THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
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A. THE BACKGROUND, & AN OVERVIEW, OF R'EY
Moshe just taught the Jews that a successful AND ENDURING Jewish conquest of Israel must flow from an intense AND ENDURING intimate Jewish connection to God; only constant communal observance of ALL His commandments will make the connection. Long perspiration precedes true inspiration--cf. scientific research! The result's worth it--"THAT YOUR DAYS AND THOSE OF YOUR CHILDREN BE GREAT ONES, UPON THE LAND WHICH GOD SWORE TO YOUR FATHERS TO GIVE TO THEM*, AS DAYS OF HEAVEN UPON EARTH. IF YOU ZEALOUSLY GUARD THIS ENTIRE COMMANDMENT WHICH I COMMAND YOU, TO PERFORM IT, TO LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD, TO WALK IN ALL HIS WAYS (e.g. strength and kindness, Tzahal and Hadassa--Rambam) AND TO CLEAVE TO HIM (via scholars AND wise men--Rashi), GOD WILL DRIVE OUT ALL THESE NATIONS BEFORE YOU, AND YOU'LL DISPLACE NATIONS BIGGER AND STRONGER THAN YOU..." (11:21-3)--true Israeli Torah observance, coupled with love of God and beautifully balanced Israeli personalities, will enable Tzahal to overcome the intifada, and our pioneering settlers to overcome advocates of a Judenrein Judea, Samaria and Gaza; the Arabs may then join our cause as good Noachides, and help build the temple--they must agree if we're to build the 3rd Temple in Greater Israel, just as no one opposed Yitzchak's 3rd well, R'chovot, "broad places" (Ramban, Gen. 26:20).
A DIVERTING DIVERSION: "to give TO THEM"--to your fathers, not just TO YOU; the resurrected Patriarchs will be given Israel (Rashi); so we pray on Shabbat Afternoon: "Avraham WILL rejoice, Yitzchak WILL be happy, Yaakov & Sons WILL rest in it". This thought occurred to me when I prayed mincha on Shabat at their tomb in Chevron, which anti-democratic and/or anti-semitic forces wish to render Judenrein; this community, like any other, should be given every opportunity to grow and expamd, while allowing the neighboring Arab community all autonomy possible, without endangering Jewish life. So a fair balance must be struck between the needs and sensitivities of the haredi community living near Rehov Bar Ilan, and those of Shabbat drivers using that main thoroughfare for their Shabbat outings; the compromise, closing the road during morning prayer hours, was reasonable, but its implementation was tragically delayed by ardent secularists' appeals to the Supreme Court; the Court, along with the Badatz and Meretz, may indeed be responsible for much of the ensuing violence, hatred and profanation of the Shabbat by its long delay in ruling last year; in any event, it's highly un-democratic that this appointed body, beyond electorial control, determine the laws and nature of our society.
Last year, after David Luchins' balanced lucid lecture on U.S. Jewry at the Israel Center, I decided to walk back to the Old City. When I emerged, I saw Straus St. blocked off and filled with police and soldiers; haredim had mounted a mass protest against the two week arrest w/o trial of a 15 year old Bar Ilan demonstrator. I decided to see for myself if haredi protests were quiet and peaceful, as their defenders claim, or violent and hate-filled, as the press and police claim; when I got to Kikar Shabbat, I was shocked to see a large fire in the middle of the square, just before it was extinguished by a fire truck; the area was littered with stones and debris; large bands of soldiers and police, with clubs, chased crowds of haredi men** back to Mea Shearim, to end the violent demonstration and clear the streets to traffic--a basic right of all citizens. Local residents stood on their balconies and windows, some shouting violently at the soldiers and police, others throwing stones at them. While the majority of haredim may condemn haredi violence, they are obviously not in control of their own somewhat primitive society. While their Badatz leaders had put up posters urging their followers not to throw stones at demonstrations, they themselves could have come to this demonstration and stopped the violence, had they really cared about this terrible profanation of God's Name and Torah. When Satan incites David to boastfully count his soldiers, he thinks it's God's command (2S24, 1Ch21). But Dvorah Rosenburg of Bnei Black claims that the true haredi hooligans are members of N'turei Karta, who don't recognize even the rabbinic authority of the Badatz.
** haredi women, who fully develop their femininety, as great wives and mothers, are much less frustrated and angry than their menfolk, who lack the ability and inclination to contribute much to society, and to properly support and defend their families. Their model should be beautiful well-educated "with-it" American haredim, who should immediately leave Boro Park, Monsey and Lakewood, and help God bring the world back to Eden from Zion.
I was going to continue home via Mea Shearim, but deemed it too dangerous. So I walked back up Straus and thru the Russian compound, where I encountered the opposite extreme-- young Jerusalem Jews, enraptured with the pagan hedonistic animal-like world of decadent pubs and discos, engulfed by all-pervasive blaring rock music. So the concert on Sunday night's Arts and Crafts festival, a major Jerusalem event, featured similar music-- not one evening, to the best of my knowledge, was devoted to Jewish music; years ago, Shlomo Carlebach appeared at the fair. Why should a people so shun their own unique spirit and history? At the very least, the large number of traditional Jews attending the fair also deserve concerts in their spirit, at least for one night. My overall response was: "How shall I sing an alien song in the Lord's land?" I had just left NCSY's inspiring world of modern orthodoxy--pleasant fine harmonious folks, good citizens, fully at home both in the portals of Torah and in the general society, beginning our messianic redemption from Israel; but I felt depressed by these two other groups, only a few blocks away, in both directions; both are so far from God awareness and self-effacement, so far from forming a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation". How could generations of holy Jews so quickly deteriorate into pagan pleasure seekers and ferocious fanatics? I have 3 theories: 1) previous pious generations were also often very corrupt on a personal level--see Glueckel of Hamlin and Yaakov Emden's devestating diaries about Central Eurpean Jewry and its rabbis in the 1700's. 2) The young Israeli pagans have little Jewish experience and education; even those who do, often have it on a very superficial or insipid level.
3) A WAY-OUT THEORY: Talmudic rabbis would take one's bad character traits as a sign of corrupt pagan or incestuous ancestry (see Kiddushin 70b, 71b--but so was Avraham, tho the folks back in Aram may have been far more morally civilized than the Canaanites and Egyptians; perhaps that's why he sent Eliezer to Aram to fetch a bride for Yitzchak). Many of our bubbes, our female ancestors, were raped by wild Cossacks, Germans, "nobles", etc. If their temperment is somehow genetically transmitted (cf. Lamarcke), or if their victims' rage and hatred is transmitted to their descendants, their descendants may be the hate-filled haredi legions of Israel today. Their violence may betray their origins. So Rav Yehuda hesitated to marry off his son Yitzchak because everyone may be descended from slaves or heathen, of whom it's written: "They ravished the women in Zion, the maidens in the cities of Judah (Lam. 5:11)", or even worse, from our wife-swapping Jewish ancestors (on Amos 6:4). What could he do? Ulla answered that he should seek a bride from a peaceful, modest pleasant family, who would be presumed to be untainted; Rav Yehudah quoted Rav: "If you see 2 people continually quarreling, there's a blemish of unfitness in one of them, and they are (providentially) not allowed to cleave to each other" (Kid. 71b). Rav Chaim Zimmerman z"l indeed opined that such aggressive Hungarian anti-Zionist religious extremists, who compare Israel to the Nazis, e.g. some in Satmar and most in Neturei Karta, were the descendants of wild Khazar converts.
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BACK TO THE OVERVIEW: The opening verses of R'ey continue this theme: "LOOK--TODAY I SET BEFORE YOU BLESSING AND CURSE. THE BLESSING--ON CONDITION THAT (Rashi) YOU WILL SENSITIVELY HEAR (the messages of) THE COMMANDS OF GOD, YOUR LORD, WHICH I COMMAND YOU TODAY. AND THE CURSE--IF YOU DON'T SO HEAR THE COMMANDS OF GOD YOUR LORD, AND TURN AWAY FROM THE PATH I COMMAND YOU TODAY, TO GO AFTER OTHER FORCES, WHICH YOU DON'T KNOW INTIMATELY" (but I do! 11:26-8).
Moshe warns Israel--their new vibrant dynamic State will need constant attention and effort to maintain its Divinity. Even after Israel accepts and fulfills the Torah, followed by military success and prosperity--blessing and curse, good and evil, remain real options every day. Without positive and negative safeguards, the Jew, intoxicated by his God-given prosperity, will regress into profane pursuits of pleasure.
The remedy's not unworldly monastic withdrawal; we must find God even amidst our most primal drives. If not, eating, linking my existence to the earth of my origins and return, is just another aspect of my mortality, tho it gives me a bit of life (see our Akev study, H., "Blessed Bread"). Thus Moshe commanded Israel to eat and be satisfied-- THEN to bless God, the Ultimate Host; this continued the faith-training of the unstorable manna, given daily, direct from heaven; every MacDavid hamburger and Carvel cone is a similar miracle. This week God links Himself to our basic oral primal comfort, eating, via the discipline of kosher food and the pleasures of meaty family sacrifices and festival celebrations in Jerusalem, shared with Levites. As a model holy people, the Jews must sanctify life, not flee it; Torah's to deepen and enhance life, not replace it. God first tells man to enjoy all the fruits of Eden; only then does He prohibit just one, the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Rav J. Soloveichik).
Rav Dr. Moshe Tendler claims that Adam's sin was his assumption that his own knowledge and intellect, rather than Divine decree, could be the source of his value system, of what he considered "good and evil". True, we recognize Gentile wisdom, often superior to even rabbinic wisdom, in secular domains (see Avraham ben Maimon's Introduction to the Agada)--anyone who refers to "goyishe kep" contradicts this assertion of Chazal; but we don't recognize their claims to possess Torah, Divinely revealed values-- there is only 1 Testament, the O.T. (Only Testament). The joy of a festival, unlike the pleasure of Shabbat, completely eliminates mourning. The joy of being Jewish, celebrating Israel's choice, transcends one's own immediate state (Rav S. Riskin). Rav J. Soloveichik explains that the ultimate source of joy is being in God's Presence, "lifnei hashem"; thus we cannot mourn on a festival, even on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, when we are in such a state; similarly, the high priest, always on duty at the temple, before God, cannot mourn. Later authorities reject the Rambam's opposite ruling (see Nefesh HaRav, R'ey).
Pursuit of pleasure is natural and healthy; but contact with Divinity is the ultimate pleasure--one may not allow even intense pain to deprive him of it; conversely, one foregoes momentary pleasure, knowing its price--long term pain (cf. candy and dentistry, sex as a snack and Aids)--Rav Motti Berger. He cites Rav Steinsaltz, who portrays the infinite distance constantly challenging a man in quest of God, even Moshe (but per Avot 4:22, this world is primarily for good works, the future world for pleasure--YF). A great rabbi had difficulty with dividing the holidays into 1/2 for our own pleasure, 1/2 for God--all the activities for God, e.g. kiddush and prayer, were his own greatest pleasures (heard from David Luchins, who, as a crusading observant Jew, shares the plight of a Christian bishop, whose congregants only came to church to be hatched, matched and dispatched. Luchins appreciates the great advances made by Jews in the 20th century, together with their perilous state in the modern world--it can quickly turn against the small remnent of a rapidly assimilating modern Jewry, tho God will always prevent our complete extinction. Motty Berger just spoke at Van Leer's engrossing high level conference on The Secular Jew and Jewish Studies--What, and How, To Teach, at Van Leer Institute (a new very promising Israeli CAJE; Van Leer and its sister academic institute still shared one crowded public telephone in 1996--ridiculous). Some of the secular folks present protested that haredi folks (Motty, Prof. Herman Baranover, and Rav Naftali Rottenberg) were allowed to present their viewpoint, as they're not (theoretically) self-critical academics!!! Most of those present were quite interested in the lively session.
B. A SYNOPSIS OF R'EY
Moshe tells Israel to see both blessings and curses as constant options, dependant upon how closely they adhere to God and His Torah. Jews are either on a very high and successful, or a very low and subserviant, level thruout history; either state shows Divine Providence, an unusual destiny (Sporno--cf. '45,'48). Blessings and curses are to be proclaimed in the valley between Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Avel, beyond the Jordan, in Israel (see 27:11ff). These mountains are perfect symbols for free will. Both are in the Ephrayim Range--Gerizim, south of Schem valley, is lush and verdant; Avel (= evil?), on the north, is desolate. The same water, soil, dew, wind, and pollen affect both. Likewise, blessing and curse are not determined by external circumstances, but by our response to them (Hirsch).
TRULY, GOOD AND KINDNESS WILL PURSUE ME ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE (Ps. 23)--man flees from his own potential for good and kindness, innate in his situation, however bad; thus they have to chase him (Kotzker; cf. Somerset Maugham's Philip)! Moshe reminds the Jews, about to enter Israel, that the success of their national mission depends upon their observance of God's Torah.
Moshe now warns Israel of two potential sources of idolatry--1) Israel's attempt to seek out their Canaanite "roots" (cf. the Israel & Bibleland Museums). 2) identification with non-Jewish nations, whose favor is sought (Clinton & Christopher?); both stem from lack of Jewish self-respect and confidence, a desire to be followers rather than leaders. We (museums included?) are to destroy all traces of idolatry in Israel (church statues too?), tempting reminders of human degradation. But God's Name and objects associated with His worship must be treated only with great respect (Makot 22a). Idolators set up altars wherever and whenever they got turned on, e.g. pine groves. Lacking Revelation, their own feelings determined their religion. Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism and The Jewish Renewal Movement also primarily proclaim subjective Western aesthetic criteria of religious validity-- "Does it work for you?", "Were you inspired?", "Did you feel commfortable with it?" Dr. Jonathan Boucher, in an outstanding overview of Jewish Education in today's diaspora, warned us educators that you can't teach assimilated Jews unless you understand their mentality and life-position; while return to halachic Judaism and aliya may be the only long-lasting and deep commmitments to Judaism, most folks won't consider such extreme options, major paradigm shifts for them; if you suggest such radical changes, you're likely to lose them completely; all you can do is raise their level of Jewish and Zionist education and experience.
Truly traditional Judaism also highly values subjective heartfelt experience and the aesthetic element ("ahava" and "hidur mitzva"), and recognizes the natural psychological needs of man; but it equally stresses the constant objective halachic approach, of trying to enter God's scientific world of abstract intellectual concepts leading to ultra-detailed behavior, and apply it to human choices and behavior too--"did I master another principle, another detail, of God's Masterplan today?" True and valid religious experience is often a result of such an approach, rather than a direct search for religious ardor and ecstasy (cf. Nadav and Avihu). So God doesn't want His SACRIFICIAL worship scattered all over Israel--it's to be confined to the Temple; its unique site is identified via His prophecy (Sifri), not human romanticism (Hirsch; Ziggy might prefer Masada!). But until the tabernacle settled in Shilo, Divine sacrifice was permitted anywhere in Israel. Following the conquest and settling of the land, Israel was to appoint a king, destroy Amalek, and build the Temple (cf. today). Monarchy (or today's best non-Jewish system, democracy, per Rav Shubert Spero) is a mitzva (per Rambam, as R. Yehuda, San. 20b); but Rashi and Abarbanel see it as a concession to a weak Israel's identification with pagan Buckinghamian deification of man (Per R. Nehoray ibid; cf. I Sam. 8).
During Israel's desert trek, domestic animals could be slaughtered only as tabernacle sacrifices; but not once the Jews are in Israel--it's then too hard to travel all the way to Jerusalem to bring a sacrifice to the Temple, just because you crave a corned beef sandwich; God cares about man's discomfort, and values his time too--Israeli law and governmental procedures should be equally sensitive. Blood from non-sacrificial slaughter of an animal is poured on the ground, not an altar; it's forbidden food, the soul or life (nefesh) of the animal. The koshering process of washing and salting meat may remove enough blood to prevent over-assimilation of the accompanying animal soul, OR it may limit the effects of the remaining blood. Blood of slaughtered wild animals and birds must be covered with earth.
But even non-sacrificial slaughter must be done ritually--AS I'VE COMMANDED YOU (12:21), giving it a spiritual dimension. Yet we find NO such commandment in the Bible (O.T., the Only Testament), only in Talmud Chulin--thus the Torah, holy writ, refers us here to God's accompanying Divine Oral Code of Jewish Law, the essential, unique and beloved covenant between Israel and God (Hirsch)--GOD TOLD MOSHE: WRITE THESE WORDS, FOR BY THE MOUTH OF THESE WORDS I'VE ENTERED A COVENANT WITH YOU AND ISRAEL (Ex. 34:27; see Yer. Peah 2:4, Gittin 60--but cf. R. Eleazer ibid). Observing ALL the commandments, major and minor, developing both interpersonal and Divine relationships, will ensure ultimate good for the Jew and his descendants (Rashi--cf. removing one of the many parts of a TV or auto). But only a really deep, sincere, all-encompassing religious experience will be adopted by one's independent non-robotized children, especially amidst alien cultures--Marx comes from Rashi! Thus non-Orthodox Jewish education may have little long-range value, especially in the Diaspora.
The Torah warns us of the temptation to revive Canaanite religious modes, tho disguised as Divine worship (cf. Jews for Jesus); Israelis may simulate cultural and historic continuity with our displaced ancient enemies--perhaps Canaanites had worked out ways of life compatible with the nature of the land, from which the Jews were so long absent (cf. modern "Canaanites"). Some secular Israelis, cut off from their own tradition, are obsessed with archeological resurrection of perverse Canaanite civilization--Canaanites passed their children thru fire in the valley of Hinom, below Yemin Moshe. So today's secular Israeli children pass thru the fiery pagan sensual atmosphere of rock concerts in the same place-- cf. secular Shabbat orgies of sport aggression and adulation of he who kicks a ball best (or which haredi kid throws the biggest stone on Bar Ilan).
The law must be carefully observed; one must neither ADD TO it nor SUBTRACT FROM it, even to achieve religious "highs" (13:1, Ha'amek Davar). Jewish tradition urges everyone to study and observe God's laws of Nature and Human Nature--leave the "highs" to Him. Religious absorption, without Torah's legal discipline, may have contributed to the murder of Rabbi Morris Adler by Richard Wishnetsky in Feb. 1966 ("Murder in the Synagogue", LoCicero). The Torah now warns against INTERNAL destruction of the holy State of Israel. If it lacks Torah, God will exile the Jews. An evil charismatic prophet may lead Jews away from God's precise laws, performing miracles to show his Divine authority. His abilities, real or sham, are a test of one's faith in God and connection to Him. Kill this false or deceiving prophet--he's a traitor. Some say Moshe speaks of a true prophet, who ONCE performed real miracles, before rebelling against Divine discipline (a prophet also has free will). So one shouldn't follow obviously nasty leaders, who persecute others, despite their talmudic pyrotechnics; learn only from a rabbi "like an angel of the God of Hosts"--i.e. one who views other faithful rabbis, tho of opposing views, as fellow players on God's team, to be treated with love and respect, as do the angels (The Belzer Rebbe). Some great Torah scholars, e.g. Yeravum, Achitofel, and R. Yochanan, were evil or insane; kal v'chomer, a fortiori, others can be a bit so-- one must critically examine even his favorite scholar, lest he copy his weaknesses; everybody, from Moshe on down, has some (Rav A. Kook).
Others, e.g. Rambam, claim that such "prophets" are fake magicians; some claim that evil prophets, such as Bilaam (literally "without a people"), have true and powerful, but perverse, close contact with Divinity; but they deny His eternal choice of the Jews as His kingdom of priests and holy nation; they prematurely proclaim the age of universal Divine religion, and ignore the Jews' ultimate leadership role in it, from Jerusalem and Israel. The next dangerously appealing internal enemy is one's friend or relative, who exploits the relationship to introduce alien modes of worship and idolatry--cf. intermarriage problems; they may be either regional, or exotic imports from the ends of the earth, e.g. India (cf. pleasant western guru Andrew Cohen's infatuation with leading Indian Gurus, who turned out to be egocentric low-life; may God soon introduce him and his many Jewish followers to true Torah giants and bring them back to their true spiritual roots; see The Lotus and the Jew; such Easternized people tend to avoid true "love, spirituality and committed responsibility"-- i.e. bearing and raising children). Tho the Jews never heard of these ideas, All-knowing God has already considered them and rejected them in His Torah! One mustn't allow pity to cover up for such a friend or relative--be the first to stone him! (after proper testimony, trial and conviction).
Another danger is Eilat becoming Las Vegas. If the majority of an Israeli city turns to idolatry (San. 111b), the idolators and all property of the city (except of righteous non-residents) are to be destroyed. The city is burnt, never to be rebuilt. Tho you may have moral qualms or fear revenge, trust that God favors your action and will make you both flourish and retain human mercy. Such zealous activity is ONLY TO BE DONE AFTER THOROUGH INVESTIGATION. Today, some ostensibly religious leaders condemn others without even talking to them first. Per most talmudic opinions, the laws of the destruction of rebel sons and cities were never intended to be carried out--the complex detailed legal prerequisites are impossible to fulfill. These laws are, however, dramatic teaching vehicles, rewarding those who assimilate and implement their warning messages, improving Jewish society and preventing its internal decay.
The Jews, a holy people, may not mutilate their bodies, a pagan mourning practice. The unique Jewish nation, consecrated to God's historical mission, has special priestly laws; these differentiate them from the rest of humanity, their congregation. So they're not allowed to disfigure the unified national body of Israel, to form many separate groups-- "agudos". The laws of kashrut immediately follow; they're to separate the united Jewish people from the nations, not from each other. Yet some so-called "ultra-Orthodox" eat only food supervised by their own rabbis, and thus won't eat in homes of those who follow others! This engenders social tension and animosity, the opposite of God's Will (cf. Badatz vs. Belz, Rav Shach vs. Rav Landau). Per God's Torah, any kosher witness suffices to declare food kosher. The Great Fish, Livyatan, served at the Divine feast for the righteous, may be for those "tzadikim" who don't quite trust the Holy One's supervision of the slaughtering of the Great Ox (Yakir H.)!
We now learn which creatures on earth, in the sky, and within the water can be eaten by Jews, becoming part of them. Rav Hertz compares this section with the kosher laws in Lev. 11 (we discuss forthcoming glatt kosher ham in Shmini). Bringing up the cud and possessing a truly cloven hoof are the signs of kosher mammals. One is forbidden, per Tosafot, to even touch non-kosher creatures in order to eat them (cf. niddah, and Eve's apparent addition to God's command--that she and Adam may not even touch the non-Kosher fruit tree). Fins and scales determine kosher aquatic denizens (but all who possess the former are presumed to also possess the latter); a list of non-kosher birds is given, w/o criteria. The Jerusalem Talmud gives an ATROPHIED rear digit as a sign of a kosher bird (it thus doesn't hunt and grab prey--Rav Shlomo Sternberg). Yeshiva students (and their rabbis), who have never bothered to visit a zoo or study ornithology to see what birds really look like, misinterpret the talmud, claiming that kosher birds have an EXTRA digit (etzba y'tara), which is incorrect--all have 3 front digets, and one rear one; aquatic birds have skin between the digits, which abets their swimming--cf. our rubber swimming fins. So the Vilna Gaon claimed that one can't understand talmud and halacha, w/o knowing nature and science--a glaring indictment of most of today's "yeshiva world" and many of its leaders, allegedly his followers. Jews may eat meat only of ritually slaughtered animals, never with milk products.
The 2nd tithe (after the Levite's), as the tithe of newborn domestic animals, is holy food; it must be consumed by the owner or his family in Jerusalem--there one shares God's table (Alshich) and imbibes the religious atmosphere. A farmer will leave some of his kids there to use up the tithes; they eventually return inspired, raising religious consciousness back home! (Sefer Hachinuch; cf. young tourists "picked up" at the Wall, them taken to learn at Israelite, TOP or Discovery).
One may exchange his/her holy 2nd tithe produce for money, to buy food in Jerusalem. In the 3rd and 6th years of the 7 year cycle, second tithe, ordinary food, is given to the poor. Debts are remitted in the 7th year, unless collected via the court. Strict observance of these laws renders Israel a creditor nation, rather than a debtor nation. Lend money, despite the approach of the 7th year; release your slave after 7 years-- give him generous parting gifts. Those sold by the court for theft, who don't want to leave slavery, can remain; but their ear is pierced--a sign that it didn't heed God's message of responsible independence. Firstborn animals are eaten as sacrifices, unless blemished. The 3 holidays when males must go up to the Temple--Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot--are portrayed here as religious agricultural festivals. So non-agricultural Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur aren't even mentioned here.
C. OUR FIRST VERSE IN DEPTH:
"LOOK (singular)--TODAY I SET BEFORE YOU (plural) BLESSING AND CURSE (11:26)". "Look" may refer to viewing the impressive impending demonstration of this message (Rashi)--the Jews are to face lush Mt. Gerizim and bleak Mt. Avel opposite it, as Levites proclaim blessings and curses in the intervening valley of Shchem (29-30). God constantly uses audio-visual devices to stimulate us, via our senses, to receive messages way beyond our senses, e.g. the burning bush, tabernacle and rituals. But then "look" should be plural, as the rest of Moshe's address; also this scenerio doesn't occur "today", but much later, in Israel. But "today" may denote an era--e.g. "today's woman is an exhausted mother" (Ibn Ezra). "LOOK" can mean to have deep INSIGHT into a concept or experience--e.g. LOOK AT (R'EY) LIFE WITH A WOMAN WHOM YOU LOVE (Ecc. 9:9). Solomon doesn't refer (Returnee Rav Pinchas Heyman of the peaceful Bar Ilan-- the university- adds "just") to viewing beautiful sunsets together; male and female must share their unique perspectives; only then will both obtain greater insight into life. Thus the rabbis also apply Ecc. 9:9 to the Torah, one's CONSTANT mate; she provides a deeper vision of this world, the audio-visual department of God's University of Infinite Learning. A wise person "sees" the future, latent in the present (Avot 2:13). Ohr HaChayim claims that Moshe stresses that it is "I", Moshe, both raised in Pharoh's palace and alone with God on Sinai, who gives you this law; I've seen both sides-- trust me. Thus many modern Jews won't trust insular "gedolim", never immersed in modern life, but will trust great leaders of the entire Jewish people, who know the world at its highest level, e.g. highly educated Rav J. Soloveichik and the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Rav Joe Grunfeld, in an A-1 Arachim tape on marriage, compares the body to a horse--frisky, restless, hungery and sexy--and the soul to its rider, who must direct it with calm deliberation and clear goals; but the rider must take care of his horse's needs too; marriage alternates between states of physical separation, nidda, when mutual spurs to spiritual improvement develop the "rider" in each spouse, and periods of physical closeness, when the "horse" is given its joyful due, enhanced and elevated by the "rider's" recent preceding development. While the tape is engrossingly enthusiastic and humerous, it, as most such consciousness-arousing revival meeting efforts, lacks psychological sophistication--it mocks psychology, dismissing it as permissive abandon, rarely true, and portrays Rebbe Akiva's marriage to Rachel as a picture book romance, while ignoring his other wife, jetset former Ms. Turnus Rufus, who may have financed Rachel's Jerusalem of Gold diadem.
While editing this study two years ago, I "happened" to watch Tolner Rav Dr. Yitzchak (Isadore) Twersky's eulogy of his father-in-law, Rav Yosef Soloveichik (on a 1993 Y.U. video, sent us by Rav John Krug); he quotes Rav Yaakov of Kfar Hitya (Hagiga 6b on Ps. 49:10-11): one who SEES sages die merits eternal life--a fortiori, he who SEES them in (the midst of) life. Twersky translates SEE: To appreciate fully, to evaluate properly, to assess with integrity and sensitivity, with delicacy and dedication--one's inspired, edified and enlightened by observation of and reflection upon sages. So R. Yochanan says: "I see the words of Eliezer..." (Avot 2:13) --a certain view's seen as compelling, persuasive, catalytic and cathartic, and thus endorsed. If you so "see" sages, your own life's "longer"--richer, more meaningful and coherant. Just to behold a death scene is not specially meritorious, nor are its effects so profound. So Eliyahu tells Elisha: If you SEE me taken from you, your request (for a double scoop of prophetic spirit) will be fulfilled. Per Zohar, by SEE, Eliyahu means to be sensitive and perceptive, to recall and reflect with heightened awareness and sensitivity, to learn and utilize, all Elisha's experienced. Then Elisha "saw" (Eliyahu depart--assessed his overpowering impact); only then, amidst his profound grief, could he characterize his great rebbe in immortal words: "my father, my father, Israel's chariot and horsemen".
We're not to engage in history or biography for their own sake, but for moral growth; we're not to be just spectators, but passionately introspective, then to apply our insights. So we must study the Rov's life and writings (YF: a major source of my own life learning and writings), tho he was a hidden soul, to keep them accurately alive in our lives.
My old friend, psychoanalyst, talmudist and professor Yitzchak Ahren of Cologne, visited me a few hours before I wrote this, and "happened" to tell me of his farewell encounter with Rav Twersky, after 6 months work on his doctorate in Boston. The Rebbe asked him what he had studied; Ahren described his work on the social dynamics of Art Green's Somerville Chavurat Shalom, a forerunner of today's Chavura movement (Yitzchak Samet, now of Lakewood, brought some of his fellow Chavura chevra to learn chumash and Rashi with me, an activity not avant garde enough for the experimental community!). Twersky replied that such study had little intellectual worth and was a waste of time! Ahren then noted that this work got him a $50,000 grant--Twersky then withdrew his criticism (cf. "... All Torah not accompanied by work will come to nothing and generate sin--Avot 2:2")!
Part of the happy God-aware laborer's reward is: GOD WILL BLESS YOU FROM ZION AND YOU WILL SEE INTO THE GOOD OF JERUSALEM ALL THE DAYS OF YOUR LIFE; YOU SHALL SEE CHILDREN OF YOUR CHILDREN--PEACE UPON ISRAEL (Ps. 128). The "good of Jerusalem" is not physical good, but that ultimate spiritual goodness which is apprehended by a sensitive soul (who shouldn't then focus upon its faults--M. Zlotowitz). Likewise, the physical sight of one's grandchildren may not be a blessing, e.g. if they're on drugs or intermarried. Kol Hakavod to Jonathan Tobin of the Connecticut Jewish Ledger, who, tho he sensibly supports outreach to the intermarried, refuses to print simcha annoucements of intermarriage, no simcha for Jews (perhaps he should list them under obituaries). The angry response of his spineless collegues, who will do anything not to make waves, lest they lose advertisers and subscribers for their "weaklies", is a symptom of U.S. Jewry's slow death. Marc Klein of the Northern California Jewish Bulletin, who indeed had the courage to print my letter against homosexuality, nevertheless rejects the injection of clear-cut values into the policy of Jewish newspapers! He claims: "a marriage is a simcha, no matter who it is to"!!! As usual, Rav Hillel Goldberg of the Intermountain Jewish News is one of the few who advocate clearly defined Jewish values (e.g. marrying only Jews or those properly converted to Judaism) as a sine qua non for any "Jewish" newspaper.
David's blessing is that insights be shared with one's grandchildren, a sign that one's forged a lasting link in the chain from Avraham to Messiah. "LOOK" is thus singular here, for each person's experience of the shared reality of God's blessings and curses is unique to his personality; as aesthetics, the understanding of Torah is subjective. Ohr Hachayim, Ibn Ezra, etc. will disagree with Talmudic INTERPRETATIONS of the Torah, if not specifically ascribed to Mosaic tradition, only to reason. The halacha, the law of clear BEHAVIORAL ACTION, however, flows from abstract principles into detailed laws, common to all. As science, it is verifiable, objective, and authoritative--Rav J. Soloveichik. So the first part of Shma, addressed to the individual, relates to subjective religious experience, the love of God; the second part, in the plural, refers to the community's objective observance of mitzvos.
"TODAY" implies that one can change his life course daily, for better or for worse, reversing her direction and destiny. Just as one must not despair of past failure, e.g. the Golden Calf, so one must not be smug due to past success--BE NOT SURE OF YOURSELF UNTIL THE DAY OF YOUR DEATH (Hillel, Avot 2:5). Nechama Leibowitz, Yeshayahu's little sister, expands Rashi's terse comment that the blessing is ON CONDITION THAT the Jews keep the Torah, the curse only IF they don't: Blessing is the natural state of the universe, founded upon Divine Grace. Man's given a perfect world, only spoiled IF he deviates--cf. TIME's article (8/95) on the intense dissonance between modern high-paced, yet alienated, technological life, with its overabundance of choices and possibilities, and man's innate harmonious, gregarious and reasonably satisfied nature. Once Man returns to God in the Messianic era, human evil eradicated, nature will revert to its original state of blessing. R. Bachye indeed translates: THE BLESSING, WHEN YOU WILL LISTEN... implying that the Jews WILL eventually obey God's Word--cf. Akev's first verse: FINALLY YOU SHALL LISTEN ...(7:12). "IF", affixed to the curse, denotes only a possible temporary deviation from ultimate reality.
The curses may not immediately follow abandonment of Divine commandments, as long as God's basic "path" is still followed, not idolatry; this may refer to a life of fine conduct and noble feeling, buut without formal religious context, e.g. normal family life; Rav A. Y. Kook called Justice Louis D. Brandeis a tzaddik, but couldn't convince him to become observant (he asked the previous Habad Rebbe to try too, tho he failed with the Lubavitcher Rebbe's brother, Yisroel Leib, who spent shabbatot with him!). When the next stage is reached--"AND TURN ASIDE... TO GO AFTER OTHER GODS"--the curse becomes operative. But idolatry must indeed, sooner or later, follow acknowledgement of God's existence, but w/o acceptance of His definitive laws. Man, briefly tossed about in the storm of life, needs some guide, some existential security blanket--cf. teenage identity formation crisis. If it's not Torah--society, habit, or some other system will fill the void, becoming his "god", his guide, even nonsensical trash, like Elvis, Michael Jackson and Madonna, or adulation of trivia, e.g. sport heroes and movie stars (from Hirsch). A community which leaves mitzvah-reminders may continue to produce fine people, but not for very long; they'll gradually sink into perverted value systems, idolatry. Fine secular Jews unconsciously perpetuate patterns developed by the intensive Torah life of their recent ancestors (I. Epstein, FAITH AND JUDAISM).
Idols "WHICH YOU DO NOT KNOW INTIMATELY", the phrase used last week re the manna, implies that one forsakes the tried and tested path of Torah for new life styles, whose ultimate effects on human development are untested and unknown; so, in the early 70's, noted Harvard Prof. of Political Science George Gilder decided to help the nascent strident "feminist" movement by writing a book, persuasively presenting their grievances, plans and dreams. But, after extensive research in history, sociology and political science, he concluded that the movement, tho well meaning, will lead to the complete destruction of our families and civilization, should it achieve its goals (Sexual Suicide, NY Times Quadrangle Books, 1971; since then, the feminist movement itself has evolved, thank God, with many feminists trying to achieve their full potential as women, e.g. spirituality and grand child-raising, rather than aping masculine goals, traits and values)--cf. modern Man's disappointment with science and economic prosperity as his ultimate salvation. The brave new world so often turns into a horror story; communism and psychoanalysis, becoming all-encompassing world views, can easily turn into evil and nonsense, e.g. the USSR, MOSES AND MONOTHEISM, and the Playboy "Philosophy". Ridicule and disdain are often the response of allegedly "academic" feminist conferences, similar to revival meetings, to the mention of Gilder's work, questioning their ardent agenda.
New radical movements turn children against their parents who, rooted in old ways, oppose new untested life styles--cf. Matt. 10:34-6, likely part of a Bilaamian revolt against God's eternal choice of the priestly Jewish People: THINK NOT THAT I COME TO SEND PEACE ON THE EARTH; I COME NOT TO SEND PEACE, BUT A SWORD (e.g. Crusaders and the Inquisition). FOR I COME TO SET A MAN AT VARIANCE AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER... AND A MAN'S ENEMIES SHALL BE THOSE OF HIS OWN HOUSEHOLD; cf. also the Nazi Youth Movement and Soviet Communism, who urged renunciation of parents--public memorials were erected to those who denounced politically incorrect parents.
So a sociological indication of Torah's Divine Revelation is it's stress upon respect and awe of parents in the Decalogue; relations with parents are linked to both Man-God and Man-Man relations; both result from cultivation of gratitude for one's existence and awe of one's origins, starting with one's own parents (Rav J. Soloveichik). As God indeed gave the Torah to the whole people, parents also accepted it and taught it to their children; no Anti-Parents Campaign was necessary in this greatest of radical revolutions. Even when one IS to turn against an evil father, who preaches idolatry, the Torah euphemistically and respectfully calls him "one who's like your soul" (13:7--Rashi).
OTHER TRANSLATIONS OF 11:26: 1) SEE THAT IT IS I (savvy Moshe, who experienced power and wealth in this world, as well as transcendental existence, and can compare them) WHO SETS BEFORE YOU THIS DAY BLESSING AND CURSE (dependent on spiritual priorities); so King Shlomo could give life wisdom, after he himself experienced all realms of life; fulminations against worldly life by those who never experienced it are suspect. Often those who lash out with violence against "sinners" themselves crave illicit pleasures--cf. haredi "modesty patrols", who attack women allegedly immodestly dressed--see Sotah; a young friend's wife, who grew up in Bnei Black, told me how these patrols would attack Bnei Akiva boys and girls, who were walking home together; women working near their turf should carry mace or tear gas and use them liberally, if accosted; Rav Riskin mentioned another tactic--rushing toward the Haredi assailants to hug and kiss them! Husbands and boyfriends might follow closely behind their womenfolk and beat the hell out of the hardei thugs and hooligans--this helped the Women At The Wall defend themselves against their hate-filled opponents; they were left alone on Tisha B'Av night, their persecutors apparantly absorbed by the mixed minyanim; but Esther Jungreis got away with addressing a mixed audience in the Western Wall Plaza this past week, tho some haredim milled aobout, not quite sure what was going on. The hopefully vast, but silent, majority of decent haredim must speedily eradicate this evil from their midst. 2) SEE (addressed only to rare individuals) ME (Moshe) AS YOUR PERSONAL MODEL.
3) SEE I GIVE YOU THIS DAY (as you begin your military victories and prosperous conquest) BOTH BLESSING AND CURSE (depending on how you relate to your imminent conquest and wealth)-- Or Hachayim; he says that blessing and curse appear as a mixed bag TODAY, since the wicked often have temporarily good lives and the righteous temporarily bad ones, but true blessing and curse, THE blessing and THE curse, eventually emerge, as a fit and proper response to one's behavior.
Kli Yakar translates: LOOK (you, singular), I GIVE YOU THIS DAY THE POWER TO BLESS OR CURSE (save or destroy the Jews and the world). He stresses the great potential impact of one's behavior in tipping God's universal scales of judgement, and each Jew's responsibility for every other Jew, undertaken at Mts. Gerizim and Avel. Blessing and curse are linked to learning, teaching, and practising mitzvos. He expounds Deut. 4:5 likewise: SEE (singular) I (Moshe) HAVE TAUGHT YOU (plural) STATUTES AND JUDGEMENTS AS GOD MY LORD HAS COMMANDED ME, TO SO DO IN THE MIDST OF THE LAND WHICH YOU ARE APPROACHING TO POSSESS IT. Just as God taught Moshe Torah free, so he and all responsible caring Jews are to teach it to each other free; they can earn their living in other ways (Nedarim 37a). Rambam (Avot 4:7) views professional oral Torah teaching to adults as a tragic deterioration of Jewish society; others disagree, especially when conditions do not permit both Torah study and a profession, e.g. if the scholar must work all day to survive-- but today a skilled professional can make $100/hr., work a bit, live modestly, and learn and teach during most of his time. I GIVE YOU THIS DAY refers to Moshe's review of the laws of the Torah, after completing his passionate chastising review of Jewish history (Chizkuni and Hirsch).
Torah sometimes uses "seeing", r'iya, sometimes "hearing", sh'miya, for acquiring understanding. A comprehensive study of all relevant verses might yield valuable insights into the psychology of learning and perception. Tikunei Zohar attempts to differentiate: "Seeing" is the flash of intuitive understanding, the overall perception of reality, called chochma, wisdom. "Hearing" is understanding the structure and definition of that perception, called bina, the building of chochma. The latter is more associated with women (Rav G. Fleer); women take the seed of male creativity and build it into a useable functioning structure on this earth--Rav C. Lifshitz; so Rav Y. Ginsberg (Covenant of Marriage) translates: "Who is a good woman?--she who DEVELOPS (Osah) her husband's will" (T.D.E., usually translated "who performs her husband's will"; Miriam Adahan indeed subscribes to the Rambam's ideal, that a woman look up to her husband as a king, whose every wish and whim is to be satisfied by her; but that works only when he, in turn, treats her with the kindness and respect due his queen! Rambam notes the happiness of Jewish couples who live so.
D. MORE MAY BE LESS: Adding too much to God's Torah may make Jews feel it's too burdensome and restrictive--then they may completely reject it. So individuals who grow too much too fast may eventually breakdown (Rav Nachman and Friedman the Tutor). Someone must keep track of the total time and energy demanded of a Jew, as pious customs in each generation accrue. Eastern European Judaism often over-stressed spirit, leaving no room for normal development of the individual and communal body, the ability to support and protect one's family and nation with dignity. The net result was mass abandonment of Torah for material life, upon contact with a free modern world (Rav Kook). A similar pattern occurred among underprivileged Sephardi immigrants; some Haredim (e.g. Peretz) unfairly blame Zionists for this pattern, which occurs whenever technologically primitive people suddenly plunge into modernity. They discard their culture in a mad rush for material success in a new world, e.g. USA, where Zionists couldn't possibly be blamed. Rabbis must know their flock and times, in order to guide them; learning, piety and ideals just aren't enough.
Moshe already told us not to add to, nor subtract from, God's Word in 4:2. Why repeat it in 13:1? Rav Yehuda Henkin responds: 13:1 relates to 12:30, the prohibition of imitation of non-Jewish religious rites. We mustn't ADD to our own religion what is in fashion, e.g. black nightgowns for clergy (cf. UK), organs, ignoring M-F differences, and Sunday services; nor must we SUBTRACT that out of fashion--e.g. sacrifices, fringed garments, the joy of many children and demonstrative prayer. My additions to God's law are a way of worshipping myself and my creativity; I slightly modify an order to do my own thing (but human creativity often reflects Man's Divine Image and intuition). We don't add notes to Bach nor brush strokes to Rembrandt (nor do we slavishly imitate them today--they could not have produced works of contemporary inspiration, e.g. The Lion King and Leonard Bernstein's and Shlomo Carlebach's music; yet classical art and music, on the whole, may have been deeper and more inspiring, for it was based on a holistic Divine worldview, giving meaning and purpose to life, rather than Dadaian and Warholian chaos and existential despair); we certainly cannot improve upon God--cf. modern liturgy. The talmud views obeying God's law as a fiat, not as that which necessarily appeals to me at this moment, as the highest worship (Kid. 31a, but see Tos.).
But Rav Yosef Soloveichik Ztz"l teaches and preaches the ideal of developing my own soul and mind to be at one with God's-- then the two realms merge; it is virtually impossible psychologically to follow a system out of line with most of one's own thoughts and feelings; the Rov once told me that the Mussar movement, on the whole, had no sense of the psychological needs of a human being, and that Luzzato's Messilat Yesharim was not a healthful book for the masses (you must read The Yeshiva, Chaim Grade's grand magnum opus of Lithuanian religious Jewry). Some see subjectivity as irrelevant--don't wander AFTER YOUR HEARTS AND AFTER YOUR EYES. Such groups, Jewish and non-Jewish, try to obliterate even rudimentary signs of individuality, e.g. expressive clothing, cuisine and water slides. So allegedly religious Lakewood society won't put the name of the mother of a bride or bridegroom on a wedding invitation, tho past great rabbis, e.g. Rav Chayim Soloveichik, did so; they just write "Rabbi X and his wife"! It is questionable psychologically if one CAN so repress oneself, becoming a observant computer. Rav Soloveichik stresses integration of oneself with the Torah, "explaining" mitzvot, loving God with all YOUR heart. Human reason WOULD eventually lead to Torah, if not distracted by habit and environment (Saadya). We must indeed merge them--"WE SHALL DO AND WE SHALL HEAR".
E. THE HAFTARA, ISAIAH 54:11-55:5, (also read w/NOACH) continues the long slow reconciliation between God and Israel; forgiveness long precedes renewed intimacy. Retention of Jewish values in harsh exile, not just dutiful obedience, is a prerequisite to harmony with God--IN RIGHTEOUSNESS SHALL YOU BE ESTABLISHED (54:14)--M. Hirsch. When Israel is its true self--NO WEAPON FORMED AGAINST YOU SHALL PROSPER (Infantada), and EVERY TONGUE THAT SHALL RISE AGAINST YOU IN JUDGEMENT YOU'LL SHOW TO BE WICKED (e.g. the media and "statesmen"--v. 17). To achieve this, Israel must examine its values and priorities--WHY DO YOU SPEND YOUR MONEY FOR THAT WHICH ISN'T BREAD (e.g. Western TV, Coke, and movies), AND YOUR GAIN FOR THAT WHICH DOESN'T SATISFY. INCLINE YOUR EAR AND COME TO ME; HEAR, AND YOUR SOUL SHALL LIVE (55:2-3). Then Israel shall influence and teach, rather than being influenced by, corrupt cultures (cf. Israel TV)--A NATION YOU KNEW NOT SHALL RUN TO YOU BECAUSE OF GOD YOUR LORD (v.5; Japanese Makuya?).
VISION: A picture's worth 1000 words--we trust our eyes to reflect reality; yet they can deceive us--besides optical illusions, our eyes tend to see what we crave, often evil and illusory: DON'T GO AFTER YOUR HEARTS AND AFTER YOUR EYES, AFTER WHICH YOU GO ASTRAY (Num. 15:39). Instead see ultimate reality--a God centered world, with limitless opportunities for both greatness and ignomy. The handwriting on the wall is to be as clear as the picture on the wall--cf. Reb Nachman's "blind" begger. Higher realities should inspire more enthusiasm than mundane reality, e.g. soccer! Each person must retain autonomy, to remain responsible for his free choice to develop his Divine Image (Hirsch). Tho even a prophet, my beloved, or my society leads me astray, I must reject their plea; so must I remain whole, not make incisions in my flesh, tho my closest die; only my clothing, my veneer of protection, is rent. The Torah introduces its prohibition of mourning mutilation with "You are children of God, your Lord"; it's followed by "For you are a holy people to God your Lord"... (14:1-2)--Jews must never feel completely bereft, completely alone; God, our Father, is always there--"Tho my father and my mother foresake me, God shall gather me to Him" (Ps. 27). A holy people cannot so disfigure themselves (B'chor Shor). A father only inflicts pain on his child for his ultimate good. So must Israel accept their suffering (Ibn Ezra). A holy people knows that the soul's immortal and mustn't overdo mourning (Ramban).
F. YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN? Last week's reading stressed the importance of listening, of paying attention, to build a relationship with God and one's fellow man. This week Moshe discusses an even higher level, when you "see" something, imbibe its reality, beyond just hearing or thinking about it, e.g. kids who see videos of their parents' and grandparents' weddings. So I experienced this week's laws of kosher kritters far more intensely by actually seeing and hearing lots of them at the fabulous world-class Tisch Jerusalem Zoo, a perfect place to take kids, have a family picnic, and take a train ride from the adjacent station. I also imbibed so many of nature's Divine audio-visual messages, missing when I just read holy texts.
The Talmud (Yoma 74b) discusses just what God meant when he gave the manna TO AFFLICT the Jews (Deut. 8:16); Rav Ammi and Rav Assi have names so similar in spelling and pronunciation that the Talmud doesn't know which said what--both agree that it tasted great, just like your favorite banana split or kugel; but one said the affliction was in not being able to put aside some manna for a rainy day, the other in that one couldn't see the usual luscious appearance of his banana split or kugel, just taste it in the magic white pellets (cf. oranges and vitamin C pills). Rav Yosef (himself blind?) said this alludes to why blind people eat on w/o becoming satisfied. So Abaye urges one to eat only in a well lit setting. Rav Zera cites: "Better is the seeing of the eyes than the wandering of the desire" (Ecc. 6:9), from which Resh Lakish concludes: "Better is the pleasure of looking at a woman than the sex act itself"--a brigand, he turned to the Torah world when Rav Yochanan, whose beauty he admored, promised him his even more beautiful sister (did she have a say in the matter? He, a Palestinean of less pure lineage, also tried to persuade Ze'iri, of puure Babylonian lineage, to marry his daughter--Kid. 71b); these rabbis later had a falling out, Resh Lakish died, and Rav Yochanan went beserk in his mourning; the rabbis prayed that he die soon; apparently, his insanity wasn't then curable; with modern drug therapy, it might have been.
Rav Gedaliah Fleer presented Rebbe Nachman of Breslav's explanation of this passage (Likutei Maharan 76) in a talk in memory of Shlomo Carlebach at Yakar--what the eye sees is worth so much more than vague undefined fantasy, what you imagine something is like. When you see something, you create boundaries in time and space for your experience; otherwise you just have an idea or concept, but are never satisfied in attempting to interact with it, remaining thirsty. So we're to reach out to transcendence, simultaneously making vessels in ourselves for boundary and time definitions of our transcendental experience--creating new boundaries of time and space is an ongoing process, part of individual and societal growth. Levinas, Rosensweig and Co. ground creativty in dialogue with others, the unique Jewish experience of learning with study mates.
Great hassidic rebbe Simcha Bunim was deeply immersed in both business and culture, a modern haredi, until he met Reb Yakov Yitzchak, known as the Holy Jew. Once, having concluded a business venture in Vienna, Reb Simcha declined his friends' invitation to see a spectacular performance of a great play. They accused him of becoming narrow, under the influence of his new teacher, who was likely far below his own level of learning in our holy books. When they described the play to him the next day, and chided him for missing out on such a powerful experience, he told them not to worry--he'd already read the playbill and got its gist; "but", they countered, "the great actors and settings made the play come alive and enter our very being, way beyond anything you'd possibly get from just reading about it"; "This", Rav Bunim replied, "is exactly what happens to all my Torah learning when I'm with the Holy Jew--I see God alive before me, not just reading about Him"--a fitting tribute to Shlomo, still our most alive rabbi.
Those present at Rav Fleer's talk hoped Yakar would invite him to speak there more often; this would also attract more people to Yakar and expand their limited programs (cf. The Israel Center); they'd thus realize Rav Nachman's teaching by bringing their own high level concepts of Jewish education and A-1 facilities (10 Halamed Heh) closer to their potential great impact.
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