THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
You can also read previous studies on this site.
THIS STUDY IS SPONSORED BY THE GELB FAMILY OF VENTNOR, N.J., WHERE THEY SHARE THE TORAH AND FAITH WHICH THEY ABSORB IN JERUSALEM
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A. WHEN THE SAINTS COME MARCHING BACK
B'har opens: GOD DIRECTED MOSHE AT MT. SINAI: "DIRECT THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL AND EXPLAIN TO THEM: `WHEN YOU COME INTO THE LAND WHICH I AM (now too!) GIVING YOU, THE LAND SHALL CELEBRATE A SABBATH TO GOD. SIX YEARS YOU SHALL SOW YOUR FIELD... AND THERE SHALL BE A SABBATH OF SABBATHS (cf. 23:3, 32; per Vilna Gaon, both verses refer to Yom Kippur) FOR THE LAND IN THE 7TH YEAR-- A SABBATH TO GOD... (25:1-4)'". WHEN YOU COME... implies that BIBLICAL sabbatical (shmita) and jubilee (yovel) years are in effect only when MOST Jews are in Israel, divided into their tribes (Sefer Hachinuch); each tribal area was best suited for its own unique development, its indispensible contribution to the national mosaic. Then Israel's ultimate goal of national perfection can be reached, exemplified by the jubilee year observance (Hirsch).
Thus most authorities claim that the Sabbatical Year lacks Biblical sanction since the exile of the 10 tribes, tho RABBINIC commemorative laws kept its memory alive. So no miraculous Biblical Divine blessing of 6th year produce, that it suffice until produce planted in the 8th year emerges in the 9th, applies today-- thus the chief rabbis of Israel legally sell the land to a non-Jew today, thereby satisfying the rabbinic prohibitions of growing and selling sabbatical year produce (except for home gardens; a certificate of "goyut", legal status as a non-Jew, might be required from the non-Jewish "buyer"-- last year's alleged non-Jewish purchaser of the nation's chomatz food, forbidden to be in Jewish possession during Passover, was exposed as a Jew-- his Jewish mother married an Arab!); we thus avoid Israel's economic collapse, the logical outcome of a year without farming; eventual assimilation or persecution await Jews who would then have to leave Israel.
Religious Zionists also use other legal devices, e.g. farming under a tent, to avoid violation of rabbinic law. Most haredim rely on sale of chometz to a non-Jew during Pesach, despite the strict Biblical prohibition involved; yet they won't recognize the Chief Rabbi's sale of the land; their few agricultural settlements strictly observe rabbinic shmita. Fund raising abroad covers their losses; but no one has offered to cover the resulting huge losses, if everyone else did so. An accurate cost study should be done.
COME UP! Many opine that Jews MUST live in Israel (e.g. Rashi, Ber. 57), unless they can't make a living, get married, or study Torah properly here. Even leaving Israel for a vacation is most questionable-- it's like leaving God's presence. ZION TODAY ($12 from TOP) brings sources: "Living in Israel = all the mitzvos in the Torah" (Sifre, R'ay). Pious Jews abroad are considered "idol worshippers in purity (A.Z. 8, e.g. pious Boro Park)". Even Moshe and Yaakov felt religiously inadequate, as they lived abroad (Pes. 119). Wicked Omri merited to be king-- he added a city to Israel (San. 102-- cf. B.G.). "The wholeness of the Jewish nation can only be achieved in the chosen land... unique, physically and spiritually" (Abarbanel, Is. 5). "Exile is a departure from the natural order; God arranged that each nation be in its proper place-- Israel's is the Holy Land (Maharal, N. Y. I)". "The Land of Israel's holiness predates the arrival of the Jewish nation, yet remains incomplete unless they're upon it". Anyone who believes God's statements about Israel will WANT to live here! Every Tisha B'Av, pious Jews sit on the floor in Boro Park, San Jose, and Manchester, mourning our deserted land and exile. Their prayers should close: ONE WAY $700!
But most Jews today reside abroad, rejecting God's gift of the land-- often due to Israel's cumbersome semi-socialist political and economic system and its constant state of war. Peace would bring vast benefits to Israel, the Jewish people and the world; Israel's government, regardless of party, must ardently pursue peace, while simultaneously doing everything in its power to have and to use, whenever necessary, the world's best army and intelligence; we must also pray to God, while recognizing that "I'll bless you in all you DO", that God only blesses us and makes miracles when we've done all we can with the natural assets and abilities He's granted us; Rambam (Letter to the Jews of Marsilles) claims that Israel lost its land and temple by wasting time on nonsense like astrology, instead of mastering military and political science; tho their sins brought on the war, their own sacrificial and character building military defense might have saved them.
Our prime task (perhaps the Messiah's too-- see Gen. Raba 98:9) is to bring Israel back to Israel-- Western Jew's combined aptitudes and experience can completely transform Israeli society, besides bringing back the wonderful Biblical sabbatical year. Per Rav Shalom Gold, massive Russian aliya and massive U.S. assimilation speedily advance the day when most Jews will live in Israel (but many alleged non-Jews may be Jews descended from the lost 10 tribes-- YF). Jews of suburban Lawrence and Monsey should offer to trade their homes for those of Arabs in Hebron, to render it a large viable Jewish suburb; the U.S. should grant those Arabs citizenship as its contribution to the peace process. May God help all individuals and organizations who fight assimilation abroad, while simultaneously encouraging aliya, e.g. Livnot Ulhibanot-- they dedicated their Jerusalem Campus in a truly inspiring 1994 Lag B'Omer ceremony, stressing Jewish unity and mutual concern.
Thus Post-Zionism is only a secular Zionist concept and problem-- their limited dream and goal, to be a free people in our land, has been more or less achieved. But when God promised security and victory to Israel after their sin, Moshe still wouldn't budge from his desert position, until God restored His presence into our midst, the religious Zionist dream for thousands of years-- to be a HOLY people in our land (see and display our bumper stickers). While we clearly see the half-full cup, the beginning of our redemption, and celebrate Yom Haatzmaut as a great religious holiday (unlike even those haredim who ardently support Israel, e.g. Habad, Aish Hatorah and Ohr Somaach), we're keenly aware that our task is just beginning and that most Jews must return home, before God's renewed presence will fully return with them.
We first secured the new Israel, built by Jews today, in 1948; they fought for what they built with sacrifice, their homes and civilization, a noble natural universal human response; only later, in 1967, were we given old Israel-- The Old City of Jerusalem, Chevron, Bethlehem, Nablus, Bet El, etc. Fighting for these areas was fighting for our ancient spiritual ties, now to be renewed after our struggle for mere survival. Those with little tie to their past and future wouldn't consciously care much about these sites, bastions of Arab Palestinean civilization for a long time. The way to the old passes first thru our new endeavors, in our own days; our own efforts then make us worthy to renew that which our forefathers built long ago, with similar sacrifice and dedication-- Rav Elisha Aviner in B'ahava ub'emuna.
YF: Yitzchak first digs up again Avraham's wells, which the Philistines had destroyed, then apparently digs three new ones of his own, a symbol of the 3 Temples (God's House of Living Waters-- see Jer. 17:13, Ramban)-- the first two, Contention (Esek) and Hatred (Sitna), are destroyed by internal and external hate and aggression; the third, Rechovot, Broad Places, far from the Philistines, survived, as no one fought over it. So the 3rd Temple will only be built with the peaceful assent of all, including the Arabs, when God will enlarge our borders (see Ramban on Gen. 26:18f). Perhaps today too, the New, mostly secular, Zionist Movement couldn't dig its new wells until the Old Yishuv, the religious Zionist aliya of the 1700's, restored Avraham's old wells to Palestine.
A troubling sign of the weakness of truly traditional (not Masorati) Judaism today is its lack of any candidate for Prime Minister; Motti Elon, so truly Israeli and so truly a man of Torah, would be ideal, tho he may need more life-experience and maturity (he led the only Yom Ha'atzmaut sunrise minyan at the Wall which recited Hallel). Both Peres and Netanyahu are unsuitable to lead and represent a Jewish State, in that they're non-observant; yet we had to choose between them. Peres had the innate advantage of an experienced incumbant and we owe him gratitude for his service, especially in procuring arms abroad. But a Roving Rova Raconteur noted that Netanyahu's election would give us new bargaining power vis-a-vis the Arabs-- he claims that Peres is guided by Yossi Beilen, who, tho intelligent and sincere, follows his universalist socialist vision of a non-Jewish Israel, fully integrated into the Western world, whereas Netanyahu's prime goal is a non-Arab Israel. My anonymous respondant views Labor's socialist utopian Messianic dream as the opposite extreme of Chabad's equally unrealistic messianic worldview. When I visited Mafdal headquarters just before the 1996 elections, they still didn't have a statement of their standpoints, only propaganda. Their spokesman didn't even show up or send a replacement when the WJC visited the Knesset; Shulamit Aloni gave them the most attention.
It's good to see at least one party, Yisroel B'Aliya, headed by a noble fighting sacrificial idealist, Sharansky (except when it comes to coalition politics, e.g. the Bar On affair); tho he's not fully observant, he's quite concerned with Jewish and Zionist education and identity; his advocacy of civil marriage and public transportation on Shabbat dovetails with Rav Yosef Soloveichik's view that any form of religious coercion is counter-productive. Who knows what's best for Israel today? All I can conclude is that we must treat each other with love, or at least kindness and respect, no matter how sharp our differences and disputes-- we're all in the same boat, in life's brief excursion between infinities.
But meanwhile, most Jews are comfortable and free in western lands, where even their close relatives, employers, employees, teachers, neighbors, etc. are often non-Jews. Assimilation and intermarriage are rampant and a straight pitch for aliya, not recognizing their attachment to the diaspora, will bring little return; only extensive non-coercive Jewish education will convince many lost and potential Jews that Judaism is both unique and wonderful, that it's important to be Jewish (Avraham Burg). So Rav David Hartman claims that you must first teach the Jew in Dallas Judaism, if you hope to have him eventually settle in Jerusalem. But I feel that such teaching has much greater impact if done on a visit to Jerusalem, where the diaspora Jew is both temporarily detached from his day-to-day affairs, his absorption in non-Jewish civilization, and inspired by the emerging fulfillment of God's Biblical prophecies before his eyes. While not stressing or pushing aliya, we should at least suggest the possibility, to which some sensitive souls still respond. Open and worldly great Italian (or German and West Hungarian) orthodox rabbis may be a much better model to inspire today's Jews than those from Eastern Europe, mostly insular and persecuted, no matter how learned in Torah--
Translator Maxwell Luria, in his introduction to Elijah Benamozegh's Israel and Humanity ($35 from TOP), notes that Leghorn's Jews were distinguished for more than 3 centuries for art and wealth, scholarship and Kabbala. These fruits of urban civilization and Jewish culture flourished in an atmosphere almost uniquely free of the hostilities and compulsions that then beset Jewish life elsewhere... Leghorn never had a closed ghetto; by 1800, its 5000 Jews formed fully 1/8 of its population (they generously supported Ohr Hachayim's aliya, tho few accompanied him). The genial civility of Leghorn, the freedom from oppressive and demeaning restrictions, the relative ease with which Jews and Christians lived together-- all this permeated Benamozegh's spirit (cf. USA today). He was a proud and visionary Jewish thinker, with an exalted conception of his people's history and destiny, an austerely Orthodox and deeply learned rabbi, devoted without qualification to Torah, Talmud and Midrash, a penetrating mystic who constantly affirmed his preception of the centrality of kabbala in Jewish thought-- he was, nevertheless, also fully at home with Aristotle and Plotinus, Dante and Victor Hugo, Fichte and Renan... no Jewish thinker of his century asserted stronger claims for the "chosenness" of the Jews and their unique importance in the religious life of mankind; but neither did any relate to the "Gentiles", especially the Christians, with greater warmth, respect, and sentiment of kinship...
He shared the acculturation that was the result of over 2 millenia of continuous Jewish life in the same land. Unlike many of his counterparts in northern and eastern Europe, he did not fear secular learning as a threat to his Jewish orthodoxy; there was no obligation or even impulse for such an Italian Jewish thinker to have to choose between haskala-- the modernizing movement which welcomed secular studies-- and traditional rabbinic values. To be sure, Plato or Bossuet must necessarily occupy an inferior position to that of Torah, but they were nonetheless precious minds to be engaged, not to be perceived as threats to Jewish existence... the parallel between Benamozegh and the quattrocento humanists extends to their relative tolerance of other religions-- not, of course, in the sense that such religions were seen as equally valid alternatives to one's own, but rather that all serious creeds were felt to embody universal truths (as positive expressions of man's divine image?), and could therefore be encountered with civility and even respect, instead of the relentless hostility and fear that had characterised inter-religious relations in the West since the triumph of Christianity. Rav Leo Jung draws similar portraits of great Hungerian and German rabbis of the last 2 centuries in Men of Spirit.
Rav Pinchas Peli z"l posits 4 contemporary articles of faith, in the spirit of Benamozegh:
I BELIEVE, Ani Maamin, that is, may it be His Will that I believe, with full faith that: 1) our very existence here in the land of our fathers, in its physical aspects, has significance in the eyes of the Lord; it's a chapter in that Holy Writ progressively written before the Lord in every generation. 2) our particular existence as a people in its land indeed has universal significance, a model for saving the world of the Holy One, blessed be he, from human destruction and chaos (e.g. Bosnia and Madonna)-- "for the life of the world, of the entire universe, has the Living Lord planted in our midst". 3) the gathering of the Diaspora and the return of Zion in our days are part of that promised us via the prophets, from the Mouth of He Who called forth the generations from the beginning. 4) the time will come, and not far-off, that the promise "for from Zion shall go forth Torah and the Word of God from Jerusalem" will also be fulfilled thru us.
Peli succeeded Rav A. J. Heschel as the Jewish guide of Japan's pro-Israel and pro-Jewish Makuya movement; like Athens, Tennessee's Echoes of Emmanuel Noachide movement, they're bringing Christians back to their Jewish roots-- for info on Noachism, contact J. David Davis, POB 442, Athens, TN 37371-0442, Tel. (423) 745-0851, fax 423-744-9414, e-mail: BenNoahOO7@AOL.com
Vilna Gaon (Imrei Noam) teaches that all produce of our earth receives its blessing from the land of Israel. Thus we constantly recall the holy land in grace after meals, tho eaten in L.A. or Jo-burg, without any Israeli food. He translates the blessing before bread: "... Who brings forth bread (everywhere) from "Haaretz", The Land (of Israel-- Chidushei Hagra, Ber. 35; but Ps. 104:14 implies that "haaretz" simply means "the earth")". Israel itself, meanwhile a desert, will have extraordinary fertility, once the Jews return (Keth. 111-2, Sota 48, Ezek. 36, Jer. 5, Taan. 23). The eventual blooming of Israel (now) is incontrovertible evidence of the approaching end of exile (San. 108)-- from Zion Today-- a Torah Perspective, by Yoel Schwartz, $12 from TOP.
Several Biblical institutions depend upon the tribally structured presence of most Jews in Israel-- the Hebrew servant, houses of walled cities (25:29), a consecrated field (27:14ff), the sale and redemption of a tribal inherited field (25:24ff), the commandment to build a temple (Sefer Hachinuch, Truma-- it's not operative today), and the conferring of the status of "ger toshav", resident alien, on a non-Jew (Arachin 29a, Sefer Hachinuch). An idol-free non-Jew MAY live in Israel, IF he causes no harm; we needn't support him today, however, as a resident alien (Rashi). Perhaps we shouldn't encourage non-Jews to settle here until most Jews return, and manifest Israel's dormant holiness. Per Rambam, followed by Benamozegh and his pupil, Aime Palliare, we must teach non-Jews that GOD DID NOT CHANGE HIS MIND-- JEWS ARE SUBJECT TO THEIR PRIESTLY CODE, 613 LAWS, AND GENTILES TO THE 7 LAWS OF NOACH, TODAY TOO; there's NO need for any new religion (M.T. Kings 8:10).
TALMUDIC CHRONOLOGY and future predictions are found in A.Z. 9; R. Huna b. R. Joshua tells us how to figure out the forgotten sabbatical year date (9b)-- per Rashi, it was in 5017 (1257), per R. Hananal 5018 (1258)-- see Sefer Hachinuch, Tos. A.Z. 9b. So not only is the sabbatical year only rabbinic today, but even doubtfully so.
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B. THE BACKGROUND OF B'HAR
The Torah dwelt upon HOLINESS for the last 7 chapters; it's to permeate every aspect of Israeli life, that we be a "holy nation". This SHOULD BE the outcome of Israel's intimate contact with God, via His commandments-- a "kingdom of priests" (Ex. 19:6). Holy days sanctify time (no TV), and the holy place, the tabernacle, space; both dimensions merge in the sacrifices and agricultural offerings of the holidays, and are adjacent themes in our prayers and grace. Sacred time and sacred space also merge in sabbatical and jubilee years. The land of Israel and its crops become "holy"-- separated from the mundane-- every 7 years and every 50th year-- but only when most of Israel's people will return.
Last week's reading closed with the tale of the blasphemer, who pronounced God's Holy Essential Name, the Tetragrammaton, and/or cursed God (Rashi; see San. 55b-56a, M. T. Idolatry 2:7); his punishment is taught, together with the death penalty for murder. Both God's Name and Image-- the human soul-- are holy; a murderer forfeits his own soul-body connection. Damaging another's property or body, or killing his animal, entails monetary penalties. Human dignity and property rights depend on the existence of God-- an Intellect and "Personality", an absolute unity, beyond infinity, Who grants free will to man; freedom of will is itself a pre-condition for concepts of right and wrong, of laws and justice; God's universal paternity requires that the stranger be treated like the Jew (Hirsch-- peaceful Arabs too).
Torat Kohanim explains why sabbatical year laws are singled out as SPOKEN AT MT. SINAI-- they're a prototype; all their details are given with them-- all Torah laws were indeed so taught at Sinai (tho later repeated in the Tent of Meeting and at the Plains of Moav-- this is R. Akiva's view in Zvachim 115b; but Rebbe Yishmael claims that only the general principles of mitzvos were given at Sinai, the details in the Tent; cf. Git. 60a). Per Ibn Ezra, the above passage (25:1-4) WAS proclaimed at Sinai, but was placed here to connect it with the forthcoming covenant of The Land. Hirsch quotes maskil N. H. Weseley, a pupil of Rav Y. Eyfshitz-- God prohibited blasphemy in Ex. 23:27; its punishment wasn't stated, as no Jew would blaspheme, after seeing God's kindness and miracles. Only now, when the son of the Egyptian man did so, was the punishment declared-- stoning. Lest one think that the Torah's laws were also first given incomplete, we're informed that the complex details of the 7th and 50th year laws were revealed at Mt. Sinai. An entire nation wouldn't stop agriculture for a whole year, unless it knew beyond doubt that God Himself so commanded them. So Leviticus ends-- THESE ARE THE COMMANDMENTS WHICH GOD ORDERED, VIA MOSHE, TO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, ON MT. SINAI (27:34).
The Vilna Gaon, as Hirsch, valued Weseley and Mendelsohn's intelligent Biblical studies, tho rejecting much of their Haskalah thought; Seth Brody notes that both religious ecstasy and breadth of outlook characterised the Gaon and his pupils; they were intensely absorbed in Bible, kabala and science, tho their main study was talmud and halacha. The Gaon's last 20 days were spent with Rav Israel of Shklov, who then devoted his life to the Gaon's dream, rebuilding the land of Israel, uniting Misnagdim and Hasidim, despite many personal and communal tragedies (Men of Spirit, Jung). But many of the Gaon's professed spiritual descendants today lack his breadth and selectivity-- they view people and concepts as black and white, totally right or totally wrong. Valid thought must be topped by a black chapeau, not a skullcap whose little holes let new ideas enter the head. Torah and science remain apart. Misnagdim protested Chassidic emphasis upon heart over mind; intense prayer and emotional ecstasy, the traditional main female approach to God, often characterised hassidic males. Such a milieu would not produce a Vilna Gaon (Brody-- but maybe a Besht, Rav Nachman or "Moshiach Now"; the Gaon not only persecuted Chassidim mercilessly, but even refused to meet with the Baal Tanya to make a sulcha-- perhaps the present early Christian-like tendencies in Chabad confirm his worst fears; he also approved of giving stripes to, and abusing, a maggid who criticized Rashi's methodology-- cf. Rashi's critical grandson, Rashbam). Misnagdim stressed religious modesty, not to profane one's highest religious and interpersonal emotions by their public expression (Rav J. Soloveichik at a Boston 19th of Kislav dinner).
Hassidic Rav Yakov Yosef countered that misnagdic focus on intellect left many Jews out in a cold spiritual void-- hearts of Torah leaders, fathers, turned away from their children. Moshe left Kollel Sinai for The Golden Calf Disco! Lubavitch addresses both the dropout on a California beach and the poor Jewish porter in Morocco, each in their own language. Rav Shach responds that Habad has vulgarized Judaism to popularize it, e.g. using cheap rock and sport stars to lead their events. But he sends no one to the beach and the mellah, to bring back His lost children. No one can envision him as Moshiach Now! Hassidic masters taught that one has to get one's feet dirty to pull the wagon out of the mud!
C. A SYNOPSIS OF B'HAR
Jews are ordered to cease Israeli agricultural activity every 7th year; even uncultivated produce must not be harvested. Yet one MAY harvest, eat, and store his produce so long as some remains in the fields for any person or animal to eat. After that, he must remove from his house ALL stored produce-- some say for all to eat, others, to be destroyed, as Chometz before Pesach. Ramban expounds the relevant laws. 7 Sabbaths of 7 years each are counted (25:8). Joyful shofar blasts are sounded throughout Israel on Yom Kippur of the 50th year, even on Shabbat (Rashi)-- YOU SHALL DESIGNATE THE 50TH YEAR AS HOLY; YOU SHALL PROCLAIM D'ROR, LIBERTY, THROUGHOUT THE LAND TO ALL ITS INHABITANTS (Sefer Hachinuch-- only when most Jews live in Israel, by tribes). IT SHALL BE A "YOVEL", FOR YOU (only for Israelites-- Ibn Ezra). EACH MAN SHALL RETURN TO HIS POSSESSION (land) AND TO HIS FAMILY (freed slaves-- Rashi; 25:10). The YOVEL year is also subject to the 7th year laws, besides release of all Jewish slaves. Real estate, not previously redeemed, returns to the original tribal owner, without payment, except property in a walled city. If a son redeemed a field before the 50th year, it reverts to the father who sold it-- EVERY MAN UNTO HIS POSSESSION (Rashi).
D'ROR, LIBERTY, is derived from dur, dira-- dwelling; a former slave can now dwell anywhere (Rashi). Dror also means "a swallow"; it sings if free, but fasts and dies when captive (Ibn Ezra). Ramban connects d'ror to dor, generation (Ecc. 1:4; see Ramban, Writings I:163f), itself derived from rolling (ka-dur, ball), hinting at the return of past generations via reincarnation (as Moshe DeLeon's 1278 Zohar and Ari, vs. Saadya, Albo, etc., who label this a pagan belief).
YOVEL is a ram's horn, a shofar, a PROCLAMATION of great living messages about God and Man (Rashi). Per Ibn Ezra, it means a sending forth, letting go, of your slaves and land. Ramban agrees with him-- Rashi confuses YOVEL with a similar word for the ram itself, not its horn. Tho Rashi was a great talmudist, Ibn Ezra may have had much greater knowledge of Hebrew-- Rav J. Soloveichik told me that his grandfather, R. Chayim, was a better talmudist than Ibn Ezra or Rav Nachman! Ramban also explains YOVEL, per kabala-- "returning to your source". Hirsch similarly translates YOVEL as RETURNING SOMETHING TO WHERE IT BELONGS; he, as Rashi, connects this to a RAM, which bring lambs back home. He translates: "YOVEL, A HOMEBRINGER, IT IS AND SO SHALL IT BE FOR YOU"-- God's laws of the homebringing year are to induce internal revolution; man will then return home to God and his true Divine self.
Arye Kaplan translates YOVEL as JUBILEE YEAR, giving no source. JUBILEE may just be a transliteration of YOVEL, as Onkelos' Aramaic rendition-- "Yovala hi". Per Sporno, those who release land and slaves should be glad, with no regrets-- they'll be blessed by God; he who just got back his land should rejoice too, tho he can't use it for a year. He may translate YOVEL as JUBILATION.
DON'T CHEAT! One can sell only the use of his land until the next Yovel; if it's redeemed earlier, we deduct from the purchase price the value of its use for the years elapsed. The Torah thus warns: "DON'T OVERREACH ONE ANOTHER AND YOU SHOULD HAVE AWE OF YOUR (sing.) LORD (He knows when you deceive someone)-- FOR I'M GOD YOUR (pl.-- his too!) LORD (25:17)". A commercial sale of chattels is rescinded by an overcharge of a sixth; but a standard price is not presumed for unique land, nor for private sales of personalty, tho one should still not overcharge. These laws only apply to necessities of life, where an overcharge is not disclosed. Any action to hoard, or to manipulate prices of, staples, or to add middlemen's profits, instead of selling in a "farmers'market", is forbidden in Israel-- see M.T., Sales, Ch. 14, Ramban, and Sefer Hachinuch: 337-- the same Carmel wine sold at Bircat Rachel or Viznitz, popular haredi "no-frills" supermarkets, may cost almost double at Supersol; but their 2 for 1 specials are cheaper than similar items at Bircat Rachel or Viznitz!
WHEN YOU SELL TO YOUR NEIGHBOR OR BUY FROM YOUR NEIGHBOR... (25:14) teaches that Jews are to aid and patronize each other in business (Rashi). If the Jews perform God's statutes and guard and perform His laws, the land will be fruitful; YOU WILL EAT WITH SATISFACTION, and dwell there securely (today?). God promises a triple portion of food in the 6th year, to quell insecurity at the prospect of agricultural cessation in the 7th and 8th (not today, when most Jews still struggle in the difficult diasporas of Golders Green, Westchester County, etc.)
By not exercising permanent control over Israel's land, Jews demonstrate that all mankind are but tenants at will on God's earth-- both strangers and settlers (cf. Gen. 23:4). A man or his relative may redeem land, which he has conveyed, only after 2 years. A house within a walled city has only one year for redemption, after which its sale is binding. Perhaps the leaders of such fortresses must know just who will live there; then they can be properly mustered and trained for war.
Levites can always redeem land in their 48 cities, 6 being cities of refuge-- even an Israelite who inherited land from his Levite mother (see Lev. 25:32-4). All of Israel (Hirsch) is divided into cities-- residential areas, bordered by common parks or pastureland, surrounded by agricultural land. This arrangement, a national heritage, cannot be changed in Levite cities, whose green belts are inviolate. Non-Levite cities may convert their open areas to residential use, but not v.v.-- even an individual may not destroy housing in Israel (Arachin 33b; M. T. Shmita v'Yovel 13:5-6; cf. Yamit, modern urban planning, Meah Shearim vs. Ramot-- is it OK if you replace it with more or better housing?). Rav Riskin urges soldiers not to evict anyone, Jew or Arab, from their homes. All Jews should be able to live in Israel; its Messianic society will redeem corrupted human nature, which corrupts the rest of nature, inherently "very good". Hirsch says that a truly religious personality must combine Torah and agriculture, the God of Infinity with the Lord of Limited Nature. As Rashbam, he depicts Yissascher as a farmer and scholar. Zvulun does not support him-- he only does his spiritually depressing commodities marketing, as a favor to his holy brother (vs. Midrash Tanchuma, brought by Rashi-- see N. Leibowitz, z"l, on Zos Habracha).
One may sell hereditary land in Israel only due to dire need (Rashi). Don't wait for these special "new start" 7th & 50th years-- uphold a faltering fellow Jew now, lest he collapse into poverty (25:35, Rashi). In A World of Justice, Ch. 7 of Finding Our Way, Barry W. Holtz points out the centrality of tzdaka, charitable justice, in Judaism, and our obligation to seek out those who need help, not wait for them to come to us. He quotes Rambam (M.T. Matanot Aniyim 10:1): "We must be more careful in performance of the mitzva of tzdaka than in that of any other mitzva, for it is the mark of the righteous person, who is the seed of our father, Avraham... The throne of Israel cannot be established, nor true faith made to stand up, except thru tzdaka... nor will Israel be redeemed, except thru the practice of tzdaka". Giving one work is far greater than giving him charity (see ibid 10:7-14)-- cf. beggers in Mea Shearim, and at The Wall. No interest may be charged on any personal loan. "REVERE YOUR (Singular) LORD AND LET YOUR BROTHER LIVE WITH YOU. I'M THE LORD YOUR (Plural-- his too) GOD, WHO TOOK YOU (Plural) OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT, TO GIVE YOU (Plural) THE LAND OF CANAAN-- TO BE YOUR (Plural) LORD (25:38)". Don't use a fellow Jew, reduced to servitude, for menial or servile labor, e.g. "make-work", to keep him busy-- treat him as an employee.
No Jew may be sold as a slave chattel-- Jews are to serve ONLY God, "Who has taken YOU out of Egypt" (Lev. 25:25, B.K. 116b). Should Jews ideally be self-employed? Slaves from surrounding nations could be inherited-- it was generally WRONG to free them; they'd revert to pagan idolatry. They had a semi-Jewish status and could convert, if they were up to the awesome tasks of Israel, a "kingdom of priests", slaves to God. Human freedom is illusory, unless one transcends social and physical limits by interfacinng with The Infinite (Rav J. Soloveichik). A Jewish servant can always be redeemed, but only upon proper repayment to his owner, even if he's non-Jewish, for the time not served. The laws of slavery are not presently applicable. No objects of worship are to be set up in Israel (cf. idols in exhibits at The Biblelands and Israel Museums, glorification of the Dionysos mosaic). One may not bow down on stones, even to God, except in the Temple (Rashi). We thus put down paper before us, when kneeling on Israeli stone floors on Yom Kippur.
D. HUMAN SANCTUARIES
The Torah concludes and summarizes our portion-- YOU SHALL GUARD MY SABBATHS AND TREAT MY SANCTUARY WITH AWE, I AM GOD (26:2)-- this verse seems out of place-- sabbath and tabernacle weren't the preceding topics! Per Rav Z. Kanotopsky (NIGHT OF WATCHING), MY SABBATHS here refers to laws of the sabbatical and homecoming years, MY SANCTUARY to the individual Jew and the community of Israel, in whom God's Intimate Presence resides (Rashi & Ramban, Lev. 20:3; Sporno, Numbers 19:2). 7th and 50th year laws guard and protect Jewry against two degrading profanations of the human sanctuary-- poverty and slavery. One who keeps these laws himself becomes a tripartite mini-sanctuary, for--
1) he recognizes God as the source of his food, developing gratitude; this basic religious emotion is primarily and first developed vis-a-vis parents (the 5th Word, "Treat your father and your mother well", later transferred to spouses-- marry only someone who appreciates his/her parents?). 2) he realizes that his continued existence, and that of his people, his land, and universal man (see Avot 5:11-12), is directly dependent upon God's goodwill, granted to those who observe His laws. Should one only vote for such people in Israeli elections? 3) he realizes the basic equality of EVERYMAN, child of God, Who wants His kids to share and to give a fresh start to those who have fallen behind. Can one vote for someone, who is filled with disdain and hatred for other human beings, no matter how pious? All Jews who work the land get a sabbatical; they'll be able to devote a solid year to involvement in Torah-- a new higher national human sanctuary then emerges in the 8th year. The King reads the law to the entire people on Sukkos of the 8th year, a grand finale to the 7th year (Deut. 31:10).
Previous mentions of Sabbath and Sanctuary referred to holy days and tabernacle; sacred time speaks to the mind and heart; sacred space, replete with the concrete, attracts the senses of sight and touch. Sacred time is divided into three dimensions, all called The Sabbath of God. 1) THE SABBATH itself commemorates the past, pure Creation, before man sullied it. It also recalls God's other universal upheaval-- Exodus; He gives Everyman another chance via the Jewish holy nation-- RE-CREATION.
2) The festivals, also called SABBATHS, reflect more humanity's present tense-- between Creation and Meshiach. They portray God's interactive encounter with the Jews in the desert, in history, on the road back to Eden-- cf. Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim. Passover relives Exodus, including the crossing of the Red Sea, Sukkos commemorates Israel's desert development, and Shavuot their receiving His Torah. Tho they started living in sukkos right after Exodus, in spring, we recreate their experience in cool fall, when we wouldn't usually dwell in sukkos-- we then focus on the sukka's religious significance (Tur O. H. 625; it's a shame that so many mistaken Israeli habadniks, otherwise great religious enthusiasts, miss out on the great religious experience of sleeping, together with their wives, in the sukka, tho the Shulchan Aruch of the Baal Hatanya urges them to do so); Rav Yehuda Henkin notes that we must cut living plants for our sukkot and 4 species; perhaps the Lord of Nature prefers that we do this when they've completed a cycle of growth, in fall, and will grow again, rather than when they'd die young, in spring. Should a sensitive Jew eat young birds, kosher locusts, or fish and animals, especially calves, usually raised in cruel conditions? Also, as we rejoice over our fall harvest and savor our land, God reminds us of our beginnings-- desert sukkot. We thus bless God for the sukka experience only when we eat significant food there, tho sleeping in the sukka is an even stricter mitzva-- even a "snack sleep", a nap, must be slept in the sukka.
The blessing on dwelling in the sukka, made upon each significant distinct act of eating, may include all subsequent "dwelling" there, including sleep-- so we make a blessing on the continuous process of learning Torah only once a day; perhaps there's no blessing on sleeping in the sukka per se, as one can't be sure that he'll fall asleep (Tos. "shekvar", Ber. 11b-- but we make a blessing before sleep every night, despite the slight possibility that it won't happen). Some say that sleeping in the sukka is not a mitzva per se (e.g. the Rogatchover Gaon, vs. The Rav's Shulchan Aruch)-- one is only enjoined from sleeping outside the sukka; he may stay awake as much as he likes on sukkot, if he doesn't afflict himself on the happy holiday thereby.
3) The SABBATHS of the 7th and 50th years point to the great eschatological future, a return to Eden; Man will then really live as one who believes a kind God created him, everyone else, and the universe (see Ramban-- Lev. 25:2). Thus, thru observance of ALL 3 sabbaths-- Sabbath, Holidays, and Sabbatical and Jubilee years, Israel learns and teaches that God's the Creator, the Creator involved in history, and He Who's constantly creating a future of total Shabbat. Working the fields six years precedes the 7th year rest, as 6 days of work precede the Shabbat of Creation. Man's purpose in this world is holy involvement, not detachment-- "AS DAYS OF HEAVEN UPON EARTH" (Deut. 11:21), TOUCHING HEAVEN, TOUCHING EARTH (Rav A. Hacohen).
Rav Henkin concludes that the 7th year rest is not related to scientific soil fertility (cf. Men. 9:2), just as pork is not prohibited for health reasons (permission for non-Jews to work their Israeli land implies that the sabbatical and jubillee years are a reflective break in the Land's relationship to the Jewish people, not its physical rest; so most Jews must return home to Israel, for the Biblical Law to apply-- YF; cf. marital menstrual separation and exile; the aim of all such breaks is to make one yearn for, and appreciate, the suspended relationship, per Rav Azriel Ariel, in Machon Meir's parsha study). Mitzvot are to make us holy, not healthy and wealthy. Weekly shabbatot remind us that God created a holy world; so the 7th year reminds us that the land of Israel is specially His, specially holy (25:23). The Torah also personifies the land-- not YOU SHALL REST, but THE LAND WILL REST... (25:2, cf. 18:28, 26:34-5)-- as if the land is a sentient being; it is provoked and wearied when unruly Israelites scurry over it, ignoring its 7th year sanctity, until it finally ejects them. Eretz Yisroel has its own relationship with God. It's given to Israel as an ongoing loan, conditional upon their observance of Torah in it, e.g. the laws of the 7th year and sexual modesty. Judaism teaches us to anticipate structured time-- we count up to shabbat, shavuot and the sabbatical and jubilee years, precursors of that day which will be (and once was) entirely Shabbat (YF: Yovel, as Shavuot, is a holy, but ritual-free, #50, after 7x7).
Our days and weeks, our years and life, are spent counting, marking our position in our great drive forward to Messianic Eden-- "Teach us to count our days-- then we'll bring home a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90). Our task, in our so-limited visit to this earth, is not to just do good, but to use every moment and every resource to its maximum potential, for its greatest impact. To fiddle is good and nice, but not while Rome burns.
Rambam waxes poetic, in closing his Laws of Sabbatical and Homecoming Years (M.T. 13:12-23): "Why didn't Levi merit the inheritance of the land of Israel and the spoil (of its conquest), together with his brethren? Because he was singled out to worship God, to serve Him, and to teach His STRAIGHT paths (per Rav Kook, all paths lead to God, but some are long indirect detours) and RIGHTEOUS statutes (e.g. no more than about 20% taxes, no draft before 20-- cf. Israel today) to the masses, as said: `they shall teach your statutes to Yaakov (the masses?) and your Torah to Yisroel'*. Therefore they (the Levites) were separated from the ways of the world-- they don't wage war, AS DO THE REST OF ISRAEL (yeshiva students too! Leviim supply non-military service, sherut leumi, per M.T. 9:7; they only participate fully in those wars and spoils OUTSIDE of Israel proper, per Sifre Num. 31:4, Kid. 21b, Sotah 43a). They don't inherit (the land) or acquire (wealth) for themselves with their bodily strength; but they're God's hosts:-- `I'm your portion and your inheritance' (Num. 18:20)".
* perhaps Yisroel denotes the higher element of the Jewish people, who know God's statutes, but still need to learn the Torah's paths-- its spirit and general principles; cf. Isralight and Discovery, see Deut. 33:10.
RAMBAM CONTINUES (without our cultural bias against run-on sentences!): "And not only Levites, but every man who enters this world (coming from the world of pure spirit), whose spirit moves him, and whose intellect so intuits-- to be separated to stand before God to serve Him and to worship Him, to intimately know Him-- he who walked straight as the Lord (of nature) made him (basic human integrity, derech eretz, precedes Torah, transcendental experience), and cast from his neck the yoke of the many calculated goals, which the sons of Adam have sought-- behold he sancitifies himself, as holy of holies (a human sanctuary). God will be his portion and inheritance forever and will benefit him in this world with that sufficient for him, as He so benefited the priests and levites. Indeed, David, peace be unto him, says: `God is the portion of my inheritance, my cup (my income and delight). You guide my destiny even in the lowliest matters' (Ps. 16:5-- per Hirsch and his teacher, Chacham Yitzchak Bernays, zaide of Mrs. S. Freud)". Per Rav C. Pardes, Rambam, in this great counter-culture, anti-establishment, non-"balabatish" proclamation, means that GOD will help the neo-Levite in his work, NOT THAT HE SHOULD CAST HIMSELF ON PUBLIC CHARITY, JUST BECAUSE HE'S DEVOTED TO TORAH-- Rambam prohibits this! (T.T. 3:10). So Rambam describes an ideal scholar-saint (T.T. 3:9): "he does a bit of WORK each day, enough to exist-- IF he has nothing to eat; during the rest of his day and night, he's occupied with Torah".
YF: What about his family? Should they accept this? One talmudic rabbi let his family eat edible weeds, rather than interrupt his learning; the Vilna Gaon, himself a super scholar, approves-- would the Rambam and Besht? Was Rav Nachman right in leaving his family back home to support themselves by menial work, while he used the family savings to take a spiritual trip to the holy land? When he got there, he said, in effect, "That's it! I've got it!", and wanted to leave Israel immediately-- but his disciples prevailed upon him to linger awhile. Rambam's conclusion may reflect his view of the aim of the sabbatical year, to create AN ENTIRE NATION OF SCHOLAR-SAINTS, ALL OF WHOM WORK-- except the holy levites. But great rabbis differed in their evaluation of farming and business, as to which is the ideal livelihood (see Yev. 63a).
E. A KIND TONGUE
The talmud also derives from 25:17 the prohibiton of afflicting another, of hurting her feelings, with your speech, tho it's true. This follows a fortiori, kal v'chomer, from the prohibition of monetary deceit and miscalculation-- hurting one's essence, his feelings, is far worse than taking his peripheral possessions (Sefer Hachinuch). Likewise, money-making is a lower activity than body-building, which itself is below acquiring interpersonal moral wisdom, which, in turn, is below Knowledge of God, the sole source of human uniqueness (Rambam's perplexing Guide To The Perplexed, 3:54, on Jer. 9:22-3-- should we exercise 1/2 hour, learn Torah an hour and doven an hour every morning?). Don't remind a repentant sinner of his former life style, nor a convert of his origins. Don't call someone by a nickname (or "neke name" or "eke name", meaning "a surname" back in 1440), if it may hurt his feelings; if you call him by a nickname with a negative connotation, to ridicule him, rather than to express affection-- tho he's used to it, you may get a one way ticket to hell (gehenom; see B.M. 58b; some say only a one year ticket, for we do not believe in eternal punishment-- see M. T. Tshuva 3:14, Daot 6:8, Sh. Aruch Ch. M. 228:5). Don't attribute another's sickness to some moral lack (cf. Shas and Job's friends-- maybe God is just testing him or He isn't intervening at the moment).
WORDS SHOULD AID-- Don't send someone on a wild goose chase; warn potential victims of a con man (or bad doctrine, e.g. N'turei Karta, Kach and Meretz). Don't waste merchants' time with ?? of price, etc., when you can't or won't buy. Be careful with words to young children too; they have a right not to be teased, hugged, or touched against their wishes. It's hard to fix formulae covering all possible words of hurt and pain; the heart and intention is the essence-- FOR MAN LOOKS ON THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE, BUT HE LOOKS ON THE HEART (I S. 16:7). The rabbis expound the law in B.M., Ch. 4. Careful kind words bring life, blessing, and honor (Sefer Hachinuch).
THE VICTIM OF A VICIOUS TONGUE doesn't have to grin and bear it-- this may confirm the calumny. The Torah tells us to be pleasant to all, which helps prevent such attacks. If a nasty slanderer compels our reply, it should be firm, but in a pleasant and calm manner-- FOR ANGER RESTS IN THE BOSOM OF FOOLS (Ecc. 7:9). Just as I'm to kill first he who tries to kill me (San. 72a), so I may use all means to save myself from verbal attack. But some saintly people are afraid of losing self-control; so they don't even reply to insults (cf. Git. 36b). This is praiseworthy self-discipline, but not obligatory, perhaps not always even advisable.
Yet we close our main prayer: MY LORD, GUARD MY TONGUE FROM EVIL AND MY LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT (Divine help is needed-- most men fall into the trap of evil talk-- B.B. 165a). LET MY SPIRIT BE SILENT TO THOSE WHO CURSE ME AND MY SOUL BE (INERT-- Rav S. Schonfeld) AS DUST TO ALL (earth, tho stepped on, produces fruit; so our response to persecution should be creativity-- Rav Simon Lehrman, z"l). OPEN MY HEART TO (or VIA) YOUR TORAH, THAT MY SOUL PURSUE YOUR MITZVOS (rather than avoiding them). QUICKLY FOIL THE PLOT OF THOSE WHO DEVISE EVIL AGAINST ME AND RUIN THEIR SCHEME. It is an appropriate pendant to the Amida, which concludes with the prayer for peace-- a kind tongue is the best prospect for peace, per Sefer Hachinuch; Lehrman says that the withdrawal of 3 steps at the end of the shemoneh esrei prayer symbolizes a retreat, a stepping back, from one's own position, a prerequisite for peace. In the final prayer above, we omit the talmudic phrases SAVE ME FROM MISHAP, FROM EVIL IMPULSE, FROM AN EVIL WOMAN (no danger to those happily married!) AND FROM ALL EVILS THAT THREATEN TO COME UPON THE WORLD; they're also found in Ber. 17a, but not in the Munich Ms.
This personal prayer of Mar b. Ravina, which is included in the siddur of Amram Gaon, implies that we rely only upon God to avenge our insults, unlike the view of Sefer Hachinuch. Originally, every one made up their own tachanun, the reflective heartfelt prayer after the amida. Scanning the talmud, we find 11 such rabbinic postscripts to prayer. The only other one which implores Divine aid against vicious Jewish and non-Jewish enemies is that of Rebbe, a great Jewish leader, tho he had personal bodyguards (Ber. 16b); we recite it together with the AM blessings; but Rebbe does NOT pray for our passivity. Popular inclusion of something in the siddur, however, by one or many communities, is not a halachic decision as to its required practice or belief, e.g. the E-l Adon prayer, which implies that astral bodies have feelings and intelligence, a belief that Rambam apparently adopted from the Greeks (see M. T., Y. H. 3:9). Mar was very religiously strict, even as talmudic rabbis go (Ber. 39b, Shab. 61a); he fasted daily, except for 3 days a year (Pes.68b); Sefer Hachinuch notes the special reactions to calumny by such people, not necessarily a model for most folks.
Perhaps, per Sefer Hachinuch, Mar prays for strength to transcend calumny only WHEN we CANNOT successfully oppose it-- cf. Israel vs. suicidal terrorists and the amoral western media; perhaps it's the right focus just when we stress our helpless dependency upon God, following the amida prayer. Per Marasha, I pray that those who curse me will pay me no more attention than the earth, which they would not bother to curse. Per Tosofot, it means that we hope to be like indestructible, thus uncurseable, earth! Rav's pendant is our prayer for the new month; Rava's is our confession on Yom Kippur. The talmud continues with basic life philosophies-- "Abaye used to say: `A person should always be clever, but with awe; a soft answer turns away wrath; he should multiply peace with his brothers, with his relatives, and with every man, even the idolator in the shuk. Thus he'll be beloved upstairs and a delight here below, acceptable to his fellow creatures'. It was said regarding R. Yochanan b. Zakai that no man ever greeted him first, even an idolator in the shuk (a fortiori a monotheisic Arab; cf. distorted pietists, who shout angrily at tourists taking pictures at the Wall)."
F. HAFTARAT B'HAR is JEREMIAH 32:6-27
Jeremiah redeems land in Israel when everyone thought that The State of Israel was finished and its land worthless (cf. 1948); his act demonstrated faith in Israel's redemption from exile. The yovel message is self-redemption, return, on one's own initiative. So here too, God only informs Jeremiah of an upcoming encounter- "Your uncle is coming to try to sell you a field"-- without ordering him to buy it. Jeremiah himself sees the great holy Zionist lesson he can teach by buying the field on the eve of the 70 year exile, thus doing God's Will. Early chalutzim, tho non-religious on a conscious level, demonstrated this great faith in the eternal future of Israel; they sacrificed their lives to return and rebuild after 1900 years-- sheer insanity from a rational secular perspective, but beginning the Divine messianic era from a religious one, tho against all odds (& incompetence!). But Rav J. Soloveichik uses this passage to show that Jeremiah, as Avraham, does what God says, however irrational, without ?, and only tries to understand the commandment later (Nefesh Harav).
G. 3 Jerusalem Jottings
1) STOP, LISTEN & FOCUS: Rav Mordecai Gafni completes his profound, erudite and entertaining (a rare combo) lecture series on Judaism and Psychology at 8:30 PM on Sundays May 25, June 1, and June 8 at ICCY, 12a Emek Refaim (Monday May 26, June 2, and June 9, 8:30 PM, in Hebrew, at Machon Shalom Hartman, 12 Gedalyahu Alon). In his last lecture, he stressed that true love, both of Man and God, includes acceptance and perception of the unique, and thus ultimately not completely knowable, special aspect of Divinity of my intimate others; I must focus upon them and listen to them to achieve this; so I must make a conscious effort to love God amidst the horrors of this world. THE ISHBITZER REBBE notes that I then can reveal hidden elements in my beloved's soul, unknown even to her own parents. Then we realize that attempts to control those whom we love, including God, or predict their behavior, are futile, tho we can and should express-- but not demand-- what we desire of them for our own well being; cf. prayer. He/she who claims to know his mate completely doesn't love him/her, regardless of his/her kindness and devotion to the mate. Very similar concepts are found in Zen Master Thich Naht Hanh's Touching Peace, together with techniques to develop them. I hope to note and quote him within the next few weeks.
2) A few months ago I wrote about the Kahanist and Beyond Kahanist faculty of Jerusalem's Nachalat Tzvi Yeshiva's English Program, noting that supporters of Nachman Kahane and Dr. Baruch Goldstein would be quite comfortable there; while the Yeshiva felt that my comments were generally fair, they objected to this remark; their Hirschian Reasonable Rabbi Ross claimed that such teachers were only one part of their varied program; my impression, however, from those who studied there, was that they were the primary and predominant element. I guess that the small english program at the Yeshiva wanted to make sure that I wrote the truth, so they recently appointed an additional Kahanist instructor, Yoel Lerner; he's also the editor of Baruch Hagever, a collection of articles in praise of Goldstein and his massacre, and teaches Kahane's work, "The Jewish Idea", at Nachalat Tzvi. Enough said (but just as I was finishing this study, two very fine and refined women, about to convert to Judaism, came in; they have been studying at Nachalat Tzvi's women's program, where, they claim, there is no Kahanist teaching).
For the opposite, almost equally skewed, leftist viewpoint, read Mordecai Richler's This Year in Jerusalem. The famed novelist (e.g. The Apprenticeship of Dudley Kravitz) is the highly successful black sheep of a disfunctional, but very Orthodox, home (cf. Dr. Ruth Westheimer of Frankfurt-an-Main); his mother was the daughter of Rav Yudel Rosenberg, a famed scholar and popular author, close to Rav Kook, who translated much of The Zohar from Aramaic to Hebrew. She looked down upon his father, who came from humbler, tho equally pious stock; they were eventually divorced. Richler was treated with contempt, anger and hatred by his Orthodox family when he began to abandon Orthodoxy for the secular Habonim Zionist movement; had they not done so, he might not have left the fold and happily intermarried with a fine woman.
3) Bar Ilan University suffers the constant tension of ostensibly representing and promulgating the Torah, on the one hand, and, on the other, wanting to be a respected and respectable member of the local and international academic world, which, overtly or covertly, rejects the Torah and many of its values. As such, they must often host and honor folks who mock the values and beliefs of truly traditional Jewry. If anyone points this out, the tension is heightened. So one finds both extremes at Bar Ilan-- a Professoress of Mathematics who insists on separate male and female seating at her lectures ** (as was the case at a lecture of Dr. Burg in the Bar Ilan Torah studies building), and hardly Orthodox Jewish feminist Cynthia Ozack being the featured and respected anti-traditional guest speaker at a major campus event; their new Jerusalem studies program was inaugurated by a secular lecture on how the image of Jerusalem turned from beloved concubine to whore in all 3 monotheistic faiths! Eli Weisel spoke for B.I.U. (not B.Y.U.) last week at David's Tower; I wanted to cover his talk for my readers, but they wouldn't let me in w/o an invitation-- fair enough; they have every right to do so. As I had a few study sheets with me, I decided not to waste the time and gave them to some of the attendees as they entered from Jaffa Gate, including Weisel (I probably should have asked him to take me in with him!). Suddenly one of religious Bar Ilan's secular security guards appeared and ordered me not to "harass" the guests by offering them a parsha sheet; I pointed out to him that I was not harassing anyone, and that he had no authority to control the public sidewalk, and asked him to just let me dispose of my twor emaining sheets; he refused and threatened me, tho in a pleasant manner-- draw your own conclusions.
** In her engrossing, often profound, novel, A Time To Rend, A Time to Sew, she ("Rachel Pomerantz") portrays all haredim (the Nevei world) as saints and sages, and all religious Zionists as superficial non-committed Jews-- so far from the truth!
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