THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
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ENLIGHTEN YOUR EYES, UNIFY YOUR HEARTS
This study is sponsored by Buddy and Ida Frankel, in Memory of George Frankel, whose 11th Yahrzeit was the 13th of Tevet. Buddy, a recent oleh, is co-owner of Tzaddik's NY Style Deli, in the Jewish Quarter, just above the Wall. The Frankels welcome back Jonathan, Yolena and Pini Blum from their stay in Sweden, where Jonathan served as a chazan.
Rav Gafni stresses that the Torah, the O.T. (Only Testament), while so much more than a mere work of great literature, is also the greatest work of literature, God its Awesome Almighty Author. Besides being the world's most popular book of all times, a careful reading of it as literature will both reveal many of its deepest messages and cultivate our own literary talents. Rav Gafni notes that Exodus opens with a stress on Israel's names, homes and families, and their links to Yaakov, to their Divine tradition. The tale of Exodus is the tale of their gradual loss, as the Jews slip into the faceless and nameless irresponsible anonymity of decadent Egptian civilization, culminating in the ultimate anonymity, slavery; their recovery begins with their redeemers, Shifra, Pua, and Moshe, the few named heroes at the beginning of the book-- everyone else is referred to only by mere pronouns or titles, e.g. Pharo (but cf. "the daughter of Pharo", a redeemer).
Without "names", strong perosnal identity and uniqueness, emulating God Himself, one can't form "homes", families-- the hebrew slave "married" to a Canaanite slave woman doesn't "own' his own family-- they belong to his master (21:1f; but his Jewish family, pre-dating his slavery, remains his, as would any Jewish family which he founds while a slave-- YF). YF: So both individual realization and family, for a Jew, depend on his connection to his tradition and mission, and are a sine qua non for its successful perpetuation and impact. Tho there is a conflict between independent individual development and binding family and communal commitment, a shared commitment to Yaakov's mission, each according to his abilities and temperment, can bridge the gap-- tho a veil may separate Rivka and Yitzchak, they carry on the torch; as each has a different role in Tzahal (my son Ariel just completed his first year of Tzahal, serving in Gaza), but with mutual cooperation and respect, so is the case in God's Army. Some are Satmar, raising 15 insular children, some Rav Kook, fully blending God's Torah and God's world.
A. TERSE TITLES
Vol. II of God's 5 volume Tora has 4 titles: The Book of Exodus, the Book of Names, The Book of Redemption or, simply, The Second Book. Each title reflects a leitmotif of both Exodus and the human condition.
THE FIRST TITLE, THE BOOK OF EXODUS
The title Exodus stresses Israel's departure from Egypt and its tripartite persecution-- 1) excruciating physical work. 2) interference with normal family life, by separating husbands and wives and destroying children. 3) Exile-- preventing the Jews from fulfilling their mission in Israel (Hirsch). These 3 aspects of Israel's exile in "Egypt", "Mitzrayim" ("narrow places"), taken broadly, are indeed those factors which prevent every person from realizing her potential as an Image of God--
1) RELAX AND ACHIEVE
Too hard a struggle for basic survival leaves little energy for higher development-- cf. Lower East Side sweatshops a century ago. So Rav J. Soloveichik claimed that modern Israel, so preoccupied with basic physical survival, is not likely to develop Western intellectual and spiritual depth, comparing it to the wild west in the 19th century; but the messianic struggle to re-establish Israel may itself be a far deeper spiritual experience than that of vapid Western thought, meditation and verbalization.
Very modern, yet very traditional, Rabbi Dr. Yitzchak (Irving) Greenberg writes (in Visions of the Other-- Jewish and Christian theologians assess the dialogue): "As defined by the Talmud, by dint of being in the image of God, each human life has the innate dignity of infinite value, equality and uniqueness... With the help of G-d and the leadership of the religious faithful, the process of perfecting life will go on until the triumph of life takes place. The world itself will be restructured to respect and treat properly the life that is in the image of God. The ultimate result will be triumph over death, as well as over all those forces of degradation of life that exist in the world.
"To realize this tradition of the triumph of life, and the fulfillment of life's `image of God' potential, humanity would have to overcome poverty, hunger, war, oppression, sickness, and even death itself. These worldly goals-- as dramatic and even improbable as they may appear-- are the necessary infrastructure for the attainment of the ultimate fulfillment. According to both Judaism and Christianity (Islam too?), overcoming the enemies of life will pave the way to the fullest realization of the relationship between God and humanity. In the climax of material, relational, and spiritual wholeness, the fullest depth of life's capacity will be achieved.
"By contrast, hungry, starving, oppressed people cannot realize the supreme potential of their life force, nor even the fullest deveolpment of relationship and love. While it is true that the poor or the suffering may relate to God out of their agony, even more than the affluent and the wealthy, they turn to God in their weakness or suffering (YF: cf. India). The Jewish dream is that humans establish ultimate relationships - with God and fellow human beings - out of strength and freedom".
In Rambam's ideal Israel, all Jews will be well-trained professionals, who work about 3 hours a day at a high hourly rate, live modestly, and spend the rest of the day studying Torah and doing good deeds-- M.T. T.T. 1:12. Modern society gives employees long weekends and ample vacations-- but they're too often wasted on meaningless and useless nonsense.
2) M & F HE CREATED THEM
Only together do man and woman fully realize their great Divine potential-- "God created man in His image, in the image of the Lord (of nature and its laws) He created him-- male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:27-- but see Abarbanel ibid). Yet a man needs a woman, "Mother of all life" (Gen. 3:20), far more than she needs him, tho she may better appreciate, and yearn more for, marriage and family formation; widows manage alone far better than widowers; everyone begins life in the womb and love and conscience are formed by the early infantile nursing diad (Eli Sagan, Freud, Women and Morality, vs. Ziggy Freud, whose super-ego is based on alleged later fear of the father); we all seek our mothers amidst life's tensions and every wife is, de facto, her husband's mother too; thus women naturally hug each other, far more than men; hopefully, each young woman gradually internalizes her own mother, to be a mother in turn to herself and others-- but if she herself has an immature or non-nurturing mother, or is educated to be a clone of a male professional, by warped Western education, she may indeed expect her husband to be her mother, tho nurturing is only his natural sub-motif, as God indicates by his non-functional breasts, which have been known, however, to work in an emergency*. She'll then be frustrated and angry, when confronted by his expectations of her nurturing, rather than responsive. She'll likely sing: "If you want to be my lover, you've gotta give; if you want to be my lover, you gotta be my friend" (heard after the news, on Israel's cheap Radio 3, while writing this).
*NOTE: Please skip the next 5 paragraphs if you are squeamish about clear open positive discussion of sexual functions, a non-Jewish, i.e. a non-Biblical and non-talmudic, attitude, often found among Ashkenazic Jews, likely due to Christian influence-- see Shaalot Yavetz, II:15.
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M-F-- SO ALIKE IN THEIR DIFFERENCES
My understanding of the didactic nature of male breasts can also be applied to the clitoris, sort of an undeveloped penis, also richly supplied with sensory nerves, and capable of excitation, but not directly involved in biological reproduction, as opposed to the walls of the vagina. God so teaches that there's a bit of a male-- the aggressor, the conqueror, who often seeks only his own pleasure and creative expression-- in every woman; she too can replace a man in an emergency, e.g. war, when we take the bride away from her chuppah to join Ulpanat Tzahal; but it must not become the essence of her education to develop her own leitmotif, which is the opposite-- nurturing. But men without sisters close in age may be uncomfortable with truly feminine nurturing women (see Tulman, Family Constellations, Springer).
I finally discovered (with a bit of Divine Providence and the kind aid of H.U. Givat Ram librarians of Natural Science and Geology) someone who deals with my biological ? on male breasts-- fellow creative and eloquent enfant terrible Stephen Jay Gould (Male Nipples and Clitoral Ripples in Bully For Brontosaurus; a copy was just donated to our library by Gary and Lois Marcus-- the article's original, not really descriptive, title in Natural History magazine was Freudian Slip; Mrs. Gould suggested the present title). It turns out that I asked the most asked ? on Darwinian biologists, who claim that, by survival of the fittest, biologically useful mechanisms develop in living creatures; they could, indeed, use my own explanation to expand their concept of evolutionary usefulness to include moral and psychological developmental teaching. The ? was raised by Charles Darwin's grandpa Erasmus Darwin, in his own exposition, howbeit Lamarckian, of Evolution, of organic transmutation, Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life (Item 8, Part 4, of Sec. 39).
Gould summarizes Grandpa Erasmus' conclusion: "New structures arose only when needed, and by direct striving for an evident purpose-- reproduction, protection and defense, and food" (see Ch. 4, God's Utility Function, in Richard Dawkins' River Out of Eden-- a Darwinian view of life; Dawkins deals with the percentages of males and females, usually 50:50, in wild biological populations, e.g. elephant seals, which seemsd to make no economic sense, for 4% of the males counted for 88% of all reproductive copulations, tho the other 96% ate more than half the food!). He considers only one potential exception to the principle of pervasive utility: "the breasts and teats of all male quadrupeds, to which no use can be now assigned". No single item has evoked more puzzlement about evolution. Erasmus suggests that male nipples may be vestiges of a previous utility, if, as Plato had suggested, "mankind, with all other animals, were originally hermaphordites during the infancy of the world, and were, in the process of time, separated into male and female"-- cf. Midrashim which claim that Adam and Eve were originally a hermaphordite or one Siamese twin, later separated by God (e.g. Rav Yermiyahu ben Leazer on Gen. 5:2, and Rav Shmuel ben Nachman, in Genesis Raba 8:1, 17:6); this theme prevails thruout Genesis, per Rav Arye Spero. Erasmus also guessed that some males may indeed lactate and therefore help to feed their babies (in the absence of direct evidence, he cites the milky-colored feeding fluids, produced in the crops of both male and female pigeons, as a possible analogue).
But Gould contends that the very principle of pervasive utility for all parts of all creatures is a flawed view of life! In life's rules of growth and development, the embryonic pathway to mammalian adaptions may start the same for both sexes, but go on to further and full development in only one sex. "The external differences between male and female develop gradually from an early embryo , so generalized that its sex cannot be easily determined. The clitoris and penis are one and the same organ, identical in early form, but later enlarged in male fetuses thru the action of testosterone. Similarly, the labia majora of women and the scrotal sacs of men are the same structure, indistinguishable in young embryos, but later enlarged, folded over, and fused along the midline in male fetuses... males and females are not separate entities, shaped independently by natural selection. Both sexes are variants upon a single ground plan, elaborated in later embryology. Male animals have nipples because females need them-- and the embryonic pathway to their development builds precursors in all mammalian fetuses, enlarging the breasts later in females, but leaving them small (and w/o evident function) in males". So the panda's highly functional false "thumb" is echoed by the corresponding, but smaller, bone of its foot. D. Dwight Davis concluded: "Organisms are integral and constrained structures, `pushing back' against the force of selection, to channel changes along permitted paths; complex animals are not a dissociable collection of independent optimal parts".
Gould goes on to argue that the scientific community's bias of utility has brought needless pain and anxiety into the lives of millions-- to deny or invalidate a simple fact, that female sexual pleasure and sensitivity are linked to the clitoris, the homologue of the penis, and surrounding vulva, rather than the functional vagina. Shere Hite reports a frequency of orgasm with intercourse at 30%, and concludes that "NOT to have orgasm from intercourse is the experience of the majority of women", and that "intercourse was never meant to stimulate women to orgasm" (YF: perhaps a hint of the difficulties of bearing and raising children); wicked old Sigmund Freud tore his wife, Martha Bernays, Hirsch's rebbe's granddaughter, from her Torah heritage; fanatically obsessed by his psychoanalytic creativity, he often applied it inappropriately to historic and cultural issues which had nothing to do with it. Just as he obsessively wrote his admittedly foolish Moses and Monotheism, debunking the Bible, so he debunked natural female sexuality, as ignorant of biology as he was of Torah-- he labelled clitoral orgasm "infantile", and defined feminine maturity as the shifting of such pleasure to an unattainable vaginal site (see Gould ibid for the sources)! Gould attributes Freud's blindness to simple male vanity-- feeling that his own coital efforts should supply her pleasure-- and to his outmoded acceptance of strict biological functionalism, underlyimg both Lamarckian and Darwinian evolution, as well as the much older tradition of natural theology and Creationism, e.g. Paley and Cuvier, that saw God's handiwork in the exquisite fit of organic form to function.
If evolution arises from a struggle among organisms for differential reproductive success, sexual pleasure must evolve as a stimulus for reproduction. This formulation works for men, since the peak of sexual excitement occurs during ejaculation-- a primary and direct adjunct of intercourse. For men, maximal pleasure is linked with the greatest possibility of fathering offspring. But for women, sexual pleasure is so separated from its functional significance in the Darwinian game of life. In recent Darwinian literature, Donald Symons may be the only scientist who acknowledged that female orgasm is not an adaptation at all (The Evolution of Human Sexuality). Desmond Morris (The Naked Ape) tries to square the circle by claiming that the pair bond (and subsequent reproduction) is maintained by fostering close relationships thru sexual pleasure. George Pugh (Biological Origin of Human Values) claims that the development of a female orgasm makes it easier for a female to be satisfied by one male.
But Gould is limited by his narrow materialistic scientific academic perspective, which ignores both God and the human spirit. Not only is it pig-headed to deny a Master Planner, a Mastermind with a Masterplan, as we see more and more of the infinitely intricate and totally holistic universe, but it is also reasonable to view Him as a Communicating Creator, who guides his Divine Image, Man, not pre-programmed like the rest of the universe, in exercising his free will; thus Gould can't see the adaptative model in the didactic realm, as I expounded above; he can't even see human pleasure as an adaptative goal in itself, besides its good side effects on family and social stability, etc. See Y. Greenberg above.
Gould's article has interesting implications for T.T. Jews (Truly Traditional, not Torah Tidbits). A Jewish male is obligated to provide his wife with onah, periodic intercourse. If this is to give her orgasmic pleasure, he will have to master this realm to properly perform his mitzva; surely, like not earning one's livelihood from Torah teaching, it is much more important than putting on two pairs of tefillin, Rashi's version and that of Rabbenu Tam, a popular haredi pietistic practice, probably not practised by either Rashi or Rabbenu Tam; yet, in a preliminary exploration, I found no references to clitoral orgasm in halachic sources, including The Holy Letter, a medieval study in Jewish sexual morality ($25 from TOP); it stresses the holiness of the sexual act and experiencing its pleasure: "Know that the union of man with his wife is divided into 2 parts. Know that the sexual intercourse of man with his wife is holy and pure when done properly, in the proper time with the proper intention. No one should think that sexual intercourse is ugly and loathsome, God forbid!". He criticizes Rambam, who followed perverse Greek Aristotle's opposite views, and cites a talmudic dictum that a man whose wife "gives seed" before him, during intercourse, will merit male children! Just what "gives seed" means is unclear; perhaps the rabbis so described sexual climax or orgasm-- ignorant of the female egg, they may have assumed that lubricant fluids released by a female during sexual stimulation were the female equivalent of male seed, seman.
One must separate basic holy wisdom from medieval pre-scientific nonsense, e.g. about nutrition and the beginnings of life, in such works; so Labumore Elsie Roughsey, an innately sensitive, kind and intelligent aborigine, mixes her insights into the fine values and natural knowledge of her culture with its ridiculous preoccupation with superstition and nonsense, in An Aboriginal Mother Tells of the Old and the New; they used to believe (no more) that one twin must have been fathered by another man or a demon-- they killed him! Perhaps the mitzva of onah is just to provide the general pleasure and bonding of intimate relations, regardless of orgasm; God may leave the issue of obtaining orgasm-- a universal, rather than a Jewish, issue-- to general human exploration and experience; the Torah does not tell you how to broil a steak or the differences between edible mushrooms and poisonous toadstools. I did a brief survey of rabbis and roshei yeshiva and found that most of them knew nothing of these matters. I'd appreciate additional input from our readers. I hope to also explore the Raavad's guide to marriage, Baal HaNefesh, in a future issue. He does equate "a woman giving seed" with her pleasure, but uses no terms clearly referring to the clitoris or orgasm.
MAN IN NEED OF WOMAN
So our rabbis stressed: "A man without a woman is incomplete" (R. Elezer, Yev. 63a; Bard paraphrases: "once he has one, he's finished"); he even lacks joy, blessing and goodness (R. Tanchum, Yev. 62b); he lacks Torah and a "wall" (the Israeli view ibid); he also has no peace (Rava ibid). One's wife is his home (Yoma 2a). So G. Gilder (in Sexual Suicide) writes: "Single men comprise between 80-90% of most catagories of social pathology and, on the average, they make less money than any other group... (cause or effect?). Together with disintegration of the family, they constitute our leading social problem".
Man and woman unite to create the miracle of life and birth; their growing child transforms ordinary matter-- mineral, plant and animal-- into its highest form, the world's only Divine Image, a human being. Mainstream Jewish tradition proclaims: "the more children, the merrier" (but see Avraham b. Maimon's High Road to Perfection). But Paul Ehrlich's Malthusian ZPG (Zero Population Growth) Movement prefers trees to human company. Gilder adds: "For there has emerged no institution that can replace the family in turning children into civilized human beings, or in retrieving the wreckage of our current disorder... the (YF: early) feminists advance the preposterous idea that we're all just individual `human beings', only secondarily identified by sex or family" (but see Gould above).
3) EXILED FROM MYSELF
When man's exiled from God and his own soul, trapped in a society (or family?) which isn't really "him/her", he can't achieve his potential. The Jew needs Torah, the land of Israel and the Hebrew language to bring his soul to fruition-- AND YOUR PEOPLE ARE ALL RIGHTEOUS-- THEY'LL INHERIT THE LAND FOREVER... (Is. 60:21). Contaminated by Egyptian language and culture, Israel can't be its true self (cf. West Side tefillin dates-- see our study of Vayigash).
THE SECOND TITLE, SHMOT
The generally accepted Jewish title for the second book of the Torah is "V'aleh Shemot" or "Shemot", The Book of Names, based on Exodus' first words: "AND THESE ARE THE NAMES"-- "of the children of Israel, who ARE coming into Egypt (i.e. alien lands) with Yaakov (i.e. their Jewish tradition). Each man came with his household (the Jewish family, basis of the forthcoming Jewish nation). Reuven, Shimon, Levi and Yehudah; Yisachar, Z'vulun and Benyamin (sons of the Matriarchs); Dan and Naftali, Gad and Asher (sons of the maidservants). And all the souls (just the males and the few females in a public role) coming out of Yaakov's loins were 7O-- and Yosef was (already) in Egypt" (Exodus l:l-5).
"Shemot", "names" or identity, refers to Yaakov's clan's self-definition, as they begin exile, the foundation of their later national identity. Man learns by contrast-- the Jew could not become sensitive to his own uniqueness, to be reflected in his land, without first living with Egyptians (cf. USA Today and Tova Reich's wild satire about American settlers in Chevron, The Jewish War; see Ber. 9b, 19b-- kohanim may become somewhat ritually impure, tho otherwise forbidden to do so, in order to greet gentile kings, that they see the difference between them and Jewish kings; so Rav Soloveichik didn't appreciate his pious ancestors, until he encountered Germany's greatest professors, shallow human beings, despite their great intellects-- see Larger Than Life, Vol. 2, by Saul Deutsch, for the true tale of the Rebbe, The Rov and Rav Hutner in Berlin-- $35 postpaid from TOP; so Rav M. Gafni contrasts Yishmael's insensitive crude sensual joy, in our tainted present reality, with Yitzchak's true joy, performing mitzvot, experiencing and advancing all that pertains to ultimate Edenic and Messianic reality, in a redeemed world). Midrashim see Jewish redemption as merited by Israel's retaining their names (ultimate identity), modest dress, holy language (of endless meaning, now re-emerging after 1900 years), mutual loyalty, circumcision, sexual morality, and "their secrets" (Sochar Tov 114, Ex. Raba 1:28. S.S. Raba IV.12,1). Egyptians equated man with his primal animal drives, reflected in their vulgar names, dress and lingo (cf. Freud, Gottex, Eilat).
When our State didn't reflect our unique Divine identity, we began a l9OO year exile. We, its survivors, still retain a bit of our names, language and dress-- unlike Yosef, per Rav M. Gafni; so, per Shmot Raba 1:35-6, the Jews in Egypt had no good deeds, only nascent stirrings toward repentance. We have now, hopefully, returned home for good, to fully develop and express the Jewish message in a redeemed and redeeming Israel. When we do so, the Arabs may pridefully and happily join and help us; if we don't, disaster awaits us.
THE THIRD TITLE, SEFER HAGEULA
RAMBAN calls Exodus The Book of Redemption, Sefer HaGeulah. Over 7OO years ago, he asked why Exodus didn't end with the exodus itself, rather than continuing on to the giving of the Torah and the building of the Tabernacle. He suggests that Exodus deals with the need for both Israel's exile and its redemption-- the latter is achieved only when Israel, as a nation, returns to the patriarch's state of individual Divine Intimacy. This first occurred upon God's Revelation at Sinai; God's folk then made the Tabernacle, where His Presence constantly dwelt among them, thruout their journeys. Physical liberation to an alien desert is but a prelude to that of the Jewish spirit, thru the Imminence of God's spirit, in their midst.
Chabad's founder, Rabbi Schneur Zalman, who urged Jews to sleep, together with their wives, in their sukkot, claims that Egyptian exile parallels our present long exile (in Torah Or)-- so we too will receive the Torah at the end. But we ALREADY have it!-- we reject Christian and Moslem contentions that God changed His mind, as well as most Conservative, Reform and most academic contentions that He didn't reveal it (i.e. The Documentary Hypothesis)! But he means that we'll get a deeper revelation of the same Torah, a clearer view of God, ourselves and Creation. Apparent conflicts between Torah, life, and many of our thoughts and feelings will disappear-- "Eliyahu comes to answer questions".
THE FOURTH TITLE, SEFER HASHENI
HALACHOT G'DOLOT simply calls Exodus "Sefer Hasheni", Book #2, Genesis II! The Nitziv, father of Rav Meir Bar Ilan (Univ.), explains: the priestly model Jewish people is not just a remedy, after universal mankind self-destructs in the pleasure and power mad generations of the Flood and the Tower of Babel; God intended that higher levels of being continually develop in His world (Kuzari; the moral message of evolution, per Rav Kook!)-- first He went from mineral to vegetable to animal to man. He then asked Man to join Him in making himself in His Image, continuing his inner development (Gen. 1:26); so scientists Yaakov Schroeder and Baruch Sterman posit that one primitive man, Adam, about 6000 years ago, felt an urge to become truly human, an Image of God; when he did his best to achieve it, God responded and bestowed it. So, only after Avraham finally reached individual greatness, deep involvement with God and Man, trying to be what Adam should have been, did God "meet" him at 75. Avraham's the first model grandfather, many of whose countless descendants continue his path, fully developed by Yitzchak and Yaakov. The next stage, a gestalt reality called "house" or "family", was successfully developed by Yaakov, who lost none of his sons; all continued his mission; this culminated in a new collective soul, called the Jewish People, in Egypt, the tale of Genesis II. That "Kingdom of Priests and Holy Nation (Ex. 19:6)" will eventually reunite all of humanity, to join God in Eden. This people recreates itself, using the blueprint of creation, the Torah; it builds a Tabernacle to restore God's glory to earth-- the purpose of creation.
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting; The soul that rises with us, our life's star; Hath had elsewhere its setting; And cometh from afar. Not in entire forgetfulness; And not in utter nakedness; But trailing clouds of glory do we come; From God, Who is our home (Wm. Wordsworth-- cf. Nida 30b, which depicts the spiritual school of the womb; see our Vayishlach and Vayechi studies).
Seek not to follow in the footsteps of men of old; seek what they sought (Matsuo Basho; so Rav J. Soloveichik viewed kabbalistic and hassidic lore as embodying great truths, discovered by deep sensitive souls, but couched in their pre-modern weltanschauung; it is our task to translate their insights into our modern language and worldview, a foundation for our further insights, as dwarfs on the shoulders of giants).
As I was writing this on a cool Jerusalem day, I discovered these 2 quotes on a box of Celestial Seasonings Emperor's Choice Tea, itself a beautiful blend of the physical and spiritual, tho other varieties, e.g. Bengal Tiger, have more body and flavor. Buy them for only 8-9 I.S. at Duvdavon on Agrifas St., rather than paying much more elsewhere. If anyone adapts their Pork Chops Parmesan recipe to a kosher kitchen, I'd like to taste it! It's not found in Bubby Irma's Cook Book!
B. NAMELESS FEMINFINITY
Rav S. Riskin notes that female faith and action take over in crisis situations, when males' "logical" response is hopelessness. The midwives save Jewish newborn infants, defying Pharo (1:17). Little Moshe is saved by his mother and sister; his father and brother are absent. Merciful Ms. Pharo rejects Egyptian cruelty. Israel was only redeemed from Egypt via its righteous women; they cheered up and seduced their husbands, maintaining the Jewish birth rate (R. Akiva, Ex. Raba 1:12, R. Awira in Sota 11b; cf. Israeli women today). Amram led Egypt's Jewish men, who divorced their wives rather than have baby boys who'd be killed; Miriam convinced him to remarry her mother, heralding Moshe's birth, beginning our redemption (Sot. 12b); she & Aharon serenaded them at the wedding (B.B. 120a). Tzipora saves helpless Moshe from death by quickly circumcising their child (4:24-6).
Yet, after stressing NAMES, Exodus omits the names of Moshe's parents, his sister and Pharo's daughter! It's filled with pronouns, people w/o individual identity, even Pharo himself, except for those great individuals, who herald redemption-- Shifra, Pua and Moshe (Rav Gafni). NAMES suggests logical deliniation and definition, separating things one from the other-- the male stands at a distance, abstracts something's uniqueness, and names it (Adam even names Eve herself, "mother of all life"!); masculine power trips peak at the Tower of Babel, where united Malekind proclaims: "Let us make a name for ourselves!". Women, created "like His Will", are beyond the separateness of names and logical probability. They connect to the nameless, the encompassing infinite, to Divine Love, which never gives up. When trying to save Moshe, Miryam, Yocheved and Batya transcend their selves, their "names". Even Amram, in following inspired women, briefly loses his own name. In modern (non-Jewish) society, women take their husbands' last names; so Jewish children are called by their fathers' names; but when we pray for one who is ill, we use only his mother's name. Only she gives him/her-- not just describes or names-- his/her Jewish essence. So very masculine systematic misnagdic rabbis can usually well analyze and describe the phenomenon of joy, whereas their hassidic counterparts, whose feminine emotional side is more developed, often explode with contagious joy. Compare the Rambam, Vilna Gaon, Rav Shach and Rav Soloveichik with the Besht, Rav Levi Yitzchak, Shlomo and the Bostoner Rebbe.
C. AN OVERVIEW OF SHMOT
AGAIN I SAW UNDER THE SUN (i.e. this world of photosynthesis) THAT NOT TO THE FLEET IS THE RACE NOR TO THE STRONG IS THE WAR, NOR TO THE WISE BREAD, NOR RICHES TO THE INTELLIGENT, NOR TO THOSE OF DEPTH GRACE-- BUT TIME AND DEATH WILL HAPPEN TO ALL OF THEM (Ecc. 9:ll).
The greatest of men rush thru life, conquering all in their path, building great structures on this passive earth. Yet all share a helpless end, as they return to earth, which always wins its struggle with man-- in the long run (but not in the longest run, when the dead arise). So last week, we saw dying Yaakov, who, inspired by Rachel, rolled the heavy stone from the well years ago, now struggling to sit up in bed and bless his children (a visit to a home for the elderly is both a mitzva and a sobering experience; I was awed by the wonderful care given my mother in the beautiful S.F. Home for the Aged-- what an incredible mitzva its supporters, mostly non-observant Jews, have done). Yosef, great ruler of Egypt, in the end of his life and career, can't even have himself buried in Israel. Moshe ascended to heaven, but may not even cross a 75 foot Jordan River at his life's end; David slew Goliath, but, when old, can't even warm himself (Chemdat Yamim, Shabazi).
The Jewish people rise to Mt. Sinai, then sink to the Golden Calf. A Jew, immersed in Torah, lives a paradox-- individual and collective Man can AND MUST climb to limitless heights, but ultimately is but a brief flash in the endless quiet of eternity! Indeed, "What's Man, that You are mindful of him?- and the son of man, that You keep track of Him?" (Ps. 8:5); yet the flipside is just as true: "You've made him just a bit below angels and crowned him with glory and honor; You've given him dominion over Your works, You've placed all beneath his feet." (Ps. 8:6-7, per Rav JBS).
D. A SYNOPSIS OF SHMOT
THE TORAH starts Vol. II with a list of Yaakov's l2 sons ("AND" THESE ARE THE NAMES connects it to Genesis, vs. EJ, Moshe Greenberg and the Documentary Hypothesis). That first immigrant generation dies. Massive growth and power accrue to second generation native Egyptian Jews; they left Goshen Green, settling thruout Egypt. Then A NEW KING arose, who DID NOT KNOW Yosef; he feared growing Jewish power-- Jews might join Egypt's enemies and RISE from Egypt (Yosef arrived during Hyskos Semitic conquest of Egypt and consolidated their power-- Rav Yehuda Henkin). Pharo consulted with his people and imposed heavy taxation and burdens on the Jews, who continued to grow and prosper. Egypt then gave them hard and bitter physical work in construction and agriculture. The king told the midwives of THE HEBREWS, Shifra and Puah, to kill emerging male babies; they had awe of God, and ignored the king; their excuse: Jewish women give birth before midwives arrive! The Lord was good to them, as Jewish fecundity continued unabated. He BUILT HOUSES for the midwives. Now Pharo commanded ALL HIS PEOPLE to throw Jewish baby boys into the river, "AND TO KEEP THE GIRLS ALIVE"!
A CERTAIN LEVITE MARRIED A LEVITE WOMAN, WHO GOT PREGNANT and bore a boy; when she saw that he was GOOD (TOV), she hid him 3 months, then placed him in a tarred basket in the reeds of the river bank (2:1ff). "Was good" means that Infant Moshe was fit for prophecy, radiated Divine light, or was born circumcised (cf. Noach, of whom, some Kabbalists assert, Moshe was a reincarnated tikkun, striving for perfection and repentence, amidst great tension and conflict, rather than being an accidental Noachian Pink Floyd tourist, who just tries not to make waves, to comfort and tranqualize folks, as the world is about to be destroyed!-- see Gen. 5:29, Rashi, hear Rav Gafni's great tape); some say that Moshe's real name was Tov or Tovia (Exodus Raba 1:20). But Tiferet Yisroel (end Kid.) cites an ancient tradition that Moshe was born EVIL, vain, selfish, and immoral, but conquered himself! Rav Y. Metzger et al reject this tradition, originating in Greek legends about Socrates! Dr. A. Twerski comments-- no inner tendency or feeling should shock or depress us; it's but our animal component, which we can conquer, direct, and humanize (LET US MAKE MAN: 77-9).
Pharo's daughter came down to bathe in the Nile, with her servants, found the Ivri LAD crying, and pitied him. His sister, watching from afar, offered to fetch a Hebrew wet nurse; she agreed and delivered him to the nurse (his mother), with a royal salary! When weaned, she (Ms. Pharo or his ma) called him MOSHE, meaning "drawn out", for "I DREW HIM from the water"; Ms. Pharo adopted him. When Moshe grew up, he went out to see his brethen working, and saw an Egyptian man beating a Hebrew. This Egyptian may have fathered the blaspheming son of this Hebrew's wife, Shlomit (Lev. 24:lO); he sent the Jew far away to work, impersonated him in bed, and beat him when he came back; this was too much for Moshe-- HE TURNED THIS WAY AND THAT, AND SAW THERE WAS NO MAN. HE STRUCK THE EGYPTIAN AND HID HIM IN THE SAND (2:l2).
Moshe assumed that the Jew he saved wouldn't squeal (Abarbanel); Moshe felt that he wouldn't be a real man if he didn't weigh the alternatives, "turning this way and that", and act; some say that Moshe saw no "real man" among the Jews, both to save this Jew and to lead a rebellion. He risked his position (and potential to help many more Jews) to save him; others say that Moshe saw prophetically that this Egyptian would have no good MAN among his descendants (cf. Arafat). Prof. Y. Leibowitz claims that Moshe shouldn't have killed him-- he's ultimately punished, when he similarly impatiently STRUCK THE ROCK! Moshe later admonishes a Jew quarreling with a fellow Jew; he told Moshe to mind his own business, mentioning his slaying the Egyptian; Moshe feared that word was spreading. Pharo indeed found out and tried to kill Moshe, who fled to Midian. There he risked his life to help strangers-- Rev. Reuel's 7 daughters-- water their flocks, driving off hostile shepherds (who stole their water-- Abarbanel); Moshe, as fellow tzadikim Yaakov, Yosef and Brandeis (per Rav A. Y. Kook), indeed butts into other people's business, to prevent injustice.
The shepherds don't respect Rev. Yisro and Co.; his daughters have to care for sheep-- he may have been defrocked for abandoning traditional idolatry, heading toward monotheism. Perhaps Yisro sent his daughters to the well, the "town square", to find husbands! (an argument for mixed seating at weddings, etc.; cf. Bnei Brak's ban on sitting down with your falafel and friends after 7 PM). The shepherds' routine may be adolescent male chauvinist courting; but Moshe's chivalrous kindness won Tzipora's heart! She bore him Gershom, meaning: "I was a stranger in AN ALIEN LAND"-- Moshe realizes that he was never truly at home in Egypt (his second son, Eliezer, is not mentioned until 18:4). God heard the Jews cry, after Pharo died, and remembered His convenant with the patriarchs; He saw (had insight into) and intimately knew the children of Israel.
Moshe took Yisro's sheep way out to God's Mountain, Chorev; a fiery angel appeared out of a non-consumed burning bush. As he turned toward it, the Lord called "Moshe, Moshe"! Moshe answered: "HERE I AM!" or "WOW-- ME!". He was told to stop and remove his shoes, as he stood on holy ground. So Yehoshua was commanded, when he bowed down to God's Angel (Joshua 5:l5); priests too must go barefoot on the holy floor of the Temple, perhaps to remain connected to earth, even when in contact with Divinity. God tells Moshe not to draw too near to the Divine fire; kabbalists view Moshe as a reincarnation of Seth and Abel (the initial letters of their 3 names form "Moshe"; Moshe now rectifies the sin of Abel (who is replaced by Seth-- Gen. 4:25)-- trying to flee from his earthly mission, to prematurely enter the Divine fire, which consumed his sacrifice. Going barefoot also signifies mourning, a reminder of one's connection with, ultimate failure upon, and eventual return to, the earth; Moshe's told to remove both shoes, Yehoshua only one. Per Psikta Zuta, removing shoes symbolizes limits to one's walking, his moving ahead, upon the earth. Moshe lacked 2 things-- Israel and great children, Yehoshua only the latter. Fleeing his son Avshalom, David ascended the Mt. of Olives-- ...CRYING AND ASCENDING, WITH HIS HEAD COVERED, GOING BAREFOOT... (2Sl5:3).
God now introduces himself as Lord of the Patriarchs-- Moshe hid his face in fear. God tells him that He's fully in touch and empathy with the Jews; He'll deliver them and bring them to the GOOD AND BROAD land of Canaan via Moshe, who's to talk to Pharo and lead Israel out of Egypt. Moshe feels inadequate for, incapable of, the Divine Mission. God says that He'll direct the operation-- Moshe need only deliver messages. He gives Moshe a SIGN (os) of his real Divine ASSIGNMENT-- Israel will serve God on this mountain; Moshe's to teach and mold the souls of the slave nation, that Israel may accept the Torah 7 weeks later at Sinai-- a task only he, Moshe Rabbenu, the master teacher, can pull off, tho he is not a political or military leader (Rav J. Soloveichik, who was similar). If the Jews request God's name, Moshe's to tell them: "I WILL BE", and that the "Lord of the Patriarchs" sent him-- that's His eternal name and memory from generation to generation. The Jew's burning desire to "know God's name" reflects an inabiliy to reconcile His reputation and good name with prolonged Jewish suffering (Alufei Yehuda; cf. the shoah). Moshe's to describe Him as "I WILL BE WHEN I WILL BE", to teach them that He, unlike a mortal king, is in no rush-- He waits for the right moment to actualize His essence. Their faith in His ultimate redemption made Him "Lord of the Patriarchs". Per Rav S. Riskin, the undefinable is threatening; tho Man can't name (define) God, limit His essence, he can know Him via Creation, History (especially Jewish), and Tradition.
Moshe's to assemble the elders and tell them that God, in reaction to Egyptian persecution (cf. the Holocaust), will bring Israel to the land flowing with MILK & HONEY-- aren't bread, meat and fruit far more important (Ariel Fogelman, now of Tzahal)?-- but Israel (with hard work) will be so rich that they can spare land EVEN for such non-essential foods! Moshe & Aharon are to go together to Pharo and request 3 days leave to worship God, Lord of the IVRIM, Who's appeared to them. God predicts Pharo's refusal-- He'll then unleash His powers to force him; the Egyptians will even give their valuables to the departing Jews. After Moshe doubts that the Jews will listen, God gives him 2 signs-- 1) a stick, which changes to a snake WHEN CAST, changing back IN MOSHE'S HAND, and 2) Moshe's HAND turns white with Tzaraas and reverts. Should these fail, he can take Nile water and turn it to blood. Moshe still wants out, claiming speech and oratorical problems. God says that He's in charge of all human faculties and will help; Moshe again asks Him to send another! God gets angry and says that He KNOWS that Aharon, happily coming to greet Moshe, will be Moshe's articulate spokesman to the people. Moshe tells Yisro that he's going to see how his brethren are doing in Egypt; Yisro wishes him well. God tells Moshe to return to Egypt, for his enemies are now dead (otherwise don't go?).
Moshe, bearing THE LORD'S STICK, heads towards Egypt with his wife and SONS ON A DONKEY. This implies that Moshe's #1 son, Gershom, is still young, Eliezer, #2, perhaps in utero, tho Moshe is 8O; Moshe left Egypt about 2O, when he "grew up" (2:11; perhaps the meaning is "grew up emotionally"-- one indulged by Pharo's court might become mature and responsible only late in life). Midrashim tell us that Moshe wandered about Africa, ruling Ethiopia, after marrying its queen, before reaching Midian-- this interlude in his Divine mission doesn't appear in the Torah (Abarbanel; it prepares Moshe for leadership). God tells him to perform wonders before Pharo, whose will He'll strengthen-- at first he'll refuse to let them go. If he still won't send forth God's FIRSTBORN, ISRAEL, then God will kill his firstborn.
God met Moshe at a Dotel and tried to kill him! Tzipporah circumcized HER CHILD (with a flint) and told Moshe that he was a GROOM OF BLOOD. He (God) then let Moshe go-- she then said: "A GROOM OF BLOOD FOR CIRCUMCISIONS". Aharon greets and kisses Moshe at Mt. Lord, per God's request (4:27). They fulfill God's orders; the people believe them and worship. Moshe AND Aharon go to Pharo, who refuses their plea, mocking God and His power. He calls the Jews lazy, makes them gather their own straw, and has them work even harder, via the overseers. The people scurry about in panic and duress; they blame Moshe and Aharon for provoking Pharo and his servants to despise them. Moshe passes on the complaint to God-- things are worse than ever. God tells him: "Now you'll see what I'll do to Pharo-- for he'll send them out and EXPEL THEM from his land with A STRONG HAND!"
E. THE ASHKENAZI HAFTORA is Isaiah 27:6- 28:l3, 29:22-23
The prophet predicts our long long exile and subsequent Messianic redemption; Israel's descent, as in Egypt, will lead to a much greater ascent. THOSE WHO COME, WHOM YAAKOV ROOTED, WILL FLOURISH AND BLOSSOM AS ISRAEL, AND WILL FILL THE FACE OF THE WORLD WITH FRUIT (Israel's blessing will be enjoyed by all mankind-- Radak)... YOU'LL BE GATHERED TOGETHER (the lO lost tribes with Judah and Benyamin-- Radak). IT WILL BE ON THAT DAY, A GREAT SHOFAR (Divine Revelation) WILL BE BLOWN AND THOSE LOST (assimilated) IN THE LAND OF HAPPINESS (lit. Assyria; = USA?), AND THOSE OPPRESSED IN THE LAND OF NARROWNESS (lit. Egypt; = USSR?), SHALL COME AND BOW DOWN TO GOD IN THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, IN JERUSALEM. Get in on the ground floor-- live in Jerusalem now! Remember, every Israeli starts at $52,000 a year-- money, after basic survival, is to provide a fine life; the finest is a trip to Israel, which costs at least $1000/week!
F. NOW THINK!-- SOME ??
Items calling for comment are emphasized-- ponder them. For example: Are Jews now coming into Egypt (1:1)? How could the new king not "know" Yosef? Could FDR's New Deal be forgotten? Why do Moshe's parents remain anonymous (2:1)? Why are they named only later (6:2O)? Why does God call Moshe twice (3:4)? What's the role of the FIRSTBORN? Why repeat the names of the tribes coming to Egypt (already listed, with their progeny, in Gen. 46:8ff)? Why were the Jews so prosperous? Why didn't Pharo just kill the Jews and their midwives? Why kill only males?-- Did Pharo believe in only patrilineal descent? Contrast Yisro and Lavan's treatment of their Jewish sons-in-law. Why does God try to kill Moshe at the dotel? Who's circumcised there? Why does God change his mind and let Moshe live on? Is Israel a "broad and good" land? (cf. U.S. Midwest-- "O' beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain", Grand Canyon, Alps, etc.). If not, what do "broad" and "good" mean? What would have happened if Pharo agreed to Israel's 3 day retreat? How did Moshe argue Pharo's self-interest? Why is Moshe concerned with God's name? Why does God tell him several of His names? Why does God pick Moshe as the redeemer? Was Moshe "religious"? Why does he turn down God's request? How does Tzipora inspire Moshe to finally accept his destiny? Is she a model for wives born non-Jewish, e.g. Amram Blau's (cf. Rebbetzin Sora Freud of Neturei Karta, nee Pammy, in Reich's novel)?
G. SOME RESPONSES
EGYPT'S A MODEL FOR ALL FUTURE JEWISH EXILES-- THEY START OUT SEEMINGLY GREAT, BUT END TRAGICALLY (cf. USA Today). Hence the present tense-- "These are the names of the children of Israel, who ARE COMING into Mitzrayim", the place of narrowing (matzar) of Jewish spirit and vision; also their "Egyptianization" (or Americanization) was, like their later redemption, a gradual continuous process. Per Tosafot Rosh, Jews are viewed as newcomers ("coming now"), w/o roots and rights, even after many generations of success in an alien society (cf. Germany, D.A.R.). The new king must "know of" Yosef, a great Egyptian figure; but he ignores and represses his deeper knowledge of Yosef's integrity and dedication; he attributes selfish motives to Yosef, to justify anti-semitism (cf. AND ADAM KNEW CHAVA HIS WIFE, Gen. 4:1; AND THE LORD SAW THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL AND THE LORD KNEW, Ex. 2:25); so Germans didn't "know" the Jews, who contributed so much to Germany; the non-Jewish Leipzig Synagogue Choir is a fine attempt to finally do so (listen to their tape of chazonut and yiddish songs at TOP).
Chizkuni stresses the disgrace of Moshe's parents' marriage-- Amram married his Auntie, Yocheved, a relationship vilified and forbidden after Sinai; the Torah covers up here, calling them just "a son and daughter of Levi". Later, when Moshe and Aharon begin their great mission to Pharo and the Jews, the Torah interrupts to spell out their disgrace-- every leader must have skeletons in the closet; no Jewish leader, even Moshe or David, even the Rebbe or Rav Shach, should feel arrogant or godlike, or unable to identify with sinners. So Moshe's grave is hidden, that he not become an object of worship (cf. Uman). One must develop independence to lead; having questionable ancestors helps one be his own man (Michael F.)! Tho Yosef is more saintly, the ultimate Messiah comes from repentant sinners Yehudah and David. Rav S. Riskin adds that a leader must show his people how one can repent, overcome personal and family downfalls, not let them overcome her (cf. Helen Keller and Clinton)! Rav Gafni prefers to hire Milah staff who have had life crises, which deepen their insights into self and life. This revelation of Moshe's unsavory origins shows Torah's Divine origin-- if Moshe or any human author wrote it, Moshe's stained background wouldn't appear.
The Divine Author skips nothing, a model for would be censors (and lashon hara zealots, often trying to suppress their own sordid past-- pointing out bad conduct, that it not be emulated, is not negative speech, but good education)-- should children be allowed to read the Bible, so filled with murder, incest, etc.? Yet it's been little Jews' main text from time immemorial-- early exposure to life's sordid realities may be the best innoculation against their occurrence-- cf.: "It's good for man that he bear the yoke in his youth" (Lam. 3:27; in Larger Than Life, Vol. 1, Saul Deutsch quotes the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who urged that history be written fully and honestly, w/o covering up unsavory skeletons in the closet).
God calls Israel His "firstborn"; God's model priest-people will finally be followed by all mankind; as the firstborn opens the womb, enabling easier delivery of subsequent siblings, so Israel paves the rough road back to Eden for other nations (Hirsch, 4:22). The first born is "the beginning of one's strength" (Gen. 49:3), continues his life work and links him to eternity. So Israel perpetuates God's name in the world. The Jew brings blessing to mankind, by multiplying awareness of God's pervasive reality (Rav D. Aaron). The firstborn were Israel's religious leaders before the Levites.
The Torah AGAIN mentions Israel's tribal ancestors' names, families and connection to Yaakov in Exodus; they retained these identities, as they began to forge a nation (Hirsch). The Jewish nation is only as strong as every individual and family (vs. modern nation worshippers, e.g. Germany, USSR, Mapam Kibbutzim and China, who tried to weaken family loyalty and individuality, expressed by "names"-- they only want a collective Babelian Name). So the tale of the nation of Israel starts with that of one great Jew, its founder, Moshe. Rambam's grand finale to his laws of Chaunuka (M.T. 4:12-14) stresses that the purchase of shabbat candles take halachic precedence over that of Chanuka lights, tho the latter are more important religiously than wine for shabbat kiddush; why?-- family peace, from a well-lit home, is far more important than national power for Israel's ultimate peace mission (Rav Dr. D. Hartman-- buy tape from TOP).
Per Abarbanel, repeating Yaakov's sons' names explains why he stayed in Egypt-- to strengthen his ll sons who came down WITH HIM, and Yosef, who couldn't leave. OHR HACHAYIM stresses that all 12 came "WITH YAAKOV"-- they shared his sense of Divine mission in their exile, a necessary prelude and preparation for a greater Israel. Later generations just viewed Egypt as a land of great opportunity for wealth and power, forgetting their Divine destiny; they may have even enjoyed it (Monsey vs. Las Vegas?). Some Midrashim assume the Jews were not to leave Egypt (Boro Park, JoBurg?) before God's appointed time; wealthy influential Ephraimites (not enslaved) were killed by the Egyptians or Philistines during their premature (by 30 years) escape toward Israel, led by Nun, Yehoshua's dad, who claimed Divine Revelation! (see Yalkut 1:227, 2:376, 1077, Ps. 78:9f, Hosea 9:13, ICh.7:20f, Ex. Raba 20:11, San. 92a).
ALUFEI YEHUDA compares Yaakov and his descendants to the sun, whose light obscures other stars. So other leaders sense their own inadequacy, in the presence of a true spiritual giant. After he dies, run-of-the-mill scholars seem great. So once Yaakov & Sons died, the children of Israel "multiplied and became very powerful"-- they considered themselves giants in spiritual procreation. But they couldn't keep the Jews focused on their Divine mission.
Rebbe Meir of Premishlan (explaining David's critique of the evil Gadol Hador, Doag the Edomite-- Ps. 52:5) warns against over-stressing the few faults of great leaders or the few merits of lowlife; one may learn more from the errors of great men, than from superficial self-serving good deeds of churls. So Meir'l explains Rebbe's words in San. 56a-- one (e.g. Peres) who SAYS-- talks about, stresses-- that David sinned with Bat Sheva (2S12) is but IN ERROR (not to be condemned or villified, only taught); David himself attributes the death of their firstborn to their sin; but why dwell upon it, rather than upon his awesome greatness? So we must gently but firmly correct Yael Dayan, so eager to label David homosexual, with the flimsiest of evidence-- poor little Yael's simply expressing her deepest wish, that her womanizer wild warrior dad, of whom David's her symbol, had kept to his male friends and not destroyed her home and soul (for a Jewish approach to homosexuality today, listen to Dr. David Luchins' brilliant Aish lecture on a TOP audio cassette). Moshe Dayan endangered young Israeli soldiers, forced to fight hand-to-hand in the Old City in 1967-- he wouldn't bomb the enemy, lest our enemies' museums and churches be damaged. Had he evacuated Jerusalem and Chevron's Moslem Quarters, innocent Jews wouldn't have died there later, from terrorist attacks.
Hard work and family devotion, amidst Egyptian hedonism, may have generated Jewish prosperity. Pharo couldn't declare open war on the popular and influential Jews at first; he also may have wanted surface morality and decency to characterize Egypt-- cf. USSR's constitution and courts (should Israel imprison debtors?). Moshe sees Divinity in the burning bush from afar, but must remain "down to earth", barefoot, and bring Divinity down to man. Per Rav Dov Kanotopsky, Moshe remains ambivalent about God's mission, "dying" from the tension (i.e. GOD'S CONFRONTATION WAS ABOUT TO KILL HIM, 4:24), until Tziporah convinced him to commit himself; she had learned the lesson of Jewish self-sacrifice from circumcision, which she performed when torn Moshe was in no shape to do so. Once committed, Moshe's ambivalent tension disappears (i.e. THEN GOD LET HIM GO-- 4:26); he then again functioned with strength. The circumcised son was either Gershom (Targum Yonaton) or Eliezer (Shmot Raba), WHOSE BIRTH ISN'T MENTIONED IN OUR PORTION.
Israel is NOT so broad, nor so rich, a land! Its difficulties thus render it GOOD (suitable) FOR ITS INHABITANTS (Ramban)-- they can't be lazy if they want to eat, unlike Egyptians, whose land is inundated by the Nile (cf. Tzahal). Varied personality types and cultures emerge from different natural environments, e.g. the plains man, the coastal man, and the mountain man; the Jew frequents all such regions, as he frequently traverses his small land; he thus acquires the multifaceted balanced personality of model man-- A truly BROAD LAND is one which BROADENS its inhabitants. Thus the Land of Israel is GOOD AND BROAD, because it's HARD AND NARROW! (Rav J. Soloveichik). Moshe told Pharo that a rest for the Jews was in his interest-- it would make them work better! Moshe begins his career as a dedicated sensitive self-sacrificing human being, both strong and kind; he fights injustice, then becomes a kind humble shepherd; David too begins as a gentle shepherd, then fights wicked Goliath (cf. Little House on the Prairie). Their traits are prerequisites for their great future-- transcendant Divine intimacy and resultant Jewish leadership. God need only say "Moshe!" once to get his attention! Twice expresses Divine love, before getting down to business, as "Avraham, Avraham!".
H. MIDRASHIC HALACHA
COMPENDIA: Midrashic halachic (religious law) compendia precede the Talmud. They may support R. Eleazer's opinion in Gittin 6Ob: "The major portion of the Torah is contained (explicitly and implicitly) in the written law; only the smaller portion is transmitted orally" (R. Yochanan and the "yeshiva world" say the opposite-- see Hos. 8:l2, Ex. 34:27, and Chaim Grade's extraordinary novel about Misnagdic Lithuanian Jewry and the Chazan Ish-- The Yeshiva). "THE BOOK"-- SIFRA-- is a halachic exposition of the Biblical Code of Vayikra (Leviticus), traditionally a child's first text; its rulings follow R. Akiva's school (Rav D. Hoffman); works called "BOOKS"-- SIFREI-- expounded Numbers (per R. Yishmael's school) and Deut. (per R. Akiba). Ashkenazim retained only R. Yishmael's Halachic Midrash on Shmot, the Mechilta; Sephardim also had a Mechilta of RASHBY, a disciple of R. Akiva; it's preserved in the Yemenite Midrash Hagadol, often quoted by Spanish commentators. R. Yishmael's Michilta begins with the first laws of Exodus in Ch. 12. Tho sparse until Ch. 12, Rashby's opens with the burning bush (Ch. 6)-- a bird entering this tough aggressive plant gets entangled, can't emerge whole; so God speaks from it to show that He dwells among the Jews trapped in Egypt, which enslaved all foreigners (Avraham left only by royal decree-- Gen. l2:2O). R. Eliezer views the bush as a low-class plant-- so God dwells among the Jews, even in their abject state.
LOST & FOUND: An intriguing 1974 Y.U. PHD study describes the rediscovery of Rashby's Mechilta, and its impact upon Ashkenazic Tora perspectives (as valid as new discoveries in science?). Tzvi Arie Yehuda explains the omission of Exodus' first chapters in the Mechiltas, per their different outlooks. R. Akiba views Torah as a Divine Code Message to Moshe, basically self-contained, given at one moment; every letter and its crown flourish has meaning (Men.29b; cf. Eruvin 22a). Rashby, his pupil, thus interprets Exodus from God's first revelation to Moshe at the bush, elucidating all its messages. But R. Yishmael views the Torah as a gradually unfolding message of God (Zev. ll5b, cf. Git. 6Oa), spoken in NORMAL HUMAN SPEECH (Y. Shab. l7a. Ned. 8d, 36c; B. San. 64b, Kerit. lla, 67b); thus each letter, or even each phrase, need NOT convey independent meaning. Torah's in that form in which Moshe is to transmit it to Israel, not necessarily that in which he personally received it (see Mech. R.Y. Ex. l2:2, and hear Torah as The Mind of God-- a tape by Rav N. Cardozo). Much of Torah's meaning may be handed down orally. So R. Yishmael's halachic midrash starts only with the first explicit laws commanded Moshe. He also urged his students to both farm and learn Torah (as Yissachar, per Hirsch), vs. Rashby's Kollel (Ber. 35, cf. Men. 99).
I. 1/4 CONFRONTATIONS-- PEYTON PLACE REVISITED
The impact of our tiny neighborhood, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, numbering only about 650 families, plus visiting yeshiva students, is worldwide; so many creative individuals, especially in the world of Torah, live here. Uninformed outsiders often view the 1/4 as an Edenic paradise, whose inhabitants do their holy work in peace, love, joy and harmony; yet, by definition, the dedication, passion, and convictions of those who have such impact also arouse controversy, even violence, when they disagree with each other; we have all sorts of Jews here, from ardently secular to passionately haredi, from left wing supporters of Palestinean "rights" to self-government to Kahanists, who assume that God is always "on our side", and that the Arabs are demonic enemies of His Will (they're similar to anti-Zionist Stamar and Neteurei Karta Jews, and to Christian and Moslem extremists, l'havdil squared, in that they are sure that they know what God wants in history at any given moment). Unfortunately, many of the religious and political extremists don't recognize the value to all of us of democracy and tolerance, and employ violence against those with whom they disagree; just this week, last year, our religious Zionist slogans on our windows, urging haredi yeshiva students to join Tzahal, and Tzahal's soldiers to join Yeshivot, were defaced by some demented soul, probably also expressing his early childhood and sexual conflicts; he/she (to be egalitarian) covered them with huge swabs of black paint. An example of our conflcits:
Aish Hatorah is one of our leading institutions here, bringing many Jews back to their faith; it's a pleasure to see young men, once so assimilated, now studying day and night in their tasteful modern bet midrash, tho they primarily get a Shachian 19th century Lithuanian misnagdic perspective, as opposed to modern religious Zionism, hassidic spirituality, and Rav Kook's teaching, featured in Isralight's co-ed programs. But Aish's very successful beginner's programs, e.g. Discovery and Fellowships, do include leading Carlebachian and Zionist teachers, e.g. Rabbis Kahan and Schiff, tho they stress mind and logic more than heart and soul. Aish's wonderful and highly effective Fellowship Programs include Palestinean Arab speakers-- students hear and challenge their views, both convincing them that they are being shown both sides, and making them more effective Jewish spokesmen for Israel's position. On 12/27/93, Aish's Australian Program brought their speaker, Hanna Siniora, editor of a Palestinean paper, to their coordinators' apartment at 23 Habad St., Jewish 1/4. Ultra right-wing neighbors, mostly French, of Hamateh found out and prevented him from entering with shouts and threats; a female guest was punched in the stomach. I protested; the crowd then turned on me, an American, for trying to impose western democracy, which "tolerates evil", on their Jewish Israel! Rabbanit Francis Saltzberg got death threats and obscene calls when she protested the same group's turning a meeting for increased security in the Rova into a violent anti-Rabin protest. I stopped their children from setting fire to Arab stores.
Two days later, a leaflet attacked me and urged everyone to boycott Aish's dinner-- but the dinner was a great success, despite unpleasant and unnecessary separate seating; no protestors appeared-- Rav A. Nebenzthal, the government appointed Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of the 1/4, supported by some of the community, defended Rav Noach Weinberg of Aish, who invited PLO spokesmen as part of his strategy to combat them. Both follow Rav Shach. Some of Rav Noach's pupils may reflect his spirit in founding Common Denominator, a fine organization dedicated to dialogue between the religious and secular Jewish communities. Should citizens obey a government which they deem destructive and dangerous?-- Yes, for anarchy and civil war are even worse (Rav S. Riskin)! How much must a Yeshiva bow to neighbors feelings? But, despite, or partially because of, these tensions, the 1/4 is one of the world's most stimulating places to live, and full of truly great people and families, some with many children. May such large religious families grow in Israel and inspire secular Jews, gradually becoming extinct, to live naturally and bear many Jewish Israeli kids, even if they join Yael Dayan at the beach on Yom Kippur! Where there's life, there's hope!
Israel's Haredi protests against moving ancient Jewish graves, regardless of their validity, could awaken the world to the sanctity of every human being and his life after death; but the accompanying violent disturbances of haredi youth render the net effect a profanation of both God's name and human dignity-- the inevitable result of deep anger and frustration of haredi youth, not educated to take their part in the great modern world-- not everyone can be a talmudic scholar! Famous Israeli sculptor Danny Kafri, who went from secular to haredi to secular, never taking the middle road of modern Zionist Orthodoxy, claims that Israel's haredim usually only protest against alleged wrongs of outsiders, whom they disdain, rather than positively appreciating their contributions, helping them and loving all mankind. Perhaps we honor the dead more by moving them to a proper cemetary than leaving them near a highway, tho we provide technically correct separation.
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