THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
Shabbat Shira, The Sabbath of Song
"THEN WILL MOSHE SING"
You can also read previous studies on this site.
This study is sponsored by our faithful friend from Evanston, Illinois, Eli Wolf, in commemoration of the release of his father, William Wolf, from Buchenwald, in 1939, and, l'havdil, in memory of his father-in-law, Yitzchak Shlomo Gold, the tzadik of Greeley, Colorado, whose yahrtzeit is Tu B'shvat.
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As I review this study of Israel's long-delayed departure from Egypt, together with all their children, I'm enjoying a cup of Celestial Seasonings Sugar Plum Spice Holiday Herb Tea-- perfect for Purim, cheapest at Duvdavon Health Foods on Agrifas St. Mo Siegel's aesthetic teas are also food for thought. Sugar Plums' theme is childhood, quoting Francis Thompson: "Know what it is to be a child? It is to be something very different from the man of today. It is to have a spirit yet steaming (a plug for the tea?)... It is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief...". Emily Dickinson writes on the bottom of the box: "We never know how high we are, Till we are called to rise. And then, if we are true to plan, Our statures touch the skies". Alexandra Stoddard notes that: "We never outgrow our love for presents".
A. A SHABBAT OF SONG OF SHABBAT
This is SHABBAT SHIRA, the SHABBAT OF SONG, of the epic poem sung by Moshe and Israel at the Red Sea. It's a paean to their brief glimpse of a world where good triumphs and God's revealed-- so each week Jews taste the world to come and sing A PSALM, BECOMING A SONG, FOR THE DAY OF SHABBAT (Ps.92, as translated by Rav S. Hirsch; so we experience the sabbatical year-- Rav Y. Hadari). One day the whole world will join Israel and sing the Song of Shabbat, quietly pulsating in every flower and child (Rav S. Carlebach, Ztz"l; cf. flower children). Yet it's hard to sing the song of life in an unredeemed world, messed up by man-- HOW SHALL WE SING GOD'S SONG (the song of a unified and purposeful world) IN AN ALIEN WORLD? (or LAND-- cf. Pirchei Miami; Ps. 137:4). Levites are immersed in the Temple, the living model of Eden's original and final perfect world; there they can preview God's great Song. To rejoice, when we should rejoice, we must temporarily ignore this temporary world's many great tragedies. Shabbat's generally not the time to work on problems, to demonstrate, but to recharge our batteries, to strengthen our innate Jewish Messianic conviction that all problems CAN, and WILL, ultimately, be resolved-- if we use the tools and resources which God has placed within us, and within His Torah and Creation. Implicit in this process is our faith in, and our commitment to, life beyond this life, to a world where "all is very good".
Both those overly immersed in life's sorrows, with no connection to ultimate reality, and those who blissfully ignore them, living in their own inner world of fantastic fantasy, are unlikely to better our spirits, to solve our problems, and to make creative contributions; intensive Holocaust Studies can have psychological effects similar to those of the Holocaust itself. Former fiery M.K. Shulamit Aloni (nee Adler), born in Israel, is an outspoken youthful widow, 68+, mother of 3 grown sons, who lost many relatives in the Shoa. A former Palmachnik, she both taught school and fought in the Jewish Quarter, 12/47-4/48; she worked with immigrant youth after her release from Jordanian captivity. Shuli suggested to delegates of The 1996 WJC that we replicate the Diaspora Museum all over the world, bringing alive Judaism and 4000 years of Jewish history, including the 7 years of the holocaust, rather than building lavish museums, dedicated exclusively to the Shoah; she also advocates portraying the lives, creativity, and accomplishments of Shoa victims, not just their tragic fate. Yad V'shem has done so, via cultural programs in the Valley of the Communities; experiencing the quality and flavor of the lives of Shoa victims intensifies awareness of their tragic end, e.g. reading The Diary of Anne Frank.
Miriam Fleer also opposes Holocaust Memorials in Tradition (Vol 28, No. 2, Winter 1994); she rejects passive contemplation of the Shoa, not linked to Jewish rebuilding, and treating it as a universal paradigm of suffering, rather than a unique Jewish experience. Rav Dovid Hartman warned the Congress that Shoa study alone won't keep modern young Jews Jewish-- they live, fully integrated, in an post-holocaust non-Jewish world, full of opportunity, spirit and friendship, virtually devoid of anti-semitism. Only a truly positive, meaningful and satisfying Judaism-- not one based upon negative fear, guilt and mourning-- will succeed today (YF: but fear-based Judaism can indeed attract guilt-laden, angry and/or frustrated failures and misfits!). Hartman's son, Rav Daniel, of Machon Shalom Hartman, now runs programs to teach secular teachers and principals how to teach Judaism-- achieving the RCA's ideal.
Aloni attributes her virulent anti-religious stance and bias to misguided pietists' attempts to pressure or force her and other Israelis to be observant. So Rav J. Soloveichik explained the respect and admiration given the observant in the USA, unlike Israeli hatred and disdain: "Thank God, we have no power in the States!"-- imposing beliefs is counter-productive today. But one as bright as Aloni, a descendant of great rabbis, e.g. Rav Natan Adler (per Hashavua; she regularly attended majestic MK Dr. Zerach Wahrhaftig's Talmud class), should be able to transcend her reactions to jerky or nasty pietists, to calmly examine her roots, without so much rancor; her strident style and acerbic attitude resemble those of Y. Leibowitz, M. Kahana and Rav Shach, l'havdil squared-- do they reflect the acrimonious atmosphere of many Lithuanian Talmudic gladiators?-- cf. the Maimonidean-Brisker path with the Beshtian-Carlebachian happy harmonious Hassidic ambiance.
Minister Aloni was also featured at the fascinating Sixth International Conference of the Jewish Media, creatively planned and well-organized by WZO's Dept. of Information-- led by dynamic and pleasant Nitzah Ben Elissar*. Aloni affirmed that Judaism, especially the Book of Books, was the basis for her own morality; but Jewish study per se does not ensure a moral personality, for each person will take from it what appeals to her-- an evil person, full of hate and anger, will use it to justify his approach, e.g. citing one-time ancient commandments to utterly destroy corrupt Canaanites, who refused to give up idolatry and live peacefully in the Jewish State, or leave, to justify violence today-- cf. Goldstein, Amir, and Friedman. But those who are full of peace and love, e.g. Rav A. Y. Kook and Rav Amital, will stress similar sentiments in our tradition, e.g. that all human beings, descendants of Adam and Eve, have innate equal human dignity and worth, and the pursuit of justice and peace for all. Aloni viewed Yigal Amir as a brave dedicated idealogue, tho pursuing a distorted evil ideal.
Traditional Judaism indeed proclaims that derech eretz, civilized refined human behavior, must precede Torah, which will itself be a stumbling block for its perverse students-- The grand finale of Hosea's passionate plea to corrupt Israel ends with: "Who is wise and understands these matters, an understanding person who intimately knows them (integrates them in his heart and soul). For the ways of God are straight and the righteous will go forward IN THEM, while sinners will stumble IN THEM".
* unfortunately, a few of her hard-working, competent and self-critical staff, perhaps over-pressured, related to outsiders, interested in covering the conference, in an imperious and unpleasant manner; in contrast, the staff of the Congress and the HUC library, which gave me a good bio of Aloni, were most friendly and helpful. Unlike the Congress, there were no press kits, telephones, or even coffee and cookies, in the Conference Press Room.
The Congress visit to the Knesset involved a long wait outside, on a cold and windy day, while they were slowly processed by security. Once inside, it took a while to locate MK Shevach Weiss, who addressed the delegates. Both observant Labor MK Eli Dayan and Likud's former ambassador to Egypt, Eliahu Ben Elissar (Nitzah's mate), now in the U.S., were quite stimulating in their presentations, but neither could remain with the many representatives of worldwide Jewry, nor did they bring anyone else. Only Aloni stayed until the end to respond to questions and comments. The Mafdal representative, given this unique opportunity to present a religious Zionist viewpoint to influential Jews from all over the world, didn't show up or even send a replacement. Brilliant British former MP Graville Janner was appalled at the constant bickering and nit-picking of the MK's, even off-stage.
God indeed wants us to rejoice at our success and good fortune (e.g. on Purim and Israel Independence Day), but to temper our rejoicing with reminders of our still fallen Temple, reflecting our continued fallen state. Per Rav Mordecai Sheinberger, God wants us to devote only a fixed portion of our time and energy to mourning, regretting, and weltschmertz-- A TIME TO WEEP AND A TIME TO LAUGH, A TIME TO MOURN AND A TIME TO DANCE (Ecc. 3:4). IT'S NOT YOUR DUTY TO COMPLETE THE WORK, NOR ARE YOU FREE TO IGNORE IT (R. Tarfon, Avot 2:21). Great Hassidic Rebbes were deluged with others' tragedies. Eli Weisel (in 4 Hasidic Masters) claims that some died broken, when all their spiritual efforts didn't end Jewish tragedy. Rav Baruch Epstein (author of Torah Temimah, ancestor of Calev Ben Dovid) portrays his own similar reactions, and those of his misnagdic cohorts, in My Uncle the Ntziv (Artscrolls-Targum). But Nachman of Breslev stressed the great Divine commandment of always retaining a link to the ultimate resultant joy, even amidst mourning-- mitzva g'dola leyot b'simcha tamid.
Reb Naftali of Ropshitz claims that awareness of God's existence and man's purpose are prerequisites of joy-- THOSE WHO SEEK GOD MAKE THE HEART (of searching mankind-- Hirsch) REJOICE (Ps. 105:3). The 10 plagues may be the flipside of the Lord's 10 Statements generating Creation, e.g. animals, weather and water going berserk, destroying vegetation. So Divine Creation begins with, and is the source of, light, while the Plague of Darkness is the ultimate destiny of idolatrous polytheistic Egypt and of the many evil, tho prosperous, Jews, who wanted to remain there. First "No man saw his brother" (without a unified holistic world, directed by the One God, our Father, there's social "darkness", dog-eat-dog, with no man seeing the other's similar Divine Soul), then "no man stood up in his place" (even one's own existence and ability to carry on and create departs amidst existential darkness-- Ex. 10:23, see Julius Lester's gripping autobio, "Lovesong-Becoming A Jew"). But in a Divine purposeful Universe, even the worst tragedy may somehow be a step to ultimate joy-- one mourns the cutting of beautiful fabric, unaware that the tailor's making a suit! Yet Rashby taught that it's forbidden (as insensitive) to FILL our mouths with joy in this besmirched world (Ber. 31a). Only when we fully return to ourselves, God, and Israel, will there be true joy-- WHEN GOD RETURNS ZION'S CAPTIVITY... THEN WILL OUR MOUTHS BE FULL OF JOY... (Ps. 126:1-2).
Each of us seeks her own inner song-- her meaning and image-- and that of the entire universe. The great choral song of existence only emerges when each singer develops his unique role, when each player masters his instrument. Reb Nachman's Song of the Grasses (popularized by Naomi Shemer and her soulful kol isha) expands the Divine orchestra to everything created by God, each with its own song. In Shmot, The Book of Names, of identity, every man and tribe must develop their uniqueness. Great singers (e.g. Dovid and Shlomo) are those whose hearts and souls seek their own song. Their heartfelt response resonates in the hearts of others, tho they may disagree with their particular conclusions. Singers who only reflect their upbringing, environment and even Torah tradition, without painful self soul-searching, are unlikely to truly inspire anyone else (unless they convey the exact spirit of another's search). We WILL find God IF (and only if) we search for Him with all our heart and soul (Deut. 4:29). Per Rav J. B. Soloveichik, one who ignores his inner ??? and feelings, tho very pious, can't find God, for he has never searched for Him (in The Rav Speaks).
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B. A SYNOPSIS OF B'SHALACH
WHEN PHAROH EXPELLED THE PEOPLE (13:7) from Egypt, God took them on a long Red Sea detour toward Israel, to avoid war with the Philistines-- lest Israel follow their fair-weather non-Jewish fellow travelers and run back to Egypt in fright! The Philistines had previously massacred 300M Efrayimites, who jumped the Messianic gun before Exodus (per Midrash Raba 2:6; 200M per Targum Yonaton). Moshe remembered Yosef and took along his bones. Divine pillars of cloud by day, and of fire by night, led the Jews' march thruout their 40-year desert sojourn. At Etam, the Hebrews suddenly faced the harsh desert. God abruptly turned them around-- toward Egypt-- to give Pharoah one further test. He'll believe that the Jews have given up. Again, God gives Pharoah's heart courage to resist His overwhelming displays of power; true to form, he and the whole Egyptian war machine pursue their former slaves to the Red Sea banks. Perhaps he aims to recover his other citizens, "the people", who joined the Jews (cf. non-Jews who accompany Jews leaving the USSR; the Russians now wisely make Jewish life bearable there; so Israel must make its economic and political system as good and appealing as L.A.'s, e.g. no punitive taxes on cars and TV!). Pharoh may have granted general freedom of emigration to all, to appear to remain in control of Egypt, rather than yielding to God and Moshe.
The Jews are terrified, regretting their escape. Moshe tells them to relax, "TO KEEP QUIET" **-- God will fight their battles. But God disagrees-- action is needed, not just prayer; the Jews are commanded to first march into the Red Sea! Only then is Moshe to divide it into two walls of water, with a dry path between. Egypt follows them into the sea, in hot pursuit. In the morning, a Divine glance (piercing the cloud and fire) suddenly turns the Egyptian army into shambles. Wheels fall off their chariots-- so little Israeli hot air balloons deflected vaunted SAM 7 Soviet-Syrian missiles! The Jews emerge and the sea closes on Egypt.
** The Ishbitzer Rebbe (brought up to date and clarifed by Rav M. Gafni, Tuesdays 5:30 at ICCY, 12 Emek Refaim, 20 Sh.) claims that "keep quiet" includes prayer-- sometimes we must be completely passive, watching in awe as God does His own thing, lest we think that we control or manipulate Him via our prayers. So, tho we acknowledge human free will, ultimately whatever happens is God's true will, for our good (Rav Kook, per Rav Gafni; but I understood Rav Kook to mean that even a wrong choice ULTIMATELY leads to God's will, but via a rough detour rather than a smooth straight path; this indeed is the message of the scapegoat on Yom Kippur, who dies broken in the desert; yet it is first also brought "before God", a symbol that the existential bankruptcy of a ruined life itself stimulates tshuva, return to God, per The Rov).
Now the awe-filled Jews have faith in God and in Moshe's mission. Ecstatic, they exalt God in song (women too?), proclaiming both Egypt's downfall and the terror which has seized their future enemies. God will bring them all to settle in Israel and build His sanctuary-- a prelude to His eternal universal kingdom, led by the State of Israel. "Miriam, the Prophetess, Aaron's sister, took the timbrel in her hand (where else?) and all the women WENT OUT (far from the men?) after her with timbrels and dances (15:20-- singing too?)"-- cf. Rav O. Yosef's "liberal" ruling, vs. Rav Shach, that Nechama Leibowitz could teach men (rabbis in Rav Shlomo Riskin's program to bring them into the 20th century), but only behind a curtain! Rav Riskin wisely ignored both!
Heading into the desert, the Jews travel 3 days, but find no water. "Kvetching" replaces ecstasy, when they find only undrinkable bitter water at Marah. God shows Moshe a tree to sweeten the waters; He gives Israel a statute and an ordinance (the tree of life, Torah, sweetens seemingly bitter life-- cf. religious olim). He states that total absorption in God's law would prevent their ending up like the Egyptians, a "house of slaves" to their own impulses, even holy ones-- miracles and ecstasy are no substitute for constant commandments and study, internalization of faith. At Elim they found 12 springs (cf. the 12 tribes) and 70 date palms (cf. the 70 elders).
One month after Exodus, the Jews yearn for ample Egyptian fleshpots and bread (cf. root beer and cranberry sauce and U.S. supermarket bargains, now matched by Shekem, Coop, Greenberg's and Supersol's half price items; they're cheaper than Haredi bargain stores-- but don't buy their many highly over-priced foods!-- Supersol bought bankrupt Bircat Rachel; Greenberg's imports of Canadian cheese cakes and ice cream at reasonable prices is praiseworthy-- but they have no deliveries). God gives the Jews quail, then provides heavenly food, manna-- a 40-year diet with built-in messages of faith (16:4f). Per some midrashim, manna's accessibility, flavor satisfaction, and ease of preparation depended on one's soul state (see Yoma 75, Michilta, Ex. Raba 25:3; does verbal abuse of others cause cavities?); each member of "fathers' households" got a portion, so that the family's quantity "told" the truth about whose children were fathered by whom (manna's called "zera gad", which can be translated: "it told the seed")! One had to gather it daily, not leaving any over, trusting in God for the future. Some disobeyed and their leftovers rotted, unlike Friday's double portion for Shabbat (see or buy Gesher's Shabbat skits on video at TOP).
God gives Israel laws of Shabbat (16:23f)-- a day to stay home and not go out for manna (or to shop by Jaffa Gate or at kibbutzim). A jar of manna was preserved as a memorial near the ark. At Rephidim, the people again craved water. Moshe was tired of their violent protests and complained to God. God told him to hit the rock at Chorev and water flowed. God doesn't criticize His thirsty folk, tho Moshe accuses them of "trying God". Amalek suddenly comes to fight the demoralized Jews and kills the (spiritually?) feeble and weary (17:8f; cf. Deut. 25:17f). As Moshe stands on top of the hill with his rod, Yehoshua leads the Jews in battle. They prevail only when Moshe's hands are raised. The Talmud asks: "Do Moshe's hands really wage war?-- No!"-- they simply focus Jewish hearts Upstairs. When they look UP to God and Torah as their goals and pray, they'll win (but they must fight). When they look DOWN-- adopt a secular earthly perspective-- they're like any nation and won't prevail (may A. B. Yehoshua & Co. realize this soon!). In rightfully fighting the Arabs' attempts to destroy us, we must not turn into Jewish Jihidists-- they're not Amalek, as they're defending what they, in error, consider to be their land (Imam Abdul Palazzi and Asher Eder point out that the Koran recognizes Israel as our land, Arabia as that of the Arabs).
When weary Moshe sits down on a stone (no comfortable chair for him, when fellow Jews are fighting), Aharon and Chur support his arms, until victory at sunset. Moshe is to record that God will obliterate Amalek's memory. He builds an altar and names it "The Lord is my banner", proclaiming that there's a hand on the throne of God, who wars with Amalek in every generation (17:16)-- Rome, Crusaders, Germany, Syria, Iraq, etc.
C. A BIT OF THE MESSAGE
IT WAS, WHEN PHAROH SENT THE PEOPLE OUT-- AND THE LORD DID NOT LEAD THEM ON THE WAY TO (derech eretz) PHILISTIA, THO IT WAS CLOSE, FOR THE LORD SAID: "LEST THE PEOPLE REGRET, WHEN THEY SEE WAR, AND RETURN TO EGYPT". THE LORD TURNED THE PEOPLE TO THE DESERT HIGHWAY... AND GOD GOES BEFORE THEM BY DAY IN A PILLAR OF CLOUD... SPEAK TO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL... (13:17-14:1).
HOLY TZAHAL: God Himself could zap the Philistines, as He's about to do to the Egyptians. Rav Shlomo Goren, ztz"l, concluded that He wants the Jews, a model HOLY NATION (19:6), to perform all national functions, imbuing them with holiness-- even fighting evil nations, e.g. Iraq and Germany. Rav Yehudah Henkin asks: if frightened Israel CAN'T fight their enemy here, why punish them later for being afraid to fight for Canaan? ln fact, they later propose: "Let's appoint a leader and return to Egypt", exactly what God says He's preventing here (Num. 14:4)! But they, recently freed slaves, aren't an organized nation at this point; they still reel from the holocaust of at least 80% of Israel, who wouldn't leave Egypt, during the plague of darkness -- see Rashi, lO:22, l3:l. They worry only about the fate of ME, MY CHILDREN, AND MY CATTLE (17:3). Later, when stronger, with family (Num. 11:10) and national identities, they CAN fight, but won't. Then they wouldn't run back to Egypt as a scattered rabble of ex-slaves, but as a nation under a leader. Once organized, they can be directed; unorganized, they'll collapse (cf. Lebanon). A strong State of Israel is a prerequisite for its strong national Torah life; Ben Gurion strove to give hitherto scattered Jews a renewed sense of national identity, mamlachtiyut; he vetoed separatist schools and flags, even those of his own party. But, over-zealously applying his own convictions, Ben Gurion destroyed traditional Sephardic identity by forcing them into secular westernized schools.
BG, so sure he was right, also ordered Yitzchak Rabin to shell and sink The Altalena (Jabotinsky's pen name) refugee ship (900), also loaded with arms (250 light machine guns, 5000 rifles, and a large quantity of ammo) for Irgun fighters, especially in Jerusalem (Irgun refused to turn them all over to the government)-- a possibly unnecessary drastic move, to stop the Lechi rebellion; some Right wingers claim that Rabin's men shot the Irgunists as they swam to shore, as their ship sunk. Begin, commander of the boat, unlike Ben Gurion and Rabin, would never have killed fellow Jews (Dr. Avi Ravitsky, responding to my ? at AACI); but Nathaniel Lorch (1961, Israel's War of Independence, 947-1949) and Leah Rabin (in her biography of Rabin) claim that the deaths in the Altalena incident occurred only during the accidental shelling of the ship, intended to be only an overhead warning, not while the survivors swam ashore; Lorch claims even that the Palmach then helped them to get ashore, and that the initial attack was by the Altalena crew, facing only a small Hagana unit on the shore, surrounded by Irgunists (some were deserters from Tzahal), until reinforcements arrived; he reports earlier clashes, during which several men were killed, when the Irgun (including two companies who had left their army posts-- E.J.) attempted to unload the ship at Kfar Vitkin.
Herman Wouk (in The Hope, p. 103f) notes Palmach leader Yigal Allon's role in the attack-- Lorch doesn't even mention Ben Gurion and Rabin, who is just called "the Palmach commander", perhaps trying to cover up their role in the affair. Wouk mentions shooting between the Palmach and the Irgun when a second launch were sent out to bring arms to the beach, and that the Provisional government was consulted by Ben Gurion. Ben Halpern (in The Idea of the Jewish State, quoting Sacher's Israel) notes that the presence of UN obervers in Israel to enforce the ban on arms imports under the truce complicated the position of the government vis-a-vis the Altalena. Wouk quotes St. John Robley's featured analysis for Reuters on the Altalena affair:
"... Of course the Ben Gurion government had the firepower and won out, but Mr. Begin created a martyrology and a legend. He was last off the burning vessel, and he had to be dragged off. Then he rose to the moment by ordering the Irgun units to go back to their posts and obey the orders of Ben Gurion's army. He thus averted a civil war, and he was the only man in Israel who could have done it. If the victory was David Ben Gurion's, the laurel was Menachem Begin's. It was a diamond cut diamond." Could Ben Gurion's constant hatred of Begin be due to The Altelena's voyage, which forced him to kill fellow Jews?
NAMES: Elokim, "THE LORD" (= 86 = HATEVA, nature) appears in the beginning of our portion; the relational transcendental essence of "God", called HASHEM, wasn't yet appreciated by the newly liberated slaves as underlying daily life, a 100,000,000 miracles; only when He revealed Himself with supernatural plagues and pillars of cloud and fire is He apprehended as "God", and so called by Israel (13:21; Hirsch).
TRADITION: Chatam Sofer launches an attack on modernity by translating our first verse: "God didn't take the Jews to Philistine civilization (derech eretz) because it was CLOSE" (and appealing to the Jewish heart-- much higher than crude sensual Egypt). The drunken superstitious East European peasant posed little threat of Jewish assimilation; the sophisticated Berlin professor was much closer to the Jew's mind and daughter, a real threat (cf. U.S.A. TODAY, rabbis' sons at Oxford and Cambridge, and ivy league Princeton's drunken Nude Olympics). Sofer concludes that the relative clarity and simplicity of Bible and Math are similarly appealing to Jewish youth-- they then won't feel like entering the much more complex, obtruse, and important, world of talmud, God's unique covenant with the Jews-- postpone these subjects until pupils have mastered talmud!
Since modern Jews were in fact exposed to a great and appealing modern civilization, Sofer's restraints likely caused many to discard tradition for haskala. Sofer's aphorism: "Newness (Chadash) is prohibited by the Torah" is a play on the prohibition of new grain of 5 species in Lev. 23:14; it may apply today too, even abroad, in the impure lands, tho the Temple's not yet rebuilt (see Men. 83-84, Kid. 36b-37a, M. T. Tamidin Ch. 7, Sh. Aruch O. H. 490, Y. D. 293, Otzar Yisroel, "Chadash"). Of course, Sofer's analogy shouldn't be taken seriously-- new grain is prohibited ONLY until the omer offering is brought on the 2nd day of Pesach. Rav Kook's position better reflects Torah, "chadash" and reality-- we must both renew the old and sanctify the new. God indeed blesses us to be able to discard the old, outmoded and obsolete (e.g. typewriters) for the new (e.g. computers-- Lev. 26:10). Y.U. Prof. Rav Alan Brill, who floats with breadth amidst a sea of increasing insularity, doesn't deny these extreme statements of Sofer-- but he claims that his bark was far worse than his bite-- Sofer himself was indeed in many ways open to modernity, his descendants even more so.
WHOLENESS & HOLISM also characterize Rav S. R. Hirsch's deep immersion in Torah, integrated with all worldly knowledge and kosher experience. His path was both more representative of Jewish tradition, until its decline in Eastern Europe (see Men of Spirit, Jung), and much more viable in the modern age; not only did he retain a good % of his flock, but even brought many Jews back to the fold. Rather than reject Math and Bible, he used them as cornerstones of the religious experience (cf. our attitudes to TV). Hirsch inspires all sorts of Jews and non-Jews today, over 100 years after his death; Chatam Sofer is only read by the committed Orthodox. But see Tradition In An Age of Reform-- The Religious Philosophy of Samson Rafael Hirsch, by Noah Rosenbloom-- he portrays Hirsch's early flirtations with haskala and reform, his un-Orthodox education, and the mutual disdain between him and much of the traditional yiddish-speaking "Torah world". Prof. Brill, shlita, likewise questions the traditional authenticity of Hirsch. Brill would be an excellent choice to give Y.U.'s first course in comparative religion-- "Know what to answer a heretic" (Rav Eleazer, Avot 2:14; he first urges us to be constant in learning of Torah, implying that one must really know the Torah in order to defend it, and, perhaps, that such defense is indeed itself a major reason for studying torah-- J. Neusner, in Torah From Our Sages; Neusner concludes that the rabbis did not ignore the existence of those who denied fundamentals of the faith and, presumably, learned the current heresies in order to refute them:
To be a Jew is an act of affirmation, an act of faith, an act of hope. It is not a ratification of how things really are. To know what to answer the unbeliever is to know how to live in the world as it is. To maintain the faith of Israel is to know how to live in the world as it should be, and, we believe, as in God's own time, it will be.
Today too there are those who, contrary to Jewish tradition, try to perpetuate grandfather's world a century ago, as they imagine it to have been; they transform even great-great-grandpa's clothes, food and snuff into objects of religious significance; they presume that their leaders are always right, beyond question (cf. the emperor's new clothes, the Amish and the Menonites). Per Rav J. Soloveichik, their neo-shtetl society vastly differs from East Europe's shtetl, which was far more open and tolerant. The leader of misnagdic anachronism today is Rav Shach, a brilliant, but highly narrow and negative, venerable talmudist (his son repented, became modern Zionist Orthodox). His camp newspaper, Y'ted Neeman, tends to disparage and mock everything outside their own Lithuanian Yeshiva world, especially Habad and modern Zionist Orthodox Judaism. Jonathan Rosenblum is their articulate modern spokesman in the JP.
In a Y'ted article, Tz. Gold (I couldn't obtain his real name from Y'ted) lambasted these studies for their creative and critical (= talmudic) thought, and for their interface of Torah and modernity. But Jewish tradition encourages this-- rabbinic authority extends only to law and basic articles of faith, not to secular matters, thought and Torah interpretation (see Ohr HaChayim on Deut. 32:1, Ibn Ezra on Yitzchak's age at the Akada, and Avraham b. Maimon's Introduction to Agada, printed as a preface to Ein Yaakov). When asked the source of one of his interpretative concepts, Rav J. Soloveichik replied: "My own God-given intelligence!"; so we bless God Who's both "given us a Torah of truth" AND "placed eternal life WITHIN us". Shachian party-liner Gold cites and condemns several of our statements about decadent Egyptian culture (without explaining why he even disagrees), and notes that some were convinced we were missionaries (!!!), but later realized that we were Religious Zionists (worse?), labelled "idolators" by the late Rav Elchanan Wasserman!
But Rav J. Soloveichik (in The Rav Speaks) is indeed convinced that Rav Elchanan and other anti-zionist "gdolim", whose views may have contributed to the death and suffering of so many Jews in Europe, would have clearly seen and admitted that they were wrong, like Yosef's brothers; unfortunately, their blind followers still insist that they were right-- cf. Haredi Hassidic Munkitcher Rav Yissaschar Teichthal's 1943 Budapest Zionist repentance in Am Habanium Somacha ($20, English synopsis $5, from TOP). Gold closes his attack on us (before going on to Habad) by mocking our bumper sticker: "Every Yeshiva student should join Israel's Army and every Israeli soldier should join a Yeshiva" ($1 from TOP, english or hebrew). Not only does he proclaim that a yeshiva student ceases to be such on his first day in the army (why is there no Hesder Ponavitch Yeshiva?), but also states that a yeshiva is no place for a soldier!!-- his yeshivot may indeed repel those with open minds and sensitive hearts. After calling our work "trash", he attacked and villified Habad for the second week running-- true, Habad devotees, despite the Lionzer Rov and Mayanot's protests, often stress the late Rebbe and the Meshiach more than God Himself, in their boundless untempered, often manic, enthusiasm for their great, kind and loving leader; but no one would even dream that fire-and-brimstone, constantly castigating, Rav Shach is Meshiach.
FAITH BUILDERS: Moshe's present task is to build faith in God upon 3 foundations (Rav Shlomo Aviner-- his writes a weekly column in Machon Meir's parsha sheet): 1) the daily manna (without preservatives), called "faith bread" in kabala-- to be able to live from day to day, w/o future reserves, is to experience "BLESSED IS GOD FROM DAY TO DAY" and "WHO IS RICH? HE WHO REJOICES WITH HIS PORTION". In Israel, without an overflowing Nile, the Jew must constantly pray for rain, building faith via agriculture. Each 3rd plague came without warning, destroying Pharoh's false sense of future security. Yet the manna, God's material blessing, only comes to those who work to gather it; they're to use and enjoy it, not just leave it over for a feared future-- misers lack faith (Hirsch-- so Rav Altusky disdained insurance policies years ago, when we studied in Chofetz Chayim). 2) halacha, Jewish Law, living one's life according to the Creator's factory authorized instruction manual-- objective detailed laws flow from abstract principles, based on man's true and highest nature; God's Torah corresponds to His laws and principles of science; together they relate all experience to God. Only man has free will and must seek a Torah, a guide, to maximize his Divine Image potential; only Israel claims such detailed Revelation (Hirsch).
Aesthetic subjectivity can't be the basis for any legal system, especially Torah, the detailed blueprint of Creation. We seek to understand, comply and unite with God's expressed objective Will, leaving any resultant "highs" to Him (Rav J. Soloveichik). One of Shulamit Aloni's basic errors is her unwarranted assumption that one's bodily acts of mitzva can't per se have great effects; just as one erratic cell can destroy a great genius, so one piece of bread on Passover may wreck havoc with the Jewish soul, may cause someone like Shuli to go off the deep end. Yet even she is impressed, sometimes enthusiastic, when Torah is presented by broad and tolerant positive preachers, e.g. Rabbis Avigdor Hacohen and Yehuda Amital.
Moshe began teaching halacha in "Bo"-- laws of the calendar and Pesach; now he prohibits going out to gather manna on Shabbat. After the sweetening of the bitter waters, we read: "THERE HE GAVE HIM A STATUTE AND JUDGEMENT AND THERE HE TESTED HIM" (15:25). This verse recalls 2 events at Marah-- the delivery of several laws, and Israel's trial by the bitter waters (Rashi; cf. the wayward wife); Israel should have asked Moshe to pray for drinkable water, rather than kvetching. Per the Talmud (San. 56b), Israel was given there the laws of paternal honor (mistakenly transformed into "the red heifer" by Rashi's printer's error-- see Silberman, ancestor of the Jewish 1/4 Zilbermans), Shabbat, and civil justice. But, per Ramban (as Tur), this is not what the text means-- such laws would have been stated in detail, as elsewhere (cf. Rashi and Soncino's interpretations of Rav Chisda's advice to his daughters, Shabat 140b). What Moshe taught Israel at Marah were laws of survival and civilized behavior for their desert trek. Yehoshua also did so, upon entering Israel (B.K. 80b).
3) Fighting Amalek (= 240 = safek, doubt); He's the nihilistic force whose hand inhibits God's "throne", recognition of His rule, unity, and omnipresence (17:16). He comes from afar to attack the Jewish body and spirit, tho Israel does not threaten him. From Haman to Hitler, from G. Habash to S. Hussein, the Edomite society of each age produces its Amaleks. Jews must always be on the alert, and fight them to the finish. Their swagger is but an illusory shadow, concealing God's 100% good world. Pacifism is silent acquiescence to aggression (cf. the Palestinians' Quaker and Papal friends). Rav Gafni notes that the assimilation of Amalek into other nations, preventing their literal destruction, reinforces the general Jewish principle of tshuva, that, no matter how bad, anyone can repent.
SOME DAY... On Shabbat, the 7th day, the Jew gives up certain creative labors, leaves the world of striving. As with all mitzvos, he must LIVE, act out, not just MOUTH, the message that his powers are the gift of God, to be used only according to His sacred rules. It is a prelude and preview of the 8th millennium, the "world to come", when GOD WILL REIGN FOREVER (end of Moshe's Song, 15:18). So the song at the Red Sea starts with alef-zayin-- AZ... "THEN (AZ) WILL MOSHE and the children of Israel sing this song". The future tense implies eventual resurrection of the dead, as does AZ itself, which, 1+7, = 8, symbol of the eschatological age (the end of days); six symbolizes the 6 days of Creation, work in this world, and the 6,000 years of Divine Concealment. Seven-- Shabbat and the 7th millennium of existence-- combines and links this world of "six" with the eternal holy world of "eight"; Amalek inhibits this process. Thus God's kingship is only complete "THEN" (AZ). As we pray every Friday night: "Your throne is established from THEN (AZ), tho You're eternal" (Psalm 93; Shmot Raba B'Shalach interprets this AZ to refer to Israel's crowning of God when they sang AZ at the sea); so we recite Zionist Psalm 126 before grace: "THEN (AZ, on our return to Israel) will our mouths be full of joy. Only THEN (AZ) will the nations say "God has done great things for these people".
THEN WILL SING MOSHE AND ISRAEL is in the singular, reflecting the unique contribution of every Jew to God's chorus, or the temporary unity of Israel and Moshe. It may also imply that only Moshe, not the Jews, understood that their exaltation was only temporary, that there was a long hard struggle through history until the song's message would finally be realized (cf. 1948-- Ben Gurion prepared for war while everyone else celebrated independence).
D. AFTER THE PARTY'S OVER or MARRIAGE AFTER THE WEDDING
Midrashim expound the Biblical metaphors of marriage between God and the Jewish people, e.g. Song of Songs and Ezekiel 16, with reference to this formative period of the Jewish nation; they compare the stages of the God-Israel relationship at Exodus, the Red Sea and Sinai to being engaged, the wedding, and consummation of the marriage. God welcomed the Jews at Sinai, as a groom who goes out to greet his bride-- Rashi, Deut. 33:2. Exodus Raba 46 compares the broken tablets to a marriage contract; Hosea (2:18-25) graphically portrays the ultimate Messianic union of Jew and God. Israel will then joyfully experience God as her mate, rather than fearfully, as her lord: `IT SHALL BE ON THAT DAY, THE WORD OF GOD, YOU'LL CALL ME "MY MATE" (Ishi), NO LONGER "MY LORD AND MASTER" (Baali)'. Then, with the perfection of human nature, man's conflicts with hostile nature and his fellow man will cease-- "IN THAT DAY I'LL MAKE A COVENANT FOR THEM WITH THE BEAST OF THE FIELD ... AND I'LL BREAK BOW, SWORD AND BATTLE OUT OF THE LAND, AND WILL MAKE THEM TO LIE DOWN SAFELY". Then--
"I'LL BETROTH YOU UNTO ME FOREVER (i.e. never reject you, vs. traditional Christianity-- Radak); YEA, I'LL BETROTH YOU UNTO ME WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS AND WITH JUSTICE (from Israel's side-- Rashi) AND IN LOVINGKINDNESS, AND IN COMPASSION (God then reveals Himself to moral man)-- AND I'LL BETROTH YOU UNTO ME IN FAITHFULNESS; AND YOU SHALL DEEPLY KNOW GOD... AND I'LL SAY TO THEM THAT WERE NOT (acting as?) MY PEOPLE (reformed Reform converts?): `YOU'RE MY PEOPLE'; AND THEY'LL SAY (after re-converting halachically?): `YOU'RE MY GOD'".
After Sinai's "wedding", the challenge is living together, day-in, day-out. Those who occasionally visit the Wall, "dating" God, are more enthusiastic than daily adherents, who are "married" to Him. We celebrate weddings, the POTENTIAL for the greatest human joy, tho many marriages won't be so happy or permanent. Soon after the honeymoon, he discovers that she burns the beans, and she that he snores! Triumphant Exodus culminates in the joyous song of Moshe and Israel. 3 days later, when the water supply isn't renewed (tho they still had water, the cloud, and the pillar), bitter kvetching replaces the joyous ecstasy of Divine union; so the golden calf is a slightly delayed response to the glorious theophany at Sinai-- Rav Huna comments (Pes. 118b): THAT ISRAELITE GENERATION HAD LITTLE FAITH. THEY ASSUMED THAT THE EGYPTIANS ALSO WERE SAVED ON A DIFFERENT SIDE OF THE SEA. Then... "ISRAEL SAW THE EGYPTIANS DEAD ON THE SEASHORE... AND (only then) THEY BELIEVED IN GOD AND MOSHE HIS SERVANT (14:30)".
PS. 106 reviews Exodus and the fallen Jewish soul: OUR FATHERS IN EGYPT IGNORED YOUR WONDERS, THEY DIDN'T REMEMBER YOUR GREAT KINDNESS. THEY REBELLED AT THE SEA... THEY SOON FORGOT. Israel Prize Prof. Y. Leibowitz concluded: true faith (and marriage?) is solely a slowly and deeply developed internal experience, not the product of being swept off one's feet, even by great ecstatic revelations (better to learn than to farbreng!); God prefers the lifelong sacrifices of Yitzchak's descendants, to a momentary grand Kamikaze gesture. The former gradually integrates the essence of man with God, the latter only his body. One can see and celebrate God's open manifestation at Sinai, yet make a golden calf. Conversely, true faith ignores external evidence that God has abandoned us, as in the Holocaustic Crusades, when Jews chose martyrdom over conversion. The flipside of the coin of faith, based upon Divine fireworks, is a loss of faith in the day in, day out, life situations which follow. B'shalach has 116 verses. The first half, 58 miracle-packed verses, joyously culminate in Miriam's song of salvation; the other 58 verses start the long trek thru a desert of complaints! Leibowitz claims that the grand wedding, the Revelation, is thus a failure, as Elijah's fantastic Mt. Carmel display of God's power; tho the overwhelmed people MOMENTARILY abandon idolatry, they quickly revert. Elijah is retired and Elisha takes over; he works slowly and patiently-- A LITTLE (or Yidel) HERE AND A LITTLE (or Yidel) THERE.
Great SURFACE faith is automatic, when God's revealed. The challenge is to maintain the song of faith in an unredeemed world, with God's presence concealed-- to see God of Imminence, Kindness, and Relationship behind the impersonal Lord of the laws of nature. YF: Nevertheless, the glorious beginning, the wedding, IS important. We rejoice at the POTENTIAL great state of the union, tho perhaps ONLY after a long difficult road. This vision always remains. Israel's affair with the Golden Calf leads to the brink of Divine divorce; that great dream, the wedding album of Sinai, then gives them renewed energy and vision. Shabbat, a foretaste of what life can and will be, keeps us hanging in there for another so imperfect week of work and slow progress, imbued with last Shabbat's aromatic havdala spirit.
E. THE HAFTARA is JUDGES 4:4-5:31
It deals with the defeat of Yavin, Canaanite king of Chatzor, by 10M men of Naftali and Z'vulan, led by Gen. Barak and Devorah the prophetess. Chatzor was the latest in a series of non-Jewish rulers of Israel, whose Divine mission was to make the Jews abandon intermarriage and assimilation with Canaan (M. Hirsch; cf. the intifada). BARAK WANTS DEVORAH TO COME TO WAR TO TEACH THAT ALL WOMEN HAVE TO HELP DEFEND JEWS AT WAR (Musser Han'viim, Sotah 44b, Mishna Torah Kings 5:1-- cf. Miss Meah Shearim). As in our portion, the Jews are seemingly helpless against Yavin's 900 iron chariots; their miraculous victory is celebrated in song, FIRST by Devorah and THEN by Barak (but Miriam's song follows Moshe's). The Jews are now on a higher level than at Exodus-- they themselves fight evil; God needn't do it for them (cf. Meah Shearim). So Yael exhibits the kind of holiness necessary in an unredeemed world-- she sleeps with Sisra 7 times to relax and slay the Jew's #1 enemy! Ovadia's "God-awareness", yiras hashem, is praised over that of Avraham-- he saves 100 prophets while serving in Ahav's palace. So some praise Yael even more than the matriarchs-- Hor. 10b (cf. Esther, Jewish spies who would sleep with German officers-- but see Lev. Raba 23). Perhaps only one already in an immoral society, as non-Jewish Yael, is praised for so using sex.
F. LEGAL DEPARTMENT
One law is derived from this week's portion-- not to travel more than 2000 cubits from the border of a city on Shabbat. RAMBAM (see Sefer Hamitzvot, Neg. 321) derived it from 16:29: LET NO MAN GO OUT OF HIS PLACE ON THE 7TH DAY, interpreting "place" as "city", rather than dwelling. Later he changed his mind-- great people aren't fixated on their first impressions, but are always open to new approaches and information (cf. Rav J. Soloveichik). The forbidden distance is the width of the camp, 24,000 cubits, 6.3-7.5 miles, 11.52-13.83 km.-- the rabbis severely limited it to 1/12 of that, 2000 cubits (M. T. Shabat, 27:1). Ramban disputes his revered predecessor's view-- there's NO TORAH LAW of city limits; the whole realm is rabbinic (comm. on Sefer Hamitzvos). The Torah verse refers to CARRYING , not TRAVELING, on Shabbat (cf. Eruvin 17b); Talmud Yerushalmi backs up Rambam, but Ramban favors the more authorative Babylonian Talmud. One can extend the "city limits" by placing within the 2000 cubit limit enough food for 2 meals, eruv t'chumin; the 2000 is then measured from that point. Detailed laws are found in Eruvin.
Commentators rationalize this law-- Sefer Hachinuch suggests that it's a LIVING REMINDER (body language) that "HE RESTED ON THE 7TH DAY (Ex. 20:11)". We rest in one place and don't take long trips-- there's no great exertion in a 6-7.5 mile stroll! Yet one may take very long walks within holy Jerusalem, NYC or LA (containing so many Jewish souls!), without violating the law! Perhaps Sefer Hachinuch would reply that one can periodically rest, talk to others and take shelter (in NYC?) within a city limit. This "body language" of religious expression, e.g. relaxation, follows his psychological understanding of mitzvos: (BO 16) "Thru the act and symbol that we do, the matter (Exodus) is fixed in our souls forever... But why should God command all this activity to remember that miracle? One reminder would fix it in our consciousness... KNOW THAT A MAN IS ACTIVATED ACCORDING TO HIS ACTIONS! His heart and all his thoughts always follow his activity, whether good or bad (another good message for Shuli Aloni; cf. the Talmudic view that "the exposition is not the essence, but the act" with modern university selection of teachers to mold youth-- academic performance is the essence, personal character of little relevance).
"Even one with a completely evil heart... will at once turn to the good... via his works, IF he'll... occupy himself with Torah and Mitzvos, even for ulterior motives (e.g. to get a good match), FOR THE HEARTS ARE DRAWN AFTER THE DEEDS. Conversely... a man perfectly righteous ... but occupied constantly with evil matters (e.g. Israel TV viewers, Jewish kids forced into the Tzarist army) will become completely evil. It's a well known truth THAT EACH MAN IS ACTIVATED BY HIS ACTIONS... `The Omnipresent wanted to give Israel merit; therefore he gave them lots of Torah and mitzvos' (Mak. 23b), and `Whoever has a mezuzah at his door, fringes on his garment, and tefilin on his head, will certainly not sin' (Men. 43b-- if he is sensitive to them-- YF), FOR THESE ARE UNINTERRUPTED MITZVOS, BY WHICH ONE IS CONSTANTLY SHAPED." He then warns us not to hang around frivolous people, tho they sin not; it will erode our inner spirit (cf. Soap).
Hirsch: if leaving the city limits is a Torah law, the Shabbat message expands-- not only does Torah limit the application of Man's productive activity to matter, but also to his social coexistence, transportation and commerce. Perhaps one must not leave the unity of his community on Shabbat, a weekly foretaste of the ultimate unity of all reality under God. Those who share the workaday world should escape it together weekly, to formulate higher new perspectives, which will uplift it.
G. EXODUS AND REVOLUTION (M. WALZER, 1985) shows how virtually all movements of revolution and social upheaval based themselves on Exodus. God gives man conceptual tools to improve every society, in this story. Its unique Jewish message is that Man should NOT fatalistically accept suffering and persecution. If he takes the first steps into the Sea, God will bring about great results (cf. WWII's ghetto revolts, '48). History's NOT a cycle of ups and downs, leading nowhere but to existential despair-- it's a straight path leading to Messianic destiny, tho each two steps forward may bring ONE step backward in their wake. The Moshe (or Herzl) figure may have to be someone who himself has escaped the terrible effects of oppression, whose spirit's not broken; the first liberated generation (or olim) may have to recognize that they'll never really make it; they're drawn back to the "free" life of slavery, where one isn't responsible for his own destiny, goals, and achievements-- let Pharoh (or the company director) worry about it-- I'll just sit around the meat pot, drinking beer! Many olim may have just hoped to raise the next generation with their dream-- their kids would build a State of Israel with its own Tzahal to fight oppression and evil. So many Anglo-Saxon immigrants will never be "natives", part of the system-- our children, who will continue our Messianic beginnings, will be; may they improve it soon!
H. is for H.U.
I attended two H.U. (Hebrew or Heretical University) events last year: 1) The annual Lady Davis lecture at the Hyatt, Squaring The Circle: Prosperity, Civility and Liberty, by Lord Ralf Dahredorf of Oxford, seemed a bit lacklustre-- perhaps because I heard a more spirited version of it at the previous week's H.U. conference on The Impact of Ideas on 20th Century History, or perhaps because I heard Rav Gafni's fast-flowing exciting talk on the parsha just afterwards; but the Hyatt pastries were extraordinary! But what really impressed me, tho negatively, was the offensive introduction of the Lord by H.U. Prof. Oren, who exploited his role to deliver a bitter diatribe and tirade against the religious and political right, at this allegedly academic event; he passionately labeled the results of Israel's last election "a great tragedy". No one protested but me, tho many agreed with me.
2) A conference in commemoration of the official 100th anniversary (not really so) of Western access to the Cairo Genizah; unlike the Lady Davis do, most of the participants were quite Jewish in their orientation, many observant; the talks showed the huge increase and many advances in Jewish learning due to the geniza, especially in the realm of poetry; much of the material, itself a small fraction of works hitherto lost, was completely new to Ashkenazic Jewry; appropriately, the geniza talks were themselves stored in a modern geniza by the professional video crew covering the event, ritually dancing virtually on top of the speakers and panel (I wound up on Israel TV-- they may have been attracted by my beard and Texan hat). Just as only relgious scruples preserved the holy writings of our ancestors in genizot (with some secular material cast in with it), so only the religious world, e.g. yeshivot hesder, preserve our tradition as a Torah of life; the predominantly secular H.U. Bible Debunking Dept. is dwindling toward extinction-- I heard that they now have more faculty than students; if the Torah is not the word of God, why sacrifice one's life in its study? There's more money and joy of life in other secular professions.
Israel's secular society will also be but a rapidly dwindling minority, if they put women's careers, travel and the good life above bearing and raising many children, tho they may take them to Yael Dayan's beach on Yom Kippur. May the H.U. Bible Dept. be speedily replaced by a modern enthusiastic and truly traditional Zionist Yeshiva, integrating all knowledge and experience with Torah.
5 years later-- has anything changed at H.U.?
HE WHO (CONTINUALLY) DECLARES (OTHERS) UNFIT IS (HIMSELF) UNFIT (D.E.Z. 8:10, Kid. 70a), AND NEVER SPEAKS IN PRAISE (OF PEOPLE). AND SAMUEL SAID: WITH HIS OWN BLEMISH HE STIGMATIZES (OTHERS) AS UNFIT (Kid. 70a). HE WHO'S HIMSELF UNFIT (CONTINUALLY) DECLARES (OTHERS TO BE) UNFIT AND NEVER SPEAKS WELL OF ANYBODY (D.E.R. I:12-- cf. the "projection" mechanism of Freud & Co.)--
An example: Participants of The 1991 George Katz Legal Conference on Women & Law at H.U. passed a resolution condemning Rav Moshe Feldman for his traditional views on the role of Jewish women (stressing their holiness and privacy). Many rudely shouted me down when I objected to their untrue and unfair statement that he had disdain and denigration for women, whom he called "Ministers of the Interior" (husbands are "Foreign Ministers"). They saw only a bit of his TV interview, poorly translated, and laughed at his hassidic face during "fast forward", reminding me of anti-semitic reactions to haredim. How many of these alleged "liberal" Jews are likely to have lots of Jewish grandchildren, absorbed in Torah, as does Rav Feldman? Will their $50,000+/yr. childless young career women have as much deep long-lasting satisfaction as his wife? That's a much greater "issue" than female suffrage, which in any event is a fait accompli in Israel, despite Rav A. Y. Kook's opposition.
I. QUAIL, QUAIL, THE FLOCK'S ALL HERE
Common sense dictates that God gave Israel quail EACH evening, just as he gave them manna each morning-- otherwise their complaint is unanswered (Ramban, ch. 16; but Abarbanel claims that God only served it once-- see 16:13); How then can Jews demand meat and get quail again a year later?-- see Numbers 11:4f, 13f, 18f, 31f. Ramban answers-- the quail here was not described as miraculous or satisfying; there wasn't enough for ample portions (cf. drinks and cups at kiddushes); less meat is more healthful-- a bit of quail would suffice for spiritual giants; but when Jews regress, they demand loads of meat, as the stubborn and rebellious son. The real fressers then died with the first bite; those only temporarily fallen endured 30 days of indigestion and withdrawal symptoms (Num. 11:33).
Quail is featured in the zemiros Shabbat menu; the talmud describes 4 varieties of varying quality. Prof. Yehuda Felix notes that large flocks of quail, resting in flight, are often caught in nets; he similarly rejects miraculous attributions to manna (NATURE AND MAN IN THE BIBLE-- Rav Moshe Tendler rejects his claim that oats are not subject to the laws of chometz; they ferment in similar fashion to the other 4 gluten grains). Israel's yearning for meat was improper-- thus they got it only at night, too late for a comfortable supper; but their proper request for bread was properly and beautifully answered (Yoma 75-- early every AM Jerusalem groceries are full of fine reasonable bread and yogurt; meat and sugar products, very expensive, are often served very late at Jerusalem weddings!).
Prof. Richard Schwartz views Vegetarianism as God's Torah ideal (a TOP video lecture); one can (I did) argue otherwise, or that this ideal shouldn't be practiced while more important interpersonal ideals are ignored (Rav A. Kook); but Schwartz's factual arguments, e.g. today's raising too many over-medicated animals in crowded tortuous conditions, are persuasive. If we all eat far less animal-derived food, the resultant smaller number of animals can roam free and grow naturally, and will be far less a drain on the environment and economy, per Robbin's "A Diet For A New America"-- 12 times more grain and 100 times more water is required to grow a pound of hamburger than a pound of bread. Schwartz's claim that Adam and Eve were vegetarians is incorrect, according to talmudic sources that angels brought them meat (as did Elijah's ravens-mavens-- see 1K17:6; Gen. Raba 33:5; cf. Ps. 105:28), or that humans could eat animals that died, just couldn't kill them, until after Noah's ark landed (per Tosafot). But he can rely on Abarbanel, who claims that God permitted meat only when Noah emerged from the ark, as there was no vegetation left (!!-- why not just dairy products?), or upon Hirsch, who claims that man's post-flood shortened life span required a more hectic pace of life and, hence, more nourishment, while climatic growing conditions for vegetation worsened, decreasing the supply.
WARNING! Those who do not wish to read about human sexual functions, tho amply discussed in the Bible and Talmud, should stop here.
J. P.S., P.S.S.
Housekeeping in common is, for women, the acid test (Andre Maurois, Ariel, Ch. 35).
P.S. In our Shmot study, we discussed S. J. Gould's exposition of the function of seemingly biologically functionally useless human organs, e.g. male breasts and female clitorises, and its Torah ramifications; we also discussed the interesting, tho problematic, Jewish 1/4 and its unique residents. The following week, one of the most unique, a loyal reader and neo-hassid, brought me 2 relevant texts. Nicky Wesson, in Alternative Maternity claims that one has a 80-85% chance of choosing one's child's sex by timing of conception and altering the acid-alkaline state within the vagina. The theory is that female (x) sperm outlive male ones; so they're the ones still in the Fallopian tubes when the egg is released, if they're implanted 2-3 days before ovulation, inaugurating a female fetus. X sperm travel most easily in acid conditions. Abstention at least 4 days before ovulation, and implantation as close as possible to the moment of ovulation, in an alkaline environment, will favor male (Y) sperm; alkaline mucus is also produced by female orgasm, lending support to the talmudic notion that a male child if likely to result "if the woman gives seed first", as we interpreted it in Shmot. Our Bodies, Ourselves has the best, most detailed, description I've seen of the process of mating, citing social scientists Masters & Johnson for the interplay of all genital components in the process, far more subtle and sophisticated than biologist Gould's article.
They blessed Rivka and said to her: "Our sister, may you be to thousands of ten thousands..." (Gen. 24:60, source of our institution of wedding blessings-- Kalla I).
In any event, regardless of gender, the prime female contribution to the survival of Israel and the Jewish people is bearing lots of kids; Letty Cottin Pogrebin quotes old heretic David Ben Gurion in Deborah, Golda, and Me (p. 183): Any Jewish woman who does not bring into the world at least four healthy children is shirking her duty to the nation, like a soldier who evades military service. So Israel's Zionist heros are mostly non-hardei men and haredi women!!
P.S.S.: After finishing the above, I was tired (11:15 PM), but decided to read something before falling asleep-- I've more or less accepted what I was taught in my first Yeshiva, Chofetz Chayim (RSA), a mussar yeshiva, not to waste one moment of precious life, tho some relaxation may be needed-- but, as an extremist young zealot, about 18, I was shocked to see the Rosh Yeshiova himself engaged in casual chatter during a break in the High Holiday services! So I picked up the nearest book, which I'd ignored for ages-- A Natural History of Sex, by Adrian Forsyth (Scribners, 1986), a Harvard PhD in biology, who frequently challenges Gould-- a providential choice; as is so often the case, it turned out to be directly relevant to my subject of the moment. In seeking to explain the variety of reproductive strategies in nature, Forsyth applies modern evolutionary logic, using fascinating examples from the full biological spectrum-- from fungi to humans. There is the drone honeybee, designed to explode after its one and only mating; the male hay itch mite mates with all its newborn sisters; the brain worm reproduces both sexually and asexually during a complex life cycle.
"Non-biologists often take the existence of sex for granted. It is so ubiquitous that few can conceive of life w/o it. Yet sex is not reproduction. There are many ways of asexually reproducing, copying oneself w/o the time and bother of mate-finding, courtship and the increased risks of predation and contagious diseases that sexual activity entails... (cf. test tube babies, cloning Miss Daisy). There is no consensus among biologists as to why sex persists in spite of its obvious disadvantages (YF: religionists should speculate as to why God chose for holy humans to so reproduce). There is agreement on one thing: the undeniable virtue of sex is that it produces genetically variable offspring..."
Forsyth deals with the conundrum of the biological reproductive need for primate female orgasm in Ch. 11, Orgasm and Inertia-- but religionists, especially religious biologists, with a far broader perspective than secular biologists, needn't so arbitrarily limit God's purposes to reproduction, tho there may be holistic connections to reproduction present in all sexual activity (kabbalistic sources note that holiness amidst sex, tho no reproduction occurs, may create holy souls which enter others' kids); giving pleasure per se is valid, a Divine desideratum-- one must also give God an accounting for every legitimate pleasure which his eyes saw, yet he rejected (end Jer. Talmud Kidd. IV). Forsyth quotes and rejects theories of various biologists, also brought by Gould, and abandons pair bonding (the theory of Eibl-Eibesfelt, a rather impressive sounding name, and of David Barash, a well-known sociobiologist) as the key to understanding female sexuality in primates. Katy Milton claims that female primates play an active role in soliciting and controlling male mating activity. Forsyth notes that monogamous animals, with high parental care, have far less sexual activity than their polygamous cohorts, e.g. marmosets and night monkeys, as opposed to various macaques and chimpanzees.
Forsyth closes with an amazing fact-- orgasm in human females sharply changes air pressure in the uterus. Before orgasm, it's positive, but, at orgasm, it reverses and suction is created. This draws sperm up into the uterus, thus increasing the chance of fertilization, allowing the female to exert some control over who fertilized her eggs. Since the uterus can be a formidable barrier to sperm, orgasm, under female control, could be an effective device for enabling a female to decide the fate of the male ejaculate according to her interests (YF: could infertility and spontaneous abortion sometimes be caused by a woman's dislike of her husband and/or pregnancy?).
This is one of the countless biological phenomena, especially those within our own bodies, to which a sensitive soul must respond: "How great (or "abundant") are your works, God; with wisdom You made them all, the earth is full of Your possessions... May God's glory endure forever, God will rejoice in His works... I will sing to God amidst my life, I'll sing praises to my Lord (of nature) while I exist... bless, my vital soul, God-- Halleluy-ah!"-- end of Psalm 104; so we bless God each time we use the lavatory, an especially meaningful blessing as one's body ages-- I once heard the late Rav Eliezer Berkowitz say it word by word, with great concentration, as he left the lavatory in his later years:
"A source of blessings are You, God, our Lord, King of the Universe, who's fashioned man with wisdom, and created within him many openings and many cavities (not dental); it is revealed and intimately known before Your Throne of Glory that if but one of them were to be ruptured, or but one of them to be blocked, it would be impossible to survive and to stand before You. A source of blessings are You, God, Who heals all flesh and acts wondrously".
I recommend recital of this great consciousness-raising blessing as one of the first practices to be adopted by those experimenting with traditional Judaism; its inspiring universal message should also be stressed and adopted by non-traditional Judaism and non-Jews.
I'll now postpone completion of this study for morning prayers-- ideally, the main prayer, Shemona Esray, should be said at sunrise, blending the natural and the supernatural, which, when I wrote this, was in half an hour, at 6:36 AM; sunrise prayers are conducted every day at the Wall, with a kiddush featuring excellent herring, following services of the jovial chassidic-Dushinsky Shabbat minyan in the middle of the Wall, led by Mr. Blau of the Blau Stationary Store on Chavatzelet St. The Jewish 1/4's zealous Ramban shul has a "netz" (sunrise) minyan 20 minutes before sunrise, when it's 6:20 AM or later. More liberal Menachem Tziyon, which I prefer, always prays at 6:15 AM, despite my efforts to co-ordinate them with sunrise!-- Is that why they had no minyan this morning?
The after prayer finale: There is so much more to be said on this subject; but I can only raise issues and gives some sources in this study sheet, whose prime purpose is to explore the weekly Torah reading; limitations of time and money do not allow separate studies for each peripheral subject. As in the Torah itself, and in its Talmudic expansion, every aspect of reality is our fair subject of discussion, from the sublime to the sordid; those who wish to shield their children from grim reality should not permit them free access to our holiest books!
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