THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
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THE EARTH STANDS FOREVER
My teacher and guide, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveichik, Ztz"l, simply called The Rov, dedicated his life to learning, teaching and developing God's Torah in the modern world; he stressed the teachings of Rambam (Maimonides), a fellow halachist, rationalist, philosopher and lonely man of faith, a true proto-Litvak. The Rov died eruv Pesach, 1993. He ordained over 1000 Y.U. rabbis, who spread his holistic message thruout the world; many of his pupils and followers are now themselves great Torah leaders, e.g. Rabbis Brovender, Lichtenstein, Riskin, Shechter, and the Rov's outstanding son Chayim. The Rov's teachings comprise much of the core of these studies; he's the source of much of whatever I've attained in Torah. God brought me to him in Boston, when I got a scholarship to HLS, after being turned down by my first choice, YLS. where I wanted to study psychology and law (the chutzpadik author of Chutzpah!, Alan M. Dershowitz, taught their interface there).
But as God sent The Rov and other great teachers in every generation, we trust that He'll continue to do so. When Nadav and Avihu die, their brothers, Eliezer and Itamar, take over their holy task. Emerson notes that God's balance in nature is reflected in that of human nature; in every age and place, He sees to it that the right proportion of people are born with the necessary specific skills, interests and personality traits to be carpenters, surgeons, philosophers, plumbers, talmudists and whatever else His world requires. So each national and racial group has its own unique skills and role-- their cooperative interaction and mutual respect generate a pleasant, harmonious and well-functioning world. Before the sun of one righteous man sets, God causes the sun of another to rise (Ecc. Raba 1:4:1-1:5:1). Yerubaal, in his generation, is like Moses in his (R.H. 25b). "A generation passes away and another comes, but the earth stands forever; so the sun rises and sets, and yearns to return to the place where it shines (Ecc. 1:4-5)".
One must study with those sages whom God has given to his own age, who know and share its knowledge, outlook and experience (e.g. Rav Kook, Rav Lamm, The Rav and the Rebbe), not only from the giants of the past, even if they're greater scholars and/or pietists-- but their mindset related to their own, then contemporary, reality; in addition, communications and libraries were poor back in the bad old days, and many great scholars were simply unaware of what many others thought and wrote. The horrible conditions which prevailed, as well as their isolation from the rest of the world, also distance them from our contemporary reality and outlook.
Many contemporary Torah scholars, especially among our black brethren, do not indeed represent the unique interface of the Torah with our own age-- they isolate themselves even from today's God-given world, so wonderful in so many ways, as much as possible-- trying to perpetuate not only the Torah, but also the lifestyle, as they imagine it to have been 100 years ago, of primitive Eastern Europe, including its non-healthful cuisine and impractical unattractive clothing; tho they possess great talmudic acumen and piety, and are even called "g'dolim", they do not represent the blending of Torah and modern civilization and, often unknowingly, turn many Jews off-- the Rov openly rejected their approach; read Rachel Pomerantz's A Time To Rend, a Time to Sew, for a touching, gripping and idealized account of their world today; but, unlike Naomi Regan, she ignores its seamy side, just as she ignores the beautiful and deep world of sincere modern Orthodox Zionist Judaism-- a typical Feldheim publication.
But secular Jews, including their leaders, can be just as closed, insular and ignorant of the world of Torah; they too often lack knowledge of, and gratitude for, the great gifts of "the other side" (sitra achara); just as many charedim do not appreciate and pray for the State and army which enable them to develop holy families and acadamies, so much of secular Israeli society fails to appreciate and respect the important contributions of even the most charedi groups to the strength and perpetuation of their State-- e.g. by maintaining a family oriented society, which does not unnaturally separate sex and procreation, thus having many children; they thereby also maintain the crucial Jewish-Arab population inbalance in Israel, that it can remain the world's only Jewish State; some of their many kids, as Rav Shach's son, will repent and blend Torah with life; only religious society sustains a strong Jewish identity, as secular Israel slides down the universal secular slope.
An impressive-sounding conference about Jewish identity in Jewish literature, entitled Narratives of Jewish Self-Definition in Israel and America, 1948-- The Present, was held this week at H.U.'s Belgium House; bright, erudite and articulate Prof. Mark Shechner discussed American Jewish Writers At The End of History, but he was familiar only with secular blase and pessimistic Jewish writers; he claimed that literature about Jews and Judasim was no longer in fashion, as Jews merged into the general U.S. culture. Newer immigrant groups and emerging blacks were simply more interesting. His source of information was the selections in literary anthologies; he ignored popular novels, as he had no way of knowing the number of copies sold!
But when Greer Fay Cashman asked him about Naomi Ragen's famous and popular novels on the conflicts of haredim in the modern world-- Sota, Jephte's Daughter and The Sacrifice of Tamar, he replied that he had never heard of them; when I asked him about Herman Wouk and Cynthia Freeman, he knew little about the former, and nothing about the latter (she completed her first novel, A World Full of Strangers, at 59-- it allegedly sold over 1,500,000 copies in paperback; her novels are mostly grand sagas of Jewish families). He mocked various novels with provocative or sensationalist titles and covers, including one by one of my favorite authors, Maisie Mosco (it turned out that he hadn't read the book or anything else by her; her 12th novel, New Beginnings, is an excellent exploration of assimilation and intermarriage in British Jewry)!. Of course, works about religious Jews, of which he was pretty much unaware, are more interesting than those about secular Jews, who are just like everyone else. Translations of Jewish classics also sell well, as religious Jews buy books, rather than TV, video, etc.
Israel's Chief Rabbi Israel Lau is one of those who, like the Rov in his prime, unites Torah and the modern world with great zeal, skill and impact-- may God help him bring the children of Israel back to the Torah of Israel, uniting them in the Land of Israel; he should be given far more coverage in the media, and many more opportunities to speak at public events. Many highly effective young rabbis today, e.g. Mordecai Gafni, Yanki Tauber, and Motti Alon, show great promise for becoming future leaders. They continue the path of the Rov, the Rebbe and Rav Kook, without slavishly imitating them, in a newer, rapidly changing, era. Similar, but mostly middle-aged, teachers, including yours truly, and Rabbis Fleer, Greenberg, Riskin and Spero, are interviewed in Shalom Freedman's In the Service of God (Aronson, 12/95). Writers such as Herman Wouk and Joseph Telushkin, who are fully conversant with both traditional Judaism and the complex modern world, are masters of the soft-sell of Judaism, without pushing anyone or denying the valid accomplishments and satisfactions of secular Jews, and of non-Jews-- outstanding examples are Wouk's The Hope and The Glory, the tale of modern Israel "like it was", and Teleushkin's video drama The Quarrel, based on Chaim Grade's famous dialogue between an absolute believer and a skeptical Jewish writer, both survivors, shortly after WWII.
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A. UPS & DOWNS
Shmini opens: IT WAS (vayehi) ON THE 8TH DAY, MOSHE CALLED TO AHARON AND HIS SONS AND THE ELDERS OF ISRAEL (9:1). The Men of the Great Assembly taught that this extra word, vayehi, when used with bayom, "on the day" or bimei, "in the days of", denotes trouble brewing, tho all appears A-OK on the surface (Meg. 10b, Or Hachayim 9:1). The seemingly glorious unfolding future, "yehi", "will be", is suddenly changed by the predicate "va" to a dead past, "was"; "vayehi" can be read "vay haya", "there was woe and sorrow" (Moshav Z'kanim; cf. "oy vay", the automatic response of a manager at Supersol tonight, when I told her that the frozen portion of our delivery didn't arrive; I probably wouldn't get quite that response from Stop & Shop in Boston!). Vayehi Bimei precedes Haman (Esther 1:1), famine (Ruth 1:1; see B.B. 15 for the spiritual cause), and war (Is. 7:1, Gen. 14:1; see Gen. Raba 42:4 for the far greater accompanying spiritual tragedies), all arising out of situations of apparent happiness and tranquility. So here, on that very 8th day of the dedication of the priests and tabernacle, when God rejoiced, as over His original Creation-- Nadav & Avihu, Aharon's great sons, suddenly died (Lev. Raba 7:11). Seemingly wonderful lives, accomplishments and relationships are likewise often exposed as empty or rotten at their core, at those very celebrations and holidays where they're expected to shine.
Rebbe Yishmael claims that Vayehi alone, w/o any reference to "the day" or "the days of", also implies impending doom or defect, which he finds even in seemingly joyful verses, such as those describing flawed and delayed Creation, e.g. Vayehi ohr, "... there was light", and Vayehi Hashem es Yosef, Vayehi ish matzliach, Vayehi b'ves adonov hamitzri, "God was with Yosef; he was successful; Yosef was in the house of his Egyptian master" (Gen. 39:2), all leading to his problems with Mrs. Potiphar (see Tanchuma Shmini 13).
FROM JUBILANT JOY TO TERRIBLE TRAGEDY-- The golden calf emerges in the wake of Sinai; Israel's imminent triumphant entry into Israel turns into the spies' tragic rejection of Zionism. Celebrating defeat of Israel's enemies, Yiftach's rash vow suddenly renders his daughter a celibate nun (Judges 11); per Ari, who adopted the Zohar's 1278 belief in reincarnation (rejected by much earlier Albo and Saadya), the souls of Nadav & Avihu entered that of hoary Pinchas-- he, the high priest, chief rabbi, refused to lower himself to go to General Yiftach to release him from his vow; Yiftach likewise wouldn't go to high priest Pinchas-- Ms. Yiftach was caught in the middle (both Pinchas and Yiftach may have been insecure leaders, due to their stained lineage). Rampaging Cossacks burst into Fiddler on the Roof's shtetl wedding-- how many of us are the products of their raping Jewesses, whose pious husbands were helpless to intervene? It was indeed our great hope for almost 2000 years to be a free, strong and holy people in our own only land, Israel. Every decent congregation should pray for Tzahal and our government. The allegedly glowing shtetl itself was soon to be ravaged by German barbarians, their dark nationhood masked by a glaze of Christianity, European culture, and secular intellect. Wicked Luther's rabid anti-semitism was Hitler's guide. His name should be erased from all decent Christian institutions, especially in Israel.
Rav Mordecai Gafni (on a TOP Purim and Discovery discovery tape) explores prophetic rabbinic warnings of worldwide destruction by German Edomites, should their 300 warring princes unite (Meg. 6a-b); so WWI, WWII and the Shoah followed Bismark's late unification of Germany's 300 principalities, tho he did it too late for Germany to become a great colonial power, similar to France and England. The allies should have broken up Germany and scattered the Germans in 1919; should Israel have done likewise to Palestinian Arabs, who tried to destroy it in 1967? Israel's response to Arab bus massacres, as to any other terrorist act, should be immediate building of a large Jewish Quarter in Hebron, the only true deterrent to fanatic Moslems. But indiscriminate Jewish killers of Arabs are also de facto accomplices to the subsequent murders of Jews, in revenge. Should zealous Jews bad-mouth Peres (lashon hara and r'chilut), accusing him of anti-religious sentiment, when the government arrests pious Jews, whom it reasonably suspects of encouraging and/or planning violence against others? (cf. Dr. Goldstein and Yigal Amir, Ex. 21:14). Will Nissan 8, when Kahane-like Chabad Rav Yitzchak Ginsberg was ordered released from administrative detention, become a Chabad holiday, like Kislev 19, a precedent for Israel Independence Day? Will his arrest help make him a candidate for rebbe of Chabad?
The hanging of Haman's ten sons, already killed the day before (Esther 9:13), is to display their bodies in public, to frighten enemies of the Jews; so Islamic terrorists should be buried in pig skins, thrown into the sea, or otherwise disposed of, in ways that preclude them from going to heaven, per their distorted religion, to discourage others from emulating them. Motti Berger claims that Esther 9:7 predicts the Nuremberg Trials, where 10 Nazi leaders were hung, tho that is not its p'shat (simple meaning)-- 3 letters in the list of Haman's 10 sons-- tov, shin, and zayin-- are written smaller than the rest; their numerical equivalent, 707, is the Hebrew year of the Trials-- (5)707, during which 10 Nazis were hanged. The last one went to the gallows saying: "Purimfest 1946", tho Purim was months earlier.
WHO REALLY KNOWS WHAT THE MORROW WILL BRING? Historical processes, as so much in our lives, seem beyond our control-- all we can usually choose is our responses. Many Jews kept faith in the Promises of the God of History, even during the barbaric Crusades, Inquisitiom and Holocaust; Purim's message helped-- Providential preludes to eventual Messianic salvation often appear on the heels of tragedy, as in 1948 and 1967. The Alexanderer Rebbe translated ("to tell of your kindness in the morning) ve'emunascha balalos" as "Your faith in us", rather than "our faith in you", "thruout the nights"-- God does not completely give up on us or forget us, no matter how far we drift from His path. So another superfluous word, "v'haya", IT WILL BE, hints of good news on the way; Israel's seemingly dead past is turned into a glorious future-- when Jews return to themselves and Israel (Deut. 7:12, 26:1).
Sometimes a great dreamer, as Yosef, Jabotinsky, and modern religious Zionists, has a glimpse into the next stage of historic upheaval; if his brothers are equally great, they'll eventually admit that they lacked similar vision-- Rav J. B. Soloveichik, in The Rav Speaks-- Joseph and His Brethren; he believed that eminent anti-Zionist European Roshei Yeshiva, e.g. Rav Elchanan Wasserman, would have admitted their error, had they survived the Holocaust. Munkatcher Dayan Y. D. Teichtel did so in Budapest in 1943; he wrote Am Habanim Smecha, a charedi apology to the Zionist movement (Hebrew, $20; Pesach Shindler's English synopsis, published by Oxford, is $5; his excellent, but probably expensive, English translation, is still being prepared for publication by Y.U. and Ktav, at about the pace of work on the Dead Sea Scrolls).
JEWS & ARABS A typical sudden Diaspora tragedy struck Persian Jewry just before Pesach, on Nissan 12, 5599, Moharram 10, 1255, March 27, 1839. For over 100 years, Jews built up a community in Meshhed, a Shiite center in Persia, on the Afghan border. A street urchin, claiming that a Jew insulted him, aroused the mob in Imam Ridha mosque to storm the Jewish Quarter. 32 Jews (or families) were murdered; the rest were forced to adopt Islam, living as marranos, until they could escape. Some reached Herat, under the relatively tolerant Sunnis. The Persians, however, captured it and sent them to concentration camps in Meshdad, in 1856. Many died in the forced 20 day winter march, but the survivors returned to Herat 2 years later. They too hoped to be a free, strong and holy people in their land; half of Meshdad's marranos indeed reached Israel by the 1950's-- visit the Aziz gift shop, 18 Tiferet Yisrael, in the Jewish Quarter (628-9208), near TOP, to get the survivors' story! The Jews of Salmas suffered a similar fate in 1845.
Much earlier, Maimonides' letter encouraged the Jews of Yemen to resist terrible pressures to convert to Islam. They remained faithful to his holistic combo of Torah and science ever after; a holy "gadol", Rav Yichya Kapach, urged Yemenites to return to their holy tradition about a hundred years ago; they had drifted into kabbalistic mysticism under Sephardic influence, rather than improving their terrible situation via modern education and science; Kapach even cast out the Zohar, claiming that it reflected non-Jewish eastern mysticism. Yet Islamic persecution was far less frequent, intense, and barbaric than that of Christianity (in the name of an alleged Prince of Peace)-- both daughter faiths claimed that God changed His Mind about His Torah and His People. Perhaps time and space are stamped by events occuring within them, e.g. the joy of Adar and the dangers of Av. After writing the above (1988), I saw newspaper headlines-- Arabs had hijacked KU422 to Meshhed airport. Were the victims and/or hijackers descendants of those fanatical Shiites? Is this site now etched in time for Islamic violence?
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B. A SYNOPSIS OF SHMINI
THE PEAK OF AHARON'S MISSION AND FULFILLMENT, THE GRAND OPENING OF THE TABERNACLE, WAS SCHEDULED FOR "THE 8TH DAY"-- for 7 days, Aharon & Sons shared a painstaking induction, via sacrifices and ceremonies. Moshe, still high priest and master of all ceremonies, CALLED AHARON, HIS SONS, AND ISRAEL'S ELDERS ON THE 8th DAY. He told Aharon to bring sin and burnt offerings (A BULL CALF and a ram) AND TO TELL THE JEWS to bring sin, burnt, and meal offerings, "FOR TODAY GOD APPEARS TO YOU"-- it should have been a day of breakthru, not breakdown. The sacrifices were brought, and the people congregated, standing BEFORE GOD. THEN Moshe said "(ONLY?) THIS THING, WHICH GOD ORDERED, DO-- AND GOD'S GLORY WILL APPEAR TO YOU". THEN Moshe told Aharon to FIRST bring his OWN sacrifices, to atone for HIMSELF AND THE PEOPLE, then THEIR sacrifices to atone FOR THEM, "AS GOD COMMANDED". So the Jews, tho priests of mankind, must first improve themselves (cf. Israel Today). Aharon did so, per God's regulations; the finale was the peace offerings. Aharon then blessed the people and returned, then entered the tent WITH Moshe; THEY came out and blessed the people and "(only then) GOD'S GLORY APPEARED TO ALL THE PEOPLE". When they all saw God's consuming fire on the altar, "THEY SANG IN ECSTASY AND FELL UPON THEIR FACES" (9:1-24; 9:24 is appended to Ch. 10, when we read the Torah).
Just at that glorious moment, Aharon's 2 MOST OUTSTANDING sons, Nadav and Avihu, took fire and incense in their pans. They offered "BEFORE GOD AN ALIEN FIRE WHICH HE HAD NOT COMMANDED THEM" or, translating per the cantillation, "WHICH HE HAD COMMANDED THEM: `DON'T' (offer)" (10:1). Then "A FIRE EMERGED FROM BEFORE GOD AND CONSUMED THEM AND THEY DIED BEFORE GOD". Moshe THEN told Aharon that God said He'd be sanctified with those close to Him (Aharon &/or Nadav & Avihu) and (thereby be) honored before all the people. "AHARON WAS QUIET" (or "PETRIFIED"-- A. Neher, cf. Job; William Safire sees Job as a prototype of the modern political dissident; he refuses to confess sins that he hasn't committed, despite the horrendous afflictions visited on him-- "The First Dissident: The Book of Job in Today's Politics", reviewed by Hillel Halkin in JR, 3/25/93). Moshe told Aharon's COUSINS to take the bodies outside the camp. The bodies were so removed IN THEIR TUNICS! Moshe told Aharon and his sons not to outwardly mourn, to leave the crying to the other Jews, "... that they NOT DIE AND THAT GOD NOT BE ANGRY WITH THE WHOLE COMMUNITY... (10:2-6)". While they had annointing oil on their heads, they shouldn't leave the Tabernacle entrance, lest they die. They listened.
THEN God Himself spoke to Aharon, warning him and his sons not to imbibe alcohol while on duty, lest they die, a law for all generations-- "AND TO DIVIDE BETWEEN HOLY AND PROFANE, BETWEEN UNCLEAN AND CLEAN, AND TO TEACH THE JEWS ALL THE STATUTES WHICH GOD ADDRESSED TO THEM VIA MOSHE" (7-11; I couldn't think of an association to the U.S. 7-11 chain of high-priced late-hours mini-markets; cf. vodka-drenched farbrangin). So Jews, a "kingdom of priests", constantly on duty to build a model nation, should never be inebriated (except, PERHAPS, on Purim). A Russian peasant automatically reaches for Vodka-- it's the last thing to turn into a Jewish ideal; see our Naso, Purim and Ashet Chayil studies, and Solomon's tongue lashing by his mom for imbibing alcohol, her prelude to A Woman of Valor, in Prov. 31:1-9-- wine is only to cheer up the broken-hearted; perhaps we're all such when we make kiddush on Shabat and holidays, contemplating the contrast between the world as it is, and the world as it will and should be! Rav Riskin claims that drunkenness on Purim is artificial induced joy, to cover up the latent sadness of the Jew in exile, where Purim is but a temporary respite between Hamans, where God is hidden, His name absent from Esther. But Jews don't get drunk from the 4-5 cups of wine at the Passover Seder, which express, rather than simulate, true joy, amidst hallel praise; we then celebrate the Jewish departure from confining exile, as they return to the Holy Land, where God's constantly revealed.
Moshe then told Aharon and his surviving sons that God commanded them to eat the remainder of the meal offering IN THE HOLY PLACE, and the gifts of the chest and hind leg (after waving them-- Lev. 10:15), with their families, IN A CLEAN PLACE (in the camp). Moshe then earnestly sought (we've now read 1/2 the words of the Pentateuch-- always stress the half full glass! Celebrate Yom Haatzmaut!) the sin offering of the congregation and found it burnt (rather than eaten by the priests) and GOT ANGRY AT (or FOR-- lest they die) AHARON'S SURVIVING SONS-- its consumption ATONES FOR THE CONGREGATION AND THEY'RE COMMANDED TO EAT IT (even when bereaved). AHARON ADDRESSED MOSHE: "BEHOLD, TODAY THEY BROUGHT THEIR SIN OFFERINGS AND BURNT OFFERINGS BEFORE GOD AND SUCH THINGS HAVE HAPPENED TO ME-- HAD I EATEN THE SIN OFFERING TODAY, WOULD IT HAVE BEEN PLEASING IN GOD'S EYES?". MOSHE REALLY HEARD THIS AND IT WAS PLEASING IN HIS EYES (10:12-20; so one who hasn't yet buried his dead, an "onan", is exempt from other positive commandments).
CH. 11 (God's remedy for spiritual bankruptcy): STRICTLY KOSHER! In Eden, God gave Adam, who was not permitted to kill animals for food, one other prohibition-- not to eat a certain fruit. Post-Flood Man may kill animals for food, but God prohibits eating meat from animals still alive, e.g. testicles from castrated animals, eaten in the Midwest USA, and live monkey brains, eaten by some Japanese; according to some, even animals which died of themselves are forbidden universal man (but angels brought Adam meat and wine-- San. 59b; ARN 1, 5; Zohar 1:38a; the rabbis apparently couldn't envision an Edenic vegetarian existence). The Jew is now given many more restrictions on animal consumption.
Ch. 11 opens: God told Moshe and Aharon to tell THEM: "address the children of Israel "to tell" (their children?-- kosher food is one of the last mitzos which is abandoned): `These are the animals you MAY eat of all the animals upon the earth'" (God knows them all!-- 11:1-2). Whom are Moshe and Aharon to tell? It can't be the Jews, whom they're immediately thereafter commanded to address; Sifra says that "THEM" refers to Eliezer and Itamar, Aharon's sons, who are to be specially taught by him, after he's been taught by Moshe-- see Rashi; he notes that many laws were given to Aharon indirectly, thru Moshe-- Lev. 1:1. The Talmud (Eruvin 54b) discusses the transmission of God's Oral Law: "Moshe learned from the mouth of the Omnipotent. Then Aharon entered and Moshe taught him his lesson; Aharon then moved aside and sat on Moshe's left. Thereupon Aharon's sons entered and Moshe taught them their lesson. His sons then moved aside, Eleazer taking his seat on Uncle Moshe's right, Itamar on Aharon's left. Rav Yehuda stated: `Aharon was always on Moshe's right'. Thereupon the elders entered and Moshe taught them their lesson*. Thus Aharon heard the lesson 4 times, his sons 3, the elders twice, and all the people once (from Moshe). At this stage Moshe departed and Aharon taught the people his lesson. Then Aharon departed and his sons taught them their lesson; his sons then departed and the elders taught them their lesson. Thus everybody heard the lesson 4 times, from which R. Eliezer inferred that it's a man's duty to teach his pupil (his lesson) 4 times".
Rambam (in his "misnagdic litvisha" elitist** Introduction To The Talmud) elaborates and adds: "Thereupon, all members of the entire nation (women and children too?) would instruct each other in what they'd heard from Moshe's lips, and they wrote records of that mitzva (for themselves, before the Talmud was written). The Officers would then traverse Israel to teach and demonstrate, until everyone knew the mitzva precisely and fluently. They then instructed them in explanations needed for that God-given mitzva (Rambam believed in explaining mitzvos rationally), which involved many subjects. The mitzva would thus be committed to writing, while its accompanying oral tradition would be committed to memory".
*perhaps Sifra doesn't mention the 70 elders here, just after the dedication of the tabernacle, at the beginning of Nissan, in the second desert year, as they were appointed to aid Moshe only after the 20th day of Iyar (Num. 9:11, 11:16), tho already singled out as spiritual leaders at Sinai (Ex. 24:9f) and on the 8th day (9:1).
** in Ch. 8, he writes: "The purpose of one's being a man is for him to FORM PROFOUND INTELLECTUAL CONCEPTS in his mind (and do mitzvos). Now if so, why did God produce all those men who are INCAPABLE of so doing? We see that most mortals are devoid of real intelligence and are empty of profound wisdom, seeking their superficial desires... only one person totally wise in a number of generations can be found!... those people were created for 2 other reasons: 1) ... to provide those functions required for the world machinery, so that the scholar will have his needs prepared... 2) so that the rare scholar not be lonely."
Rambam's mother died bearing him and his father disdained both of them, until little Rambam became a genius, earning Daddy's love (Shalshelet Hakabala-- cf. M.T. Isurei Biah 12:10). Did that lead him to postulate that Big Daddy too only loves you if you're a genius? For a later application of "the masses are asses", see Shadal's concept of sacrifices, at the beginning of Leviticus.
The Besht had the opposite outlook; he'd take his disciples on all night hayrides to experience truly holy people, who might not even be able to read and write. The unique essence of hassidut is not its Lurianic kabbala, taken from earlier Sfardim, but its sensitive humanity and joie de vie. A true pupil of Avraham is a kind person, without undo pride and passion (see Avot 5:22), Jew or non-Jew; so a true follower of the Besht, who was also a young orphan, is joyful and spreads joy, reaching out to grasp and develop the beauty in every human being, embracing "strangers"-- for ultimately no one is really a stranger. Shlomo Carlebach Z"l may have been the Besht's greatest pupil and hassidic model in the 20th century.
Mammals permitted the Jewish palate must have fully cloven hooves and chew their cud. Other animal carcasses engender ritual impurity. Those animals with only one kosher sign, and thus forbidden, ARE LISTED (again, God knows all the animals!). Water inhabitants must have fins and scales to be kosher; otherwise they're treated as repulsive (NO LISTS ARE GIVEN). Forbidden flying animals are LISTED, w/o rules of classificaton. Flying insects, using 4 of their (6) legs for walking, are forbidden, treated as repulsive, except for certain kosher locusts (chagavim). Anyone touching carcasses of animals w/o split cloven hooves, which don't chew their cud, or of animals which walk on their paws, is unclean until evening. External split hooves may represent man's behavior toward his fellow man, which must be on a firm moral footing; hidden internal rumination may represent one's relation to God, requiring a lot of spiritual rumination-- the lack of either renders an animal "tref" (Ohrnet)! Creeping crawlies and small animals, which engender ritual impurity if dead, are listed, with the procedure for purifying utensils so affected; a clay vessel must be broken, if the contaminating substance ENTERS it; the contents are then unclean too. Produce must have been wet, after picking, to be rendered unclean; A MIKVEH CAN'T BECOME UNCLEAN, NOR INEDIBLE, OR PLANTED, SEEDS. Kosher animal carcasses, not ritually slaughtered, also defile-- "FOR I'M GOD, WHO BROUGHT YOU UP OUT OF EGYPT, TO BE YOUR LORD-- BE HOLY FOR I'M HOLY (9:44)". Kashrut is to render one holy, not healthy! Science teaches us the effects of the physical world upon our bodies, Torah its effect upon our souls (cf. alcohol's effects on some sick souls, while others proclaim: "Mere alcohol doesn't thrill me at all...").
C. NOW LET'S THINK-- SOME ??
The emphasized words suggest ?? & insights. What do 6, 7, & 8 symbolize in Torah (see Klie Yakar 9:1)? Contemplate 6 days of Creation, 6 Orders of Mishnah, and 6 years of normal farming; the 7 days of the week, the sabbatical 7th year, the omer period of 7 weeks, 7 days of impurity, 7x7 non-jubilee years, 7 days of Sukkos and Pesach (with offerings of 7 & 14 lambs); Pirke Avot's 7 traits of the clod and the wise man and 7 sin-linked calamities; 7-8 note music scales; the 8th day of dedication of the priests and tabernacle, the 8th Day of Assembly, the 8th cycle of 7 years opening the Jubilee Year, Shavuot at the beginning of the 8th week after Pesach, and the 8th day of life-- the first opportunity to circumcise a Jewish baby, or to sacrifice a baby animal. Think in terms of both physical and transcendental realms.
Half way to transcendent "8", on the road to Shavuos, is the "4-theme" in the Hagada (4 cups, 4 sons, and 4 terms of redemption). Is 4's geometric shape, the square, in some way "unnatural"? Why were the elders called on the 8th day (9:1)? Why did Moshe ORDER the Jews to perform God's word only AFTER they had already done so (9:5-6)? Should one seek communion with God and religious ecstasy (cf. God's command to cleave to God with God's approval of His indirect communication with Israel, via Moshe)? Should one follow one's heart and feelings in religion?-- cf. "YOU SHALL LOVE GOD YOUR LORD WITH ALL YOUR HEARTS... (Deut. 6:5)" with "DO NOT TURN ASIDE AFTER YOUR HEARTS (Num. 15:39)". If Nadav & Avihu were commanded NOT to bring the fire, where? If they just did something on their own, why did they deserve God's terrible punishment? How did they rank among Aharon's sons? Who were their kids? Try to understand the imbibing prohibition, which may include all intoxicating liquids, or may only refer to 40 day unmixed wine (Rambam-- see Sifra, Eruv. 64a, Sefer Hachinuch 152). How does the death of holy people sanctify and honor God?
Was Aharon "quiet" only externally, as one mourning on Shabbat? Why shouldn't a Cohen Gadol exhibit mourning? Why MUST he or another cohen (see Chizkuni on Numbers 19:2) render himself unclean, while preparing the red heifer? (See S. R. Hirsch on the red heifer-- the Cohen is to transcend death, yet lower himself to pull up another, who's really bogged down by death). Sefer Hachinuch discusses the rationalization of mitzvot in 159, and Rambam's view that one is allowed to become ritually impure, if she so desires, in 160. Why did God give the Priestly Prohibition Law directly to Aharon? What's the priest's function today? What was unusual about the pyre of Aharon's sons? Why was Moshe angry? How should he have felt about Aharon and his great tragedy? Why may a High Priest not eat holy things, on the day of the death of one for whom he is required to mourn (only that day, per the Torah), if he may not DISPLAY mourning and must perform the service?-- See M. T., Biat Hamikdash, 2:8f.
How does Aharon's sons' tragic tale interface with the laws of kashrut? What's the connection between the laws of kosher animals and those following, re animal carcasses, which render those in contact with them ritually impure? Why does the Torah devote so much space to ritual impurity, rarely relevant historically? Is it a real force? Why didn't Moshe know the correct law regarding Aharon's eating of the sin offering, after his tragic loss?
Rav Reuven Suber writes the interesting Parsha Q&A in Ohr Somayach's attractive, but non-Zionist, weekly Torah magazine, Ohrnet (which, like us, gives exact citations, rather than just saying: "The Midrash Says, Chazal say", etc.). This week, the last of his "20 ??" is on 11:21-- "The chagav is a kosher insect. Why don't we eat it?" His answer-- "We (meaning ashkenazim) have lost the tradition, and are not able to identify the kosher chagav". YF: But East European traditions are no longer the only game in town! Rav Eliezer Shach cannot, in integrity, assume that his Lithuanian forebearers are more authentic, knowledgeable or insightful than those of Rav Ovadia Yosef. Indeed, savvy worldly Western European and Italian "g'dolim" may be much more appropriate and insightful for our age, than those of either of the traumatized insular Eastern European and Adot Mizrach communities. God has reunited all our communities, each with their own unique traditions and knowledge, via The State of Israel and modern publications and communications. He is also uniting all mankind via internet; we can all learn from each other-- Rav N. Cardozo was uncomfortable in Ohr Somayach, part of the Litvishe Yeshiva world, which often ignores, even belittles, the learning, morality, integrity and accomplishments of others, especially non-Jews and non-observant Jews. He's now Assistant Dean of the broad open spiritual Zionist Isralight Program. SO WHY NOT EAT KOSHER LOCUSTS?-- if you're an ignorant Ashkenazi, you can and should rely upon our Yemenite and Moroccan brethren, who can identify kosher chagavim for you-- it's a mitzva to examine their signs (see Sefer Hachinuch 158). B'teavon!.
How do you feel about eating locusts? Pork? Non-kosher beef? Should your feelings play any role in halachic determination? Like science, it may function better without them, tho having to recognize, and respond to, the fact of their existence. What's the connection between holiness and ritual impurity? What does HOLY mean? What does "God is holy" mean? Doesn't G-d mean God? Is an "o" holier than a "-"? Can Orthodox Jews create a language? *** Is Adam commanded re spirituality and prayer? Kashrut? Where else are Nadav & Avihu found in the Torah? Why does the Torah give signs to identify kosher animals, but only the names of non-kosher birds? The Jerusalem Talmud suggests that kosher birds have an extra digit in their claws. A brief survey of ornithology books (or a visit to the impressive Ramat Gan safari or the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo!) suggests otherwise (ALL birds have 4 digits!). Per Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Sternberg, "extra" here refers to the atrophied, "superfluous" grasping claw of kosher birds. What might this suggest about the birds we may eat, if "we are what we eat"?
*** Rav J. Soloveichik ridiculed the usage of "G-d", wrote "God" on the blackboard, and erased it! The majority view is that only the Hebrew Biblical names of God have sanctity; Rav Y. Ginsburg is extra stringant re other names, and leaves a blank space, or their numerical equivalent, rather than "G-d", in his disposable writings.
Is Moshe above human feeling and its effects on judgement? Did the Ramban "judge" Avraham's yerida to Egypt and his dealing with Sara's honor, by claiming to be only her brother? Can we judge the effects of the Ramban's personality on his actions and statements (Charedi Rav Kulitz claims that medieval rabbis weren't influenced by their personalities and experiences, transcending all, as angels-- Rav J. Soloveichik strongly disagreed)? Did Moshe anticipate the problem of Nadav & Avihu? If so, where? In Kabbalah, how was Moshe, a reincarnation of Abel and Seth, similar to Nadav & Avihu? (hint-- why did Abel die-- if there is a knowable reason?). Why does Ari put reincarnation (which he equates with resurrection) in his 8th gate? Can one understand misnagdic objections to chassidic ecstasy and expression of emotion from Nadav & Avihu? Can one understand chassidic objections to misnagdic repression of emotion from Moshe's response to Aharon's tragedy? How often must a Cohen have a haircut (see Sefer Hachinuch 149, 150)? Is this an objection to long hair (anyone very unkempt may not enter the Temple)? How many witnesses are needed to testify that something is kosher? That X owes Y $1? Does another's store need a rabbinic kosher certificate more than his home? Shouldn't one trust any duly ordained rabbis, as to kashrut?
D. THE HAFTARA (II SAMUEL 6-7)
Uzzah dies for touching the ark on its way to the City of David, when its cart tottered-- why? Everyone was afraid of approaching the ark, until Obed-Edom was blessed for taking care of it. David danced with ecstasy in public, celebrating with all the people, even the servant girls, when the ark again came up. His wife, regal aloof Michal, criticized and despised him and his plebeian personality. She then became childless. Should Orthodoxy be like him or her, or both?-- formal or informal, Shlomo or Heichel Shlomo, shteibel or Great Synagogue?
ON SHABAT HACHODESH, we read (Ex. 12:1-20) of the first permanent Divine commandment to the people of Israel-- to make a lunar calendar, beginning with the springtime month of Nissan****: THIS MONTH (Nissan, or THIS STAGE OF THE NEW MOON) SHALL BE TO YOU THE BEGINNING OF MONTHS. Man can begin again and renew time every moment. The advent of a new month and the resultant holidays is to be fixed by the sighting of human witnesses, even if subsequently proven wrong (RH II:8); it combines God's schedule for His World and Man, objective time, with the input of free will man in the use of his brief share of God's time-- subjective time (cf. The Theory of Relativity). If we spend our days "killing time", we commit suicide; if we "create or make" time, we give birth to life (Rav Shlomo Riskin, who rarely wastes a moment; may God comfort him on the loss of his father, to whom, as to all of us, Rav Riskin gave such great joy and satisfaction). THE HAFTARA for Shabbat HaChodesh is Ezekiel 45:16-46:18, describing the Temple sacrifices of the princes; Sefardim read 45:18-46:15.
**** The "secular" lunar calendar, for universal events, begins with the fall month, Tishre.
E. SOME ANSWERS
We die with many, if not most, ??? unanswered! 6 are the 6 days and 6000 years of creation, of the world of Elokim (= 86), God as Lord and Lawgiver of Nature (Hateva, = 86). 7 is Shabat, His sanctifying and blessing His Creation, and the Messianic 7th millenium-- then Man raises his consciousness of God's active presence in our physical world. 8 represents contact with the transcendental real world of God, beyond the physical, to the extent humanly possible. Thus the 8th day of initiation is appropriate for inauguration of the Tabernacle service, where God is revealed to, and meets, man, and for inauguration of the Cohanim, whose blemish-free external behavior ignores and transcends the inevitable, howbeit temporary, realm of physical death. The 8th day of life allows sacrifical drawing near to God of both a circumcised baby and a sacrificed baby animal. So the Jubilee Year is a letting go of one's grasp on this world. A countdown of 7 days symbolizes the closing of an era; the 8th day begins anew, on a higher level, that which has gone before (Rav S. Hirsch). DO RE MI FA SO LA TI-- DO! So the cohanim now concluded the private phase of their lives, a basis for their new public Divine service. Squares are generally not found as geometric shapes in "nature"; likewise, those not conversant or integrated with contemporary fads are called "squares" (or "nerds"). Connections between the alef-bet, geometry in nature, and geometry in kabbala are explored in our audio and video lectures by Stan Tennon of MERU, perhaps more sophisticated and holistic than The Codes.
Rashi: the elders were called in by Moshe to inform them he was executing God's command, not nepotism, in appointing Aharon & sons priests (Korach later accused Moshe of nepotism). We're not told exactly what Moshe said to them-- "calling" is greeting, establishing loving friendly relations, BEFORE any formal instruction is given (cf. parent-child relations). So God's Torah, Volume 3, is named VAYIKRA-- AND HE CALLED-- as God first displayed His love for Moshe, calling him by name, before giving him orders. Moshe now follows God's example in addressing Aharon & Sons and the elders. Perhaps the elders were called in to stress that the cohanim are not given lordship over the people, but are public servants to elevate them. Similarly Rambam (end of his Laws of Kings) points out that the "kingdom of priests", the holy Jewish nation, is not chosen to lord it over others, but to teach and inspire them, ending man's existential exile from God and Eden (cf. Jews and Arabs).
AGAINST ECSTASY: AFTER all of Moshe's instructions for the tabernacle dedication on the 8th day, he concludes-- DO THIS WORD (or thing) WHICH GOD COMMANDED AND GOD'S GLORY WILL APPEAR TO YOU (9:6). Moshe thus warns Israel that tabernacle service must be limited ONLY to those things which God commanded. He already feared that cohanim would be tempted to "do their own thing", to continually engross the folk with religious ecstasy and closeness to God-- cf. "We want Meshiach now!". Israel must return to detailed seemingly humdrum daily life, after the impressive tabernacle inauguration. By study and practice of God's laws for every aspect of life, however, the mundane itself can be transformed into the sublime-- God's Glory. All has deep meaning and purpose. As one gets deeper and deeper into God's objective laws of science and halacha, and they into him, he feels true, but quiet, awe and ecstasy; he apprehends a bit of God's infinity-- "I have placed God before me constantly (Because He's at my right hand, I shall not falter"-- Ps. 16:8) is the pulsating spirit permeating every detail of the seemingly dry Code of Jewish Law (Rabbi Dr. Isadore Twersky); but subjective gooey self-induced emotional states may reflect little of Divine reality.
Prof. James Kugel's "On Being A Jew-- what does it mean to be a Jew?" sets forth the basic worldview and nature of traditional Judaism; he compares the precise "blessed details" of building the Tabernacle, the only way to ensure that God's presence will specially abide amidst the Jewish people, to the many exact details of halacha, especially Shabbat, which even overrides the building of the tabernacle; such detailed observance renders all Jewish private and communal life a living tabernacle, in which God can be found. His work is in the form of a dialogue between an observant worldly Sefardi banker and a young, ignorant and alienated American Jew. Its upbeat contemporary style has been compared to Yehuda Halevi's Kuzari, but I'm more inclined to compare it to Hirsch's 19 Letters, directed to drifting Graetz.
God's removed man from the world of pure souls to enter a womb and improve this world. "Religious" experience mustn't be a substitute for life, but the means to sanctify it! In WHEN GOD BECOMES A DRUG, Leo Booth discusses the abuse of religion to control and repress others, especially one's family, and to avoid reality, as well as true and responsible relationships with other people. Religion can become an escapist addiction, similar to drugs and alcohol (cf. the writings of Jerusalem's great educational psychologist Reuven Feuerstein, and Pittsburg's humanistic hassidic psychiatrist Avraham Twersky, who specializes in substance abuse-- see his TOP video lectures on self-esteem, abuse and the victimization of women).
Baal Haturim, based on the cantillation of 10:1, holds that God specifically TOLD Aharon's sons NOT to do their own thing. Where?-- the above verse (9:6), wherein Moshe warns the Jews to do ONLY that which He's commanded, in order to truly experience His Glory; it may also teach that even when there's no sacrifices, the WORD of God-- prayer and study-- will also bring down His glory (see our Vayikra study). Korban Aharon, per holy Hirsch, says that THE THING WHICH GOD COMMANDED refers to the common message of all sacrifices-- if the Jew, as part of united Israel, brings all reality, even his own animal self, up to meet God, God's glory, in turn, comes down to meet him.
ROOTS-- THE OLD ASHKENAZIC MISNAGDIC WAY: If, however, Nadav & Avihu had NOT received any order against religious innovation, why did they die? Apparently, they were destined to be Moshe & Aharon's successors-- they're the only sons of Aharon who acompanied them a bit up Sinai (Exodus 24:9); there they received a Divine Revelation, similar to Ezekiel's. Men on such a level certainly shouldn't introduce their own conceptions of Divine service into the sanctuary, and are especially liable should they do so. Some say that their response to God's revelation on Sinai, irreverent eating and drinking, was the real cause of their death; they violated their probation (by again drinking wine?) on the glorious 8th day and died. Yoel Lerner claims that such great men, from whom much more is expected, are always punished harshly, if they err (cf. Moshe, B. Goldstein). This shows the people the great sanctity of the priests and tabernacle (10:3). Thus, in dying, they, as Aharon, their quiet non-protesting father, sanctify God's Name.
All things come alike to all; there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked (Ecc. 9:2)-- ... to the righteous applies to the sons of Aharon (see Malachi 2:6); ...to the wicked applies to the company of Korach (see Num. 16:26). The latter entered the tabernacle to offer in a spirit of contentiousness, and ended being burnt; the former entered to offer without contentiousness, and ended by being burnt (Lev. Raba 20:1).
The Natziv (Haamek Davar, Lev. 10:91) compares Nadav and Avihu to the 250 holy followers of Korach, who brought incense before God, assuming the role allocated to Aharon's descendants. They were seized by the "strange fire" of LOVE OF GOD, which, however, must be curbed by the hard and fast limits of halacha-- God's law. Even those called "close to Me" (10:3) are bound by the law. So God responds harshly to Moshe's hesitancy to circumcise his son-- a great Jewish leader must first himself be a meticulous follower of God and His Torah (per Chief Rabbi Lau, who is!). The Natziv was a leading spiritual descendant of the Vilna Gaon, and father of Rav Meir Bar Ilan, a leader of religious Zionism; his viewpoint reflects traditional misnagdic opposition to the chassidic revolution in Judaism, which stressed one's inner emotional religious perceptions as a major criterion for valid religious experience (cf. the modern viewpoint of religion as only aesthetic and subjective-- "Were you inspired by the seder?" rather than "did you carry out and study the seder in full correct detail?" But Zalman Shechter's Jewish Renewal Movement's test of religious practice is: "Does it work for you?"; listen to Rav J. Soloveichik's audio lecture on Korach).
The expression of religious feeling in passionate song and dance (aided by a bit of Vodka) was another bone of contention (Rav J. Soloveichik, in a Kislev 19 address to Chabad, Brookline). Misnagdim believed that the holiest human feelings toward God and man are cheapened and diluted when sung and shouted, ignoring the concept of religious modesty. The Inner Sanctum of the human soul needs to be as covered, hidden, and inaccessible to others as the ark in the Holy of Holies. Spiritual arousal via song and dance is only different in degree from arousal via drugs and alcohol. No external source should lead to God-intoxicated ecstasy-- only study and observance of Torah and God's natural laws. So Rashi says that Nadav & Avihu sinned by entering the sanctuary after drinking wine.
SOME SUPPORT FOR THE CHASSIDIC SIDE: Even prophets needed music to prepare themselves to receive the Divine message (Sam. l0:5, l6:l6, 23, 2 K 3:l5; cf. Amos 5:23, Ps. l37). But it was only to induce joy, a prerequisite of prophecy, impaired by anger and mourning. Adonim (l0th Century) viewed music as part of basic intellectual development; he used it in explaining Sefer Hayitzirah. Saadya Gaon speaks of music as a means to a balanced ethical temperament (end of Emunot V'daot). 17th century Leon De Modena could not conceive of life w/o music (or gambling!), tho he preferred it w/o Zohar. Sefer Chasidim ll claims that prayers must be linked to tunes, as later stressed by kabbalists, chassidim, communal choirs, and kumsitzim. Chassidim may well argue that unexpressed feelings and experiences tend to recede into the unconscious, and certainly cannot inspire others. Maimonides speaks of a beautiful VOICE as a means to divorce oneself from the world of matter, to enter that of spirit-- for prayer (Pirke Hatzlacha). But he viewed music and song as a waste of time, per Andrew Sanders' criticism, in Dear Maimonides; but a local "yeshivishe" sage said that Sanders didn't know what he was talking about, that Rambam only banned ribald singing and dancing at weddings, pubs, etc.
So I checked the matter out with H.U. Prof. Zeev Harvey, an authority on Rambam; Sanders was right-on-- Harvey led me to the responsum, to Aram Cuzba, in Blau's wonderful scholarly collection, Tshuvos HaRambam, #224, p. 398. Rambam indeed views all music as worthless, even if not ribald, with or without words, in that only rare individuals will be raised to higher intellectual heights by it, Rambam's sole criteria of validity; in his responsum, he does make an exception for religious songs in praise of God, and cites many talmudic and gaonic predecessors. He especially decries female and other erotic singing and music; he may follow Plato, who viewed the flute as an erotic instrument-- Rambam would oppose erotic instruments, for he disdained sexual relations (Guide III, in explaining the laws of incest). This seems to fit his psychological portrait-- an abstract intellectual, orphaned at birth and deprived of love (see our Chanuka study), who disdained both affect and imagination. Rambam prescribed wine and song to improve the dissipated sick Sultan Al Afdal's mood, tho forbidden by Islam; he claims that many religious prohibitions, in both faiths, may be ignored when health is threatened (Regimen of Health, quoted by Elinor Lieber in Moses Maimonides-- Physician, Scientist and Philosopher).
Harvey notes that Rambam recognizes the Biblical "therapeutic" need for their disciples to play music to cheer up despondant prophets, a prerequisite of their obtaining prophecy, which only comes thru joy (M.T. Yesodei Hatora 7:4). In the 7th of his 8 Chapters, he notes that the soul needs aesthetic pleasure, e.g. pleasant surroundings just as the body needs food and water; this may well include music. Harvey concludes that Rambam could tolerate an occasional relaxing therapeutic concert (YF: only if absolutely necessary!-- so he allows only that food, without which you will die, in Daot; no kugel and vodka!), but would be aghast at those males who spends lots of time on music, rather than developing their minds. Should the Badatz ban male subscriptions to the Jerusalem Symphony?
A MISNAGDIC COUNTERTHRUST might be that holy human feelings are powefully, yet delicately, sensed from the quiet holy aura which surrounds great people; so is God's presence in the Holy of Holies-- no one was allowed there, except the high priest on Yom Kippur. But when the Jews saw his face after he emerged, reflecting the Divine potential in a human being, they fell down in ecstasy, tho he didn't utter a word-- see the Marei Kohen Y.K. prayer. Chaim Grade (reincarnated into Naomi Regan?) portrays the beautiful quiet holiness of misnagdic Lithuanian Jewry in "Der Mamma's Shabbos", his post-holocaust flashback to Vilna. On the other hand, when Jews are so alienated and insensitive to sanctity, they may not even NOTICE subtle deep holiness, the vibes of scholars, who quietly await the restoration of God's presence to Zion. The masses may need tangible open vital singing, e.g. "We want Mashiach now...", "Long live our dead rebbe", stressing the great human teacher (it's now replaced by the greatest nonsense-- magical reciting and displaying of the syllables of Rav Nachman of Breslav's name; cf. the anxiety attack of the Jews, resulting in the Calf, when they only had God, without their great Rebbe, Moshe). But even great scholars have a little kid within, who may, from time to time, need to experience open exuberant effusive enthusiasm (e.g. Shlomo, A. Fried)-- Inspiration vs. Intellect.
So there was no need for music in the tabernacle, where God's presence hovered in the cloud; but it was extensively and regularly used in Solomon's Temple-- perhaps the people needed much more consciousness-raising then. Symbolic furnishings were multiplied there, their implications much more blatant. Perhaps we could differentiate between music and art which EXPRESS an ALREADY PERCEIVED religious experience, their sole function being to STIMULATE religious experience, and their becoming a SUBSTITUTE for it. We often see returnees, who formerly tried to work themselves up with drugs, music, etc., seek Torah in those societies which try to arouse affect and ecstasy (cf. the new yeshiva in Bat Ayin, and Moshav Modein). Those accustomed to critically tuning into objective reality for inspiring perception of great truths, e.g. scientists, tend to join yeshivos where religious experience naturally flows from traditional Torah study (e.g. Darchei Noam, Nishmat).
Per Leviticus Raba (20:6-7), Nadav and Avihu's sin was to rule on legal ?? in the presence of their teachers, Moshe and Aharon, without consulting them - Thus the Torah mentions that they were (and should act as) "sons of Aharon", subservient to their great father and uncle, before giving their names (10:1). Their impatience to assume their role as leaders is reminiscent of the impatience of Adam and Eve-- they wouldn't save the fruit of the tree of knowledge for Shabbat, when it could be combined with extra Divine awareness; indeed, learning Torah, without God-awareness and good religious character, is bad for people (Yoma 72b; cf. Jewish Studies at H.U. and H.U.C.)-- HE'S MADE ALL BEAUTIFUL (only?) IN ITS TIME... (Ecc. 3:11). So modern children are frustrated and chafe at the bit, when they are infantilized thru their PhD and Kollel years, unable to contribute much to, or have much impact upon, their society and the world, often stuck with teachers whom they didn't (and wouldn't!) pick. Reformulating teachers' souls and spirituality is a much harder task than updating and upgrading their information and techniques-- but even the latter is difficult when the educational system is politicized, rather than professional (from Prof. David K. Cohen's recent Mandel Institute discussion of Policy and Pedagogy.
Bar Kappara, quoting Rav Yermiyahu ben Eleazer (Lev. Raba 20:8) also attributes the tragic error of Nadav and Avihu, otherwise saintly, to their not consulting with each other, as it says: "... EACH MAN his fire pan" (10:1). Rav Yaakov Sinclair, in this week's Ohrnet, cites this exegesis from Yalkut Shimoni (Shmini 524); he notes the implication-- had they taken advice from each other, they would not have erred; but, he asks, why should they have then arrived at a different conclusion? They both were of the same opinion-- that an ordinary priest could offer the incense too! He concludes, without further explanation, that even tho 2 people may share an identical opinion, they can arrive the truth-- which may be the opposite of what BOTH previously believed-- thru discussion and mutual counsel! YF: Freud may provide the explanation-- our unique unconscious emotional drives, stemming from very early primal experiences, constantly cloud and color our thoughts and actions; were Nadav and Avihu to discuss their identical conclusions, each would see the other's faulty reasoning and point it out. So we're urged not to judge individually-- each judge can sense and point out the others' blind spots; only God is completely objective (Avot 4:9).
Per Rashi's rationalist critical grandson, Rashbam, Nadav & Avihu simply entered the holy of holies, at the moment Divine Fire descended, to kindle the inner incense, before going on to the Animal Altar-- a work accident! Overly zealous, they didn't want to wait for the fire to descend; cf. those who push and shove, endangering children, to get near their rebbe.
IMMANENCE & TRANSCENDANCE, HEAVEN-STORMING & COMPLACENCE: Leon Wieseltier (CONGREGATION, HBJ) notes the paradoxical desire for more than tradition, for proximity, arising from absorption in the Biblical tradition itself; Biblical man experienced, not just recreated, contemporaneity. He lived, not just learned, Bible. Traditional Yeshivot, the managers of Revelation, may have thus self-perpetuated by discouraging Biblical, rather than Talmudic, study (see Rashi, Ber. 28b, which may refer to thoughtless memorization, rather than penetrating analysis, of Bibical texts; also see Chatam Sofer on Ex. 13:17, discussed in our B'Shalach study). Experienced Revelation remains cornered within a small box, surrounded by a sea of commentaries, in unillustrated editions of the Bible, miracle engulfed in system. Salanter (Hasidim cite the Besht) once interrupted talmudic study to proclaim: "Gentlemen, there's a God in the world!" Early Hassidic Masters sought experience of God in the woods; many of their placid (except at election time) descendants are content to tell stories about them, rather than exploring forests themselves. The modern re-stress on Bible, e.g. by Rav Kook, Shadal, Daas Sofrim, Benamozegh and Hirsch, may have led to Zionism, the desire to do more than just desire Israel. In studying Bible, we must relive it, not just analyze it-- project ourselves back in history into that day of Aharon's Dedication and Tragedy. Our religion is not to substitute for a Revelation that is over.
Such a live tradition is a consolation for the loss of the immediacy of the founding Revelation. A well-researched movie and novel, or a CD-ROM-- entitled The Eighth Day-- would nicely compliment this study sheet! Leon sees Ch. 9 as the Biblical engagement of religious form, tradition, and religious experience; the highly detailed sacrificial mediacy brings the striking intervention of God's immediacy. Nadav & Avihu, symbols of spiritual presumption, Icarian impulse, are the Jewish Patron Sinners of Impatience, of unbridled immediacy. Inspired by a fire, they made a fire, and were promptly destroyed by the inspiring fire (cf. Shabtai Tzvi, Yaakov Frank, and, l'havdil squared, Zalman Shechter-- read Rodger Kaminetz's fascinating account of the interface of the Jews, The Buddhists, and the Buddist Jews-- The Lotus and the Jew; Jewish Buudhist Sylvia Boorstein claims to be both a faithful Jew and a passionate Buddhist in That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist-- no comment, as I haven't yet read it). The "strange fire" is that brought by Man, not God's Own fire. Over-familiarity with, not deprivation of, God is what threatens holy man. The Torah, especially in Leviticus, teaches us structure for the reception of the unstructured-- the technical leads to the sublime. Leviticus is a manual for the religious organization of reality, differentiating and refining spatial, temporal, personal, animate and inanimate realms-- separation is the condition of meaning.
While Isaiah (66:17) implies that eating pork is as disgusting as eating mice, the damage may be only to the soul, not the body or palate-- indeed "One should not say `I can't stomach pork', but `I'd like it, but what can I do?-- my Father, Who is in Heaven, has so decreed upon me'" (Rav Eleazer b. Azaria in Sifra, cited by Rashi on Lev. 20:26; see Jer. Tal. Ber. II, Eruvin 111a, Men. 64b, Pes. 11a, Guide 3:48, Akadat Yitzchak 60:38, and Shabbat 129a, where pork is called "something else".
F. GLATT PORK CHOPS?
The pig is called CHAZIR, possibly meaning "HE WHO RETURNS". It will return, kosher, ruminant (maaley gara), at the end of days (Or Hachayim, Midrash cited in Or Y'karot, end Shmini)! 11:7 is translated: AS LONG AS IT DOESN'T CHEW ITS CUD, IT'S UNCLEAN TO YOU. Geneticists are now working on a ruminant pig! Per Radvaz (2:828), chazir refers to an angel named Chazriel, the accuser of Israel, who will eventually become their defender (Germany?). The pig is thus a symbol of Edom, the grasping descendants of Rome-- they present cloven hooves, outward signs of civilization and sanctity. They'll eventually RETURN spiritual kingship to Israel, whom they dispersed, after destroying God's Temple (Lev. Raba 13, Ecc. Raba 1:28; cf. Noahides today). R. Bachye was content with the Esavian symbolic meaning of chazir, in a pre-genetic age! See Otzar Yisroel, Chazir.
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Extensive Torah Reading study sheets and video lectures on many Judaic subjects, as well as Jewish educational gifts and music, are available at TOP. Your purchases and donations enable us to continue our mission. The perspective is eclectic and holistic, but traditional-- that the written Torah is the word of God, much of the oral His explanation. Together with science, they comprise His factory authorized instruction manual for mankind.
Help support these studies and our other Jewish information projects-- a complete set of our weekly & holiday torah reading studies or our monthly summaries and general studies is sent upon request with your donation of $36 or more-- $54 for a spiral bound enlarged book of the torah studies; older editions of both are 1/2 price. Both on ibm or mac discs are $80. $250 funds an 8 page weekly study, in honor or memory of whomever you wish, or a monthly Jerusalem Jewish Voice (2000 copies; $150 funds 1,000 copies).
We seek major donors to sponsor Jewish information centers worldwide, including dedication of our present center.
We have a large selection of Jewish video visions. Send a disk for a free catalog.
TOP is an attempt to present authentic Jewish tradition thru modern language and outlook. Visit our 900 year young reading room and Jewish video center at 54 Chabad St. as the state of Israel begins god's messianic redemption, so photos, tapes, & video may be a prelude to eternal life and resurrection of the dead! Imagine seeing moshe, rashi, the Besht or your great-great-grandfather on video!
Yaakov Fogelman, directs TOP, the Torah Outreach Program and The Jerusalem Jewish Information Center, in the Jewish 1/4 and edits these Jerusalem Jewish Voice Torah study sheets. He studied at The Rabbinical Seminary of America, is a graduate of Yeshiva University and Harvard Law School, and a member of the Massachusetts Bar. A synopsis of his teachings, together with those of 19 other contemporary Torah teachers, appears in Seymour Friedman's "In The Service of God", published by Jason Aaronson.
This work is copyright, but I'm most happy to have anyone reproduce it in any form, without charge, subject to two conditions--that the meaning not be distorted, and that ideas not be taken out of context, and that credit be given for the source. God gives us the Torah free and we must so share it with others; there are other ways to make a living. To cite the source of an idea brings redemption to the world (Avot 6:6)