THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
ACHAREI MOS and K'DOSHIM
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ACHAREI MOS-- CONTENTS:
A. REBELLIOUS REACTIONS.
A. REBELLIOUS REACTIONS
This portion's 2 major themes, the elaborate Yom Kippur sacrificial service and a list of forbidden sexual acts, set Jews sharply apart from pagan Egypt & Canaan (and USA Today?); they've been our Yom Kippur Torah readings for thousands of years. Today, however, Reconstructionists substitute an extra reading about sacrifices for the sexual laws. R. D. Laing describes two types of social taboos-- an act may be prohibited, but discussing or viewing it is OK, e.g. murder on TV. But some prohibited acts may not even be discussed or viewed, e.g. incest-- he claims that this indicates a normal desire for such acts among civilized adults, tho it is successfully repressed. The Talmud (Hag. 2:1) prohibits teaching (the depths and details of) sexual prohibitions to 3 or more pupils-- 2 of them may work it out among themselves, while the teacher's busy with the 3rd. Even (or especially?) great students of Talmud have strong sexual passion-- so the 2 pupils may distort the law toward leniency, if not carefully supervised! Dr. Karen Shanor reported that men 12-40 think about sex about 6 times per hour. Ladies' Home Journal's follow-up survey showed average normal men think of sex 4 or 5 times a day ... when encountering attractive women; both surveyed the general U.S. culture-- truly traditional Jews try to limit such arousal by modest dress and deportment; those who hug and dance with others' wives, against Jewish Law, are much more likely to sleep with them, than are those who refrain from such conduct.
Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel of Y.U. discusses rabbinic attitudes toward non-observance in the medieval period in "Jewish Tradition and the Non-traditional Jew" (an Orthodox Forum, convened by Rav Norman Lamm); he concludes: "Sexual promiscuity and even adultery were never absent from any region in the medieval Jewish world"-- the rabbis often could only realistically strive for the least of several evils, tho they differed as to which was least, e.g. permitting concubinage or allowing single women to use the mikveh.
U.S. Reform liturgy eliminates all traditional Yom Kippur Torah readings-- it just repeats "nice" Rosh Hashana readings about repentence, more P.C., per western liberal religious notions. On closer examination, however, both traditional Yom Kippur realms are most relevant today, teaching important messages. Freud indeed showed how incest sublimation is the basis of all civilization (see E); we probed the depths of sacrifices in our Vayikra and Tsav studies.
P.G. or X?: "While some are ... appalled that prohibited sexual relations should form the Yom Kippur reading, their inclusion in the Torah is indicative of its `true to life' approach towards such intensely human situations. From the viewpoint of sex education ... only when such topics are subjected to detailed treatment in Scripture, do they assume the measure of importance which they rightly deserve. To blind oneself to their existence, and to fail to assess their place in the social structure, is to be blissfully unaware of the vices to which humans are prone ... study of such passages contributes to the knowledge of the place which sexual relations occupy within ... human experience, and is a useful aid in gaining insight into the moral fabric essential for a healthy society" (Jewish Marriage, Isaac Levy, Soncino, p. 35).
Sacrifice has been a basic religious institution, from the days of Abel and Noach; it begins as man's voluntary effort to appease and/or thank God, by burning an animal, so that no one can derive further benefit from it; God later kept it as a useful edifying institution, but subjected it to strict rules and limited it to one holy site, the Temple (Shadal). Avraham's devotion to God peaks with the sacrifice of Yitzchak, Rosh Hashana's theme; but Yitzchak's body is to be sacrificed to God only vicariously, via the ram; thus his more essential and unique soul and mind can be "sacrificed", i.e. "brought close", to Him. This usually won't occur in one grand gesture or moment-- only, with gradually increasing intensity, over an entire lifespan of accumulating wisdom, sensitivity and experience. So Arye Kaplan only became one with his teachings toward the end of his tempestuous life-- from Bronx H.S. of Science to Mir Yeshiva, from teaching Hebrew School in Louisville to becoming physicist Oppenheimer's secretary, from serving as a conservative rabbi in upstate N.Y. to becoming a Breslaver teacher and NCSY leader (Rav G. Fleer, who providentially knew Arye at many stages). One can't relate to the Torah (or another person?) as it really is until he learns it-- otherwise his faith and enthusiasm are often directed to a figment of his own imagination.
The Temple's sacrificial service, especially on Yom Kippur, teaches man how to achieve ideal states of being and relationships to God and his fellow man; the animals represent varied aspects of human personality-- e.g. bullish activity, sheepish passivity, and goat-like stubbornness and rambunctiousness (S. R. Hirsch; cf. the symbolic Seder). So Jerusalem Rav and psychologist Ze'ev Haim Lifshitz, formerly of Darchei Noam, director of Sadnat Enosh, sees in The Book of Jonah, read on Yom Kippur, a most profound analysis of life, especially how to deal with inevitable failure-- how to indeed save the world, using the empty half of the glass (The Paradox of Human Existence, Jason Aronson; as a tot, Lifshitz sat on the rocks of Jaffa, contemplating life and the sea, near Yona's point of departure). But Man must take ritual instruction precisely as directed by God-- he's not so perfect that he can author his own rites (Hirsch; cf. Reform, chavurot). Nadav and Avihu couldn't successfully combine divine revelation with eating and drinking (Ex. 24:11); so God now reveals Himself only to the high priest and only on food-free Yom Kippur. It's just too dangerous otherwise.
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B. THE BACKGROUND OF ACHAREI MOS
We now return to the tragic death of Aharon's two most outstanding sons (unnamed here), 6 chapters after it's reported in 10:1-7. Sometimes we only relate to tragedy much later, its full impact too much for the moment (delayed grief reaction). Here, however, the intervening chapters may be a logical sequel to the tale of their death:
Moshe first taught the surviving cohanim the law regarding their eating of the meal offerings, immediately after their brothers' death (10:12-20). Ch. 11, the discipline of the laws of kosher and non-kosher consumable creatures, was then given to Israel via the survivors-- Aharon, Eleazer, and Itamar (besides Moshe); this rewarded them for their great self-discipline, accepting their personal mini-Holocaust with quiet faith (see Rashi). Ch. 11 also follows the law prohibiting cohanim from imbibing wine while on duty (10:8-11). Its message, the impact of wine on the soul, leads to the Torah's guidelines of just what foods are "kosher"-- good for Jewish souls and their special mission (Hirsch). Laws of ritual impurity of animal carcasses complete the section on the laws of animal consumption, followed by similar laws of human impurity in Chs. 12- 15; so the creation of human life follows that of animal life in Genesis; so more animal-like Adam precedes more civilized and human Eve, who dedicates her life to helping him win his struggle with his own animal impulses, to achieve his Divine Image potential (cf. Avigayil). Now Ch. 16 resumes the tale of Aharon's greatest tragedy, suddenly occurring amidst his greatest joy, the dedication of the tabernacle.
C. THE MOOD-- CONTRACTION & CARE, QUALITY vs. QUANTITY
The expansive useful take-charge (typically American) personality tends to do as much as he can as quickly as he can-- his approach to possibilities is: "why not?", e.g. Rav Shlomo Riskin's "optomistitis", faith that things will somehow work out, fall into place; but Rav Riskin also quotes Rav J. Soloveichik, who recited both versions of the blessing upon counting the omer-- "__ days TOWARD the (7 week) counting of the omer" and "__ days IN the counting of the omer"-- stressing both the ultimate goal, and each day's specific task to gradually achieve that goal; forest and trees, family and the universe, are equally important. But the swashbuckling American's crown of kingship usually suffers fatal defects, when he can't exercise proper care and control over the QUALITY of his QUANTITY (cf. Saul, David, Solomon, Begin). Breadth replaces depth. This is more than OK in many everyday realms-- better that many have basically nice homes, howbeit with a few flaws, than that only a few have homes of master craftsmanship; better that many enjoy good mass-produced art, than that only a few possess unique expensive items. Better that all have good $20 Casio watches, than that only a few enjoying $500 precision crafted Swiss Rolex timepieces. But the holier the realm, the more care has to be taken to do it very carefully, e.g. child raising and Torah study. Especially in such realms, haphazard action may be worse than inaction. Nadav and Avihu reach for the stars, seeking Divine Intimacy, but may have died because they lacked sufficient preparation and trepidation.
Some realms require slow painstaking care by the opposite type, non-monarchial man (often Swiss), who severely limits his goals and experiences, saying: "Why should I?", "Exactly how must it be done?". He does not aspire to world revolution, but is less likely to mess things up. He often just strives to live his private life with integrity and harmony, while fulfilling a socially useful, tho perhaps unglamorous, role. God prefers an ultra-careful annual entry of one man (the high priest) to Divine Intimacy, to a more frequented Sanctuary. Also, departure from life on this earth on Yom Kippur, Sabbath of Sabbaths, SHOULD be limited to once a year-- the rest of the time we should be involved in the world and its redemption and perfection. So our nightly departure from reality, sleep, is compared to death-- we wash to rid ourselves of ritual impurity upon awakening. God likewise wants to keep non-Levite Jews, who have to build our holy model state (itself a universal model temple), AWAY from the Temple (except for their periodic holiday visits), via the laws of tuma (ritual impurity), so that familiarity not breed contempt (Rambam, Guide III:47). Ben Gurion, Herzl and other secular Zionists were justifiably turned off by the haredi Yerushalmis' lack of physical development and secular savvy; haredim were in turn justifiably turned off by the cheap, profane and non-family oriented atmosphere of secular Tel Aviv and non-Judaic kibbutzim. Intense modern religious Zionism may be the only way to Jewish success, integrity and unity.
D. A SYNOPSIS OF ACHAREI MOS
"God addressed Moshe after the death of Aharon's 2 sons, when they approached close before God and died" (16:1). We're NOT told just what God said to Moshe here; per Ohr Hachayim, God forbade even Aharon to enter the holy of holies at will, despite his protektzia. The Jews would only heed God's warnings against getting too close to the Sanctuary AFTER Nadav and Avihu so died (Rashi-- seeing is believing). THEN God spoke to Moshe to address Aharon, warning him not to come, WHENEVER (per some midrashim: HOWEVER) he wants, into the Holy of Holies, where God appears in a cloud above the ark cover (16:2). The high priest himself must bring sin and burnt offerings upon his annual Yom Kippur entry into the Holy of Holies; there he wears only his 4 plain linen garments, as he encounters God in Eternity; the furnishings in the outer tabernacle represent the variegated array of temporal Creation, as do the high priest's ornate multi-colored additional 4 garments, which he wears there. He had to wash his hands and feet each time he removed or donned a garment, and had to immerse himself with each change of garments (5 times, 10 washings, including the immersion and washing for the daily offering). The verses follow the order of the Yom Kippur service, except for 16:23, which occurs after 16:25-- but it's placed together with other Divine service performed while wearing the linen garments.
The high priest presents the two communal goats and casts lots over them-- one for God, one for AZAZAL. Per Rashi, Azazal is the rock from which the scapegoat was cast; per Ramban, it's the devil himself!-- ALL life is ultimately sacrificial; one can choose a meaningful life of direct sacrifice to God, or a meaningless one of sacrifice "to the devil"; this sacrifice will also ultimately return him to God, but only via a long detour, thru the desert of existential bankruptcy, of a life wasted (Rav J. Soloveichik; cf. "ex"-criminal and drug addict returnees to rigid religion).
The super sabbath of fasting, Yom Kippur, is ordained to accompany our expiation via the high priest, to purify us from all our sins; perhaps that's why Yom Kippur is only mentioned AFTER its long sacrificial ritual is spelled out. The Torah concludes: " ... before God YOU shall purify YOURSELVES" (16:30)-- ultimate purity is in OUR hands, after getting a big boost from the cohen's service and our own Yom Kippur observance. The high priest's successors, preferably his sons, continue the elaborate service every Yom Kippur-- even when anointed only via the extra garments, when no oil's available. When Yom Kippur came, Aharon performed the service in full detail; he sought only to fulfill God's command, not personal glory.
ALL sacrifices MUST be brought in the central sanctuary, when it's extant; otherwise sacrifice is akin to murder! Indeed, during Israel's desert trek, all slaughter had to be sacrificial, at the tabernacle. Later, when the Jews enter the land, God says that they needn't sacrifice animals in the far-off Temple, just because they crave hotdogs (as I write this, I do! Do you, reading it?)-- just "slaughter it as I commanded you" (Deut. 12:21)-- but the Torah doesn't tell us how to slaughter animals; it's only in the Oral Law, tractate Chullin-- thus the Written Torah itself refers us here to the Oral Torah, Israel's unique heritage (S. R. Hirsch). Indeed, the Oral Tradition, not the written Torah, may well be what non-Jews will learn from Jews (see Isaiah 2). The centralization of sacrifice and strict regulation of its procedure is to preserve it as a vehicle only for passionate attachment to God (religion can itself become a "substance abuse"-- see Rav Dr. Avraham Twersky's TOP video lecture on the 12 step method and Torah); Jews used to sacrifice to satyrs (he-goats represent unrestrained sensuality), an excuse for orgies (17:7). The priest is in charge of sacrifices, for God is pleased only by properly performed Divine Service (or ignorant folks' folksy service, e.g. the recital of aleph-bet or whistling, by those who can't read, per hassidic tradition-- would Rambam agree?).
An animal's blood, containing its vital soul, may not be consumed by a Jew; yet it helps him achieve atonement, when used as a symbol of a human soul brought close to God upon the altar (Hirsch; cf. Yitzchak's sublimated sacrifice via the ram caught in the thicket). Blood of fowl or wild kosher animals must be covered with earth. It may attract demons to the wilderness (per enlightened, but far from 20th century, Sporno-- see Jewish Magic and Superstition, Trachtenberg, $25 from TOP)! Blood of domestic animals isn't covered, as it's offered on the altar (Sefer Hachinuch, who claims that birds are rarely offered and thus not exempt from this law; but all new mothers bring birds as sacrifices!-- Lev. 12:f). Eating unslaughtered carrion engenders ritual impurity. Then God orders Moshe to tell the Jews: "I'M GOD, YOUR LORD OF NATURE" (Who doesn't tolerate perversion of nature; cf. modern separation of cohabitation and procreation)-- He'll only be the Lord of those who follow His sexual prohibitions (Ibn Ezra); marriage, reproduction and God-awareness interface-- see Prov. 31:30; cf. Jerusalem's sordid discos and pubs-- Yoel Solomon z"l would be ashamed of what goes on in his Jerusalem street.
Jews must not copy corrupt acts of the old country (Egypt), nor assimilate to such behavior in the new land (Canaan; e.g. discos, 2nd Ave. Yiddish theatre?), nor follow their arbitrary social customs-- examples: 1) over-chatting, or dancing, with others' wives, and escorting them at formal dinners. 2) spending lots of time upon, and venting violent pagan emotion about, who kicks or throws the little ball better (e.g. Sheffield); rather than exploring life's meaning on Shabat, via the holy 22 letters, bloodthirsty men vicariously identify with 22 others, kicking a piece of leather about, trying to destroy each other. 3) glorifying art, using it as an excuse for nudity and on-stage promiscuity (e.g. the cheap 1994 Bahia Brazil ballet, sponsored by boycottable Mei Eden and Yediot Aharonot, pre-WWII German & Austrian "Cabaret culture"). 4) Having a drink, e.g. vodka, at every occasion (tho tranlated into l'chayim). 5) Superstition (e.g. black cats; astrology, per the Rambam, vs. Ibn Ezra; reincarnation, per Saadya & Albo, vs. The 1278 Zohar & the Ari).
We're only to keep God's judgments (vs. secular civil and military law in Israel?) and obscure laws (such as shatnes and the red heifer); "ANY MAN who performs them will truly live thru them-- I'm God" (18:5). Therefore, per Rav Meir, non-Jews gain merit too in learning Torah and doing mitzvos (B.K. 38a; see San. 59a, A.Z. 3a). The talmud limits his seemingly sweeping statement to study of the Torah's Noachide Code for non-Jews, to reconcile it with Rav Yochanan's prohibition on Torah study by non-Jews; but midrashim, e.g. Yalkut Shimoni 591, have no such limitation. Later authorities differ; Ibn Ezra helped prepare the King James Bible. Sporno studied with non-Jews. Perhaps the unspoken criterion is the likely effects of such study-- mocking and persecuting Judaism, or admiring and adopting it (Y. Leibowitz). Rav A. Kook permitted widespread teaching of kabbala today-- it's widely available anyway; better that people learn it correctly; Torah for non-Jews is similar. Tho these talmudic passages imply that Noachide Laws are no longer obligatory, Rambam posits a Jewish duty to teach them to all mankind today too (M. T. Kings 10).
But detailed Shabbat observance is God's unique gift to Israel, included in the Decalogue, only addressed to Jews; non-Jews should commit some act forbidden to Jews on Shabbat, e.g. photographing the kotel, tho ignorant angry zealots may attack them. The list of illicit sexual relations-- incest, adultery, sodomy, bestiality, and with a menstruant-- contains many more than those, basically maternal, prohibited to non-Jews under the universal Noachide code (Amram and Auntie Yocheved's 3 holy offspring-- Moshe, Aharon and Miryam-- would be illegitimate if born AFTER Sinai). Sexual relations between a father and his daughter are not prohibited explicitly in the Torah, only by exegesis, a fortiori, from prohibited relations between a man and his daughter's daughter, or from the prohibition of rendering one's daughter a harlot (see San. 76a, Yev. 3a); the prohibition of one's daughter could not be included in that of sex with a woman and her daughter, which does not apply to the case of a woman whom one raped, and then married her daughter. I found no explanation of why the Torah is not explicit here; if you have, let me know. How do Karite fundamentalists deal with this prohibition? Violation of these sexual prohibitions, whether by us or Canaanites, defiles the land, which expels sinners; thus it's advisable for non-Jews to keep our sexual prohibitons too. Jews who violate these prohibitions will be "cut off from the midst of their people" (karet)--
THE CUT-OFF POINT varies in the 36 severe sins so punished. "Karet" may imply premature death or childlessness in this world, sometimes oblivion in the hereafter, sometimes both. Individuals may be cut off form the community, but a sinful community itself will not be "cut off" (re the hereafter? Torat Cohanim, Perek 9:2, 10:11). Rav Yehuda Henkin contends that mass sin involves an element of mistake, e.g. external influences, wrong leaders or bad education, not willful violation. Indeed, communal willful sin is treated as a mistake re communal guilt offerings (Lev. 4:13, Sifrei, Bamidbar 111). Yet we soon read of the terrible fate of sinful communities (26:14f; cf. the idolatrous city, Deut. 13:13)-- this, however, isn't karet, punishment, but a natural result of their behavior (cf. smoking, overeating, AIDS). "God is understanding and merciful, but there are inexorable laws of Jewish history (as natural laws), which Jewry violates at its peril". Per Hirsch, sins engendering karet cause one to abandon the Jewish People's basic beliefs about the nature of God and Man.
E. SPECULATION & INSIGHT
What's the common theme of Yom Kippur's readings-- sacrifices (Lev. 16) and sexual prohibitions (Lev. 18)?-- God teaches Lev. 16 "AFTER THE DEATH OF THE TWO SONS OF AHARON". Their sin was a spontaneous subjective attempt to enter God's Intimate Presence; the Torah now severely limits such experience to Yom Kippur. So the incest prohibitions separate those naturally CLOSEST in body and soul. Both BASIC JOINING IMPULSES, to merge with God's essence and with those closest to me, are limited in our portion. TOO MUCH LOSS OF ONE'S SENSE OF INDIVIDUALITY AND `OTHERNESS' defeats the Divine aim for man-- to leave his pre-fetal soul state, intimate relationship with God, to descend into a human womb and physical world; this descent results in his ultimate ascent, and that of the universe, as he discovers the Divine WITHIN HIMSELF AND THE UNIVERSE, especially in doing kindness, showing people that there really is a providential God (cf. Avraham). God made all life with most powerful drives for self-preservation and reproduction, rather than self-annihilation (see Pele Yoetz on self-love; you can love others only if you love yourself)-- cf. mystical doctrines of bitul, losing one's sense of self.
Freud shows how successful DETACHMENT from parents leads to development of knowledge and civilization; successful resolution of the Oedipal complex sublimates the search for the mysteries of mother into intellectual exploration. His complex theory is implied in one pithy talmudic passage-- IF ONE DREAMS THAT HE HAS INTERCOURSE WITH HIS MOTHER, HE MAY EXPECT TO OBTAIN UNDERSTANDING, as written-- "YEA, YOU WILL CALL UNDERSTANDING MOTHER" (Proverbs 2:3, Ber. 57a). Another branch of knowledge, "wisdom", is implied in a dream of intercourse with one's sister; knowledge of Torah is predicted in a dream of intercourse with a betrothed maiden-- see Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition, D. Bakan, Beacon Press. Would today's Roshei Yeshivot have written such a Talmud? The rabbis of Ohr Hatroah, Pardes or Reshit Yerushalayim might have (but would their donors approve?)!
Dr. Joseph H. Berke adopts and expands Bakan's conclusions about Freud's kabbalistic roots, tho later repudiated by Bakan himself, in Psychoanalysis and Kabbalah, Psychoanalytic Review (Vol. 83, No. 6, 12/96). Joe describes these two seemingly disparate realms as both theories about the nature of existence and "mediations", methods for restoring shattered lives, which have been separated from their source. Joe and Dr. Stanley Schneider of Jerusalem expand these themes in a book of the same title, soon to be published by Rutledge. Joe explored schizophrenia, together with his patient Mary Barnes, in The tyranny of malice: Exploring the dark side of character and culture (Simon & Schuster, 1988). You can contact him at 5 Shepard's Closer, London N6 5AG.
Per Maimonides, incest prohibitions prevent constant sexual activity from replacing intellectual and spiritual development-- I'd waste my life in physically integrating with those most around me and closest to me. "Forbidden ... sexual intercourse seeks ... to inculcate the lesson that we ought to limit sexual intercourse altogether, hold it in contempt, and only desire it very rarely" (Guide 3:49); Shelot Yavitz (II:15) attributes this view to non-Jewish influence; in his commentary on the Mishna (San. 7:4), Rambam claims that the true purpose of intercourse is to propogate the race, the pleasure only being a stimulus to that end). Rambam, whose mother died bearing him, whose father despised him until he became a genius (Shalshelet Hakabala), generally disdains the body, its passions, and those addicted to them, especially in The Guide, written in his later years * ; so he views animal sacrifices as a concession to idolatrous habit. Russell Handel (TRADITION 1976) argues that The Guide was only an attempt to make the Torah palatable to those who accepted Greek philosophy, which disdained the body as an enemy of the soul, not reflecting Rambam's own views. Rambam's legal ruling (M. T. Ahava, Order of Prayers) that we pray daily for restoration of the sacrifices may be simple proof (tho written much earlier, he didn't change it).
* see Sex Ethics in the Writings of Moses Maimonides by Fred Rosner. Also see Dr. Zev Harvey's overview of the Rambam's teachings on sexuality in Moses Maimonides-- Physician, Scientist and Philosopher, edited by Drs. Fred Rosner and Samuel Kottek ($25 from TOP); Harvey contends that Rambam was pro-sexuality, viewing it as a basic biological need, like food and drink. When one lives in harmony with God's laws of nature, only indulging in food, drink and sex when he really needs them for his health or procreation, they themselves become Divine service, bring him close to God, and help develop the rapturous love relationship between creature and Creator (see M. T. Daot 3:3, 4:19, and 5:4-5). Indeed, by not pursuing or arousing sexual pleasure, one might ultimately have much more, and more genuine, pleasure when sexual release is truly needed. So misnagdic sages railed against stimulating religious ecstasy, gooey inner spiritual states; if one just studies and obeys God's Torah, genuine religious ecstasy and closeness to God will automatically result-- "This word that God commanded do-- and God's Glory will appear to you" (Lev. 9:6-- see our Shmini study).
Rambam also stresses that sexual union be accompanied by mutual joy and freely entered into by the woman, tho he seems to expect this only from a scholar (M. T. Daot 5:4-5). In their pre-sin state, where intellect, rather than imagination and passion, guided them, Adam would never use Eve as an object for self-satisfaction; they could even go unclothed, with no danger that he'd rape her; but after the sin, they had to be clothed to keep passion within its proper bounds. Harvey also recommends Michal Aharoni's H.U. master's thesis, "Bein k'dasha l'mikudeshit", for a sophisticated academic study of Rambam's views on prostitution and marriage. If you have any ?? or comments, contact Dr. Harvey at (02)586-4548 (H) or 588-3663 (O), or by E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hirsch's positive approach: Torah wants man to develop despite and beyond his natural inclinations; he is a creature of free will, rather than primarily instinctive, as animals. I should develop my powers of love and communication with other (Jewish) families, rather than just continue natural existing relationships with relatives! I would also destroy valuable family relations by mating with close relatives; they'd be submerged in the marital relationship, or v.v.
ADULTERY is living with another man's wife-- the O.T. (Only Testament) permits a man more than one wife, tho many rabbis discouraged it (e.g. Avot 2, Yoma 13a, Yev. 65a, Targum Ruth 4:6). Ashkenazim adopted R. Gershom's recently expired ban on polygamy, but Sefardim did not (see M. T. Ishut 14:3). The O.T. may reflect existing Middle East sociology; God may have been content to ensure basic rights for each wife at that stage. The double standard probably reflects the importance of knowing who my parents are, to give them honor and reverence. If any woman has more than one man, who is Daddy is doubtful. But if one man has even 1000 wives, e.g. Shlomo (would yeshivot engage him as a teacher?), everybody knows who are his/her Daddy and Mommy (some women, perhaps unwisely, would prefer a few nights and a child with Shlomo to a lifetime with an ordinary guy!); also, when men are in short supply, e.g. during war, one man can father children for several women, who can only be pregnant by one man at a time (but this theory does not explain the legal complexities of divorce from halachic marriage, grantable only by the husband).
ANOTHER THEORY: Perhaps all, both M & F, need holier and more nuturing females for their emotional security and stability; so girls and women frequently hug each other, hold hands, etc. in the most religious circles, despite the prohibition of lesbianism (see K'doshim D., infra); all begin life within mothers, who then nurse us and gradually wean us. Hopefully, women will develop the inner strength to sustain themselves as well as others, unless deprived of their own maternal example-- then they might even expect their minimally breasted husbands to nurture them! Widows are generally far stronger emotionally than widowers. Talmudic rabbis note that a man w/o a woman is not a man (R. Elazar, Yev. 63a), and lives without joy, God, Torah, peace, etc. (R. Chanilei, Rav Ulla, et al-- Yev. 62b)-- but not v.v.
Only the male is commanded to marry and procreate, women having a natural drive to do so (unless messed up by Westernization); women may be less fussy about whom they marry (per Resh Lakish, Kid. 41a). Yet the male is the overt pursuer (Kid. 2b). So every wife is also her husband's "mother"; terrible "sibling rivalry" would ensue, were she to have more than one husband; this is also the reason why God forbids one from marrying his wife's sister during her lifetime. Wives who withhold themselves, their affection and their bodies from their husbands, using sex as a weapon, probably cause far more harm to them and society than those who are sloppy housekeepers; they may share responsibility for any resultant rape and sexual harassment at work-- cf. children abandoned by their mothers, e.g. Rambam supra; Abaye defines a bad wife as one who sets a beautiful table for her husband, accompanied by her harsh biting tongue (cf. the Woman of Valor's kind tongue, Prov. 31); Rava's example is one who both serves him and turns her back to him (a euphemism?; Yev. 63b) . "Old age jumps on a man with an evil wife" (Tan. Chaye Sara-- depression can engender illness and impotence). Rav prayed that God save Rav Chiya from a fate more bitter than death-- a bad wife (Yev. 63b, Ecc. 7:26; cf. Koh. Raba 7, Shabat 11a, Yev. 63a, Sochar Tov 59, B.B. 145b). Conversely, the Talmud praises a good wife as man's greatest treasure and joy, and urges her husband to respond accordingly, to be concerned with his wife's happiness and welfare. Alexander King describes how his father adored his mother, a lousy housekeeper, but very joyful and affectionate.
Men with unpleasant wives, especially shrews, may take out their anger, frustration and instability on others and the public-- Rav Huna (Genesis Raba 80:4) even claims that Esav, public enemy #1, would have been fine, had Yaakov given him his sweet little Bet Yaakov girl, Dina. Instead, she was raped by Shechem. Eli Sagan, in Freud, Women & Morality, shows that conscience, love and kindness all stem from early maternal nurturing, not from Freudian superego fear of the castrating father. Until recently, Western European and British mothers didn't nurse their own kids, leading to heartless aggressive societies. THE DESPAIRING DEVELOPER by Timothy Morris is the extraordinary diary of an aid worker in Yemen, who questions the desirability and practicability of imposed change upon another-- far different and faraway-- culture; he shows the close connection between lack of respect for women's vital role in helping man to build a world of harmony, stability and compassion, and the terrible callousness, venality, and corruption of Yemenite society-- almost everyone in charge is only out to further their own interests, not caring about suffering, illness and death. So Pirke Avot (II:3) warns us not to trust power-grasping politicians, only out to further their own interests and feather their own nests; such pols give important government posts, e.g. attorney general, to mediocre candidates, who will reciprocate, rather than selecting top-flight appointees (cf. 1997).
A pro-feminist explanation for God's Biblical double standard: God may impose a higher standard of loyality and commitment upon woman, created "Like His own personality", than upon the male, closer to the undisciplined earth and animal. She replaces his eternally committed mother as his source of holiness, and is the sole determinant of her children's Jewish status, tho they appear on chindler's Jewish List.
A male chauvinist explanation: a leader can lead many, each of whom can have but one leader-- cf. "HE shall rule over her ..." Gen. 3:16, a curse and punishment; some authorities long ago permitted beating (only) a bad otherwise uncorrectable wife, most didn't-- Ency. Tal. "Isha"). So Rama in Even Haezer cites T'DER-- a kosher wife is one who does her husband's will; so Rambam says that she's to treat him like a king, serve him and wash his hands and feet (M. T. Ishut), tho she needn't cook and clean if they have servants; he, in turn, must provide her material needs, which take precedence over his own. Nevertheless, the talmud implies that her devotion and commitment to him may be conditioned on his to her, despite the double standard-- if he's acted improperly, the bitter waters won't test her sexual loyalty (Sota 28a, 47b, Shev. 5a, Kid. 27b, Yev. 58a; see our Naso study).
The sexual prohibitions thus reflect and perfect the essence of life; they are the basis of ideal-Man, as portrayed in the tabernacle and temple Yom Kippur service. Our studies of Vayikra and Tsav explore the connection of sexual activity between man and woman, the deepest interpersonal union, and the animal sacrifices between Man and God, the deepest spiritual relationship. Orach L'Chayim quotes the Mezritcher Maggid-- "When the desire for (sexual) sin was totally nullified, people lost all enthusiasm. They couldn't even pray with feeling on Shabbat ... Each person must take the evil inclination, emanation of enthusiasm, and use it to serve God" (Torat Hamagid II, Kid. 30a, p. 139; cf. haredi bans on video). "Prayer is like intercourse with God's Imminent Presence (Shchina). At the beginning, there are movements ... Later one can stand attached to the Divine Presence, motionless, yet with a powerful bond" (ibid, Hanhagot, p. 14). So Rav Nachman of Breslav condemns "old age", rote lifeless activity, in every realm (he died at 39; would he have changed his views later in life?-- cf. other famous people who died young, e.g. Mozart and Jesus, l'havdil squared; Rav Riskin claims that Jesus realized that he wouldn't make it as Messiah, that great human being who will end all war, when he was executed, without "fixing" his warlike world-- see his TOP video). As God renews creation constantly, Man must approach each hour as an opportunity for complete renewal, harnessing his creative drives. "The dead shall not praise God nor those who go down into silence" (Ps. 115:17).
F. THE HAFTARA, EZEKIEL 22:1-19
Ezekiel predicts the downfall and destruction of a lustful arrogant ancient State of Israel, characterized by violence, idolatry, adultery and incest (cf. today's cheap Israeli newspapers, magazines, TV, films and the Israel Festival). The only purging remedy is exile and national disgrace, which will eventually arouse God-awareness among the survivors (cf. yordim, who suddenly discover Judaism in L.A.). As in a smelting furnace, only the purified remnant shall survive the fires of exile and conquest, four years later, in 586 B.C.E. But their descendants (us!) will eventually return to build an indestructible Israel, which will truly be a model "KINGDOM OF PRIESTS AND HOLY NATION" (The Jewish National Mission-- Ex. 19:6ff). May it happen soon!
A. THE BACKGROUND OF K'DOSHIM.
A. THE BACKGROUND OF K'DOSHIM
All the preceding laws of sacrifice and incest are to make the Jews holy, as God is Holy. Sacrifices bring them close to God, as a "KINGDOM OF PRIESTS"; the Torah now links this holiness to every realm of life-- Israel must also be a model "HOLY NATION", to bring all mankind back to God, themselves & Eden (Rav Dovid Hoffman, Ex. 19:6-- cf. the Bar On affair). Rav Zvi Kanotopsky (NIGHT OF WATCHING) expounds Ramban's 3 basic catagories of Jewish Law: 1) man's physical preoccupations (sex and food), 2) his relationship with God (reflected in Shabbat), and 3) his relationship with his fellow man. One must give up his life rather than commit the worst violation in each realm-- 1) incest & adultery, 2) idolatry, and 3) murder. One can be immersed in all of God's detailed laws (the trees), yet be unaware of the overall teachings (the forest); Ramban posits that not all behavior can be precisely predicted and directed by detailed rules in any legal system. Both unique situations, combining many factors, and new realities, hitherto inconceivable (e.g. test tube babies, computers, trips to the moon) will arise.
So the Torah also gives general principles in each realm, both to give spirit to the law and to guide us in ambiguous situations: re Shabbat we conclude: "you should cease, withdraw" (tishbos)-- focus on God as Creator. After all the monetary laws, we read: "you shall do what's right and good"-- become a friend to all. Finally, in the midst of sexual and dietary laws, we read: "YOU SHALL BE HOLY"; One can be obnoxious, while observing all religious laws to the dot, unless he assimilates these general principles (cf. "glatt kosher" night clubs, perhaps even advertised in the Jewish Press). Man himself becomes the object of mitzvah in these general principles, as do lulav and matzah in more particular commands. One shouldn't feel that he merely refrains from bad activity by observing negative prohibitions-- in so doing, he also renders himself a holy honest being, with Divine perspective. Only truly observant couples, as a rule, have the unique thrilling deep experience of having sexual pleasure from only their mate. Others even dance with others' wives.
Read near Independence Day, K'doshim proclaims that our dream of 2000 years isn't ONLY to be "a FREE PEOPLE in our land", tho that is a necessary prerequisite to our dream (Rambam says that our political independence is the essence of the Messianic era). A one word change in the refrain of Hatikva expresses our TRUE ULTIMATE DREAM-- "Liyot am kadosh", "to be a HOLY PEOPLE in our land-- in the land of Zion and Jerusalem" (see and spread our bumper sticker). Even Rav Ovadia Yosef can sing this improved version (1:49) of Hatikva in good conscience!
B. THE HAFTARA, Amos 9:7-15
Amos predicts destruction of the ancient State of Israel-- it didn't fulfill its destiny, to be a HOLY nation. Yet the Jewish people, the house of Yaakov, will NEVER be destroyed, only sifted in the sieve of historic exile. Those who will eventually return (us?) will rebuild Israel as a light to the nations. She'll bloom and prosper agriculturally; her ruins will be rebuilt-- I'LL PLANT THEM ON THEIR LAND AND THEY'LL NEVER AGAIN BE UPROOTED OUT OF THEIR LAND, WHICH I'VE GIVEN THEM-- SAYS GOD YOUR LORD.
C. A SYNOPSIS OF K'DOSHIM
God tells Moshe to address the entire Jewish people: "You SHALL (both "can" and "should") be holy for (or "as") I am Holy, God, your Lord (of nature)" (19:1). The concepts and practice of reverence for mother and father and sabbath observance also interface with the recognition of "I AM GOD, YOUR LORD"; thus idols are forbidden and festive sacrifices may not be consumed after the 2nd day-- stale religious life, as idolatry, may drive God from this world; but one acquires true spirituality by absorbing God's Dual Objective Revelation-- Torah and Science; the latter leads to the love of God (see Lev. 9:6, M.T. Y'sodei Hatorah 2:1f, 4:12); but learned, vital and stimulating Reform Jewish Renewal Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, ordained by Chabad (before turning Eastward, a Biblical symbol of regression), stresses subjective ecstasy (cf. Nadav and Avihu). He unfairly equates conformity to Torah and society with spiritual morbidity (In Jerusalem, 4.15.94); many Israeli Zionist rabbis, e.g. Adler, Gold, Lau and Riskin, are themselves inspired and inspire thousands of others, refuting Schacter's claim of Israeli spiritual constipation (an excuse for not living here?); they also stress female spiritual power, but in its natural setting, the home, rather than the male minyan. We have a video of a Schachter evening, done by his ordained disciple Sara Leah, where everyone is encouraged to do his/her own thing, "what works for them", in Judaism; but one young woman in the audience, a voice in the western wilderness, seriously suggests that they can find even more satisfaction in "doing Judaism" in traditional fashion, with all its established associations and sanctity.
Schachter discusses various optional arrangements with those wishing to mate-- most non-observant Jews do not wish to commit themselves to Jewish Law and its ban on any sexual relationships outside of marriage by married women, even during a drawn-out divorce, or when a spouse is missing or long gone; he recommends that such people create non-halachic commitments instead, to avoid the terrible sins of adultery and illegitimate children. See P.S. 4/96 below. His long-term friend and collegue, one of the greatest Torah leaders of the day, Rav Shlomo Carlebach, began the modern returnee movement with Schachter, under the direction of the previous Lubavitch Rebbe; after each went his own way, Shlomo concluded that they each stressed one valid major realm-- he the uniqueness and unity of Judaism and the Jews, Zalman the unity of the universe and all mankind, of human experience. After Shlomo, so alive, died (hard to believe and accept), his disciples made a poignant memorial tape, Echoes of Shlomo. Zalman opened it with a brief eulogy; he declared that those going to Shlomo concerts and happenings to be entertained were really unaware that they were going to the final service of Yom Kippur (Niela), a great spiritual purification.
Corners of the field and gleanings are for the poor and stranger-- "I'M GOD YOUR LORD". Stealing, lying and swearing falsely by God's attributes are prohibited-- "I'M GOD". Day wages must be promptly paid. The deaf may not be cursed, nor a stumbling block put before the blind, e.g. cheating the unsophisticated, selling arms to aggressive nations (Sefer Hachinuch-- why don't Israel's so-called "religious" parties raise this issue?), or giving money to those who can work and support themselves. Tho they'll never know you did it, He does-- "HAVE AWE OF YOUR LORD".
Justice must be absolute and impartial. You (and I) may not go about with gossip, nor stand by while our neighbor's endangered (even if you learn and pray for him?)-- "I'M GOD" (and he a Divine Image). In "Guard Your Tongue", the Chofetz Chayim notes the special sin in slandering the dead; but he fails to note there the exception for constructively criticizing their behavior, so as not to copy it, e.g. Biblical criticism of even our greatest heroes, like Noach and Moshe, and Ramban's critique of Avraham. Don't hate your neighbor in your heart-- tell him where you think he's wrong, without embarrassing him; when you hear his reply, you may no longer hate him, or he may change. Some claim that you're responsible for another's sins if you keep quiet-- everyone's business is everyone else's (cf. modern cool non-intervention and Rashby's example of a man who drills a hole only in his end of the boat). Per R. Bachye, one must rebuke with love (and respect-- see Rav S. Gold's words in our Yom Haatzmaut study); Shlomo was careful to build up a person's image while correcting him, making him feel above tawdry deeds. Don't rebuke fresh, mocking, or aggressive folks, except teenagers-- they're still flexible, behind their iron front. Don't take revenge or hold a grudge (but one should take another to court-- Ramban). "LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR (who is?) LIKE YOURSELF-- I'M GOD".
Next come chukim, hard to understand symbolic statutes (Hirsch; Rashi claims that they're beyond understanding). Don't mix animals in breeding, nor sow together various vegetables, grains and vines, nor wear a garment of wool and linen (collar linings, button thread, etc. of wool garments are checked for linen, using revelatory chemicals). ** A Caananite slave woman's adultery (if she's designated to a Jewish slave) doesn't entail the death penalty-- only an asham (guilt) offering is brought (19:20). This applies to a half slave, per Kritot 11a; Ibn Ezra says that 19:20 refers to such a Jewish girl.
(Kind?) Bet Shamai insisted on freeing a half slave to marry and lead a normal life; (tough?) Bet Hillel didn't, but acceded to Bet Shamai's argument that God created all life to propagate and populate the earth, per Isaiah 45:18: "For thus says God, Who created the heavens ex nihilo; He's the Lord, who formed Earth and made it; He established it; He didn't create it as chaos, He formed it to be inhabited-- I'm God, and there's nothing else" (see Gittin 41a-b, Bek. 47a, Arakin 2b, Eduyot 3a, B.B. 13a, Hag. 2a-b, Pes. 88b, Meg. 27a, Yev. 62a-b); cf. optomistic Kohelet (11:6), source of the mitzva of having as many children as possible (Yev. 62b), vs. Avraham ben Maimon. Holy land fruit is prohibited 3 years; it's holy (eaten in Jerusalem), tho redeemable, in the 4th. Eating "on blood" (an occult practice of premature eating of meat) is forbidden; so is heeding omens and auspicious times (Y. Emden decried Y. Eibshitz's amulets; see Eibshitz's defense in Rav Leo Jung's Men of The Spirit; cf. Baba Sali, Rav Sharabi).
**1995 FOLLOWUP: In Truma, we noted the predicament of outspoken ardent Jeff of Aish and Shappel; the latter institution, among others, refused to allow him to continue learning there after he decided to attend JTS (tho he continued to work for tolerant Phil Chernofsky of NCSY). JTS then set up a program for him at Neve Shechter, featuring Richie Lewis, who used to teach at Shappel-- the Lord works in mysterious ways! Will Jeff, Miriam Knight and their few JTS cohorts who claim adherance to truly traditional beliefs in one divinely revealed Torah and the authority of halacha be able to survive the atmosphere of JTS, so much to the contrary? Will they wind up at Dovid Halivni Weiss' breakaway seminary? Will they be able to reject JTS teaching of the documentary hypothesis and widespread Conservative ignoring of basic halachos, such as shatnes and the prohibition of yichud, e.g. male and female flatmates and hotel mates, sometimes even by Conservative leaders (see The Condition of Jewish Belief, M. Himmelfarb, AJC).
P.S. 4/96: Jeff has left academically difficult, religiously non-enthusiastic, JTS, his future religious path not yet clear.
The temples, upper sideburns, and corners of the beard may not be shaved (some also prohibit even a close scissors cut-- chassidim and yemenites grow payos, to show their love of this mitzva, even shaving the rest of their head for accent and contrast). One may not cut one's skin in mourning or tatoo-- "I'M GOD": your Divine Image body isn't your own. "I'm God YOUR LORD" is added to the promise of lots of fruit from the 5th year on-- only the Lord of Nature can keep such a promise. Israel won't yield fruit (tho the rest of the Earth does), if Jews give their daughters over to non-marital intecourse (Rashi); but Ramban, as Rashba, excludes women living as concubines, common law marriage (vs. Rashi and Rambam)-- only those living with men whom they may not marry are "zonot" (harlots; see Ramban, 19:29); Y. Emden (Sh'alot Yavitz II:15) tried to revive concubinage to circumvent Rav Gershom's ban on polygamy, allegedly influenced by non-Jewish values; Rav J. Soloveichik praised the ban. Highly educated haredi women often have difficulty getting married; I heard that some in Boro Park are becoming concubines, observing mikva, in order to have children before it's too late. We know so much of God's Torah and Science, but so much still remains unclear (see Dear Maimonides, Andrew Sanders-- he portrays how much more science we know than did Maimonides, and, God Willing, how little, compared to future generations, as man gradually shifts his focus from the physical to the intellectual. Sanders, as Maimonides himself (e.g. in his Introduction To The Mishna), unlike the Besht, ignores the emotional and interpersonal realms of life. His brilliant work strikes me as a unique blend of Reform doctrines of the changeability of Torah and Orthodox faith in its Divinely Dictated Origin.
"GUARD MY SHABBATS AND REVERE MY SANCTUARY-- I'M GOD". Shun magic and respect and honor the (wise-- Rashi) aged "AND FEAR YOUR LORD (they're helpless), I'M GOD". Love strangers and be honest in measures, as He redeemed us from Egypt. God then speaks against those who give children over to the Molech cult and black magic: "YOU SHALL SANCTIFY YOURSELVES AND BE HOLY FOR I'M GOD YOUR LORD ... I'M GOD WHO SANCTIFIES YOU". Cursing parents is condemned, as is adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, and sleeping with a menstruant. (Rashi sees this last ACT as bad; per Ramban, the woman herself is innately harmful in the menstrual state). These laws, as kashrut, separate and sanctify us in Israel. "BE HOLY TO ME FOR I GOD AM HOLY AND HAVE SEPARATED YOU FROM THE PEOPLES TO BE MINE". Stone wizards!
D. SPECULATION & INSIGHT
The sexual relationships prohibited in Lev. 18 are repeated here, giving their punishments and terse descriptions. 16 engender the death penalty, others dying childless, and still others being "cut off" from "the midst of their people" or "in the sight of their people". National exile is a predicted consequence of national sexual immorality, fulfilled in Ezekiel 22. The holy land of Israel won't tolerate such perversion-- it vomits out any nation with such Wild Western "alternative life styles", Jewish or non-Jewish (as promoted by Israel's vulgar TV). If Eilat's shaped by the low lifestyle of its many young foreign tourists and kibbutz volunteers, it's a menace to our Jewish development and existence (cf. Yamit; not ALL tourism is good for Israel). Besides the severe prohibition of homosexuality, lesbianism is also prohibited (Yev. 76a, Sifra, Lev. 18:3). Only relations with a menstruant woman engender full ritual impurity (Lev. 15), but all of the prohibited acts defile the participants (18:24), cutting them off from God's presence (Hertz).
Ramban, who negates bodily pleasures, claims that "YOU SHALL BE HOLY" means "separate yourself even from PERMISSIBLE pleasures" (19:2)-- Rashi restricts the admonition to illicit pleasure. He attributes the nazirite sin offering to denying oneself even wine and haircuts, Ramban to ending the denial! Ramban explains ZIMAH (lewdness), applied to sleeping with both a mother and her daughter, tho not re rape: a man sleeping with either thinks of the other, who is similar, badly affecting any offspring (cf. Ned. 20b). So if one sleeps with his daughter-in-law, tho divorced, she'll think of his similar son. "Tevel", mixture, is used to condemn relations with animals as well as with daughters-in-law, who "mix-up" the two men in their hearts. A sister of one's wife may not be taken in her lifetime, that they not become jealous rivals (cf. Sheine and Chaya in Cynthia Freeman's grand Jewish and Zionist Saga, No Time for Tears). She's permitted after her sister's death.
Per Ramban, a menstruant is forbidden, for she can't conceive then. Yet one must cohabit with his pregnant, barren or post-menopause wife, if she wishes. Per The Zohar, intercourse, even with a barren woman, can produce pure souls (who may wind up in someone else's child), if done with pure intent, when permissible. Ramban cites the latest medieval "medical science": there are two types of blood, menstrual and normal (vs. Rambam); the child is formed from blood, and menstrual blood kills or maims the child conceived; so the glance of such a woman is impure and harmful, producing red spots on an iron mirror!! Apparently, he holds that reproduction is the PRINCIPAL, not EXCLUSIVE, purpose of sex-- he quotes (18:20) Ibn Ezra's 3 purposes of sex: procreation, relieving the body of its fluids, and animal passion, pleasure. Thus the Torah prohibits (18:20) taking another man's wife L'ZERA, "FOR SEED", EVEN to procreate, tho procreation is a great deed. So the Torah specially prohibits fire on Shabbat, tho its light and warmth may enhance the joy of Shabbat (Ex. 35:3).
Capital punishment and excision only apply to forbidden intercourse; forbidden sensual petting only brings flogging. Kissing and hugging of one's relatives (or friends?) in a non-sensual context is condemned by Rambam (M. T. Isurei Biah 21:6)-- except for parents & kids (Shab. 13a, Kid. 80b-83a). But talmudic rabbis kissed or held sisters & granddaughters-- human warmth is a great Divine value too (especially in Carlebachian Judaism). Tosofot concurs (Kid. 82a), vs. Sefer Hachinuch (see Ket. 17a, Ber. 22a). Yaakov's kissing Rachel is a model for one of 3 non-obnoxious kissings, that of relatives (Mid. Raba Ex. 5:1, Gen. 70:11). Ramban rejects Rambam's Torah-based prohibition on any physical contact with forbidden women (Neg. Command 353), but only permits embracing relatives to those with firm sexual control (e.g. the elderly?). S.A. Even HaEzer (21:7) allows contact only with one's minor children and siblings. For an exceptional overview of the subject, see SEX LAWS & CUSTOMS IN JUDAISM, EPSTEIN, p. 104ff. The fact that the Torah has to specially punish one with cutting off of his soul after death, from his people, shows a normal presumption that the soul continues to exist after death. A sexual relationship of brother and sister is called CHESED, KINDNESS!!! (20:17). Rashi translates chesed: "disgrace"-- Ramban rejects this Aramaic adaptation. "Chesed" describes the ideal relationship of kindness, where one's brother should find her a husband; here he's done the opposite (Hirsch).
YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR LIKE (or WHO IS LIKE) YOURSELF-- I'M GOD. One CAN'T love all mankind as oneself, or even all one's fellow Jews-- so use of the dative here indicates that one must only ACT LOVINGLY TOWARD one's neighbor (Ramban, Hirsch). We're all brothers and sisters, created by God. Rav G. Fleer expounds kabbalistic sources (quoting HaAri), which posit that one's "friend" or "neighbor" here is God himself (see Rashi, Prov. 27:10)-- it is difficult to love God amidst all the trials of life and nature. The verse hints that the difficulties emanate from God's reveled aspect, the impersonal LORD of nature, elokim = 86 = hateva, nature = Kamocha, "like yourself"; nature responds to man's level. But beyond nature lies the infinite loving essence of Divinity-- I'M GOD (= 26, = 13 + 13 = love + One), the real object of your love.
E. 20th CENTURY SACRIFICES
So today, the Jews only returned to their land and built the State of Israel with great sacrifice, at the risk of their lives. Every Israeli soldier's routine sacrificial life is unknown to his young American Jewish, or Israeli haredi, peers. To know it, read Self-Portrait Of A Hero, The Letters of Jonathan Netanyahu-- martyr of the Entebbe airport rescue of 103 Jewish hostages, who were held by pro-Palestinian terrorists; his brother Bibi is Israel's PM, after Likud overcame its infighting, as did Rabin and Peres, for their commnon cause. I personally believe that the Arabs would gladly help us build and re-build Israel-- IF we lived as an inspiring "kingdom of priests and holy nation" (Ex. 19:6). Rav David Hartman noted how different history would have been had the Arabs welcomed their long-lost cousins back home here. One of our devoted readers, Norma, then living in the States, knew that her young son would love Yoni's out-of-print book. After a local book seller wanted $150 to search for it, she spent a few dollars and telephoned Yonni's father, a professor at Cornell; he wasn't there, but they gave her his number in Jerusalem; after a really long phone call (but still a lot less than $150!), he gave her the number of his son Bibi, Israel's ambassador to the UN, in N.Y. When she called, they asked who she was and what country she represented! It turned out that his dad, as was his custom, gave her Bibi's emergency hotline number for foreign ambassadors! Despite his secretary's great annoyance, she got the book the next day UPS!
FROM HERMAN WOUK'S INTRODUCTION to the book: ... these impressionistic glints and glimpses of him in training, in battle, and in brief peaceful interludes of study, comprise a true and brilliant portrait of a hero-- the only wholly convincing one that I know of, in a contemporary literature of anti-heroes. This is what a 20th century hero is really like. The lands of the free need such men, until the day when the last tyrannies that spawn the terrorists are faced down, and we enter the coming age of peace, the only long range alternative to a planet of ash. In his grim truth, lies the importance of Netanyahu's letters. Their charm and force lies in the man himself ... Usually I start my day with Scripture or Talmud study. I shifted Yoni's letters into that place. Why? Yoni was respectful of our religion, but not observant. To call this book a sacred text would be maudlin. And yet, in it, I did glimpse an ember of sacred fire. He wrote a simple pure Hebrew. Scriptural words and phrases showed up naturally in his jottings, sometimes with arresting force. Modern Hebrew rests on that ancient vocabulary and the best modern writers ... tend to hold to the strong old roots and forms ... Heroes are not supermen; they are good men who embody-- by the cast of destiny-- the virtue of their whole people in a great hour.
FROM YONNIE'S LETTERS AT 17: "Two things can happen to an Israeli in America-- either he becomes a full-fledged American (something that, I'm sorry to say, I have seen happen many times), or he becomes, in blood and spirit, more of an Israeli than he has ever been (YF: compare effects of the Holocaust upon faith in Judaism-- 30-40% of the German children who escaped to the UK via the Kindertransporten converted or assimilated). I'm waiting for the moment I can go back-- and begin to live again ... My school has about 1500 students who don't know what they're doing there. It looks more like the Tel Aviv Sheraton than a school (beautiful even by American standards, brand new, and it cost $6,500,000 to build). My house is "terribly" nice, surrounded by lawns and trees and empty, meaningless life. The only thing people talk about is cars and girls. Life revolves around one subject-- Sex; I think Freud would have found very fertile soil here. Bit by bit I'm becoming convinced that I'm livng among apes and not human beings ... I have little contact with people my age ... They're too frivolous ... I, as an individual ... constitute an entire world. My life will be complete not because of others, but because of myself ... "
"Death-- that's the only thing that disturbs me. It doesn't frighten me; it arouses my curiosity. It is a puzzle that I, like many others, have tried to solve without success. I do not fear, because I attribute little value to a life without purpose. And if I should have to sacrifice my life to attain its goal, I'll do so willingly ... I can't stand America and I'm dying to return."
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