Vayeschanan: Chapter 4 verse 19: Hashem is Universal: How We Worship Differs

The Shikkerdovid always wondered about the righteus Buddist, the charitable Christian, the ethical Muslim.   SD alway felt on a viceral level that Hashem gave each group of people a method of worship.   We eat latkes on Hanuka, Italians eat Fish on Christmas, yet the values of ethics, piety and charity  and educaton are common.  The SD always looked for some basis of this idea.   The SD saw a potential glimpse of it in the verse ‘

“Lest you  lift your eyes to the heaven, see the sun, the moon and the starts, which the Lord your Gd assigned to all peoples under Heaven, and be drawn away to prostrate yourselves and worship them”

Initially, the SD read this pasuk as we are not allowed to do these acts, but for other peoples, the acts  are appropropriate and given by Hashem to other peoples as modes of Worship.

Rashi gives a glimmer of hope but quickly takes it away. Rashi says “to light or illuminate  them.” That sounds positive, but he then says,  Hashem does not prevent them from erring in their erronous ways.  ”

Rashi quotes the Talmud Avodah Zarah 55a  which gives a horrible story. A certain locale needs rain. The idol in a Temple comes to someone in a dream and tells them to slaughter a man.  A man is slaughtered.  The  Talmud cites the above pasuk which indicates that this is folly and Hashem provided the rain to remove or remove them from the world.

The SD does not really understand this.  Someone has a dream and based on that dream a man is slaughtered.  Clearly this is not normal operating procedure. Clearly this is not the law, rather a desperate crazy person working outside  of normal behavior. The SD would like to make a distinction   The Talmud says, based on a dream they “slaughter an man”. It does not say they “slaughter a man to the sun, the stars or the moon.” or pursuant to normal   customary practice, the sun gd the rain gd required it. It is a dream that inspires this crazy act.

The SD would like to concentrate on the beginning of the Rashi. Hashem gave the sun and moon to illuminate the people. He gave them the sun for them to worship in their way.  If some go a little crazy, if some have crazy dreams and act on it, that is not dispositive of all.  The SD would like to hope that you could read the Rashi in two parts.  The first part is the normal, regular, good, pious people. They worship the sun and derive inspiration to act justly.  The second half of the Rashi are those who dont really have belief. They act out of desperation.  They act irrationally based upon irrational dreams. Their act is to satiate their own needs. Not serve Hashem.

Therefore, when we see the rightious Baptist, Lutheran, Hindu, Buddist and Muslim we can say: we all worship Hashem. Just in different ways.

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Temura 16: The Talmud Really Gets Human Nature

The daf 16 of Temura has a fascinating Aggaita (story, homily or parable) It speaks about how laws, legalisic logic, strignencies or halachic concetps were forgotten during the death of Moshe.  It mentions someone who helped  find them: Othniel ben kenaz. We are told that he is the y0unger brother of Caleb and most interesting he is married to” Achsa .”

The Talmud is almost fishing or baiting to tell you this. It immediately asks why the name “Achsa”. . The Talmud responds to itw own quesstion by telling you that “Achsa” is similiar to the worad “caas” or anger. Why anger? This is the great punch-line of the Tamud:  Because she was so beautiful that all men would get angry at their own wives for not being so pretty as” Ochsa”

Really? Could her real name be “Ochsa” or more probably this was her nickname or as she was colloqually called in summer camp, seminary, or college days (to use our modern terms)  .

But what is the Talmud really teaching. The SD would like to weight in. It is teaching a lesson in humanity,  human fraility. We all love a pretty face. We are all human. We all have petty jealousies,  desires, fantasies. We are human.  It is funny to think that around the world today, in the most religious and holy houses of study, we are learning that a pretty face can spark such human emotion as being “angry” at your own wife.  Of course we arent “angry” that our wives are not as pretty as “Achsa” But it nice to know that th Talmud recognizes the human fraility within us.

Maybe the lessson is recognize your are human. But strive to be better at being human.

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Temura 14: Psalms 119 : A Time to Do for Gd

Temura 14 is a dry, esoteric discussion of personal sacrifices, communal sacrifices and temura.  All of a sudden, there is a disruption  of this discussion and the Talmud states that it is forbidden to write down the Torah Shel Baal Peh or the Oral Law/Tradition.  This is the Mishna.  A discussion ensues about the nature of this prohibition . The  Talmud rebuts this thought that it is prohibited  with a story  or R. Yochanan and Resh Lakish sitting and reading a book about “Aggadita”. How can that be if it is prohibited to write down the oral tradition.  The answer is taken from Psalms 119: There is a time to act for Gd.

“A time to act for Gd “according to Rashi in order to make a holy act, one must set aside a precept of the Torah.   How strange. No definition, no perameter . According to this cryptic Rashi, only to do a “kiddush Hashem”.   This phrase is called on by early hasidic thinkers like the Ishbitz and most recently Shlomo Carlebach.   But where are the boundaries? Where are the peramters?  Is it so narrow as the Talmud states, that one may write down the law in order to preserve the law as  the above story suggests.

THe SD would like to got back to an old idea.  Everyone has their own yardstick with Hashem.   The Torah might be absolute, but its implementation on a personal basis varies with each person and maybe with each moment in their life. No one person can fulfill all the mitzot. No one wants to fulfill all the mitzvot. Who wants to do the mitzva of giving a get? Who to do Yebum?

Each person has their own “time to act for Gd”. Hopefully we will get it right.

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Effectivenes: Temura daf 4-5-6

The Torah has a strange law called Temura in Leviticus 27:33. It says that one should not transfer  or exchange the holiness  animal to be offered with another animal. If does this then both animals are deemed holy.

The Talmud uses this as a springboard for a psychologically fascinating argument between Abaye and Rava. Abaya says that if one does an act in violation of the Torah, it is effective and the act stands. Rava says no, the act is not effective and has no significance.  The Talmud then cites 14 different scenarios.

The most interesting example  is the following: One is obligated to give Teruma (portion of crop or produce give to a kohan) from the best of his produce. If one gives from an inferior segment of his produce is his terumah effective?  The argument goes Abaye says yes, his teruma is effective. Rava says no. Nothing accomplished.

Cleary we all know that our actions have consequences.  But do we get a “do over” in life. Do we miss out if we mess up.  In golf terms do we get to take “a mulligan”  Are we stuck with what we did.

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Arachin 15: ___________________

Today , Arachin15- the person who gave the daf yomi looked at the group and said. Gentlemen today is the core learning about the evils of loshon hora. The daf goes on to describe how horrible and evil the speaking of other is.   Arachin 15 says something startling. This sin “supercharges” or aggravates our other sins.   It magnifies other sins.

From now on…. I have nothing to say….hopefully.

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Arachin 12: The Titanic Sank, but Band played on

Arachin 12 deals with the singing  in the Temple by the Leveim. The page relates that when the temple was being destroyed the Leveim continued to sing right throught the actual destruction. There is a question as to what they were singing. Was it the daily psalm or a dirge?

The Shikkerdovid thought have crazy it must have been. Mayhem, destruction, killing, blood, but they kept singing.   Titanic comes to mind… or does it.

The SD would like to suggest a different concept.  On June 6, 1944 the British and Irish troops took to shore in Normandy on the coast of  France.  As they attacked, many died, but they were accompanied by Irish bag pipes. Apparently it was an old tradition of one of the regiments that attacked the beaches to go into battle with bagpipes playing.  This is a story  heroism…similiar to the Leveim.   The Leveim trusted in GD.  It is really a story of bravery and trust.  May we all have such emuna and trust in hashem that all will be well… and keep singing.

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Bechoros 39: Unseen Blemishes

The daf yomi is learning about Bechoros or the law of the first born animal which you give to a kohan.  The exception is when an animal has a blemish, imperfection or abnormality. You an keep it rather than give it to a khan. Page 39 deals with the specifics of imperfections.  The question arises if the gums are not straight or the teeth are not correct.   The discussion centers around whether an imperfection which is not visible will disqualify the animal as a bechor or appropriate for the altar. The Talmud raises an argument: are blemishes which are not visible disqualifying.

Rabbi Schwartz (OZ beloved Rabbi) explained that RAMBAM holds that unseen blemishes do not invalidate.   The joke is that “looks matter” even in the Temple.  This raises a fundamental questions: How is it ok  to offer an imperfect animal? Just because you can’t easily see the imperfection, nevertheless, you know it is not perfect.  Despite its imperfection, it is accepable for the altar.

While the SD was running this morning he thought about this.  Here is what came out of the mental meandering.   Maybe this is far fetched or a long shot but this is how the SD sees the issue. Gd really does not care about sacrifices. He does not care whether the gums or teeth or ok.  The sacrifices are for us. The sacrifices somehow help us. If there is a hidden blemish, it really doesn’t matter to Gd. It is really the intent or heart.  If there is something visible for us to see or others to see, that invalidates because it goes to our perceptions and  view of the mitzvah and sacrifice.

To extend this idea…. all of ritual is for us. Prayer, kiddush, tfillin, is for us. Hashem does not need our prayers, our kiddush. We need these events or activities to elevate us. Hashem needs us to be kind, generous, merciful. Somehow the rituals help us reach the level to do what Hashem really wants.   The SD would hope that our small inner blemishes are ok to Hashem as long as we demonstrate visible signs of goodness to others.  Maybe.. this is how we understand the unseen acceptable blemishes.

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