Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I'm back, after a week or two of neglect of parshablog

Blogging has been difficult to fit into my schedule lately. I just recently completed a move to Queens from Riverdale, and have been unpacking, kashering the oven, finding and putting up mezuzot, buying food, etcetera. Add to this my wife starting grad school, my beginning the semester at Revel and CUNY, and looking after Meir, and there has been little time for parshablogging. (I just got the baby to sleep, so I'll try to post now.)

That's not to say that I did not have what to post -- just the time it takes to sit down and write actual posts have been hard to find.

I have managed to post at the Rif blog, but that is in part because I prepare a bit in advance in order to make sure I keep in synch with Daf Yomi. Also, because it is much easier to translate and explain an existing text than to formulate coherently a new one. That reminds me -- do me a favor and tell someone about the Rif's Daf Yomi shiur -- attendance has been sparse of late.

Meir said his first sentence last Shabbat. He was in an umbrella stroller in Rabbi Friedman's shul, strapped in for Shemoneh Esrei (though my post here argues you may hold a baby). My father had given him a tie (which Meir calls an "OT") to play with, so as to keep him quiet. Meir dropped the tie, and began saying "OT UP! OT UP!" to get someone to pick up the tie. This after trying a few times unsuccessfully to strain and pick up the tie himself.

I watched Bush's speech about Rehnquist's death. In the leadup to the speech, I couldn't help but note how all the commentators were talking about his position on the Supreme Court opening up, and what this all meant politically -- focusing on this as much, if not more, than on the man. One of the drawbacks of being active on the political scene. I thought it very tasteful how Bush deferred discussing the issue, dispensing with it in a sentence or two, but focusing mostly on the man and his accomplishments.

For some, everything is about politics. I've been following the whole Katrina disaster on various blogs, and I'm somewhat turned off by the way this has become, for some, yet another excuse to bash Bush. On one blog, which I won't name, even Bush Sr. and Clinton getting together to help victims became yet another reason to bash Bush. Nu. There is plently of blame to go around -- it is by no means all Bush's fault -- and a clearer picture will emerge in the future -- one that will hopefully be useful in dealing with future catastrophic events. From what I've seen, Bush and co. are focusing more on resolving the situation and helping people, rather than focusing on responding to leftist spin to cast the blame on them (and they have said as much in news conferences). And as OpinionJournal's Best of the Web pointed out yesterday, there have not been the expected immediate political repercussions.

I have another post in the works on Harry Potter. (The first one is here, and I think reveals a major secret/trick in the book.) This post will discuss the actual location of the locket Horcrux, the two items successfully smuggled into Hogwarts, the identity of the Horcruxes, and a suggestion on the true identity of the Half Blood Prince.

I also had what to post on Ekev. There was a great Midrash -- offhand summary follows -- in which there was a dispute between a Sage (?Rashbi?) and a Samaritan about the Flood. The Samaritan claimed Har Grizim was holy in that in was not covered by the flood, and brought various proofs, and the Sage finally couldn't answer. The animal driver (Beham) gave a great answer, and the Sage gave him great kavod, and interpreted the verse in Devarim 7:14:

יד בָּרוּךְ תִּהְיֶה, מִכָּל-הָעַמִּים: לֹא-יִהְיֶה בְךָ עָקָר וַעֲקָרָה, וּבִבְהֶמְתֶּךָ. 14 Thou shalt be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle.
as explaining that עָקָר (as mentioned earlier) meant barren from having an answer, and בְהֶמְתֶּךָ means your Beham (animal driver).

An interesting -- for me at least -- grammatical digression and theorizing. The pattern for a professional is CaCCAC, where a is patach and A is kamatz. Thus, חמור - CHaMOR (here a is actually a chataf) is a donkey, but a chammAr is a donkey driver -- duplication of mem done by a dagesh chazak. גמל - GAMAL is a camel, but GammAL is a camel driver. So, from בהמה, we would expect BaHHAM. Alas, a guttural such as ה may not be geminated by a dagesh, for it would be too difficult to pronounce. The patach is transformed into a segol, perhaps by tashlum dagesh -- compensatory lengthening. Other similar instances: האח, he`ach = Alas; האמור; or for an example with heh, להבה from להב.

In parshat Re`ei, I saw another interesting take in the Midrash. Noting that elsewhere, besar taavah, meat not brought as a sacrifice, is forbidden -- all meat must be brought to the ohel moed, yet here (See Devarim 12) it is permitted - first in general, and then in the explicit case when one is too distant from the Bet HaMikdash to bring a sacrifice, though that does not necessarily preclude other instances. At any rate, this seems a contradiction. The Midrash brings this as one of several example of Hashem forbidding something in one place and permitting it later, in another place. Rather than considering this a contradiction, this is perhaps regarded as a layered presentation, or else of a relaxing of previously given rules. To this end, the Midrash gives a great explanation of the pasuk, Devarim 12:20:

כ כִּי-יַרְחִיב ה אֱלֹקֶיךָ אֶת-גְּבֻלְךָ, כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר-לָךְ, וְאָמַרְתָּ אֹכְלָה בָשָׂר, כִּי-תְאַוֶּה נַפְשְׁךָ לֶאֱכֹל בָּשָׂר--בְּכָל-אַוַּת נַפְשְׁךָ, תֹּאכַל בָּשָׂר. 20 When the LORD thy God shall enlarge thy border, as He hath promised thee, and thou shalt say: 'I will eat flesh', because thy soul desireth to eat flesh; thou mayest eat flesh, after all the desire of thy soul.
Here, the border that Hashem enlarges is taken not as the physical border of Israel -- for how can a land, which has specific dimensions, be enlarged (don't answer that -- is is a typical midrashic, hyperliteral perspective) -- but rather as the metaphorical border of halacha, in this case Biblical law. And yes, the Midrash soon after even uses the derasha we love, from the Sabbateans, of Hashem being Matir Assurim -- literally releasing the bound, but taken here as permitting the forbidden!

Registered for classes finally -- at CUNY, in the computer science department, Research at CUNY, which is basically a bunch of professors coming in and describing their research, in an attempt to draw students to conduct some of the research. Hopefully this will help me develop choose an advisor. In the linguistics department, I decided to branch out, and expand my knowledge somewhat, and signed up for Syntax I. (Previously I've taken Computational Linguistics and Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics.) And in Revel, I signed up for Shir Hashirim.

That's all for now. Hope to post again soon.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

I love that drash on mattir assurim -- what a pair of meanings to encode in a single phrase! I think of it every morning when I say the bracha, and it always gives me a chuckle.

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