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 2nd Learnings: 'the Contradiction and the Oneness'

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daniel eliezer

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PostSubject: 2nd Learnings: 'the Contradiction and the Oneness'   Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:43 am

For those who have difficulty with the transliterated Hebrew and don't have access to Jewish libraries, most transliterated Hebrew can probably be found through Google. If the word is critical to what I'm saying, then it is explained.
* * *
“the Contradiction and the Oneness”
Let’s give blessings that all of us had at least some taste of Geulah, of Redemption, during Pesach, even if it was solely redemptive insights or moments. And if it was more and was greater then we’re even more blessed.

In our last teaching before Pesach, we reached the point of speaking about ‘the Contradiction and the Oneness’, and in doing so we’ve reached the opportunity to develop more greatly how we understand and comprehend ‘Kedushah – Sanctity’. Since we’re still studying in Sefer VaYikra’, it’s certainly possible to continue within the topic of “There’s a question we must ask ourselves…,” nevertheless understanding and comprehending ‘the Contradiction and the Oneness’ as much as we are capable is essential to understanding ‘Kedushah – Sanctity’. Because this is true, we’ll continue what we’ve been learning in this new topic “the Contradiction and the Oneness”.

Important to us is that our weekly Torah reading has reached the portion of ‘Sh’mini’, which means that it’s probably even imperative that we speak about ‘the Contradiction and the Oneness’. In simply reading ‘Sh’mini’, we see that it begins with completing the erecting, dedicating, sanctifying, and reaching full functionality of the Mishkhan – the Tabernacle. Despite our realizing that we honestly don’t understand what Moshe Rabbainu and Aharon the High Priest are actually doing, we nevertheless do know that what they are doing is what we’ve been learning about since the middle of Sefer Shemot, where instruction for the ‘Mishkhan’ begins. Because the Torah gives us so much preparation for the Mishkhan, the preparation in itself means there’s order and reason and purpose in what Moshe and Aharon are doing.

Where we don’t recognize that there’s order and reason and purpose is in what two of Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, do. After Moshe and Aharon complete all their responsibilities, Nadav and Avihu spontaneously and from out of nowhere, i.e. something that has not been commanded or they are not commanded to do it, take their [incense] censers, place burning coals inside, put incense on top, and approach the inner part of the Mishkhan. The result is that there’s a flash of holy fire and their souls are consumed. Nope, I don’t much understand any better than anyone else does, but it was…just as it was filled with order and reason and purpose!? Except their dying, of course – or, at least, seemingly so.

So that we all can be in the same place on the same page, the moment when Nadav and Avihu take action, i.e. the completion of the dedication and sanctification of the Mishkhan, this moment is perhaps even greater than Mt. Sinai and receiving the Torah. Once the Mishkhan is entirely completed and dedicated and sanctified, it’s then that the Divine Presence will have residence and will reside among us. Instead of having to traverse wilderness in order to climb mountains to reach and be close, we’re honored that now the closeness we desire is amongst and between us. The question for us is how to make this actually happen…

…for this ‘closeness’ is one of the explicit purposes of why we left Mitzraim in order to receive the Torah in which we learn about building the Mishkhan and how to dedicate, sanctify, and use it. And Moshe and Aharon, who are responsible for everything – from our leaving Mitzraim until and including the completion, dedication, sanctification, and using the Mishkhan – have now absolutely and totally completed everything that they had to and could do. In this being so that we’ve now reached completion, why, therefore, could it be that Nadav and Avihu needed to do what they did…and do it at the cost of their lives?

This is as confusing a portion of Torah as any, and the commentaries go every which way in attempting to unravel, understand, and comprehend it. The greatest mystery, perhaps, is that Moshe instantaneously turns to Aharon and says, “It’s what God said!, ‘Those who are the closest to me will Sanctify me, such that before the entire nation I will be honored,’ and Aharon was silent.”!? You’re right, I don’t understand it either, but there’s help from the commentator Rashi who explains that Moshe said to Aharon, “I thought that it would be either you or me who would be that person or persons. They [Nadav and Avihu] are greater than we are!”

Without knowing nothing yet simply from listening to Rashi explaining to us what Moshe says to Aharon, we learn, of all things, that it wasn’t ‘Moshe and Aharon’ who Sanctified such that God’s honor was revealed before the entire nation. It was ‘Nadav and Avihu’ who did - in whatever and in however way they did do it! But their doing so came with a price.

If we remember, two postings ago I shared a story about the [burial] Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron and two boys who asked me, “where’s the entrance to Gan Eden?” - as if Gan Eden is a door you can just walk through from this moment to the next. Other than at the cost of your life, such as forfeiting your life to save another or others or to Sanctify God, it just can’t be done…at least by those like us. However, because Gan Eden is not the absence of life but the ‘Source of Life’(we all understand it's where we’re only in Divine reality), obviously, then, there has to be some possibility of our being able to have some genuinely exceptionable closeness to the Divine.

Which is what Moshe told Aharon. “They did what you and I weren’t capable of doing.” Meaning, “they were even closer than you and I are.” Closer than Moshe and Aharon?! Do we even begin to think that we can fantasize that we can imagine what this means? Of course we can’t, but Nadav and Avihu were closer, and because they were it was they who Sanctified God and revealed God’s honor to the entire nation.

Even if we don’t – and really we even can’t – understand and comprehend exactly what they did do, we can accept it. What we can’t accept so readily is ‘that they died while doing it’. Had what Nadav and Avihu did been of the nature of self-sacrifice, where they were willingly sacrificing their lives (which is the nature of what Pinchas does later on in the portion of Pinchas in BaMidbar) we would have explanation and understanding, but they weren’t and it wasn’t necessary. To the contrary, they were convinced that they could do what they were doing and surely would live to tell about it – even though it was something that had not been commanded to be done or they had not been commanded to do it.

That they were capable of doing it, as we learn from Moshe’s words to Aharon, is the measure of who they are, while that they paid the supreme price is equally a measure of who they are. It’s ‘the Contradiction and the Oneness’. ‘The Oneness’: Our innate recognition of our exceedingly closeness to the Source of All Being, and ‘the Contradiction’: our inability to recognize the exacting scrupulousness with which we have to approach the Source of All Being.

God want’s our closeness…demands and needs our closeness…but our closeness to God has…in the most infinitesimal way…has to be uncontaminated from closeness to anything else. We have to be so close to God we’re God himself…except we’re not. The Contradiction and the Oneness.

Kedushah – Sanctity is learning the dance of being so Infinitely [*] close while being so Infinitely distant – of learning the dance of ‘the Contradiction and the Oneness’.

Before closing, in our last posting we mentioned, “…both the Tabernacle in the Midbar and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem were places of tremendous uplift, of genuine simcha (joy) and elevated consciousness and awareness. There were incredible amounts of music, abundant quantities of tantalizing fragrances, and an atmosphere approached and reached by no other.”

The ones who were most responsible for this were Moshe and Aharon, which comes from ‘who they are’ and from ‘what they wanted and needed to accomplish’. It is against this which is how we have to understand Aharon’s response to the deaths of his two sons, Nadav and Avihu, “…and Aharon was silent.”

As a human being…as a ‘father-with-grown-sons’ human being…instead of ‘silent’ I would have written ‘catatonic’, yet the Torah wrote “silent’. The Torah uses the word ‘דום’ for silent and not the normal words of ‘שקת’ or ‘חרישה’. It does so to indicate and emphasize that Aharon’s silence comes from another source.

As we’ve related, it’s from Moshe [Rabbainu’s] words to Aharon [HaKohan – the High Priest] that we learn there was no one greater, i.e. with a higher spiritual consciousness than Moshe and Aharon. However, when Moshe tells his brother Aharon, “your sons and my nephews are even more spiritually elevated than the two of us are,” Aharon understood that Nadav and Avihu are even closer to Oneness than he and Moshe are! Aharon’s silence wasn’t ‘catatonic reaction’, but indescribable awe that his owns sons could be and were so. It is ‘the Contradiction and the Oneness’ as seen, felt, and experienced by those who really and truly are so genuinely, genuinely close.

Shabbat Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer

[*] The word ‘Infinite[ly]’ is deliberately written with an uppercase ‘I’ to differentiate it from ‘infinite[ly]’ written with a lowercase ‘i’. When it’s written ‘infinite[ly]’ with a lowercase ‘i’, all that it means is an immeasurable quantity of finite[ness], which is what existence is. When it’s written ‘Infinite[ly]’ with an uppercase ‘I’, it’s speaking of the Infiniteness of the Source of All Being, the Divine dimension, if we wish to speak as such. When existence is ‘finite’ it’s not Divine; when it’s Infinite it’s always Divine – ‘the Contradiction and the Oneness’.




Last edited by daniel eliezer on Sun May 26, 2013 7:14 am; edited 1 time in total
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daniel eliezer

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PostSubject: Re: 2nd Learnings: 'the Contradiction and the Oneness'   Thu Apr 11, 2013 6:50 pm

For those who have difficulty with the transliterated Hebrew and who don't have access
to Jewish libraries, most transliterated Hebrew can probably be found through Google.
If the word is critical to what I'm saying, then it is explained.

* * *
The period of time from leaving Mitzraim, Pesach, until receiving the Torah, Shavuos, was a turbulent time for Am Yisrael. Every year when we return to this time of year, we again experience the turbulence, as we’ll see, because that’s how it is and we are. Just as it was for us then, so, too, is it for us now ‘the contradiction and the Oneness’.
* * *
“the gift of giving life”

There’s a saying that the last thing a fish in the bottom of the sea is most likely to discover is water, and obviously it’s talking about how we are oblivious to things that are essential to our existence. If it were speaking about man, about us, we could, quite honestly, replace ‘water’ with ‘speech’(i.e. the ability to speak) in order to describe our obliviousness.

This may seem to be a strange topic to be writi..um, speaking about, curiously, however, it’s directly related both to Sh’mini, the Torah portion we read last week, and to Tazria-M’tzora, the doubled Torah portions we’re reading this week. Since last week our focus was on the beginning of Sh’mini, we had no opportunity of continuing farther to the teachings about the animals, birds, fish, and insects that we’re permitted to eat and that we’re not permitted to eat. A subject that is in startling contrast to the beginning of Sh’mini, but we’ll leave this alone.

The portions of Tazria-M’tzora are concerned with things that cause us to cringe a little - ritual defilement, what in Hebrew is called ‘טומא’ – tumah. ‘טומא’ – tumah is a big problem for us because we’re supposed to be ‘טהור’ – tahor, ritually pure. But before getting into this, let’s look at the commentary of Rashi on the very first pasuk in Tazria. Rashi, quoting Rav Simlye, explains that Tazria is a direct continuation of Sh’mini, because “just as man’s creation comes after the creation of animals and birds fish and insects, so too does the Torah’s teaching of man come after the teaching of animals and birds fish and insects.” Very clear, no?

First, while we weren’t looking for it, we’ve nevertheless discovered another teaching that directly connects Sefer VaYikra to the very beginning of the Torah! But why is Rashi teaching us this? The plain answer is that because in Sh’imi we learn about which animals, birds, fish, and insects are impure and cause ritual defilement, consequently here in Tazria, which follows Sh’mini, we learn about what in man and how man causes (and spreads or perpetuates) ritual defilement. It makes sense, except for one thing. Since man is not on our menu or in our cuisine, Tazria must definitely be talking about other things than eating. This notwithstanding, what concerns us in both Sh’mini and Tazria-M’tzora is ‘טמאה וטהרה’ – ritual impurity and ritual purity and the causes for becoming ritually defiled. Definitely entrancing learning.

Because most of us who are reading these words come from the Western world, we’re familiar with religion in the form of prayer service, and said prayer service consists of hymns, prayers, and instructional teaching or addresses. The point, of course, is that ‘speech’ is essential to our religious life.

Going back to Sh’mini and what we learn about animals, birds, fish, and insects and their importance to us as food. These animals, birds, fish, and insects, who are lower on the ladder of creation than we are, are evaluated and classified as to whether they are permitted to be put into our mouths according to whether they sustain or whether they defile our ritual purity. In contemplating this, in Sh’mini we realize that we’re emphasizing that our connection to animals, birds, fish, and insects is through our mouths.

Given that with animals, birds, fish, and insects our ritual purity or impurity is determined by ‘what goes into our mouths’, i.e. what is ingested, then when it comes to evaluating and classifying in what and how man causes purity and impurity, it seems logical that we should determine this by 'what comes out of our mouths', right? It’s the other side of the coin or argument, because we already know about ‘what goes in’. Actually, all of us know this reasoning from when we were taught about “why kosher food?” and are told, “what goes into the mouth determines what comes out of the mouth.” Of course no one ever tells us that this is primarily learned from these Torah portions – Sh’mini and Tazria, and certainly not as we’re doing it - and we’re only beginning!

We should all be aware, though, that there’s something important we’re missing, well, actually, overlooking, because we all should have thought of it from what’s been given.

Returning to Rashi and Rav Simlye’s equating the creation of man to the creation of animals, birds fish, and insects, despite that we know this to be factually true, it’s insufficient. What we really need to know is “exactly what is it that differentiates and distinguishes man from, if not birds, fish, and insects, at least from animals with whom we, in one shape, form, or another, shares most features of our creation?” Setting aside ‘Divine Image’, the significant difference between us and the rest of the animal kingdom is our power of speech. Animals, birds, and even sea creatures do speak, however, as we know, we were created ‘to speak’ and ‘to use speech’ in a way that is unique within the animal kingdom.

The implication of this is that if the use of speech is that which uniquely distinguishes us and that which comes ‘out of the mouth’, these, alone, are reason why we would want ‘to protect the kind and quality of our speaking’, regardless of whether we know or don’t know why or how what’s eaten should affect speech. If cows aren’t placed in the bottom of the sea and fish aren’t placed in pastures, etc., then there has to be reason why each specie in creation eats what it eats, even if each specie’s eating only helps determine why it has been created and exists. E.g. violence in the animal kingdom occurs predominantly among the carnivores, while domestication belongs to herbivores. (Domestic violence, then, would pertain to those who are both, no?)

But there’s even more. In some ways it’s genuinely fascinating that it’s here in Sefer VaYikra, in the middle of the Torah, is where we begin to discuss speaking and speech. But if we recall, our opening lines reveal how speaking and speech are so much a part of us that mostly we don’t consciously think about them. But we should, we really, really should. As the Torah gives over to us, the entirety of Creation comes through speech – through God’s speaking, right. Any and every thing that’s in existence and has existence results from God’s turning His thoughts and thinking into words…into ‘speech’. None of us has to pretend that we know what this means nor how it is done, but it’s something we infidels can live with.

More greatly, after recounting the Six Days of Creation and the Seventh day, Shabbat, (all of thirty-four pasukim!?), the Torah then adds further description to our [man’s] creation. We’re taught, “God forms us from the dust of the earth and then He breathes life into us.” Our creation is not solely from words but becomes outright ‘hands-on’, except…except how then do we understand, ‘He breathes life into us’? Is it ‘hands-on’…or is it speech?

What concerns us at the moment is not asking the specific question of ‘what’s happening?’, but instead wanting to make the comparison to speech. In whatever is happening when ‘creating by speaking’ and in whatever is happening when ‘God breathes into us’, both speech and breathing ‘originate inside’ and ‘transfer outside’ in order to accomplish whatever they do. It’s an astounding comparison, and would that we could immerse ourselves in it. Fortunately, we all learned this part of the Torah when we read Sefer Bereshith, so we don’t need to do it again. (If we didn’t, please God, next year we will.)

Why we went here at all is in order for us to understand. Beyond the purpose of communication, which we share with all creatures who have some form of speech, “what is unique about our ability to speak?” As we discover through God’s creating and creating us [in His image], the essence of speech is content and substance that comes from the mouth. It creates…and it gives life!

With this we’ve learned what we need to know in order to be able to continue.

Let’s hope all of us know that from the first night following the Pesach Seder we begin an intriguing mitzvah, ‘S’firat haOmer, the counting of the Omer, where we count the 49 days (further broken down into 7 weeks of 7 days each) from Pesach to Shavuos. The 50th day, the Yom Tov of Shavuos, we don’t count. Why this is relevant to us here is that in the majority of years (reminder: the Lunar calendar is periodically adjusted in the spring) we read the Torah portions of Sh’mini, Tazria, and Matzora immediately after Pesach, just like we are doing now. It shouldn’t have been, but it was that the first 32 days of S’firat haOmer became a period of mourning for the 24, 000 students of Rabbi Akiva who died during this period of time ‘for not giving honor one to the other’. I mention this because it’s necessary to our learning in Sh’mini and Tazria-M’tzora and because I had reason to speak about it on this past Shabbat.

On layl Shabbat during dinner, one of my children made a very cutting comment to me, one without a grain of substance to it, but one in which we all could feel the venom. The source of the venom is the Jewish side of our family, and the target of the venom was the non-Jewish side of our family. (One of the unknowns in becoming a Ger is confronting the impressive quantity and quality of ‘baggage’ that, God forbid, Jews have accumulated during their long sojourn in Exile.) Just before Peach we spoke here about: “There is not a single human being who has not experienced - both as a victim and as a perpetrator - behavior that is potentially soul destroying or psyche destroying or physically destroying. We are not talking about malicious, destructive, vengeful, malevolent, psychopaths but about normal, rational, sane, educated, caring human beings.” So, in knowing this and in being knowledgeable enough to comprehend what had happened and the reasons why, allowed me to absorb the comment with only a minor response. Nothing, however, was capable of preventing feeling the poison from in what and in how it was said. It wasn’t the words, because they were pointless and stupid. It was the pure desire to be poisonous!?

This is not a situation one [a parent] needs to take personally, although admittedly it’s difficult not to. If it ever happens to anyone else, recognize that you’re looking directly at the ‘יצר הרע’ – the yetzer hara, the Evil inclination, totally exposed!? Are we ready for this? I wasn’t …but I was, although it wouldn’t be until Shabbos lunch that I had it under control.

Because my children learned in religious education, I could speak about things they know, opening their knowledge differently, as we’ve here done for ourselves, including for myself. But I also talked with them about my personal life, including my wife with me.

You children have to know that we grew up in a world that only knew how to tear apart. We were experts at insults and putdowns, denigration and disparagement. Criticism, ridicule, and verbal abuse began at home and were an open part of our daily life. Degree, timing, and place may have influenced by mitigating or exacerbating, but it was always present. I know these things also exist in your lives, but for you they aren’t the same as what we encountered and endured. It was while enduring these experiences that already as a child I promised myself, “my children and my family won’t have to undergo and endure what I underwent and endured,” and with God’s help I have prevented the negativity and denigration from being passed on. You children also have to know that while you were growing up there almost wasn’t a day when I didn’t have to struggle with this. It was such a part of my life and makeup that it has been one constant battle not to succumb to it. Even today, at the age of sixty-three, despite how much I have learned to control it and not let it control me I still feel it and I still have the need to be vigilante.

How I know that it’s different for you is this. There was one thing that was almost absolutely forbidden for us to do. This was to praise, to give credit, to admire, and to respect, particularly genuine praise, credit, admiration, and respect. You children are able to do these things, you’re able to give love and to give with love. Maybe not as much as is possible and maybe not every moment, but on the whole you, your lives, and your generation have much more positive images of and about yourselves. There really is love and greater love and genuine love between and among you. You aren’t complete, but your direction is healthy and good.

But you also have to know [here I taught them what I’ve said above] about God’s giving us the gift of speech. In creating and in creating us, the Holy One, Blessed be He, gave us a very precious gift. He gave us not simply the ability to create; He outright gave us the ability to give life. Every minute when we speak, we are capable of creating and building and giving life, but, God forbid, we’re also capable of destroying and taking life. We all know what it feels like to be cut apart by words. Shlomo Carlebach, of saintly and blessed memory, would say, “How can you enter [the most innermost part of a person to savage and destroy]…where God Himself fears to tread?!” It’s a very, very precious blessing that’s been given to us. I bless you to use it as we are meant to - to give life!

Returning to us now, we all know how easy it is for the world to make us ugly, often very, very ugly. If our starts in life and if their continuations are in a world that only makes us uglier and uglier, what hope is there…and where is it? Perhaps it’s this which will help us understand this week’s doubled Torah portions of Tazria and M’tzora. We want to understand why physical blemishes and disfiguring that appear on people who are healthy (yes!), and why for their afflictions they must go to the Kohanim, the Priests, in order to be evaluated and diagnosed and treated.

The modern medicine we know would and does ridicule this. “You’re sick? Go see a doctor!” They’re railing against witch-doctors but the Torah’s speaking about ‘which doctors’, because there are doctors and there are doctors. Not every affliction is treatable as a disease that needs medical treatment. We’ve learned previously Kohanim are doctors of the soul. They are deeply trained in understanding the human psyche and spirit. When a person appears before them with symptoms, simply from reading the Torah we see how the Kohanim evaluate what they see, releasing those whose symptoms are not leprous and don’t remove their ‘טהרה’ – ritual purity while declaring those whose symptoms mean ‘צרעת’ - leprosy them to be ‘טמא’ – ritually defiled and impure.

[An aside: ‘מצורע’ - M’tzora is a person who is afflicted with ‘צרעת’ – tza’ra’at, which is commonly translated as ‘leprosy’, but medically ‘leprous’ has more meanings than just the Hansen’s disease we know today.]

In our so-called ‘modern’ world, it’s easy to look askew at the problems of spiritual purity and impurity, yet there isn’t anyone today who isn’t aware of ‘psychosomatic disease and illness’ or ‘stress related disorders and illnesses’. It’s in this light that the Torah is teaching us that there are things in are spiritual [or religious] behavior that are capable of becoming visible in our physical person. Where does ‘glowing with joy’ and ‘a countenance as black as death’ come from if this weren’t true? We may be self-deceived masters of thinking that we can hide our own deficient behavior, but without doubt most of us are capable of discerning whose lives have more balance and upbeat to them and whose don’t. A healthy soul reflects itself in many ways, as does an unhealthy one.

Which is the purpose of the Kohanim: to discern who needs their attention more and who less, and they are acutely trained to know. And if we are honest with ourselves, as much as no one wants his or her faults and shortcomings and deficiencies being probed and uncovered and known, this doesn’t deny our wanting to get out from under the burden of them. Sadly, habit and cynicism, fear and mistrust all play there part in preventing us from seeking those and that which can help us. Still, the desire ‘to get rid of it/them’ never leaves us.

And well it shouldn’t, because Chazal (the Sages) teach us that ‘צרעת’ – tza’ra’at comes to us as response to our speaking ‘לשון הרע’ – lashon hara, slander. So that no one will misunderstand, slander is use of truth [not lies] to destroy an individual and his name, to assassinate his character and his person. Even though we can’t go into it now, I just want to give over something that I was taught by a very special Jew about the power of ‘לשון הרע’ – lashon hara, slander. There is absolutely no way to undo slander; there is no known remedy for it. The catastrophe of lashon hara is that we believe it unquestioningly. We absolutely have no defenses against it. Every one of us has had the experience of hearing something negative about an individual whom we never even knew existed, and then afterward we’ve met that person. Our pre-conception of this ‘new friend’ is a very powerful lesson in the destructiveness of slander.

The Kohanim, who are determining who is ritually pure and who is defiled, are involved with people whose [verbal] behavior is very precarious. That they declare these to be ritually pure doesn’t mean that they are unblemished. To the contrary, that they’re visiting with the Kohanim at all is coming to caution and warn them to rethink their lives before it’s too late. “Stop already! I tell you. Repent before it’s too late!” Well, maybe not quite like this, but the handwriting’s definitely on the wall without need to read between the lines.

And too late? - Too late means that someone has become so defiled, so impure that he is not even allowed to be in the presence of others who themselves are ‘טמא’ - ritually impure!? He is exiled from all the camps (loosely: within the entire encampment of Bnei Yisrael concentric circles demarcating different levels of purity) and he is totally isolated by himself - literally an outcast from society and companionship. Chazal explain, “Why is he different and his restrictions so severe? Because he himself tore apart husband from wife, tore apart friend from friend with his vile mouth in speaking ‘לשון הרע’ – lashon hara, slander. The affliction he has brought upon himself [of tearing others from society by making them repugnant] is to be torn completely from society.

Let it be understood thoroughly that the responsibility of the Kohanim is to restore him and return him to society. He has to change his life, even recreate himself, in order to become a productive participant of society again. As we know from our praying on Rosh HaShana and Yom HaKippur, God’s desire is, “כי לא תחפוץ במות המת, כי אם שובו מדרכו וחיה” – “[You (God)] don’t desire death, but returning from deviant paths and returning to living.” It’s what we call ‘teshuvah’ – ‘returning: returning to who you are and why you are’.

Is this true? Does it work?

Somewhere in my early postings here I spoke about from the inception of my turning toward becoming a Jew how I was conscious that a substantial part of my motivation was to turn my life around…what Xtianity calls repentance…but which in the course of time I learned is really ‘return’.

A few years ago from out of the blue my twin sister popped in on us from Washington State. Since grade school, where the policy was ‘to separate twins’, she and I have only grown apart, and today in that I’m the Ger and Jew who I am and she’s a JC devotee and wannabe missionary type it’s irrevocable. (The first of many things in how modern society drove me out and away - from it…but back to myself!?) I would describe her visit like this. She would be criticizing me and tearing me apart about this, that, or the other thing, when suddenly she’d stop and in astonishment exclaim, “There’s so much love here! I can’t believe it. There’s so much love!?” And then she’d pick up where she left off until the next burst.

I could live with it and do, because without intending to she was showing me what I had left and why (as I’ve recounted above), while at the same time showing me what I had done with my life and why. But that isn’t all of it.

The gift of speech we’ve been blessed with is really the gift of song. Just as the Holy and Compassionate One sang and laughed when He was creating, so, too, are we blessed to sing and laugh over and with and for Creation which we are and which we are blessed to be a part of. In every part and facet of our lives we are capable of bringing something into this world, of helping in deepening, widening, and elevating the Sanctity within Creation. When we create song and sing it, as we do so we are ‘giving Creation’ - bringing forth all the love and sweetness that the Holy One has given us.

Our ability and desire to do so is our gift from the Holy and Compassionate One. When He ‘breathed into us’ He was kissing us and filling us with all His Infinite Love for us and for all Creation and Created, wanting us to be like Him, to have his desire and love for all that is. Perhaps it’s here that we discover the very beginning of ‘the Contradiction and the Oneness’. Mortal, finite, imperfect creatures…fabricated by God’s hands…brought to life by His kisses - by His Infinite love and joy and laughter.

Just as he did in creating…giving over the most innermost parts of Himself, so, too, has He created us to do the same. He’s given us the gift to awaken and to bring out and to bring together. Two gifts in one: the gift of speech - the gift of ‘giving life’.

But what about our M’tzora – our leprous slanderer, the lowest kind of creature, one who’s disgusting deeds continue their repugnant work of destroying. What about him? It’s true that he can no longer reverse the damage he’s started on it’s way, but he’s still a part of us and he’s got more years to live and a family and others who do care about him. And like each and every one of us, the Holy and Compassionate One only wants him to return.

This is another side of ‘the Contradiction and the Oneness’. Looking at what he’s done, he’s the vilest of scum. Looking at ‘who he is’, it ain’t necessarily so. We judge, oh do we ever judge, but we’re not the true judge, not the one who knows all the facts and fictions, reasons and lies, rights and wrongs. We only see the Contradiction; we never see the Oneness when it comes to the likes of this. This is one of the reasons why teshuvah preceded Creation, teshuvah which is capable of taking us beyond where we are now, because only teshuvah is so capable of extricating us from where and how we have sunk ourselves so deeply into the quagmire of creation. It’s also why…

…whether momentarily or for whatever duration our lives have damage, even wreckage, and we’ve shrunken or are broken and less than ourselves, there are the Kohanim and the Leviim – the Priests and the Levites in the Tabernacle and Holy Temple, truly servants of God, there to bring us back, restore us, and set us on the road to recovery and healing…

…in the Tabernacle in the Midbar and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Holy places filled with Holy space of tremendous uplift, of genuine simcha (joy) and elevated consciousness and awareness. There were incredible amounts of music, abundant quantities of tantalizing fragrances, and an atmosphere approached and reached by no other…

…it was all meant for our neshamot, our souls, and the Kohanim and Leviim were literally soul doctors of the highest order. Their serving God was their serving us. It was their uplifting us…whether from depths of brokenness or merely from mind-numbing hum-drummery of life…to bring and to elevate us to where we’re capable again of genuinely tasting and feeling and enjoying life and of being One with that genuine life within us: to return us to where we feel life flowing in us and through us and from us – the most genuine Oneness of Creation…

…and yet, compared to all that he did, judging or not judging, it still just doesn’t seem fair that he’s getting a second chance, ‘the Contradiction and the Oneness’ be damned. What, however, if it’s really his first chance…and probably even his last chance? What if he is us?

Every day a bat kol, a Heavenly voice calls out, “Return, return to me. My deepest, holiest friend, do you know how long I’ve been waiting…waiting only for you?”

Chodesh Tov and Shabbat Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer
II Rosh Chodesh Iyar 5773
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PostSubject: Re: 2nd Learnings: 'the Contradiction and the Oneness'   Fri Apr 19, 2013 5:27 am

For those who have difficulty with the transliterated Hebrew and who don't have access
to Jewish libraries, most transliterated Hebrew can probably be found through Google.
If the word is critical to what I'm saying, then it is explained.

* * *
Atoning for all Creation

Chazal is divided in accepting when Creation took place. There are those who say, “at the end of Elul-beginning of Tishrei,” i.e. Rosh HaShana, as the name ‘Rosh HaShanah’ implies, the head or beginning of the year. Others say Creation took place during Nissan, i.e. Pesach, the time of Geulah, Redemption from Egypt.

The Torah reading this week is again a doubled portion, this time Achrei Mot and K’doshim, ‘After the Death [of]’ and ‘Holy’. The words ‘Achrei Mot’ refers to the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, Aharon the High Priest’s two sons, who died during the dedication of the Mishkan, which we learned in the portion of Shimini. What is of fascination here is that the first half of Achrei Mot describes all the Avodah of the Kohan HaGadol, i.e. all the Service of the High Priest, on Yom HaKippur. We’ll return to this in a minute, but there’s an intriguing question here. If Creation takes place at Rosh HaShana, why are we learning the Avodah of Yom HaKippur here right after Pesach?

There are answers to this question, so it’s not a question we have to answer ourselves nor even absorb ourselves with. It is, nevertheless, the kind of question that we should ask ourselves when we’re learning Torah. Even if we didn’t know the argument about when Creation took place, this still seems like a strange time and place to be learning about Yom HaKippur, and even stranger in that we haven’t yet learned that Yom HaKippur even exists. This will only occur next week in the portion of ‘Emor’, where we learn about all of the Holy Days, and in Sefer BaMidbar in the portions of ‘Pinchas’ where learn about the specific sacrifices for each of the Holy Days. But it’s here in the portion of Achrei Mot which is where we learn the complete Service of the High Priest on Yom HaKippur.

Jews by Choice and Jews by Birth maybe think that being a Jew is like doing religious things that other peoples do except this is our way of doing the same thing differently - the Jew way. Disregarding Xtianity and Islam which outright took from Torah and Jews, there is no question that there are things that are essential to Torah and Jews which we’ll also find parallels in the religious beliefs and practices of other peoples. There are moral codes and practices that are sacred, there are holy days and holy people who lead, and there are all the other things that address the psychological/emotional/spiritual needs of the society.

The difference between all these and between Torah and Jews is twofold. One is the sheer compassion that Torah is, compassion which is commanded and demanded of us and which we can explain with this example. Eli Wiesel (imperative to look him up if you don’t know) a Jew born in Europe who survived the Extermination Camps would afterward go to India seeking to find healing and restoration in Eastern religions. It would happen that he also encountered the impoverished beggars who constitute the lowest caste of the Hindus. Looking at them he asked, “Why doesn’t anyone do something for them?” and the answer he received, “There’s no need to, it’s their Karma.” “What?” he cried out. “How can you live in a world without compassion?!” And he left India to return to being a Jew as a Jew.

One is sheer magnitude. For Torah and Jews, regardless of our own individual awareness and consciousness of it or not, whatever is done it is done for all of Creation. Perhaps the place this is most noticed is on Yom HaKippur when the Kohan HaGadol, the High Priest, is literally seeking atonement for the entirety of Creation. I include myself in this in saying that we cannot even begin to fantasize that we think that we can imagine what it was like in the Mishkhan, the Tabernacle, and in the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple on Yom HaKippur. Just to be in the presence of those who are aware of and who are fulfilling such an awesome responsibility, let alone to be there…how can we ever even taste of the experience.

As we’ve related before, the atmosphere in the Mishkhan and in the Beit HaMikdash was filled with the highest and deepest and Holiest music and simcha. We have no comprehension of the singing and music of the Levite Tabernacle Singers and Orchestra, but it was in this atmosphere is where the Kohan HaGadol, the High Priest, did all of the Avodah of Yom HaKippur. More magnificently, it was an atmosphere that was tremendously elevated by the day itself, ‘the Day of Atonement’, and by what was being done. Because we really have no capacity to understand and comprehend, we’ll simply say this. In an atmosphere of the highest and deepest simcha the Kohan HaGadol ‘was Atoning for all of Creation’!?

Our inability to describe what the Beit HaMikdash was like is because it’s impossible to describe real things. They can only be experienced. Simply to give some perspective of real experiences, describe giving birth, saving someone’s life, having your life saved, and we get some idea. You can describe…but really you can’t.

On a different level, everything that we read about and learn in Achrei Mot is all directed and focused on the ‘atonement for all of Creation’. We don’t normally think nor do we learn [Torah] in these dimensions, but it’s true, and, please God, the day is coming soon when we’ll all return to being able to achieve these levels of consciousness and simcha. There is, nonetheless, something that we, on our level of consciousness, can be aware of.

All us who have celebrated and have prayed on the Holy Days, we should be aware that on Yom HaKippur the Musaf prayer that the chazan, the cantor, recites is the entirety of the Avodah that the Kohan HaGadol does in the Beit HaMikdash. This has deep meaning and reason, one of which is what we’ve been discussing in VaYikra, “our speech has meaning and substance.”

By way of explanation, we know that we’re all required to learn Torah – all the Torah. Even if we would only learn halacha from the Torah, we are not permitted to learn only Torah that applies to men or only Torah that applies to women, Kohanim to learn only Torah that applies to Kohanim, Leviim to Leviim, and Yisraelim to Yisraelim. We are obligated to learn the entirety of the Torah, bar none of it. The fundamental understanding is that thinking and speaking Torah are necessary and valid components of fulfilling Torah. Integral to the Torah is that there are those things that only one particular part of Am Yisrael is capable of doing, yet, not by design, there are also those things that we individually are incapable of doing and sometimes things that we collectively are incapable of doing.

By way of example of the latter, anything that applies to the Beit HaMikdash such as Kohanim, Leviim, Sanhedrin (the High Court), sacrifices, etc. we are physically incapable of fulfilling today. Despite this, since we are capable of learning the Torah about these things, then on the level of ‘thinking and speech’ we are, at the least, capable then of fulfilling them. Given this, then, even though today we don’t have a Beit HaMikdash nor a Kohan HaGadol who is capable of doing the ‘Avodah that Atones for all of Creation’, we are nevertheless capable for praying the prayers that do the same thing.

Every Yom HaKippur we are literally praying prayers that are atoning for all of Creation. We may not know this, we may not feel this, and we may not even believe this, but the power and the efficacy of prayer is that this is so. What’s necessary to point out is that aside from the inability to physically do the Avodah, the major difference between the time of the Beit HaMikdash and today is that in the time of the Beit HaMikdash the entire ‘Atonement for all of Creation’ was solely through the Avodah of the Kohan HaGadol, however much our own personal atonement was required. In contrast, today, ‘Atonement for all of Creation’ is accomplished through the accumulation of all Am Yisrael’s prayers and praying on Yom HaKippur.

It is from this reality is how we see that Achrei Mot is relevant to what we learn in Sefer VaYikra about the power of speech and about the Torah’s teaching us how to be vigilante and concerned and respectful of our speech and speaking. We, from our ownselves, want to able and to be free to use our speech in all the fullness and greatness and magnificence with which it and we have been blessed. To this end, we welcome the instruction that’s given us.

How the Torah has instructed us to ‘atone for all Creation’ has been uprooted. That we remain capable of doing it has not. In this we discover, ‘the Contradiction and the Oneness’.

Finally, if any of us have thought about it, Aharon HaKohan HaGadol is the one who was responsible for making the Eigel HaZahav, the Golden Calf, an indescribable desecration of God’s sanctity which brought downfall to all of us. Worse, it was done while we were at Mt. Sinai waiting for Moshe to return with the Torah. It is this same Aharon HaKohan HaGadol who ‘fell so badly’ who has been instructed to ‘atone for all of Creation’!? His doing so is a measure of just what teshuvah, what ‘returning’ is capable of achieving. It goes without saying that this is one of the deepest teachings of ‘the Contradiction and the Oneness’.

* * *
The second portion this week is קדושים - ‘K’doshim’, which is usually translated as ‘Holy’, however it’s not a static description; it’s an ongoing and continuous action. Instead of describing us as a ‘Holy People’, here we’re being instructed in what are the things we do that sanctify and which makes us קדושים - ‘K’doshim’, Holy. Quite naturally we would think about things that bring us front-and-center before God, yet the reality is that what’s taught in K’doshim is all aspects of our daily life inside and out.

If I would attempt to grasp what K’doshim is coming to do, I would turn to the ‘Aleinu’ prayer we say at the end of every prayer service - Shachris, Mincha, and Ma’ariv - every single day and which we say in the midst of our holiest prayers - the Musaf prayers of Rosh HaShana and Yom HaKippur. As we know, the prayer has two paragraphs, and the concluding sentence of the first paragraph reads like this:

"וידעת היום וחשבות אל לבבך כי ד' הוא האלהים בשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת אין עוד."

“Know today and think deeply in your heart that HaShem He is the God – in
the Heavens above and on the Earth below there is no other.” [D’varim. 4:39]

For all the tremendous intelligence found in Torah, the purpose of all of Torah is that what Torah teaches must reach our hearts - our hearts as individuals and our hearts as a collected and united People. The compassion that Torah is – the Compassion of the Source of All Being – is only capable of being comprehended and fulfilled by the heart. There is no question that there are many conceptions - even abstractions - in Torah which demand the analyzation of clear, lucid, and brilliant minds and thinking, nevertheless the implementation and fulfillment of Torah requires understandings of the heart. Whether it was the greatest Rabbi or the greatest Rebbe, immersion into their thoughts and minds and worlds reveals tremendous intellect accompanied by an even more extraordinary heart. They thought in incredible depth, and they cared with incomparable compassion.

Because our hearts are the focus of all of Torah, K’doshim primarily lists for us areas of focus by pointing out specific actions, and Gerim are mentioned a number of times. For the sake of brevity, I want to mention only three mitzvot (commandments) from K’doshim .

The first teaching is “לאהבת לרעיך כמוך” – “you must love others ‘as’ or ‘like’ [you love] yourself.” [19:18] About this, Rav Adin Steinsaltz (any and all of his writings in English are highly recommended) teaches, “When we look in a mirror we see ourself. That person we’re looking at we know all of him or her, all the good and all the less than good, as intimately as is possible, but we love him or her. So, too, it’s in this way we have to love each other.”

The second teaching is that in how to relate to Gerim the Torah teaches us, “ואהבת לו כמוך כי גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים אני ד' אלקיכם” – “You must love him [the Ger] as [you love] yourself because you [yourselves] were Gerim in Egypt.” [19:34] The Midrash תורת כהנים- Torat Kohanim says, “just as we’re commanded ‘לאהבת לרעיך כמוך’ – “you must love others ‘as’ or ‘like’ [you love] yourself.” so, too, are we commanded to love the Ger ‘כמוך’ – ‘as’ or ‘like’ yourself..

The Rav of Slobotka asked, “How is it possible to love someone else the same way I love myself?” And he answered , “The love one has for himself or herself is a very natural love. It is not necessary to be commanded to feel such a love. So, too, the Torah commands us to love everyone else in a natural way; not necessarily because of a commandment to do so.”

So how can it be? I am unique, yet I have to love someone else as I love myself? Our answer is, “Our uniqueness is that each and every one of us is unique.” Again we meet ‘the Contradiction and the Oneness’.

The third teaching is “לפני עור לא תתן מכשול” – “before a person who can’t see don’t place an obstacle.” [19:14] For ‘a person who can’t see’ the Torah uses the Hebrew word ‘עור’ - blind, but because it’s unnecessary to speak about placing obstacles before the physically blind and because the context of what’s under discussion is otherwise focused, here we’re not talking about someone who is physically blind. Instead, we’re discussing someone who is ‘blind’ to what is going on. Rashi quotes the Talmud commenting, “it is forbidden to manipulate another to your own advantage.” The example Rashi uses is that of telling someone, ‘the property values in your neighborhood are dropping’ or ‘it’s a buyer’s market’ or ‘your house is in poor shape’, and etc. in order that this person will sell his property at a bargain price. You, of course, are the one who buys it. You don’t even have to lie, because all these things may very well be true. It’s just that you’ve manipulated him such that you’ll profit at his expense, and if you’ve outright lied (which of itself is forbidden) then how much more so have you cheated him to your advantage.

Okay, the implications of this are very broad and deep, emphasizing just how much we have to be concerned for another’s welfare and well-being. It doesn’t mean that we can’t ‘do business’ and can’t profit, but it has to be ‘good business’ not ‘crooked business’ – good for him and good for me.

Exceptionally, we can learn something further from this teaching of ‘it’s being forbidden to place obstacles to someone’s detriment’. (Understand that not all obstacles are detrimental; many come to protect, e.g. guard rails, borrowing limits, etc.) Another way of looking at prohibitions of placing detrimental obstacles is to understand that we’re also being taught about removing obstacles that are to someone’s detriment, or, as I like to say, we must open doors or paths or avenues for others. If there is something that you as you have to do in life, if you need to get somewhere, if you need to achieve something, then it’s incumbent upon me, as much as I am capable, to help you get there. Maybe there’s someone you need to meet - a teacher you need to learn from, a person to marry, or maybe a career direction you need to take, a life decision that you need to make, it’s forbidden for me to place in front of you impediments and when those already exist I have to attempt to remove them. Let me share a crazy experience.

Opening Doors

I’m on a NYC subway platform, standing in the back of those waiting for the train, when, just as the train finally hurls into the station screeching to a halt and throwing its doors open, a woman begins shouting from the top of the stairs, “HOLD THAT TRAIN! HOLD THAT TRAIN!”…and continues to shout as she shoves her way down the stairs.

There isn’t any real need – not the shouting nor the shoving and not even the holding. She has plenty of time to make the train and I know this, just as I know that even if not I can easily block the doors from closing and hold the train for her. So I make no effort to ‘hold the train’, merely moving with the crowd and being the last one through the doors.

Well…almost. It turns out the conductor, for whatever reason, closes the doors pre-maturely, catching me unawares as I’m stepping onto the train. The doors slam into my shoulders (doesn’t hurt), rebound to full-open, as they’re trained to do, and with this the still-shouting woman bursts past me into the car, the doors close, and we leave the station. Oblivious to this one-more-harried-and-late-traveler, I’m standing there feeling stupid and embarrassed at having been caught in the doors like that, as any experienced subway rider would.

Huffing and puffing from her exertion, it takes this woman a few minutes to catch her breath and steady herself, but when she does she turns to me saying, “thank you.” I shrug my shoulders, “I didn’t do anything.”

“Yes you did. You held the doors so I could catch this train.”

Embarrassed, I answer, “No I didn’t. I wish it were true, but the conductor closed the doors early and I was stupidly standing there when he did.”

“I don’t care. I needed to catch this train and it’s because of you I did. I’m very grateful to you and I thank you very much.”

Her words don't begin to give over just how grateful she was. I had a feeling that it was as if I had saved her life!?

* * *

This story happened more than thirty-five years ago, when I was still in America. I used to love telling it over, especially about how the conductor closed the doors on me like some first-class idiot, which really is the craziest thing about this whole story. It was Broadway & 72 St. and I was going downtown on the express train. The setup of the station there is that when you go through the turnstile you’re already at the top of the stairs and when you get to the bottom of them a right turn puts you right on the express train, which is what it was. I knew the stop well. She could have made the train on crutches, and should have made this train with time to spare…but she didn’t!?

From that day on, whenever I’ve shared this story, I’ve always used it as an example of how we never know what results from what we do for others, especially what we intentionally attempt to do. Does what we did have meaning?…help?…do something? There is good we do and we know it, yet mostly it’s all a big unknown.

With this woman, however, there’s no doubt whatsoever: I literally did nothing! A newspaper could have fallen out from under someone’s arm and blocked the doors, and it would have had the same effect as my body did. And yet…as is often true for all of us… of those - myself included - who have given genuine thanks for good done them, few have been able to express their gratitude in the way that this anonymous woman thanked me for something I didn’t do!?

I continue to hear and share this story as I’ve explained it, but other dimensions of it have opened for me.

There are times in life when we are blessed to open…or have someone open for us…a door. Additionally, there are other times when we’re blessed to hold open the door…or have it held open for us. Maybe most importantly of all, there are times when we’re blessed to keep the doors from closing…or from being closed for us. In greatest truth those who are telling us, “Don’t ever give up!” it can only come from ‘a Master of keeping the doors from closing’.

For this woman…for reasons totally unbeknownst to me…I was blessed to keep the doors from closing. It was absolutely irrelevant ‘who I was’…yet it was tremendously crucial ‘that I was’ – and that is why she outright thanked me with her entire being: I literally kept the doors from closing for her.

It wasn’t me…but it was! But why?!

It’s true I prevented doors from closing for her, but in return she opened doors [of understanding] for me. This, as we all know, is what we pray every morning…

המכין מצעדי גבר. … ברוך אתה - Blessed are You…who prepares where we go.

Wherever we go, we continue to encounter ‘the Contradiction and the Oneness’. I literally wasn’t doing anything…but I was saving someone’s life. It’s not in my hands…but it only is.

Shabbat Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer

What I write doesn’t invite comments within the topic, but I do want you to know that you are welcome to write
me should you have any questions or comments. I can be reached at: d.e.ben.eitan@gmail.com.
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PostSubject: Re: 2nd Learnings: 'the Contradiction and the Oneness'   Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:25 am

For those who have difficulty with the transliterated Hebrew and who don’t have access
to Jewish libraries, most transliterated Hebrew can probably be found through Google.
If the word is critical to what I’m saying, then it is explained.

* * *
Creation & ‘choosing to be chosen’

A number of years ago the head of the Romanian Secret Police defected to the West, and he would write a book. In the book he speaks about how one of his responsibilities was to guard and be responsible for visiting dignitaries. One of these was Yassir Arafat. He wrote about how, “whenever I shook Arafat’s hand I had this overwhelming urge to wash.” The former head of the Romanian Secret Police, a man who, with no lack of his own duplicity, cruelty, inhumanity, and crimes, was nevertheless sensitive to the difference of someone who, at first glance, was only another fellow traveler in the world of inhumanity, but in truth who was truly and only a human cesspool. Not because I or anyone else says so, but because his own kind recognized him as such.

Here we are in the middle of the Torah in Sefer VaYikra in the portion of Emor, who’s entirety is ‘קדושה וטהרה’ - kedushah and tahara, holiness and purity, and we begin by disgusting [intentional] the opposite!?

The purpose of doing so is in order to point out and to emphasize that we…we human-being creatures…are perceptive and sensitive even when seemingly we wouldn’t appear to be. We may be precluded from following our responses, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t have them.

Against this, as hopefully all of us have discovered at least a little of, is what Torah comes to give us: adherence to values and behavior and lives that produce and give and perpetuate ‘holiness and purity’ within us, both individually and collectively. And these things, ‘holiness and purity’, are things which are discovered and achieved and worked at in our daily – every minute of our daily lives: at home, at work, and every place in between and outside of. We are never exempt from it – ‘it’ being, as everyone knows, ‘עול מלכות שמים’ – the yoke of Heaven…never exempt because ‘holiness and purity’ is not something we do in some vague place that we visit infrequently when the feeling moves us. As Jews it is our life and lives. It is why we exist [at all].

I don’t know from today’s [American] Jews and non-Jews so much, but in the topic ‘Interview with a Convert to Judaism’ that’s posted on this site (by Debbie B. in ‘Conversion and Issues’) the convert speaks about his earliest experiences of meeting ‘Jews-as-Jews’ for the first time when he was only an eight years-old boy. He describes those early experiences of how he stopped going home with his friends to play after school because of conversations he overheard in their houses between their parents and them about how ‘he was dirty’. It would only be years later was when he would discover that ‘the feeling of being dirty’ was related to his being a goy and hence ‘טמא’ – tamei, impure.

I, Daniel, am that convert and if you’re interested you can listen to what I say about it there, but for our purposes here, “what else could I have been?” To those Jews, though, both from their own sensitivities and perceptions and their own sense of themselves, that’s who and what I was: ‘a goy’ – pejorative intended, no offense meant. That I would become the Ger and Jew I am today and live in the Land of Israel did not enter their minds. (That their staying ‘pure and holy’ in America, which probably means eventually assimilating entirely, also didn’t enter their minds.)

This notwithstanding, as we all know from reading the Torah, we see very clearly the need to separate ourselves from all forms of ‘טמאה’ – tumah, impurity. In one single pasuk Torah outright implores us not to descend to the level of depravity of Egypt, which we left, nor to the level of depravity of the inhabitants of the Land of Canaan, which we are going to inherit. [VaYikra 18:3] Against these depravities, Torah teaches us the opposite and teaches us how to be the opposite, but seemingly the Torah also appears to be only teaching us to build ghettos.

Ghetto or not, why shouldn’t we build a ‘model society’, a society built on all the values of Torah? Surely no one who is open and honest could disagree with this, and I certainly chose my life with this in the forefront of mind – naive fool that I am. In all honesty, which Jew or non-Jew really believes it’s possible, let alone desired, to build a society structured on Torah in today’s modern, i.e. ‘more-modern-than-any-other-modern-world of any time’, right. Torah was given some 3300 years ago. It’s fossilized! Give up on it already!

God believes, for if not neither Torah nor we would exist. It’s just that the model society which we fantasize we think we imagine God wants is not necessarily the one God wants. If God wanted us to live in isolation from the world, in a fish-bowl existence, why would He have bothered to create us among other people. Why not give us everything - except them! Why do we need them? - only to prove how righteous and holy and pure we are simply because they are not righteous and holy and pure? God can certainly do better than this, no?

It can’t be this which Torah is coming to teach us, no matter how much it appears to be so and no matter how much that ‘להבדיל’ – l’havdil, to distinguish, to separate (e.g. we end Shabbat with ‘havdalah’) is an integral part of Torah. There just has to be more.

We all know that even the least knowledgeable Jews are familiar with the expres​sion(although not the practice of) ‘we [Jews] are a light to the goyim’ – or ‘nations of the world’, if you prefer the non-pejorative meaning of ‘goyim’. Truth be told, if Jews would really say pejoratively, “a light to the goyim (instead of ‘nations of the world’),” perhaps they would really hear what’s being said, which they don’t when they use the euphemism ‘Nations of the World’. I am being a touch humorous, but it is important to understand that goy and goyim can be descriptive and can be pejorative, although purely descriptive is difficult and less common, e.g. “He/I was a goy,” or “He/I came from goyim.” We hear it many ways, no matter who says it.

For the almost 3300th time we’re again learning Emor, learning first the Torah of the Kohanim, of the Priests, who are being defined and delineated by the exceptional care they must take to avoid ‘טמאה’ – tumah, impurity and making themselves impure. All Jews, whether Yisrael, Levy, of Kohan, are expected to be scrupulous in preventing themselves from becoming ‘טמא’ – tamei, impure, but for the Kohanim, it is outright forbidden for them to become impure, barring exceptional circumstances. To the contrary, they are our guides and role models that it is possible to be continually connected to a higher consciousness – to Divine consciousness.

This is immediately evident in the severe limitations of when Kohanim are permitted to be mourners, i.e. to be overcome by death and bereavement, and those for the Kohan HaGadol, the High Priest, who is forbidden every kind of mourning, regardless of how closely the deceased is related to him. The stature of the Kohanim, in general, and of the High Priest, in particular, demands of them and of him that their and his focus [toward us] be that of ones who most represent God for us. If they and he are allowed to ‘taste death’, i.e. mourning and bereavement, it’s impossible that in some way they won’t be angry at and won’t have ‘questions’ about existence. Their elevated position denies this from them, not because it will make them ‘human like us’ but because they are ‘all too human like us’. Upon being anointed as Priests, and especially as High Priest, they and he accept the awesome responsibility of ‘elevating us’ and, in doing so, rejecting the privilege of being ‘one of us’.

Before we continue, it’s important for us to understand that it’s because Kohanim have no more immunity than you and I do to death and mourning and bereavement is the reason why the Torah is so strong in what it demands of them. Theirs is not stoicism nor emotional frozenness nor lack of concern and caring and compassion. It is their very great spiritual discipline, their very deep and very high awareness and connection to the Divine which permits them – our Spiritual Doctors - to be ‘more human’ than you and I while also being ‘less human’ than you and I… again, ‘the Contradiction and the Oneness’.

At Mt. Sinai, at the very beginning of our reaching there we were told:

“ואתם תהיו לי ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש...”
“And you will be to or for Me a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation [Goy]...”

We see even before our receiving the Torah we were already being told ‘why’: ‘a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation’. Emor isn’t simply and only coming to teach us about the Kohanim and the Kohan HaGadol and about who and what they are vis a vis the Source of All Being and vis a vis us. Emor is - and has already been for 3300 years – teaching us who and what we will be ‘among the Goyim, among the Nations of the World - …a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation… If the Kohanim and Kohan HaGadol can be that way for us, then we are capable of being that way for others. It is to this end which is why we know that Torah is ‘ספר החיים’ – Sefer HaChaim, the Book of Life.

It isn’t that we are ‘a light unto the Nations’ but that it’s through us is how ‘הגוים’ – the goyim, the Nations of the World, are able to reach and receive the ‘Light that comes from the Source of All Being’ – which is exactly what the Kohanim do for us in the Beit HaMikdash. In the way that the Kohanim are our guides and role models and soul doctors, so, too, are we meant to be guides and role models and soul doctors for the Goyim, the Nations of the World. In some ways, we can look at this as, “just as the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple, in Jerusalem is of a higher sanctity in order to be there for and to serve us, so, too, is the Land of Israel of a higher sanctity to be there for and to serve the Nations of the World.

We’ll return to this, but first let’s mention the second major aspect of Emor: the listing of our Holy Days, what in the Torah are called ‘מועדים’ – Moadim, appointed times, and ‘מקראי קודש’ – Mikrei Kodesh, designated Holy Days.

[אלה מועדי ד' מקראי קודש אשר תקראו אותם במועדם." - [23:2"
“These are Appointed times [with] HaShem which you will call them at their appointed time.”

Shabbat is the first Holy Day, and Shabbat is also the paradigm for a day that solely in and of itself is Holy for its own sake. The other Holy Days, in addition to the sanctity of their being a Holy Day, each has a unique purpose, and it is from this unique purpose which is how they are described by. The Holy Days as they are listed are: 1 - Shabbat, 2 - Pesach, 3 - the 50th day of the end of s’firat haOmer (counting the Omer), which we know as Shavuot (which elsewhere the Torah will call Atzeret [of Pesach]), 4 - Yom HaZicharon (Rosh HaShana), 5 - Yom HaKippurim, 6 - Succot, and 7 – Sh’mini (which we know as Atzeret [of Succot]). As a measure of these days, Shabbat, Pesach, Rosh HaShana, Yom HaKippur, and Succot have their own Tractates in the Talmud, and there is even a Tractate called ‘Beitzah’ which deals with the sanctity of Yom Tov and its differences as a Holy Day from Shabbat (e.g. being able to cook, etc.).

Since we’re in Sefer VaYikra, which is only concerned with Holiness and purity, it makes sense that in Sefer VaYikra we also learn about the Holy Days. What isn’t apparent is why we are being taught about the Holy Days in the portion of Emor. One obvious explanation is that we begin Emor by speaking about the Kohanim and their special status and level of Holiness, which we do because the Kohanim are responsible for the avodah in the Beit HaMikdash. As we know, all of the Holy Days are focused first on the Beit HaMikdash and second on us, wherever we are. Besides the sacrifices, which can only be sacrificed in the Beit HaMikdash, for each Holy Day either the entirety of it or essential aspects of it were and can only be done in the Beit HaMikdash. Since it’s in the Beit HaMikdash is where we are in closest proximity to the Source of All Being, i.e. the greatest consciousness we can have, then it makes sense that our Holy Days will be most observed there.

Another answer, one that follows in line with what we’ve been discussing, is that the Holy Days are essential to us in being and becoming ‘who we are’. As we’re learning, like the Kohanim we, too, are to be guides and role models and soul doctors, but where and how do we acquire the ability to be and do so? Torah, of course, but as we know, Torah is an awful lot of instruction, a lot of do’s and don’ts and don’ts and do’s and so on an so forth. Where amidst all the teaching do we actually and outright experience where it leads?

The Holy Days…the Holy Days are a taste of ‘Heaven on Earth’ or ‘Earth in Heaven’, regardless of whatever their unique purpose is and does for us. In however way it is and happens, Holy Days are days when the Holy One, Blessed be He is actually closer to us and when we are actually closer to the Holy One, Blessed be He. This means many things, and certainly we’re experiencing higher and deeper consciousness, but it especially means that we’re reaching genuine ‘שמחה’ – simcha, (loosely) pure joy! This ‘שמחה’ – simcha is the result of our proximity to the Holy One, proximity meaning: our conscious awareness.

So that we don’t get too confused or lost, it’s a kind of paradox. On one hand, the closer we are to the Divine the greater is our ‘שמחה’ – simcha, and, on the other, the greater our ‘שמחה’ – simcha the closer we are to the Divine. The value of ‘שמחה’ – simcha is discovered in prophecy. [See footnote.*] Whenever any and every prophet received prophecy, he [or she] was in a very elevated consciousness of ‘שמחה’ – simcha. When prophets wanted to achieve an even higher and greater prophecy, they would have the musicians and singers of the Kohanim sing and perform for them in order to help them reach higher levels of simcha. The greater the ‘שמחה’ – simcha the greater the prophecy.

[Note: So that there is no misunderstanding. We’re not talking about mindless joy that is not connected to anything, but about ‘שמחה’ – simcha from the conscious knowledge and awareness that the Master of the Universe in all His Honor and Glory is accompanying us every step of the way. And, yes, it is unbelievable, but then again most real things are.]

The atmosphere of the Beit HaMikdash was meant to be ‘שמחה’ – simcha, and Kohanim were always absorbed in being in ‘שמחה’ – simcha. So whether the ‘שמחה’ – simcha is from proximity to the Holy One, Blessed be He or whether the proximity is because of our ‘שמחה’ – simcha…and how much more so when it is from both…we are on very elevated levels of consciousness and awareness. This is the purpose and the essence of every Holy Day, because if on the Holy Days we are not in ‘שמחה’ – simcha, how could it ever be possible to be close to God and do what’s demanded of us to do?!

Once we Jews-by-Choice (and even returned born-Jews) get past some of the confusion that comes with knowing too, too little and we become a little bit more experienced with Yahadut and Holy Days, we begin to have anticipation and uplift from the Holy Days merely in their approaching. When they arrive, provided that we’re not too overwhelmed by all the things we didn’t do or we did wrong or whatever, we even get satisfaction out of them and from surviving them. As good as this is, it’s still a long way from experiencing the ‘שמחה’ – simcha, the pure joy that Torah wants us to have and achieve.

Torah actually anticipates this problem. There is a mitzvah called Kiddush HaShem - sanctifying God’s name, which most Jews are familiar with as sanctifying God by forfeiting your life because you’re a Jew, i.e. you’re put to death solely because you’re a Jew. We’re taught this mitzvah right here in parshat Emor, immediately prior to our learning the Moadim.

"לא תחללו את שם קדשי ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל אני ד’ מקדשכם."
Don’t profane My Holy Name, and I will be Sanctified amidst the Children of Israel, I [am] HaShem [who] Sanctifies you.”

That we learn this mitzvah here, of all places, is not comprehensible, because, as great a mitzvah as it is, it’s totally incongruent with what’s being taught. Because Chazal emphasize that ‘Sanctifying God[‘s Name] means we even have to die doing it, it’s imperative that we all know that the essence of this commandment is not that we forfeit our lives for God, God forbid, but that we live our lives with all our heart and soul for the sake of God. Forfeiting our lives, thus, isn’t negative, i.e. dying, but positive, absolutely committing my life to God. This is the a priori understanding of Torah, not as a commandment but as recognition: there is no other existence. I hope it’s not true for you, but for me, ‘who’re you kidding’?

I beg of all of us, “please understand this in the deepest, deepest place inside of ourselves that all of Torah and all of the great Torah personalities, both inside the Torah and as our great Rabbis and Rebbes, their ‘who and what I am’ is “there is no other existence than the Source of All Being and His Torah.” In our language: “It’s so important to me I literally can’t live without it.” (We give God absolute dominion; not absolute domination that addiction demands – all of them.)

We genuinely have no capacity to understand and comprehend this, because it is not something the mind is capable of grasping, simply because the mind is only one aspect of our complexity. This is commitment – spiritual/psychological/emotional - of our entire being to the Source of All Being. Unless we even attempt it, we never even begin to have a chance to taste of this, nevertheless if this wasn’t true, none of us would be here – not you nor I nor anyone else.

Understand however, while we’re not incapable (is true) of such a thing, just mostly disbelieving, skeptical, reluctant, and even unwilling to ‘go so far – even for God’, to get this far we had to go to some lengths, right? So we do understand commitment and we do understand overcoming obstacles and challenges that were placed in our path in getting here. Could anyone genuinely think that “ if I approach a rabbi and say, “I wanna be a Jew; convert me,” and he replies matter-of-factly, “here, fill out this form and sign it, and then we’ll go swimming,” would it have any meaning whatsoever? Of course not!

It’s for this reason Torah wants us to know why the mitzvah of Kiddush HaShem appears immediately before the mitzvot of Shabbat and Yom Tov. It’s location here is for us to learn that we must use all our heart and soul and being to achieve the level of simcha that is needed for Shabbat and Yom Tov. We cannot merely wait for Shabbat and Yom Tov to bring us to simcha. To say it plainly: we are obligated to take everything, but everything, that God gives us and to use it to reach that level of simcha that allows us to get to the elevated level of simcha that is Shabbat and Yom Tov. We all know that if God gave us a million dollars this week, “what a Shabbos we’d have!”, right. What, however, if God gave us a million dollars of debt, and then “we really made it Shabbat!” How much higher and deeper and greater would our Shabbat be! How could we do such a thing? It’s as inconceivable as it’s impossible!?

In ‘real’ terms, there is no difference between the two. It’s all whether we’re only living on and from ‘God’s giving us’ or whether we’re only living on and from ‘what’ God’s giving us.

But it’s this awareness and consciousness which is what makes us ‘a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation’ and which allows us to be in ‘שמחה’ – simcha, to be ‘soul doctors, to be ‘a light to the Nations of the World’. It’s this is what it’s all about.

If we’re reading these words, we know that Torah is Light. We may not know ‘how’ or ‘why’ or ‘what this Light is, and we may not even believe it, but we do know that this is what’s taught. Anyone who’s read the opening pasukim (sentences) of the Torah, knows that the beginning of Creation is absolute darkness and that from this darkness light is created. God speaks to the ‘חושך’ – darkness, “יהי אור” – “Let there be light.” Whatever and however the meaning of this is, one thing is exceptionally clear: The Light that infuses Creation has to be revealed [and not created!]. And because it does, this is why we Heilige zisse Yidden (look it up!) are here.

The word ‘בראשית’ – Bereshith, means ‘in the beginning of’ [creating]. Bereshith was only the ‘beginning of ‘the revelation of the Light that infuses Creation’. This is the creative process, what we call ‘Creation’, ‘Creation’ which is not static but dynamic. With every continued and further revelation of ‘the Light that infuses Creation’ we are bringing Creation closer to ‘גאולה שלימה’ – to the Final Redemption, and this redemption, unlike the Redemption from Egypt (if it only was?), isn’t only for Jews; it’s for everyone and everything – Jews and Goyim and existence alike. Last week we talked about the first paragraph of the ‘Aleinu’ prayer’. Now we have to open our Siddurim, our Prayer Books, and learn the second paragraph.

It is a tremendous blessing. Anyone who thinks his or her becoming a Jew is for other reasons…or for unknown reasons…or for even seemingly non-reasons…now that we know why we Jews-by-Choice have chosen ‘to be chosen’…could we ever be more grateful in our being so blessed, so incredibly and wonderfully and magnificently blessed?!

‘The Contradiction’ – that we can do it, and ‘the Oneness’ – that we are doing it.

Shabbat Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer

[*] We who come from Xtianity and from Western culture mostly conceive of religion as ‘worship’ and of prophecy as ‘admonition’. Because we do, it’s very difficult for us to discover Judaism whose focus is that of ‘serving’ and where prophecy is ‘teaching’, teaching in the sense of rebuilding, restoring, and returning us to our relationship with God. The essence of Judaism and the great strength of prophecy is that the Infinite Divine and finite man do communicate in real and tangible ways.


* * *
What I write doesn’t invite comments within the topic, but I do want you to know
that all are welcome to write me should you have any questions or comments.
I can be reached at: d.e.ben.eitan@gmail.com.

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daniel eliezer

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PostSubject: Re: 2nd Learnings: 'the Contradiction and the Oneness'   Wed May 01, 2013 6:23 pm

For those who have difficulty with the transliterated Hebrew and who don't have access
to Jewish libraries, most transliterated Hebrew can probably be found through Google.
If the word is critical to what I'm saying, then it is explained.

* * *

“… is why there are Gerim in the world”

We’re back again to a doubled-portion Torah reading, ‘BaHar’ and ‘B’Chukotye’. Probably we won’t get to ‘B’Chukotye’, which is the last Torah portion in Sefer VaYikra, but we’ll see.

‘BaHar’, of course, means ‘the Mountain’, not the ‘proverbial mountain’, but one of the pinnacles on the journey to where we’re all going. In this case, ‘the Mountain’ is that wondrous and magnificent mountain 'הר סיני' – Har Sinai, Mt. Sinai, where Torah was given and Torah was received, and here we’re talking about ‘giving for the sake of the receiver’ and ‘receiving for the sake of the giver’. Remember, ours is relationship – us’n and God - and in a genuine and holy relationship ‘giving is receiving and receiving is giving’. Maybe we’ll come back to this here or maybe in a new topic.

Until then, BaHar begins:

"וידבר ד' אל משה בהר סיני לאמר."
And HaShem spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai saying.”

What follows in BaHar is the laws of Sh’mita, which is teaching us about the Land of Israel for which every 7th year (i.e. 7th, 14th,…49th) plus the 50th year the land of the Land of Israel must observe a Sh'mita, a Shabbat. Although in the technical sense we understand this as allowing the land to lie fallow a complete year, that [b]the land also has Shabbat [/b]is extraordinary!

We’re not going to involved in this, but for simplicity’s sake consider this very deep insight. No one has any monopoly or control over [the day of] Shabbat, right. Shabbat is given to all of us equally, no questions asked. So, too, is Sh’mita, the Shabbat for the Land of Israel (the Sabbatical year). Sh’mita is not when the land ‘lies fallow’ and non-producing and unusable. Sh’mita IS when the Land of Israel is not worked yet when everything that grows is permissible to everyone, with no exceptions. NO ONE OWNS any produce that grows. Therefore in the same way the Day of Shabbat gives to everyone equally, so, too, during the Year of Sh’mita does the Land of Israel give to everyone equally.

What we are going to get involved with is the legendary commentator Rashi’s question who (among others) asks, “What does Mt. Sinai have do [uniquely] with Sh’mita? Don’t we know that all Torah was given [and received] at Mt. Sinai?!” Okay, Rashi goes on to explain that just as Sh’mita is taught in thorough detail, therefore so, too, was all Torah taught with the same exacting detail at Mt. Sinai. What interests us, though, isn’t the answer of Rashi, but his question.

This is one of those questions which all of us are also asking exactly the same question Rashi is asking, because we also know that fifteen (15) Torah portions ago in Sefer Shemot, in the portion of Yithro, is where we were are standing at Mt. Sinai for the giving and the receiving Torah. For the entirety of those fifteen Torah portions which follow Yithro, we’ve been receiving copious quantities of Torah and it’s for this reason we’re blatantly asking, “why is it now, at the end of Sefer VaYikra, is where Torah tells us straight out that God is talking to Moshe Rabbainu at Mt. Sinai?!” And although Rashi doesn’t mention it, ‘why is it that when the subject is the Land of Israel is when Torah mentions that God is talking to Moshe Rabbainu at Mt. Sinai?!

We must question, “Is it true that we all know that the entirety of Torah was really given and received at Mt. Sinai?” Can we, without any shadow of a doubt, absolutely say, “we definitely know Torah was given and received at Mt. Sinai.” We’re not speaking in the sense, “everyone says so so it must be true.” We’re speaking in the sense, “it’s clear to us from reading Torah that giving and receiving Torah was at Mt. Sinai – period.” Okay, this is important, because two weeks from now we’re going to celebrate Shavuos and Matan Torah, the Giving and Receiving of Torah, so let’s see.

At Mt. Sinai, after the ‘עשרת הדברות’ – Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Commandments, which we definitely know were given and received at Mt. Sinai, there follow numerous portions of Torah which are very, very confusing regarding ‘when and where’ what was said. It also doesn’t help us that there is a genuine argument among Chazal, our Sages, regarding whether Torah is written chronologically or whether it’s not. Is what’s recorded in Torah accurate in both ‘the event and its order in time’, or is it only accurate in ‘the event’? For those who were with us then, we remember that Yithro himself is caught up in this argument, and commentaries open with the question: “Did Yithro come to Am Yisrael before or only after Matan Torah?” Perplexingly, there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers, no ‘True or False’. This conundrum is part of the multifaceted fascination and the indescribable complexity of Torah and maybe even the beginning of ‘the Contradiction and the Oneness’.

But setting aside this argument, in the ‘factual’ sense we are totally confused…and if you don’t think so go prove it factually…and we really don’t know irrefutably that every bit of Torah from Yithro to BaHar was given at Mt. Sinai. Even though we have been taught that all Torah is from Mt. Sinai, had we not been taught so it’s not apparent – it really isn’t. Attempting to answer this question by looking directly at what’s written in Torah is the equivalent of sitting on a seesaw while riding a roller coaster. You don’t know where you are, and every time you seem to get your bearings there you go veering off in another direction. It takes tremendous acumen. So let’s attempt to get our bearings in a different way.

We all – and we really mean ALL of us – know…even if we don’t believe it…that Torah was given to Moshe Rabbainu. Since it was Moshe Rabbainu who received Torah, because he alone had the capacity to, “why was it necessary that all of us go to Mt. Sinai to receive Torah?” This is an even greater question when we consider that after receiving the first two Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Commandments, we all retreated to other spaces!? Torah is comprised of 613 mitzvot. 613 – 2 = 611. Two that we all received and 611 that Moshe alone received [for us]. (It’s not for nothing Yidden call Torah, “Torat (Toras) Moshe,” – Moshe’s Torah, because he really did receive the overwhelming majority of it alone!?)

So, given this gross imbalance, why then were we there, because obviously God knew that we ourselves didn’t have what it takes to receive the entirety of Torah?

First, Torah belongs to us – all of us! That Moshe Rabbainu was capable of receiving for us was exactly the reason he received it: ‘for us’! In the humbleness of our entirety, we are the vessel, the repository which is completely capable of receiving Torah and which is why Torah is given at all and given to us. That we could receive directly ‘only two mitzvot’, only two commandments, is because it was sufficient. Solely from our being able to and from our receiving these two mitzvot is what makes it possible for us to receive the entirety of Torah. We can’t receive the entirety of it directly from God, but we can do it through Moshe Rabbainu, the unique emissary between Heaven and Earth: True to God and true to Us.

Second, what purpose is there in Moshe having [the entirety of] Torah? Other than learning it, what’s he going to do with it? So fine, he receives all of it, proving that one person can do so, but that doesn’t mean that it’s ‘his’. Even the people who “no” everything admit, at the least, “yes, Torah speaks collectively.” And this is our point. Torah is collective: collective regarding people, collective regarding existence. And because we know that Torah is collective and because we know that for fifteen Torah portions we’ve been learning (i.e. receiving) Torah that speaks to the ‘collective’, therefore Torah that we -‘the collective and Moshe Rabbainu’ - received has to have been received at Mt. Sinai. There is no other way of bringing Torah into the world. That which is being given has to be matched by that which is being received. Even Moshe didn’t receive the first two mitzvot by himself!?

Torah was entirely given and received at Mt. Sinai, and because this is true, Rashi can answer the question the way he answered it. Before moving on, it’s ‘cow cow’ time. Huh?

I once worked with a friend of mine who sold computers, and from time to time English speaking (America and British Empire) customers would start rapid-firing, “I want this and this and that and…,” and he’d say, “cow, cow,” and they’d say, “what?” and he’d say, “cow, cow.” Like you, they had no idea of what he was talking about so he’d explain, “I said, ‘cow, cow’,” as if everyone knows what ‘cow, cow’ means. Of course, they’re totally dumbfounded but also now totally paying attention and he’d say, “'פרה פרה' – parah parah, cow cow is an Israeli idiom for saying, ‘one thing at a time.’” Now we can get serious again.

Let’s return a few lines to our ‘only receiving the first two mitzvot, the first two commandments’.

What’s the beginning of the 'עשרת הדברות' – Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Commandments? “I’m yours,” and “don’t [you] go monkeying around with anyone else,” right. We’re adult children (like B’nei Yisrael, the ‘Children’ of Israel) and we don’t have to sanitize our language or put it into politically[rabbi]-correct-speak, do we? Surely we haven’t forgotten that Matan Torah was a chuppah, a wedding, and everyone knows their ain’t no bride and groom what don’t say, “I’m the only one [for you],” while also saying, “there ain’t [for you] nobody else.” So why should God speak any different that we do? Torah speaks in the language of man, no?

Furthermore, as we’ve mentioned from time to time in these postings, “God is relationship.” Argue it anyway we want, ‘God’s there for us; we’re here for God’. End of argument. Since God happens to be a lover and because Daniel also happens to be a lover, I only see a love relationship. Not without reason, Chazal themselves recognize our relationship is a love relationship, and Chazal describe the first two mitzvot, as being 'אהבה ויראה' – ahavah v’yirah, love and awe. There are thems what’s wants to translate 'יראה' – yirah as ‘trepidation’ in the sense of ‘fear’, which certainly there was, because after who else is capable of ‘putting the fear of God in us’, hmm?! But there’s more to it.

Without going into the whole thing, the last challenge we confronted before reaching Mt. Sinai was the battle with Amalek. Amalek were a people (as a nation we don’t know who they are today) whose sole purpose is to deny and destroy our existence through destroying our relationship with God. What this means is that as much as we were physically fighting them, the battle was entirely within ourselves. We ourselves gave voice to our predicament in saying, “” – “Is HaShem in our midst or not?” i.e. is God inseparably a part of us/me or isn’t He? [Shemot 17:7] When we resolve our conflict and dispatch our enemies, we find ourselves at the foot of Mt. Sinai, of which Torah says, “..ויחן שם ישראל” – “..and there Israel camped.” The verb for camped is a singular verb, causing Rashi to comment, “Every other encampment was filled with argument and dissension, but [from the singular verb for ‘camped’ we see] that here there was unification, oneness of ‘one man with one heart.’” This is one of the most famous teachings in Torah, and its preeminence is in having that unification, that oneness, allowed us to have the capacity to receive Torah - which is only oneness and which is given to us by He who is only Oneness.

But when we were standing there, we weren’t reading these words. We were right there experiencing it and absorbed in the incredible elevated consciousness and awareness of Oneness. We were literally ‘flowing with joy’ and it was ‘flowing with joy’ is how we received Torah. But we also know that we ran away. What does that mean?

When God spoke to us at Mt. Sinai, what was the first thing He said and what was the first thing we heard? It doesn’t matter for us at the moment the specific words He said. What matters is the substance and essence of who was speaking and what he was saying. His first words were, “I love you,” and we first heard, “He loves me/us.”

Maybe we’ve been blessed and someone somewhere has taught us like this, but I’m neither imagining this nor making it up. If we stop to realize and think what its all about, from Avraham Aveinu, Abraham our Forefather, the absolute commitment that Abraham made came when God said to him, “לך לך” – Lech l’cha,” “Go for your sake,” and Rashi teaches us that ‘for your sake’ is for the children and progeny you will have and the People and Nation you will become.” What God said to Abraham was God’s promise to Abraham…and in that being so, we have to realize that this is the first time that God himself is actually talking to us ourselves, we the descendents of Abraham who were promised so long ago. What else could God be wanting to tell us the very first time that He is speaking with us in person – “Do you know how long I’ve been waiting to…do you know how precious you are to…”…‘intimacy that He and we have only ever dreamed about’. An unimaginable outpouring of love…from Him and from us…indescribable, incredible, magnificent, Infinite love overflowing from one heart to another…from His heart to ours and from our heart to His…are there any words…even Torah words…that are capable of capturing and expressing and recording …?!

But it wasn’t only this. When God personally and in person tells you…‘you’ - all of us and ‘you’ - each of us…and we’re hearing God’s voice…outright hearing God’s voice speaking with us and to us…not ominous admonitions and tones of authority…but caressing tones of love and desire and intimacy…what kind of joy that must have been?! Here we are survivors of two hundred and ten years of sinking lower and lower into the depravity called Egypt, the last year spent getting us for ready for Redemption, and now, exactly 50 days (!) after leaving Egypt, we’re standing on Mt. Sinai listening to God tell us how precious we are to Him!?

…but God who is now sharing His love with us…is also God who both encompasses and fills all of Creation and existence…while ‘us’, despite whatever elevated consciousness and awareness and overflowing joy possesses us…‘us’ are also aware that we are human…just the tiniest, littlest bit human…and ‘us’ are now in person confronting God in all His magnificence and glory and wonder and splendor and exaltedness…is it any wonder that we are awed and overwhelmed and perhaps even a little ashamed…and thus retreat…?!

But it is these two things, 'אהבה ויראה' – ahavah v’yirah, immense love and immense awe, which are what God gives to us personally at Mt. Sinai: to us personally - together and to us personally - individually. We absolutely feel and taste our own individual uniqueness while we are also feeling and tasting the uniqueness of every ever single person and the uniqueness of our entirety. Our inner vision of ourselves is completely beyond any description and capacity for us to describe…yet it’s so undeniably true just how close and how intimate and how much ‘God loves me and desires me and is giving me my purpose in Creation’.

Once we absorb and have this, it’s then we are capable of receiving and absorbing the entirety of Torah…the entirety of God’s love. Moshe Rabbainu, who is a little bit higher and greater than us, will be our means for receiving the entirety of God’s love, but Moshe Rabbainu’s greatness isn’t simply that he’s bringing us God’s love. Moshe Rabbainu’s greatness, his absolute humility, is that Moshe Rabbainu only wants God’s love to reach us…and only wants our desire to contain all of God’s love.[*] Moshe Rabbainu himself, ‘the Contradiction and the Oneness’.

I don’t if anyone knows this, but there’s another side to Moshe Rabbainu that makes him a true descendent of 'אברהם אבינו' - Avraham Aveinu, Abraham our Forefather. All that we’ve said above about Mt. Sinai and so forth, applies to Jews, right. It’s what’s written in Torah and the focus of what Torah teaches. What’s ignored or overlooked, except usually negatively, is that the Exodus from Egypt applied to two peoples: Am Yisrael, obviously, and the ‘ערב רב’ – erev rav, the mixed multitude. The erev rav were an enormous quantity of non-Jews who witnessed everything that happened in Egypt, who joined Am Yisrael when they left Egypt, and who would become Gerim.

It was Moshe Rabbainu who took upon himself the responsibility for the erev rav, and there are places where God, when speaking to Moshe about the erev rav, calls them 'עמך' – ‘your people’! This means many, many things, but it also means that Moshe Rabbainu, God’s truest servant, understood that Torah isn’t meant only for Am Yisrael. Moshe understood God’s heart and God’s desires and God’s dreams. Because he did, the erev rav was also present at Mt. Sinai for the Giving and Receiving of Torah. Do we think that we didn’t absorb, that God didn’t have anything to give us?! Anyone standing within the embrace or proximity of two who deeply love each other is outside - yet included. He is deeply affected; profoundly so.

The ‘Contradiction and the Oneness’.

* * *
We want to comment on why specifically in BaHar are we being taught that Torah in its entirety is given on Mt. Sinai. Rav Kook - Avraham Yitzhak HaKohan Kook of saintly and blessed memory, a Torah luminary of the stature of those whom God saves for the pinnacles of our journey, was both Chief Rabbi and a formative authority in the pre-Statehood of today’s Israel, and he will continue to be so for all the generations until the end of days. (I do not exaggerate.) Rav Kook came from Europe and he was already a recognized Torah giant before he came to Israel, nevertheless he would write, “I never learned Torah until I came to Israel [to live].” Despite - or maybe even because of - all the genuine erudition, heightened consciousness and compassion he’d acquired before he came to the Land of Israel, in his being a ‘Jew for whom there is no other existence than the Source of All Being and His Torah’ his coming here to live allowed him to open up to what the Land of Israel’s spirituality really and genuinely is.

This revelation, alone, will suffice for introducing us into, “why it’s in the portion of BaHar is where we learn Torah of the Land of Israel and why when we’re talking about the Land of Israel is when we’re taught outright that the entirety of Torah was given at Mt. Sinai.” Whatever we achieved at Mt. Sinai, which is outside the Land of Israel, doesn’t begin to reach what we’ll achieve and become in the Land of Israel. I haven’t yet found a Torah giant who says it, but my belief is that Torah will be given a third time (1st at Mt. Sinai, 2nd in Shushan [Purim]). My belief exists because Torah has never been given in the Land of Israel, the Land of Israel where everything is One: the Holy One, Blessed be He, Torah, Am Yisrael, the Land of Israel, Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash.

* * *
I hadn’t really intended to get here this way and to use up so much space, but Torah opens up of itself. Rav Kook himself in describing his Torah commented, “When I write, my [feeling is that my] arm and hand move of their own volition.” In explaining this, he gives over, “How can I write Torah if I don’t find it within myself first?!” I understand him intimately, because somehow everything that I’ve given over is for the sake of sharing a beautiful teaching in this week’s portion about being a Ger, a teaching from a grandson of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the Heilige zisse Rebbe Moshe Chaim Ephraim of S’dilikov who is known as the Degel Machaneh Ephraim, after the name of his book.

The teaching originates from this pasuk in BaHar.

"הארץ לא תמכר לצמיתות כי לי הארץ כי גרים ותושבים אתם עמדי."
The land won’t be sold for eternity, because the land is Mine,
because you are gerim and residents with Me
.” [25:23]

In explaining this pausk, the Degel Machaneh Ephraim quotes an unnamed Chacham [sage] who taught him something special. King David in Sefer Tehilim - Psalms [119:19] says,

"גר אנכי בארץ אל תסתר ממני מצוותיך."
I’m a Ger in the land; don’t hide Your commandments from me.”

Says the Chacham, “It’s the nature of the world that a Ger has no one to whom he can really approach or attach himself to, someone with whom he can really share all that he’s going and gone through; with whom he can share what burdens his heart. There’s no one – no one among the Jewish People and no one among the nations of the world who is truly capable of fathoming all that a Ger undergoes. Inevitably and unavoidably the Ger is an outsider in both worlds. It is only when he sees his fellow Ger is when a Ger finally finds someone he can genuinely share with.”

Continues the Degel Machaneh Ephraim, “We all know that in this world that the Holy One, Blessed be He, has no one with whom He can share His Divine Presence, after all we’re so finite and God is so Infinite, and because of this He doesn’t so easily have a place in this world. But King David prayed specifically, “I’m a Ger in the land.”!? King David’s saying, “Me too! I really don’t want to be considered a permanent resident of this world. I’m only like a Ger here, so please, please don’t hide Your commandments [Your divine things, i.e. Your Divine Presence] from me. We’ll – You and me - be just like Gerim who are only able to share entirely with each other.”

King David uses what we Gerim are to teach us about ourselves. A ‘ger’ [small ‘g’] is a stranger, one who in this setting is a stranger but in a different setting is at home. A ‘Ger’ [capital ‘G’] is one who is always a stranger, one who is never truly at home - not amongst these and not amongst those. A person who chooses to convert, who chooses to become a Ger, in doing so he becomes a stranger in this world, man’s world. But the choice that a Ger makes is that he attaches himself to the Holy One, Blessed be He, because in this world the Holy One, Blessed be He, is never entirely at home either. He, too, is as a stranger.

Strangely, it’s not that we don’t fit in because we don’t fit or because others don’t accept us. In so many avenues of life we decidedly and blessedly fit in and participate and belong. It’s just that we bring with us a conscious awareness that we made a choice, a choice so consciously obvious to us yet all too often so frustratingly invisible to others. We choose a world that belongs to God, to the Holy One, Blessed be He, because we know that the deepest truth is that the Divine Presence really does dwell amongst the Jewish People.

It’s in our recognizing that the Divine Presence resides among the Jewish People and in our choosing to become a part of the Jewish People is what causes us, too, to become one with the Divine Presence. The unique feeling that we have as Gerim, which is often a feeling that makes us feel different within the Jewish community, is that the Divine Presence becomes a conscious - if a not always or a not fully understood - part of our lives. What we saw from a distance we now experience from within.

In choosing to become Gerim, we accept a magnificent yet awesome responsibility: we are accepting and fulfilling the Holy One’s, Blessed be He, desire that we help build the spiritual identity and essence of the Jewish People, God’s holy people. Our blessing to ourselves is that we should never lose sight of what we have done - done for God…

…and we should never lose sight of what God gives us in return - His Divine Presence. In our bearing the Divine Presence this, of itself, gives proof that the Holy One, Blessed be He, includes us among His holy people. Being able to do and doing for the Holy One, Blessed be He, is why there are Jews in the world. Being able to do and doing for the Holy One, Blessed be He and for His holy people, a most precious gift, is why there are Gerim in the world.

The ‘Contradiction and the Oneness’.

Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer
22 Iyar 5773

[*] Under the ‘Weekly Parshah’ topic see: VaYikra: “When you look at him you see Me!”

* * *
What I write doesn't invite comments within the topic, but I do want you to know
that all are welcome to write me should you have any questions or comments.

I can be reached at: d.e.ben.eitan@gmail.com.
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