THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
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THIS STUDY IS SPONSORED BY THE AUTHOR IN CELEBRATION OF THE SECOND BIRTHDAY OF HIS HONORABLE 15th GRANDCHILD, DOVID ELCHANAN, AND THE FORTHCOMING 4th BIRTHDAY OF DOVID'S SISTER, MAYTAL, HIS HONORABLE 10th GRANDCHILD, AND IN MEMORY OF THE AUTHOR'S FATHER, FOR WHOM DOVID IS NAMED; MAZAL TOV TO THEIR PARENTS, DANNY AND CHAYN (HER BIRTHDAY IS SHABBAT--`TIS THEIR SEASON TO BE JOLLY') FOGELMAN OF NECHUSHA (welcome back from the Fareinicta Shtaten), AND TO CHEN'S PARENTS, HERB AND MARGO GARDNER, WHOSE FINE GERMAN AND AMERICAN JEWISH ROOTS NOW FLOWER AND FLOURISH BACK HOME IN ISRAEL
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A. THE BACKGROUND, & AN OVERVIEW, OF KI SETZE
Moshe now resumes teaching God's laws of Jewish warfare, a temporary sad necessity between Eden and the Messianic Age (21:10); even after our bitter exile and the destruction of our Temple, God "gives strength to His People"--a small remnant survives the long exile of assimilation and persecution, to bravely build the State of Israel and Tzahal amidst overwhelming opposition, both internal and external, Satmar and Saudia, the Pittsburg Platform and the Palestinians; finally, "God will bless His people with peace" (Ps. 29:11); then Torah will go forth from Zion and God's word from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2); unlike peace, warfare (especially with today's mega-weapons), howbeit successful, isn't a true blessing for anyone; Israel's leaders, as Yaakov, must both pursue peace and be fully prepared for war, must salvage what they can, while praying to God, Source of all their strength and success.
Moshe had interrupted the laws of war to teach those of the public ceremony of atonement, when a Jew is killed by an unidentified assassin (21:1); he's thus warning Israel--don't overlook or excuse domestic violence during war; don't assume that an enemy killed the victim (cf. the intifada). Aggressive soldiers may also attack their own brethren (cf. Benvenuto Celleni's autobio, possibly the model for Yaakov Emden's, Megillat Sefer, $20 from TOP). So the laws setting up a good judicial system precede those of war-- soldiers involved in unresolved disputes won't unite (see Baal Haturim). The ceremony of atonement stresses that Society must escort and protect travelers and provide decent employment for all; then no desparate man will rob (and possibly kill) another (so Israeli wages, prices and taxes encourage emigration). Our text opens: "When you GO OUT to war...(21:10)"--GO OUT to destroy your enemy; don't wait until he invades (cf. 1956, Lebanon, Gaza).
Jews must fight evil (e.g. Iraq's reactor, Entebbe, and Avi Weiss at the Aushwitz convent-- hear his taped debate on Pollard from the Pat Buchanan show-- $7 from TOP). We close Ki Satzei (25:17) with God's command to wipe out Amalek's memory, but only AFTER defeating our less evil, but more pressing, local enemies. Amalek isn't threatened by Israel, but hates Israel's mission-- to revive man's Divine essence (cf. Mein Kampf). His attack follows Jewish moral laxity, e.g. false weights (Rashi, 25:13; cf. WWII); the Rogatchover Gaon claims that when Jews are unjust, they strengthen Amalek's claim that God is unjust in choosing Israel. A priest first atones for himself, his family, and his fellow priests; so God's "kingdom of priests" must conquer their internal Amalek, before "going out" to combat universal evil. The laws of the unsolved murder, followed by those of a soldier's lust for a captured idolatress, portray our latent demonic pursuit of power and pleasure-- it's aroused by close contact with profane influences, e.g. Canaanites, war, parts of the Israel Festival and TV, and touring riffraff.
Israel's strongest army CAN'T win w/o God's help-- but it's only granted when they do "... what's right in God's eyes" (Deut. 21:9). So Tzahal's entertainment should be kosher soul food, not belly dancing; Jerusalem's bowling alleys, restaurants and crafts fairs should have holy Jewish background music, not cheap Western rock-- "How can I sing a profane song in the Lord's Land?" Ideally, ONLY the righteous "GO OUT" to war-- "Tatze", "go out", is spelled Tov, TZADI, Alef--The Tzadik enters and masters all realms, from beginning to end--from alef to tov, from yeshiva to Tzahal (Paanath Razeh--may his followers soon form "Hesder Haredi" Yeshivot). Jews view war as a sad necessity; Amalak and many Arabs enjoy it. Jewish Amalek clones forget our raison d'etre (cf. the later Maccabees, today's extreme right). The Torah next stresses the duty of returning lost animals and other possessions (22:1). We fight to preserve Israel for its true task--to restore to mankind it's own Divine Image (cf. 21:23). Even the animal within man, "wandering, lost from its owner, the Soul", can radiate divinity-- IF it "finds itself" and returns to its Owner.
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B. A SYNOPSIS OF KI SETZE
WHEN YOU (singular, Israel) GO OUT TO WAR AGAINST YOUR ENEMIES (plural--also a metaphor for your temptations?--cf. 20:1), GOD YOUR LORD WILL GIVE HIM (singular-- also an oblique reference to Satan, temptation personified?) INTO YOUR HAND; YOU'LL CAPTURE HIS CAPTIVE (even a Canaanite, herself captured by your enemy; or Satan's former captive, picked up and shaped up at the Wall?). IF YOU SEE AMONG THE CAPTIVES A WOMAN OF BEAUTIFUL FORM AND CRAVE HER, TAKE HER FOR YOUR WIFE. (or: IF YOU WISH TO TAKE HER FOR YOUR WIFE--) BRING HER INTO YOUR HOUSE; SHE SHALL SHAVE HER HEAD, LET HER NAILS GROW, AND REMOVE HER (attractive) DRESS OF CAPTIVITY. SHE'LL... BEWAIL HER FATHER AND MOTHER FOR A MONTH; AFTER THAT, COME TO HER, SLEEP WITH HER, AND MARRY HER--SHE'LL BE YOUR WIFE (21:10-13--should the Bible be X-rated?). Let's explore this opening passage with a bit of depth--
Jewish unity (YOU--singular) is a precondition for Jewish victory. Then all Israel's enemies will be conquered as easily as one enemy ("him"). A captured heathen woman appeals to her Jewish captor's eyes (sin #1 may be gazing at her), quickly followed by his heart and actions (Alshech)-- one may not even gaze at an idolatress (A.Z. 20, re R. Akiva's Roman jetset 2nd wife, the former Mrs. Turnus Rufus; cf. Rambam's ruling, at the end of H.). One should also die of passion rather than even mildly violate sexual morality (but a completely passive woman, e.g. Esther, may so save her life and folk; some claim that it's better to die, rather than even sensually chat-up a single woman!--San. 74b-75a). Marrying her won't help the overly passionate invalid, trying to cling to life-- The True Joy of Sex is only found by sinners, since the Temple's destruction (Prov. 9:17); Holy Jews nowadays either listlessly mourn our tragic fate (Rashi), or lack vital connection to the Shchina (Iyun Yaakov; cf. enthusiastic songs about rebuilding the Temple, sung by secular pop singers, who violate its basic teachings of modesty and holiness). This may explain why Dovid doesn't marry Avishag the Shunamite, a pretty single young virign brought to warm up his cold old bones (2K1), a seeming contradiction to the extreme view just quoted. If he married her, it just wouldn't work! (cf. the cynical non-committed modernist critique of tradition: "why spoil a good relationship by marriage?"
Yet here God allows the Israelite warrior to sleep with Ms. Pagan once (even before her conversion, per Rambam and R. Tam, Kid. 22a, "Shelo", vs. Rashi ibid); Rashi, per Rav Azriel Ariel, holds that the very fact that the soldier knows that he'll be able to sleep with her in a month allows him to subdue his immediate desire. Someone whose impulse takes hold of him and is unable to overocme it should not say "Never!", but "Afterwards!". So an angry person should count to 10-- or 10,000, if necessary. Apparently, an outright prohibition would be ignored per the equally God-given laws of human nature, during war (cf. TV; only a marital relationship, not a one night stand, with a heathen, may be Biblically prohibited, tho zealots, e.g. Pinchas, may kill one who publically fornicates with a heathen, "on the spot"). In addition, the rabbis could control the overly passionate invalid above and may have been primarily concerned with his desecration of modest Jewesses, and its social effects, not with the invalid's sin. Once satisfied, the soldier may reject her, especially upon seeing her dejected and unadorned, during her pre-conversion pre-marital mourning in his house (so one who's not slept with his menstruant bride may not be alone with her, until he has slept with her once, after her purification-- M.T. Isurei Biah, 22:1). It may be better to channel or sublimate evil impulses, than to try to destroy them. But shaving her head, etc. may constitute only purification rites here (Chizkuni; cf. Lev. 14:8, Num. 8:7). One such woman is allowed each soldier, only for his personal use (Kid. 22a); the Torah predicts (by what follows) that he'll ultimately hate her and have terrible children from her (Sifre). Despite such problems, God wants the Jews to leave the Divine Desert Kollel and wage war for Israel (Rashi--but see "C-D").
Over 70 of God's 613 mitzvos for His Priestly People are taught in Ki Satzei-- God's ammunition, to aid us in OUR war to win ourselves. Mitzvos keep us from going off the deep end, while deepening our knowledge and sensitivity (Alshech). Each mitvah of the body, as a candle, sheds a bit of light; its underlying eternal ideas, Torah, are pure light (Prov. 6:23; Sot. 21a; Derech Chayim, Introd.). Yet we remove a prayer leader who explains a mitzva, praying: "May He who has mercy on the mother bird..." (in commanding her release before taking her young-- 22:6-7; Ber. 33). Rambam blends Revelation and Reason, accepting that Talmudic opinion that we should rationalize God's commandments; he attributes this talmudic passage, which implies the opposite, to those who hold the opposite view (but it may just censure someone who inserts one of several possible explanations into prayer, in effect declaring it THE reason, which is treason to truth). Ramban disagrees-- Ber. 33 just rejects a bad explanation (one "for the birds"), not explanation per se, of this mitzva-- God indeed lets man kill animals for his needs; freeing the mother is a an exercise in curbing glutony, not an SPCA mercy mission. Others explain the mitza ecologically, to let this fertile mother make more babes.
POSITIVE COMMANDS in our reading (per Sefer Hachinuch): take a female captive only per the prescribed procedure; hang those stoned, for one day (only blasphemers and idolators-- Ramban, vs. Rashi. See San. 45b); bury the dead; restore lost objects, preserve their value; help another load his animal; send forth the mother bird, before taking her young or eggs; take protective safety measures--e.g. fence your flat roof (Rambam); marry by prescribed ritual; retain forever a wife, whom you falsely slandered as adulterous; the court must impose capital punishment for certain offences; a rapist must marry his victim, if she wishes, and compensate her father. Equip soldiers with shovels--they must prepare fixed military toilets, outside their holy camp; charge and pay interest only to non-Jews-- would you charge your own family interest? Keep your word; allow workers to eat their fill from produce which they're processing; divorce only via a "get" document (see "F"; to prevent this--) rejoice with your bride a year--you're then exempt from public duties; don't leave her for more than a few days, to create a true and deep bond, to build a holy family.
MORE DO'S: If you lent X $$, secured by objects needed for his livelihood, let him use them meanwhile. Pay a dayworker his daily wage on time; so, tho the reward for mitzvos may only be after death, God pays each Jew with a taste of eternity "on His day", Shabbat. Leave forgotten sheaves for the poor; the court should flog sinners, when required (cf. the social and personal costs of modern jails); yibum-- take one's childless brother`s non-barren widow as a wife-- see "F"; she's to perform the chalitza ceremony with him instead, when either she or he refuses yibum; if Y pursues X to slay him, or to have intercourse subject to death or excision, including sodomy-- stop him; kill him if necessary (San. 73a f.). But if even a betrothed woman was ravished previously or (per R. Yehuda) fears for her life in the rescue attempt, the rapist is not to be killed, only stopped by other means-- he's only slain for a combination of severe sin and severe blemish to his victim (see Rashi, Tos.). Rape of an unmarried menstruant may lack sufficient blemish-- no mamzer results, tho he's a high priest raping a widow (one's not punished, per the Torah, for forbidden intercourse with membrum mortuum-- only with rabbinical lashes: M.T. Isurei Biah 1:11; see Sheb. 18a).
Some say that you should similarly prevent Shabbat violation or idolatry (if scholars pursue other scholars, to "kill" their lifework, should we "kill" them, proclaim them unfit to lead Israel?). Remember what Amalek did to Israel after Exodus-- cut off his seed.
NEGATIVE COMMANDMENTS: don't sell your captive woman; don't make her a servant, after sleeping with her; don't leave a body hanging overnight; don't ignore lost objects (OR PEOPLE!); don't let another's animal lie fallen under its load (but the owner has to help too!-- Rashi); don't wear clothes worn today only by the opposite sex-- but, in my opinion, nothing's wrong w/women's loose slacks, far more modest than skirts, despite contorted attempts by some pious poskim to ban them in Contemporary Halachic Problems, Vol. II, p. 144f; they turn the prohibition of wearing the opposite sex's clothing into a prohibition against unisex clothing, e.g. socks and slacks, and ignore the simple fact that female apparel has changed, relying on decisions made hundreds of years ago; some poskim even assert that only the total female or male appearance, not each article of clothing, is relevant--a woman may don a man's jacket or bekeshe to keep warm, per Avnei Tzedek, Y.D. 72; see Rav Nachman's tale of The Wise Man and The Fool, where a poor couple take turns wearing their one warm coat; those who forbid this cite Nazir 59a, prohibiting women to bear arms, tho otherwise dressed in female attire-- but arms per se may be "male", the opposite of the essence of the nurturing female, "mother of all flesh" (cf. female LA Lawyers), whereas the sexual designation of other "garments" is arbitrary and social.
While common-sensible Rav J. D. Bleich is indeed inclined to permit modest attractive pants suits, etc. per se, he still attempts to ban them for observant women, who represent the faith, since significant segments of the Jewish community view them as improper attire, howbeit wrongly (see M. T. Deot 5:9, Shabbat 114a); but should such views, clearly based on ignorance and distorted logic, be given weight? Would Rav Bleich similarly ban haredi garb and drab Bet Yaakov uniforms, viewed as silly, impractical, anti-individualistic and a Profanation of God's Good Name by many modern religious and secular Jews? Why should haredim set the standards for a modern Zionist Y.U. Rosh Yeshiva and his flock? Ultimately there are those who like and dislike every clothing style. The only way to satisfy everyone is to wear no clothes at all!--but that is clearly forbidden!! The holy body, ark of the soul, is to be kept concealed, not revealed.
MORE DON'TS! Don't take mother birds with their young; leave nothing which is dangerous lying about in Israel (e.g. potholes, the open large windows, with no bars, at Jerusalem's plush Zionist Confederation House-- complain!); don't sow grains with grapes in Israel; products of such a vineyard aren't kosher; don't wear garments of mixed wool and linen; don't divorce she whom you've falsely slandered as adultress, or whom you raped before marriage; don't punish one compelled to sin, e.g. a rape victim (cf. Rambam's ruling, at the end of H.; but such a cohen's wife, raped by a non-Jew, must leave him, another "hard" halachic rule, which may be mitigated by the doubtful status of today's cohanim and strict halachic evidentiary requirements). A man rendered sexually impotent or incapable of procreation by a blow may not marry a native born Jewess; she may not marry a bastard (product of adulterous or incestual relations), nor a Moabite or Amonite, back when they were distinct nations; don't prohibit marriage with Egyptian or Edomite converts after 2 generations; those ritually impure may not enter even the Levite camp; don't return a foreign slave who's fled to Israel, nor afflict him.
A Jewish harlot, K'DESHA, or homosexual male prostitute, KADESH, may not live in Israel. Rashi and Rambam prohibit all extra-marital intercourse, Ramban & Rosh only between those who cannot be married. Homosexual intercourse is prohibited, with a death penalty, upon proper warning and witnessing, to all human males-- Hullin 92; see San. 149b, David Luchin's TOP tape and Rav Eliezer Finkelman's article in The Journal of Rabbis in Academia. A lesbian is a loose woman, zona, per R. Huna, Shab. 65, vs. Yev. 76a; don't offer sacrifices purchased with a prostitute's wages or a dog's price (e.g. some film stars' salaries; some say KELEV, dog, denotes a male prostitute). Prostitutes and fierce dog breeders tend to donate guilt money to holy causes-- "she commits illicit sex for apples and gives them to the sick" (Ramban, Lev. Raba 3:1); don't pay a Jew interest; don't postpone sacrificial pledges beyond 3 festivals; a farm worker mustn't take more produce than he can then eat, nor eat unpicked produce while working; don't REMARRY your remarried divorced wife, who's widowed or divorced from spouse #2 (perhaps not a concubinage prohibition-- cf. the cohen-divorcee ban, also perhaps only on marriage, not concubinage).
Don't take as loan pledges utensils needed to prepare food; don't remove signs of Divinely inflicted tsaraas; don't seize collateral w/o a court order; don't withhold a pledged utensil when the borrower needs it; don't accept testimony of close relatives (relatives of a criminal are "broken people", not to be afflicted--Hirsch); don't judge strangers and orphans differently from others; don't take a widow's loan pledge; you mustn't retrieve forgotten sheaves or fruit-- they're to be left for the poor; don't beat any Jew (the court may administer prescribed lashes to a sinner, IF he can endure them; cf. 24:20, not re-beating one's olive tree!); don't muzzle an animal from eating while working; the widow of a childless man, without chalitza, may only marry his brothers-- see "F"; don't show mercy to a pursuing murderer; don't keep false weights and measures, tho not used. FINALLY, don't forget our eternal war with Amalek.
PRO & CONS: Some positive commands are simply rephrased as negative, e.g. "keep a slandered wife" and "don't divorce her"; both man's outgoing drive-- to do and accomplish, ever expanding-- and his refraining restraining gesture must be engaged in God's Torah (both diarrheic and constipated personalities are to be modified thereby): "DEPART FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD" (Ps. 34). Generally, violating a negative commandment is more serious than omitting a positive one; negative commandments guard man from himself; positive ones develop sensitive creativity. Brakes stop you from plunging downhill; but you also need gas and an accelerator to climb. One may not divorce a wife whose sexual faithfulness he falsely slandered; but the positive aspect, "keeping her", can be constantly raised to deeper intimacy. So Hillel's basic adage, "Do not to others what's hateful to you", precedes the Torah's higher guide, "love your neighbor, ("who's like", or "as") yourself", in moral development. Positive commandments correspond to love of God, negative to fear and awe of Him (Ramban, Ex. 20:8).
KABALISTIC WRITINGS call extroversion chesed; its model, Avraham, proclaims God's Name to all; introversion--inner discipline and depth--is called g'vurah, strength. It's archetype, Yitzchak, conquers himself. Yaakov synthesizes both into Truth and Glory, Emes and Tiferes, becoming Yisroel, a model of balanced perfection. He then can GO OUT, transform the world, despite his constant battle with the spirit of evil, the "angel of Esav"; crippled Yaakov's victory is only far off, at Messianic dawn (beginning now?). Meanwhile Esavian nations create lopsided idolatrous civilizations; they overstress either finite discipline and collective power, e.g. the colorless USSR, or infinite individual ecstatic creativity, e.g. California Culture.
As Americans, rugged individualists, we chafe at the bit at all restrictions which link and bind us to God's real world and to other people. Families break their close ties with their relatives merely to get a better paying job somewhere faroff; maids, who aren't trusted with valuables, are trusted with our most precious possessions-- our children (Rebetzin Esther Jungreis, whose husband turned down a great job as a Florida rabbi, to remain close to their relatives; she worked at home to be available to her young children). Massachusetts voters even rejected mandatory seat belts, an important life-saving measure! So modern Western men and women are so often lonely, existentially alienated, non-committed and perplexed beings, despite all their success and possessions-- like the early Jews in Egypt, they're possessed by their possessions.
Harold Kushner is a Conservative Rabbi, whose theology, almost by definition, is heretical from a truly traditional viewpoint-- that God dictated both the Written and Oral Torah, both therefore unchangeable by man, except where they themselves indicate otherwise; Kushner, however, speaks of human authors of the Bible, and going beyond its laws and ethics, according to our "advanced" contemporary morality, e.g. feminism; but he is also a sensitive, kind and eloquent observer of life, with much experience and many good Torah values (he and his version of Judaism achieved great fame via his best seller, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People); he deals with modern problems with external limits in his highly readable and insightful work, Who Needs God?, where he quotes from Psalm 119, a paean to God's Law:
Teach me, O God, the way of Your laws, I will observe them to the utmost. Give me understanding, that I may observe Your teaching And keep it wholeheartedly... O how I love Your teaching, It is my study all day long. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies; They always stand by me. I have gained more understanding than my elders, For I observe Your precepts ... Your lamp is a lamp to my feet, A light for my path. I have firmly sworn to keep Your rules (33-34, 97-98, 100, 105-106).
Kushner comments: "We modern people tend to be uncomfortable with laws. We see them as confining, taking away our freedom. I sometimes think the essence of the modern outlook is: "This is a free country, and nobody is going to tell me what to do."... Our love of freedom makes it hard for us to understand someone like the author of Psalm 119, who speaks of loving the law and being grateful for it. The Psalmist loves the law first because the sense of being commanded assures him that God takes him seriously, and also because he is happier living in a world where people feel addressed and summoned by God. It is law that keeps us from returning to the jungle, to a situation where the strongest take what they want. It is law that keeps us human, guiding us to the realization that there are greater callings and higher satisfactions in life than constantly looking out for our own self-interest.
"Just as the world would be unlivable if we could not count on the reliability of the law of gravity and other laws of chemistry and physics, the world of our social relationships would be unlivable if we could not accept certain standards of behavior as being right and necessary, even when we don't feel like living up to them. It is hard enough to do what is right. How much harder would it be if we had to first figure out what was right, and then summon the moral energy to do it? As Robert Bellah and his collegues write in Habits of the Heart: `It is the moral context of relationships that allows marriages, families and communities to persist with some certainty that there are agreed upon standards of right and wrong that we can count on, and that they are not subject to incessant renegotiation' (so a huge amount of time and energy is wasted on decision making in a collective, e.g. a kibbutz, rather than having a CEO in charge of getting the job done).
"A character in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov says: `If there is no God, everything is permitted'. I think he means more than simply: `If there is no one to hold me accountable and punish me, I can do whatever I want.' I suspect he means: `Without God, what makes something I do wrong? It may be illegal. It may be distasteful to you. It may hurt people, who don't deserve to be hurt. But if I feel like doing it, what makes it WRONG?' (Hirsch said the same thing in The 19 Letters over a century ago, in dismissing human happiness, e.g. Hitler's, as the criteria of value validity-- but one might argue that true higher happiness, inconsistant with immorality, is man's goal, the approach of Rav Noach Weinberg of Aish Hatorah).
"The moral relativist, the person who feels that something is right if you feel it is right (Kushner?), may feel free in his rejection of absolute standards of good and bad, but his freedom is the freedom of the sailor at sea, without a compass. He is free to travel in any direction he fancies, precisely because he has no way of knowing which direction the harbor lies in. Should we envy him that sort of freedom?". Rav M. Gafni, in a take-off of the Ishbitzer' Rebbe's analysis of the attracting attractive alien women, noted that sometimes great, but non-traditional, Jews, such as Kushner, or non-Jews, may be better general guides to life and inner understanding than very learned and observant rabbis, who nevertheless lack a positive dynamic attitude to life; I might take them my questionable chicken, but not my questioning soul
But Kushner seems to contradict himself, to want to have his cake and eat it too--on the one hand, he seems enthused with absolute laws, originating from God, above and beyond man's own limited and biased perspective; yet, on the other hand, he'd let man judge just what part of God's Biblical Word he wishes to take seriously, and which part he wishes to declare obsolete-- a typically confused Conservative position, no different from Reform theologically. Truly traditional belief is far firmer and clearer, and is in no way contradicted by logic-- see Lawrence Kelemen's Permission to Receive, for an excellent exposition of this theme ($15 from TOP). In fairness, however, all Jews, including the Orthodox, have their own personal problems observing and understanding some parts of the Torah, e.g. not smoking; but the difference is that the Orthodox, unlike the Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform, do not, as a result, go "after their heart and after their eyes", and reject any part of the Torah per se; instead, they keep studying it to understand both it and themselves better and resolve their problems.
Sefer Hachinuch omits several mitzvos-- a double-portion of an estate goes to the firstborn son, tho born of a despised or forbidden mother, even a no-fault bastard. But this is part of the general inheritance laws in the portion of Pinchas (Rambam, vs. Ramban). The warning to a rebellious gluttonous son is subsumed under YOU SHALL NOT EAT WITH THE BLOOD (Lev. 19:26)-- this prohibits such eating as will forfeit your blood; he's stoned before he ruins himself and society (San. 71b;-- see "E", Sefer HaMitzvos, Neg. 195). Laws of Gedilim, tzitis, bound tassels on garment corners, are repeated; Hirsch notes that the knots, symbolizing binding prohibitions, are only the first 1/3 of their length; once given "vessels", seemingly binding mitzva limits, I develop my Divine potential for creativity, the longer (2/3) free-flowing fringes (see Shalom Freedman's LIFE AS CREATION, a Jewish Way of Thinking about the World, Aronson). Rav Meir Moller suggests that most, if not all, of the commandments in Ki Setze, at least the positive ones, are not those commanded every Jew, regardless of his circumstances, but those arising out of special circumstances, e.g. if he goes to war or raids a birds' nest or divorces his wife (shatnes and wearing opposite-sex clothing are constant prohibitions).
C. BEYOND REPAIR? All the sources we quoted above imply that the captured idolatress is permanently pagan, at some level of her being; we're to make her look miserable, hoping that the Tzahal Chayal (Israeli soldier) will abandon her-- the Torah predicts a lousy marriage and messed-up kids if he persists. Rav Azriel Ariel (in "B'ahava U'bemuna", whose title is still not translated in the English version) adds that neighbors and friends seeing her in his home will try to cool off his misguided impulse and he may be shamed into abandoning it, aware of the likely outcome of this union. But don't we believe, as Rav Shlomo Carlebach, that everyone can come back to their own innermost selves, God and Eden? Don't we believe that a basically pure human soul will awaken to itself and God, when exposed to, and absorbed into, a holy Jewish society in Israel? Can't Ms. Captive shape up and straighten herself out? Is she really beyond repair, in the catagory of "that bent, which is beyond straightening out..." (Ecc. 1:15), or "Consider the work of the Lord (of Nature), for who can straighten out that which He's made crooked?" (Ecc. 7:13). Is Freud right-- are we forced to act out unconscious primal drives, of infantile origin?-- if so, what happens to free will? Even Rambam , perhaps the #1 exponent of free will, claims that we're born with basic personality traits, which we can't change, with others that are very hard to change, and that our views and traits are, to a great extent, a product of our environment (M. T. Daot 1).
So Rav J. Soloveichik taught that the two goats sacrificed on Yom Kippur represent our LACK of free will in determining our determinative environment. Only the drawing of lots determines which goat is sacrificed to God and which to the Devil; we can't pick our parents, age and environment-- "Perforce you are created and perforce you are born" (Avot); had the Rov been born to a prostitute on drugs, he might have destroyed the world, and had the street corner bum been born into his home, he might have been the meshiach!
But two mitigating factors restore free will to the human equation: 1) While there's a limit to how much I can modify my personality, there's little limit on how I choose to express it; every trait has its socially useful expression-- "he with murderous impulses will become a shochet (ritual slaughterer)". A dominant female can be a traffic cop on Jaffa Road. 2) God considers my background, internal and external, in judging me; he doesn't expect Esav to be Yaakov, nor Rebbe Zusia to be Moshe-- only to develop their own potential for good to the full extent possible; only He knows who has succeeded, who's righteous (at least 51% good), and who wicked (at least 51% bad), after weighing all factors (M. T. Tshuva 3:2). So, while properly exposing the heretical beliefs of non-Orthodox rabbis, no Orthodox Jew may say that God prefers him to such rabbis, that he'll go to heaven and they to hell.
D. A LOST SOUL
Unlike Rashi's dark depressing portrait, some commentators indeed paint a much brighter picture of the future potential of the captive pagan femme fatale; not only does the Ohr Hachayim, following Rambam, not despair of her ever becoming a decent Jewish wife, but he describes her as a very high elevated soul! Tho she was a lost soul, her inner hope is not yet lost-- to join the holy people in the holy land. Why so?--
De facto, Jews at war are fighting the satanic enemies of Israel's mission-- to bring the world back to God and themselves. A sensitive Jewish soldier, so absorbed, has his holy intuition keenly aroused; he then suddenly senses a kindred holy soul in a beautiful captivating captive pagan woman, and craves her-- but she's trapped, "in captivity", in a decadent culture, due to Adam's sin. He redeems her soul by converting and marrying her, AT ONCE, IF she agrees, with no preliminary trials and tribulations! (Yev. 47b; Rambam, M. T. Judges 8:5; but wait 3 months to consummate the marriage to ascertain paternity-- ibid 8:6). But if the soldier seeks only the uninhibited wild joy of war, not to do God's Will and destroy Israel and God's enemies, his lust will lead him to a cheap disco denizen-- only "If you go to war UPON YOUR ENEMIES... shall she be a wife FOR you". Only if Ms. Captive refuses to convert, still clinging to her habitual idolatry (Avraham also took a while to leave it, per Rambam's account, and still longer until he began to spread the good word), must she mourn for a month of adjustment; otherwise he may marry her immediately, w/o her mourning (Rav Azriel Ariel ignores this Rambam in this week's B'ahava U'bemuna")-- so Jews mourn their distance from their Father (God) and Mother (The existential community of Israel) each Elul, training to go out to THE war with evil; Rav M. Gafni explored the Ishbitzer's teachings on the captive woman this week-- he claims a divinity in every strong desire per se, together with the need for "birur", the refinement of the desire and its separation from crasser aspects of the desired object or person, e.g. via her mourning rites here. The Ishbitzer does not quote the earlier Ohr HaChayim; apparently, he either did not have his works (books were few and far-between in the bad old days) or he rejected his teaching.
Ramban cites divergent Talmudic views and concludes that the captive woman is FORCED to convert to Judaism, as were the Idumians (cf. Islam). But RambaM disagrees; if she won't convert after a year, she must only adopt the Torah's 7 basic universal moral principles of the "Sons of Noah". Jews must bring all mankind back to this basic religion (M.T. Kings 8:10; see Light Unto the Nations, $12 from TOP). She may then remain in Israel, but her captor may NOT marry her; a child from his one act of permitted intercourse (per Rambam) isn't Jewish; thus one of David's 400 children from captive women (could this happen to contemporary "gedolim"?), Tamar, could marry Amnon, her biological half-brother, after her conversion. The captive beauty's weeping and mourning for her family and culture assuage her sorrow and longing, for IN ALL SORROW IS PROFIT (Prov. 14:23) and, afterwards, consolation (Ramban). Probably one never completely removes early childhood influences and experiences from his/her soul-- be patient with converts and returnees. Ms. Captive does this IN HIS HOUSE, to get used to her new husband and role. So Rosh Hashana's liturgy is a grand rabbinic drama fashioned from women's tears (e.g. Chana, Hagar, Sisera's ma-- Rav M. Gafni, on a TOP tape).
E. ARE BAD BOYS REALLY BAD?
Most rabbis claim that a stubborn and rebellious son, 12-12 1/2 years old, "never was and never would be" (21:18f; no such girls are even mentioned); there are too many rare legal prerequisites to execute him-- e.g. both parents must have identical height, appearance, and voice. He must eat a huge meal of rare meat and wine in bad company, outside his father's house, bought with $ he stole from his father! Human perfection is impeded by excesses in food, drink, and sex, destroying family and nation (Guide, 3:33). Avraham's true pupils are those of modest passions, unlike Bilaam & Co. (Avot 5:22; cf. Solomon). This didactic law is given only to "learn and get reward" (San. 71a)-- the reward for study and application of its basic lessons in child rearing is a decent kid (Hirsch)! How can a child be good, if one parent puts down the other (different heights), or if they deliver different messages and outlooks (voice and appearance)?-- but such children may be more subtle and complex, tho less tranquil, e.g. Yaakov. Should "likes" marry?. Dr. Moshe Greenberg, a good H.U. Prof., always eager to drive a wedge between prophet and prophet, between Chazal and the Bible, claimed, at Yakar, that this exposition of the stubborn son was a rabbinic attempt to evade a harsh immoral Biblical decree; but traditional Judaism claims that God's Torah itself, by its own qualifications, only intended to deliver a powerful didactic lesson.
Rav Yehuda Henkin: A Roman father had life and death power over his young child; but rabbis of the Roman era expounded laws of the rebellious son so restrictively that their execution was impossible. Rav Jonathan, however, recalled: "I saw one, and sat on his grave" (San. 71a; they likewise disagree about a razed idolatrous Jewish city-- YF). Reliable testimony is incontrovertible. Why did the others deny what he said he saw? They referred to law, he to reality-- not that he was executed, but that he died of other causes. God killed him. Wayward and rebellious sons exist. Otherwise, why even learn about them? Nor is he always his parents' fault. Jacob and Esau received identical devoted upbringing (but maybe not compatible with Esav's personality-- YF). Each "went to school every day..." (Ber. Rab. 63:10). At maturity, one turned to the study hall, the other to idolatry. Isaac et ux were NOT to blame. The father of a bar mitzva boy proclaims: BARUCH SHEPATRANI! "Blessed (is God), Who's now absolved me of punishment for this one" (Ber. Rab., 25:27). YF: why not mother too?-- perhaps because she has no duty to teach him; the blessing means that father's responsible for his child's behavior only until bar mitzva, his Independence Day. Magan Avraham (225), however, explains that the child could have suffered for the father's sins before becoming 13! Daddy's now relieved of this burden. Nothing similar exists for a bat mitzva; perhaps she's not so problematic as the wild male; alternatively, her modest Jewish mother, who must educate her, doesn't make public pronouncements.
YH: Is a parent forever liable for his son's sins? He raised him; isn't everything the son does the result?-- NO! Blessed be God (YF: the 3rd partner), Who absolves parents-- IF they've done their best. Kids have free will too! True: "Educate the youth according to his way; even when he grows up he won't depart from IT" (Prov 22:6)-- but "It", feminine, refers to "his way", not your education-- even as an adult, both his basic personality and free will remain. "When a man has a wayward and rebellious son" is a great tragedy. Fortunately, it rarely occurs in full force. Our realism, plus love and devotion, may secure us the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy (54:13): "All your children will be learned of God, and great will be your children's peace".
F. WANDERING SOULS
The son of a levirate marriage (yibum) "carries on the name" of the deceased (25:5 f). Yet we DON'T name the new child after him; his brother could indeed so name a child of another wife, w/o levirate marriage. But the idea seems to be that the soul or personality of the deceased, his "name", should continue in this world. Only if he, the deceased brother, has initiated the great deed of procreation by marrying, can he complete it via his brother and his wife, PARTS OF HIM. Should God's concern be for his widow, she may need a husband even more if she had kids with her late spouse!
Sefer Hachinuch cites Zohar (e.g. Kisatze 281), which posits gilgul, transmigration of souls; this doctrine, pagan nonsense per much earlier, possibly greater, Saadya and Albo, and much later Leon de Modena, Rav Yichya Kapach et al, was enthusiastically expounded by Abarbanel and Ari (see our Shlach study). He who dies childless is interrupted in doing God's work. His soul wanders aimlessly, seeking rescue. If it enters the child conceived by his wife and brother, it's redeemed. His former wife is now his mother (cf. Freud)! Only the first act of Levirate intercourse can produce such a dual-fathered child. After that, only the surviving brother "fathers" the child. Before Sinai, any intercourse after Yivum effected the perpetuation; the Levir, any close relative, had to leave the widow once she bore a son. Thus Onan lamented that no male seed from Tamar would EVER be his (Gen. 38:9); when Yehuda finally sleeps with her, twins are born, replacing both Er and Onan! (Malbim, who differentiates the bearing of the dead man's replacement-child from the OTHER mitzva--to continue the dead man's name on his inheritance, his share in the glorious Holy Land. This might be done by any relative, when no brother survives, e.g. Boaz; see Ruth 2:13, 4:3ff; but he only raises the name of the dead UPON HIS INHERITENCE; Ruth's child is indeed attributed only to Naomi, who raises him).
Menasha Ben Israel (Nishmat Chayim) poses ten ?? re Yivum; he contrasts perpetuation of the deceased with the prohibition (P) of living with one's deceased brother's wife-- 1) why not have another relative do it, avoiding P! Answer (A): only the souls of the two brothers are viewed as one. 2) Why disregard the severe P just to do a mitzva? A: Procreation isn't just a mitzva, but a pillar of the universe, = to all mitzvot together! Thereby the deceased's soul will return pure to the Lord (what if he's single?; cf. Lot's daughters sleeping with him and Cain & Abel's sister-wives). 3) If the soul of his deceased brother enters him to procreate, why not just do so with his own wife? A: The deceased is used to his own wife, always happy amidst her love; she's a vessel better prepared to receive his soul. 4) Why didn't Torah also command Yivum if the deceased left only a son OR daughter? The mitzva's to have both. A: He's "rectified" once he has the link to some seed, even grandchildren; God doesn't permit incest to just perfect the mitzva. 5) If the widow gave birth to a daughter, is his soul there? A: If he was righteous, the daughter will return him via her son; if he was sinful, causing reincarnation in a woman, he's already received his punishment! (none of this, including belief in reincarnation, is Jewish dogma-- see Yigdal).
6) If the widow doesn't give birth, why? What happens to his soul? A: Perhaps they lacked intent to continue his soul OR she was barren or he sterile. He may then be "fixed" through other relatives. 7) If his pregnant widow had a baby, who lived even 1 hour, there's no Yivum. Why? A: As anyone whose children die, once included in "the chain of life", he never parts. 8) Why the oldest brother? A: Reincarnation (a 2nd chance) comes from God's kindness: "He reconsiders His thoughts, that none may be cast away" (2S14:14). God draws his soul to his wife and brother; the "oldest brother" hints at God's Greatness. 9) Why's the wife of a castrated man exempt? A: She's not really like a wife (implying only if he married AFTER being castrated?). P prevails. 10) If the Levir only fathered one son, his brother's, is HIS wife subject to Yivum? A: the son indeed perpetuates 2 paternal souls, those of the deceased and the Levir (See Yalkut Yitzchak, 599-- are there schizophrenic implications?).
A NON-MYSTICAL VIEW: Each person's genes and development contribute something unique to the world, carried on by his children; if he has none, the most likely replacement for him is the child of his genetically related brother and his closest social tie, his wife; her personality is likely to assimilate his!
THE CHALITZA ALTERNATIVE (25:7f.): Paanach Razeh claims that the widow's ceremonial removal of her brother-in-law's shoe, when he will not marry her (chalitza, is a last try to get his affection; she shows readiness to wash his hands and feet, a prime wifely duty, as serving him food (M.T. Ishut 21:3; she's forced to do so-- ibid 21:10). He, in turn, must feed and clothe her, even better than himself, if necessary (see ibid 12ff.). If her brother-in-law still rejects her, she casts aside the shoe and spits, saving her self-respect--he's not worth having! She proclaims: SO SHALL BE DONE TO THE MAN WHO WILL NOT BUILD HIS BROTHER'S HOUSE (25:9)! If they're really not suited, the rabbis advise chalitza--25:4 introduces yivum: "Don't plow with an ox and donkey together"! (But why disgrace him, if he heeds rabbinic advice or her wish?). This law's patrilineal-- the brothers must have a common father. What's to be perpetuated, normally procreated, may be daddy's soul or personality-- cf. inheritance of shares in the Holy Land, also via fathers. There's no such perpetuation of a woman w/o children; per most opinions, she's not even commanded to procreate (is procreation a built-in universal Divine biological command?). CHALITZA is a realm where halachic observance can seemingly destroy lives, e.g. when the brother who must perform the halitza ceremony is a minor, missing, incompetant, or unwilling; the widow cannot then remarry or have any sexual life, as she's considered "engaged" to the brother. Creative rabbinic approaches, e.g. annuling her original marriage, may be necessary to save the good name of the Torah and halacha.
G. LET HER GO
10 items effect a Biblical divorce (24:1): 1) volition of the husband*. 2) divorce ONLY via a written "get" (writing is only 1 of 3 ways to effect marriage). Writing, as the Written Law, is fixed, not subject to the flow and creativity of the oral law. Perhaps a creative block, rigidity, is at the root of divorce. Sefer Hachinuch sees writing as sure evidence of divorce, preventing adultery; it also takes time, cooling rash impulses. 3) the text must state that he divorces her, removing his "ownership". 4) it must completely separate them and 5) be written with her in mind (he must finally think about her?). 6) After writing it, only delivery should be lacking. 7) she must get the "get"-- 8) before witnesses and 9) understanding it's a get. 10) delivery by him or his agent.
* DIVORCE WAS ENTRUSTED TO THE HUSBAND, WHO'D NEVER BE FOOLISH ENOUGH TO GET RID OF A GOOD WIFE (Hirsch; per Torah, he could always add another; an impulsive wife often later hates her husband for letting her divorce him-- YF). A man may, however, display wickedness or irresponsibility, e.g. by seduction of a virgin or slander of his betrothed with adultery; then the Torah requires her assent to divorce. When Rabenu Gershom & Co. saw many corrupt Jewish males, they enacted that no man could divorce without her consent (we might similarly explain his expired ban on polygamy, also rejected by Sefardim). Biblical Jews, however, appear far worse than medieval ones; cf. the concubine in Givah (Judges 19). Can males again be worthy of such power? Maybe the rabbis COULD NOT change the law before R. Gershom, as the men would not accept it. Perhaps God waited for Jewry's maturation to accept this concept-- cf. Kushner above. Avraham and his people keep growing-- we bless God Who GIVES (now too!) the Torah. Baruch of Medzyboz made a previously childless couple divorce and remarry; this time she surrounded him 7 times; perhaps she must be 7 women to her basically polygamous husband-- 1 for each day of the week (Z. Shechter)-- then he can truly unite with her!
GROUNDS: The Talmud (Gitten 90a) discusses legitimate and illegitimate grounds for divorce, perhaps only of rabbinic origin. Opinions vary as to how much he's FORCED to so limit himself. Tho his divorce was immoral, he's not forced to remarry her. Divorce is only proper if he found her sexually immoral (Shamai; some say: non-observant); Hillel justifies divorce even if she burnt supper; per Rav Akiva, even if he found another fairer-- some say that he's just explaining Hillel's opinion (see Yer., end Gittin). Later authorities differ-- Meiri and Tur (119) claim that Hillel only refers to a shrew, a bad wife, who withholds affection, who gives him evil, not good, all her days, the opposite of the Woman of Valor, upon whose tongue is a teaching of kindness. Some opine that all severely limit divorce of a 1st wife-- God scorns he who casually divorces her (Malachi 2:13-4). Others say that they dispute even the case of a 1st wife; all would agree with R. Akiva re a 2nd. Some view only a virgin as a "first union"; she covenants with he who first uses her (see Rashash). While traditional Yeshiva students study details of marriage ceremonies and bills of divorce in great depth, tho few will ever deal with them, they spend little, if any, time on the nature and preservation of marriage. Time for a change?
Traditional grounds for divorce are more liberal, if only kiddushin, binding engagement, has occurred. Don't marry with the intent to divorce. Forbidden marriages must be dissolved; opinions vary as to how much force is to be applied. No-fault divorcees are entitled to a financial settlement, Ketubah. Tho women can't initiate divorce, the court, upon their request, will compel a husbnd to divorce for good reasons. This often doesn't work today, when rabbinical courts often lack power and/or concern. Many women suffer for years, abandoned by husbands, yet unable to remarry (others simply want to leave their husbands, often for another man, a grave social danger). This causes disdain for halacha. If innovative scholars don't solve these problems, many Jews will bypass the whole system, e.g. via common law, Reform, PA or Cypriot marriages. For an A-1 survey of Jewish divorce law, see Ency. Tal., Vol. 6. S. Mandelbaum (Divorce Your Lawyer) lessens the pain of parting by substituting mediation for litigation. The 1994 Jerusalem conference on Jewish law featured this issue-- Rav Meir Feldblum proposed that the bride refuse to be bound by the ceremony, which can nevertheless be held! Prof. Dov Frimer protested! Truly grand rabbi Yitz Greenberg is for legal devices to obviate the overwhelming commitment of a bride; but God apparently sees great social value in it and it should be retained, at least for those women raised to be primarily good completely committed Jewish wives and mothers, rather than self-centered clones of male professionals.
Pre-modern Sephardic Sefer Hachinuch (548) is forthright: "Woman's created to aid man, as one of his precious possessions... God willed he should expel this article from his house when it's a pain (citing Hillel)! Others feel, since she's in God's Image and sensitive, it's wrong to expel her, but for great cause (Shamai)... If she depresses him and he can't stand her, he doesn't have to remain with her-- like those nations who make a covenant until death with a woman (Catholics). Don't fear the separation!" So Sephardic guide Pele Yoetz urges a woman to honor her commitment of dedication to even a rotten husband-- God will reward her in the next world! Avigayil loses a bit of her holiness, symbolized by the letter "yud", and is called Avigal when she hints tat she'd like to retain contact with David, while she is still married to obnoxious Naval, who hasn't left her (Rav Yitzchak, Yalkut 2:134, Radak from Jer. San. 2:3, and Mid. Samuel 23:12 on 1S25:31). But modernist Rabbi Reuven Bulka sees a woman's need for self-fulfillment as justifying her every effort to get an easy divorce. He feels her ease in doing so will make her husband treat her well; but it may undermine his sense of security in his voluntary "mother substitute"-- mothers don't resign!
Malbim explains why marriages go bad today (i.e. his day)-- couples "fall in love (or lust)" BEFORE getting married. They want the other for their own selfish needs, rather than seeking his/her welfare. Happily married Hirsch, with 5 sons and 5 daughters, has a similar view. Chayim & Chana start out with romantic notions of life and significant others, little related to reality; they have a great time until babies come; then they gradually feel more and more disappointed as their mirage fades (generally not a Haredi disease; see "Getting the Love You Always Wanted", showing how we all marry our parents to "fix" our original basic relationships, AND teaching how, nevertheless, to make it really work out well). Our ancestors, e.g. Avraham, were first concerned with family and character in choosing a mate. Then, as a well watered sapling, planted in good earth, true love gradually grew AFTER marriage, from genuine appreciation of the other (cf. Tevya: "Goldie, do you love me?"). Mankind's major problems stem from lack of individual harmony (Rav M. Gafni).
In "The Adjusted American, Normal Neuroses...", divorce is attributed to an American fixation-- love is the basis of marriage; life decisions are made in a mood resembling a trance or drunkenness! What's perceived as "love" is usually discovery in another of those aspects denied or underdeveloped in oneself (cf. Viscott's "neurotic object choice"; temporal love, based on getting something from the other, can include psychological satisfactions). Resulting idealization of the mate gradually dissipates; John's left with a real foible ridden Jane. He then seeks another mate for thrills and ideals, rather than developing himself. Most divorce is from bad attitudes toward marriage, not the wrong spouse.
H. APPRECIATE HER
False accusations of a wife's adultery (22:14) refer also to Israel's true wife-- the Torah. SEE (share insight of) LIFE WITH A WOMAN WHOM YOU LOVE (Ecc. 9:9) also applies to Torah, a Jew's true lifelong mate, with whom he communicates, interprets experience. Only to Israel was Torah revealed on Sinai; yet Israel abandons and disdains her, claiming wealth and pleasure come to those who ignore her. He says that she's not a "virgin", not his exclusive unique source of vitality and joy. Then her father (God) and mother (the existential eternal Community of Israel) bring him to judgement-- they show him the true quality of life in Torah. After punishment for her neglect and slander, he can redeem himself; he pays "100 pieces of silver", 100 God-awareness blessings a day. He now gives her "regular times" for study, never to abandon her again-- Ohr Hachayim; many a wife will finally be appreciated by her man-- if she can stick it out!
Rambam himself posits an incredible law, found nowhere in Torah, Talmud or other codes: a heathen woman, with whom an Israelite willfully slept, is executed (M.T. Isurei Biah 12:10; well censored in the Vilna edition). But he fails to distinguish a Divine Image human from an animal, itself far more beloved of God than a mere tree, in the allegedly analogous case in San. 55b, and idolatrous Midianite seductresses, in Num. 31:16-17, from simple victims of rape--YF; so Maggid Mishna and Ramach question his sources. Should this affect our image of Rambam? In Hilchot Daot, he claims that one can't think straight if even a bit ill or starving; per Shalshelet Hakabala, Rambam's mother died giving birth to him; his father despised both him and her, until he become a young prodigy. He suffered a breakdown when his half-brother drowned. Dr. Steve Wald notes that Sephardic scholars would often innovate law from the Torah itself, not as bound to the Talmud as Ashkenazim; Talmudic scholars too held very negative views toward corrupt pagan non-Jews, gradually shifting from a nationalistic basis to one rejecting them for lack of ethics and intellect-- then, when they indeed encountered high level gentiles, they preferred refined non-Jews to vulgar Jews.
I. A WEIGHTY ISSUE.
The first ? on our last judgment day will be: "Did you deal honestly with your fellow man?" or "Did you deal in business with faith in God guiding you" (so that you don't grab what's not yours, nor react with panic to business losses or loss of business)? "To be honest in business is to fulfill the whole Torah." (Mekilta to Exodus 15:26). So we read: "Don't have in your bag diverse weights... (25:13-16)
In an otherwise ordinary Polish synagogue, a set of scales was displayed opposite the entrance. The townspeople said they played a part in saving the whole town from what seemed certain destruction. Many, many years back a great drought fell upon the town. The rabbi prayed one night, long past midnight. As if in a dream, he heard a voice say, "Your prayers won't help--only Kalman the grocer's. Kalman must lead the whole congregation in prayer". The rabbi awoke and decided he had truly been dreaming, for Kalman was an ignoramus-- hardly able to read, crude and rude, sometimes even quarrelsome. Can the Almighty really want him to be spokesman for the whole community? But the dream seemed to be a divine message.
The rabbi summoned the elders and asked them to announce that every man, woman and child appear for morning services. Everyone sat or stood in silence, waiting for the cantor to begin the service. But the cantor and rabbi ramained in their places. Then Kalman entered and took his regular seat near the back. The rabbi came over and said: "Kalman, go up to the bimah. You're our cantor today". Kalman was startled. "How can I be the cantor? I can't even read?" The rabbi said: "It doesn't matter. Go and pray for the people". But Kalman first walked out and then returned, carrying a large grocery scale straight to the bimah.
He prayed: "Lord of the universe, You know I'm an ignorant man. I worked hard all my life, with little time for learning. Sometimes I've been impatient with people; sometimes I used strong language. I'm only a poor man, unable to give much to charity-- but all my life I've been honest. I kept these scales, the symbol of honesty, straight and clean. I never robbed a customer with short weights. Now, God, hear me! Hear me! I'm Kalman. If I've done no wrong, if my scales have been honest and true, I plead with you, Almighty God, send down rain, that we may live!" There was dead silence; strong wind wrestled the windows of the synagogue. Before long, the skies began to darken. Soon rain fell softly, but steadily, upon the roof of the synagogue. The town was saved.
The rabbi continued to wonder at this strange miracle. Little by little, he learned the truth. One by one, the town merchants came to call; in strict secrecy, each confessed that, at some time or other, because of carelessness, perhaps due to greed, their scales hadn't always been accurate. When caught, they tried to cover-up dishonestly. Now, they began to realize how important it was to ensure that their scales were honest. The rabbi ordered that Kalman's scales be placed in the vestibule of the synagogue-- every Jew could thus remember how dangerous small careless acts of dishonesty could be. Kalman was not the wisest nor the wealthiest, nor the most charitable, nor even the most pious; but he was the symbol of fairness and honesty in every day business life (adapted from an article by Dr. Richard C. Hertz in the Detroit Jewish News).
J. THE HAFTARA, Isaiah 54:1-10, is also read with Noach; the Diaspora, as the flood, washes away Jewish corruption; though God may will the eventual assimilation of unfit Jews, we must fight it, just as we fight death-- both physical and spiritual suicide are prohibited. Israel will finally rejoice with new, more intense, Divine vitality, expansion, and influence. God never abandons her, "the wife of one's youth". The choice of metaphor shows the beauty of Biblical Jewish family life (M. Hirsch; YF: or at least the ideal! Lawrence Kelemen shows how Torah observance results in the general superiority of Jewish marriages and families, in Permission to Receive). FOR THE MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART, AND THE HILLS BE UNSTABLE, BUT MY KINDNESS WON'T LEAVE YOU, AND THE COVENANT OF MY PEACE WON'T QUIVER, SAYS GOD, WHO HAS COMPASSION ON YOU (vs. most of Christianity and Islam, who claim that He's indeed changed His mind about Israel). When Shabbat R'ey is Rosh Chodesh Elul, it's usual haftara of consolation, Is. 54:11-55:5, is not read by Ashkanazim, but added on to this haftara. Frankforters do the same when Shabbat R'ey is the day before Rosh Chodesh Elul.
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