French rabbi and commentator
Synopsis: In today's episode I reflect on my 100th day of gratitude journaling! I focus on two of the many benefits I've gained from this practice: (1) a little something I call “premeditatio gratias,” and (2) a developmental tool for “amor fati,” inspired by an interpretation of a phrase in Modim by the Ri Bar Yakar and Rashi.This week's Torah content has been sponsored by an anonymous donor, whom I consider to be both a friend and a role model.Related Rabbi Schneeweiss Content:- The Gratitude Accountability Experiment (Aurelius – Meditations 9:6) Sources: - Seneca, Letters #81 and #91- Ri Bar Yakar on Modim- Rashi on Tehilim 60:6----------If you have questions, comments, or feedback, I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to contact me at rabbischneeweiss at gmail.----------Stoic texts:The Meditations of Marcus AureliusLetters from a Stoic Master (Seneca)The Discourses of EpictetusThe Enchiridion (Handbook) of Epictetus----------If you've gained from what you've learned here, please consider contributing to my Patreon at www.patreon.com/rabbischneeweiss. Alternatively, if you would like to make a direct contribution to the "Rabbi Schneeweiss Torah Content Fund," my Venmo is @Matt-Schneeweiss, and my Zelle/Chase QuickPay and PayPal are mattschneeweiss at gmail.com. Even a small contribution goes a long way to covering the costs of my podcasts, and will provide me with the financial freedom to produce even more Torah content for you.If you would like to sponsor an article, shiur, or podcast episode, or if you are interested in enlisting my services as a teacher or tutor, you can reach me at rabbischneeweiss at gmail.com. Thank you to my listeners for listening, thank you to my readers for reading, and thank you to my supporters for supporting my efforts to make Torah ideas available and accessible to everyone.----------YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/rabbischneeweissBlog: https://kolhaseridim.blogspot.com/Twitter: https://twitter.com/rmschneeweiss"The Mishlei Podcast": https://mishlei.buzzsprout.com"The Stoic Jew" Podcast: https://thestoicjew.buzzsprout.com"Rambam Bekius" Podcast: https://rambambekius.buzzsprout.com"Machshavah Lab" Podcast: https://machshavahlab.buzzsprout.com"The Tefilah Podcast": https://tefilah.buzzsprout.comGuide to the Torah Content of Rabbi Matt Schneeweiss: https://kolhaseridim.blogspot.com/2021/04/links-to-torah-content-of-rabbi-matt.html
It is in the best interest of a person to utilize the gift of tefila as much as possible. There are many yeshuot and berachot that Hashem wants to give us, and the way for us to access them is through tefila . The Ramban writes, the reason that Hashem did not heal the speech impediment of Moshe Rabbenu is because Moshe never asked for it. We don't want to deprive ourselves of potential blessings that were potentially within our reach. Prayer can even give us what is conceivably beyond our reach as well. The Gemara says in Masechet Nida daf 70b, if a person wants to become wise, he needs to spend time learning Torah and also ask Hashem for wisdom, and both are equally necessary. The Maharsha there explains the Gemara to be speaking about a person who is naturally unintelligent as Hashem decreed how much brain power that person would be given. Which means, even a person who is physically unable to comprehend certain concepts, with prayer and a lot of effort in learning, Hashem will change the person's capacities and enable him to understand things that he previously was unable to understand. As well, Rashi in Masechet Avodah Zara daf 8 writes, if a person forgets his learning, he should elongate his prayers during the beracha of chonen hadaat in the Amida . That is a medication that can heal deficiencies that no doctor has the ability to heal. Of course, along with prayer a person needs to make hishtadlut and review his learning, but for us to know that prayer is a wondrous segula for wisdom and memory is a very valuable piece of information. The better our kavana is, the better the prayer will be. The Taz writes, the main kavana in tefila is to remove all thoughts of distraction and to imagine oneself standing right in front of the Shechina. Before we start the Amida , it's so important to keep that in mind and, as we know, tefila is not bound by the three prayers a day, we can make use of it any time we want. Rabbi Zilberstein told a story of a taxi driver in Israel who earned enough money just to put food on the table for his family and pay his basic expenses. He had to pay rent for the taxi he used and if he didn't get enough jobs on any given day, he would come home that night with less money than he started with. One day, he had so few jobs he was embarrassed to come home and face his wife. He pulled over to the side of the road in the late afternoon and began talking to Hashem. He lifted up his hands in prayer and begged Hashem to provide sustenance for his large family. He poured out his heart and before he even had a chance to finish his tefila , there was already a knock on his window. Initially, he thought he was being told to move his vehicle from an illegal parking spot, but then he saw it was a potential customer. The man asked how much it would be to go from where they were in Teveria to Ashdod and then back. The driver said he hadn't had a job like that in a very long time. He told the man it would cost 1500 shekel. The man then asked how much it would be for the waiting time there. The driver said, “Well, it goes by half hour increments.” The man said, “What if I give you a total of 2000 shekel, no matter how long I make you wait. Would that be okay?” The driver thought in his mind he'd wait all night for that price and he said, “sure, no problem.” In the end, the man only made him wait for an hour. It was an hour and 45 minutes each way and 4 and a half hours later, this man came home with 2000 shekel, thanking Hashem for immediately answering his tefila . Tefila is always beneficial. The benefits are not always immediate and they are not always readily obvious, but for sure every prayer will benefit us.
Rashi Class, a weekly exploration of Torah featuring a deep dive on the text and lively conversation focused on an 11th-century French commentary, conducted by Rabbi Adam Kligfeld at Temple Beth Am, Los Angeles, on Wednesday, October 13, 2021, this week beginning with Shemot/Exodus 4:10. (Facebook/Zoom)
The knowledge that whatever will happen this year has already been determined during the Yamim Noraim makes it difficult for a person to pray with the same intensity now that he had been praying with then, during those days. The yetzer hara tries to convince a person that his prayers aren't really accomplishing anything anyway, so why should he put so much effort into them. We must know, prayer is always necessary at all times of year for many reasons. Firstly, we learn from Rashi in Bereshit that even though the ground was commanded by Hashem on the third day of Creation to produce the vegetation and fruit bearing trees, they did not actually sprout until Adam came and prayed for his food to come. The command of Hashem made the food ready, but the prayer is what actually brought it to Adam. The same is true with our blessings. It may have been determined during the Yamim Noraim that a person could make X amount of dollars this year, but that blessing is waiting for him by the lip of Shamayim . He needs to make his hishtadlut to bring it down, and prayer is a major part of that hishtadlut . Furthermore, we read in this week's Parasha, Noach, about the mabul . The sefer Emunat Itecha points out that the mabul began on the 17 th day of Cheshvan and, for sure, the decree for it to take place was sealed that year during the Yamim Noraim. Despite the fact that the decree was sealed, it says ויהי הגשם על הארץ – and Rashi writes that at the beginning, the rain was falling with רחמים– with mercy – and if the people would have made teshuva, it would have become rain of blessing instead of a mabul – the decree was still able to be changed. And this, says the Rabbi, is one of the reasons why we always read parashat Noach after the Yamim Noraim, to teach us that even though a decree may have been made for the negative, we should never despair from getting Hashem's mercy. He can change a נגע to ענג, He can change פשע to שפע, and he can change צרה to רצה. There are many ways in which decrees can play out and our prayers have a major impact on Hashem's decision on how He brings them about. Prayer is always necessary and those who utilize it become great individuals. Rav Chaim Palachi in his sefer Tochachat Chaim quotes from the Zohar HaKadosh that Hashem was upset that Noach did not pray for his generation, while He praised Avraham and Moshe for praying for theirs. The Rabbi added, it says by Noach, "ויחל נח איש אדמה"– and over there, the word ויחל means mundane – Noach became just a man of the earth because he didn't pray for his generation. While by Moshe Rabbenu it say ויחל משה – Moshe prayed for his People – and therefore, he was called an איש האלוקים – a man of Hashem. Prayer is not meant to just be a tool that we use to get things from Hashem. Prayer is a wondrous mitzvah which is meant to elevate us and bring us closer to Hashem. The Beit Tefila writes that in every word of the Amida , a person can find inspiration to gain more fear of Hashem, more love of Hashem and help himself be humbled before Hashem. There are numerous kavanot in every word which must be studied in order to utilize them properly. The sefer Yosef Ometz writes, it is obvious that a person should learn the meaning behind the words of the prayers before he learns anything else. A focused prayer, with true understanding of the words can elevate a person to another level. Every prayer is supposed to be a religious experience. When the Rabbis tell us prayers break decrees because the person on whom the decree was made has changed because of his prayer, it's meant literally. But it's conditional on the person's kavana . The fact that Hashem gives us a refuah shelema or parnasa or shidduchim or a child from our tefilot is an extra bonus to help get us to pray, but that is not the purpose of the prayer, it is just a side benefit. The purpose is to grow spiritually and become more connected and humbled in front of Hashem. This applies all year long, every single day and the more effort we put into our prayers, the better people we will become from it. Let us resolve to put more effort into understanding what we are saying and utilize the precious gift of tefila to become the people we are meant to become. Shabbat Shalom.
Synopsis: Believe it or not, Seneca has a theory about the Mabul. He believes that God has destroyed the world with the flood in the past, but – unlike us – he believes that God will do it again. I figured that this was an appropriate topic for Erev Shabbos Parashas Noach. This week's Torah content has been sponsored by an anonymous donor, in memory of her grandmother, Golda Henya bat Devora a"h.Sources: - Seneca, Natural Questions 3:28-30- Rashi on Bereishis 11:1- Ralbag on Bereishis 6:3----------If you have questions, comments, or feedback, I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to contact me at rabbischneeweiss at gmail.----------Stoic texts:The Meditations of Marcus AureliusLetters from a Stoic Master (Seneca)The Discourses of EpictetusThe Enchiridion (Handbook) of Epictetus----------If you've gained from what you've learned here, please consider contributing to my Patreon at www.patreon.com/rabbischneeweiss. Alternatively, if you would like to make a direct contribution to the "Rabbi Schneeweiss Torah Content Fund," my Venmo is @Matt-Schneeweiss, and my Zelle/Chase QuickPay and PayPal are mattschneeweiss at gmail.com. Even a small contribution goes a long way to covering the costs of my podcasts, and will provide me with the financial freedom to produce even more Torah content for you.If you would like to sponsor an article, shiur, or podcast episode, or if you are interested in enlisting my services as a teacher or tutor, you can reach me at rabbischneeweiss at gmail.com. Thank you to my listeners for listening, thank you to my readers for reading, and thank you to my supporters for supporting my efforts to make Torah ideas available and accessible to everyone.----------YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/rabbischneeweissBlog: https://kolhaseridim.blogspot.com/Twitter: https://twitter.com/rmschneeweiss"The Mishlei Podcast": https://mishlei.buzzsprout.com"The Stoic Jew" Podcast: https://thestoicjew.buzzsprout.com"Rambam Bekius" Podcast: https://rambambekius.buzzsprout.com"Machshavah Lab" Podcast: https://machshavahlab.buzzsprout.com"The Tefilah Podcast": https://tefilah.buzzsprout.comGuide to the Torah Content of Rabbi Matt Schneeweiss: https://kolhaseridim.blogspot.com/2021/04/links-to-torah-content-of-rabbi-matt.html
Rashi Class, a weekly exploration of Torah featuring a deep dive on the text and lively conversation focused on an 11th-century French commentary, conducted by Rabbi Adam Kligfeld at Temple Beth Am, Los Angeles, on Wednesday, October 6, 2021, this week beginning with Shemot/Exodus 4:8. (Facebook/Zoom)
Parshat Bereshit - Exile and Return is a seminal Jewish theme we normally associate with Exodus and the narrative of the Jewish People. We discover this theme in the first chapters of Genesis and in so doing discover the Hebrew Bible's universal message regarding the trauma of birth, the anxiety of life and the rewards of creativity and expansion. Sefaria Source Sheet: www.sefaria.org/sheets/349788 Transcript: Geoffrey Stern 00:00 Welcome to Madlik disruptive Torah. And every week, we record half an hour of what I call disruptive Torah, where we kind of look at the Torah with a new lens and maybe from a new angle and try to share that sense of discovery with our participants. So thank you all for joining. And we are going to start with Bereshit. And for those of you who have been listening and participating in clubhouse, I think you already know that one of my favorite commentators is Rashi. He wrote a commentary on all of the books of the Torah, including the Talmud, the Mishanh, I just an unbelievable encyclopedic review of the Holy Writ of the Jewish people. But it's not the expanse, it's the detail and he always brings a midrash or a quotation that is absolutely insightful and actually kind of positions the whole discussion. So the first verse of the Torah we all know "In the beginning God created the heaven in the earth." And the first Rashi starts as follows: "Rabbi Isaac said, the Torah, which is the law book of Israel, should have started with Exodus 12: 2 the first commandment "This month shall be unto you the first of the months", which is the first commandment given to Israel. "What is the reason" asks this Rabbi Isaac "then that it commences with the account of creation?" Pretty good question. We'll discuss the question in a second and its premise. And he answers "because of the thought expressed in Psalms, "God declared to his people the strength of his works, in order that he might give them the heritage of the nations.". Rashi continues, "for should the people of the world say to Israel, 'are robbers because you took by force the lands of the seven nations of Canaan', Israel may reply to them and say, from Psalms, all the earth belongs to the Holy One, bless be he. He created it, and gave it to whom he pleased, when he willed, he gave it to them. And when he willed he took it away from them and gave it to us." So Wow, what a way to begin studying the the narratives of the cosmology, the creation of the world, and our foreparents with a question of, well, what are we even reading this for? The Torah is a book of laws. It's a book that gives us the "hora'aot" the direction, the path that we should walk down. Why are we wasting our time with this mythology? And then he gives an answer, but let's stop for a second Rabbi and discuss the premise of his very question. Adam Mintz 03:09 The premise is very problematic. The premise is that the only purpose of the book is to teach us laws. Ramban, Nachmanidies, the great Spanish scholar who lived in the 1200s. he disagrees with Rashi, here at the beginning of the Torah immediately. He says that the purpose of the book of Bereshit, of Genesis is not to teach us laws, but it's to teach us moral cause. He has a great phrase, the phrase is "Ma'aseh avot, siman l'banim" "the actions of our forefathers our models to the children", and therefore that's the reason we have all the stories in Bereshit. Rashi seems to argue with that. Rashi seems to say that, no, it's not about morality, it's about law. And if you think it's about law, there's no reason for the book of Bereshit. So Rashi needs to explain that it's to teach us about our connection to the land of Israel. So in that very first Rashi, there actually is a fundamental question about the purpose of Torah. Geoffrey Stern 04:22 So I love the fact that you quoted "Ma'aseh avot, siman l'banim" which literally as you say means "the are stories of oure foreparents. "siman" is a sign for the children. And of course, you could expand and say "avot" could also mean as in "avot melacha" or "Pikei Avot", it could mean the most basic primary principles. So the stories of our roots, of our beginnings are is a siman is a sign for its children. But in a sense, "sign" is very similar to myth. Meaning to say that even Ramban quoting this Talmudic phrase, there's almost the recognition that we're not just telling stories here that either the stories actually occurred but they have deeper symbolic meaning. Or it's not that important that every one of them occurred because the symbolic meaning is what drives us. And if you think about that for a second, I'm not sure that is that different from what Rashi ends up answering, which is okay, the reason we need this is because these stories justify the Jewish people's coming from another place and coming into the land that was at the time that they came in occupied by another people. And the ethical, moral, or you could even say political message, the "siman" that we are getting from these stories is that you know what, no one owns anything. The earth belongs to the Lord. And he can give and he can take and that's a big message, I think for life. But but really they're all kind of on the same page from the fact that none of them, correct me if I'm wrong, is interested or believes that these stories by themselves as a historical record, belong in our holy book, they have to symbolize something, they have to inspire us in some way. Would you agree to that? Adam Mintz 06:51 I would agree. Now, the idea of myths is a fascinating idea. I actually spoke about this right before Yizkor. There's the new book by Dara Horn. the book by Dara Horn is some title like people, "Why do people love dead Jews?" It's a provocative title. But she has a collection of essays. She raises the following idea, which is a great idea. You know, we're all brought up Geoffrey with the idea that the way that we all got our American names is our forefathers, our grandparents came to Ellis Island, and they only knew Yiddish. So they were asked by the by the representative at Ellis Island: "What's your name?" And they answered, "shoyn Forgesin", which means in Yiddish "I forgot". And the representative said, okay, your name is "Shawn Fergeson"And that's how everybody got their American names. They didn't know any English so they made up something and that became their American names. Dara Horn, the author points out that that is not true. We know that that's not true. What's true is that in the 1930s, we have multiple court records about Jews who actually went to courts in America, especially in New York, to change their names, because there was so much anti semitism in America, and they couldn't get jobs and they couldn't get into schools, and they couldn't get into colleges. And therefore they they asked to change their names. She said, Where does the myth come from? The myth comes from the fact that we as American Jews want to protect America, we want to protect the Jewish relationship with America. So therefore, that myth of Ellis Island is a much better myth than the truth. And I think Geoffrey, that's a very interesting idea here. When you talk about the myth of the stories in the book of Genesis. Did they happen? Did they not happen? The point is, it doesn't make any difference whether they happened or they didn't happen. But each one of them grapples with a moral issue. And not all of them are easily resolvable. Let's take Geoffrey the most difficult one of all, God says to Abraham, I want you to sacrifice your son. Now, the question is not whether that actually happens, or not, the question is why Abraham said, Okay, I'll sacrifice my son. What right did he have to sacrifice his son even at God's Word? So the entire book of Genesis is made up of these "Ma'aseh avot, siman l'banim" these stories, these myths that come to teach us a moral lesson. So I think Dara Horn is really on to something, that sometimes the myth is more important. Then the fact because it comes to teach us something important. Geoffrey Stern 10:05 I think that's great. And clearly, these are myths that resonated, certainly when the Torah was edited, put together, and then re-read over and over again, these are myths that work picked for a reason. And then by simply being repeated so many times they take on a life of their own. And you get to see how different generations and different people react and interact with them. I have to say, as an aside here, that Elie Wiesel wrote a book on Rashi. And it struck Elie Wiesel that the first Rabbi that Rashi quotes is named Rabbi Yitzchok. And of course Rahi's name is Shlomo ben Yitzchak. So the truth is, this is a rabbi that comes from the Yalkut Shimoni it was not his father. But again, it does give another rendering to "Ma'aseh avot, siman l'banim" that we are looking almost like a Rorschach inkblot at the same stories that were looked at, by our forefathers, our forbearers in the case of Judaism, by Christians, by Muslims, by scholars. And that's kind of fascinating, too, I just find that the term that the stories of our past are a sign to us is so so pregnant with meaning, and makes it all so exciting. And getting back to your point about the sacrifice of Isaac, you know, another way to look at myths, and we're gonna start talking about how the psychoanalysts looked at it is like a dream as well. And, you know, the thing about a dream, especially a nightmare, is it's made to resolve certain things, talking about it, hearing it, repeating it over and over again. And then we can manufacture the ending sometimes. So the ending does become important. So I've always thought that the punch line of the sacrifice, or the binding of Isaac was that he wasn't sacrificed. But that is a story that we are going to discuss in the future. What I want to spend the rest of today's discussion talking about is something that I thought about for the first time this year. And that is that when Rashi brings up this point, that why do we need the stories? And he answers with a seemingly very provincial, national answer saying, well, it's in order that we should not be called colonizers, because we're going to come and we're going to, at a certain point in time, take this land that we admit, we are not originally from. And we need these stories to justify that land grab, so to speak. But what it really comes down to, and this is the insight that I want to spend the rest of the day talking about, is that the earth belongs to the Lord. And I would say, it's arbitrary that we own this, or we sit here or we live there. And then there's this other issue, which I really want to focus on, which is that none of us belong to a particular place in the sense we're all alienated from it. From the beginning of the Torah, we're going to see more than I think any of us ever expected. The theme of exile, over and over again in the first, just four chapters of Genesis. And Rashi is even here talking about this concept of exile and return that comes up much later in the narrative. But he brings it to the beginning of the Torah and that I think is not provincial is not partisan, but actually is one of the primary themes of the Bible. So in terms of the Bible itself, we all know that Adam in the second chapter, it has the story of man being created by himself. Maybe he was androgynous we don't know. But after looking for a helpmeet throughout the animal kingdom, God fashioned his rib in 2: 22 And it says, "and he had taken from the man into the woman, and he brought her to the man, then the man said, this one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, this one shall be called woman." So here you have this beautiful image of the unity of mankind of a man cleaving to his wife. And then it goes on to say, "for from men, she was taken. Hence, a man leaves his father and mother, and clings to his wife, so that they shall become one." So we have already in the second chapter, the first instance of this tension between being unitary, whole, complete, and being separated. And there's almost this sense of the separation is a necessary part of our identity. Ever think, and I'm not even talking about the amount of times in the process of creation itself. We had God is doing "havdalah" where he's creating by separating Earth from land, sky from the abode. Have you ever thought about it this way Rabbi Adam? Adam Mintz 16:21 Yeah, well, the idea of separating.... you brought up a whole bunch of different things here. Let's talk about the last thing, the idea of separating the entire story of the six days of creation, is the story about separating, separating night from day, light from darkness, animals from people, the sun and the moon, everything has its opposite. What do you make of that? Why do you think that's so important, that in the story of creation, everything has its opposite? Geoffrey Stern 17:03 Well, I think again, it gives us an insight into the biblical mind, the mind of the Bible's sense of God. And so many things about Genesis is about either dividing or choosing and when you choose, you also are selecting one thing and rejecting something else. It just seems so written in to the fabric. You can almost make the case that creation itself was not so much out of nothing, which is a Greek term, a modern term, but was this act of separating and repositioning. And it does become something that if you use it as a lens, enables you to understand much about the different narratives. In this particular case. I focused first upon man and wife, which is kind of, you know, the beginnings of society, separate from their father and mother, who is the father and mother of Adam and Eve. It's God in a sense, and of course, that story gets picked up a few verses later, in chapter three, when the famous Original Sin occurs. And at this point, God says to the woman, I will give you birth pangs, "b'etzev tilady", you shall give birth in pain, when you bear children, and your husband will rule over you, but also will struggle to pull crops from the ground, "by the sweat of your brow, shall you have bred to eat". Some of the modern day psychologists look at this whole story as the beginning of the "trauma of birth", that here, man was first created without those birth pangs. And he was first created without needing to separate the crop from the earth and to create creation, so to speak. And the first story of creation is this major separation where we are thrown out of the Garden of Eden. So again, everything that we've been talking about till now has focused on this separation. You can even call it alienation That we are torn apart. And that's how on the one hand, you could make an argument creation happens. But certainly it's the source of a lot of anxiety. Adam Mintz 20:12 I mean, there's no question that that's right. A couple of things you brought up, number one, the idea of Adam and Eve not having parents. But then you have the story in chapter three of the sin. And God really takes the position of Adam and Eve's parents in the sense that he's the one who reprimands them, and he's the one who punishes them. I was always wondering, Geoffrey, the rabbis say an amazing thing. The rabbis say that Adam and Eve were created, they were put in the Garden of Eden, but they never actually slept a night in the Garden of Eden. They couldn't even make it one night, before nightfall they had already sinned. Why do you think it is that there was somehow a need for the Torah to tell us that they sinned so quickly, that part of the nature of human beings is to sin? What do you make of that? Geoffrey Stern 21:16 Well, it's certainly the source or the intention of that type of explanation of the myth would come from the fact that it was it was just a taste, it was just so fleeting. And it happened in an instant. And I think that what I kind of come up with is, first of all, how final the divorce, how final the expulsion from the Garden of Eden was, you have these Cherubim, you have these angels with a sword, standing guard over it. It almost sounds as if it was part of the birth pang. It was a rupture, it had to occur, that everything that lies ahead, is after this fact. And that this story was there less to tell you about the bliss of the Garden of Eden, but more to focus you on the project that begins after the expulsion. That's my read. But it's true. We don't spend a whole lot of time on the pearly gates, the beauty of the Garden of Eden, it's almost as though On the flip side, the Torah doesn't spend much time, or any time at all, I would argue on describing a heaven. on describing a pearly end it's all about what lies ahead of us.. Adam Mintz 23:08 That point is such a good point. Because the Garden of Eden is much more important symbolically as the place where they will go back to, right? When we say when somebody dies, "b'gan eden t'he menuchatam" that their resting place will be in the garden of Eden. So the Garden of Eden becomes a place we're going back to not a place that we spend very much time in. That's a fascinating idea. Geoffrey Stern 23:42 So that's a great segue for me to talk a little bit about the psychoanalytic analysts and Otto Rank, wrote two two books 10 years apart. One was called "The myth of the birth of the hero", and the other was called "The trauma of birth". And in the myth of the birth of the hero, he gives much credit to Freud and Freud actually, I wrote on this subject in a book he wrote called "Moses and Monotheism" and that is, and we'll discuss this when we get to Moses, is how almost to a "T" in every one of the ancient mythologies whether it's Romulus and Remus, or whoever. There's this story about the Royal heir, the prince who is expelled from the home, maybe it's because the father is afraid that he's going to come and usurp the throne, has to go out .... many times he's put into a raft through a boat, is raised by animals or simple people. And then you have like Odysseus, a whole way of coming back. Ultimately, if you get to the Oedipus story, he then comes back and he kills his father. He gets his mother and all is resolved. And that's what Rank writes about in this "myth of the birth of the hero". But he makes a major change when he talks about "the trauma of birth". And what he says there is that there's something even more primal, then this, Oedipus and this hero, and what that is, we are all born of women, so to speak, we all are ruptured and thrown into the world. And we are separated from that warm place of our origins. And unlike the Oedipus myth, he claims and I think he's right, and that's why I'm bringing it up now is that it doesn't necessarily or it does necessarily not get resolved. In other words, none of us can go back into the womb. And he brings the Cherubim outside of Eden, because he does see the creation of Eve from Adam, as a way to, to kind of detour around the birth of of humans as it actually occurs. And he does talk about taking the apple off the tree as giving birth to it and separating it. And what he talks about is the whole sin, the whole original sin that all of us human beings have to try to address and not necessarily resolve is this original disruption in our lives. And what argues is that you do not go back to Eden. And I do think you're absolutely right, that we talk about "Gan Eden Mi'Kedem". And we talk about in our prayers going back to Eden, but Eden does not feature as much in Judaism as in Christianity, the Fall does not feature as much. But certainly, there's this sense that the trauma of birth is something that we can't put back, you can't put the genie back inside of the bottle. And that's what kind of is intriguing to me. And again, when we look at myths, some myths, you can wrap with a bow, and they resolve themselves, and others are ones that are just the human condition that we have to deal with. Adam Mintz 27:29 Yes, that is right. And you say that here in the in the very beginning of the Torah, we're really introduced to different kinds of myths. Now we talk about myths. Then you talk about the story of fratricide where Cain kills Abel. That's very much not a myth. That feels very real, doesn't it? Geoffrey Stern 27:56 Well, it absolutely does. But thank you for bringing it up. Because that, I would say is the fourth instance, in our parsha this week, where we have this sense of being a wanderer on the earth, the punishment that Cain gets goes back to the same thing that happened with Adam. It says, If in Genesis 412, it says, "If you till the soil, it shall no longer yield its strength to you." So this birth process will no longer be natural. And then it says you shall become a ceaseless wanderer on the earth. "Na v'nad ti'hiye b'aretz" Then he goes on to say that I "geyrashta" I will divorce you from the face of the earth. And it uses the phrase that we discovered in Deuteronomy at the end of the story, and it goes "umipanecha Ester" and I will hide my face from you. So again, these themes that we thought developed all the way at the end, were there all the way at the beginning as kernels. And then finally, where does Cain go to live and This to me is discovering humor in the Bible as well. "veYashav b'eretz Nod", and he settled he dwelt in the land of Nod. Nod is the same word for Na v'nad", that is he settled in the land of wandering. Adam Mintz 28:05 Which means he never settled. Geoffrey Stern 29:34 He absolutely never settled. He felt responsible for death, he had that guilt. And again, you can say yes, it's a real story. It's not a myth. But if you look at it in terms of all of the narratives that we've seen in Genesis, so far, through this lens, in the first four chapters, it's all about being sent into exile, alienated from one's source ripped away from whether it's the tree, whether it's the father, be it God or one's parents.... cleaving on to each other, to me, it just is so amazing that even though we're not talking about the story of the Jewish people that Rashi focused us on to, the idea is in humanity is this same trope of, of literally from the beginning, we are separated. And if you ask the same question that Rashi asks, from that perspective, then the answer is it needs to start here, because the journey is all about somehow regaining that unity that wholeness, that, that completion. So what what I also discovered is this amazing essay by Bialik, and it's called "Jewish Dualism". And he looks at all of Jewish history, he picks up on where Rashi left off. And he says that, you know, we've been out of the land more than we've been in it. Every time we've left, we've expanded, we've grown. He talks about "a group which adapts itself to the ways of life of the whole world, but nonetheless remains a people dwelling apart." And that's part of the other narrative. And he talks about this strength that it gives us. And I think he wrote it in the same year, as Otto Rank, wrote his book, and they both come to an interesting conclusion. And that is that it's not all a negative thing, that from each expansion and contraction from each exile and return. We enrich ourselves and we enrich others. And Bialik, who is considered the poet Laureate of Zionism, even ends his essay with the following statement, which is mind blowing, he says "And who knows, perhaps after hundreds of years, [of living in the State of Israel], we will be emboldened to make another Exodus, which will lead to the spreading of our spirit over the world, and assiduously striving towards glory." So he really sees it as a pathway going forward of enrichment that is intrinsic to the biblical project. And Rank talks about artists and philosophers and religionists who are able to take this trauma of being born against one's will being passed out and separated from one's natural mother parents from God from this sense of unity and he sees it also as a potential for amazing creation. And He therefore doesn't call the hero the hero anymore he calls it the artist which is kind of fascinating to me so I really do think that the the question is a good one Why do we read these stories? It's a question we all have to ask ourselves and how we answer it really says a lot about ourselves and the direction we want to go in but certainly having multi generations talk about the same texts like Rashi and his father Yitzchok and like you and I and like our listeners is part of the creative project which I think brings us together so anyway, I just love discovering these themes of exile and return so early in the mythological narrative, and I hope you do as well. Adam Mintz 34:11 What a good star Geoffrey. We thank everybody enjoy the parsha Bereshit, and we look forward to continuing Noach next week. And we look forward to a great year of studying parshiyot together with you on Madlik. So thank you, everybody. Shabbat Shalom and enjoy the parsha.
Text for this lesson: “God said to Moshe, ‘Emor El HaKohanim (Speak to the priests), the sons of Aharon, and say to them: Let no [priest] defile himself by [contact with] the dead among his people.'” (Leviticus 21:1) In Siphra DeTzneuta we find: From Nukva DePardaska the breath of life is drawn to Mashiach (Zohar II, 177a). For the basic weapon of Mashiach is prayer. This is the aspect of ChoTeM (the nose), as is written (Isaiah 48:9), “For My praise, eChToM (I will restrain My anger) from you.” Mashiach's main vitality is from the nose. All the wars he will wage, and all his conquests, will be from there, as is written (Isaiah 11:3), “He shall breathe of the fear of God.” This is the aspect of chotem . And prayer is his essential weapon, as is written (Genesis 48:22), “with my sword and my bow.” Onkelos renders this: “with my prayer and my supplication,” and likewise Rashi explains: prayer and entreaty. The same idea is expressed in the verse (Psalms 44:7, 9), “For I trust not in my bow, nor shall my sword save me…[but rather,] in those who praise the Lord all day long.” This corresponds to “For My praise, echtom from you.” Torah 2:2 2. Now, this weapon must be received by means of the aspect of Yosef—i.e., guarding the brit (Covenant), as in (Psalms 45:4), “Gird your sword upon your thigh.” It is also written (Psalms 132:11, 12), “Of your offspring I will set upon your throne”—this refers to Mashiach, who is the aspect of prayer—“if your children will guard My brit”—by the means of the aspect of Yosef. Yosef, who guarded the brit, gained the rights of the firstborn. This corresponds to the divine service of prayer, which is an aspect of the double portion [inherited by the firstborn]. For prayer is itself twofold, as it is comprised of both praise of God and requesting one's needs. This corresponds to “a double-edged sword in their hand” (Psalms 149:6) —i.e., two edges, a double portion. It was taken from Reuven, because he defiled his father's bed (Genesis 49:4) ; for [the birthright] is dependent upon guarding the brit . Feeling inspired? Support Rav Dror: Monthly donations: https://Emunah.com/donate Cashapp- $ilpcourse Zelle- 321-440-0788 Venmo- @ilpcourse Rav Dror's books: https://Emunah.com/store Rav Dror's Exclusive Learning Program meets on Zoom every week: https://emunah.com/elp (or email firstname.lastname@example.org) Rav Dror offers private consultations for singles, couples, and families. Everything from spirituality to relationship advice, Rav Dror is happy to help. Email email@example.com to schedule a private consultation.
Parshat Ha'Azinu - With the Yom Kippur liturgy fresh in our minds we explore a disturbing, persistent and infantile argument for forgiveness… that God forgive us for His sake. Using equal measure of Chutzpa and shaming, we argue that God, as our Father and as our Creator is ultimately responsible for our sins, the sins of his children/creations. We ask: How does God Respond? How should we respond? Source Sheet: www.sefaria.org/sheets/347781 Transcript: Geoffrey Stern 00:01 Welcome to clubhouse Madlik disruptive Torah every week at four o'clock eastern. And we are recording this session and we will publish it on your favorite podcast platform as Madlik. So go ahead and give a listen. And if you do, please give us a star a two and a good review and feel free to share it with your friends. This week's parsha is Ha.azinu, And it is Moses's swan song to the Jewish people. And at times it can be pretty rough on the Jewish people. So it's in Deuteronomy 32. And there were three themes that I want to focus on today. But let's go ahead and read the verses in question. So it begins "Do you thus requite the Lord O dull and witless people. Is not he the father who created you, fashioned you and made you endure? Remember the days of old consider the years of ages past, ask your father, he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you." So it starts by referring to a concept we've seen before, which is God, the Father, and God, the Creator of you. And then it goes on to say, "and he said, I will hide my countenance from them, and see how they fare in the end, for they are a treacherous breed, children with no loyalty at all." So again, the focus is on children, who just do not follow in the footsteps of their parent, their Creator. And God introduces this concept of "hester panim", hiding his countenance from them, and says, see how they fare in the end. And the third theme is finally God says, You know, I would have destroyed you "I might have reduced them to no it made them memory cease among men, but for the fear of the taunts of the foe, their enemies who might misjudge and say, our own hand has prevailed. None of this was wrought by the Lord." And this is another argument that we've seen before, where Moses on many occasions says to God, if you destroy this people, what will the goyim say, what will the non Jews say? What will the Egyptian say? What will the world who has been watching this amazing project of taking a ragtag group of slaves, giving them freedom, bringing them into the desert, and building a new vision for social justice and society? What will happen if they are destroyed? What will everyone say about you and your project? So we have these three themes, God, the Father, God, the Creator, God, saying, I've had enough, I will hide my face from you and see what becomes of you. And finally, you know, I would have destroyed you, if not for what that will do to my street cred to what the world will say about you. And I want to pick up these themes, because they are so primal, to the story of the Bible, the five books of Moses, which were ending, so it's only natural that we can go back to the beginning, and look at the very first sin that was ever perpetrated. And of course, that is the sin of Eve, when she ate of the apple. But when God comes and confronts Adam, with this sin, what does Adam say? What is the response of man, of humanity to being confronted with sin? Genesis 3: 12, "the man said, the woman you put at my side, she gave me of the tree, and I ate." And as Rashi says, Here, he showed his ingratitude, "Kofer b'tovah". The idea that when man is caught sinning, the first thing he does is he blames his creator, he blames that being who gave him the break, who gave him that wife to be at his side, it's precisely there that he says, if you had not given her to me, I would not have failed. And this is a recurring theme that we're going to pick up throughout the Bible. And it's clearly to me in any case, a troubling one. In terms of blaming God or defining God, I should say, you have even Abraham, if you remember before Sodom, and he's saying to God, how can you destroy these people if you find 50 if you find 40 if you find 10 and he finally says "Far be it from you, Shall not the judge of all the earth deal justly?" It's again, he's not blaming God in this case, but he certainly is talking to God in a very assertive manner, saying that listen, God you have street creds, you are supposed to be this just being you can't act unjustly. I mean, even that smacks a little bit of, let me say it Chutzpah. Adam Mintz 05:36 There is a very fine line between chutzpah, and the way that he speaks to God, I would agree 100%. You know, you kind of get the impression that God was much more human in the Torah, And therefore they could speak to God like this. Geoffrey Stern 05:55 Yeah, and of course, we all know that the Torah speaks in the language of man "lo dibra Torah ela b'lashon b'nai adam". So whether it's God being more human, or the text and our Holy Writ being written in a way that we can understand, it's irrelevant. But I think you're absolutely correct. In the sense the Bible, gives us something that we can wrap our arms around, and in our perception of God, we perceive God to be just, so he has to act just and if he doesn't, we can complain against him. And that's a good message. But later on, when the children of Israel are in the desert. And they start complaining whether it's when the mana falls or when there's not enough meat, or when the spies come back. And at one point, the Gemora in Avada, Zahra puts the words into Moses as saying, "Moses said to the Jewish people, ingrates, children of ingrates, when the Holy One bless it be he said to the Jewish people, who would give that he had such a heart as this always... the point is that according to this piece of Talmud, every time that the Jews complain, and they say, God, you took us out of Egypt, you bought us here. It's all your fault. Or the reason it says ingrates son of ingrates is because he refers back to what Adam said to God. There's this overriding sense, not because God is the only one to complain, but maybe he's the biggest target, that children of Israel actually act almost like children who are constantly coming back and saying, not that we failed, but that you failed us. You created us, you bought it, you own it type of thing. This ingrates, children of ingrates Kofi Toba Benei, Kofu Tova. Adam Mintz 08:08 Yeah, you're like that? That's a very strong image isn't it? Geoffrey Stern 08:12 Absolutely. And it's, it just seems like a strange way to kind of move forward. Nothing good can can come out of it. Unless I'm missing something, you know. We were talking before how the the Torah is written in the language of man, but we still can control how we perceive things and how we represent things. And we're representing a situation where God yes, sometimes can inspire us, but on the other hand becomes a straw dummy or pinyatta that we can just batter. Adam Mintz 08:56 I think the word is a target. Geoffrey Stern 08:59 Absolutely. With a capital T. ..... And, and, you know, that's why this this recurring notion of what will the Egyptians say? What will the people of the world say? It's kind of a hybrid argument. It's not only God, you put us in this situation, but because you put this in this situation, you know, have to protect your flank, because people are going to say you started this program, this experiment. You took this raggle rap of a people out of Egypt, you said that slaves could be free people, and we're failing. And so it not only is it your fault, but humanity will cast blame on you as as a failure at the most lowest level. But as Someone who has given up and walked away. Adam Mintz 10:04 That's an important idea, by the way, the idea that God will be a failure. I think there's something to that. God is very worried that people will think him a failure. "lama Yomru Mitrayim laymor" Right? Why should the Egyptian say that God took us out to kill us in the desert? It's a very strong idea. Geoffrey Stern 10:33 And I think, stepping back for a second, what it really reminds us of is that this whole project, the project of the Bible, is for all humanity. We've touched upon this theme in previous episodes, where God says, You know, I tried with Adam, I tried with Noah, it failed. I really wanted this for all humanity. I didn't want to have chosen people. But this became my plan B, or C, or D, my default strategy. But ultimately, it's important what happens in this program, because the world is watching. And I think that's the most maybe favorable way that we can characterize this argument of what will the rest of the world say? But certainly, I find it a little pathetic. I have to say, Adam Mintz 11:34 That's interesting. Pathetic. Tell everybody. Why do you think it's pathetic? Geoffrey Stern 11:38 Well, again, .... you were given great opportunities. And the Jewish people, certainly while they came from a very troubled background, they were given by this God amazing opportunities, they saw the Red Sea part, they saw the revelation at Sinai. And given that, and given the opportunities that they've been given, to dream about going back to Egypt, and to blame God for putting them in this situation does smack of .... I can't say it better than Rashi: ingratitude. Adam Mintz 12:21 Right. I mean, that's the word ingratitude. And that's the word of the parsha is ingratitude. Let's just to go back to the parsha, the way you introduced it for a minute. It's interesting that everything's going to work out, okay. That ha'azinu ends on a high note, .... that you're going to find God and then everything's going to end up working out. Okay. We know that that's not always the case. Things don't always end up end up. Okay. It's kind of interesting, isn't it? Geoffrey Stern 12:55 Well, absolutely, absolutely. And, you know, again, here's a case where the Jews are being put on the spot, put on trial and being castigated, and they come back and they say, well, it's all your fault. You put us in the situation, you're talking about those situations where no one's castigating them, but life is tough. And again, they go back, and they blame their parents so to speak, I want to pick up on that theme of the Father, because in Numbers, so we're not talking midrash, we're not talking commentary. We're talking the book of Bamidbar/Numbers. Moshe is in one of these situations that he's in multiple times, where God says, let's just cut the cord, I will destroy this people, and I'll begin afresh with you. And Moses turns back in Numbers 11, verse 12, he said, "Did I conceive all this people? Did I bear them that you should say to me carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries an infant, to the land that you have promised on oath to their fathers?" You can't but take away from this, that Moses is almost, again saying to God, I'm not their father, you're their father, you cannot put on me this blame and this responsibility of carrying them. But again, it comes back down to if I were the father, or in this case, God, you are the Father, you gave birth to them, you created this project. You need to fulfill your promise, even if they let you down. So the two themes are kind of inextricably connected. Adam Mintz 14:50 You know, I saw an amazing story before Yom Kippur. The story is of a man who sits down before Yom Kippur and he takes out his book And the book has a list of all his sins. I did this wrong, and I did this wrong. And then he opens another book. And the other book has a list of all the things God did wrong.... you know, you killed this person, this person died of cancer. And there was a flood and there was a hurricane and all these things, and the man looked up to heaven, He says, God, I'll make you a deal. If you forgive me, I'll forgive you. Geoffrey Stern 15:27 Well, you know, that sounds like one of these wonderful Hasidic stories. Adam Mintz 15:33 it is Yeah, but it's kind of related to your point. Geoffrey Stern 15:37 It is. And I would go, one step further. Some of the Hasidim, especially the Breslevers, would go out into the woods, and they would pray to God and call Tata, tata, my dad, my dad, they focused on the real parent child relationship. And I assume that that has good aspects of it. And it also has some negative aspects too, Adam Mintz 16:04 right? For sure. I mean, it's just, you know, like all these Hasidic stories, it's just to kind of give you an impression, but it's a strong impression, I think. Geoffrey Stern 16:14 I agree. I was thinking about this during all the liturgy and prayers of Yom Kippur. And I was really struck by the fact that this argument that we have kind of uncovered the one of slight ingratitude slight chutzpah, where the sinner turns around and says to the accuser, in this case God, Hey, buddy, you put me in this spot. It's actually very well presented in the liturgy. So the most famous prayer is Avenu Malkenu. And Barbra Streisand does a great job of singing it. We all love it. In the Talmud there's an amazing story about a situation where there was a drought, and a rabbi was unsuccessful. Rabbi Eliezer was unsuccessful in getting the rain to come. And Rabbi Akiva, one of our buddies and friends went ahead, and he invented this prayer. And he said, Avanu Malkenu lmancha Rachem aleynu" which means God our Father, for your sake, have mercy upon us. And of course, you could say that I'm kind of picking words here. But there was no question that later when they added to these verses, they said, if not for us, then for your sake, but it's clear from the perspective that he gave it number one calling god father and emphasizing that fatherly relationship, and then saying again, it's for your sake, do it? Does he mean for your sake? Because you gave birth to us? Is it because for us sake, because of what others will speak? Well, this question of in the Avinu Malkenu which is such a significant part of our prayers, Rabbi Akiva introduces both the "avinu" part that God is our father, but also this this little insight that we've been working on, which is because your our father, it's lamancha do it for your sake. And I think that, that's very key to the argument. The other place where it comes up is the most beautiful poem and prayer that we have, it's like "Clay in the hands of the pot potter". And it seems like just a beautiful little story based on verses in Jeremiah and other prophets. "We say like clay in the hands of the potter, if he wills, he can expand it, if he wills he can contract it. So too, we in your hand, preserver of kindness, heed the covenant and not the accuser. Like stone in the hand of the Mason." It's a beautiful, beautiful poem, but is it not doing the same thing? Is it not basically saying, hey, God, we're the Golem and you fashioned us. We are the statue. We are the rudder. We are the gem. Call us what you want. But at the end of the day, you made us You made a covenant with us. You need to protect us against the accuser. Is it not the same argument? Adam Mintz 19:59 The answer is it does sound like the same argument doesn't it? What you're saying Geoffrey is it's chutzpah? Geoffrey Stern 20:11 Well, I am and I always thought it but then I was reading Jonathan Sacks' Machzor and he actually brings up Shemot Rabba, which is a midrash. Where it says, What is the meaning of We Are the clay, you are the potter. And it says "Israel said, master of the universe, you have caused it to be written about us like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel, therefore do not leave us even though we sin and provoke you for we are merely the clay and you are the potter, consider if a potter makes a jar and leaves a pebble in it. When it comes out of the furnace, it will leak from the hole left by the pebble and lose the liquid poured into it, who caused the jar to leak and lose its liquid, the potter who left the pebble in the jar as it was being made. This is how Israel pleaded before God, Master of the Universe, You created us with an evil inclination for my youth, as it says for the inclination of man's heart is evil from his youth. And it is that that has caused us to sin, since you have not removed from us the inclination that instigates us to sin." And Rabbi Sacks points out that the whole argument is based on a plan words. We talked about "atah Yotzrenu" that you created us and we are homer b'yad haYotzer". We are material in the hand of the Yotzer. And there's the Yetzer HaRah" So it makes the case that all of our deficiencies be blamed on our Yotzer on that who created us. So it's it's not only what I hear, I think the rabbi's heard this as well, Adam Mintz 22:07 That's very, very good. That's a nice idea. Where does Rabbi Sacks say that? Geoffrey Stern 22:11 Well, he says it in his introduction to the Yom Kippur Machzor, he has a whole paragraph on clay in the hands of the potter. And it's in the in the notes for that for this session. But he quotes Shemot Rabbah and of course, it's the rabbi's who who make this case. And he goes even further to say that, maybe, and this is something that a theme that I have not brought up, is that maybe we don't need to attribute this to a parental relationship, rebelling against one's parents or blaming every deficiency on one's parents. Maybe it's just dawggone chutzpah. And he says the Gemora in Sanhedrin says that when it comes to prayer, you need some chutzpah so it's complicated. It's complicated, like parent children relationships. And we probably can't get away from it. But certainly to identify this issue of constantly blaming God for our deficiencies, or blaming our parents for our deficiencies is something that has its place but also can be played out a little bit. I think. Adam Mintz 23:36 I think that's really nice. I mean, I think that's a that's a really beautiful idea. You know, We miss Rabbi Sacks, this is just about a year since his passing, and we miss Rabbi Sacks. And you see the amazing insight he has to this is really beautiful. Geoffrey Stern 23:51 Well, absolutely. The third theme that I brought up was this question of God hiding his face. And I just wonder, I don't want to put any of our listeners on the spot. But if anyone is a psychologist who can talk about parent children, relationships, that would be insightful. What do you do with a child who constantly blames you for all of their deficiencies? We've gone through half an hour where the Jewish people say, hey, God, you took us out of Egypt, you put us into this situation. We are just a bunch of raggle taggle slaves. We have no idea what freedom and responsibility is. It's all you're to blame. We all said yesterday, we are clay in the hands of the potter. God You made us You must have left a marble in the dough, because we didn't turn out so well. It's your fault. And I would love to give as a suggested answer is at a certain point, God says "haster panim". I will hide my face the best thing that I can do Is to wean you of that relationship, is to pull away. And I think that's the third element here, that God says to the Jewish people in the song of ha'azinu. He says, you, you blame me for everything, you forget that I'm your parent in a good way. So "I will hide my countenance from them, and see how they fare in the end". And I think this question of seeing how they fare in the end is normally taken as part of a punishment. Like, we'll see what happens to you now, you know, .... this is what you want, you want that new car or you want that, to do it your way, you don't want to listen to me, well, let's see how that works out. But on the other hand, it might be a blessing. And God might be saying, Listen, I have no choice, I have to pull back. You need to learn on your own, to stand on your own two feet, to stop casting blame going backwards to those who have empowered you. And I'll see how it turns out. And maybe God is saying, hopefully, with a sense of hope, we'll see how it turns out. Adam Mintz 26:15 I think that's beautiful. Geoffrey Stern 26:17 I mean, I think that the question of how Sukkot and Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanna all come together, is maybe part of this, this answer, where we're literally moving out of our house, God (our dad) is kicking us out. And we go into the sukka. And we only have selves, and maybe a few pieces of branch or straw protecting us. The the word that the Psalms talks about is the same word as God uses when he hides his face. It says that you shall be (and this is from the Psalm that we read all through the High Holidays and into Sukkot). And that is "and he will shelter me in his sukka, on an evil day", we create our own shelter. We create our own life, we have to stand on our own two feet. We are surrounded by the beauty of nature and the crops that we have grown. And maybe that's part of the answer. But that certainly is part of the answer for those of us who may be it doesn't resonate. In terms of the liturgy in the services that we do in the synagogue, where we try the blame game, and maybe after Ne'eela we're ready to step outside, and to welcome our new selves with a smile and the simcha that you talked about Rabbi a few weeks ago. Adam Mintz 27:45 I think that's beautiful. And I just want to wish everybody Shabbat Shalom, and enjoy hag samayach. And look forward to seeing everybody next week. Maybe next week Geoffrey, since it's Shabbat Hol HaMoed, and we read the book of Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, we could choose something from Ecclesiastes. Geoffrey Stern 28:02 That's a great idea. Okay, let's let's think about that. Shabbat shalom. And for those of you including Stav and Yohanan, and anyone else who wants to continue the conversation, welcome to the after party. Stav. How are you my friend? Stav Stern 28:20 Oh, good. Geoffrey. I'm live from California, from Los Angeles traffic. And you just brought up, I came in a little late. But you just brought up something in me because I was thinking during this Yom Kippur for the first time, I have fasted wholeheartedly in a while. And I was thinking a lot about forgiveness. And then I realized that most people or I usually think about asking forgiveness on Yom Kippur. But this time, I was really into also the idea of giving forgiveness. And, you know, when you talked about blaming God for making us imperfect, with the yetzer hara, and all that I was thinking, is also part of the ideal, so to forgive God in any way for that, and just came up to me and I wonder your thoughts? Geoffrey Stern 29:20 I definitely think that's part of it. I mean, there's another prayer that says at the end of it "aval anachnu v'avotenu Hatanu", that we and our parents have sinned, and I always was curious, why does it say we and our parents have sinned? Again, is it part of this strategy of saying, hey, it's not just me, it's it's my parents also. Or are we talking about that God (our Father in) heaven? The is the avotenu... Hey, God, were both not blameless here. If we're talking as a nation, you freed us You put us in the desert, we didn't have a clue about freedom and responsibility. If it's talking about us as individuals, it's a it's a real heavy load that that we're asked to do as we kind of journey and navigate through this world. And while it's probably not healthy, to totally blame God, I do think that the relationship is such whether it's because of Avinu Malkenu that he's both our king and our parent, but he's also a member of a covenant. And the covenant is two ways. So I think that's a wonderful insight. I am so into Sukkot right now, it's amazing how you can switch gears, but I'm ready to move out of the house. I'm like a little kid who's moving out of the house for the first time. And I look at my, my father, both in life and in heaven. And I just smile and I say, you know what, Bygones are bygones. I'm out. Now, I'm going to make my own way. And you're going to be a part of it. I think you kind of go through the whole process. But I do think that forgiving God is, as as dastardly as it sounds, it's, it's probably part of the process as well. Stav Stern 31:24 Thank you, Geoffrey. Geoffrey Stern 31:26 Thank you Stav. Okay. Well, unless there's anybody else who has any suggestions or questions. I am going to wish everybody a wonderful year, a Shabbat Shalom, and get out there, build a sukkah or find a tree to sit underneath this shade. And just enjoy these early days of Fall. And be thankful for the two feet that you can stand on and the air you can breathe, take a deep breath in and a deep breath out. And maybe that's the ultimate reason why Sukhot is the final the final day of forgiveness and rejuvenation that were given. So Shabbat shalom. Thank you all for joining
Rabbi Jacobson will discuss the following topics: Lessons from Vov Tishrei Why is respecting parents such a great mitzvah? What is the connection with the Ten Days of Teshuvah? Why did the Rebbe honor his mother by analyzing and explaining Rashi? What can we learn from 9/11?How crumbling structures lead to greater growth Chassidus applied to Yom Kippur Why is it the holiest day of the year? On the high holidays who serves as our lawyer to defend us in the heavenly court? Can we follow a Yom Kippur service via zoom? What is the connection between Yom Kippur and the golden calf? Why was only the kohen gadol allowed to enter the kodesh kadoshim and only on Yom Kippur? Who cleaned the Holy of Holies, and could they tell us what it looked like inside? How does throwing a goat off a cliff to its death atone for our sins? If Moshiach comes before Yom Kippur will we need to fast? Laws and customs Is it acceptable to ask forgiveness via social media? If all our actions are predetermined, why are we responsible to ask forgiveness for sins? What are the origins of the kapparot ritual? Why did the Rebbe distribute honey cake before Yom Kippur and how can we maintain this tradition after Gimmel Tammuz? Why do we wear a white tunic (kittel) on Yom Kippur? Why do we fast over 25 hours on Yom Kippur, when a day is only 24 hours? Why are marital relations forbidden on Yom Kippur? Is using a caffeine suppository on Yom Kippur cheating? Prayers Why is Al Cheit said in the plural? Why do we read the book of Jonah on Yom Kippur? If singing Napolean's March signifies that we have won the war even before the battle has begun, why don't we sing it at the beginning of the day, before Kol Nidrei? Chassidus question: What is the connection between Yom Kippur and the 15th of Av?
parshat nitzavim (deuteronomy 30) Join Geoffrey Stern, Rabbi Adam Mintz and Theatre Director and Professor Michael Posnik in a live recording of Madlik Clubhouse as they explore the verse in Deuteronomy 30 that proclaims that the Torah is not in Heaven. We explore it in context and in the agada. We take a literary journey into the iconic story of the oven of akhnai. Sefaria source Sheet: www.sefaria.org/sheets/345182 Transcript: Geoffrey Stern 00:00 This week's parsha is nitzavim and you are listening to Madlik weekly disruptive Torah. And by disruptive, we mean Torah that hopefully makes you think about the Torah slightly differently, from a new angle, with a fresh pair of lenses, revisit old friends, as I often do, or meet new characters, new stories and react to them in a fresh way. And we record this clubhouse, and we post it as a podcast on all of your favorite podcasting platforms. So if you miss it, or if you want to share it with somebody, if you want to give us a few stars and a nice review, go check out Madlik. And so we want to get started, this is actually a very special week, because it's the last Shabbat, the last week of the year. So we have to finish dramatically. And today, I'd like to say this is the dramatic version of Madlik because we are going to be discussing a story in the Agadda, which is the material, I think I know it's been made into a play. But who knows, it could be even a movie coming to a theater near you, because it has so many turns to it. And so many different characters with character flaws and a storyline that is engaging. So, let us begin, we are reading from Deuteronomy 30. And the Torah says, speaking about the Torah, it says "It is not in the heavens that you should say, who amongst us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us that we may observe it. Neither is it beyond the sea that you should save Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us that we may observe it." So it seems to be a pretty straightforward sense of the Torah is here. You don't have to go far. What do you think Rabbi is the straightforward meaning of "Lo Bashamayim Hi", that the Torah our teaching our tradition is not in heaven, and it's not on the other side of the sea, Adam Mintz 02:36 Firs tof all Geoffrey, thank you so much. It's a great parsha to end the year with. I think what it means is that the best excuse you can give his Torah is too hard observance is too hard tradition are too hard. Tradition is for the Super religious, for the people who can appreciate all of this. The answer is absolutely not. It's not in heaven. It's not far away. It's in our hearts and inside our mouths, it's up to us. It's right there. For us. It's the word I like to use in this portion is it's accessible. And we have to remember the Torah is accessible. If Torah is accessible, then we can we can reach it also. Geoffrey Stern 03:21 I agree with you totally. And I would read translate the phrase "Lo Bashamayim hi" that it is not in heave as it's not in the sky. In other words, I think if you look at the two verses together, one says it's not up in the sky. And the other says it's not beyond the sea. It's very temporal. It's saying you don't have to go look anywhere else. You don't have to go on a trip, you don't have to go on an experience. You don't have to go find yourself a yogi. And I think in the Devarim Raba, it gives a bunch of explanations, but one says "it is not in heaven". They said to Moses, our teacher, but hey, you said to us it's not in heaven. It's not in the other side of the sea. But where is it? He said to them in the place that is close in your mouths in your hearts to do it. It is not far from you. It is close to you all." And I think that's exactly what you were saying. It's almost to say, you know, people searched the whole world to find something only to find. They had it all along. I think that even looking at it and thinking of heaven in terms of a sense of heaven and hell or heaven as the abode of God. The truth is if you look up this word in the five books of Moses, it typically means sky. So, so that we are going to launch a journey that began In the Talmud, where all of a sudden, this simple verse of saying, hey, it's not a pie in the sky, it's not up in the sky, it's right in your own hand, transformed and became something very dramatic. And I think it's a great example of what we were talking about in past weeks, how everything in the Torah, whether it's the activities that we're commanded to do, or the texts that we read, can take on a life of their own and be different things to different people as we move forward. So there is a famous story. And it is considered, I think, one of the most favorite stories and one of the most famous stories in the Aggadah, which is the the tradition of allegory and of myth and of stories in the Talmud, as opposed to strict laws. And it's known by the name of the oven that is the the subject matter. Its in Baba Mitziah 59b And it starts by talking about rabbis discussing a particular oven that was formed in the shape of a snake, you got to kind of think of yourself as forming a playdough snake and then making it into an oven. So there are lines or spaces in between, and the rabbi's are discussing something very technical as to whether it is kosher, or if it's "tahor", if it was pure or impure, and we don't need to get into the details. But we do need to know that one of the rabbi's whose name was Rabbi Eliezer he said to them that he believed that it was kosher. And the rest of the rabbi's said, No, we think it's impure. And so on that day, Rabbi Eliezer, who believed it was kosher gave all the possible answers in the world and the rabbi's did not accept his explanation. So this is one Rabbi named Rabbi Eliezer. He has a against a bunch of rabbis. And then he went on to say if the law is like me, he says, Let the carob tree prove it. And sure enough, a miracle happened and the carob tree was uprooted from its place 100 cubics. Some people save even 400 cubits. And the rabbi's answered him and said one does not say bring a proof from a carob tree. So Rabbi Eliezer said to them, if the Halacha is in accordance with me, let this stream prove it .... the aqueduct prove it. And all of a sudden, the water on the aqueduct started moving in the opposite direction. And they said to him, one does not cite a proof from a stream. Rabbi Eliezer started to get blue in the face, and he says if the halacha is in accordance with my opinion, let the walls of the study hall prove it. And sure enough, the walls of the study hall leaned inward and began to fall. Rabbi Yehoshua scolded the walls and said to him, if Torah scholars are discussing Torah with each other. What does it mean to you? What is your involvement? So the walls did actually not fall out of deference to Rabbi Yehoshua, but they didn't straighten up in deference to Rabbi Eliezer until today, they still remain leaning. Finally, Rabbi Eliezer came to the end of this thread, and he says, if the halacha is like me, if the law is with me, let heaven prove it. And a divine voice a "bat Kol", came down from heaven and said, Why are you arguing with Rabbi Eliezer, the halaqa is always according to him. At this point, Rabbi Yehoshua stood on his feet and said, "Torah Lo Bashamayim hi", the Torah is not in heaven. What is the relevance of the phrase "it is not in heaven"? He said, since the Torah was already given at Mount Sinai, we do not regard a "Bat Kol" a divine voice. And it says "Acharei Lerabim Lehatot", we go after the majority.... This is kind of like a Beatle song. There are many stops here. We could definitely stop here. But I'm going to go One more little insight before I stopped for our first discussion. The Gemora says Rabbi Nathan, one of the rabbis who had been arguing against Rabbi Eliezer happened to meet Elijah the Prophet on the street. And he said to him Elijah what was God doing when this discussion was happening? and Elijah the prophet said he smiled, and he said, "My children have defeated me. My children have defeated ME."Nitzchuni Bonai, Nitchuni Bonai". What a story and we're not even halfway through. Rabbi, Michael Posnik...., what do you think of this story? Adam Mintz 10:18 So I, Geoffrey I'm also interested by the last line that you added, "my children have defeated me"? Is that good or bad? I mean, are we supposed defeat God? Or is that a criticism? What's the end piece? But I'm gonna turn it over to Michael, because Michael is gonna give us a dramatic insight into the story. Michael Posnik 10:41 Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's the only place in all of our literature where God smiles or laughs. Geoffrey Stern 10:54 I hope that's not true. But Adam Mintz 10:56 I don't think that's true. But you know what, but it's good anyway, even if it's not true it's a good insight. Michael Posnik 11:03 if there's another one, then that would be nice to see that but so you asked if it was good or bad. Gods smiled or laughed. And I think he understood the picture and that he couldn't do anything about this. He gave the Torah and people have to address it according to their their needs. There's also a question here. I understand the oven as being really about the community and Rabbi Eliezer, because there seems to be a question about one of the stones or part of the oven was repaired. And because of the repair, the question was whether the odd stone or the odd stones that have been repaired, made that made the oven unclean, or unable to use it to kasher anything. And this to me, I read about as this community there are people in the community who are like the odd stones. Are are they to be counted in the minyan (quorum of 10 Jews), or not to be counted in the minyan and if they behave differently if they react differently? If they were kind of exiled. And the story unfortunately plays itself out. That Rabbi Akiva comes to Rabbi Eliezer who's now excommunicated, becomes into Herem, so he's out of the community, the community tosses him out. Geoffrey Stern 12:42 Well, let's not jump ahead too much. We don't want to give away the surprise ending! Michael Posnik 12:47 Well the surprise ending is a sad surprise. So those are just some thoughts that I think it is our responsibility to address the questions that come up in the Torah. I also wonder about the rabbi's need for power to hold the community together. And Rabbi Eliezer seems to be in the way to a kind of unified view in the community. These are massive questions that we're constantly dealing with, do we really go with the majority? Or is the minority view acceptable? This is today, this is in our world as well. So just some thoughts. nothing terribly dramatic, but just some thoughts. Geoffrey Stern 13:31 Let me let me focus a little bit you mentioned about God smiling, let's let's take a second to look at some of the words that are used here. The word for smile is "Chiyuch". And inside of that, I believe is is Chai, which is life, and certainly humor. And this has a lot of irony in the story. It has a lot of tragedy, and God is all there in the drama and in the smile. The other word that I love here is "nitzchuni Bonai" , which is typically translated as having "defeated me, "netzach" can be to to be victorious, but as Rabbi Riskin pointed out, "Netchak", can also mean eternal "netzach Yisrael" and so Rabbi Riskin translates this as my children have defeated me, "my children have eternalized me." And before I open that up to discussion, remember when Rabbi Eliezer asked the walls of the Beit midrash" to prove him right? If you remember that was the only instance where the rabbi's jumped in and said to the walls of the Beit Midrash of the study hall. Don't listen to him Don't go all the way because we are engaged in the discussion of Torah the word that they used is "Amar Lehem Talmidei Chachamim nitzachim ze et zeh", that we are discussing, we are battling over Torah one with with the other. Again, the word netzach. Here. So I think, at the most basic part of the story, as we kind of pause, right here is yes, you have all of those elements that you described, Michael, you have the question of the individual, you have a question of the authority of the community, you have the question of, are we looking for truth? Or are we looking for compromise. But certainly, the reason a story like this lives forever, is because God is smiling, and we are doing what he wants us to do. And ultimately, that might be why the Torah is no longer in heaven. It's kind of like a father or mother who teaches their child something, and then has the Glee of watching their child take it somewhere that maybe they hadn't even thought of. Adam Mintz 15:58 There's a lot there. You just said, I love the idea, Rabbi Riskin's famous idea that has been saying for many years, that my children have eternalized me, that arguing with the God is good, that shows that we're alive, that shows that we're thinking it's such an amazing idea, isn't it? "Nitzchuni Bonai.. they've defeated me, but they eternalize me by defeating ....it's the same word. Geoffrey Stern 16:27 Absolutely. So we could stay here for the rest of the day. And I actually always thought that the story, as I just told it, was the key to the amazement and the beauty of this story, but it goes on. So now the rabbi's said, Okay, what do we need to do against Rabbi Eliezer, so the first thing that they they did is they put all the ritually pure items that Rabbi Eliezer said, were pure, and they burn them in a fire. And I know all of the images that that brings up amongst us. And then they said, Let's reach a consensus. And let's ostrocize him and lets put him in herem, the word that they use to put him in herem is kind of interesting. And it's one that a play that Michael was involved picked up on, instead of they say cursing, they say blessing, but it's understood that they just didn't want to utter the words of Herem of ostrasizng a Jew. So they they basically ostracize him. And then they have to figure out how we going to convey the message to him that he is ostracized. And so now we have another giant of the Torah raise his hand. And Rabbi Akiva says, I am his beloved disciple, I will go lets an insanely person go and inform him in a callous and offensive manner. And he would thereby destroy the entire world. They're going to excommunicate someone who can move carob trees and water in different directions. So what did Rabi Akiva do? He wrapped himself in black, he sat for cubics away from Rabbi Eliezer as you would sit from someone who is excommunicated, and the details are all there, I invite you all to go read them. And it goes dramatically. He rent his garments. He removed his shoes. Rabbi Eliezer said What happened? Who died, he started to cry, he shedded tears. And all of a sudden things in the world started to get afflicted and destroyed just because Rabbi Eliezer himself started to cry. And then the anger was great that day. And he finally realized that he was being excommunicated. You could not sugarcoat this message. And then the story goes on to Rabbi Gamaliel, who was the head of the Sanhedrin and was involved with this decision. And like the prophet Jonah, he's on a boat, and the water, the water is raging, and the boats about to sink. And he says to himself, he says to God, it seems to me that this is only for the sake of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hercanus This must be for what happened to him and he stood on his feet and he said Master of the Universe. It is revealed and known before you that neither was it for my honor that I acted in ostracizing him, nor was it for the honor of the house of my father, rather for your honor, so that disputes will not proliferate in Israel, and as a response to sea calmed from its raising, and Ima Shalom, we get a woman in the story. This is the wife of Rabbi Eliezer. She knows that if Rabbi Eliezer ever put his head down on his arm and says the Tachanun Prayer where he cries out to God for that which has befallen him the world will be destroyed. And so she makes it her mission never to let him say the Tachnun prayer because, guess what her brother is Rabbi Gamliel. And sure enough she's successful until one day, maybe it was because she thought it was Rosh Chodesh the new moon when you don't say Tachnun, maybe it was because a poor ani came to the door, but her attention was swayed, he said Tachnun. And the next thing we know a shofar blew announcing the death of Rabbi Gamliel. And the story ends and she says, Why did this happen? EMA shalom said, this is the tradition that I received from the house of my father, all the gates of heaven are locked, except for the gates of 'Ona'at Devarim' verbal mistreatment. And that is the end of this story. And as far as I can tell, the only pragmatist the only player in this story that is guiltless is possibly the walls of the Beit Midrash that compromised and didn't fall down. But every everybody else is so much to blame. What are your thoughts? Michael Posnik 21:27 Geoffrey? It is truly a dramatic story. Because at the moment when God smiles or laughs, there's a lightness to the whole thing. And there's a sense of winning as it were, there's a sense of completion in the community. But that laughter turns to tremendous tragedy and grief and the death of the prince of the Sanhedrin and the murder, through Tachanun... through prayer. It is a devastating tale. And I know the translation at the very end, which he says through the one who has been verbally abused. I know there are many other translations... I read one that said that all the gates are closed except the gates for the broken heart. And this story, I think, is a broken heart. It's not about an oven. I mean, it's about an oven, which is somewhat ironic and strange. But there's broken hearts all the way through this. And those rabbis who won the day as it were over God, they grieve. I think that oven was probably never used to get it's it's quite a powerful, dramatic story. I always think that the comic mask and the dramatic mask tied together with one string. It's not two separate masks. It's one and this story's really indicative of it. The last thing I want to say is Rabbi Akiva having to do that work. It's so close to the holiday now. It's so close to Rosh Hashanna, when we all must go and do work. That's difficult to do on ourselves and forgiveness, things like that with other people. So it's very moving moment. Rabbi Akiva going in black, and having to having to give this message. Geoffrey, you read very dramatically, I have to say I would cast you in a minute. Geoffrey Stern 23:39 Was was this play ever performed? I know you sent me a script from a Daniel (Danny) Horowitz,. It's called a page of Talmud... was it ever performed? Michael Posnik 23:48 It was performed when Donny wrote it in Tel Aviv sometime in the 80s. I produced it at the 92nd Street y with the Talking Band. And it was done. About a year ago, maybe a year and a half ago. Yoni Oppenheim produced it downtown in the theater with a company of people. They did that one and Donny Horowitz also wrote the story of Kamtza bar Kamtza", which is also not a happy story. Needless to say but very powerful. Yeah, it was produced, and maybe other places too. I don't know. Geoffrey Stern 24:28 Amazing Adam Mintz 24:31 it is amazing. Michael, I want to just go back to your idea of putting together the comic with the dramatic. Is it an interesting interlude. The God is smiling, even though it's such a tragedy. Aren't you struck by that? Michael Posnik 24:49 That's why I went into the theater. Because ou never can resolve that. And the theater and all poetry and really good art does not let you resolve things like we try to do in real life? Like we tried to win the day with a halacha or whatever like the rabbi's. The world is resolvable. And so we are bound to live in, in the midst, in between those two amazing powers, we have to come out whole in some way. Well, that's our job. Geoffrey Stern 25:23 But to me, it's the question of when does that occur in this story, it occurs right before they break back to the present and start burning Reb eliezer's stuff, and before they excommunicate him, where he smiles, it's rather an amazing place. Because if you recall, they said two arguments. One is that the Torah is not in heaven. And 2, that we go Acharei L'Rabim L'hatot. that we go after the majority. And that's amazing. Because if you look at Exodus 23, which is what they quote, Exodus 23 says, You shall neither side with the mighty to do wrong, "Lo acharei l'rabim" . And if you look at Rashi, on that, he says they are Halachik interpretations of the sages that go against the wording of the text. Athis is the part of the story that I think most people take away, and they don't get into the Sturm und Drang afterwards, that he was smiling, because his children had taken the text in a direction, either not meant, not intended, or even in a whole new directiion. And if it had ended there, maybe it would have been a nice story. But I think the challenge becomes when they therefore want to burn his vessels, or in his books, quiet him and stop him. And you know, the good of the, the whole, for that sake, that becomes a little dangerous. And Michael, you shared a text with me, which is absolutely unbelievable. It's from the Brothers Karamazov. And it's chapter five, the Grand Inquisitor, and there it talks about a regular day in Spain, where the Grand Inquisitor was killing some Jews burning them at the stake. And then all of a sudden, people look to the church and there's an infant that had died, and a holy person comes and brings that child back to life. And then Grand Inquisitor knows who it is. So he locks him up in jail. And literally, it's a similar parallel story to ours where the Grand Inquisitor says, I know you are Jesus the Lord. And you can't come back, you can come and change the rules because we don't need you. For 1500 years we clerics have been changing the rules because man cannot live with the freedom that you gave. So it's fascinating in terms of those who are supposed to be listening to the words of the Spirit can change it, and that can be good, but then they can silence it. And that is bad. Michael Posnik 28:12 It's very interesting question also about the supernatural. All of the proofs that Rabbi Eliezer brings are supernatural and miraculous. And when the people asked Jesus to jump off the top of the synagogue, he refused, as he said, I don't want your faith to be in the supernatural. I want you to have faith because you have faith not because of something amazing... carob tree, or the water or the walls, or even a bat Kol. He wants people to believe so it's a very interesting conversation about how the super and how we live with quote the supernatural. And is there such a thing? And why do we keep longing for it? So the church, the Grand Inquisitor says, Yeah, we have them in the palm of our hand, you could have to but you didn't know you wanted them to be. You wanted them to be real mechen And not believe in something because of some kind of miraculous. Miracles aren't the whole thing. So in that sense, the rabbis saw one thing with the rabbis burning the stuff the burning the stuff is, is like the extra 500 people that were killed at the end of the Purim. Megillah. Adam Mintz 29:30 Wow, Michael, there's a lot of stuff here that you're that you're pulling together. I think, Geoffrey, I appreciate that you brought Michael in because I think you're right. You really have to catch the dramatic moment. There's the religious moment. But there's the dramatic moment in this story. And it could it be that the dramatic moment is even more powerful than the religious moment. Geoffrey Stern 29:52 So I totally agree. We only have a few more minutes, and I can't but ignore the parallels to The High Holidays that are coming upon us this sense of on'ah devarim you're right Michael It doesn't say onah devarim it doesn't say, depriving somebody throughwords it just says on the app. And those of you sensitive to the language know that on Yom Kippur, the key is onitem et naphshechem.. that we should make ourselves kind of suffer. So there is a balance here that the worst thing that one can do is use the same words and if Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur are about anything they're words, they can save, but they can also they can also hurt. The real takeaway for me is, I always thought of this story from where we started and where we ended, and I never asked myself why was the story told? And maybe that's because in the Vilma Talmud, this literally forms on one page. But if you turn the folio and see how this all began, the rabbi's were discussing this sense of humiliating somebody, they said on the previous folio, it is preferable for a person to engage in sex with a woman who is possibly married, then humiliate somebody else in public "yalbim pnei haveru b'rabim. Then it goes on to say that Rav Hisda says all the gates of heaven are to be locked except for the gates of prayer for victims of verbal mistreatment. And then it goes on to say that apropos of this statement, we learned a story about a tanor (an oven) about Rabbi eliezer. So it isn't about where the Torah comes from. It's not about how we can change the Torah as much as we love that kind of stuff on Madlik. It's not about anything except what they did to Rabbi Eliezer. About how after God smiled, they didn't know how to end the joke, and they had to become in the name of unity. They ostracized somebody, and as we head into the holidays, we have to know that yes, neilah is coming and the gates of prayer will be closed, but there's only one thing that can pierce those gates, and that is the cries of somebody who has been hurt and what that means is on the other side, that with words, we can provide solace and we can provide uplifting thoughts and support and maybe that will open up the gates too but this is an amazing pre Rosh Hashannah Pre yom kippur story, I believe. Adam Mintz 32:46 Amazing. Geoffrey, thank you so much. Thank you, Michael, for your insights today. Shabbat Shalom, everybody we say Shana Tova, when we see you next year, we'll be in 5782. But the Torah continues, we're coming to the end everybody. Join us as Vayelech next week. A short portion, but short and sweet and it's a wonderful portion Geoffrey Shabbat Shalom and shana tovah to everybody. Geoffrey Stern 33:10 Shanah Tova to you all.
A man told me he accepted upon himself to do a certain mitzvah with the hope of getting a yeshua for an issue he was having. It's been a very long time since he started doing that mitzvah and nothing has changed regarding his issue. He wanted to know what he is supposed to think and whether he should continue doing the mitzvah, or it's not helping him anyway. I told him about the Gemara which says, if a man gives tzedaka on condition that his son gets healed from a sickness, the man is considered to be completely righteous in that act of giving. Rashi explains the reason, because even if the condition would not be fulfilled and his son would not be healed, the man would not question Hashem, and he would not feel bad about the money he gave to charity. This means, a Jew knows the real reason we do mitzvot is because it's what Hashem wants us to do, and even if we don't get back what we hoped for, our attitude is we are so happy to have had the zechut to do a mitzvah, and of course we should continue doing whatever we are able to because the mitzvot themselves are our greatest gain. I also told the man, he should feel happy that he made the right hishtadlut and the only reason he hasn't received what he wanted was because it is not good for him to have it right now, and that doesn't mean that in an hour from now it won't be good for him to have. Whenever it will be good, Hashem will give it to him. The best response in times of difficulties is always to improve ourselves and perform more mitzvot . Rabbi Elimelech Biderman told a story which took place fairly recently. A man around the age of forty has a wife who, Rachmana litzlan , lost her eyesight in one eye ten years ago. This past winter, the second eye became very weak and kept deteriorating until it was operating at just 20% capacity. The doctors told her she needed a surgery to save her from going completely blind. However, that surgery did not go as planned and, in fact, the eye became even worse from it. Her family and extended family gathered together to see what they could do spiritually to help her. They decided they wanted to become much better in the area of having ayin tova – having a good eye. Perhaps if they would improve their eyes then Hashem would give their mother and wife a refuah for her eyes. They each accepted upon themselves that besides learning about how to improve in this area, they would all make sure, at least three times a day, to give somebody a good eye instead of the opposite. For example, if they would see a neighbor or another relative extending their home, instead of feeling jealous, they would be happy for that person and think to themselves, baruch Hashem, they are going to have more space for their family to enjoy. If they would hear of someone getting engaged, they would make sure to be truly happy for that person even if they had children at home still looking for shidduchim themselves. If they would hear of someone who is having a lot of success raising his children, they would be happy for that person even though they were having difficulties raising their own children. And the list went on. This was not going to be easy, but they all accepted upon themselves to do it 100% as best as they could. Just one month later, the eye that was deteriorating started feeling better and over the span of seven days following that, the eye was completely healed. The family continued with their kabbala and, just a few weeks later, Hashem gave them the miracle they were all hoping for – the other eye of this woman which had been blind for ten years, started working again. The mitzvot that we do are wondrous. It is always a good idea to accept upon ourselves to do more of them, but we must always remember, the main gain is the mitzvah itself, and we should feel so fortunate that we have the opportunity to do the ratzon Hashem all of the time.
Study Guide Sukkah 54 The gemara compares the mishna that mentions the 48 trumpet blasts (according to Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion) with a previous mishna that seemed to have a different calculation of the blasts. The mishna is attributed to Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaacov who held that three of the blasts were done at the altar ceremony (at the time of the placing of the willow branch, according to Rashi). The earlier mishna held that there were no blasts at the altar ceremony, and instead, blasts were sounded during the procession “at the tenth step.” What is the rationale for this debate? Rabbi Acha bar Hanina holds that each musaf sacrifice engenders its own set of nine blasts. If this is the case, then our mishna which cites the case of Friday afternoon chol hamoed as the case where one has 48 blasts is problematic for there are other cases (such as Shabbat of chol hamoed) where one might also blow 48 because of the extra musaf blasts. Rabbi Zeira initially suggests that on Shabbat there were no blasts for the opening of the gates (which would mean there weren’t 48 blasts on Shabbat) but Rava rejects this for two reasons and notes that using the Shabbat case in the mishna would have advantages. Because of this, Rava suggests another explanation - that on Shabbat there were no blasts at the filling of the water as the water was filled the previous day. The gemara then notes a third case where there were 48 blasts, when Rosh Hashana fell on Shabbat, and ultimately comes to the conclusion that the example provides in our mishna was one of a few possible examples that could have been provided (tanna ve-shi'yer). What other case was left out? The gemara notes that the number 48 is not a maximum number of blasts because on the Passover holiday, there may have been more blasts in the temple - since the Passover sacrifice was offered in three groups and Hallel was recited by each group three times accompanied by blasts. This added another 27 blasts (3x3x3), thought Rabbi Yehuda held that the third group usually finished the sacrifice at the beginning of Hallel (thus engendering only 21 blasts). Together with the 3 blasts for the opening of the gates and the 18 for the daily sacrifices and the extra ones for the musaf, one might get to 51 or even 57 blasts, if the eve of Passover came out on a Shabbat. In order to save the integrity of the mishna (which said the maximum was 48), the gemara claims that the mishna was only talking about regular years and not atypical ones. This launches the gemara into a discussion whether it is possible to have the first day of Sukkot come out on a Friday, since such a year would also have Yom Kippur come out on a Sunday. This is a more fundamental debate between the rabbis and Acherim regarding whether the rabbis used a fixed calendar of days or fiddled with the calendar annually.
parshat ki tavo (Deuteronomy 26) a recording of a discussion between Geoffrey Stern and Rabbi Adam Mintz on Clubhouse as they explore the roots of the concept of the Chosen People looking at the Favored sons and wives of Genesis and at the concept of Covenant and antecedent Hittite suzerainty treaties. Join us as we ask whether Tevya was right and should God choose someone else for a change? Sefaria Source Sheet: www.sefaria.org/sheets/343219 Transcript: Geoffrey Stern 00:00 This is Madlik, and we do disruptive Torah, which means that we look at one specific verse or thought in the weekly portion, and maybe look at it with new eyes, new lenses, and maybe taking it in a new direction that's not totally traditional, or that is not the one that we all grew up with. But today, I'm hoping to be very interactive, because the subject matter today cuts to the core of the Jewish project. And that is this question of being a chosen people. And my guess is that whether personally, or as a part of the Jewish people, all of us have, in one way or the other had to address what it means to be chosen, and therefore should have an opinion, on what chosen is, and and that opinion can go all the way from, it's a wonderful thing to it's probably the worst idea that we ever had. And I think Tevya summed it up very well, as he many times does. And he turned to God and he said, "Dear God, couldn't you choose someone else for a change?", because he understood the dark side of being chosen. But in any case, we begin on Deuteronomy, chapter 26: 18-19. And what will be surprising is how rare it is, for Chosenness, to even be mentioned. So it says, and the Lord has affirmed this day that you are as he promised you, his treasured people, "Am Segula", who shall observe all his commandments, and that he will set you in fame and renown and glory, high above all the nations that he has made, and that you shall be as he promised a holy people to the Lord your God." So in this one verse, we have this rare mention of "Am Segula", and I'll explain how rare it is. It only occurs in four other verses in the five books of Moses, we have a linkage to observing the commandment. So there's an obligatory aspect of being chosen. And then to us moderns, I think we have the most challenging part of being chosen. And that is that he will set you in fame and renown and glory high above all the nations. And that is the triumphalism, the exclusionism, of what it means to be chosen. And then it finishes and says that you will be a holy people. So I'm going to start with you, Rabbi. Adam Mintz 02:58 So thank you, Geoffrey. It's a great topic. And I wonder about the relationship between being chosen, and being holy, the Torah tell us in the book of Vayikra (Leviticus), that we should be holy, "Kidoshim Tehiyu" . And the question is, does God choose us because we're holy? Or does God choose us, in spite of the fact that we're not always holy? Now, first of all, I think we need to break this down an to say, what does it mean to be holy? Rashi says, on the verse that says we should be holy, holy means to be separate Holy means to recognize that we're not like everybody else. We don't do like everybody else all the time. Sometimes we have to be different. We need to be holy, we need to be seperate. But what's interesting, and this is an idea that's emphasized on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. That is the idea of the promise that God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that promises that even though you're not always holy, even though you're not always going to do the right thing, I have chosen you to be my people. I have chosen you to be my people in good times and bad times. In return for that, you choose me to be your God. So I think I'd like to talk about that today. And that's the idea. Does God choose us even when we don't deserve to be chosen? And I think what's amazing about the story is if you read the Torah, that seems to be that God chooses us even if we don't actually deserve to be chosen. Geoffrey Stern 04:44 Well, that is certainly going to come out today as we explore the sources. But certainly, whether we are distinct because we are holy or we are distinct because we are better none the less inherent in the idea of this chosen people is in fact that we are different in some way. And that we should take that as somehow either a compliment or an obligation. So I said that it's mentioned just very few times in the Bible, in Exodus 19. It says, "Now, if you obey me faithfully and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession, "Li Segula" among all the peoples, indeed, all the earth is mine." So here we have another element to this concept of being a chosen people. And that is this concept of a covenant. You know, a covenant is a legal term. It's between two parties, and it has certain conditions. And again, it means that as you were saying, and you raise this question of not always being holy, I would add to that, the question of not yet being holy meaning to say, is this choseness, is this part of developing relationship? Is it a reward? Is it kind of like, seeing the potential, and all of these things are going to come up today, as we kind of look at the sources, before we delve into the sources, the other two times that "Am Segula" is mentioned are both in Deuteronomy. And it's one of these unique occurrences that doesn't happen very often, where the same verse is word for word, verbatim, repeated twice. It says, "for you are people consecrated to the Lord your God of all the peoples on earth, the Lord your God chose you to be his treasured people." And the only other time that I can recall that we have word for word, the same kind of formula repeated is the 10 commandments. And so it kind of ties into this concept of a treaty of a covenant of a Brit. And so what we're going to do today is actually indulge me into two different ways of looking at this chosen people that have always intrigued me. One is looking at the story of Genesis. You could read Genesis from the beginning till the end, and say, This is a book about show choosing, choosing one son over another, choosing one wife over another, it is all a narrative, all of the complex kind of soap opera type of drama, is all caused by the same dynamic that we run into when we talk about our chosen people. So I always was thinking that's where I would look. And I was hoping someone would write a book. And lo and behold, I did a search. And someone wrote a book exactly on that subject, which is to use the concept of election and choseness in the narrative of Genesis as an insight into what actually it means to be chosen. And the other thing that I was exposed to maybe 30, 40 years ago, is they discovered these Hittite treaties between the king and his vassals. And they saw that they resembled very much the kind of Brit or covenant ceremony that we have in the Bible. And the question was, how did they bare light on this whole concept of being chosen? So with your permission, what I'd love to do is to start looking at Genesis from a totally new perspective. And we're doing that to a large degree, the writings of a guy named Joel Kaminsky at Smith College, and he wrote a book in 2007 called "Yet I love Jacob, we're claiming the biblical concept of election". So the first drama that we get in in Genesis is Cain and Abel. And you all know this story. Cain is the older Abel is the younger, Abel brings a sacrifice of meat because he is a herder. And Abel brings a sacrifice of vegitation and wheat because he is a farmer, and God accepts the sacrifice of Abel of the meat, and doesn't accept or rejects the sacrifice of Cain. And of course, the first thing that we know is based on our prior weeks of discussion where we see the Bible has a real good bias for vegetarianism over meat is we would have thought God would have made a different decision. So maybe the first takeaway as we look at how God chooses is that "Strange are the ways of the Lord" , you never know what's gonna determine a Divine choice. The second thing that happens is those of you who have read the story know that Abel is not a big part of the story. The dialogue is with Cain, who after his sacrifice is rejected. God speaks to him and says, you know, don't, don't don't be concerned about this. You know, it's okay. He realizes that Cain's face has dropped, and the focus on the first election in the Bible is not on the chosen, it's on the unchosen, and that is fascinating. And then of course, we know that Cain kills Abel does a terrible sin, genocide, if you will, because there are only two people on the earth in those days, besides Adam and Eve, and maybe Seth, and he does not get therefore the blessing of Divine Will, and having God looked down upon him favorably, but the dialogue continues. He's a wanderer. He says to God, God, they're going to kill me. So again, it is rather strange or illuminating. That the first instance of God choosing someone, the narrative focuses more on the one that was not chosen than the one that was chosen. Have you ever thought about that? I had never thought about that rabbi. Adam Mintz 11:52 So I want to tell you, Geoffrey, that is an amazing idea. I have never thought about that. I mean, of course, it's right there. It's obvious. But what does that mean? That God focuses on the unchosen God focuses on giving the unchosen a chance. I mean, if you want to be dramatic about it, Geoffrey, you wonder if Cain had given a different answer. Maybe he would have been saved somehow. And we wouldn't have had the story the way we haven't. Maybe God was giving him a chance, now in the end, he didn't observe it, and he killed Abel and that was the end of it. But maybe God has the conversation with the unchosen, because the unchosen is the one who needs the help. Abel didn't need the help. He was he was okay, he was covered, Cain needed to help. Geoffrey Stern 12:45 Absolutely. And of course, and we're gonna see more of this later. We cannot but ignore the fact that Abel was not the first born. We always say Cain and Abel. That's because Cain was the firstborn. And in God's first choice, he picked, not the obvious, not following the rule of primogeniture. And he picked the second son. And to me, I never thought of Cain and Abel as the first election story. Michael, I'd love to hear your comment. Michael Posnik 13:31 As always, as always, a Hiddush (novel interpretation) somewhere in there, but I do have a question. Is this the very first time we encounter death in the TaNaCH (The Biblical Canon)? It seems as I recall, there's no other moment of death. And I remember a theater piece that George Henkin did a long time ago, when Cain and Abel are wrestling, and Cain kills Abel, but doesn't know what he's done. He tries to shake him awake, he tries to lift him up. But we don't have death yet in the TaNaCH. So that's all. Geoffrey Stern 14:08 I think that's a great insight. I mean, we had death as a hypothetical we had, if you eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, you will die. And we have the curse of death. But this is probably the first instance of actual death. Would you agree Rabbi? Adam Mintz 14:26 There's no question that that's right. I mean, the question is, what do you make of that? I mean, that of course is right. Now what's the "therefore" Michael? This is the first incidence of death. I mean, we learn a lot from the first instance of death. Let me say it another way. It's fascinating that the Torah doesn't wait very long to talk to give us a death story. Chapter 3. It's already at the beginning. You have the story of the of the expulsion from The Garden of Eden. There's not going to be death in the Garden of Eden because the Garden of Eden is perfection. So actually, if you want to take it this way, Geoffrey, the very first story in the Torah is the story of death is the story of killing, Man leaves the Garden of Eden and they kill ... and there's death. Geoffrey Stern 15:21 So I'd like to add to that, and I think it's a really insightful insight is that not only does death first come up, but death first comes up as a result of a choice and a choice (favoritism) made by God, if you will, and so, you know, my first inclination is, this whole concept of a chosen people really does suck.... Aren't we all loved in the in the eyes of God,... so forth and so on. And I have to say that some of the traditional commentaries, even say the same thing, if you look at the Seforno on Deuteronomy our verse. "it says, to be a treasured nation, so that he may achieve with you what he hoped to achieve with mankind, when He created man saying, Let us make man in our image." This Seforno to me is brilliant, because it does say that the ultimate goal had actually been not to make a choice, that everybody's beautiful in his own way or her own way. But nonetheless, the second you start making choices, you start getting jealousy. And in the extreme, you have death. So let's go to the next story that this book brings up, which also includes death. And it's the story of Ishmael and Isaac, or Hagar and Sarah. And in two weeks time are going to be in synagogue or zooming in and listening to the Torah reading for the first day of Rosh Hashannah, and it's hard to believe, but the first Torah reading that we read, on the first of the ten holliest days of our calendar, is about, again, the rejected son. It's about Sarah kicking out Hagar, and her son is Ishamel she's threatened by them, because she feels that her son is the chosen one. And this story then takes the point of view of Hagar, and Ishmael and Ishmael is about to die of thirst. And then God goes ahead and saves him and blesses him. So it is again. it's so illustrative that in the second big story of choseness, we have, again, the concepts of life or death. And I should have mentioned that we have a new theme here. And the new theme here is, you could say it's a difficult consummation, it's a difficult birth. Or you could say it's a miraculous birth. So Sarah, and Abraham, who are the chosen are having difficulty bringing a child in, they have their firstborn son, Ishmael through a maidservant named Hagar. And then they believe that it is Isaac, who's the fully chosen one. So you have this concept. And I once heard that there was an adoption agency for a Jewish children, and it was called Chosen Children. And whether it's true or not, it's an amazing name. Because I think part of this theme is that if you are born miraculously, or if you survive a death defying moment, whether it's being thirsty, as Ishmael survived, or Isaac almost being slaughtered in the binding of Issac The Akedah, in a sense, you belong to God. And so you are an adopted child. But again, we have this sense that if you are chosen, coming with it comes a lot of pain and struggle. I just love the way this book and I encourage any of you who are interested in tracing these concepts to get it. But again, these themes come up over and over again, in all the future themes. We're going to have this question of a difficult or miraculous birth, we're going to have the sense of the one who is not chosen is nonetheless blessed in his or her own way. And we have the sense being chosen isn't a walk in the park. It's difficult for all concerned. Adam Mintz 20:07 I mean, let's let's, let me take your last point first. And that is the fact that choseness is difficult, choseness is opportunity. But choseness is also obligation. And I think that's really the point you're making. And that's a huge point. You started the half hour with a discussion of Tevya. You know, "couldn't you choose somebody else", he understood that being chosen is obligation. I'll just tell you something. When you convert somebody to Judaism, the way the conversion process works is that the conversion candidate studies all the laws or many of the laws, then you take the conversion candidate to the mikvah, and you kind of give them a kind of formal test. And then they get ready to go into the mikvah. And the very last thing that you say to the conversion candidate, before they go into the mikvah before they become Jewish, what you say is, you should know that you're now joining a chosen people, and being chosen has a lot of responsibilities. And not everybody in the world understands and appreciates the fact that we're chosen. It's always struck me that that's what we tell the Convert at the last minute. Geoffrey Stern 21:35 And of course, the Convert is literally choosing to be a part of our people. Adam Mintz 21:42 In spite of the fact that choseness is a challenge. Geoffrey Stern 21:49 One of the ideas that I was thinking of is, is choseness a choice, and certainly in the sense of a convert, they are choosing to be part of our chosen community. You know, you can't help but realize when we talk about Ishmael, that we on the first day of Rosh Hashannah are going to be hearing his story, and not the story of Isaac. But there are billions of followers of Islam, who actually believe that Ishmael was the son who was taken by Abraham to the binding, and they substitute Ishmael for Isaac. So it seems to me that one of the questions that is raised in my head is; Is this our narrative of being chosen, and are others are permitted and almost encouraged to have their own narratives of being chosen? But certainly whether you answer that question in the affirmative or not, even in our own tradition, we've had two instances. So far, we're the one who has not chosen almost becomes the center point of the story, at least that part of the story that we've looked at, which to me is just absolutely fascinating. So let's move on to the next story. And that is Jacob and Esau. And here, unlike the previous story, where you had two mothers, you had Hagar and Sarah, and I should say that this concept of choseness is known to disrupt people, so that maybe Ishmael and Isaac did not have the best relationship. But we can't but realize that it spilled over to their mothers who didn't have a good relationship. This choseness tears families apart. Now we get to Jacob and Esau, and we have a single mother with twins in her womb. And in Genesis 25. It says, "and the Lord answered her two nations are in your womb, to separate people shall issue from your body, one shall be mightier than the other. And the older shall serve the younger." So if we thought that there was a trend and from two episodes, you can't have a trend yet. But if we started to sense that Cain and Abel, it was Abel, who was picked, he was the underdog. He was the second born. In the story of Isaac and Ishmael Isaac was the second born. Now we have the Bible actually say it, that it is going to be Jacob, who is the second born, who will rule over the older. And this choice by God is very disruptive. And it is disruptive in the sense that it goes against the traditions, the concepts, the assumptions of the ancient Near East, and even our own Bible were in Deuteronomy 21. It says if you have two sons from two wives, and One is loved and one is not, "he must accept the firstborn, the son of the unloved one, and a lot to him a double portion of all he possesses." So the choices that God and His agents are making in Genesis are flaunting the assumptions and the norms of the ancient Near East. And in that sense, we have a new element to choseness. And that is a sense of radicalism. Adam Mintz 25:32 I love that. I love that idea. radicalism. Choseness is radicalism, because of the way that it developed. Let's just again, take a step back choseness doesn't have to be radical, because it could be that the older one is chosen. But the way the Torah represents it, the older one is never chosen, you're chosen on merit, not on birth order. And that is radical in the Torah. And you're absolutely right, Geoffrey the Torah wants that to be radical. The Torah wants you to sit up straight and say, Wow, the Torah is breaking the rules. And it might be what you quoted from last week's parsha, that if you have two wives, and you have to still respect the son of the older son that's a technicality. That's in laws of inheritance. But what they talk about in the book of Genesis is not the laws of inheritance. That's really the concept of who's gonna continue the Jewish people. And that was not based on birth order that was based on merit. And the Torah is very radical, that the younger one seems to always merit. By the way, it doesn't end in Genesis, Moses is the one who merits to be the leader, even though clearly Aaron is the older one. And Aaron doesn't get it, Aaron gets a consolation prize. He is the high priest, but he's not the leader of the Jewish people. Geoffrey Stern 27:13 We're so engrossed in this conversation, the minutes are running by, but I would like to pose and this I have not seen in writing. And so in a sense, this is a little bit original. But we always think the opposite of chosen, this is not being chosen (rejected). And I would like to suggest that the opposite of being chosen, is being entitled. And I think the adopted child is the best example that one could pick. The idea that the firstborn, and that is whether it's the firstborn in a family, or it's an established hierarchy of class or nobility, that they are entitled to have (power) certain things. The fact that the Bible shows an absolute bias, and it's outspoken. It goes all the way through Joseph's story... Joseph is the son of Rachel, Rachel is the daughter of Laben. She's the second born daughter, this doesn't only refer to men, when Jacob picks her And Laban switches the vail, Laban winks at Jacob the next morning and says, We don't do things that way. Here. We honor the firstborn. Jacob was rejecting the first born when he picked Rachel, Jacob, who loved Joseph was loving the youngest over over Judah. So this is a rejection of the entitlement, and an embrace of and I won't say someone who deserves it, and that's where we get to the crux of the message, and we're running out of time. So I'd love to talk about the Joseph's story a little bit. It's very clear in Joseph that when he is young, not only does his father make a mistake in picking him and giving him this beautiful toy of a wonderful multicolored coat, but he doesn't understand what it is to have certain powers, certain abilities. He taunts his brothers with his dreams, you will bow down to me he is an immature chosen person, and his brothers are no less immature by selling him. He goes on to Egypt. And again, he's chosen .... this guy is on the make, he's going to rise to the top. And it's only after he's in jail, that he's called on to interpret a dream for the first time, does he say, and God has given me this ability, and he's gotten the humility. So I think we learned from this part of the story That, in fact, being chosen is as much of a challenge, is as much of seeing the potential that one needs to pick. And I will say that part of it has to be choosing to be chosen. And that's where I kind of want to end and I'm happy to extend our conversation. But these Hittite treaties that I referenced earlier on, were between the main King, and a bunch of different vassals, and they sounded very much like our 10 commandments, because they start by the king saying, I did this for your parents, and I took you from here, and I brought you to here, and therefore you have to be loyal to me. And what the radical difference .... we've used this term already today, with the covenant of being chosen, is that God gets rid of the ruling class, and he doesn't pick another king. And we've discussed this before he picks the children of Israel. And he says to each person, I have this relationship with you. And that, I think, is what was radical about the choseness and the covenant that we see. And in fact, this whole concept of being chosen? Is it a difficult concept? Yes. Is it one that comes chock full of suffering? Absolutely. But I'd like to say that, to my mind, the idea of being chosen is the idea of not being entitled, The idea that if you choose to be part of our movement, and it was a movement of unaffiliated "apiru", which became "ivrim" who came into the land of Canaan, who rejected all of the ruling class, and decided to make a new society, if you choose to join us, you are chosen. And if you choose to live by the old rules of entitlement and class, then maybe you're going to have your own blessings. But the blessings of this choseness are unique. And that's kind of what I come away with. It's a very challenging concept. It's one that we can debate forever. But it's also one that is chock full of ideas that that relate to all of us who have families, who have sibling rivalries, .... it's very grounded in real life. Adam Mintz 32:27 Thank you, Geoffrey. I think that's great. I'll just add one little point and that is, and even when you choose to be chosen, the road is bumpy. And Joseph is the best example of that. Nothing is simple, right? The decision to be chosen is difficult. And then the road of choseness is difficult. This was a great topic. It's a great topic before Rosh Hashannah. We look forward to seeing everybody we still can get it one more Shabbat before Rosh Hashannah. So next week, "Nitzavim" have a great Shabbat Have a great week, everybody enjoy the last week of summer. And we look forward to see you next Friday. Geoffrey Stern 33:03 Anyone who wants to stay on and continue the discussion are welcome to do so. But this was very special, I hope you all enjoyed. And that each in your own way will choose to be chosen and to choose and empower others as well. As we go into Shabbat, the only thing that I will add is that the blessing that we say over our children on Friday night is the blessing that that Jacob made to Joseph's two children, Ephraim and Menasheh And to the form, he moved his hands in two different directions. And he put his right hand on the youngest son, and true to form Joseph said to him, Hey, Dad, that's not the way we do things. And the real reason I believe that we make the blessing on Menasheh and Ephraim on Friday night is number one, it's a blessing from grandparents to their grandchildren. And when you bless your grandchildren, you know that the continuity of some of the ideas that you hold, near have a future. but also, we have no record of Ephraim and Menasheh so in a sense, it is a little bit of the resolution of the whole challenge of choseness, that here were two brothers. Clearly one had different talents than the other. One got the main blessing, the other got another blessing, but they all live together and at the end of the day, that I think is the biggest challenge of being chosen. Shabbat Shalom.
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In the beginning of this week's parasha, Ki Titzeh , the Torah speaks about the אשת יפת תואר – the beautiful captive of war – and Rashi writes, לא דיברה תורה אלא כנגד יצר הרע – the Torah here is speaking on behalf of the evil inclination. Meaning, if Hashem did not allow the soldier to marry this woman, he would have done it anyway, and therefore permission was granted. Rav Yechezkel Abramski used to give a class in his home in London on Friday nights to young men who were distant from religion. He would learn the weekly parasha with them and try to inspire them to become more religious. When they got to this parasha, Ki Teitzeh , the Rabbi was worried. He was afraid that the boys would take the wrong message here. Namely, that when something is too hard for them to handle in the Torah, then Hashem understands if they can't keep it. So the entire week beforehand, the Rabbi tried very hard to think of the right way to explain it to them. Yet, by Friday afternoon, he was still at a loss for words. He prayed that day very hard to Hashem to put the right words in his mouth. During the meal, he kept trying to think of something but was still unsuccessful. Then, suddenly, right before the class was about to begin, Hashem opened his mind and gave the Rabbi the perfect words to say. The Rabbi began the class that night by saying that the opening part of this week's parasha teaches us an amazing lesson about the Torah. What was the lesson? Every single commandment that Hashem gave us, we are capable of performing no matter how hard it seems. Even though we do have an evil inclination trying to pull us away, if we persevere we will overcome it. And the proof is because if something was too hard for us to overcome, then the Torah would have allowed it, as it says in the case of the אשת יפת תואר , which he proceeded to explain to them. The boys took the lesson and were very inspired. Hashem can give us the perfect words to say in any situation we find ourselves in. It is up to us to ask Him for His help. A rabbi told me, about a week ago he was contacted by an individual asking him if he could meet with a couple regarding an issue they were having with their shalom bayit . The very same day he was contacted by someone else asking him if he could give chizuk to a childless couple, by phone, who just found out that in the natural way of the world they would never be able to have children. At first the rabbi was hesitant, because he didn't know what he would tell either of these people to help them. But then he thought to himself, he would be doing the work of Hashem and as far as he was concerned, he had to make the hishtadlut . He told both of the individuals that contacted him that he would speak to those people the following day at specific times. The parasha of the week was Shoftim, and the next day the rabbi was in his office preparing a derasha to give in shul. He randomly selected a sefer on his computer and started reading. Amazingly, there was a piece there on shalom bayit that discussed the exact problem this couple was coming to speak to him about. Just as he finished reading it, the doorbell rang and the couple arrived. The rabbi shared the message with them and, baruch Hashem, it was perfect. The rabbi then went back to preparing for his derasha and he stumbled upon a story that had to do with people who were not able to have children and, through advice from a gadol on exactly what they needed to accept upon themselves, they were eventually blessed with a child. Right after the rabbi finished that story, his phone rang. It was the couple that he was supposed to give chizuk to and, baruch Hashem, they got a lot of chizuk from that story. The rabbi thanked Hashem for putting the exact words he needed to say in his mouth. We have to do our part by accepting the responsibility to help others and then pray to Hashem to give us the siyata d'Shamaya that we need to actually help them.
The Kedushat Levy writes, at the beginning of this week's parasha Shoftim that Hashem desires to judge the Jewish People on Rosh Hashanah with an abundance of kindness and mercy, but first, we have to act to others with an abundance of kindness and mercy. As well, we have to judge our friends favorably, the same way that we want to be judged. One of the ways to accomplish this is to internalize the value of every single Jew. Rabbi Aharon Toyseg told, he once went to Rabbi Elya Rott to ask him if he should go into chinuch . The Rabbi replied with something that Rav Shlomke from Zvhil told him. He said, “Anyone involved in teaching Jewish children, it doesn't matter if it is a high level Gemara class to 12 th graders or Alef Bet to pre-1A. It doesn't matter if it's to boys or to girls, every teacher, before he or she wakes up in the morning to do their avodat hakodesh, gets a special message directly from Hashem. It's a one word message in Hebrew – Ashrecha , which means You are fortunate. And if a teacher would think before he or she goes into class of, let's say, 30 children, I know some of these children are smart, some are average and some have great difficulty comprehending, but there is one common denominator in all of them, they are each a precious child of Hashem and Hashem loves every one of them like an only to child. And it is those children I am about to teach. Then Hashem would tell that teacher Ashrecha two times.” He brought a proof from when Moshe Rabbenu was commanded to give over his leadership position to Yehoshua. Rashi writes, Hashem told Moshe to tell Yehoshua, “ Ashrecha – you are fortunate that you have the merit to lead the children of Hashem.” Rabbi Rott then added a mashal of his own. He said, “Imagine a great Rebbe with ten thousand students walking into his bet hamidrash with thousands of people standing in awe of him, analyzing his every move. And then suddenly, he stops and points to an avrech in the crowd, motioning for him to come towards him. The entire bet midrash of people would be watching to see what the Rebbe could possibly want from this man. The Rebbe then whispers to that young avrech, “Can you please learn with my son for an hour a day? I'll pay you for it.” The avrech would not just learn for an hour with the boy, he would learn for three hours. And he wouldn't care about the money because his greatest reward would be that he has the zechut of teaching the great Rebbe's son.” Rabbi Rott then concluded, “If you have an opportunity now to teach children, that means Hashem is choosing you to teach His children. How fortunate you are to have that responsibility.” The Rabbi left with great chizuk to go into chinuch . If we view each Jew as a child of Hashem, our attitude towards them would be one of great respect and admiration and it will automatically be easier for us to judge them favorably. Every father loves to hear good things about his children and therefore, besides judging Hashem's children favorably, we also should utilize the opportunity to speak highly of them. If we see a person doing a great act, we should say, “What a special nation you have, Hashem! Your children are amazing.” If we could train ourselves to speak favorably of others and judge them favorably, it will bring about more love in Klal Yisrael and it will bring great satisfaction to Hashem and b'ezrat Hashem will cause Hashem to judge us favorably as well. Shabbat Shalom.
A live Clubhouse recording of Geoffrey Stern and Rabbi Adam Mintz as we explore the origins of ritual slaughter, the implicit bias of the Torah to vegetarianism and the origins and limitations of carnivorism in Judaism. We also highlight the contribution of Judaism of mindfulness when it come to our food supply and where we go from here. Sefaria Source Sheet: www.sefaria.org/sheets/340004 Transcript: Geoffrey Stern So welcome to Madlik disruptive Torah and this week is Parshart Re'eh and in two, little verses it pretty much makes the only biblical reference. And maybe not even a reference but a kind of an allusion to laws that practicing Jews take very, very seriously. And that is the laws of kashrut; of slaughtering animals. And I must say that when I first stumbled upon this, I was amazed by how little is there. So let's jump right into it. It's Deuteronomy 12. And it says, "When the Lord enlarges your territory, as he has promised you, and you say, I shall eat some meat, for you have the urge to eat meat, you may eat meat, whenever you wish. If the place where the Lord has chosen to establish His name is too far from you, you may slaughter any of the cattle or sheep that the Lord gives you, as I have instructed you, and you may eat to your heart's content in your settlements." So clearly, this was written at a point where if you take it into the context that it's supposed to be written in, which is when the Jews were first coming into the land, and they where already understanding that they were going to enlarge, they already somehow had an intuition that there was going to be a centralized temple. And that's what the references to the place where the Lord has chosen to establish his name. But what is assumed here is that, number one, you can only eat meat in that chosen place at the temple. And as many of you know from the Passover sacrifice, that was a sacrifice that sacrificed to God, but eaten by a group of people. So eating of meat, one can assume there was a time where you could only eat it around the temple. And here is the permission to eat it if you're too far away to eat it in the temple. And it doesn't give any rules for slaughtering it. It just says an illusion, "as I have instructed you" Kasher Tziviticha. So I'm going to stop now, before we dive into the many nuances of this. But rabbi, what what did these two sentences mean to you? Adam Mintz Well, the first thing is very important again, that meat was only eaten as part of the sacrifices, meat was considered to be a tremendous luxury. You couldn't eat it just be yourself. It had to be part of religious of religious experience. That's a huge transition from eating meat as part of a sacrifice to eating meat for dinner and having a hamburger, having a barbecue at home. That might have been the biggest transition that the Jews experienced when they entered the land Geoffrey Stern I think you're correct.... both when they entered the land, and possibly when they first entered the land with a traveling tabernacle. And before the temple was built. This also and I kind of alluded to, we don't know exactly when it was written, you know, when there was a tabernacle in Shilo. And there were other places that had these tabernacles the religion was more distributed. But when it became centralized in Jerusalem at the temple, that was also a moment just like coming into the promised land was a moment. And so what we're seeing is ..... as if we didn't know that the practice of Judaism evolve .... clearly evolved, whether from the days of the desert into the promised land, or from the days when it was a decentralized tribal conglomerate to when it becomes centralized in Jerusalem. But I want to focus for a second on a word used. The English is "if you desire" "you may eat meat when you have the urge to eat meat." In the Hebrew it's "Ochla basar ki toevah nefsha" if you desire to eat meat, because your soul craves for it. The word "Ta'aiva" is it carries baggage I believe in Hebrew, if you called somebody "Ba'al Ta'aivah", it's a glutton pretty much. It's someone who's driven by their desires, even in the Bible itself. In the desert when there was the the Riff Raff, the Erev Rav, and they were complaining. It says in Numbers "ve'tayavu Ta'aivah" they had this gluttonous craving. And when they were punished and killed for their craving, the name of the place that they were buried "Kivrot HaTaiaivah" was "the Place of the Gluttony". So I wonder, and I ask you, Rabbi, when we read this, is there that sense of social criticism? And is this sort of a concession? Or am I just taking this out of context? Adam Mintz No you are definitely not. I would just tweak what you said Geoffrey to say. I think the Torah doesn't say that every time you eat meat, that it's bad, that it's gluttony. I think the Torah is concerned that it has the potential to become gluttony. You I have to be very careful. Originally the way the Torah was careful said that you only are allowed to eat meat, if part of that meat is going as a religious sacrifice. So therefore you're not going to be irresponsible, if it's going as a religious sacrifice. So I think being a "Ba'al Ta'aivah" is connected to meat. And therefore they needed to restrict, and to limit the ways in which you are allowed to eat. Geoffrey Stern Yeah, and I forgot to mention another important one in the 10 commandments, right after it says "do not covet your neighbor's wife. It says You shall not crave your neighbor's house "Lo Tai'avah Beith Re'echa" so it definitely has this sense. And it does carry some social baggage. I hear what you said. But I have to say also, that what we have is a juxtaposition here of meat that is sanctified and sacrificed in the temple, and meat that is "basar Ta'eivah". And it could mean meat outside of the temple that any meat outside of the temple is, "Ba'asar Ta'eivah" . All I think what you're saying, which is interesting is that when you do eat meat, outside of the temple, you have to make sure that there was a religious or spiritual element to it. Adam Mintz That is what I'm saying, because that that will protect you against the "Ta'Aivah" issue. Geoffrey Stern We're going to get into maybe the history of, of eating meat, and in the approach of the Bible to eating meat in a second. But before we do, it is a good case study in how the Bible, the Torah deals with the less than perfect characteristics that we humans have. In other words, it understands that people have these desires, and we don't live in a black and white world. And I think this becomes then kind of an interesting case study. So before we dive into the development of eating meat, let's also use this as an opportunity to understand where the laws that we have of "Shechita" came from. So Rashi focuses on this verse. And the fact that in verse 21, God says, "you may slaughter the sheep, and the cattle that the Lord gives you, as I have instructed, you" "Ka'asher tziviticha" , And Rashi says that, from here, we learn that there must be an Oral Tradition because if you read The Five books of Moses backwards and forwards, you will never find any of these laws there. You know, there's a joke that I once heard, that says that in Rome, they found some copper sthreads one foot down in an excavation. And they said, This proves that the early Romans must have had a phone system. And the Greeks didn't want to be outdone. And they dug down two feet, and they found some threads made of glass and they said, Well, we must have had a fiber optic system in our day. And then the Israelis didn't want to be out done and they dug down four feet and they found nothing. And they said, Well, we must have had a cellular network. So this is a situation where we have nothing in the written law about the laws of Shechita. And the laws of Shechita are very extensive, and Rashi wants to bring from here a proof. He doesn't simply say that, Oh, well, those are commanded in the Oral Law. He says from here the fact that it was referenced, an Oral Law or commandment was referenced. We know that the Oral Law exists. So that is kind of an interesting maneuver. But it does speak to how much of the the regular practice of Judaism is contained in the Oral law. Adam Mintz Yeah, well, the interrelationship between the Oral Law and the written law is an amazing topic isn't? Geoffrey Stern It certainly is. And for those who study the Talmud, they know that there was so many diverse opinions, that sometimes you can go back and find an opinion that was not a mainstream opinion. But it certainly means that nothing is written in stone. But that, in fact, these laws that are so critical to the lifestyle of so many Jews are not contained in the written law. And it's always important that you know, your sources so that you know that something is based on Torah, in terms of the Written Torah. And some things are based on the Oral tradition. And so you got to give credit, Adam Mintz Geoffrey you make an interesting point now, and that is to know the difference about whether it's biblical or whether it's rabbinic. And somehow if it's biblical, it's more important. I'm going to tell you a little secret. The rabbi's often tell us that the rabbinic law is more important, because they were afraid that people would be lax on the rabbinic law. So they try to make an extra effort to make a big point about the rabbinic law, which is a very, I mean, obviously, it's self serving. But it's interesting Geoffrey Stern Abolutely. And in this case, you got to give them credit for acknowledging that it's [only] in the Oral Law. And I think that's something that I was also found important, they might emphasize the importance of the law, but they also emphasize full transparency. Noy, welcome to the platform. I'd love to hear from you. Noy Hi. Hi. I just have a question. Are you Orthodox Jews? Adam Mintz This is a wonderful discussion, because this is not orthodox, conservative or reform. We're just studying the text. Everybody is equal in this conversation. Noy Yeah, yeah. But I wanted to know. Just wondering, Thank you. We're all equal in this conversation. We don't make distinctions. Geoffrey Stern And I think that in general, when it comes to studying the texts, it's not important who you are, or what you believe, but that you're studying. Noy We all believe in God. Hasdhem. Michael Stern Thank you Shabbat shalom. I have a question. Its as if we were if we say that we're Chosen and we were given this information 100, hundreds of years ago, that eating meat has to be in "midah", in some sort of balance and not gluttony, as you said. And so now we're discovering on documentary movies, how the meat farming, meat raising industry is causing, I think, 50% of the issues with the carbon dioxide.... one of the largest factors in climate warming. And I'd like to ask you guys, if we were given this information that raising of meat for eating, and not for some maybe religious sacrificial purpose, which sounds good to me now, compared to the eating industry of meat, that we would not have climate change challenges, and what role we as Israelites and Jews have in bringing this wisdom and knowledge to humanity as the chosen people who could say, Hey, guys, it's been told 1000s of years ago, or whenever the Torah and all this information was passed down. So if somebody could address this, that would be great. So Geoffrey Stern I think that you're absolutely correct. And before we go into the history of vegetarianism, .... because I think you're gonna see that the bias of the Torah is very much towards vegetarianism. But before we leave these verses, I think one of the things that's so exciting to me about this discussion, and I alluded to it before by saying it's not black and white, that there are degrees, and that one of the rabbi's said about this verse, that it says, when you expand your territory, he said the Tortah taught that it is a desired behavior of a person should consume meat due only due to appetite, meaning to say you should never eat meat, pell mell, as just, you know, I have meat and potatoes every lunch, that's the way I'm built. That's the way we are, you should save it for special situations where you have a craving, and that craving could be psychologically based. It could be nutritional based. But I think what you was saying, Michael, in terms of in "midah" in moderation, in context and in exerting a certain self discipline. And I think that's the the flip side of gluttony is not abstention, the flip side of gluttony is to do things using using moderation. And I do believe that it's a striking example. I don't know how many other examples in the Torah there are like this. Many times in the Torah, it's either "assur" it's forbidden or "pator" , it's permitted. But how many times does it say it's good in moderation. And I think we are seeing something here. And the environmental issues that you raise are critical. Meaning to say that there was certain things that we really have to moderate. And we have to do them thoughtfully. Michael Stern So why have that's great, but why haven't we used our brilliance and our influence... we're great influencers... take it out of the study room and say, Wait, this is a mission? I mean, to say, "wait, this is a proving that it's self sabotaging humanity, this planet could explode in 50 years. And all this talk if we are the people that God spoke to, we have a responsibility, and not to be worried about fighting for land, or maybe let's fight for the land and fight for the planet. What I don't understand how we don't take it out of the discussion room and say, "Planet God has spoken to us." Adam Mintz So Michael, I just want to say your question is better than my answer. But I want to tell you that the yeshiva and Riverdale Chovavei Torah at the end of July, just last month, a couple of weeks ago, they had an entire day that was dedicated to climate control. And they dealt with these issues. And there were many people at that conference who believe Michael, exactly what you said is we need to take it out of the study hall and we need to, you know, we need to teach the world about what the Torah's laws are and how the Torah wants to protect the environment and what we need to protect the environment. So I wouldn't say that it's it's mainstream Michael, but it's no question that the issues that you raise are issues that are being raised now in the Jewish community, and you know, the things that people are talking about. Michael Stern That's great to know. Thank you Rabbi Geoffrey Stern And I think part and parcel of that is that Judaism gave the world something which I think is amazing. And that is thoughtfulness..... eating thoughtfully. And that is a gift that we've given. But I think what is happening in the last 100 years at least. And it's accelerating every week, is that society is passing Judaism by because Judaism spent a lot of time looking at the food chain... if you want to look at "Shechita" ritual slaughter as looking at the food chain, that has become much more important. If Judaism has used the laws of kashrut to talk about the quality and the qualifications of people involved with the slaughter of animals, again, modern society is starting to look at ethical issues. Do you pay your employees at the slaughterhouse properly? Do they have health benefits? When we buy food, we are more interested now than ever, not only in the nutritional value, but on the whole supply chain. And sometimes being the early adopter of something, the first mover is an advantage. But sometimes you get overcome with your own achievements. And I think that now and we're seeing movements along this, there's a movement that talks not about Kashrut, but about "Yashrut" meaning being Yashar is straight being ethical. And this is an organization that will say, you know, maybe the meat is slaughtered in a humane way. But you also have to make sure that the workers are paid. And if it's not, it's not kosher meat. I think that is the real challenge, it might start at the study hall, but it means opening up the parameters of the discussion, Mike, welcome to our platform, what's on your mind, mike I ws thinking about what you said. Real quickly, my background is, I grew up in a, very moderate Chabad Lubavitch family I'm not Chabad any more, but you know, growing up to seeing my family, the way they do things when it comes to like Kashrut. They'll pay attention to all these details about okay, we have this and has a "K" on the box, we'll buy this meat. But they won't think about the fact that this meat has all these hormones injected into it and all these other things that make the meat just terrible products, whether it's meat or processed food, it seems that I'm not just picking on an orthodox, but it seems that we as a people have got our values just totally misplaced. That's why I was all I wanted to say for now. Adam Mintz Okay, I mean, Thanks, Mike, for your comments. I mean, that's, you know, Michael has brought that up. And we appreciate that. And we understand that maybe the Jewish community has a responsibility. And I think to Geoffrey's credit, the choice of, this idea of Kashrut and Yashrut, this is only one piece of Kashrut and Yashrut ... this conversation that we're having today, and it's recorded and everything, and we have a whole bunch of people who were listening, maybe this is going to make this a point of conversation, which will allow other people to, you know, to join in to understand some of these issues. We have Ethan on the line. Would you like to join the conversation? Ethan So I'll try to keep this brief so we can keep the conversation moving. When we were talking about the opposite of gluttony, not being abstention, but moderation. I guess my question is, does that tie back to when we were discussing in previous weeks when you're going to be a Nazir and you have to bring a karbon Hatat at the end of the period of Nezirut. And while there are different different explanations, one of the explanations for why you bring a Korban Hatat is that you decided to entirely abstain from partaking of wine and you forbade yourself, you know, some of what is available to enjoy in the world. Geoffrey Stern I think it's definitely related and I was thinking of that as well. Moderation they used to attribute it to Maimonides, the golden rule. So to speak, not not too far to the right, not too far the left, but moderation. And I do believe that in this particular law, we can call it a concession. We can call it the Crooked Timber of Humanity. But yes, we do have desires and any any form of law or religion that doesn't take into account those desires, I think, ultimately rings false. And so whether it's the ability for someone to become a Nazirite, if they have an issue with some substances, or whether it's someone to end their abstention. These are all beautiful things that are written into the Torah law that has become a part of culture, I think, and we can be proud of it. But I think we also have to understand that these should empower us to go further. And that's, I think, what's so fascinating about the discussion that we're having, and the question of how we can go farther. So I want to just move forward a little bit and talk about the history of meat eating in the Torah. And the truth is that, in Genesis, when the world is created, it does not give men permission, to eat meat, to take the soul from an animal. In fact, it says, all of the foods and the plants that I give you shall be for you for food. It's only at the time of Noah, that when Noah took those animals Two by Two into the ark, that in a sense, Noah was given sort of our rights, because he had saved the world that he could then eat. So in Genesis 9, it says "every creature that lives shall be us to eat as with the green grasses", so it's referring back to the earlier part of Genesis where all mankind could eat was the green grasses. Now you can eat animals. And that's why, even by Jewish law, we have 613 commandments, but Jewish tradition believes that people who descended from Noah which is pretty much everybody has been descended from Noah because he was the only survivor of the flood. They cannot eat a limb from a live animal. It's called "Ever Min Ha"chai" so this was the first dietary constraint associated with being Corniverous, eating meat. And I'd like to wonder what everybody else's takeaway in terms of Noah's loophole, so to speak, for for eating meat, I should say that nature kind of changed after the flood, maybe people didn't live as long anymore. So it's kind of a recognition in the Bible of a new epoch, a new transition. And maybe meat was necessary at that point. But certainly there are two sides in my mind, because on the one hand, Noah saved all the animals and therefore has certain rights. But I believe once you save somebody, you also have obligations. And I think that that's where these laws of supply chain and sources of our foods and how we harvest our foods come into play? What are your thoughts on that? Adam Mintz So thank you very much, Geoffrey The idea that no one is given permission to eat meat is very much connected to the question of authority, before the flood, man wasn't in control. And that's what led at least the way God understood it to complete anarchy, after the flood, there's a more organized system, and the organized system is that man controls animals. And in a sense, you know, the Torah tells us at the end of chapter two, that Adam couldn't find a mate. And if you read the Torah carefully, it sounds like Adam went on a date with every single animal. And he didn't find a good mate. And therefore God took a woman from his side. But it seems like the relationship between animals and humans was one of equals. After the flood, God realized that was a bad way to be, and therefore he gave people dominion over animals. Geoffrey Stern and I would just add that with Dominion comes responsibility. And that's why I never understand why evangelical Christians and fundamentalist Christians don't take environmentalism more seriously because it's so natural for someone who believes in The Genesis story who believes that God created the world and made us the guardian of the world, that we have to take that guardianship so seriously. I think that the the takeaway from today's discussion of these verses is at the most basic level, we have to be thoughtful about what we eat, and where our supply chain is. And I also believe that when Jesus talked about on the laws of Kashrut, he said something that could have been in the Talmud, he said, "it's more important what comes out of your mouth than what goes into it". But I think what what he was saying was very similar to the discussion that we're having. And that is that these rules, and this goes to Mike's point, should never be about reading labels only, and should never be about crossing T's and dotting "i"s, that would sell it so short, it's about our evolution, it's about our growth, it's about our ability to, to become better guardians of ourselves and of the world. And to not only take into account the fact that we have certain desires, and to master those desires, but I think also to use those desires in a good way. It's such a powerful weapon that we have, we wake up in the morning with a bounce in our step because we desire to do something and we have to harness that power, and the food that we eat in a in a way that's sanctified. And I think that if you do look at Judaism, while I am surprised that vegetarianism isn't more widespread, given the history of it. You know, why great scholars and great pietists and religious leaders don't focus on vegetarian more. But what we do have is that the time to eat meat is in a sanctified moment, on Shabbat for instance. There zemirot talk about on Shabbat we have meat. There were people who were vegetarian by necessity not by desire, who were poor, but on Shabbat, they would have that Basar Ta'aivah" that meat of desire. So I think all of that says there's so much for us to learn about the laws of kashrut in their larger sense and I wish us all a Shabbat Shalom, of fulfilling any "taiaivah" that we have, and harnessing it in a good direction. Adam Mintz Amazing. Thank you, Geoffrey. Thank you, everybody. Shabbat shalom. Look forward to next week.
The Kloyzenburger Rebbes humorous comment on Reb Akiva's statement that he once witnessed a pagan who tied up His own father and fed him to his dog (cited in Rashi)
Join Geoffrey Stern and Rabbi Adam Mintz recorded on Clubhouse Friday July 30th as we wonder whether the practice of Judaism outside of the land of Israel just that…. practice? We explore a Rabbinic opinion that the land of Israel is so central to the religion of Israel that the religion can only be observed in the Land. In so doing we question whether the practice of Judaism in and outside of Israel is different in kind rather than degree and what this says about the nature and relationship between the two communities? Sefaria Source Sheet Here: www.sefaria.org/sheets/338763 Transcript: Geoffrey Stern Welcome to Madlik disruptive weekly Torah. So it turns out that today is kind of a third in a series and it wasn't an intentional series. But the truth is, if you recall, about two weeks ago, we talked about Tisha B'Av and we talked about how in the second paragraph of the Shema, it does something unique, where it says to the Jews, if you don't fulfill the commandments, I'll cast you out of the land. And we talked about the implications of that. And then last week, we talked about the Shema itself, that iconic call to faith, and what its implications are. So this week, that second paragraph in the Shema that we read, or traditional Jews read twice a day, is actually part of the weekly portion. And it it starts by saying, as we've quoted in the past, "and if you don't keep these commandments, the Lord's anger will flare up against you." This is Deuteronomy 11: 13 - 21, "there'll be no rain, the ground will not yield the produce, and you will perish from the good land that the Lord is assigning to you." And that's kind of where we stopped. But then it does something kind of remarkable. And it says, and I'm using the translation here, the standard [JPS] translation, "therefore impress these words upon your very heart, bind them as a sign on your hand, and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead." And most of you who have seen traditional Jews and seeing what is called the phylacteries, or Tefilin, knows that this is not allegorical, this is actually traditional Jews. And they have samples of these going back to the caves of the zealots of bar kochba, actually, would attach and strap these phylacteries; boxes containing these particular verses onto their arms, and as frontlets between your eyes. But what is interesting is that especially in the English translation, I don't see it so much in the Hebrew, but it connects it "therefore" impress these words. There's a connection between being kicked off of the land and putting these Tefilin these phylacteries on your arms and on your forehead, the third eye maybe. And Rashi picks up on this, and he does see the connection and that's why maybe the translation is true to this. He says that even after you have been banished, make yourself distinctive. The word in Hebrew is "hayu Metzuyanim b'mitzvot" , that the mitzvot the commandment should distinguish you by means of putting on the Tefilin and putting the mezuzah on your door posts, so that these shall not be novelties to you when you return. And then he quotes a verse from Jeremiah, which says, set thee up distinguishing marks, which in Hebrew is "hatzivi lecha tziunim'. So what is actually remarkable, at least to me, and we'll see if Rabbi Adam you are in agreement to me, is, although the commandment of Tefilin had already been commanded, in the Bible, what Rashi is doing either to justify the repetition of the commandment, or to just explain the context of putting it right after the threat of being exiled, he makes a connection and says something that, to me is dramatic. That actually, the command is only if you live in Israel. But if you are outside of Israel, you nonetheless should do what we consider to be basic Jewish traditions of putting on the tefillin so that you won't forget them when you come back, so that you should distinguish yourself. It almost makes the most basic practice of Judaism into literally a practice, practice until you return to the land. Am I reading it correctly? Rabbi Adam. Adam Mintz So I want to say that the verse, the Rashi that you picked up is such an important Rashi because the impression that Rashi gives is that the ultimate purpose of performing mitzvot, of doing the commandments is only in the land of Israel. And then everything outside the Land of Israel is just practice. Now, that's almost a scary idea. Because that really means the Judaism is only Judaism in the Land and everything that you do outside the land is only practice. But that's what Rashi seems to say. And he says that the Tefilin specifically, are something that we do outside the land, to remind us of the commandments, so that when we return to the land, we'll be ready to continue performing the commands. The question to me really is does Rashi really mean that? Rashi, who lived his whole life in France, who never made it to the land of Israel.. Do you think he believed that Judaism is only practiced in the land of Israel, that it's only practice outside the land? Geoffrey Stern I mean, this is such a radical idea that I just want to just give Rashi's source, so we're very clear about it, he quotes the Sifrei. And in this source sheet, the Sifrei is quoted completely. And it even gives an analogy. It says a king was angry with his wife, and she returned to her father's house, the king said, continue wearing your jewels so that when you return, they will not be new to you. And so, again, I don't think that you can read it any other way. I would say, and I think you'll agree with me, Adam, that, we're looking at an opinion here, the the Sifrei, even Rashi, who's quoting the opinion, this is a thread, this is a way of looking at Judaism, clearly not mainstream. But I'd like for the rest of the day to explore it, because it is so radical. So you ask whether given this, is it possible that Rashi thought he was just playing house, so to speak his whole life? That he never really put on Tefilin, but he was only practicing putting on Tefilin? So I think that in itself raises a question. You know, I love the expression in yoga, where it's a practice, I love the use of the word practice, when somebody is a practicing physician, for instance, you know, maybe what we're doing is we're detracting by asking that question, of the value of practice. And maybe the idea is, and this is what might be radical, that at least outside of Israel, you are constantly trying to get to a further point, if that's what practice is, and maybe that's not so bad. How does that strike you? Adam Mintz That is interesting. The idea of practice? Well, let's take it back a step. Your first point, which I think you made at the beginning a couple of minutes ago, which was really good was that actually, the Tefilin follows the fact that were thrown out of the land. So in a sense the Tefilin is a punishment, means you're thrown out of the land. So you have to wear your Tefilin, since you can't really fulfill the commandments properly, at least wear your Tefilin which are practice. Now, if you take it that way, practice is really an important piece of it. But practice is a sad piece, because that's what we have to do, because we're being punished by being thrown out of the land. Geoffrey Stern I mean, but can one really take it as a punishment in the sense that I think the assumption is that wearing the Tefilin and keeping the commandments in Israel is something that is completely authentic and sui generis, you do it for its own sake, it has its benefits, and it's only outside of the land of Israel, that it becomes something that is a practice. So I'm not sure I can see it as a punishment. Unless, when you really get a little contrived in saying, well, you have to do it, even though it's really not the real McCoy. But you got to do it anyway, either as a punishment or something to keep you distinctive. I mean, I think what I'd like to take from your question is, let's look at the flip side. What does therefore wearing Tefilin in Israel mean? And again, if part of the wearing of Tefilin is to make you distinctive, and anyone who's ever seen anybody wearing Tefilin, it is very distinctive. If you ever are about to knock on the door, the first thing I always do is look to see if it's a Mezuza to see if it's a member of the tribe, so to speak. So these are two commandments that distinguish the Jew very much in exile. So maybe the flip side of that is, well, then what do you even need them for in the land of Israel? That to me is is, is an interesting question as well. Adam Mintz Good. That is an interesting question. Let's take both points that you make. The first point you made is that both mezuzah and Tefilin are visible, highly visible, meaning the mezuzahs on the doorpost, you can identify a house as being a Jewish house. And Tefilin is on the person. We all know that to see a Jew wearing Tefilin, it's distinctive. Wow. Like, that's exactly the right word, Geoffrey. It's distinctive, it makes them special, it makes something different. And I think that's an important idea. Now, according to the way Rashi is presenting it, Tefilin plays a much more minor role in Israel than it does in the diaspora. Because the whole idea of remaining distinctive is not important in Israel, because by definition, we're distinctive in Israel. So that I wonder about that, I wonder what Rashi would say about that. So I don't think we're necessarily going to solve this problem. But I think the crux of the question is a whole other layer? And that is, is Judaism, in Israel and outside of Israel, one and the same thing? Or is there a total distinction between observing these commandments when one is outside of Israel and one is in? Now we all should know that there are commandments that are called "Teluyot B'Aretz", that are dependent on the land. So it's clear that if there is a rule of letting the land life fallow every seven years, the sabbatical law, that only applies in the land of Israel. And this is a very mainstream idea that that commandment is not applicable outside of the land. What this particular train of thought is saying is that really, every commandment when practiced in Israel, is different in kind, not in degree when practiced in Israel, and practiced outside. And I think the fact that we're struggling with how Tefilin is meaningful in Israel and how it is meaningful outside of Israel, maybe tells us that we're not even showing a bias. That Tefilin might mean one thing, Shabbat might mean one thing in Israel, and it might mean something outside of Israel. But clearly, this particular midrash commentary is raising a very important question. Even that is very timely, in a time where the communities living in Israel and outside of Israel, see things so differently. So now you're raised another point. And that is what is the difference between Judaism in Israel and Judaism in the diaspora, Jewish observance in Israel and Jewish observance in the diaspora? You know, there is a theory, Geoffrey, that's become very popular, which is that the observance of commandments is much less important in Israel than it is in the diaspora. Because in Israel everybody's Jewish. So therefore, you don't need to observe the commandments. It's only the diaspora that you have to observe the commandments. What do you think about that? Geoffrey Stern Well, again, it's it's part and parcel of this whole impression that we have. For instance, there are many secular Jews that go to Israel for the first time, and they leave kind of disappointed. They were expecting everybody to be dancing the Hora and wearing a kippa. And even though they're not traditional, they expect Israelis to be traditional. It's as much the question of perceptions of the two communities of each other. And I do believe that there are Israelis who will argue that as you say, once you're in Israel, you you don't have to "work it" so much. Whereas a family like mine living in Connecticut must put its foot down, the kids can't go out Friday night, we have to keep a Shabbat Friday night dinner in order to retain our character. In Israel, if the kids go out, they're going to be with other kids, and they'll keep Shabbat in this similar way. But you can say the flip side of that argument too that there are Jews living in Israel, that believe that Judaism in Israel is hyper-Judaism, that you are so close to the source that you're able to practice on a higher level. So I take your comment only as one of many different lenses that we see this distinction between Judaism in and outside of Israel, I would just love to add my favorite aspect of this in terms of the one community looking at the other. In vernacular, Hebrew or Yiddish. If you call somebody an Am Haaretz , it typically means an ignoramus. But modern scholarship, academic scholarship has shown that the truth is it was a term formed in the Babylonian exile. We all know the Babylonian exile was one that kind of reinvented Judaism, wrote the Babylonian Talmud, and they would come back to Israel, and they would see the arm Haaretz, the people who were living on the land, the the ones that didn't go into exile, and many of the innovations or higher emphasis on maybe purity, and tithing and stuff like that were not followed by those who had remained in Israel. So it's almost the first instance of the two communities, the Diaspora and the resident community, seeing Judaism differently, developing Judaism differently, and maybe being a little bit presumptuous [pejorative] about how to define each other. Adam Mintz Yeah, I mean, I'm with you on all of that. I think that that's all interesting. Now, how that relates to the fact that Tefilin is a reminder, and kind of, from observance to culture, but maybe that's a good job, maybe that's interesting. Geoffrey Stern You know, I'm also kind of reminded of the, the Zionist thinkers, and each one of them had their own kind of take on this. But all of them said that the life that the Jew has led 2,000 years in exile was an anemic existence. So if you went to Aleph Dalet Gordon, who was a labor Zionist, he would say how, for 2000 years, Jews did not work with their hands did not toil the soil, because they were not permitted to, but they lived this artificial, anemic existence. And if the Jewish people are ever to become naturalized, become a whole, they need to go back to their land, and rediscover the fullness of human activity. And there were other thinkers, like Achad HaAm who wanted a revival of Jewish culture and language. Ben Yehuda would say the same thing about a people who basically kept alive its language in prayer, but didn't speak it anymore. And so I do think that from their perspective, kind of living in exile was very much this practice and wherever we could we try to retain as much of the aspects of national identity that we could. But ultimately, these aspects of our natural human life, social life would only be true if we came back to the land. So it's kind of an interesting parallel between the religious thinker who's behind this midrash between Rashi's comment, and the secular Zionists who also felt that living outside of Israel was anemic and therefore was pretty much just playing religion, playing culture, playing language, Adam Mintz Its interesting, the secular Zionist. Why did they think the living outside the land was anemic? It wasn't because of an observance of mitzvos. They somehow felt as if Judaism, just by the very definition needed a homeland? Geoffrey Stern Well, I think with regard to religion, their argument would be similar to the one you made a few minutes ago, which is that because we didn't have a language because we didn't have an economy, because we didn't have all of the accoutrements of a natural life, what we could develop was our religion. And therefore we developed this religion way beyond where it should have been, relative to the other aspects of our lives. And that, therefore, when we come back to the land of Israel, religion has to reassume its, relativity to the other forms of life. And I think from that perspective, yes, that would be where that argument comes from. But again, it seems to me even today, when you have, and I see this, especially amongst liberal progressives, and I count myself guilty, as charged as a progressive, but sometimes it's very different, what a progressive will say, who lives outside of Israel, and one that lives inside of Israel. And the most basic difference is the one that lives inside of Israel probably has a son or a daughter, in the army. And Ben Gurion made the statement that his ideal was one day, we would live in our land, and we would have thieves and prostitutes just like anybody else. And what he meant to say, what he meant to say is, in Israel, all of this ideology that we had, and especially progressive ideology, the rubber has to hit the pavement, it's one thing to talk as a consultant. And it's another thing to run a company, it's one thing to write an ideology, and to talk about universalism. And then it's another when you have your own backyard, and when you're worried about the safety of your children, and you have your own love for the land, and they are conflicts and things are not as black and white. And things are not as clean and crisp and clear. But to the Zionists that was the challenge. That's the challenge of moving from practice, to the actual hard work of, not only building a state, but living a life as a citizen of a country and of a culture, so forth and so on. Adam Mintz I think that point is really a beautiful point. And what's amazing is that how we've come full circle from that Rashi that basically says that we wear Tefilin as a sense of a punishment, or as a sense of retaining our distinctiveness, even in the diaspora, to come to this idea of an appreciation of the land is really a beautiful idea. I think Rashi would love that idea. Do you want to open it up, Geoffrey to the audience and see if someone has some thoughts on some of this, Geoffrey Stern I'd love to I'd love to hear whether on this subject we're talking about right now or even Judaism as a practice or Judaism, both rooted in land and above time and space. Anybody who's listening? if you are Israeli too, I'd love to hear your perspective on how sometimes you see the difference between our traditions as practiced in Israel, and outside of Israel. But as we wait, I want to go back to those Zionists who argued about this anemic existence. And that I really do believe that those who are super critical of Israel, even those who love Israel, but are super critical of Israel. You know, it's not an argument from the perspective of unless you live in Israel, you don't have a right to criticize. It's more of a perspective of if you don't live in Israel. It's hard for you to understand what it's like in the same fashion, as it's hard to understand what celebrating a holiday is in the land where it took place, from celebrating it as a reminiscence, or as a reminder, and I think that's kind of part and parcel of this discussion today. We're not taking the moral high road, we're just saying that it's clear from this Midrash, that existentially living in the land; being being there. And I can't help but use the metaphor of "not in my backyard", where so many people take a position, but you really don't know what their position is, unless it does happen in their backyard. There's an amazing podcast from the New York Times, that talks about a group of people that petitioned the city to move a public school into their neighborhood so that it could be more integrated. And when the school was ultimately moved, none of them, not one to a T sent their kids there. And these are radical progressives. So I do think this is an invitation for us all, to look into the mirror. And to ask ourselves, and this is moving away from even the Israel situation, if you don't live in the land, if it's not your backyard, is your vision, is your perspective going to be the same as if you are there? Adam Mintz I couldn't agree with you more. And I think that's, that's the challenge. And the answer, of course, is that your perspective is different in Israel; good and bad, right? I don't know that you want to say that it's better. It's just different when you're there. Geoffrey Stern Hello, Michael Michael Posnik Once again, thank you very much, gentlemen. Just a number of things. I don't know if they're all connected. But the first thing that came to mind at the beginning of the event today, was that practice makes perfect. And it may well be that all the practice that's going on here is aimed at a kind of perfection, but the practice itself is moving towards perfection, always. So that's one thing that comes. On the other hand, Carnegie Hall might be compared to Israel in this discussion. The other thing that came to mind was something I was studying with Misha about Nehemia. And when they came back, and Ezra built the wooden tower and read the Torah, to the people, which people you called Am Haaretz which is such a beautiful understanding of that phrase, not dismissive at all, just the people who live there. They cry, the people who are listening to the Torah and it's not clear whether they're crying, to hear the law again, and to be reminded of the law, or they're crying because they neglected or did not have the opportunity to practice or to live in the law. And Nehemia says to the people don't cry, just listen. I guess that listening is also a very profound practice as well. So again, thank you, just a couple of pieces of something to consider. Geoffrey Stern I think that's a beautiful thought. And it takes me back to this concept of, we're not necessarily saying one is better than the other. I mean, this concept of practice. By definition, you mean to say that you're going somewhere you're striving. And if the flip side of that is a certain level of smugness, and a certain level of I've already arrived, then I do think that I don't necessarily take the comment by Rashi as one of punishment as a as much as fact. But I do want to bring one more piece of Talmud that has always fascinated me, and it's at the end of the Tractate Ketubot. And it says that those who live in Israel "Keilu Yesh Lo Eloka", those who live in Israel, it's as if they have a God, and those who live outside of Israel. It's as if they don't have a God, and I think on the superficial level, that ultimately means that in Israel, you're closer to God and outside of Israel, you're far away. But it does say,"keilu" as if, and I wonder sometimes whether those living in Israel, and I see it when they come here, and they come out into the diaspora, and they see how hard Jews in the diaspora work on preserving the traditions work on preserving the identity. And in a sense, there's a sense sometimes of awe, and I think that the two different cultures and can literally benefit from each other, and the culture, you know, outside of Israel, .... and I won't even say Israel anymore, outside of the land of comfort, outside of the land of having arrived as opposed to the land of wanting to arrive, striving to arrive, those people, it's as if they don't have a God, because they're striving for that God, and the ones that feel rooted in the land as if they've already arrived, and they have nowhere further to go. It looks as though they have a God, but maybe they don't. And that to me is what lies at the bottom of this whole concept of belonging and not belonging, of arriving and not arriving, of totally feeling, comfortable. We were in Morocco, and the Moroccan community divides itself into two. One is the "Mityashvim", the people that live there belong there, those were our Jews that arrived with the Romans, and were there before the Spanish Inquisition, and the others are the "Mitgarshim", those who were exiled from Spain and came there. So they have in the same country these two concepts. And I would suggest, and maybe this is the thought that we should take with us, is that we both need a little bit of both, we both need to be able to have that comfort level. But we also have to feel a level of striving and practice trying to get to the promised land. And if we ever get to a promised land and feel we've arrived, we're probably dead in the water. So you always have to have I think both aspects. Adam Mintz Geoffrey you couldn't end on a better note, the idea the necessity to strive, and the idea that if we ever think we get there, then we fail. I wish everybody a Shabbat shalom. We should continue to strive. You know, the summer months, Geoff and I were talking at the beginning of the know, these parshiot we don't talk about them enough because it's the summer but there's such amazing material here. And I think in this paragraph of the Shema, we have the idea of striving. Let's all strive, let's have a Shabbat Shabbat shalom. Thank you, Geoffrey, and we look forward to seeing everybody next week. Parshat Re'ea, be well everybody. Geoffrey Stern Shabbat Shalom.
In this episode of the podcast, Rabbi Dobrusin shares thoughts on a commentary by Rashi on this week's Torah portion. What impact can a miracle mentioned by Moses have on our lives as Jews?
Parshat Vetchanan (Deuteronomy 6) Geoffrey Stern and Rabbi Roy encounter the iconic call to Faith of the Shema Yisrael to explore the complexity of faith and especially the contribution of the Musar Movement Sefaria Source Sheet: www.sefaria.org/sheets/337360 Transcript: Geoffrey Stern And today, we are going to discuss the one sentence that pretty much I think every Jew knows about has heard is our calling card and it is this Shema Yisrael that's found in in Deuteronomy 6: 4. And I'm sure we could just spend the whole afternoon just talking about what Shema means to you and means to me, and we definitely you're going to do that. But we're also going to use it as an excuse to look into my background in terms of the Yeshiva, I studied in a Musar Yeshiva. And there were certain insights that I got into the moment of Shema that I want to share. But let's start by saying Roy, what does? The Lord is our God, the Lord is one Shema Yisrael. Why is it so iconic? And what what does it mean to you when you say it twice a day. Roy Feldman I mean, the simple meaning is that it's accepting the yoke of heaven. It's a declaration that is kind of unambiguous, that we accept God as the sole creator and sole ruler of the universe, Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokenu Hashem Echad. It's very unambiguous. It doesn't waver at all. Even if we have, you know, some thoughts about theology or different feelings about God or, you know, wrestling with God in some ways, at different times, twice a day, we kind of just set those aside and say Shema Yisrael twice a day where we don't waver and don't have any compunctions about saying that. And that's an important way to bookend the day. It really, opens the day, and it closes the day. We say Shema in the morning and at night, before we go to bed. And so I think that's the real statement of the Shema that whatever happens in the middle of the day, and whatever thoughts we might have, we bookend the day with this declaration that we accept God, Geoffrey Stern I think that's absolutely correct. This sense of accepting the"Ol Malchut Shemayim", the kingship of God. And I love the fact that you say that it's kind of a moment of intense focus and acceptance. And that serves as a wonderful segway to the story that really impacted me and will serve as the crux of this conversation. So I went to a Musar Yeshiva... the Musar movement was started, I believe in about the 1700s, 1800s, about the same time as the Enlightenment, and possibly as a response to the Enlightenment in Eastern Europe by a rabbi called Rabbi Yisrael Salanter. And I was fortunate to go to a Yeshiva, that was headed by Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, who studied under the alter from Mir, Rav Yerucham Leibovitz. And he told this story as follows. He said, once a student was saying the Shema and Robbi Yerucham came up to him. And he said to him, so did you say the Shema with Kavanah, with intention? And the student replied, Well, of course, Rebbe.. totally. And he said, so. Let me get this straight. When you said this Shema, you accepted this yoke of heaven, on your feet, and everywhere that you're going to go the rest of the day and the rest of your life and on your tongue, in terms of everything that you're going to speak, your hands and all of your actions, your mind and all of your thoughts, your heart and your emotions. And let me ask you something, did you feel like rebelling? And the students stopped and he paused? And he says, Rebbe, Hash Veshalom! God forbid, I never felt like rebelling. And Reb Yerucham turn to him and said, my boy, you've never said the Shema in your life. I found that story is so powerful. And I guess representative of what the Musar movement is, because it took something that should have such a purity of intention. And as you were saying this kind of focus [and unambiguity]. It even includes in it the word "One" "Echad" what word could we pick that represented harmony any more than the word "One"? And here this Reb Yeruchum introduced that if you didn't have the unharmonious feeling of rebellion. If you didn't feel a twitch of unacceptance then you probably haven't said Shema with intention at any time in your life. Roy before I give you a little bit more of my further reflection on that story, what what does that story say to you? Roy Feldman It's an amazing story that actually brings to mind a similar or a parallel ... that if you don't wrestle with God.... What the story is really saying is that if you don't wrestle with God, that you don't really believe in God, you don't really have the real feeling of Shema. Eliezer Berkovitz, who was a Jewish philosopher who passed away a couple decades ago, in Chicago, has a book called Faith after the Holocaust where he kind of tries to account for having faith, in light of the terrible evil that was the Holocaust. And in the introduction to that book, Berkovitz writes that if you did not have questions of faith, if when you were faced with the death camps, and with the murderous Nazis, you didn't say, "Where is God now?" Then you yourself, don't really believe in God? Because how could you not have a problem with God, if we believe in that great God, that's all good and all knowing, and all powerful and just wants good for us? If that's the God that we believe in, then when faced with such evil, if you really believe in God, then you have to question God at that moment. And that's very similar to the story that you were just telling, with, with the questions of saying the Shema, but wrestling with Shema, rebelling against God. Each one of us faces, difficulties in life, whatever our difficulties may be, and some are greater than others. But at any point in our lives, we are faced with situations in which we really have to ask "Where is God for us now?" And why is God doing this? or What does God intend by doing that? And I think that's really the crux of that story about the Shema. Geoffrey Stern I couldn't agree more. You know, even if we just focus on the the wording, what started as a simple expression of faith, when when Rashi looks at it, he says, Well, no, actually, there's a progression here. Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokenu Hashem Echad. Here, O Israel, the Lord our God, and the intention there is maybe the God of the Jewish people, one day will be the one God meaning will be accepted by the whole world. And so even in that there's maybe less of a sense of conflict. But there is a sense of resolution. And that faith is not something that static, that's faith is something that has to grow. And I think you and I would both agree that probably the the biggest catalyst for growth in faith is turmoil, is the sweat, the work of building one's faith, whether on a national universal level, or more importantly, on on a personal level. So even baked into the phrase, he's not all together, he or she is not one yet. We have to work at it. Roy Feldman Yeah, I think that's absolutely. That's absolutely right. Geoffrey Stern The other thing that's kind of interesting, and of course, clubhouse, and a podcast is an audible network. But if you have the Torah sitting in front of you, you'll see that the word Shema, the Ayin the last letter of the word Shema is a very large, and the Dalit at the end of Echad is also very large and the rabbi's explained that the reason for this is if you change the letter of Shema to an Aleph it means Shemma... "maybe". And if you change the letter, Dalet at the end of the Echad, which means "one" to a Resh, which looks very similar, it means "acher" it means "others" and of course it makes you think of "Elohim Acherim" other gods. So it's almost as though the Masoretic text and the tradition that we come from is looking at this very simple positive formulation of faith and baking into it all the possibilities for hearing wrong, misunderstanding it. If you listen to a traditional Jew say the Shema at the end they go "Echaaaaaaa D" and again, that tradition comes from stressing the fact that it's a Dalet and not a Resh. It's it's kind of fascinating, isn't it? Roy Feldman It is fascinating and not only do we do stress that Dalet at the end to make sure it's a Dalet and not a Resh, but many traditional Jews are also more careful about pronouncing all of the words of the Shema correctly, even more so than they are about the rest of the service for that same reason to make sure that we're saying everything exactly right and as intended. So there'll be no questions about what we're saying with the Shema. I think another interesting thing about the Shema is that we call it the most famous prayer in Judaism, but in reality, it's not a prayer. We've been saying it's a declaration, and it's really a declaration that precedes the prayer. The rabbi's in the Tractate Berachot in the Babylonian Talmud, note that one is always supposed to proceed the Shemona Esrai with the blessing of Go-al Yisrael, which is really the final blessing after the Shema itself. I think that one of the meanings of that is that in order to pray in order to stand before God, and make requests for good health, and for a livelihood, and for sustenance, and for for peace, and for all of these things, before that, we have to make a declaration that we accept God. So it's interesting that many people think of it as a prayer, but it's really not a prayer. It's a declaration of sorts. Geoffrey Stern Yeah, I think that's absolutely true. Although, it could be aspirational, especially if you take it from the perspective of what Rashi said, and the fact that It reflects a hope and a desire, as opposed to a reflection of the current state. But I want to discuss a little bit further this really talent that the rabbi's, but I would say the Jewish people have for seeing in a statement both itself and its opposite. And I think that's what Rab Yeruchem was saying in terms of "and you never rebelled". You know, the flip side of faith, real faith is this radical sense of rebellion. And if you don't have one, you don't have the other. And it's the summertime and I'm thinking back to when I was a camper at Camp Tovah Vodaas. And that was not a Musar Yeshiva, it was a more of a Hasidic Yeshiva. And the spiritual head of that Rav Moshe Wolfson, we used to take us students out into nature. And as many of us are this weekend in nature, and he quoted a paragraph in Pirkei Avot; the Ethics of the Fathers. And it says "if one is studying while walking on the road, and interrupts his study and says, how fine is this tree? Or how fine is that newly plowed field, the Bible accounts to him as if he was mortally guilty". "ke-iIlu Mitchayev beNafsho" as if he had done the worst sin. And sitting there in nature, the rabbi said to us, how could that possibly be? And he said, so here's the correct interpretation. He says, if you are studying Torah, and you look at nature, and you think that that's an interruption, you are guilty and your soul is guilty. It's not that it is an interruption that you interrupt your study, but that you think that it's an interruption that you don't understand that the beauty of God can be found in the Torah in the revealed law, but it can also be found in nature. And I thought that it contained in that little story, too, is a wonderful lesson to us. But the bigger thing is how you can take a phrase and turn it on its head, how you can find an insight that goes 360 degrees in the opposite direction. And this is really Jewess approach of Yeah, you're right and you're also right... Elu V'Elu Devrai Elohim Hayim. Roy Feldman Yeah, that remark reminds me of the expression, "don't let school get in the way of your education". that's similar to the the Rabbinic passage that you just quoted. That is don't let the law and wonder of nature, which is really God's creation, be an interruption to your learning. It really is part and parcel of your learning. Just as there are many elements in education that aren't formally part of school, but they really are an integral part of one's education. And we see that in so many different areas of where something seem like they might be a distraction. And some things really are a distraction, let's not pretend like there's no distractions, but don't let things that seem like a distraction but can really be valuable sources of spiritual growth or intellectual growth get in the way of what we perceive to be the formal learning. Geoffrey Stern Absolutely. So so I want to go back to the Musar movement and use my experience there and to share with with you what my insight is into the Musar movement. Most people translate the Musar movement as an ethical movement in Judaism, a focus on ethics. And I think that there's a very, very small part of that, which is true because all of Judaism focuses on ethics and being a good person. I think what sets the Musar movement apart is that one constantly is working and working, and sweating the details of even the most obvious thing like God is one. Like, we need to be observant and learn from all things, whether nature or not. There's a verse in the Torah that says that "im Bechukotai Telechu" that you should walk in my laws and the Sifra, the commentary explains that walking in God's laws means "amaylim B'Torah" it means struggling with the Torah. So if I had to represent the Mussar movement, it really looks at all of Judaism and says you have to struggle with everything. You can't take any obligation [at face value]. You know, when I was at that Yeshiva after a year you were invited into a Va'ad that might meet at midnight, twice a week. And you might take the simplest concept, you might take the concept of being thankful of being hopeful, the concept of belief, and we would literally spend six months focused on it. The Masgiach , Rabbi Wolbe would give us actual [thought] experiments that we had to do in terms of understanding what it means to be thankful and not being thankful and when that thankfulness is self serving, and I think that really, what I would love to share with you all today is this sense of, if you've never questioned what thankfulness is, then you've never been thankful if you've never understood what pain is and hardship is from both sides. I think that's what the Musar movement really... is the magic of it, that it gave to me. And that I have found the most intriguing part of my love affair with Judaism is that nothing can be only be taken at face value. And there's always this struggle in a good way. We can't forget that the word "Yisrael" is the name that Jacob got after struggling with the angel. Matt. Welcome to the platform. What what's on your mind today? Mathew Landau Hi, everyone. great conversation. Thank you. Well, I'm just back from Italy. And I was in too many churches. And it's sort of when I was davening on Tuesday, I was looking at the liturgy again, and I had a question I want to be a Musar for a second and sweat a detail .... when you talked about the Shema (I may be misquoting you, but you suggested something like the whole world will come to no one God). So in the Aleynu prayer, that paragraph that begins Al Keyn Nikaveh l'cha". "Therefore, we put our hope in you" and it goes on to say that very soon that you'll remove all detestable idolatry from the earth and false gods will be utterly cut off. I was curious from a maybe a Talmudic perspective or what Roy thinks about that interpretation. I spoke to one religious friend of mine that he knew of one Talmudic track. That that meant that that's when the Messiah will come and I won't name names, but I think there's some people we know that may wish to put the whole messianic concept of Judaism to the side. And so therefore, does it mean when we're davening this part of Aleynu that we're thinking that everyone's going to come around to either being Jewish or just being their own thing? But having no idolatry? I'm curious. Thank you. Roy Feldman Yeah, I think that's that's a great question. That's the famous part of the liturgy, so often sung at the end of Alynu, and the people who come to synagogue know that part of the liturgy, I think the key to understanding that line is understanding the word "Shem". Beyom ah'hu yiyeh Hashem Echad u'shemo echad" , God will be one, and his name will be one. And what's "Shem" usually means in the Bible is translated a reputation. For example, the Ba'al Shem Tov, the founder of the Hasidic movement, he was the master of a good name, that means he was a master of a good reputation, he had developed a good reputation for himself as being a spiritual counselor, so to speak. And that's if you look throughout the Bible and see what that when the word shem or name is used, name means reputation, how you're known, and we use that in English, too. He has a good name in the community means reputation. So I think when we save that line of the Aleynu prayer, what it means is, on that day, God will be one, which he already is, God is already one, and his reputation will be one, meaning everybody in the world will understand that God is one. It doesn't mean everybody's gonna be Jewish, it doesn't mean. I don't know what the Messianic undertones of it are. I can't you know, messianic era could be a very generic phrase, that means sometime in the future, when the world is at peace, and there are simply no problems in the world. That's the era towards which we hope the world is going. And so that's the simplest interpretation of "on that day God will be one and his name will be one". Not only will he be one, which is, you know, the metaphysics of it. He already is one. But his reputation will also be one ... there won't be a time when everybody kind of acknowledges that. Geoffrey Stern I think that it is clear that if you look at Rashi's comment, he's probably talking along the lines that both you, Roy and Matt are talking in terms of Messianism. But I think it's so obvious there is so many religions and practices of spirituality that are looking for the ultimate harmony, the ultimate one, you know, the Buddhist comes to the hotdog stand and they asked, What do you want on it? And he goes, I want one with everything. So that we all want ultimately, to find a world that lacks dissonance, that truth is obvious. And I think that's a way that you can harmonize what Rashi is talking about, which is the struggle for oneness, is a struggle. And it's a continuum over time, but it's an aspiration for harmony, and whether that harmony is personal, whether it's national, whether it's universal, I think it's how you take it and how it works for you. Elise welcome to the bima Elise Meyer Hi, Shabbat Shalom, everybody. I love that you were talking about harmony because the point that I wanted to make is that I recently was called upon to write a haiku in honor of a friend for one of these horrible zoom birthdays. And in doing a little bit of research about Haiku, which is the Japanese poetry form where five syllables are followed by seven syllables and then five syllables. These are poems that are used to connect a person to nature and to the universe. Most of them are related to the seasons or some sort of natural phenomenon and it occurred to me that "Shema Yisrael Adnoey Elohenu Adonai echad" is a perfect Haiku... She ma Yis ra el, Ado noy el o hey nu, ado noy ech ad" . Geoffrey Stern Wow, we heard it first here on Madlik. That's That's beautiful. That's absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing that Elise. Elise Meyer Well thank you for everything that you do to bring us to a higher level. Geoffrey Stern So I would like to finish up.. we were we talked Matt about you were going into churches and we talked a little bit about haikus and Buddhism. When I think of how I would characterize the Musar movement, this struggling with Torah, I actually think of a Lutheran theologian, a German theologian, who actually was very much against Hitler, and he was, he was killed, sent to a concentration camp and then ultimately hanged for being part of the plotters to kill Hitler. And he came up with an amazing phrase and the phrase is "Cheap Grace", cheap or costly grace and he like thinkers similar to like the Kotzke Rebbe or Kierkegaard spent his whole life arguing against religion without the fiz, platitudes. Just blind faith mumbled over and over again. And I believe that this this Cheap Grace, Cheap Belief, nothing comes easy and the beauty in the struggle and the joy that I think is reflected in the Shema. And Shema has a very rich history of being with the Jewish people and individual Jews at heights of joy and at depths of sorrow. But what it is, is that it's not cheap, is that it represents inside of it in one little phrase, as you say Elise, a Haiku, but also an aspiration, this struggle between the notion of one God and many gods of dualities and harmonies. And I really do believe that the story that we started with about if you can say it and accept everything in it and not rebel, then you've never said it is so true. So I thank you why for joining us, Matt, Elise for coming up to the bima I wish us all an amazing Shabbat. This is Shabbat Nachamu, which again is the flip side of mourning of Tisha B'Av. And now comes the the joy. If you plant in tears, you reap in joy type of thing. So let's all be joyous. Let's all have Shabbat and make sure that for many generations Shema Yisrael Adonoi Elohenu adonai Echad. Roy Feldman Amen. Thank you so much for inviting me, Geoffrey, this was a wonderful conversation. Thank Mathew and Elise for joining us. Geoffrey Stern Thanks so much.
Rashi Class, a weekly exploration of Torah featuring a deep dive on the text and lively conversation focused on an 11th-century French commentary, conducted by Rabbi Adam Kligfeld at Temple Beth Am, Los Angeles, on July 21, 2021, this week beginning with Shemot/Exodus 4:8. (Facebook/Zoom)
“Hear O Israel, the Lord who is our God will be One”. This is how Rashi, following the Sifri, interprets the first verse of the Shema, thereby understanding the statement as not a creed affirming a metaphysical truth, but rather as eschatology of the Future to Come. Until then, the "other gods" referred to in the second of the Ten Commandments roam the world. In this discussion, we attempt to unpack what this means and how the process we affirm in the Shema may unfold.
So much of our time and effort is devoted to Torah learning, yet often we feel that we were never given a clear method how to learn effectively.This series will explore methods to understand, remember and clarify Gemara as well as provide the tools how to explore Torah in depth.All the rules how to study Gemara - from the Gemara itself! Interested in hearing daily shiurim? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Parshat matot - This week, along with Rabbi Adam Mintz and Rabbi Raphael Davidovich we discuss compromises and differences of opinion relating to the Biblical borders of the promised land and the modern State of Israel. We explore how these discussions might actually be the only way out of the current conflict. So throw away your maps and pull out your sacred texts and lets discuss the Compromised Land. Link to Sefaria Source Sheet here: www.sefaria.org/sheets/334569 Transcript: Geoffrey Stern This week, we have a new episode in asking Moses for an exception to the rule. This week, the Jewish people after 40 years wandering in the desert have finally come to the border. They've actually already conquered some land outside of the land of Israel, just to get passageway they're about to cross over the Jordan River. And two tribes; the Reubenites and Gadites approach Moses. And the Bible starts by saying they owned a lot of cattle. And they noted that the land on the west side, the West Bank of the Jordan River, were really good for cattle. And they said, Would it be okay? If we stayed here? And Moses, as seems to be the standard falls on his face. And says to them, does that mean that you're questioning the whole endeavor, that you're not going to come and take the Promised Land. And he even talks and reminds them, that a whole generation, their parents, had also come close to the border, had sent the spies over, and then had had their second thoughts and doubts, and decided, again, not to engage in this endeavor of gaining the Promised Land. And he says, The Lord was incensed that Israel and for 40 years, he made them wander in the wilderness. And he says, and now you a breed of sinful men have replaced your fathers to add still further to the Lord's wrath against Israel. So again, he's shocked by their question, the way they phrase, their question is kind of interesting, too, because they say that what we want to do is we will build places for a cattle to graze, and we will go ahead and build places for our families to abode. And then we're actually going to come with you and help you conquer the land. And until the project of fulfilling the promise of the Promised Land is fulfilled, we will not go back to our settlement here on the West Bank. But until that time, we will fight along with you. And at this point, Moses comes back, and he talks not so much to God, but I think to the other leaders, and to Aaron, and the priests, and he says, if you will commit to do exactly that, then I will permit you to stay on the West Bank of the Jordan River. And it really goes on and on in terms of each of the different steps. And that I think is the last time .... I might be willing next week. But I think it's the last time that the people of Israel, or a segment from the people of Israel asked for an exception. And Moses came back and gave them the exception. So Rabbi, in your opinion, what makes this story worth a whole chapter in the Torah? And what are the lessons and what are the takeaways? Adam Mintz Okay, first of all, this is an amazing story. It's about exceptions. But ultimately, in the end, it's about what commitments are the Land of Israel means, because what we have is we have the two tribes of Reuven and Gad. And basically, they're willing to say we're willing to put ourselves on the line, to be able to live where we want to live. Now, they didn't necessarily have to offer that. But they decided to offer that. And it shows what their commitment to the land is about. And I think that's very important. Yu know, the whole Torah, they're always complaining about going into the land of Israel, why'd you take us out of Egypt, we should have stayed in the land of Egypt and all of these things, right? The Miraglim, the spies come, and they say bad things about Israel. And now you have a group of people who are willing to say, we're putting ourselves on the line, to be part of Israel to fight the battles before anybody else settles down. We're gonna fight with everybody. I think that's a wonderful lesson. Geoffrey Stern So it's interesting that you kind of see In the, the the members of these two tribes, someone who is virtuous, their intentions were good. And you would put them in the same category as the daughters of Zelophechad, or Jethro. They were good and well intentioned. Adam Mintz that's a good term. Geoffrey Stern Well intentioned and in a sense, selfless, because what they were saying is they will fight for the rest of the nation to redeem the Promised Land, and then they would go back to the houses. But I sense in the commentators that there's actually a bias in the other direction. In other words, Rashi picks up on the fact that when they said, We will build sheepfolds for our cattle, and then they say, and we will go ahead and build homes for our children. Rashi said, "asu Ikar Ikar vehatfal tafal" they actually were materialists that they show their colors, in terms of caring more about grazing rights and prosperity. And I think, in a sense, the way they're introduced also kind of places them as someone whose intentions in fact, were very materialistic. So how do you square that with your circle? Adam Mintz Good. I mean, there is no question that Rashi is critical of them, or Rashi says that they're interested, they're interested in their self-interest, right? Where is it going to be better for us? I'm really taking a different view. Rashi decides that these tribes are no good. Rashi doesn't like people who break with the norm. Rashi thinks that everybody should do the same thing. I don't think that that's the way that we're necessarily trained. I think that we're trained that it's okay to be a little different. And that if you're willing to make a commitment, that it's okay to be different. So I understand Rashi, I'm not a traditionalist as Rashi in the same way, in terms of the fact that everybody needs to do the same thing. Geoffrey Stern Well, I think that's wonderful. That's why you and I are made for each other. Adam Mintz Tere we go. Madlik. That's right. Geoffrey Stern So so let's talk in biblical terms, it would be called the Promised Land, and in modern day terms, it would be called Zionism. In a sense, the Reubenites that Gadites, were the first Jews to live in the galut [Diaspora] so to speak, in other words, they were saying you can go into the land, we want to live outside of the land. I think historically, the fact that they live there, ultimately became part of Greater Israel. But in that moment, in any case, they were acting very similar to Jews, like you and I, who live in New York, who say, we are going to do everything we can to support you in the building the dream of Zion and the Land of Israel. But we're actually going to live on the other side of the river so to speak Is is this the first instance .... and it's funny, it's it happened even before they took the land, they already had these outliers. Adam Mintz Yeah, well, I mean, by definition, it's the first example. They're just taking possession of the land. And they're outliers. I think the Torah is really making a comment about how they feel about these outliers. Now, Rashi has one view, and I presented another view. Obviously, there are different views about these outliers. But clearly, this is the story of the outlier. It's different than the daughters of Zelophechad . The daughters of Zelophechad , are making sure that they get an equal portion. That's not about being an outlier. That's about protecting their own interest. It's really a different story than the daughters of Zelophechad . Geoffrey Stern Well, absolutely. Do you do you give any import to the fact again, I've already mentioned that the Bible seems to go out of the way to say that they own cattle and that they were looking for land suitable for cattle, ...cattle cattle. Do you think that this is part of a tension throughout the Bible that we haven't discussed before, between agriculture and cattle grazing (herders and ranchers). Between vegetarianism, if you will, and a culture of raising cattle. Of the wanderer, the grazer and the land holder who prays for the rain, who tides the crops. There are so many laws of Judaism that have to do with agriculture, in a very positive sense that it almost becomes the paradigm. And cattle grazing and certainly of slaughtering animals was almost limited to the temple. I don't believe that it was even permissible to eat meat outside of the temple culture. Adam Mintz That's right. Geoffrey Stern Is there any of that going on here? Adam Mintz There might be. They're clearly making an argument to the fact we need more land, because that's the way our that's our livelihood, and our livelihood needs more land. Now, you wonder, I think, Geoffrey, this is an interesting question. What did the other tribes think about the request of Reuven and Gad. T Torah never tells us, but it's left open for our imagination. What do you think to Torah thought? Geoffrey Stern It makes it seem that the key issue that Moses had was, number one, are you going to be included in the draft? Are you going to help the rest of the people? If we let you pursue your own private interests and your different lifestyle? Are you going to still be committed to the national movement? That was one thing, the other argument that Moses makes, which I find even more fascinating, is he harkens back to when the spies came back, any Harkens back at great length, because he says you're going to be doing the same thing, you're going to be taking away the idealism. We all were looking forward to going into the land until the spies punctured that bubble. And here you are at this precipitous moment, we're going into the land. And already you're taking away from from the whole, from Clal Israel, if you will, but he doesn't really put any words into the mouths of the leaders of the other tribes or to the priests either. So I don't know how to answer that. But I do find it fascinating, where his concerns were, Raphael Davidovich that's interesting. You say he doesn't put words in their mouths. You wonder, about why the leaders of the other tribes, you know, when it came to the spies, they weren't so quiet, all of a sudden, here they are quiet? And you wonder why that is? Geoffrey Stern Well, I mean, you know, again, we only can read what what's in the text, and we can't read in between lines. There are two words that are kind of interesting to me. One is they talk about, okay, so after you fulfill your obligation, you will come back here, and it'll be an "ahuza". It'll be a holding for you. And the other word is we're crossing the Jordan, you know, the word "Ivri" Hebrew comes from the word "L'avor" to go over. And certainly, one of the references or associations that we always have, is that we crossed over the Jordan, or in the case of Abraham over the Tigris, but the point is, we were coming home. And the cattle grazers are still wanderers so there's also that tension between coming home [to settle] and ending the wanderings in the desert or of the diaspora. And then there is the other side of it is well, we've gotten used to this life and we like this untethered existence. And then there's this sense of what is the land to them anyway, is it is is something that ... we just passing through? What does "achuza" actually mean? Adam Mintz So that's a very good question. What is what is the attitude of these people towards the land? These two tribes? What's their attitude? What about the other tribes? Do they have a different attitude towards the land? Does everybody recognize the holiness of the land? I think from the story in the Torah it's very hard. Geoffrey Stern Yeah. I mean, I think at the end it says "Vehoyta ha'aretz hazot l'chem l'achuza liphney Hashem" that this land will be to you, "achuza" a holding in front of God? You know, I'm reminded that actually does the land really belong to any of us? And that it doesn't talk about "achuzah L'olam" forever. So it does raise these questions. There's so much talk about coming into the Promised Land. What does that even mean? Is it our land to live on our or is it something that we own? You know, I don't think we'll ever know. But I know that these issues are there, even if we just look at the simple words. This conflict between a wandering people and people that comes home? Adam Mintz Maybe we should open it up Jeffrey and see whether we have some some opinions Michael, anyone else who wants to hear their views? You kind of threw out a lot of ideas today Geoffrey Stern Absolutely. So if there's anyone who would want to comment on what we've been talking about in terms of the first time that the Jewish people came to the land, and the first time that the kind of borders were started to be made both physical borders and borders between lifestyles, Raphael, welcome. Raphael Davidovich Thank you. Fascinating conversations. I just want to point out, that it was mentioned that Rashi objected to the tribe of Reuben and Gad for their request. But that's not necessarily the case. You know, that's not necessarily the voice of the Torah itself. And I just wanted to make sort of a point, not so much in defense of Rashi. But more in defense of the point that Rashi makes. To me, it seems fairly clear from the narrative, not only of Reuben and Gad, but meaning the long arc narrative that you see at the end of the book of Joshua, that what Reuben and Gad's request, while it was honored, was not considered appropriate. And you see this in two ways. One way is that the fact that they were on the other side of the Jordan, led to their being separated from the Jewish people or the Israelite people at a much earlier stage. There's a Midrash that makes the point that they were exiled, leaving me for the remainder of the 10 tribes, and also that they had distanced themselves. And they almost started a civil war later on at the end of the book of Joshua for wanting to build an altar, which led to a big misunderstanding there. But sometimes, while a Jew might feel he wants a little bit of distance from other Jews, it's ultimately not really a good thing. And I think that's why Moshe never apologizes for his initial rant. It's not as if Ruben and Gad say no, no, listen we'll help as soldiers. And Moshe says, Oh, I apologize for the misunderstanding. You know, the point is left unresolved. And it seems to me that the narrative voice of the Torah feels that all things being equal, what they did was not considered appropriate. So I just wanted to sort of register that that voice, you know, that point of view, Adam Mintz okay. I mean, you're you're reading it, within the Chumash [Text of the Torah], and I'm suggesting that there might be two ways to read the book. Raphael Davidovich I understand. I heard that other way. But I think ultimately, given the distance. not only in Chumash. But like I said, there are many things in the Torah that foreshadow later stories that take place in the Nevi'im [Prophets]. And I think this one foreshadows the greater distance that would occur later. I think there's a strong point, not just in Rashi's way of looking at it.well, Geoffrey Stern I think Raphael that what you emphasize, is this healthy discussion about the different ways that we can look at these tribes, and the unintended consequences in later history, but I think ultimately, like any situation like this, the real issue to me, the real excitement to me is that from day one, this Promised Land was a Compromised Land, meaning to say that these two and a half tribes came even before they got into the brand new car, they already had issues. And were talking about, can they add a trailer? Can they sit in the backseat? It was spanking new. We look at Israel today with all of the different factions and all of the different opinions about who owns what land and how we should cut our borders. And to me, the biggest takeaway is: There is one discussion that had relates to their intention, and where they fall within the commentaries and within history. But there's the other issue. And I want to bring it into the not the not so distant present already, that even from the get go, there were discussions about where the borders were, whether you were in or whether you were out whether you were a purist or were detracting from the movement. And that is pretty amazing .... that already from that time this occurred. If I wanted to take it up into the present in modern Zionist history, there was a big discussion between Weizmann and Ben Gurion on the one hand, and Jabotinsky, on the other hand about what the boundaries of the future State of Israel should be. And Weitzman and Ben Gurion were willing to compromise and Jabotinsky did not. And the main issue was whether the borders would be on both sides of the Jordan or the Jordan would actually be the border. So it's fascinating that the story that we have in front of us is actually a prequel to an argument that related to the founding of the State of Israel. Jabotinsky, wrote a song that became actually the anthem of Herut and the rejectionists who felt that Ben Gurion should not make the compromise. And he has verses in it. The refrain is "two banks has the Jordan, this is ours. And that is as well. It's stretching from the sea to the desert and the Jordan, the Jordan in the middle two banks has the Jordan, this is ours. And that is as well." And it's fascinating that this concept of enlarging the borders, so that what happened in the parsha that we're reading with the Reubenites, and the Gadities went ahead and said they wanted to live outside of the borders, that actually changed the facts on the ground, and it became a new border. And it just seems to me that it's so fascinating when we talk about what the borders of the land should be, and how we should even look at these borders, that we can't but help go back to that first moment when the Jews hadn't even passed over the river. And already they were having these kinds of discussions. And I should say, compromises .... so I wonder what everyone's thoughts are in terms of it almost becomes it's a land of compromise. And it's a land where different people have different visions from the get-go. Michael Stern I kind of envision that the Promised Land and when the Israelites crossed over that that was like, opening up an oasis that would flood the whole planet, with the milk and honey with this divine consciousness and mistaken, of course, human frailties of thinking started to think about borders. And it was really just a key in a lock. And In came the Israelites in the alchemy was ready to flood the whole planet with divine consciousness. And so I just wanted to add that feeling that I have that we really could just forget about all the human limitations and borders and strife and see it as an oasis that was unlocked to release that to the world but humans got in the way. Adam Mintz Nice idea. And Michael, finish up your thoughts. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Michael Stern Oh, I think it's a good thing that it isn't about borders and it's really about going back to the moment and put the key in the lock and let this be the work. To make one holy planet, and of course, you have to start with a seed. And why run after the leaves when you can go back to the seed and then grow a tree of life on the whole planet that goes everywhere and brings everyone together, and no borders and global citizenship and consciousness. Adam Mintz Fantiastic... I love that idea. Geoffrey Stern But I want to take maybe a little bit of what Michael was saying in a slightly different direction. And that is, yes, I think that Jerusalem and the Promised Land have always been both a reality and a metaphor. And there is absolutely no question, especially in their later history where the two could live simultaneously. But unfortunately, for people living on a particular piece of land, the metaphor doesn't help. And that, ultimately, is what borders and conquest and troop movements and relocation of citizens always ends up. So I would like to talk about an amazing situation that is happening as we speak in Israel. And the New York Times had an article in July 4th, and it talked about how the secular peace effort has pretty much died. And that this might be a moment in time for people who are knowledgeable and committed to religion, to actually start talking about the issues that are dividing the Palestinians and the Israelis. And the example that they give. And the reason why it's happening right now is as you may all know, there is a new party that is a part of the Knesset, and part of the coalition, the ruling coalition. It's headed by Mansur Abbas. And it's called Raam. And unlike what one would think that it's would be a secular party. It actually is a Muslim Brotherhood type of party, it's absolutely committed to Islam. It's one of those instances where exactly the type of person that you think, could not reach out and compromise, is seeing the ability to make the livelihood of his people better. And the times gave a history of this person who had a teacher named Sheikh Abdullah Nimr Darwish, who was put in Israeli jail because he was part of the Muslim Brotherhood and when he came out, he did a turnabout, and said that actually, the Muslims living in Israel, should try to obey the laws. And he met up with a Rabbi Michael Melchior, and the two of them ( he since has passed away. But Rabbi Melchior has continued and clearly his student who is the head of the wrong party has continued) seeing the future seeing the potential of religious people who can read a text like we're reading today, and can discuss the issues from the perspective of religious categories of thought that they in fact, are the ones who are most equipped to look for ways out I mean, even if it's the most basic thing that the concept of the state does not exist, either in Islam or in biblical, or Talmudic Judaism. The idea that you can make covenants and those covenants can be permanent, they can be temporary, the fact that you can live on the land, but every 70 years, the land reverts back to somebody else, and looks at land ownership, totally different. All of these categories are religious categories that we study week in and week out. And sometimes we look at ourselves and saying, why are we studying these texts that have no relationship with human affairs and politics and people's lives? And the truth is, it might actually be the opposite. And I'm just intrigued by this movement of religious scholars being able to sit down and to figure out ways that we can communicate, because clearly religious scholars have more in common than they have apart. And I'd like to open that up for a short discussion and comment or just leave you with that thought. Adam Mintz That's a great thought. I think, Geoffrey, if we leave it at that, I think we've done a good job. And it's amazing that we took it back from Reuven and Gad and we took it to modern politics and some of the some of the real achievements in the State of Israel. That's really nice. idea, a good way to end this conversation about this parsha. Geoffrey Stern Fantastic well, Shabbat Shalom Adam Mintz Shabbat Shalom to everybody. Enjoy the parsha, it's a double parsha. I look forward to next the next week with everybody. Geoffrey Stern Absolutely. Shabbat Shalom.
There is a Torah prohibition that forbids Kohanim from coming in contact with a human corpse. The Torah writes explicitly in the Book of Vayikra (21:1), "Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and tell them that they shall not defile themselves to a deceased human being." This prohibition is codified in the Shulhan Aruch (Yoreh De'a 369). The prohibition of "Tum'at Kohanim" applies even nowadays, when we are all presumed to be Tameh (ritually impure) and we do not have access to the ashes of Para Aduma with which to become Tahor (ritually pure). This point is mentioned explicitly by the Shulhan Aruch (373:2).A Kohen is, however, allowed to become "Tameh" in the case of the death of an immediate family member, Heaven forbid. He is allowed to attend the funeral, be under the same roof as the coffin, and also to go to the cemetery for the burial. Regarding such a case, the Ben Ish Hai (Rav Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909) writes in his work Torah Lishmah that a Kohen should immerse in a Mikveh after the conclusion of the Shiba mourning period. Even though he was allowed to become Tameh, it is nevertheless proper for him to immerse in a Mikveh after the Shiba period. This applies also to a Kohen who became Tameh accidentally, such as if he walked into a home without realizing that there was a human corpse. Even though he became Tameh accidentally, it is proper for him to immerse in a Mikveh.In the case of a Kohen who intentionally disregarded this prohibition, and knowingly came very close in proximity to a grave in a cemetery or came in contact with a corpse, the community should not call him for the first Aliya to the Torah, or to recite Birkat Kohanim, until he repents. This is the ruling of the Sefer Misvot Gedolot, in Siman 371.It should be noted that a Kohen is forbidden from coming in contact with a human corpse, but not with other forms of Tum'a. Thus, for example, it is entirely permissible for a Kohen to come in contact with a Sheretz (carcass of a rodent) or a Nebela (carcass of a kosher animal). The only form of Tum'a which he must avoid is Tum'at Met – the impurity that results from contact with a human corpse. This point is made explicitly by Rashi, in his commentary to Masechet Bechorot.Summary: A Kohen – even nowadays – may not come in contact with a human corpse, and may not walk in close proximity to a grave in a cemetery, or be under the same roof as a corpse, except in the case of an immediate family member's death, Heaven forbid. In the case of a family member's death, it is proper for the Kohen to immerse in a Mikveh after the Shiba mourning period. This applies as well to a Kohen if came in contact with a corpse accidentally. A Kohen who intentionally violated this prohibition should be denied the privileges due to a Kohen until he repents.
Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz (11 July 1937 – 7 August 2020), an Israeli Chabad Chasidic rabbi, teacher, philosopher, author, and translator, has been compared to Rashi and Maimonides in terms of the import of his scholarly and religious achievements. In today's show, we speak with his son, Rabbi Meni Even-Israel, about two of his father's books: Talks on the Parasha, featuring explanations of the Torah, and Change & Renewal, which explains the significance of the Jewish holidays. Rabbi Meni Even-Israel serves as the Executive Director of the Steinsaltz Center, which oversees the teachings and publications of Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, and has recently put out the app, Steinsaltz Daily Study. Michael Morales is Professor of Biblical Studies at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and the author of The Tabernacle Pre-Figured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus (Peeters, 2012), Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?: A Biblical Theology of Leviticus(IVP Academic, 2015), and Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption(IVP Academic, 2020). He can be reached at email@example.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/new-books-network
Is it permissible for a person to provide a charity collector – either a poor person, or a solicitor for an institution – with information regarding a wealthy, generous person and advise that he approach him for a donation?At first glance, providing this information violates the admonition in the Book of Mishlei (27:14), "He who blesses his fellow with a loud voice early each morning – this is considered a curse for him." Rashi (classic commentator, France, 1040-1105) in Baba Mesia 23B, explains that information one spreads about his fellow's wealth is deemed a "curse" because corrupt people will now attempt to steal from that wealthy individual. A person should therefore keep such information private, rather than allow it to reach the ears of potential criminals. Likewise, Rashi adds, if people hear that a certain individual is a man of wealth, they may flock to his home and invite themselves in, thereby depleting his resources.Seemingly, then, we should forbid divulging information about a person's wealth to a charity collector.In truth, however, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Russia-New York, 1895-1986) in Igrot Moshe, Y"D, Helek 3, siman 95, ruled that the concerns addressed in this verse do not apply in the context of a charity collector. According to Rashi's first interpretation, the concern is that dishonest people and thieves will devise schemes to steal the wealthy man's money. This concern does not arise in the case of upright, decent people, and therefore if a person knows that the charity collector is honest and decent, he may refer him to a potential donor. As for Rashi's second explanation, the concern is that people might invite themselves into the wealthy man's home and he would be too ashamed to turn them away. In the case of charity solicitation, however, there is no shame involved in refusing a request or giving a lower amount than the solicitor requests. In fact, Halachic sources mention that solicitors for a communal charity fund are allowed to approach all members of the community, and need not be concerned that a given member might feel too ashamed. Refusing a request or making a modest contribution is not looked upon as a source of embarrassment, and therefore we need not be concerned that a wealthy man will feel too ashamed to refuse the request of a solicitor.In conclusion, then, one may refer a charity collector to a wealthy individual, provided that he knows this collector to be an honest, decent and upright person.
#82With Prof. Lawrence H. Schiffman (Judge Abraham Lieberman Professorship in Hebrew & Judaic studies at NYU) discussing Josephus and, "The Jewish War".We discussed Josephus' works, his life, was he a traitor, Josephus v Josippon, "Yosifun" as quoted in Rashi, and much more.To purchase the Oxford World Classics edition of "The Jewish War": https://www.amazon.com/Jewish-War-Oxford-Worlds-Classics/dp/0199646023/ref=sr_1_6?dchild=1&keywords=josephus&qid=1624762032&sr=8-6To purchase the Hebrew Carmel Publishing edition of "The Jewish War": https://carmelph.co.il/book/toldot_milchemet_hayehudim_baromaim/To purchase the two volume Hebrew edition of "Antiquities": https://www.bialik-publishing.co.il/index.php?dir=site&page=catalog&op=item&cs=267To purchase the Flusser edition of Josippon: https://www.bialik-publishing.co.il/index.php?dir=site&page=catalog&op=item&cs=571 & https://www.bialik-publishing.co.il/index.php?dir=site&page=catalog&op=item&cs=1311For more information or to sponsor a show, please email firstname.lastname@example.org