THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
You can also read previous studies on this site.
Israeli artist Avraham Ofek created a memorial to base gold, the source of curse and evil, in his epic murals at Haifa University, linking it to the tale of the Golden Calf. In one of the pinnacles, he replaced the rubbish heap of the abomination of gold and materialism, and on the summit placed, surprisingly, the Red Cow of Purification-- let the mother cow come and clean up her calf child's mess!
A. THE BACKGROUND, AND AN OVERVIEW, OF CHUKAS
Last week, Korach & Co., in a premature proclamation of spiritual democracy, attacked the political and religious establishment of Moshe, Aharon & Sons. God vindicated it-- THIS TIME. But power and fame can intoxicate and corrupt religious leaders too. So God next stresses the duties of Levites and priests-- tho they must be respected, they're public SERVANTS (cf. Israeli civil servants). God indeed warns the priests: DON'T PROFANE THE HOLY THINGS OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, THAT YOU NOT DIE (18:32). No cohen or levite may demand a Jew's priestly and levitical levies, even if he helps the Jew, e.g. in his harvest (Bech. 26b). I decide WHICH cohen or levite (or yeshiva) is worthy. The priest must treat his dues with sanctity. Despite these warnings, many of Aharon's priestly descendants were corrupt; high priests were suspected of Sadducee leanings. Many of Korach's descendants, e.g. Shmuel & Shlah, were indeed saintly model Jews.
B. IN, & OUT OF, TUNE RABBIS
Holy Cohanim, true religious leaders, must descend from their pious pedestals to share the trials and tribulations of ordinary folk (cf. the Bostoner Rebbes); they must raise fallen spirits, tho they somewhat contaminate their own, in the process, e.g. when they prepare the purifying red cow (see C). So Holy Moshe leaves Sinai's peak, the kollel of kollels, to rescue Jews from the golden calf disco; so adults must take time off from their exalted pursuits to help children begin their own upward climb. A neglected child may resent that very worthy public or pious activity which is the immediate source of his neglect by daddy or, especially, mommy-- charity begins at home (Rambam, M.T. Laws of Tzdaka); ideally, children are involved in their parents public work and mission, hopefully perpetuating it-- cf. the kids of those who host lots of guests on Shabbat and the Soloveichik dynasty; tho never hugged by his father, reflecting highly questionable non-Jewish Lithuanian coolness, little Yosef Soloveichik got all of Daddy's interest and attention in developing his innate intellectual talent; but average children usually can't enter their parents' work world in our sophisticated modern workplace; the parent's occupation may also require different traits and abilities than those of the child-- daddy's temperment may be that of a nuclear physicist, sonny's that of a baseball player.
If one receives poor little Rambam's message from his daddy, that you're only worthy of love and attention if you're intellectually bright (little Rambam, who never saw his mother, was really thick, and despised by Daddy, until 7-- see Shalshelet Hakabala), it's hard to have self-respect and good interaction with others. He indeed concludes, at the end of his Introduction to the Mishna, that our Father in Heaven also only values the rare great sage, the opposite of the Besht's (best?) teaching. On the other hand, one's spouse and children may simply not be on the transcendant level to share his/her ideals and missions.
So today too, mothers should be primarily committed to their husbands, their de facto children (Rav Kanotopsky, in our Tazria study), and, even more so, to their biological de jure children-- a never ending task; even in her old age, the woman of valor, whose mouth always emits wisdom, a Torah of kindness upon her tongue, won't eat the bread of idleness (Prov. 31:10f). Young children especially need their mothers and their spirit building home sanctuary; fathers' basic task is to fight the difficult, exhausting and never-ending war of raising up the rough-and-tumble public sector, and conquering and channeling nature and knowledge-- tho we must all develop our opposite-gender sub-motifs too; it's very hard to juggle full participation in the opposing worlds of nurturing and conquering; also our society's workplace is not designed to do so-- perhaps it should be. Today's interactive media enable even one basically homebound to interface with the whole world. Yet a woman educated Western style, to clone a male professional, may not be able to devote herself to her family to the same extent as a woman raised traditionally and Jewishly; but she can at least raise her own daughters otherwise, a great tikkun.
Rav Dovid Aharon of Isralight, (O2) 627-489O, probably Jerusalem's best Jewish beginner's program for independent young folks, describes child-rearing as a process of self-"birur", clarification-- as I see my children grow, under my influence, I sense how each continues certain aspects of my own personality and life style, blended with that of my spouse and our ancestors; in raising and trying to shape them, I must openly confront myself, reflect critically on who I really am, and shape up myself. Yet my children have their own unique personalities, experiences and environments-- God constantly proclaims to each of us our own vocations and tasks of the moment; we must, without violating the impersonal objective collective laws of God (vs. Reform and Conservative), simultaneously express our own unique Divine service and personalities (vs. rigid Orthodoxy), sensitive to His living message in each situation confronting us (Mila's superb scholar and director, Rabbi Mordecai Gafni, from his tape: Finding God in a Post-Modern World).
Today we need "street rabbis", who meet alienated " street Jews" where they're at, both physically and spiritually, and bring them to their Torah-oriented homes (Rav S. Carlebach). Synagogue Jews can take care of themselves! But a rabbi who appears only at formal ceremonies, delivering periodic condemnations, inspires no one. Rav Yisroel Lau reaches out on TV, and Rav Grossman in Migdal Emek's discos; imagine what Jerusalem's chief rabbis (or, even better, Esther Jungreis or Avraham Fried) could accomplish in Talpiyot Discos on Friday night. Aharon's descendants must perpetuate his peace and love to merit their priestly gifts. Korach errs in envying Aharon, who shares so many problems of a fallen difficult people. He envisages a much more refined priestly life of gifts and honor for delivering elegant sermons and intricate discourses, for supervising ritual-- Herr Rabbiner, Chief Grand Rabbi Korach, and his Rabbanit didn't want the true role of Aharon, of a Bostoner Rebbe, of Rav Mordecai Sheinberger and his late brother Avraham, of Rav Mordecai Machlis, and their families-- opening their homes and hearts even to the most ignorant and unfortunate.
Korach's tormented by the cohen's irreplaceable role in the red cow ritual (Midrash Piliah 87); Levites would someday act as priests in other realms, as did Shmuel-- why not re the red cow too? But, unlike Korach, Aharon was involved in the Golden Calf fiasco, mistakenly trying to raise the fallen Jews thru it-- thus he can prepare the red cow, to restore those fallen in spirit. Perhaps only Aharon's progeny could combine sublime transcendence with deep involvement, even with lowlife-- cf. R. Yochanan's affirmation (Meg. 31): EVERYPLACE YOU FIND GOD'S AWESOME GREATNESS, THERE YOU FIND HIS HUMILITY. The Tanya (9a) uses this phrase for God's self-constriction into the world of physicality; the Biblical instances quoted, however, refer to His empathy with those most unfortunate and powerless.
TOLDOS YAAKOV YOSEF was the first Chassidic broadside against the ashkenazic religious establishment; Rav Yaakov Yosef claimed that his 18th Century misnagdic cohorts were alienated from the common folk (and the inner light of Torah?-- see I.). God is sending Messianic Eliya, who will turn hearts of fathers toward their children-- THEN children's hearts will return to their fathers (Mal. 3:23); rabbis must turn to the folk, with empathy-- THEN Jews will return to Torah and its teachers. Rav Shlomo Carlebach and his counter-culture followers led and lead Jews toward redemption, with openness, love and friendship to all; perhaps God recently hinted at their ultimate success in achieving true spiritual democracy, despite the spiritual establishment-- they proclaimed Korach's ultimate dream of equality in spiritual leadership, just before they read his tale at the Wall, last year, when no cohen was present-- "Let a Levite stand up in the place of the cohen..."!
LEARN, BUT LIVE TOO! Rav Tzadok pleads: "Don't separate from the community. Do not make it (Torah) a crown for self-glorification, nor a spade to dig with-- so Hillel used to say: `He who serves himself with The Crown-- he fades away'... anyone who benefits from words of Torah commits (spiritual) suicide" (Avot 4:5-7).
All men must both make a good living and feel significant; a poor man's considered a dead man, w/o options (Ned. 7b, Zo. B'ra. 119a). "Beautiful is the study of Torah together with worldly cultivation; any Torah unaccompanied by work will wither and lead to sin-- Avot 2:2"; but one's yearning for power and position should be satisfied by, and confined to, secular realms.
BUT LIVE TO LEARN TO LIVE: Rav Meir notes the opposite danger: "Minimize your financial pursuits and be involved with Torah, and be of humble spirit... (Avot 4:12; don't care about fancy cars, houses, etc.-- Meam Lo'ez)". So Rambam, despite his polemic against "Torah careers" (Avot 2:2), implies that one should work only a few hours a day (M.T. T.T. 1:12, 3:9; cf. Avot 1:15, 2:5; a high-tech religious State of Israel could be so structured)!
LEVITES SING!: In the last Psalm, #150, David urges us to praise God with lyre, drums, dancing, etc. (cf. #149); few Torah teachers today (except returnees and Hasidim) do so-- popular Torah musicians, however, often lack depth of learning and religious involvement. When Torah and music merge, the result can have tremendous impact (cf. David, R. Nachman, Chabad, Shlomo). Teachers lacking musical ability can invite musicians to join them; David Perkins' un-orthodox soul music blends beautifully with Rav Mordecai Gafni's un-orthodox Orthodox Torah. I don't sing well-- so I opened my Shavuot eve talk two years ago with spirited inspiring holiday singing, lead by Rav Marcus and his bright inquisitive students from Reshit Yerushalayim-- cf. Kol Nidre's soulful tune, opening Yom Kippur's soulset.
C. A SYNOPSIS OF CHUKAS
THIS IS THE CHOK OF THE TORAH, WHICH GOD HAS COMMANDED, SAYING: "SPEAK TO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL THAT THEY BRING YOU A COMPLETELY RED, BLEMISH FREE, NEVER-YOKED COW" (19:2, see I.). The cow is processed by the assistant high priest, Eliezer-- he either slaughters it, or supervises its slaughter. In later ages, the high priest, an ordinary priest, or a team of 7 priests, prepared the cow (Chizkuni). CHOK is a law beyond HUMAN reason (Rashi, R. Bachye, vs. Sporno, etc.). But Hirsch views Chukim as those Divine Laws, which reflect basic components of human existence-- they indeed yield the GREATEST insights into reality, but only if we probe their SYMBOLIC spiritual and existential messages; yet we must meanwhile master all the details of God's proscribed behavior for man, and perform them-- I won't allow a child to put his finger in a socket, tho he hasn't yet studied electricity, and thus can't understand why not. So Saadya claims that Torah DOES correspond 100% to man's HIGHEST reason, but one must follow it as an absolute Divine fiat, until his mind merges with it; observance itself leads to understanding. We don't waste our short life on a long tenuous search for truth; well entrenched bad actions and habits would develop meanwhile, even inhibiting our finally understanding Torah-- cf. Jerusalem's constantly seeking old and elderly Cong. M'vakshe Derech, who still have not found their way. So we read: "HE TOOK THE BOOK OF THE COVENANT AND READ IT IN THE EARS OF THE PEOPLE-- THEY DECLARED: `ALL THAT GOD'S ORDERED (chukim too!), WE'LL (first) DO AND (then) WE'LL UNDERSTAND'" (Ex. 24:8).
Dr. Tzvi Yehuda (Tradition 18:2) defends Chazon Ish's rejection of newly discovered, or rediscovered, halachic sources. They might shed light on a system of pure abstract law, e.g. physics; they cannot, however, change the gestalt of holy Jewish living-- established thru the ages, by the sages, with those traditions at their Providential disposal-- cf. kitniot. Halachic decisions can't be ripped out of the fabric of traditional Jewish life, without destroying the whole garment-- but cf. garments infected by tzaraat, where the infected portion is sometimes removed; even esoteric revelation of God's Will cannot change determined and accepted exoteric law. However, we see secular life constantly changing, with new discoveries and outlooks-- is its basic outlook seriously affected? A century ago, few would seriously consider higher professions for women, female sufferage (vs. Rav Kook), labor laws, TV, universal education, vaccination, antibiotics (developed only after WWII, dramatically reducing the fear and likelihood of early death, e.g. from pneumonia), computers and Zionism. Perhaps God reveals new sources at the appropriate historic moment; indeed, rabbis preserved minority views in case a later court needed them to change the law. This is not "Divine Interference" in the halachic process (see Tradition 1992-3, re Rabbinic Authority and new sources).
We must distinguish halacha from silly or antiquated folk customs, superstitions and garb-- we're not, and should not be, 18th or 19th century people in the 20th century; it's a disgrace to God's good Name and a rejection of the great gifts of knowledge and technology which He has bestowed upon modern man, predicted indeed in the Zohar. Rav A. Y. Kook proclaimed that we must renew the old, while simultaneously sanctifying the new-- "Newness" (e.g. new grain) is NOT forbidden by the Torah, as suggested by Chasam Sofer-- one must just first bring the new grain as an offering before God. The Torah's blessing, indeed, is that we will ingest good old stuff, e.g. aged wine, while also replacintg worn out stale old stuff with fresh new stuff, properly sanctified (Lev. 26:10).
D. WHY NOW, RED COW?
The red cow purification ritual is discussed here, in the 40th desert year-- but the first one was prepared on 1 Nissin, Year 2, when all Jews had to be ritually pure for the 2nd passover sacrifice. Sabbath, Red Cow, and Civil Laws were given even before Sinai (San. 40; Rashi, Ex. 15:25). But it's placed here, due to mass contact with the dead sinners of Korach & Co. (Chizkuni)-- yet 3000 Jews died long before, at the Golden Calf Disco! God may now be preparing Israel to confront the shattering deaths of Miryam and Aharon (cf. the Rebbe and Shlomo), leading to other disasters (S. R. Hirsch-- see Ibn Ezra, Abarbanel).
E. HIRSCH & HENKIN
Rav S. R. Hirsch says that the red cow is an EXPIATION-FROM-SIN OFFERING (19:17); yet it's slaughtered OUTSIDE the Temple precincts, on the Mt. of Olives, just FACING the Temple Mount. Who sinned? To prepare it is a good deed; those treated with it may be unclean by accident-- e.g. someone suddenly died near them. Rashi indeed doesn't take SIN OFFERING literally-- 19:9; yet he views the cow as atonement for the golden calf, the sin of confusing eternal spirit with temporary physicality *. Hirsch postulates an AUTOMATIC "SIN", a spiritual affliction, distancing man from God, upon his/her/it's (in the case of a hermaphordite) intimate contact with death; this renders one ritually impure, temporarily unfit for high Temple experiences. FREEDOM OF CHOICE, the basis of all human dignity and morality, FEELS illusory, upon close contact with the absolute final LACK OF CHOICE innate in PHYSICAL death. One feels: "FOR ACCIDENTS (OF NATURE-- YF) ARE (THE FATE OF) THE SONS OF MAN AND ACCIDENTS (THAT OF) THE ANIMALS... AS THIS DIES, SO DOES THIS... THE SUPERIORITY OF EARTHMAN (YF) OVER BEAST IS NON-EXISTENT, FOR (or WHEN) ALL ARE TRANSIENT (Ecc. 3:19)". The red cow purification rite reminds one the soul's completely free-- immortal, it CAN be developed to transcend death; indeed, it then brings bodily resurrection, a 1000 year "curtain-call", per Rambam, a prelude to a pure unified soul-world to come. But step #1 is acknowledging inevitable death, even for the most vital life (vs. Project Mind-- T. Kun-- $20 from TOP)--
Our bovine public offering radiates life and vitality-- she's all red (reddish brown-- Saadya), the color of life-blood (one hair can be overlooked), at least 3 years old, when she can bear calves (not a "heifer"), and with no bodily defect. She's also alive in spirit, never yoked (Hirsch; cf. employees). She's presented to Eleazer the priest, who leads her OUTSIDE the camp and slaughters her "IN HIS PRESENCE" (19:3), i.e., with great concentration, "presence" of mind (Hirsch; per Ramban & Rashi, the priest only OBSERVES the slaughter). The blood's sprinkled 7 times toward the Sanctuary, the PLACE to develop soul-awareness, sensitivity to the eternal Divine spirit latent in all temporal matter. 7, as shabbat TIME, symbolizes the unity of heaven and earth, body and soul. DURING (Sifre) the burning of the cow, cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet (via dye from worms) wool, are added. Per Hirsch, they're the highest and lowest forms of life, vegetable and animal; they teach that all alive ultimately die, even this so vital cow and Miryam & Aharon, now at the brink of death. A ritually clean person takes the ashes to a ritually PURE PLACE. They're ADDED TO a vessel of LIVING WATER, e.g. from a running spring, suitable for ritual purification, a mikveh. So Torah purifies and develops the soul, temporarily dwelling in a body, ultimately to disintegrate into dust. Torah enables man TO BLEND HOLY ETERNITY WITH TRANSIENT MORTALITY.
All who prepare the cow become ritually unclean; but they help others, far more tainted by death, to return to life-- Hirsch. Objects and persons touched by one defiled by a corpse themselves become unclean. On the 3rd and 7th days, Mr. Unclean is sprinkled with this liquid, using 3 branches of hyssop. 3 symbolizes biological life, created on the 3rd day-- my involvement in this world must continue DESPITE my awareness of my impending death. Then Mr. Unclean and his clothes immerse in a mikveh. He experiences the messages of the red cow PREPARATION, as he is sprinkled: his biological existence (the world of the 3rd day), limited by God's natural law, is to be transformed by consecration of his Divine spirit (the world of the 7th day). Tainted by death, he must first rededicate ordinary life to God; only then is intimate God-connection, via the Sanctuary, possible; he's not to use religion and death to escape from life and morality-- Korach may express such a desire, in allegedly asking Moshe to rule on a garment completely blue and a house filled with Torah scrolls (TT). Body and soul must unite! A WOMAN OF VALOR (Ps. 31:10) is a metaphor for a body madly in love with its soul (Malbim)! So blessings engender awareness of miracles-- e.g. God's providing food via agriculture, and the functioning of our bodies and the universe (Hirsch). If he misses the 3rd day, the 1st day of sprinkling is called the "3rd" day, followed 4 days later by the "7th" day.
We might then translate 19:2: "This (The Red Cow) is the basic rule or principle of the Torah"-- it teaches man how to deal with his temporary limits, especially death, until Israel, God's Kingdom of Priests, restores all Mankind to Eden-- their natural eternal abode.
* Gila Manolson applies the above message of the orgiastic Golden Calf, physical externality vs. inward spirituality, in defining and expounding the basic Jewish concept of tzniut, modesty, in her deep, but easy to read, new book-- Outside Inside, A fresh look at tzniutl ($10 from TOP); I'll review it with next week's haftara, the Good Lord willing.
"Solomon understood the entire Torah, except the laws of the Red Cow" (Lev. Rab. 19:2, Yal. Sh. 759 on Ecc. 7:23-- unfortunately, Hirsch wasn't yet written). Some non-Jews ridiculed the laws of the red cow-- how could it both purify the unclean and contaminate the pure?! But Rav Yehuda Henkin notes that many things in God's great universe indeed produce opposite effects, e.g. fire, which both softens and tempers; medications may harm the healthy; caffine can either wake you up or put you to sleep, depending on the quantity; even Torah study and observance itself, per our tradition, can either elevate or destroy a person, per their mindset and heartset (Deut. 4:44, per Yoma 72b). Human interaction ends with death, the ultimate terrifying loneliness of a social being. One defiled by a corpse is thus filled with existential loneliness. Those dealing with the red cow's' ashes assume his impurity; but the fraternity and friendship they display, the antithesis of death, mitigates their brother's trauma (cf. the mitzva of visiting and consoling mourners). A ritually defiled person usually purifies himself only with water, the source of life, a cleansing, revitalizing force. Here, however, a person defiled by one carcass is purified by another; we fight death with death! Ashes, however, don't decay; their comforting message-- death's not open-ended. Bodily decomposition has a terminus ad quem; the elements remain in this world (cf. Gen. 3:19), having a certain immortality. So too, human nature isn't totally lost in death; the soul lives on to play a future role. The Rebbe, the Rov and Shlomo may be working even harder Upstairs!
But, Per Ariel Fogelman, this is scant consolation; ashes disintegrate too; it's like telling someone: "Don't worry-- once you're dead, you can't die again!" One who hasn't accepted "the yoke" (life as a divine task) will also be "without defects"-- he'll never see his own faults (The Seer of Lublin). "For there's no righteous man (involved) in this earth, who shall do good (be an activist), without (some) sin or error (Ecc. 7:20; cf. IK8:46; 2Ch.6:36). Per Abarbanel, the red cow's a metaphor for Israel, shining in its eventual victory over death and corruption; his imaginative exposition seems tenuous, as Sporno's, that the ritual teaches us that all extremes are sinful. Purification rites are difficult to perform, in order to discourage people from contact with the dead (B'chor Shor), and from frequenting the Temple, when they should be working to improve the world (Rambam, Guide; this may also explain why sacrifice is limited to the Temple, not easily accessible, except for holy Jerusalemites-- cf. those who hang about the Wall 40 days). Yochanan b. Zakai denies that the dead defile, and that the waters purify, in reality-- it's all a Divinely commanded educational game. Yaacov Levi wants to import to Israel red African cattle, whose meat is leaner and more healthful, also advancing the possibility of breeding perfectly red cattle.
F. THE SYNOPSIS, CONTINUED
Metal objects touching the dead DO NOT convey uncleanness in an enclosure; in other respects, they act as a corpse-- Ramban says it's COMMON SENSE! No priest could enter ANY building otherwise-- God would NEVER make such a law! Logical matters (svorah) need no Divine confirmation (see N'mukei Yosef, B.B. 47b; Ket. 22a; Ber. 23b; NOT IN HEAVEN, E. Berkovitz; Rav David Hartman claims that halachic details must be informed and guided by both agadic principles and ideals, and one's intuitive sense of right and wrong; his example was halachic prohibitions on taking a small child for a walk, where there is no eruv, which often, de facto, turn Shabbat into an ordeal, whose end is gladly anticipated-- clearly not a desirable state (see Sefer Hachinuch, "H" infra). Because I attended Hartman's rabbinic seminar, our study is late this week-- I'm always in conflict over gathering more material and deepening and refining the study, and getting it out in ample time. My apologies to those who get it at work and don't work Fridays. Rav Eugene Korn of The Hartman Institute does a broad and deep overview of halacha and morality in Tzelem Elokim and The Dialectic of Jewish Morality in Tradition, Winter 1996). Ramban explains ritual purity the best he can, given that WE'VE NOT REALLY KNOWN RITUAL PURITY IN THE IMPURE EXILE (e.g. Rome, Bagdad, Troys, Mayance, Boro Park, Golders Green, Fez, San Jose)-- MAY GOD (and we all) SPEEDILY END IT!-- on Tisha B'Av, proclaim in your synagogue: "One Way, $799!"
CH. 20: the 38 years of Israel's desert wandering are briefly described (Ibn Ezra; 33:19-36). In Nissan, the 40th year, Miryam dies at Kadesh, Tzin, and Israel's portable water supply (from her magic well-- Avot 5:9) dries up; she doesn't even get to see Israel; no public mourning for her is recorded. Rav Ammi teaches that the death of the righteous, as the preceding red cow, is a source of atonement (M.K. 28a). The new generation, whose fathers (not mothers!) died, also demonstrated against Moshe and Aharon; they feared a tragic end to Exodus, on the eve of Israel's entry to Israel (the Satmar Rebbe predicted that the State of Israel would last only 40 years-- he was, thank God, wrong; a group of fine Netiv Meir yeshiva boys visited the Trisker Rebbe's grave in Poland, where they prayed and danced; they were ridiculed by Satmar visitors, who told them that they, modern religious Zionists, had no place there; the gentile caretaker of the grave intuitively sensed the far higher religosity of the Israeli boys, tho they may not have been quite as zealous in rejecting other Jews' kashrut). Both Miryam's ecstatic song and her tragic death are followed by Jewish qvetching about water.
God told Moshe: TAKE THE STAFF AND GATHER THE COMMUNITY, YOU AND AHARON, YOUR BROTHER. SPEAK (Pl.) TO THE STONE BEFORE THEIR EYES (see The Living Torah for WHICH staff and stone). IT WILL GIVE ITS WATERS AND YOU'LL EXTRACT WATER FOR THEM FROM THE STONE... MOSHE AND AHARON GATHERED THE CONGREGATION... AND HE SAID TO THEM: "LISTEN NOW, REBELS! SHALL WE BRING FORTH WATER FOR YOU FROM THIS ROCK?". MOSHE LIFTED UP HIS HAND AND TWICE SMOTE THE ROCK WITH HIS STAFF; MUCH WATER EMERGED... GOD SAID TO MOSHE AND AHARON: "AS YOU DIDN'T BELIEVE IN ME (or CAUSE THE JEWS TO BELIEVE IN ME-- see Ramban) TO SANCTIFY ME IN THE EYES OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, YOU SHALL NOT BRING THIS COMMUNITY TO THE LAND WHICH I'VE GIVEN THEM." THESE ARE THE WATERS OF MERIVAH, STRIFE, WHERE THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL STROVE WITH GOD AND HE WAS SANCTIFIED AMONG THEM (20:8-13)--
AMONG THEM refers to Moshe & Aharon, whose punishment sanctifies God (Rashi, Ibn Ezra)! Per Ramban, it refers to the people, who saw this public miracle-- only the elders witnessed the previous rock fountain (Ex. 17:6). Rashi, echoing a Talmudic opinion, claims that Moshe & Aharon were to address, not smite, the rock. Ramban responds: "THESE ARE WORDS OF AGADA, BUT NOT PLAUSIBLE"-- Why else did God order: TAKE THE STAFF? (see Bernays infra). Per Ibn Ezra, Moshe sinned in striking twice-- he hadn't really focused the first time; Ramban: that's not "lack of faith" (but the latter might engender the former). Rambam: Moshe's anger was his sin; the folk wrongly concluded that God was angry too! (8 Chs., 4)-- Ramban: God doesn't even mention Moshe being angry! Both God and Moshe often castigated the rebellious Jews. Spirited Ramban calls Rambam "OUR TEACHER", his view "VANITY OF VANITIES"! (cf. today's attitudes to rebbes and roshei yeshiva).
An "angry rabbi" (cf. Jerusalem & Bnei Brak) is not really at one with God, Who inspires only joy (Maharal; see I.)! Ramban finally accepts R. Chananal's view-- Moshe & Aharon sinned in saying: "Shall WE bring forth water...", rather than "Shall GOD...". Albo: Moshe should have performed a miracle right away, without even waiting for God, as he did re Korach-- Arama's response: HERESY!-- God's servants NEVER take any unauthorized action (see Josh. 10:14). Hachacham Yitzchak Bernays was Mrs. S. Freud's (Martha Bernays') zaide, her father's father; her father was a modern orthodox businessman; his bitter brother became a Christian and cut himself off from his people and family; Bernay's third son, the professor, was a founder of the Conservative Breslau Seminary, who refused to eat non-kosher food in the high level homes and salons to which he was invited; his liberal views were attacked by Hirsch, YB's pupil, who quotes his teacher here:
In Exodus, God performed OPEN miracles for helpless ex-slaves-- Moshe had to STRIKE the rock to get water shortly after. Now, however, a new free generation is to conquer Israel, themselves to do the seemingly impossible (cf. 1948, 1967). God ALREADY BUILT INTO NATURE everything needed for their success-- so Moshe just had to show where the water was, with his pointer-staff (cf. Rashi, the Negev); they'd extract it naturally.
Per Rashi, Re'em and Maharal, Moshe had to search for The Rock of God, while the Jews waited; if it takes too long, they'll suspect him of just searching for a spring; but if he picks the wrong rock, he's in real trouble with God! Anxious (i.e. "lacking faith"), he blows his cool, can't find The Rock, and expresses his anger; so today's religious leaders must retain calm steadfast faith in finding the water of Torah and faith within even the stoniest of Jewish hearts (from BUB). Otherwise prolific, anti-Zohar, and saintly Shadal refused to comment here-- Moshe sinned once, but rabbis had already ascribed 13 sins to him-- enough! YF: God saw Moshe's gradual burnout-- He retired (not punished) him, BEFORE truly embarrassing incidents would occur; so He retired angry disillusioned Eliyahu-- the message in God's model is to intervene BEFORE a crisis point is reached; cf Deut. 1:37-- GOD WAS ALSO ANGRY WITH ME BECAUSE OF YOU (the Jews) SAYING: "YOU TOO SHALL NOT COME THERE". Some midrashim depict Moshe as reluctant to die, but preferring death to being jealous of his disciple, Y'hoshua, God's new confidant & prophet. See Ohr Hachayim's extensive commentary on Moshe's "sin"-- he claims that the Messianic era would have arrived soon, had Moshe entered Israel.
The Jews unhappily detoured, when ALL the people (Ramban) of Edom-Esau, their brothers, refused to let them pass thru their land, a short cut to Israel. But God told Israel not to attack Edom (Deut. 2:5). Loving peacemaker Aharon died on Mt. Hor, mourned by ALL the people for 30 days (unlike judgemental Moshe, who closed down Aharon's Golden Calf Disco-- only some mourned him; see Deut. 34:8). So I, as so many Jews and non-Jews everywhere, shed tears at the passing (Tammuz 3) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, so filled with love and concern for all, as was Shlomo. I wasn't his follower, and deemed claims that he was Meshiach ridiculous (no one even proposed Rav Shach). Yet I was tremendously impressed by his great leadership, kindness and efforts to build a better world for everyone. While he left no children (his non-observant Zionist-communist brother died years before him), many mourn him as orphans (Rav I. Lau, possibly a more probable candidate for Meshiach). Had the Rebbe and Rav Soloveichik settled in Israel, our present s(S)tate might have already become a true light unto the nations.
Aharon's death is linked to Moshe's sin; perhaps Miryam and Aharon weren't allowed to survive Moshe, after wrongly implying that they were on his level. Tho Aharon's not shown Israel, he sees his son, Eliezer, take over his role, unlike Moshe. Hearing that Aharon and the clouds of glory had departed, Amalek of Arad (Rashi) attacked; his initial success turned to defeat, after Israel pledged destruction of his cities. Snakes plagued the Jews, who bad-mouthed Exodus and the manna. Their Divine cure was to look at a snake on a pole, facing upward toward God; Moshe, ON HIS OWN, chose to make it of brass, "nechoshet", taking a hint from the word "nachash, snake" (Rashi). So "man's animal principle" is vicariously sacrificed on the BRASS altar, via animal sacrifices. God is the source and redemption of all; even the "snake", potentially evil passion and aggression, is to be sanctified, raised up, not destroyed (Hirsch). It also cured other diseases-- so sick Jews hoped to be bitten!! (Meshach Chuchma). One who'd been bitten would normally faint or die at the sight of a brass snake-- thus the cure is even more miraculous (Ramban)! It wasn't the snake which cured, nor Moshe's upraised hands which assured victory, but lifting their eyes and hearts up to God in repentence. So the value of checking our mezzuzot, when bad things happen, is to arouse ourselves, in the process, to check our hearts too (Rav A. Ariel).
Yet Hezekiah pulverized Moshe's venerable brass snake, to which the Jews were burning incense, and scattered the remains to the winds, or cast it into the sea (cf. Moshe and the Calf-- Ex. 32:20; see The Judaica Books of the Bible, 2K18:4)-- it had gradually become an object of idolatrous worship, a Jesus or Golden Calf type of intermediary between Israel and the Almighty, from which no benefit, e.g. using the brass for a Shabbat samovar, may be derived; some say an object made by Moshe could never become an actual idol, but it diminished pure faith in God and Torah; the rabbis highly praised Hezekiah for destroying it. Asa and Yehoshafat didn't destroy it-- it wasn't yet worshipped; perhaps Providence saved that mitzva for Hezekiah, that he attain greatness thereby; per Tos., Kings A & Y mistakenly believed that we may not destroy any article made in fulfillment of a Divine commandment (a Sukkah too?-- A.Z. 44a, Hulin 7a, Radak); Hezekiah derisively called the snake "Nechushtan", a mere piece of copper-- cf. Moshe's making the Jews imbibe the Calf Cocktail. Nechushtan is a leading Israeli firm-- secular Zionists extol Israel's sinful past; the spies are our tourism symbol, and "illegal" olim, defying the wicked British regime, were called "maapilim", after the Biblical rebels against God and Moshe.
Prof. Y. Leibowitz z"l suggested following Hezekiah's example by removing the outer Western Temple retaining wall, halachically only the wall of a synagogue, a similar object of worship and veneration today-- folks embrace and kiss it, leaving notes to God there. We may find the lost ark, etc. secreted behind it, and rebuild the true temple! But popular sentiment, reinforced by traditions that God's Presence specially resides there **, renders his suggestion only a didactic theory. We end Chukas with the remaining Jewish journeys, climaxed by the conquest of wicked Amorite kings Sichon & Og. Israel camps at Moav Wastes, opposite Jericho, now ready to finally conquer Israel.
** The Western Wall is not found in the Soncino Talmud Index; it appears in some Midrashim. Rav Aha claims that the shechina, God's specially manifest presence, remained at the Western Wall, after the Temple was destroyed-- but he may refer to the Western Wall of the Temple itself, possibly extant until the middle ages, not to the present outer retaining Wall-- but Midrashim also claim that this Western Wall will never be destroyed; Rav Shmuel b. Nachman, however, claims that the shechina returned to heaven, awaiting the 3rd Temple, while Rav Eleazer believed that it remained on the Temple site itself, not at the Wall (see Exodus Raba 2:2, Numbers Raba 11:2, Lam. Raba 1:5:31, and S. of S. Raba 2:9:4; B.B. 25a discusses the "direction" of the shechina, stressing: "Go West, pious man!"-- get your "maariv" plaque soon, just in case it's right).
G. THE HAFTARA is JUDGES 11:1-33
Yiftach of Gilad is a "ben zonah" (son of a whore; but, per R. Bachye, "zonah" is one who married out of her tribe, taking along her father's inheritance). His "righteous" brothers turned Yiftach out of their father's house; he then led wild misfits, until the Jews decided that they needed him to be their general-- Ammon's king was trying to recover Israeli land, lost by Ammon to the Amorites long ago. The Jews promised Yiftach permanent postwar leadership-- turn the class troublemaker into the class leader! (cf. the upset of firstborn sons in Genesis). Yiftach first tried to talk the King of Ammon out of war-- Israel didn't take the land from Ammon; the Amorites lost it to Israel (so we captured the West Bank from Jordan, who tried to destroy us). Yiftach would not return Transjordan, even to avoid war. He vowed to give God that which first came out of his house, if he won, and/OR make it a burnt offering-- it was his daughter, who agreed. She became the first nun, married only to God; she therefore "mourned her virginity", and was visited 4 times a year by her girlfriends (Abarbanel). Would any Jewish leader bring unfit sacrifices, human or animal?
But RAMBAN insists he sacrificed her! "Why mourn monastic dedication to God?"-- asceticism is Ramban's ideal (Lev. 27:28 ff.; see our Naso Study for dissenting views)! My answer-- Ms. Yiftach, reared in a wild society, wasn't a body-hating mystic physician, like Ramban, just a normal woman! She had to cry and adjust; so a reluctant captive idolatrous woman mourns her wild past, before becoming a holy Jewess (see our Ki Setze study).
Death is the subject of "pure" portions Emor and Chukas (Lev. Rab. 26:3; see our Emor study). Sefer Hachinuch (Emor) claims that the body drags down, obscures the light of, soul and intelligence (cf. Plato's cave). Once the soul's gone, the remaining body really contaminates. Per Abarbanel, this is only when some of the soul still clings to the dead body, confirming a bad habit; a truly saintly soul eagerly departs to God-- the body then is simple non-contaminating matter! A 1st symptom of serious neurosis, of death wish, is to stop working. Even Aristotle recognized action as essential to comprehension of reality (cf. unworldly scholars). Yet soulless work, however profitable, also contaminates! Our nature is to give affection, and to work for the good of others. Working for a dishonest, harmful, or inhuman enterprise engenders anxiety and psychological harm. Per Keppe, 99% of human activity serves the psycho- and socio-pathological interests of a few unbalanced individuals, who wield socio-economic power (C. Pacheo, The ABC of Analytical Trilogy; read H. Tarr's wonderful novel, "A Woman of Spirit").
Sefer Hachinuch continues: "However, all mitzvos are for the greatest human benefit and ALL ITS WAYS ARE PLEASANTNESS AND ITS PATHS PEACE (Prov. 3:17; don't scream SHABBOS!-- offer kugel instead!)". The Torah overlooks spiritual taint, normally prohibited to a cohen, and ORDERS him to defile himself for close relatives-- "for their hearts would be upset... if they couldn't enter the tent where he lies, and pour out their emotions...". If necessary, even the high priest defiles himself to bury the simplest Jew (Rav C. Soloveichik, in Religious Law & Change, asks: "Could rabbis rule that medieval parents who killed their children, threatened with baptism, were murderers?"). The cohen teaches not only that death is an illusion, but that eating and organic life itself can transcend death, be spiritual (the message of the kosher laws)-- if he eats his holy dues with sanctity, not tainted by that great depressant-- contact with death (mourners can't face themselves in the mirror). "THEY SHALL BE HOLY TO THEIR LORD (OF NATURE), AND NOT PROFANE THE NAME OF THEIR LORD, for the fire-offerings of God, THE FOOD OF THEIR LORD, they bring near, and they THEMSELVES must be a sanctuary" (Lev. 21:6).
DEATH & SLEEP are compared in our bedside prayers: "Brighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death. Blessed be God when we lie down, ... when we get up; for in Your hands are the souls of the living and the dead... into Your hand I deposit my spirit....". Sh'ma is recited before death and sleep, itself 1/60 of death (Ber. 9); Vilna Gaon, vs. Rambam, urged minimal sleep-- 4 hours. One at harmony with God and the Universe may need less conflict-resolving dreaming, thus less sleep; but experts on sleep still do not understand why we must sleep.
EAT & DIE: R. Abdimi of Haifa said: "Before one eats and drinks, he has 2 hearts, but after..., only 1 heart-- A HOLLOW (or EMPTY-- navuv) MAN IS 2-HEARTED (Job 11:12; B.B. 12b)"; one drifts into half-hearted death-like sleep after a "good meal", losing his alert inquisitive spiritual heart (Rav S. Aviner)-- an argument for snacks vs. meals; but Baruch Walters notes that Grace is a Torah commandment only when one's sated-- Deut. 8:10; otherwise it's rabbinic. Perhaps big meals are only for Shabbat, when one's "extra, higher soul" guides one's dreams.
Wine, Yayin (= 70 numerically, = sod, secret), associated with sleep, also releases secrets of conflicted souls. R. Huna said: "He who accustoms himself (it takes time) to new wine (tirosh, good grape juice in modern Hebrew), even tho his heart is closed like a virgin, wine opens his eyes, per Zech. 9:17: NEW WINE SHALL OPEN UP THE VIRGINS" (B.B. 12b). This may refer to repressed emotion; so the virgin represses sensuality, with subsequent elation-- cf. Ms. Yiftach. Wine also may be desirable only on Shabbat and holidays-- no daily "l'chayims" on vodka! In the end of days, all will drink wine, but have only good dreams: ALL SINNERS AMONG MY PEOPLE SHALL DIE... THE MOUNTAINS SHALL DRIP SWEET WINE... THEY'LL PLANT VINEYARDS AND DRINK... AND NO LONGER BE CAST OFF FROM THEIR LAND (Amos 9:10-16).
DEATH & DYING are also praised-- THE LORD SAW ALL HE MADE AND, BEHOLD, IT WAS VERY GOOD (Gen. 1:31)! ALL may refer to joining this world and the next (Resh Lakesh); Chizkuni claims that ALL includes "the evil inclination", w/o which man wouldn't marry and procreate, and God's world would remain barren. ALL, the entire gestalt of existence, is VERY GOOD-- but any aspect viewed alone may look bad (R. Yochanan; so Prof. George Gilder of Harvard, ridiculed at a Jewish feminist academic conference by Prof. Paula Hyman, who gave no rational response to his insights, shows traditional feminism's overall destruction of family and civilization, despite its good intentions and valid conclusions in each realm, when viewed alone-- see Sexual Suicide; so Palestinean claims appear valid, when one ignores the 21 other Arab States, and the Jews' right to one decent-sized State-- especially after contributing so much to, and suffering so much from, mankind, for 2000 years; so Rabin's Peace Plan seems silly when judging it only by changes in the Intifada, rather than by its major aim, preventing another war with the Arab nations). So Bilam tries to curse Israel by viewing only part-- cf. the media. Munk says that collective existence, the cooperative interaction of all creation, forms a new entity, exceeding the sum total of its parts; Vilna Gaon notes that something can be good by itself, but not in conjunction with another thing; Divine creation is very good-- both individually and collectively.
This collective goodness is a surprise to man-- hence HENEI! BEHOLD! WUNDERBAR! INCREDIBLE! (Hirsch, who ignores HENEI in Gen 1:29; cf. Num. 20:16; see our Korach study). Per R. Meir, VERY GOOD refers to death; it leads man to humility, surrender to God, and repentence-- both this holier soul state and resultant post death ecstasy are VERY GOOD, pleasant surprises (henei!-- Gen. Rab. 9:3-5; some include all the afflictions of life). One dying can't be concerned with glory; as a dying plant, seemingly lifeless, all his energy is used for sheer survival. Ecc. 7 teaches: A NAME IS BETTER THAN PRECIOUS OIL (annointed crowns-- priesthood, kingship,and Torah-- are worthless without that of a good name-- cf. R. Shimon, Avot 4:17, and Moshe Dayan, Princess Diana & Co.), AND THE DAY OF DEATH THAN THE DAY OF BIRTH (we worry about the future, at a ship's departure, but rejoice upon its successful return-- Mechilta B'Shalach 2:5). BETTER TO GO TO THE HOUSE OF MOURNING THAN TO THAT OF FEASTING, INSOFAR AS IT'S THE END OF EVERYMAN, AND THE LIVING WILL PUT IT UPON THEIR HEARTS. BETTER GRIEF THAN LAUGHTER, FOR, IN THE SADNESS OF MOOD, THE SOUL WILL BE IMPROVED. THE HEART OF THE WISE IS IN THE HOUSE OF MOURNING, AND THE HEART OF FOOLS IN THE HOUSE OF REJOICING (e.g. Tisha b'Av vs. Dizengoff, Yom Hazicharon TV vs. Soap & Benson, Rosh Hashana vs. Sylvester, The 3 Weeks vs. the often profane Israel Festival).
But contagious "holy joy" itself inspires man to love of God and man and to live nobly-- this great message of The Besht was spread by contemporary g'dolim Shlomo Carlebach and the Lubavitcher Rebbe; the non-Jewish southern U.S. Morning Star Classic Biblical Theater had hundreds of Jews and non-Jews, Israelis and tourists, enthusiastically singing and dancing before God in the aisles of the YMCA last year, celebrating the beginning of God's redemption of mankind via the Jewish People and the State of Israel. May they inspire temporarily secular Israelis, who slavishly imitate non-Jewish values and lifestyles, to return to their own roots and become leaders, not followers, of universal mankind-- cf. Andrew Cohen and Thich Nohn Hahn.
Rav Kanotopsky (NIGHT OF WATCHING, Tzav) distinguishes between meaningful and seemingly meaningless death. Tzav and Jewish history begin with the obscure EVENING olah sacrifice, burnt in a furnace (moked)-- we see no purpose in the continual pre-1948 murder and torture of Jews, especially by our daughter religions, who claim that God changed His mind about Israel. But, eventually, clearer MORNING sacrifices appear, on an altar (mizbaach); then God, "THE priest", appears, visible in history; we now see purpose in the continuing Jewish sacrifices of Tzahal; they preserve the State of Israel, as it grows toward Messianic dawn-- cf. ...THERE WAS EVENING, (then) THERE WAS MORNING-- THE DAY OF THE ONE (Gen. 1:5), and Esav's wicked angel's appeal to Yaakov-Yisroel: SEND ME AWAY FOR DAWN HAS RISEN-- Gen. 32:26. Finally, after "peace offerings", no more war, the menora of truth shall be lit from the altar of sacrifice-- "FROM ZION SHALL GO FORTH TORAH AND THE WORD OF GOD FROM JERUSALEM (Is. 2:3)". Then the sacrifices of all Jews who died in God's Name, at the hands of Crusaders & Germans, of Almohade and Catholic Inquisitions, of PLO and Hamas, will be seen as necessary steps toward the return of Man to God via Israel, the "pure land"-- but Ohr Somaach's Rav M. Weinbach rejects celebrating Israel Independence Day, because Israel's still so far from becoming a holy nation (on his tape: "Two Kinds of Independence"). But we celebrate similar miracles and holy beginnings on Pesach, Purim, and Purim Katan-- the Jews still clung to idolatry at Exodus! (YF).
I. HOLY COW!
Meor Anayim (MA) derives an esoteric message-- ONLY those who truly cleave to God are brought back to Him, via Torah's inner hidden light (Hag. 12a); it's called "Parah", "COW"-- that which truly nourishes and influences: MORE THAN THE CALF WANTS TO SUCK, THE COW WANTS TO NURSE (Pes. 112a). It's also called "AIN" ("nothingness", beyond understanding). MA translates 19:2: THIS IS THE TRUE PORTION OF TORAH WHICH GOD COMMANDED TO TRANSMIT-- SPEAK TO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, THAT THEY TAKE (add on) TO YOU (Moshe's earthly Torah of letters and reason) THE RADIANT HIGHER TORAH OF LIGHT ("red cow") (THAT IT-- Torah-- BE) WHOLE (or PERFECT)-- AS (Moshe's Torah) HAS A DEFECTIVE LACK OF "AIN", FOR HE (the student) WHO NEVER COMPLETELY ACCEPTED THE YOKE (of Heaven's Kingdom). GOD'S TORAH IS PERFECT, RESTORING THE SOUL (Ps. 19:8)-- God's inner Torah is only approached by rare rarefied individuals, thus remaining perfectly pure (Besht). Today too, finer folks seek God's Torah within Moshe's (is hassidism antinomianism?).
A human body (non-Jewish too!) has 613 parts, corresponding to Torah's 613 mitzvos; each Jewish soul is rooted in one of Torah's 600M letters, a microcosm of the whole Torah. A Torah is invalid if even 1 letter's missing; so each Jewish soul is crucial for the collective soul of Torah (San. 37a). Some begin services (per Ari): "I indeed accept upon myself...-- YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, (WHO IS) LIKE YOURSELF". One may hate the evil within another, yet must love, as himself, his holy essence (Rav I. Shochet); a true flawless saint sees no evil in others (Besht); he who does, sees his own dirty face in a mirror! As you don't hate yourself, despite your imperfections, love your friend too. "I wish I could love the greatest tzadik as much as God loves the worst sinner!" (the Besht).
MA, as many kabbalists, then leaves love for judgement, negating non-Jewish souls, citing their vulgarity and profanity; but fellow kabbalist Rav E. Benemozegh of liberal Leghorn saw the good and beautiful in other faiths and folks-- Israel and Humanity, $35 from TOP. Rav A. Y. Kook also saw the community of Israel as the essence of existence; yet he proclaimed: "I wish the glory and perfection of all. My love for Israel is deeper and more glowing, but my inner wish spreads the might of my love over all. I do not have to force myself to this feeling of love; it issues directly from the sacred depth of wisdom, from the divine soul" (see The Founding Fathers of Israel, G. Winer; truly committed and possible love originates vis-a-vis oneself and his/her family, then expands outward-- cf. babies and those remaining infantile. Good bonding between mother and infant is the source of healthy human love and morality-- Freud, Women and Morality-- Eli Sagan). "God's good to all, & His Mercy's upon all His works (Ps. 145)". The Talmud contains similar conflicts (see A.Z.). A simple explanation: many talmudic sages, early chassidim, post-Inquisition kabbalists, and WWII European Jews lived among very cruel, crude, drunken and barbarian gentiles, who killed and raped at whim. Many Poles even tried to kill Jewish survivors of the Holocaust (see Chutzpah). They reacted to what they saw, not to all of history and civilization.
But Rav Kook lived among civilized gentiles, many with beautiful souls, in England, during WWI; US, Italian, Dutch, and Scandinavian Jews, with similar positive experiences, respected good elements of other cultures, and gained their respect for Judaism (see The Middle Gate, Patai, Introd.). So Hirsch, who lived in Germany before its rottenness was revealed, was very universal. Jews, as God's Kingdom of Priests, must love and respect their congregation, the rest of humanity; but how could they respect gentiles who continually abused them? Israel's Arabs were treated well by Israel's Jews, far better than their fellow Arabs treated them, until they responded with rocks and petrol bombs. Rav N. Cardozo left Ohr Somaach's ambiance, including depreciation of Gentile wisdom and worth, for much more open and fair Isralight (see Ohrnet Update, closing this study).
J. 3 GREAT SIBLINGS-- by Morris Mandel: In Chukas, we read, "...Miriam died there... and there was no water for the congregation..." (Num. 20:1-2). Talmudic sages comment: "When the children of Israel went forth out of Egypt, there arose for them three good providers: Moses, Aaron, and Miriam."
In Deut. 34:10, we read: "There has not arisen a prophet since in Israel, like Moses". He was a leader and a servant of men, a lawgiver and benefactor, who spurned crowns and scepters. How small Sinai appears when Moses stands upon it! Though extremely humble, everything essential to the life of the people can be derived from Moses, and all laws are given in his name. In the merit of Moses, the Israelites received the manna.
Aaron was the eternal peace maker who, above everything, wanted peace between individuals, families, and the nation. Tho older, he was always at his brother's side, yet never envied his leadership. In the merit of Aaron, the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of flame by night accompanied the Israelites thruout their wanderings in the wilderness.
Miriam was a paragon of simplicity, devotion, and faith. It was Miriam who urged her father to return to her mother, defying Pharoah. Thus, because of her urgings, Moses was born. It was Miriam who watched over Moses as he was hidden in the watertight crib, floating on the Nile.
Moses, Aaron, and Miriam exemplify three great principles: Moses, the staff and stay, the bread and manna of the people; Aaron, the lover of peace, of respectability, of a life without murmuring and protests; Miriam, the prophetess with tremendous love of God. All three exerted great influence upon the people-- offering the physical as well as the spiritual provisions of Israel during their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
K. MORE SHEETS TO CHANGE: Last week we reviewed and compared Israel's 3 leading Zionist Parsha sheets, B'ahava Ub'emuna, The Jerusalem Jewish Voice and Torah Tidbits, together with non-Zionist Ohrnet; now we'll tackle three more English study sheets, presently circulating in Jerusalem. Let me know of any others that I missed-- he who begins a mitzva is asked to complete it!
The other Zionist parsha sheet, perhaps too Zionist (you can over-Jew it!), is the Kahanist Darka Shel Torah, written by Meir Kahane's son, Binyamin Ze'ev in Hebrew, translated by Lenny Goldberg, Kfar Tapuach, D.N. Ephraim, 44829, phone/fax 03-936-6662; e-mail: email@example.com While well and clearly written, the sheet is simplistic, viewing everything as black or white, the only choice being between Arafat or Kahane (both challenged the authority of the State of Israel)! The parsha (this week the parahsha) is always used as a take-off for Kahane's political message, without questioning the correctness of the analogy-- e.g. in Shlach, where the spies' clear rejection of God's commandment to conquer the land and drive out the idolators is not differentiated from today's situation-- we now have no clear command from God, the Arabs are not idolators, and a majority of the Jews ignore much of the Torah, whose observance is a clearly-stated pre-condition to miraculous Divine aid to Israel. The movement and sheet often distort Torah texts to push their point-- when my son was in Bnei Akiva, Kahana zealots tried to convince the lads that Ohr Hachayim bans arabs from dwelling in Israel-- not only does he restrict his ruling to idolators, but specifically states elsewhere that they may dwell here peacefully.
The sheet, and Kahanaism in general, is really not, in my opinion, "The Jewish Idea", as claimed; "The Jewish Idea", i.e. the Torah, also includes both Jeremiah's conclusion that it's futile to fight Assyria, and Yochanan ben Zakai's decision to surrender to Rome, saving what he could-- Yavneh; both felt that God wouldn't intervene to help Israel, given Israel's sinful state; likewise, many Torah giants, e.g. Rav J. Soloveichik and Rav O. Yosef, far far far far more learned than Kahane, concluded that land should be given for peace today, if the experts, i.e. the government, with access to all info, balancing all factors, decide that it's in the interest of the Jewish people to do so. We do have to worry about U.S. reactions-- it's the present source of much of our money, military aid, and political support, without which we couldn't defend ourselves against the Arabs, given our present fallen religious and moral state. Darka also lacks the Jewish Idea of universal peace and love in its message, focusing on hate, vengence and anger. In Kahane's book, The Jewish Idea, he goes out of his way to prove that one needn't love any non-Jew, even a righteous Noachide! So I heard him curse out secular kibbutzniks, at a rally to rabble rouse the Machane Yehuda crowd. For a left-wing biased, but fact-filled and psychologically-rooted, account of Kahana's life, see The False Prophet, by Robert Friedman, which includes great private and public photos (Rabbi Joseph Schonwald found H.U. Givat Ram's copy missing, when he kindly tried to help his daughter with her paper on Kahane).
More than half of their Shlach sheet last year was a hostile open letter to Bibi and the Likud, urging them to take the vote away from Israel's Arabs, so that they cannot decide the fate of the Jewish state-- they almost made Bibi lose. While I also would have never given the arabs the franchise in the first place, or let them remain in the Old City and Chevron, after they failed to destroy us in 1967, we'd lose the support and respect of the entire Western world if we arbitrarily deprived them of civil rights now. Perhaps we could bargain with all the arabs, as a united entity, and trade them some sort of Palestinean state, in return for which Israeli arabs would yield their right to vote in national elections. Those Arabs whose homes were abandoned in 1948 probably do deserve compensation, their value at the time Jews took them, plus interest; but such compensation must be set-off against the equal rights of Jews who fled the Arab countries. So, when we withdraw our troops from Arab Chevron, we should greatly expand Jewish Chevron and Kiryat Arba.
Likewise, we could, and should, in the long-range interests of Torah, let secular Israelis do what they wish in religion, marriage and divorce, but demand in return our fair 25% of public TV programming, far more important than any religious legislation to achieve our ultimate goal-- a return of the people of Israel, in the land of Israel, to the Torah of Israel. Darka also urges sophisticated Bibi, who probably couldn't care less about their wishes and beliefs, to free Jewish political prisoners, "dispose of" the leftist media (how?), and halt the insanity of the Supreme Court-- is it indeed democratic to have a small group of non-elected judges determine the course of our State? Democracy would also be served by direct popular election of MK's, doing away with all political parties, and their wheeling-and-dealing corruption and waste, once and for all. Also, no one man should have the tremendous power and responsibility of the PM.
3 year old Midei Shabbos Beshabbato, tho non-Zionist, is a much more balanced, laid back, pleasant and peaceful higher level parsha sheet, clearly written by Rav Eliezer Chrysler-- a Gateshead grad, formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Jo-burg. It contains interesting traditional information and ideas, in a lithuanian yeshivisha ambiance, not stressing any particular rabbi or group, and not out to make waves; a non-critical view of Seder Olam's medieval study of Jewish history appears once a month. If Torah Tidbits changes its name to reflect its greatly increased size, e.g. Lots of Torah (LOT), TT might be an appropriate name for Rav Chrysler's sheet, and an interesting addition to the general confusion as to which sheet is which; most english speakers don't even know what untranslated MSB means! MSB, as TT, carries ads. Call 651-9502 or see WWW.shemayisrael.co.il
Tzomet, a top level Jewish think tank (contact David Wilk), publishes Mi-de Shabbat be-Shabato; to subscribe, write firstname.lastname@example.org: SUBSCRIBE SHABBAT-ZOMET your name
Stan Tenen's brilliant excursions into math, science, kabbala and Torah are available at http://www.meru.org; contact Stan at email@example.com Finally, God's best PR people (tho they turn some folks off), Habad, have many parsha sheets in English, but all are written exclusively and non-critically from their own hassidic standpoint. English L'chayim is no longer distributed in Israel, and I haven't seen Reb Moshe Weber's lately; both are simple and popular study sheets.
Rabbi Yaakov Tauber's Week In Review, based on the Lubavitcher Rebbe's teachings, almost 8 years old, was distributed in Jerusalem by TOP, but no longer comes here; Rabbi Simon Jacobson is in charge of this project; it's a deep and creative study, very well written in "with-it" modern lingo and images, on a very high level. It develops a few major themes, hopefully from the parsha, from a Habad viewpoint; but sometimes it's simply a study in Habad Chassidut, with little reference to the parsha-- last year's study for 3 Tammuz, the Rebbe's yahrtzeit, tells tales of the rebbe, rather than those of Korach. I first truly appreciated some of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's great teachings from WIR, tho I dislike the unquestioning non-critical total and exclusive adulation of any man and his ideas-- maybe, at least sometimes, he's wrong and another great rabbi right! The rebbes themselves seldom criticize their own predecessors, tho the Tzemach Tzedek disagreed with some halachic rulings of the Baal Hatanya; the kind and concerned late rebbe, likely torn between the Shulchan Aruch of the Baal Hatanya and the Mitler Rebbe, regarding sleeping in the sukka, defended the latter; yet he strongly rejected Rav Kook's obviously true conclusion, that the Zionist movement and the State of Israel are the beginning of the gradual growth of our redemption, adhering to the views of anti-Zionist Satmarian Habad rebbe Shalom Dov Ber, circa 1912.
WIR's attractively printed on heavy laminated paper-- to subscribe, call (718) 774 6448 or fax (718) 774-7FAX in the U.S., until Moshiach comes, or Chabad leaves the battlefields of Crown Heights for the holy land; as one mitzva generates another, many chabadniks will then be able to join the rest of Israel, and sleep comfortably in the sukka, under the skies of Israel, as the Baal Hatanya and Rav Zevin urged them to do. If you're fortunately already in Israel, call the author at (03) 965-4270, e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or write him: Yaakov Tauber, Ostashinsky 27/11, Rishon L'tziyon, 75257; he's also a great person to answer your ?? on kabbala and hassidut, as well as on Torah. Yanki's studies are also available on Habad's WWW site. He's the author of Once Upon A Chassid, a collection of chassidic stories and sayings, and Beyond the Letter of the Law, a Rebbinic commentary on Avot ($20 from TOP). His latest wrok is The Inside Story, hassidic reflections upon the Bible.
OHRNET UPDATE: Ohrnet has become a really well-written engaging family Torah study sheet, with many departments; but, beneath the glittering ultra-modern with-it prose, there still often resides the insular Lithuanian yeshivishe bitul, negation of the value and integrity of the rest of mankind, e.g. Zionists and non-Jews. In this week's issue, they equate scientific and technological accomplishment with "The hands of Esav", rather than "The Voice of Yaakov". But they forget that only a small part of the world are descended from Esav; they ignore the fine intentions of so many jewish and gentile folks, who try to better the human condition, and ignore the Torah's message-- that Rivka, not Yitzchak, who wanted to keep Yaakov in the tents of Torah, was right in her endeavor to beautifully blend Yaakov's Torah with The Way of The Earth, to also obtain for him Esav's destiny, the blessings of the earth. She sends him to Uncle Lavan's school of hard knocks, where he masters business and war (see our Toldot and Vayetze studies, per Rav J. Soloveichik). Ohrnet's comments on chok, stressing blind obedience to Torah, ignore Hirsch and Maimonides, who urge us to work hard at understanding symbolic chukim, until we render them understandable mishpatim-- see Hirsch supra.
In Fatherly Advice, Ohrnet quotes "misnagdic" Yose ben Yoezer of Tzereda-- "Let your home be a gathering place for the wise" (Avot 1:4); they should have also quoted his "hassidic" collegue's adjacent statement, and explored the latent conflicts between them-- "Let your home be opened wide, let the poor be members of your household", says Yose ben Yochanan of Jerusalem, as fulfilled by Ohr Somaach's neighbors, the Machlis family. 6/97