of Torah, nor is there any guarantee that an Amora correctly understood a Tanna - see Tosafot Yom Tov Nazir 5:5 for permission to permit mishna differently than the Gemara.

Evidently, the Shadal (Shmuel David Luzzatto) held similarly to this whole line of thought, that Chazal's drashot on mikra are not necessarily "correct". See Shmuel Vargon's "Samuel David Luzzatto's Critique of Rabbinic Exegesis Which Contradicts the Plain Meaning of Scripture",http://www.biu.ac.il/JS/JSIJ/sum2.html
(note: my Hebrew is 
insufficient to have read this article yet, so I am relying on the abstract).

Rabbi David Bigman, rosh hayeshiva of Yeshivat Maaleh Gilboa (on Har haGilboa in the Jezre'el), for example, advocates critical Talmud study, asking, for example, what the Tanna meant independent what the Amora thought he meant; what different codifications of Oral Law say (Bavli, Yerushalmi, Tosefta, etc.), each in their own light. See his "Finding a Home for Critical Talmud Study",
http://www.edah.org/backend/JournalArticle/bigman2_1.pdf,
http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/talmud/Gemara/ModernStudy/BigmanCritical.

The Kuzari in 3:41 opines that the omer could be brought on any date chosen by Chazal, and it was Chazal who chose the second day of Pesach. If so, then it means the contrary opinions of the Tzadukim (that it was to fall on Sunday, as the literal mikra indicates) is wrong only insofar as it goes against the binding ruling of Chazal, and not because it was an invalid drasha. It seems to me that perhaps alternatively, we simply don't listen to Tzadukim even if they are correct; there is a story in the Gemara of one rabbi being put to death, and he realized it was because he once found a drasha of a min to be pleasing; even though the drasha was valid, he still should have ignored it. In any case, we can extrapolate that in general, freedom of midrash is restricted more by Chazal's binding decisions than any claim of theirs to being the only correct opinion.

I thank Rabbi Yaakov Elman of Yeshiva University for providing me with sources (most notably, he introduced me to Rabbi Glasner when I mentioned Rabbi Berkovits), as well as having extensive discussion with me on their implications. It should be noted, however, that this philosophy is still a work in progress by me, especially as I continue to learn more Chumash, Gemara, and Halacha. It should also be noted that any errors are mine, not Rabbi Elman's, as he has already pointed out certain errors in my thinking, and no doubt there are still more to be found.

Mikh'el Makovi

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Parshah: Ki Tavo - Arami Oved Avi

Question 1:
Why did Chazal choose Arami Oved Avi to illustrate the Central theme of Exodus in the Haggadah as opposed to - for example - Parshat Bo?
And given that there is a Tosefta (Peshachim 10:8) that states: "Those who live the in the city and have nobody to recite Hallel would gather in the shul".

Question 2: 
How would you know how to lead a Seder without knowing how to lead Hallel?
Here is a proposed answer to the 2 questions 
 
Originally, all farmers, when they brought the Bikurim, the first fruit, would recite Arami Oved Avi. So Chazal chose Arami Oved Avi to explain the Exodus because every farmer in Israel would be familiar with Arami Oved Avi when they brought the bikkurim annually to the Beit Hamikdash in Yerushalyim.

Now we can answer both questions because we can now explain:

1. Why Hazal specifically picked this Parsha over any other
2. How a Leader at the Seder could be familiar with the Haggadah [Arami Oved Avi] yet still not be familiar with how to lead the Hallel

RRW

Ki Tavo: Free Choice

From the archives of Nishma's Online Library at http://www.nishma.org/, we have chosen an article that relates to the week's parsha, both to direct you to this dvar Torah but also for the purposes of initiating some discussion.

This week's parsha is Ki Tavo and the topic is free choice. So often, people use the argument of free choice to explain why knowledge of God is not clear -- for it it was, we would not have free choice but would clearly not sin -- and/or to contend that there can be no consequences for our actions -- for if there were, we would not have free choice as, for sure, we would do what is good for us. If one considers the brachot and klalot in the Torah, though, one must recognize that free choice exists even when knowledge of God is absolute and the recognition of the consequences of one's actions, even the punishment for sins, is clear and accepted. We invite you to look at an article on this topic at http://www.nishma.org/articles/insight/insight5757-18.htm

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Parshah Ki Teitzie 9/11, Amaleik, Honesty and Anti-Semitism

The juxtaposition of honest weights and measures has been used by Hazal to be a causal connexion.; viz. when Jews are dishonest in business the specter of Amaleik rears its ugly head. And I have heard similar statements by Holocaust survivors. Supposedly, Anwar Sadat had anti-Semitic feelings due to being ripped off as a youngster by a Jewish businessman.

So be it.

But I would like to suggest as slight nuance shift. The concept that dishonesty in business triggers Anti-Semitism or Amaleik is difficult to perceive. How can the simple act of being dishonest bring about full-fledged persecution?

I would suggest an alternative way of understanding this point. I.E. that there are Latent Anti-Semites all over the place. However, when we Jews behave ourselves we merit Divine Protection. However, when we Misbehave we are stripped of this special shield and we are now VULNERABLE to Amaleik or Anti-Semitism. This might be viewed as a form of negative re-enforcement philosophically speaking; nevertheless in pragmatic and historical terms this can explain how a relatively minor infraction can trigger such a virulent response.

The late Jerry Falwell and other Christian Leaders voiced a similar point of view [POV] with regard to 9-11. and that is normally America merits Divine Protection but for some misbehaviour this Divine Shield was removed. In the case of the Christian Right, that was attributed to Sexual deviance, etc. While the specific attribution might betray a right-wing or Fundamentalist mindset, the concept of Divine Protection being removed is IMHO indeed a very legitimate Jewish, Midrashic concept. In the case of us Jews, the shield subject to business practices. Woe unto us re: some recent allegations re: some prominent Jewish Businesses.

In the case of America I have no idea which sin was the egregious one that removed this Divine Protection. Perhaps the Christian Right has it right, but it is also possible it has it wrong. If the Dor Hamabbul is a precedent for the world at large, the issue would be "hamas" or a form of thievery - not sexual deviancy. Nevertheless. the impact is similar, i.e. that any catastrophe must bring about active introspection and is a call for self-improvement regardless of the specific shortcoming. To put it another way. the Christian Right might have the specific misdeed all wrong but could also be 100% correct that SOME misdeed permitted this plot to succeed and we are therefore impelled to take this as a wake up call.

With thoughts of Elul time Teshuva,
RRW

Parsha: Ki Teitzei, "War and the Innocent Bystander"

This week's parsha is Ki Teitzei and the topic is the response to terrorism. In the response to terrorism, the practical reality is that there is always a great possibility that innocent individuals will also be hurt and killed. How do we understand this action within the Torah's moral perception?

We have chose the article, War and the Innocent Bystander from the archives of Nishma's Online Library both to direct you to the Dvar Torah and to initiate some discussion.


Shalom,

RBH

Re: [Avodah] proofs of G-d



On Nov 21, 2007, 5:38 AM, Marty Bluke <marty.bluke@gmail.com> wrote:
Meshech Chochma( Shemos 13:9)writes:

"Divine Providence is manifest for each Jew according to his spiritual
level as the Rambam explains in Moreh Nevuchim (3:18): Divine
Providence is not equal for everyone but rather is proportional to
their spiritual level. Consequently the Divine Providence for the
prophets is extremely powerful each according to their level of
prophecy. The Divine Providence for the pious and saintly is according
to their level of perfection. In contrast the fools and the rebels
lacking spirituality are in essence in the same category as animals...
This concept that Divine Providence is proportional to spiritual level
is one of foundations of Judaism..."

Today, this idea (that the Chinuch explicitly rejects) of hashgacha
pratis on everything has taken hold. There is no question that it is a
very calming thought. You don't have to worry about chance occurrences
affecting you, everything is directly from Hashem. However, this was
not the view of the overwhelming majority of the Rishonim.

Regarding Moznay tzedek and Amaleik:

At the end of parshas Ki Teittzei there is the juxtaposition of Business ethics and Amaleik.
Questions:
  1.  how does a failing of business ethics give Amaleik any power over us?
  2. Aren't there anti-Semites all of the time,  What's new about this situation.
Speaking to my congregation - consisting of many survivors of the Nazi regime - I explained it thusly:
The normal/usual situation is that there are ALWAYS anti-Semites out there. BUT it is only when we fail to live up to the Torah standards of Business Ethics that Hashem ALLOWS them power over us [kind of hester panim due to our bad behavior]

Simlarly Ya'kov Avinu was promised safe passing by HKBH but was afraid of "shema yigrom hacheit" But we know from Rambam et. al. that HKBH never takes away a POSITIVE promise?  Shema yigrom might remove the higher level of protection that was required. [ e.g. vayhi chitas Elokim....]

L'havdil, many Evangelicals felt that 9-11 was a result of Hashem withdrawing His usual protection of America due to America's mis-behavior.  So this idea of removing Protection in the face of Sin is a fairly common concept.

--
Kol Tuv / Best Regards,
RabbiRichWolpoe@Gmail.com
Please Visit:
http://nishmablog.blogspot.com/

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof

From RRW

The classic question is why the repetition of Tzedek‎?
I don't recall who said this answer first....

Look at this way:

See the first Tzedek ‎as an adjective
Thus translate it as:
"Just Justice shall you pursue"

It's not enough to seek Just Ends
They must be pursued via Just Means

L'havdil, the US Constitution echoes this
"No one may be deprived of Life, Liberty, or Property without due process of Law."

Taking the Law into one's own hands is not acceptable. (wth rare exception)

Shooting George Wallace or Yitzchak Rabin is not an OK approach. 

Parsha: Shoftim, "To King or Not to King"


Canadians will undoubtedly favour the Royalist Position whilst Americans will surely prefer the Republican Position!

The Torah states that: when you [Bnei Yisrael] ask for a KING,  "'I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are round about me" (Devarim: 17:14) you shall surely place one - Even [or especially] when asking to be like the surrounding nations.

Sh'muel [with Hashem's approbation] protests that his people requested a King just like "the Goyim." (Shmuel I 8:5).

Shmuel's protestations all make sense if our Sidrah-Parsha is stating that this royal appointment is optional and subjunctive to a request. In that case, the objection was to the request for appointing a King. Once requested, it must be fulfilled,  according to the law in our Parshah.

However, Rambam Sefer Hamitzvot et. al. states that a king is a requirement.  This implies that the request is also obligatory. Sh'muel's protests then seem difficult to fathom.

I have some answers but I was wondering what you readers might say?

Shalom,

RRW

Shoftim: The False Prophet

From the archives of Nishma's Online Library at http://www.nishma.org/, we have chosen an article that relates to the week's parsha, both to direct you to this dvar Torah but also for the purposes of initiating some discussion.

This week's parsha Shoftim and the topic is the the navi sheker, the false prophet. The issue is not solely the person who lies about speaking in the name of God but the issue is also the message. The issue concerns any distortion of Torah. We invite you to look at an article on this topic at http://www.nishma.org/articles/insight/spark5756-22.html

Saturday, 4 August 2018

To'eva

From the archives of Nishma's Online Library at http://www.nishma.org/, we have chosen an article that relates to the week's parsha, both to direct you to this dvar Torah but also for the purposes of initiating some discussion.
 

The topic is the the term to'evah, usually translated as abomination. The term is often used by proponents of different ethical perspectives as a further indication of the significance of their ethical stance. The fact is, though, that the use of this term in the Chumash itself may not actually provide support for such assertions. We invite you to look at an article on this topic at http://www.nishma.org/articles/insight/spark5754-27.htm.

Parsha: Emor, "Is Sefirat ha'Omer One Mitzva or Two?"

originally posted August 9, 2015

The Rambam firmly construes Sefirat Ha'Omer as one MitzvahSefer HaHinuch concurs with the Rambam's read. Abbaye, however, affirms in the Talmud that just as it is a Mitzva to count days – so it is a Mitzva to count weeks. 

These passages strongly suggest two separate MitzvotIn Parshat Emor we read, "Tisp'ru Chamishim YOM" (Vaykira:  23: 16), while the text states in Parshat R'eih, "Sheva Shavuot Tispar Lach" . (Devarim: R'eih: 16:9Doesn't it seem obvious that the two verses in the Torah describe two separate but equal actions?

Problem: How can an individual nowadays simply argue with the Rambam - especially without any further support? Furthermore, must I not construe the silence of so many peer reviews that as implicit acquiescence? 

A rabbinic intern recently provided an informative answer in his shiurRabbeinu Yerucham considers Sefirah as two separate MitzvotHe also posits that as well. My hypothesis now has supporting evidence.

I asked the speaker how he had found this relatively obscure source. He had noted that the new edition of the Minhat Hinuch has this source cited in the footnotes. This indicates that the matter assumed to be a slam dunk by the Hinuch is, in reality, a matter of dispute. Rabbeinu Yerucham had already articulated this voice of opposition, so I need no  longer be concerned about the silence of the peer review.


Case Closed


-------------------------------------------------


Comment On Original Post.

Aside from a bit of Talmud Torah - why did I post this comment?

Sometimes we see something and we assume it to be axiomatic, mutually agreed upon. In attempting to master rational thinking, I came across the concept of "not jumping to conclusions".  After all, if Jews are always questioning,  why was the Rambam's ruling of only one mitzva never questioned? It seemed likely that seeing it as two mitzvoth was an equally good read.

Failing to research this myself, I humbly concluded that Rambam won by acclamation. Case Closed. QED. 

However, after attending a Shiur in which the rabbi found a source that did challenge this Rambam, I had to recant.  Now I realized that my question - my observation - had some validity in classic sources.  It was just unnecessary for other sources to question the Rambam once Rabbeinu Yerucham posed his challenge. I could no longer construe their silence as acquiescence to the Rambam's decision.

In fact, I could now conclude nothing. Although, I now suspect that the silence is possible confirmation that both reads are about 50-50. and therefore no one needs to enter the fray to reject either side as off-target.

This is an important principle to realize: just because we have not seen a competing source does not mean it is not there! I must also confess to not researching the matter in depth. It therefore has also taught me a bit of humility.

Shalom,

RRW

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Eqev: Who Inscribed the Second Luchos?

Originally published 8/5/09, 6:45 pm.

Given:
Hashem both carved and inscribed the First Luchos.
Moshe hewed the Second set of Luchos
Who inscribed this second set?

We have some ambiguities in the text.
We can resolve them by means of the 13th principle of Rabbi Yishma'el: 'Vechein sh'nei ch'suvim  amach'chishim ze es zeh..'

First the conflicting bit:
1. Shnei Ch'suvim:
Shmos 34:1, HKBH writes the Second Luchos: "V'chasavti al halluchos"

2. Sh'mos 34 "K'sav lecha.." Moshe is writing on (luchos? Or something else?)

Although the two do not completely contradict each other, they do seem ambiguous.
This week's Parsha, Eqev, to the rescue!
The scale tipper: Hakkatuv hashlishi:

3. Dvarim Eqev Ch. 10:2-4 "v'echtov al halluchos" where it is clear that HKBH wrote on the 2nd Luchos.
I think this structure is clear. Therefore, in #2, Moshe probably wrote something else or wrote the dibros upon something else, like parchment.

KT,
RRW

Parsha: Equev, "Defining 'Eqev' via the 'Concordance Technique' "

Rashi uses the Concordance Technique  to define some difficult or ambiguous words. A great illustration is the verb "PSCh" as in "Ufasachti alleichem" (Shmoth 12:13) There Rashi offers 2 definitions:
  1. "V'hamal." "Hashem will have mercy." Rashi bases this upon Yeshaya 31:5. It matches the Targum "v'Yeihos"
  2. "V'dileig" based upon Melachim I 18:21. This matches the modern "passover" to skip over or to jump over
------------------------

Now for the background of "Eqev."
  • Targum states Halaf meaning "in exchange." 
  • Rashi Midrashically puns: "Those mitzvoth that one tramples with one's heel"
------------------------

Although Rashi himself did not choose to use the Concordance Technique here, Rashi frequently offers a subset of the range of "valid" techniques and definitions.

"Eqev" appears in Humash five times:
  1. Eqev asher shama Avraham Beqoli (Breishit 22:18)
  2. Eqev asher shama Avraham b'Kqoli (Breishit 26:5)
  3.  Eqev hayeta Ruch Achereth imo (Bamidbar 14:24)
  4. Appears in Eqev itself, in conjunction with the verb "lishmo'a" totaling four of five instances. (Devarim: 7:12)
  5. Again, in Eqev. (Devarim: 8:20)
Cases 1 and 3 are the key for me. Both involve "nisayyon" IE crisis situation
  1. The Aqeida
  2. This is a generic use of the word "Equev," but since they both refer to Avraham, it is feasible to hook it onto one.
  3. The Meraglim
This means that Eqev may be more precisely understood to mean "Halaf," in exchange for listening/obeying - or for being - "UNDER DURESS."

Now four and five can be understood.
4. "And it shall be when you obey Under Duress (you shall be blessed...)" (Devarim: 7:12)
5. "...and when you fail to obey Under Duress..." (Devarim: 8:20)

And abandon Hashem...

Shalom,

RRW


Parsha: Eqev, "Who Wrote the Second Luchot?"

It always seemed Pashut to me that Moshe carved the second set of luchot and that Hashem wrote on them.

Once, a Rav happened to briefly mention that Moshe wrote the latter set of luchot in his drasha. I found this far-fetched at the time. Today, I find it completely untenable.

Just take a look at the parsha. It seems clear that Hashem wrote on the second set of luchot. (Eqev: 10: 2-4)

Shalom,

RRW

Monday, 23 July 2018

Parsha: Va'etchanan, "The Perception of Torah"


How does the world view us?

On the one hand, many see our laws as somewhat odd. Rashi  himself writes, in the beginning of parshat Chukkot, that the nations of the world will mock us. Yet, doesn't Devarim 4:6  declare that the nations of the world will also see us, through our laws, as a "wise and understanding people"? So, which is it?

Should we expect the world to mock or praise us and our observance of mitzvot?

We invite you to look at the following Nishma Spark of the Week for a response to this question.

Shalom,

RBH

Parsha: V'etchanan, "Yashar and Tov"

This week's parsha is Va'etchanan. The topic is the source of ethics, and most specifically,  the terms yashar and tov. In our ethical behaviour, do we search solely for Divine approval? Is there value in human approval? We invite you to look at an article on this topic at Nishma's Online Library.

Shalom,

RBH

Yitro Vs. Ruth

originally published on 1/12/14

We read the 10 Dibrot on both P. Yitro and on Shavuot, and technically on vo'Etchanan, too! We also read the Scroll of Ruth on Shavuot so we can easily "connect the dots" between Ruth and the Dibrot
Now let's ask -

What do Yitro and Ruth have in common, and where do they differ?

What they do have in common is the discovery of the ONE TRUE G-D! No denying the sincerity of their common quest for that Holy Grail - so to speak.

Where do they differ?

Yitro found G-d, but - despite his relationship to his daughter and son-in-law - he subsequently abandoned the Jewish People to return to Midian.

Ruth, however, cleaved to Naomi and abandoned Moab to live the life of a beggar in Judea. Her commitment motto? Ameich Ami Veilokayich Elokai!. Her declaration of loyalty to the Jewish Nation preceded her commitment to G-D!

Blasphemy? Adearrabbah - a prerequisite! Yitro is the prototype of the Noahide who has found the True G-d but needs no society.

Ruth is the true convert, the prototypical "Ger Tzedeq" (actually Giyoert of course!). There is one reason to convert to Judaism following one's Spiritual Journey - to join the Priestly Kingdom and the Holy Nation. In truth, to live a life of G-dliness as an individual spiritual seeker needs no Judaism or Peoplehood.

Ruth's progeny? David and Mashiach. Her affiliation to our peoplehood earned her common destiny with us.
Yitro? A good guy to whom we say "fare thee well". Who of Yitro's descendants makes a glorious impact? Not the descendants of Hever haKeini who are allies.

Any sincere spiritual seeker can find G-d as an individual Noahide, but the prototypical Ger/Giyoret shares Jewish Destiny and Torah, as well as G-d.

Shalom,
RRW

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Sinat Chinum - Purposeless Hatred

We are told that the churban Bayit Sheni, the destruction of the Second Temple, was a result of sinat chinum. But what does this term mean?
Most define it in the realm of "cause", focusing on a negative cause for hatred -- which is then expanded by many individuals to include any reason for hatred.
Is it true that there are no possible acceptable or even good reasons to hate? More significantly, though, is one able to control this emotional response of hatred?

Reviewing the sources seeming about the concept of sinat chinum brings someone into the general halachic discussion on hatred in general.  This discussion focuses on how one should deal with this emotion, and what is the correct effect of hatred, not on hatred's cause. In this light, the term sinat chinum may not really be describing anarchy in the causes of hatred but rather anarchy in the effects of hatred.

Further on this subject, I invite you to read a further discussion of this issue in Nishma Insight 5757-22,23: Defining Sinat Chinum on the Nishma website.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Haftara of Tisha b'Av - Hacham, Gibbor, Ashir

ירמיהו פרק ט
כב כֹּה אָמַר ה`, אַל-יִתְהַלֵּל חָכָם בְּחָכְמָתוֹ,
וְאַל-יִתְהַלֵּל הַגִּבּוֹר, בִּגְבוּרָתוֹ;
אַל-יִתְהַלֵּל עָשִׁיר, בְּעָשְׁרוֹ. 

כג כִּי אִם-בְּזֹאת יִתְהַלֵּל הַמִּתְהַלֵּל, הַשְׂכֵּל וְיָדֹעַ אוֹתִי--כִּי אֲנִי ה`, עֹשֶׂה חֶסֶד מִשְׁפָּט וּצְדָקָה בָּאָרֶץ:  כִּי-בְאֵלֶּה חָפַצְתִּי, נְאֻם-ה`.

מסכת אבות פרק ד

ד,א  בן זומא אומר, איזה הוא חכם--הלמד מכל אדם, שנאמר "מכל מלמדיי, השכלתי" (תהילים קיט,צט).  איזה הוא גיבור--הכובש את יצרו, שנאמר "טוב ארך אפיים, מגיבור" (משלי טז,לב).  איזה הוא עשיר--השמח בחלקו, שנאמר "יגיע כפיך, כי תאכל; אשריך, וטוב לך" (תהילים קכח,ב):  "אשריך", בעולם הזה; "וטוב לך", לעולם הבא.  איזה הוא מכובד--המכבד את הברייות, שנאמר "כי מכבדיי אכבד ובוזיי ייקלו" (שמואל א ב,ל).


Notice how neatly Ben Zoma in Avot 4:1 darshens the P'sukkim in Yirmiyahu 9:22-23 in such a way as to allow for a genuine Hacham / GIbbor / Ashir to emerge

For sources
See EG Ikkar Tosafot Yom Tov 1 how this works.

Kol Tuv,
RRW

Liturgical Parallels between Tisha B'Av and Purim


Previously posted around Tisha b'av 2009, then reposted March 6, 2011, on Nishmablog.


The following outline lists some of the parallels, primarily liturgical, between Purim and the 9th of Av.
           
1 Maariv - Nighttime 
     A. Only Megillos that are read at night.
          - Eicho
          - Esther
     B. Similar Structure with Kaddish Tiskabel and v'Ato Kodosh

2 Shacharis - Omissions
     A.  Purim - A "miracle" Holiday , no Hallel (Megilloh instead)
     B.  9th of Av -  A Fast Day  without   
          -  Selichos (Kinnos instead)
          -  Tachanun & Ovinu Malkeinu

3 Shacharis - Chazoros Hashatz
     A. Only weekday repetitions of the Amido having Krovos/Krovatz 
at least in the common Ashkenaz / Yekke Litrugy
4 Preceding Shabbos 
     A. Purim preceded by Zachor
     B. 9th of Av preceded by Chazon

5 The Tanach's Pattern - Special Torah and Haftoro readings are read on the Shabbos 
before the event, with the corresponding Megilloh on the day of the event.
     A. Purim - The Amalek Connection
          -  Torah- Zachor 
          -  Navi - Haftoro of Zachor (Shaul's War with Amalek in Shmuel)
          -  Kesuvim Esther
     B. 9 Av - The  Eicho Connection
          -  Torah - Eicho in Devorim
          -  Navi - Eicho in the Haftoro of Chazon (Yeshaya)
          -  Kesuvim - Eicho

6. Month-wide 
     A. Mishenichnos Adar Marbin b'Simcho
     B. Mishenichnos Av M'maatin b'Simcho

7. Miscellaneous
     A. Some Pesukim in Esther are read to Eicho's melody (in particular Asher 
 Heglo)
     B. Chiyuv S'eudo vs. Chiyuv Taanis
     C. Similar Minhogim not to work


Shalom,
RRW

JVO Blog: National Despair

Jewish Values Online (jewishvaluesonline.org) is a website that asks the Jewish view on a variety of issues, some specifically Jewish and some from the world around us -- and then presents answers from each of the denominations of Judaism. Nishmablog's Blogmaster Rabbi Wolpoe and Nishma's Founding Director, Rabbi Hecht, both serve as Orthodox members of their Panel of Scholars. Nishmablog, over the years, has also featured the responses on JVO by one of our two Nishma Scholars who are on this panel. 

The Jewish Values Online website now offers a new service -- a blog which presents comments on various topics within Judaism and the Jewish world. See
http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/jvoblog/index?aid=0. Rabbi Hecht is also a blogger on this blog.

His latest post 

National Despair
is now available at http://jewishvaluescenter.org/jvoblog/despair
A link is also up on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JewishValuesOnline/

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Parsha: Matot/Maasei, "How did Hatzi Shevet Menashe Get There?"

The tribes of Gad and Reuven approach Moshe about staying in East Jordan...
- Bamidbar: 32

Question: how did the "half-tribe of Menashe" get in the picture? Why Menashe and not another tribe?

I have a surprise answer....

...OK...

clear your minds.

I taught a parsha class for many years at Congregation Mt Sinai in Washington Heights. I found that many of the tribal dynamics had to do with the Matriarchs, Jacob's four wives. I don't have the time or space to explain it all now, but use that as a prism for viewing these inter-tribal dynamics. Now apply that here.
  • Reuven, one of Leah's sons.
  • Gad, one of the two maidservants' sons. (Zilpah)
Which matriarch is missing?
Rachel

Now take a loot at the proportions:
Leah gave birth to six sons. However, Levi didn't receive any land,  leaving five to inherit the land of Israel. So Reuven is about 20% of of the inheriting sons of Leah. Gad is about 25% of the maidservants' children.

What's needed?  20-25% of Rachel's children. Half the tribe of Menasseh is about 12.5 to 20% depending on how you compute the population. Shevet Menasseh is much larger than either Shevet Ephraim or Shevet Benjamin.

So Moses' agenda was to assert a matriarchal balance over East-Jordan. Half (or part of) Menasseh did the trick

Proof?

None

Hint?

Look at the configuration of the tribes in pasrshiot Bamidbar and Beha'alotecha. The tribes march along according to matriarch - except one. Gad, who is promoted to replace Levi along with Reuven and Shim'on.

This model "suggests" the Torah had a matriarchal proportion re: tribe vs tribe. Since half-Menasseh seems to jump out of nowhere, I simply plugged them in. Voila! It conformed to a an existing model.

Shalom,

RRW



Parshah Mas'ei

Train Ride: R Eliyahu Safran
"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." 
~ Ernest Hemingway
http://www.ou.org/torah/parsha/parsha-from-ou/masei-journey-lives/

 
Kol Tuv,
RRW

P. Matot: Umikneh Rav liv'nai R'uvein, Gad - So How did M'nasheh get Included?

R'uvein and Gad approached Moshe Rabbeinu requesting TransJordan. When Moshe acquiesced, he added Hatzi Shevet M'nasheh. Why?

Below is a an answer based upon the structure of the Tribes throughout Sefer Bamidbar - here is that dynamic at work

When Levi drops out of the "tribes" a shuffle occurs in Parshas Bamidbar, Nasso, B'haalot'cha. *

1. Gad is promoted to Honorary Ben Leah, camping with R'uvein and Shim'on

2. Yosef is divided into Two, Ephraim and M'nasheh to restore the number to 12

The 4 camps now are structured as follows

East - 3 from Leah
South - 2 from Leah plus Gad
West - 3 from Rachel
North - 3 from the "sh'fachot" - 1 from Zilpah, 2 from Bilhah

Levi was now in a circle inside
-------------------

When R'uvein and Gad chose TransJordan, then we have

20% of Leah
25% of the Sh'fachot
0% of Rachel

To Remedy this Moshe takes 1/2 of M'nasheh which comprises about 25% of Rachel - thereby restoring a balance of Imahot. [Counting Bilhah/Zilpah as a unit]

Why M'nasheh and not Ephraim? I'm not sure - but perhaps it is since he is the b'chor and so are R'uvein and Gad.

-------------------

* Note whenever Levi IS counted in the 12, Joseph is reunited.

Shalom,
RRW

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Parsha: Pinchas, "Leadership"

A local leader of a certain sect recently told me that while their World Leader may no longer walk the earth, he is still there for consultation. After all, no shepherd would leave his flock (צֹאן מַרְעִיתוֹ.) unattended.

I then began to wonder - why couldn't Moshe Rabbenu A"H lead his flock after passing away?  It seems he was very concerned about having a successor appointed before his passing.* What compelled Moshe  to find a LIVING successor instead of relying upon consultations from beyond?

It is also interesting that Shaul required a witch from Ein Dor to help him commune with the departed Sh'muel Hannavi. Why didn't Shmuel just advise Shaul from the afterlife, too?

Shalom,
RW

-----------------------------------------

* במדבר פרק כז


 טז יִפְקֹד ה”, אֱלֹהֵי הָרוּחֹת לְכָל-בָּשָׂר, אִישׁ, עַל-הָעֵדָה.  יז אֲשֶׁר-יֵצֵא לִפְנֵיהֶם, וַאֲשֶׁר יָבֹא לִפְנֵיהֶם, וַאֲשֶׁר יוֹצִיאֵם, וַאֲשֶׁר יְבִיאֵם; וְלֹא תִהְיֶה, עֲדַת ה”, כַּצֹּאן, אֲשֶׁר אֵין-לָהֶם רֹעֶה. 




H. Of Pinchas, is it the rarest?

For the statistical reality see:

Calendar - What is the rarest Haftarah? - Jewish Life and Learning - Stack Exchange
http://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/3898/what-is-the-rarest-haftarah

Shalom,
RRW

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Parsha: Balak, "Schadenfreude I"


The Torah Claims that Balak hired Bil’am because: “Those whom he blessed were blessed, and those whom he cursed were cursed.”

Rashi objects to a literal read. After all, Balak is seeking only a curse and he considers the blessings just so much flattering blather.

What would happen if this were true and Bil’am was equally capable of blessing as well as cursing? If that were the case, then Balak would have had a choice in how to deal with the Israelite threat to his territory:
  1. Curse the Israelites to make them vulnerable
  2. Bless the Moabites to make his nation invincible.
What choice did Balak make? Why is that an important Torah lesson?  He did indeed choose to have Bil’am curse the Israelites. Balak's psychology was that it was more important to curse the Israelites than to bless his own people.

What does the Torah tell us about life in general? The Torah teaches us: It is more important for the Anti-Semite to do harm to the Jews than it is for him to obtain his own success. We will, BEH, explore this further on a series of posts

Shalom,
RRW


. Background Information:
Dictionary: schadenfreude (shäd'n-froi'də) n.
Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.[German : Schaden, damage (from Middle High German schade, from Old High German scado) + Freude, joy (from Middle High German vreude, from Old High German

Word Overheard: schadenfreude
Columnist George Will, who seems to enjoy the seven deadly sins almost as much as he does baseball, decided to add a pleasurable eighth — schadenfreude. "Sins can be such fun. Of the seven supposedly deadly ones, only envy does not give the sinner at least momentary pleasure. And an eighth, schadenfreude — enjoyment of other persons' misfortunes — is almost the national pastime."
Link: The economics of baseball — George Will
Posted October 15, 2006

Parsha: Balak, "Defining Evil"

We have chosen an article that relates to the week's Parsha from Nishma's Online Library archives, both to direct you to this d'var Torah and in order to initiate some discussion.This week's Parsha is Balak and the topic is the definition of evil. 

How can someone act evilly if he knows absolutely that God exists? Balak clearly knew of God. He chose to defy God even though he clearly understood the repercussions. How can we explain this? We invite you to look at an article on this topic.

Shalom, RBH

Counterfeiter, Rodeif, Hatra'ah

Kitzur SA 184:9
Based upon Rema Cho"M 388:11

Paraphrasing Goldin Translation

«A person who is engaged in counterfeiting money ... Is a "rodeif" ... And should be warned to desist from his practice [lest he jeopardize the community]»

Q1 : If the counterfeiter is indeed deemed a rodeif, why should he even get hatra'ah? What are the Rema and the Kitzur SA teaching us?

Note: Rema adds "v'im eino mashgi'ach" , so we expect that sometimes the counterfeiter will heed that warning.

Q2: Do we have sources re: Pinchas and Zimri? IOW did Pinchas warn Zimri first?

Shalom,
RRW

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Parsha: Beha’alotkha, "The Whispering Campaign"


Dvar Torah on Parashath Beha’alotkha
Rabbi Chaim G.Z. Solomon

The Whispering Campaign




Our sedra gives us three very puzzling vignettes, back to back.  Bemidbar chapter 11 begins thusly:  “Vayy’hee ha`am k’mithon’neem, r`a b’oznay Hashem - and the people were like murmurers, evil in the ears of the Lord.  The Lord heard and His anger was kindled.  The fire of the Lord burned amongst them, and devoured (those) at the boundary of the encampment.” (Bemidbar 11:1) Curious, as generally when such devouring fires issue forth, action and consequence occur somewhat near the center of the camp.  Also, when the people complained, how was it that the murmurs were heard by God, but perhaps not by Moshe?  Further, the actual complaint is not recorded.

In a curiously connected report, verses 4 and 5, we have more complaints. “V’hasaphsuph asher b’qirbo, And the ‘mixed multitude’ that was among them had craved cravings; and the children of Israel returned to weeping, saying: Who will provide us flesh to eat! We remember the fish, which we would eat in Egypt for nothing (chinam); the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic...And Moshe heard the people weeping. The ‘asaphsuph’, frequently rendered ‘mixed multitude’, is a puzzler.  

So to the complaint of the Children of Israel - first, they ask for meat, but then ‘fondly’ remember the fish and vegetables they ate ‘for free’ in Egypt. What does ‘free’ mean here?  The Israelites were slaves, after all!  At the end of the chapter, God’s anger is again kindled against the People, and God strikes those that lusted and meat-eaters, all the People, with a very great plague.  Interestingly, it is only those who lusted whom Scripture records are there buried.

So ends chapter 11.  Chapter 12 picks up straightaway with yet another curious vignette.   Miryam and Aaron speak against Moshe.  First they complain regarding Moshe’s Kushite wife, though the specific issue is not mentioned.  Then, they turn right around and raise a complaint that can really only be taken as criticizing Moshe as arrogant, “Has the Lord indeed only spoken through Moshe?  Has he not also spoken through us?”  God hears (like the first vignette) and God’s anger is kindled against Miryam and Aaron (as in both previous vignettes).   Here though, only Miryam is punished, and even so, only with tsara`at, not death.  Why is only Miryam punished?  And why is the punishment not death?

The trope ‘yichar aph’, rendered, ‘anger was kindled’ when applied to God with respect to the `Am, the People, appears in Shmot 32 (the Golden Calf), Bemidbar 25 (Ba`al Peor), and foretold in Devarim 6, 7, 11 and 29.  In each of these instances idolatry is the relevant transgression.  In our sedra, the anger of the Lord is kindled against the people, but idolatry is not clearly the transgression.  Our sedra appears to be the only outlier in this pattern, though Moshe applies the trope ‘yichar aph’ to God when recounting in Bemidbar 32 the incident of the Spies (Bemidbar 14).  Rambam (Guide for the Perplexed 1.36) would have us categorize all such usages of this trope applied to the People as caused by the sin of idolatry.  How are we to understand Rambam’s required classification?

In the second pericope we’ve studied, the phrase ‘zakharnu, et haddaga, asher nokhal b’mitsrayim, chinam, we remember the fish, which we would eat in Egypt for nothing’ certainly could do for some unpacking.  What is this ‘chinam’, generally rendered ‘for free’, or ‘for nothing’? Sinat Chinam - baseless or causeless hatred, is a phrase with which we are all familiar, unfortunately.  What is the ‘chinam’ of our verse meant to inform?  Yoma 75a would interpret chinam here as free from the obligations of mitswoth, specifically with respect to physical immoralities, for which ‘fish’ must serve as some manner of euphemism.  Sifre Bemidbar 67 is explicit in this regard, that ‘chinam’ in this verse is to be understood as ‘free from the commandments’.   God’s anger is kindled against the people, for an act signifying a desire to shake off the yoke of Torah.  The implication of Rambam’s classification is staggering.

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Whispering Campaign.
1.(idiomatic) A method of persuasion in which damaging rumors or innuendo are deliberately spread concerning a person or other target, while the source of the rumors tries to avoid detection.

In our third pericope, the exact subject of Miryam’s calumny is almost immaterial.  That Miryam could be criticizing Moshe for separating from his wife, on account of concerns over ritual purity vis a vis a perceived requirement for prophesy, well, that would be a textbook example of lashon harah.  Onqelos’ understanding of the word ‘Kushite’ as ‘beautiful’ is in consonance with Chazal’s interpretation of Miryam’s actions as in sympathy with a neglected wife, as the excuse for this criticism.  On the other hand,the possibility that Miryam is exhibiting color-consciousness would be even worse. What is curious and quite material is that it is clear from the language that Miryam was the primary speaker of the first complaint (vat’daber, not vay’dabru), and that it was God, not Moshe, that ‘heard’ (parallel to the first pericope).


Onomatopoeia
1. An onomatopoeia is a word that imitates or suggests the source of the sound that it describes.

So now, what do we make of the ‘asaphsuph’?  The difficulties with identifying asaphsuph as ‘elders’, ‘strangers’, ‘foreigners’ has been dealt with elsewhere  and need not be repeated here.  We merely must construct an alternative hypothesis.  For that, though, we have really no guidance from Tanakh itself, for this is an example of a hapax legomenon, a word that appears in Tanakh only this once, so no contextual hints as to its meaning may be drawn from other instances.  The word itself is perhaps a quadriliteral, with a root samekh-peh-samekh-peh. ‘Saph-saph’.  Even if not, it is still very similar to such words as gimgum (גמגום) stuttering tzichtzooach (צחצוח) polishing tiphtooph (טפטוף) dripping shifshoof (שיפשוף) rubbing, and of course baqbooq (בקבוק) a bottle (what is the sound of liquid pouring from a bottle?)

We’ve a word in English

Susurration
1. The sound of whispering

Perhaps the very word used to label these pestiferous miscreants itself is an onomatopoeia?

The pattern begins to come together.  These three vignettes, though not a re-telling of the same story, use several similar devices to tie them together.  In the first pericope, no one really spoke out loud, and the complaint itself was so immaterial it wasn’t even recorded.  It was those who were not central to the camp, those on the ‘outskirts’ bore the brunt of God’s kindled anger.  These, perhaps, were the people on the edge, whispering.  Whatever they were whispering, it was evil enough to warrant death.  In the second, the asaphsuph, the whisperers, goaded the People into their weeping.  The People’s complaints themselves seem logically unconnected, as if the first was merely a pretext for the second.  In their complaint, however, they rebel against God, throwing off the yoke of Torah in a baseless act of disloyalty.  God’s anger is kindled, yet the worse punishment seems to be attached to the whisperers.  In the third and final pericope, Miryam goads Aaron with a primary complaint that seems unspecific as to its nature (parallel to the first vignette) and unconnected to the secondary (parallel to the second vignette).  The secondary complaint does itself smack of an act of disloyalty against Moshe, the most humble of men, though it is God who seems to take it personally.  And who is punished? It is Miryam, the whisperer, the instigator.

So now what is left to us is to understand the severity of God’s response in the first two pericopes.  The third is easily understood as a lesson against one of several possible variations of lashon hara; Chazal and later commentators all seem quite comfortable with tsara’at as the appropriate punishment.   Miryam as the whispering instigator gives us a key to understanding the first two.  (Perhaps as a tool to strengthen the connection between the second and third pericopes Scripture uses as a play on words the root asph, gather, to describe how Miryam is to return to the camp after her seven day exile, instead of several more natural words, e.g. ‘return’, ‘enter’,  ‘come in’.)  Rambam would have us interpret these first two pericopes as instances of idolatry.   How so?  Our other clue is the Report of the Spies.  A principle message of the spies was that of God’s implied inability to see the People of Israel successfully through the settlement of Canaan.  Indeed, echoes of ‘Who can provide us meat’ are heard.  The message is clear.  Denying the omnipotence of God, ‘shorting his hand’ and through that pretext seeking to divest oneself of the yoke of Torah is no other sin than that of idolatry.  Underhanded disloyalty towards Moshe is bad enough to warrant tsara`at. Whispering others into disloyalty towards God will surely bring the severest consequences as the instigation of idolatry.

There is no middle ground between the genuine faith of Caleb and Yehoshua and the rebellious idolatry of the spies, whisperers and goaders.  Ours is to choose the path of genuine faith and loyalty to Torah. Bivrakhah,

- Rabbi Chaim G.Z. Solomon, Ph.D.


Note: Rabbi Solomon is a former student of mine, and is Rabbi in Mt. Dora, Florida

 
Shalom,

RRW