Thursday, April 28, 2011

PARASHAT KEDOSHIM 5771/2011: LOVING THE OTHER: THE TORAH’S MOST ENCOMPSSING PRINCIPLE



RABBI ABNER WEISS’ WEEKLY TORAH               TEACHING

PARASHAT KEDOSHIM 5771/2011


LOVING THE OTHER: THE TORAH’S MOST ENCOMPSSING PRINCIPLE



You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people; but you shall love your neighbor [re’akha] as yourself: I am the Lord. (Lev. 19:18).

This verse is the centerpiece of the Torah’s so called holiness code, and is often called its golden rule. It is not surprising that the great Rabbi Akiva regarded it as the most all-encompassing imperative of the Torah. What is surprising is that the Jerusalem Talmud (Nedarim 9:4) recalls that one of his most eminent colleagues disagreed.
“You shall love your neighbor [re’akha] as yourself.” Rabbi Akiva says: ‘This is the most all-encompassing imperative of the Torah.’ Ben Azzai says: [The verse] ‘This is the book of the generations of Adam’ (Gen. 5:1) is much more encompassing.
At first glance, Ben Azzai’s opinion is counterintuitive. Rabbi Akiva’s verse is grand and commanding.  Ben Azzai’s verse, in contrast, seems to be mundane, nothing more than the introduction of a passage of biblical chronology.  What was his objection to Rabbi Akiva’s claim?  In what way was his verse more encompassing? 
The great Maharal of Prague suggests that Ben Azzai was bothered by our text’s requirement that love of the other is conditional on one’s love for one’s self [kamokha]].  What if one hated oneself?  Could one justifiably hate one’s neighbor?  Did Rabbi Akiva’s verse permit a masochist to be a sadist?  It was precisely because of his difficulty with love of self as the essential criterion for love of others that Ben Azzai chose an alternate verse.  The Jerusalem Talmud abbreviated his citation.  The full citation is: Ben Azzai says: [The passage] ‘this is the book of the generations of Adam. The day that God created mankind, He made him in the likeness of God. Male and female He created them.’ (Gen. 5:1-2). The commanding principle is that all human beings are created in the image of God.  Irrespective of what I think of myself, the person whom I encounter is characterized by godness. Therefore he or she must be treated with the love and respect that is owed to God. 
While Ben Azzai’s objection to Rabbi Akiva’s all encompassing principle seems to make sense, it leaves Rabbi Akiva’s judgment open to question.  Surely he too embraced the notion that all humans are created in the image of God and should be treated accordingly.  Indeed, it was Rabbi Akiva himself who used to say:  “Beloved is man in that he was created in the Divine image.  An extraordinary love was his awareness that he was created in the Divine image.” (Avot 3:18).  Why then did he not agree with Ben Azzai regarding the most encompassing imperative of the entire Torah?  
It seems to me that the meaning of the Hebrew word re’akha is the key to Rabbi Akiva’s understanding of our verse.   Re’akha is commonly rendered “your neighbor”.  But the Hebrew word for “your neighbor” is shakhen’kha. Re’akha is also sometimes rendered  “your friend,” but the Hebrew for “your friend” is chaver’kha.  What then is the real meaning of re’akha?
The root of the word re’akha is re’a.  It consists of the two Hebrew letters resh and ayin.  However, the Hebrew language is generally inhospitable to biliteral [two-letter] roots.  It customarily converts them into triliteral roots, either by inserting the letter vav [pronounced oo] between the two root letters, or by doubling the last root letter.  Thus the root-word km [rise] is transformed either into koom or kamam, and the root-word shv is transformed either into shoov or shavav. 
According with this grammatical rule, the two-letter root of the word re’akha, resh/ayin, is transformed into the trilateral root resh/ayin/ayin—[ra’oo’a].  The word ra’oo’a means unsteady, broken or vulnerable.  Thus, for example, the broken sound of the shofar is called teru’ah, evoking the weeping of a broken spirit. 
Although this grammatical analysis of the word re’akha seems almost too technical, it explains Rabbi Akiva’s majestic understanding of the Torah’s golden rule.  The beloved other is recognized as vulnerable and imperfect.  The Torah notes that just as one is oneself flawed, insecure and vulnerable, so is the other. Even though we are all endowed with godness, no one is without weaknesses, flaws and self-doubt. Just as one accepts and even loves oneself despite one’s frailties, so is one required to accept and love the other.  This is the authentic, unconditional love that God requires of us.   Loving tolerance and acceptance of weakness in other people is the Torah’s golden rule.
Just how all encompassing is this principle? “It was taught: Where does the Torah mandate the most humane method of execution for [rarely imposed] capital sentences? Rav Nachman said in the name of Rabba ben Avuha: The Torah states, ‘You shall love your re’a as yourself.’ Therefore, devise for him the most humane mode of execution. (BT Ketubot 37b; Sanhedrin 45a). Rabbinical courts exceedingly rarely imposed capital punishment. According to most authorities it was not imposed more than once in seven years. According to Rabbi Akiva, so precious was human life that it was not imposed more than once in seventy years. So when it was imposed, the offender must have been radically evil, without redeeming features. And yet the Talmud calls him a re’a, and applies the imperative of unconditional love to him.
Another example: Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: One may not betroth a woman sight unseen, lest he subsequently find her unattractive and she become repulsive to him. The Torah declared: “You shall love your re’a as yourself,” [thus preempting this kind of pain to the hapless bride]. (BT Kiddushin 41a).
Although the imperative “You shall love your  [re’akha] as yourself” extends to the entire gamut of human relationships, it is most commonly applied to the special love between spouses. On their wedding day, bride and groom are called re’im ahuvim—each is termed the beloved re’a of the other. They have decided to consummate their deep love each for the other in the sacred bond of committed intimacy and companionship. Each knows that the other is not perfect, that each carries the unhealed wounds of childhood, that each has fears and vulnerabilities. But accepting mutual frailty endears each to the other, inspiring each to support the other in sickness and sadness, and to exult in the other’s successes. They are reim ahuvim to each other because their love is unconditional, because their relationship embodies the Torah’s golden rule.

Who says that our religion is the religion of law and that theirs is the religion of love?


      




Thursday, April 14, 2011

PARASHAT ACHAREI MOT 5771/2011: DEFILING THE SACRED


DEFILING THE SANCTUARY


And he shall slay the goat of the sin offering that is for the people…and make atonement for the sacred place, because of the defilement of the children of Israel and because of their transgressions (Lev.  16:15-16).

The first section of parashat Acharei Mot is a description of the process of atonement on Yom Kippur.  Its centerpiece is the ritual performed with two identical goats.  Lots were drawn over them.  One was assigned the scapegoat role.  All the transgressions of the Jewish people were symbolically projected onto it and it was sent to its death in the wilderness, taking all the sins of the Jewish people with it.  And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel and all of their transgressions, even all of their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat and send it away by the hand of an anointed man into the wilderness. (Lev 15:32-22).

The function of the second goat was to achieve atonement for the defiled sanctuary, as indicated in our text. The sages were puzzled by the role of this goat.  They taught:  “This goat might have been thought to atone for the cardinal sins of idolatry, forbidden sexual activity and murder, all of which are defined as defilement.  Therefore the Torah states, [clarifying the specific transgression for which the sacrifice of this goat atones] mi-tum’at [an aspect of defilement] and not all types of defilement. What is this aspect?  It is the defilement of the Sanctuary (Shevu’ot 6b). What troubled the sages was the necessity of having a second goat.  If the scapegoat had achieved atonement for every type of iniquity and transgression, what need was there for the second goat?  What transgression was so severe that it was excluded from the entire gamut of sins and required it’s own special process of atonement?  According to the Torah, this extraordinary transgression was the defilement of the Sanctuary.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the extraordinary nature of this transgression.  The Sanctuary represented the perfect ideal of the Torah.  Its role was to inspire and transform the people, so that their daily lives would gradually come to reflect the ideal. But when the process was reversed and the values of the street corrupted the Sanctuary, it was considered defiled. 

Whereas Rabbi Hirsch defines the defilement of the sanctuary in the most general of terms, the Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Berlin is specific.  He writes in Harchev Davar:  “On Yom Kippur the inadvertent transgressions of the scholars are considered deliberate sins, since there is no repentance for the neglect of Torah by those who are engaged in its study. The Torah describes their transgression as the defilement of the Sanctuary and its holy vessels.  This defilement is, for the most part, caused by the scholars who frequent the Sanctuary and are at home with its [various] holy elements”. 

At first glance, the comment of the Netziv is counter- intuitive.   One would expect the sacred domain of the community to be sanctified by its spiritual leaders. But the Torah accuses them of effecting its defilement. Their iniquity is too great to be included with all the other transgressions of the Jewish people- including the cardinal sins- for which the scapegoat atones. 

However, upon further reflection it is clear that the Netziv’s interpretation is not at all counterintuitive.  It is fully in line with the Jewish interpretation of chillul ha-Shem [the desecration of the Divine]. 

Tractate Yoma (86a) of the Babylonian Talmud, the primary rabbinic source about Yom Kippur discusses this issue: 

What is chillul ha-Shem?  Rav said: if someone like me would take meat from a butcher and not pay him promptly, that would be chillul ha-Shem... Yitzchak of the Academy of Rabbi Yannai said:   “Anybody whose friends are embarrassed on account of his bad reputation- this is chillul ha-Shem.  The opening verse in the Shema Yisra’el recitation  ‘And you shall love the Lord your God’ can be interpreted as commanding that the name of Heaven should become beloved through your actions.  One should read Scripture, study Mishnah and [receive moral training] by serving Torah scholars [and imitating their behavior].  One’s dealings with people should be conducted with pleasing integrity.  What shall people say about one who behaves thus?  “Fortunate is his father who taught him Torah.  Fortunate is his teacher who taught him Torah.  Woe unto people who do not learn Torah.  This person learned Torah.  See how pleasant are his ways, how refined are his deeds.”  Of such a person Scripture declares ‘ God said to me:  You are my servant, Israel, through whom I am glorified. (Isaiah 49:3).    But as for one who learns Scripture, studies Mishnah and serves Torah scholars, but his business transactions are not conducted faithfully and his manner of speaking with people is not pleasant—what do people say about him?  ‘’Woe unto that person who learned Torah.  Woe onto his father who taught him Torah. Woe onto his teacher who taught him Torah.  This individual learned Torah.  Behold how corrupt are his deeds and how ugly his ways.”  Of him Scripture declares:  ‘and they desecrated my Holy Name when it was said of them:  These are the people of ha-Shem…  (Ezekiel 36:20). 

Special conduct is required of those who represent Torah.  Their moral standards must be exemplary.  Because they are identified as particularly devoted to God, unethical behavior and lack of sensitivity reflects badly on their Maker and is a chillul ha-Shem.

This is the sin greater than all others.  This is behavior that defiles God’s holy places, for which regular rituals of atonement are inadequate.  This is the transgression for which an extraordinary sacrifice of atonement was required. 

The Talmud speaks of chillul ha-Shem in the singular.  It illustrates chillul ha- in reference to the behavior of individuals.  Our text, however, refers to chillul ha-Shem in the plural, to the insensitive and unethical posture of Torah giants as a class.

 Sadly, we have witnessed this type of chillul ha-Shem all too frequently.  The indifference of leaders of the rabbinic establishment to the suffering of women whose estranged husbands refuse to give them a get [religious divorce], thus effectively preventing them form moving on with their lives, is nothing less than the defilement of the Holy.  The callous and dismissive attitude of esteemed rabbis to those who seek to come under the wings of the Shekhinah [the divine Presence] by converting to Judaism is a defilement of the Sacred.  Torah leaders rightly concern themselves with ritual minutiae, but are inexplicably silent about pressing societal issues like doctors’ and social workers’ strikes in Israel, and the implications of such actions.  Rightly they have much to say about the produce of the seventh year, but nothing about those who refuse to work for a living and choose to stay on the dole, or about those who refuse to serve in the military, leaving others to risk their lives in defending them.  Small wonder that that they alienate those who do work and do serve. Small wonder that they bring scorn to the Torah. It is of them that the Torah speaks.

Fortunately the Torah assures us that despite the defiling behavior and collective chillul ha-Shem of those of whom special standards are expected, God will not abandon the rest of us.  Our text concludes with the assurance that God will abide with us in the midst of defilement—irrespective of the deficits of those who should know better. (Lev:  16:16).






















































0




0DEFILING THE SANCTUARY


And he shall slay the goat of the sin offering that is for the people…and make atonement for the sacred place, because of the defilement of the children of Israel and because of their transgressions (Lev.  16:15-16).

The first section of parashat Acharei Mot is a description of the process of atonement on Yom Kippur.  Its centerpiece is the ritual performed with two identical goats.  Lots were drawn over them.  One was assigned the scapegoat role.  All the transgressions of the Jewish people were symbolically projected onto it and it was sent to its death in the wilderness, taking all the sins of the Jewish people with it.  And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel and all of their transgressions, even all of their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat and send it away by the hand of an anointed man into the wilderness. (Lev 15:32-22).

The function of the second goat was to achieve atonement for the defiled sanctuary, as indicated in our text. The sages were puzzled by the role of this goat.  They taught:  “This goat might have been thought to atone for the cardinal sins of idolatry, forbidden sexual activity and murder, all of which are defined as defilement.  Therefore the Torah states, [clarifying the specific transgression for which the sacrifice of this goat atones] mi-tum’at [an aspect of defilement] and not all types of defilement. What is this aspect?  It is the defilement of the Sanctuary (Shevu’ot 6b). What troubled the sages was the necessity of having a second goat.  If the scapegoat had achieved atonement for every type of iniquity and transgression, what need was there for the second goat?  What transgression was so severe that it was excluded from the entire gamut of sins and required it’s own special process of atonement?  According to the Torah, this extraordinary transgression was the defilement of the Sanctuary.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the extraordinary nature of this transgression.  The Sanctuary represented the perfect ideal of the Torah.  Its role was to inspire and transform the people, so that their daily lives would gradually come to reflect the ideal. But when the process was reversed and the values of the street corrupted the Sanctuary, it was considered defiled. 

Whereas Rabbi Hirsch defines the defilement of the sanctuary in the most general of terms, the Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Berlin is specific.  He writes in Harchev Davar:  “On Yom Kippur the inadvertent transgressions of the scholars are considered deliberate sins, since there is no repentance for the neglect of Torah by those who are engaged in its study. The Torah describes their transgression as the defilement of the Sanctuary and its holy vessels.  This defilement is, for the most part, caused by the scholars who frequent the Sanctuary and are at home with its [various] holy elements”. 

At first glance, the comment of the Netziv is counter- intuitive.   One would expect the sacred domain of the community to be sanctified by its spiritual leaders. But the Torah accuses them of effecting its defilement. Their iniquity is too great to be included with all the other transgressions of the Jewish people- including the cardinal sins- for which the scapegoat atones. 

However, upon further reflection it is clear that the Netziv’s interpretation is not at all counterintuitive.  It is fully in line with the Jewish interpretation of chillul ha-Shem [the desecration of the Divine]. 

Tractate Yoma (86a) of the Babylonian Talmud, the primary rabbinic source about Yom Kippur discusses this issue: 

What is chillul ha-Shem?  Rav said: if someone like me would take meat from a butcher and not pay him promptly, that would be chillul ha-Shem... Yitzchak of the Academy of Rabbi Yannai said:   “Anybody whose friends are embarrassed on account of his bad reputation- this is chillul ha-Shem.  The opening verse in the Shema Yisra’el recitation  ‘And you shall love the Lord your God’ can be interpreted as commanding that the name of Heaven should become beloved through your actions.  One should read Scripture, study Mishnah and [receive moral training] by serving Torah scholars [and imitating their behavior].  One’s dealings with people should be conducted with pleasing integrity.  What shall people say about one who behaves thus?  “Fortunate is his father who taught him Torah.  Fortunate is his teacher who taught him Torah.  Woe unto people who do not learn Torah.  This person learned Torah.  See how pleasant are his ways, how refined are his deeds.”  Of such a person Scripture declares ‘ God said to me:  You are my servant, Israel, through whom I am glorified. (Isaiah 49:3).    But as for one who learns Scripture, studies Mishnah and serves Torah scholars, but his business transactions are not conducted faithfully and his manner of speaking with people is not pleasant—what do people say about him?  ‘’Woe unto that person who learned Torah.  Woe onto his father who taught him Torah. Woe onto his teacher who taught him Torah.  This individual learned Torah.  Behold how corrupt are his deeds and how ugly his ways.”  Of him Scripture declares:  ‘and they desecrated my Holy Name when it was said of them:  These are the people of ha-Shem…  (Ezekiel 36:20). 

Special conduct is required of those who represent Torah.  Their moral standards must be exemplary.  Because they are identified as particularly devoted to God, unethical behavior and lack of sensitivity reflects badly on their Maker and is a chillul ha-Shem.

This is the sin greater than all others.  This is behavior that defiles God’s holy places, for which regular rituals of atonement are inadequate.  This is the transgression for which an extraordinary sacrifice of atonement was required. 

The Talmud speaks of chillul ha-Shem in the singular.  It illustrates chillul ha- in reference to the behavior of individuals.  Our text, however, refers to chillul ha-Shem in the plural, to the insensitive and unethical posture of Torah giants as a class.

 Sadly, we have witnessed this type of chillul ha-Shem all too frequently.  The indifference of leaders of the rabbinic establishment to the suffering of women whose estranged husbands refuse to give them a get [religious divorce], thus effectively preventing them form moving on with their lives, is nothing less than the defilement of the Holy.  The callous and dismissive attitude of esteemed rabbis to those who seek to come under the wings of the Shekhinah [the divine Presence] by converting to Judaism is a defilement of the Sacred.  Torah leaders rightly concern themselves with ritual minutiae, but are inexplicably silent about pressing societal issues like doctors’ and social workers’ strikes in Israel, and the implications of such actions.  Rightly they have much to say about the produce of the seventh year, but nothing about those who refuse to work for a living and choose to stay on the dole, or about those who refuse to serve in the military, leaving others to risk their lives in defending them.  Small wonder that that they alienate those who do work and do serve. Small wonder that they bring scorn to the Torah. It is of them that the Torah speaks.

Fortunately the Torah assures us that despite the defiling behavior and collective chillul ha-Shem of those of whom special standards are expected, God will not abandon the rest of us.  Our text concludes with the assurance that God will abide with us in the midst of defilement—irrespective of the deficits of those who should know better. (Lev:  16:16).





































 DEFILING THE SANCTUARY


And he shall slay the goat of the sin offering that is for the people…and make atonement for the sacred place, because of the defilement of the children of Israel and because of their transgressions (Lev.  16:15-16).

The first section of parashat Acharei Mot is a description of the process of atonement on Yom Kippur.  Its centerpiece is the ritual performed with two identical goats.  Lots were drawn over them.  One was assigned the scapegoat role.  All the transgressions of the Jewish people were symbolically projected onto it and it was sent to its death in the wilderness, taking all the sins of the Jewish people with it.  And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel and all of their transgressions, even all of their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat and send it away by the hand of an anointed man into the wilderness. (Lev 15:32-22).

The function of the second goat was to achieve atonement for the defiled sanctuary, as indicated in our text. The sages were puzzled by the role of this goat.  They taught:  “This goat might have been thought to atone for the cardinal sins of idolatry, forbidden sexual activity and murder, all of which are defined as defilement.  Therefore the Torah states, [clarifying the specific transgression for which the sacrifice of this goat atones] mi-tum’at [an aspect of defilement] and not all types of defilement. What is this aspect?  It is the defilement of the Sanctuary (Shevu’ot 6b). What troubled the sages was the necessity of having a second goat.  If the scapegoat had achieved atonement for every type of iniquity and transgression, what need was there for the second goat?  What transgression was so severe that it was excluded from the entire gamut of sins and required it’s own special process of atonement?  According to the Torah, this extraordinary transgression was the defilement of the Sanctuary.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the extraordinary nature of this transgression.  The Sanctuary represented the perfect ideal of the Torah.  Its role was to inspire and transform the people, so that their daily lives would gradually come to reflect the ideal. But when the process was reversed and the values of the street corrupted the Sanctuary, it was considered defiled. 

Whereas Rabbi Hirsch defines the defilement of the sanctuary in the most general of terms, the Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Berlin is specific.  He writes in Harchev Davar:  “On Yom Kippur the inadvertent transgressions of the scholars are considered deliberate sins, since there is no repentance for the neglect of Torah by those who are engaged in its study. The Torah describes their transgression as the defilement of the Sanctuary and its holy vessels.  This defilement is, for the most part, caused by the scholars who frequent the Sanctuary and are at home with its [various] holy elements”. 

At first glance, the comment of the Netziv is counter- intuitive.   One would expect the sacred domain of the community to be sanctified by its spiritual leaders. But the Torah accuses them of effecting its defilement. Their iniquity is too great to be included with all the other transgressions of the Jewish people- including the cardinal sins- for which the scapegoat atones. 

However, upon further reflection it is clear that the Netziv’s interpretation is not at all counterintuitive.  It is fully in line with the Jewish interpretation of chillul ha-Shem [the desecration of the Divine]. 

Tractate Yoma (86a) of the Babylonian Talmud, the primary rabbinic source about Yom Kippur discusses this issue: 

What is chillul ha-Shem?  Rav said: if someone like me would take meat from a butcher and not pay him promptly, that would be chillul ha-Shem... Yitzchak of the Academy of Rabbi Yannai said:   “Anybody whose friends are embarrassed on account of his bad reputation- this is chillul ha-Shem.  The opening verse in the Shema Yisra’el recitation  ‘And you shall love the Lord your God’ can be interpreted as commanding that the name of Heaven should become beloved through your actions.  One should read Scripture, study Mishnah and [receive moral training] by serving Torah scholars [and imitating their behavior].  One’s dealings with people should be conducted with pleasing integrity.  What shall people say about one who behaves thus?  “Fortunate is his father who taught him Torah.  Fortunate is his teacher who taught him Torah.  Woe unto people who do not learn Torah.  This person learned Torah.  See how pleasant are his ways, how refined are his deeds.”  Of such a person Scripture declares ‘ God said to me:  You are my servant, Israel, through whom I am glorified. (Isaiah 49:3).    But as for one who learns Scripture, studies Mishnah and serves Torah scholars, but his business transactions are not conducted faithfully and his manner of speaking with people is not pleasant—what do people say about him?  ‘’Woe unto that person who learned Torah.  Woe onto his father who taught him Torah. Woe onto his teacher who taught him Torah.  This individual learned Torah.  Behold how corrupt are his deeds and how ugly his ways.”  Of him Scripture declares:  ‘and they desecrated my Holy Name when it was said of them:  These are the people of ha-Shem…  (Ezekiel 36:20). 

Special conduct is required of those who represent Torah.  Their moral standards must be exemplary.  Because they are identified as particularly devoted to God, unethical behavior and lack of sensitivity reflects badly on their Maker and is a chillul ha-Shem.

This is the sin greater than all others.  This is behavior that defiles God’s holy places, for which regular rituals of atonement are inadequate.  This is the transgression for which an extraordinary sacrifice of atonement was required. 

The Talmud speaks of chillul ha-Shem in the singular.  It illustrates chillul ha- in reference to the behavior of individuals.  Our text, however, refers to chillul ha-Shem in the plural, to the insensitive and unethical posture of Torah giants as a class.

 Sadly, we have witnessed this type of chillul ha-Shem all too frequently.  The indifference of leaders of the rabbinic establishment to the suffering of women whose estranged husbands refuse to give them a get [religious divorce], thus effectively preventing them form moving on with their lives, is nothing less than the defilement of the Holy.  The callous and dismissive attitude of esteemed rabbis to those who seek to come under the wings of the Shekhinah [the divine Presence] by converting to Judaism is a defilement of the Sacred.  Torah leaders rightly concern themselves with ritual minutiae, but are inexplicably silent about pressing societal issues like doctors’ and social workers’ strikes in Israel, and the implications of such actions.  Rightly they have much to say about the produce of the seventh year, but nothing about those who refuse to work for a living and choose to stay on the dole, or about those who refuse to serve in the military, leaving others to risk their lives in defending them.  Small wonder that that they alienate those who do work and do serve. Small wonder that they bring scorn to the Torah. It is of them that the Torah speaks.

Fortunately the Torah assures us that despite the defiling behavior and collective chillul ha-Shem of those of whom special standards are expected, God will not abandon the rest of us.  Our text concludes with the assurance that God will abide with us in the midst of defilement—irrespective of the deficits of those who should know better. (Lev:  16:16).






















































0




0
DEFILING THE SANCTUARY


And he shall slay the goat of the sin offering that is for the people…and make atonement for the sacred place, because of the defilement of the children of Israel and because of their transgressions (Lev.  16:15-16).

The first section of parashat Acharei Mot is a description of the process of atonement on Yom Kippur.  Its centerpiece is the ritual performed with two identical goats.  Lots were drawn over them.  One was assigned the scapegoat role.  All the transgressions of the Jewish people were symbolically projected onto it and it was sent to its death in the wilderness, taking all the sins of the Jewish people with it.  And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel and all of their transgressions, even all of their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat and send it away by the hand of an anointed man into the wilderness. (Lev 15:32-22).

The function of the second goat was to achieve atonement for the defiled sanctuary, as indicated in our text. The sages were puzzled by the role of this goat.  They taught:  “This goat might have been thought to atone for the cardinal sins of idolatry, forbidden sexual activity and murder, all of which are defined as defilement.  Therefore the Torah states, [clarifying the specific transgression for which the sacrifice of this goat atones] mi-tum’at [an aspect of defilement] and not all types of defilement. What is this aspect?  It is the defilement of the Sanctuary (Shevu’ot 6b). What troubled the sages was the necessity of having a second goat.  If the scapegoat had achieved atonement for every type of iniquity and transgression, what need was there for the second goat?  What transgression was so severe that it was excluded from the entire gamut of sins and required it’s own special process of atonement?  According to the Torah, this extraordinary transgression was the defilement of the Sanctuary.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the extraordinary nature of this transgression.  The Sanctuary represented the perfect ideal of the Torah.  Its role was to inspire and transform the people, so that their daily lives would gradually come to reflect the ideal. But when the process was reversed and the values of the street corrupted the Sanctuary, it was considered defiled. 

Whereas Rabbi Hirsch defines the defilement of the sanctuary in the most general of terms, the Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Berlin is specific.  He writes in Harchev Davar:  “On Yom Kippur the inadvertent transgressions of the scholars are considered deliberate sins, since there is no repentance for the neglect of Torah by those who are engaged in its study. The Torah describes their transgression as the defilement of the Sanctuary and its holy vessels.  This defilement is, for the most part, caused by the scholars who frequent the Sanctuary and are at home with its [various] holy elements”. 

At first glance, the comment of the Netziv is counter- intuitive.   One would expect the sacred domain of the community to be sanctified by its spiritual leaders. But the Torah accuses them of effecting its defilement. Their iniquity is too great to be included with all the other transgressions of the Jewish people- including the cardinal sins- for which the scapegoat atones. 

However, upon further reflection it is clear that the Netziv’s interpretation is not at all counterintuitive.  It is fully in line with the Jewish interpretation of chillul ha-Shem [the desecration of the Divine]. 

Tractate Yoma (86a) of the Babylonian Talmud, the primary rabbinic source about Yom Kippur discusses this issue: 

What is chillul ha-Shem?  Rav said: if someone like me would take meat from a butcher and not pay him promptly, that would be chillul ha-Shem... Yitzchak of the Academy of Rabbi Yannai said:   “Anybody whose friends are embarrassed on account of his bad reputation- this is chillul ha-Shem.  The opening verse in the Shema Yisra’el recitation  ‘And you shall love the Lord your God’ can be interpreted as commanding that the name of Heaven should become beloved through your actions.  One should read Scripture, study Mishnah and [receive moral training] by serving Torah scholars [and imitating their behavior].  One’s dealings with people should be conducted with pleasing integrity.  What shall people say about one who behaves thus?  “Fortunate is his father who taught him Torah.  Fortunate is his teacher who taught him Torah.  Woe unto people who do not learn Torah.  This person learned Torah.  See how pleasant are his ways, how refined are his deeds.”  Of such a person Scripture declares ‘ God said to me:  You are my servant, Israel, through whom I am glorified. (Isaiah 49:3).    But as for one who learns Scripture, studies Mishnah and serves Torah scholars, but his business transactions are not conducted faithfully and his manner of speaking with people is not pleasant—what do people say about him?  ‘’Woe unto that person who learned Torah.  Woe onto his father who taught him Torah. Woe onto his teacher who taught him Torah.  This individual learned Torah.  Behold how corrupt are his deeds and how ugly his ways.”  Of him Scripture declares:  ‘and they desecrated my Holy Name when it was said of them:  These are the people of ha-Shem…  (Ezekiel 36:20). 

Special conduct is required of those who represent Torah.  Their moral standards must be exemplary.  Because they are identified as particularly devoted to God, unethical behavior and lack of sensitivity reflects badly on their Maker and is a chillul ha-Shem.

This is the sin greater than all others.  This is behavior that defiles God’s holy places, for which regular rituals of atonement are inadequate.  This is the transgression for which an extraordinary sacrifice of atonement was required. 

The Talmud speaks of chillul ha-Shem in the singular.  It illustrates chillul ha- in reference to the behavior of individuals.  Our text, however, refers to chillul ha-Shem in the plural, to the insensitive and unethical posture of Torah giants as a class.

 Sadly, we have witnessed this type of chillul ha-Shem all too frequently.  The indifference of leaders of the rabbinic establishment to the suffering of women whose estranged husbands refuse to give them a get [religious divorce], thus effectively preventing them form moving on with their lives, is nothing less than the defilement of the Holy.  The callous and dismissive attitude of esteemed rabbis to those who seek to come under the wings of the Shekhinah [the divine Presence] by converting to Judaism is a defilement of the Sacred.  Torah leaders rightly concern themselves with ritual minutiae, but are inexplicably silent about pressing societal issues like doctors’ and social workers’ strikes in Israel, and the implications of such actions.  Rightly they have much to say about the produce of the seventh year, but nothing about those who refuse to work for a living and choose to stay on the dole, or about those who refuse to serve in the military, leaving others to risk their lives in defending them.  Small wonder that that they alienate those who do work and do serve. Small wonder that they bring scorn to the Torah. It is of them that the Torah speaks.

Fortunately the Torah assures us that despite the defiling behavior and collective chillul ha-Shem of those of whom special standards are expected, God will not abandon the rest of us.  Our text concludes with the assurance that God will abide with us in the midst of defilement—irrespective of the deficits of those who should know better. (Lev:  16:16).





































 DEFILING THE SANCTUARY


And he shall slay the goat of the sin offering that is for the people…and make atonement for the sacred place, because of the defilement of the children of Israel and because of their transgressions (Lev.  16:15-16).

The first section of parashat Acharei Mot is a description of the process of atonement on Yom Kippur.  Its centerpiece is the ritual performed with two identical goats.  Lots were drawn over them.  One was assigned the scapegoat role.  All the transgressions of the Jewish people were symbolically projected onto it and it was sent to its death in the wilderness, taking all the sins of the Jewish people with it.  And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel and all of their transgressions, even all of their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat and send it away by the hand of an anointed man into the wilderness. (Lev 15:32-22).

The function of the second goat was to achieve atonement for the defiled sanctuary, as indicated in our text. The sages were puzzled by the role of this goat.  They taught:  “This goat might have been thought to atone for the cardinal sins of idolatry, forbidden sexual activity and murder, all of which are defined as defilement.  Therefore the Torah states, [clarifying the specific transgression for which the sacrifice of this goat atones] mi-tum’at [an aspect of defilement] and not all types of defilement. What is this aspect?  It is the defilement of the Sanctuary (Shevu’ot 6b). What troubled the sages was the necessity of having a second goat.  If the scapegoat had achieved atonement for every type of iniquity and transgression, what need was there for the second goat?  What transgression was so severe that it was excluded from the entire gamut of sins and required it’s own special process of atonement?  According to the Torah, this extraordinary transgression was the defilement of the Sanctuary.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the extraordinary nature of this transgression.  The Sanctuary represented the perfect ideal of the Torah.  Its role was to inspire and transform the people, so that their daily lives would gradually come to reflect the ideal. But when the process was reversed and the values of the street corrupted the Sanctuary, it was considered defiled. 

Whereas Rabbi Hirsch defines the defilement of the sanctuary in the most general of terms, the Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Berlin is specific.  He writes in Harchev Davar:  “On Yom Kippur the inadvertent transgressions of the scholars are considered deliberate sins, since there is no repentance for the neglect of Torah by those who are engaged in its study. The Torah describes their transgression as the defilement of the Sanctuary and its holy vessels.  This defilement is, for the most part, caused by the scholars who frequent the Sanctuary and are at home with its [various] holy elements”. 

At first glance, the comment of the Netziv is counter- intuitive.   One would expect the sacred domain of the community to be sanctified by its spiritual leaders. But the Torah accuses them of effecting its defilement. Their iniquity is too great to be included with all the other transgressions of the Jewish people- including the cardinal sins- for which the scapegoat atones. 

However, upon further reflection it is clear that the Netziv’s interpretation is not at all counterintuitive.  It is fully in line with the Jewish interpretation of chillul ha-Shem [the desecration of the Divine]. 

Tractate Yoma (86a) of the Babylonian Talmud, the primary rabbinic source about Yom Kippur discusses this issue: 

What is chillul ha-Shem?  Rav said: if someone like me would take meat from a butcher and not pay him promptly, that would be chillul ha-Shem... Yitzchak of the Academy of Rabbi Yannai said:   “Anybody whose friends are embarrassed on account of his bad reputation- this is chillul ha-Shem.  The opening verse in the Shema Yisra’el recitation  ‘And you shall love the Lord your God’ can be interpreted as commanding that the name of Heaven should become beloved through your actions.  One should read Scripture, study Mishnah and [receive moral training] by serving Torah scholars [and imitating their behavior].  One’s dealings with people should be conducted with pleasing integrity.  What shall people say about one who behaves thus?  “Fortunate is his father who taught him Torah.  Fortunate is his teacher who taught him Torah.  Woe unto people who do not learn Torah.  This person learned Torah.  See how pleasant are his ways, how refined are his deeds.”  Of such a person Scripture declares ‘ God said to me:  You are my servant, Israel, through whom I am glorified. (Isaiah 49:3).    But as for one who learns Scripture, studies Mishnah and serves Torah scholars, but his business transactions are not conducted faithfully and his manner of speaking with people is not pleasant—what do people say about him?  ‘’Woe unto that person who learned Torah.  Woe onto his father who taught him Torah. Woe onto his teacher who taught him Torah.  This individual learned Torah.  Behold how corrupt are his deeds and how ugly his ways.”  Of him Scripture declares:  ‘and they desecrated my Holy Name when it was said of them:  These are the people of ha-Shem…  (Ezekiel 36:20). 

Special conduct is required of those who represent Torah.  Their moral standards must be exemplary.  Because they are identified as particularly devoted to God, unethical behavior and lack of sensitivity reflects badly on their Maker and is a chillul ha-Shem.

This is the sin greater than all others.  This is behavior that defiles God’s holy places, for which regular rituals of atonement are inadequate.  This is the transgression for which an extraordinary sacrifice of atonement was required. 

The Talmud speaks of chillul ha-Shem in the singular.  It illustrates chillul ha- in reference to the behavior of individuals.  Our text, however, refers to chillul ha-Shem in the plural, to the insensitive and unethical posture of Torah giants as a class.

 Sadly, we have witnessed this type of chillul ha-Shem all too frequently.  The indifference of leaders of the rabbinic establishment to the suffering of women whose estranged husbands refuse to give them a get [religious divorce], thus effectively preventing them form moving on with their lives, is nothing less than the defilement of the Holy.  The callous and dismissive attitude of esteemed rabbis to those who seek to come under the wings of the Shekhinah [the divine Presence] by converting to Judaism is a defilement of the Sacred.  Torah leaders rightly concern themselves with ritual minutiae, but are inexplicably silent about pressing societal issues like doctors’ and social workers’ strikes in Israel, and the implications of such actions.  Rightly they have much to say about the produce of the seventh year, but nothing about those who refuse to work for a living and choose to stay on the dole, or about those who refuse to serve in the military, leaving others to risk their lives in defending them.  Small wonder that that they alienate those who do work and do serve. Small wonder that they bring scorn to the Torah. It is of them that the Torah speaks.

Fortunately the Torah assures us that despite the defiling behavior and collective chillul ha-Shem of those of whom special standards are expected, God will not abandon the rest of us.  Our text concludes with the assurance that God will abide with us in the midst of defilement—irrespective of the deficits of those who should know better. (Lev:  16:16).






















































0




0
DEFILING THE SANCTUARY


And he shall slay the goat of the sin offering that is for the people…and make atonement for the sacred place, because of the defilement of the children of Israel and because of their transgressions (Lev.  16:15-16).

The first section of parashat Acharei Mot is a description of the process of atonement on Yom Kippur.  Its centerpiece is the ritual performed with two identical goats.  Lots were drawn over them.  One was assigned the scapegoat role.  All the transgressions of the Jewish people were symbolically projected onto it and it was sent to its death in the wilderness, taking all the sins of the Jewish people with it.  And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel and all of their transgressions, even all of their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat and send it away by the hand of an anointed man into the wilderness. (Lev 15:32-22).

The function of the second goat was to achieve atonement for the defiled sanctuary, as indicated in our text. The sages were puzzled by the role of this goat.  They taught:  “This goat might have been thought to atone for the cardinal sins of idolatry, forbidden sexual activity and murder, all of which are defined as defilement.  Therefore the Torah states, [clarifying the specific transgression for which the sacrifice of this goat atones] mi-tum’at [an aspect of defilement] and not all types of defilement. What is this aspect?  It is the defilement of the Sanctuary (Shevu’ot 6b). What troubled the sages was the necessity of having a second goat.  If the scapegoat had achieved atonement for every type of iniquity and transgression, what need was there for the second goat?  What transgression was so severe that it was excluded from the entire gamut of sins and required it’s own special process of atonement?  According to the Torah, this extraordinary transgression was the defilement of the Sanctuary.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the extraordinary nature of this transgression.  The Sanctuary represented the perfect ideal of the Torah.  Its role was to inspire and transform the people, so that their daily lives would gradually come to reflect the ideal. But when the process was reversed and the values of the street corrupted the Sanctuary, it was considered defiled. 

Whereas Rabbi Hirsch defines the defilement of the sanctuary in the most general of terms, the Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Berlin is specific.  He writes in Harchev Davar:  “On Yom Kippur the inadvertent transgressions of the scholars are considered deliberate sins, since there is no repentance for the neglect of Torah by those who are engaged in its study. The Torah describes their transgression as the defilement of the Sanctuary and its holy vessels.  This defilement is, for the most part, caused by the scholars who frequent the Sanctuary and are at home with its [various] holy elements”. 

At first glance, the comment of the Netziv is counter- intuitive.   One would expect the sacred domain of the community to be sanctified by its spiritual leaders. But the Torah accuses them of effecting its defilement. Their iniquity is too great to be included with all the other transgressions of the Jewish people- including the cardinal sins- for which the scapegoat atones. 

However, upon further reflection it is clear that the Netziv’s interpretation is not at all counterintuitive.  It is fully in line with the Jewish interpretation of chillul ha-Shem [the desecration of the Divine]. 

Tractate Yoma (86a) of the Babylonian Talmud, the primary rabbinic source about Yom Kippur discusses this issue: 

What is chillul ha-Shem?  Rav said: if someone like me would take meat from a butcher and not pay him promptly, that would be chillul ha-Shem... Yitzchak of the Academy of Rabbi Yannai said:   “Anybody whose friends are embarrassed on account of his bad reputation- this is chillul ha-Shem.  The opening verse in the Shema Yisra’el recitation  ‘And you shall love the Lord your God’ can be interpreted as commanding that the name of Heaven should become beloved through your actions.  One should read Scripture, study Mishnah and [receive moral training] by serving Torah scholars [and imitating their behavior].  One’s dealings with people should be conducted with pleasing integrity.  What shall people say about one who behaves thus?  “Fortunate is his father who taught him Torah.  Fortunate is his teacher who taught him Torah.  Woe unto people who do not learn Torah.  This person learned Torah.  See how pleasant are his ways, how refined are his deeds.”  Of such a person Scripture declares ‘ God said to me:  You are my servant, Israel, through whom I am glorified. (Isaiah 49:3).    But as for one who learns Scripture, studies Mishnah and serves Torah scholars, but his business transactions are not conducted faithfully and his manner of speaking with people is not pleasant—what do people say about him?  ‘’Woe unto that person who learned Torah.  Woe onto his father who taught him Torah. Woe onto his teacher who taught him Torah.  This individual learned Torah.  Behold how corrupt are his deeds and how ugly his ways.”  Of him Scripture declares:  ‘and they desecrated my Holy Name when it was said of them:  These are the people of ha-Shem…  (Ezekiel 36:20). 

Special conduct is required of those who represent Torah.  Their moral standards must be exemplary.  Because they are identified as particularly devoted to God, unethical behavior and lack of sensitivity reflects badly on their Maker and is a chillul ha-Shem.

This is the sin greater than all others.  This is behavior that defiles God’s holy places, for which regular rituals of atonement are inadequate.  This is the transgression for which an extraordinary sacrifice of atonement was required. 

The Talmud speaks of chillul ha-Shem in the singular.  It illustrates chillul ha- in reference to the behavior of individuals.  Our text, however, refers to chillul ha-Shem in the plural, to the insensitive and unethical posture of Torah giants as a class.

 Sadly, we have witnessed this type of chillul ha-Shem all too frequently.  The indifference of leaders of the rabbinic establishment to the suffering of women whose estranged husbands refuse to give them a get [religious divorce], thus effectively preventing them form moving on with their lives, is nothing less than the defilement of the Holy.  The callous and dismissive attitude of esteemed rabbis to those who seek to come under the wings of the Shekhinah [the divine Presence] by converting to Judaism is a defilement of the Sacred.  Torah leaders rightly concern themselves with ritual minutiae, but are inexplicably silent about pressing societal issues like doctors’ and social workers’ strikes in Israel, and the implications of such actions.  Rightly they have much to say about the produce of the seventh year, but nothing about those who refuse to work for a living and choose to stay on the dole, or about those who refuse to serve in the military, leaving others to risk their lives in defending them.  Small wonder that that they alienate those who do work and do serve. Small wonder that they bring scorn to the Torah. It is of them that the Torah speaks.

Fortunately the Torah assures us that despite the defiling behavior and collective chillul ha-Shem of those of whom special standards are expected, God will not abandon the rest of us.  Our text concludes with the assurance that God will abide with us in the midst of defilement—irrespective of the deficits of those who should know better. (Lev:  16:16).




























                             DEFILING THE SACRED


And he shall slay the goat of the sin offering that is for the people…and make atonement for the sacred place, because of the defilement of the children of Israel and because of their transgressions (Lev.  16:15-16).

The first section of parashat Acharei Mot is a description of the process of atonement on Yom Kippur.  Its centerpiece is the ritual performed with two identical goats.  Lots were drawn over them.  One was assigned the scapegoat role.  All the transgressions of the Jewish people were symbolically projected onto it and it was sent to its death in the wilderness, taking all the sins of the Jewish people with it.  And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel and all of their transgressions, even all of their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat and send it away by the hand of an anointed man into the wilderness. (Lev 15:32-22).

The function of the second goat was to achieve atonement for the defiled sanctuary, as indicated in our text. The sages were puzzled by the role of this goat.  They taught:  “This goat might have been thought to atone for the cardinal sins of idolatry, forbidden sexual activity and murder, all of which are defined as defilement.  Therefore the Torah states, [clarifying the specific transgression for which the sacrifice of this goat atones] mi-tum’at [an aspect of defilement] and not all types of defilement. What is this aspect?  It is the defilement of the Sanctuary (Shevu’ot 6b). What troubled the sages was the necessity of having a second goat.  If the scapegoat had achieved atonement for every type of iniquity and transgression, what need was there for the second goat?  What transgression was so severe that it was excluded from the entire gamut of sins and required it’s own special process of atonement?  According to the Torah, this extraordinary transgression was the defilement of the Sanctuary.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the extraordinary nature of this transgression.  The Sanctuary represented the perfect ideal of the Torah.  Its role was to inspire and transform the people, so that their daily lives would gradually come to reflect the ideal. But when the process was reversed and the values of the street corrupted the Sanctuary, it was considered defiled. 

Whereas Rabbi Hirsch defines the defilement of the sanctuary in the most general of terms, the Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Berlin is specific.  He writes in Harchev Davar:  “On Yom Kippur the inadvertent transgressions of the scholars are considered deliberate sins, since there is no repentance for the neglect of Torah by those who are engaged in its study. The Torah describes their transgression as the defilement of the Sanctuary and its holy vessels.  This defilement is, for the most part, caused by the scholars who frequent the Sanctuary and are at home with its [various] holy elements”. 

At first glance, the comment of the Netziv is counter- intuitive.   One would expect the sacred domain of the community to be sanctified by its spiritual leaders. But the Torah accuses them of effecting its defilement. Their iniquity is too great to be included with all the other transgressions of the Jewish people- including the cardinal sins- for which the scapegoat atones. 

However, upon further reflection it is clear that the Netziv’s interpretation is not at all counterintuitive.  It is fully in line with the Jewish interpretation of chillul ha-Shem [the desecration of the Divine]. 

Tractate Yoma (86a) of the Babylonian Talmud, the primary rabbinic source about Yom Kippur discusses this issue: 

What is chillul ha-Shem?  Rav said: if someone like me would take meat from a butcher and not pay him promptly, that would be chillul ha-Shem... Yitzchak of the Academy of Rabbi Yannai said:   “Anybody whose friends are embarrassed on account of his bad reputation- this is chillul ha-Shem.  The opening verse in the Shema Yisra’el recitation  ‘And you shall love the Lord your God’ can be interpreted as commanding that the name of Heaven should become beloved through your actions.  One should read Scripture, study Mishnah and [receive moral training] by serving Torah scholars [and imitating their behavior].  One’s dealings with people should be conducted with pleasing integrity.  What shall people say about one who behaves thus?  “Fortunate is his father who taught him Torah.  Fortunate is his teacher who taught him Torah.  Woe unto people who do not learn Torah.  This person learned Torah.  See how pleasant are his ways, how refined are his deeds.”  Of such a person Scripture declares ‘ God said to me:  You are my servant, Israel, through whom I am glorified. (Isaiah 49:3).    But as for one who learns Scripture, studies Mishnah and serves Torah scholars, but his business transactions are not conducted faithfully and his manner of speaking with people is not pleasant—what do people say about him?  ‘’Woe unto that person who learned Torah.  Woe onto his father who taught him Torah. Woe onto his teacher who taught him Torah.  This individual learned Torah.  Behold how corrupt are his deeds and how ugly his ways.”  Of him Scripture declares:  ‘and they desecrated my Holy Name when it was said of them:  These are the people of ha-Shem…  (Ezekiel 36:20). 

Special conduct is required of those who represent Torah.  Their moral standards must be exemplary.  Because they are identified as particularly devoted to God, unethical behavior and lack of sensitivity reflects badly on their Maker and is a chillul ha-Shem.

This is the sin greater than all others.  This is behavior that defiles God’s holy places, for which regular rituals of atonement are inadequate.  This is the transgression for which an extraordinary sacrifice of atonement was required. 

The Talmud speaks of chillul ha-Shem in the singular.  It illustrates chillul ha- in reference to the behavior of individuals.  Our text, however, refers to chillul ha-Shem in the plural, to the insensitive and unethical posture of Torah giants as a class.

 Sadly, we have witnessed this type of chillul ha-Shem all too frequently.  The indifference of leaders of the rabbinic establishment to the suffering of women whose estranged husbands refuse to give them a get [religious divorce], thus effectively preventing them form moving on with their lives, is nothing less than the defilement of the Holy.  The callous and dismissive attitude of esteemed rabbis to those who seek to come under the wings of the Shekhinah [the divine Presence] by converting to Judaism is a defilement of the Sacred.  Torah leaders rightly concern themselves with ritual minutiae, but are inexplicably silent about pressing societal issues like doctors’ and social workers’ strikes in Israel, and the implications of such actions.  Rightly they have much to say about the produce of the seventh year, but nothing about those who refuse to work for a living and choose to stay on the dole, or about those who refuse to serve in the military, leaving others to risk their lives in defending them.  Small wonder that that they alienate those who do work and do serve. Small wonder that they bring scorn to the Torah. It is of them that the Torah speaks.

Fortunately the Torah assures us that despite the defiling behavior and collective chillul ha-Shem of those of whom special standards are expected, God will not abandon the rest of us.  Our text concludes with the assurance that God will abide with us in the midst of defilement—irrespective of the deficits of those who should know better. (Lev:  16:16).






















































0




0
















0




0
















0




0
















0




0