Parashat Nitzavim-Vayeilech / פרשת נצבים־וילך

In this week’s Parsha, Moshe continues to address the Jewish people and to impress upon them the importance of keeping the Torah properly, and the reward which will be afforded to those who do, and on the flip side, the severity of the recompense a person will receive for not adequately abiding by the Torah’s holy laws.  However, there is one particular equation in this week’s Parsha which does not seem to add up correctly.  The Torah says that if a person says to himself, “I will go upon my path, everything will be okay”, Hashem will not forgive him and the verses go on to say the terrible punishment he will receive.  I believe that this “non-commensurate” response requires a bit of explanation.

The famous Mashgiach, R’ Chazkal Levenstein explains beautifully that when a person says to himself that he will embark on his path and everything will be fine, he is lacking the most rudimentary and fundamental trait that a Jew is required to possess – the fear of Heaven.  A person who fosters a cavalier attitude about his life and his actions has no hope of ever returning to Torah observance, whereas a person who visualizes the consequences of his actions assumes a true level of responsibility for his misdeeds, and will do everything in his power to ensure that his mistakes are not repeated.  It is specifically for this reason that the Torah tilts all the punishment dials to the right when it comes to this kind of stance.  It is to show us how far we need to stay away from this casual approach and how necessary it is for us to work on our level of fear of retribution for our actions.  We have to always drive home the reality that if we sin, there will be very real and very unpleasant countermeasures for that sin, and allow the fear of those countermeasures to always motivate us to do the right thing.

The famous Tosafos in Shabbos (88) ask a fantastic question.  The Gemorah teaches us that in order for Hashem to have ensured that the Jews would accept the Torah properly, He held a mountain over their heads and said, “If you accept the Torah, then fine, and if you don’t, you will now be buried”.  Needless to say, they accepted the Torah.  Tosafos ask if the Jews accepted the Torah at Sinai with the famous remark “נעשה ונשמע” – “We will do, and then we will hear”, why was it necessary for Hashem to then go and hold a mountain over their heads?  Tosafos give their own answer, but The Maharal from Prague answers that although the Jews at Sinai were enthused with a predominant desire to do the will of Hashem forever the moment they uttered that famous declaration, we all know that when the inspiration which led to that moment would begin to die down with time, their resolve may not hold as strong as it once was.  I am sure that many of us can testify to the truth of this statement of the Maharal in our own lives.  It was precisely for this reason that Hashem held a mountain over their heads.  It was to teach them that although inspiration is wonderful, it is not enough.  We need to always maintain a constant level of trepidation at the thought of transgressing the word of the Torah.  This fear and this alone will be instrumental in helping us to keep our lusts in check during a time of temptation.  When we feel a pull toward a particular sin, there is a specific commandment in the Torah to arouse ourselves to feel terrified about the retribution we will receive if we cannot hold our excitement for that sin at bay, and the Torah is teaching us that only this type of fight will truly be effective at curbing our passions.

R’ Yitzchak B’lazar asks a fascinating question.  He proposes that if fear of Heaven is so integral to our service, then it should have been hardwired into our system, much the same way fear of danger or survival instincts is.  Why wouldn’t Hashem have built us with these components if He expected us to succeed in our service of Him?  R’ Yitzchak explains that had we possessed the same fear of Hashem that we do of worldly dangers, we would essentially be robots.  The factor which makes us human, and differentiates us from every other inhabitant of this earth, is our ability to choose right from wrong.  If we would fear Hashem like we do a shark, there would be no room for us to err.  You don’t find many human beings swimming in shark infested water.  Although it is difficult to reach this level of fear, this is exactly what we were created to do.

What are some practical methods a person can use to achieve a higher plane of consciousness in this area?  Firstly, it goes without saying that learning Mussar with great enthusiasm and fervor is certainly effective in increasing one’s general level of awareness of Hashem.  Another powerful tool one can implement is to boost his feeling during the prayer and blessings he recites during the day.  But I would like to share with you something R’ Nachum Zev from Kelm used to do.  He would go every week to visit the sick people in the hospital in order to help enhance his fear of Heaven.  He would explain that although we all know that Hashem is running the world, and we could be sick or healthy at any time of day based on His say so, Chazal says we cannot compare knowing something to seeing it.  When one sees the terrible disfigurements and suffering a human being can become exposed to based on no bad choices of his own, one will certainly begin to inculcate a very real sense of reward and punishment, and how vulnerable we really are at any given time.

During this period we find ourselves in, fear of Heaven is probably the most precious commodity a human being can have in his possession.  Although it is somewhat difficult to come by, let us look to the Gedolim for some examples of outstanding success in achieving fear of Hashem.  The famous Rebetzin Yaffe writes about her father the Beis Halevi; “During the month of Elul, my father was virtually inaccessible.  There was a palpable fear in the air as if there were some capital court case about to happen, and my father was on trial, and if he lost, he would be taken out to the gallows to be hung publicly.”  One of the Brisker Rav’s students once asked him whether or not all the scary feelings Chazal write about the month of Elul are to be taken literally.  The Brisker Rav responded, “of course they are.  In fact, two week’s before Rosh Hashana, I can’t even taste any of my food!”  Once another student met the Rav on the street shortly before Rosh Hashana and asked him how he was feeling.  The Rav responded that he was feeling a little scared about the upcoming judgment and that he needed to repent.  The student asked the Rav in surprise if even the Rav needed to repent.  The Rabbi looked at the man like he was crazy, and asked his Gabbai to check if the student had suffered any sort of brain injury, and remained upset at that question the rest of the day.  Although these giants clearly were able to attain an extremely heightened sense of fear of Heaven, and we are perhaps just taking baby steps to make inroads into our development, it behooves us to do everything in our power to avoid the attitude we described above in this week’s Parsha that everything will be fine, regardless of our actions, and instead replace it with one of genuine concern that our behavior is not quite up to par, and return to Hashem with all of our hearts.

May we all merit to work on our level of fear of Heaven and earn a wonderful sweet new year filled with every blessing!

PARSHAH KI TETZE

Torah Reading: KI TETZE

49) Ki Tetze:
Torah: Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
Haftarah: Isaiah 40:1-11
New Testament: Mark 1:1-14, Matthew 24:29-42, Ephesians 6:10-18

THE HOME AND THE FAMILY

The opening mitzvah of the parshah, that of the beautiful captive, takes us directly inside the home, which is where the captive is taken to “grow her hair and nails”. Life in the home and in the family is a central theme throughout the parshah. Immediately following the law of the beautiful captive comes a hint of marital discord (the hated wife), followed by the Torah law of family inheritance and the birthright. This is followed by the law of the gluttonous son, whose penalty is to be stoned to death. The requisite amounts of meat and wine the gluttonous son would have to imbibe were so gigantic that in practice no one would ever fulfill all the conditions that would make them liable to the death penalty. The Torah does not want to kill the son, but rather to teach the essence of good parenting, from childhood onwards and especially during puberty and adolescence. Children need not be given everything they want. They must be taught to listen to the voice of mother and father, wisdom and understanding.

The education of girls for the life of Torah and the holiness of Israel is no less important than that of boys. The stoning of the girl whose new husband found her to have been unfaithful after their betrothal is not only a terrible punishment for the girl. It is a bitter lesson for her father, outside whose house the execution takes place. “See the offspring you have raised” (Rashi on Deut. 22:21). The holiness of the Israelite home and family is based upon KIDDUSHIN, the act of betrothal whereby husband and wife sanctify and dedicate themselves to one another. In bringing up a new generation, the parental duty is to ensure that girls understand the holiness and seriousness of marriage and of marital fidelity. They must understand what is happening to their pubescent bodies and the attendant dangers in the outside world and from the lurking Evil Urge. This education is particularly important today, when the world is flooded with a culture that encourages teenagers to think of nothing but sexual attraction and romance all day every day. The laws of rape and seduction in our parshah underline how carefully parents must protect their daughters (and sons). Protection must start by lovingly teaching our children about the uniqueness and holiness of Israel and the special level of conduct required of BNEY MELACHIM, children of kings — “for your are children of HaShem”.

Our parshah contains the laws of marriage and divorce that make up most of SEDER NASHIM, the Order of the Mishneh relating to these areas. These include the laws of YIBUM, the Levirate marriage, and CHALITZA, the ceremony for nullifying it, with all their many secrets. Many of the basic laws of KIDDUSHIN and NISU’IM, betrothal and marriage, are learned from verses in our parshah, as are the laws of the GET, “bill of divorce”. The prohibition against a divorced woman who married another man from subsequently remarrying her first husband sets Israel apart from the alien culture that licenses switching back and forth from one partner to another. The holiness of the bond between husband and wife is founded on its exclusiveness. In the realities of life in the world we live in, divorce is sometimes necessary and must be carried out with the proper procedure. However, there is no doubt that the Torah prefers not to license divorce (which “makes the altar-stones weep”) but rather that man and wife should joyously build their home together to fulfil “and your camp shall be holy” (Deut. 23:15) for many long, good years. The first year of marriage sets the foundation for all that follows. In that year the groom is commanded that “he make joyous his wife that he took” (Deut. 24:5). The surest foundation for joy in the home is the study and practice of the Torah.

Bound up with the laws of marriage are the laws relating to personal status and those entitled to enter the community of Israel. The community excludes male Ammonites and Moabites (though King David himself was descended from a Moabitess), and Egyptians and Edomites to the third generation. A different status is that of the MAMZER, who as the child of an incestuous relationship of Israelites is also inherently flawed and may not marry into the community. The purpose of these laws is to protect the purity of the Israelite family.

The home is a private domain — so much so that even a creditor may not enter to take a pledge but must wait outside for the debtor to bring it out. But while the home is private, it must be a place of dignity so that G-d’s holy Presence may dwell there. Dignity begins with personal hygiene and cleanliness, which is why the Torah commands us to attend to our physical needs “outside the camp” and properly cover the waste. Within our homes, we are free to do all that the Torah permits, but we must keep our eyes open and take precautions against potential dangers. “Make a parapet for your roof”. The law to make a parapet to prevent someone falling off the roof is the foundation of the general Torah law that potential hazards of all kinds should be removed (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat #427). Not only does the Torah govern how we build our homes. It even governs the clothes we wear: we may not wear mixtures of wool and linen, and men must wear Tzitztis. The Tzitzis are the first line of defense against immorality (which is why the commandment of wearning Tzitzis immediately precedes the laws of the betrothed maiden). A man must not wear women’s clothes or ornaments and vice versa.

MAKING A LIVING: BETWEEN MAN AND HIS FELLOW

Commandments relating to making a living — from plowing the land to loans and the money economy — also take up major parts of parshas KI SEITZEI. Just as the separation between Israel and the nations is part of G-d’s order, so is the separation between different species of animals and vegetables. One must not drive the plow with an ox and a donkey together. One may not plant one field with diverse species. What distinguishes Israel is the trait of kindness and compassion, which must be carefully cultivated. When harvesting the crops, gifts must be left for the unfortunate and the needy: the proselyte, the widow, the orphan and the poor. The farmer must even be sensitive to the feelings of his ox: while threshing, he may not muzzle the ox to prevent it munching on some of the produce while at work.

Relevant to all are the laws governing the respective rights and obligations of employers and employees. The employee must work industriously and may not abuse the privileges the Torah gives him. Having completed his work, he is entitled to prompt payment: now the mitzvah is on the employer. The laws in our parshah relating to the money economy include those of giving interest-free loans to fellow Israelites and the strict prohibition of taking interest (RIBIS). Business activity is to be governed by the laws of fair weights and measures.

Not only are we bound to conduct our business dealings with integrity. We are responsible for the property of others if they loose it — our parshah contains the laws of lost property. And if our friend gets into trouble — if his donkey can’t carry the load — we must help him rearrange the load.

* * *

DOUBLE STANDARDS — AND AMALEK

The detailed laws in our parshah culminate in what on one level is a business law — the prohibition of keeping a big and a small weight: a big weight to use in weighing what one buys, and a small weight in weighing what one sells. We are to use one standard in our business dealings, and likewise, one standard in all of our judgments and evaluations: the Torah standard. We may not judge ourselves and those we like favorably while judging those outside our preferred circle unfavorably. We are to examine ourselves and others and everything in our lives with sobriety, carefully examining to see how things measure up according to the Torah standard. It is this that protects us from Amalek.

From the proximity of the prohibition of double standards to the law of remembering and wiping out Amalek, we learn that having double standards is what brings the scourge of Amalek. The war against Amalek is a theme during this month of Elul, just as it is in the month of Adar, which is six months earlier and diagonally opposite/facing Elul in the circle of the months. Just as fighting Amalek is necessary in Adar in preparation for Nissan, the month of redemption, so it is necessary as part of the Teshuvah process during Elul as we approach Rosh HaShanah and the Days of Awe.

Amalek “encountered you [KORCHO] on the way” (Deut. 25:18). The Rabbis stated that Amalek “cooled [KAR] you” — When the Israelites were flushed with joy and innocent fervor immediately after the Exodus, Amalek attacked with demoralization and despair. Amalek attacked with MIKREH, “chance” — the philosophy that there is no order in the universe and that therefore everything is permitted. Amalek attacked with KERI, the wasteful emission of seed through sexual permissiveness and immorality. These are the very opposite of the holiness that is the foundation of Israel.

The alien culture around us is now reaching its climax in the espousal of the unholy. The Torah states that a man shall not wear the clothes and ornaments of a woman, and vice verse. Yet the alien culture is obsessed with gender and cross gender issues, and has legitimized homosexual relationships — an abomination in the eyes of the Torah — to the point that the countries which consider themselves most advanced are those that have legislated to give homosexual couples the same rights and benefits as husbands and wives. The Midrash clearly states that giving sanction to homosexual marriages brings ANDROLOMUSIA — chaos in which the innocent suffer with the guilty. We can see with our own eyes how the very world that has sanctioned this mockery of marriage is reeling from the fires of war and terror, crime, violence, economic recession, disease…

The foundation of the holiness of Israel has nothing to do with this mockery of marriage, this vain emission of seed. The foundation of the holiness of Israel is KIDDUSHIN, the sacred bond of marriage and fidelity between man and his wife. This is the foundation of family, continuity, the education of children, refinement, modesty, compassion and all other good traits.

Shabbat Shalom!

Parashat Re’eh / פרשת ראה

Parsha Summary for Parshas Reeh

Note: The Shabbos Torah Reading is divided into 7 sections. Each section is called an Aliya [literally: Go up] since for each Aliya, one person “goes up” to make a bracha [blessing] on the Torah Reading.


1st and 2nd Aliyot: Moshe instructs the Chosen People to eradicate any remnant of idolatry and strengthen all aspects of service to G-d. All offerings must be brought to the “Chosen” place, the Bais Hamikdash, so that worship is an act of humility and selflessness, rather than a self-indulging “need”. An even greater danger to our uniqueness is the innate desire to compromise and assimilate Torah values with other forms of worship. (the Chanukah bush syndrome)

3rd and 4th Aliyot: Moshe forewarned the Jews against incorporating any pagan practices, and against the false prophet, idolatrous missionaries, and the Ir Hanidachas – the Apostate City. These must be destroyed along with their material belongings. When using the wo​_rld in accordance with the wishes of the Creator, we declare the existence of a Creator who has a divine purpose for creating the material world. When we misuse the physical in the service of “gods who are not G-d”, we negate the Creator’s purpose for creating the universe. Therefore, they and all their belongings must be destroyed.

5th, 6th, and 7th Aliyot: The remainder of the Parsha, details those Mitzvos that set us apart from all other nations: Kashrus; Maasros – Tithes; the Shmitah – sabbatical year; the laws regarding lending money; the Eved Ivri – a Jew who is a slave; the consecration of the first-born animal, and a review of the main Yomim Tovim – holidays: Pesach, Shavouth, and Succoth.

Rav S.R. Hirsch points out that Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are not reviewed in Sefer Divarim because there were no changes in the practices of those Yomim Tovim when living in the desert or living in Eretz Yisroel. (Intro. to Divarim)

Parashat Re’eh (פרשת ראה): The Three Pilgrimages…

By Rav. PhilJ Alcide, PhD

Blessing before reading the Torah:   

 

Praise Hashem, to whom our praise is due! Praised be Hashem, to whom our praise is due now and forever! Blessed is Hashem our God, Ruler of the universe, who has chosen us from all peoples by giving us the Torah. Blessed is Hashem, Giver of the Torah.

Reading: “שלוש פעמים ׀ בשנה יראה כל־זכורך את־פני ׀ יהוה אלהיך במקום אשר יבחר בחג המצות ובחג השבעות ובחג הסכות ולא יראה את־פני יהוה ריקם איש כמתנת ידו כברכת יהוה אלהיך אשר נתן־לך”

Transliteration

  • “shalosh pe’anim bashanah yera’eh kal zekhurekha et penei adonai eloheikha bamaqom asher yivchar b’chag hamatzot ub’chag hashavuot ub’chag hasukkot v’lo yera’eh et penei adonai reqam ish kematenat yado k’birkat adonai eloheikha asher natan lakh ” (Devarim 16 : 16-17)

Translation:

  • “Three times a year all your males should appear before Hashem your God in the place that He will choose: on the Festtival of Matzot, on the Festival of Shavuot, and on the Festival of Sukkot. And he shall not appear before Hashem empty-handed, everyone according to what he can give, according to the blessing that Hashem, your God, gives you.” (Deut.16: 16-17)

Blessing after reading the Torah:

Blessed is the Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has given us a Torah of truth, implanting within us eternal life. Blessed is the Lord, Giver of the Torah.

This week’s Parshah covers a lot of material. We would be dizzy if we were to go over them all right now. We would be amazed as well. Yet, I choose to focus on a very small section that will do just as much. Please, accept my apology. Why three times a year? Why only male must appear? Where is the place to appear? Why not empty-handed? These are some of the questions that I will explore with you but before that let us make a b’rachah (say a blessing):

  • Baruch Atah adonai eloheinu Melekh ha-Olam yihyu l’ratson imrei-fi v’hegyon libi l’fanecha adonai tsuri v’goali [Amen]
  • Blessed are you Hashem our G-d, king of the universe. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you Hashem, my Rock and my Redeemer [Amen]

It is interesting to note that during the forty years that the Israelites lived in the wilderness they were never commanded to appear before Hashem any number of times a day, a week, a month, or a year. However, it is only before they enter the Promised Land that they are reminded to present themselves three times a year “before Hashem” and “at the place He will choose.” This command is known in our circles as “shalosh regalim” or three pilgrimages.

Pilgrimage

What is a pilgrimage? What purpose does it serve? In the Encyclopedia Britannica (2011) we read:

  • “A pilgrimage is a journey undertaken for a religious motive. Although some pilgrims have wandered continuously with no fixed destination, pilgrims more commonly seek a specific place that has been sanctified by association with a divinity or other holy personage…Given its presence in so many different cultural and historical contexts, no single meaning can be attributed to the act of pilgrimage. Structural similarities are discernible, however, across disparate traditions of sacred travel. Pilgrimage usually entails some separation (alone or in a group) from the everyday world of home, and pilgrims may mark their new identity by wearing special clothes or abstaining from physical comforts. Frequently, pilgrimages link sacred place with sacred time…Apart from involving movement across physical and cultural landscapes toward a sacred goal, pilgrimages frequently involve ritual movements at the site itself…A factor that unites pilgrimage locations across different religions is the sense, variously expressed, that a given place can provide privileged access to a divine or transcendent sphere…In all religious traditions, hierarchies of sites are evident, as some places are regarded as more sacred than others.”

Why three times a year?

In the book of Joshua we read:

  • “So the men went and passed through the land, and described it by cities in seven divisions in a book, and they came to Joshua to the camp at Shiloh. And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD, and there Joshua divided the land to the sons of Israel according to their divisions.” (Josh.18: 9-10)

This establishes the Israelites as sedentary people now. They are no longer wandering in the wilderness. In the book of Ecclesiastes we read,

  • “And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” (Eccl.4: 12)

The number three here seems to serve at least two purposes in relation to the pilgrimage. The first one is that it is an opportunity for the Israelites to show gratitude to Hashem. The second one is an opportunity to show that they have confidence in Hashem as a partner in the covenant (Exod.34: 24). A third one is to confirm the everlasting character of the covenant through the principle of the three witnesses (Deut.19: 15). Therefore, the three pilgrimages are the eternal witnesses and testimony of what Hashem has done for the Israelites. This is very important to remember.

Why only male must appear?

The ancient Israelites never understood this to exclude women. In fact, in the book of Samuel we read:

  • “There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.” (1 Sam.1: 1-7)

If women were not allowed appear before Hashem, then why did Penninah and Hannah go up with their husband Elkanah? Who was this man anyway? Why didn’t any of his wives ask him to leave the other as the ultimate proof of his love for her? Does the Torah forbid a man to have more than one wife? We must be very careful not to read in the Bible what is not there, things that are informed by anti-Bible biases. Interestingly, the text says:

  • “When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.” “Do what seems best to you,” her husband Elkanah told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the Lord make good his word.” (1 Sam.1: 21-23)

Here, as you can see, Hannah chose not to appear before Hashem simply because she was nursing a newborn child. However, she made clear that she would continue to appear before Hashem when the boy is old enough. Her husband agreed with her. He didn’t tell her that she was not commanded to go. What we understand is that women are exempt from performing certain mitzvot simply because of who they are, which determines the role that they play in the community. Men, on the other hand, do not enjoy the privilege of exemption under any circumstance. Therefore, the omission of women in the text is not due to sexism but to accommodate their exalted status. It is that simple. One must read the text in its context, as a Hebrew would read it in the light of his tradition. Also, men that were ritually unclean could not present themselves before Hashem even if they were commanded to appear.

Where is the place to appear?

Traditionally, the place has always been where the priesthood is quartered. The first place was Shiloh. After that, it became Jerusalem. Should we really focus on a particular place, a physical location? In the time of exile, as right now, and before that during the Babylonian captivity, where is the place? We cannot go to Jerusalem because we do not have a Temple there nor a priesthood. Yet the power of pilgrimage as a metaphor may be retained even in contexts apparently unfavorable to its practice. We must, therefore, understand why Hashem commanded us to appear before Him three times a year. Is there a place that Hashem is not? David, in Psalm 139, answered with a resounding “no”. The point of the pilgrimages then is to bring people together. It is not the physical place that is really the focus but the “unity of people”. Wherever people are united this is where Hashem chooses. This idea is clearly stated in Psalm 133, where it is written:

  • “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” (Ps.133: 1-3)

The Three pilgrimages have one thing in common. They are all “Shabbat days”. In other words, they are set apart for a particular purpose. The place is “in time” because it is time that Hashem “made holy”. Man made a place holy. Which is greater: what G-d sanctifies or what man sanctifies? A place can be destroyed but time cannot be destroyed. We will always have the opportunity to appear before Hashem as long as we are alive. Let us briefly look at each pilgrimage:

Pesach or Passover began and remains a family holiday. It symbolizes in words and deeds the ideal of freedom (Gen.1: 26-27). It is associated with the Exodus from Egypt. On this holiday we are commanded not to eat yeast. The sages taught:

  • “Leaven represents the evil impulse of the heart” (Talmud, Berachot 17a)

Pesach, therefore, teaches us to subdue our appetite and control what we eat.

Shavuot or “feast of weeks” is traditionally known by many names each of which reflects the agricultural nature of the holiday celebrated in the Spring. The Bible nowhere associates the holiday of Shavuot with G-d’s revelation on Mount Sinai. The Talmud (Pesachim 68b), however, does make an association between the two. The connection was established when scholars, following the biblical account, calculated that the dates of the agricultural festival of Shavuot and the event at Mount Sinai coincided. In this Parshah, the reason for the observance of Shavuot is that “we were once slaves in Egypt”.

Sukkot or “feast of booths” was originally an agricultural holiday. We are told to remember that the Israelites people lived in booths when G-d took them out of Egypt. It marks the beginning of the rainy season. Therefore, it became known as a Day of Judgment for Rain.

Why not empty-handed? 

All three pilgrimages refer to the Exodus from Egypt, which is G-d’s greatest act of love to the Israelites. G-d gives because He loves. Therefore, we must demonstrate our love by giving back. This is the law. Therefore, Solomon taught:

  • “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of your crops.” (Prov.3: 9)

The three pilgrimages give us a framework to test our own obedience and gratitude. They provide us with an opportunity for spiritual growth. They invite us to take journeys without leaving our physical place. We are to go into the depth of our soul each time to meet with our G-d. Also, the pilgrimages provide us with opportunities for redemption. What are we to be redeemed from? Our sages, by linking Chametz (yeast) to the Yetzer Hara (evil inclination), teach us that we are to be redeemed from our evil inclination, the Yetzer Hara. Who can redeem us and how? G-d answers, saying:

  • “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Gen.4: 7)

G-d has already provided for us in all aspects of our lives. He gives us opportunities to prove ourselves worthy. He gives us the Torah, a Covenant of Peace, a Pact of Friendship. Now it is up to us to show Him how much we love him. Notice that out of 365 days we are only commanded to make three pilgrimages. The rest of the year concerns our treatment of others. We cannot present ourselves before G-d favorably if we neglect our neighbor or oppress them in any way. We are different and receive differently from G-d. Therefore, we cannot look at what others give to G-d when we want to present gifts to Him. How good has G-d been to you? How much has He given you? How much does he ask you to give Him?

Shabbat Shalom,

Reference

pilgrimage. (2011). Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite.  Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica.

Parashat Eikev / פרשת עקב

Eikev, Deuteronomy 7:12 -11:25

Moshe continues his discourse guaranteeing the Jewish people prosperity and good health if they follow the mitzvot, the commandments. He reminds us to look at our history and to know that we can and should trust in God. However, we should be careful so that we are not distracted by our material success, lest we forget and ignore God.

Moshe warns us against idolatry (the definition of idolatry is the belief that anything other than God has power) and against self-righteousness — “Do not say because of my virtue that God brought me to possess this land … but because of the wickedness of these nations that God is driving them out before you.” (Deut. 9:5). He then details our rebellions against God during the 40 years in the desert and the giving of the Second Tablets (Moshe broke the first Tablets containing the Ten Commandments during the sin of the Golden Calf.)

This week’s portion dispels a common misconception. People think that “Man does not live by bread alone” means that a person needs additional foods beyond bread to survive. The quotation in its entirety is, “Man does not live by bread alone … but by all that comes out of God’s mouth” (Deut. 8:3).

The Torah then answers a question which every human being has asked of himself: What does God want of you? “Only that you remain in awe of God your Lord, so that you will follow all His paths and love Him, serving God your Lord with all your heart and with all your soul. You must keep God’s commandments and decrees … so that all good will be yours” (Deut. 10:12).

Parashat Sh’lach / פרשת שלח־לך

Parsha Summary for Parshas Shlach

Note: The Shabbos Torah Reading is divided into 7 sections. Each section is called an Aliya [literally: Go up] since for each Aliya, one person “goes up” to make a bracha [blessing] on the Torah Reading.


1st Aliya: Moshe sends the Spies on their mission.

2nd Aliya: The Spies return carrying the massive fruits of the land. They deliver their negative report and the nation loses its faith in G-d and Moshe.

3rd Aliya: Moshe successfully argues for the life of the nation, and Hashem issues the 40 year decree of wandering and dying.

4th Aliya: The Spies die, and the nation is informed of their own punishment.

5th Aliya: The laws of the Mincha – meal offering are stated.

6th Aliya: The laws of separating Challah – the dough offering, and the communal sin offering are stated.

7th Aliya: The individual sin offering; the incident with the man who transgressed Shabbos by gathering sticks; his punishment; and the Mitzvah of Tzitzit, conclude the Parsha.

SHELACH

NUMBERS 13 (ONKELOS) — 1 And the Lord spake with Mosheh, saying: 2 Send thou men, that they may explore the land of Kenaan, which I will give to the children of Israel: one man for each tribe of their fathers shall you send, each one a ruler among them. 3 And Mosheh sent them from the wilderness of Pharan, according to the Word of the Lord. All those men were heads of the children of Israel; 4 and these are their names: Tor the tribe of Reuben, Shamua bar Zakur; 5 for the tribe of Shemeon, Shaphat bar Hori; 6 for the tribe of Jehudah, Kaleb bar Jephuneh; 7 for the tribe of Issakar, Igal bar Joseph; 8 for the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea bar Nun; 9 for the tribe of Benyamin, Phalti bar Raphu; 10 for the tribe of Zebulon, Gediel bar Sodi; 11 for the tribe of Joseph, the tribe of Menasheh, Gaddi bar Susi; 12 for the tribe of Dan, Ammiel bar Gemali; 13 for the tribe of Asher, Sethor bar Mikael; 14 for the tribe of Naphtali, Nachbi bar Yapsi; 15 for the tribe of Gad, Geuel bar Machi: 16 These are the names of the men whom Mosheh sent to explore the land.

17 And Mosheh called Hoshea bar Nun Jehoshua. And Mosheh sent them away to explore the land of Kenaan. And he said to them, Go up hither by the south, and ascend to the mountain, 18 and see the country what it is, and the people who dwell upon it, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; 19 and what the land is in which they dwell, whether good or bad; and what the cities they inhabit, whether open, or walled in; 20 and whether the land is rich or poor; whether it hath trees or not: and you, be of good courage, and bring of the fruits of the land. And the days were the days of the first grapes.

21 And they went up, and explored the country, from the wilderness of Zin unto Rechob, to come unto Hamath. 22 And they went up by the south, and came to Hebron; and there were Achiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, sons of the giants; (and Hebron was built seven years before Tanis of Mizraim). 23 And they came to the Stream of Grapes, and cut down there a branch, with one cluster of grapes, and carried it on a staff between two; and (they took also) of the pomegranates, and of the figs. 24 That place was called the Stream of Grapes, on account of the grapes (athkela) which the sons of Israel cut down from thence. 25 And they returned from the exploration of the country at the end of forty days.

26 And they went and came to Mosheh, and to Aharon, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel at the wilderness of Pharan, at Rekam,and returned the word to them, and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 And they recounted to him, and said: We came to the land whither thou didst send us,and truly it doth produce milk and honey, and this is the fruit of it. 28 But very mighty are the people who inhabit the land, and the cities are fortified and very great; and we saw, also, the sons of the giants there. 29 The Amalkaah dwell in the land of the south, and the Hittaah and Jebusaah and Amoraah dwell in the mountain, and the Kenaanaah dwell by the sea, and upon the bank of the Jordan.

30 And Kaleb quieted the people for Mosheh, and said: Going, let us go up and possess it, for we are able to (do) it: 31 but the men who had gone up with him said, We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we. 32 And they gave forth an evil report (name) about the land which they had explored to the children of Israel, saying: The country which we have passed through to search it, is a land that killeth its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of stature; 33 and there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which are of the giants; and we looked, in our own sight, as locusts, and so were we in their eyes.

NUMBERS 14 (ONKELOS) — 1 And all the congregation lifted up and gave (forth) their voice; and all the people wept that night. 2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Mosheh and Aharon; and the whole congregation said to them, that we had died in the land of Mizraim, or that we had died in this wilderness! 3 And why is the Lord bringing us to this land, that we may fall by the sword, and our wives and our children become a prey? Would it not be better for us to return into Mizraim? 4 And they said, a man to his brother, Let us appoint a chieftain, and go back into Mizraim.

5 And Mosheh and Aharon fell upon their faces before all the assembly of the sons of Israel. 6 And Jehoshua bar Nun, and Kaleb bar Jephuneh, who were of the explorers of the land, rent their clothes. 7 And they spake to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying: The land, which we passed through to explore it, is a good land, most exceedingly. 8 If the Lord hath pleasure in us, even He will bring us into this land, and give us the land which produceth milk and honey. 9 Only be not rebellious against the Word of the Lord, nor be afraid of the people of the land, for they are delivered into our hand; their strength is departed from them, and the Word of the Lord is our helper: fear them not. 10 But all the congregation said that they would stone them with stones.

And the Glory of the Lord was revealed at the tabernacle of ordinance, unto ail the children of Israel. 11 And the Lord said to Mosheh, How long will this people provoke Me, and how long will they disbelieve in My Word, for all the signs which I have wrought among them? 12 I will smite them with the pestilence and consume them; and will make of thee a people greater and stronger than they. 13 But Mosheh said before the Lord, And the Mizraee will hear of it;—for Thou didst bring up by Thy power this people from among them, 14 and they will tell unto the inhabitants of this land; for they have heard that Thou, Lord, dost dwell in Thy Shekinah among this people, whose eyes behold the glorious Shekinah of the Lord, and that Thy Cloud overshadoweth them, and that in the pillar of the Cloud Thou conductest them in the day, and in the pillar of Fire by night. 15 Now if Thou shalt kill this people as one man, the nations who have heard the fame of Thy power will speak, saying: 16 Because there was not strength (enough) before the Lord to bring this people into the land which He covenanted to them, He hath killed them in the desert. 17 And now I beseech, let power be magnified from before the Lord, as Thou hast thus spoken, saying: 18 The Lord is far from anger, and great in performing goodness and truth: forgiving iniquity and rebellion and sins, pardoning them who return unto His law: but acquitting not them who will not turn, (but) visiting the sins of the fathers upon the rebellious children unto the third and unto the fourth generation. 19 Pardon, I beseech, the sins of this people according to the amplitude of Thy goodness, and as Thou hast forgiven this people from Mizraim until now.

20 And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word. 21 Yet, as I live, with the glory of the Lord shall all the earth be filled. 22 Because all these men who have seen My glory, and the signs I wrought in Mizraim and in the desert, but have tempted before Me these ten times, and have not been obedient to My Word,—23 if they shall see the land which I covenanted to their fathers, nor shall any see it who have provoked before Me. 24 But My servant Kaleb, for that there was in him another spirit, and that he hath wholly followed (in) My fear, him will I bring into the land whither he went, and his children shall possess it.—25 Now the Amalkaah and the Kenaanaah dwelt in the valley.—Tomorrow, turn you and get you to the wilderness by the way of the Sea of Suph.

26 And the Lord spake with Mosheh and unto Aharon, saving: 27 How long shall this evil congregation be murmuring against Me? The murmuring of the sons of Israel which they murmur against Me is heard before Me. 28 Say to them, As I live, saith the Lord, even as ye have spoken before Me, so will I do to you. 29 In this wilderness shall your carcases fall, and all who are numbered of you, of all your numbers, from one of twenty years and upward who have murmured against me—30 if you shall come into the land in which I covenanted in My Word to cause you to dwell, except Kaleb bar Jephuneh, and Jehoshua bar Nun. 31 But your children, of whom you said they were for a prey, will I bring in, and they shall know the land which you have abhorred. 32 But your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; 33 and your children shall go about in the wilderness forty years, and shall bear your iniquities until your carcases be laid in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of the days in which you explored the land, forty days, a day for a year, a day for a year, you shall receive for your sins, even forty years, and you shall know (the consequence of) your murmuring against me.  35 I, the Lord, have made the decree in My Word,—if I will not do unto all this evil congregation who have gathered together against Me; in this wilderness shall they find their end, and here shall they die.

36 And the men whom Mosheh sent to search the land, and who returned to make all the congregation murmur against him, by bringing forth an evil name upon the land; 37 those men who brought out the evil name upon the land died by the plague before the Lord. 38 But Jehoshua bar Nun and Kaleb bar Jephuneh lived, of those men who went to explore the land. 39 And Mosheh told these words to all the children of Israel, and the people bewailed greatly. 40 And they arose in the morning to go up to the top of the mountain, saying: Behold, we will go up to the place of which the Lord hath spoken; for we have sinned. 41 But Mosheh said, Wherefore do you transgress against the decree of the Word of the Lord? But it will not prosper. 42 Go not up, for the Shekinah of the Lord is not among you, and be not broken before your enemies. 43 For the Amalkaah and the Kenaanaah are there before you, and you will fall by the sword; for, because you have turned away from the service of the Lord, the Word of the Lord will not be your helper. 44 Yet they would commit the wickedness of going up to the summit of the mountain, though the ark of the Lord’s covenant, and Mosheh, removed not from the midst of the camp. 45 And the Amalkaah and the Kenaanaah who dwelt in the mountain came down and smote them, and pursued them unto Hormah.

NUMBERS 15 (ONKELOS) — 1 And the Lord spake with Mosheh, saying: 2 Speak with the children of Israel, and say to them: When you shall (at last) have come into the land which I will give you, 3 and you will make an oblation before the Lord, a burnt offering, or a consecrated sacrifice for the release of a vow, or in a free will offering, or in your solemnities to render an acceptable service before the Lord, from the herd or from the flock; 4 let him who offereth his oblation before the Lord bring for a mincha a tenth of flour sprinkled with the fourth of a hina of oil. 5 And wine for a libation the fourth of a hina shall he make upon the burnt offering, or hallowed sacrifice, for one lamb: 6 or for a ram he shall make a mincha of two tenths of flour sprinkled with the third of a hina of oil; 7 and wine for the libation thou shalt bring the third of a hina, to be received with acceptance before the Lord. 8 And when thou makest a bullock a burnt offering, or a hallowed sacrifice for the release of a vow, or hallowed sacrifices before the Lord, 9 let him bring with the bullock a mincha of three tenths of flour sprinkled with a half hina of oil; 10 and wine shalt thou bring for the libation the half of a hina, an oblation to be received with acceptance before the Lord. 11 So shalt thou do for one bullock, or one ram, or one lamb from the lambs, or from the kids. 12 According to the number that you perform so shall you do with each, according to their number. 13 All native born (Hebrews) shall do these things to offer an oblation to be received with favour before the Lord. 14 And if a sojourner who sojourneth with you, or whoever among you in your generations will make an oblation to be received with favour before the Lord, as you do, so shall he do. 15 One congregation and one rite shall be for you and for the sojourners who sojourn; it is an everlasting statute; as you are, so shall the sojourner be before the Lord: 16 one law and one judgment shall be for you and for the sojourners who dwell with you.

17 And the Lord spake with Mosheh, saying: 18 Speak with the sons of Israel, and say to them, When you have come into the land into which I will bring you, 19 and when you eat of the bread of the land, you shall set apart a separation before the Lord. 20 Of the first of your food you shall set apart a cake for a separation; as the separation of the threshing-floor, so shall you set it apart; 21 of the first of your bread (dough) you shall give the separation before the Lord in your generations.

22 And should you be in ignorance, and not do all these commandments of which the Lord hath spoken with Mosheh, 23 even all which the Lord commanded you by the hand of Mosheh from the day that the Lord commanded and thenceforward in your generations, 24 it shall be that if anything be hid from the eyes of the congregation and you do ignorantly, then all the congregation shall make a burnt offering of one young bullock, to be received with acceptance before the Lord, with his mincha and his libation, according to the proper manner, and one kid of the goats for a sin offering: 25 and the priest shall make atonement for all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them, for it was ignorance; but they shall bring their oblation before the Lord on account of their ignorance. 26 And it shall be forgiven to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and to the sojourners who sojourn among them; for all the people (were) in ignorance. 27 And if one sin ignorantly, he shall bring a female kid of the year for a sin offering; 28 and the priest shall make atonement for the man who hath erred in his sin through ignorance before the Lord, to atone for him, and it shall be forgiven him. 29 For the native born of the sons of Israel, and for the sojourner who sojourneth among you, one law shall there be for you, for him who acteth in ignorance. 30 But the man who doeth presumptuously, whether of the native born, or of the sojourners, he provoketh the Lord to anger, and that man shall perish from among his people: 31 because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath made His commandment vain, that man shall be utterly destroyed, his sin is upon him.

32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man stealing wood on the day of the Sabbath; 33 and they who had found him stealing wood brought him to Mosheh and Aharon, and to all the congregation. 34 And they bound him in the house of custody; for it had not been explained to them what they should do to him. 35 And the Lord said unto Mosheh, The man shall be surely put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. 36 And all the congregation brought him forth without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Mosheh.

37 And the Lord spake to Mosheh, saying: 38 Speak with the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes upon the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that upon the fringes on the borders they put a ribbon of hyacinth. 39 And they shall be to you for fringes, that you may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them, and not wander after the imagination of your heart, or after the sight of your eyes, after which you have gone astray. 40 That you may remember and do all My precepts, and be saints before your God. 41 I am the Lord your God who brought you forth from the land of Mizraim to be to you Eloha: I am the Lord your God.

Matiytyahu It Is a Didactic or Teaching Gospel. While giving the account of a number of miracles, the book is marked by several discourses of considerable length, as The sermon on the Mount, chapters 3-7, the denunciation of the *Pharisees not the school of Hillel, chapter 23, the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, chapters 24-25, the address to the apostles, chapter 10; and the doctrines of the kingdom, 17:24-20:16. These portions and the parables noted above will indicate how large a portion of the book is taken up in discourses. The student can make lists of other and shorter sections of teaching.

* On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Yeshua. “ Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Yeshua replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Yeshua, “And who is my neighbor?”

Yeshua as Rabbi:

Part 1: What is a Rabbi?

Part 2: Was Yeshua a Rabbi?

Part 3: Yeshua’ Miracles

Yeshua, as an integral member of the culture he lived in, was not only a rabbi with s’mikah, but he also took part in the rabbinic culture of his day, interacting with others in that culture. As such, he was called on to answer a number of questions and to weigh in with his opinions on issues of import to that culture.

The Schools

Within his culture of early first-century Israel, there were seven primary rabbinic ’schools’ of thought, with followers – talmidim – in each school. These schools were named after the founding rabbi, even if that rabbi was no longer alive. Much like the discussion that goes on in these schools of thought within Judaism would debate key questions of theology and practice, often quite heatedly.

At the poles of thought within these schools, the most lenient (or liberal, though not in a modern sense) of the rabbinical schools was the School of Hillel. One of Hillel’s key teachings, recorded in the Talmud, is this:

That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.

About ten years after Hillel’s death, Yeshua took this concept, building onto it in a positive fashion:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

At the other end of the spectrum, the School of Shammai was the most strict in its interpretations. The remaining five schools of rabbinic thought ranged between these two, Hillel and Shammai, with key nuances – emphases or de-emphases – from the other schools. When Yeshua began his ministry near the age of 30, he entered into this context, and as one might expect, he was asked to weigh in on the great debates of the day.

Question and Answer

Within the rabbinic schools, the primary means of debate was ask-assertive conversation rather than the highly expository method in Western/Greek culture. The reason for this is based on the theory that ‘if I tell you what you should believe, the answer you have is my answer. If, however, I ask you questions that lead to the answer, when you arrive at it, the answer will be your answer. As such, if you come into contact with alternative alternative answers, you will be much less likely to abandon the one I taught you.’

I saw this type of ˜questioning  in action in Sefat, Israel in 2006 in a small photography shop run by an elderly Rabbi. The artwork in this shop was literally amazing, and one of the men in our group asked the rabbi which of the pieces was his favorite. The conversation then went like this:

Rabbi: May I ask you a question?

Jon: Yes

Rabbi: Are you married?

Jon: Yes, why?

Rabbi: Do you have children?

Jon: Yes. (pause) Why?

Rabbi: Which of them is your favorite?

And thus, he had his answer. To a westerner like me, it seems that it would have been simpler to say ‘I can’t pick one, because each has something I love’ (or something similar), but that answer would not have been nearly as personal as the one given by the elderly rabbi.

In a similar fashion, much of Yeshua’ teaching was in the form of questions and stories rather than simple exposition. On the occasions when we see him interacting with students/adherents to other schools, he uses this technique to point to an answer before giving exposition on the subject, as the answer to his questions often contain the answer he is giving. Also, in many cases where Yeshua is being questioned, it is out of an honest attempt to learn his teaching on a subject, not always to trap him.

The Debates

When Hillel died in 10 A.D., the Shammites took over the Pharisee role within the Sanhedrin and became the primary religious influence in Judea, whereas in the Galilee region, where Yeshua lived and was raised, the teachings of Hillel held sway. With this in mind, the pharisees that opposed Yeshua we often identified as Judeans (or were located in Jerusalem in Judea), whereas the ones sympathetic to Yeshua or his followers (like Gamaliel, Hillel’s grandson) were Gallilean.

According to Josephus and other Jewish records, there were a number of key debates being waged between the rabbinical schools. These included divorce, who is my neighbor, hand-washing, marriage in the afterlife, the greatest commandment, healing on the Sabbath (Shammai taught you shouldn’t even pray for the sick on the Sabbath, let alone heal them!), the purpose of the Sabbath and whether Gentiles could be saved. The animosity shown between the Shammites and the Hillelites are hard to understate, with comparisons to the classic Calvinist/Arminian debate holding similarities, with the Shammites holding to a strict fundamentalist view of scripture and practice and the Hillelites holding to a much more lenient, contextual view which emphasized the balance between love for God and love for your neighbor.

As such, it is interesting that in the eight key debates that Yeshua entered, he sided with the School of Hillel – or went even farther than Hillel – in seven and only sided with Shammai in one case (that of when divorce is acceptable).

For instance, in the debate of “who is my neighbor?”, Shammai taught that only God-fearing, observant Jews were ‘neighbors’ (thus, the only ones worthy of love). Hillel, on the other hand, taught that everyone – including one’s enemies – were ‘neighbors’, with the exception of the hated, apostate Samaritans. And so, when Yeshua was asked (in the scripture above), “Who is my neighbor?” he entered this debate:

In reply Yeshua said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.”

It should be noted that the priest and the Levite were both obeying Torah by not touching a dead or nearly-dead body and becoming unclean, so they were following the law, as interpreted by Shammai and other strict rabbinic schools of thought. According to Pharisee teaching, though, all life was sacred and the proper thing to do would have been to stop and help the man or bury him (thus becoming unclean for a time) if he died. A number of commentators suggest that the expert in the Torah was likely expecting Yeshua to make the “good guy” a pharisee, thus siding with Hillel on the issue of the importance of life above ritual cleanliness.

Instead, though, Yeshua said:

“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” [Note: he couldn’t even SAY the word ‘Samaritan’]

Yeshua told him, “Go and do likewise.”

And so, Yeshua’ answer to the question “Who is my neighbor?” was everybody, including the most despised apostate you can think of, going further to the ‘left’ of Hillel.

So, when viewed within the context of his world, this is just one more example where we can get a view into why Yeshua was asked certain questions, how he interacted with his world, and some of the political/religious backdrop that ultimately led to his death, burial and resurrection.

 

What’s in a Name_ הושע becomes יהושע _ Sefaria Source Sheet Builder

 

Parashat Emor / פרשת אמור

Torah Reading: Parshas EMOR, Leviticus 21:1-24:23

SAY TO THE PRIESTS

As discussed in Universal Torah #20 TETZAVEH, the Torah conception of the priests and their relationship with the people is radically different from the conception of the priesthood in other traditions. The Cohen of the Torah does not absolve the Israelite of his obligation to forge his own personal relationship with G-d. The Cohen is not an intermediary who performs mysterious rituals that magically guarantee that all will be well for the ignorant worshipper who stands by watching.

In many religions, the priests held or hold a monopoly on religious knowledge, often actually discouraging the pursuit of such knowledge by the masses, whose very ignorance is necessary in order for the priest to maintain his position.

By contrast, the Holy Torah was given as a fountain of truth and wisdom to Israel and to all others who want to drink its waters. The entire people of Israel is intended to be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation: the goal is for each Israelite to develop, build and cultivate his or her own bond with G-d in every detail of life. How can we do this? We need to learn how to do it. For this reason, the pride of place in the Torah tradition goes to the sage and teacher, because he is the one who can tell us how to do this. Even a MAMZER TALMID CHACHAM (an outstanding sage who is of illegitimate birth) takes precedence over the High Priest!

In our present parshah of EMOR, which is largely taken up with laws specifically relating to the priests, we see that Moses was commanded to instruct not only the priests themselves in these laws but also the Children of Israel. The Children of Israel are not to be excluded from all knowledge and understanding of the priesthood. On the contrary, they too are to study the laws relating to the priests. This is because the Israelites, as a kingdom of priests, have to have a model to learn from. The Cohanim are a kingdom within a kingdom. The Cohanim are to be to the Israelite what the Israelites are to be to the world.

The Temple is G-d’s palace on earth: a center-point for all the world to see, in order to contemplate the profundity of the message it contains and thereby to draw closer to the King. Everything about the Temple is about coming closer to G-d, particularly the KORBAN (“sacrifice”, from the Hebrew world KAROV, “close”). The entire Temple services center upon the sacrificial rites: the daily animal, grain, wine and incense offerings, the lighting of the Candelabrum, and so on. Like life in a royal court, life in the Temple was a spectacle. This was particularly so for the Israelite who brought a personal KORBAN, be it a SHLAMIM (“Peace”) offering, or an OLAH and particularly a CHATAS – sin-offering.

The animal is substituted for the person to undergo the slaughter, flaying, cutting and burning the sinner really deserves. (Those who worry about the alleged cruelty to the animal should first go and complain about the millions of animals daily slaughtered all over the world, often with great cruelty, as “sacrifices” for the gratification of men’s selfish lusts. To understand the meaning of the KORBONOS, we must be willing to think of the Temple as it actually was and will be, not try to adapt it to man-made moral “standards”.)

The SEFER HACHINUCH (explaining the meaning of the 613 commandments) discusses the sacrificial rituals at length in Mitzvah #95: Building the Temple. The ceremony consisted of various stages: SEMICHAH (the penitent’s laying on of hands on the animal’s head), SHECHITAH, the slaughter of the animal, KABALAH, collecting of its blood and sprinkling it on the altar, the flaying and cutting of the carcass, salting of the meat, the burning of the altar portions and eating by the priests of their share. The SEFER HACHINUCH explains in detail how the different stages of this unsettling and even shocking ceremony all communicated an unforgettable lesson to the penitent about how man must bring his animal side under control. We are to learn how to “slaughter” and elevate our animality by devoting our energies to G-d’s service and thereby burning our fat on His altar. (See also Nachmanides’ commentary on Leviticus 1:8).

The priests in the Temple, who conducted these ceremonies, were actors in a drama that was calculated to awaken people and induce them to think and repent rather than to hypnotize them with hocus-pocus. The role of the priest was as a facilitator, enabling people to understand the lesson for themselves.

Carrying the obligation to serve as ministers in the House and Court of G-d, the priests are a nation set apart, and are subject to an even more stringent code than the Israelites, as laid out in our parshah of EMOR. They are not allowed to defile themselves for the dead except in the case of their closest relatives. They are strictly forbidden to blemish their own bodies. They are not allowed to marry a divorcee or a woman who has been involved in a relationship tainted by immorality, etc. The Cohanim are to be a completely pure breed, fit to serve as G-d’s ministers on earth. The true Cohen is to be an exemplar in his very life of the elevated purity to which every Israelite should aspire, each according to his or her level.

The ultimate exemplar is to be the COHEN GADOL (“high priest”). Although the COHEN GADOL appears in costumes that are most gorgeous by the standards of this world, he must remain completely separated from this world. This is because his task is to keep our eyes focussed on G-d’s world. Thus the COHEN GADOL is not allowed to defile himself with the dead even in the case of his closest relatives. For in G-d’s world, there is no death but only life.

Everything about the Temple is designed to lift us up above the often tawdry world around us and to teach us how to draw closer to the underlying reality of G-d. For this reason, the Temple must be a place of the imposing splendor and beauty. Everything must be in the best repair. Not a flagstone must be loose nor an altar stone chipped. The vessels must be the finest gold and silver. And so too, the ministers themselves must be people of pleasing looks. Our parshah details the physical blemishes that disqualify a priest from participating in the Temple service itself (though not from eating sacrificial portions). The parshah also details the blemishes that disqualify an animal from being offered as a KORBAN. Everything offered to G-d has to be the very finest and most beautiful. So too, we must seek to beautify our offerings of prayers, our mitzvot, and acts of kindness, and take care that they should not be blemished.

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THE CYCLE OF THE YEAR

The calling of the COHANIM was very exalted. The separation and purity demanded of them is not required of the Israelites, who on the contrary are required to be involved in the world — farming, manufacturing, selling and buying, raising families, etc. As discussed in the commentary on the previous parshah, KEDOSHIM, it is precisely through bringing every area of our actual lives under the wing of the Torah that we attain holiness.

Only the Cohen Gadol is to remain within the Temple precincts or in his nearby home in Jerusalem all the time. The people are to be throughout the country, going about their lives. For the Israelite, the relationship of G-d is one of “running and returning”: “running” in the sense of regularly rising above the mundane to make a deeper connection with the underlying reality of G-d, but then “returning”, in the sense of going back to grappling with everyday reality.

The Torah appointed a rhythm of weekly, monthly and seasonal MO’ADIM, “appointed times”, whereby the Israelites rise above the mundane and restore and strengthen their connection with the divine. Our parshah is one of several in the Torah (Ex. ch. 23; Numbers ch. 23; Deut. ch. 16) that set forth the cycle of festivals and their associated practices, each with its own particular focuses.

In our parshah (Leviticus ch. 23) one of the main themes that run through the account of the various festivals and their associated Temple practices is that of drawing ecological balance and agricultural blessing into the world. During the ALIYAH LE-REGEL — the foot-pilgrimage to the Temple on Pesach, Shavuos and Succos — the Israelites would leave the work of making a living and tilling the ground in order to participate in ceremonies whose purpose was to bless that work with G-dliness. Pesach, and Shavuos are particularly bound up with grain, which is man’s staple food. The Matzahs eaten on Pesach may be made from one of the five kinds of grain. On the second day of Pesach, at the beginning of the grain harvesting season, an Omer measure is to be brought from the newly-ripened barley crop. During the coming weeks, while the wheat-harvesting is going on, the Sefirah count directs our minds forward to Shavuos, when a “new grain offering”, the first wheat offering from the new crop — two loaves of leavened bread — was brought.

The observances of Succos are particularly bound up with the water-cycle. The four species of Esrog (citron), Lulav (palm branch), Hadass (myrtle) and Arovos (willow branches) all require ample water. Succos comes after the hot, dry summer of Eretz Israel, prior to what should be the rainy season. We take these four species in our hands and pour out our hearts like water in thanks and praise, hinting to our heavenly Father how totally dependent we are on His blessings and mercy.

The chapter in our present parshah of EMOR relating to the festival cycle leads us in the direction of next week’s parshah, BEHAR, which sets forth the commandments relating to the cycles of Sabbatical and Jubilee years, which are also bound up with agriculture, ecological balance and reverence for the earth.

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HIDDEN CYCLES

Besides the cycles of festivals and Sabbaticals that give time its rhythm, the world is also governed by cycles that are often not apparent, because one generation does not know what happened in previous generations and therefore cannot understand how what happens today is cyclically rooted in what happened earlier.

To understand the incident of the MEGADEF (“blasphemer”) in the closing section of our parshah (Leviticus 24:10ff), it is necessary to understand that “the son of the Israelite woman who was the son of an Egyptian man” was, in fact, the issue of an illicit relationship. Our rabbis teach that Shulamis Bas Divri was the wife of the Israelite whom Moses saw being beaten by an Egyptian the first time he went out to visit his brothers. The Egyptian would daily drive the Israelite out of his home and send him to his labors, thereafter going into his wife. (See Rashi on Lev. 24:10 and on Exodus 2:11).

There is a deep counterpoint in the positioning of this episode in Parshas EMOR, which centers on the special purity demanded of the priests. Shulamis Bas Divri is the exemplar of the opposite: immorality. While the holiness of the priesthood requires separation and the making of distinctions between pure and impure, fine and blemished, she sought to erase distinctions, greeting everyone with a naive “Peace be upon you, peace be upon you”. As if friendly chatter is enough to turn evil into good. It was Shulamis Bas Divri’s endeavor to erase distinctions that laid her open to the immoral relationship which led to the birth of the blasphemer. The latter, however, discovered that, whether you like it or not, this IS a world of distinctions. While the blasphemer was an Israelite through his mother, he had no tribal affiliation, since this comes only through the father. Accordingly, the blasphemer had no place in the Israelite camp.

Contemporary political correctness will cry out in the voice of Shulamis Bas Divri that he should have been given a place — isn’t it unfair that he should be excluded because of a quirk of birth? Endless similar questions can be asked about other commandments in our parshah. Why should a blemished priest not be allowed to serve in the Temple? Why should a divorcee not be allowed to marry a priest? etc. etc.

Rashi brings a midrash that the blasphemer “went out” (Lev. 24:10) in the sense that he departed from the Torah: he mocked the idea that the Sanctuary Show-Bread (subject of the preceding section), which was eaten by the priests when it was nine days old, was a fitting institution in the Sanctuary of the King (Rashi ad loc.). The blasphemer could not accept G-d’s Torah the way it is. He wanted to adapt the Torah fit his own personal views.

There was a way that even the blasphemer could have found his place. As quoted at the outset, even a MAMZER TALMID CHOCHOM has precedence over the High Priest. If the blasphemer had been willing to submit himself to G-d and accept the position G-d put him in, he could have been saved. But he was not willing to submit and instead he opened his mouth and poured out a torrent of abuse.

Over sixty years previous to this, when Moses saw this man’s father striking Shulamis Bas Divri’s husband, Moses knew that there was no potential. “And he looked here and there and he saw that there was no man [that no man would come forth from him to convert, Rashi] and he struck the Egyptian” (Ex. 2:12). The rabbis taught that Moses “struck” him by invoking the Name of HaShem. It was precisely this name that the son of the Egyptian’s illicit relationship blasphemed. Prior to the Giving of the Torah, Moses inflicted instant justice on the father. However, after the Giving of the Torah, Moses was subject to the Torah like everyone else and he had to wait to hear from G-d how to deal with the blaspheming son.

The account of the punishment of the blasphemer includes related laws of punishments for killing and the damages that must be paid for inflicting injury to humans and animals. The cycles of crime and its penalties and payments revolve from generation to generation, but this is not apparent to the onlooker who sees only the here and now and does not understand what was before and what will come afterward.

Shabbat Shalom!!!

Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum

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PARASHAT TERUMAH / פרשת תרומה

PARASHAT TERUMAH readings

17-Feb-2018,”Terumah”,1,”Exodus 25:1 – 25:16″,16
17-Feb-2018,”Terumah”,2,”Exodus 25:17 – 25:30″,14
17-Feb-2018,”Terumah”,3,”Exodus 25:31 – 26:14″,24
17-Feb-2018,”Terumah”,4,”Exodus 26:15 – 26:30″,16
17-Feb-2018,”Terumah”,5,”Exodus 26:31 – 26:37″,7
17-Feb-2018,”Terumah”,6,”Exodus 27:1 – 27:8″,8
17-Feb-2018,”Terumah”,7,”Exodus 27:9 – 27:19″,11
17-Feb-2018,”Terumah”,”maf”,”Exodus 27:17 – 27:19″,3
17-Feb-2018,”Terumah”,”Haftara”,”I Kings 5:26 – 6:13″

God spoke to Moses…
Some say that this was said to Moses during the 40 days on the mountain (Tanna DeBei Eliahu Rabbah 17; Lekach Tov on Exodus 35:1; Ibn Ezra; Baaley Tosafoth; Zohar 2:194a, 224a). According to others, it was said after the Golden Calf, when Moses went up for the second set of tablets (Exodus 34:29; Seder Olam Rabbah 6 from Exodus 34:32; Tanchuma 8; Rashi on Exodus 31:18, 33:11). See notes on Exodus 25:16, 26:30. offering
Terumah in Hebrew, literally, something that is uplifted or elevated (to a higher status).
copper Or, ‘bronze.’ The Septuagint thus translates the word as xalkos which can denote copper or bronze, and the MeAm Lo’ez, also, translates it as alambre which is Spanish for copper or bronze. There is some indication that the Hebrew word nechosheth used here indicates pure unalloyed copper (Deuteronomy 8:9; Radak on 1 Kings 7:45). Others, however, state that the Temple’s vessels were made of brass, which has the same color as gold (Ezra 8:27, Ibn Ezra ad loc.; Radak, s.v. Tzahav; Rambam on Middoth 2:3), and the Talmud clearly states that the vessels made by Moses consisted of this material (Arkhin 10b). Josephus writes that the brass altar looked like gold (Antiquities 3:6:8, see Exodus 27:2). Perhaps it was an alloy of copper and silver or gold.
sky blue
(Saadia; Yad, Tzitzith 2:1; Josephus 3:6:4). Tekheleth in Hebrew. According to others, it was greenish blue or aquamarine (Rashi; Ibn Ezra; cf. Yerushalmi, Berakhoth1:5), deep blue, the color of the evening sky (Menachem, quoted in Rashi on Numbers 15:38), azure or ultramarine (Radak, Sherashim), or hyacinth blue (Septuagint; cf. Arukh s.v. Teynun). The Talmud states that it resembled indigo (Menachoth 42b).This blue dye was taken from an animal known as the chilazon (Tosefta, Menachoth 9:6). It is a boneless invertebrate (Yerushalmi, Shabbath 1:3), having a shell that grows with it (Devarim Rabbah 7:11). It is thus identified with a snail of the purpura family (Ravya on Berakhoth 3b; Mossef HeArukh, s.v. Purpura). The Septuagint also occasionally translates tekheleth as oloporphoros, which indicates that it was made from the pure dye of the purpura (see note, this verse, ‘dark red.’

There were some who identified the chilazon with the common cuttlefish, Sephia officinalis (Eyn Tekheleth, p. 29), but most evidence contradicts this.

It is known that the ancient Tyrians were skilled in making this sky-blue dye (2 Chronicles 2:6; cf. Ezekiel 27:16), and that the snails from which it was made were found on the coast of northern Israel and Phoenecia (Targum Yonathan on Deuteronomy 33:19; Shabbath 26a; Strabo 16:757). This indicates that it was the famed Tyrian blue. Around the ancient Tyrian dyeworks, shells of Murex trunculus and Murex brandaris are found. These dyes were also made in Greece and Italy, (Ezekiel 27:7, Targum ad loc.; cf. Iliad 4:141; Aristotle, History of Animals 5:15), and remains of these ancient dyeworks have been found in Athens and Pompeii. The shells found there were the Purpura haemastoma and Murex brandaris (cf. Pliny 9:61).

Some have identified the chilazon with Janthina pallia or Janthina bicolor, deep water snails which produce a light violet-blue (hyacinth) dye (Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac HaLevi Herzog; The Dying of Purple in Ancient Israel, Unpublished, 1919). In ancient times, animals such as these were renowned for their dyes (Pliny 9:60,61).

The dye is removed from a cyst near the head of the snail, preferably while the animal is still alive (Shabbath 75a; Aristotle, History of Animals 5:15). It is boiled with alum as a clarifyer (Menachoth 42b, Rashi ad loc.; cf. Rashi, Avodah Zarah 33b) to produce the dye. The wool is then grounded with alkanat root or aloe wood in order for it to take the dye well (Yad, Tzitzith 2:2; Pliny 9:63).

Only a few drops of dye could be obtained from each snail (Pliny 9:61), and according to one modern researcher, over 8000 snails would be needed to make a single cubic centimeter of the dye. This explains its high cost and its restriction to royalty. See note on Numbers 15:38.

wool
(Yevamoth 4b; Rashi). Nothing other than wool or linen could be used for the priestly vestments (Kelayim 9:1). Some say that the verse here is speaking of dyed silk (Abarbanel; cf. Ibn Ezra), but this goes against Talmudic tradition (Bachya; Sedey Chemed, Chanukah 14, 8:52).
dark red
(Ibn Ezra; Ibn Janach; Pesikta Rabathai 20:3, 86a). Argaman in Hebrew. Others state that it is similar to lake, a purplish red dye extracted from lac (Radak, Sherashim; Rambam on Kelayim 9:1; cf.Yad, Kley HaMikdash 8:13). Although the Septuagint translates argaman as porphura or porphoreus, which means purple, in ancient times, ‘purple’ denoted a deep crimson, most notably the dye obtained from the purpura snail. Ancient sources indicate that it was close to the color of fresh blood (Iliad 4:141).Talmudic sources state that argaman was obtained from a living creature (Yerushalmi, Kelayim 9:1), and other sources indicate that it was an aquatic creature (I Maccabees 4:23; Abarbanel on Exodus 25:10). Like tekheleth it was obtained from Tyre (2 Chronicles 2:6, cf. Ezekiel 27:16) as well as Greece or Italy (Ezekiel 27:7, Targum ad loc.).

This dye was, therefore, most probably derived from a species of the murex or purpura snail. The Septuagint translation, porphura, also denotes the purpura snail. Ancient sources indicate that snails caught in the north yielded a blue dye, while those from the south yielded a reddish dye (Aristotle, History of Animals 5:15). Argaman was most probably obtained from the ‘red purpura,’ Purpura haemastoma, known to the ancients as the buccinum (Pliny 9:61; see Reshith Limudim 1:6).

In ancient times, material dyed with this color was extremely valuable (cf. Shabbath 90a; Kelim 27:12), and it was weighed as carefully as gold (Kelim 29:4).

The Hebrew word argaman is obscure, but it is thought to be related to ragman, Sanskrit for red. Others say that it is related to the root arag, meaning ‘to weave’ (BeMidbar Rabbah 4:17, 12:4). Some, therefore, say that it consisted of two types of thread or three colors woven together (Raavad, Kley HaMikdash 8:13). Some say that it is an iridescent dye, having greenish overtones (Zohar 2:139a; Tikkuney Zohar 70, 127b, top, 124a, top; Maaseh Choshev 3:2).

crimson worm
(Saadia; Radak, Sherashim; Ramban on Parah 3:10; Septuagint). Tolaath shani in Hebrew. Some sources indicate that it was close to orange (Pesikta Rabathai 20:3, Radal ad loc. 36) or pink (Zohar 2:139a as quoted in Maaseh Choshev 3:2).The dye is produced by a mountain worm (Tosefta, Menachoth 9:16) that looks like a red pea (Rashi on Isaiah 1:18; Yad, Parah Adumah 3:2). This is the Kermes biblicus, known as kermez in Arabic (cf. Saadia; Ralbag translates it as grana, Spanish for conchineal), the conchineal insect, or shield louse, that lives on oak trees in the Holy Land (cf. Pliny 21:22). There are two species, Kermes nahalali and Kermes greeni. In the early spring, when the females are filled with red eggs and become pea-shaped, the red dye can be squeezed out of them (MeAm Lo’ez). See Leviticus 14:4-6, Numbers 19:6.
linen
Shesh in Hebrew, literally, ‘six,’ indicating a six ply linen thread (Yoma 71b). For this purpose, Egyptian linen, which was particularly silk-like, was used (Saadia; Ibn Ezra).
goats’ wool
Like angora (Saadia; Rashi; Abarbanel) or mohair (MeAm Lo’ez, tiptik in Turkish). Or, ‘goats’ hair’ (Rashbam; Ibn Ezra).