THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
YOM KIPPUR YEARNINGS
AN OVERVIEW AND ANALYSIS OF GOD'S SABBATH OF SABBATHS
THIS STUDY IS SPONSORED BY MR. AND MRS. JOSEPH S. SHAW IN MEMORY OF THEIR PARENTS
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A. AN OVERVIEW OF YK
On Rosh Hashana (RH), we celebrated the birthday of Man and his world; after 20 generations of sliding downhill, rebirth, a long slow climb back, begins with Avraham and Yitzchak; their respective traits-- chesed, extrovert expansion and breadth, and gvura, introvert discipline and depth-- are blended in Yaakov-Yisroel, as tiferet and emet, glory and truth; he fathers 12 sons; they're models, archetypes, for variegated mankind, as founders of the 12 tribes of Israel-- they go on to become God's Chosen Folk, forged in the crucible of decadent Egypt. There they begin their mission-- to bring Man back to Eden. Israel too fails at first; she must undergo exiles, affliction, and weeding out, before finally becoming a true model nation. Tho they fall so often, YK pulls the Jews back every year; otherwise they and the world would go off the deep end, beyond return.
Yet God didn't command sin-full Israel to experience RH and YK's Grand Return on Passover, at Exodus-- sunk in the mire of Egyptian degradation, they weren't yet ready for true repentance and transcendence; the urgent immediate task was physical Exodus, leaving Las Vegas (despite its growing frum community?), before it was too late! 7 weeks of gradual weaning and education, with powerful doses of miracles, prepared them for Revelation and instruction on Shavuot. They weren't ready to influence non-Jews (Sukkot's theme) until the 7th month, after their first annual spiritual stocktaking and repentance. So, after generations of assimilation, we must first get Russian (& U.S.?) Jews out and bring them to the holyland; then we must (gradually) teach them (and all Israel) Torah; only later can we expect mass return to Judaism; then Israel will tackle mankind's existential dilemnas head-on (will Rav Lau find a wife for the Pope?).
WHY THESE TORAH READINGS? Amidst fasting, soul searching and atonement, we'd expect to find inspiring YK Torah readings on good and evil, reward and punishment, sin and repentance, peace, love and the messianic age, like the haftaros. Instead, in the morning, we review elaborate YK sacrificial ceremonies (Lev. 16), seemingly irrelevant, last practised over 1900 years ago; in the afternoon, we read the laws of forbidden sexual relations (Lev. 18).
Yet these seemingly dry technical passages may indeed reflect, arouse and rectify both Man's most primal soul states and his Divine potential. Per Freud, incest sublimation is the basis of all civilization (see J); we probed the depths of sacrifices in our studies of Vayikra and Tsav (see E). In an age of AIDS and child molestation, forthright condemnation of sexual promiscuity and perversion may be far more important than beautiful words. But to find their full contemporary relevance, we must first study these passages in detail; a quick reading during services, tho set to soulful tunes, just isn't enough. We must also approach them from a contemporary perspective-- Rav Dr. Avraham Twerski notes that it's not enough to just be informed and concerned about today's problems, e.g. addiction, even in the most haredi yeshivot; innovative effective new techniques, appropriate to our age and its mentality, must be developed; despite Rav Yosef Sonnenfeld's unfortunate opposition to changing his Ashkenazic communal lingo from Yiddish to Hebrew, the Chazan Ish (Rav Avraham Yshayahu Karelitz, hero of Chaim Grade's misnagdic masterpiece, The Yeshiva), ostensibly Sonnenfeld's follower, later approved of teaching Torah in Hebrew, given the new conditions of his age-- choice of language was no longer the battleground between the pious and the heretical. He might just lose his followers otherwise.
He told the story of a king, whose wise father had defeated the enemy who invaded from the north, by quickly sending his troops there, before the enemy arrived. When the son was attacked from the south, he dared not depart from his holy father's path-- he too sent his troops north, losing his kingdom forever; had the Chatam Sofer, his fellow East European religious leaders and their followers embraced and led Zionism, the Haskala, and social action movements, rather than ignoring and fighting them, the great majority of Jews, who left the Torah, might have joyously embraced and enhanced it, creating a religious modern Israel, perhaps even avoiding the Shoa. I recently attended a series of top flight lectures on Jewish topics, given by H.U. (heretical university?) professors; seating was mixed, 2 of the 3 lecturers were women, and, in the lecture on group learning, men and women studied together in small groups-- where was I? H.U.? H.U.C.? JTS? No-- I was at Chabad's fine Mayanot Institute, which successfully blends truly traditional Chabad enthusiasm, halachic observance and learning with modernity-- talmud is taught in their women's division by Sara Weinstein, reflecting the late Rebbe's open outlook. Tamar Frankiel, formerly an academic feminist, who teaches Comparative Religion in Claremont, CA, has become an observant Jewess, affiliated with Chabad. She tackles problems of today's observant women in The Voice of Sarah ($20 from TOP).
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B. "JEWISH" PHILOSOPHY
Rav J. B. Soloveichik (known as "The Rov") posits that any valid general concept or "philosophy" of Judaism, e.g. that of sacrifices and incest laws, must be reflected in exact details of Divine law, halacha. God's Torah corresponds to His world, created according to its blueprint. Scientific theories are validated when they mesh with careful detailed observations; so Jewish "overviews" must be reflected in minute details of Torah. Precise detail merges with abstract conceptual structures in both physics and talmud. HOW GREAT ARE YOUR WORKS, O LORD (Psalm 104) is often a response to HOW MINUTELY DETAILED ARE YOUR WORKS-- EACH DETAIL A PART OF YOUR ULTIMATE HOLISTIC PROGRAM.
AFFECT AND TRUTH: But modern Jews often adopt prevalent non-Jewish attitudes to "religion"-- that it addresses only man's aesthetic subjective side; they ask: "WAS THE SERVICE INSPIRING?", not "WHAT COMPLEX PART OF GOD'S LAW DID I MASTER TODAY?". Religion's a sedative, granting peace; true Judaism, however, builds tension, raises deeper and deeper ??! Torah study imparts great challenges, raising one to limitless heights of mind and soul (Rav JBS)-- YF: but the tension raised by great intellectual achievement is mitigated by the happiness and joy of a full life, e.g. swimming in a beautiful pond or singing with Shlomo Carlebach; Harold Binder brought me the Rov's Lonely Man of Faith at a beautiful beach; as I read it, I strongly identified with the deep loneliness and tension of one who constantly searches for elusive, and often dubious, truth; then I jumped into the cool lake, surrounded by forests, felt great, and, at least temporarily, forgot all about it... yes. there is "a time for this and a time for that... a time to seek and a time to forsake" (Ecc. 3, rejuvenated by Pete Seeger); "...for the Lord has set up one against the other..." (Ecc. 7:14; the Rashbam on Kohelet-- translation $20 from TOP-- interprets this to refer to God's constant just Providence; both the good and bad things that happen to us are a direct consequence of our deeds and decisions; H. Leiman says that the verse refers to repentance against sin, in Koheleth-- Life and Meaning, $12 from TOP).
When I told the Rov how I got his book at the beach, and why, perhaps, God had it work out so, he appreciated the insight, but probably had little such experience in his own early years; he had wanted a bicycle, but any extra family funds were used to help the poor; he did not borrow other kids' bikes, but couldn't explain why not. His own upbringing was in line with Rambam and Vilna Gaon's skewed strictly intellectual focus, as opposed to the early hassidim who wandered thru the fields and woods when they meditated, sang and prayed, often meeting significant others in the process (their later followers just talked about their ancestors' walks in the woods, rather than walking in the woods-- I once tried it, near Boston, and indeed met two religiously significant others!). The Gaon summed up his approach to life: "All pleasures of this world are as drinking salt water"-- the more one seeks to gratify his thirst, the thirstier he must become. Only in spiritual waters, found in the Torah of truth, can one find true happiness and satisfaction. Had the Gaon not avoided the Baal Hatanya, he might have expanded his emotional and spiritual horizons to include all of God's creation.
Rabbi Dr. Dovid Hartman, founder of the non-denominational Shalom Hartman Institute, spoke on "Critical Reflections of the Significance of the Thought of Rav Soloveichik for the Modern World" at Yakar, 10 Halamed Hey, 561-2310-- Hartman considers Yakar, discretely directed by Micky Rosen, perhaps the best place to pray in Jerusalem-- it combines intense truly traditional experience with modern sensitivities and respect for the individuality of its parishoners. He appreciates the Rov's pioneering appreciative integration of the modern intellectual and cultural world with that of Torah, paving the path (perhaps to go further!) for his many disciples (also see Gilbert Klaperman's The Story of Yeshiva University; but the Rov's Revolution was only that of an East European Torah Giant; Rav Leo Jung, in Men of the Spirit, portrays many such 19th century West European figures, perhaps better guides for the modern Jew than Eastern Europe g'dolim-- also see Maxwell Luria's introduction to E. Benamozegh's Israel and Humanity, $35 from TOP; indeed, several truly great East European talmudists preceded the Rov on his integrated path, e.g. Rav Yaakov Rhines and Rav Shlomo Polachek).
The Rov, himself a fierce and fiercely independent lover of truth, who discarded many of his family traditions, never demanded or expected that his own pupils agree with him or adopt his own practices. While wary of interfaith dialogue, he appreciated Hartman's sincere efforts to do so, tho warning him against playing to the grandstands. Hartman portrayed the Rov as living in a world of intellectual-philosophical constructs, e.g. "Halachic Man", rather than keenly portraying and impacting upon the world as it is and rabbis as they are.
Hartman questioned Rav Hershel Shechter's apologetic approach (in Nefesh Harav) to the Rov's secular development, viewing it as a mere tool to bring modern Jews to Torah; Hartman, very close to the Rov for many years, knows that he was a truly modern secular man, who appreciated and identified with much of modern knowledge, besides being a master of Torah; but being so multi-faceted, each of his pupils focused on that aspect of the Rov closest to his own heart and soul. The Rov's sister, Ann Gerber, present at the lecture, did not dispute Hartman's remarks. I too can testify to the Rov's constant curiosity and interest in every realm of knowledge and experience, for its own sake-- we talked about everything under the sun when I walked him home after shabbat services in Brookline.
Hartman recalled, with great regret, his own early enthusiasm with messianic religious Zionism, as a result of which he grew apart from the Rov for many years. He now appreciates the Rov's misnagdic sobriety, his reluctance to make quick conclusions about the nature and outcome of historic events in our days. Hartman now also appreciates the Haredi reluctance to mix religion with political standpoints, e.g. retaining the entire Land of Israel, and their focus on imbuing the details of everyday life with holiness and morality. He condemned today's religious zionist leaders, e.g. Chanan Porat, who place their Messianic visions above practical and moral considerations, e.g. economic, diplomatic and military factors and treatment of the arabs; they have baseless certainty as to God's opinions and responses to today's Israeli situation; he also questioned Rav Kook's view of the most secular Israelis and their works as imbued with holiness; Hartman sees great value in Diaspora religious creativity and commitment too.
Hartman personally remains here due to love for Jerusalem's people and their commitments, and for his ability to spread Torah here; he noted that he chose to teach philosophy in Israel, rather than serving as a pulpit rabbi, his Canadian Orthodox profession, because everyone here is constantly and critically looking over the rabbi's shoulder, judging his piety-- whereas they assume that a philosopher is a heretical pagan, and find any piety he displays to be a pleasant surprise! He later also acknowledged the mitzva of living here per se, in response to a ?. Shalom Freedman was quite hurt by Hartman's depreciation of Porat and his collegues, and forcefully depicted all the great things they've done to build our nation and society; Hartman then softened his diatribe, recognized the great accomplishments of Porat, and even described Rav Druckman as a great tzaddik in his personal and communal life. Perhaps he should have done this earlier-- scholars, be careful with your words!
Hartman mentioned how the Rov's spirit and thoughts are always before him; but he did not display the bitterness and anger which he voiced a few months ago at the Institute-- there he shouted three times that his rebbe was all wrong about skipping shofar, rather than hearing it in a Conservative shul, and how the haunting memory of the Rov impeded his (Hartman's) own spiritual and intellectual development. He may have been aroused by the ugly attacks on conservative Jews at the Wall by allegedly pious hooligans at the time, and was speaking to a primarily non-Orthodox audience, the major supporters of the Institute. He also criticized the Rov's ignoring of Biblical criticism at Yakar-- but to the Rov, so steeped in the depths of Torah, it's Divine origin may have been obvious, and destructive revisionist literary analysis obviously specious and pedantic, as much irrelevant as irreverant. See the Hertz Pentateuch and my critiques of the critical teachings of a Hartman Hero, Prof. Moshe Greenberg, in our Let's Learn! studies, 1-3.
C. VARIANT READINGS
Reform services strive to be instantly relevant and "meaningful" to modern man, without "homework". Otherwise, alienated Jews may not come. Thus Reform liturgy discards traditional YK readings, substituting "nice" RH passages about repentance-- western liberals don't study sacrifices and incest; it's just not politically correct (cf. Dr. Z. Shechter's video, may God speedily heal him-- Personal and Planetary Transformation). Some Reconstructionists even replace incest readings with more verses on sacrifices--
D. SHA, SHTILL!
British psychiatrist R. D. Laing notes two types of social taboos-- some acts are prohibited, but discussing or viewing them is OK, e.g. murder. Others may not even be viewed or discussed; this indicates civilized adults are tempted to do them, tho their impulses are successfully repressed. So Haredi Yeshiva students crave our videos of violence, blood and "action", e.g. Delta Force and Entebbe; this vicarious outlet for teenage energy is far less harmful than Shabbat demonstrations, tho sports is better. Yet they won't poison their souls with films with sexual themes-- "Make War, Not Love" is their motto; Woodstock proclaims the opposite extreme belief: "Make love, not war"-- but "love" in casual relationships is shallow and often selfish; women usually discover that they want something deeper, holier, more eternal and maternal-- commitment, home and children; read Gila Manolson's Outside Inside-- a fresh look at Tzniut, $10 from TOP; read or listen to Dr. M. Scott Peck's book and audiotape, The Road Less Traveled, Part Two-- Love.
Peck identifies love with truly listening to another's soul, and helping him/her achieve autonomous spiritual growth, while recognizing his/her uniqueness and resultant spiritual agenda; a frequent complaint of those weaned from drug addiction at Nachas Ruach is that their parents, tho loving and caring, tried to mold them in their own image, ignoring their own feelings, values, and conclusions; only one who him(her)self has escaped childlike dependence on others and loves his own unique self can do so. "Falling in love", transitory unrealistic irresponsible infantile global infatuation, is simply an unconscious biological reproductive mechanism, not the ultimate basis for a mature responsible marital relationship.
God's Torah doesn't censor or repress discussion of basic life forces (should one censor children's Bibles?). "While there are some who are... appalled that prohibited sexual relations should form the YK reading, its inclusion in the Torah is indicative of God's `true to life' approach towards such intensely human situations. From the viewpoint of sex education... only when such topics are subjected to detailed treatment in Scripture, do they assume the measure of importance they rightly deserve. To blind oneself to their existence and... their place in the social structure is to be blissfully unaware of vices to which humans are prone... study of such passages contributes to knowledge of the place which sexual relations occupy within the comprehensive scope of human experience; it helps one gain insight into the moral fabric essential for a healthy society" (Jewish Marriage, Isaac Levy, Soncino, p. 35). Even amidst the sublimity of YK, we must be aware of the depths to which we can sink-- cf. German "civilization", blending Beethoven's 9th and Aushwitz. So Dr. A. Twersky warned that the consequences of ignoring or hiding family and addiction problems, hoping that they'll somehow go away by themselves, are far worse than facing up to them and seeking solutions from those who can help; professional confidentiality can prevent any resultant damage to your grand-nephew's shidduch prospects-- the eventual explosion of an untreated situation will hurt them far more.
Yet Mishna Hag. 2:1 prohibits teaching (the depths and details of) sexual prohibitions to 3 or more students-- 2 may work it out themselves, while teacher is busy with the 3rd. Due to great sexual desire, presumed latent even, or especially, in talmud students, they may distort the law toward leniency, if not carefully supervised. See Yaakov Emden's Shalot Yavetz, 2:15, for an overview of Jewish attitudes to the body and sensuality, and his remedy for talmudists' tension.
Ritual sacrifice has been a basic religious institution, tho not always positive, from the days of Abel (Gen. 4:4; sacrifices predate polytheism-- Hirsch); it is also most relevant today. Avraham's devotion to God peaks with binding Yitzchak on the altar, raising his knife to slaughter him-- it's stressed in the 10 days of Return, whose selichos prayers imply that Avraham already had the altar fire going; but Yitzchak's body is only offered vicariously, via the ram; thus his more essential and unique soul and mind can be "sacrificed", i.e. "brought close", to Him, with gradually increasing intensity, over an entire lifespan. This theme underlies the Temple sacrificial service, especially on YK (Rav JBS). Per Rav S. H. Hirsch, YK's sacrificial service teaches man his ideal relationships and states of being; the animals represent varied aspects of human personality-- e.g. bullish activity, sheepish passivity, and goat-like stubbornness and rambunctiousness (cf. the symbolic Seder). Such ritual instruction is precisely directed by God-- man's too imperfect to author such rites himself (cf. brit milah), even Nadav and Avihu.
F. DELAYED GRIEF?
Ch. 16 returns to the tragic death of Aharon's two most outstanding sons (unnamed here), previously reported in 10:1-7. Sometimes we only relate to tragedy much later, its full impact too much for the moment (delayed grief reaction; cf. Shoa survivors). Here, however, the 6 intervening chapters may simply be a logical immediate sequel to the event.
After the tragedy, Moshe first taught Aharon & Sons laws regarding their eating meal offerings, while mourning (10:12-20). Ch. 11, the basic discipline of the kosher laws, was then given via the survivors-- Aharon, Eleazer, and Itamar (besides Moshe); God thereby rewarded their great self-discipline, in accepting their fate with quiet faith (see Rashi). Ch. 11 also follows the prohibition of cohanim imbibing wine, while on duty (10: 8-11). As wine has impact on the soul, so Ch. 11 teaches which foods are good for Jewish souls (Hirsch, who expounds "You are what you eat"). The laws of ritual impurity of animal carcasses complete the section on animal consumption, followed by similar laws of human impurity in Chs. 12- 15; so the creation of human life follows that of animal life; more animal-like Adam precedes more civilized and human Eve.
Ch. 16 now resumes the tale of Aharon's tragedy amidst joy; Nadav & Avihu also couldn't successfully combine divine revelation with eating and drinking (Ex. 24:11). God now teaches that the high priest alone may enter the Holy of Holies, where He's revealed, and only on food-free YK; it's too dangerous otherwise.
G. THE MOOD-- CONTRACTION & CARE
The expansive take-charge (often American, often diarrhetic) personality tends to do as much as he can, as quickly as he can-- he asks: "Why not?". His crown of kingship usually suffers fatal defects when he can't exercise proper care and control over the QUALITY of his QUANTITY (cf. David, Solomon, large enterprises). Breadth replaces depth. This is often OK+-- better that many people have basically nice pre-fab homes, with a few flaws, than that only a few have homes of master craftsmanship; better that many people have mass-produced art and clothing of reasonable quality, than that only a few own unique expensive handmade items. The holier something is, however, the more care has to be taken to do it right, e.g. child raising. Haphazard action may be worse than inaction in such realms. Nadav and Avihu-- reaching for the stars-- died when they acted out their impulse for the highest Divine Intimacy, w/o the necessary preparation and trepidation.
Such realms require the opposite personality type-- cautious and hesitant (often Swiss, often constipated); he may severely limit his goals and experiences, asking: "Why should I?", "Exactly how must it be done?". He doesn't aspire to world revolution, just to live his private and family life with integrity and harmony, while fulfilling a socially useful, tho unglamorous, role. He's less likely to mess things up. God prefers an ultra-careful annual entry of one holy man to Divine Intimacy to a more frequented Sanctuary. So Jews "leave" earth only on YK, Sabbath of Sabbaths-- the rest of the year, we're to be involved in the world's redemption and perfection. So our nocturnal departure from reality resembles death; we "raise up", wash, our hands ritually upon awakening, symbolizing purification of our deeds, as we start a new day.
H. A SYNOPSIS OF THE TORAH READINGS
THE MORNING TORAH READING IS LEVITICUS 16: "God addressed Moshe after the death of Aharon's 2 sons when they approached close before God and died" (16:1). What did He say? Per Ohr Hachayim, God told Moshe that not even he may enter the holy of holies, w/o Divine permission, despite his protektzia. The Jews would only heed God's warnings to keep their distance from the Sanctuary AFTER Nadav and Avihu so died (Rashi; seeing is believing). THEN God spoke to Moshe to address Aharon, warning him not to come WHENEVER (per some midrashim: HOWEVER) he wants into the Holy of Holies, where God appears (16:2). He must bring sin and burnt offerings upon his annual YK entry into the Holy of Holies; there he wears only his 4 plain linen garments, as he encounters God in Eternity; the furnishings in the outer tabernacle represent the variegated array of temporal Creation, as do the ornate multi-colored additional 4 garments which he wears there. The cohen gadol had to wash hands and feet each time he removed or donned a garment, and to immerse himself with each change of garments (5 times, 10 washings, including immersion and washing for the daily offering). The verses follow the order of the YK service, except for 16:23-- Aharon's entry into the tent; he only does so after performing his rituals in 16:24-5 (see Silbermann on Rashi; his descendants, the Zilbermans, very effectively promulgate Rav Shach's path in the Jewish 1/4; would a touch of Chabad broaden them?
Per Rashi, this is the order of the day**-- "L" refers to the high priest's wearing only his 4 linen garments, "G" to donning his 4 gold ones too; * indicates his change of clothing, and washing and immersing himself:
1) * The morning daily burnt offering is brought (G)*. 2) The cohen gadol presents, and confesses over, his sin offering, a bull, for himself and his household (L). 3) He presents the two communal goats and casts lots over them-- one for God, one for AZAZAL. Per Rashi, Azazal is the rock from which the scapegoat was cast; per Ramban, it's the devil himself, evil personified! (See L). 4) The high priest then AGAIN presents his bull, this time confessing for himself and his public family-- the priesthood; this sacrifice makes expiation for ritual impurity affecting the sanctuary and holy things. 5) He then slaughters his bull and takes a censer of burning coals from the outer altar and a handful of very fine incense (cf. a Jew's very fine and deep self-analysis on YK). He burns it within the Holy of Holies, the smoke covering the ark cover. He sprinkles the bull blood once above the ark cover and 7 times before it. 6) He then slaughters the public goat of sin-offering, dealing likewise with its blood, also to atone for ritual impurity. The goat to Azazal atones for general sins of the people, and, per most opinions, for those of the cohanim too. Rav Shlomo Riskin notes that while individuals also need repentance for YK atonement, the community of Israel's covenantal mission is eternal, regardless even of unrepented setbacks and failures; but gross sinners can be cut off from its destiny (karat). No one else is to be in the tent when the cohen gadol is doing this service.
7) Next he atones for the golden inner incense altar, by putting blood of the 2 sacrifices on its horns, sprinkling it 7 times with the mixed blood, from the east. Only the table and menorah are called "pure", perhaps as no blood is ever put on them. 8) Next he confesses all the sins of the Jews over the live goat; a predesignated man then sends it out to the desert to a desolate land "with their sins" (*; sin leads to desolation-- see JBS above). 9) He next offers his burnt offering and that of the people, as atonement for bad thoughts and undone deeds (G). 10) He burns the fat of the bull and goat sin-offerings on the outer altar. 11) (*) He removes the spoon and censer from within (L). He who guides the other goat must wash his garments and immerse, as he who burns the bull and goat sin offerings, outside the camp. 12) (*) The cohen gadol finishes the day by dealing with the remains of the musaf offerings, and offering the afternoon daily offering & incense (G).
** if you wish to skip this hi-tech teaching, continue here:
The super sabbath of fasting, YK, is ordained to accompany the expiation of the cohen, to purify us from all our sins; perhaps that's why it's only mentioned AFTER the long sacrificial ritual. The Torah concludes: "before God YOU shall purify YOURSELVES" (16:30)-- ultimate purity is in OUR hands, after getting a big boost from both the cohen's sacrificial service and our own YK observance. The high priest's successors, preferably his sons, continue the elaborate sacrificial service every YK-- even if they're annointed only via the extra garments, when no oil is available. When YK came, Aharon did everything in full detail; he sought only fulfillment of God's command, not personal glory. B'ZOS (= 410), WITH THIS, shall Aharon enter the sanctuary (16:3), which (the 1st temple) lasted 410 years.
THE AFTERNOON TORAH READING IS LEV. 18; it opens: "Then God ordered Moshe to tell the Jews: `I AM GOD, YOUR LORD OF NATURE' (Who won't tolerate its perversion). Ibn Ezra explains: He'll only be the Lord of those who follow His sexual prohibitions-- holy matrimony and God-awareness are interconnected. The Jews mustn't copy corrupt acts of the old country (Egypt, Playboy), nor such behavior in the new land (Canaan, belly dancing), nor follow their arbitrary perverse social customs, e.g.: 1) dancing with others' wives and escorting them at formal dinners. 2) spending lots of time and venting violent pagan emotion on who kicks or throws the little ball better (e.g. Sheffield); rather than exploring life's meaning on Shabat, via the 22 holy letters, bloodthirsty fans vicariously identify with 22 men kicking a piece of leather about, trying to destroy each other. 3) glorifying "culture", even justifying nudity and promiscuity thereby (e.g. profane TV and ballet; cf. pre-WWII Germany & Austria, Cabaret. Actors and actresses who even just kiss and hug the opposite sex on the stage can be considered, de facto, prostitutes, i.e. those who take money for sex-- cf. ostensibly religious youth, who don "Coed Naked" T-shirts; only one's true beliefs should be promulgated by his apparel. 4) Having a drink at every occasion (tho called "a l'chayim"). 5) Superstition (e.g. black cats; astrology, per Rambam, vs. Ibn Ezra; reincarnation per Saadya Gaon and Albo, vs. the later Zohar and Ari).
We're to keep only God's judgments (vs. secular civil law in Israel?) and obscure laws (e.g. the red heifer): "ANY MAN who performs them will truly live thru them-- I'm God" (18:5)-- non-Jews who learn Torah and do mitzvos are like high priests (R. Meir, B.K. 38a-- see Tos.; cf. Yev. 61a and Tos., Is. 26:2, Hag. 13a; but Numbers Raba 13:16 allows Torah study only to CONVERTS); so Rambam says that ANY human being can become a quasi-Levite (M.T., end Shmita), just working from time to time when he's broke, rather than following a steady profession-- but what about his family? He allows believing Christians to study the O.T. (Only Testament), but not Moslems, who deny its Divinity. Some limit non-Jewish Torah study to The 7 Laws of Sons of Noach (Tos. A.Z. 3a, San. 59a, M.T. Kings 10:9-- see Contemporary Jewish Law, C. Bleich, Vol. 2, on Gentiles studying Torah). Y. Leibowitz z"l (one of my readers and a Hartman Hero, tho Rov Dovid deplores his harsh exaggerated negative style) equated rabbinic reactions to Gentiles with their own experiences with them; so the bottom line re helping non-Jews to study Torah may be the likely impact upon them and upon Judaism's good name.
Shabbat's a unique gift to the Jews. The list of illicit sexual relations-- incest, adultery, sodomy, bestiality, and with a menstruant woman-- contains many more than those, basically maternal, prohibited to non-Jews under the Noachide code (Amram and his Auntie Yocheved would be forbidden to marry, and their offspring illegitimate, AFTER Sinai). Violation of these sexual prohibitions by us or Canaanites defiles the land, which expels sinners (observing them IS good for non-Jews too!). Such sinning Jews will be "cut off from the midst of their people" (karet)-- THE CUT-OFF POINT varies in the 36 severe sins causing such punishment. Sometimes "karet" implies premature death or childlessness in this world, sometimes oblivion in the hereafter, sometimes both. Individuals may be cut off form the community, but a sinful community will not itself be cut off (Torat Cohanim). Rav Yehuda Henkin contends that mass sin isn't willful, but is due to mistaken views, from external influences, wrong leaders or bad education. Indeed, even clear willful sin is treated as a mistake re communal guilt offerings (Sifrei Bamidbar 111). Yet we soon read of the terrible fate of sinful communities (Lev. 26:14f)-- this isn't karet, punishment, but a natural result of their behavior (but see Deut. 13:13). Hirsch says that sins engendering karet separate one from the Jewish People's basic views of the nature of God and Man.
I. KEEP YOUR DISTANCE
Do sacrifice and incest interface? God teaches sacrificial rites of YK only AFTER THE DEATH OF THE TWO SONS OF AHARON. Their sin was a spontaneous subjective attempt to enter God's Intimate Presence; the Torah now severely limits this experience to YK. So the incest prohibitions separate those naturally CLOSEST in body and soul. BASIC JOINING IMPULSES, to merge with God's essence and with those closest to me, are limited in our portion. TOO MUCH LOSS OF ONE'S SENSE OF INDIVIDUALITY AND `OTHERNESS' defeats God's aim for man-- to leave his intimate relation with God to descend into a human womb and physical world; this descent results in ultimate ascent of the human and the universe, as he, with her own free will, discovers the Divine WITHIN HIMSELF AND THE UNIVERSE.
J. AS HE, BE UNIQUE
God imbues all life with powerful self-preservative drives; this may contradict mystical doctrines of bitul, losing one's sense of self. In any event, Dr. Peck notes that one must develop his adult responsible individuality, before he can meaningfully leave it for infantile-like global experience. Respect others' individuality to retain respect for your own; Pygmalian molding of others limits my ability to grow from the challenge of intimate associations with different personalities, especially my own spouse and kids. Modern theories of personality acknowledge many types; their interaction and integration generates wholeness and wholesomeness (multidimensional aspects of IQ and their interface are explored in The Descent of Mind: The Nature and Purpose of Intelligence, Evans and Deehan; see Nature, 5/3/90, p. 29). Rav M. Gafni stresses integration of one's own M & F aspects to develop a true Divine Image; others would substitute sensitive male and female mating.
So Univ. of Chicago Pro-Palestinean Prof. Rashid Khalidi stressed the layers of modern multiple group identity, in exploring The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism at Van Leer (chaired by Prof. Nechemia Levtziyon). Most local arabs identified primarily with their family, clan and city, to a lesser extent with the Ottoman Empire, in the 19th century. In the 20th century, he claims, following recent European trends, Middle Eastern Arabs, including Palestinians, gradually acquired national identity; but a hiatus of about 20 years followed their 1948 defeat and subsequent pan-Arab infatuation, peaking with the Nassar years. He criticized insensitive Israeli denial of Arab Nationalism (e.g. Golda's); I commented on his own greater insensitivity, in failing to mention the far more severe and pernicious Arab denial of Judaism and Zionism, and Arab attempts to destroy the Jews-- e.g. the pogroms in Chevron and Jerusalem, the destruction of Jewish Holy sites, the desecration of the Wall and the cemetary on the Mount of Olives, eradication of Jewish history and prayer on the Temple Mount, and the evil chutzpah of Arafat's Minister of Religious Affairs; even today, he'd deny Jews the right to pray at their holy sites, e.g. the tombs of the Patriarchs, Matriarchs and Joseph.
Khalidi's response, tho sophisticated and oratorical, was, in my opinion, weak and evasive; he then challenged my statistics on the early Jewish majority in Jerusalem, by questioning the census takers' definition of Jerusalem, e.g. excluding Arab suburbs; he couldn't deny, however, the innately far greater Jewish attachment to Jerusalem and Israel, the only possible national center of Judaism and Jewish Civilization; Palestinian Arabs, despite their nationalist aspirations, have over 20 other nations which express their religion, history and culture. As a very bright, charming, suave and knowledgeable spokesman for his folk, Khalidi's book merits our careful scrutiny; it demands our public refutation of its biases and distortions, while honestly granting its valid points. Sheikh Raji Abdu of Jericho was impressive-- he urged separation of politics and religion, and condemned Islamic violence as a gross distortion of Islam. He should be featured on Israel TV, especially the Arabic shows, along with Pro-Israel, Pro-Jewish Imam Abdul Hadi Palazzi, head of the Cultural Institute of the Italian Moslem Community, Via Muzio Scevola 81/25, 00181 Rome, Italy tel-fax 39-6-782-5036.
Freud shows how successful DETACHMENT from parents engenders knowledge and civilization; successful resolution of the Oedipal complex sublimates sonny's search for mother's mysteries into intellectual exploration. His complex theory may be found in a pithy talmudic passage-- IF ONE DREAMS OF INTERCOURSE WITH HIS MOTHER, HE MAY EXPECT TO OBTAIN UNDERSTANDING, as written-- YEA, YOU'LL CALL UNDERSTANDING MOTHER (Ber. 57a, quoting Prov. 2,3). Acquisition of another branch of knowledge, "wisdom", is implied in a dream of intercourse with one's sister; knowledge of Torah is predicted in a dream of intercourse with a betrothed maiden-- see Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition, D. Bakan, Beacon Press. One wonders if contemporary Askenazic talmudists, even "g'dolim", would include this in the talmud! Maimonides views incest prohibitions as a safeguard against constant sexual activity replacing intellectual and spiritual development-- I'd waste my life in physically integrating with those most around me and closest to me. "Forbidden... sexual intercourse seeks... to inculcate the lesson that we ought to limit sexual intercourse altogether, hold it in contempt, and only desire it very rarely" (Guide 3:49).
Rambam generally disdains the body and its passions in The Guide, written in his later years (his mom died bearing him; his dad held both in disdain, until his originally dull son bloomed intellectually-- Shalshelet Hakabala; Rambam also saw no innate value in folks who weren't truly intellectually brilliant-- see the end of his Introduction to the Mishna); Rambam (Guide) views animal sacrifices as a concession to primitive idolatrous habits.
Per Russell Handel (Tradition 1976), the Guide didn't reflect Rambam's true views-- it was only an attempt to make the Torah palatable to those who accepted Greek philosophy, which viewed the body as an enemy of the soul. Does Rambam's earlier legal ruling-- that we pray daily for restoration of the sacrifices-- prove this?-- barbaric savagery may be stronger than ever today-- cf. Germany.
Hirsch takes a positive approach to incest bans-- Torah wants man to develop despite and beyond natural inclinations; he's a creature of free will, not primarily instinctive, as animals. I should develop my powers of love and communication with other families, rather than just continuing my natural relationships with my relatives-- such marriages would just add sex and procreation to existing relationships! The Jew's to render a stranger his bride, his de facto sister, not to make his sister his bride (Song of Songs). Incest also destroys exisiting family relationships-- they'd be submerged to the marital relationship, or v.v. Per Kabala, my relations with close relatives are too deep and holy to be expressed in sexual relationships (implying that marital bonds aren't so deep!-- is blood thicker than water? One does not sit shiva for deceased former spouse). Similarly, God can't be represented physically (Rav G. Fleer). ADULTERY is defined as living with another man's wife-- the Bible permits a man more than one wife, not v.v., tho Rabbenu Gershom prohibited it to Ashkenazim for 1000 years (recently expired). I must know who my parents are, to honor and revere them. If any woman has more than one man, Daddy's doubtful. If one man has 1000 wives, e.g. Shlomo, everybody knows who Daddy and Mommy are (this doesn't explain the need for formal divorce). Perhaps the Torah's concerned that surplus women marry, after many young men die in war. God may impose a higher standard of loyality and commitment upon woman, who are "Like His own personality", than upon man, closer to undisciplined earth and animals-- a feminist explanation. Perhaps a leader can lead many, each of whom can have but one leader (cf. He'll rule over her... Gen. 3:16)-- a male-chauvanist explanation.
The sexual prohibitions thus relate to the basic foundations of ideal-Man, as portrayed in the tabernacle and temple YK service. The connection of sexual activity between man and woman, the deepest interpersonal union, and the animal sacrifices between Man and God, the deepest spiritual relationship, appears in our studies of Vayikra and Tsav. Orach L'Chayim quotes the Mezritcher Maggid-- "When the desire for (sexual) sin was totally nullified, people lost all enthusiasm. They couldn't even pray with feeling on Shabbat... Each person must take the evil inclination, the emanation of enthusiasm, and use it to serve God" (Torat Hamagid II, Kid. 30a, p. 139; cf. sacrificial service). "Prayer is like intercourse with God's Imminent Presence-- Shchinah. At the beginning, there are movements... Later one can stand attached to the Divine Presence, motionless, yet with a powerful bond" (ibid, Hanhagot, p. 14-- parental guidance suggested). So Rav Nachman of Breslav condemns "old age", rote lifeless activity, in every realm. As God renews creation constantly, Man must approach each hour as an opportunity for complete renewal, harnessing his creative drives.
K. RETURNING HOME!
On YK, THE day of the synagogue, we begin with permission to pray with sinners! Both sides compromise-- many sinners show up at services and the pious agree to associate with them, remembering that only God truly knows who's wicked and who good. THERE IS SO MUCH GOOD IN THE WORST OF US, AND SO MUCH BAD IN THE BEST OF US-- THAT IT ILL BEHOOVES THE MOST OF US-- TO FIND ANY FAULT WITH THE REST OF US. Also the YK experience may itself generate dramatic change. But why do sinners WANT to come on just that day, so filled with heavy confessional soul-searching and fear-- a Simchat Torah visit would be so much pleasanter! Rav Soloveichik (Shiurei Harav, Hamevaser, 1974, The Synagogue...) suggests that the synagogue, literally Beit Hakenesset, THE HOME OF THE COMMUNITY, fulfills a deep basic human need-- an eternal home, which transcends man's so temporary and perilous situation; he's but a visitor, a tourist, upon this earth, a stopover between eternities. When Avraham was about to bury Sara, he told the Hittites: I AM A STRANGER AND SETTLER WITH YOU (Gen. 23:4)-- cf. "I CLOVE TO MY DARK PLACES, MY SOUL UNAWARE THAT I AM BUT A STRANGER AND A SETTLER" (S'lichot service, 4th day).
Besides the Jew always being part of, and apart from, non-Jewish society, he, as they, is somewhat a stranger upon this earth. "MAN'S IN EXILE, A HOMELESS, DRIFTING BEING-- SO HE MUST PRAY". Since Eden, human homelessness is a consequence of human helplessness. Scientific man can conquer the moon, but fall before one malignant cell; a philosopher who probes the highest mysteries is shattered by an emotionally torn brain. THE MORE SOPHISTICATED ONE IS, THE MORE HE ANTICIPATES ALL POSSIBILITIES AND LOSES SECURITY. Solomon said: FOR GREATER USE OF WISDOM ONLY BRINGS ON GREATER VEXATION, AND INCREASED KNOWLEDGE ONLY LEADS TO GREATER PAIN (Ecc. 1:8). So he himself needed special protection in the lonely night: BEHOLD THE BED OF SOLOMON; 60 WARRIORS SURROUND IT (S.S. 3:7-8). Homeless man turns homeward to the house of prayer, especially on YK, the day of doubt and despair re our destiny. God is man's only ultimate hope and succor, the synagogue his true home, where He's most easily found. David pleads (Ps. 119:19): I'M A STRANGER ON EARTH, DO NOT HIDE YOUR COMMANDMENTS FROM ME. God feigns homelessness that man build his own home. THEY SHALL BUILD FOR ME A SANCTUARY (David's "sukka", true home) AND I'LL DWELL IN THEM (Ex. 2:8).
Our synagogue isn't just a community center for those alive in a certain time and place; it's the home of the great invisible timeless KENESSET YISROEL, a living individuality which embraces all Jews everywhere, from Avraham to Messiah. Ten Jews, a minyan, merge together with this community. Intuitively, all Jews feel that there's something much greater than their brief harried trip thru this world; no matter how alienated, many sense that this one very special day-- the Sabbath of Sabbaths-- is when they'll find it within themselves, as they join God's eternal community. So the Chofetz Chayim equated his own lack of furniture with that of his wealthy tourist guest from the USA-- "I'm here only on a trip, just like you!"
L. OF KAPPAROS & PURIM
Symbolic atonement before YK, via slaughtering and waving a chicken, KAPPAROS, is a widespread Jewish custom. Popularized by kabbalists, e.g. Ari and Shlah, this sacrificial ritual was approved by legalist Ramah. B'er Hativ (O.H 605) sees it as symbolic enactment of the 4 deaths meted out to a condemned person. But the custom isn't mentioned in any pre-Gaonic writings, e.g. Talmud, unlike symbolic foods on RH-- some make up customs today too, e.g. eating ice cream on RH-- "may our enemies speedily melt and may we not lose our cool"; others eat mangos-- "may Meshiach come soon, Go ManGo". Some U.S. pietists take lettuce, half a raisin, and celery, pleading: "Let us have a raise in salary this year".
Many Torah giants condemn Kapparos. Rashba, quoting Hai Gaon, labelled it unauthorized replication of sacrifices and mimicry of heathen superstitions; Rambam's view is similar. Ramban agreed and Yosef Karo called it A FOOLISH CUSTOM (Tur O.H. 605). Is swinging the chicken around one's head indeed torturing it, a Torah prohibition? The redeeming social value of Kapparos is that the bird's usually given to the poor (would a giant turkey be better?). Some, who find waving a fowl foul, modify old folkways by waving money, less silly.
Two identical goats are offered on YK. One, picked by lot, is sacrificed to God. The other, TO or FOR AZAZAL, is eventually killed in the desert, "bearing the sins of Israel". Per Rashi, Azazal is the rock from which the scapegoat was cast; per Ramban, it's the devil, to whom it's sacrificed! But centralized sacrifice is to END sacrifices to satyrs (17:7)! Would God Himself command it?-- this ritual teaches man that ALL life is ultimately sacrificial; one can only choose between a meaningful life of direct sacrifice to God or a meaningless one of "fun", ending in existential despair, a "sacrifice to the devil"; this sacrifice is also first presented before God-- the sinner will ultimately return to Him, upon experiencing the bleak desert, existential bankruptcy, of a life wasted (Rav JBS; so Mendele Mocher Sforim returned to Torah in his old age, disillusioned by secular humanism; I heard that old Bialak vowed to help bring Israel back to traditional cheder learning, if he recovered from his final disease; intermarried Henry Roth abandoned communism for Zionism during the 6 Day War); tho all roads lead to God, one can choose a smooth direct route or a hazardous detour-- Rav A. Kook.
But way-out Rav Tzadok Hacohen, who took a second wife with the assent of 100 rabbis, goes further-- he claims that even a sin is the will of God, from a perspective which transcends our world of action, where a sin is indeed a sin; Rav Kook says that Rav Tzadok should not have made public this dangerous kabbalistic doctrine, which seeks to find the deterministic Will of God, rather than human free will, in everything-- even sin; such kabbalists apparently cannot conceive of free will itself as God's Will; one can understand why sober mignagdim tried to suppress public kabbala study and condemned chasidut, especially in the wake of Shabatai Tzvi and Yaakov Frank, masters of "holy sin". Per Rav Riskin, the goats represent 2 types of Jewish sacrifice, both equally holy and vital preludes to our return to Eden-- 1) lives of meaningful and beautiful dedication to Torah in His Temple; 2) those horribly slaughtered, many w/o burial, by demonic non-Jews, e.g. the Church's Crusades and the Holocaust, inspired by Luther-- cast off the cliff at Azazel.
Yom Ki-purim, literally "the day like Purim", reflects many Purim themes (see our new Purim study on the web, featuring kabbalistic insights of Dr. Susan Handelman, presently, thank God, of Jerusalem)-- we leave our pseudo-reality by feasting on Purim and fasting on Yom K'Purim. We know nothing-- who's good, who bad; who'll live and who die... My destiny often seems determined by lots, beyond my control. Per Rav JBS, the fate of the two goats is the fate of everyman-- 2 similar babies are born; one, in the home of a scholar-saint, grows up to be such; the other, born of a drunken prostitute, grows up to be a ne'er do well-- they had no say in this matter of "chance". God's judgement considers every influence upon one's life, going back 3-4 generations; only He knows who's really good or bad, how hard one's tried, GIVEN his nature and environment (see M.T. Tshuva 3:2). Had their homes been reversed, the bum might have brought the Messiah and the scholar might have run Murder, Inc.
YK does NOT atone for sins of man against his fellow; he must obtain his forgiveness. I'm also to correct another, if I see wrong in him, unless my action's likely to be counterproductive-- we're mutually responsible. I may then come to understand his motives, rather than bearing a grudge. As Blake wrote in THE POISON TREE: "I WAS ANGRY WITH MY FRIEND-- I TOLD MY WRATH, MY WRATH DID END. I WAS ANGRY WITH MY FOE-- I TOLD IT NOT, MY WRATH DID GROW!"
We fast and feel our power, as we transcend our daily routine (cf. children who want to fast). Later, we experience our helpless limits, as we tire. So man conquers the earth, which conquers his body in the end. So we'll soon, the Good Lord willing, rejoice over our fresh and beautiful sukka and 4 species and then struggle to delay their swift ultimate decay; so we read: MAN, HIS BASIS IS EARTH, AND TO EARTH SHALL HE RETURN (Machzor). We keenly experience this paradox at this season of self-review and overview: WHAT IS MAN (enosh) THAT YOU KEEP HIM IN MIND, AND THE SON OF ADAM THAT YOU KEEP ACCOUNT OF HIM? (Yet) YOU'VE SLIGHTLY DIMINISHED HIM FROM DIVINITY ITSELF AND CROWNED HIM WITH HONOR AND GLORY (Ps. 8:5-6, per Rav JBS).
Maftir: We conclude our morning Torah reading with the holiday sacrifices, Numbers 29:7-11. As on RH, which begins our annual period of standing still and stocktaking, and Shemini Atzeret, there's only 1 "active" bull brought, unlike on Rosh Chodesh and the other holidays, when there are two or more (7-13 on Sukkot).
M. THE HAFTAROS
THE MORNING HAFTARA, ISAIAH 57:14-21; 58:1-14, predicts and proclaims God's return to man, no matter how cast down by sin, when he returns to God. Pious hypocrites stress prayer and ritual, tho oppressing others; their loveless attitude makes them create God in their own image (cf. Marx)-- "He's happy if I'm not!". They afflict themselves with meaningless fasts (or insistence upon specific hechsherim!). BEHOLD THIS IS THE FAST WHICH I'VE CHOSEN-- OPENING BONDS OF WICKEDNESS... SHARE YOUR FOOD WITH THE HUNGRY... CALL SHABBAT A DELIGHT & THE HOLY OF GOD HONORED (not a day for stoning and protests).
THE AFTERNOON HAFTORA, THE BOOK OF YONA, stresses God's concern for all people-- GOD IS GOOD TO ALL HIS MERCIES ARE UPON ALL HIS WORKS (Ps. 145:9-- Arabs too!); holy Jews are to to lead humanity back to themselves and God. Even a corrupt society can return to Him. So Yona must deliver God's call for repentance to sinful Ninveh. But he doesn't want to, doesn't care what happens to Las Vegas. A whale swallows Yona when he's cast into the sea, while trying to escape his mission-- they sometimes swallow mammals and expel them to their air chamber, before spewing them forth upon land (Jewish Forum, 1928). The timing is the only "miracle" here, followed by that of Ninveh's return; both are so often true in our lives, especially in Jerusalem. As we close YK, finally in good shape, Yona leads us toward Judaism's universal holiday, Sukkot-- we then bring sacrifices for all mankind; they too will appear with us in the third temple-- MAY WE ALL HAVE A YEAR OF GREAT & HAPPY GROWTH AND BE A BLESSING TO THE WHOLE WORLD.
For more on Yona, study ArtScroll's commentary anthology, read Rabbi Aaron Werner's Three Beacons on Yonah, a comparative analysis of commentaries of Abarbanel, Alshekh and Malbim, and probe Rav Ze'ev Haim Lifshitz's in-depth study, The Paradox of Human Existence; Lifshitz contends that Yona's very life was his prophecy; an anti-hero, he's brought into this world to teach mankind how to build from failure, from the empty half of the glass-- indeed how to save the world with that empty half (cf. puppet ruler Gedalia, whose death we mourn between RH and YK). Also see Rav Shalom Gold's Top Video lecture on Yona, also available on audiotape. Rav BenTziyon Krieger of the Jewish 1/4 recently published a study of Yona in Hebrew ($15 from TOP).
N. WORTH QUOTING
On YK, I'm too busy to eat, on Tisha B'Av, too sad (Rav JBS). It's as hard to feast with the right motive on the eve of YK as it is to fast with the right motive on YK (Rav Lipkin). On RH and YK, Jews shouldn't appear depressed and in somber clothes, as suppliants before a human judge, but joyous, dressed in festive white, a token of a cheerful confident spirit (Jer. Tal. R.H. 1:3). Man's annual budget is fixed between RH & YK-- except for his expenses for Sabbaths and Festivals and his children's tuition; he's given more or less as he spends (for these; Betza 16a). Every sin, even the slightest, impresses within man hatred for some creature; via repentance, love once more begins to radiate its light (Rav Kook, Lights of Return, 12:4). Repentance in thought precedes repentance of action, and the repentance of the "hidden longing", always based on love, even re those who repent from fear, precedes repentance in thought (ibid 16:8). Among the Blessed One's kindnesses to His creations is having prepared for them the way to rise from the pit of their deeds and to escape the trap of their offenses; to save themselves from destruction and to turn His wrath from them (R. Yona, First Gate of Repentance). Only the ignorant, who lie asleep and don't commune with their hearts, defer repentance... then when the sin presents itself to him again, he'll fall into its snare (ibid).
Rav Danny Landes, director of the informal, but profound, Pardes Institute, tells an impossible, but impressive, tale of some east European chassidim, who found themselves stuck in Berlin for Yom Kippur. There was no chassidic shtebel, so they went to an elegant modern Orthodox shul, where they were indeed impressed by the decorum, the all-male choir, the chazan, the sermon, and the elegance and order of the synagogue. They enthusiastically returned the next morning, but were horrified to find everyone consuming a sumptuous kiddush after services. When they finally got up the courage to ask the rabbi how they could eat on YK, he replied: "Here in Berlin, while we don't care about glatt kosher and going to the mikva every day, we're extremely ethical folks; we don't lie and we don't steal, we never hit anyone and don't commit adultery-- so we feel that half a day of YK is enough to atone for our few ritual sins! The incredulous chassidim thought a bit, then asked: "but is it worth it to be so ethical just for one extra meal?". Most of us, no matter how pious and pietistic, want and need atonement; we want God on our side, yet we really don't want to make any major changes in our lives, content to continue to be led by our straying eyes and hearts, after our day of YK exercises, hoping that our fasting and prayers will suffice.
Rav Danny then explored the difficulties of human adjustment to tshuva, return, from bad relationships. We're used to our alienated relationships with God and Man (cf. Women Who Love Too Much, Norwood, explored in our Nitzavim and RH studies); while we don't want to suffer punishment for our neglect, we'd rather not rock the boat, have to change our whole way of life, and invest our precious limited time and money in the cultivating of new positive relationships-- if I really return to God, will I still be able to knock off a quick dovening every morning; can I really be reconciled with my enemy, when I already lack time to see my present friends? Won't I constantly have to confront and confess my former neglect and negativity, should I return to God and my former enemy? How does Yehuda relate to Tamar after his false accusations-- some rabbis say that he continued to live with her, others that he never cohabited with her again. Do I have time and energy for yet another kid?
Rav Landes demonstrated common themes in the laws of sota, the immodest suspected Wayward Wife, and the ceremony of egla arufa, destroying a calf, upon discovering a case of unsolved homocide; neither ceremony is performed when the offense, adultery or murder, is clearly established, and linked to the perpetrator, only when there remains unsettled suspicion. In each case, the seemingly offended parties, the husband and the community, have to examine their own, perhaps semi-conscious, role in the "sin", and their difficulty, from that perspective, in later confronting the alleged wrongdoer, whom they may also have wrongly suspected; did the husband "drive" his wife to adultery by his neglect of her, or by his own flirtations? Did the rabbis and elders of the community ignore the needs, physical and psychological, of the robber and murderer, driving him to his dastardly deed? If so, how will they now have to relate to him? Who's the good guy and who's the bad guy?-- it's so much easier to just self-righteously blame and punish the offender, and then ignore him/her.
YK-- THE DAY OF WHAT? is an absorbing vibrant "with-it" pamphlet for students, pub. by Yavneh Olami, The World Union of Religious Zionist Students, now apparently extinct (their successor is Kedma, 44 Jabotinsky, Jer., tel. 563-1340, e-mail: email@example.com, WEBSITE: www. kedma.org.il; they sponsor Kehillat Moriah, Bet Midrash Danny and various social activism projects) A sample--
The Day of Atonement-- If experienced authentically, a Day of the most intense emotions: violent dread, passionate hope, soul-crushing agony, heart-pounding joy, murderous guilt, glorious catharsis, bewildering doubt, burning faith. In short-- your average Jewish day... After years of uninspiring, dry and meaningless YKim, we decided to make this year different by providing students with our own "in-your-face" food for thought about YK... Judaism and Israel ARE NOT spectator sports, where we can only passively participate. We know that the future of the Jewish people rests entirely in our hands, and that, united as Jewish student activists, we are up to the challenge (YF: may they marry early and have lots of kids!). We hope you are too... What draws all the crowds to synagogue on this day, the holiest day of the year?-- YK is the day we confront our shortcomings and mistakes. Altho this can be done every day, this is the day set aside for us to look back on the past year, and on our lives as a whole...
On YK, tho we're standing on solid ground, the feeling is still one of a tightrope. YK is much more than just a day of repentance. It's the day when we're held accountable for our actions over the past year, good or bad. Kinda scary, huh? Imagine your whole future is being determined RIGHT NOW. Who will live and who will die. This image jolts each person into a heightened awareness of the fragility of life. This raises an even deeper issue-- if life ended right now, would it have been worthwhile? This tone should not be exaggerated to feelings of terror. Judaism isn't a religion of excessive guilt or of unattainable standards. Nor is it a religion of permissiveness. Underlying all this is the understanding that sin, error and failure are inescapable parts of human behavior, and the strong conviction that God is understanding, merciful and loving... Transformation is gradual and takes time... don't change your entire personality overnight and make yourself into some crazy saint and become paranoid of everything you do (cf. Ellen the Tutor's guide to sane tshuva)... in prayer, it's quality that counts, not quantity... when the shofar resounds at the end of YK, we must believe that our repentance was successful and we've been forgiven. With this immense burden lifted from our shoulders, our slate is wiped clean and we begin anew with the song and prayer, "Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem"! The Jewish people is alive, well and kicking (YF: and, tho vain arrogant "theologians" pronounce God dead elsewhere, the Megama Duo proclaims that He's alive and well in Jerusalem!-- see our Jerusalem Jam Video, $30 from TOP).
SURVIVING AND ENRICHING THE HIGH HOLIDAYS: I often take books along to RH and YK services, to read during elongated cantorial renditions and highly stylized medieval prayer poems-- neither interest or inspire me much (unlike Carlebach niggunim). This year I picked up the RH-YK SURVIVAL KIT, by Shimon Apisdorf. WOW! This little book has more depth, relevance and engaging dialogue per page than anything I've read in a long time-- and I read a lot! The sensitive author, from Telz and Aish Hatorah, zeroes in on our cultural, emotional and linguistic blocks-- he frees us, yielding a truly elevating and edifying high holiday season-- samples:
"The Jewish people have always taken a stand. For truth. For what is good and right. For pursuing that which we know to be meaningful-- no matter where it may lead. Each one of us longs to take a stand. Deep within us all lies the strength and ability to take that stand. The shofar calls out to us. A call for clarity. To clarify for ourselves what we ultimately want. Who we want to be. What we really want to be committed to. The shofar sounds and stirs something deep within our heart and soul. We can sense the power. On RH we can achieve it (Rambam notes that tshuva is more accessible during the 10 days of Return-- M.T. Tshuva). The clarity and commitment. To stand alone as an individual and together as a people. To take a stand for everything the Jewish people represent. All we have to do is listen.
"Remember Us for Life: The voice was that of one who survived the unfathomable hell of Auschwitz. A silent terror still lines his face-- even when he smiles. `If I had a choice', he said, `of having to relive every torturous moment again-- or-- to be a German guard in the camps, I'd go thru it all again, rather than serve even one hour as a guard'. The guards lived and breathed. They went home to wives and children-- they enjoyed the finest classical music and they laughed-- all in a day's work. But they were dead. The life that we ask for and strive for on RH is more than just survival. It's a life of value and meaning. You can be alive and dead, or you can be alive and live. Choose life!
"Kol Nidre is a time when we take a searing look inside. We ask ourselves-- who can count on my word? Can my children or my spouse? My friends, my boss? Can God? Can I? Can I count on my own word-- do I trust myself? Without credibility, we have nothing. With it-- we have everything.
"One & 7: One sprinkling (by the cohen, of the sacrificial blood) went upwards, while 7 went towards the ground. While the High Priest was immersed in the most lofty of spiritual endeavors, he always had to remain in touch with the realities of daily life. They say you can tell the righteousness of a man by the smile on the face of his wife."
Habad, where I pleasantly dovened the first morning of RH (8-1), features folksy and stirring old niggunim, e.g. that for "Our Father, our King, we have no king but You"-- not even the Moshiach! The second day, I prayed at the Wall with a fine large group of modern truly religious Netanya Zionists, men and women, who were staying at the Laromme and Plaza luxury hotels; they all rose very early to come to the Wall for the special mitzva of dovening Shmoneh Esrei at sunrise (4:45-8:45 AM); I was happy to leave the haredi minyan, where I began to pray, to join this group, who also performed an additional basic mitzva-- gratitude to God and man, expressed in their prayers for the State of Israel and its armed forces.
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