Friday, July 31, 2009

VAETCHANAN: TWO TABLETS- ONE LAW

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Why were the Ten Commandments given on two tablets? Why not just one? G*d could just have easily put them all down on just one big tablet, or he could have used a slightly smaller sized font.
After all, the finger of G*d, the etzbah elokim, comes in different sizes.

The two tablets represent the two essential revolutionary ideas of Judaism. One is that how we treat our fellow members of humanity is important, too. Religion is no longer the sole business of being nice to the Deity. Up until now there were many deities, and they were all lower case. G*d is symbolically stating that ethical behavior is on par with Deity worship.

Now, being nice to the Deity meant also "being nice" to one's fellow man. This was a revolutionary moment in human consciousness! Pagan man wanted a good crop yield, and, "by the gods," he was even willing to sacrifice his first born to get a good harvest!

G*d interfaced with humanity through the cloud on the smoking mountaintop. He uttered these Ten Utterances, these Asereth HaDibroth, even if He only uttered the first two and Moses uttered the rest. This interface is called the theophany, where G*d appeared to man. And tellingly, he didn't descend with recipes for cooking, but recipes for behavior.

The second revolutionary idea inherent in the theophany, the giving of the Decalogue, was that ethics is on par with worshipping G*d. Ethics is equal in stature to monotheism. Abraham, it is said, discovered that G*d is ONE, and also that G*d demands ethical, righteous behavior. Abraham started Judaism, which, before the tribe of Judah, was simply ethical monotheism, or Abrahamism, or simply "the Hebrew faith." The Ten Commandments just put it in writing!

The point is that each part of the phrase, ethical monotheism, got its very own tablet! Monotheism got the first tablet, and ethical behavior got the second one. The fact that they each get their very own tablet means that being truly religious means being as scrupulous in following ethics (mitzwoth bein adahm lechaveiro), is just as important in being scrupulous in one's religious piety and Laws between man and G*d (mitzwoth bein adam lemaqom).

The first part of this week's parsha, also has something very important to teach us, of topical importance for us today. In Deut 4:2, it says lo tosifu...velo tigre'u mimenu. Do not add (to my law)...or subtract from it.

How ironic that the son of the very rabbi in the Syrian Jewish community who outlawed conversions to Judaism, and therefore was adding to the Torah, was arrested on money laundering charges, thereby in a sense subtracting from the Torah. Anyone can break the Torah's law, but when a Rabbi does it he is symbolically sending the message that it is the proper way. He teaches by his actions, not by just his words.

Conversion is allowed by the Torah. 24 times the Torah goes out of its way to admonish us to treat the proselyte with kindness and compassion. To outlaw conversion therefore is to add laws to the Torah which were not there to begin with. An innovation to the Torah! And yet who among the Orthodox community condemned it publicly as against the Torah, as much an innovation as they accuse the Reform movement of indulging in. One who forbids conversion is guilty of lo tosifu, that one should not add to the Torah.

And breaking the law of the land goes against the precept of dina de'malchuta dina, "the law of the land is the law," which is basic to Judaism. Money laundering is a form of stealing, for one is aiding and abetting theft. One who steals, or (one who aids and abets stealing) is therefore guilty of lo tigre'u, that one should not subtract from the Torah.

Nachamu, nachamu, ami- Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, are the opening words of our Haftarah. A true comforting will only come about when we fully grasp the meaning of the two tablets. We will bask in the light and the delight of both G*d and our fellow man when we treat ethics on par with piety. And that to be truly pious means to seek and gain respect in the eyes of his fellow, as much as to gain respect in the eyes of G*d.

Shabbat Shalom!

© 2009 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me.
http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

TISHA B'AV: TRIANGULATION COMPLETE

By Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

2012 may indeed herald a year of cleansing for humanity as a whole. It may usher in a new era of radical awareness of our common humanity, a new era of recognition of the futility of an ethos of hatred and division, of separation from the heart of our Creator. Perhaps it may take a new world war to achieve this awareness. Or perhaps not. The messianic age, it is said, will be ushered in with kindness and ease, if we are deserving, or the opposite, if not.

The Mayan calendar said it. Nostradamus said it. Now, "Judaism," or if you prefer, the Jewish calendar, says it. The triangulation is complete. 2012. The year of the "big cleanse." Are you ready?

Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of the month of Av, is the most sorrowful day on the Jewish calendar, the culmination of three weeks of semi-mourning. A comprehensive list of national Jewish tragedies, from the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem to the expulsion from Spain, among many other expulsions and destructions- all took place on this date.

The Rabbis see it as a day of karma for our sins, a cleansing on account of our collective sins. We spend the day in a type of reflection, of introspection, of lamenting our national tragedies - of learning from our past mistakes in a proactive application of Santayana's telling dictum.

So, back to the Jewish calendar a la Nostradamus and the Mayans....

The Jewish year is written out in letters. This year (5769) is Taf Shin Samech Tet. This Rosh Hashana will usher in the Hebrew year 5770 - Taf Shin Ayin. The year 2012, starting in September, therefore, will be Taf Shin Ayin Bet. What's that spell? Tisha B'... You can fill in the Av!

The concept of "three is the charm" is reflected in the Jewish concept of "chazaka." Meaning strong, or locked in, it derives from the agrarian/nomadic notion that a triple threaded rope is stronger than a mere single or double threaded one. A sin performed three times is no longer considered a sin - in the eyes of the sinner, as noted by rabbinic psychology. So Nostradamus' or the Mayan's prophecies never really got under my skin, so to speak, until the final prophetic lock-in on the part of the ancient Hebrew calendar!

Before you jump out the window after reading these words, let us reflect on the fact that although it was a day of tragedy, it also often marked a turning point and launched a spiritual rejuvenation. After the Babylonian exile and destruction of the first Temple in 586 BCE, the Jewish people were cleansed, so to speak, of the pervasive sin of idolatry. A new era had begun.

The original ur-template for Tisha B'Av was the proverbial sin of the spies who scouted out the Land of Israel at Moses' behest. Returning with a negative report that they could never hope to conquer the land, and backed by the imprimatur of the congregational masses, a forty year national cleanse was enacted. Only those born in freedom, who had never submitted to the easy predictable comforts of slavery, would be privileged to enter the Land under Joshua's leadership. The older generation had to die out before the new one could fulfill their destiny.

2012 may indeed herald a year of cleansing for humanity as a whole. It may usher in a new era of radical awareness of our common humanity, a new era of recognition of the futility of an ethos of hatred and division, of separation from the heart of our Creator. Perhaps it may take a new world war to achieve this awareness. Or perhaps not. The messianic age, it is said, will be ushered in with kindness and ease, if we are deserving, or the opposite, if not.

One antidote to our universal suffering can be found in the antidote to Jewish suffering. Our anti-venom must be shared with the world. Our sages teach that the second Temple fell owing to sinat chinam, causeless hatred, where we could not recognize the chein, or grace, or innate goodness of the other. The antidote therefore is ahavat chinam, or causeless love, that we love each other for no reason, other than our shared humanity!

As all Jewry must embrace each other in our shared common heritage, so too all humankind must embrace the notion of our shared commonality and brotherhood. There is no future for a world that tolerates an encroaching dhimmitude and intolerance of the other as envisioned in the manifestation of a Judaeophobic, Christophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, salafistic sharia law worlview, and the subversion of Western liberal democratic ideals. Islamist domination is antithetical to the vision of a united humanity based on tolerance, harmony and pluralism.

The other antidote to our suffering depends on whether we preempt the possibility of a nuclear Iran. Anticipating the revelation of the 12th hidden Mahdi, whose appearance can only be heralded by the advent of a world in chaos, a nuclearized Iran would hardly refrain from attacking Israel either directly, or via their Hamas/Hezbollah proxies. Having stated such an aim, they can hardly be doubted in their desire to implement it, considering the precedent of their fingerprint in the ruins of the Israeli embassy and the AMIA Hebrew Cultural Center in Buenos Aires. While their own destruction would be guranteed, no one can say that the Iranian leadership would shun the opportunity as suicidal, for they embrace that as an ideal.

Our messianic ideal is a prophesied vision of a world in a state of peace and harmony, unified in a profound renewed awareness of G*d's presence in the world. This vision clashes with an alternative so-called ideal of domination and submission, intolerance and regression.

History is unravelling at warp speed as we speak. Either way, there will be a cleansing. How it unfolds and manifests is up to us.

Tzom Kal. Easy Fast!

© 2009 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"lI was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.

Friday, July 24, 2009

DEVARIM: ELEVEN- ASHTEI ASAR

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Seven - eleven. Seven is the holy number marking the dawn of creation. Eleven is the number heralding the final redemption, when we will see in each other our deepest connection. The number eleven is the number of brotherly unity, the same brothers who begged Yosef for forgiveness in unity as one heart. The Great Shabbos is coming soon when the heart of all Israel and all the world shall beat as one.

The modern day scourge of terror debuted most strikingly with the murder of the eleven Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich. And it reached its most recent crescendo with the terror attacks of September the eleventh. The number eleven is thus forever linked to the challenge facing redemption.

Even Yosef found himself challenged by the number eleven in his dreams. He found himself stuffed in a pit and sold into slavery over the number eleven! But not only is the number eleven telling. Most striking is its special spelling: Ayin, Shin, Taf and Yud- AShTeY(eleven in Hebrew is usually either achad asar or achat esreh, not ashtei asar). How strange. And how compelling.

This conceivably alludes to the territorial challenge which Israel faces today, especially in view of the territorially themed context of the parsha. Mirroring the lexicon of modern Israel's alphabet politics, Ayin stands for Aza (Gaza). Shin stands for Shomron (Samaria). Yud stands for Yehudah (Judaea). Okay. I get it.

But what does the Taf stand for? The letter Taf stands for Tel-Aviv! It represents the entirety of Israel in symbolic puzzle-board fashion. Israel's fate is thus seemingly tied inextricably to the number eleven. But Tel Aviv is a modern 20th century city! All the others go back 3,000 years! The others are our ancient roots. Tel Aviv is our modern latter day fruit, the fruit of our return.

Israel futilely offers piece by piece for the sake of peace yet another part of herself, only to be spurned, mocked and humiliated by her enemies sworn to her destruction. Every act of compromise is viewed as a sign of weakness and strengthens the hands of the radicals.

But why Tel Aviv? Why would the holy Torah in its compulsive yearning for eternal relevance deem it worthy to foreshadow seemingly UNholy Tel Aviv? Fun city. The UNJerusalem. It didn't even yet exist until the 20th century! No matter. The Divine Mind has infinite time horizons.

So why Tel Aviv? Because our enemies tell us that locale makes no difference in their goal to eradicate the Jewish presence from all of the Land of Israel, that there is no difference whether a Jew is living in Gaza or in Tel Aviv or in Judaea or in Samaria. To our enemies it is all the same. We are all settlers in their collective mind's eye.

It's all or nothing! No matter how much or how often we offer land for peace, their answer is always the same. All or nothing. How much we yearn for peace. We cut off our collective arm for peace. It makes no difference whether the Jews are in Tel Aviv or in Jerusalem. "They ALL must go," say their poets and leaders (in Arabic), "and take their dead with them." Not a trace should remain. All or nothing.

LiKhToF means to cut off (in order to carry the pole of fruit on one's shoulder -katef). We withdrew from Katif for the sake of peace. But to carry the pole properly you need a partner to carry the yearning for peace on HIS shoulders too. You can cut the load, but where is the partner to help you carry it? Neither you nor he can carry it alone. Each must grab an end.

What is compromise in the Arab mind but a decadent western import, a sign of weakness, of shame and humiliation. Ashtey Asar. Even Tel Aviv. All or nothing. Us or them, apparently. We have always been willing to seek peace, but whenever push comes to shove, peace is shoved back down the ladder. The more they say no, the deeper our roots spread in the earth. Had the Arab world accepted Israel as a Jewish state at her birth, she would possibly still be but a narrow coastal strip and a patchwork of Galilean dunams. The more they deny Israel the more Israel grows. The more Pharaoh oppressed us the stronger Israel became.

We, the Jewish People, are like the Cherokee Nation, forced from our ancestral home to march on the Trail of Tears. But we are coming back home to Georgia, to the land of our fathers. We have left the reservations. But we are finally coming home, even if they don't want us to return. Oklahoma is not Georgia. Arkansas is not Tennessee. Our tears of sorrow will one day be tears of joy. He who sows in tears will one day reap in joy.

One day, at the dawn of the eschaton, all the nations of the world will come up to the Land of Israel and ascend His holy mountain, holy Mount Zion, and sing His praises. The world which now resists and pillories Israel will one day open up her eyes and embrace her.

But that will not happen until the other meaning of Ashtei becomes manifest in reality. Not merely that the Arab world's goal remains the entire patrimony of Israel, but rather that only the unity of Israel will be the trigger for our final redemption.

Just as sinat chinam - causeless hatred, divided us and exiled us, so too its opposite, ahavat chinam- causeless love, will be the key to our redemption. For only when all our hearts will beat as one and when we see each other and all people as true brothers of the same father in heaven will we be really worthy of salvation.

The secular resident of Tel Aviv and the religious resident of Yerushalayim will see each other as brothers and not as enemies. The heart has two ventricles. The heart of Israel also has two ventricles: the secular ventricle and the religious ventricle. One says I can bring redemption without G*d's help. The other says no matter how hard it seems, if I at least do my share to start the process, I know G*d will finish it for me.

Until we each see each other as brothers, and even see our enemies as children of the same father in Heaven, true redemption will always elude us. But they must also see us as their brothers. It takes two to carry the pole for peace. Short pole. Short peace. The longer the pole the longer the peace.

Seven - eleven. Seven is the holy number marking the dawn of creation. Eleven is the number heralding the final redemption, when we will see in each other our deepest connection. The number eleven is the number of brotherly unity, the same brothers who begged Yosef for forgiveness in unity as one heart. The Great Shabbos is coming soon when the heart of all Israel and all the world shall beat as one. When the towers fell on nine eleven it was in the eleventh hour of the eleventh day. They will only be finally rebuilt in their truest sense when see all humanity as one unified spark of the Divine emanation.

Shabbat Shalom!

© 1999-2009 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

This Torah was written in honor of the memory of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm,Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Yaakov Hakohen Melman, z"l.
Dedications of these writings are available.
Please contact me privately.

Friday, July 17, 2009

MATTOT MASSEI: PEACE IN THE HEART

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

"Peace is the greatest blessing. Speech is what makes us human. Keeping our word makes us close to Divine."

This week's commentary is dedicated to the memory of my holy father, I.J. Melman, whose yahrzeit is on this coming Sunday, Tammuz 27. His life was dedicated to transforming the world and making it better and closer through kindness and the promise of technology.

When he was just seven he asked his Rebbe at Chaim Berlin Yeshiva, if it is forbidden to light a fire on Shabbos, then why did G*d command Aaron to light the menorah each day, even on Shabbos, and to bring not one, but two offerings on Shabbos in the Holy Temple, in the Beit HaMiqdash? What a holy, deep question! But he was beaten for asking it and so his father took him out of yeshiva, and sent him to public school, for no one should ever hit a child for asking good questions! That is not the way of Torah! But the Torah's loss was the world's gain!

He went on to develop the first color television, the first fax machine, the infrared detectors the first satellites in space used for navigation, and night vision technology, emergency lights and computer infomatics, and was a founding member of the IEEE and the National Color Standards Commission.

This week's reading speaks about peace. About peace in the home/heart/hearth and peace in the nation. The parsha opens with an admonition to the tribal heads to tell the people that they must keep their oaths and not break their word. The spoken word is sacred.

Immediately thereafter it deals with vows made by a woman, and their possible annulment by her husband and/or father. How do these ideas connect? The linkage is the concept we call Shalom Bayit- Peace in the Home. Peace on the macro level and peace on the micro level. Peace in the national home and peace in the domestic home. Peace in the individual home between husband and wife, and peace in the House of Israel between the tribes. And most importantly, peace in the heart!

The heart has two ventricles. They have to work in unison, beating to the same rhythm, or else the person is deep trouble. They must work as a team. There is no I in team, and no ego may dominate. Imagine one ventricle says to the other: I am greater than you. And the other does the same. If they stop working together then they both lose.

The Arabs and the Jews both come from one father - Abraham, and all humanity comes from one father- G*d. The Arabs and the Jewish people have the power to work together to transform the Middle East from the sea to the river Euphrates into a truly blessed Garden of Eden where all can live together without fear. When all can make room in our hearts for the other then true peace will emerge. If we don't work together then we all lose.

Before the British relinquished control of their Mandate many worked for peace in the region. The King of Iraq shared this vision but was assassinated for welcoming the rebirth of Israel in her ancient land. The King of Jordan shared this vision but was also assassinated for the same reason. Peace was possibly at hand. Can you imagine how much bloodshed and pain and suffering could have been averted if all had shared this vision?

Working together in harmony the children of Abraham could yet transform hate into love, fear into understanding and acceptance. Israel, Jordan and Iraq all share the land from the "sea to the river." One day the dream of Eden will again become reality.

Hamas sows a poisonous hatred in the hearts of our Arab brothers. Because of Hamas we put up walls to keep out those bent on murder and violence. In their vision the other- the infidel, has no
merit or even right to exist. The walls in their heart force us to erect our walls. They sow fear in the heart of those who seek peace. Israel has returned home. Let all the children of Abraham rejoice. Leviticus 19:18 teaches us to love our neighbor as ourself. Hamas teaches to hate your neighbor as yourself.

This concept of peace and tranquility begins to break down when people don't keep the promises that they made- whether under the huppah of their own wedding or Israel's national huppah at Sinai. Or the promise of Ishmael and Itzchaq to honor their father Avraham at his funeral at the Tomb of the Patriarchs by learning to live together in peace - both they and their seed.

When either spouse puts his or her personal interests above that of the union the harmony and peace within the family begins to unravel. The covenant of the holy bond must be stronger than the private interests of either party. Their common vision must be set before them always.

Peace within the nation of Israel similarly begins to break down when various factions- the "tribes of Israel," put their own personal interests above that of the national well-being. Only the vows they make to place the national interests first restores the sense of unity and national Shalom Bayit.

In Numbers 30: 3, in the context of the Laws of Vows, it says: K'CHAWL HAYOTZEI MIPEEV YA'ASEH- "he must do as he says." And then a bit further it uses similar phraseology in the context of the desires of the tribes, Reuben and Gad (and half of Menashe), to settle the TransJordan (East Bank), away from the other tribes who were to be settled in CisJordan (West Bank). In Numbers 32:24 it says: VEHAYOTZAI MIPEECHEM TA'ASU - "and as you say so shall you do."Exactly the same language! One version is in the singular. The other is in the plural. And each for the same concept - Shalom- the peace and harmony of all sharing the same vision.

The point the Torah is making is that in all situations we must strive to keep our word if we want Shalom Bayit. It is a great sin not to keep one's word. Nowhere in the Torah does it say that one is bound solely by a written agreement. Unlike in today's society, the bond of obligation is sealed with the word alone.

Today Iran's leaders have vowed to wipe Israel off the map, and are at the brink of developing the nuclear weapons they wish to employ to achieve that aim. We must take them at their word.

Peace is the greatest blessing. Shalom Bayit- whether a peace agreement or a marriage vow, domestic bliss or national security, it begins and ends with keeping one's word. Speech is what makes us human. Keeping our word makes us close to Divine.

Above all else, the Nation of Israel promised G*d that she and her descendants would always be a light unto the nations, a nation of priests and a holy nation - an Or LaGoyim, a mamlechet kohanim veGoy Qadosh. We forget that oath at our own peril.

Shabbat Shalom!

© 1999-2009 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.

Friday, July 10, 2009

PINCHAS: DAUGHTERS AND FESTIVALS

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Judaism has been responsive to women's concerns since its inception. Any alleged signs of discrimination had more to do with combating the cultural mores and social norms and customs of the general culture which the earliest Hebrews absorbed. But Judaism itself had always ascribed a high premium and an esteemed sense of worth to its women and their role as complementary and equal partners in creating a holy and wholly new kind of society.

Sandwiched in between the new census of Israel and the overview of the festivals along with the descriptions of their relevant sacrificial offerings is the fascinating narrative of the Daughters of Zelafchad - a petition over inheritance issues. Seemingly irrelevant contextually to the balance of the parsha, its placement nevertheless has a deeper meaning altogether above and beyond its inherent meaning.

Remarkably, up until the generation of the Exodus Israel's holy day was exclusively the Sabbath. The particulars of her observance emerged only after the revelation at Sinai. Heretofore its general observance adhered in pupa form, as our tradition teaches that our Matriarchs, the founding mothers of Israel, themselves kindled the Sabbath lights.

It was the members of the generation of the Exodus who were given a new history, marked by new festivals. Passover marked their liberation, Shavuot marked their mission, while Succoth recorded their Divine Protection and looked to a future time beyond history. It would be a time of eschatalogical redemption.

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur would function as barometers, measuring the nation's fealty to its Divine Mission and enabling her to purge herself from sin, barriers to fulfilling her destiny. Men and women, as equal partners, would together serve Hashem and observe His festivals upon now re-entering the Land, just as they together had observed the Sabbath all along.

The daughters of Zelafchad are actually named. Twice. This is remarkable considering that the Torah explicitly leaves unmentioned the names of Mrs. Noah (we know her name is Na'amah thanks to the Midrash) as well as the daughters of Lot and Mrs. Lot their mother. Of course not every male in the Torah is explicitly mentioned by name either.

By actually naming the daughters- Machlah, Noa, Chaglah, Milkah and Tirtzah, the Torah is not only giving them honor and prominence, but is also connecting all Jewish women to our festivals and traditions. In essence, it is a constitutional amendment of sorts to guarantee the rights of all the women of Israel for all generations, not just the specific daughters of Zelafchad.

While the American legal system was not inherently discriminatory against Jews, Jews still had to fight to assert their inherent rights in the new society in order to overcome the prejudices of those who held the reins of power. Likewise, Judaism did not inherently discriminate against women. But it was up to the women themselves to assert their rights.

The episode of Zelafchad and his daughters is but a microcosm of the larger struggle of the women of Israel to stand alongside their men as equal partners before G*d. The new era of entering the Land of Israel under Joshua's leadership would not be tarnished by reducing the value and worth of the Jewish woman. It might have been intuitive to blame all women and adopt a generalized misogyny, even towards Israelite women, on account of the seductions of the Moabite/Midianite alliance and the attendant plague. Thus their worth was explicitly affirmed.

The names of the daughters themselves are each intimately tied to the festivals themselves, as if to underscore their inherent connection:

Machlah is tied to Passover. Machlah means forgiveness, and only Hashem's mercy permitted His taking Israel up from out of Egypt in spite of Israel's degradation, self or otherwise.

Noa is tied to Shavuoth. It means pleasant or distinguished. The Torah's ways are pleasant. Israel is distinguished by her observance of the spirit and laws of the Torah.

Chaglah is connected to Succoth. Chaglah means "to encircle." We are encircled in our festival booths by the or hamakif, the encircling light, symbolic of G*d's Divine protection. The shorter word within the word, Chag, means festival. Indeed, when tradition mentions HeChag - the festival, she means Succoth, festival par excellence.

Milkah is connected to Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashana is the coronation of Hashem as sole ruler of the universe. Milkah is related to malchut, meaning kingdom.

Lastly, Tirtzah is connected to Yom Kippur. It is related to the word ratzon, which means "will" or "acceptable." On Yom Kippur, Israel's sins having been forgiven, her will and the Divine Will are now as one. Her atonement was accepted.

The new moon offerings are self-understood to be related to the Jewish woman. No elaboration was necessary.Walking figuratively hand in hand into their new land to create a new society under Torah, the Jewish man and Jewish woman would be partners working in harmony to fulfill the new Jewish mission of creating one nation, under G*d Who is invisible and indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Shabbat Shalom!

© 1999-2009 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.

Friday, July 3, 2009

CHUKAT/BALAK: ANTIDOTE TO ZERO SUM FEAR

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin HaKohen Melman

How much of life is seen as a zero sum game? How often do we view our neighbor's gain as our loss? This jealousy/covetousness is the source of evil. When we believe that there is not sufficient abundance in the universe for all of us we resort defensively to a hoarding posture. So, homeopathically, we must eliminate this zero sum thinking with a ritual which embraces the same!

This week we learn about the snake victims. From Eve until today the snake is our nemesis. Seldom are two parshiot more fittingly tied together than Chukat and Balak. On the deepest level they are so intimately connected. The snake is the eternal metaphor for the evil inclination, inherent in the central human condition of free choice, Bechirat Chofsheet.

Ironically the symbol for healing is the snake on a pole (Numbers 21:8). Aetiologically, it is falsely attributed to Greek origins. But more than irony is the homeopathic truth which is revealed: The cure is implicit in its (diluted) essence.

The Torah is a blueprint for life affirmation and the implicit negation of death. We are instructed to concoct the antidote to death contamination/impurity. How fitting in the parsha where we see the deaths of Miriam, Aaron, and the snake victims. We are to take a completely red cow- a parah adumah temimah,and slaughter it and burn it completely. Its ashes serve to ritually and spiritually purify us in the face of death and death contamination. The word "tumah" (impurity) itself is the root of the English word "conTAMinate."

The use of this formula symbolically helps us attain spiritual perfection in the face of death- the highest form of tumah, or spiritual imperfection. It is the highest form of spiritual imperfection because implicit in death is the cessation of spiritual struggle. Struggle is life. Life is struggle. That is why Eden has become a metaphor for the world to come, olam haba, because there is no struggle in Eden.

Tam is short for temimah- which means "perfect" or "complete."Tam spelled in reverse is "meth," meaning death. Inherent in the word itself is its function. That in and if itself is not extraordinary. What compels the imagination is the metaphorical pallandromic aspect inherent within the name itself. Read from either direction we come to understand its meaning.

Interestingly, this "reversal" is similarly attained when we examine what is burned and how it is burned. Its skin, its flesh and its blood must be burned- AL pirsha- ON its entrails, not AND its entrails. This serves to highlight the idea of the entrails, the innards, as somehow the focus and foundation of what is to be burned. In essence, then, the Torah is teaching us to look beyond the outer glitz, to peer more closely at what is inside. Ethics and morals, as opposed to glitz and glamour, are what truly count in life.

How much of life is seen as a zero sum game? How often do we view our neighbors gain as our loss? This jealousy/covetousness is the source of evil. When we believe that there is not sufficient abundance in the universe for all of us we resort defensively to a hoarding posture. So, homeopathically, we must eliminate this zero sum thinking with a ritual which embraces the same!

AL PIRSHA YISROF. ON the entrails it must be burned. The shoresh, the rootSOURCE of yisroph, is SRF (burn),which is reverse for FRS (innards/entrails). This idea of "reverse consumption" is played out on the macro level with the automatic contamination of the handlers in their very handling of the product which eliminates contamination. In other words, nothing is left over. There is no net gain on the side of purity. If you make something pure on one end, the other end becomes impure. You can't get to FRS without SRF.

Similarly, we don't get to TaM (perfection) without an awareness of the approach of death(MeTh). This certain knowledge compels a sense of urgency and clarity of purpose. To skip to parshat (the INSIDE of the Torah - PaRSha has the same FRS root) Balak, when Bilaam blesses the B'nai Yisrael (MA TOVU OHALECHA YAKOV- HOW GOODLY ARE THY TENTS OH JACOB) for the sexual sanctity/privacy which he sees when looking out at their encampment (see Rashi here Numbers 24:5), Israel in the very next chapter succumbs to the curse- the REVERSE of the blessing, for taking something which rightlybelongs on the INSIDE (sexuality) and displaying it on the OUTSIDE.

This point is further driven home in the text by the double word meaning of KUBA both as "inside" (Numbers 25:8) and as "curse" (laKov- Numbers 24:10 and elsewhere). In other words, Pinchas' antidote to the curse of public sexuality was to pierce them through in the most private of areas.

Thus the symbolically reverse nature of the red cow formula was terribly played out in real life. The point really is, though, that what must be purified to attain perfection is the INSIDE. The kishkes must be burned through and through to have the highest cleansing!

So we must ask ourselves if we are willing to go beyond the superficial token level to do what is right? Are we content to merely nudge ourselves in the right direction? Or are we ready to commit to what we know is right on the deepest level possible?

Are we ready to commit ourselves to Torah on the deepest kishke level, the level which aroused Bilaam's blessings? Are we willing to go the extra mile in our families to make Shabbos special, to make Shabbos sweet? To make it unthinkable for our children to want anything but the deepest Jewish life possible?

In Israel, is the Jewish Nation ready to internalize its faith and devote itself wholeheartedly to renew its commitment to Torah values and wean itself off of empty, vapid western materialism? Are we ready to commit ourselves to a higher transcendant covenantal truth?

Shabbat Shalom!
Good Shabbos!

© 2000 - 2009 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me.
http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.

NEVER GIVE UP!

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Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

moshav band live at mexicali blues

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What mind is it?

"Great minds discuss ideas;
average minds discuss events;
small minds discuss people."
-Eleanor Roosevelt


ON FIXING AND HEALING...

"If you believe that you can damage, then believe that you can fix..... If you believe that you can harm, then believe that you can heal..........." Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Hatiqwa

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SELICHOT LIVE AT CARLEBACH SHUL 2008

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"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."

- anonymous
"Perhaps the greatest force in the entire universe is compounded interest."

- Albert Einstein

the last hoshana rabba with reb shlomo and me playing together the week before he took off in '94

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Larry David wants to Save the Planet

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Alpha blondy from cote d'ivoire sings his love of Jerusalem in Hebrew and French all over the world

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When I was young I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.- Abraham Joshua Heschel
The whole world is a very narrow bridge. And the most important thing is to not be afraid.
-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
"The greatest thing in the world is to do somebody else a favor." - Aish Kodesh
"As you want G*d to give you a chance, give everyone else a chance to also begin again." - Shlomo Carlebach

About Me

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United States
I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!