Saturday, 22 April 2017

Tazria/Metzorah: Childbirth and Circumcisions

To many, the insertion of the mitzvah of mila, circumcision, in the presentation of the laws of the yodedet, the woman who gave birth, may just seem to be a narrative coincidence. Once the Torah was taking about the birth of a boy, it also mentioned mila. The commentators, however, find it bewildering. What does one have to do with the other?

Rabbi Hecht addresses this issue in an Insight from 5756 available at http://www.nishma.org/articles/insight/spark5756-14.html

P. Tazria - "Uvayom Hashmini"

Short version:

Questions
1. How is it that a woman giving birth to a Zachar makes her Tum'ah for only seven days while birthing a N'qievah lasts a fortnight?
2. What is uvayom hashmini yimol b'sar orlato doing here?

Answer:
The Brith Millah on the 8th day shortens the woman's condition either due to:
A. The Torah gave her dispensation to attend the Brit
B. The healing power of the mal'ach habbrit mitigates the damage she suffers, thereby "commuting her sentence to time served."

Shalom,
RRW

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Parsha: Shemini, "Asher Lo Tsivah"

Pick your preferred parshanut.  

Parshanut suggests three translations of the phrase, "Asher Lo Tzivah" (Vayikra: 10:1) There is basically a 2-way split concerning Nadav and Avihu (N&A) and their eish zara. The first two schools may help start a future Nishmablog poll, BE"H, though the third school is kinda' tangential.

  1. "They were commanded NOT"  N&A were actually seeking to grow spiritually through transgressing the commandment NOT to bring such an eish zarah [Tur et. Al.] It literally went up in flames  Don't serve Hashem by violating protocol
  2.  "They were NOT commanded" - N&A added on an extra embellishments. They acted excessively "frum"  and their zeal was their sin in their spiritual approach. This idea is very popular among Left-wing circles. Don't be mosif "humrot". [Bal tosif. Al t'hee tzaddiq harbei
  3. This explanation can work for either side of the split. Since N&A brought ersatz K'toret, they were left unprotected to eish Hashem and vulnerable to a form of spiritual "radiation."  Their action was not so much a sin as a failure to use real Ketoret. It was what they failed to do which allowed them to get burnt. [See Haforah of Uzah]. Genuine Ketoret was tantamount to a radiation suit; don't play with the rules lest you risk exposure.

Let me tell a related story.  

There once lived a woman looking to add a spiritual dimension to her avodah. A Great Gadol, "Moshe," asked her to experiment by wearing a four-cornered garment without tzitzit. She felt exhilirated. 

Moshe exclaimed, "For three months, you have been wearing a garment without any religious or halachic value, it is thus clear that your feeling comes from a source outside of the Mitzvah", and he [Moshe] did not grant her permission to wear a Talit " [Source?]


To which Avodah's R Micha Berger protested:

We do many things that come from sources outside the mitzvah. "Hinei Keil yeshuasi" before Havdalah, for example. The particular patterns of hand washing most qehillos use for neigl vasr or before hamotziQabbalas Shabbos. Etc, etc, etc... Why is this woman wanting to do something that makes her feel connected to the Borei valueless just because it is non-halachic? Would this Gadol "Moshe" have given the same advice to NCSY and tell them to stop doing kumzitzin or a pre-havdalah "ebbing" for an hour? [Source??]

This offers us a segue towards a poll on valid paths to spirituality in Judaism. Which guidelines are permitted or desirable?

Shalom
RRW

P. Shmini - Asher Lo Tsivah 2 - Truth or Consequences

Originally published 3/31/11, 6:54 pm.
Previously, I had written:
3. [Can work either way] N&A were left vulnerable to a form of spiritual "radiation" because their Q'toret with eish zarah was ersatz instead of genuine, leaving them unprotected against "eish Hashem". Not sin so much as a failure to use a bona fide Q'toret allowed them to get burnt. [See Hafatarah of Uzah]. A genuine q'toret was tantamount to a radiation suit. Don't play with the rules lest you risk exposure.
Background:
When I was teaching the Parshah at Cong. MT. Sinai in Wash Heights, circa late 1990's, I made a conscious approach to shift away from the idea of punishment and vindictiveness and towards "spiritual consequences" in order to portray that "Elohim-Teva-Middat Haddin" is a function of the natural order and that Elohim is not out to get anyone. I was mostly inspired by Sefer Hachinuch's compassionate approach to Torah, and BE"H I've since discovered a similar Hashqafah in Tomer D'vorah, as well as, to an extent, in other s'farim.
When a child such as myself who once did this - but please do NOT try it at home - sticks his hand into an electric outlet one will receive a shock but not due to a malicious, vindictive G-d.
Similarly,  Nadav & Avihu and Uzzah died - according to my parshanut - because they got overwhelmingly exposed to a kind of radiation. This same radiation of shechinah, for instance, could blind those peeking at birkas kohanim in the. Mikdash. Or could kill the Kohein Gadol on YK if or when his Q'toret or Avodah were somehow flawed. The cloud of a valid Q'tores acts as a Divine shield protecting the Kohein Gadol. Nadav & Avihu lacked that.
Uzzah could never touch the Aron Hakodesh with his bare hands and live. I darshen away any "anger" on behalf of Hashem and see it as merely as manifestation of a typical human perception of Divine Anger
L'mashal: my daughter once banged herself as a toddler against the table. The baby-sitter yelled, "bad table" a very human reaction. But the table was static. So was the "radiation" from the Aron in Uzzah's case or the Shechinah in the case of Nadav &Avihu. Their impulsivity got them in trouble by going to an unsafe precinct without proper protection.
Similarly, when one cheats with weights and measures Hashem ALLOWS Amaleiq C"V to harm us. He does not necessarily send them. Yes this is similar to l'havdil Jerry Falwell's "drashah" regarding 9/11, the removal of a Divine Shield. His reason for HOW/WHY that shield was removed is quite debatable, but I had already bought into that approach myself long before 9/11.

An Adam Harishon who defies Hashem by eating the forbidden fruit may not remain in Gan Eden.
A Bnai Yisroel dor hamidbar that weeps over the spies cannot enter Israel.
A King Shaul who saves Agag may not rule. Even though, as per Midrash, Shaul was no sinner, he suffered for his flaw as did all of the above suffer the consequences of their character flaws.
Thus the onesh in the Torah is, to me, Consequences, as in Truth or consequences.
And yes - Once in a while a neis intervenes, for example, in the case of Yosef in the pit, etc.
I hope this helps.

Shalom,
RRW

Parsha: Shemini, "Olam Chesed Yiboneh"


Another D'var Torah from Cantor Wolberg--
Shalom,
RRW

---------------------------------------
There's a verse in Parshat Shemini (Lev. 11:13) which states: "These shall you abominate from among the birds, they may not be eaten; they are an abomination..." In other words, fowl that are cruel are not eligible to be kosher. One will not always find cruel fowl necessarily exercising cruelty (we see this in the human species as well). It would therefore have been impractical and impossible to have positively identified a specific bird as being unfit. Therefore, the Torah must list all the fowl that are unsuitable for eating.

There is an overriding concept in the laws of kashruth that the characteristics of what we eat somehow have a great influence on the way we behave. The old saying: "You are what you eat." We do not want to associate ourselves for instance with cruelty, therefore we are forbidden to eat cruel animals, and in this case, some species of fowl. Among the fowl that are listed as being non kosher is the chasidah, the white stork. You may ask what cruel character trait does the stork possess. Rashi mentions that the reason it is called a "chasidah" is because it does chesed only with its friends regarding the food it finds. On the surface this seems strange. If the stork acts kindly with its food, why is it disqualified as being kosher?

A beautiful explanation to this difficulty has been given by the Chidushei Harim, in which he explains the nature of the stork. He says that the fact the stork only shows its kindness with its friends defines its cruelty. A fowl who is not in the circle of the stork's good buddies is excluded from getting any help from the stork in finding food. In other words, the stork is very selective in its kindness. This type of kindness is misleading. We, as Jews, are commanded even to help our foes. If we come across someone we dislike intensely who needs help, we are commanded to help. The stork, on the other hand, helps only his inner circle of friends. It is this character trait of differentiating between close friends and others when it comes to providing food that makes the stork non-kosher.

Chesed means reaching out altruistically, with love and generosity to all. The process of maturing involves developing our sense of caring for others. This is crucial for spiritual health. The Talmud likens someone who doesn't give to others as the "walking dead." A non-giving soul is malnourished and withered. It is only through unconditional love that our successful future will be built. In the words of King David (Psalm 89:3): Olam chesed yiboneh - "the world is built on kindness." The more this kindness dissipates and degenerates, the more danger of the foundation collapsing.

- Cantor Wolberg

Parsha: Shemini, "Punishment or Consequences?"

Let's start with Acharei Mot. What does "v'lo yamut" imply?

Coming into the proximity of the Qodshei Qodshim requires protection . For Aharon, that meant a proper Q'toret. An improper Qktoret - even b'shogeig - could have left the Kohen Gadol without his "radiation suit." He would risk death through exposure to an overwhelming dose of Q'dusha, not through his transgressions. Like an electrician with a  faulty rubber glove, the shock would be overwhelming.

Back to Nadav and Avihu. Fire consumed them mainly because their ersatz Q'toret failed to protect them. Therefore Aharon was commanded how to avoid such a similar catastrophe.

And as for Uzah - in the Haftara of Sh'mini - he wasn't punished. He lacked protection from the aron's overwhelming  Q'dusha.

Electricity, radiation and high places all entail physical risk. It's like a child sticking his finger in an exposed socket. Hashem is not punishing the kid. We are fixated on the concept of seeing din as punishment. Din isn't "punishment," but natural consequences.

Shalom,
RRW

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Parsha: BeShalah, "Mah Titz'aq Eilai?"

originally posted January 16, 2016

See Shmot: Beshalah: 14:15


Rashi cites a Midrash explaining why Hashem tells Moshe to stop praying. He offers two reasons. 

A No time to lengthen prayer if people are suffering
B. Hashem is asking, "why Bother ME? It's in Your hands!"


This reminds me of a wise statement about Prayer and Action:
PRAY as if everything depends upon G-d,
ACT as if everything depends upon you!

Shalom, RRW

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Parsha: Bo, V'yameish Hoshech Onkelos, Rashi and Sinai"

originally posted January 9, 2016

Bo 10:21 "V'yameish Hoshech"

Rashi says that, "k'mo v'ya'ameish...V'Onkelos Tirgeim l'shon hassarah k'mo
'Lo yamish'. "

If Targum Onkelos is miSinai, then how can Rashi argue that, "Ein hadibbur m'ushav al havav"
If Rashi MAY argue - then what does it mean to say Onkelos is MiSinai?


Shalom,

RRW

Parsha: Vo'eira, "Y'hee l'Tanin"

originally posted January 2, 2016

 Y'hee l'Tanin (Vo'eira 7:9)

Pick your Parshanut Preference

1. Rashi states that the tanin is a SNAKE
2. R' Hirsch and others call the tanin a CROCODILE.

Advantages to #1
Advantages to #2
  • In Parshat Sh'mot, it SAYS Nachash - but here says it's a Tanin. Given the use of two words, we naturally expect a distinction!
  • Crocodiles were symbols of Egypt, so this would have been more symbolic. As Haftarah Vo'eira [EZE 29:3] says TaniM that is HaRoveitz. Crocodiles crouch, snakes don't
  • If you read Taninim in Parshat Breishit 1:21 as great lizards, this matches it a bit better
Pick your preferred approach.

Shalom,

RRW

Parsha Bo - The Zohar - Obtaining Ultimate Freedom

originally posted January 9, 2016

Paraphrase

The Israelites first had to throw off all the higher forces ruling them, until they entered the domain of the Holy One, and tied themselves to GOD alone

Only then were they rescued from Egyptian Bondage when all forces subjugating them had been discarded and GOD alone had become MASTER.

See Zohar Bo 40a
Hoq l'Yisro'el - Bo Day 2

Kol Tuv,
RRW

Parsha: Bo, "Makkat Hoshech and Posh'ei Yisra'el"

originally posted January 9, 2016

See Bo 10:22, and Rashi's words about the phrase, "Vayhee Hoshech..."


Rashi notes that  "Posh'ei Yisra'elwere purged during Hoshech. I've always been troubled by this statement. If all the reshaim died during Makkat Hoshech, then how did ones like Datan and Aviram survive?

A clue lies in Rashi's own words. Rashi wrote that ONLY those "shelo hayyu rotzim latzeit" were killed. 
IOW, only the ones who wanted to stay in Egypt were killed. It seems that while only one SUBSET of Posh'im were purged, other "nudniks" seemed to survive. These may be the ones we see causing trouble in the Midbar later


Shalom,

RRW

Parsha, Vo'eira, "Koveid Leiv Par'oh"





Originally posted January 2, 2016  
Pick your Parshanut Preference:
  1. Koveid or Hazak are two words which BOTH refer to Pharaoh acting stubbornly. The classic commentators seem to use the two words interchangeably.
  2. Koveid could mean something else entirely, such as, "heavy".
Background:
In Egyptian Mythology, a human's heart was weighed at death. 
This was done by weighing one's heart (conscience) against the feather of Maat (truth and justice)... Anubis weighs Hunefer's [humann's] heart against the feather to see if he is worthy of joining the gods in the Fields of Peace. Ammut is also present, as a demon waiting to devour Hunefer's heart should he prove unworthy.  (The British Museum)
If a person's heart were light as the feather of the goddess Maat, then that person earned "Heaven." Otherwise, his soul would be devoured by another Egyptian goddess, Ammut.
Thus a HEAVY heart might mean an evil person and not a stubborn one. 

This p'shat might have some advantages
  1. It is more literal
  2. It matches what we know about Egyptian Culture
  3. It places Israel in Egypt at the Exodus despite the "critics"
  4. It distinguishes the 2 terms
Disadvantage:
  1. It's NOT traditional
Pick your preferred approach.


Shalom,

RRW

Parsha: Vo'eira, "Modifying P'shat of Text Based upon a Contradiction"

originally posted January 2, 2016

See Rashi on  Vo'eira 6:18.

Basing himself on the phrase, "Hayyei Qehat," Rashi asserts that the text here can't be taken literally. A logical reading of other passages shows that it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for Bnei Yisrael to have spent 400/430 years in Egypt. Then the issue remains, what to do with the 400/430 years!?

It seems to me that Rashi could have gone the other way. That is, why not say the Yichus was not literal instead? Why not say that generations were skipped and so that literally was the number of years!

The response to that is that Hazal have deemed that period as 210 years. It has been adopted AFAIK by Seder Olam

This same issue is in a previous NishmaBlog poll re: may we set aside a literal reading of text when Hazal themselves have not chosen to do so? (For the results of that poll, see http://nishmablog.blogspot.ca/2011/01/results-of-poll-on-parshanut-how.html)


Shalom,

RRW

Parsha: Sh'mot, "The Risks of Political Partisanship"

originally posted on Dec. 26, 2015

As the popular hypothesis goes - the Hyksos Pharaohs [the so-called Shepherd Kings] allied themselves with the Hebrews. Then, when the Hyksos' dynasty was overthrown, the Hebrews were left high and dry - especially since native Egyptians detested shepherds. [Miqqetz 43:32]

There are hints in Vayigash and Sh'mot that support this. In Vayigash, Pharaoh seems interested in tying Joseph's family to his own interests. He asks the brothers about becoming his personal Royal Shepherds [47:6]. However, we see that a new King [dynasty?] arose that knew not Joseph [1:8] in Sh'mot.

If this is true, then there is a pragmatic lesson here:  "Don't put your [political] eggs in one basket." Although Joseph and his brothers enjoyed ascendancy when allied to that Hyksos dynasty, they were subsequently exiled to the political wilderness when their patrons were removed from power.

Simply said, since the Hebrews were unanimously allied to one single party, they were powerless when that party lost power.

Something to think about when making "political bedfellows"

Shalom,
RRW

Parsha: Bo, "Rashi on P'shat and D'rash"

originally posted January 9, 2016

Rashi D"H V'im yim'at habbayyit...(Bo 12:4 )

First, Rashi says, "X l'fee f'shuto..." 
Namely, if there aren't enough people to completely eat the Pesach lamb, and they will come to have Nottar, then these people are to join their neighbors.

V'od yeish bo Midrash: "That following 'shenimnu' they may still withdraw whilst the lamb still lives". Rashi does NOT force the P'shat to conform to D'rash EVEN when that D'rash is Halachic and not Aggadic.

Thus, P'shat of a phrase can be independent of the Halachot derived from it . Even though the p'shat here IS influenced by Halachah. It conforms to an explicit text concerning Nottar. Although we can't be certain, it doesn't seem to CONTRADICT halachah either! 

Summary:

While Rashi does suggest that P'shat conforms with Halachah,  he also mentions that Halachic D'rash adds a dimension that goes well beyond P'shat.


Shalom,

RRW

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Tzav: The Challenge of Unity

From the archives of Nishma's Online Library , we have chosen an article that relates to the week's parsha, both to direct you to this dvar Torah but also for the purposes of initiating some discussion.

This week's parsha is Tzav.

We invite you to look at an article on this topic here.
http://www.nishma.org/articles/insight/insight5760-36.htm

Sunday, 26 March 2017

P. Vayiqra - "Qorbon"

Originally published 3/10/11, 8:58 pm.

Here is some trivia to contemplate...

In which Books of Tanach can the term "Qorbon" [in its many forms] be found; as opposed to using terms like Zevach, etc.?

Credit for this insight goes to R Sacha Pecaric who has translated the Humash into Polish wherein he discussed this curious phenomenon.
Zhinkuyen Pan Rabbin Sacha.

Hint: consult a good robust Concordance. See if a pattern emerges

Shalom,
RRW

P. Vayiqra - Shemen for M'nachot and the Mystery of the Pach Shemen

Originally published 3/11/11, 10:22 am.

See Vayiqra 2:1 and Rashi

Rashi asks -
Q: Why is "Shemen" said twice?
A: Because the 2nd & 3rd drops are kosher for m'nachot unlike the shemen for the m'norah which may come only from the first drop.

Now using this we can understand and answer the Question -
Why would the Kohein Gadol seal a "pach shemen"?
A. Because he needed to set aside M'norah oil away from M'nachot oil.
Mystery solved!  Unless the 2 oils appear differently to the naked eye.

Shalom,
RRW

P. Vayiqra - Lirtzono, Kofin Oto ad she'omer "Rotzeh Ani"

Originally published 3/11/11, 2:10 pm.

See Vayiqra 1:3
Rashi D"H "Yaqriv Oto"
Torah T'mimah #25,26
Quoting -
• Arachin 21a
• Qiddushin 50a
• Rambam MT Hil. Geirushin 2:20

People wonder where the Rambam got the notion of coercing a Get - when Halachah requires that a Get must be given of one's one free will.
One can follow the bouncing ball from Qorbanot that shows that we can coerce an offering which must also be of one's own free will.

The Rambam provides a caveat. One must be an otherwise Observant Jew who resists doing the proper thing. This would not work with a complete rebel or - as the Rambam himself notes - that Judaism does not require this act.
Interestingly, the Moznayim Touger edition cites neither of the 2 Talmudic passages above

Shalom,
RRW

Vayikra: Progression and Regression

Originally published 3/14/08, 12:23 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.

From the archives of Nishma's Online Library , we have chosen an article that relates to the week's parsha, both to direct you to this dvar Torah but also for the purposes of initiating some discussion.

This week's parsha is Vayikra. The topic is the movement of ethics, specifically are we becoming more or less ethical? Rambam contends that sacrifices were an allowance to past weaknesses in the human being and it is better to worship God without animal sacrifices. Ramban strongly disagrees. If sacrifices were ordained at Sinai, they are part of the perfect Torah. Is there any possible reconciliation for these divergent opinions

We invite you to look at an article on this topic here.
http://www.nishma.org/articles/insight/spark5754-19.htm

Parshah: Vayikra, "Leviticus, Sacrifices, and Dialectic"

Perhaps one of the more controversial aspects of the Torah is the karbanot - the sacrificial cult. Rambam champions a rationalistic approach very in vogue with most moderns. On the other hand, Ramban has a multi-level approach that includes a massive dose of spiritual symbolism very popular with Mystics.

Rav Shimshon Rephael Hirsch embraced this symbolic approach in his own commentary and modernized it according to the sensibilities of the 19th Century. The Ritva defends Rambam from attacks by Ramban. This is most fascinating because Ritva was the key student of Ramban's most famous student. He goes on to show that Rambam was not as "anti-sacrifice" as he appears to be at first glance.

Thus the dialectic is thus:
  • Thesis: Torah/Ramban pro-sacrifice
  • Antithesis: Prophets/Rambam questioning the sacrificial cult
  • Synthesis: Ritva answering Rambam's attacks.
This fascinating overview is culled from the opening article by the late, great, Nechama Leibowitz OBM On Vayikra. I highly recommend this give and take as she cites original sources. Note: This Ritva is in the further study section.

Shalom, RRW

Saturday, 25 March 2017

P. Vayiqra - Two Mussar Maxims from Torah T'mimah

Here are two tweets giving us Mussar on the parshah from the Torah Temimah.

"@NishmaTweet: P. Vayiqra 1:1 Mussar 1 TT [1] don't enter pi'tom. Announce yourself first. Good etiquette, good psychology."

"@NishmaTweet: P. Vayiqra 1:1 Mussar 2 TT [2] don't talk or address someone w/o getting their approval first also Good etiquette & good psychology."

Thus, we see some Midrash Halachah offering us practical ethical behaviour:
Don't startle people by entering abruptly.
Don't talk or preach to people w/o asking their permission first.
Be considerate - and use wisdom when doing so.

Shavua Tov,
Shalom,
RRW

Parsha: Vayikra, "Catholic Israel"



"When the entire congregation errs..." (Leviticus 4:13), Hazal equates the following :
  • "The entire congregation errs" ==> The Sanhedrin errs.
Now, In the absence of any Sanhedrin it makes sense to go back to the original text. It now follows  to imply the converse:
  • The Sanhedrin ==> The entire Congregation of Israel.
---------------------
Illustration:
The United States' of America's Congress, or the Canadian Parliament represent all of the the people. In the absence of such a representative body, then all of the people represent themselves.

Shalom,
RRW

P. Vayiqra - The Torah on Infallibility

In Hamishi of Vayiqra we see three cases of sin/error:

A. A Kohein Gadol who sins/errs.
B. The entire congregation -or as per Hazal the Sanhedrin - but perhaps BOTH understandings apply.
C. A Nassi.

In Sh'mini, Moshe apparently renders an incorrect hora'h and is corrected by his brother Aharon.
Who - I.E. what individual - in Judaism is infallible?

Shalom,
RRW

Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Arba Parshiot

Originally published 3/4/11, 11:19 am. 

As we conclude the Arba Parshiot this week with, of course, Parshat HaChodesh, we invite you to take a look at
Insight 5756-12: From Purim to Pesach
at
http://www.nishma.org/articles/insight/spark5756-12.html 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Pekudei: The Cloud

Originally published 2/28/09, 5:50 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.
From the archives of Nishma's Online Library, we have chosen an article that relates to the week's parsha, both to direct you to this dvar Torah but also for the purposes of initiating some discussion.

This week's parsha is Pekudei and our topic is the cloud over the Ohel Mo'ed. It is really not so simple to assume that it symbolizes God's Presence.

We invite you to further look at this issue at
http://www.nishma.org/articles/insight/insight5769-22.htm

Vayakhel: The Motivation for Giving

Originally published 2/28/09, 5:50 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.

From the archives of Nishma's Online Library, we have chosen an article that relates to the week's parsha, both to direct you to this dvar Torah but also for the purposes of initiating some discussion.

This week's parsha is Vayakhel. The topic is tzedakah, specifically how we decide to distribute our funds for worthwhile causes. There are always more needs than available funds, so how do we determine priorities? Where would you put the call to give toward the Mishkan in a world of competing needs?

We invite you to look at an article on this genaral topic at
http://www.nishma.org/articles/insight/insight5757-10.html

Monday, 13 March 2017

Parsha: Ki Tisa, "Aaron's Honour"


We need not be overly judgmental re: Aharon's role in the Eigel Masecha when we read the following:
What's with the sarcasm against Aharon? Yes, the making of the gold into the form of a calf was, as per Rashi to 32:4, not Aharon's doing (it was done by Egyptian magicians or by Micha, as the case may be). So according to this, he could indeed correctly say: "All I did was throw the gold into the fire, and as far as I was concerned it would have just melted there into a big blob; others are to blame for the actual making of the calf.
Same thing with "hisparaku." True that Aharon tells the people "paraku," but in a transitive rather than a reflexive sense: "take off the golden rings from your wives', sons', and daughters' ears..." - but not from your own. Whereas the next verse continues that they instead brought him their own jewelry: "vayisparaku" - a reflexive form - "all of the people took off the gold rings in their ears..." (Rashi makes this point explicitly in his commentary to 32:2.) So Aharon's description in 32:24 is indeed in keeping with this. "I asked only 'lemi zahav' - go see who in your families has gold available; but 'hisparaku,' they took off their own earrings, which I had not expected."
In short, then, Aharon is giving a quite accurate summary of what happened, distinguishing between what he did (asking for people to bring their families' gold, throwing it in the fire) and what he did not do (having them bring their own gold, making the calf). He's not trying to mislead Moshe. If anything, he leaves out other considerations in his own favor, such as his fear for his life after seeing Chur murdered for opposing them (Rashi to 32:5).

Kol tuv,
- Alex Heppenheimer
- aheppenh@yahoo.com
-Mahpach list
- Reproduced with the permission of Alex Heppenheimer

When in doubt - give our "icons" a break.

Shalom, RRW

P. Ki Tissa - Rashi on Ki Shicheit Amcha

A liberal friend of mine would like to advance a correspondingly liberal conversion policy that is contrary to GPS and other more restrictive policies.

What does Rashi say about such kind-heartedness?

Ki Tisa 22:7 D"H "Ki. Shicheit Amcha"

Hashem talking to Moshe -
"You went ahead and converted them w/o consulting ME and said 'good that the converts should embrace the Sh'china' those are the ones who caused this corruption"

I'm sure that nevertheless Hashem does embrace Geirim. However, the context here is that Moshe accepted a mass of Geirim who were motivated by the Wonders of the Exodus and not by a solid yearning to embrace Hashem and the Jewish People - in stark contrast to Ruth! This "Erev Rav" was composed of "front-runners", not sincere proselytes

The Road to 'H..L' is paved with Good Intentions. Moshe's Chessed lacked the necessary restriction, and his liberalism introduced a corrupting influence, that would eventually serve as an internal fifth column

The history of the events here is not essential. What is essential is Hazal's attitude of warning us of the danger of being inclusive w/o weighing the potential negative consequences

Of course HOW restrictive we should be is a matter for discussion. It is only natural to react to a failed policy in either direction, namely either too exclusive or too inclusive


Shalom
RRW

H. Ki Tissa - Eliyahu's Ultimatum

Note: Since Haftarat Pinchas discusses Eliyahu, I took the liberty to refer to another Haftarah starring Eliyahu Hanavi.

Eliyahu:
If Hashem is your G-d then worship HIM
If Bal is your god worship IT

RRW's corollary:
If Torah is your Guide then follow THAT
If the New York Times* is your guide then follow THAT.
---
* or Political Correctness

--------------------
BE"H I will try to show how modernity may fit in

Shalom,
RRW

Parsha Ki Tissa: Moses’ Horns is Not a Mistranslation

«Most commentators have simply said that Jerome mistranslated "keren" as "horned" rather than  "radiant."  But Bena Elisha Medjuck, a McGill University Department of Jewish Studies graduate student, offered a more complex explanation in his 1988 thesis "Exodus 34:29-35: Moses' 'Horns' in Early Bible Translation and Interpretation."[1]  Medjuck explains that Jerome was well-acquainted both with the variant meanings of "keren" and with the prevailing translation of his contemporary Jewish scholars – with whom he consulted!   Jerome chose the "horned" translation as metaphor faithful to the text: a depiction of Moses' strength and authority, and a glorification of the Lord!  Jerome even explained this in his accompanying commentary!  

Horns were almost universally viewed by ancient civilizations as symbols of power, not as the negative or demonic symbols they became for Christians thousands of years later.  For example, both Alexander the Great and Attila the Hun were described as wearing horns.  Mellinkoff reminds us that horned helmets were often worn by priests and kings, with the horns connoting that divine power and authority had been bestowed upon them.  


Moreover, in his book Did Moses Really Have Horns? (URJ Press, 2009) Rabbi Dr. Rifat Sonsino reminds us that the Hebrew Bible contains many other references to "horns" as symbols of power and authority....»


Ki Tissa: Moses' Horns: Not a Mistranslation > Rabbi Dr. Art Levine
http://rabbiartlevine.com/Home/tabid/2652/ID/840/Ki-Tissa-Moses-Horns-Not-a-Mistranslation.aspx


Kol Tuv,
RRW

Parsha: Ki Tisa, "Life is Complex"


It's in the Nishma tagline: Life is complex, Torah is complex etc.
Rabbi Hecht and I share a synchronicity on complexity. 

 People are seeking the old black-and-white solutions that made magic popular 1,000 years ago and dictators popular about 70 years ago. We seem to be drifting towards a new Dark Ages. Perhaps this is why Roshei Yeshiva are now being invested with "rebbe"-like infallibility -an absolute anathema to misnagidic thinking!

Anyhow - in the parsha -  we see that all 600,000+ adult Israelites were labelled with the guilt for the "Molten Calf" except for the Levi'im, Yehoshua,  women and children. Yet the Levite-produced carnage amounted to a mere 3,000 souls. This was less than 1/60 the of the total. Therefore, rabbinic thinking should deem it a nullified trivial measure!

Hazal have explained that there was not just one level of guilt, but at least 3 levels:
  1. Those who sinned with witnesses and warning
  2. Those who sinned with witnesses and NO warning
  3. Those who sinned without witnesses
There is also another hierarchy:
The Eirev Rav instigated the sin and were the ones who first started sinning. Some Israelites joined along, while some just watched without any Pinchas-like protest. Therefore, while only 3,000 Israelites were guilty of the actual sin of serving idols, the collective guilt of acquiescence or of condoning was nationwide.

This leads us to consider that not every guilt or culpability is morally equivalent. To say that since Andy Pettite was not 100% forthcoming at first makes him as big a liar as the Rocket or as McNamee is mis-leading and ingenuous. There are degrees of guilt. Fault is not a black and white continuum. There are also levels of honesty. While few humans bat 1.000 in the honesty department, not all are compulsive liars either!

That said: culpability is a funny thing! Many "public Jews" have railed that the world was silent about the Holocaust whilst it transpired, yet many - myself included - are silent as a slaughter occurs in Darfur.

A Hong Kong native who owns a Chinese restaurant lamented to me: Jews had a Holocaust . What about the Chinese!? Indeed, he is correct. In the aftermath of the Jimmy Doolittle raid "40 seconds over Tokyo" Japanese soldiers exacted revenge on 250,000 Chinese over the next few weeks. Nanking was raped!

Who in the West cares to comment!? In fact, most North Americans buy the Euro-Centric version of WWII. They begin at Hitler's invasion of Poland, almost completely ignoring Japan's occupation of China, not to mention Manchuria, etc.

Even in Europe, the Italian invasion of Abyssinia and the Spanish Civil War were surely part of the WWII cluster of the battles of the dictators! The point is, while standing silently by is not the same level of culpability as committing the dirty deed, nevertheless culpability there is indeed! Woe to all of us for not doing our best to protest

Shalom,
RRW

The "Oat Brit" Linguisitic Pattern

The "Oat Brit" [Os Bris] Pattern

First - please see these sections

P B'reishis     R'vii 4:15
P. Noach     Hamishi 9:5-17
P. Lech Lecha     Shishi-Sh'vii 17:2-21
P. Ki Tissa     End of Rishon 31:13-17
In the last 3 Oat and Brit [Os and Bris] appear in tandem, often repeatedly. Re: Kayin, only "Oat"

Q:
Have any "Parshanim" connected all of these dots together?
EG the number of times Oat and Brit are used? The sequencing?

For a limited example -
See Torah Temimah on Lech Lecha 17:11 quoting a Meimra from Rav Nachman bar Yitzchok in TB: Shabbat 132a, concerning "Meelah docheh Shabbos" which addresses a small subset of this pattern.


Kol Tuv,
RRW

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Parshat Zachor: Choice in Destruction

Originally published 3/18/11, 9:58 am.
This article originally appeared in Nishma Update, March 1992 and is also available on the Nishma website.

Choice in Destruction

In Sefer HaMitzvot, Mitzva Asseh 187Rambam, when describing the command to destroy the Seven Nations that inhabited Canaan, uses the verb le'harog, to kill. The Chinuch, Mitzva 425, is similar. Yet both authors in describing the mitzva to destroy Amalek apply a different language. The command is to destroy the zerah, the progeny of Amalek and, what seems to be even of greater significance, to eradicate any memory of Amalek from this world. In Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 5:5, in codifying this law, Maimonides only mentions this latter part although in the Sefer HaMitzvot he mentions the first. What significance is there to this change in language? What is the actual essence of the mitzva

To answer these questions, at least according to the view of Rambam, it is necessary to look at a most controversial law that Maimonides codifies in Hilchot Melachim 6:1-4. According to Rambam, the Jewish nation's obligation to make peace before going to war applies even to battles with the Seven Nations and Amalek. How does this reconcile with the mitzvot regarding the destruction of these nations? The language of the Kesef Mishna is most revealing. While Ra'avad and others state that this agreement of peace must include the observance of the Seven Noachide Laws on the part of these nations, the Kesef Mishna presents a most interesting reason why - " for if they accept the Seven Noachide Laws they leave the category of the Seven Nations and Amalek and they are like bnei Noach ha'kesharim, righteous non-Jews". In terms of the Seven Nations, the mitzva is now fully understandable. The command is to kill the members of these nations, as Rambam states in Sefer HaMitzvot, they are the root of idolatry. Once someone accepts, however, the Noachide Code, they are no longer a member of these nations that are the root of idolatry and therefore there is no command to kill this individual ( in fact this would be prohibited just as it is prohibited to kill any non-Jew ). How, though, does one understand the mitzva regarding Amalek? 

On the surface the answer seems to be simple - the command regarding Amalek should be similar. The language in the Mishneh Torah and Sefer HaMitzvot however must lead to a different conclusion. Regarding the Seven Nations, the command is to kill them. If, however, the Seven Nations do not exist, because of something such as acceptance of the Noachide Code, then this mitzva cannot be performed. Encouraging the members of the Seven Nations to accept the Noachide Code may be praiseworthy and a part of the command to first reach out for peace, but it is not part of this mitzva - the language is clear. Regarding Amalek, however, the command is to destroy its memory, its progeny, its essence - its name. It would seem that any transformation of someone out of the category of Amalek would fulfil this mitzva of destroying this entity. I would argue, though, that the mitzva can only be fulfilled if the member of Amalek converts to become a Jew. While acceptance of the Noachide Code takes someone out of the category of Amalek and, as such, there is no command to destroy this individual, this acceptance would not utterly destroy the Amalek concept from this world. A subsequent rejection of the Seven Noachide Mitzvot, it would seem, could lead to this individual being re-classified as Amalek. Acceptance of the Noachide Code would simply, as in the case of the Seven Nations, mean there is no command to destroy this individual while he is in this state of a kosher Ben Noach. Amalek, however, is not fully destroyed. Becoming a Jew and receiving that classification, however, is irrevocable. As Maimonides writes in Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 13:17, even if a convert returns to idolatry, this person is still classified as a Jew. Conversion would destroy the Amalek name and as such would seem to be a method to fulfil this mitzva

The irony in this approach to the command is that attempting to do the mitzva in this way, through gerut, would seem to be a full rectification of the original mistake that led to the creation of Amalek. In T.B. Tractate Sanhedrin 99b, we are told that the creation of Amalek was a punishment in that our Avot, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaacov, did not accept Timna, the mother of Amalek, as a ger. Is it not a Divine paradox in that we may fulfil a mitzva through the conversion of her children? 

The major problem with this approach, however, is the Mechilta, Shemot 17:16, which declares that gerim, converts, from Amalek are not to be accepted. The Mechilta actually seems to imply that even a process of conversion would be inapplicable for David killed the Amalekite convert - a member of Amalek simply cannot convert. Rambam, however, does not codify this law when he discusses those who can or cannot convert in Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah, chapter 12. Maimonides' non-acceptance of the Mechilta is further substantiated in that in Hilchot Sanhedrin 18:6 he refers to the case of the Amalekite convert as an example of the Jewish king's power of summary judgement. The major issue with the Mechilta actually arises from T.B. Tractate Gittin 57b and Tractate Sanhedrin 96b which declares that the descendants of Haman ( who is considered an Amalekite) learned Torah in B'nei Brak. If Amalekites cannot convert, how could Haman's descendants have become Jews? While some commentators reconcile the Mechilta and the Talmud through maintaining the bar on Amalekite conversion, there are others who declare the Mechilta's position not to be universal. See Torah Shelaima, Parshat Beshalach, section 185 and, for greater detail, Sefer Ner L'Meah. It would seem that Maimonides would be classified within the latter. While converting Amalek may not be an option in fulfilling the mitzva to all, it would seem to be a feasible method according to Rambam, and one that many may find more tenable.

Is Parshat Zachor d'Oraitto? - 1

Actually this would be better phrased as:

"What Is the disposition of Parshat Zachor as per Shas and Posqim?"

Let's Start with Sources - Part 1:

See the texts in the Mishnah Brurah
SA O"Ch 685:7
Some say "Zachor" is d'oraitto.
Be'er Hagolah 10
Source: Tosafot Brachot 13
Ba'er Hetev 2 quibbles over Parshat Parah
He also quotes. Tosafot shantz that no other Q'riat Hatorah is d'oraitto other than Zachor
Quoting Magen Avraham - Also Parshat Zachor with 10 is more important than Megillat Esther...
Mishnah Brura 14
"And we learn in the Gmara that Zachor must be "amira mitoch hasefer b'libo"

Next post BEH
Positions of
Kaf Hachayyim
Aruch Hashulchan
Kitzur SA

KT
RRW
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Re: Is Parshat Zachor d'Oraitto? - 2


See the Aruch haShulchan
Orach Chaim 685:6

And see the new edition with fn to Mishna Brura notes 4 and 5

Kaf Hachaim esp. #33
[Vol. 8 p. 156]

Citing Talmud Bavli Megillah 18a

«Therefore [as per Rabbenu Hannanel on the Talmud there] both reader and listener need to intend to fulfill the positive commandment of the Torah»

Also see Kitzur SA 140:3. Quoting SA, Rema et al.


KT
RRW

Liturgical Parallels between Tisha B'Av and Purim


Previously posted around Tisha b'av 2009, then reposted March 6, 2011, on Nishmablog.


The following outline lists some of the parallels, primarily liturgical, between Purim and the 9th of Av.
           
1 Maariv - Nighttime 
     A. Only Megillos that are read at night.
          - Eicho
          - Esther
     B. Similar Structure with Kaddish Tiskabel and v'Ato Kodosh

2 Shacharis - Omissions
     A.  Purim - A "miracle" Holiday , no Hallel (Megilloh instead)
     B.  9th of Av -  A Fast Day  without   
          -  Selichos (Kinnos instead)
          -  Tachanun & Ovinu Malkeinu

3 Shacharis - Chazoros Hashatz
     A. Only weekday repetitions of the Amido having Krovos/Krovatz 
at least in the common Ashkenaz / Yekke Litrugy
4 Preceding Shabbos 
     A. Purim preceded by Zachor
     B. 9th of Av preceded by Chazon

5 The Tanach's Pattern - Special Torah and Haftoro readings are read on the Shabbos 
before the event, with the corresponding Megilloh on the day of the event.
     A. Purim - The Amalek Connection
          -  Torah- Zachor 
          -  Navi - Haftoro of Zachor (Shaul's War with Amalek in Shmuel)
          -  Kesuvim Esther
     B. 9 Av - The  Eicho Connection
          -  Torah - Eicho in Devorim
          -  Navi - Eicho in the Haftoro of Chazon (Yeshaya)
          -  Kesuvim - Eicho

6. Month-wide 
     A. Mishenichnos Adar Marbin b'Simcho
     B. Mishenichnos Av M'maatin b'Simcho

7. Miscellaneous
     A. Some Pesukim in Esther are read to Eicho's melody (in particular Asher 
 Heglo)
     B. Chiyuv S'eudo vs. Chiyuv Taanis
     C. Similar Minhogim not to work


Shalom,
RRW

Leining: Is it zeikher or zekher?

Originally published 4/2/08, 11:06 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.

I looked up ZECHER in the Even Shoshan Concordance - and in it I located 2 occurences of Zecher - and BOTH were proper names!

Zecher is clearly wrong. Rav Mordechai Breuer OBM has confirmed this with unassailable research While the Ma'seh Rav attests to this idea of Zecher Rav Haim Volozhiner protested this very attestation [albeit very politely]. In NO way were TWO readings ever suggested

But if safeik D'd'oraiito lehumra re: Zachor why not go all the way? [Reductio ad absurdum indeed- after all it is read around Purim time! So why not

  1. Read it from BOTH a Sepyhardic and Ashkenaic Torah...
  2. Read BOTH Scrolls with every permutation of pronunciation [e.g. litvisher, Hungarian, Yekkish, Sephardic Yemineite etc. etc.]?

The Vilna Gaon himself made fun of multiple pairs of Tefillin as ludicrous and came up with 32-64 possible permutations. Ironically we are beginning to perpetuate such a practice in his honor. [Incidentally, this proves there MUST be a God or else it would make no sense to practice such a minhag to honor the one who felt such permutation as unnecessary.]

One Rabbi insisted that whilst reading Ki Tetze both Zeicher and Zecher must be read TWICE, one for Shevii'i and once for Maftir! His argument? since we have changed the form [tzura] for Zachor therefore THAT becomes THE normative way to read it EVERY time we read the Torah, including Ki Tetze! No I am not kidding, I had a bar mitzva student who HAD to do it this way!



Kol Tuv / Best Regards,

RabbiRichWolpoe

Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 1

Originally published 3/3/10, 9:13 pm.

Re: Repeating to read Zachor to accommodate both Zeicher and Zecher

There are those with whom I may never agree and in particular there is this one fellow with whom I often lock horns; he sent me a private email that expresses some of my own outrage on this matter...

I think it's safe to snip out these two points:

  1. The practice looks silly.
  2. The practice looks ... to be huqa utelula.

When you think about it, they are almost the same point.
Here is my similar reaction in a private email to a completely different colleague.
I still think it's a bad approach, a bad precedent and a bad example. We're making Reform & Conservative frummer with regards to the Masoretic text than we Orthodox Jews are. As we play more games with it, we thereby making it appear "less holy" and more susceptible to error.

Next:
Zeicher and Zecher on steroids. ;-)

KT
RRW
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 2


Posted with permission from the author.

This post speaks for itself. -RRW


«Re zeicher and zecher.

My brother-in-law, Prof. Jordan Penkower of Br Ilan University wrote an extensive article proving that the correct pronunciation is zeicher. It's way beyond my expertise although Jordan acknowledged as a leading expert in Bible studies, Jewish manuscripts etc.

I asked a member of my shul, who is also an expert in this field and who often is the ba'al korey on Parshat Zachor, if he had read the article. he said he had and that Jordan was "absolutely" correct. So I asked him (as Jordan had asked me to) whether he would read it only that way (zeicher) on Parshat Zachor. "Of course not," he replied; "what do facts have to do with minhag Yisrael?" And sure enough, he read it both ways.

Joseph Kaplan»

Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 3


Zeicher vs. Zecher on Steroids

I attended a Bar Mitzvah on Parshat Ki Teitze. There, the BM boy repeated zecher-zeicher twice
• Once for sh'vii
• Once for maftir

I found this strange. The entire Rationale for the Mishnah Brurah's requirement of repeating this - is predicated upon the premise that Zachor is d'oraitto! That does not apply to Ki Teitze.

Also it would be simple to accomodate Zecher/Zeicher by doing one way during sh'vii and the other way during Maftir! Win-win! After all the Passuq was being repeated anyway.

I asked the local Rav. He claimed that once MB changed the tzurah of how to lain this passage, it gets changed across the board in the same tzurah. I found this incredulous! Would the MB ever have made that suggestion? Seems far-fetched indeed.

But we do see that Halachah or Minhag evolves even twice in several generations. First for Zachor alone and then for Ki Teitze.

Zeicher vs. Zecher on Steroids - INDEED ;-)

KT
RRW

Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 4

Originally published 3/7/10, 8:30 PM

Reb Ira Gruscott mentions that, "Of course , what he doesn't say is that prior to and even during the lifetime of R' Y.M. Kagan z't'l, it was never a minhag to repeat....even in Yeshivas Radun."

Check Marc Shapiro's post on this.
This can be spun two ways.Either
A: it's a frum shtick with  no basis either in minhag or grammar or halakha; or
B: Orthodoxy does have a halakha that is -to quote Shapiro- "dynamic" This, of course goes to the post on your blog re: how one "feels" regarding halakha

ISG»

Look, we live in an ambiguous world!

Let's face the facts. Those who can tolerate ambiguity well,  will be fine, while those who cannot, will be frustrated, angry, railing, and dueling the windmills. Most of us fall somewhere in between! ;-)

Indeed I think "minhag Yisrael" is perhaps a poor choice of words.

What I think he was really saying is that Professor Penkower's academic analysis is irrelevant to the Halachah - one way or the other. Only a Poseiq can make that call, not a professor. As to how the Mishnah Brurah's ruling caught on fire - I do not know. I understand Lubavitch does this, and they are not known to be particularly deferential to the MB

Perhaps, as Hacham Sassoon might say: we believe in continuous revelation. Others might see the Hand of Divine Providence.

What bothers me about the Mishnah Brurah's method is that he presents the safeiq as even. It's not. And as Rabbi Noah G. has noted, a Halachic Safeiq is usually approxximately 50-50.
Here it's clearly not a 50-50. For example, I might say that Rabbenu Tam Tefillin might be 50-50, but Catholic Israel did away with that opinion.

R' Mordechai Breuer's article is brilliant on this matter. I have Professor Penkower's article but I have not yet had the pleasure to complete it.

As I understand Rav Halivni and Rabbis Feldblum and Price, we don't follow "science" when it comes to halachic practice, particularly in nusach. For example, This came up regarding "unetaneh toqef" and "kivnei maron" where Albeck and others suggest "kivnumerion" instead. R' Price dismissed this as academic and not halachic, and so subject to the shifting paradigms in science. For instance, is Pluto still a planet?

The story goes that in Breslau Seminary -
Proffessor Graetz read the Haftara with his emendation based upon science

And R' Z. Frankel apparently re-read the entire passage [iirc with brachot] to make the point that we don't emend Tanach on the basis of our scientific point of view - at least not during the liturgy

Anyway, we can safely say this:
  • The Masoretes deviated from the Talmud in a number of instances.
  • The Kimchi's Grammar deviated from the Tiberian grammatical system on several points.

- I believe segol is one of those areas. Anyway, as far as I know, the Kimchi's PRONOUNCED tzeire and segol the same - obviating any need for repetition. Perhaps our very hakpadah to distinguish the two vowels has led us to this safeiq, though many would claim that this is irrelevant.

'Nuff Said.

Zissen Pesach,
RRW