THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
NITZAVIM & VAYELECH
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In memory of Rav Meir Yehuda Getz, Rabbi of the Wall, a truly inspired and inspiring kabbalist and religious Zionist, who encouraged me to continue this work, when insular forces of darkness tried to destroy it, and in honor of my daughter Avigayil's (not Avigal-- see D.) 16th birthday.
A. A SYNOPSIS OF NITZAVIM
Moshe exhorts Israel: "YOU'RE STANDING AT ATTENTION TODAY, ALL OF YOU, BEFORE GOD YOUR LORD-- YOUR TRIBAL HEADS, ELDERS, OFFICERS, EVERY JEWISH MALE. YOUR LITTLE ONES, WIVES, AND YOUR STRANGER... TO TRANSFORM YOU (Hirsch) WITH THE COVENANT OF GOD YOUR LORD AND HIS OATH, WHICH GOD YOUR LORD MAKES WITH YOU TODAY. TO ESTABLISH YOU TODAY TO HIMSELF AS A NATION, AND HE'LL BE YOUR LORD, AS HE SPOKE TO YOU AND PROMISED YOUR FATHERS... AND NOT WITH YOU ALONE DO I ESTABLISH THIS COVENANT AND THIS OATH, BUT WITH HE WHO STANDS WITH US TODAY BEFORE GOD OUR LORD AND WITH HE WHO ISN'T HERE WITH US TODAY (29:9-15)".
Onkelos translates "YOU'RE STANDING..." as "YOU EXIST or SURVIVE"-- You are still standing up, flourishing, despite God's severe curses, in last week's reading, and your sins. THIS COVENANT IS NOT MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, CATCH 22.
The last 2 readings began with Jewish activism-- fighting evil and settling Israel: "WHEN YOU GO OUT TO WAR ON YOUR ENEMIES..." and "WHEN YOU ENTER THE LAND...". Nitzavim opens with the Jews standing still before God, confronting their awesome eternal covenantal mission. Everyone should be an activist, making a better world and better people; but if one JUST acts, w/o periodic stocktaking, restatement of goals, and self-examination, she'll be rushing nowhere-- cf. Israeli political activism.
Each year, at this holy season, the Jewish people, individually and collectively, pauses to reflect-- who are we, where are we coming from, and where are we headed-- as they stand at attention, "nitzavim", before God. The Days of Awe are NOT linked to agriculture, yet they start the calendar year of nature, of Creation; they don't require religious "action", e.g. coming up to The Temple; one must just heed the piercing Shofar's proclamations. He stands at attention, imbibing the impact of a world beyond him; only then can he influence and transform this world, guided by light from his own Divine Image. Every teacher must first and foremost be a pupil, ready to learn, grow, and change.
When we all stand "before God" in judgement on Rosh Hashana, distinctions of status-- tribal heads, elders, officers, etc.-- disappear; ALL OF YOU are simple Jews (Jesters by David Markish shows the horrible fate of those Jews who abandoned their Jewishness, to become high officials under Peter "The Great"; one, Yan Locasta, finally escapes sick Russia for civilized Germany, where his direct descendants were killed in the gas chamber on 8/25/43 and burned at Buchenwald; Markish, my age, finally escaped Russia and came here in 1972, after his father, a Yiddish writer, was executed by Stalin, and his family exiled to central Asia).
Even those in the highest places must make amends to even the lowest man, whom they've hurt by word or deed; "sinners" may join the congregation in prayer. God may not adopt human criteria-- only He knows who's really righteous or evil; he judges ALL OF YOU-- the overall state of your soul, life situation and society, not just specific acts (Rambam, Tshuvah 3:2). One may be good, but with no enthusiasm, 99% of the time, occasionally sinning with real passion (cf. New Year's Eve); another may be listlessly and habitually evil, but occasionally does a mitzva with real enthusiasm. Who knows who's better in God's eyes? The bottom line may be one's final life position-- Rav G. Fleer; so he describes the spiritual roller coaster of Arye Kaplan's life-- from Bronx H. S. of Science to Chassidic Yeshiva Torah V'Daas and Camp Aguda, after saving a hassidic child from assault; from ordination at Israel's Mir Yeshiva to teaching 1st grade in Louisville; then from becoming a physicist, serving as J. Robert Oppenheimer's aide, to becoming a Conservative Rabbi in Albany; there he had plenty of time to compile his encyclopedic Torah files, the basis of his many later works, during his final stage-- kabbalist, author and NCSY leader in Boro Park, when he finally became one with his studies and works.
Mendele Mocher Sforim deplored superstitious naive beliefs and practices, intertwined with his Litvak family's piety and prayers; yet he wrote: "If anyone can find it in his heart to laugh at this prayer, or mock it, let him. But then let him point to souls as pure as these, let him duplicate these tender feelings, burning tears, love of Torah and wisdom, regard for one's fellow man and all mankind (cf. today). Better yet, let him listen carefully to prayers of these women and discover the Jewish heart. Let him listen... and hold his peace forever" (Of Bygone Days, in A SHTETL, R. Wisse; cf. Holy Days, Liz Harris's portrayal of Chabad society). So our deep bonds to our families, land and tradition outweigh by far those realms in which we disagree with them (Rav M. Froeman). While the Conservative or Masorati movement was able to preserve and perpetuate their Litvak forebearers' penetrating intellects and highly developed critical acumen and refinement, they mostly lost their equally great spritual qualities, so keenly sensed by Mendele, Chaim Grade, etc. Many years ago in Reading, Pa., the Hebrew school children loved and revered the shamash of Kesher Zion Synagogue-- elderly, warm and pious European Rev. Singer, and his successor, Rev. Lichtbrun-- far more than some of the erudite, but cool, American JTS rabbis who served the synagogue (see Leading Litvaks in our Shoftim study).
Some ???: What does this covenant (29:11) add to that at Chorev (Ex. 24:3-8)? Why constantly stress TODAY? How can one "enter" a covenant already executed, i.e. the blessings and curses, at the end of Ki Savo: "THESE ARE THE WORDS OF THE COVENANT... (28:69)"?
Ramban answers: Verses 29:9-15 of Netzavim come to ratify the covenant, the blessings and curses (Ch. 27-28:69), appended to the last Torah laws-- first fruits and tithes (Ch. 26). There may have been a sacrificial convenantal ceremony here, as at Sinai. TODAY, may refer to this great day of completion of the law. The first covenant at Sinai, w/o curses, was attached to the Decalogue, beginning God's Revelation (see Ramban, 29:14, Lev. 26:16, but cf. Ex. 15:25); it was interrupted by the Golden Calf and other desert sins. The curses of Lev. 26 refer to the 1st 70 year Exile, those here to our much longer one-- it's now ending, as Jews leave Great Neck and Crown Heights for the Temple Mount, the true Great Neck, connecting body and soul, heaven and earth, and for the true Crown of Heights, Jerusalem, which is also the true L.A., the true City of Angels-- Sforno claims that the 3rd Temple, culmination of the Torah's teaching of sacrificial service, is itself, as its predecessors, only a concession to Israel's lowly need for physical expression of their closeness to God, engendered by the Golden Calf Sin (vs. Ramban); it will be some distance north of Jerusalem, perhaps so that folks don't mistakenly attribute Jerusalem's ultimate holiness and Divine Presence (Ezek. 48:35) to the Temple service, rather than to its angelic, yet human, inhabitants, in whose hearts the Divine Presence glows (per Sporno, from the preface to Ch. 48, in erudite Rav Moshe Eiseman's brilliant Artscrolls Ezekial).
Per Abarbanel, this 2nd covenant (the 3rd, per Tanchuma Nitz. 3) specially deals with the promised land; it marks Israel's inauguration as a nation, about to enter Israel (Sporno; Jewish nationality is convenantal). Rashi claims that TODAY refers to this final day of Moshe's life-- he now makes a last marathon effort to bring Israel closer to God and His Torah; he poetically reviews Jewish history-- it all leads up to mankind's return to its lost Messianic destiny. Moshe keeps reminding Israel to use his last day well! M. Farberman comments: TODAY may be the last day of open Divine Revelation, STANDING (openly) BEFORE GOD-- Israel's now to inaugurate normal Israeli life, to play God's challenging lifegame of Hide-and-Seek.
MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS? OHR HACHAYIM posits that the PRECEDING blessings and curses (cf. 29:8, 20, 31:25) are a covenant dependent upon one's keeping or not keeping the Torah; "standing on guard" (29:9) adds a NEW covenant-- each Jewish MALE is ALSO responsible that others learn and observe Torah; but he must refrain from criticism and intervention if he'll make matters worse (R. Bachye, Introduction to Bo), e.g. shouting "Shabbos!" or blocking streets, hurting and alienating innocent passersby . Per secular "morality", X mustn't meddle in Y's life, unless Y's directly harming someone. Judaism, however, sees all behavior as affecting God's world. You may not drill a hole, tho only in your end, in the canoe-- we survive or sink together (Rashby, Lev. Rab. 4).
Men run Torah's public realm, e.g. law enforcement (tribal heads, elders, officers; cf. L.A. Law); but a woman has greater, tho indirect, impact-- by building a holy Temple in her own soul and home. Its atmosphere, a product of wisdom and the Torah of Kindness upon her tongue (the opposite of a shrew-- cf. "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"), elevates her husband and sons; they then project her spirit into public affairs, influencing the "elders at the gates" (Hirsch on Ashet Chayil). Fathers teach Torah, but mothers determine one's Jewish soul essence. Public responsibility varies-- the PM has more impact than the trash man, tho even he can remind the PM to throw his expensive cigar's wrapper in the trash bin! Thus Torah lists tribal heads, elders, and officers in descending order, before mentioning "every Jew". The next group, children, wives, and strangers, refers to those who are to BE taught or directed by their fathers and husbands (Ohr Hachayim and Sporno, who equates female and juvenile personalities; cf. Stern College, Michlalah, Nishmat), with minimal direct public responsibility. Per Rav Yaakov Poupko, such rabbinic views of women were progressive in their day (when non-Jewish women weren't taught at all), but questionable or repressive for ours. His views on women blend tradition and modernity.
A TURN TO THE RIGHT, A LITTLE LESS LIGHT: Angry religious zealots turn religious-secular relations into battle confrontations; stage 2 is internecine warfare (cf. Santayana's definition of a "fanatic"-- someone who believes what you do, only more!). The Badatz excommunicated their more zealous Neturei Karta critics a few years ago; Badatz sympathizers then uncovered the hair of N.K. wives, who had tried to remove the posted bans-- thus exposing the militant ladies as immodest, intruding in public male realms. Yet good haredi wives often pull their husbands away from violent religious demonstrations (cf. Mrs. On); those haredi men who lack worldly education and, as a result, good professions, the ability to support themselves and their families with dignity, may so express their acute frustration. Such folks often repress their own thoughts and feelings, afraid of sacrosanct parental images, who control the pursestrings; they may wind up "out of this world" (cf. #11 bus-- "from Mea Sharim, almost to Ezrat Nashim"). Many haredim, perhaps a silent majority, DO have it all together; alas, they don't set the tone. Yet their large holy families are a model for secular Israelies, whose few children are often captives of western decadent TV culture.
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TRY FOR ETERNITY! Strive that later generations,"those not with us today"(29:14), carry on God's mission. Your soul has lasting impact on all you touch; disciples pass on your spirit, ad infinitum. Even after death, you can thus be in "the bundle of life". Reuven Mandelbaum, z"l, "grandpa" to every child he met, including my own, so radiated Jewish joie de vive, life affirmation. The sparks he kindled are likely still kindling other sparks-- cf. Shlomo. Ramban claims that the kids of one who's really OK will be OK too. Yet bad children happen to good people too (e.g. Esau; some rabbis attribute good kids to mazel, luck)!-- but mystics like Ramban also claim that unrelated bad souls sometimes return and reincarnate into our children's bodies for another try (cf. The Bad Seed)! You needn't accept such concepts-- Saadya (BELIEFS, 6:8), Albo (Sefer HaIkarim 4:29), et al view reincarnation as non-Jewish nonsense, vs. the Zohar and Ari; Abarbanrel believed in reincarnation-- tho adopted by kabala, it's a Greek discovery, which, unlike concepts of true kabbalistic origin, may be freely taught to all! A simpler approach-- one tries one's best, but children ultimately retain free will; also, the finest parents, if divided in outlook or in a difficult situation (e.g. the Shoa, Las Vegas), may produce difficult confused children (Yitzchak and Rivka too? Many psychologists in major American cities are "Jews from complex families").
Intense Messianic concern about our distant descendants is uniquely Jewish. God's covenant also applies to those yet unborn-- "all souls were at Sinai" (Tan.). Descendants must repay their ancestors' debt to God, for the freedom conferred at Exodus (His commandments remind us of Exodus) and the spiritual gift of Sinai's Revelation (Abarbanel). But descendants are not liable for ancestors' debts in Jewish Law-- only the estate is! Perhaps Jews are indebted to God as these gifts are engrained in every Jewish soul. Rav J. Soloveichik believed that everything has a price; sexual pleasure is beautiful, a metaphor for the God-Israel relationship (Song of Songs). But it's natural price is the awesome task and responsibility of raising children. The two are unnaturally separated in Western "culture"-- young professionals must make a big deal of natural foods and jogging to convince thems4elves and others that they indeed lead "natural" lives. If one doesn't pay his debts to God, the collector comes daily; death's no refuge (Avot 3:20, 4:29).
The Jews were susceptible to idolatry and immorality after exposure to Egyptian and Amorite cultures; SOME, perhaps even a tribe (Ramban), may secretly subscribe to idolatry, but hide it. Some may not express their temptations, but will be the root of "gall and wormwood"-- their children will act out the perceived real beliefs of their parents. Teenagers' deviant behavior may reflect what their parents would really like to do, tho held back by social and personal inhibitions. The daughter of a frustrated romantic mother, married to a fine, solid, but dull, husband, is likely to have a foolish fling with a dashing, but irresponsible, perhaps already married, charmer. A secretly heretically doubting rosh yeshiva is likely to have an openly doubting son who's a professor-- be sure to read Chaim Grade's "The Yeshiva"-- then read all his other works, to see Litvish culture as it really was. When I asked The Rov if he read "The Yeshiva", he replied: "Yes." I then asked if he liked it. "Like", he told me, "is not the correct word-- for the book is true".
Some will ignore the curses and blessings, perhaps hoping to be saved by communal merit; they shun their Jewish mission, following Canaanite gods. God's anger will specially single them out (cf. Maranos; assimilated German and Italian Jews *)-- WHEN HE HEARS THE WORDS OF THIS CURSE, HE'LL BLESS HIMSELF IN HIS HEART, SAYING: "PEACE SHALL BE TO ME, THO I WALK AFTER THE DICTATES OF MY HEART", TO ADD THE WATERED (satisfied) TO THE THIRSTY (29:18)-- if one satisfies slight illegitimate unnecessary desires, the result is increasing appetite and craving for what would not otherwise be desired, seeking new thrills (to create THIRST in that already WATERED); this finally results in addiction to perverse pleasure-- normal NECESSARY pleasure will no longer satisfy inordinate desire (Ramban, who advocates asceticism, vs. Rashi-- see our Naso study; cf. Yeshiva students, turned on by even the touch of a female hand).
* In Benevolence and Betrayal, Alexander Stille portrays the shock and fate of many assimilated Italian Jews, ardent anti-Zionist supporters of Mussolini and fascism, when fellow Italians collaborated with the Germans to turn them in (but many Italians, especially Catholic clergy, did their best, successfully, to save the Jews). Ettore Ovazza and his family were shot by the German monsters, despite his super-patriotic fascist career; they cut up their bodies and burned them in the furnace of a girls' elementary school, which housed the SS command. The survivors could do little, after the war, to retrieve their valuables from non-Jews who stole them-- cf. Arabs who similarly cruelly slaughtered innocent peaceful pious Jews in Hebron in 1929; Israel's anti-democratic anti-civil rights soulless Meretz party supports Hitler's Judenrein policy in Hebron and other localities today, trying to stop Jews from recovering and resettling the victims' former homes. Meretz identifies with Arab discomfort at having Jewish neighbors, who remind them of their grandfathers' fiendish barbarity and who insist on praying at their Patriarch's tomb--
Arafat's cursed Palestinian Religious Affairs Minister Hassan Tahboub insists that Jews will not be allowed to pray at their holy sites, once the PLO, God forbid, is in control; he insanely proclaims that there are no Jewish shrines in Israel, and claims that the 22 Judean and Samarian burial sites of Jewish forefathers and foremothers are in fact Moslem mosques, and therefore off-limits to Jews (In Jerusalem, 9/15/95); he's thus a worthy successor to his ignominious predecessors, who made the Wall a garbage dump and destroyed 37 synagogues in the Jewish Quarter, while Christianity remained silent. Even Israel's self-hating leftists and PLO sympathizers were shocked by his candid statements, destroying their illusions of PLO "tshuva". To this day, Islam, the religion founded on the worst possible lie, distortion of God's own word (per Rambam, Letter to the Jews of Yemen), obliterates any trace of a Jewish past on the Temple Mount, given them by Israel's renegade assimilated pagan General, Moshe Dayan. Unless they immediately throw this bum, the Minister, out, we should tell the PLO to go to hell, except that these arch-murderers are probably bound there anyway (written in 1995).
We're then told that strangers from far off (e.g. Mark Twain) and future Jewish generations will be amazed at the holyland's desolation-- until they're told of God's wrath at Jewish idolatry. One bad individual, family, or tribe can eventually corrupt all Israel (cf. The Benjaminites in Judges 19-- Rav M. Gafni compares Israel's finding a solution to a seemingly insurmountable halachic problem back in those bad old days-- the vow against marrying Benjaminites-- with our seemingly insoluable problems of gerut and aguna today; just as, per the Ishbitzer Rebbe in Mei Shiloach, they were encouraged to solve the problem back then by the inclusion of the concept of "a lost tribe" in the grand saga of the Torah, implying that it could be handled within the Torah rubric, so the Torah predicts today's lost Jewry, amidst the modern world which God has created, so it's problems too can somehow be coped with wthin the halachic system); yet, THE SECRET THINGS ARE TO GOD OUR LORD AND THOSE REVEALED-- TO US AND OUR CHILDREN FOREVER, TO DO ALL THE WORDS OF THIS TORAH (29:28); one needn't INITIATE witchhunts for hidden rebels, but must respond to revealed corruption. Mutual responsibility wasn't binding until Israel crossed the Jordan (Rashi; cf. Ohr Hachayim).
After blessings and curses within Israel, followed by long exile, the Jews should (and will!) return to God with all their heart and soul. Then God will gather them from all over the world to rebuild their ancestral land, better than ever. Later, He'll circumcise their hearts to love God and become truly alive (i.e. He'll remove artificial impediments to their natural wonder and love-- cf. lovely and lively unabused little children, a relatively recent social phenomenon in the western "civilized" world-- see Freud, Women and Morality, by Eli Sagan, who substitutes the love of mother for Freudian fear of father, as the true source of conscience and morality). Israel's enemies will then be cursed (unless they repent?-- cf. PLO today). Israel will then heed God, follow His commandments, greatly prosper and live happily ever after.
"In the days of the Messiah, the choice of good will be natural; the heart won't desire the improper... lust and desire are the foreskin of the heart-- circumcision of the heart means it won't yearn for evil... Before Adam's sin... he had no conflicting desires". In the interim, including the entire period when Torah's in effect, there's free will and an inclination toward evil and self-destruction-- "THE DRIVE OF MAN'S HEART IS EVIL FROM HIS YOUTH (cf. Freud; Gen. 8:21)". But finally-- "I'LL GIVE YOU A NEW HEART AND PUT A NEW SPIRIT IN YOU AND I'LL REMOVE THE HEART OF STONE FROM YOUR FLESH AND GIVE YOU A HEART OF FLESH" (Ezek. 36:26). All will then know and desire God, needing no one else's guidance (Ramban, 30:6). Then unnecessary Torah prohibitions will take on new deeper levels of meaning, closer to the "white fire", a less concealed revelation of God's Mind. Presently, the black fire, the letters, block out some of God's Light, so that man can still see thru his dark glasses, yet live (Torah and Kabbala, by Rav N. Cardozo, a TOP video vision; buy and/or hear his 4 audio tapes on "The Primordial Torah" at TOP).
GOD WILL BRING BACK YOUR CAPTIVITY (30:3), can be read: GOD SHALL RETURN WITH YOUR CAPTIVITY. The rabbis conclude: 1) God Himself accompanies Israel into miserable exile; He returns with their redemption-- now beginning, per Rav A. Kook. God's imminent presence, sh'china, resides again in the State of Israel, not in voluntary luxurious exiles; Golders Green and Silver Springs aren't Anitovka then or Syria now, which God and Jews can't yet leave. 2) He PULLS each Jew out of exile for his difficult return to Israel. If He lets go, they won't come; crisis often generates aliya, e.g. no mate or no job (Meg. 29a; Siphre, Num. 35:34).
FOR THIS COMMANDMENT WHICH I ORDER YOU THIS DAY ISN'T INCREDIBLY BEYOND YOU, NOR FAR OFF; IT'S NOT IN HEAVEN... AND NOT OVERSEAS... BUT IT'S VERY CLOSE TO YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEARTS, TO DO IT (30:11-14, beautifully sung by Avraham Fried). THIS COMMANDMENT is the entire Torah, written and oral, given us clearly (Rashi). Learning Torah aloud, with open heart and mind, itself transforms one, w/o mystical or spiritual "trips". Per Ramban, "this commandment" refers only to repentence-- Moshe both commands and forecasts Jewish national return to God. If one confesses with his mouth and repents with his heart, he can return to God, even Mendelovitch in Siberia and a dropout on a California beach. This process will continue, until all souls have been refined. Life and death are tied to good and evil, in Israel's hands-- "no power, above or below, can stop them". Their forthcoming Israeli future will depend on whether they link themselves to God or worship other forces and values; heaven and earth are again called as witnesses-- universal forces of nature are affected by the quality of Israeli life (cf. Avot 5:11-12).
B. THE HAFTARA OF NITZAVIM is ISAIAH 61:10-11, 62:1-12, 63:1-9
It ends 7 haftaras of consolation, after Tisha B'Av; it portrays the eventual Messianic joy between Israel and God, worth long eras of prayer and hope for Jerusalem. Then Israel in Israel will be admired, no longer despised, by other nations (tourism was up 3% last August): FOR ZION'S SAKE, I WON'T BE QUIET, AND FOR JERUSALEM'S, I WON'T BE SILENT (but will he block streets?-- cf. Zo Artzenu)-- 'TILL HER RIGHTEOUSNESS EMERGES LUMINOUS, AND HER SALVATION AS A BURNING TORCH.
C. VAYELECH-- STREET RABBIS
After finishing the renewed covenant, upon completing God's law (Ramban) and Moshe's marathon reproof, his folk returned to their tents; Moshe then left the Levite camp to comfort them over his imminant departure (31:1). He arranged a smooth takeover of leadership by his pupil, Yehoshua (cf. The Rebbe, Rav Nachman). Moshe's a model for future leaders-- he, as Shmuel, goes out to his flock, not insisting they come to him (R. Bachye)-- today we need "street rabbis", who don't teach only "when you sit in YOUR house", but also "when you go on THE (not YOUR) way"-- where Jews are; don't wait for them in shul (Rav S. Carlebach). Rav Grossman frequented discos in Migdal HaEmek, Halifax Rav Shlomo Grafstein the beaches of Eilat, and Jeff & Meir "pick up" kids at hostile T.A.U., H.U., & Jaffa Gate; Jeff and the Machlis family are there Saturday night too, when the kids are entranced and tempted by Yoel Solomon's spiritual wastelands, pubs and discos. Should chief rabbis, roshei yeshiva, etc. bring secular Jews to their shabbat tables? Should Jerusalem's chief rabbis make Friday night kiddush for alienated Israeli youth at the Talpiyot discos? Do they make any attempt to reach them? Shopping centers need TOP Centers.
D. A SYNOPSIS OF VAYELECH
Moshe spoke to all Israel (to each tribe-- Ibn Ezra): "I'm 120 years old this day (Feb. 23, 1273 BCE; 7 Adar 2488-- Kid. 38a); I can no longer go out and come in (be a war leader or a sharp Torah scholar-- Ramban), and God said to me: `You shall not cross THIS Jordan' (31:2)". Sporno paraphrases: "don't mourn-- I'm past the age of natural life; I'm of no use to you. It's good I die-- otherwise, you'll also never cross!". So older municipal chief rabbis, out of touch with today's youth, should retire in favor of more effective and dynamic youthful rabbis, or, at least, appoint them to the task of spreading Torah. But Moshe's physical health was fine: "...his eyes hadn't dimmed nor his natural powers abated" (34:7). He stresses that God goes before the Jews to insure their victory; Joshua will now be His aliya agent. Israel should be strong and brave, not to fear much more powerful enemies, WHEN God's on their side; indeed, they'd just defeated mighty Og and Sichon. On receiving his "death sentence", Moshe's first concern was his folk; he immediately pleaded for a new leader, that "GOD'S COMMUNITY NOT BE LIKE SHEEP WITH NO SHEPHERD" (Num. 27:17). He now publicly charged Yehoshua, per God's word: "...YOU WON'T PASS THIS JORDAN-- CHARGE YEHOSHUA AND MAKE HIM STRONG AND BRAVE, FOR HE'LL GO OVER BEFORE THIS PEOPLE AND CAUSE THEM TO INHERIT THE LAND WHICH YOU'LL (ONLY) SEE" (Deut. 3:27-8).
Yehoshua couldn't be an effective leader in Moshe's presence; Moshe might suffer the anguish and jealousy of a deposed leader and prophet were he to live (Midrashim). Moshe, the sun, shouldn't serve Joshua, the moon-- it never shines when the sun's high; yet it only reflects the sun's hidden light, still there. Moshe charges, and charges up, Joshua with his light (Zohar 283bf.-- not dogma!).
A sinful Jew may be called before his time when another, less sinful, must take over his function, e.g. when one's mate's true spouse is ready for her! God then kindly removes him, so he won't see her with another-- pray that this not happen to you! So Saul died and never saw his servant, David, replace him as King. This does not, of course, justify jettisoning one's present spouse, wrecking a family, just because your fickle flighty heart tells you that another is your true "soul mate"-- leave it up to God, "do not turn aside after your heart and eyes" (Numbers 15:39); so saintly Avigayil is called only Avigal, losing a Divine letter Yud from her name, when she loses her own divinity-- in hinting to David that he should "remember her", while her obnoxious stingy husband Naval the Carmelite was still alive (IS25; see Meg. 14b, Rav Yitzchak in Yalkut 2:134); God indeed disposed of Naval 10 days later (did he die of depression, sensing his wife's longing for Dovid?), freeing Avigal to marry Dovid, whom Naval, ungrateful for David's protection of his shepherds, considered an outlaw rebel against the legitimate authority of Saul. Should she have asked Naval or the rabbis for a divorce, or should she have resolved to remain faithful to her commitment to be "sanctified unto him", to do what she could to save Naval's life and cheer up and inspire his troubled alcoholic soul? Should she have kept hoping that he'd change some day?
SECULAR DIGRESSIONS? While I'm not such a great scholar, God, Who dwells here in Jerusalem (Ps. 135), in His kindness, always seems to send the right material my way when I write these study sheets-- even the most secular B, B & B (bathroom, bedroom and bathtub) books I'm reading frequently shed light on current parsha themes; so, while writing this study, I began Robin Norwood's best-seller, "Women WHo Love Too Much-- When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He'll Change"; I "happened" to discover it this week in a used book store, while sending a fax. Based on her own experience, she tries to free women (or men, a far less frequent occurance) from destructive loving, by finding the power to love themselves.
Many women become obsessed with the wrong men, troubled, distant, and moody, emotionally unavailable, addicted to work, alcohol or other women-- men who cannot love them back, tho bristling with nervous energy, "exciting" and stimulating sexually-- there's lots of eros, passionate love, but very little agape, the stable and committed relationship, FREE OF PASSION, that exists between two individuals who care deeply for each other (e.g. Jonathan and David?); as sex is used to prove something, to create an artificial bond, it then yields more fire and passion; a more relaxed relationship feels too tame; tension, struggle, heartache and drama are equated with "real love"-- so a talmudic view claims that kosher sex lost its true joy with the destruction of the temple (whose sacrificial service was far more "gutsy", combining commitment with passion, than our tranquil services today); such women neglect their friends and interests to be available to HIM; they tend to panic, thinking that the time to find love is running out; they feel empty without him, altho being with him is torment. In her 10 point recovery program, Norwood helps these victims of their own negative self-image gradually recognize, understand and change the way they love.
Norwood discovered this sick syndrome of thoughts, feelings and behaviors while counseling alcohol and drug abusers. She dedicated the book to the Anonymous programs, in gratitude for the miracle of recovery they offer. She found that addicts sometimes grew up in troubled families, sometimes not; but their partners nearly always came from severely troubled families, in which they had experienced greater than normal stress and pain. By struggling to cope with their addictive mates, these partners (known in the alcoholism treatment field as "co-alcoholics") were unconsciously recreating and reliving significant aspects of their childhood. The personal histories of the wives and girlfriends of addictive men revealed their need for both the superiority and the suffering they experienced in their "savior" role, and helped make sense of the depth of their addiction to a man who was in turn addicted to a substance. It was clear that both partners were equally in need of help, indeed that both were literally dying of their addictions, he from the effects of chemical abuse, she of the effects of extreme stress. Most men, however, who have been damaged in childhood, do not develop an addiction to relationships. Due to an interplay of cultural and biological factors, they usually try to protect themselves and avoid their pain thru pursuits which are more external than internal, more impersonal than personal. Their tendency is to become obsessed with work, sports or hobbies, while, due to the cultural and biological forces working on her, the woman's tendency is to become obsessed with a relationship-- perhaps with just such a damaged and distant man.
On the road to recovery, such women have to learn to simply be in the company of men they consider nice, even if they also find them a bit boring-- cf. calm still deep waters with exciting tumultous raging torrents and waterfalls. Boredom is the sensation that women who love too much so often experience when they find themselves with a "nice" man-- no bells peal, no rockets explode, no stars fall from heaven. In the absence of excitement, they fell antsy, irritable, and awkward, a generally uncomfortable state that is covered over the label "boredom". They don't know how to behave in the presence of a man who is kind, considerate, and really interested in them. All women who love too much have their skills at relating honed for a challenge, not for simply enjoying a man's company. If such a woman doesn't have to maneuver and manipulate in order to keep a relationship going, she finds it difficult to relate to the man, to feel comfortable and at ease. Because she is used to excitement and pain, struggle and victory or defeat, an interchange that lacks these powerful components feels too tame to be important, and unsettling as well. Ironically, there will be more discomfort in the presence of steady, dependable, cheerful and stable fellows, then there ever had been with men who were unresponsive, emotionally distant, unavailable, or uninterested. A woman who loves too much is USED to negative traits and behaviors-- she'll be more comfortable with them than their opposites, unless and until she works very hard to change that fact for herself.
Avigayil (meaning "a joy to my father" or "my Father is joy") is the symbol of the true, noble and beautiful side of man, per Rav J. Soloveichik (inspired by his talk, I named my sabra daughter Avigayil; the name is found on a ancient seal); she saves David from sin and is deemed a prophetess (Yalkut 2:135, Meg. 14b, Shabbat 132b) and a truly beautiful woman (Meg. 15a). Kabbalists insisted that women were prime movers, even essentials of the Torah being revealed by them, as Avigayil's description of "The bundle of life" in IS25:29 (Pachad Yitzchak 8:24, Responsa of Pinchas Elia of Mili, 1573). She and her co-wife, Achinoam, were later captured by the Amalekites at Tziklag, together with many of Dovid's followers' families-- the people wanted to stone Dovid for abandoning them; but Dovid trusted in God, Who assured him of victory, and quickly rescued them, dividing the booty with those who stoked the home fires too (IS30:18).
But her husband, rich drunken Naval ("corrupt") represents the opposite side of man-- coarse, ignoble and self-absorbed. I always wondered why she married him-- parental pressure? Money? No one else around? Perhaps life's vicissitudes changed him. Norwood's book suggests another answer-- perhaps Avigayil's original attraction to Naval, as well as her suffering by staying with him, reflect her own troubled background; seeking David as her next mate, despite his greatness, may be leaving the frying pan to jump into the fire-- David was a simple shepherd boy, apparently little respected or valued by his own family; he seems detached from all intimate relationships, though he could inspire countless generations, thruout the world, with his Psalms (cf. most popular entertainers, l'havdil squared; could David get the mumps? Unconscious early childhood emotional traumas?); indeed, immediately after she pledges to be a truly faithful wife, who'll wash David's feet (IS25:41, perhaps Maimonide's source that washing her husband's hands and feet is a wife's legal duty), he takes a second wife, Achinoam of Yizrael, a town in the hills of Judea (Joshua 15:56); she bore him his eldest son, Amnon, who later raped his half-sister, Tamar, and was thus slain by his half brother, Avshalom,the son of David and convertess Princesa Maaca-- he also rebelled against David and pursued him (2S13-15); the Jewish Quarter's "frumer" school is named for Achinoam; may its children turn out far better than Amnon!
Avigayil bore David Chilav (2S3:3, where she's called "the wife of Naval", perhaps because the child was named after Naval's Judean ancestor, Calev-- see IS25:3; in ICh3:1, he's called Daniel). While the rabbis may condemn Avigayil for violating the modest deportment of a married woman, profaning kiddushin, holy marriage, they may not have opposed her attempts to get a divorce. Indeed, some rabbis feel that the institution of kiddushin is not suitable for modern secular couples, who are unwilling to accept the strict limitations which it imposes, leading to the strong eventual possibility of many mamzerim, illegitimate children, who cannot marry most other Jews. So far, I've discovered no background material on Naval and Avigayil, that might shed more light on these issues-- if you have, please let me know.
BACK TO THE READING: Moshe then wrote down the entire Torah (Rashi) or up to this point (completing it later-- Ramban); he delivered it to the priests & elders. Yehoshua may have written the last verses, dealing with Moshe's death. Ibn Ezra raises the possibility that another few verses were added later, while condemning those who deny the overall Divine Dictation of the Torah. "THIS TORAH" is to be read in public during Sukkos, after each sabbatical year, when all Jews assemble in Jerusalem. Both Moshe and Yaakov took advantage of the impact of their imminent death to penetrate Jewish hearts. Their last words arouse their children and disciples to repentence, and to achieve their maximum potential (write an ethical will!). Rav Yehuda Hankin notes that a leader sometimes must draw on his personal credit to strengthen his flock (e.g. Rebbes). They may listen to him quicker than to Halacha! He must be careful, however, not to exploit this for self-aggrandizement (see Num. 20:1).
The end of the sabbatical year of faith and study is a time of great receptivity; a Torah reading by the king before all Jews culminates this peak experience. Adults learn and acquire awesome God awareness there, both men & women (Ramban, vs. Chag. 3a). Little children are brought along to "reward those who bring them" (Chag. 3a)-- exposure to a vibrant Torah atmosphere is likely to produce children who will give "nachas", satisfaction that you raised something good: THAT WE NOT STRAIN FOR EMPTINESS, NOR GIVE BIRTH TO CONFUSION (from the "uva l'tziyon" daily AM prayer; see Is. 65:23). The Jews then return to six normal years of building Israel, deeply imbued with Torah. Thus they'll observe Torah all their days in the land (if not, they leave). "THIS TORAH" implied the whole Torah, when Moshe wrote it (31:9); here (31:11) it refers to those sections of Dvarim read by the king, perhaps a synopsis of the Torah. Arye Kaplan, in THE LIVING TORAH, cites opinions as to which verses.
God told Moshe that his time was up, and to take Yehoshua into the Meeting Tent. God then appeared in a column of cloud, establishing Yehoshua's Divine authority. He warns Moshe that Israel will forsake its part of the covenant and wander off after "foreign gods OF THE LAND" (31:16)-- gods of Canaanite "foreigners" (Rashi); other gods are "foreign" to the land of Israel; its unique connection to the "LORD OF THE LAND" renders it "allergic" to idolatry (Ramban).
God will accede to Israel's request to be distanced from Him and His Mission (cf. Eden), to lead a "cool" life (cf. Adam & Eve); but when He's hidden, tragedies and horrors overtake Israel (cf. the Flood, the Tower and the Shoa). Then they'll realize that they need God in their midst. Moshe and Yehoshua are BOTH commanded: "Write this song for you, and teach it to the children of Israel; place it in their mouths-- that this song bear witness for Me against the children of Israel" (31:19). The poetic song referred to, Haazinu, is next week's portion, w/o further introduction. The plural-- "WRITE this song"-- teaches that every Jew must write (or have written) a scroll of the Torah (M. T., Sefer Torah, 7:1; see Shulchan Aruch, Yored De'ah 270-- spelled ayin resh, meaning "awake", rather than resh ayin, meaning "evil"-- for details of this mitzva). No portion of the Torah may be be written alone, other than for tefillin and mezuzot, tho each of the 5 books of the Torah may be written in a separate scroll (see Ket. 103b), which is not considered a Sefer Torah; so one may write verses in a scroll in a manner different from that of a Sefer Torah (M.T. Sefer Torah 7:14; see S.A. Y.D. 283.1-2, Siftei Cohen 283:3). Thus to copy Haazinu from the Torah, one must write the whole Torah, also called song.
Sefer Hachinuch tries to explain this last mitzva, #613-- Folks tend to act according to that which lies before them; so the Blessed One commanded that each Jew have a Torah scroll ready at hand, that he can read from it constantly, and not have to seek it at a friend's home, to learn God-Awareness and to know and understand His precious commandments, more desirable than much gold (Wouldn't a printed chumash serve this purpose? Likewise, it's better to give people Torah study sheets than wait for them to seek them out). Each Jew (only males, who are commanded to learn, per Rambam, vs. Sha'agat Arieh, #35, who includes women) must really make an effort to do this, tho his fathers left him a sefer Torah (see San. 21b), that we have many scrolls, and be able to lend them to those who can't afford them. Also, that all Jews be able to read from new scrolls, lest they be turned off by their ancestors' old worn out scrolls (cf. contemporary with classical commentaries on the Torah; attractive books vs. "s'forim"); he adds the mitzva of producing all works of Torah or hiring scribes to do so (God bless Gutenberg-- there are so many more books in the 19th and 20th century sections of Waxman's History of Jewish Literature than in previous centuries). The Rosh rules that there is a greater mitzva to produce books on Torah than Sifrei Torah, as we learn today from books, rather than scrolls; this is especially true when good books are scarce and scrolls plentiful-- Rav JBS told me that even rabbis had very few sforim in Eastern Europe.
Perhaps Haazinu is a precis of all we know about God and His universe-- the past, the future, and Israel's unique role; it's an overview of Torah, as the 10 Statements are the essence of all 613 commands, per Saadya and Ramban. Some learn that Moshe now had to write the entire Torah, called SONG-- his Torah included the musical accompaniment, cantillation, as well as vowel points (Ralbag). R. Akiva (Eruvin 54b) explains "...PLACE IT IN THEIR MOUTHS"-- teach Torah until pupils know it well enough to teach others (all Jews, God's Kingdom of Priests-- Ex. 19:6-- must be both pupils and teachers-- write your own parsha sheets for your friends and neighbors! "Develop many pupils"-- Avot 1:1); he equates "the song" with the whole Torah.
God, given Israel's past, predicts that they'll turn to alien gods amidst their forthcoming luxury and wealth (cf. Vilna and L.A.); this song bears witness to their true mission; IT WILL NEVER BE (entirely) FORGOTTEN BY THEIR DESCENDANTS. The returnee movement may blend secular achievements of the masses who left Torah, after massive Jewish migration, with the holiness they abandoned. R. Chiya so revived post-Temple Destruction Jewry. Moshe wrote the song that day; Yehoshua apparently only witnessed its completion and helped teach it-- Ramban. Moshe first taught it to those around him, then to the elders, and finally to all the people, together with Yehoshua (Abarbanel).
When Moshe charged Yehoshua, he limited his role: "...you'll go WITH this people to the land..." (31:7); he, unlike Moshe, must consult with the elders. Perhaps Moshe wouldn't have to die then, as his continued presence wouldn't interfere with Yehoshua. God rejected this notion, exhorting Yehoshua: "Be strong and brave, for you'll BRING this people to the land... (31:23)"-- there can only be one leader in each generation; he'll force Israel to conquer Israel (San. 8a, Rashi; vs. coalitions? Would Rabin have functioned better if he didn't have to appease Meretz and Shas?). Democracy lacks the quick clear direction of great leaders. But Abarbanel distrusted all concentrated power-- Israel's request for a king is sinful; perhaps the passage in San. 8a refers only to men of prophetic stature, e.g. Moshe, Yehoshua, and Samuel. Democracy's probably better than 2nd rate leaders; Rav Shubert Spero sees modern Israeli democracy as fulfilling the Torah's command to appoint a "king", just as other wise nations do today; it's the only way today's diversified Jewry could create the State of Israel. Once Israel truly blends Torah with ways of the world, messianic leaders of stature will emerge. When the Habad attempts to crown the Rebbe Ztz"l Meshiach fizzed out, many tried to make him at least Israel's P.M., who determines its political direction.
When Moshe finished writing this Torah, he commanded the Levites to place it Wlongside (B.B. 14b, Rashi) or inside (B.B. 14a, Ramban) the ark, a witness for Israel. Moshe's blunt-- given their bad track record, even when he was around, open rebellion against God is likely after his death. Yet "THE PEOPLE SERVED THE LORD ALL THE DAYS OF YEHOSHUA" (Judges 2:70)! One's pupil is loved as (a perpetuation of?) one's own self; Moshe was "alive" as long as Yehoshua, his "spiritual son", lived. Israel sinned in Israel only after Moshe's final death, that of Yehoshua. So children re-mourn parents when a sibling most like a parent also dies. Moshe called upon the elders and officers, especially responsible for delivering his charge; it's now to be witnessed by heaven and earth, as he previously announced. He predicts an angry response from God to Israel's distant future evil, then delivers his epic song.
E. IS PARTING ALWAYS SUCH SWEET SORROW?
Midrash Rabbah expounds Moshe's death: The holy trumpets of proclamation were reserved for Moshe and hidden at his demise, not usable even by Yehoshua; shofar blowing may proclaim that, especially together, we can transcend death and enter eternity by joining the Eternal. Yet Moshe didn't use them on his last day for THERE'S NO AUTHORITY ON THE DAY OF DEATH. THERE'S NO MAN WHO RULES THE SPIRIT TO RETAIN THE SPIRIT (Ecc. 8:8-- cf. sleep). R. Yehudah says: "No man can control the Angel of Death... no one can say: `wait for me until I've settled my accounts'... on that day there's no respecting of persons... David isn't called "king" on his day of death (I King 2:1). WHAT MIGHTY MAN LIVES AND SHALL NOT SEE DEATH? (Ps. 89:49)-- what mighty man is there like Moshe, who spoke with his Creator face to face, and yet, afterwards, (is told): "BEHOLD YOUR DAYS APPROACH THAT YOU MUST DIE". "I RETURNED AND SAW UNDER THE SUN (this limited world of life and death based on photosynthesis-- Rav S. Aviner) THAT THE RACE ISN'T TO THE SWIFT NOR THE BATTLE TO THE STRONG, NOR BREAD TO THE WISE, NOR YET RICHES TO MEN OF UNDERSTANDING, NOR YET FAVOUR TO MEN OF SKILL, BUT TIME AND CHANCE HAPPENS TO ALL OF THEM" (Ecc. 9:11); Moshe knew God, could argue with Him and persuade Him; now even he's about to die, powerless-- so much more all of us.
F. ONLY HOLY THINKERS ARE TRUE THINKERS
OTHERS label the Jews "intellectual", THE "people of the book"; Judaism, however, emphatically CONDEMNS intellectual activity, Torah, not accompanied by a sense of Divine awe (cf. Moment, H.U., H.U.C., J.T.S.)-- it's then a "deadly poison"! (Rashi, Yoma 72b on 4:44-- but Torah Tmima notes that unholy learning may lead to true appreciation of Torah; Maskil Mussarnik Menachem Mendel Levine discusses this issue in his introduction to Cheshbon Hanefesh, a Holy Feldheim Mussar sefer clandestinely based upon Benj. Franklin's work-- $10 from TOP, H-E). Learning's to be passionate RELIGIOUS experience. Traditional Ashkenazic (pre-Hassidic) Judaism, absorbed in Talmud, viewed study as the prime way for the male to reach God (Rambam's view too). Only women would stress prayer and the arts instead. Rav Dovid Aharon's Isralight Program spreads Jewish light to many a sensitive neophyte; he interprets Kohelet as Solomon's warning against endless intellectual speculation, eliminating other equally important religious lifetasks, such as having fun and knowing and being part of life today; religious leaders isolated from life, tho erudite talmudists, can't truly relate to and influence their contemporaries-- "Beautiful is learning of Torah with the way of the earth (Avot 2:2)". Torah's to sanctify life, not replace it (YF-- God also judges our unwarranted rejection of His proferred pleasures, per Jer. Kid., end Ch. 4; cf. Ecc. 9:7-10, 11:9-10). Rav Aharon just completed a U.S. lecture tour, featuring his new book "Endless Light-- The Ancient Path of the Kabbala to Love, Spiritual Growth, and Personal Power"
G. THE HAFTARA OF VAYALECH is HOSHEA 14:2-10
It is read on the Shabbat of Return (Haftarat Nitzavim accompanies both portions, if read before Rosh Hashana). Hoshea tells Israel, adrift, that repentance brings them back to God, tho the sacrifical Temple is temporarily destroyed; no sacrificial blood is needed (vs. some Christian beliefs); neither material possessions (Lavi?) nor rich powerful allies (U.S.?) can save them. God's ready to restore Israel with love; they'll then be a source of blessing to all.
Tho idols be forsaken, return to Torah may itself be corrupt; God's very Word can serve man's darker side (cf. "religious" politics): "FOR THE PATHS OF GOD ARE STRAIGHT-- THE RIGHTEOUS WILL WALK IN THEM, WHILE SINNERS WILL STUMBLE THEREIN" (v.7)! Dr. Reuven Ben Dov (Mazal Tov to him and Adele upon the birth of their first granddaughter this week!) notes that Bratslaver or "Dead" Hassidim are truly alive and vibrant, tho their only rebbe, Rav Nachman, died in 1810 (JP 9.15.89-- A Remedy for Sin; see Rav Dovid Ebner's video lecture on Rav Nachman's Journey). As all true believers (see Eric Hoffer), they spread The Unquestioned Word with zeal and success, inspiring many. True Bratslav teachers reflect the depth, light, and love of their master, e.g. Dovid Ben Ami, Rabbis T. Rosenfeld, A. Greenbaum, A. Kaplan, G. Koenig, and G. Fleer.
But Kabbala portrays an evil "other side", flipside, shadowing all good. Some Bratslavers, usually from highly disturbed backgrounds, are violent and/or withdrawn fanatics, who spend much of their day thinking about how not to think about sex (see Master of Return). I've seen some from the Old City violently attack strangers. A revered old Bratslaver Master refused his own grandson, wearing his Tzahal uniform, admission to his home. Per psychologist and Rav Chaim Lifshitz's experience, it's difficult to correct deviant Bratslavers-- they reject logic as the "devil's word" (R. Nachman forbade study of rationalists, e.g. Ibn Ezra, Radak, Guide); they're also convinced that their own burning emotions must reflect the will of their long-dead sole authority and link to God (Jewish notions?). Investigate your children's mentors well, if they're inclined to Bratslav Chassidut. Not all who represent Rav Nachman reflect his spirit. Let's say "N...N...No...No...Nachman" to those who turn the very name of this great teacher into an object of silly cultic veneration. It originated in an attempt to cheer up an old Bratslaver chassid, suffering from severe depression; his friends faked a personal message to him from Rav Nachman. Protest it's infiltration into our society-- it's now rapidly replacing the similar non-Jewish messianic distortion of the Lubavitcher rebbe's true great worth as a human being.
To avoid ending the haftara on this sad note, Sefardim and some Ashkenazim added upbeat passages-- WHO'S A GOD LIKE YOU, BEARING WITH SIN... FOR THE REMNANT OF HIS HERITAGE. HE DOESN'T RETAIN HIS ANGER FOREVER, AS HE DELIGHTS IN KINDNESS. HE'LL AGAIN HAVE MERCY ON US, HE'LL SUBDUE OUR INIQUITIES, AND YOU'LL CAST ALL THEIR SINS INTO THE DEPTHS OF THE SEA (cf. Tashlich). HE GIVES TRUTH TO YAAKOV, KINDNESS TO AVRAHAM, AS HE SWORE TO OUR FATHERS, FROM DAYS OF YORE (Michah 7:18-20-- vs. Academic Conservative Rabbi David Blumenthal?-- he urges us to challenge God's abusiveness in our prayers, in Facing The Abusing God; cf. Gen. 18, Job and Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev's lawsuit vs. God; see Anson Laytner, Arguing With God: A Jewish Tradition, reviewed in Modern Judaism 12:1; cf. Rav E. Rackman's critique of Reform and Reconstructionist clerical arrogance toward their learned and saintly forebears, and their rejection of God's omnipotence, e.g. bringing the Messiah and reviving the dead-- Tradition 1:1).
BLOW A SHOFAR IN ZION, SANCTIFY A FAST, PROCLAIM AN ASSEMBLY; GATHER THE PEOPLE, SANCTIFY THE COMMUNITY, ASSEMBLE THE ELDERS, GATHER LITTLE CHILDREN... LET THE BRIDEGROOM LEAVE HIS CHAMBER AND THE BRIDE HER CANOPY (when Israel's attacked?). God answers the priests' prayers for forgiveness (Yom Kippur) with promises of prosperity, fame, and destruction of Israel's enemies. Then ...YOU'LL EAT, SATISFIED, AND PRAISE THE NAME OF GOD YOUR LORD, WHO'S DONE WONDERS WITH YOU, AND MY PEOPLE SHALL NEVER AGAIN BE ASHAMED! (Sukkot? Yoel 2:15-27-- some also read 2:11-14; cf. Deut. 24:5)
FOR, LIKE THE EARTH, WHICH GIVES FORTH ITS PLANTS, AND LIKE A GARDEN THAT CAUSES ITS SEEDS TO GROW, SO SHALL THE LORD GOD CAUSE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PRAISE TO GROW OPPOSITE ALL THE NATIONS (Is. 61:11). Per Chida (Pnai David), this verse reflects a rabbinic concept-- that Israel's redemption will grow little by little (yidel by yidel?)-- he who dwells in darkness many days will be blinded by a sudden great light. He needs gradual revelation of light. As plants grow imperceptibly, so shall the Lord of Hosts make righteousness and praise grow in the redemption, that it cause no damage (cf. 1948ff).
H. PARTING NOTES
THE RESTORATION OF THE STEINSALTZ TALMUD A few years ago, Rav Shach led a campaign to smear, ban and destroy the Steinsaltz Talmud, because grand Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz used a popular approach, not in the black yeshiva Ytad Neeman mode, in an article he wrote about Shimshon for a secular Israeli magazine. Thank God, they did not succeed and his Hebrew talmud continues to grow and be translated for worldwide consumption (but extensive explanatory footnotes should be added to those passages which appear alien, or even offensive, to the uninitiated). Even the somewhat insular Ramban Synagogue of the Jewish Quarter restored the Steinsaltz Talmud, with some critical notes by Rav A. Nebenzthal, a positive contribution; so has Aish Hatorah, now ignoring Rav Shach's ban (a token bit of the Steinsaltz Talmud is in their library; the boys, as at Ohr Somaach, also get a piece of cake and some soda on Israel Independence Day; perhaps Chabad too will soon give their students a kichel and some vodka on that great holy holiday); may all who banned it soon repent!
THE 4 SONS: Tammi Benjamin, a one-woman Jewish revival movement in Santa Cruz, CA, has initiated many projects to revive Judaism and Zionism in that profane academic bastion of Secular Dogmatism and Anti-Zionism. The Hagada teaches us the great value of using ???? to get our children involved in our great historic mission, each according to his nature and development; Tammi extends this process to every week-- her stimulating consciousness-arousing ???? on the weekly Torah reading help parents to get their children to join them in exploring the reading and its present day implications. For further info, contact Tammi in Santa Cruz, 408-459-9562, or by E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org.
See our Dvarim study, where we also discuss some basic themes from Nitzavim.
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