THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
NOTE: The first printers of the Jewish Bible, non-Jews, divided it into chapters, used to this day by Jews too! Rav Z. Kahana, however, claims they followed Jewish scholars. We also have a Jewish Masoretic (JM) tradition of chapter division; the Koren Bible has both.
You can also read previous studies on this site.
This study is sponsored by Philip Schatten of NYC in honor of his wife
PLEASE CHOOSE ONE: CURSE ____. BLESSING ____.
A. THE BACKGROUND OF B'CHUKOSEI
Leviticus 25, laws of sabbatical and jubilee years, of helping the poor and limiting their servitude, closes with verse 55-- FOR THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL ARE SLAVES TO ME, MY SERVANTS, WHOM I TOOK FROM THE LAND OF EGYPT, I'M GOD YOUR LORD. Seemingly irrelevant verses 26:1-2 conclude the previous reading, B'har-- 1) DON'T MAKE GODS FOR YOURSELF, DON'T SET UP AN IMAGE... DON'T PUT A FINISHED STONE IN YOUR LAND TO BOW DOWN TO IT-- FOR I'M GOD YOUR LORD. 2) KEEP MY SABBATHS AND HAVE AWE OF MY SANCTUARY-- I'M GOD! The non-Jewish printers saw 26:1-2 as a prelude to the blessings and curses of Ch. 26; the Masoretic text, however, views them as the end of Ch. 25, JM Ch. 21. JM Ch. 22 begins with God's blessings in our 26:3f. Why?--
Verse 25:55 follows the laws of the sale of a Jewish servant to a non-Jew. We're not to tolerate his abuse, but may only free him with proper compensation to his master. 25:55 and 26:1 then warn him not to worship idols or bow down to stone, to lifeless materialism-- tho captive in a non-Jewish environment, only his body is enslaved (Sifra, Ramban, Rav Hertz). His true sole soul allegiance should be to God's Jewish mission. His powerful non-Jewish master may indeed be the true slave-- to his own inner impulses. So God takes the Jews OUT OF THE HOUSE OF SLAVES, not out of the house of SLAVERY (see Ex. 13:3, Deut. 5:6, Josh. 24:17, Jud. 6:8, Jer. 34;13, Michah 6:4)-- the Egyptians were the slaves; Jewish servants could maintain inner freedom amidst external bonds-- we celebrate Passover at night, even in concentration camps of the Germans, slaves to their own demonic impulses. Exodus brought only temporary historic liberty, but it infused the Jews with eternal inner freedom.
Verse 26:2 then tells the captive Jew just how to survive-- guard His Shabbat and have awe only of His sanctuary. Tho subservient, "slaves", to many non-Jewish societies, many Jews survived assimilation, when they guarded God's sabbath and retained awe of His synagogues, mini-sanctuaries, true "Israeli consulates", eventually to be replanted in Israel (Meg. 29a). "He who's not found in a synagogue in this world, won't enter that of the next (Jer. Ber. 3)". There, in the synagogue, He's most imminent (Ber. 6), giving Israel strength to survive 1900 years of exile, to rebuild Zion today. The princes of Judah will eventually teach Torah to all humanity in the theatres and circuses of Edom (Meg. 6, e.g. Rebbetzin Jungreis in Madison Square Garden, Shlomo in Poland). Meshiach may broadcast from the new Jerusalem soccer stadium, via satellite TV. He'll bring the world to peace-- they'll no longer care who wins trivial sports matches; why should I want Jews of Betar Yerushalayim to vanquish equally holy (or unholy) Jews of Maccabee T.A.? Far better that they learn to work together to score common truly important goals.
Per Rav Kanotopsky (NIGHT OF WATCHING), KEEP MY SABBATHS (26:2) refers to the preceding sabbatical and jubilee years, applicable only when most Jews live in Israel. Their effect, when Israelis relinquish control of their land, slaves, and debts, is: AND HAVE AWE OF MY SANCTUARY-- each Jew and the State of Israel will themselves become an awe inspiring sanctuary, a LIVING EXAMPLE of God's powerful religious and social messages (cf. "F." below). All men will find and internalize God in Israel and, especially, Jerusalem, and take Him back home with them. The Torah now (26:3ff) adds that this sanctity will bring blessing, will restore God's original and ultimate perfect world.
The flipside of the blessings is a series of progressive curses, if Israel ignores and violates Torah-- nature's state and fate is 100% linked to the moral state of human nature (cf. Eden & the Flood, Gen 3:17-19, 6:12). One may not bow down on carved or dressed stone, even to God. An exception is the Temple service-- perhaps it can bring out hidden sparks of holiness in lifeless stone itself. So a Jew, slave to a non-Jew, might be plunged into a milieu of gross materialism, but must never worship it. Sefer Hachinuch (349) suggests that one so bowing is suspect of worshipping the stone, unless in the Temple, dedicated to God-- synagogues too?-- we use newspaper to intervene between our bodies and the stone floors of Israeli synagogues, when we bow down during Yom Kippur services. Rambam says bowing down on such stones was an idolatrous custom; S.H. asks-- if so, it should definitely be barred from the Temple too (cf. ashara); but he, unlike Ramban, assumes that Rambam somehow always makes sense (vs. Andrew Sanders in Dear Maimonides, a really interesting book, who raises many ?? on Maimonides' views and values); this brings us to--
B. JUDAISM, MORALITY & MAIMONIDES
Prof. Marvin Fox wrote several stimulating global essays on Rambam in Interpreting Maimonides, Studies in Methodology, Metaphysics, and Moral Philosophy (Univ. of Chicago, 1994). In his essay on "Maimonides' Views on the Relations of Law and Morality" (Ch. 8), Fox trys to explain the apparent lack of basic moral sensitivity, by contemporary standards, in many statements of Maimonides, despite extraordinary moral sensitivity in others; one major factor is that Rambam viewed non-intellectual earthy plebians as sub-human, another that he placed the halacha, convinced that he understood its only possible interpretation, above human sentiment, including our sense of morality, based on our most limited perspective in space and time (Rav J. Soloveichik said that we must sometimes also sacrifice our sense of morality to God, and accept His Will, if we truly acknowledge His Sovereignty-- cf. the Akada, "don't go after your hearts and your eyes", and following the Torah authorities in each generation. So the Rov notes that Jeremiah, as Avraham, first does what God says-- to redeem an Israeli field on the eve of Israel's exile-- however irrational, without ?, and only tries to understand the commandment later-- Nefesh Harav, Haftarat Bhar).
Rambam's mind and soul focused on abstract halachic and philosophical systems and dogmas, rather than human love, sensitivity and empathy (the opposite of the Besht; the latest great, but unsuccessful, candidate for Meshiach, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, tried to merge their traits in his groupee followers). While I generally agree with Fox's conclusions, one of his proof texts seems to be exaggerated to prove his point. Fox cites Rambam's decision to allow a husband to whip a wife who won't do her household tasks (M. T. Ishut 21:10), opposed and forbidden by other decisors, e.g. Raavad; he adds medieval sources, indicating the prevalence of wife beating among some Jews too; there's no apparent rabbinic precedent for Rambam's shocking ruling, as the more shocking one in Isurei Biah (12:10), censored in the Vilna Edition of M. T., not cited by Fox. But Fox fails to mention that Rambam, in Ishut, says that THEY, the court, not the husband himself, force, even whip, the recalcitrant wife, in their discretion, presumably considering all the circumstances-- cf. M. T. Ishut 15:7. The Raavad denies the right of even the court to do so.
Fox also delivered a paper on Law and Morality at the Second International Seminar on the Sources of Contemporary Law: Maimonides as Codifier of Jewish Law; the proceeding were published by by The Library of Jewish Law, edited by Nahum Rakover. He claims that Rambam's modes of catagorization, organization and classification are fundamental to all later studies in Jewish law. To this day we employ the conceptual structures which he first developed. "Modern legal thought has devoted much effort to exploring and clarifying the relationship between law and morality. Even those who accept the extreme view that all law rests on morality have not thereby solved their difficulties. Such a theory of law only pushes the problem back one step, since we are then forced to ask about the foundations of morality itself. If the law rests on morality, we must ask the obvious ??-- Whose morality? What justifies any particular moral claim? On what theoretical grounds does morality rest? These are uncomfortably difficult ??, which we tend to avoid, because they threaten both our moral and legal systems. Yet all serious legal thinkers and all moral philosophers know that these ?? cannot be ignored-- if we are to reflect honestly and soberly on the problem of law and its relation to morality... if we are to understand a medieval Jewish thinker such as Maimonides, we must not make the mistake of imposing on him catagories and distinctions which he did not recognize... he held that the catagory "morality" is not an independent element in Jewish Law (halacha).
This is not to say that there are no moral elements or moral concerns in the Halacha. Quite the contrary. All students of Jewish law know how frequently such moral concerns make themselves felt. The key question is whether these concerns are an independent force in the law, a force which rests upon independent sources and sanctions, or whether they are simply part of the internal structure and methodology of the halachic system itself. This paper starts from the premise that, for Maimonides, there is no independent moral dimension in the halacha... I shall understand by "morality" those principles and values which we commonly identify with the ethical teachings of high western culture in general, and with the ethical principles of Judasim in particular. It is generally agreed that Maimonides is far more than a mere compiler. As Dr. Isadore Twersky points out: `his task was one of collecting and systematizing authoritative sources and hallowed traditions, and this inevitably entailed a large measure of interpretation, as well as selection... when asked by the Lunel scholars about a provocative halachic formulation.., Maimonides confidently replied that originality of interpretation was a fact of scholarly life... as commentator and codifier, he selects from the vast body of earlier sources, decides which of a numbner of opinions or rulings to adopt, frequently gives his own intepretation of the meaning or significance of a law, and shows the perceptive reader his own way of understanding the law and its values... (Rav JBS once gave the source of his conclusion: "my own God-given intelligence!").
From a study of Code and Commentary, we conclude that there is, in Maimonides' legal work, no consistant pattern of giving independent place or authority to what we call the moral dimension. In fact, it is very difficult in Jewish law to find any distinction between law and morality. As David Halivni has pointed out, a biblical or rabbinic law cannot be viewed, within the system, as immoral. To consider a law to be a Divine commandment, and also immoral, is a contradiciton in terms. What God commands must be good, otherwise the Commander is not God. It is for this very reason that we can find no clear distinction in the Halacha between moral commandments and ritual commandments. Both come from the same source and both fully obligate those to whom they are addressed. That is why teachers of the law, even in our own time, repeatedly make the point that when the law offends our individual moral sense, we must set aside our own judgment in favor of the law. Otherwise, we would be rejecting the Divine teaching and Mandate, and giving priority to human judgment over that of God (see Chazan Ish, Al Inyanei Emuna, Bitachon, V'od, 21-43 and passim; cf. Rav J. Soloveichik above.
YF: But our morality may sense that something is wrong with a given tradition or practice, and our subsequent investigation may show that there are other opinions in line with our morality or intellect, e.g. reincarnation, astrology, attitudes to non-Jews).
Another great dominant cool proudly Jewish intellectual, heretic Sigmund Freud, was an arrogant egomaniacal worshipper of his own psychoanalytic system, with which he tried to explain all history and reality, e.g. in his ridiculous and compulsive major work, Moses and Monotheism, where he arbitrarily turns Moshe into an Egyptian. Freud forced his wife Martha (1861-1951) to abandon Torah, tho her grandfather was the Chacham Yitzchak Bernays (1792-1849), fellow Hamburger (the city, not MacDonald's) S. R. Hirsch's rebbe and predecessor in blending both Torah and modern wisdom, and Judaism and Universalism; Martha father, merchant Berman Bernays (d. 1879), was a modern Orthodox Jew (but his turncoat brother, German Lit. Prof. Michael (1834-97), hated Judaism, left his family and became Christian (1856); the eldest son, Yaakov (1824-81), a philologist and classicist, helped found the heretical Breslau Rabbinical Seminary, a forerunner of the Conservative Movement; The Freuds' nephew, Edward Bernays, was an early PR expert-- see Freud's Moses, by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Yale).
C. SUMMARY AND OVERVIEW
Leviticus is called Torat Cohanim, THE TEACHING (detailed laws) FOR THE PRIESTS-- both the Jewish KINGDOM OF PRIESTS and model HOLY NATION (Ex. 19:6) and its internal priests, descendants of Aharon (D. Hoffman). The fulfillment of its teaching will bring all mankind back to Eden, via Jerusalem. Ch. 26 portrays blessings and curses upon the people of Israel in every realm of life, dependent upon their adherence to, or flaunting of, this great Code. Both blessings and curses are miraculous, unparalleled in the natural order of nations, showing God's hand in history (Ramban, 11; cf. The Shoah and the rebirth of Israel). Ch. 26 closes: THESE ARE THE STATUTES, THE (social) ORDINANCES, AND THE TEACHINGS (both oral and written-- Rashi), WHICH GOD GAVE BETWEEN HIM AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL-- ON MT. SINAI, BY MOSHE'S HAND (26:46).
We end Vayikra with a seemingly unrelated anticlimatic P.S.-- CH. 27, JM Ch. 23, the laws of sanctuary pledges and vows, their redemption, and that of second tithes, which must otherwise be eaten in Jerusalem, and of the tithe of animals (30f). All other laws of Leviticus were given BEFORE the covenant in Ch. 26. Per Hirsch, and Sporno, Ch. 27 deals with VOLUNTARY pledges (tho tithes aren't, their redemption is). Only COMPULSORY laws, thru Ch. 25, comprise the covenant between the Jews and God at Sinai (the voluntary laws may be summarized in 27:34). The blessings and curses in Ki Savo are a new covenant-- THESE ARE THE WORDS OF THE COVENANT WHICH GOD COMMANDED MOSHE TO ESTABLISH WITH THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL IN THE LAND OF MOAV BESIDES THE COVENANT... AT CHOREV (Deut. 28:69).
Ch. 27 may teach that our ultimate goal is voluntary action, from love of God, not just compulsory behavior, from fear. Yet we value he who obeys God's command over he who serves Him voluntarily (A.Z. 3a, Kid. 31a, B.K. 38a, 57a)-- this may refer to the self-subjugation of she/he who's commanded OR if God doesn't command something, it's not so important (e.g. women studying talmud?), tho it's better to do that commanded out of love. Murder, separating the soul from the body, entails the death penalty (24:21). Yet man's essence is his spirit, beyond time and monetary value-- the body per se isn't worth much; if one pledged a human body to the temple, the maximum sum due, also paid by a rapist of a young girl, is 50 shekels; 100's paid for a false claim of a bride's adultery; I pay 30 if my cow, God forbid, gored a slave.
Baal Haturim: The total of the varied sums of redemption for pledged humans is 143 shekel, = the 143 Pentateuchal curses-- 45 here, 98 in Deuteronomy! Klei Yakar (nee Lunshitz) explains-- only after troubles, curses, do most people make pledges to God; once good times return, they regret them. Ramban says that Ch. 27 comes after curses for failure to keep the Jubilee, as it's laws of vows include pledged jubilee year fields (16-24; but why not put such pledges with jubilee laws in Ch. 25?). 27:34, ending Leviticus, states that its laws were given at Sinai, unlike those in Numbers, given at the Tent of Meeting to the new generation. Rav D. Hoffman adds that Ch. 27 is the last in a series of laws as to how things acquire sanctity, tho pledges are redeemable. He shows 27's antiquity, refuting critical contentions that it's a Babylonian appendage to Vayikra.
D. ABSTRACT CONCEPTS AND PRECISE DETAIL
Detailed laws and the tabernacle service are Leviticus leitmotifs; it began with precise laws of sacrifices, dedicated to God in the Temple, and thus ends with Ch. 27, precise laws of temple pledges (Abarbanel, Rav Hertz). Science is the objective connection of precisely measured detail with sweeping abstract concepts. Torah too merges exact detailed laws of human behavior with abstract legal entities. In 25:1, Rashi teaches that all Sinaitic commands were given in great detail, not just general principles, later filled in by the rabbis (see our Behar study).
Unlike God's authentic Torah, the ENTIRE focus of many other "religions", including famous take-offs on Judaism, is upon inner subjective states-- "DID THIS INSPIRE YOU"?- rather than: "IS THIS AN OBJECTIVELY TRUE, PRECISE AND VALID DETAILED PART OF DIVINE REALITY?". In Judaism, commandments are valid, despite our reaction. Yet subjective aesthetics and emotion are also part of man. I must integrate the objective legal system with my subjective personality, "explaining" mitzvos (Rav JBS). Indeed, ardent pursuit of scientific knowledge itself expresses emotion. There is no logic to be logical, only a desire. Thus Torah interrupts its laws to give the great dream and vision behind them; the aesthetic component is also added to mitzvos, e.g. a beautiful sukkah, a Shlomo niggun for prayers.
"IF YOU'LL WALK IN MY STATUTES, GUARD MY COMMANDMENTS AND DO THEM, I'LL GIVE YOUR RAINS IN THEIR SEASON, THE LAND WILL YIELD ITS PRODUCE... YOU'LL EAT YOUR BREAD WITH SATISFACTION AND DWELL SECURELY IN YOUR LAND (26:3f)".
ALL BEGINNINGS ARE DIFFICULT: The first verses of each weekly Torah portion contain difficulties; these invariably lead, howver, to insights permeating the whole portion (The Lubavitch Rebbe). Our first phrase is odd: WALKING IN, rather than "observing", God's statutes. Indeed, why mention STATUTES-- they're included in COMMANDMENTS. Rashi concludes that WALKING IN does NOT refer to observance, but to progressively mastering Torah through arduous learning (cf. Avot 6:4-- "... and live a life of hardship, while you toil in the Torah"). A free human being first learns, integrating a teaching with his soul and mind-- then he acts upon it. Observance per se disintegrates without learning-- cf. the American Jewish generation slide, the slippery slope. Successful returnee movements, with long-lasting results, are based more on learning than fast-fading ecstasy-- see Return to Tradition, Danziger. But Rav M. Gafni notes that my initial ecstasy is my response of love to that which engages and complements my own Divine Essence, the wedding; but true love is only based on getting to deeply study, observe and know my intimate other. The Rebbe claims that statutes, "chukim", here refers to ALL God's laws-- they must be "chakukim", inseparably ENGRAVED, in one's heart, not just WRITTEN, and thus erasable. This enthusiastic bond is the first step in "walking with" Torah. For many, however, such bonding is only a RESULT of learning.
A GRADUAL GROWTH APPROACH: Hirsch claims that Chukim, statutes, aren't unexplainable, just hard to explain; all laws are such for a beginner. As he gradually forges ahead, things previously mysterious and unexplainable become intelligible, as new concepts and info accrue; eventually, everything makes sense, becomes "mishpatim", rational laws. Moshe, as Hirsch himself, even understood the mysterious law of the red heifer. Hirsch translates 26:3: "IF YOU FORGE AHEAD IN STUDYING MY (initially) UNINTELLIGIBLE LAWS, YOU'LL (eventually) GUARD THEM AS (rational) COMMANDMENTS...". The contrary's true too-- don't stop at any level of Torah understanding, for there's always a higher, yet unknown, aspect, chok, awaiting discovery. The more you know, the more you know that you don't know. WALK, progress-- otherwise you'll regress. My own impression is that almost noone knows much about anything. Rashi stresses learning the law in order to observe it-- AND DO THEM. Mere academic learning doesn't bring blessing (Buber? H.U. Bible Department? H.U.C.?).
So those, whose life is dedicated to destroying the traditional unity and divinity of the Torah, are also de facto destroying Judaism's significance and impact-- why care about a collection of ancient documents, gathered together by some distant ancestor. Ultimately, such views also threaten Israel and Zionism-- without a divine Biblical basis and messianic destiny, they too lose meaning and significance, and remain only one of many competing secular political claims to the Middle East. H.U. Prof. Shmaryahu Talmon, in a talk on Jerusalem and the Bible at Jerusalem's allegedly Masorati Center, noted that without the Bible, Jerusalem would be of no significance today. But he then openly denied the divinity and unity of the Torah, destroying its own significance. He also claimed that David's choice of Jerusalem was only a political decision, despite the clear Biblical message, that he was responding to God's choice of His sanctuary site; in his further efforts to undermine Jewish tradition, Talmon claimed a shift from earlier Biblical Sinai diaspora orientation and sanctity to Jerusalem's Zionist orientation and sanctity-- but he's ignoring the Bible itself, which only features Sinai as a stage in Israel's journey from Egypt to Israel, the only Holy Land, and site of the sanctuary-to-be, in Moshe's Song at the Sea.
REWARD & PUNISHMENT: Our verses promise worldly reward for Torah observance; yet Talmud and experience imply the contrary-- that reward and punishment is not in this world, but the future one (cf. Avot 4:19: "We can't explain the repose of the wicked, nor the trials and tribulations of the righteous"). Some claim that the Torah promises only the means to keep doing mitzvos, not their reward. Others claim that these verses refer to the nation of Israel-- national well-being is a direct consequence of the general level of Jewish observance, as opposed to that of individuals. Ramban claims that eternal life and resurrection of the dead needn't be clearly mentioned in the Torah, tho they're alluded to in several of the blessings-- they're a natural process, unless a very corrupt soul is "cut off"; a perfect world, without disease and aggression, is also natural; when the Jews really keep Torah, we'll see an Edenic "very good" world again. Ramban claims that one with true faith will eschew doctors (he was one!) and medicine; God will cure him when his punishment's completed (26:11-12; hear TOP's cassette seminars on Torah, Kabbala and Medicine by Rav G. Gurfein, The Path of the Healer). Arye Kaplan claims that little children's genuine joy, despite their awareness of death (e.g. by seeing dead insects and cats), shows that man's innately aware of the soul's eternal life.
God stresses RAIN in His blessing-- good rains are the secret of all natural blessings, health, and longevity. We include God as rain-giver in praising Him for reviving the dead (Ramban; see BODY WEATHER-- HOW NATURAL AND MAN-MADE CLIMATES AFFECT YOUR HEALTH, Palmer, p. 11). The blessing continues: AND I'LL GIVE PEACE IN THE LAND, AND YOU'LL LIE DOWN WITHOUT DISTURBANCE. I'LL REMOVE WILD ANIMALS FROM THE LAND, AND NO SWORD SHALL (even) PASS THROUGH YOUR LAND... AND YOUR ENEMIES SHALL FALL BY YOUR SWORD (26:6-6). No one will take away the wealth which God bestowed; wars will only be waged OUTSIDE Israel, in enemy territory, before complete peace prevails. Jewish strength increases disproportionately as the number of Jews increases in Israel-- 5 chase 100 enemies and 100, 10M. The blessing grows: AND I'LL TURN TO YOU AND MULTIPLY YOU AND MAKE YOU GREAT AND ESTABLISH MY COVENANT (2 way) WITH YOU (9)-- Divine-Human contact and a resultant higher return may FOLLOW, not precede, material and military success (cf. '67).
YOU'LL EAT WELL-AGED FOOD AND DISCARD OLD FOR NEW (10); you'll have enough wine to age some and not have to nurse worn-out things-- or concepts, vs. Chasam Sofer's quip: "Newness is forbidden from the Torah"-- new grain's prohibited until after the Omer sacrifice; but it's permitted then, when we've thus recognized our bounty as coming from God; so all new discoveries, e.g. TV and psychoanalysis, are to be embraced, but within the Divine framework. Perhaps blessed old food will not spoil or become stale until new food replaces it (Ariel Fogelman).
But Amotz Asa-el (JP 5/23/97, Beyond Deep Blue) notes that, considering recent history's orgies of bloodshed, even technology's most impressive accomplishments cannot hide its problematic relationship with morality, mortality, and rapacity... "the naive Hegalian hope, which prevaded thruout much of the 19th century, namely that history had a positive direction, one in which technical sophistication would coincide with moral progress and universal fraternity-- was dealt a fatal blow by the end of WWI... no philosopher in his right mind could ignore the perplexing knot which linked technology to destruction. Orville Wright lived to see his innocent invention drop atom bombs... The riddle therefore is not about the relationship between the abilities of man and those of his inventions, but about the directions in which mankind leads its creations. In other words, judging by precedent, the sad ? is how long it will take before computers... are mobilized in order to perpetrate yet another mass atrocity. But shunning inventions is no option, since man's inherent curiosity is predestined to generate innovations, and those will, in turn, end up in the hands of criminals, dictators and drifters. In fact, even powerful empires, which thought that they could ignore the advance of technology, were ultimately overpowered by its march... we must perfect our mastery of these inventions, so that, when their day comes, we can confront those who will be there to abuse them".
Asa-El gives many poignant examples; so Time (8/95) portrayed the gap between our abundance of choices today and our evolved ability to confront them, which lags so far behind them that modern life must produce massive tension and depression.
AND I'LL PLACE MY DWELLING IN YOUR MIDST AND MY SOUL SHALL NOT ABHOR YOU (11). This is a further deepening of the God-Israel relationship; Rav Kook notes that the messianic era emerges as a gradual process in our prayers: "WHO MAKES THE HORN OF SALVATION GROW"-- as a plant. MY SOUL SHALL NOT ABHOR YOU: the Divine Soul, a Divine Emanation from which the human soul or tabernacle originates (Abusaula), rejects those Impure; their soul then has to undergo another transmigration (Ramban-- see Chavel; others, e.g. Saadya and Albo, deny transmigration of souls). Kaplan translates MY SOUL WILL NOT TIRE OF YOU-- mutual enthusiasm will color the marriage of God and the Jews; cf. Song of Songs, married couples, daily dovening. AND I'LL STROLL IN YOUR MIDST (Rashi: as friends, in Eden; yet--) AND I'LL BE YOUR LORD AND YOU'LL BE MY PEOPLE (vs. those who say that Jews have no special role in the messianic era!). I'M GOD, YOUR LORD, WHO TOOK YOU OUT OF EGYPT, FROM BEING SLAVES TO THEM; I BROKE THE BANDS OF YOUR YOKE AND LED YOU FORTH UPRIGHT (13).
Next comes a curse, much longer than the blessing, increasing in intensity as the Jews drift further from God and Torah. Cool indifference gradually degenerates into disdain, perhaps from guilt for the indifference (cf. sour grapes syndrome, relationships). Rejection of the commandments and the unique Jewish covenantal burden results in physical and emotional distress, as the enemy consumes our produce (cf. the fate of the huge Jewish contribution to Germany). Undefined anxiety will prevail; Israel will be a vassal to its enemy neighbors. Internal enemies will tell Israel that other nations will accept them if they cease to observe Judaism (Hirsch, cf. the Canaanites, S. Aloni). God will break the pride of Israel's (military) power (26:19-- Oslo?). Sevenfold curse (for 7 basic sins-- Rashi) comes when there's no return to God; wild animals will ravage the unproductive land. The next 7X CURSE brings complete enemy conquest, plague, starvation, and dispersed exile. THEN THE LAND WILL BE SATISFIED FOR ITS SABBATICAL YEARS DURING ALL ITS YEARS OF DESOLATION WHILE YOU'RE IN THE LAND OF YOUR ENEMIES (Westchester County, Golders Green?) ...THAT SHE DIDN'T REST IN YOUR SABBATHS, WHEN YOU WERE DWELLING THERE (26:34-5)-- violation of sabbatical years, living proclamation of God's sovereignty over the land, leads to abandonment of the whole Torah, and exile. The galut Jew will be stalked by assimilation, destruction, and groundless fear.
F. AN ESCHATALOGICAL EISEMANNIAN JERUSALEM DAY
The true "holy of holies" of redeemed Israel will be the city of Jerusalem, whose 1967 unification we soon celebrate, on Jerusalem Day, Iyar 18. Ezekiel's prophecy ends: Round about (there shall be) 18,000; and the name of the city from that day-- HASHEM IS THERE! (or "its name is Hashem"-- B.B. 75b). Rabbi Moshe Eisemann, in his magnificent ArtScroll Yechezkel, explores the implications of this name:
The (3rd) Temple and Temple Mount are not in rebuilt Jerusalem. but lie 25:1 miles to the north of it (40:2). Why? Perhaps the solution is as follows. According to Sforno (Ex. 24:28, vs. Ramban), the idea of a Holy Temple, a central place of worship, which alone is acceptable as an abode for the Shechinah, is not the ideal form for Divine worship. Immediately after God had given Moshe the first tablets of stone, He promised: "In any place where I will cause My Name to be uttered, I will come and bless you (Ex. 20:21)". This implies that no central location would be necessary. Any Jew, at any time, could turn to God with his sacrfice. It was only after Israel had sinned with the golden calf that an entirely new system of worship had to be inaugurated. If the (3rd) Temple and Temple Mount would be situated in the city of Jerusalem, and that city were called Hashem is There, with its implication of a complete identification with Godliness, it would have seemed as tho only thru the Temple could the city aspire to Godliness. The fact that, altho the Temple stood far outside the physical environs of the city, the city was still designated as the home of the Presence of God, teaches unambiguously that the Shechinah truly rests within the hearts of the people, rather than on the Temple or Temple Mount. Previously, the position of the Temple was described as lying within Jerusalem (see M. T. Beis Hab'chira 1:3).
The summit of Israel's achievement is in Jerusalem, the city which is earth's pinnacle of holiness... that it be a reflection on earth of the "capital" of holiness in heaven... The final glance of the prophet is directed not to the Temple, but to the city. Within its walls, true Godliness will find expression (Hashem is There), and it is there that Yechezkel's visions and aspirations will one day be realized. We are told nothing of the life of this city... no hint of what the city's inhabitants will be doing, no indication of how the Presence of God, implied in its name, will make itself felt. The Sages permit us a glimpse behind this curtain of mystery. Based on Ezek. 48:35, which gives the perimeter of the city as 18,000 (rods), Rava teaches (Sukka 45b, San. 47b): "There are to be 18,000 rows (of righteous men) before the Holy One, Blessed be He (in the World to Come)". Thus, our city, which surely is a physical, tangible one, situated on a site defined by the text, is seen as a symbol of God's closeness to the righteous people in the World to Come (another proof that the messianic age is still to come). It is then to be a city in which the close proximity of God is so pervasive that life there can be viewed as the earthly equivalent of the World to Come. The 18,000 rod perimeter defines the area where life is-- in the most literal sense-- lived before God...
This is the extent of what we may know about this Jerusalem of the future. There will be walls enclosing an area of sanctity, which goes beyond anything which we can conceptualize; but there will also be gates, means of allowing the whole land, perhaps the whole world, to bask in God's Presence... Tosafos Yom Tov (Tzuras Habayis) suggests that 18,000 alludes to the 18,000 worlds under God's protection (A.Z. 3b; see Maharal, Chiddushei Agada). Again, we have the lesson taught that this city is no ordinary one. Its tangible dimensions and location are only a small part of its true significance. The essence of the new city-- the rebuilt Jerusalem-- is to be a total identification with all that is holy. A bond will have been forged between God and His people, which will be permanent. The merkava, that symbol of the mobility of the Shechinah, will have finally come to rest. No more will God demonstrate His love by accompanying Israel into exile. He will remain firmly ensconced in the hearts of the people-- the dwellers of the city. Hashem is There... The book does not end with the return of the Shechinah to the Temple, as there will be an even greater moment-- when the city would rise in the midst of the 12 tribes of Israel, ranged about as the new cheruvim (cherubs), when that city would merit the name of Hashem is There-- that moment will be the point at which Israel will have attained its true glory.
G. OY, JERUSALEM TODAY-- JUDAISM, MORALITY & HEBREW UNIVERSITY: Many indeed do find God today in Jerusalem, among its great holy enlightened folk; but, unfortunately, much of the redeemed city still doesn't live up to Ezekial's dream, to its name, "God is There". Many yeshivot retreat into insularity, ignoring their universal mission, suspicious, depreciating and resentful of universal man; the academic world is the opposite extreme-- it generally ignores its unique Jewish mission, to spread knowledge of God and Torah from Jerusalem. It wants to be accepted by the rest of the world, per their values. So many people were shocked when Prof. Moshe Zimmerman of H.U. made an odious comparison of Chevron's brave settlers to Nazis; they were even more shocked when allegedly Jewish H.U. refused to take action against him, pleading freedom of speech; in effect, H.U. said that there are no Jewish or even general values governing what Israel's youth are taught in their institution (as somewhat opposed to Bar Ilan-- see our B'har study). I sense this in their Bible Department, where Zackowitz, Talmon, Moshe Greenberg* , etc. de facto destroy the impact and importance of the Torah by denying its divinity and unity (see "A Growth Approach" above), and in the abundance of lectures, seminars, etc. both at Hillel and H.U., dedicated to "post-Zionism", Arab rights, Israeli "guilt" about Zionist success, etc. "Abraham's Children-- Israel's Young Generation" ($20 from TOP) shows how such leftish propaganda and brainwashing can destroy Israeli youth's courage and convictions-- e.g.:
Last Year, at H.U., Prof. Robert Rothstein of Colgate U. delivered an informative and highly intelligent talk on conflict resolution, using South Africa and Northern Ireland as models for a possible Palestinean-Israeli settlement. He claims each side must get the minimum it needs to exist-- in South Africa, this meant black political power, an equal vote for every citizen to satisfy the black community; the whites gave in to get that most important to them-- retention of their wealth and economic power; the blacks gave in there; the alternative was mutual destruction, poverty and world isolation. Rothstein claims that a Palestinean State is a sine qua non for the Arabs, and that the Israelis aren't clear about their minimum needs, perhaps just a complete end to terrorism.
But audience members questioned his analogy and that of Mandela and Arafat-- Rothstein wouldn't even consider a just Jewish demand that after almost 2000 years of contributing so much to humanity and getting so much abuse in return, the Jews were entitled to a decent sized state, still very small, even with the liberated territories-- 21 Arab states, including Palestinean Jordan, are enough. He wouldn't consider Hevron part of Israel, ignoring its history and Jewish tradition. Tho an alleged "liberal", Rothstein wound up advocating Hitler's Nazi concept-- that people (i.e. the Arabs of Hevron) have the right to render their cities and nations "judenrein"; he had no sympathy for the noble sacrifice of the settlers of Kiryat Arba and Hevron, trying to redeem a bit of their past, after the terrible Arab extermination and slaughter of Hevron's peaceful pious Jews in 1929. He views the settlers as an obstacle to peace, just because the Arabs want Hevron (and the West Bank) to remain Judenrein, to enjoy the fruits of their grandparents' demonic massacre; so they slaughtered the Jews of the Etzion bloc to prevent the rise of Israel.
I'm sure Rothstein wouldn't tolerate any small U.S. town's similar decision to exclude blacks or Jews, even if they didn't slaughter them; he'd call out the national guard to protect such families from harassment and expulsion. Rothstein feels any abandonment of Arafat, murderer of little children and old men, e.g. Leon Klinghoffer, after peace with the Arab nations, would be "diabolical"-- would he feel the same about Hitler? Finally, he condemned the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem as an anti-peace move! Unless the Arabs plan to take all of Jerusalem from the Jews, as they tried to do in every war, what possible objection can they have to Israel proclaiming Jerusalem its capital, and to other nations respecting their choice? It doesn't affect Arab claims to East Jerusalem, lost in their attempts to destroy Israel. While Rothstein and the H.U. faculty chairman were very interested in meeting and talking with an Arab present, who condemned Jewish anti-terrorist security measures in Chevron, they had no interest in meeting the brave Jewish settlers of Hevron-- as renegade Spinoza, assimilated Jews first abandon the Jewish Religious Mission, then the Jewish People.
When I proposed giving the world's only university course in Parshat Hashavua at H.U., I was told the idea wasn't feasible as other universities mightn't recognize such uniquely Jewish studies! Jeff Seidel knocks himself out, day and night, to bring H.U.'s Overseas Students closer to Judaism and Israel, via Shabbat experiences, lectures, etc. 3 busloads accompanied him to Meron on Lag B'Omer. The response is fantastic and the kids generally like him and appreciate his efforts; but the university has constantly harassed him, threatening him with arrest if he approaches students on campus, etc. (T.A.U. is even worse). Yet soliciting for pubs, discos and Passover tours to Egypt is glatt kosher in academia. Discovery, which has inspired so many Jews, can't set up a table for Overseas Students to sign up, but PLO spokesmen are invited to address students, and Hillel House hosts advocates of homosexuality. Jeff tells me that students on a field trip, who didn't want to ascend the Temple Mount (for religious reasons) were forced to write a paper explaining their reasons.
H.U. is a truly great university, contributing so much to Israel and humanity, including the teaching of Torah luninaries such as Shalom Rosenberg, David Hartman, and Nachama Leibowitz; but it sorely lacks Jewish pride (and even self-respect), as it tries so hard to impress the international academic community with its political correctness (cf. The Israel Museum)-- 1) downplaying traditional Judaism (which opposes many modern values), 2) trying to limit student exposure to Torah life to its official, fine, and beautiful Hecht synagogue, which is however quite limited in its ability to reach out to non-interested students and 3) leaning to the left politically, toward those who feel we have to apologize to bloodthirsty Arabs for every inch of our tiny unique State of Israel. Donors with high Jewish consciousness might prefer to promote and donate to much more Jewish causes, e.g. Bar Ilan U., Yeshivot Hesder, Yeshiva U., Emuna, us, etc.
NOTE: Rav Y. Kook z"l saw both greatness and chaos in the future of H.U., when he apoke at its dedication; a mocking distortion of his remarks appeared in Satmar in 1927, repeated a few years back by slanderous Y'ted Neaman; they refused to retract the false report. For the whole story, listen to Rav Shalom Gold's refutation of a haredi rosh yeshiva's harping and biting critique of religious Zionism, in his tapes, In Defense of Religious Zionism ($15 from TOP).
Psychoanalyst Miriam Tawil of San Paulo, an enthusiastic positive Jewess, told me that T.A.U., which so strongly stifles Jeff Seidel's efforts to give their overseas students authentic Jewish experiences, even turned down an offer to donate a synagogue on campus-- they claimed that religion has no place in a university-- while Miriam's husband, Charles, coordinates the Friends of T.A.U. in San Paulo, he also, like Jeff, rounds up lost Jewish youth and brings them back to the fold; his friend Eli Horn helps Jeff expose T.A.U. students to Judaism; if they're so keen to imitate non-Jewish universities, rather than being a unique Jewish model of the blend of this world and the next, they should realize that houses of worship are both common and appreciated on Western campuses.
* Greenberg, a leader of the Conservative movement, claims, however, that his own traditional observance is consistant with his views, and that there is some inspirational content to the Tanach.
H. THE SYNOPSIS RESUMED
Eventually the Israelights will confess their wrongs, but not really repent. God then increases their hardship until they bend their insensitive (uncircumcised) hearts to His Will (from fear, not love), and He redeems them. Per Ramban, all of this refers to the temporary Babylonian exile and redemption, when a small number returned to Israel. Deut. 28 refers to our long 1900 year exile; after it, our hearts will be "circumcised", opened to really love God and understand the secrets of His Torah, ending its conflicts with our thoughts and feelings (Rav Kanotopsky and Torah Ohr). We'll then call God our Mate, not our Master.
RAV YEHUDA HENKIN notes the negative bent-- we call JM Ch. 22 tochecha, rebuke, despite its blessings (outnumbered 3-to-1 by curses). He claims that a well-off Jew is complacent-- the Torah has to raise his consciousness, dramatize the inevitable consequences of his backsliding. A Jew in distress, however, needs little prompting to dwell upon his blessed future, if he returns to God.
2 sets of curses follow gradual abandonment of Torah (26:14, 18). The next 3, more severe, come when Jews "walk with Him b'keri" (26:21, 23, 27); God responds b'keri in verses 24 & 28. "Keri" is related to mikrah, a chance happening. They see no meaning in God's life lessons to them-- "that's how the cookie crumbles!" (M. T. Taanit 1:3, Guide 3:36; cf. Or Hachayim; but we may assume that all has a good purpose, w/o claiming to know the purpose). Israel notes the first disasters, but reserves judgement as to their meaning; as catastrophes multiply, their leaders formally deliberate: "Is God trying to teach us something?" They conclude- "NO!-- these punishments don't fit our interpretation of certain texts, what we learned from our teachers, our conception of our own righteousness" (Gush Emunim?). Indeed, God's official interpreters may exaggerate trivial transgressions, insisting that there's nothing basically wrong with their saintly and religious communities (cf. Shas). Disasters are also made "Keri", when we ascribe them to minor faults and deny the existence of major ones (e.g. to eating from the "wrong" hechsher, rather than to hate and anger). God gets really angry at this REASONED REFUSAL to recognize what's He's doing. Blessings can also be explained away as "keri", coincidence, even when God bestows his largesse on a generation in a way that ages of Jews didn't live to see (e.g. the State of Israel, '67-- YF). "Do the bad and the good not come out from the Mouth of the Supreme?" (Lam. 3:38). One must walk thru life BEFORE GOD, not as if it's a meaningless accident (Gen. 17:2).
YF: But even Moshe can't completely understand God's ways. What seems a punishment may be a test and v.v. Punishments will achieve their effect whether or not we understand them. Hirsch, Rashi & Rashbam don't relate "keri" to reaction to punishment; it implies that the Jews will not be concerned with God's Will, tho they may, by chance (keri) or habit, fulfill it (e.g. one who is haredi by habit, never having probed its veracity). Other considerations determine their way of life (cf. observant Jews who remain in exile). Menachem and Onkelos take "keri" as "being contrary", actively opposing God's Will-- see Ibn Ezra.
CH. 27: A fixed sum, arachin, redeems humans pledged to the temple-- 50 HS (holy silver shekels of 20 gara) for males 20 to 60, 30 HS (60%) for females; 20 HS for males 5-20, 10 (50%) for females; for those 1 month-5 years old (infants are presumed to be insufficiently viable to be monetarily valuable for the first 30 days)-- 5 HS for a male, 3 (60&) for a female. 15 HS redeems a male above 60, 10 HS (66.6%) a female. The cohen gives necessary reductions to the poor. Abarbanel says fixed sums avoid the indignity of individual evaluation of people (unless the pledge's wording so requires).
He claims that the male, who's essence is FORM, is worth more than the female, whose is MATTER. He says that it takes twice as long (80 days) to form a female embryo, which lacks male vitality-- so she's worth 50% of him! She's worth another 10% in her prime child bearing years (only from 20? to 60?), and the Torah rounds off the 2 1/2 shekels to 3 for a young girl; older women approach older men in ability to work! He sees the male as the true Image of the Lord (as Ruler of Nature and giver of its abstract laws) in Genesis; Maharal, B.B. 16b, sees the male as the essential actor on earth, the female having the supporting role; but Rav J. Soloveichik sees woman as the higher holy essence, created like the Infinite Loving God's own Will or Essence, molding man, the sole determinant of his Jewishness-- would Abarbanel agree? Most of us would find Don Yitzchak's medieval outlook strange, and his calculations forced. Others simply explain that males can work harder and longer, the only measure of value here-- A. Feldman notes that women have only 55% of male muscular strength and 65% of their stamina; they need another hour of sleep, on the average. Every groom marries 3 women-- normal, menstruous, and pregnant (The River, the Kettle, and the Bird-- a strongly pro-female Torah marriage guide, p.68).
Donations of animals and real estate are appraised; 1/5 is added for redemption. Inherited tribal fields are evaluated at 50 HS per chomer of barley for the entire 50 year yovel (jubilee) period; if he's already sold the field, or doesn't redeem it by the yoval (jubilee) year, it becomes the priests', as a dedicated "charem" field. Dedicated purchased fields are appraised as to their crop yield until yovel, when they revert to the original owner. A firstborn animal, fit for sacrifice, is already consecrated to God. An unfit one, other than an ass, is appraised, as is a fit animal which acquired a permanent blemish (see Ramban). Anything vowed to God as "charem", an interdicted thing, is beyond redemption-- it's holy of holies to God (27:28)
Many laws and messages can be derived from one verse, e.g. EVERY INTERDICTED PERSON, INTERDICTED BY MAN, MAY NOT BE REDEEMED-- HE SHALL SURELY DIE (28:29): One can't pledge a convicted murderer's value, as it's 0, nor may one ransom them, even for a big gift to the temple or UJA (Arachin 6b; cf. Meyer Lansky's unsuccessful attempt to make aliya ). One may not redeem those against whom a cherem (ban) is properly declared, during conquest (Num. 21:2, Judges 19, 21:10), nor one who transgresses the cherem of the Great Court or the King of Israel, proclaimed for the public good. So Jonathan would deserve death (I S. 14:44), but the people decided that he violated the cherem in error (I S. 14:45-- Ramban).
Ramban applies this to Judges 11:30-40: YIFTACH VOWED A VOW TO GOD AND SAID: "IF YOU'LL INDEED GIVE THE CHILDREN OF AMMON INTO MY HAND... WHATSOEVER GOES OUT OF THE DOORS OF MY HOUSE TO GREET ME... IT SHALL BE GOD'S (devoted to him-- Ibn Ezra)-- AND I'LL MAKE IT A BURNT OFFERING (if possible, e.g. a unblemished cow, not his cat-- Ibn Ezra)"... AND BEHOLD HIS DAUGHTER CAME OUT TO MEET HIM... HE SAID: "I'VE OPENED MY MOUTH TO GOD AND I CAN'T GO BACK"... SHE SAID: "MY FATHER, ...DO TO ME AS HAS GONE FORTH FROM YOUR MOUTH... LET ME ALONE 2 MONTHS... THAT I MAY BEWAIL MY VIRGINITY". ...AT THE END OF 2 MONTHS, SHE RETURNED TO HER FATHER, WHO DID TO HER ACCORDING TO HIS VOW... AND SHE HAD NOT KNOWN A MAN... THE DAUGHTERS OF ISRAEL WENT YEARLY TO LAMENT THE DAUGHTER OF YIFTACH, THE GILADI, 4 DAYS A YEAR.
Yiftach assumed that a general could proclaim a cherem, condemning someone to die for God. He didn't know that even the king and Sanhedrin can only so condemn a rebel; thus he was punished for killing her. His vow was totally invalid (Gen. Raba 60:3). Per Ibn Ezra and Radak, Yiftach did NOT sacrifice his daughter, a profanation of Judaism; he made her a lifelong nazira, a totally devoted nun (they got that institution from us too!). He pledged to God whatever would come out of his house to greet him; it would be sacrificed ONLY IF suitable as such. Ramban responds: "empty words"-- if so, why did she have to be a recluse? Nazarite Samuel was in the midst of Temple activity! Our answer: women didn't serve in the Temple-- cf. idolatrous shrines, with their sacred prostitutes. Ramban adds that Samuel could marry, tho totally devoted to God; our answer-- he's not legally sanctified to his wife, only v.v. Ramban also asks how one could make another a nazarite. Our answer-- she accepted his oath, tho not binding, that his name and God's not be disgraced.
Ramban's final (real?) objection: she and her companions constantly bewailed her virgin unmarried state-- if this state brings you closer to God, why wail?! Ramban views the body as the enemy of the soul, to be avoided as much as possible. He claims a nazir brings a sin offering for STOPPING his denial of wine and haircuts; "YOU SHALL BE HOLY (Lev. 19:2)" means that you shall separate yourselves from bodily pleasures. Rashi seems to claim that the nazir sins BY his deprivations (but see Klei Yakar)-- you should only separate from ILLEGITIMATE pleasures. Ibn Ezra's view fits common sense and the text-- someone would surely tell Yiftach of his gross error during the 2 months she mourned her fate! Yiftach doesn't use the word Cherem in making his vow; Ms. Yiftach and Co. mourned the waste of her virginity, not her life.
Any attempted substitute for a tithed or dedicated sacrificable animal itself becomes sacred, unlike 2nd tithe produce; these tithes are eaten by the owners in Jerusalem. Each family thus has someone in Jerusalem, who brings its sanctity back to Galillee and Eilat (Sefer Hachinuch). The portion and the Book of Leviticus close with: THESE ARE THE COMMANDS WHICH GOD ORDERED FOR THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL VIA MOSHE ON MT. SINAI (27:34). CHAZAK, CHAZAK, V' NITCHAZAK. May the strength and insight given us through our study of Torat Cohanim strengthen and deepen our study of Bamidbar.
THE AUTHENTIC ANCIEN REGIME: 13th Century Ramban closes Leviticus: "So is completed the Book of the Law of the Priests, their offerings, and their commandments. God, the Most High, will restore things to their real state-- the Levites to their song, the priests to their service, and Israel to their strong habitation. Our eyes will behold Jerusalem, the garden of the Palace, and the Palace (Temple) upon its proper place-- the Temple and the Innermost Sanctuary upon their firm foundation, and the daughters of Judah (Ps. 97:8, the suburbs of Jerusalem) in their tranquility. Then will the offerings of Judah be pleasant unto the Eternal as in the days of old and as in their ancient years. The daily offerings in their order, and the additional offerings, according to their law, will then be elevated and acceptable upon His altar. Finished and completed is the Book of Leviticus with the help of God". Ramban came here in 1267 and restored Jerusalem's Jewish community in his last few years-- how much would he reognize today?-- perhaps not the Ramban Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter, which apparently replaced his original Synagogue on Mt. Zion.
I. WORK-- BLESSING OR CURSE?, KIBBUTZ LAVI VS. MEA SHEARIM
R. Yishmael sees an ample harvest as an obvious blessing; R. Shimon b. Yochai, alleged author of the Zohar, who wouldn't even interrupt his Torah study for prayer, views it as a curse!!! Our rabbis asked (Ber. 35b) what was taught by YOU WILL GATHER YOUR CORN... (Deut. 11:14)-- one needn't be commanded to harvest his crops! But I might take Joshua 1:8 literally: THIS BOOK OF TORAH SHALL NOT DEPART FROM YOUR MOUTH (i.e. learn constantly). So this verse tells us that study of Torah must blend with "the way of the earth"-- so taught R. Yishmael. RASHBY says: "Is that possible? If one plows at plowing time, sows at sowing time, harvests at harvesting time, threshes at threshing time, and winnows when there is wind-- what will happen to Torah? NO!-- when Israel fulfills the Omnipresent's will, others do their work-- `strangers will arise and pasture your flocks..'" (Isaiah 61:5-- vs. A. D. Gordon? Are the "strangers" Bnei Noach?). Israel must do their own work only when they don't obey God's Will, as in Deut. 11:4 (Will Gazans peacefully work for Israelis immersed in Torah?-- cf. Chevron 1929); in addition, the sinners will then also do others' work (cf. Israel making weapons for Iran), as said: "you'll serve your enemy.." (Deut. 28:48).
True, no Jews themselves clearly harvest crops in the blessings of Deut. 28 and Lev. 26. Deut. 11:13-4, however, deems it a blessing, a reward for good conduct-- IT WILL BE IF YOU REALLY LISTEN TO THE MITZVOS OF GOD... TO LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD AND TO SERVE HIM WITH ALL YOUR HEARTS AND ALL YOUR SOULS... THEN I WILL GIVE RAIN FOR YOUR LAND IN ITS SEASON AND YOU SHALL HARVEST YOUR CORN... One could easier understand Rashby's view re fighting-- victory is certainly a blessing, but a curse when compared to peace: God will give His people strength (Tzahal), God will BLESS His people with peace (Ps. 29:11). I wonder if Rashby said this before or after spending so many years in the cave studying Torah, before or after he was punished by God for cursing simple farmers (he later validated their task). Perhaps he viewed work as a blessing for the average man, a curse for a scholar. If so, he should say so.Rashby's most popular adherant, the Baal Shem Tov, indeed stressed the opposite-- that the soul of a common illiterate, with a great heart, may far surpass that of a great, but cold, scholar (a tikun, "fixing", for Rashby?). Rav G. Fleer claims that Rashby is referring to the Edenic future world, not to our present fallen world, tho Rashby makes no such distinction.
Abaye said: "Many did as R. Yishmael (e.g. Y.U.) and succeeded, as R. Shimon (e.g. Mea Shearim Kollels) and failed." Rava told the rabbis: "I plead that you don't appear before me in either Nissan or Tishre (harvest and planting times), so that you don't have to worry about your livelihood the rest of the year (cf. learning in 3 kollels). Rabbah bar bar Chana said... "Come, see the difference between earlier and later generations. The former made their Torah fixed and their work occasional, prospering in both; the latter reversed the order, failing in both". Rambam forbids taking money for learning and teaching Torah, yet suggests that men work only about 3 hours daily, live modestly, and study Torah the other 9 free hours (see M. T. Talmud Torah 1:12). Perhaps smart people work less to earn more! Israel must set up education and structures for such a model life. R. Yehoshua says: "Let one learn 2 laws in the morning and 2 in the evening and work all day-- he's viewed as tho he kept the whole Torah"; RASHBY, however, says the Torah was only fully given to those who didn't work, but ate of the manna (which began to fall on Lag B'Omer), or, at least, trumah! (not kugel and cigarettes! See Michilta, Tanch. B'shalach)
The Talmud seems to favor the synthesis of Torah and derech eretz (the way of the earth)-- to partake of Rashby's heights a bit from time to time, e.g. on Lag B'omer, but otherwise to both work and learn, tho rare Rasby-like souls might emulate Rashby, e.g. Ramchal, Reb Nachman. A case could be made for one not to work, only to do mitzvos, once he has enough money for the foreseeable future-- many, however, (e.g. Hirsch) see holiness in work per se, especially agriculture. Tho Kabbalists extol Rashby in song, most of us should praise our best role model-- "Rebbe Yishmael, happy he who goes in your way, Torah and the way of the earth together!" (same tune). Both, good religious Zionists, stressed living in Israel. R. Yishmael compares those who live in exile to idolators (A.Z. 8a); RASHBY compares the difficulties of acquiring Israel with those of acquiring Torah and the world to come; Rav Soloveichik says the value of something is proportionate to the effort needed to acquire it (compare simple and complex Torah study sheets!)
J. THE HAFTARA, JEREMIAH 16:19-17:14
Jeremiah also stresses that blessings and curses are ultimately caused by human conduct and relationship to God. Eventually, the Jews will bring ALL nations close to God, w/o intermediaries or "new" religions, only the eternal universal religion of the sons of Noah (but Rav Eliyahu Benazemogh feels that Christianity and Islam, purified of the dross which entered their Hebraic roots, will continue to guide non-Jews-- see Israel and The Nations, Paulist Press, translated by Maxwell Luria). The Jews, full of regret, will realize they should have led others; instead, they copied their degrading foolishness and idolatry (e.g. Sylvester & Halloween, Dallas & Soap; see A. above). So promiscuous glorification and display of the body (e.g. mini-skirts or tight slacks), oppose human sanctity, a Jewish value. We're to teach others sexual modesty and holiness-- how sad to see grossly immodest Israeli Jewish beauty queens displayed to the world; their relatively modest Arab counterparts would not don a bathing suit on stage in Haifa. Crude warlike sport competition replaces Shabat, Jew against Jew (& some quick basketball converts); an amoral arms industry sells to all buyers. Mei Eden and Yediot bring the profane Bahia Ballet to Israel. Yet, the prophet assures us that God will heal and save the Jews, no matter how low they've sunk, after millennia of alien influence. They'll return to their great mission in the State of Israel, relating to Him as the Truly Praiseworthy. We'll even have truly Jewish universities, to spread, not debunk, God's Word.
K. AFTER THE PARTY'S OVER
After this "heavy" comprehensive study, you may be in the mood for something lighter and more relaxing, like a Jewish mystery story. I heartily recommend everything by Faye Kellerman and the Fanny Zindel (A Jewish grandmother, who's an amateur detective) tales of Serita Stevens and Rayanne Moore, with interwoven historical and travel vignettes; Batya Gur's gripping Jerusalem dramas of Detective Michael Ohayon include insight into such sophisticated fields as Hebrew Poetry and Psycholanalysis; Literary Murder includes a moral and sociological overview of Hebrew University, expanding "G." above.