Sunday, 17 January 2021
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”~Martin Luther King, Jr.
“True love is boundless like the ocean and, swelling within one, spreads itself out and, crossing all boundaries and frontiers, envelops the whole world.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.” ~Albert Einstein
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”~Nelson Mandela~The Buddha
“Not to mend one’s ways when one has erred is to err indeed.” ~Confucius
“Hatred ever kills, love never dies. Such is the vast difference between the two... The duty of a human being is to diminish hatred and to promote love.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
“To love another person is to see the face of God.” ~Victor Hugo
“When we see God in each other we will be able to live in peace.” ~Mother Teresa
“In this world, hate never dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate. This is the law, ancient and inexhaustible.”
Saturday, 16 January 2021
From our friend Cantor Richard Wohlberg [and our Mentor Rav Sholom Gold]:
A deeper meaning of the striking Mishnah in Avos 2:10,13,14), which adds yet another dimension to our interpretation:
"Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai had five disciples… He said to them, 'Go out and see what is the best characteristic to which an individual ought cleave. R. Eliezer says, a good eye; R. Yehoshua says, a good friend; R. Yose says, a good neighbor; R. Shimon says, ha'ro'eh et ha'nolad to see that which will be born. R. Elazar says, a good heart.
[Rabban Yohanan] then said to them, 'Go out and see which is the worst characteristic from which an individual ought flee?' R. Eliezer says, an evil eye; R. Yehoshua says, an evil friend; R. Yose says, an evil neighbor; R. Shimon says, to borrow and not repay; R. Eliezer says, an evil heart.
One of the fascinating aspects of this Mishnah is that only R. Shimon seems to have bypassed the parallel structure of the two halves of the Mishnah: according to him, the good characteristic towards which one must aspire is the ability to see what is yet to be born, the outcome of events and experiences, the opposite of which he defines as to borrow and not repay rather than as not to see that which will be born, not to be aware of the outcome of events (which we could expect to find). It could very well be that his intent is precisely the parallel structure; after all, one who borrows and doesn't repay was generally not sufficiently aware when he borrowed the money that pay-day will soon arrive, and that he'd better be prepared for that day with sources from which to repay his debt. Be that as it may, R. Shimon's unique formulation within the Mishnah cries out for further commentary.
I saw the following beautiful vort: Rav Shalom Gold of Har Nof, Jerusalem once suggested another interpretation for ha'ro'eh es ha'nolad: not one who sees that which will be born (which in Hebrew would be yivaled) but rather one who sees from whom he was born, one who understands that he did not emerge from an empty vacuum and realizes that he has a certain debt to pay to the previous generations which formed him. Once we realized our debt to pay to the previous generations (which formed us), we would possess a good eye, choose good friends and neighbors, and contain a good heart. It's all about remembering the past, applying it to the present and recognizing the consequences to our future.
-Cantor Richard Wohlberg
Kol Tuv / Best Regards,
Rabbi Rich Wolpoe
Friday, 15 January 2021
Rabbi Eliyahu Safran on the parsha -- hope you enjoy
Thursday, 14 January 2021
Guest Blogger: Mitchell First
The Origin of Our Prayer for the Government (Ha-Noten Teshuah)
Every Shabbat, after the haftarah, our custom is to recite a prayer for the government. The prayer begins “Ha-noten teshuah la-melakhim..” (=He who gives salvation to kings…). Where did this prayer come from?
Before we address this, it is important to point out that there are many sources in Judaism for the idea of praying for the government. The most widely quoted source is Jer. 29:7, where Jeremiah instructs: “Seek the peace of the city where I caused you to be exiled and pray to the Lord for it…” Even before this, at Gen. 47:7, Jacob bestows a blessing on Pharaoh. There is also R. Chaninah’s statement at Avot 3:2 that we must pray for the welfare of the government since otherwise men would swallow each other alive. (This statement was made when the hated Romans were ruling Palestine. So even government by the hated Romans was viewed as preferable to a lack of government!)
Also, there is an interesting legend in Jewish tradition that the Jews told Alexander the Great that he should not listen to the Cutim and their request to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem. Our Temple, the Jews explained, was a place where the Jews prayed for Alexander’s kingdom. See the baraita to Megillat Taanit, day of Har Gerizim (21 Kislev).
(For additional sources about Jews’ praying for foreign governments in ancient times, see the 16th century work, Me’or Einyaim, chap. 55.)
R. David Abudarham, writing in Spain in 1340, mentions a custom of blessing the king in synagogue after the Torah reading on Monday and Thursday. But he does not provide any official text of the blessing and it does not seem that he was alluding to Ha-Noten Teshuah.
A custom of blessing the king on Shabbat is mentioned in the Orchot Chayyim of R. Aaron Ha-Kohen of Lunel (Provence), which is another source from around this time. See the section Seder Tefillat Shabbat Shacharit, sec. 8. (See also Kol Bo, section 20, a work perhaps by the same author.) A few other such sources in Spain and Provence, starting around 1300, with the text of their “mi she-berach” blessings, are collected by Aharon Arend, in chapter 10 of his Pirkei Mechkar Le-Yom Ha-Atzma’ut (1998), at p. 181.
But what is the earliest source for our Ha-Noten Teshuah Prayer? The earliest is as a prayer for King Ferdinand V. This is the king who later expelled the Jews in 1492! See Arend, p. 182.
Was there a prayer for the king in the Ashkenazic community in the time of the Rishonim? Entziklopedia Le-Beit Yisrael (ed. R. Halperin, 1994), entry Ha-Noten Teshuah, includes a statement that this prayer is mentioned in a document from Worms, Germany from the year 1096. But we do not have documents from Worms from the year 1096, so I decided to investigate this mysterious claim. It turns out that there is a manuscript that describes the rituals of Worms and includes a very short prayer for the king, but the prayer is not Ha-Noten Teshuah. A. Frumkin, in his edition of Seder Rav Amram Gaon (1910-12), vol. 2, p. 78, wrote that this manuscript was written at the time of the gezerot of 1096 and 1146. He came to this erroneous conclusion because the manuscript included some details from these times. But scholars today realize that the manuscript, Oxford 2205, was written several centuries later. Meanwhile, Frumkin’s statement assigning the above very early time period to this manuscript has been followed by many sources, including the above encyclopedia. The above encyclopedia also erroneously assumed that the prayer in the manuscript was Ha-Noten Teshuah, but it clearly was not, as Frumkin quotes the language of the prayer. So all we learn from this manuscript is that Worms and perhaps other parts of Ashkenaz had their own short prayer for the king, but we do not know how early this prayer arose.
Going back to Ha-Nanoten Teshuah, some claim that it is actually a subversive prayer with a hidden anti-government meaning. The prayer begins with quotes from Psalms 144:10: “He who gives salvation unto kings,” and “He who rescues his servant David from the hurtful sword.” But the subsequent verse in Psalms, not included in Ha-Nanoten Teshuah, is: “Rescue me and deliver me out of the hands of strangers, whose mouth speak falsehood and their right hand is a hand of lying.” Perhaps the citation to 144:10 is meant to allude to the subsequent verse! Similarly, the sentence in the prayer, “ha-noten ba-yam derekh...” is a quote from Isaiah 43:16. But just prior to that, at 43:14, the prophet describes the downfall of Babylon. Babylon may be a metaphor for governments of the Jews in exile.
I am not convinced that the author of the prayer intended these subversive hidden allusions. The material in the nearby verses can easily be just coincidence. (An interesting scenario would be if the prayer was written under government compulsion. Then perhaps the author did intend an allusion to the nearby verses, as a subtle form of protest!)
For more insights into Ha-Noten Teshuah, see the Jan. 2017 article by Jonathan Sarna at thelehrhaus.com. Sarna quotes a famous line from “Fiddler on the Roof”: “A blessing for the Tsar? Of course! May God bless and keep the Tsar…far away from us!” See also the complete chapter 10 of Arend’s work.
- For material from the Cairo Genizah relevant to our topic, see S.D. Goitein, “Prayers from the Geniza for the Fatamid Caliphs…” in Studies in Judaica, Karaitica and Islamica, pp. 52-57. (These Caliphs ruled Egypt and its surrounding areas from the 10th to 12th centuries.)
- For a completely different interpretation of Jer. 29:7, see R. Margaliot, Ha-Mikra Ve-Ha-Mesorah, pp. 64-66.
- The Complete ArtScroll Siddur does not include the text of either Ha-Noten Teshuah or the prayer for the State of Israel. But there is a little box on the bottom of p. 450 with the following statement: “In many congregations, a prayer for the welfare of the State is recited by the Rabbi, chazzan or gabbai at this point.” The texts of Ha-Noten Teshuah and the prayer for the State of Israel were added by ArtScroll to its special “Rabbinical Council of America Edition” siddur. But ArtScroll had to do some strange things to the page numbers of Yekum Purkan, so that the added material would not change all the subsequent page numbers!
Mitchell First can be reached at MFirstAtty@aol.com. When he prays for the government, he also has in mind government agencies, like the New Jersey Transit Authority and the Metropolitan Transit Authority, that enable him to get to work.
Wednesday, 13 January 2021
for Parshat Vo'eira
Parsha, Vo'eira, "Koveid Leiv Par'oh"
Parsha: Vo'eira, "Y'hee l'Tanin"
Parsha: Vo'eira, "Modifying P'shat of Text Based upon a Contradiction"
Tuesday, 12 January 2021
Monday, 11 January 2021
From Mail JewishFrom: Jonathan Grodzinski <JGrodz@...> Date: Mon, 2 Jul 2001 20:00:39 EDT Subject: Eggs left overnight without their shells I was introduced to this "issur" when a new masgiach (working for Kedassia London UK whose hashgacha we have had for over 50 years) visited our bakery and was horrified at our practice of peeling eggs immediately after boiling (and cooling) and then refrigerating overnight. He was not amused when I told him that we peel them then because the shell comes off a freshly boiled egg with ease, whereas removing the shell the following day takes much of the egg with the shell. Similarly, onions were not to have their head removed and left overnight (we were allowed to remove their bottoms instead) I am not a cynic(?), but I am still (about eighteen months later) waiting to be given the mekor (source) in Shulchan Aruch. Now, Michael Hoffman says: This gemara is not brought in the rambam or the shulchan aruch, but it is mentioned l'halacha in the acharonim, such as the Pri Chadash. Rav Moshe ztl discusses it in one of the later volumes of the Igros Moshe, as does the Minchas Yitzchok in vol. 6. Please could someone explain. 1. The gemara mentions this, but the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch do not 2 Ergo the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch hold that it is permissable 3. How can achronim (later authorities) forbid what the Ramabm and Shulchan Aruch have permitted? Further quote: All major "heimishe" hechsherim in Israel (such as Eidah, Sheeris, Landa etc.) are makpid on this halocho, but as far as I know, no major hashgocho outside Israel are machmir on this. As mentioned above Kedassia London are "catching up with their opposite numbers" Rachel Smith says <<Some hold that the prohibition doens't apply if the food is changed from its raw state (e.g. egg yolks or whites separated, onions or garlic used as ingredients; some consider garlic or onion powder to be sufficiently changed from the raw state to allow its use) >> We are allowed to ignore the problem if we add 2% salt , or make an egg mayonnaise mix Jonathan Grodzinski (London UK) 4th generation Master Baker
Sunday, 10 January 2021
My first thought in commenting on what is occurring in the world, specifically the Unites States of America, was to direct people to my article on Nishma: Policy -- The Adversarial System and the Torah Ethic of Justice (at http://nishmapolicy.blogspot.com/2020/09/the-adversarial-system-and-torah-ethic.html). As I state in that article, the goal of an individual in disagreement with another cannot be simply to win. There are usually values in all perspectives and the goal must always be to find and properly connect these divergent values into a unity which reflect the Divine values of justice, truth and loving-kindness. Basically the article contends that the Adversarial System can promote dissension especially as it becomes further and further applied outside the limiting parameters of the courtroom. As we become more and more interested in the fight -- and simply winning the fight -- the violent outcome is chaos and this is what we are seeing. I invite you to read this article and consider how you can become part of the solution rather than the problem.
I have since also felt that while it is still was important to direct people to the above article, there was another important Torah value which necessarily further had to be be enunciated and that is the importance of our speech. The distinguishing mark of the human being is deemed to be the koach hadibbur, the power of speech and because this is so important within our very definition of being ovdei Hashem [servants of God] and reflecting the Tzelem Elokim [the Image of God] how we express ourselves in speech is most important. The call is to be most careful in what we say. From Torah we further learn that it is not enough to just be careful about what we say -- which is obviously extremely important -- but to also to be most careful in considering how we are possibly being heard and understood. Torah demands of us to be careful of our language. What we are now practically seeing is how important this actually is.
Shemirat Halashon, Watching What We Say, must be our commitment and our message.
Rabbi Ben Hecht
Saturday, 9 January 2021
Friday, 8 January 2021
Rabbi Eliyahu Safran on the parsha -- hope you enjoy
Thursday, 7 January 2021
A Message from Rabbi Meir Soloveichik
As Jews around the world begin the book of Exodus, and as we at Tikvah prepare to launch our lecture series on Jewish statesmanship, I thought I would share a few related lectures that show how the Exodus story impacted some of the greatest non-Jewish statesman in the history of the West.
On July 4th, 1776, a committee of Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin was formed with the goal of selecting a seal for the nascent United States. Two of these founding fathers chose images from the Exodus story as embodiments of America. I discuss the implications of Franklin's and Jefferson's suggestions in the second lecture, titled "America’s Passover: Franklin, Jefferson, and the Seal of the United States," of my Tikvah online course on Jewish Ideas and the American Founding.
A century and a half after the Founders looked to Exodus for inspiration, Winston Churchill wrote a remarkable and little-known essay titled "Moses: The Leader of the People." In retrospect, this interpretation of the Moses story is instructive considering the legacy of Churchill himself, the greatest statesman of the twentieth century. I consider what Moses taught Churchill in the third of my lectures on the Hebrew Bible, available here.
Several years ago, at a public event at Yeshiva University, I discussed with the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and with Senator Joseph Lieberman, the impact that the Exodus story had on America and England in the past, and how we as Jews should utilize its tale as Jews in largely non-Jewish polities today. The full conversation can be seen here.
A reminder to please register for my upcoming Jewish statesmanship series, which will begin in two weeks, on Monday, January 18, at 8 PM. I am excited to take this journey through Jewish political history together. You can register for it here.
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Wednesday, 6 January 2021
Parsha: Sh'mot, "The Risks of Political Partisanship"
Parsha: Shemot, The Zohar Decries Abortion http://nishma-parshah.blogspot.ca/2015/12/parsha-shemot-zohar-decries-abortion.html
Tuesday, 5 January 2021
//www. nationalreview. com/corner/cruz-letter-calls-f or-rejection-of-electoral-coll ege-results/"At that quadrennial joint session, there is long precedent of Democratic Members of Congress raising objections to presidential election results, as they did in 1969, 2001, 2005, and 2017. And, in both 1969 and 2005, a Democratic Senator joined with a Democratic House Member in forcing votes in both houses..."
Monday, 4 January 2021
Guest Blogger: Rabbi Ian Shaffer
Within the select group of anglo Jewish scholars who have recently passed away, mos tof the focus was directed to the tragic passing of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks just over a month ago.However the passing of another great British scholar around the same time almost went unnoticed, that of Rabbi Irving Jacobs from London UK. He was the principal of Jews College during the period when I studied there, and it was due to his major efforts that the college managed to survive the turbulent part of its recent history,before it became transformed into the London School of Jewish Studies.Rabbi IrvingJacobs ( not to be confused with Rabbi Louis Jacobs, who became the first Masorti/Conservative rabbi in the UK) was a towering figure in the life of the college both in terms of having been connected to the previous generation of famous scholars who are known through their work on the Soncino Talmud and Bible translations (Isidore Epstein, Eli Cashden and many others) and also in terms of his own scholarship, especially in the area of Midrash, which he lectured on extensively in the College degree programs.His teaching partner during these ‘golden’ years of great teachers was Rabbi Sidney Leperer, probably the most learned and unassuming scholar I have ever met, whose areas of expertise were in Jewish history, both ancient and modern. The college also had many other notable teachers who I was fortunate to connect with, such as Rabbi Isaac Bernstein , who I learned Talmud with for 2 years,and of course Rabbi Sacks, who taught comparative Ethics courses. I think what made R’ Irving unique was the majestic manner of his presentation and his menschlichkeit,which was evident all the time. He taught me Tehillim as well as Siddur and Midrash,and I always felt challenged and inspired by his style and presentation. Every lesson was a chavaya (experience) as it was when I had studied with Nechama Liebowitz in Israel a few years earlier. Both R’Irving and Nechama would never take anything for granted and they forced you out of your ‘comfort zone’ to be prepared to tackle issues and concepts with a keen and fresh approach.On a personal basis, as I moved to the US in 1998 and visited my family in the UK at least twice a year for the next 16 years, until my father passed away in 2014, this afforded me the constant opportunity to contact and share observations about communal situations, when I spoke to him in London. His keen wit and irrepressible sense of humor were infectious, and I always enjoyed hearing his perspective on current Anglo Jewish events. He was very forthright in his comments and was not afraid to ‘call a spade a spade’ when necessary, and I suspect this may have cost him dearly in the very small world of Anglo Jewish leaders who did not share his point of view. His efforts for the College cost him dearly and he retired early at the age of 55 and had relatively poor health for the remainder of his life. However he never lost the ‘joie’ of learning and he continued to give lectures to many communities and also to the Montefiore College students who were studying for semicha. Some of these lectures are available online and you can hear the wonderful tones of his voice and subtle nuances that he made in every shiur that he gave.I think the reason I really connected to him was because we were kindred spirits, both having ‘tasted’ the joys of communal Rabbinate and then moving into academia, which divorced one from the constant pressures and challenges which the Rabbinate afforded.The satisfaction of sharing an insight or a new approach to a text was his constant joy,and his shiurim on the Hagada were some of the most memorable he ever gave. The last time I saw him in person was when he came to be menachem avel when my father died in 2014, and he told me only recently that he had been living ‘on borrowed time’since then,as his doctors had diagnosed his health as being seriously compromised. I was so appreciative that he came to be with me, and it was the same R’ Irving as he always had been, although clearly older and not as hale and hearty as he had been in the old days. He had told me once that the College was like a finishing school for those who had attended formal yeshivot (I had studied in Gateshead and in Israel) and were now about to enter the Rabbinate or the world of chinuch. He added immeasurably to this process , helping me in my own teaching style and I will be forever grateful to him for his kindness and personal interest. As my father (who knew Rabbi Jacobs in the context of my father’s work as the ‘deli’ man in the local Kosher store) told me once when discussing R’ Irving: ‘they don't make them like that any more’. A true loss forAnglo Jewry and for Klal Yisrael. May his memory be for a blessing.
"...most Democrats, don’t accept the premise that the Jewish state’s security policies are racist in origin and immoral in practice. Most American voters are grown-ups who can appreciate the gravity of the challenge posed to Israel by a Palestinian minority in the grip of Jew-hatred. Mr. Warnock sounds as though he can’t. ..."