THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
B'RESHIS -- "THE BEGINNING AND THE END"
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THIS STUDY OF B'RESHIT, ELY LEVISOHN'S BAR MITZVA READING, IS SPONSORED BY HIM IN MEMORY OF HIS FATHER, KURT DAVID LEVISOHN Z"L
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Prologue: Do you expect something special in this study of B'reshit, the tale of Creation, the beginning of the Torah? I thought about what to do different, extra special, in this study-- in the end, I decided to follow God's Own example and do nothing special! His brief tale of Creation gives no indication that it is more important than any other portion of the Torah-- and some indication that it is less important than most! God devotes less space to the creation of the universe than to Yitzchak's marriage to Rivka-- the lessons of the latter are far more significant for the unique destiny of the Jewish people, and for universal redemption and return to Eden from Zion. How to best live our lives and realize our potential is far more important than our understandings of the origins of the universe, which, in any event, are probably far from how it really happened. The Torah's main Creation Communication is that the world is a unified planned holistic entity, not a bunch of unconnected accidents, and that its successful climax is intimately linked to our development of the Divine Image within us, relating us to God Himself.
"The cosmic religious experience is the strongest and noblest driving force behind scientific work"-- Albert Einstein.
This and the other quotes below are from Joseph L. Baron's well-annotated A Treasury of Jewish Quotations, Aronson.
NOTE: We often omit superfluous "ugh" from words, e.g. "tho". Why perpetuate meaninglessness?-- cf. putting the addressee's address in a letter to him-- he obviously knows his own address! God saw that all He made was very good, every tiny detail contributing to His plan. UGH contributes nothing today; but Dr. Dennis Kurzon says that "ugh" was once pronounced, and should be preserved; it's part of God's post-Babelian gift-- confused secular tongues.
A. THE "BACKGROUND", & AN OVERVIEW, OF B'RESHIT
"All beginnings are hard (Mechilta to Exodus 19;5)."
On Simchat Torah, we finished reading the Torah-- Moshe, the greatest prophet, died. God's kingdom of priests, about to conquer Israel, are assured of His aid-- IF they integrate Torah into their lives, becoming a true model for all mankind (PLO too?). Summer fades, bleak winter descends, and we return to Genesis, the Beginning-- no Moshe, no Jews, no Torah, no Israel (Avraham only arrives 20 generations later, in Gen. 11). Why not? We dance 7 endless circular hakafot, as we conclude and begin God's continuous Torah-- there's no beginning or end to the Torah.
Genesis indeed has no introduction, e.g. "God spoke to Moshe on Sinai, saying: 'in the beginning...'" or "This is the original unexpurgated word of God" (vs. Reform, Conservative and H.U., Heretical University, views). Indeed, the name closest to God's Infinite Loving Essence, Y-H-V-H, doesn't appear in the Creation story; there, only God's attribute of law and order, laws of nature, "elokim", is used; it's numerical equivalent is indeed 86, the same as that of "hateva", nature. In that aspect, God only communicates via the silent speech of impersonal nature (cf. Ps. 19), not "speaking" to man directly, other than to bless him as His agent to manage Nature (1:28f). Nature, tho the message of God, is not the Word of God, nature itself only a response to His commands as Lord of Nature. The Jew closes his eyes, tho its the moment of an inspiring sunrise or sunset, to communicate with Him directly, via prayer. God, as both God of Infinity and Lord of finite Nature, begins to address Man as a moral being, in His Image, only in 2:16; finally, after Cain initiates "religion", a formal attempt to communicate with God via sacrifices, he's addressed by unmitigated infinite Divinty Itself-- 4:6.
Perhaps just after we read of Israel's pending conquest of Israel, in Deuteronomy, we must immediately return to universal Genesis-- reminding us not to overJew it; Jewish history and uniqueness is but a means to restore all humanity to Eden (Hirsch, vs. Yehuda Halevi, who views Israel as a higher lifeform per se, and Hartman & Leibovitz, who deny even our mission to the nations); Jewish history is intimately inescapably intertwined with universal history (Rav B. Wein). But Rashi opens Genesis with R. Yitzchak's teaching, that Genesis is written, amidst this book of Divine laws, only to justify the Jewish claim to Israel-- IF they're righteous! Israel must be a model state to re-create God's Ideal Creation. The first words, "WITH (or FOR) THE BEGINNING, THE LORD CREATED HEAVEN & EARTH", may also refer to the Torah & Israel, for whose sake the world's created-- elsewhere in the Bible, both are called "head" or "beginning". Also, some rabbis say that "God looked in the Torah (his blueprint) and created the world!", implying, in some sense, that Genesis is a continuation of the end of the Torah, Deuteronomy.
Our immediate return to Creation, to Nature, in Genesis, also reminds us that the Torah, just reviewed in Dvarim, is to sanctify life, not replace it. Rav M. Sheinberger suggests that normal human development, "derech eretz", must precede Torah; a warped individual may use Torah to become more warped. Thus Genesis, the book and pattern of nature, is not introduced by a Divine Proclamation-- its basic messages should emerge from sensitive experience of life itself, not just from reading about it, even in the Torah; Rav Natan Cardozo suggests that God wants man to appreciate His authorship of the Torah from deeply delving into its teachings, with his own mind, heart and soul not from just an act of blind faith in a statement of the Torah as to its own Divinity. So we bless God's Who's given us a Torah of truth AND implanted eternal life WITHIN US. Rav Y. Soloveichik was once asked to cite the source for an idea which he propounded; he replied: "My own God-given intelligence!"
God creates attractive and varied food for man, and gives him a mate, before giving him any law. If people have their basic needs satisfied, they're likely to be pleasanter and act better, e.g. Americans and Brits. So we must imitate Him in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, visiting the sick, helping folks marry, etc., if we want a better world, permeated with His Presence.
Yet even Adam's tale has basic Jewish messages. Some criticize Judaism's stress on detailed laws of physical behavior, e.g. kosher food and Shabbat observance, rather than just prayer and meditation. But God's first order to universal man, Adam, is not to eat a certain non-kosher fruit! He must master his voracious animal impulse, before higher soul development can be truly meaningful (Rav J. Soloveichik; Id vs. Yid?). Thus the universal Noachide religion, besides 6 basic moral catagories, includes an easy kosher law-- not to eat meat of a living animal. Jews, priests to mankind, have 613 laws. God's Torah's Everyman's religion; all are programmed toward it from the womb (Nida 30b, on Prov. 4:4 and Job 29:4-- some, e.g. Rashi, say that Job was non-Jewish). Rav Cardozo cites midrashim proclaiming the basic equal value of all mankind, Jewish and non-Jewish, all descendants of one man and woman, Adam and Eve; any notions of the Jews as God's Chosen People must not violate this principle; God's special choice of Israel is reflected in their miraculous survival and rebirth, after 1900 years, in their reborn land; all of this in turn reflects their being chosen for His special mission to redeem mankind, as His "kingdom of priests and holy nation (Ex. 19:6)", from Israel. I hereby acknowledge the protests of Rav Dovid Hartman, so down to earth, and Prof. Y. Leibowitz, z"l, looking down from heaven, against my viewpoint.
The Holy Sabbath is Day #7 of Creation; universal Man forgot it, but Israel intensely experiences it every week. Adam & Co. speak Holy Hebrew-- the source of their names and those of the animals and Noach. Tho origin of all languages and God's tongue of Creation and Revelation in the O.T. (Only Testament), it's preserved only by Jews; after almost 2000 years, it's again a spoken tongue in their reborn State. This violation of a linguistic norm-- the slow gradual development of spoken language-- indicates it's HOLINESS; as the HOLY Jewish People and the Land of Israel, it transcends secular rules of survival and behavior-- a special Divine Force is at work. I. Mozeson, may he completely recover soon (in The Word, a TOP video), shows how so much of English and all other tongues is really Hebrew; no language can survive w/o it. Thus Adam's religious life is fully developed and perpetuated by the Jewish people. Dvarim ends with Moshe's vision of a world redeemed by a renewed Israel; Genesis II will be as God originally intended. Paltry finite sunlight and quests for truth will be replaced by eternal light and true insight; nature will be in harmony with Man, once he's in harmony with himself, Nature and God.
CREATION has a beginning, and a Creator, Guide, and Director, with a plan and a goal. He gives us existence and demands our highest development. Man's God's partner in unfinished Creation-- he must create light, love and truth, amidst darkness and chaos; both must be clearly defined and distinguished (Rav S. Riskin).
"God went on creating worlds and destroying them, until He created this world and said that it was very good (Abbahu, Genesis Raba 3:7)".
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B. THE HAFTARA is Isaiah 42:5-43:10
"The light of a candle is serviceable only when it precedes man on his way, useless when it trails behind" (Bachya ben Asher, Kad HaKemach, 14C:37).
God, Origin of all existence, picks Israel to be a "light to the nations". God proclaims His greatness thru quiet, yet emphatic, unspoken messages of heaven and earth, the acts of Creation (cf. Ps. 19); so the Jewish people are to proclaim man's potential for Godliness by their very existence, w/o having to shout or preach-- M. Hirsch. Isaiah, as Moshe, addresses heaven and earth as witnesses to God's covenant with Israel; God's constantly involved in both Creation and human destiny. He's not just the ORIGINAL creator of matter and energy, but HE CONTINUALLY CREATES HEAVEN AND EARTH EVERY MOMENT, "RENEWING HIS GOODNESS VIA CREATION" (Siddur-- see Is. 40:22 and Creation Psalm 104, also in present tense; "You hide your face, they vanish...", ibid 29-30; Hag. 12; Kuzari 3:11), vs. Deism. So we should emulate Him by creatively acting and thinking anew each moment.
"There is continuous creation, out of the new ideas discovered in the Torah (Zohar, Genesis, Introduction, 52)." "This implies that man can become a co-creator with God (Ber, Or HaEmet, 1899, p. 13)."
C. A SYNOPSIS OF B'RESHIT
"In all its partitions and iron walls, under all its cloaks and covers, Nature is of the very essence of the Deity (Baal Shem, quoted by Horodetzki, Hashiloach, 1907, xvii 354)."
The Lord (Elokim) creates the universe in 7 "yamim", translatable as "days", "years", or long periods. The 24 hour day is determined by the sun, itself not created until Day #4-- if "yamim" here refers to very long periods (e.g. billions of years), science's guesses (no one was there!) as to the age of Earth may not conflict with Revelation. The traditional 5758 years since Creation is from the birth of Adam, the first human with intelligence and free will; tradition also teaches that God created and destroyed many worlds before this one-- a possible source of fossils. But "It was night and it was day...", stated each day, suggests a normal day (A. T. Fogelman). So Amnon Goldberg of London argues for a 144 hour hexahemeron, citing evidence such as the solar disk's shrinkage, the decrease in the speed of light, the decline in earth's magnetic field, the paucity of helium and micrometeoric dust in its atmosphere, the still "unwrapped" state of the arms of the great spiral galaxies, the high residual warmth of the moon and merely 1 cm. of dust on its surface, the continued existence of short-term comets, the thickness of Saturn's rings, pleochroic haloes, polystrate fossils, the rate of mineral deposition into the oceans, the non-organic theory for the origin of oil, the fallacious premises of radiometric dating, post-diluvian population statistics, the complete dearth of any human record or artefact older than 5000 years, and dendochronology-- no tree older than 5100 years can be found (cf. Dr. Tatz's tapes). "The universe will exist 6000 years" (R.H. 31a).
But Root and Branch and Discovery lecturer Dr. Gerald Schroeder (in Genesis and the Big Bang) applies Einstein's theory of relativity to this issue-- statements relating to passage of time must specify frames of reference. The frame of the Creator is appropriate during Creation; it encompasses the whole universe-- "For those days were not like human days, but they were days from which are formed unfathomable years" (R. Bachye, Gen. 1:1). A "day" of the Creator corresponds to a few billion years; there's no scientific evidence for the "creationist" postulate of drastic changes in velocity of light (C. Domb). Schroeder views Adam as the first humanoid, after countless generations of such, to seek and find Man's Divine Image-- much as Avram sought out God and only then became the founder of Israel. Prof. Natan Aviezer portrays amazing parallels to contemporary science ("IN THE BEGINNING", $30 from TOP): the Big Bang is creatio ex nihilo, ice masses of comets and outer planets are "waters above the heavens", etc. See Schroeder on evolution in our Shmini Atzeret study.
God creates the universe from unformed substance (Ramban; R. Bachye compares Creation to sowing seeds, which gradually sprout). He gives light (the energy fireball?) on Day 1, before astral bodies are created (darkness was already created; it's not just absence of light-- Is. 45:7; is it black plasma, before atoms?). Rabbis view this first light, separated from darkness, as higher light, put away for the righteous in the future world; we pray each day that God shine "a new light" on Zion; thus the "new heaven and new earth" of the future is the original higher heaven and earth of Gen. 1:1, created before our present world-- Ramban, Haazinu. God's spirit, hovering over the waters (1:2), creates all life from the raw material of inanimate waters (E. Munk). It's also the spirit of the Godlike, but human, Messiah, who rebuilds Eden. The astronomer Halley identifies God's spirit with cosmic nebulae!-- see John Hulley's TOP video and recent book on Jews, Christians, Nobel prizes, asteroids and Torah ($20 from TOP). Rav Yitzchak Hutner explains Ramban's claim in Exodus that all nature is hidden miracles-- the primordial light of the first day retains its life-giving potency; hidden, its workings continue; a miracle is simply a hole in the "screen"-- the laws of nature-- concealing it. Micha Odenheimer applies this to the darkness of the subconscious, from which dreams of God's radiance emerge.
On Day 2, God created the sky, dividing upper and lower waters. Due to this necessary, but painful, division of wholeness, God doesn't label day 2 "good"-- Midrash Hagadol, Gen. 4; we too should aim for unification, unless counter-productive (UN?); sometimes division leads to higher unity (cf. family quarrels, Babel). The hard-earned restored unity of nature, via man, may be greater than its original unity by Divine fiat. So Moshe's soul finds his perfected earthly body a holier home than angelic heaven, and resists death (Dvarim Raba 11). Kabbalists dwell upon uniting disparate aspects of God, often mentioned in Sephardic and Nusach- or Neo-Sfrad prayer books (vs. Nodei B'Yehuda-- see Jacobs, Hassidic Prayer); Nusach Ashkenaz siddurim generally ignore this theme; perhaps they feared suggestions of Divine Plurality, as the non-Jewish trinity (so David Berger, in Jewish Action, warns against tolerating those Chabadniks who claim that the dead buried Rebbe is indeed the Messiah, dangerously close to Christianity). Yet this notion occasionally creeps into even ashkenazic prayer books, perhaps a typesetter's contribution, e.g. in counting the omer to "unify the Holy One Blessed Be He and His Sh'chinah". Some medieval scholars, opposed to the notion of God's sfirot or emanations, said it was even worse to split Him into a kabbalistic 10 parts than into a Christian 3! (Rivash, Rav Peretz Hacohen, Rav Shimshon of Kinon etc.).
On Day 3, God made the dry land appear from amidst the waters (continental drift?) and ordered the vegetable world to appear*; free will may first appear here-- in the earth from which free will Man will be created; God ordered it to bring forth trees, themselves edible as their fruit-- FRUIT TREES BEARING FRUIT! Instead, it only produced TREES BEARING FRUIT (1:12)! In future days, true FRUIT TREES will taste like their fruit. Esrog leaves taste like esrogs (Rashi-- they and its wood really do-- I tried it)! Someday, presently tedious tortuous "means" (i.e. "trees") will be as meaningful and fulfilling as "ends" (i.e. "fruit"); medical and halachic research will be as joyous as medical discoveries and correct halachic rulings. Once free will was given to man, who rules nature, it may have been taken away from nature; the snake and fallen angels, however, seem to possess it.
* But rain and vegetation only appeared, with man, on Day 6 (2:5)! Perhaps only the initial planting took place on Day 3, no growth (Hirsch); others say that vegetative multiplication awaited man and rain.
On Day 4 God created astral bodies-- heavenly separators of day and night, signs and calendar determinants, and sources of light. They may have been created on Day 1, but only hung in the sky on Day 4 (Hag. 12a). Per Rashi, who believed in evil eyes (Ex. 30:12), Day 4's a day of curse, when children are susceptible to death from diptheria; luminaries, m'oros, can be read as "curses" (in the sky-- 1:14), due to its contracted spelling-- "missing letters", lacunae, within original Creation, are to be filled by man, God's partner in Creation, by perfecting his own nature and developing science. Conversely, R. Bachye notes miracles built into creation itself, e.g. the emergence and preservation of the dry land-- it should simply dissolve into the sea! (so only water expands when frozen, keeping icebergs afloat; otherwise life couldn't exist). In any event, Day 4, as Day 3, with its imperfect rebellious trees, is called "good"-- slight defects do not prevent the work AS A WHOLE from being good (E. Munk; Day 6 is "very good", despite Adam's sin-- Sporno; cf. Israel today).
Similarly, Rav Yaakov Yosef (in Toldos Yaakov Yosef) urged people (especially misnagdim) not to refrain from action, good overall, due to some minor bad effects (vs. perfectionist's paralysis; cf. R. Shach's attacks on The Rebbe, Rav Riskin, and Rav Steinsaltz). The moon "rules the night", a symbol of Israel's struggles; occasionally seeming to disappear, only to reappear and grow again, she lights up the "night" of human obscurity and darkness; someday she'll equal the sun, symbol of other nations, with her Messianic light.
On Day 5, birds and all aquatic creatures are created. God specially blesses fish fecundity. Birds, like mammals, require ritual slaughter; fish may even be eaten alive (cf. goldfish swallowing in the 20's)! Man often identifies with birds and animals, but feels alienated from fish; one lacking feeling is a "cold fish"; cuddly dolls are rarely fish, unlike Donald Ducks and Micky Mice (but cf. Sea World). American Jews may unconsciously identify with the salmon after Shabbat, via Sunday morning lox and bagels; it returns to its original home at the right moment, despite great danger, to perpetuate itself, a Zionist post-Shabbat model for U.S. Jews. To see God in the salmon and other animals, read Nerka the Salmon in James Michener's Creatures of the Kingdom.
WHO 'AR "US"?: On Day 6 God created all other creatures of the earth, then sought partners to make His most important and problematic creature: "LET US MAKE MAN IN OUR IMAGE, AS OUR SIMILARITY" (1:26). 1) Per Rashi, US are the angels-- God involves them, as their consolation for His creating man (have older siblings help care for a new baby and give them gifts too; make the class bully the class leader), and to teach even the greatest man to likewise consult others, tho far below him, before acting. Per the way-out Zohar, written down in 1278 by Moshe DeLeon, perhaps the greatest "rishon", even deeper than Rashi and Rambam, there are varied aspects of God, different degrees of contraction of His essence; the lower Mother aspect of God, shechinah, speaks here to the higher Father aspect of God (Let Us...), Who refuses to join in the creation of a potentially evil being (21b-22b, per Rav G. Fleer). 2) A down-to-earth approach sees God addressing the rest of creation, informing them that their master, man, is about to be created for their benefit; he's composed of all of them ("in our image"; a human foetus resembles a fish); he's also a Divine Image-- understanding, ruling, and developing them.
3) Per Rav J. Soloveichik, God addresses potential man himself-- "Let us (you and I) create and develop together your Divine Image"; all other creatures are preprogrammed to do their jobs; but incomplete man must choose well to complete himself, to develop his potential Divine Image, with the Good Lord's help; tho his mammalian biological processes are instinctive, his soul development may greatly affect them (cf. psychosomatic effects); Freud allegedly sometimes "cured" paralysis by uncovering its unconscious self-punishing etiology, e.g. the guilt-ridden woman who had used her paralyzed legs to betray her husband.
DIVINITY OR MONKEYSHINES: Per Ramban, Divine Image refers to the human face, which reflects spiritual development; the high priest on Yom Kippur-- the holiest man in the holiest place on the holiest day, doing the holiest sacrificial service-- really radiated the Divine Image in man, "marei cohen"; seeing what man could look like, ecstatic and humbled worshippers bowed in awe. Divine Similarity refers to the human body-- its structure and form resemble those of the Universe itself, a microcosmos. Per Hirsch, Image refers to the human BODY-- its form reflects qualities of Divine Rule of the world; Similarity denotes acquiescent non-contradiction to Divine truth, love, justice and holiness. Man can't be like God, but he needn't contradict Him. Others (e.g. Sporno) see both Image and Similarity as man's inner states.
GOD CREATED MAN IN HIS IMAGE... (1:27; stressing both M and F-- Hirsch). As God, man rules Creation. Divine SIMILARITY isn't mentioned here; man's Divine Image departs when Enosh loses direct contact with God (4:26, see Rambam, M.T., Idolatry); then only man's Divine SIMILARITY is left (5:1); this still entitles him to human respect. But, as he devilously devolves, he begins to resemble a monkey, enabling one to erroneously posit a common ancestor! (Gen. Raba 24:6). Judaism indeed teaches the gradual spiritual Devolution or Devilution of Man, rather than evolution, after Eden (cf. Israel after Sinai). Man and animals may not kill animals for food before the flood (but see Gen. Raba 16; cf. Tan. Gen. I, 30, Tan. Shmini 8 middle); but angels are alleged to have brought Adam and Eve meat and wine (San. 59b; ARN 1, 5; Zohar 1:38a); cf. the ravens bringing Eliyahu (kosher?) meat (IK17:6) with the angels bringing him cake (IK19:6); also, humans may have been permitted to eat dead animals in and after Eden (Tos. San. 56b).
God closes creation with Shabbat rest, ceasing from new creative activity. He reviews and reflects upon His entire Creation and its interactions; so we too should reflect upon our past week on Shabbat-- we may discover a less than optimally productive, even senseless, routine. We hope we too can say: "All I did was very good". Each Shabbat, a miniature Yom Hakippurim ("Sabbath of Sabbaths"), should be a prelude to a better week.
Thruout this account, God's called Elokim, impersonal Boss of the Laws of Nature; man's just His assistant. In Part II of the creation epic, the purposes and history of heaven and earth, Man's the object of His personal relationship and concern, AMIDST the laws of nature; there He's called GOD THE LORD (Hashem Elokim); he presents man with tasks, and with free will to obey or not obey His order-- not to eat the trefe fruit in the Garden in Eden. Man gets THE SOUL OF LIFE, but chooses to remain just "animal life". Man, as a creature of free will, commanded by God, now experiences the human need for deep long companionship, not just temporary mating. God first invites him to eat of all trees in Eden (ess, mein kind, ess), then mentions one forbidden trefe tree-- of the knowledge of good & evil; so on Tu B'Shvat, the new year for agricultural prohibitions, we eat of the fruits of Israel. We accentuate the predominantly positive nature of life-- enjoyment, sanctified and deepened by a bit of prohibition; the snake claims that ALL pleasure is forbidden. Anti-religious man views God's didactic prohibitions as killing all life; their true function is to free man from himself, thus giving meaning to a life fully lived.
Man now names (i.e. investigates the essence of) all creatures and realizes that none can really relate to him; then God creates woman, who satisfies him; he even transfers his parental ties to her, or, at least, achieves independence from his parents, to lead his own home. So one must achieve independence of thought (not law) from his father (teacher) and mother (Jewish culture) to truly cleave to his ultimate wife, the Torah.
The woman now exhibits excess piety (San. 29a), or gives a rabbinical fence the status of a Torah law (Avot D'R. Natan 1); she thus agrees with the snake's claim-- they'll become mortal if they even TOUCH the tree; she then violates God's basic law by eating the forbidden fruit, together with her husband (they could understand snake talk before-- or snakes spoke better then!). They now had deep yearning for evil, could no longer view nakedness and sexuality as pure holy entities. Per Rav J. Soloveichik, Judaism does not oppose nudity because the body is considered ugly, but because it is considered the holy ark for the oral Torah of the human soul-- just as the ark is concealed and hidden in the holy of holies, perhaps only exposed once a year to the high priest, so the human body is only to be fully exposed when necessary, e.g. during sexual relations. Gila Manolson views the prohibition of nudity and the laws of modesty as a huge successful effort to focus on our souls, rather than our bodies, and to simultaneously avoid both artificial profane sexual stimulation and the deadening of valid holy ardent sexual arousal between husband and wife, due to constant over-exposure to and of the body; I'd add a component of kindness-- only a small percentage of us really have beautiful bodies, and not for very long; in an unclothed world, only a few can look truly attractive, while everyone else may feel inadequate; but clothes can make many a man or women look really good-- cf. the old folks going out for the early-bird dinner specials in Miami, hiding old age and death under their orange, yellow and pink duds.
God now punishes all 3 culprits-- the snake's humiliated; man and woman are given great difficulty in their respective life tasks, conquest and nurturing. She's called (by him!) "mother of all flesh". Condemned to mortality, they're given their desired freedom from God's closeness in Eden; the cherubim and flaming sword guard the way to the tree of life (i.e. the Torah of fire), that it be there when Man (Avraham and progeny) is ready to come back (Rav J. Soloveichik). After sinning, man becomes pious (cf. today)!-- only the higher name of God (Hashem) is used in the next section; Cain kills his younger brother Abel in a religious competition for God's (Papa Adam's?) favor (cf. the Crusades and Inquisition). Cain's only exiled, not killed (cf. Israel's exile). But he's protected by God, Who waits for man to acknowledge his sins and repent. Cain's male progeny don't restore man to God; they're succeeded in the new creation epic by Noach, descendant (thru his father) of Cain's new little brother, Seth; Noach saves and rebuilds the completely corrupted world.
D. BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY, FILL THE EARTH AND CONQUER IT (Gen. 1:28)
"Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, You have founded strength" (Ps. 8:3).
This is #1 of 613 commandments to the Jewish people, per Sefer Hachinuch; it's the sole (soul?) commandment in this portion. Torah's given to humans, w/o whom it can't be fulfilled. One who avoids procreation opposes God's plan to have a well-populated world; he'll be severly punished. HE DIDN'T CREATE IT (the world) A WASTELAND, HE FORMED IT TO BE INHABITED (Is. 45:18). This law is binding forever everywhere (per Rambam, only the male's so commanded; he must have extant a son and a daughter). Hirsch: BE FRUITFUL means to mate via marriage; AND MULTIPLY or BE GREAT-- to form a strong family; FILL THE EARTH-- to organize families into societies; AND CONQUER IT-- to acquire power and possessions; these vital tasks only succeed when viewed as commands of God, Who provides the means to achieve them. Per Rav J. Soloveichik, BE FRUITFUL is the command to have children, AND MULTIPLY OR BE GREAT to raise them well, to achieve their full potential (can quality and quantity contradict?-- see Rav A. Lichtenstein's remarks in Procreation In The Light of Halacha, $7 from TOP) .
A human being is the highest form of matter. Judaism did not value lonely Ehrlichian man in a beautiful wilderness, but holy man, interacting well with others. Talmudic opinions (Yev. 61b ff) as to the extent of this male mitzvah vary from having one child (you've then made a contribution) to having 2 of each sex (perhaps everyone should have a same sex sibling, the best cure for egocentricity-- see Tulman, Family Constellation-- Its effects on personality and social behavior, Springer, 1969; he shows how your sibling position determines whom you can happily marry, and portrays the only child's personality). Some attribute women's exemption from the command to multiply to the risks of childbirth, others to a built-in command in her nurturing nature; if, despite that, she doesn't want children, leave her alone. Man, naturally wild, needs to be commanded to form and sustain a family. Judaism domesticated, en masse, the wild male by giving him extra mitzvos, prestige in the home, and formal male institutions-- synagogue and yeshiva, irrelevant to naturally good woman and her role (unless she's messed up by Western non-feminine feminist education). Per Ber. 11a, one must say shma only when doing "his own thing"-- WHEN YOU SIT IN YOUR HOUSE (Dvarim 6:7), not when you're involved in a difficult mitzvah, e.g. being a bridegroom! This too implies that marriage is against male nature, tho helping to develop the male's higher, less ego-centered, self. After marriage, your home is no longer just YOUR HOUSE, and you can no longer just walk YOUR WAY. Children add to humility, growing beyond your attempts to control them (cf. The Chosen, Potok; see Sexual Suicide, Gilder).
Rambam (Ishut) rules one should marry at 17; he must produce children, who themselves can reproduce. He should continue to reproduce until death, per R. Yehoshua, Yev. 62b, citing upbeat Ecc. 11:6: SOW YOUR SEED IN THE MORN AND LET YOUR HAND NOT REST AT EVE-- a hint of Kohelet's positive optimism. One's old age activity may even rectify or turn about the errors of his youth-- ...FOR YOU KNOW NOT WHICH SHALL SUCCEED-- THE FORMER OR THE LATTER-- OR, PERHAPS, BOTH TOGETHER (ibid). Rambam's son, Avraham, unlike mainstream Judaism, urged spiritual giants NOT to mate and NOT to have many kids, if emotionally possible (he had 2 sons); Shalshelet Hakabala portrays similar attitudes of Rambam's grandfather, Maimon. Rambam's own grandson, Ovadia, urged mating as late as possible, a precursor of Slobodka and the old R.S.A. Rambam disdains marital relations in The Guide. His mother died in childbirth; his father disliked both her and him, when he was young and uneducable (Shalshelet Hakabala).
"On the day of your birth, you wept, and those bout you were glad; on the day of your death, you will laugh, while those about you will sigh." (Satanov, Mishle Asaf, 1789, 1792, 15:5)
E. PATIENT PATRIARCHS
"The first of the 18 Benedictions also speaks of "the fathers", not just "our fathers", because the patriarchs attained universal glory, and were, in a sense, the fathers of all men" (Isserlein, in Yosef ben Moshe's Leket Yosher, 1488, i.21).
The Netziv, beloved and loving Rosh Yeshiva of Volohzin (and Bialek; his son was Rav Meir Bar Ilan), taught Parshat Hashavua daily; he urged his pupils not to pray too long, as the traditional male path to God is constant study of His Torah. Tho not opposed to secular studies, he banned them from his Yeshiva. He advocated religious Zionism, but couldn't make aliya, due to ill health. He urged Orthodox Jews NOT to separate from the general community (Meshiv Davar 1:42); he defended early secular Biluim Zionists, after previously attacking them. He viewed nastiness and intolerance, in the name of Torah, as destroying the Jewish people-- cf. the 2nd Temple and Israel today. In the forward to Haemek Davar he writes: "Genesis is called Sefer Hayasher by the prophets, The Book of the Straight and Upright, refering to the Patriarchs (Josh. 10:13, 2 Sam. 1:18, per A.Z. 25a). The people of the 2nd Temple generation were 'righteous', 'pious', and intensely involved in Torah study. However they weren't upright in their relationships to others, in their worldly interactions... one would falsely accuse the other of heresy, simply because his way of... showing reverence to God and his religious expression wasn't like the other's. The one whose way was different was labelled a non-believer, considered cut off from authentic Judaism, even tho he fulfilled the commandments (he's not speaking of non-halachic Jews). This... eventually led to murder and all evils... Finally, God had to destroy their Temple... (cf. Badatz vs. Belz, The Jewish Observer vs. Y.U.; see the Netziv's candid bio, My Uncle the Natziv, by Epstein, $25 from TOP).
"The patriarchs accustomed themselves to deal positively with others... to perpetuate creation. Even idolators... were treated with love and concern by them. ...There is truly much to be learned from the positive peaceful manner in which the Patriarchs approached life and accepted others-- so vitally necessary to sustain a world. This is the principal idea of this Book of Creation. The source of the world's genesis and its continuity are the Upright Patriarchs... an example to all humanity... they desire all creation to exist."-- from a free translation in Judaism's Bible by Rav Shlomo Grafstein, Shlita.
What a vital message today! Truly great rabbis look at the half full glass of Israeli spirit, not the half empty; they may disagree with others' opinions; common decency, however, requires first acknowledging others' great deeds and good intentions, wishing them health and life. Otherwise, the onlooker is turned off to the society of Torah, failing to see it as the end and purpose of all Creation-- the union of Man & God.
"The 18 Benedictions open with: 'God of Avraham, God of Yitzchak and God of Yaakov', not with 'God of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, because each patriarch sought and served God for himself, and did not accept blindly the God of his fathers" (Eisenstadt, Panim Meirot, 1715, i. #39).
F. A GOOD WIFE'S JOB-- by Rav Yehuda Henkin.
"A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband" (Proverbs 12:4).
Q. Why did God create "woman" (2:22)? A We first read: "he created them male and female" (1:27). "Female" and "woman" aren't identical. Gen. 2 isn't biology. When did God create woman? When He created man (2:7), He didn't remark: "it's not good for man to be alone, I'll make him a suitable helper (v. 18)"; nor when he placed him in the garden (2:15). He only said so and created woman after He warned: "Don't eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you'll surely die (v. 17)". Why did man need help? He faced no challenges in Eden. He had no problems-- until confronted with God's commandment. From that time on, man had to overcome his curiosity and his temptation to eat from the tree. God wasn't concerned with mere companionship. "It's not GOOD for man to be alone" refers to the previous verse, "the tree of knowledge of GOOD and evil".
God made woman to help man observe His command-- WHO'S FOUND WOMAN HAS FOUND GOOD AND OBTAINS FAVOR FROM GOD (Prov. 18:22). "I'll make him a help 'knegdo'" (woman)-- "knedgo" means not only "suitable to man" or "corresponding to him", but "equal to him". So we read: "talmud torah kneged culam-- study of Torah equals all the commandments"-- Mishna Peah 1:1 (YF: I translate: study of Torah interfaces with all commandments-- they must be done intelligently; so Rambam explains that study of Torah leads to performance of all these mitzvos-- thru understanding, man's led to action, tho "All God's said, we'll do and we'll hear", Ex. 24:7, implies the opposite too; cf. Deut. 5:1, Kid. 40b). Why was woman created equal to man? She could have been made to bear children, w/o herself possessing intellectual and moral qualities (Compare Ramban and Abarbanel on 1:26-7; intellect isn't an automatic by-product of the human physique).
But then she couldn't help man-- Man named all the animals, but none of them was a helper "knegdo" (2:20); man isn't influenced by an inferior being. A beast can be a companion, but cannot make man observe God's word. Instead God created woman = to man, so they could influence each other, that together they might observe the commandments. Woman caused man to eat from the tree, but the point is the great influence man and woman have upon each other-- either to fulfill God's commandments, the original purpose, or for evil. Rabbinit Chana Henkin heads Nishmat, training women for their great tasks; may the results of their home sanctuaries, their holy husbands, be known as such "among the gates", as leaders of the public Jewish world (see Prov. 31).
"Every man gets the wife he deserves" (Simon ben Lakish, Sota 2a; he got his teacher, Rav Yochanan's beautiful sister for giving up brigandry to master Torah)
G. TREES OF KNOWLEDGE & LIFE
"Trees were created for man's companionship" (Genesis Raba 13:2).
Nogah Hareuveni authored Tree and Shrub In Our Biblical Heritage (Neot Kedumim, Ltd.). He posits that the TREE OF LIFE (Gen. 2:9) refers to all trees which meet man's eyes, seemingly immortal. They can live hundreds, even thousands of years-- "There's hope for a tree; if one cuts it down, it sprouts again and its fresh shoots won't fail. Tho its roots grow old in the earth, and the stump's dying in the ground, if it scents water, it may bud and make new growth like a young plant. But if a man dies, he disappears; man perishes and lo, where is he?" (Job 14:7-10). So Torah's called a "TREE OF LIFE" TO ALL WHO GRASP IT... (Prov. 3:18).
This wonder causes man to worship trees and immortal stones (Dvarim 28:64; Is. 44:13-17). Avraham countered by using an eshel tree as an inn for his Jewish Salvation Army (Gen. 21:33, Sota 10); he also set up stone pillars to God. Man also pines to know the cause of this great life force, to obtain KNOWLEDGE OF THE TREE, by eating its fruits and asking ??: "How does this tree harness sunlight and feed itself from the air? How does it know to shed superfluous leaves when water is sparse and grow them back before a nourishing season?". But he errs when he equates himself with a tree, a natural being (IS THE TREE A MAN...?-- Dvarim 21:19). He would consume its fruits, making it and its knowledge part of himself, his salvation. The Jew is taught instead to look inward for his salvation-- to his Divine Image. Such a man does NOT find himself by joining animals in a Vermont forest. On the contrary, he must recognize and nurture his Divine essence as his unique property, not shared with any plant or animal.
"If a man kills a tree before its time, it is as tho he'd murdered a soul" (Rav Nachman of Breslav, quoted in The Menorah Journal, 1924, x. 88)
H. CREATIVE TANYA-- translated by Josh Persky
"Man is by nature a mystic". (Rav Kook, Hamachshava Hayisraelit, 1920, p. 26).
"We know from Rabbis of yore the purpose of Creation-- that the Holy One, blessed be He, wanted an abode in the lower worlds" (Likutei Amarim, Chap. 36). A light shines brightest, not when shone upon a bright area, but when brought to the darkest place (do Chabad's great successes increase with their distance from Jerusalem?-- YF). So for Hashem's light to shine brightest, He created the world, the heaven and the earth. Yet Hashem didn't create the world for His sake, but for ours. Our rewarding job, as His partners, is to expose His light; by doing mitzvot and studying Torah, we illuminate the world. As Hashem said: "Let there be light!" (Gen. 1:3).
"Mystics... are enemies to society of the direst kind" (Nordau, Degeneration , 1893, 5:2, p. 557)
I. HASSIDIC CREATION
--from HASIDIC ANTHOLOGY (Schocken), by L. I. Newman:
Said the Sassover: "The Torah opens with the words: 'In the beginning-- God created' (Gen. I:1)-- the first thing to know is that God's sole Creator of all."
Said the Lekhivitzer: "The Torah begins with the word: 'Bereshit' (Gen. I:1), which may mean: 'for the sake of the first' (the Lord created the world). All He demands is that a man make a beginning in the right direction-- He'll aid him to continue. To symbolize this, He ordained we should devote to Him first fruits, first stalks of grain, firstborn cattle-- so we must devote the first part of every day to prayer."
Rabbi Bunam said: "The Lord created the world in a state of beginning. The universe is always in an uncompleted state, in the form of its beginning. It is not like a vessel at which the master works and he finishes it; it requires continuous labor and unceasing renewal by creative forces (cf. families). Were there a second's pause by these forces, the universe would return to primeval chaos."
Said the Besht: "It's written (Lamentations 3:23): 'they're new every morning; great is thy faith'. A man should believe that each day the world's re-created and he's reborn each morning. His faith will then be increased, and he'll take a fresh interest daily in his service to the Lord."
The Bratzlaver said: "Declare at all times: 'The world was created for my sake', not 'Of what concern is this to me?' But do your share-- add some improvement, supply something missing, and leave the world a little better for your sojourn (cf. our sponsors)".
Said Rabbi Bunam: "We read : 'Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite (Psalms 147:5)'. God causes an insignificant fact to occur to bring in its train another occurrence; #2 causes #3, and this is continued a myriad of times. All the events have been caused directly by insignificant occurrence #1. When God caused it, He understood every least thing to the end of time, and knew what its impulse would cause to transpire. So we praise Him: 'His understanding is infinite'" (so we're unaware of the eventual impact of our every word and deed-- cf. the Butterfly effect and our prayer, in U'va L'tziyon, that we not labor in vain, nor give birth to chaos-- see Is. 65:23 and our Shmini Atzeret study).
Knit kippot, with little holes (cf. sukka roofs) remind us of He Who's so far above us and our thoughts, yet still so close, without completely sealing off our heads from interaction with the rest of the world. But trying to blend and harmonize Torah, Zionism and modernity often leads to:
I. CONFUSED COMMUNAL COMPLEXITY
I had occasion to ponder two such issues during the 1995 Sukkos season--
1) Rabbi Mordecai Gafni, in a brilliant Root and Branch talk on Jews and non-Jews at the Falk Israel Center, noted that each Biblical source of Israel's exclusivity is immediately followed by the need for their empathy and involvement with universal mankind; their equally mandatory distance from others is but a means to retain their function of priests to all mankind, their congregation, from a model State of Israel (Ex. 19:6). We had to meet upstairs, rather than in the usual lecture rooms, due to a previously scheduled social event there. After the lecture, I went downstairs for a moment and was truly shocked to find a cheap Russian teenage disco in the room where I taught Torah for so many years. Beer bottles were scattered all over and inebriated teenagers were strolling about, holding on for dear life to scantily clad girlfriends, whose great-grandmothers were likely happily married God-fearing mothers around their age.
Before writing about it, I spoke to the directors of the Center, just as God "investigated" conditions at Sodom and Amora, before judging them. Shai Solomon told me this was done with his knowledge, and with the approval of great Rav Grossman of Migdal Emek, who was involved in the program (Rav Grossman later denied it); the Center simply could not reach the kids with their Torah message, unless they let them do what they enjoy too. Phil Chernofsky implied that this was the first and last time this would occur, an unfortunate slip in an otherwise wonderful program to Judaize immigrant Russian kids, and referred me to the program director, Rav Yaakov Bloi. Bloi told me that the youth involved were "street kids", with whom they work extensively, and that they couldn't get them into a sukkah and into talks with religious counsellors, without giving them the disco too; in the future, they hope to attract them with tiyulim, etc., rather than discos. God provides sinners their forbidden food too, while awaiting their return! So, tho normally one may not feed someone who won't bless God for their food, rendering it "forbidden food", one should do so today, considering the long-range prospects for alienated Jews' return to the Divine fold (Rav S. Z. Auerbach). We ourselves violate Shabbat, so that another Jew live to keep more shabbatot; so there's "a time to act for God", when usual halachic rules are TEMPORARILY suspended to save the Torah and the Jewish people, e.g. Eliyahu's "illegal" offerings on Mt. Carmel.
In contrast, Yechezkel Goldberg probed the limits of outreach, in the Rosh Hashana issue of Religious Life in Jerusalem. Kiruv leaders interviewed agreed that they would not violate halacha to bring another closer, nor even aid and abet prospective returnees' wrongdoing (cf. Shlomo). Rebbetzin Jungreis would not serve lobster to attract students to her parsha class! If someone will come to her Shabbos class only by car, she'll teach them on Tuesday or Wednesday. She won't hold classes at her local treife Chinese Restaurant to attract students (would Chabad? Would I?). Rav David Orlofsky also opposes introducing a value system, while rejecting or violating that very system or watering it down.
Yet, while some great rabbis opposed all co-ed teenage activity, they permitted it for NCSY outreach, which wouldn't work otherwise. Similarly, we needn't always present Judaism in its full impact and detail at first, lest we drive away prospective returnees (or converts). When Rav Dovid Gottlieb was becoming observant (he later introduced Rabbanit Chana Sperber to Torah, another great addition to our camp), he heard that one may not carry a handkerchief on Shabbat (in sad eruv-less Boston)-- when he asked the Bostoner Rebbe, he told him not to worry about it and that he'd check into it! But eventually the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth must be presented.
While the Israel Center is very tolerant and understanding in dealing with non-Jews and the non-observant (Phil counsels potential gerim too), they generally do not welcome even observant teachers, who have outspoken controversial viewpoints (cf. Targum-Feldheim books), or whose personal lives are not confined to the traditional family setting, poor models for youth; a call from E. B. in NYC will quickly identify and cancel such speakers, e.g. Kings David and Solomon. Perhaps such rejected rabbis may also wind up great political or social leaders instead, or Torah spokesman in the non-Torah world, as they gradually accrue wisdom and concubines (permitted by Ramban, Rosh and Emden, but forbidden by Rashi and Rambam).
2) As usual, I expected to go to the lively inspiring kaballa-based second hakafot in Liberty Bell Park, and urged many visitors to do so. At the last minute, the relgious councils cancelled all such celebrations, due to the untimely death of 3 + 6 Golani soldiers. Were they right?
In their defense, it is great to see rabbinic authority identify with our soldiers, who put their lives on the line to defend us-- by cancelling this non-halachic "relgious celebration", they made a powerful and important statement-- right on!.
But, as regarding NCSY's Russian teenagers, we must examine not only theoretical right and wrong, according to Torah, but also the real short and long-range effects of our decisions. From what I observed at the scene, the cancellation was counter-productive; no one went home to mourn and repent; cheap cinemas and discos remained open. Rather than singing and dancing with true holiday spirit, the crowds wandered among the streets and hotels, chatting and shopping. Those tourists who keep 2 days of Shmini Atzeret (vs. Rav Kook, in effect denying that the Meshiach will come now and they'll stay here) were denied a peak experience on a holiday, which transcends individual mourning. Far more effective would have been an inspiring 15 minute talk in memory of the soldiers by our great Chief Rabbi Lau, accompanied by appropriate music, amidst our holiday celebration. Last year too, in 1996, the Chief Rabbinate urged tourists who keep two days of Shemini Atzeret to avoid the public celebration, as they'd have to listen to the PA system-- but what's wrong if they do, when those who operate it, Israelis who celebrate only one day, may clearly do so? It sounds like the Rabbinate just doesn't like the big public coed celebration and is trying to curb it; loads of tourists came anyway, either not reading or not heeding, the Chief Rabbinate's announcement.
I've tried to give varied viewpoints on these typical public problems in rebuilding the State of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel-- to be both a free and a holy people in our land, our true dream of thousands of years. What do you think?
P.S.S.-- Parsha Providence: A mussar message which I absorbed in Yeshivat Chofetz Chayim, whose prestigious alias is The Rabbinical Seminary of America, was to try not to waste one precious minute of life. So I played the nearest lecture tape while doing my exercises in the midst of writing this study-- it turned out to be Rav Cardozo's lecture on B'reshit, at the point where he explained the first word of the Torah, "B'reshit"; Cardozo drew many lessons from both the symbolic meaning of each of its letters, as well as their numeric equivalent. We begin the Torah with this 6 letter word, whose meaning is In The Beginning (of), corresponding to the 6 days of Creation. Beit, 2, and Resh, 200, the first 2 letters, denote multiplicity, expansion, which entails the reconciliation and harmony of opposites, the return to the third letter, alef, one, which denotes the ultimate holistic unity of all Creation, the product of One Creator. The expansive process, anchored in unity, is symbolized by AV, alef-bet, father, while the gradual withdrawal from expansion, return to all-encompassing Oneness, is implied in BA, "came", beit-alef-- he who ages has "come in days" (ba bayamim). Rav Cardozo continues to expound "Breshit" and many other matters in the reading; this tape and many others are available at TOP.
L. WESTHEIMER & MARK-- LIMITED
Famous, frank and infamous sexologist and raconteur "Dr. Ruth" Westheimer is also a proud and fairly knowledgable Jewess, fluent in both Hebrew and English; her German Orthodox family saved her, then perished in the Holocaust. In recent years, she's collaborated with erudite collegues, to produce user-friendly absorbing books on important Jewish subjects, published by NYU Press. In 1992, with Dr. Steven Kaplan, she authored Surviving Salvation-- The Ethiopian Jewish Family in Tradition. In Heavenly Sex-- Sexuality in the Jewish Tradition, she and Jonathan Mark (Associate Editor of The Jewish Week, brother of our friends Naomi and Deborah) combine her perspectives on God, sex and human relations with truly traditional Judaism, to provide mankind with a positive and moral sex ethic, as opposed to the negative traditional Christian attitude toward sex. The attractive and eminently readable book includes annotated appendices of Biblical and Halachic statements re sexuality.
But the text itself has 2 glaring faults, despite all its appeal and charm (cf. "the falseness of charm and the fleeting quality of beauty" in Prov. 31): 1) there are no specific citations to check alleged rabbinic and kabbalistic statements (cf. Torah Tidbits; thank God, their ad for Landau's chickens no longer falsely claims that only their chickens are fit to cook; but I did meet a true balabusta who testified that their chickens are indeed cleaner than any others which she's tried!). Besides wanting clarification of vague references to "the kabbala", I'd also like to know just where Sefer Ha-Gilgulim claims that the union of Rebbe Akiva and Ms. Turnus Rufus was a tikkun (fixing, via reincarnation) of the flawed union of Jewish Prince Charming Zimri and Pagan Princess Cozbi, itself an attempt to rectify the mismating of Shchem and Dina, whom they reincarnate (a kabbalistic belief, denounced by Saadya, Albo, etc.).
2) Jewish tradition is distorted, and unwarranted assumptions are made, to fit Dr. Ruth's outlook; for example, great Jewish authorities who disdained sex, e.g. Ramban (in B'chukosei, re Ms. Yiftach) and Rambam (Guide) are ignored, as is Avraham ben Maimon's advocacy of holy celibacy. There is no basis for assuming that Ms. Rachel Akiva and Turnus Rufus died before their spouses married each other. Their assumption that Reb Meir's pupil actually slept with Bruria, per Reb Meir's request, is quite far-fetched, tho it also appears in an imaginative passionate Jerusalem feminist play about Bruria; the pupil simply convinced her to do so, without really doing anything, to show her that female emotions were indeed volatile and uncontrollable, a rabbinic postulate which she denied. The Holy Letter is misattributed to Ramban, etc., etc. It's also not clear which author wrote what in this book. While, I'd welcome an improved annotated edition, this book is valuable for yeshiva students who wish to study this realm before their marriages.
Dr. Ruth writes that her upbringing as an Orthodox Jew in Frankfurt am Main gave her a solid foundation in a moral tradition that comes across to her listeners and readers, even when she discusses intimate sexual physiology; the fact that Jews don't view sex as a sin, but as a pleasurable duty, made it easier for her to discuss it w/o embarrassment. The Jewish tradition also values peace in the home-- shalom bayit-- and since sexual pleasure is an integral part of that process, to her it was a bracha (blessing) and a mitzva (positive commandment) to help couples with this important part of their relationship, rather than something she should be ashamed of doing. "By espousing this concept of Heavenly Sex, not only for Jews, but for all people, I have tried to help better the sex life of those who hear my advice. So, while Heavenly Sex may not be feasible all the time, it is something that I wish for my readers as often as is possible for them. And may they thank their God when it occurs" (a traditional halachic problem is the lack of a blessing upon this pleasure, tho it may be included in the 7 wedding blessings, covering the entire duration of the marriage).
I'll close with her overview of Judaism (p. 8): "Judaism is a messianic religion, but there is no messianism w/o men and women coming together... as the Sabbath is the stimulation of a messianic world, celebrated by married couples making love, so the dawning of messianism is marked by a successful family, in which parents relate to each other and to their children with nurturing and love. As Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach says (a fellow German rebel against cool over-disciplined life): 'People say they don't know how to pray, they don't know how to talk to God. But if you know how to talk to your wife or your husband, if you know how to talk to your children, you can talk to the Holy One as easily'. Ritual as routine is a disaster. Ritual, however, can be transformed into a poetic expression of our sexual and better selves ...."
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