Yochanan 1


1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
[In the beginning was the Word.] In the beginning; in the same sense with Bereshith, In the beginning, in the history of the creation, Genesis 1:1. For the evangelist proposeth this to himself, viz. to shew how that, by the Word, by which the creation was perfected, the redemption was perfected also: That the second person in the holy Trinity, in the fulness of time, became our Redeemer, as in the beginning of time he had been our Maker. Compare this with verse 14:
Verse 1 
In the beginning was the Word. 
Was with God. 
The Word was God.
Verse 14 
The Word was made flesh. 
Dwelt among us. 
Was made flesh, and we beheld, &c.
[Was the Word.] There is no great necessity for us to make any very curious inquiry, whence our evangelist should borrow this title, when in the history of the creation we find it so often repeated, And God said. It is observed almost by all that have of late undertaken a commentary upon this evangelist, that the Word of the Lord, doth very frequently occur amongst the Targumists, which may something enlighten the matter now before us. “And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet the Word of the Lord.” “And the Word of the Lord accepted the face of Job.” And the Word of the Lord shall laugh them to scorn. “They believed in the name of his Word.” And my Word spared them. To add no more, Genesis 26:3, instead of “I will be with thee,” the Targum hath it And my Word shall be thine help. So Genesis 39:2, “And the Lord was with Joseph”: Targ. And the Word of the Lord was Joseph’s helper. And so, all along, that kind of phrase is most familiar amongst them…
4. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
[In him was life.] The evangelist proceeds from the creation by the Word, to the redemption of the world by the same Word. He had declared how this Word had given to all creatures their first being, verse 3; “All things were made by him”: and he now sheweth how he restored life to man when he lay dead in trespasses and sins. “Adam called his wife’s name Hevah, life,” [Eve, AV Chavah, margin] Genesis 3:20: the Greek reads Adam called his wife’s name, ‘Life.’ He called her Life who had brought in death; because he had now tasted a better life in the promise of the woman’s seed. To which it is very probable our evangelist had some reference in this place.
[And the life was the light of men.] Life through Christ was light arising in the darkness of man’s fall and sin; a light by which all believers were to walk. St. John seems in this clause to oppose the life and light exhibited in the gospel, to that lifeand light which the Jews boasted of in their law. They expected life from the works of the law, and they knew no greater light than that of the law; which therefore they extol with infinite boasts and praises which they give it. Take one instance for all: “God said, Let there be light. R. Simeon saith, Light is written there five times, according to the five parts of the law [i.e. the Pentateuch], and God said, Let there be light; according to the book of Genesis, wherein God, busying himself, made the world. And there was light; according to the book of Exodus, wherein the Israelites came out of darkness into light. And God saw the light that it was good; according to the Book of Leviticus, which is filled with rites and ceremonies. And God divided betwixt the light and the darkness; according to the Book of Numbers, which divided betwixt those that went out of Egypt, and those that entered into the land. And God called the light, day; according to the Book of Deuteronomy, which is replenished with manifold traditions.” A gloss this is upon light, full of darkness indeed!
5. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
[And the light shineth in darkness.] This light of promise and life by Christ shined in the darkness of all the cloudy types and shadows under the law and obscurity of the prophets. And those dark things ‘comprehended it not,’ i.e. did not so cloud and suppress it but it would break out; nor yet so comprehended it, but that there was an absolute necessity there should a greater light appear. I do so much the rather incline to such a paraphrase upon this place, because I observe the evangelist here treateth of the ways and means by which Christ made himself known to the world before his great manifestation in the flesh; first, in the promise of life, verse 4; next, by types and prophecies; and lastly, by John Baptist.
9. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
[Which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.] All the men that are in the world. “Doth not the sun rise upon all that come into the world?” “All that come into the word are not able to make one fly.” “In the beginning of the year, all that come into the world present themselves before the Lord.” There are numberless examples of this kind. The sense of the place is, that Christ, shining forth in the light of the gospel, is a light that lightens all the world. The light of the law shone only upon the Jews; but this light spreads wider, even over the face of the whole earth.
12. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
[He gave them power.] He empowered them, so Ecclesiastes 5:19, and 6:2. He gave them the privilege, the liberty, the dignity, of being called and becoming the sons of God. Israel was once the son and the first-born, Exodus 4:22: but now the adoption of sons to God was open and free to all nations whatever.
13. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
[Which were born, not of blood.] It may be a question here, whether the evangelist in this place opposeth regeneration to natural generation, or only to those ways by which the Jews fancied men were made the sons of God. Expositors treat largely of the former: let us a little consider the latter.
I. Not of bloods. Observe the plural number: “Our Rabbins say, That all Israel had thrown off circumcision in Egypt–but at length they were circumcised, and the blood of the passover was mingled with the blood of the circumcised, and God accepted every one of them and kissed them.” “I said, while thou wert in thy bloods, Live: i.e. in the twofold blood, that of the passover, and that of the circumcision.” The Israelites were brought into covenant by three things; by circumcision, by washing, and by offering of sacrifices. In the same manner, a heathen, if he would be admitted into covenant, he must of necessity be circumcised, baptized, and offer sacrifice. We see how of bloods of the passover and circumcision, they say the Israelites were recovered from the degeneracy: and how of the bloods of circumcision and sacrifices (with the addition only of washing), they supposed the Gentiles might become the sons of God, being by their proselytism made Israelites, and the children of the covenant: for they knew of no other adoption or sonship.
II. Of the will of the flesh. In the same sense wherein the patriarchs and other Jews were ambitious by many wives to multiply children of themselves, as being of the seed of Israel and children of the covenant.
III. Of the will of man, in that sense wherein they coveted so many proselytes, to admit them into the religion of the Jews, and so into covenant and sonship with God.
These were the ways by which the Jews thought any became the sons of God, that is, by being made Israelites. But it is far otherwise in the adoption and sonship that accrues to us by the gospel.
14. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.
[The glory as of the only begotten.] This glory in this place imports the same thing as worthy. We saw his glory as what was worthy or became the only-begotten Son of God. He did not glister in any worldly pomp or grandeur according to what the Jewish nation fondly dreamed their Messiah would do; but he was decked with the glory, holiness, grace, truth, and the power of miracles.
16. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
[And grace for grace.] He appeared amongst us full of grace and truth; and all we who conversed with him, and saw his glory, “of his fulness did receive” grace and truth. Nay farther, we received grace towards the propagation of grace, i.e. thegrace of apostleship, that we might dispense and propagate the grace of the gospel towards others.
21. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
[Art thou that prophet?] That is, Luke 9:8,19, one of the old prophets that was risen again.
I. The Masters of Traditions were wont to say that “the spirit of prophecy departed from Israel after the death of Zechariah and Malachi.” So that we do not find they expected any prophet till the days of the Messiah; nor indeed that any, in that interim of time, did pretend to that character.
II. They believed that at the coming of the Messiah the prophets were to rise again.
“‘Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice, with the voice together shall they sing,’ Isaiah 52:8. R. Chaia Bar Abba and R. Jochanan say, All the prophets shall put forth a song with one voice.”
“All the just whom God shall raise from the dead shall not return again into the dust.” Gloss, “Those whom he shall raise in the days of the Messiah.”
To this resurrection of the saints they apply that of Micah 5:5: “We shall raise against him seven shepherds; David in the middle, Adam, Seth, Methuselah on his right hand; Abraham, Jacob, and Moses on his left. And eight principal men: but who are these? Jesse, Saul, Samuel, Amos, Zephaniah, Zedekiah [or rather Hezekiah, as Kimch. in loc.], Messiah and Elijah. But indeed [saith R. Solomon] I do not well know whence they had these things.” Nor indeed do I.
The Greek interpreters, instead of eight principal men have eight bitings of men, a very foreign sense.
Hence by how much nearer still the ‘kingdom of heaven,’ or the expected time of Messiah’s coming, drew on, by so much the more did they dream of the resurrection of the prophets. And when any person of more remarkable gravity, piety, and holiness appeared amongst them, they were ready to conceive of him as a prophet raised from the dead, Matthew 16:14. That therefore is the meaning of this question, “Art thou one of the prophets raised from the dead?”
25. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?
[Why then baptizest thou?] The Jews likewise expected that the world should be renewed at the coming of the Messiah. “In those years wherein God will renew his world.” Aruch, quoting these words, adds, “In those thousand years.” So also the Gloss upon the place.
Amongst other things, they expected the purifying of the unclean. R. Solomon upon Ezekiel 36:26; “I will expiate you, and remove your uncleanness, by the sprinkling of the water of purification.” Kimchi upon Zechariah 9:6; “The Rabbins of blessed memory have a tradition that Elias will purify the bastards and restore them to the congregation.” You have the like in Kiddushin, Elias comes to distinguish the unclean and purify them, &c.
When therefore they saw the Baptist bring in such an unusual rite, by which he admitted the Israelites into a new rule of religion, they ask him by what authority he doth these things if he himself were not either the Messiah or Elias, or one of the prophets raised from the dead.
It is very well known that they expected the coming of Elias, and that, from the words of Malachi 4:5, not rightly understood. Which mistake the Greek version seems to patronise; I will send you Elias the Tishbite; which word the Tishbite, they add of themselves in favour of their own tradition; which indeed is too frequent a usage in that version to look so far asquint towards the Jewish traditions as to do injury to the sacred text.
29. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
[The Lamb of God.] St. John alludes plainly to the lamb of the daily sacrifice. Which in shadow took away the sins of Israel.
I. It was commanded in the law that he that offered the sacrifice should lay his hand upon the head of the sacrifice, Leviticus 1:4, 3:2, 4:4, &c.
II. The reason of which usage was, that he might, as it were, transfer his sins and guilt upon the head of the offering, which is more especially evident in the scapegoat, Leviticus 16:22.
Hence Christ is said “himself to have borne our sins in his own body on the tree,” 1 Peter 2:24, as the offering upon the altar was wont to do. He was made by God a “sin for us,” 2 Corinthians 5:21; that is, a sacrifice for sin.
III. The same rite was used about the lamb of the daily sacrifice that was offered for all Israel; “The stationary men [as they were called], or the substitutes of the people, laying their hands upon the head of the lamb.”
To this therefore the words of the Baptist refer: “The lamb of God, that is, the daily sacrifice, taketh away the sins of the world, as the sacrifice did for all Israel. But behold here the true Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.”
38. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master), where dwellest thou?
[Where dwellest thou?] The proper and most immediate sense of this is, Where dwellest, or, Where lodgest thou? But I could willingly render it as if it had been said, ‘Where dost thou keep thy sabbath?’ and from thence conjecture that day was the evening of the sabbath. For whereas it is said, “and they abode with him that day,” it would be a little hard to understand it of the day that was now almost gone; and therefore we may suppose it meant of the following day, for it is added it was now the tenth hour. It was about the middle of our November when these things fell out in Bethabara, as will easily appear to any one that will be accurate in calculating the times, and that little that was left of that day was then the tenth hour. It was then about sunset, and, as it were, the entrance of a new day: so that it might more properly have been said, “They abode with him that night,” rather than that day; only the evangelist seems to point out that they remained with him the next day; which that it was the sabbath I will not so much contend, as (not without some reason) suppose.
“Caesar, for two reasons, would not fight that day; partly because he had no soldiers in the ships, and partly because it was after the tenth hour of the day.”
41. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
[He findeth his brother.] So “Rab Nachman Bar Isaac found him with Rab Houna“: and many such-like expressions, in the Talmudic authors, as also We have found!
42. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
[The son of Jona.] I do not see any reason why the word Joannes, or Joannas, should be here put for Jona; or why any should contend (as many do) that it should be the same with Joannas.
I. In the third chapter of St. Luke the name of Jochanan is sounded three ways in the Greek pronunciation of it, Janna, verse 24; Joanna, verse 27; and Jonan, verse 30: but never Jona.
II. Jona was a name amongst the Jews very commonly used, and we meet with it frequently in the Talmudic authors written Jonah: why, therefore, should not Peter’s father be allowed the name of Jonah as well as that of John?
III. Especially when this son of Jonah imitated the great prophet of that name in this, that both preached to the Gentiles, and both began their journey from Joppa.
[Which is by interpretation, A stone.] So Acts 9:26, “Tabitha, which, being interpreted, is Dorcas“: Beza, Caprea, a goat. But what! do the holy penmen of the Scriptures make lexicons, or play the schoolmasters, that they should only teach that the Syriac word Cepha signifies in the Greek language a stone; and Tabitha, Dorcas, that is, a goat? No; they rather teach what Greek proper names answer to those Syriac proper names: for the Syriac proper name is here rendered into the Greek proper name, and not an appellative into an appellative, nor a proper name into an appellative.
But let the Vulgar have what it desires, and be it so, “Thou shalt be called a rock”; yet you will scarce grant that our blessed Saviour should call Simon a rock in the direct and most ordinary sense; “There is no rock save our God,” 2 Samuel 22:32: where the Greek interpreters, instead of a rock, have the Creator. Which word St. Peter himself makes use of, 1 Peter 4:19, showing who is that rock indeed.
There is a rock, or ‘stone of stumbling,’ indeed, as well as a ‘foundation-stone’; and this stone of stumbling hath St. Peter been made, to the fall of many thousands; not by any fault of his, but theirs, who, through ignorance or frowardness, or both, will esteem him as a rock upon which the church is built.
If, therefore, they will so pertinaciously adhere to that version, Et tu vocaberis Petra, let it be rendered into English thus, Thou wilt be called a rock: and let us apprehend our blessed Lord speaking prophetically, and foretelling that grand error that should spring up in the church, viz., that Peter is a rock, than which the Christian world hath not known any thing more sad and destructive.
46. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
[Come and see.] Nothing more common in the Talmudic authors than Come and behold, come and see.
47. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
[An Israelite indeed.] Compare it with Isaiah 63:8. “I saw thee (saith Christ) when thou wert under the fig tree.” What doing there? Doubtless not sleeping, or idling away his time, much less doing any ill thing. This would not have deserved so remarkable an encomium as Christ gave him. We may therefore suppose him, in that recess under the fig tree, as having sequestered himself from the view of men, either for prayer, meditation, reading, or some such religious performance; and so indeed from the view of men, that he must needs acknowledge Jesus for the Messiah for that very reason, that, when no mortal eye could see, he saw and knew that he was there. Our Saviour, therefore, calls him an “Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile,” because he sought out that retirement to pray, so different from the usual craft and hypocrisy of that nation, that were wont to pray publicly, and in the streets, that they might be seen of men.
And here Christ gathered to himself five disciples, viz., Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathanael (who seems to be the same with Bartholomew), and another, whose name is not mentioned, verse 35, 40; whom, by comparing John 21:2, we may conjecture to have been Thomas.
51. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.
[Verily, verily.] If Christ doubled his affirmation, as we here find it, why is it not so doubled in the other evangelists? If he did not double it, why is it so here?
I. Perhaps the asseveration he useth in this place may not be to the same things and upon the same occasion to which he useth the single Amen in other evangelists.
II. Perhaps, also, St. John, being to write for the use of the Hellenists, might write the word in the same Hebrew letters wherein Christ used it, and in the same letters also wherein the Greeks used it, retaining still the same Hebrew idiom.
III. But, however, it may be observed, that, whereas by all others the word Amen was generally used in the latter end of a speech or sentence, our Lord only useth it in the beginning, as being himself the Amen, Revelation 3:14; and Isaiah 65:16, the God of truth.
So that that single Amen which he used in the other evangelists contained in it the germination, Amen, Amen. I, the Amen, the true and faithful witness, Amen, i.e. “of a truth do say unto you,” &c. Nor did it become any mortal man to speak Amen in the beginning of a sentence in the same manner as our Saviour did. Indeed, the very Masters of Traditions, who seemed to be the oracles of that nation, were wont to say, I speak in truth; but not “Amen, I say unto you.”
IV. Amen contains in it Yea and Amen; 2 Corinthians 1:20; Revelation 1:7; i.e. truthand stability, Isaiah 25:1. Interlin. faithfulness and truth. The other evangelists express the word which our Saviour useth: St. John doubles it, to intimate the full sense of it.
I have been at some question with myself, whether I should insert in this place the blasphemous things which the Talmudic authors belch out against the holy Jesus, in allusion (shall I say?) or derision of this word Amen, to which name he entitled himself, and by which asseveration he confirmed his doctrines. But that thou mightest, reader, both know, and with equal indignation abhor, the snarlings and virulency of these men, take it in their own words, although I cannot without infinite reluctancy allege what they with all audaciousness have uttered.
They have a tradition, that Imma Shalom, the wife of R. Eliezer, and her brother Rabban Gamaliel, went to a certain philosopher (the Gloss hath it ‘a certain heretic’) of very great note for his integrity in giving judgment in matters, and taking no bribes. The woman brings him a golden candlestick, and prayeth him that the inheritance might be divided in part to her. Rabban Gamaliel objects, “It is written amongst us, that the daughter shall not inherit instead of the son. But the philosopher answered, ‘Since the time that you were removed from your land, the law of Moses was made void: and Aven was given‘ [he means the Gospel, but marks it with a scurrilous title]; and in that it is written, The son and the daughter shall inherit together. The next day Rabban Gamaliel brought him, a Libyan ass. Then saith he unto them, ‘I have found at the end of Aven [i.e. the Gospel] that it is written there, I, Aven, came not to diminish, but to add to the law of Moses'”: where he abuseth both the name of our Saviour and his words too, Matthew 5:17.
And now, after our just detestation of this execrable blasphemy, let us think what kind of judge this must be, to whose judgment Rabban Gamaliel, the president of the Sanhedrim, and his sister, wife to the great Eliezer, should betake themselves. A Christian, as it should seem by the whole contexture of the story; but, alas! what kind of Christian, that should make so light of Christ and his gospel! However, were he a Christian of what kind soever, yet if there be any truth in this passage, it is not unworthy our taking notice of it, both as to the history of those times, and also as to that question, Whether there were any Christian judges at that time?
[Ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God, &c.] There are those that in this place observe an allusion to Jacob’s ladder. The meaning of this passage seems to be no other than this: “Because I said, ‘I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou?’ Did this seem to thee a matter of such wonder? ‘Thou shalt see greater things than these.’ For you shall in me observe such plenty, both of revelation and miracle, that it shall seem to you as if the heavens were opened and the angels were ascending and descending, to bring with them all manner of revelation, authority, and power from God, to be imparted to the Son of man.” Where this also is included, viz., that angels must in a more peculiar manner administer unto him, as in the vision of Jacob the whole host of angels had been showed and promised to him in the first setting out of his pilgrimage.
Of this ladder the Rabbins dream very pleasantly: “The ladder is the ascent of the altar and the altar itself. The angels are princes or monarchs. The king of Babylon ascended seventy steps; the king of the Medes fifty-and-two; the king of Greece one hundred and eighty; the king of Edom, it is uncertain how many,” &c. They reckon the breadth of the ladder to have been about eight thousand parasangae, i.e. about two-and-thirty thousand miles; and that the bulk of each angel was about eight thousand English miles in compass. Admirable mathematicians these indeed!

Matthew 24


1. And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple.
[To shew him the buildings of the Temple.] “He that never saw the Temple of Herod never saw a fine building. What was it built of? Rabba saith, Of white and green marble. But some say, Of white, green, and spotted marble. He made the laver to sink and to rise” (that is, the walls were built winding in and out, or indented after the manner of waves), “being thus fitted to receive the plaster, which he intended to lay on; but the Rabbins said to him, ‘O let it continue, for it is very beautiful to behold: for it is like the waves of the sea’: and Bava Ben Buta made it so,” &c. See there the story of Bava Ben Buta and Herod consulting about the rebuilding of the temple.
2. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
[There shall not be left one stone upon another.] The Talmudic Chronicles bear witness also to this saying, “On the ninth day of the month Ab the city of Jerusalem was ploughed up”; which Maimonides delivereth more at large: “On that ninth day of the month Ab, fatal for vengeance, the wicked Turnus Rufus, of the children of Edom, ploughed up the Temple, and the places about it, that that saying might be fulfilled, ‘Sion shall be ploughed as a field.'” This Turnus Rufus, of great fame and infamy among the Jewish writers, without doubt is the same with Terentius Rufus, of whom Josephus speaks, Rufus was left general of the army by Titus; with commission, as it is probable, and as the Jews suppose, to destroy the city and Temple. Concerning which matter, thus again Josephus in the place before quoted, The emperor commanded them to dig up the whole city and the Temple. And a little after, “Thus those that digged it up laid all level, that it should never be inhabited, to be a witness to such as should come thither.”
3. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
[And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?] What the apostles intended by these words is more clearly conceived by considering the opinion of that people concerning the times of the Messias. We will pick out this in a few words from BabylonianSanhedrin.
“The tradition of the school of Elias: The righteous, whom the Holy Blessed God will raise up from the dead, shall not return again to their dust; as it is said, ‘Whosoever shall be left in Zion and remain in Jerusalem shall be called holy, every one being written in the book of life.’ As the Holy (God) liveth for ever, so they also shall live for ever. But if it be objected, What shall the righteous do in those years in which the Holy God will renew his world, as it is said, ‘The Lord only shall be exalted in that day?’ the answer is, That God will give them wings like an eagle, and they shall swim (or float) upon the face of the waters.” Where the Gloss says thus; “The righteous, whom the Lord shall raise from the dead in the days of the Messiah, when they are restored to life, shall not again return to their dust, neither in the days of the Messiah, nor in the following age: but their flesh shall remain upon them till they return and live to eternity. And in those years, when God shall renew his world (or age), this world shall be wasted for a thousand years; were, then, shall those righteous men be in those years, when they shall not be buried in the earth?” To this you may also lay that very common phrase, the world to come; whereby is signified the days of the Messiah: of which we spoke a little at the thirty-second verse of the twelfth chapter: “If he shall obtain (the favour) to see the world to come, that is, the exaltation of Israel,” namely, in the days of Messiah. “The Holy Blessed God saith to Israel, In this world you are afraid of transgressions; but in the world to come, when there shall be no evil affection, you shall be concerned only for the good which is laid up for you; as it is said, ‘After this the children of Israel shall return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king,'” &c.; which clearly relate to the time of the Messiah. Again, “Saith the Holy Blessed God to Israel, ‘In this world, because my messengers (sent to spy out the land) were flesh and blood, I decreed that they should not enter into the land: but in the world to come, I suddenly send to you my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before my face.'”
See here the doctrine of the Jews concerning the coming of the Messiah:
1. That at that time there shall be a resurrection of the just: The Messias shall raise up those that sleep in the dust.
2. Then shall follow the desolation of this world: This world shall be wasted a thousand years. Not that they imagined that a chaos, or confusion of all things, should last the thousand years; but that this world should end and a new one be introduced in that thousand years.
3. After which eternity should succeed.
From hence we easily understand the meaning of this question of the disciples:–
1. They know and own the present Messiah; and yet they ask, what shall be the signs of his coming?
2. But they do not ask the signs of his coming (as we believe of it) at the last day, to judge both the quick and the dead: but,
3. When he will come in the evidence and demonstration of the Messiah, raising up the dead, and ending this world, and introducing a new; as they had been taught in their schools concerning his coming.
7. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
[Nation shall rise against nation.] Besides the seditions of the Jews, made horridly bloody with their mutual slaughter, and other storms of war in the Roman empire from strangers, the commotions of Otho and Vitellius are particularly memorable, and those of Vitellius and Vespasian, whereby not only the whole empire was shaken, and the fortune of the empire changed with the change of the whole world, (they are the words of Tacitus), but Rome itself being made the scene of battle, and the prey of the soldiers, and the Capitol itself being reduced to ashes. Such throes the empire suffered, now bringing forth Vespasian to the throne, the scourge and vengeance of God upon the Jews.
9. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.
[Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted.] To this relate those words of 1 Peter 4:17, “The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God”; that is, the time foretold by our Saviour is now at hand, in which we are to be delivered up to persecution, &c. These words denote that persecution which the Jews, now near their ruin, stirred up almost everywhere against the professors of the gospel. They had indeed oppressed them hitherto on all sides, as far as they could, with slanders, rapines, whippings, stripes, &c. which these and such like places testify; 1 Thessalonians 2:14,15; Hebrews 10:33, &c. But there was something that put a rub in their way, that, as yet, they could not proceed to the utmost cruelty; “And now ye know what withholdeth”; which, I suppose, is to be understood of Claudius enraged at and curbing in the Jews. Who being taken out of the way, and Nero, after his first five years, suffering all things to be turned topsy turvy, the Jews now breathing their last (and Satan therefore breathing his last effects in them, because their time was short), they broke out into slaughter beyond measure, and into a most bloody persecution: which I wonder is not set in the front of the ten persecutions by ecclesiastical writers. This is called by Peter (who himself also at last suffered in it) a fiery trial; by Christ, dictating the epistles to the seven churches, tribulation for ten days; and the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world of Christians. And this is “the revelation of that wicked one” St. Paul speaks of, now in lively, that is, in bloody colours, openly declaring himself Antichrist, the enemy of Christ. In that persecution James suffered at Jerusalem, Peter in Babylon, and Antipas at Pergamus, and others, as it is probable, in not a few other places. Hence, Revelation 6:11,12 (where the state of the Jewish nation is delivered under the type of six seals), they are slain, who were to be slain for the testimony of the gospel under the fifth seal; and immediately under the sixth followed the ruin of the nation.
12. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
[The love of many shall wax cold.] These words relate to that horrid apostasy which prevailed everywhere in the Jewish churches that had received the gospel. See 2 Thessalonians 2:3, &c.; Galatians 3:1; 1 Timothy 1:15, &c.
14. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
[And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world.] Jerusalem was not to be destroyed before the gospel was spread over all the world: God so ordering and designing it that the world, being first a catechumen in the doctrine of Christ, might have at length an eminent and undeniable testimony of Christ presented to it; when all men, as many as ever heard the history of Christ, should understand that dreadful wrath and severe vengeance which was poured out upon that city and nation by which he was crucified.
15. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand):
[The abomination of desolation.] These words relate to that passage of Daniel (chapter 9:27) which I would render thus; “In the middle of that week,” namely, the last of the seventy, “he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease, even until the wing or army of abomination shall make desolate,” &c.; or, even by the wing of abominations making desolate….
[Let him that readeth understand.] This is not spoken so much for the obscurity as for the certainty of the prophecy: as if he should say, “He that reads those words in Daniel, let him mind well that when the army of the prince which is to come, that army of abominations, shall compass round Jerusalem with a siege, then most certain destruction hangs over it; for, saith Daniel, ‘the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city, and the sanctuary,’ &c., verse 26. ‘And the army of abominations shall make desolate even until the consummation, and that which is determined shall be poured out upon the desolate.’ Flatter not yourselves, therefore, with vain hopes, either of future victory, or of the retreating of that army, but provide for yourselves; and he that is in Judea, let him fly to the hills and places of most difficult access, not into the city.” See how Luke clearly speaks out this sense in the twentieth verse of the one-and-twentieth chapter.
20. But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
[That your flight be not in the winter.] R. Tanchum observes a favour of God in the destruction of the first Temple, that it happened in the summer, not in winter. For thus he: “God vouch-safed a great favour to Israel; for they ought to have gone out of the land on the tenth day of the month Tebeth, as he saith, ‘Son of man, mark this day; for on this very day,’ &c. What then did the Lord, holy and blessed? ‘If they shall now go out in the winter,’ saith he, ‘they will all die’: therefore he prolonged the time to them, and carried them away in summer.”
22. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
[Those days shall be shortened.] God lengthened the time for the sake of the elect, before the destruction of the city; and in the destruction, for their sakes he shortened it. Compare with these words before us 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise,” &c. It was certainly very hard with the elect that were inhabitants of the city, who underwent all kinds of misery with the besieged, where the plague and sword raged so violently that there were not living enough to bury the dead; and the famine was so great, that a mother ate her son (perhaps the wife of Doeg Ben Joseph, of whom see such a story in Babyl. Joma). And it was also hard enough with those elect who fled to the mountains, being driven out of house, living in the open air, and wanting necessaries for food: their merciful God and Father, therefore, took care of them, shortening the time of their misery, and cutting off the reprobates with a speedier destruction; lest, if their stroke had been longer continued, the elect should too far have partaken of their misery.
The Rabbins dream that God shortened the day on which wicked king Ahab died, and that ten hours; lest he should have been honoured with mourning.
24. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
[Shall shew great signs and wonders.] It is a disputable case, whether the Jewish nation were more mad with superstition in matters of religion, or with superstition in curious arts.
I. There was not a people upon earth that studied or attributed more to dreams than they. Hence
1. They often imposed fastings upon themselves to this end, that they might obtain happy dreams; or to get the interpretation of a dream; or to divert the ill omen of a dream: which we have observed at the fourteenth verse of the ninth chapter.
2. Hence their nice rules for handling of dreams; such as these, and the like: Let one observe a good dream two-and-twenty years, after the example of Joseph: “If you go to bed merry, you shall have good dreams,” &c.
3. Hence many took upon them the public profession of interpreting dreams; and this was reckoned among the nobler arts. A certain old man (Babyl. Beracoth) relates this story; “There were four-and-twenty interpreters of dreams in Jerusalem: and I, having dreamed a dream, went to them all: every one gave a different interpretation, and yet they all came to pass,” &c. You have R. Joses Ben Chelpatha, R. Ismael Ben R. Joses, R. Lazar, and R. Akiba interpreting divers dreams, and many coming to them for interpretation of their dreams. Nay, you see there the disciples of R. Lazar in his absence practising this art. See there also many stories about this business, which it would be too much here to transcribe.
II. There were hardly any people in the whole world that more used, or were more fond of, amulets, charms, mutterings, exorcisms, and all kinds of enchantments. We might here produce innumerable examples; a handful shall serve us out of the harvest: “Let not any one go abroad with his amulet on the sabbath day, unless that amulet be prescribed by an approved physician” (or, “unless it be an approved amulet”; see the Gemara). Now these amulets were either little roots hung about the necks of sick persons, or, what was more common, bits of paper with words written on them whereby they supposed that diseases were either driven away or cured: which they wore all the week, but were forbid to wear on the sabbath, unless with a caution: “They do not say a charm over a wound on the sabbath, that also which is said over a mandrake is forbid” on the sabbath. “If any one say, Come and say this versicle over my son, or lay the book” of the law “upon him, to make him sleep; it is forbid”: that is, on the sabbath, but on other days is usual.
They used to say the psalm of meetings (that is, against unlucky meetingsat Jerusalem. R. Judah saith, Sometimes after such a meeting, and sometimes when no such meeting had happened. But what is the Psalm of Meetings? The third psalm, ‘Lord, how are my foes increased!’ even all the psalm: and the ninety-first psalm, ‘He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High,’ to the ninth verse.” There is a discourse of many things, which they used to carry about with them, as remedies against certain ailments; and of mutterings over wounds: and there you may see, that while they avoid the enchantments of the Amorites, they have and allow their own. You have, Bab. Joma, fol, 84.1, the form of an enchantment against a mad dog. And,Avodah Zarah, fol. 12.2, the form of enchantment against the devil of blindness. You have,Hieros. Schab. fol 13.4, and Avod. Zarah, fol. 40.4, mutterings and enchantments, even in the name of Jesus. See also the Babyl. Sanhedr. fol. 101.1, concerning these kind of mutterings.
III. So skilful were they in conjurings, enchantments, and sorceries, that they wrought great signs, many villanies, and more wonders. We pass by those things which the sacred story relates of Simon Magus, Elymas, the sons of Sceva, &c., and Josephus, of others; we will only produce examples out of the Talmud, a few out of many.
You will wonder, in the entrance, at these two things, in order to the speaking of their magical exploits; and thence you will conjecture at the very common practice of these evil arts among that people: 1. That “the senior who is chosen into the council ought to be skilled in the arts of astrologers, jugglers, diviners, sorcerers, &c., that he may be able to judge of those who are guilty of the same.” 2. The Masters tell us, that a certain chamber was built by a magician in the temple itself: “The chamber of Happarva was built by a certain magician, whose name was Parvah, by art-magic.” “Four-and-twenty of the school Rabbi, intercalating the year at Lydda, were killed by an evil eye”: that is, with sorceries. R. Joshua outdoes a magician in magic, and drowns him in the sea. In Babyl. Taanith, several miracles are related that the Rabbins had wrought. Elsewhere, there is a story told of eighty women-sorceresses at Ascalon, who were hanged in one day by Simeon Ben Shetah: “and the women of Israel (saith the gloss) had generally fallen to the practice of sorceries”: as we have mentioned before. It is related of abundance of Rabbis, that they were skilful in working miracles: thus Abba Chelchia, and Chanin, and R. Chanina Ben Dusa; of which R. Chanina Ben Dusa there is almost an infinite number of stories concerning the miracles he wrought, which savour enough and too much of magic.
And, that we may not be tedious in producing examples, what can we say of the fasting Rabbis causing it to rain in effect when they pleased? of which there are abundance of stories in Taanith. What can we say of the Bath Kol very frequently applauding the Rabbins out of heaven? of which we have spoken before. What can we say of the death or plagues foretold by the Rabbins to befall this or that man? which came to pass just according as they were foretold. I rather suspect some magic art in most of these, than fiction in all.
IV. False Christs broke out, and appeared in public with their witchcrafts, so much the frequenter and more impudent, as the city and people drew nearer to its ruin; because the people believed the Messias should be manifested before the destruction of the city; and each of them pretended to be the Messias by these signs. From the words of Isaiah, “Before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child,” the doctors concluded, “that the Messias should be manifested before the destruction of the city.” Thus the Chaldee paraphrast upon the place; “She shall be saved before her utmost extremity, and her king shall be revealed before her pains of childbirth.” Mark that also; “The Son of David will not come, till the wicked empire [of the Romans] shall have spread itself over all the world nine months; as it is said, ‘Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth.'”
27. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
[For as the lightning, &c.] To discover clearly the sense of this and the following clauses, those two things must be observed which we have formerly given notice of:–
1. That the destruction of Jerusalem is very frequently expressed in Scripture as if it were the destruction of the whole world, Deuteronomy 32:22; “A fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell” (the discourse there is about the wrath of God consuming that people; see verses 20,21), “and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.” Jeremiah 4:23; “I beheld the earth, and lo, it was without form and void; and the heavens, and they had no light,” &c. The discourse there also is concerning the destruction of that nation, Isaiah 65:17; “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered,” &c. And more passages of this sort among the prophets. According to this sense, Christ speaks in this place; and Peter speaks in his Second Epistle, third chapter; and John, in the sixth of the Revelation; and Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:17, &c.
2. That Christ’s taking vengeance of that exceeding wicked nation is called Christ’s “coming in glory,” and his “coming in the clouds,” Daniel 7. It is also called, “the day of the Lord.” See Psalm 1:4; Malachi 3:1,2, &c.; Joel 2:31; Matthew 16:28; Revelation 1:7, &c. See what we have said on chapter 12:20; 19:28.
The meaning, therefore, of the words before us is this: “While they shall falsely say, that Christ is to be seen here or there: ‘Behold, he is in the desert,’ one shall say; another, ‘Behold, he is in the secret chambers’: he himself shall come, like lightning, with sudden and altogether unexpected vengeance: they shall meet him whom they could not find; they shall find him whom they sought, but quite another than what they looked for.”
28. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
[For wheresoever the carcase is, &c.] I wonder any can understand these words of pious men flying to Christ, when the discourse here is of quite a different thing: they are thus connected to the foregoing: Christ shall be revealed with a sudden vengeance; for when God shall cast off the city and people, grown ripe for destruction, like a carcase thrown out, the Roman soldiers, like eagles, shall straight fly to it with their eagles (ensigns) to tear and devour it. And to this also agrees the answer of Christ, Luke 17:37; when, after the same words that are spoke here in this chapter, it was inquired, “Where, Lord?” he answered, “Wheresoever the body is,” &c.; silently hinting thus much, that Jerusalem, and that wicked nation which he described through the whole chapter, would be the carcase, to which the greedy and devouring eagles would fly to prey upon it.
29. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
[The sun shall be darkened, &c.] That is, the Jewish heaven shall perish, and the sun and moon of its glory and happiness shall be darkened, and brought to nothing. The sun is the religion of the church; the moon is the government of the state; and the stars are the judges and doctors of both. Compare Isaiah 13:10, and Ezekiel 32:7,8, &c.
30. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
[And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man.] Then shall the Son of man give a proof of himself, whom they would not before acknowledge: as proof, indeed, not in any visible figure, but in vengeance and judgment so visible, that all the tribes of the earth shall be forced to acknowledge him the avenger. The Jews would not know him: now they shall now him, whether they will or no, Isaiah 26:11. Many times they asked of him a sign: now a sign shall appear, that he is the true Messias, whom they despised, derided, and crucified, namely, his signal vengeance and fury, such as never any nation felt from the first foundations of the world.
31. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
[And he shall send his angels, &c.] When Jerusalem shall be reduced to ashes, and that wicked nation cut off and rejected, then shall the Son of man send his ministers with the trumpet of the gospel, and they shall gather together his elect of the several nations from the four corners of heaven: so that God shall not want a church…
34. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
[This generation shall not pass, &c.] Hence it appears plain enough, that the foregoing verses are not to be understood of the last judgment, but, as we said, of the destruction of Jerusalem. There were some among the disciples (particularly John), who lived to see these things come to pass. With Matthew 16:28, compare John 21:22. And there were some Rabbins alive at the time when Christ spoke these things, that lived till the city was destroyed, viz. Rabban Simeon, who perished with the city, R. Jochanan Ben Zaccai, who outlived it, R. Zadoch, R. Ismael, and others.
36. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
[No man knoweth, no, not the angels.] This is taken from Deuteronomy 32:34: “Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?”
37. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
[But as the days of Noe were, &c.] Thus Peter placeth as parallels, the ruin of the old world, and the ruin of Jerusalem, 1 Peter 3:19-21; and by such a comparison his words will be best understood. For, see how he skips from the mention of the death of Christ to the times before the flood, in the eighteenth and nineteenth verses, passing over all the time between. Did not the Spirit of Christ preach all along in the times under the law? Why then doth he take an example only from the times before the flood? that he might fit the matter to his case, and shew that the present state of the Jews was like theirs in the times of Noah, and that their ruin should be like also. So, also, in his Second Epistle, chapter 3:6,7.
The age or generation of the flood hath no portion in the world to come: thus Peter saith, that “they were shut up in prison”: and here our Saviour intimates that “they were buried in security,” and so were surprised by the flood.

Parashat Ki-Teseh

Parashat Ki-Teseh begins with the exceptional law of “Eshet Yefat Toar,” which deals with the case of a soldier who encounters an attractive foreign woman while fighting a war, and desires her. The Torah allows the soldier in such a case to marry the woman after fulfilling certain conditions. The commentators explain that the Torah enacted this provision because the soldier would otherwise be likely to engage in forbidden relations with the woman. Human nature being as it is, G-d determined that it would be preferable to permit marrying an “Eshet Yefat Toar” so that soldiers would not be tempted to cohabit with women in violation of the law.

This section is followed by another exceptional law – the law of the “Ben Sorer U’moreh,” the rebellious son. The Torah commands that under certain very rare and unusual circumstances, a child who ignores his parents’ authority and conducts himself in an unrestrained manner is put to death. One of the requirements for a child to be considered a “Ben Sorer U’moreh” is “Zolel Ve’sobeh” – that he is a glutton, indulging in meat and wine. The Sages explained that if a boy displays an uncontrolled lust for meat and wine, he will reach the point where he robs and murders in order to obtain the money he needs to satisfy this lust. Therefore, he must be put to death already now, in his youth, to prevent his future criminal behavior.

Our Sages offered an explanation for why the Torah juxtaposed these two subjects – the “Eshet Yefat Toar” and the “Ben Sorer U’moreh.” Namely, the Torah here warns that if a person marries an “Eshet Yefat Toar,” he will end up having a son who is a “Ben Sorer U’moreh.” Although marrying such a woman is technically permissible, it will likely result in the disastrous outcome of a “Ben Sorer U’moreh.”

The obvious question arises as to why this is the case. True, the Mishna teaches us that “Abera Goreret Abera” – one sin leads to another. But in this case, the man did not commit a sin; he married a non-Jewish woman in a permissible fashion, as the Torah prescribed. Why will this result in a wayward, rebellious son?

The answer, as some have suggested, relates to the well-known comments of the Ramban in explaining the Torah’s command in the Book of Vayikra, “Kedoshim Tiheyu” – “You shall be holy.” This command does not require us to immerse in the Mivkeh several times a day or engage in deep mystical activities. Rather, the Ramban explains, it refers to moderation and avoiding excess in our mundane activities. Technically speaking, a person can go to a casino without violating any law in the Shulhan Aruch. He can order strictly glatt kosher food, drink kosher wine that is “Mebushal,” make sure to pray at the proper times, and keep his Kippa and Sisit on. Nevertheless, he has failed to fulfill the Misva of “Kedoshim Tiheyu.” A person can meet the highest standards of Kashrut but live a very unholy life if his life revolves around food and indulgence. Living a “holy” life means setting reasonable limits on our physical indulgence so we can pursue loftier ideals.

This is the problem with the man who marries an “Eshet Yefat Toar.” He has not violated any particular law, but it cannot be considered a “holy” thing to do. And such conduct has a profound effect on his children.

There are two ways to educate children, one of which is very effective, and one of which is very ineffective. The ineffective – but generally more intuitive – way is to tell children what they should do. More often than not, this only triggers resentment and pushback. The effective way to educate children is to model the desired behavior, to show them the right way to act. Children learn far more effectively with their eyes than with their ears. They learn from watching us, not by being told what to do. The expression goes, “Practice what you preach.” I would suggest modifying this expression to read, “Practice, and then you don’t have to preach.” Actions speak louder than words, and so our greatest asset in influencing our children is the personal example we set, exhibiting the kind of behavior we want our children to emulate.

This is why marrying an “Eshet Yefat Toar” can lead to a “Ben Sorer U’moreh.” It sets an example to children of what the Ramban calls, “Nabal Bi’rshut Ha’Torah” – acting improperly within the limits of Torah law. Such a thing is technically permissible, but an inappropriate surrender to desire. A child who grows up in such an environment, where the parents strictly adhere to the nitty gritty of Torah law but overindulge and place too much focus on the physical pleasures of life, can easily become a glutton, and may eventually reach the point where he resorts to criminal behavior to satisfy his lusts.

We need to teach our children not just right from wrong, but also “right from right.” Even within “right” behavior, children must be taught to distinguish between what’s appropriate and what’s not. And the way they learn this distinction is by observing us, their parents, exercising appropriate restraint and maintaining a healthy balance between acceptable enjoyment and excessive indulgence.

Mitzvah of Cancellation

The Mitzvah of Cancellation of Debts at the Conclusion of Shevi’it as it Applies to Women

In the previous Halachot we have explained the basic laws of cancellation of debts by Shevi’it in that any debt one is owed and has been incurred by another as a loan and whose time for repayment has already arrived is cancelled once the Shemitta year passes (this year, 5775, is the Shemitta year and this coming Rosh Hashanah of 5776 marks the conclusion of the Shemitta year). In such a case, the lender may no longer claim repayment for such debts since these debts have already been cancelled on the night of Rosh Hashanah 5776. We have discussed several detailed laws related to this.

We have likewise mentioned that if a woman lends her neighbor bread or milk and the like, since the woman does not expect the neighbor to return those same loaves of bread or cartons of milk, rather, she expects the neighbor to purchase new ones and repay her with those, it turns out that the loaves of bread were not merely “lent” to the neighbor (as one would lent a tool or other object); rather, these loaves were, in essence “loaned” to the neighbor (as one would loan money). Thus, the woman who has lent these loaves of bread must take care not to request repayment for them since the conclusion of Shevi’it cancels such debts and the neighbor is not obligated to return the bread or milk to the neighbor who lent them to her in the first place.

This law is based on the words of Rabbeinu Yosef Haim zt”l of Baghdad in his epic work, Ben Ish Hai (end of Parashat Ki Tavo). We can imply from his words that women are also obligated in the Mitzvah of cancellation of debts by Shevi’it, for the example he brings is one woman lending bread to another woman. Indeed, the Sefer Ha’Chinuch (end of Mitzvah 477) states explicitly that the Mitzvah of cancellation of debts by Shevi’it applies equally to both men and women.

It seems, however, that this should not be the case since we have a rule that women are exempt from all positive, time-bound Mitzvot (such as Shofar, Sukkah, Lulav which are all bound by specific times; this is unlike all negative Mitzvot, such as Shabbat and Yom Kippur where everyone is forbidden to perform work) and the Mitzvah of cancellation of debts by Shevi’it is likewise a positive commandment to release all debts owed to her (regarding the negative commandment of “He shall not exact it from his friend” which refers to the prohibition of claiming such a debt after Shevi’it, although this is a negative commandment which women are likewise obligated to abide by, nevertheless, in our scenario, the woman’s friend is coming of her own accord to return the loaves of bread to her neighbor and thus, the woman who lent them is not exacting them from her friend and is merely silently accepting what her friend owes her). If so, it would seem that women should not be obligated in this Mitzvah of cancellation of debts.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l deals with this issue at length in his work (Chazon Ovadia-Prozbul, page 38) and discusses several reasons to obligate women in the Mitzvah of cancellation of debts by Shevi’it. One of them is based on the words of Rabbeinu David Abudirhem (page 10b), the Orchot Chaim (Volume 2, beginning of Hilchot Milah), the Kol Bo quoting Mahari Anatoly in his Sefer Melamed Ha’Talmidim, and many others who write that the reason why women are exempt from positive, time-bound Mitzvot is because they are usually in the home more taking care of the children and the other household chores and the Torah therefore did not obligate her to perform such Mitzvot, for if women would indeed be obligated to perform such Mitzvot, it would be quite difficult for them to endure so many pressures and responsibilities. Thus, regarding positive, time-bound Mitzvot which are performed in a passive manner, such as the Mitzvah of cancellation of debts following Shevi’it which does not require the woman to actively do anything in order to release debts owed to her, there is no reason to exempt women from such a Mitzvah since its performance does not cause them any bother or burden whatsoever. The great Penei Yehoshua and others rule accordingly. Other reasons and clear proofs which obligate women in this Mitzvah of cancellation of debts are discussed as well.

Summary: Women are obligated, without a shadow of a doubt, in the Mitzvah of cancellation of debts following Shevi’it. Thus, if a woman lends her friend some loaves of bread or an amount of money and the Shemitta year has passed over such debts, the woman may no longer claim repayment of such debts from her friend. (Even if the friend comes of her own volition to repay the debt, the woman must tell her that according to Halacha, she is not required to repay this debt since it has already been cancelled by the conclusion of Shevi’it; only if the friend wishes to return it as a gift may the woman accept it.) Nevertheless, all of this applies if the woman has not written a Prozbul. However, if the woman has written a Prozbul, all debts owed to her are not cancelled, as we shall discuss in the following Halacha.

Torah Reading: KI SEITZEI

Torah Reading: KI SEITZEI
Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19.
Haftara: Isaiah 54:1-10.
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!
Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum

VALLEY OF DRY BONES

BS”D KNOW YOUR BIBLE: Ezekiel 37-38

Study Notes by Avraham ben Yaakov

EZEKIEL CHAPTER 37

VISION OF THE VALLEY OF DRY BONES

“…And He set me down in the midst of the valley, which was full of dry bones” (v 1). Commenting on this vision, RaDaK writes that “the Holy One blessed be He showed Ezekiel this valley as a metaphor showing that the Children of Israel would leave their exile, in which they were living in a state comparable to that of ‘dry bones’. Alternatively, He showed him this to show him that in time to come He will resurrect the dead of Israel at the time of the redemption so that they too should witness the redemption” (RaDaK on verse 1).

WHOSE BONES?

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 92b) brings a variety of opinions among our sages as to whose bones these were. The different opinions are by no means mutually exclusive, since certain souls may be re-incarnated in different bodies time after time. Rabbi Yehudah considered that the vision was “in truth a metaphor” (BE-EMES MASHAL), while Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Eliezer (ben Hurknos) both considered that Ezekiel literally revived the dead. R. Eliezer son of R. Yose HaGlili stated that the dead that Ezekiel revived came up to the land of Israel, married and had children, and R. Yehudah Ben Beseira declared that he was one of their descendants, exhibiting a pair of Tefilin which he inherited from his paternal grandfather that had been handed down from them.

The opinion of Rav is that the dead bones were those of the members of the tribe of Ephraim who left Egypt before the appointed time and were killed by the native inhabitants of Gath (I Chronicles 7:21, see Targum Yonasan and RaDaK ad loc. and Rashi on our verse in Ezekiel.). Shmuel’s opinion is that these were the bones of people who had denied the tenet of resurrection, while Rabbi Yonasan said they were dry because they were the bones of people who “did not have in them the moisture of a mitzvah”, i.e. they did not observe any of the commandments of the Torah.

Rabbi Yochanan stated that the bones were those of the people who were killed in the Valley of Dura. This was where Nebuchadnezzar set up his sixty-cubit high idol, to which all the peoples bowed down, including all the Judean exiles except for Chananya, Mishael and Azariah (Daniel ch 3). When Nebuchadnezzar saw this, he was enraged, asking them if just as they had worshipped idols in their own land causing its destruction they intended to worship them in Babylon in order to destroy it, and he massacred them (Yalkut Shimoni). Another reason why Nebuchadnezzar carried out a mass slaughter of young Jewish men at that time was because “among them were youths who put the sun to shame with their beauty and when the Chaldean woman saw them they started running with blood (ZIVA) and told their husbands, who told the king, who had them trampled down. It was at the moment when the wicked Nebuchadnezzar cast Chananya, Mishael and Azariah into the fiery furnace that God told Ezekiel to go and revive the dead in the Valley of Dura” (Sanhedrin 92b).

Unraveling the exact identify of these bones is of less importance than grasping the essential point of Ezekiel’s vision, which attests to our perfect faith and belief “that the Resurrection of the Dead will take place at the time when it will be the will of the Creator, blessed be His Name” (last of the Thirteen Principles of Faith as formulated by Rambam). God has the power to take even dry bones (such as the tiny, indestructible LUZ bone from the top of the spine) and clothe them with sinews, flesh and skin to breathe into them the spirit of life (v 6).

“Come from the four winds (directions), O breath, and breathe upon these slain” (v 9) – “From every place where their souls went to wander in all four directions of the world they will be gathered in” (Rashi ad loc.).

“Behold, O My people, I shall open your graves…” (v 12). In the words of RaDaK (ad loc.): “If this vision is a metaphor, the lands of the nations where Israel is in exile are the graves. If it is to be taken literally, the meaning is plain. There is a division of opinion among our sages about the dead outside of Israel. Some held that they will arise from their graves in the Diaspora itself, while others said that they will come up to the Land of Israel by rolling (GILGUL) through underground passages (Kesuvos 111a). The present verse supports the view that they will come back to life in the Diaspora… for it says ‘I will open up your graves and bring you up from your graves’ and afterwards ‘I will bring you to the Land of Israel'”.

“Three keys are in the hand of the Holy One blessed be He and have not been entrusted to any agent: the key to the rains, the key to giving birth and the key to the revival of the dead” (Ta’anis 2b).

* * * Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones is read as the Haftara on Shabbos Chol HaMo’ed Pesach, the intermediate Shabbos of the festival of Passover. * * *

TWO STICKS JOINED INTO ONE

In a further inspiring prophecy of consolation in vv 15-28, God instructs the prophet to take two sticks and write on one “for Judah and the children of Israel his companions” – i.e. the tribe of Benjamin, which remained attached to Judah even after the split of the kingdom – and to write on the other “for Joseph the stick of Ephraim and all the House of Israel, his companions”. The latter are the Ten Tribes, because when the kingdom was divided, Jeraboam, who was from the tribe of Ephraim, became king, and accordingly the Ten Tribes were called by the name of Ephraim (verse 16 as explained by RaDaK).

The prophet was to join the two sticks together to make one stick (v 17) to symbolize that in the end of days the great fissure that has divided the Children of Israel since the death of King Solomon will be healed, and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, who are called the “Jews” (cf. Esther 2:5), will be reconciled with the lost Ten Tribes and become “one in My hand” (v 19) – “they shall become ONE NATION before Me” (Targum ad loc.).

Verses 21ff prophesy the restoration of the scattered exiles of Israel to their land to become one people under one king. “And My servant David will be king over them” (v 24) –”Melech HaMashiach, who comes from the seed of David, will be king over them” (Metzudas David).

This will inaugurate an eternal covenant of peace between God and Israel with the return of the Shechinah to Israel and the rebuilding of the Temple, showing all the nations that HaShem rules (v 28).

* * * Ezekiel’s vision of joining the two sticks of Joseph and Judah (Ez. 37:15-28) is read as the Haftara of Parshas Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27) describing the reconciliation of Joseph and his brothers. * * *

CHAPTER 38

THE WAR OF GOG AND MAGOG

Many people mistakenly believe that the war of Gog and Magog is a war of Gog AGAINST Magog, and the two have been represented in many weird and monstrous ways in popular folklore. But the truth is plainly visible in the opening verse of our present chapter. Gog is the name of the king or leader of an unholy alliance of nations, while Magog is the name of his people, whose founder was Japheth’s second son (Gen:10:2, see Rashi on the opening verse of our present chapter). It is clear from verses 8 and 12 of the present chapter that their war is against the people of Israel in the land of Israel.

The onslaught of Gog and his allies against Israel at the end of days was foreordained from the beginning of time and already spoken of “in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days for many years that I would bring you against them” (verse 17). Thus the war of Gog and Magog is prophesied in Zechariah ch 14 and alluded to in many different passages in Isaiah and the other prophets. According to tradition, this war was also the subject of the prophecy of Eldad and Meidad in the wilderness in the time of Moses (Numbers 11:26, see Targum Yonasan ad loc. and Sanhedrin 17b). There is an historical inevitability about this war that will cause it to come about whether the nations want it or not. Thus God says to Gog: “I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you and all your army…” (v 4).

PRINCIPAL MEMBERS OF THE ALLIANCE

The peoples of Magog, Meshech and Tuval mentioned in verse 2 were all descendants of the sons of Japheth and are considered to have spread out from where Noah’s ark came to rest on Mt Ararat to the regions that became their original habitations in the northeast of Turkey, immediately south of the Black Sea, in Armenia, southern Georgia and the regions west of the Caspian Sea. It is highly likely that in the course of time these peoples wandered far and wide from there. (It is noteworthy that Meshech – Muscovy, Russia – has traditionally been one of the leading persecutors of Israel and Judaism, and its one-time dictator, Joseph Stalin, was from Georgia, embedded in the name of whose capital city of Tbilisi is the name TUVAL.)

Verse 5 mentions Paras or Persia, Kush (descended from the firstborn son of Ham, Gen. 10:6), identified either with Sudan or with the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan, and Phut, which is identified by some with Libya and by others with Somalia.

Verse 6 mentions Gomer, which the rabbis identified with GERMAMIA (=Germany, see Targum Yonasan on our verse and Yoma 10b) and Togarma, which was the traditional Hebrew name for Turkey. Verse 6 also mentions “many nations” as well as “the far sides of the north”, which might indicate anywhere across the northern hemisphere from North America to Northern Europe, Russia, China and Japan!

Verse 13 mentions Sheba, identified variously with east Africa (Ethiopia?) and Arabia (Yemen?), Dedan (=northeast Arabia, the Arab Emirates?) and Tarshish, which has different connotations in different Biblical texts and may indicate Tarsus in Asia Minor, North Africa (Tunisia) or Spain.

WHEN DOES THE WAR OCCUR?

Our text explicitly states that the war of Gog and Magog will occur “at the end of days”, when the nations will come “against the land that is brought back from the sword and is gathered out of many peoples…” (v 8; cf. verse 16). As a follow-on from Ezekiel’s prophecy in Chapter 36 about the return of Israel to their land at the end of days, our present text teaches that the assault of the nations occurs AFTER the ingathering of Israel, or the greater part of them, from exile, when they have come back to their land in the hope of dwelling there prosperously and securely, spread out unfortified habitations (vv 8, 11-12 & 14). It is plain that this refers to our present era, when for the first time in two thousand years a majority of the world’s population of Jews lives in Israel. Our texts state explicitly that the intention of Gog and his allies is to despoil Israel of their wealth (vv 12-13 of our present chapter) and appropriate their land (as stated in Ezekiel 36: 2 & 5).

THE JUDGMENT AGAINST GOG AND MAGOG

Verses 18-23 depict the divine wrath that will be unleashed against Gog and his armies (which is also the subject of the following chapter). Verse 19 speaks of a great “shaking” (RA’ASH) in the Land of Israel, which indicates a literal earthquake, as prophesied in Zechariah 14:4-5). Verse 20 says that the very fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field and all creeping beings as well as all mankind will shake at God’s presence. RaDaK (ad loc.) states that this verse may be taken both metaphorically and literally. (It is well-known that many animals are intuitively aware of earthquakes etc. even before they occur.)

Verse 21 teaches that the downfall of the nations will come about when tumult breaks out among the forces of Gog and Magog, who will fight “each against his brother”. Then God will judge them with “plague, blood and driving rain and stones of algavish (hail shining like the gavish jewel), fire and sulfur” (verse 22). The name of God will then be magnified and sanctified in the eyes of many nations and they will know that HaShem rules (v 23).

* * * Verses 18-23 of the present chapter together with chapter 39 vv 1-15 are read as the Haftara on Shabbos Chol HaMo’ed Succos – the intermediate Sabbath of the festival of Succos. * * *

ABY

9 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT RABBINIC JUDAISM

Aside from knowing that we share some of the same religious texts, most Christians today are completely unfamiliar with the “modern” forms of Judaism (forms that go back almost 2,000 years). To close a small portion of the knowledge gap about our religious Jewish neighbors, here are nine things you should know Rabbinic Judaism.

1. In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of the Torah. Rabbinic Judaism, which is based on the “dual Torah,” was formulated in the 2nd century, making the religion, in terms of defining texts, younger than Christianity. By the 6th century it had become the dominant type of Judaism and is the foundation of all forms of Judaism practiced today. The three main branches of Rabbinic Judaism in North America are Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox.

2. The “dual Torah” is the Jewish concept that the Torah was revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai in two ways, one written (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) and the other transmitted by oral tradition through the prophets and the sages. The Oral Torah did not come to full expression in Jewish life until after the period following the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in AD 70. As Jacob Neusner explains, “the Judaism of the dual Torah set forth a twin ideal: sanctification of the everyday life in the here and now, which when fully realized would lead to the salvation of all Israel in the age to come. But what remained to be sanctified, as the Temple had been sanctified through its cult, now that the Temple was gone? One locus of sanctification endured beyond 70: the holy people itself.”

3. The Oral Torah is the tradition collected in a number of rabbinic writings known as the Mishnah (halachic or legal tradition which form the core of Rabbinic Judaism). Upon being recorded the Mishnah became the object of further study, commentary and amplification known as the Gemara. The term Talmud can be used to mean either the Gemara alone, or the Mishnah and Gemara as printed together. There are two Talmuds: The Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud. The Talmud is the heart of Rabbinic Judaism; after the Bible, the Talmud is the book most studied by religious Jews and the Hebrew Bible is read and interpreted in light of the Talmud.

4. The most universal and distinctive form of Jewish spirituality is Torah study. Despite the name, Torah study actually includes the study of related texts, such as the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, and various rabbinical writings. In rabbinic literature, the highest ideal of all Jewish men is Torah study (women being exempt). Torah study is counted amongst the 613 mitzvot (“commandments”), but is considered more important than many of the other commandments, such as visiting the sick or honoring one’s parents.

5. Yeshiva is a Jewish institution that focuses on Torah study. Study is usually done through daily shiurim (lectures or classes) and in study pairs called chavrutas (Aramaic for “companionship”). Chavruta-style learning is one of the unique features of the yeshiva. Historically, yeshivas were attended by high level males only. Today, all non-Orthodox and a few Modern Orthodox yeshivas are open even to females.

6. Reform Judaism (also known as Liberal Judaism and Progressive Judaism) maintains that Judaism and Jewish traditions should be modernized and compatible with participation in the surrounding culture. Reform Judaism affirms the central tenets of Judaism (God, Torah, and Israel) and emphasizes Tikkun olam — “repairing the world.” Reform Jews are committed to the principle of inclusion, primarily in interfaith marriage, absolute equality of women in all areas of Jewish life, and commitment to LGBT issues. Reform Judaism is currently the largest North American denomination of American Jews.

7. Conservative Judaism (also known as Masorti Judaism) developed in 1850s Germany as a reaction to the more liberal religious positions taken by Reform Judaism. The term conservative was meant to signify that Jews should attempt to conserve Jewish tradition, rather than reform or abandon it. Conservative Judaism holds that the laws of the Torah and Talmud are of divine origin, and thus mandates the following of halacha (Jewish law). However, the Conservative movement also accepts modern methods of historical scholarship in analyzing Jewish texts and developing Jewish law.

8. Orthodox Judaism is an umbrella term for a variety of Jewish denominations and groups that refused to follow the path of Reform or Conservative Judaism. Orthodox Judaism believes that both the Written and Oral Torah are of divine origin, containing the exact words of God without any human influence. In terms of practice, Orthodox Jews strictly follow the written Torah and the Oral Torah as interpreted by the Medieval rabbis. From the time they get up in the morning until they go to bed at night, Orthodox Jews observe the commandments concerning prayer, dress, food, social behavior, etc.

9. In Rabbinic Judaism, the synagogue is the Jewish house of prayer. The buildings are not necessarily used for communal worship since Jewish worship can be carried out wherever ten Jews (a minyan) assemble. All synagogues contain a bimah, a table from which the Torah is read, and a desk for the prayer leader. The Torah ark — modeled on the Ark of the Covenant — is a cabinet in which the Torah scrolls are kept. Prayer and public reading of the Torah form the main components of Jewish liturgy.

Note on sources: Unless directly cited, all information was taken from Norman Solomon’s Judaism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 1996).