Saturday, 27 May 2017

Yitro Vs. Ruth

originally published on 1/12/14

We read the 10 Dibrot on both P. Yitro and on Shavuot, and technically on vo'Etchanan, too! We also read the Scroll of Ruth on Shavuot so we can easily "connect the dots" between Ruth and the Dibrot
Now let's ask -

What do Yitro and Ruth have in common, and where do they differ?

What they do have in common is the discovery of the ONE TRUE G-D! No denying the sincerity of their common quest for that Holy Grail - so to speak.

Where do they differ?

Yitro found G-d, but - despite his relationship to his daughter and son-in-law - he subsequently abandoned the Jewish People to return to Midian.

Ruth, however, cleaved to Naomi and abandoned Moab to live the life of a beggar in Judea. Her commitment motto? Ameich Ami Veilokayich Elokai!. Her declaration of loyalty to the Jewish Nation preceded her commitment to G-D!

Blasphemy? Adearrabbah - a prerequisite! Yitro is the prototype of the Noahide who has found the True G-d but needs no society.

Ruth is the true convert, the prototypical "Ger Tzedeq" (actually Giyoert of course!). There is one reason to convert to Judaism following one's Spiritual Journey - to join the Priestly Kingdom and the Holy Nation. In truth, to live a life of G-dliness as an individual spiritual seeker needs no Judaism or Peoplehood.

Ruth's progeny? David and Mashiach. Her affiliation to our peoplehood earned her common destiny with us.
Yitro? A good guy to whom we say "fare thee well". Who of Yitro's descendants makes a glorious impact? Not the descendants of Hever haKeini who are allies.

Any sincere spiritual seeker can find G-d as an individual Noahide, but the prototypical Ger/Giyoret shares Jewish Destiny and Torah, as well as G-d.

Shalom,
RRW

Naaseh v'Nishma 2 - The D'var Torah

 originally published 1/14/14

The age-old question or issue grappled with by the Midrash is:
"Why did the Israelites precede Nishma with Naaseh"? IOW how could any Naaseh take place without a preceding Nishma to know WHAT to do first? Seems obvious!

There are several beautiful nuggets in Rabbinical Literature on this. This D'var Torah as I recall was originally based upon a Malbim. But in subsequent years, I could not locate it there. So, suffice it to say I didn't make it up but I've forgotten the precise source. Anyone who CAN identify the source is most welcome to fill the gap.

What's the p'shat of a NISHMA that follows a Naaseh? It seems obvious that in order to facilitate any Naaseh, SOME "how- to" handbook is a given - whether oral, mimetic, or even on video, Naaseh presumes a pre-existing prescription. As such, Halachah l'maaseh is a predicate for Naaseh, and therefore Kal vochomer must precede any Nishma.
So the sequence is
Mitzva
Performance [Naaseh]
THEN
Nishma!
So what is the definition of that term Nishma?

Nishma simply may be defined as Torah Lishmah. In fact, it is Torah WITHOUT any pragmatic ramification!
So when we learn Shulchan Aruch in order to Observe Shabbat, that is NOT a function of Naaseh, it is a preparation, a "hechsher mitzvah" for Naaseh.
Nishma goes beyond Observance. It is deeper. It is unique to Israel to go beyond the Divine Command.
As such, there are many implications to this. Most reserved for an upcoming post
The simplest and most straightforward Implication is that Men AND women have an equal obligation in [most of] Naaseh. Thus any "Torah" that teaches practical Halachah is equally required for both genders
However, Nishma is purely a Masculine Obligation of "Torah Lishma"
-----------------

To briefly expand the question of whether this theoretical Torah lishma is merely Optional to or Off-limits to women is the subject of debate.
At any rate, this is the essence of the d'var Torah - that Torah studied BEYOND that which is a prerequisite for Performance THAT is Nishma.
BEH in upcoming posts I will
•.Expound on some of the other ramifications
• Offer some alternative understandings of "NISHMA"

Shalom
RRW

Choosing to be Chosen - Rabbi Steven Saks

 Haftarah of Vayeishev is Amos 2:6-3:8

Originally published 4/19/10, 1:00 pm.
Choosing to be Chosen
By Rabbi Steven Saks

Jews have often been criticized for referring to themselves as “the chosen people.” After all, the referring to oneself as chosen does sound pompous and elitist.
The idea of choice is central to the holiday of Shavuot. God chose to reveal himself at Mount Sinai to the Israelites and the Israelites chose to accept the Torah. The Israelites when offered the Torah accepted with enthusiasm responding naaseh v’nishmah literally meaning we will do and we will listen. In other words the Israelites were so eager to accept the Torah they pledged to fulfill its precepts before they had the opportunity to hear them. It’s like signing a contract first then reading it. Regardless, the Israelites accepted upon themselves God’s mitzvoth commandments as spelled out in the Torah.
Through the performance of the mitzvoth the Israelites were to become a Goy Kodosh a holy nation. In other words simply being an Israelite does not make one a holy person. Rather the Israelite becomes holy by acting in a holy manner, by performing the mitzvoth. The idea that the Israelite is holy simply because he is a member of the chosen people is firmly rejected by the prophet Amos.
Bible Scholar Bernard Anderson points out that the prophet Amos repudiated the idea that the God of Israel was a national God that Israel could mobilize in the service of the nation’s own interest. According to Amos, being chosen by God did not entitle Israel to special privilege and protection rather it meant that Israel had accepted upon herself the responsibility to serve God. According to Amos, God is a universal God who is active in the histories of all nations as demonstrated by Amos 9:7.
Are you not like the Kushites to me, O people of Israel? Says the Lord. Did I not bring Israel out of the land of Egypt? And the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Arameans from Kir?

The other nations have not realized this because they have not shared the intimate relationship with God that Israel has been allowed to.
Rabbi Hertz in his commentary on the Bible explains that two teachings are enunciated through Amos 9:7. The first is that God has guided all other nations as well as Israel. All races are equally dear to him, and the hand of providence is evident not only in the migration of Israel but in every historical movement. The second teaching is that God’s special relationship with Israel rests on moral foundations. A degenerate Israel is of no more worth to God than other immoral nations.
Amos is believed to have prophesized between the years 765-750 B.C.E during the reign of Jeroboam the Second, a time of great affluence for the northern Kingdom of Israel. The prophet condemns the people for engaging in hallow religious ritual while failing to care for the poor.
So we see that choosing to be “the chosen” means accepting additional responsibility. In part, potential converts are discouraged from converting to Judaism because of this added responsibility. Yet, one can chose to become a member of “the chosen people” if he or she desires.
The Rabbis teach that the Torah was given in the dessert, in a barren area, because it is hefgar unclaimed property. In other words anyone can accept the yoke of the Torah upon him or her self. The Book of Ruth which is read on Shavuot tells the story of Ruth, the Moabite who is considered the quintessential convert to Judaism. Many female converts choose Ruth as their Hebrew name. Ruth did not have yichus an impressive lineage. The Moabites were enemies of Israel and descended from the incestuous relationship between Lot and his eldest daughter as detailed in Genesis 19.
Yet, Ruth chooses to follow her mother in law Naomi back to Israel and becomes an Israelite. Ruth is not shunned for becoming an Israelite; rather Jewish history views her as an exalted figure. Ruth is the great grandmother of King David from whom the Messiah will emerge. So we see that the Messiah will be a descendant from a woman who was born a non-Jew.
Anyone who believes that he/she is superior to others because of his/her Jewish birth misses the message of the Book of Ruth. Being chosen does not confer any sort of genetic superiority rather, being chosen means that we choose to develop our relationship with God.
As we celebrate the giving of the Torah lets us choose to strengthen our relationship with God by climbing the ladder of mitzvoth. No matter what we consider ourselves, Reform, Conservative, Orthodox or other, we can climb the ladder of mitzvoth by increasing our ritual observance (such as attending services more often). Just as importantly we can climb the ladder of mitzvoth by increasing our observance of laws which govern our relationships with fellow human beings (such as giving charity and conducting business honestly).
By climbing the ladder of mitzvoth we are ascending the heights of Mount Sinai and in the process become better individuals. May we all reach new heights this Shavuot.

* * * * *
Note: Rabbi Saks is one of my students - Rabbi Rich Wolpoe

Sunday, 21 May 2017

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 - "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 - 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