The Shikkerdovid’s all time favorite pasuk is the taken from the Rebukes. (It should have been the name of a rock group in the early 60’s). The pasuk says: In the morning you shall say, give me the evening and the evening you shall say, give me the morning as the because of the fear in your heart. I believe the expression “being happy in the moment” is an outgrowth of this pasuk.
Rashi says this refers to growing fear and distress which will make you wish for earlier times. He quotes the Talmud in Sota. The mishna states “Rabbi Gamliel that says since the destruction of the Temple there is no day without a curse.” The Talmud interprets this to mean that every day will feel progressively worse.
The SD would like to weigh in. There are people in the world that despite all the gifts, pleasures, and benefits they have are never happy. Whatever they have, wherever they are, whatever they are doing.. they simply want something else. They cannot be happy “in them moment”. As this pasuk infers, in the morning these people think they will be happier in the evening.
The curse is that despite all you have, you cannot appreciate it or enjoy it. Wherever you are, or whatever time it is, you long for something else. As Rabban Gamliel says in the Mishna, since the destruction of the Temple, there is no day without a curse means that without a spiritual center or nexus, we can never be fully satisfied, understand or appreciate the gifts gd gave us.
The ultimate curse to humanity is never being happy or satisifed “in the moment.”
Parsha Ki Tetzi opens with, when you go to your war with your enemy and you see a beautiful captive woman, and you desire her and you take her. You bring her to your house, cut her nails, have her cry for her mother and father. After a month, you can take her.
The Ramban asks the Jewish question: “What if she is ugly”. The Ramban says the key is that you have to desire her. In your eyes. Even further, he notes that you cannot take her for your father or brother. She is yours if you desire her.
How strange. Does this not contradict all tenets of the Torah. The tenet of virtue, morality, not taking advantage, overcoming your inclination?
The SD would like to comment. Whether or not she is pretty. YOU desire her. If you truly desire her, Torah gives you a process to manage your desires. But it has to be yours, you cannot cheapen her life by passing her on to someone else. In essence, the Torah recognizes the baser part of our humanity. We love and want what we want, pretty or not. We want it. The Torah, gives us a mechanism to control it and reign it in.
As Jews we sometimes think that we “own” Hashem. That we are his chosen people and that somehow he values us higher than others. This always bothered the SD. Since Hashem runs and rules the world, he also controls , rules and watches over the Hindus sitting along the Ganges, the buddhist in the cold of the Himayalas and the Italians eating great pasta along the canal of Venice.
Eruvin 19a tells us that Gehinnom (hell) has seven names. Gehinnom itself is the the “low place” where people who fall because of the weaknesses. The Talmud tells of three opening or places to enter Gehinnom. One place is in Jerusalem, another is in the ocean and another in the desert. The Talmud then asks, What about Gan Eden? Where are the places to enter Gan Eden. The Talmud answers that there are three places. 1. Beit Shaan in Israel 2. Arvavia 3. Between the 2 rivers (Euphrates)
The SD would like to use this as a proof that all people, regardless if they put on Tfillin, eat cholent, sit in a succa have a connection to Hashem. The world has multiple openings to Gan Eden, the same way there are multiple entering to Gehinnom.
Hashem rules all creatures.. whether they eat cholent or not.
Sometimes you get the feeling that the Talmud has something on its mind it wants to explore. Page 152 of Shabbos is about old age and references from Ecclesiates and Rabbinic statements about aging. Near the bottom of the page, Reb Yitzchak quotes Ecclesiatsts which states: ” All things in childhood are and youth are vanity” According to Reb Yitzchak it means the “things he does in his youth blacken his face”
This immediately reminded me of all the rock stars from 50-60 years ago. In their youth they were sleek, muscular, with flowing hair and great complexions. Think of Mick Jagger, James Taylor and the list goes on. These guys lived hard. They played hard. Think of all the drugs, late nights, wild parties. But when we see them now…. its a little scary. The faces are sunken, ashen or bloated and disfigured. The Rabbis must have been to a Dead Concert of the Talmudic times when they composed this page.
The Talmud has a discussion whether one can wrap or wear felt to bring out of the house into a public area. Rav allows and Shmuel prohibits. The Talmud then retracts that attribution that Rav prohibited. The Talmud brings a story that Rav was in a town and was about to give a class outside and they brought him a felt pad to sit on. He refused the pad and everyone assumed it was because he did not permit carrying a felt pad into a public domain. His answer is precious: Rav did not sit because two other Rabbis- Rav Kahana and Rav Assi were present and they did not sit. Out of respect for them he did not sit on the felt pad.
What a beautiful story. The beautiful part is that halacha was a springboard to demonstrate a concept of respect, admirations and sensitivity. All things which are the whole point of halacha to being with.
Parsha Devarim starts in the first sentence with veiled criticism of the past behavior of Israel mentioning the places where they failed. Rashi says he places mentioned are references to the sins such as the golden calf, the sin of bal peor etc.
R. Mordechai Yosef Leiner-the Ishbitzher Rav who was made famous by the teachings of Shlomo Carlebach turns this on its head. The Isbitzer remarks on the sentence: ‘the Arava plains, opposite Suf”
The locations are mentioned, not the sin is because the text is telling you that the sins were avoidable. By connecting the place to the sin, the reader should understand that the people of israel could not avoid the sin, as there was nowhere else to go.
This is classic antinomian thought(against Torah law). Free will is a pillar of Jewish thought. Free will makes us empowered as humans. Frankly, The SD always thought free will on the part of a human was presumptuous and arrogant.
People like to think we have free will, the will to avoid mistakes or bad behavior. This idea by the Izbitzer turns it on its head. By referencing “the place”, rather than the sin, the Torah is telling you that on your journey in life, mistakes, sins and failures are inevitable.
Parsha Matos begins with the laws of taking vows and oaths. The Bal Haturim (13 century rabbi from Cologne) says “nedarim” is the gematria or numerical equivalent of murderer (rotzach)because one who vows and does not pay , the sin leads to dead children. This is wild, heavy and where did Bal Haturim get this? He quotes Talmud Shabbos page 32b
If one looks at Shabbos 32b there is another opinion just before this stated idea of unpaid vows lead to dead children. The previous opinion says unpaid vows leads to ones wife dying.
The question is why did the Bal Haturim quote the dead children and not the dead wife in explaining that the gematria of Nedarim is murdere? Why pick comparing failing to make good on vows to dead children and not spouse. The SD would like to weigh.
Every parent will tell you that the thing they love most in the world is their children. They love them unconditionally, without question. We would do anything for a child. A spouse… well… not so much. We are more likely to let down a spouse than a child. Children are our first and last love. We do anything and everything for our children. Nothing is ever enough for a child.
The Bal Haturim is telling you that you should treat those charities or people that you promise assistance with the same concern and sense of responsibility that you have for your children. Your charity or gift should be as precious to you and as heavy on your soul as concern for your children. The same way you would not let down your child or neglect your child is the same way you should view your commitments. The same commitment you have to your children is the same commitment to charity and giving. We love our spouse, but we would do anything for our children.
This parsha lists all the sacrifices starting with the daily ones, then Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and the holiday. When it comes to Shabbos the Ramban says something cryptic (at least it is vague to me). Ramban notes that the “musaf” or additional sacrifice on the shabbos is different than other musafs like Rosh chodesh that includes a “chatas” or sin offering. He says no chatas in musaf offering. Ramban says that the “congregation of israel” is like the spouse and all is Shalom.
The SD showed this Ramban to a friend who suggested that on Shabbos the relationship of Israel and hashem is so close that a Chatas-sin offering would “ruin the mood.” The SD think this is correct. The whole point of offerings is to get close to Hashem-like one would in any relationship. Sometimes relationships need correction and work. Sometimes, they just need love and closeness.
Shabbos page 118 is the gastronomic guide to Shabbos. Tucked into this daf on what to eat on Shabbos is a strange statement from R. Yose. R. Yose says, I want to be among those who say a full Hallel every day. The Talmud questions this and says, Really, but that is for blasphemers. the Talmud corrects him and says only a few verses we call p’seuka d’zimra are appropriate. Rashi comments those people who do it every day, are just singing songs not in the appropriate time.
When the SD read this, he saw it slightly differently. We only says full or big hallel on a few occasions, holidays, chanuka. It is rare. It is like life. How often are we incredibly happy, so spiritually uplifted, so on such a spiritual high? Probably not that often. Hopefully we are usually in a state of quiet happiness, contentment, peace and tranquility. But not the high, high, high of winning the lottery, marrying the girl (or boy) of our dreams, etc. So most days the p’seuka d’zimra is appropriate. It expresses our level of happiness and contentment. Once in a while we fly high. The Talmud is telling us that life is alot of good things, nice things and once in a while, big things. It is unrealistic to be flying high everyday. It recognizes that we will have great days, good days and not such good days. Those who sing hallel, like rashi says, are just “singing” a song and not expressing a real sentiment.
Conventional wisdom is that Korach was motivated by the jealousy of Moses and Aron; that Korach was rebellious and looking to take power. In Chapter 16 verse 19 we are told that “the congregation and korach gathered in front of the opening of the Miskhan and the Cloud appeared in front of all the congregation.”
Rashi says on this, the night before korach made rounds to all the tribes inciting them and telling them, it is not for me I am doing this, but for all of us, the king and his brother the Kohan” . This sounds like jealousy cloaked in populist rhetoric.
Ramban says something nuanced. Ramban says originally the first born were to serve and even more so, originally all or Israel was allowed to build private altars for sacrifice, but then Aron was chosen to do the holy work in a mishkan and Korach argues on behalf of the first born. Furthermore, it should be returned to all of Israel because all of the congregation of Israel is holy. This is the populist stance. We are all holy and can worship and lead our own spiritual lives without the rabbinic leaders. We can be our own priests.
Hashem delivers the verdict and swallows up the korach and the congregation. However, one must admit that Ramban’s interpretation of Korach’s position is tempting. We are all holy, we can all serve hashem in our own way, without the centrality of the mishkan and without the authority of the rabbis. It is tempting but not realistic.
A successful society requires Indian Chiefs and foot soldiers. An organized society requires wise and benevolent leadership- but it does require leaders. Korach’s populism was at best delusional and at worst evil. As Rabbi Schwartz of OZ said. Korach’s populism leads to Venezuela, lawlessness and violence.