The Two Arks

The Two Arks

Similarities between the manner in which the bible describes Noach’s Ark and the Ark of the Tabernacle.

In R. Amnon Bazak’s first essay for Parashat Noach, “Teivat Noach VeAron HaBrit” (Nekudat Peticha: Iyunim Ketzarim BePeshuta Shel Parashat HaShavua, Machot Tzomet, Alon Shevut, 5766, pp. 15-6), literary parallels are drawn between the “Teiva” (Ark) that Noach is Told by God to construct in order to survive the coming Flood, and the “Aron” (Ark) in the Tabernacle, intended to contain, among other things

(Rabbinic tradition asserts that in addition to the Luchot, some Mann, and Aharon’s staff from which almond branches miraculously grew, were also stored in this receptacle—see Yoma 52b),

the Tablets upon which were inscribed the Ten Commandments.

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Relating to the Natural World vs. the Metaphysical Realm

Relating to the Natural World vs. the Metaphysical Realm

More on the outlooks of the two most significant generations discussed in this week’s Parashat HaShavua.

In an essay that makes several of the identical points delineated by R. Yitzchak Kraus (see https://yaakovbieler.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/balancing-the-generations-of-the-flood-and-the-dispersion/ ), yet adds perspective and nuance, R. Binyamin Lau in his third presentation for Parashat Noach, “Shevirat HaMigdal—’VeShach Gavhut HaAdam’” (Etnachta: Kriyot BeParashat HaShavua, Vol. 1, Yediot Acharonot, Tel Aviv, 2009, pp. 34-7) also compares the attitudes of the Generation of the Flood with the Generation of the Dispersion.

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Balancing the Generations of the Flood and the Dispersion

Balancing the Generations of the Flood and the Dispersion

The shortcomings of the generations leading up to Avraham, with special emphasis upon two in particular.

In his 2001 essay on behalf of the Bar Ilan Parashat HaShavua series, “You Have Made Him Little Less than Divine” R. Yitzchak Kraus explores the theme of the comparison of the Generation of the Flood (Beraishit 5:28-9:29) with the Generation of the Tower of Bavel and their subsequent dispersion (Ibid. 10:8-11:9), each occurring during the period between Noach and Avraham, noting that the Mishna delineates this series of generations as a unit unto itself:

Avot 5:2

Ten generations from Adam until Noach

(1) Adam; 2) Sheit; 3) Enosh; 4) Keinan; 5) Mehalalel; 6) Yered; 7) Chanoch; 8) Metushelach; 9) Lamech; 10) Noach )

to make known the extent of God’s Patience, for each successive generation would further “infuriate” Him, until He Brought upon them the waters of the Flood.

Ten generations from Noach until Avraham

(1) Sheim; 2) Arpachshad; 3) Shelach; 4) Eiver; 5) Peleg; 6) Serug; 7) Re’u; 8) Nachor; 9) Terach; 10) Avraham)

to make known the extent of God’s Patience, for each successive generation would further “infuriate” Him, until Avraham came and received reward commensurate with all of them.

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Three Ideas Emerging from Simchat Tora 5778

Three Ideas Emerging from Simchat Tora 5778-1

The end of the Elul-Tishrei period of Yom Tov.

This year, we spent Shmini Atzeret, Simchat Tora, and Shabbat Beraishit in Kew Garden Hills, NY. Over the course of Yom Tov and Shabbat, three ideas, particularly associated with Simchat Tora took on sharper dimensions due to things that I read, studied, and experienced.

1.  Circle dancing.

In an article entitled “What Shemini Atzeret Teaches Us about Inclusiveness”, Chava Shapiro makes a series of six profound comments about the higher significance of circle dancing, the ubiquitous form of dance at many Jewish celebrations:

1) Because a circle is not about progress or achievement; it is about harmony and togetherness. 2) In a circle, we do not place ourselves or others in a hierarchy—be it physical, intellectual, or spiritual. 3) In a circle, we recognize that there is no such thing as higher or lower, more important or less important; we have different gifts, different challenges. Yet we all share the same soul-root, mission and destiny. 4) In a circle, we are all equidistant from the center, from the Creator and Source of Life; God Is Equally Accessible to every person. 5) In a circle, we can see the face of every single person, the part of them that expresses their innermost self, and truly connect with them and empathize without judgment. 6) In a circle, we acknowledge that every person needs every other person for the circle to remain complete—we possess strengths that others lack, and vice versa. We all have our role to fill; every person deserves the opportunity to utilize their God-Given Gifts.

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Great Biblical Ideas–All Men are Created Equal

A Great Idea in Parashat Beraishit

This year’s theme in the essays comprising the latest edition of “Covenant and Conversation.”

This past week, R. Jonathan Sacks issued two essays over the internet: 1) “Judaism’s Life-Changing Ideas: An Introduction to Covenant and Conversation 5778”, and 2) “The Faith of God: Beraishit 5778”. As the subtitle of the first essay indicates, it serves as the overall rationale for the presentations that R. Sacks intends to electronically issue weekly, with the essay on Beraishit constituting the first in the intended series.

R. Sacks’ premise outlined in his overview, is that Judaism, in addition to constituting a “religion, faith, way of life, set of beliefs, collection of Commandments, culture, civilization” is also “a way of thinking.”

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The “genius” of Kayin

The “genius” of Kayin

In R. Binyamin Lau’s second essay for Parashat Beraishit, “Tikuno Shel Kayin” (Etnachta: Kriyot BeParashat HaShavua, Vol. 1, Yediot Acharonot, Tel Aviv, 2009, pp. 22-5), he traces the potential inherent within Adam and Chava’s first son Kayin, and his offspring, down to the present day.

R. Lau notes that the Tora is explicit concerning man’s role not only in the Garden of Eden, but within the world:

Beraishit 2:15

And the LORD God Took the man, and Put him into the Garden of Eden 1) to work (and thereby develop)  it, and 2) to keep (preserve) it.

“Working the land” is the quintessential manner in which man serves as God’s partner in completing the work of Creation—see Shabbat 10a—whether within the Garden of Eden, or even once he is exiled to live elsewhere (Ibid. 3:23-4). Creativity is associated with both enhancing the natural world as well as making it produce the sustenance that man needs for his existence (Ibid. 19).

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The Custom of Reciting “Ushpizin” on Each Night of Sukkot

In the fourth of his essays on Sukkot, “Seven Shepherds and Eight Princes of Men” (Change and Renewal: The Essence of the Jewish Holidays, Festivals and Days of Remembrance, trans. Daniel Haberman, ed. Yehudit Shabta, Shefa/Maggid, Jerusalem, 2011, pp. 117-22), R. Adin Steinsaltz considers the mystical custom of welcoming, in addition to real guests, metaphysical figures to one’s Sukka.

The custom to greet and acknowledge these “visitors” is recorded in works describing various Jewish observances, all citing this practice’s original source as the Zohar, e.g.:

Yalkut Yosef, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Orech Chayim, Laws of Sitting in the Sukka and Other Days of Sukkot, #11.

It is made clear in the holy Zohar, Parashat Emor, 103b, that the glorious holiness of the seven exalted, holy guests, i.e., “fathers” of the world (Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, along with), Moshe, Aharon, Yosef, and David, are present in the Sukka. Therefore, one who dwells in the Sukka, should do so in a dignified manner, with honor and glory, especially when the Sukka is large and its holiness therefore that much greater. This in accordance with the Talmud’s statement (Sukka 9a): The Name of Heaven Is Manifest on the constituent parts of the Sukka (hence the larger the Sukka, the more elements with which holiness will be associated).  Especially, one should be careful to distance himself from the attribute of anger and holding everyone closely accountable to high standards within the Sukka, and one should therefore not raise his voice towards the members of his family. All of this is in honor of these “guests” of exalted esteem. (Shnai Luchot HaBrit, Bikurei Yaakov, #2.)

(A contemporary film that constitutes a “riff” on the custom is Shuli Rand’s “Ushpizin” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ushpizin] to which reference in passing was made in https://yaakovbieler.wordpress.com/2017/10/04/agnons-the-etrog/ )

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“Shopping” the Tora

“Shopping” the Tora

An intriguing Midrash aims to shed light upon a curious verse in one of the Parashiot read on Simchat Tora, i.e., VeZot HaBeracha:

Devarim 33:2

And he said: The LORD Came from Sinai, and Rose from Seir unto them; He Shined forth from mount Paran, and He Came from the myriads holy, at His Right Hand was a Fiery Law unto them.

Eicha Rabba 3 (on Eicha 3:1 “I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of His Wrath.”)

…What was the reason that You Went to Mt. Seir? Was it not to Attempt to Give the Tora to the descendants of Eisav, who in the end did not accept It? And similarly, regarding the desert of Paran, was it not to Attempt to Give the Tora to the descendants of Yishmael, who did not accept it? For what reason did You Go to the Amonim and the Moavim? Wasn’t it to Attempt to Give the Tora to the descendants of Lot, who did not accept it, as it is written: (Devarim 33:2) “And the LORD Came from Sinai…”

Initially He Went to Eisav, to Mt. Seir. He Said to them: Do you wish to accept the Tora? They said to Him: What is written in it? He Said to them: (Shemot 20:13) “Do not murder.” They said to Him: It is the blessing with which our father (Yitzchak) blessed our ancestor (Eisav): (Beraishit 27:40) “By your sword you shall live…” We cannot live without this. And they did not accept It.

He Went to the desert of Paran to the descendants of Yishmael. He Said to them: Do you wish to accept the Tora? They said to Him: What is written in It? He Said to them; (Shemot 20: 13) “Do not steal.” They said to Him: This is the inheritance of our father—(Beraishit 16:12) “…His hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him…” We cannot live without this. And they did not accept It.

He Went to the Amonim and the Moavim. He Said to them: Do you wish to accept the Tora? They said to Him: What is written in It? He Said to them: (Shemot 20:13) “Do not engage in adultery.” They said to Him: The essence of our peoples stems from illegitimate lineage, as it is written: (Beraishit 19:36) “And the two daughters of Lot conceived by means of their father…” We cannot live without this. And they did not accept it.

He Came to Israel, He Said to them: Do you wish to accept the Tora? They said to Him: Absolutely— (Shemot 24:7) “…All that the LORD hath Spoken will we do, and obey.” …

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Agnon’s “The Etrog”

Agnon_s “The Etrog”

Considering a short story that is ever so relevant to this time of year.

In R. Jeffrey Saks’ introduction to his new English translation of S.Y. Agnon’s 1947 short story, “The Etrog” (http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/193747/the-etrog ; http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/193789/s-y-agnons-the-etrog-an-introduction), he not only notes that the two Rebbeim that Agnon mentions in the story were based upon real-life characters, i.e., R. Shimshon Aharon Polonsky and R. Shlomo Goldman, but that this work, and its prequel, “The Tzaddik’s Etrog” published in 1948, served as the inspiration for Shuli Rand’s award-winning 2004 film, “Ushpizin”.

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Reflecting upon Kohelet’s “Havel Havalim”

Key verses in Megillat Kohelet.

In R. Jonathan Sacks’ 2008 internet essay on the message of the Megilla of Kohelet (this text is customarily read on the Shabbat of Cholo Shel Moed of Sukkot—see Shulchan Aruch, Orech Chayim 490:9 RaMA), “Happiness Is to Be Found in Being, Not in Having”, he notes that while the Sefer abounds with memorable verses, e.g.,

Kohelet 3:1

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

(This verse, along with many of the examples given in the continuation of chapter 3, was turned into a song by Pete Seeger in the 1950’s. The song became an international hit in 1965 when it was covered by The Byrds https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKP4cfU28vM)

Ibid. 9:11

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

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