THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
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A. THE BACKGROUND, & AN OVERVIEW, OF KI SAVO
Last week's last commandments were a seeming contradiction-- to both remember Amalak's vicious unprovoked attack on Israel, and to blot out his memory!-- but we must indeed remember him in our hearts (be on the alert, remind ourselves that he, or his contemporary clones, e.g. Hitler & Saddam Hussain, idolized by King Hussain, are still dangerously around), UNTIL we blot him out-- so must we teach our children too (Ramban). Indeed, Jews are often the first to protest ultimate evil, cruelty and injustice, even when they themselves are not the targets. Ki Savo then opens with our prior higher priority immediate task-- aliya and nation-building; first all aspects of Israeli life must become models of both quality and holiness; only then can we tranform evil elsewhere-- "they made me the keeper of the vineyards (e.g. ACLU), but my own vineyard I have not kept (S. of S. 1:6-- cf. ACRI)". So Israeli fashions must be of good durable fabric, well sewn and very attractive-- but they mustn't contradict Jewish modesty. Gottex and Mei Eden ads, as Miss Israel contests, profane God's Chosen folk and their WWW image.
So the JP (Jerusalem Post or Jewish Possibility) is praiseworthy and meritorious for spreading moderate Torah from Zion (e.g. Rav Riskin's column) and exposing de facto antisemites (e.g. Dovid Bar Ilan's writings); but it's not acting like a great Jewish newspaper when it reprints reviews of the latest silly fashions, without disputing their cynical mockery of modesty (e.g. Cathy Horyn's Washington Post article, 8.18.94), or when it wastes limited precious space on long reviews of worthless and trashy books and films, whose worthlessness could be exposed in a few sentences. The new Herald Tribune-Haaretz lacks any appeal to those whose worldview is Jewish, not just Israeli; it has no Torah content whatsoever; while Almut Bruckstein argues that ones goes to books, not newspaper, to learn about Judaism, I strongly suspect that the Post's excellent concise Torah articles may be the only Torah study done all week by many of its readers, who curl up with their favorite newspaper on Shabbat; also, the latest events, e.g. Rabin's murder and terrorist attacks, may well appear in a Torah newspaper column, but it takes quite some time for books to catch up.
WAS IBN EZRA A TALMID CHOCHEM?
We don't tackle far-off far-out Amalek until we achieve complete peace with ALL nations bordering Israel; the Torah now, in contrast, sets forth other commandments, such as first fruits and stone billboards, which are applicable immediately upon entering Israel-- so writes Ibn Ezra; but the laws of first fruits and tithes also don't apply until after completing the conquest, settling the land-- see Kid. 37b, Rashi. Perhaps Ibn Ezra forgot this talmudic passage; The Shlah (Rav Isaiah Horowitz), as mystical tormented Nachman of Breslav, disliked liberal rational Ibn Ezra, judging him an ignoramous in Talmudic discourse; Rav J. Soloveichik's comment was: "my grandfather could probably learn Talmud better!"
Nevertheless, the Rav, as earlier great talmudists, e.g. Ramban, greatly appreciated Ibn Ezra's encyclopedic analytical knowledge of the O.T. (Only Testament), lacking in so many talmudic scholars (Southern Baptists usually know the text of Tanach better than Ponevitch, Satmar and Brisk talmudists); he was also a master of Hebrew, philosophy and poetry; talmudic acumen is not the only valid Jewish scholarly accomplishment; those who worship or overvalue it try to marry their daughters off to the most adroit talmudists, ignoring many other far more important factors, e.g. the potential husband's kindness, tolerance, joy and emotional stability-- read The Tales of the Baal Shem Tov, The Yeshiva, by Chaim Grade, and Naomi Regen's novels; terribly irrascible talmudic geniuses, with little warmth or love for humanity, who thus turn other folks off to Torah, are even deemed Jewry's leaders, alleged "g'dolim", by some distorted and emotionally and mentally constipated Litvaks. German and Hassidic leaders, e.g. Toldot Yaakov Yosef and Hirsch, fought these distortions.
Many years ago, I studied the analytic critical talmudic process, on a very high level; what intrigued me was that its masters only used their razor sharp critical skills in analyzing internal Talmudic logic, while taking every act and belief of their own society, teachers and traditions for granted. How they did this, psychologically, puzzles me to this day. In scanning Kiddushin, I also noticed that our duty to uproot idolatry is indeed universal, not confined to Israel; should I have ever written or spoken otherwise, please ignore my former statement. Like Ibn Ezra, I'm more into Bible and Jewish thought than halachic discourse.
STOP! ARE YOU GOING TO LET ME GET AWAY WITH THIS! Even if Ibn Ezra forgot this talmudic passage, Kid. 37b, brought by Rashi on 26:1, the verse itself limits the obligation bringing first fruits to the period after: "... YOU SHALL INHERIT IT (the land) AND SETTLE IT!" Sefer Hachinuch limits the mitzva to the period when the Temple is extant and the cohanim in service. How could Ibn Ezra possibly say it applies immediately upon coming to the land? I then thought that Ibn Ezra might indeed reply that he understands "... YOU SHALL INHERIT IT..." to apply only to an individual acquiring a piece of Israel and settling it, not to final conquest of the land, rejecting the talmudic explanation! He himself posits that one can disagree with the talmud on interpretation of the Torah, if halacha is not affected thereby, if it does not claim that its interpretation is tradition from Sinai-- so he rejects the talmudic opinions as to Yitzchak's age at the akeda, 5 or 37, as illogical, and decides that he was about 15. But I think that the true answer lies in a careful reading of his words-- the mitzvos in our parsha do not have to await peace with all our neighbors outside of Israel, as does that to destroy Amalek, but are applicable before that, as soon as we come into the land, tho SOME of them, like first fruits and tithes, are postponed until we complete the conquest, tho we still have hostile neighbors.
First fruits may be brought only to a "house" of God, i.e. the walled tabernacle at Shilo or the Temple (Abarbanel). So long as Jews too, de facto, define might as right (cf. Bar Ilan St.), they can't eradicate Amalek's evil outlook. But their preparation for their eventual confrontation with his spirit starts right away. Israel must first improve or expel the 7 ultra-corrupt and corrupting nations of Canaan (not the monotheistic Arabs) and battle those who come to destroy it (e.g. some Arabs). This week's agricultural laws and public declarations arouse Jewish consciousness-- their rich land is God's gift in trust, destined from time immemorial to be the site of His universal Jewish model "kingdom of priests and holy nation" (Ex. 19:6). Amalek, per some rabbinic traditions, incited both Lavan and Pharoh to pursue and destroy the fleeing Jews, Yaakov and Yisroel; thus the first fruits recital of God's salvation from Pharoh and Lavan immediately follows God's declaration of war upon Amalek; Jews must not fear Amalek's fierce hate, for God's w/them-- IF & WHEN they're w/God (cf. today; Baal Haturim, Rav Yaakov ben Asher, the honorable, but poor, #3 son of the Rosh, born about 1270, died about 1343, famous for his halachic encyclopedia, The Four Turim).
Last week, we stressed that marriage must be based on reality, not just dreams; Reb Shlomo stressed that, in a true relationship, I also see my beloved's faults, but help him/her fix them, and recognize his/her need for SOME time and space alone (but not overall isolation and aloofness-- from Friends, Listen to This, Shlomo via Zivi Ritchie, $5 from TOP)-- cf. Israel's marriage to the Holy Land. The Jew's warned of the difficulties in conquering and developing this land of wild animals and people. The land helps him perfect himself; it won't tolerate moral (or physical?) weakness-- it's to eventually inspire all mankind; but a corrupt Israel will also be evicted by The Landlord.
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B. A SYNOPSIS OF KI SAVO
IT WILL BE (SEE "C") WHEN YOU (singular) COME TO THE LAND WHICH GOD YOUR LORD GIVES YOU AS AN INHERITANCE-- WHEN YOU'VE TAKEN POSSESSION OF IT AND DWELT IN IT (after the conquest and settlement of Israel), YOU SHALL (each year) TAKE OF THE FIRST OF ALL FRUIT OF THE EARTH (but, in halachic fact, only OF the 7 species-- see "D"), THAT YOU BRING FORTH FROM YOUR LAND, WHICH GOD YOUR LORD GIVES YOU; PLACE THEM IN A BASKET (each species neatly arranged) AND GO TO THE PLACE WHICH GOD YOUR LORD CHOOSES AS AN ABODE FOR HIS NAME (26:1-2). "Come", singular, teaches that each Jew's aliya, his relationship with the Holy Land, as that with God, is unique, led by God. When he arrives in Jerusalem, with his first fruits, he declares to the priest: "I'VE TESTIFIED THIS DAY TO GOD, YOUR LORD (!), THAT I'VE COME TO THE LAND GOD PROMISED OUR FATHERS TO GIVE US (26:3)".
The land of Israel is God's gift; He tells us how, when and where to get to know Him-- not leaving it to our subjective exploration (cf. Brigham Young's: "This is the Place", and, l'havdil squared, Avraham's awareness that he'd reached the right place, upon both his Aliya and Akedet Yitzchak). The Jew reminds himself of the cohen's special knowledge of, and relationship to, God-- "YOUR God". But every Israelight shares Israel's communal mission-- to create a nation imbued with Patriarchal spirit: "... the land God promised OUR Fathers, to give US".
The priest takes the basket and the Israeli farmer continues: "AN ARAMEAN WAS OUT TO DESTROY (convert and assimilate) MY FATHER (Yaakov, per Rashi and Hagada, or MY FATHER WAS A POOR WANDERING ARAMEAN-- Yaakov, unlike his comfortable Israeli descendants, per Ibn Ezra; Rashbam says that the text refers to wandering Avraham of Padan Aram, a difficult view, as the following phrases, continuing our father's tale, clearly refer to Yaakov-- these 3 explanations don't contradict each other), AND HE DESCENDED TO EGYPT..., FEW IN NUMBER; THERE HE BECAME (vayihi, perhaps implying latent sadness and impending tagedy beneath Jewish material success-- see C.) A GREAT NATION... THE EGYPTIANS DEALT BADLY WITH US... WE CRIED TO GOD... GOD HEARD OUR VOICE... GOD BROUGHT US OUT OF EGYPT WITH A STRONG HAND... AND WITH A GREAT VISION... HE'S BROUGHT US TO THIS PLACE (the Temple-- Rashi, the essence of Israel); HE'S GIVEN US THIS LAND-- A LAND FLOWING WITH MILK AND HONEY (flowing, "zavas", indicates an UNNATURAL flow, the result of great effort-- Israel's riches only come with hard work, which builds greater people-- Rav J. Soloveichik). AND NOW, BEHOLD I'VE BROUGHT FIRST FRUIT OF THE LAND WHICH YOU HAVE GIVEN ME, GOD (26:10).
"At first, all who knew how to read, read (the declaration). Priests read it aloud-- thus those who didn't know how to read it could recite it after them. Since some stopped bringing offerings (ashamed of their illiteracy, proof of a high literacy rate), it was instituted that priests would read aloud (even) for those who knew how to read..." (Bikkurim 3:7; so one reader reads the Torah for all those called up to the reading today; our hearty congratulations to the one called up may reflect an earlier era, when he read from it himself and thus really accomplished something).
Those far away from Jerusalem brought dried fruit (in today's Israel, it's mostly from Turkey and Syria). The priests eat the first fruits in purity, waving them twice (Numbers 18:13). Ideally, first fruits should be accompanied by peace offerings and Psalm 30, sung by Levites (Abarbanel). Only the owner can make the declaration, with his basket on his shoulder; he must spend the night in Jerusalem, as on all Temple visits (R. H. 6-- Jerusalem hotel owners should sponsor 3rd Temple restoration projects). The declaration is recited only during the joyous harvest season, from Succos to Shavuos; Levites and converts also bring first fruits, tho they have no share in the land. A convert doesn't recite the declaration, as it includes the phrase: THE LAND WHICH GOD SWORE UNTO OUR FATHERS-- his fathers were idolators, not patriarchs (Rashi, 26:11)! But Rambam includes him-- the Patriarchs are his soul-fathers too (cf. "the souls which they made"-- Gen. 12:5). Also, many converts' forefathers may have been assimilated Jews, whose dormant spirit passed on to their descendants-- when 12 year old Walter Kaufman (see his "The Faith of a Heretic") wanted to become Jewish in Hitler's Germany, he discovered that his 4 grandparents were all Jewish! The Hagada begins its tale with this declaration, rather than Exodus, as-- 1) It's a short overview of the long tale. 2) As the Hagada, it's pure praise of God, ignoring Moshe, who is only His vehicle.
Disposal and donation of all agricultural dues from each 3 year crop cycle must be completed by Pesach of the 4th year. On the 7th day of Pesach, the farmer declares: I'VE REMOVED ALL HALLOWED THINGS (2nd tithes and 4th year fruit) FROM THE HOUSE AND I'VE ALSO GIVEN IT TO THE LEVITE (1st tithe), TO THE STRANGER, TO THE ORPHAN AND TO THE WIDOW (pauper's tithe), IN ACCORD WITH ALL YOUR COMMANDS... (in the correct order); I NEITHER VIOLATED YOUR COMMANDMENTS (by improper separation of dues), NOR DID I FORGET (to bless you for so commanding me-- Ber. 40). I DIDN'T EAT OF IT (hallowed food) DURING MY MOURNING*, NOR HAVE I CONSUMED IT (ritually) UNCLEAN, NOR DID I GIVE IT FOR THE (needs of the) DEAD. I LISTENED TO THE VOICE OF GOD, MY LORD; I DID ALL THAT YOU COMMANDED ME! "LOOK DOWN" FROM YOUR HOLY ABODE, FROM HEAVEN; BLESS YOUR PEOPLE, ISRAEL, AND THE LAND YOU GAVE US, AS YOU SWORE TO OUR FATHERS-- A LAND FLOWING W/MILK AND HONEY (26:13-5, per Rashi).
* 2nd tithe, eaten in holy Jerusalem, may not be consumed by a mourner, before burial of his relative (when he's an "onen"); it could only be exchanged for life-sustaining things, e.g. food and drink, as opposed to clothing (Rambam; not for cigarettes?).
The term "Looking down-- hashkafa" (26:15), Divine review of Man's life on earth,, usually augurs curses; here, where the Jew demonstrates his faith and gratitude by giving away his produce as commanded, God "looks down" to give him immediate reward (Jer. M. S. 5:5). Hashkafos, basic teachings or outlooks, only truly bring blessing when they come "from heaven", when they're based upon a Providential Divine worldview; otherwise, their pretty words and ideas only lead to oblivion (David Tamar; cf. communism, psychoanalysis and secular "post-Zionism"-- but man's divine image soul and mind may also emit divine thoughts and feelings). The rabbis called this self-praise and prayer "vidoi maasar", CONFESSION of tithes! "Vidoi" is an honest look at my state of being, self-review. It must include the positive side, as here; if I see myself as totally evil, I give up, possibly sinking into passive apathy, e.g. TV. BECAUSE I also recognize my good deeds, my positive potential, I'll repent and work harder on those realms where I'm still deficient. Such a balanced realistic self-overview leads to true union with God on Yom Kippur (Rav J. Soloveichik).
Others say that this recital is called "confession" for it makes one probe his heart and deeds, to see if he really did as well as he recites. So Yom Kippur's oral confession, vidoi, focuses one on herself, arousing otherwise dormant thoughts and feelings, memories of misdeeds and missed deeds. Rav Nachman claims that deep absorption in holy joy enables one to confront and rectify his deeply buried sins. The need to verbalize one's confession of sins appears in the beginning of Rambam's Laws of Repentence. Rav Soloveichik says that this refers to public acknowledgment of wrong, even for selfish reasons. A grocer may "repent", change his actions, when people stop buying due to his false weights, etc. A higher stage is inner recognition of having done wrong, even if I've lost nothing thereby (see M. T. 2:5, 7:1). Besides Sh'ma, the above declaration and "confession" are the Torah's only perpetual fixed recitals. Prayer was only subjective (tachanunim) until the rabbis enacted formal edifying and educating texts; yet we must never ignore our own heartfelt prayers, while remaining deeply absorbed in the siddur.
The Jew mustn't forget that God and Tradition, as taught by Levites, are the sources of his talents and blessings. I'm the sum total of my memories and what I extrapolate from them. Spiritual Alzheimer's knows no age barriers-- something essential, source of our spiritual nature, is forgotten. Hollowness replaces holiness, aesthetics preempt ethics (Reb Shlomo, quoting Rav Nachman, adds that truth, acquired by learning, sometimes preempts faith, acquired by prayer, which is beyond nature, deeper inner integral knowledge than "truth"). May all soon remember who they really are and proclaim to God: "I have not forgotten" (Rav S. Riskin; his talk at Elisha Kucher's beautiful and inspiring bar mitzva made many wonder if the impatience, anger and unpleasant manner of many brilliant misnagdic talmudists is somehow endemic to a culture which deprived its children of normal joy, freedom and affection, in order to breed super-astute scholars-- see Litvak Leaders, in our Shoftim study, exploring the Misnagdic Paradox-- developing fine honed highly critical questioning minds, yet expecting them to somehow possess unswerving devotion to their ancestors' conclusions and weltanschauung).
Moshe then declares: THIS DAY GOD YOUR LORD ORDERS YOU TO PERFORM THESE STATUTES AND LAWS OF (civil) JUSTICE; PRESERVE AND PERFORM THEM WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL ( both emotional-sensual and intellectual-abstract aspects of your personality-- Ramban). YOU HAVE TODAY CAUSED GOD TO PROCLAIM HIMSELF TO BE (a long historic process?) YOUR LORD BY GOING IN HIS WAYS, PRESERVING HIS STATUTES, COMMANDS, AND LAWS OF JUSTICE, AND BY HEEDING HIS VOICE. AND GOD HAS CAUSED YOU TODAY TO PROCLAIM YOURSELF HIS TREASURED PEOPLE, AS HE SPOKE TO YOU, TO KEEP ALL HIS COMMANDMENTS; AND TO PLACE YOU HIGH ABOVE ALL THE NATIONS, WHOM HE'S MADE, FOR PRAISE, FOR NAME, AND FOR GLORY; AND FOR YOU TO BE A HOLY PEOPLE TO GOD YOUR LORD, AS HE'S SPOKEN (26:16-9)-- translation per Yehuda Halevi; Rashi translates: YOU HAVE TODAY SINGLED OUT GOD TO BE YOUR LORD, TO GO IN HIS WAYS... AND GOD HAS SINGLED YOU OUT TODAY, TO BE HIS TREASURED PEOPLE; Ibn Ezra renders: YOU'VE TODAY MADE GOD GREAT... AND GOD'S MADE YOU GREAT...
"THIS DAY": A Jew should view God's command as new and fresh daily (Sifre; cf. "This day is the first day of the rest of your life"); so Creation's a constant outflow of God's Will, not a clock wound up long ago-- "He who renews His goodness constantly each day" (from the morning prayers, where we bless God daily for our renewed physical, spiritual and intellectual functioning). So the Tetragamaton, the holy name of God, means that God is the continuing active source of all existence. But Elokim, His name as Lawgiver, could bear a Deistic interpretation-- a God who proclaimed laws of nature, then left the world to itself (from Reflections of the Rav). So Kohelet, with his message of the ultimate worthlessness of earth-bound life "under the sun", only speaks of God as Elokim, the Lord of nature; but there's great eternal hope for he who connects up with God's great eternal kind Essence, called Hashem, beyond the sun-sustained world of photosynthesis; there, even that irreparably crooked in this world (Ecc. 1:15, 7:13), can be set straight. The Jew equates both names of the Deity at the climax of Yom Kippur-- "God (Hashem), He is (also) the Lord (Elokim)". The Psalm of Creation (104) is in present tense: YOU HIDE YOUR FACE-- THEY VANISH; YOU WITHDRAW YOUR BREATH-- THEY PERISH; YOU SEND FORTH YOUR SPIRIT-- THEY ARE CREATED; YOU RENEW THE FACE OF THE EARTH. Tal. Hag. 12b interprets Is. 40:22: ...WHO STRECHES OUT THE HEAVENS AS A THIN CURTAIN...; Vilon, a curtain-like aspect of the heavens, renews the work of Creation daily-- by revealing and concealing (Rashi), or by producing (Tosafot), light.
THIS DAY is significant, as these commands finish God's laws (Ramban, Sporno). But there are 2 more commandments in Ch. 31-- a public Torah reading, every 7 years, and the writing of a Torah scroll by every Jew or his agent! Perhaps these were given the same day, or are only ways to remember the other 611 commands (Rav A. Nebenzthal). THIS DAY refers to their arrival in Israel, i.e. Amorite Jordan-- when finally captured by the Jews, it became part of Greater Israel; they could now perform the agricultural commands (Ohr Hachayim-- but see Kid. 37b and Ibn Ezra above); they were only studied, not practiced, during the desert exile. Indeed, only in Israel is the Lord of Nature also fully experienced as also being the God of love and infinity (cf. the 6 Day War and the Scud attacks).
God and Israel see each other as unique (a prerequisite of intimacy?). Israel FIRST walks in His ways (of good, right, and kind conduct-- Ramban), THEN-- and only then- observes His laws. A civilized personality, derech eretz, is the foundation of a religious personality, Torah; Avraham, Moshe, and Dovid begin as (observant?) shepards. FINALLY, Israel really "hears" His voice (per Ramban, via prophets; per Ohr Hachayim, by studying Torah). Thus Jews will ultimately become a HOLY PEOPLE, who cleave to God (Ramban). Torah study transforms personality; saintliness and kindness, depth and creativity, accrue when Torah's studied with integrity (Avot 6:1). But those who study for power, prestige and good shiduchim, not seeking truth, may become great tosafot technicians, but will remain rigid and superficial Torah scholars; they often substitute scholastic pyrotechnics and holy wrath for sensitivity, love, and humility. While Rambam, himself emotionally deprived (see Shalshelet Hakabala and our Chanuka study), praised only the great Torah intellect (see the end of his Introduction to the Mishna), loving cheerful Baal Shem Tov took his disciples on long trips to experience truly holy souls, who were often illiterate Jewish peasants.
Rav Avraham Hacohen Kook, as Rav Soloveichik, knew that you can't just take a normal modern educated Jew, brainwashed against Torah, and make him observant. Rav Kook identifies 4 stages in the gradual Jewish return to religion. First you must convince the Jew/ess that Judaism is respectable, is worthy of attention and study by today's well educated man, in a scientific age. Next comes affection for religion. Only then comes serious study of Torah, taking into consideration that they still lack the maturity required for serious Torah observance (from Orot Hatshuva). Rav Dov Bigon of Zionist returnee Yeshiva Machon Meir notes that study of the more philosophical, inner, side of Judaism, dealing with belief, has the most effect on those taking their first steps-- "one must first accept the yoke of Heaven's sovereignty, and only afterwards the yoke of mitzvot".
Large plastered stone billboards are to proclaim the link between Israel and God (27:2f), "mezuzot" for the Land of Israel-- Abarbanel; Alshich compares them to the 12 stones around Yaakov's head at Bethel (see Ber. Raba 68:13, 76:4). There were 3 sets-- those set up by Moshe in Moav (1:5), those erected in the Jordan River, and those moved from Mt. Avel to Gilgal (Joshua 4:3f, 4:20f; Sota 35b-36a); Rashi doesn't mention the Moabite stones here. The entire Torah (Sefer HaTagin, explaining its origins) or a liturgical rendition of the 613 commands (Saadya, Ibn Ezra) or a synopsis of, or extract from, Dvarim (Abarbanel) was inscribed on them, in 70 languages (Sota 32b-- an ancient Torah Outreach Program). They were erected on Mt. Avel (Joshua 8:30f), compensation to the tribes who stood there to witness the curses (Chizkuni-- Chizkia ben Menoah, Northern France, circa 1240). The accompanying stone altar (not hewn by iron) for joyous peace offerings is of other stones (per Rav Meir Levush Malbim, 1809-1880, who fought Reform Judaism and portrayed the connections between the written and oral torahs; he was freed from a Romanian jail by Moshe Montefiore), or from the same stones (per Abarbanel). Moshe and the cohanim remind the people that they become God's Nation via His mitzvos and covenant (Ramban).
6 tribes are to stand by Mt. Gerizim, on (or toward) which the Levites proclaim potential blessings (Haktav V'Hakabbala, Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg of Konigsberg, died 1865; Rav J. Cosmann used his interpretation, harmonizing the written and oral law, to translate the Torah into german in 1852); 6 others are at Mt. Avel, where the Levites proclaim 12 curses (27:11f), as the folk answers "amen". 11 are for specific sins, e.g. idol manufacture, tho it is fine sculpture. Jews never justify silliness or immorality in the name of art (Arye Kaplan); cf. some expensive contemporary "art" in the otherwise fine and impressive Israel Museum, near which the homeless pitched their tents (in 1990, it included a paean to mob violence and rape, and large areas occupied by stacks of cornflakes boxes). Only those who themselves do these specific curse-worthy sins, usually powerful uncontrollable leaders, are responsible and cursed (Sporno). Blessings for the opposite good behavior are implied (Sota 37b).
The 12th curse, upon HE WHO DOES NOT UPHOLD AND KEEP THIS ENTIRE TORAH (27:26), refers to ANY willful violation-- Rashi; per Ramban, this curse only falls upon he who REJECTS any of God's commandments (cf. Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform Judaism-- see The Condition of Jewish Belief, M. Himmelfarb, AJComm), not he who just occasionally violates them, due to human frailty and passion. Ramban quotes Jer. Sot. 7:4-- very observant Jews, possessing power and leadership, are also cursed if they don't influence others (EVERYONE must help in our present Torah crisis). UPHOLDING THE TORAH specifically refers to our practice of lifting the Torah high, so all men AND women see it, bend the knee, and say: THIS IS THE LAW WHICH MOSHE SET BEFORE THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL (Rav T. Y. Kook notes: "BY THE MOUTH OF GOD, BY THE HAND OF MOSHE" should NOT be appended to this verse-- it's indeed not found in sephardic and habad siddurim, for it closes a different verse, Numbers 9:23, which, of course, may itself be said here in full: BY THE MOUTH OF GOD THEY CAMPED, AND BY THE MOUTH OF GOD THEY TRAVELLED; THE CHARGE OF GOD THEY KEPT, BY THE MOUTH..., reversing the order of the surrounding prayers, which first speak of the ark's travels, then its camping). When Israel is really into Torah study (i.e. hearing God's voice-- Sporno) and observance, they'll be a unique model to all nations (Ibn Ezra) and be blessed in every realm (28:1-14, solving the Arab problem). They'll be blessed with health and wealth, they and their children, livestock and crops, all flowing from timely rain. Israel will then become a lender and leader, rather than a borrower and follower.
But increasingly intense curses come if Israel flaunts God. Everything will go wrong with their animals, crops and children; all their efforts will end in physical and psychological suffering; nothing will succeed and no one will save them from their oppressors. Others will consume the fruit of their labor. Their sons and daughters will be given over to aliens; the Jews will be powerless, tho they long for their children day and night (cf. today's Jewish kids in discos, cults and the New Left). Nature itself, worms and locusts, will destroy Israeli agriculture; Israelis will have to serve the aliens among them. Some will be exiled with their king to Rome (Ramban), as curses increase. They'll serve their enemies under terrible conditions, after not serving God with joy and a glad heart, amidst prosperity. Joy must accompany Divine Service (M. T. Lulav 8:15); otherwise one, de facto, calls it a burden! So, per the Kaliver Rebbe, an observant Jew's lackidaisical prayer may be witnessed by a non-observant Jew, who'll be turned off to Judaism thereby-- better not to have prayed rather than so disgrace God's Name. I repeated his conclusion years ago at a local "modern" orthodox center-- it percipitated a major Inquisition; its leaders claimed that I taught that no one should pray unless he has true intent! Be sensitive to the mood at prayers in your local shul or yeshiva-- do the devotees appear to be truly happy, or like those who are dutifully discharging a burden.
A major goal of Beshtian chassidut and what is possibly its most authentic contemporary expression, the Carlebachian ambiance, is to restore the joy of prayer and precept. "Happy Minyanim" are springing up (and jumping for joy) all over the world. The latest local version (but w/o excruciatingly long services) is in suburban Givat Shmuel, right across the highway from Bnei Black. It is temporarily located at Bnei Akiva on Rechov Rambam. About 90 people came last week; Givat Shmuel could become a major center of "with-it" upbeat Torah and Derech Eretz, inspiring even Bnei Black, if more suitable permanent quarters could be found for the minyan. For further info, contact Dr. Baruch Kaplan, (03) 5323051, 6 hamaccabeim, firstname.lastname@example.org
God predicts unmitigated cruel conquest of Israel by arrogant aliens (the Romans, extolled by Western pseudo-civilization). Israel will be degraded, its few survivors scattered in worldwide exile. They'll gradually adopt distorted extreme alien value systems (i.e. "idolatry", per Rav J. Soloveichik and Rav Y. Emden). They'll always feel afraid (cf. ADL), insecure, and disgusted with life (cf. P. Roth). Moshe warns of idolatry during 4 periods: the entry to Israel, the 14 conquest years, the 1st Temple period, and the pre-Roman era; only the first 2 warnings worked. This is Israel's 2nd covenant with God (Rashi); To succeed, they must guard and fulfill it, as during their long miracle-filled trek from Egypt to Moav. The covenant begins in 29:11, after the blessings and curses (Tanchuma).
C. TIME TWISTS
Our first word, V'HAYA, IT WILL BE, is literally AND (V') IT WAS (haya); but the Biblical past verb is changed to the future, or v.v., by the prefix V', otherwise meaning "and". God, beyond time, may see "and past" in what mortals view as a great future, e.g. the USSR; so He may envision "and future" in what humans see as a dead past (e.g. a religious State of Israel). V'haya, IT WILL BE, presages joy-- something seemingly "past", gone, becomes future, eternal (Ohr Hachayim); the difficult conquest of the land foreshadows a joyous future, only possible in Israel (Jews sing Havinu Shalom Aleichem as El AL lands in Israel). After every Shabbat meal in the harsh exile of Westchester County or Jo-Burg, we recite: WHEN GOD SHALL RETURN OUR CAPTIVITY (to alien cultures), THEN WILL WE BE HAPPY. On weekdays, we mourn: HOW SHALL I SING GOD'S SONG IN AN ALIEN LAND? (cf. Pirchei Miami)-- collective Jewish power to improve the world ("my right hand") withers in Westchester, and Israel's message ("my tongue") is muted in Monsey.
VAYEHI, IT WAS (literally "AND IT WILL BE") introduces that which seems so impressive at the moment, but which has no real future, e.g. the royal banquet opening The Book of Esther, to which the Jews were invited: IT WAS (Vayihi) IN THE DAYS OF ACHASHVARUS... This "joyful" happening, a harbinger of a great Shushanian Jewish future, is exposed as a dead past, masking innate sadness (cf. Crown Heights, L.A.). All life has built-in death; bodily romps cannot bring true joy, unless linked to eternity, to transcendent Divinity. Blessings and kashrut sanctify food and drink, as does Shabat. The sexual act is transmuted by soul and familial connections and formations, especially on Shabat. But we leave them all on Yom Kippur, Shabat of Shabats.
Any amount suffices for first fruits; the rabbis, however, enacted a minimum of 1/60; the fruit basket, "tena", = 60 (tet = 9,nun = 50, alef = 1); the letter samech, = 60, doesn't appear in the first fruits passage-- it, the 60th, is "taken from" first fruits!. "GIVING" appears 7 times in this brief passage-- God "gives" us of His goodness 6 times and the Egyptians "give" once-- harsh work; Egypt's initial enticing "gifts" of kindness were but preludes to spiritual, then physical, slavery (cf. western civilization, Spain, Germany). God's punishments, on the contrary, are but preludes to His gifts-- Israel and eternity. Sometimes, only tension and hostility can stop secular Jewish assimilation into a friendly, but alien, majority culture, e.g. the Arab world.
D. WHY THESE 7?
First fruits are brought only from 7 species in Deut. 8:7-10. Why does God praise Israel as "a land of wheat and barley, and vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey"? Most would rather forego figs, pomegranates, and dates, than apples, oranges, and bananas. We value rice over barley! See our Ekev study; Nogah Hareuveni responds in Nature In Our Biblical Heritage (Pub. by Neot Kedumim, the Biblical Landscape Reserve In Israel):
Yaakov sent his sons to Egypt with "choice products of the land"-- "A little balm and a little honey, gum, ladanum, pistachio nuts and almonds" (Gen. 43:11)! Only the honey could be of the 7 species, sometimes defined in the Talmud as date syrup. The 7 species all develop, for better or worse, during the 50 days from Passover to Shavuot. This season in Israel is distinguished by multiple changes and climatic contrasts. Scorching southern winds bring extreme dryness and heat; cold winds from the north and west darken the skies, generating tempestuous storms. "The northern wind is beneficial to wheat when it has reached a third of its ripening (still young), but is damaging to olive trees when they have blossomed. The southern wind has the opposite effects. Thus the tabernacle table (of wheat showbreads) is in the north and the menorah (of olive oil) in the south" (Baba Batra 147a).
Blossoms and flowers of Israel's native olives, grapes, pomegranates, and male dates need successive days of dry heat to open, allowing pollen to reach pistils for pollination. Otherwise, cold northern wind and rain may blow away flowers and wash off pollen. A prolonged southern wind can devastate wheat and barley crops, if it comes before kernels have filled with starch. So Pharaoh dreamt: "... seven ears, thin and scorched by the east wind (Gen. 41:6)". Placed together in the Temple, they symbolize a plea to their One Creator that each wind come at the right time-- e.g. the northern wind during the first weeks after Passover, aiding wheat and barley, when olive buds are still closed. Let the southern wind come only after grain kernels have filled and stalks hardened; may it prevail until flowers are pollinated. Disaster can still occur from wind and heavy rain, which break mature wheat and make it rot at high temperatures (see I Samuel 12:17-19).
Deut. 8 ends: "and if you forget the Lord your God and follow other gods ...you'll surely perish". Opposing climatic phenomena determined the fate of the 7 crops during the critical Passover to Shavuot period; these conditions were foreign to the Israelites in Egypt. They could logically view them as the result of battles between various deities of Canaan. Those choice products which Yaakov sent to Egypt could not so "lure away to serve other gods". They flourish even in drought, e.g. wild flowers, from which bees make honey, exported by Yaakov. Carob trees survive land devastation, so the more common carob honey was NOT chosen for the 7 species; all 7 must be proclaimed THE GIFT OF THE ONE GOD of the disparate forces of nature. ONLY they MUST be brought as offerings of the first fruits (bikkurim) to the Temple (Rashi, Sifre; Men. 84b; Bik. 1:3 on Ex. 23:19, 34:26)**. The Bikkurim recital underscores that the Patriarch's One God is the same One God Who brought the Jewish people to "the land flowing with milk and honey"; when all 7 species prosper, we see that He's still with us. Israel's to be transformed from a rich, but uncultivated, pastoral land, "flowing with milk and (bee) honey", into a land of agricultural bounty. When it reverts to wilderness, "a land of (only) milk and honey" becomes a prophetic curse.
After arduous physical labor in clearing, terracing, plowing and planting, an Israelight farmer might say in his heart: "My power and the might of my hand have made me successful". He must remind himself: "And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the earth, which YOU, O' Lord, have given me." If the farmer could satisfy his obligation by bringing ONLY other fruits as the gift of the One God, he could yet believe that these 7 varieties-- most important and problematic crops-- had been given by other, bickering, gods. The injunction to bring the 7 varieties is part of the constant battle against the ever-threatening "2 altars". One has to proclaim: "You, O Lord, have given me those 7 varieties, whose cultivation can lure one away to serve other gods". 4 are very important: wheat, barley, grapes and olives. The Bible calls them grain (wheat and barley), wine (from grapes), and oil (from olives): "If you pay heed to the commandments I give you this day... I'll give the rain... that you may gather in your grain, your wine and your oil"-- Israelites had to recite these words every morning and evening, and write them upon their houses' doorposts and their city gates (Deut. 11:13ff).
**But bikkurim were indeed brought from ALL fruits-- see Nechemia 10:36! But bringing the first fruits of other, less crucial, species was added to the basic Torah law later, as a rabbinic ordinance to increase piety (Rashi). Such fruits lack the sanctity of first fruits (Abarbanel).
Nogah Hareuveni's exposition rings so much truer, and is much more religiously inspiring, than any explanation of the 7 species I've seen in traditional Torah literature; the reason may be very simple-- he intimately knows the relevant land, climate and crops, whereas almost all yeshiva-trained scholars never even bother to learn about, leave alone actually see and experience, these things; part of Avraham's Divine Education was to traverse the land; a blend of yeshiva and academia would benefit both and greatly benefit Torah scholarship-- see our R'ey study; visit Neot Kedumim and the Jerusalem Tisch Zoo and go underwater (underground for bnei yeshiva?) in Eilat.
But secular humanistic development alone, no matter how fine, doesn't express Jewish uniqueness, nor does it justify the huge sacrifices to build and maintain the Jewish State of Israel; it must be combined, and interface, with deep profound study of Jewish tradition-- then Israel can make its own unique contribution to world redemption: "For from Zion Torah shall go forth and the Word of God from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2)"; cf.--
The 1995 seminar on Forging Links between Creativity and Morality at the Israel Arts and Science Acadamy (directed by Raphi Amram; call Eleanor Heft, 02-755100, for info). IASA is a live-in school for Israel's most creative and brilliant 10-12th graders, likely to be among its future leaders (if they stay!), regardless of race or religion. It hopes to become a resouce center for Israel's educational community too. The students tutor Prof. Reuven Feuerstein's disadvantaged and retarded children, who reciprocated with a peace mural. About 5% of the then 170 students were observant Jews, about 10% Arabs; all take Jewish studies (Tanach, Civics and Jewish History), food is kosher and no academic or social activities take place on Shabbat. IASA, as Yeshivat Hakotel, espouses no political position; students are encouraged to discuss and debate their own views. 3 of the speakers had just concluded a year of joint work at the Center for Advanced Study at Stanford. They concluded that--
"Sooner or later, the quality of community life in any society will suffer unless it's leading achievements become dedicated to the common good. This has been widely recognized in many traditional civilizations, where the worth of any innovation is routinely tested against a standard of social responsibility. Indeed, classic philosophy has always linked the true and the good, the beautiful and the useful.
"Yet, modern culture has been drifting away from any sense of union between creative achievement and social responsibility. Instead, we see an ever-widening gap between, on the one hand, acts of creativity, discovery and self-expression and, on the other, ethical and moral concerns. At the same time, the fabric of community in contemporary society is clearly fraying. We believe that the co-occurrence of these 2 trends isn't accidental, and that it's ominous for the future of our civilization". A sampler of the talks--
Wm. Damon of Brown discussed "Moral Education and Character Development"; he described outstanding personalities of constant flow and moral commitment, and suggested ways to imbue others with this temperment. He noted a core of decency in every human being-- a blind helpless salesmen of trinkets in corrupt wild Washington, D.C. was never robbed in 15 years (cf. tefillin thefts at the Wall). But most people compartmentalize this core, limiting it to their own families, clans, or national, ethnic and religious groups. They put their moral sense on a back burner, in order to flourish in their professions, saving it for their weekends; they must be shown that the two needn't contradict, that one's sense of purpose can and should permeate his whole existence-- should religious Jewish psychologists "comfort" homosexual or intermarried clients, and alleviate their justified feelings of guilt? Should professionals charge high fees to poor clients in need of their services?
Psychologist M. Csikszentmihalyi of the Univ. of Chicago explored "Why aren't we happy? Obstacles to `Flow' in human existence". Most people, lacking creative flow, are unhappy. Per Plato, education is to help youth find pleasure in the right things. Seeking primitive sex, comfort and aggression instead may indeed be part of our genetic makeup, but is now an evolutionarily inappropriate focus, given human progress (will this inspire anyone?). He defines the "right things" today-- 1) to develop growth, the realization of potential, in all realms. 2) to develop social harmony and peace. 3) to develop a complex well-functioning society. Such pleasures aren't instinctual, but must be learned-- How? So Rav Noach Weinberg and Rav Zelig Pliskin (Gateway to Happiness) of Aish Hatorah stress both the natural legitimate human desire for pleasure, and how true higher pleasure only comes from a true connection to one's always-pure inner self, to God, and to His Torah.
We study moments of flow and exhilaration, when we feel most alive and completely involved in, and focused and concentrating on, an enjoyable (tho difficult and painful) activity, as models, and try to replicate, arouse and develop them in school. In "flow", we transcend outside reality and possess great inner clarity, knowing what needs to be done and just how well we're doing. As in tennis, one automatically gives the appropriate response; when a principle embraces one's whole life, choices are clear. We know that the activity is do-able and our skills are adequate to the task; but, as in tennis, we're bored or overwhelmed, unless challenged by tasks and competitors on our own level. Amidst "flow", we achieve a sense of serenity, not worrying about ourselves, growing beyond the boundaries of the ego, as we focus on the task at hand, time flying by. Flow induces a sense of timelessness-- focused on the present, hours seem to pass by in minutes, yet each minute is so rich that it seems like hours. One who flows responds to intrinsic motivation (lishma), whatever produces flow becoming its own reward. One strives for the best possible life experience, not external rewards.
Ellen Winner of Boston College and Harvard summarized "Giftedness and its Myths". Gifted children are precocious and make faster progress, e.g. 10 year old BA Michael Corey; they do things their own way, with minimal help or teaching. They induce rules, as a child learning his first language, and solve problems in unusual ways, developing their own theories. Despite their creativity, they too need at least 10 years to master a domain and transform it. True creative geniuses usually possess more than one highly developed "intelligence", but are also likely to have some weak ones. Freud had high linguistic and personal, but weak spatial and musical, intelligences. Yet, most great creators are "bastards", who disregard others' feelings (e.g. Einstein, Eliot, Gandhi-?, Stravinsky, Freud), or are even sadistic (e.g. Picasso). Many show genuine concern, responsibility and caring for the masses, but little toward their own family (cf. Jesus, Gandhi and Ahad Haam). Keen morality and empathy are also unique gifts. Gifted children, often introvert, can be unhappy, even broken, unless among peers in a stimulating community. Many burn out or drop out, others become only experts, not creative geniuses.
Harvard Ed and B.U. Med Prof. Howard Gardner probed "Multiple Intelligences: the first 12 years". He defines "intelligence" as the ability to solve a problem or fashion a product that's valued in at least one culture or community. He posits Linguistic, Logical-mathematical, Musical, Spatial, Bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal (e.g. Ghandi) and intrapersonal (e.g. Freud) intelligences. He may add Naturalist (e.g. Darwin) and Spiritual intelligences. Thus pupils must be taught and tested per their own IQ combo. Damage to one part of the brain may not affect others. Written IQ tests aren't always appropriate. IQ is amoral-- both Goethe and Goebels were masters of German, Bilaam and Moshe of prophecy.
Israel should learn from great scholars in every field and use them to develop standards of excellence: "Who is wise?-- he who learns from all men" (non-Jews may be wiser than us in secular matters, tho they lack Torah); "the more advice, the more wisdom" (Avot); but a truly Jewish state evaluates and modifies ideas also from a Jewish eternal perspective. This otherwise fine conference lacked Jewish perspective, likely yielding a deeper and broader conception of its issues; most foreign visitors both expect and appreciate it. Hillel says: "If I'm not for myself, who will be for me, and if I'm by myself, what am I?, and if not now when" (Avot); the Talmud claims that even Torah, if unaccompanied by God-awareness, is a poison, and that there's no man who doesn't have his hour, and is thus entitled to respect-- these succinct summaries reflect the speakers' conclusions, which entailed much research and expense. Prof. Feurstein was, nevertheless, happy to see the secular community at last sharing our traditional Jewish concern with intrapersonal and interpersonal morality and "soul". May all Israel be united soon!
A 1996 FOLLOWUP: The excellent 1996 seminar indeed featured a truly Jewish Jewish speaker, Prof. Aviezer Ravitsky, one of the finest academic Torah teachers of our age. He explored The Moral Responsibility of the Intellectual, as Reflected in Jewish Thought, contrasting the Jewish scholar-saint with the possibly amoral secular scholar. Nobel Laureate in Physics Dr. Leon Lederman discussed the interface of "Science and Society", stressing the need for early and extensive science education, that society reap all the wonderful benefits of modern scientific research, and encourage more qualified people to do science. His passionate prayer and cause, as that of Rav Dr. Moshe Tendler, was that people reject non-scientific alternative medicine, e.g. reflexology; great scientists often strike me as the most narrow-minded folks, when they a priori reject anything not derived by the scientific method, nor provable by it, e.g. Providence-- tradition, intuition and experience may also yield valuable knowledge and insights, often more important than those of science, e.g. whom to marry and trust.
I suggested to the largely yuppie secular audience that the huge advances in modern science, displaying more and more the holistic and intricate nature of God's World, should naturally lead to two conclusions-- 1) that life's task is to learn about, and try to make contact with, God, Avraham's response to the astronomical order of the universe, and 2) that abstract principles, leading to infinitely exact details, as in science, should also guide human free-will behavior-- only the Torah provides such a halachic system. The response of some of the audience was outrage and anger that I dared violate their secular sanctuary, by suggesting that science leads to Torah. Lederman simply dismissed my question as beyond his realm, scientific thought, and, apparently, of little interest to this otherwise quite curious thinker; I later discovered that he was unfamiliar with the work of observant scientists, e.g. Natan Aviezer and Yaakov Schroeder, on the interface of modern physics, e.g. the Theories of Relativity and the Big Bang, with the Creation account in Genesis; so I arranged that Schroeder meet Lederman at his hotel, where they had a good, fairly long, discussion of the issues involved. When Schroeder asked Lederman's response to the amazing unprecedented rebirth of the Land and People of Israel, after a 1900 year exile, his reply was: "Spooky!"
The third speaker was Dr. Gidon Ofrat, a fascinating highly knowledgeable authority on the world of art, who probed: "Between Artistic and Moral Imperatives", on the respponsibility of the artist, as teacher and model, for inculcating social morality in his artistic endeavor. But he seemed hard pressed to posit any objective criteria for morality in a constantly fluid secular world, where Israel drifts along with contemporary Western values, no matter how perversely non-Jewish; Ofrat seemed more ignorant of, than antagonistic to, Judaism; he was keenly aware of the difficulty in positing values for secular youth.
E. MIND YOUR NEIGHBOR'S BUSINESS-- IT'S YOUR OWN!
"IT WILL BE IF YOU DON'T HEED THE VOICE OF GOD, YOUR LORD, TO GUARD TO DO ALL HIS COMMANDS AND STATUTES WHICH I COMMAND YOU THIS DAY-- ALL THESE CURSES WILL COME UPON YOU AND CLEAVE TO YOU (28:15)". These curses apply to non-public behavior, beginning with individual private idolatry (Rashbam). Rav Yitzchak Stollman (Minchas Yitzchak) contrasts the Biblical attitude to private behavior with the opposite 20th Century Ethic-- that everyone may do his own (private) thing, as long as he doesn't directly injure another. If one flaunts binding communal tradition, the next curse comes-- his children will do their own thing too, slighting his opinions, the secular generation gap.
So a great young wealthy turn-of-the-century Sadagura hassidic talmid chacham, Asher Ginzberg, a man of great yichus (prominent pious ancestors), wavered in his faith at 12-- his reaction to the materialist extravagance of his family and hassidic society, after he saw the rebbe's kids and hasidim enjoy a dirty old man's ribald stories, interspersed with beautiful Hassidic niggunim; tho he revered the rebbe himself, Israel of Rushin, he eventually became a rational misnagid, praying punctual prayers, and accumulated much high level secular knowledge; he later became a traditional maskil, who held forth at a shabbat table, like a neo-Chassidic rebbe, while his "chassidim" smoked cigarettes, to his good pious wife Rifka's great dismay-- but Ginzberg asked them not to smoke in the presence of his children! Only once in her life, Rifka admitted, did she light a fire on Shabbat-- when it went out in Asher's study and he was cold. Her justification: "But is there anything that one would not do for one's husband?"-- may all Jews merit such wives, tho more observant!
One Friday night, in April 1915, the men retired to the study to smoke at the very moment that Ginzberg's wife placed the lit Sabbath candles on the table; Ginzberg told them the tale of a young man who returns from his studies in Germany, walking in his shtetl on Shabbat with a cigarette in his mouth. His childhood friends, shocked, ask him: "Aren't you embarrassed, Yankel?"-- "Oh, I completely forgot!". "How could you forget that we may not smoke on Shabbat?"-- "No, that isn't it!". "You forgot that today is Shabbat?"-- "No, I forgot that I was a Jew." Ginzberg's tutor, a Sadagura chassid, walked 2 miles to the mikva, even in deep snow. Asher wished that a similar dedication existed in the Zionist camp.
Ginzberg, who strongly identified with Mainmonides' rationalism, headed Odessa's intellectual Zionist crowd and the Chovvei Tziyon and Bnei Moshe societies; he evolved his own philosophy of cultural ethical Zionist nationalism, to replace dying religious belief as a Jewish national focus; he completely distorted truly traditional Jewish nationalism-- to be "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex. 19:6); he worshipped Man, rather than God; yet he was very concerned with Zionism's Jewish moral stance, e.g. re the Arabs, and viewed Chistianity as the antithesis of Judaism, with no room for compromise; he strongly attacked Brenner's accomodation of Christianity. But he tried to disconnect the Bnei Moshe movement from religion, in order to attract assimilated Russified Jews. In Torah Shebalev, he attacked the hallowed designation of the Jews as The People of the Book (originated by Mohammad!). The cultural artifacts of a "normal" people, he claimed, are by-products of their everyday life and these, in effect, are seeds that blossom once circumstances demand. A natural connection exists in such circumstances between society and its fundamental needs and culture. The differences between this healthy scenario, and the one that characterizes the experience of a people of the book, is vast; in the latter case, one's very soul is sacrificed to the written word:
"The book ceases to be what it should be, a source of new inspiration and moral strength; on the contrary, its function in life is to weaken and finally to crush all spontaneity of action and emotion, until people become wholly dependent upon the written word, and incapable of responding to any stimulus in nature or life, without its permission and approval... The people stagnate because heart and mind do not react directly and immediately to external events; the book stagnates because, as a result of this absence of direct reaction, heart and mind do not rise in revolt against the written word at such times when it has ceased to be in harmony with current needs (cf. Bialik's famous sad, but true, poem The Masmid, where he portrays the lifeless sad soul of a diligent pious young talmudist, cut off from life, as a beautiful butterfly caught in an old dusty tome of Talmud)." While there's much truth in this critique of overly spiritual disembodied Jewish Eastern Europe, shared by Rav Kook, Ginzberg throws out the baby with the bathwater, and forgets that this Jewish book is the Word of God, not only capable of revitalization, but even of itself revitalizing the Jewish people and land, which no other source can do, in the long run.
In Shte Reshuyot (2 Masters), he echoes Spencer's conviction that social stability results from the ability to hypnotize individual members to act in compliance with societal needs. Obedience is attained by various imperceptible means-- mostly all but invisible. Of particular importance are those that can be traced back to the very beginnings of time, handed down from generation to generation, without any fundamental change. Hence, the heavy hand of the past exerts an extraordinary influence over everyday life, and in ways too elusive for any single individual either to control or understand fully: "The chief hypnotizers, the all-powerful masters of the individual and society alike, are those of the past..., their voices are still obeyed, their commandments are still observed with love and respect, and there exists no man or generation who can say precisely where the dividing line is between himself and them, between his and theirs... There is a lesson to be learned here by ...today's priests, who wish to challenge the past: they must try as best they can, in fact, to put off all open conflict until the impact of their doctrine has been felt, by virtue of work done in secret (as he did in Bnei Moshe, secretly running Chovvei Tziyon), and old beliefs have so weakened that they are easily done away with. If this course is not followed... they will actually prolong the lifetime of the old beliefs... by making society more amenable to conflict". YF: so haredim on Bar Ilan St. help perpetuate outmoded Meretzian nihilism; the manic Meretz group at H.U. recently attacked Jeff Seidel as a "chabad missionary", upset at his success in drawing students to their Jewish roots; thank God, H.U. is beginning to recognize the value of his work, rather than harassing him-- his only Chabad connection is his father-in-law, eminent Prof. Velvel Green of BGU.
Ginzberg was distant, elusive and aloof; while heavily involved in Jewish culture and learning, he didn't even bother to celebrate his own son Shlomo's Bar Mitzva-- Shlomo said that not-so-good old dad was usually busy and distant; he was intensely self-absorbed. Asher's more traditional friend, Chaim Nachman Bialik (who, however, smoked on Shabbat), took the lad to a neighborhood steibel to celebrate his bar mitzva, without Asher! Like many secular Zionist leaders, e.g. Dubnow, Mendele, and Ben Hillel Hacohen, he was tragically disappointed, and felt a failure, when his youngest daughter, Rachel, lived with, and later married, a Russian radical writer, Mikhail Ossorgin (1912-- everybody involved in now dead and buried; life is so short; the Pennsylvania Dutch say: "Too soon old, too late smart")-- a nice guy, but a non-Jew, whose token reform conversion was totally rejected by Ginzburg, who also rejected Tchernowitz's offer to arrange an orthodox ceremony. He didn't speak to her for many years (saying: "there can be no mercy, when national survival is at stake"), until her divorce, and lamented his negligent parenting; tho he achieved great honor and influence in Palestine, he missed European refinement and culture in rough-and-tumble early Tel Aviv, which didn't even have a synagogue, despite its "temple", the heretical Herzelia Gymnasium (all from his A-1 bio by Steven J. Zipperstein, "Elusive Prophet-- Ahad Haam and the Origins of Zionism").
Secular Society (e.g. the Jewish "Humanists") will gradually break down all barriers against sexual and aggressive offenses; its judges themselves become perverted. R. Shimon b. Yochai compares "private" behavior to 2 men in a boat. If one begins to drill a hole, tho only in his end, the other has every right to intervene! We're all in the same boat; we sink or swim together. Achan looted, Israel suffered (Joshua 7). We all must combine praise of others with loving criticism of their errors.
Yet Rav J. Soloveichik opposed most public religious protest and legislation as counterproductive. 20th century man fights efforts to compel his behavior. Others may sense that many observant Jews feel superior in God's eyes; they don`t just criticize SPECIFIC behaviors, but judge who's good or bad overall, a function reserved for God (M. T. Tshuva 3:3). Jews, basically good, sacrifice their selves and money for fine causes, e.g. Tzahal and UJA. They're not enemies of Torah, just people who want to go to the movies Friday night, and who don't believe that God cares if they do. Hostile Shabbat protests just further alienate them from God's Torah and Jewish Identity. Invite them home or to oneg shabbat sing-ins. We may not focus only on ritual aspects of Torah; suicidal smoking and eating, dishonesty, and failure to provide one's sons with a good profession are major "religious" issues too. Those who don't pray for our soldiers, who risk their lives to defend them, lack gratitude, tho pietistic. So Yeshivot, which prayed for the government of every corrupt drunken Tzar, should certainly pray for the State of Israel. Pick your minyan accordingly.
Moshe reproved Israel only after helping them defeat Sichon & Og. A truly spiritual orthodoxy, of truth, peace, harmony and genuine concern for national problems, would attract everyone. The opposite-- religious in-fighting, maligning those less observant, etc., just turns everyone off. It produces similar, but opposite, reactions-- some Jerusalem Conservative and Reform shuls ban these open Orthodox sheets! If religious councils don't provide proper Shabat entertainment, the profane opposite proliferates.
VISIONS: HE BROUGHT US TO THIS PLACE (the Temple) AND GAVE US THIS LAND ...(26.9). The Temple, home of the Ark, is symbolic of the PURPOSE of God's gift of Israel. It is to permeate all aspects of a model national life (Sifre, Hirsch). Israel is defined as a nation to God upon THIS DAY of the covenant (27:9), BEFORE the conquest; so the KINGDOM OF PRIESTS AND HOLY NATION (Ex. 19:6) functions even in exile, until our return is a universal model (Hirsch). Thus if Israel ignores Torah, the whole nation is in jeopardy-- the curses are addressed to both individual and community, mutually responsible: IT WILL BE, IF YOU (singular) DON'T HEAR THE VOICE OF GOD, YOUR LORD, TO GUARD, TO PERFORM ALL HIS COMMANDS AND STATUTES... (28:15).
F. WHY ALIYA?
Rav Yehuda Henkin: He who brings first fruits (26:3) says: "I've come to the land which haShem swore ...", w/o mentioning milk and honey-- his motivation was not greener pastures. But when recounting God's goodness, he says: "God... gave us this land, a land oozing milk and honey" (5-9). Sifrei 26:1 comments: "The land's a reward for observing the law of 1st fruits". Yet only after the conquest and settlement did they bring first fruits (Kid. 37b; but see Ibn Ezra supra)! But Israel should enter Canaan IN ORDER TO fulfill God's commandment, first fruits. Many countries have honey, vines and fig trees; only Canaan is the ideal venue to observe His precepts. When bringing the first fruits, the pilgrim professed this vision, God's Will as the true basis for aliya (cf. the high percentage of religious olim). Sifrei (R'eh 80) states that settling the land of Israel = keeping all of the Torah-- it should bring one to observe the rest of the Torah. IF it does, then aliya = all the commandments (compare intermarriage rates in Israel with those in the Diaspora).
G. THE HAFTARA is ISAIAH, 60:1-22
It depicts our universal Messianic triumph, AFTER our true return to God. ARISE, SHINE! FOR YOUR LIGHT HAS ARRIVED AND THE GLORY OF GOD SHINES ON YOU (Israel, spiritual center of a world in existential despair)... NATIONS SHALL WALK TOWARD YOUR LIGHT (e.g. Makuya)... YOUR SONS WILL COME FROM FAR OFF (US, USSR, etc.-- once they see non-Jews come?)... FOR A NATION OR GOVERNMENT THAT WON'T SERVE YOU WILL BE LOST... THE SONS OF THOSE WHO DESPISED YOU SHALL COME BOWING TO YOU (missionaries and German tourists will enter Ben Noach yeshivot, e.g. the present Mormon Center)... VIOLENCE SHALL NO LONGER BE HEARD IN YOUR LAND... GOD (not "nature") WILL BE YOUR ETERNAL LIGHT... AND YOUR PEOPLE-- ALL RIGHTEOUS-- SHALL INHERIT THE LAND, BLOSSOM OF MY PLANTING (as the 7 species)... TO MAKE THEMSELVES TRULY GLORIOUS... I, GOD, WITHIN THE APPOINTED TIME (will save an unworthy world, as at Exodus OR--) WILL SPEED IT UP! (if worthy; or "God will hurry once the time has come"-- see M. Hirsch). May it be soon!
WE ALL SEE TRUTH DIFFERENTLY; OPEN MINDED, NON-FIXATED, FOLKS ALSO CHANGE THEIR VIEWS WITH REFLECTION AND EXPERIENCE (Rambam, Guide). PEACE REQUIRES TOLERANCE OF OTHERS' OPPOSITE VIEWS. I EXPECT THAT THOSE READERS WHO SEEK TRUTH WILL SAY "AHA!" TO SOME OF MY FORTHRIGHT FORAYS, WHILE REJECTING OTHERS (cf. Talmud)-- SO BE IT (YF)!
E-MAILBAG: THE WONDERFUL WEIRD WORLD OF COMPUTERS
If my house is robbed, God forbid, a current Jewish 1/4 problem, and I find that they took only my Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, ignoring my zaide's antique kiddush cups, I'd be happy and relieved. But if a dinner guest brazenly walked off with all my Reese's, when I offered him one, I'd be quite upset. One of our socially active readers kindly passed on warnings of computer viruses last week; other readers (I'm delighted that they reached the end of the study) then kindly pointed out that we only lost our Peanut Butter Cups, our sense of peace and security, but we were never in any real danger of viruses:
"You send out a virus warning, and well, these warnings have been out for a
while but are false. As a reference I quote some text from the b-hebrew list,
which has a lot of information about these hoaxes and places to check. From:
From: Warren Straszheim
There are a variety of sites that describe the hoax "viruses". I suggest you (and everyone else) check them out before forwarding such warnings. A useful web site is the "Computer Virus Myths home page" which contains descriptions of several known hoaxes. In most cases, common sense would eliminate Internet hoaxes.
Those who know computer workings to some detail will recognize a number of flaws in the warning. (Infecting the boot sector does not/cannot destroy all the data present on a disk - the damage is done later when the computer is rebooted.) I would expect a more technically accurate warning from the likes of IBM.
You still cannot get a virus from an e-mail message, although you can get it from attachments to e-mail messages. And if you are going to be trafficking on the internet, please see about a good virus checker.
The following paragraph is from CIAC, the Computer Incident Advisory Capability, for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). "How to Identify a Hoax"--
There are several methods to identify virus hoaxes, but first consider what makes a successful hoax on the Internet. There are two known factors that make a successful virus hoax, they are: (1) technical sounding language, and (2) credibility by association. If the warning uses the proper technical jargon, most individuals, including technologically savy individuals, tend to believe the warning is real. For example, the Good Times hoax says that "...if the program is not stopped, the computer's processor will be placed in an nth-complexity infinite binary loop which can severely damage the processor...". The first time you read this, it sounds like it might be something real. With a little research, you find that there is no such thing as an nth-complexity infinite binary loop and that processors are designed to run loops for weeks at a time without damage.
From: "Robert A. Pierce"
WARNING!!!!!! If you receive an e-mail titled "JOIN THE CREW" DO NOT open it! It will erase EVERYTHING on your hard drive! Send this letter
If anyone receives mail entitled; PENPAL GREETINGS! please delete it WITHOUT reading it!! This is a warning for all Internet users - there
Please pass this along to everyone you know so this can be stopped. PASS THIS ON TO YOUR FRIENDS!!! WARNING !!! There is a new virus going arround in the last couple of days!!! DO NOT open or even look at any mail that you get that says: "Returned or Unable to Deliver"
Please don't. These are old rehashes of the older "good times" virus hoax. Pleas see the following URLs for more information:
Mini-paper on "Dealing with Internet hoaxes":
(11) Is it true that ....? (*or* some favourite hoaxes ...)
(1) There is *no* Good Times virus that trashes your hard disk and launches your CPU into an nth-complexity binary loop when you read mail with "Good Times" in the Subject: field.
You can get a copy of Les Jones' FAQ on the Good Times Hoax from:
On the World Wide Web:
There's a Mini-FAQ available as:
There *is* at least one file virus christened Good Times by the individual who posted it in an attempt to cause confusion. It is more commonly referred to as GT-spoof.
(2) There is no modem virus that spreads via an undocumented subcarrier - whatever that means ....
(3) Any file virus can be transmitted as an E-mail attachment. However, the virus code has to be executed before it actually infects. Sensibly configured mailers don't usually allow this by default and without prompting, but certainly some mailers can support this: for instance, cc:mail can, it seems, launch attachments straight into AmiPro.
From: Paul Heymont
Please, everyone, relax a bit. Another round of virus hoaxes is making the rounds. A good description of the Returned Mail hoax can be found at IBM's site; the exact URL is http://www.av.ibm.com/BreakingNews/HypeAlert/Returned/
A good source on the Join The Crew hoax is http://www.mcafee.com/support/hoax/join.html.
MacAfee's Virus Information Library at http://www.mcafee.com/support/techdocs/vinfo/index.html is a good general source of information both on hoaxes and on viruses.
Paul Heymont, Tech Coordinator, Social Studies Teacher
I hope you stop worrying about e-mail viruses.
Jenneke Kornelia Reemst
The following links are from Google Ads.