THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
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THIS STUDY IS SPONSORED BY MAXWELL S. LURIA OF TOKYO, AUTHOR OF ELIJAH BENAMOZEGH-- ISRAEL AND HUMANITY, IN MEMORY OF HIS PARENTS, SAMUEL AND ETTA LURIA
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A. A DOWN TO EARTH OVERVIEW OF EMOR
In K'doshim, last week's reading, God gave Israel, His "kingdom of priests and holy nation" (Ex. 19:6), 70 laws, encompassing all realms of life; this week, in Emor, He first focuses on rules specifically for cohanim, priests within Israel, themselves God's kingdom of priests. The preceding readings stressed the intriguing mystery of sexuality and life; this week, we confront the frightening mystery of death, often preceded by the death of sexual union. Life stems from the earth, from which we, as Adam, are continually sustained and recreated; the earth in turn is "UNDER", dependent upon, the sun-- all vegetation requires photosynthesis; we dig into the earth to plant seeds for our food and conquer it with our metropolises. Earth has the final victory, however, when it receives the body of the highest lifeform-- Man, potential image of God Himself: "HOW LONG WILL YOU JUDGE WICKEDLY... I SAID YOU'RE (to be) DIVINE POWERS, AND ALL OF YOU SONS OF THE MOST HIGH; IN TRUTH, YOU'LL DIE, LIKE EARTH-MAN, FALL LIKE ONE OF THE PRINCES (PS. 82)". "...AND THERE'S NO (ultimate) SUPERIORITY FOR MAN UNDER THE SUN (ECC. 2:11)". "Don't place your faith (even) in princes, in a human being, who holds no salvation-- when his spirit departs, he returns to his earth; on that day all his plans perish. Fortunate is he who's hope is in... God, His Lord, Creator of heaven and earth... " (Psalm 146-- see James Michener's gripping and inspiring vignettes of nature, and man's response to it, in Creatures of the Kingdom).
Each high impact human experience of sexuality-- the origin of life, and of death-- its departure, remains but a meaningless dot in the seemingly endless printout of biological existence, unless linked to that beyond the earth, even BEYOND THE SUN. One must, however, live in this world, UNDER THE SUN, and develop it-- especially the human body-- as a vessel for God's Presence: "It follows that a healthy and sound body is in God's path, for it is impossible to understand or grasp knowledge of the Creator if one is sick. So it's important to remove oneself from things that injure the body, and to accustom oneself to things which are healthy and sustaining"-- Rambam (M. T. Daot 4:1); how can allegedly pious yeshiva students smoke and eat junk food?-- some haredim even give kids cigarettes at weddings; the judges of the Badatz openly smoke in front of their followers, a model for sickness and suicide. Rambam himself was quite ill in his later years, when he wrote The Guide; he was severely depressed, not functioning, for a year, when his younger half-brother died at sea (Rav J. Soloveichik was similarly affected by the death of his wife)-- can we trust Rambam's own judgement, according to his own criteria?
REASON & REVELATION: Emor deals with the constant tension between body and soul, between heaven and earth, as well as their interrelationship-- via priests, sacrifices, and holidays. We likewise try to harmonize our so limited hearts and minds with the infinite and ultimately UNKNOWABLE Word of God; this is why we "explain", not just obey, mitzvos, per Rav J. B. Soloveichik-- I express how I personally EXPERIENCE them. Rambam prefers that talmudic view which advocates such explanation, over others, who see mitzvos as unexplainable, and give up the attempt to understand their messages (which may lead them, or their descendants, to give up mitzvos altogether-- cf. Hirschian, Hassidic, and Misnagdic approaches). As most scientists, most expert talmudists are more concerned with WHAT are God's Laws and HOW they work, not WHY. Yet understanding purposes of the law may affect its application, e.g. Rav J. Soloveichik's urging those who shave daily to do likewise on Chol Hamoed; whenever Sefer Hachinuch describes a mitzva, he, as Rambam (see Guide III), also tries to guess its reasons. He sees his own worthy function as revealing hidden depths of the talmud, which constantly rationalized God's Word, "glimpsing thru the lattice" (Song of Songs 2:9; Mitzva 159).
But, bottom line, all rationalizations remain tentative guesses-- as modern scientific theory, they're subject to revision. Each age approaches Torah with its unique outlook; modernists, e.g. Rabbis Shadal, Hirsch, Malbim and Yichya Kapach, may be far more relevant to our concerns and outlooks than famous medieval commentators-- yet some of the latter, e.g. Meiri and Abarbanel, may be more modern than many of today's haredi "g'dolim". Jewish Law, Divine, does not change-- our response to it, as its application to changing facts, does. In that spirit, let's try to unify our thoughts and feelings with Emor, remembering: "HE MADE EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IN ITS TIME. HE HAS ALSO PLACED THE WORLD IN THEIR HEARTS, SAVE THAT MAN SHOULD NOT FIND OUT THE WORK WHICH THE LORD HAS WROUGHT, FROM BEGINNING TO END (Ecc. 3:11-- but he might discover a bit of the middle!). WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I FOUNDED THE EARTH? TELL-- IF YOU REALLY KNOW THAT INSIGHT (with which I founded it, i.e. the Torah-- Job 38:4; cf. Proverbs 3:19).
Nothing encourages a critical approach to life and learning more than Talmud. Nothing stresses absolute faith in God's Word and Law more than Talmud. This seeming paradox challenges Torah scholars. Some focus their keen critical faculty only on technical talmudic and halachic process, repressing it in evaluating their own society and basic beliefs; this may breed frustration and anger, fighting the non-believer within, while ostensibly combatting the infidel without. Virulent argument against others' beliefs often masks a lack of one's own inner conviction.
But an exaggerated critical stance reflects an exaggerated sense of one's ability to attain truth, following one's eyes and heart against traditions that have survived and bred viable and dynamic Jewish society for 1000's of years, despite great adversity (see E.). The Word of God cannot be equated with that of man, even holy man. True faith may come from a gradual realization that all our important conclusions are at best probabilities, rather than mathematical certainties, that God takes over when we've done our best, and that the honest pursuit of truth, in both Torah and worldly knowledge, tho it leads to greater and greater insight, must conclude that so much more remains hidden. Reasonable folks trust that which has been successfully tried and tested, and go on to new explorations, in their all too brief productive lifetimes; if each generation would reject all that came before it and start anew, chaos and regression would replace progress (cf. the Russian and Chinese Revolutions). The true experience of God may, indeed, be more a result of developing a Divine personality and good deeds, than of exercising keen intellect. All can cleave to God by cleaving to the Godly, especially their own inherently holy wives (unless defeminized by Westernization), sole determinants of their childrens' Jewishness. Even reading books about great folks, such as A Tzadik In Our Time, The Diary of Anne Frank, and Life and Death in Shanghai, can inspire one to greatness.
We acquire true spirituality by absorbing God's Dual Objective Revelation-- Torah and Science (Lev. 9:6, M. T. Y. H. 2:2); Re-formed Renewal Rabbi Z. Schachter overstresses subjective ecstasy (cf. Nadav and Avihu) in his otherwise valuable exposure of dry, rote, narrow and self-serving piety. Poetry and Agada can't replace science and halacha. He also errs in equating conformity to Torah and society with spiritual morbidity (In Jerusalem, 4.15.94; see his video at TOP); many inspired and inspiring "establishment" Israeli Zionist rabbis, e.g. Adler, Fendel, Gold, Lau, and Riskin, and their fine stable families, belie Schacter's claim that Israel lacks spiritual leadership; they too appreciate female spiritual power, but in its natural setting, the private home-Temple, rather than the public male minyan.
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B. THE BACKGROUND OF EMOR-- L'CHAYIM!
Last week's grand summary of Israel's task-- how to be a unique holy nation-- ends with a seemingly anticlimactic p.s.-- the death penalty for those who divine by conjuring up the dead. This theme carries over to Emor's first law of holiness for cohanim-- to avoid contact with the dead, which defiles them. Pagans, both ancient and modern, equate religion with preoccupation with death-- one only crowns God in the next world; some even focus on the death of their god! Jewish Holiness and holy people are far closer to life; God's immortal living word, the Torah, is primarily to guide us thru this world of free will. But our thrice daily primary prayers (Shemoneh Esrei) also proclaim 2 basic messages-- that God both kills and revives the dead! Isaiah (8:16-9:1) warns of murky messages from those who consult the dead-- their temporary influence will be replaced by the true eternal word of God (Hirsch; cf. Uman).
C. A SYNOPSIS OF EMOR
"God SAID (mildly, Vayomer) to Moshe: SAY (emor) to the priests, THE SONS OF AHARON, AND SAY (v'amarta) TO THEM-- HE (the priest) shall not defile himself for a soul AMONG HIS PEOPLE (21:1-- i.e. when there are others to bury the dead). But an ordinary cohen MUST defile himself for his deceased wife, parents, children, brother, and VIRGIN sister (2-3); yet he may not do so for a wife whom he was forbidden to marry: a zonah (see E. III), a divorcee, or a woman born of such a union, forbidden to a cohen (a chalala), or who had sexual union with a disqualified cohen (chalal). NO GUILT OR FAULT OF THE FORBIDDEN WOMEN IS IMPLIED HERE-- these laws apply even to a rape victim. A reason to prohibit the "no-fault divorcee", but not the widow, might be a wife's lingering attachment to her ex-husband, incompatible with the intense wifely devotion, and resultant emotional and spiritual security, needed by the cohen; the death of the divorced husband doesn't change the law, tho an ordinary cohen may marry a widow-- perhaps God wants no one to have a good reason to desire his death! The possible tragic results of putting one's personal love and joy above commitment to one's spouse and children are powerfully portrayed in Cynthia Freeman's Season's of the Heart; she also portrays the common practice of adultery by married women, before obtaining their Jewish divorce, when they are alone with men other than their husband, in the course of their professions; the severe sin and the bastardry of any resulting offspring lead Rav Schachter to recommend questionable common law marriage, pilegish, rather than sanctifed marriage, k'dushin, for those whose halachic allegiance is weak.
4 personalities abide in the bed of a divorced man who marries a divorced woman (Pesachim 112a)! R. Akiva thus advises Rashby not to marry a divorced woman, whose husband is alive; yet Akiva himself took Turnus Rufus' ex-wife as his #2 wife , after she failed to seduce him, and repented-- did his advice come from his own bad experience, as R. Gershom's prohibition on polygamy? Perhaps Turnus Rufus died before the marriage, or jetset Romans lacked true attachment to their spouses (A.Z. 20a, Ned. 50b; she may have given Akiva the money to buy #1 wife Rachel a gold Jerusalem diadem)! Some rabbis even advise not marrying a widow. Yet Bruria's soulmate Yalta (Mrs. Nachman) urges those who crave the forbidden to enjoy it in a permitted manner, always possible in God's unlimited world-- e.g. he who craves pork will eat the brain of shibuta, a fish which tastes like pork (mullet or sturgeon); one with murderous impulses can be a ritual slaughterer; one inclined to adultery may marry a divorcee, whose husband's still alive (see Chulin 109b)! But even a cohen's own divorced wife is prohibited him-- her sense of rejection may impair renewed commitment.
ALL Jews are barred from tattooing and from marring the body in mourning or for idolatry (Deut. 14:1, Lev. 19:28-- Sefer Hachinuch discusses the perversity of such practices); pagans would put marks of death on their flesh, to stress that death conquers all life (Hirsch); these laws are repeated here, to the cohanim, to add details to the law (Rashi). Laws of shaving (Lev. 19:27) are also restated, to stress that only a razor (vs. scissors, depilatory, etc.) is prohibited (but some prohibit a very close scissors cut too). These laws, repeated here, may reflect the cohen's special role as a model of man's original and ultimate perfect state-- unmarred and eternal-- both in his person and his marriage, his extended person. Repetition of detail in Torah and life may also serve as intermissions, preparing us for the next crescendo in God's grand symphony.
The cohen must be extra holy, as he consumes "God's bread"-- he thereby transforms eating, so often a physical death & decay experience, into one of Divine eternal life. A priest's adulterous daughter dies by fire (see San. 51; cf. everyone's high expectations of a rabbi's kid). The HIGH priest may not render himself impure, nor observe mourning rites for ANYONE (he may not leave the temple service, even to attend his parent's funeral). He may marry only a virgin, but may consumate a marriage entered into with a non-virgin before his appointment (Mish. Yev. 59a). Bodily defects, which disqualify a cohen from actual service, are listed-- but he may still receive priestly dues; a scholar, whose function is not pomp and circumstance, is not so disqualified! A cohen must show the possibiliity of combining physical and spiritual perfection, a model, as Shabbat, for a redeemed world to come; he also demonstrates that it's not the second rate, but the best, which must be dedicated to God-- nebachs shouldn't be our rabbis. Both God and Moshe use strong language (vayidabar, not vayomer) re these prohibitions and that of the Cohen eating the Jews' offering, while himself unclean (until the stars come out, after he immerses in a mikva on the last day of his impurity)-- God's name must not be profaned.
Only a circumcised cohen (S.H. 282), his wife, purchased servant, or never-married, or childless* once-married, daughter may eat sanctified food (trumah). Its value + a 25% fine is due if anyone else eats it in error; the fine is called "chomesh", "a fifth", as it's also 20% of the total of the profaned principal plus itself (R. Josia; R. Jonatan's rejected view takes 1/5 as simply meaning 20% of the principal itself-- 22:14; see 27:27, B.M. 54).
*if she had kids, themselves not cohanim, she might accidently feed them trumah
Moshe was then ordered to order the cohanim and Jews to bring only unblemished animals as sacrifices (S.H. 285-90); castration of animals is forbidden (S.H. 291-- cf. "psychologically castrating" women). Moshe's told that newborn animals are only fit for sacrifice from the 8th day after their birth (until then, their viability is questionable, per R. Shimon ben Gamliel-- Shabbat 135b)-- animals whose mother died before their birth, or those born caeserian, may not be sacrificed (Chulin 38b); the Torah suggests that they be "7 days under their mothers"-- cf. modern cruel factory farming of young calves; but Sefer Hachinuch is concerned only with the quality of their meat! A dam with its young (M or F) may not be slaughtered on the same day (to sensitize Jews to ecological preservation of species, or to arouse their mercy upon animals-- see Sefer Hachinuch). But the father animal may be slaughtered the same day (Rashi, per Hulin 78b, vs. Sefer Hachinuch, Ibn Ezra; cf. maternal determination of Jewishness and the Lamaze Lie: "Dad's having the baby too"). A "Thank-God offering" must be pleasant to God-- the offeror must INTEND to consume it within one day (before dawn), when it is slaughtered (22:29; see Torat Cohanim ibid, Chulin 83a, Pes. 71b); is the prohibition on delayed eating (Lev. 7:15) intended to prevent stale religious experience?
"GUARD MY COMMANDMENTS (learn them well) AND (then you will) DO THEM (per Torat Cohanim-- only if one studies Torah well, will he know exactly how to do the mitzvos; only then will he be filled with their aims and principles and be inspired to do them; see Malbim and Torah Tmimah ibid), I'M GOD. AND DON'T PROFANE THE NAME OF MY HOLINESS (by defective sacrifices, etc.); AND I SHALL BE SANCTIFIED IN THE MIDST OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL (one should die rather than profane God's name). I'M GOD WHO SANCTIFIES YOU, WHO BRINGS YOU OUT OF EGYPT (Mitzrayim) TO BE YOUR LORD-- I'M GOD" (22:31-3). Rav M. Miller (Sabbath Shiurim) notes that human sanctification is a 3 stage process-- we master the Torah and the world in the womb (Nid. 30b); tho we forget it upon birth, there remains a residual imprint on the soul; it gives us a yearning to be at one with God, despite all our inclinations to live otherwise. Yet, we must ACT, to release this innate purity of soul, TO SANCTIFY GOD, in our every word and deed. Once we do so, God adds fuel to our holy fire and sanctifies us, taking us out of the narrow places, m'tzarim (cf. Egypt, mitzrayim), which constrain our souls.
IN CH. 23, sanctity of life is reflected in God's structuring of the time dimension. Holidays, intimate periodic meetings with God, are established via the Jewish calendar; it's determined, with some discretion, by the Sanhedrin. But Shabbat, first of the holy days, was established by God Himself at Creation. Holy day work prohibitions are followed by specific commandments for each holiday, starting with Passover. The offering of the first barley on the morrow of Pesach (here called Shabbat) is accompanied by sacrifices; new grain may not be consumed before it's brought.
We're to count 49 days, 7 complete weeks, from the second day of Pesach until Shavuot; this remains a Torah commandment even today, when there's no Temple, per Rambam and S.H.; most disagree. Then 2 CHAMATZ (leavened) first wheat loaves are offered with sacrifices; the cohen gets them. The holiday's unnamed here; neither holiday is described as commemorating any event here. Gleanings and field corners must be left for the poor and strangers-- I'M GOD YOUR LORD. A separate Divine communication introduces Rosh Hashana as a "memorial of blowing" (a hint of Rosh Hashana which occurs on Shabbat, when we just talk about shofar).
Next God introduces Yom Hakipurim (by name, unlike Rosh Hashana), a day of self-affliction, fasting, and atonement. A Jew must afflict herself on the 9th day, from "eve to eve" (a hint of Tisha B'av?-- T.T., quoting Pnemei Hakadmonim), to celebrate this SUPER SABBATH, a Sabbath of Sabbaths, Shabbat squared (23:32). This hints at the mitzvah of FEASTING on the 9th of Elul, as difficult as fasting for a sensitive soul, contemplating the awesome 10th. Rosh Hashana is just called A SABBATH, not Sabbath of Sabbaths. Yom Kippur, the "Sabbath of Sabbaths", adds abstention from bodily pleasures to the usual prohibitions of creative work on Shabbat, commemorating Creation; but Shabbat itself seems to be called A SABBATH OF SABBATHS, besides a holiday, in 23:3; per Vilna Gaon, the 7th day there indeed refers to Yom Kippur, when no Sabbath work may be done, as opposed to the other six holy FESTIVAL days, when SOME such work may be done, e.g. cooking. The sabbatical year, when one refrains from agricultural work a whole year, is also called a Sabbath of Sabbaths (25:4).
God next sets forth observance of 7 days of Sukkos, the 8th day is an unnamed "holy day of convocation". The holy days are described as days of sacrifices, but only those accompanying the omer and the 2 loaves of shavuot are specified. All 7 days of Sukkot are celebrated as a harvest festival, the 1st and 8th days to be work-free sabbaths. On the 1st day, a Jew must take in hand an esrog (citron), lulav (palm branch), myrtles, and willows; we rejoice 7 days (this must occur at harvest time, just as Pesach and the barley offering must occur in the spring; so we intercalate the lunar calendar to keep it in line with solar seasons). All "citizens" (males) must dwell (eating & sleeping-- see H.) in sukkos, booths, for 7 days; this commemorates the similar Exodus experience-- I'M GOD YOUR LORD. But today we often eat and sleep outside our homes, in restaurants and hotels; perhaps sukkot aren't required there, as in casual eating, frequently not done at home.
Moshe taught everyone the relevant laws at the approach of each festival (Torat Cohanim 17:12). Aharon's not singled out here-- we're not now dealing with sacrificial details, his special province. Some say only Israel's leaders must learn about each festival 30 days in advance; they then teach ordinary folks the laws just before the holiday.
CH. 24: God directs Moshe to COMMAND the Jews to bring HIM pure beaten olive oil, to burn thru the night. The cohanim clean and trim the lamps each morning (shabbat too!). One light, called "western", was lit continually; it was the middle one, or the 2nd from the left, depending on whether the menorah, before the partition veil, was in a N-S or E-W orientation (a dispute).
Every Shabbat, 12 breads are set on the golden table, OPPOSITE the menorah (both are called "pure", perhaps because no blood ever touches them) in 2 stacks; beside each stack is pure frankincense, a "memorial" for the bread (only it was burnt to God, after the cohanim got the bread, as the memorial part of a meal offering-- see Rashi). It's an eternal covenant. The cohanim must consume the holy bread in a holy place. THE MENORA AND TABLE hint at post-biblical festivals-- the menorah also shines with eternal Chanukah light, even when there's no temple, and the table turns into the Purim feast (heard from Rav Y. Engelman). Perhaps the pestle or hammer, used to pound the incense, is a hint of Yom Atzmaut, when secular Israelis hit each other over the head with plastic hammers-- their collective unconscious may remind them to set their heads in order and return to Torah; observant Jews shouldn't practice such nonsense.
When Eliyahu will turn hearts of "fathers" (great rabbis, per Rav Yaakov Yosef) to their "children" (the unlearned folk), predicts Malachi, their children will respond and turn their hearts to their fathers (3:24). Truly great Rav Shlomo Carlebach attributes anger of children and pupils (and spouses?) to frustration, when they don't get what they need (and crave) for their hearts and souls from their parents and teachers. Since 1993, Yeshivat Aish Hatorah stood in silence with all Israel, to mourn and appreciate our fallen soldiers (following Rav Kook & Rav Lau's view, vs. Rav Shach & Co., The Rebbe & Co., and Ohr Somaach). May Israel's temporarily "secular" Jews respond by taking Discovery, waking up, and celebrating Independence Day, together with Aish Hatorah, as a joyous religious holiday-- we must look at the gradually unfolding half full cup of messianic redemption, and celebrate and praise God for it (hear Rav Shalom Gold's TOP tapes, "In Defense of Religious Zionism". Rav Shlomo Aviner considers Pesach the first Israeli Independence Day-- the goal of Exodus is a holy State of Israel, celebrated even before it happened in the Song at the Sea. Chanuka, which is equated with long sought Jewish political independence, was the Yom Ha'atzmaut of Ezra and Nechemia, of the second commonwealth. Rabbinic legislation and new holidays grew during the second temple period, rather than that of the first, which was still too close to the giving of the Torah and full of miracles to need them (Rav Eliezer Ashkenazi, a peer of Maharal).
A son of a Jewish woman (Shlomit bat Divri-- Mrs. Datan?) and an Egyptian man left communal norms and fought with another Jew. His father was slain by Moshe for beating a Jew, after sleeping with the Jew's wife, who had pleasantly engaged The Boss in conversation-- women, especially married women, are not to be flirtingly friendly to other men (Vayikra Raba 32:4; or chatterboxes-- Midrash Hagadol); Hirsch implies that she willingly lived with the decadent Egyptian; but some midrashim don't blame her for sleeping with him-- they claim that the Egyptian impersonated her husband, after sending him off to work far away (see Tiferet Tziyon ibid). They fought about the Egyptian man's son's claim to a stake in Dan-land (Rav Chiya, ibid 32:3); he also mocked the law of the week-old showbreads, given to the cohenim (R. Levi ibid). He blasphemed the Tetragrammaton, with which Moshe killed his father! (Tos. HaRosh). He was brought to Moshe, who put him in safekeeping, awaiting God's decision as to the correct penalty. As was the case with the sinner, who gathered wood on Shabbat, Moshe was in no rush to punish. But when people needed help, the daughters of Tzlafchad and those unclean on Pesach, Moshe brought their cases to God for immediate clarification (Targ. Yon.). Rav Soloveichik concluded that a true leader's quick to help, but in no rush to punish (cf. today).
Murder entails the death penalty; but only money is due for killing a beast or just wounding a person. The stranger and native have one law-- FOR I'M GOD YOUR LORD. Emor closes with the blasphemer, who's stoned by Divine command-- he PURPOSELY acted to destroy the preceding holy system of holy laws, as did Wizards and Molech cultists, also to be executed, as stated at the end of K'doshim. BESIDES stressing the positive and educating the ignorant, we must destroy incorrigible grossly destructive or evil forces-- Arafat? Pornography? Israel TV? Rav J. Soloveichik warns against applying this rule to today's anti-religious Jews, even rebellious rabbis-- all are "captive children", captivated by contemporary pervasive secular worldviews; Rav Kook (Iggerot ha-Reiya 1:71) and Hazan Ish (13:16) agree. Chofetz Chaim says that we can't hate heretics today, for no one can first rebuke them properly (end, Ahavat Chesed). Rational and reasonable Rav Norman Lamm rebukes those lenient in the mitzva of loving one's non-observant neighbor ("Loving and Hating Jews as Halachic Catagories", Ch. 4 of "Jewish Tradition and the Non-traditional Jew").
So we must kindly tolerate even T.A.U. Prof. Yaakov Malkin, an evangelistic atheist, Bible debunker, and alleged Jewish "humanist", while vigorously combatting his distorted views; he is director of The College of Pluralistic Judaism, author of What Do Secular Jews Believe?. Of all people, he was chosen to present a Jewish viewpoint of God in the interfaith series, My God, at Notre Dame, sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and The Israel Interfaith Association. The moderator was most moderate Mohamad Hurani of The Shalom Hartman Institute, who spoke with wisdom and tolerance, and urged those who differed with Malkin to express themselves strongly-- I obliged. In his address, God as My Literary Hero, Malkin posited that God's reality was only as a literary figure, or as Spinozian Nature Itself, that the biblical Heroes were scoundrals, that the Bible was full of contradictions, that man is God, and that there was nothing unique about the Jews and Israel-- with such T.A.U. and H.U. friends, who needs enemies? Thank God, I was able to defuse his destructive time bomb simply by pointing out the lack of logic and academic integrity in his impassioned sermon. He completely ignored the reality of God as evidenced in the glory of nature, whose intricate holistic nature is revealed in astonishing grandeur daily by science-- its study brings man to awe, love and ecstasy vis-a-vis God, per Rambam, whom Malkin claimed shared his atheistic narrowness! Wicked old anti-Semite Martin Luther put it simply-- anyone who says that a Michelangelo was created by spilling a bottle of ink is an idiot! Indeed, God's interaction with us is NOT a simple matter-- but His Existence and His being the basis of all existence is; we, as Avraham (per Rambam), start with that indisputable basic fact and spend the rest of our lives searching for God, both within ourselves and in the outside world.
I also explained how each instance in which Malkin alleged Patriarchal malfeasance stemmed from his skewed or partial reading of the text; his incredible reply was to include himself in the talmudic catagory of "these and these are the words of the Living God", applied to talmudic rabbis of differing opinions, tho united in belief in God and his Divinely dictated Torah-- they, as Rambam, vigorously squelched even Sadduccees and Karites, leave alone Malkin. Anyway, how can he associate himself with "the living God"? May God help Malkin open up his mind and heart, to at least be able to see viewpoints other than his own arrogant disdainful rejection of Judaism, reminiscent of that of wicked old Baruch Spinoza. May he become a true "humanist", seeking also the good side of our Patriarchs and respecting others' religious convictions and arguments.
If protests against Sabbath driving and movies drive the non-observant further from the Torah, they're the devil's devices-- such pious protestors only express their own aggression and pursuit of power. So Shimon & Levi first kill the infidel, Shchem, then try to kill Yosef; finally, Levi's descendants must slay Shimon's, whose wild orgies with the maidens of Midian are far worse than Shchem's love for Dina-- cf. Meir Kahane's biography by Robert Friedmen, The False Prophet; he exposes the internecine warfare and lust for sex, power and violence, frequently, tho not always, found among the JDL crowd.
D. KEEP NAGGING!
God tells Moshe to speak to the cohanim, SONS OF AHARON, again and again (21:1). Rebbe Elimelech portrays two types of religious leaders-- those who inherit the role, and those self-made. The latter, coming from oblivion, are always on guard, lest they return there (so today's returnees often prefer that a "great man", deified, NEVER wrong, think and feel for them. They get upset at suggestions that things are not so "black and white", that sometimes one rabbi is right, sometimes another-- e.g. these studies). But those born into leadership feel piety "in their blood"; they indeed may let themselves slip a bit, confident they'll not fall far. Such are the priests-- because they're SONS OF AHARON, they must be exhorted again and again to do their duties with meticulous detail and zeal! Concern with exact detail flows from fear of God, zeal from love of God. Rav Adin Steinsaltz equates one's true commitment to a great, but vague, ideal, e.g. "love your neighbor as yourself", with his commitment to the exact details of its execution and expression. As our hearts overflow with love of humanity, are we willing to change a messy diaper or sit with a boring, but lonely, elderly or ill person? Does our hospitality extend to those truly in need, tho we may not enjoy their miserable company, or is it reserved for those whose company we really enjoy?
THE HEAVENS RELATE THE GLORY OF GOD... (tho) THERE ARE NO WORDS AND NO SPEAKER (Psalm 19)-- heavenly bodies convey God's greatness by their very functioning, without speech. Per Lev. Raba 26:5, however, the Psalmist notes that God does not HAVE TO speak TO them, to nudge them, for they do their function preprogramed, automatically, as everything in the universe, EXCEPT MAN. Lev. 21:1 teaches that Man, even the best-- the cohen, must be constantly nagged and reproved to reach his potential. We're all to be a mutual Reprovement-Improvement Society, vs. contemporary secular ethics that everyone's business and body are their own. We're all in the same boat-- if one makes a hole only in his end of the boat, we'll all sink together (Rashby). "Soft speech" (emor), repeated heartfelt explanation, enables the cohanim to transcend the natural response of full mourning for their dead relatives, e.g. grandparents and grandchildren; the deceased usually have others, even closer, to tend to their burial (Abarbanel).
Rav Tzvi Dov Kanotopsky (in NIGHT OF WATCHING) sees the festival laws of harvest and homage in Emor as striking a balance between heaven and earth. So the cohen must remove himself from earthly death, but is COMMANDED to defile himself for his wife and closest biological relatives; even the high priest must defile himself to bury the simplest Jew, if no one else will do so. Cohanim too must marry and reproduce-- they're LESS holy if they don't (but see EJ, Abraham ben Maimon); yet they must avoid unions likely to produce less committed and holy relationships. Both priests and sacrifices must exhibit physical perfection, demonstrating that all seeming defects in nature (run by God in his seemingly impersonal aspect of elokim-- the Lord) are due to His erring children (cf. Deut. 32:4-5, Gen. 6:11-13). A calf, naturally born to a live mother, may not be slaughtered for a sacrifice for 7 days, when its "under its mother" (22:27, cf. Ex. 22:29; see Chulin 38b, Zev. 12a, Yoma 63b, and Torat Cohanim for details--is this a concession to God's natural laws of bonding? Cf. 8th day circumcision; see our Tazria study). The priests must eat sacrifices, but only in strict ritual purity. Finally the festivals must combine the elements of nature, history, and the transcendental. Kanotopsky sees the interrelationship of the menorah and bread-table as that of natural and supernatural realms (cf. B. S. Jacobson).
E. APPEARANCES ARE DECEIVING
Those who just go after their eyes and hearts, when they interact with nature, lack true understanding of how it works and how to use and conquer it. They may, however, gain sensitivity to its beauty, and intuitively relate well to much of this world; an American Indian is far better than a top scientist in tracking and using vegetation in the forest; his awe of Nature, and resultant humility, may also far exceed that of the scientist, so proud of his own understanding of God's Great World. On the other hand, those able to persistantly and meticulously examine nature, via abstraction and the scientific method, will discover its secret workings, God's formulae; they can do things that leave the Indian spellbound. God's Torah, blueprint of the world, works similarly. We gain much by the attentive reading of the Torah with our eyes and the natural emotional reactions of our hearts-- yet the Torah warns us NOT to go astray after our eyes and hearts-- they're not enough.
Torah has its own scientific method, painstaking abstract deductive examination, according to traditional meanings and hermeneutic principles. When we use them, we find completely new approaches and insights, embodied and expounded in the Talmud, Midrash, and later commentaries. Masters of the method were Jewry's leaders, tho respect was also given to great personalities, whose hearts were on fire with God and His Torah, e.g. the Besht and "Reb Shmuel" Abramovitz of Yemin Moshe. As the Indian in the woods, a warm loving simple person might be better at human relations and the joy of religious life than a great scholar, even of mussar (ethics; cf. hassidut); yet only the latter will understand halachic and psychological complexities; without these insights, the road to hell may be paved with good intentions and passionate emotion-- the zealots fought on for Jerusalem, while R. Yochanan knew that God would not help Israel against Rome (cf. Israel today). A simple, tho heartfelt and pious, reading of the Bible would not yield proper understanding and application of these passages from our reading:
I. We count the omer, 49 days, from day #2 of Pesach, called "the day after shabbat" in 23:15. Karites and Samaritans took "SHABBAT" literally and counted from the first Shabbat of Pesach, celebrating Shavuot on the 50th day thereafter; they thus lose the connection between Exodus and Shavuot's Sinai Revelation, not replaced by any between Shabbat Pesach and Revelation. Passover is here called shabbat, just as shabbat is also called moed, a holiday (23:2-3), indicating their interrelationship, that of Creation and Jewish history, ReCreation.
But WHY call Pesach Shabbat here? The Pesach of Exodus, as Shabbat, was the sole gift and determination of God, when the enslaved Jews had virtually lost self-initiative; in later ages, the sanhedrin determined its date, as all holidays. Thus Shabbat and Pesach are grouped together here in one Divine statement. So God "starts up" our soul in the yeshiva of the womb. The counting of the omer is our own step by step effort to develop this Divine potential, after our Passover Exodus re-birthday; when we reach the 49th level, the highest possible human development, God reaches down and pulls us higher, to #50, in His sanctification of Shavuot (Tzadok Hacohen, Machshevot Charutz 10; Mesillat Yesharim 26-- see Rav Miller above; so Dr. G. Schroeder believes that Adam was one of countless humanoids who strove to be something higher; God responded by endowing him with His Image; so Avraham sought to undo Adam's damage-- God responded with his choice to found His Chosen Folk). Omer and Shavuot are thus grouped in a separate Divine statement. Rosh Hashana, a new beginning, as Pesach, is also called Shabbat, and Yom Kippur, its culmination, Shabbat of Shabbats. God recharges our fallen exhausted souls, after a year of their tarnished deterioration.
II. B'tula, virgin, must be defined for 2 laws this week-- 1) A priest may defile himself upon the death of his VIRGIN sister, who's (still) close to him, who's not yet another man's-- "for her he MUST defile himself" (21:3). 2) A HIGH PRIEST may only marry a woman "IN her virginity" (21:13) and "a virgin FROM HER PEOPLE" (14-- no converted or once captured woman, per Ibn Ezra). "Alma", "a young woman", is mistranslated "virgin" in Isaiah 7:14, by Christians, who struggle to find obscure Biblical hints for their claim that God changed His Mind-- read Their Hollow Inheritance ($15), and hear Gershom Tryster's tapes ($7), refuting Christian distortion of the O.T. (Only Testament)-- they try to "find" Jesus in God's only holy book, which never mentions him; Rav Riskin thinks that he'd be horrified by their attemopts to deify him-- watch his TOP video lecture, "A Jewish View of Jesus", originally delivered at the Falk NCSY Israel Center on Christmas Eve!
1) The virginity requirement, re a cohen mourning his sister, may reflect psychological reality-- the natural relation of loving kindness (chesed) between brother and sister is to be sublimated into her relationship with her husband, who's to be her "new brother" (20:17); Shlomo calls her "A locked up garden, (to be opened up as) my sister, (my) bride" (S. of S. 4:12). Even betrothal may be enough to sublimate the relationship, tho she's still a virgin (R. Yose & R. Simeon, vs. R. Meir & R. Yehuda, Yev. 60a). A woman's brother is also an alleged prototype of her sons; Hirsch notes that the menstrual prohibition (20:18) follows that of one's sister-- my wife's to be "my sister" (rather than "my bride"), the closest of friends, but platonic, for that "locked up garden" period-- cf. O' THAT YOU WERE LIKE MY BROTHER... (S. OF S. 8:l). Yet a cohen also doesn't defile himself for a dead sister, who was raped (Yev. 60a); perhaps this turns the woman off to any male-female relations, all offshoots of that with her brother. But Rav Shimon defines "non-virgin" here simply as loss of the hymen, even thru a non-sexual accident.
2) For the high priest to transcend death and be wholly dedicated to God, he must marry a virgin, a woman totally dedicated to him, never involved with any other man (Sefer Hachinuch). Some say he may not even marry a woman over 12 1/2 (whose heart, sexually oriented, may have already dwelt on others). All agree that he may not marry a woman who's lost her hymen (Yev. Mish. 59a); Sefer Hachinuch guesses she only forms the strongest bond with he who deflowers her-- "A woman doesn't seal a covenant except with he who renders her an (useable) instrument" (San. 22b, which MAY mean this); perhaps deprivation of this experience, per R. Shimon above, also affects the depth of her relationship to her brother, which will never reach its sublimated culmination. Such psychological functions of the hymen are reasonable-- apparantly unique to humans, it has no physical function (so non-functional male breasts remind him that he's a bit of a nurturer-- but see Jay Gould, Bully for...). It's not usually completely sealed (for menstrual flow); a sexual act, tho leaving the hymen intact, may prohibit a woman to the high priest. But if he did marry a hymenless or adolescent woman, he needn't divorce her. Yevamot (59-60a; 60b) gives ancient virginity tests--
Israel's to kill Midianite women WHO HAD KNOWN A MAN-- Num. 31:17-8. How did they know? Famous Judge and Aggadist R. Hana B. Biza cited R. Simeon the pious: "THEY WERE MADE TO PASS BEFORE THE HIGH PRIEST'S FRONTPLATE. IF THE FACE OF ANYONE TURNED PALE... SHE WAS FIT FOR COHABITATION; IF IT DIDN'T..., SHE WAS UNFIT". Rambam (Isurei Biah 17:13) limits the high priest to 1 wife, tho his source isn't clear; a second wife was prepared for him on Yom Kippur, in case wife #1 died-- holy men SHOULD be married (vs. Slobodka Yeshiva's long-term bachelors! Leaders of Mussar Yeshivot were often too lifeless, gentle and feminine, bad models for vibrant virile young men).
Rav G. Fleer admits that some ancient explanations of Torah, e.g. that of Sefer Hachinuch above, may be strange and unacceptable today; yet there are amazingly few such cases. Per Ramchal, each age must accept the same laws, God's Torah, but may experience and interpret it as it wishes (cf. A.). L. Epstein (Sex Laws & Customs in Judaism, an old-fashioned precursor to Dr. Ruth's 21st century Heavenly Sex-- Sexuality in the Jewish Tradition) gave a 20th century explanation of the above laws, similar to that of The Guide-- we now know that ancient cults viewed defloration and losing virginity as religious rites, done for, or with, the priest or cult leader-- cf. sacred prostitutes. This led to the jus primae noctis of the Romans, continued by their Esavian Christian European successors (some of our ancestors?). Jews tried everything to save their daughters (J.E.). The Jewish High Priest is to be the opposite-- he may not marry a woman artificially deflowered. If a cohen's sister does such a thing, it may weaken his bond with her. Some Jews also adopted artificial defloration (Yer. Ket. 25b, Yev. 34b, Gen. Rab. 51:11). Perhaps God wants only a woman's ultimate husband to end her virginity, however humble his station. The High Priest thus preaches holiness by taking only a virgin.
III. Zonah, prohibited to a cohen, is usually translated "a loose woman", one who experiences sex only as a snack, a biological need-- "mazon" is Hebrew for food, sustenance; ha-zon is he who feeds or sustains. Per R. Akiva, zonah is a prostitute (see Ibn Ezra and Rashi on 21:7); R. Eleazer included any woman who had premarital intercourse, and R. Yehuda even a woman incapable of procreation. The final legal definition, however, is "a woman who EVEN ONCE had sexual relations with a challal or someone whom she COULD NOT marry, e.g. a mamzer or forbidden relative (Yev. 61b, not an animal-- Yev. 59b). Rambam also bans a woman who had relations with a non-Jew, tho she could marry him if he converts; perhaps then he's considered new-born, a different person (M. T. Isurei Biah 18:1ff). A freed slave or convert is presumed to have had such relations, rather than investigating each case; some would permit cohanim to marry those with good evidence that they were virgins, but Kiryat Sefer claims that their origin, a promiscuous culture, itself renders them ineligible (cf. US & UK TV shows, e.g. Soap); Lev. 21:14 seems to prohibit a virgin convert only to a high priest-- see Ency. Tal., Zonah; Heavenly Sex.
As a result, an older cohen-returnee has few candidates for marriage today-- many women are either divorced, or have slept with a non-Jew. Per SOME opinions, these are only marital, not concubinal, prohibitions upon a cohen-- see Ellinson, Nisuin Shelo C'das Moshe V'Yisrael, p. 87. Rashi, however, prohibits all non-marital sexual relations, even common law marriage (as Rambam, vs. Ramban & Rosh-- see Sh'alot Yavetz II:15), under the prohibition of handing over one's daughter to profaning promiscuity ("Z'NUS"; Lev. 19:29)-- such unconsecrated sexuality inspires a "promiscuous" earth to yield its fruits only in other lands, not Israel.
IV. One who damages another's eye only pays damages in Jewish Law. So why does God write "AN EYE FOR AN EYE"? Rav Soloveichik views this as a moral message, not a legal teaching-- we learn Jewish law only from God's oral tradition, Talmud. Even if I've paid my legal debt, I shouldn't feel morally exculpated. Existential guilt remains-- I must somehow (just how is not legally fixed) return an eye, e.g. donate a cornea or read to the blind. Perhaps AN EYE FOR AN EYE should be taken literally, to preserve a wild aggressive society, e.g. cutting a thief's hand off in Saudia. Even a Jewish king may proclaim any necessary extra-legal measures to save society-- God's talmudic law is designed for a normal disciplined holy and healthy Jewry, when aggression is rare (see Schreiber, JEWISH LAW & DECISION MAKING).
F. THE HAFTARA is Ezekiel 44:15-31
Ezekiel portrays, in detail, the restored 3rd Temple and priesthood, may they arise soon! Ideal Cohanim, sons of Tzadok, will lead the people as true "sons of Levi", rather than being led by them, dependent upon them for their livelihood (Hirsch, who, as Rambam, says scholars should support themselves!). Ezekial's Temple laws seemingly conflict with those of the Torah-- e.g. he also prohibits a widow and non-virgin to an ordinary cohen, except for another cohen's widow. Some say that some laws will change in the 3rd Temple. Per Tos. Yom Tov, Ezra's returnees didn't merit to build the 3rd Temple, according to Ezekiel. Rav A. Nebenzthal attempts to reconcile the differences. Perhaps during Ezekiel's corrupt era, the cohen's role was unusually difficult. He then needed an extra-devoted wife, who never married another, unless she already was used to the sacrifice of being a cohen's wife (cf. doctors' wives and rebbetzins).
Arye Kaplan died of heart disease just before his 49th birthday; he always feared that he'd so die young, as did his mother. He confronts death in Immortality, Resurrection, and The Age of The Universe: A Kabbalistic View, Ktav. Ch. 2 deals with longevity and immortality in Judaic sources-- the reasons for aging and death, the biological clock, as well as the possibly good possibility of their elimination. Kaplan explores the vastly greater lifespans of early Biblical man, before Adam's descendants mated with descendants of the previous 974 generations of human-like animals. He connects the resurgence of long lifespans in the messianic era to its peace and tranquility, between man and God, man and nature, and man and man.
In Ch. 3, Kaplan explores a fundamental Jewish belief-- resurrection of the dead, the reunion of body and soul (not to be confused with highly debatable reincarnation, extolled as basic Judaism by the Zohar and Ari, disdained as pagan nonsense by much earlier Saadya and Albo, viewed as a great gift of the Greeks by Abarbanel-- beware of it?). He cites both the majority opinion, that body and soul are rejoined in the world to come, and the minority opinion-- that the purely spiritual world of bodiless souls IS the world to come, temporarily interrupted for resurrection and re-death. He then tries to show how physical resurrection may simply be an advanced form of cloning, the "dew of resurrection" (Pesachim 68a), some sort of nutrient solution or, more probably, some substance that can extract and reassemble the genetic material from human remains, possibly using genetic viruses in the process-- the information conveyed in the genetic code, revealed prophetically, may suffice for cloning by constructing artificial chromosomes, where there are no remains. Jerusalemite T. Kun, in Project Mind ($20 from TOP), claims that man can consciously conquer death and matter (and taxes?) thru accelerated thought.
The appendix to Kaplan's work contains a sermon on the soul, death and ressurection, delivered by Rabbi Israel Lipschitz, author of Tiferet Yisroel, in Danzig, 1842, translated into english and annotated by Dr. Yaakov Elman.
We also deal with death in our Chukas study; Chukas and Emor are called "pure" readings in Lev. Raba 26:3. So, per Sefer Hachinuch, the body drags down and obscures the soul and intelligence, despite the soul's light. Once the soul is gone, the remaining body surely contaminates those who come into contact with it's death essence, common to all temporary physical life. Abarbanel suggests that contamination only results when some of the soul still clings to the body at death, out of force of habit; the entire soul of a true saint eagerly departs to God; the remaining body is simple non-contaminating matter!-- is Rav Nachman still in Uman?
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)". The Torah overlooks the spiritual taint and ORDERS the cohen to defile himself for close relatives-- "for their hearts would be upset about their dead relative, if they couldn't enter the tent where he lies, pour out their emotions, and satisfy their souls with wailing about him". The cohen is to teach not only that death is an illusion, but that eating and organic life itself can transcend death, be spiritual; Malbim says that the WOMAN OF VALOR (Prov. 31:10) is that body, which is madly in love with its soul!. The Cohen teaches the Jew "how to eat holy"; this complements Divine restrictions on eating, and sensitive awareness of the miracles of food and our bodies, via the blessings (Hirsch).
The Cohen can only set such an example if he himself is not tainted by the great depressant-- contact with death. We conclude: "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" (21:6). Hirsch explains (Num. 19) that one naturally adopts sinful doubts and loss of faith upon encountering death in such intimate fashion as contact with, or entering the same structure as, a corpse. One feels indeed: "FOR ACCIDENTS (OF NATURE-- YF) ARE (THE FATE OF) THE SONS OF MAN AND ACCIDENTS (THAT OF) THE ANIMALS- THEY ARE SUBJECT TO THE SAME ACCIDENTS. AS THIS DIES, SO DOES THIS, AND THEY ALL HAVE ONE BREATH. THE SUPERIORITY OF EARTHMAN (YF) OVER BEAST IS NON-EXISTENT, FOR (or WHEN) ALL ARE TRANSIENT. (Ecc. 3:19)". One is gradually brought back to the reality of faith in the Divine human soul via the liquid containing ashes of the red heifer, a SIN offering brought on the Mt. of Olives. The priest defiles himself in its preparation. Red heifer liquid's used on the 3rd, as well as the 7th, day, teaching that organic life, created on the 3rd day, must itself be sanctified, before man rises to 7th day holiness.
DEATH ASPECTS OF FOOD AND SLEEP: Sleep is compared to death in the prayers before retiring: "Brighten my eyes lest I sleep the sleep of death. Blessed be God when we lie down, blessed be God 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 both prior to death and prior to sleep, which the rabbis say = 1/60 of death (Ber. Ch. 9); the Vilna Gaon urged minimal sleep-- 4 hours-- vs. Rambam, who permits 8 (M. T. Daot 4:4; but bathe only once every 7 days-- 4:16; some German scientists claim that bathing washes away protective elements on the surface of the skin). One with little internal conflict, at harmony with God and the Universe, needs less conflict-resolving dreaming, and thus less sleep.
Rav Shlomo Aviner cites R. Abdimi of Haifa: "Before one eats and drinks, he has 2 hearts, but after he eats and drinks, he has only 1 heart, as it says in JOB. 11:12- A HOLLOW (or EMPTY- navuv) MAN IS 2-HEARTED (B.B. 12b)"; Aviner claims that one is thrown into the single-hearted "death" of sleeping and tiredness, after eating a "good meal", losing his alert inquisitive spiritual heart (an argument for snacks vs. meals; but Baruch Walters argues for big meals-- one fulfills the Torah's commandment to bless God after eating, only if he feels full-- Deut. 8:10; otherwise his grace is only Rabbinic). Wine (yayin, = 70 = secret, sod), associated with sleep, also releases secrets of the conflicted soul. R. Huna ben R. Yehoshua said: "He who accustoms himself (it may not work at first) to new wine (tirosh), even tho his heart is closed like a virgin, wine opens his eyes, as said in Zech. 9:17: NEW WINE SHALL OPEN UP THE VIRGINS" (B.B. 12b). This may refer to repression of emotion, much as the virgin represses sensuality, with subsequent elation when the repression ceases. Perhaps big meals and wine are only for Shabbat (and holidays?), when one's "extra soul" guides dreams in higher directions, as it raises up meat and fish to become part of a Divine Image Jew-- avoid daily "l'chayims" on vodka!
Nevertheless, death and death-contact are also praised-- THE LORD SAW ALL THAT HE MADE AND, BEHOLD, IT WAS VERY GOOD! (Gen. 1:31). Resh Lakish says that ALL refers to the joining of this world and the next, the theme of our portion, while R. Yochanan says that VERY GOOD describes ALL, the entire gestalt of existence-- a particular aspect viewed alone may look bad. So Bilam tries to curse Israel by viewing only a part; cf.Israel today. R. Meir applies VERY GOOD to death, perhaps a necessary limit on human arrogance, which leads to surrender to God and repentence (Gen. Raba 9:3-5). Likewise we read in Ecc. 7: A NAME IS BETTER THAN PRECIOUS OIL (annointing for the crowns of priesthood, kingship,and Torah is of limited worth, unless accompanied by the crown of a good name-- cf. Avot 4:17), AND THE DAY OF DEATH THAN THE DAY OF BIRTH (apprehension at a ship's departure on a perilous journey is compared to the joy upon its successful return-- see Mechilta, B'Shalach 2:5). BETTER TO GO TO THE HOUSE OF MOURNING THAN TO GO TO THE HOUSE OF FEASTING, INSOFAR AS THAT IS 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 (9th of Av vs. Dizengoff, Yom Hazicharon TV vs. Soap & Benson, RH vs. Sylvester-- chassidim vs. misnagdim?)
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)-- no purpose is seen in the continual murder and torture of Jews, especially by its daughter religions, who claim that God changed His mind. 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 angel's appeal to Yaakov-Yisroel: SEND ME AWAY, FOR DAWN HAS RISEN (Gen. 32:26). Finally, after "peace offerings", when there's 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 (and of the British Palestinean regime, PLO and Chamas), will be seen as necessary steps toward the return of Man to God via Israel, the "pure land".
H. SUBLIME SLEEP
We recognize God in every realm of life, both by words and deeds. We don't only thank Him for our food, but live the message that He's our Sole Provider, by refraining from certain foods, and sometimes from all food, at His command. So, besides our profound prayers upon sleeping and awakening, basic daily experiences (supra), Jewish males are commanded to sleep only in the sukka one week a year, on Sukkot (females MAY do so, with due credit; apparantly, whatever sukka is supposed to do for Jews is already found in Jewesses, unnecessary for their mission, or achieved by other means). This law is even stricter than eating in the sukka-- light snacks may be eaten outside it, while even a catnap must be slept in it (see Sukka 25a, 26a, and all the Codes). But one SHOULDN'T dwell in the sukka, if its uncomfortable, e.g. cold and wet, unlike one's home, or if he has to do an important mitzva; some travelers are exempt (see Sukka 25f, Sefer Hachinuch #325). Some, e.g. pupils of the Besht and Reb Levi Yitzchak, were impervious to such discomfort, amidst their religious ecstasy in the sukka-- they ate or slept there, despite cold, rain, etc.
An unusual Habad tradition rightfully generates much criticism from other Orthodox Jews-- Habadniks are extra extra strict re even casual eating in the sukka, tho it is permitted elsewhere, just as one doesn't drink every coke at home (the previous rebbe wouldn't even drink water outside the sukka, even in bad weather); yet most of them completely ignore the mitzva of sleeping in the sukka (the origin of this practice, tho later transformed into mystical catagories, may be that one CAN eat in the sukka, tho uncomfortable, in bad weather, but simply CAN'T sleep there then, without constantly awakening). The Rebbe tried to justify this blatant lapse (rather than objectively questioning its validity, or attributing it to weather conditions in Eastern Europe) in his Sukkot study (hebrew, 5754). Our Sukkot study includes a critical review of his arguments.
Even habbadniks should sleep in the sukka-- their own "Bible", the Shulchan Aruch of Rav Schneur Zalman, also requires that every nap be in the Sukka-- the most observant Jews back then slept in their cold sukkot; he even urges Hassidim to build a sukka in which they can sleep comfortably with their wives, thus fulfilling 2 mitzvos (639:7f).
Great modern habad halachic authority, Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin, did not accept the rebbe as a great posek, ritual decisor, despite his otherwise awesome greatness; Zevin rejected his ruling that Jews must leave Jerusalem, lest they be obligated to offer the paschal lamb today, per Rambam. His view, not the rebbe's, was accepted. Zevin too (in The Festivals In Halacha) rules that one may not even nap outside the sukka. Habadniks need not accept the rebbe's halachic decisions, no matter how much they rightfully adore him. So Rav Soloveichik was not viewed by many as a leading posek, tho he was far greater than Rav Moshe Feinstein in other realms. Rav Dov Bigon views Rav A. Y. Kook as our "high priest", a "Kohen who is greater than his brethren", who inspires all following generations, eventual to bring redemption to all Israel (cf. Habad, which denies Rav Kook's obvious truth that Israel is the beginning of our redemption. But his followers wouldn't dream that he is Moshiach.
Rav Gedaliah Fleer fears the further alienation of Habad from mainstream Judaism, flowing from their non-orthodox stand on this halachic issue; the ties are already strained by their attempts to crown the rebbe Moshiach, even after his death-- this alienated many Jews from this great great leader (cf. "n-na-nach-Nachman", which should be countered with "n-no-no-nar-narish-narishkeit", to protect Rav Nachman's deservedly great rep). This is true of any group or individual who strays from accepted historic halachic norms.
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