Shemini 5772 – Gilayon #745
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And it came to pass on the eighth day, that Moses
called Aaron and his sons, and the elders of
'Take thee a bull-calf for a sin-offering, and a ram for a burnt-offering,
without blemish, and offer them before the LORD.
R. Shmuel bar Nachman said: For an entire seven days while at the
burning bush God was trying to convince Moshe to accept the mission and go to
Egypt, as is written: '…And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am
not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken' adding up to six
days, and on the seventh day Moshe acquiesced in saying', O my Lord, send, I
pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt
The Lord responded: I swear that one day I shall clip your wings. When
did He redeem this pledge? R. Levi said: For seven days in the month of Adar
Moses was imploring God that he be allowed to enter the Land of Israel, and on
the seventh day God said: 'You shall not cross the Jordan!' R. Helbo said: All
the seven days of investiture Moshe served as the High Priest, assuming that it
was granted to him. On the seventh day God said: 'It has not been awarded to
you, but rather to Aaron! As it is written: 'And it was on the eighth day, that
Moshe addressed Aaron and his sons…'
(Yalkut Shimoni Leviticus 9, Remez 520)
Our hope is not lost
Dedicated to the memory of my
father Dr. Nahum Weissman Z'L
Who died on the seventh day
of Passover 5753
The northern American Jewish culture has a
familiar joke based on the idea that all holidays in
sentences: "They tried to destroy us", "Saved," "Let's
eat." Maybe it's funny, but it is not true: except for the Sabbath, of the
eight central holidays – Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret,
Hanukkah, Purim, Passover, Shavuot – only three of them fit this pattern-Hanukkah,
Purim and Passover. And these three holidays are more rich and complex than is
implied in the joke.
One can advance several hypotheses to explain
the deep imprint left by these three holidays on the Jewish imagination. First,
in Jewish schools in the Diaspora, in the northern hemisphere (in which reside
the vast majority of world Jewry), the first four apply to holidays that fall at
the very beginning of the school year. Educational teams are not able to deal
with them significantly. Shavuot occurs on the other end of the school year and
sometimes gets lost. The other three take place during the year and teachers
have enough time to develop them.
But beyond that, Hanukkah is "lucky"
to fall close to Christmas, and Passover, coincides with the Easter holiday. Jewish
communities are seeking ways to compensate their children that they do not
become part of the majority culture in their countries. Sometimes they
exaggerate in this attempt, by emphasizing holidays that are – excepting Passover
– really minor in our tradition or at least in halachah.
In our current framework, we shall focus on Passover.
Passover possesses a variety of historical, theological, and social content. One
important aspect is that Passover is a holiday of hope. We will explore the
nature of the human phenomenon of hope. We hope at times because of reality, but
in other times, in spite of reality. A philosopher bearing the name Daoanhaoar,
once said that 'hope is connected to memory. If the memory is showing us the
best interests of and the beneficiary of the present is not as in the past, then
for the good and for the beneficiary, the future of at least one of them may change'.
Strategies to foster hope
Sometimes people need concrete evidence that
their hopes have a basis. The best example of this is the Sabbath, as a kind of
afterlife. Without the weekly celebration of the Sabbath, I think, it was very
difficult for Jews to keep faith in a better world during two thousand years of
exile. So every now and then, a taste of what could be the future, is one
strategy in fostering hope.
Another way is to re-experience past events. In
our holidays of the Jewish calendar time is experienced as a spiral – a closed
circle that aims to the top. Past events are not only mentioned but re-experienced
with a current message and one for tomorrow. As it says in the Haggadah, based
on the Mishna, "In every generation one must see himself as if he came out
You can apply the same idea to other holidays; every generation one must see
itself as if he wandered in the wilderness, he received the Torah, or Heaven
forbid, he experienced the destruction of the
has expressed this idea: we say, "we survived Pharaoh, we will survive
that." Memory and a historical perspective may offer an approach based on
hope. In the end, what gives us hope
is the belief we are not alone. During the difficult period of the second
intifada, I enjoyed a good relationship with the Lutheran bishop of
Yonen. Munib, a Palestinian, is today the head of the World Lutherans. When I
fell into depression or even despair, Munib was reminding me: "As long as
you believe in a Living God, you must hope".
Rabbi Irving Greenberg, an acquaintance of
issued in 1988 an important book on the Jewish calendar and the meaning of the
holidays. Luckily, this book was translated into Hebrew and recently published.1
Here is a quotation:
He says: "The vast majority of humanity on earth, today and the past, lives
in poverty and under oppression, their lives are fraught with disease and
suffering … most of the nameless and faceless billions are only familiar with
a world that is indifferent or hostile. Statistically, the value of human life
is very low. The oppressed and the poor accept their lot and see it as fate; the
powerful and successful receive the good fortune as if they deserve it. Seemingly,
it is power, and not justice, that prevails.
The Jewish religion says otherwise: Judaism
insists that history and economic-social reality in which mankind lives shall
in the end achieve perfection; much of what is currently accepted as a norm of
subsistence is a deviation from the final reality. How do we know this? Because
of an actual case history, the Exodus … The emancipation of the slaves testified
that humans are designed to be free."
So the Passover celebration is not only a remembrance
of a historic event, notwithstanding its importance. It is also an active
expression of hope for the a future that is different and better.
Connection with Independence Day
Many of us are familiar with the parallel
between the holiday of Passover and the other holidays.
The first day of Passover will fall on the same weekday as the
ninth of Av.
The second day of Passover will fall on the same weekday as Shavuot.
The third day of Passover will fall on the same day as
The fourth day will fall on the same day as Simchat
The fifth day will fall on the same day as Yom
The sixth day will fall on the same day as Purim.
Beyond the parallels of days of the week, there
are sometimes other relations between the holidays mentioned. Most notable is
the relationship between the first day of Passover and Tisha B'Av – one
familiar lamentation on Tisha B'Av contrasts "I left
no holiday corresponding to the seventh day of Passover, until the twentieth
century in which one could add to the above list that the seventh day of
Passover corresponds to the holiday of Independence Day. (This is true only when
we celebrate Independence Day on Iyar 5, and not before).
I once heard an interesting comparison
between Passover and Independence Day. On the Seventh day of Passover, we mark
the crossing of the
the courage to jump into the water before the sea was divided. In 1948, it took
courage to declare a state and embark upon "Operatio Nachshon" in the
War of Independence.
The NGO Neemanei Torah veAvodah publishes a
series of educational booklets, both fascinating and important. One by Rabbi
Haim Navon of Modiin, presents the State of Israel not as 'the Beginning of the
Redemption', but as 'the Beginning of Hope'. Zionism can be seen as the implementation
of the traditional messianic hope of human agency and the acceptance of responsibility
by the active Jewish person for his fate and the fate of his people Psalm 27, verse
14 says: "Hope in the LORD; be strong, and let thy heart take courage; yea,
hope thou for the LORD. In various translations of the Bible, the Hebrew word "kaveh"
is translated sometimes as 'wait'. Does' hope' in this context mean to wait
passively, or does it imply taking our destiny in our hands and become active in
our history? Many quills were spent over this ideological difference.
I do not now want to begin an argument about
our national anthem, and whether it is suitable for our Arab citizens. In writing:
"Our hope is not lost, the poet Naphtali Herz Imber based his poem on the
verse from Ezekiel 37, 11, "…our bones have become dry and our hope is
lost …" "May the State of Israel, with all its flaws and problems, serve
as the basis of our hope for a better future.
. The Hebrew edition is called "The Jewish Way: Life
and History in the Cycle of the Holidays". The publisher is Rubin Mass,
The citation is from page 35. I thank my niece Michal Ross for her help in providing
Deborah Weissman, one of the founders of Kehilat Yedidya, serves as president
of the International Council of Christians and Jews
Emancipation of the slaves frees the masters"When
went out of
is the text saying "happy were the Egyptians when they left
(Ps. 105, 35)
Said R.Berachiah: An overweight man was riding on a donkey – He says: When
will I get off the donkey and the donkey says: When will he get off me, it's
time for him to come down and I do not know who is happier. Since King David
had seen how happy they were to be out of
he began to sing a praise: 'When
(Midrash Tehilim 114)
God is not pleased with the defeat of the wicked, often differing with
people and the ministering angels
And say "thank God that His love endures forever." Rabbi
Yohanan said: why did he not say "for He is good" in this prayer of
thanksgiving? To teach us that God is not pleased with the defeat of the wicked,
Similarly, Shmuel bar Nachman said in the name of Jonathan: It is written "and
they did not approach each other all night" – the angels asked of God to sing.
God said: My creations are drowning in the sea and you wish to sing before
Me! Yossi bar Hanina said: He does not rejoice but causes others to rejoice,
as is written "thus He will make rejoice" and it is not written "He
Shimoni Chronicles 2, Chapt. 20)
He does not rejoice etc.
The explanation is that when things are perfect there is joy and He
desired their creation because He is the Prime Cause. When the world was
created it is written: 'God will take pleasure in His Creations', because God
desires his deeds. Therefore, how can He rejoice at their loss? As is written:
My creations are drowning in the sea and you wish to sing before Me! Consequently,
He is not happy but causes others to rejoice because the wicked cause them
anguish and in their defeat, there is justification for others to rejoice.
Skipping two paragraphs of Hallel – On the seventh day of Passover the Egyptians were drowned, God said "My
creations are drowning in the sea and you wish to sing before Me! Consequently,
since the complete hallel is not recited on the Seventh Day of Passover, it is
not recited on the Intermediate Days. Also, so that the Intermediate Days
should not be superior to the Seventh Day, when the complete hallel is not
(Mishna Brurah Siman 490, paragraph 7)
Between the Holocaust, Memory and
Reflections on Current Affairs
These days of the "Counting
of the Omer", between Pesach and Shavuot, are mentioned in the Talmudic
tradition as days of divine punishment, in which we adopt some customs of mourning
in memory of Rabbi Akiva's students who died in a plague, because they did not
show respect for each other. A later tradition, added to the prior calamities, in
memory of "holy communities who gave their lives for the sanctity of God".
The prayer '"Av Harachamim" was also recited on the Sabbath when the
New Moon was blessed. In the Holocaust. the extermination of a large part of European
Jewry took place during this period..
The original biblical
tradition sees in these days a period of spiritual elation, of joy and hope marked
by the commandment of the "Counting of the Omer". The days of
counting are also the days between Passover, which marks our liberation from
slavery to freedom and terminates with the giving of our Torah. The counting
represents the longing for completion of our physical liberty – by the
attainment of spiritual freedom ("you do not have a free man but a person
who engages in the Torah"), Therefore, we have here is a dialectical
tension between the original ancient tier of this period and the memory of the harsh
events that we commonly commemorate these days.
I think we faced with
this tension, also when we mark in one week Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the Remembrance
Day for the Fallen of Israel, followed by
This mixture of sadness
and joy is the mark of the most prominent characteristics of Jewish history and
is manifested in many customs: Ex. Eating an egg on the Seder night, in
commemoration of the destruction of the Temple, the, breaking of the glass by
the groom under the wedding canopy and also the expression "I will raise Jerusalem
to become my chief joy"" express faithfully the relative perspective
required , and as Maimonides comments about the commandment of Sukkah "let
us always remember the bad days during the good days"
This principle of a
balanced and complex view of events is one of the foundations of our Jewish
tradition, for there exists no sane way to deal with the ups and downs of our
personal, communal and national lives. If we surrender ourselves totally and
exclusively to the present and ignore the past, we deny ourselves the future
possibilities of change..
The terrible Holocaust that
engulfed the generation of our parents and grandparents was a critical turning
point in Jewish life and upon the lives of all humanity. Even the very need of
the assorted Holocaust deniers to blur various facts indicates the immense
difficulty inherent in dealing with this difficult and hideous memory.
Many Jews who were uprooted,
lost parents, spouses, siblings and children, and experiencing the cruel loss
of 'in the image of God' have lost their faith in a beneficent God and ask
themselves difficult questions.
On the public level, we
encounter two opposing reactions:
– On the one hand, there
is a tendency among some of our brethren who are disappointed with human
morality and with the nations of the world, leading them to justify any act
done on behalf of the Jewish people, because the Holocaust has taught us that
we must be strong and we can not trust anyone.
– On the other hand, the
Holocaust has developed in some of us a deep sense of empathy for human
suffering and when these people say "never again", they imply that
the Holocaust has taught us never to let any person abuse another person, nor
to allow any nation to maltreat another people.
The difficult and
complex proximity between the days of Remembrance of the Holocaust and of the
fallen in our wars and Independence Day, may require us to find a balance
between our deep solidarity with our Jewish destiny and the difficult challenge
of creating a just and moral society that respects each human life "created
in His image" and then' proclaim you the city of justice, the faithful
Pinchas Leiser – Editor
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