Shemini 5772 – Gilayon #745


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Parshat Shmini

And it came to pass on the eighth day, that Moses

called Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel; and he said unto Aaron:

'Take thee a bull-calf for a sin-offering, and a ram for a burnt-offering,

without blemish, and offer them before the LORD.

(Leviticus 9,1-2)

 

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

send.'

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

Deborah Weissman

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 Israel can be summarized in three

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

of Egypt."

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 Temple. Even our contemporary Israeli culture

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 Jerusalem, Dr. Munib

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

ours from New York

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

Rosh Hashana.

The fourth day will fall on the same day as Simchat

Torah.

The fifth day will fall on the same day as Yom

HaKippurim.

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 Egypt "with "I left Jerusalem." But for many years there was

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 Red Sea. The children of Israel displayed

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.

[1]. The Hebrew edition is called "The Jewish Way: Life

and History in the Cycle of the Holidays". The publisher is Rubin Mass, Jerusalem and the date is 5771

The citation is from page 35. I thank my niece Michal Ross for her help in providing

the quotation.

Dr.

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 Israel

went out of Egypt": This

is the text saying "happy were the Egyptians when they left Egypt"

(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 Egypt,

he began to sing a praise: 'When Israel

departed Egypt.'

(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

will rejoice".

(Yalkut

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

recited.

(Mishna Brurah Siman 490, paragraph 7)

 

Between the Holocaust, Memory and

to Independence

 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 Israel's Independence Day.

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

city'.

Pinchas Leiser – Editor

 

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