Friday, February 27, 2009

posts so far for parshat Teruma

  1. Terumah sources -- revamped, with more than 100 meforshim on the parsha and haftarah.

  1. Take for me -- part of the running commentary. What is the ultimate purpose of the mishkan? Why bother with gold and silver? Isn't this focus on externalities, and the golden statues of keruvim, at odds with the message at the end of parshat Yitro, where the altar could even be of earth, and where idols (perhaps imbued with a manifestation of a deity above) were disallowed?

  2. Terumah sources -- links by perek and aliyah to an online Mikraos Gedolos, plus a whole slew of meforshim on the parsha and haftara.
  • The Mishkan Reflecting A Changed Relationship With Hashem
    • A midrash which resonates, with no additions from me. Morasha/Meorasa. Before marriage, the chasan must visit his father-in-law's house to visit his bride, but afterwards, she lives with him. See inside.
  • The Identification of Izzim
    • as goats' hair. Or perhaps as other sundry bright and intense dyes and cloths.
  • The Identification of Techelet
    • As blue or black. And how the Karaite approach of ignoring tradition for the meaning of color, trying instead to deduce it from analysis of the root, is extremely misguided. And the meaning of the Rambam's identification. And more.
  • Tekhelet as Black as Kohl?
    • Further analysis of Rambam. Kohl is kochal, a Biblical cosmetic. But what color is it?
  • Inside Like the Outside
    • From the somewhat dry material of the description of the mishkan, Chazal find homiletic gold. Just as the ark must be covered with gold inside and out, so must man. Learning Torah is not enough. One also has to be a moral and righteous person, with fear of Heaven, and in fact, Torah is just a means to that end - belief in, fear of, and service of Hashem.
to be continued...

Interesting Posts and Articles #124

  1. The chareidi vs. egged bus dispute, where they want mehadrin buses because they are so packed, and someone smashed a bus' windshield with a rock, something naturally enough covered in Jewish blogs. Here is Daas Torah linking to the YNet story, and here is Life In Israel on it, and HaEmtzah. I don't like the ignoring the needs of customers by not providing enough bus service -- I would suggest people learn to drive, but then again, having a license is not fitting for a ben Torah. Perhaps bicycles, for the men? But they should, IMHO, let the chareidim make their own line. I don't like this imposed monopoly for situations where the company does not answer to its customers.

    And if crushing is a problem, then it is a question what to do? I don't think letting the women on in the back is feasible, given that the bus driven needs to clip their cards, and it is a packed bus. The delays would likely be unworkable. How about letting the chareidim self-police themselves? -- designate every other bus a male or female bus, and people in Meah Shearim can selectively go on these buses, forming separate lines.

    The reason I do not like this idea of imposing this separation, even where there is crushing, is that while there is precedent and support for making gezeirot to protect against this type of thing, this intrudes upon the general public who would not necessarily accept your gezeirot; and it promoted this as a requirement, which in turn might be a basis for those who would throw rocks. Perhaps a better Judaism would be one which tolerates the accidental touching and makes gezeiros against kannaus, such as a gezeira of not imposing gezeiros in areas where the kannaim go crazy. (E.g. once people start tossing bleach or beating people up on buses, as a gezeira to prevent such incidents, downplay the urge for imposing chumras in this area.)

  2. NY Post on drunk rides the gravy train. But if you read it carefully enough, you might see reason to side with the decision in this case. I did.

  3. I saw the following video embedded on Little Green Footballs: James Randi vs. Dowsing. Interesting, and somewhat entertaining:

  4. Life In Israel on the "Chareidi al-Jazeera," about a kannaish newspaper to be.

  5. On the Main Line on Sforno's sometimes censored into to the Torah.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Take for me" (rc)

Terumah, running commentary, pt i, pass i

The parsha begins at Shemot 25:1

א וַיְדַבֵּר ה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר

וַיְדַבֵּר -- where? When? We have to look to the previous parsha. The previous pasuk, at the very end of Mishpatim, read וַיָּבֹא מֹשֶׁה בְּתוֹךְ הֶעָנָן, וַיַּעַל אֶל-הָהָר; וַיְהִי מֹשֶׁה, בָּהָר, אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם, וְאַרְבָּעִים לָיְלָה. The implication is that this speech was to Moshe when he ascended the Har. And see Ibn Ezra who says the same:

בעלותו אל ראש ההר דבר לו על דבר המשכן. והטעם: שיעשו מקדש לשם הנכבד וישכון בתוכו. ושם ידבר עם משה ולא יעלה אל ההר.

Now, it is possible that this was later, when Moshe was not on Har Sinai at this time. After all, this is a new sidra. And there was a petucha at the end of the previous pasuk. And his ascending the mountain could be the end of one narrative, and this interjects for some reason, with the narrative picking up in a later parsha.

However, the text itself appears to tell us that this is indeed on Har Sinai. See pasuk 40. וּרְאֵה, וַעֲשֵׂה: בְּתַבְנִיתָם--אֲשֶׁר-אַתָּה מָרְאֶה, בָּהָר. Perhaps Hashem previously showed him on the Har, but this strongly suggests that this was a topic of conversation on Har Sinai.

Ibn Ezra also makes an excellent point of the טעם here. Rather than a limited revelation on Har Sinai, the instructions here allow for a continuous, Sinai-type revelation throughout the travels through the midbar.

ב דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִקְחוּ-לִי תְּרוּמָה: מֵאֵת כָּל-אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִדְּבֶנּוּ לִבּוֹ, תִּקְחוּ אֶת-תְּרוּמָתִי

וְיִקְחוּ-לִי -- take when it seems to mean give? See Ibn Ezra. Take from themselves, and thus give, or perhaps this is a command for the collectors to collect.

אֲשֶׁר יִדְּבֶנּוּ לִבּוֹ -- See Rashi as good-will, generosity. The point is that it is optional, but the point is therefore that this allows for an outpouring of the love Israel has for Hashem, as people can express their desire for a relationship via this material support.

ג וְזֹאת, הַתְּרוּמָה, אֲשֶׁר תִּקְחוּ, מֵאִתָּם: זָהָב וָכֶסֶף, וּנְחֹשֶׁת

זָהָב וָכֶסֶף וּנְחֹשֶׁת -- does Hashem want, or need, bling? Hashem created the entire world, and the entire world is His. And Hashem is surely above the desire for kesef and zahav. That an atom of gold has 79 electrons does not make it more valuable to Hashem than lead, which has 82 electrons. The obvious answer is that this is valuable from the human perspective. Could Hashem have commanded the Mishkan and its vessels be created out of clay? Certainly. But the point is to have the pomp from the human perspective, as a means of honoring and valuing this connection to Hashem.

ד וּתְכֵלֶת וְאַרְגָּמָן וְתוֹלַעַת שָׁנִי, וְשֵׁשׁ וְעִזִּים
וּתְכֵלֶת -- it is up to the experts to determine what each of these historically is. I am not researching it here, since this is not my goal in this commentary. See those other sources, just as Rashbam told us to look elsewhere when his own commentary is sparse.

There is a dispute between the Karaites and Pharisees as to the identification of the color of techelet. See Ibn Ezra. This is silly of the Karaites, who define it as black on the basis of etymological analysis of the word as tachlis. If there ever is a place for reliance on tradition of the meaning of words, it is for colors, and an assumption that one can analyze a new definition to the color, when it was well known in the ancient world and thus in the time of Chazal, is just silly.

Does this mean the dye of techelet, argaman, and tolaat shani, or wool that has already been dyed with it? The traditional explanation is the latter. We can support it with izzim at the end, if it means goat-skin. But more than that, in Shemot 35, we have וְרֹקֵם בַּתְּכֵלֶת וּבָאַרְגָּמָן בְּתוֹלַעַת הַשָּׁנִי וּבַשֵּׁשׁ, such that they are weaving thread which is already dyed that color. Thus, the traditional, standard interpretation seems correct.

וְתוֹלַעַת שָׁנִי -- there was an article a while back where they found the worm in the Negev, IIRC, which secretes the dye -- perhaps orange. I cannot find this article at the moment.

וְשֵׁשׁ -- linen, and thus white.

וְעִזִּים -- and translated as goat hair, or perhaps we might say goat skin. The context in this pasuk of threads makes goat hair better, since the skins are in the next verse. But I would suggest that it does not refer to goats at all. The context within this verse is colored cloth of various sorts, and az can mean bright and intense color. Thus, it means other sundry bright and intense dyes and dyed cloth.

ה וְעֹרֹת אֵילִם מְאָדָּמִים וְעֹרֹת תְּחָשִׁים, וַעֲצֵי שִׁטִּים
תְּחָשִׁים -- mean maybe some unique, short-lived animal, or perhaps simply some animal we no longer know the name to. Or maybe we do know its identity. At any rate, see Ibn Ezra.

וַעֲצֵי שִׁטִּים -- I suppose this building material must be stuck somewhere, but it does seem awkward at the end of this list.

ו שֶׁמֶן, לַמָּאֹר; בְּשָׂמִים לְשֶׁמֶן הַמִּשְׁחָה, וְלִקְטֹרֶת הַסַּמִּים
ז אַבְנֵי-שֹׁהַם, וְאַבְנֵי מִלֻּאִים, לָאֵפֹד, וְלַחֹשֶׁן

לָאֵפֹד, וְלַחֹשֶׁן -- building see how avnei shoham and avnei miluim distributes to their respective target in order, as per Rashi.

ח וְעָשׂוּ לִי, מִקְדָּשׁ; וְשָׁכַנְתִּי, בְּתוֹכָם
מִקְדָּשׁ -- a house of sanctity. See Rashi. See Ibn Ezra that its sanctity stems from the fact it is the mishkan of Hashem. Perhaps one can say instead that this is what the people are doing -- veasu li Mikdash -- by attitude and created a sacred place, and Hashem responds in kind by dwelling in that Mikdash.

וְשָׁכַנְתִּי, בְּתוֹכָם -- this is the goal. A continuous presence of Hashem within the midst of Israel in the midbar, rather that the limited engagement at Har Sinai.

Is this different from the malach which went before them in a pillar of cloud or fire? It would seem so.

Betocham rather than betocho because the point is that he is dwelling within the midst of Klal Yisrael, rather than being some outside force, at the top of the mountain. And making clear the close relationship between Hashem and his people.

ט כְּכֹל, אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי מַרְאֶה אוֹתְךָ, אֵת תַּבְנִית הַמִּשְׁכָּן, וְאֵת תַּבְנִית כָּל-כֵּלָיו; וְכֵן, תַּעֲשׂוּ

מַרְאֶה -- textual descriptions of this are terribly difficult to understand. Does this refer to a vision? Or is this textual layout called the tavnit, which Hashem is telling him and thus revealing to him? I would favor the former.

י וְעָשׂוּ אֲרוֹן, עֲצֵי שִׁטִּים: אַמָּתַיִם וָחֵצִי אָרְכּוֹ, וְאַמָּה וָחֵצִי רָחְבּוֹ, וְאַמָּה וָחֵצִי, קֹמָתוֹ
וְעָשׂוּ אֲרוֹן -- this is given first, and perhaps is prominent because of its importance, not only in housing the Luchot, but because from atop the aron Hashem will speak to Moshe.

יא וְצִפִּיתָ אֹתוֹ זָהָב טָהוֹר, מִבַּיִת וּמִחוּץ תְּצַפֶּנּוּ; וְעָשִׂיתָ עָלָיו זֵר זָהָב, סָבִיב

וְצִפִּיתָ אֹתוֹ זָהָב טָהוֹר -- if it were solid gold, it would be much heavier. Acacia wood on the inside with a gold covering would presumably be much lighter, and yet has all the same effect as if it were entirely gold.

זָהָב טָהוֹר -- Presumably gold without other alloys. This is the purest, and probably therefore the most honorable.

יב וְיָצַקְתָּ לּוֹ, אַרְבַּע טַבְּעֹת זָהָב, וְנָתַתָּה, עַל אַרְבַּע פַּעֲמֹתָיו; וּשְׁתֵּי טַבָּעֹת, עַל-צַלְעוֹ הָאֶחָת, וּשְׁתֵּי טַבָּעֹת, עַל-צַלְעוֹ הַשֵּׁנִית
יג וְעָשִׂיתָ בַדֵּי, עֲצֵי שִׁטִּים; וְצִפִּיתָ אֹתָם, זָהָב
יד וְהֵבֵאתָ אֶת-הַבַּדִּים בַּטַּבָּעֹת, עַל צַלְעֹת הָאָרֹן, לָשֵׂאת אֶת-הָאָרֹן, בָּהֶם
טו בְּטַבְּעֹת, הָאָרֹן, יִהְיוּ, הַבַּדִּים: לֹא יָסֻרוּ, מִמֶּנּוּ

לֹא יָסֻרוּ, מִמֶּנּוּ -- I gave a graduation speech about how this shows that we must always be prepared to take our Torah with us as we go out into the world. A nice homiletic message. But indeed, it seems that there is a lack of permanence here, as if the Aron, where Hashem decides to manifest his presence, may always move from place to place.

טז וְנָתַתָּ, אֶל-הָאָרֹן--אֵת, הָעֵדֻת, אֲשֶׁר אֶתֵּן, אֵלֶיךָ
אֲשֶׁר אֶתֵּן -- when Moshe goes up to receive the Luchot in the future.

The following is now troubling.

יז וְעָשִׂיתָ כַפֹּרֶת, זָהָב טָהוֹר: אַמָּתַיִם וָחֵצִי אָרְכָּהּ, וְאַמָּה וָחֵצִי רָחְבָּהּ
יח וְעָשִׂיתָ שְׁנַיִם כְּרֻבִים, זָהָב; מִקְשָׁה תַּעֲשֶׂה אֹתָם, מִשְּׁנֵי קְצוֹת הַכַּפֹּרֶת
יט וַעֲשֵׂה כְּרוּב אֶחָד מִקָּצָה, מִזֶּה, וּכְרוּב-אֶחָד מִקָּצָה, מִזֶּה; מִן-הַכַּפֹּרֶת תַּעֲשׂוּ אֶת-הַכְּרֻבִים, עַל-שְׁנֵי קְצוֹתָיו
כ וְהָיוּ הַכְּרֻבִים פֹּרְשֵׂי כְנָפַיִם לְמַעְלָה, סֹכְכִים בְּכַנְפֵיהֶם עַל-הַכַּפֹּרֶת, וּפְנֵיהֶם, אִישׁ אֶל-אָחִיו; אֶל-הַכַּפֹּרֶת--יִהְיוּ, פְּנֵי הַכְּרֻבִים
כא וְנָתַתָּ אֶת-הַכַּפֹּרֶת עַל-הָאָרֹן, מִלְמָעְלָה; וְאֶל-הָאָרֹן--תִּתֵּן אֶת-הָעֵדֻת, אֲשֶׁר אֶתֵּן אֵלֶיךָ
כב וְנוֹעַדְתִּי לְךָ, שָׁם, וְדִבַּרְתִּי אִתְּךָ מֵעַל הַכַּפֹּרֶת מִבֵּין שְׁנֵי הַכְּרֻבִים, אֲשֶׁר עַל-אֲרוֹן הָעֵדֻת--אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוֶּה אוֹתְךָ, אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

How can this be? Gold statues upon which Hashem's presence manifests itself?! This is difficult.

I claimed the theme at the very end of Yisro is that Hashem does not need golden idols or fancy hewn altars to come down and bless us. Hashem at Har Sinai communicated directly. And I interpreted לֹא תַעֲשׂוּן אִתִּי as that there was no need for an idol together with Hashem, as an intermediary. And that this is not the idea of idolatry as fetishism, worship of the actual inanimate idol, but the idol as representative of some higher deity above.

And yet here we have wrought gold statues, and Hashem speaks from between them! The answer may well be that it is not Hashem which enters the statues. No one will worship the cherubs themselves. Rather, Hashem manifests, often as cloud filling the area, and speaks from there. The keruvim are just environment, after the pattern of the ministering angels surrounding Hashem above.

But Chazal grapple with precisely this question. I offered a peshat commentary on those verses at the end of parshas Yisro. But besides for that, see Rashi (based on Mechilta) on those psukim. The pasuk in full there is:
יט לֹא תַעֲשׂוּן, אִתִּי: אֱלֹהֵי כֶסֶף וֵאלֹהֵי זָהָב, לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ לָכֶם

יט) לא תעשון אתי -
לא תעשון דמות שמשי המשמשים לפני במרום:
אלוהי כסף -
בא להזהיר על הכרובים, שאתה עושה לעמוד אתי, שלא יהיו של כסף, שאם שניתם לעשותם של כסף הרי הן לפני כאלהות:
ואלוהי זהב -
בא להזהיר שלא יוסיף על שנים, שאם עשית ארבעה, הרי הן לפני כאלוהי זהב:
לא תעשו לכם -
לא תאמר הריני עושה כרובים בבתי כנסיות ובבתי מדרשות כדרך שאני עושה בבית עולמים, לכך נאמר לא תעשו לכם:
Note the extreme focus on the non-local keruvim. This is not just a derasha, but dealing with a tremendous chip on the shoulder. How do we square this injunction with the construction of keruvim. Thus, אלוהי כסף does not exclude them, because they are made of gold. And ואלוהי זהב does not exclude them, since they are somehow an exception, but if you would make more than the two that somehow managed to squeeze by, they would indeed by "as if" gods of gold. And לכם is used to limit this use of cherubs to this one instance, but no personal keruvim in other places of worship and Torah study should be made.

There is a more general apparent conflict. At the end of Yisro, a simple altar made of earth or stones, so long as the stones were not hewn and thus too fancy. And here (perek 27), an altar of acacia-wood, over
laid with copper. At the end of Yisro, בְּכָל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר אַזְכִּיר אֶת-שְׁמִי, אָבוֹא אֵלֶיךָ וּבֵרַכְתִּיךָ. And here there is a particular designated place. This requires deeper consideration.

Perhaps there is a difference between worship in general, where Hashem comes down to bless, and the Mishkan, where Hashem is to more permanantly dwell and converse with Moshe. That might require a keruvim, and the desire of the people to donate and set up a place for Hashem with some measure of pomp.

Oh Nuts offer, and Interesting Posts and Articles #123

  1. An interesting marketing strategy: Oh Nuts has an offer in which you visit their website, choose the free Purim Basket (value up to $30), and post what you want as a comment on this post on parshablog. A random winner to be selected next week.

    It is clever because bloggers will post it to help out their viewers and perhaps build views. And because readers of the blog will do more than just skim over the advertisement, but will actively check out the website for what they want and then comment, and perhaps check back to see if they won.

    If you are interested, check out there web site and then comment in the comment section of this post with a link to the item you want.

    Update: To help you out, here is a direct link to the Purim baskets at Oh Nuts!

    Further Update: See the winner here.

  2. Hamodia decides to put forth a web presence. Chaptzem criticizes them for hypocrisy and a reversal of their previous position. And here is the old presence of Hamodia on the web, saying they are not planning on having a web presence.

  3. Little Green Footballs: No Fans allowed when Sweden hosts Israel in a tennis match.

  4. Overlawyered criticizing the New York Times on CPSIA.

  5. At, Obama abandons Israel in terms of Durban.

  6. Avakesh on Daas Torah and Gedolei HaDor.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ancient seals unearthed in a Jerusalem dig

So goes the headline at the Jerusalem Post, in an article Eliyahu sent to me. At first I was hopeful that they had discovered the tachash, which would be relevant to this week's parsha. After all, the pasuk states:
ה וְעֹרֹת אֵילִם מְאָדָּמִים וְעֹרֹת תְּחָשִׁים, וַעֲצֵי שִׁטִּים. 5 and rams' skins dyed red, and sealskins, and acacia-wood;
But no, the ancient seals they found were of another sort entirely. ;)

According to the article (though read it all):
A routine archeological excavation ahead of private construction in an Arab neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem has uncovered a series of seal impressions from the reign of the biblical King Hezekiah 2,700 years ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday.


The seal impressions found include those of two high-ranking officials named Ahimelech ben Amadyahu and Yehohail ben Shahar, who served in the Judean kingdom's government.

The name Achimelech occurs in Tanach, but not Achimelech ben Amadyahu, as far as I can tell. Nor the other one. So I am not sure how we know they were high-ranking officials. Maybe there are other references to them?

Judging Others, Or Excusing Horrific Actions?

Don't look for innovation or brilliant insights in this post. And please excuse any rambling.

"הִלֵּל אוֹמֵר: אַל תָּדִין אֶת חֲבֵרְךָ עַד שֶׁתַּגִּיעַ לִמְקוֹמוֹ." פרקי אבות ב', משנה ה

"Do not judge your neighbor until you walk two moons in his moccasins."

There are different ways of understanding this dictum in Pirkei Avot. Does it mean not to judge, because in his situation you would do the same thing? Or does it mean that until you really understand his particular situation, you do not understand his inputs? I lean more towards the latter. It is often difficult to be empathetic, and realize just what causes a person to act the way he does. Probably the intent is just to personal and situational stresses, which caused him to act wrongly, and without feeling and thus understanding those, we will simply condemn. Hashem is bochen klayot valev, but we are not able to do so. Though we can try.

This can extend to other situations, not just where the person is acting wrongly, even from his own perspective. Rather, it might well be that the person is acting internally in a morally correct fashion, but his makom is so different from ours, and his perspective on the world is so different from ours, that we do not see this possibility. His actions may be just as wrong, and we are able to see that the actions are morally reprehensible, but based on his inputs, it is not so.

There is a famous saying in Computer Science: "Garbage In, Garbage Out." You can have a perfectly fine computer program, with perfectly crafted instructions. But if you feed it garbage as input, you will end up with garbage as output. The same with people. Different people have different hashkafas and different perceptions of reality. And their moral programming can be perfectly crafted, but with a distorted perception of reality or a distorted hashkafa, this moral programming will output absolute garbage.

The obvious danger in this is that you excuse terrible and evil behavior. And that you let it pass without condemnation, and let it continue. And you become a person who excuses evil behavior. Almost any behavior can be explained away in this manner, and then ultimately nobody is responsible for his actions. This is akin to pluralism leading to moral relativism.

However, there is a truth to this. Distorted reality can lead to terrible actions, even where the person is not an "evil" person. For example, if Sam believes that everyone in his vicinity is a flesh-eating zombie, and decapitates them to protect the world, then he is a lunatic. But is he a black-hearted evil person? No. Perhaps he should be locked up so that he is not a danger to others, and he is indeed a lunatic, but the crime was not one of evil intent.

In contrast, here is another take on the matter, by a commenter Chaim, in an excerpt from some comments left on parshablog:
People who do evil things are evil, it doesn't matter that their wickedness stemmed from an idea that if true would warrant their evil deeds. Perhaps their wickedness is that they have those evil ideas or perhaps they have those evil ideas because they are wicked (I'm not sure what comes first).
I don't think the latter is likely -- that they have some mystical "wickedness" aspect to them, and therefore they get these misperceptions which guides them to evil action. In terms of the former, perhaps, or perhaps not. I do not believe it is that simple.

I do think that there is "evil" aside from the above -- garbage not in the data, but in the ethical programming. That a person knows that something is bad, that it is theft, that he is being selfish, that he is hurting another person, but he does not care. Of course, data and instructions are at some level one and the same, and the inputs into the person are what molded his personality, and thus his choices. And so this is another type of makom. Yet it is here that we talk about bechirah chofshis, where people are not mere automatons; and it is here that we might make judgments about a person's moral programming.

In AI for robotics and intelligent agents, an important distinction is made between the universe and perception of the universe. And the robot or agent can only react within its own perception.

Humans as well do not have complete knowledge of reality. We have incomplete perception, or in many cases flawed perception. But we do our best with our limited knowledge.

A mohel thinks metzitza befeh is the only way to perform the mitzvah, and thinks anyone who suggests using a tube is a heretic. He ends up infecting 20 infants. Is he evil? No, just horribly misguided, and the product of a flawed society.

A Palestinian child is falsely taught that the Israelis are infecting his family with AIDS, and is using nerve-gas against innocents. He throws a rock at the Israeli "oppressors." Within this limit view, is he evil? Or just horribly misguided?

A chareidi believes that the sexual thoughts one might have from seeing a woman wearing denim can cause the destruction of the soul, and that the woman is acting bemeizid because she is a horrible person. He throws bleach on her clothing to ruin it, and torches the store that sells MP4 players. He is horribly misguided.

A Christian missionary believes if people do not accept Yushke, they will burn in heck forever. He saves them by torturing them until they convert, and perhaps kills those who will not convert as an inducement to others. Given his skewed reality, what he is doing is a huge favor. He is saving them.

An Israeli politician believes that there is no alternative to land for peace, and thinks that this will ultimately save both Arab and Jewish lives. A show of force to create a frozen peace would have worked better, and instead he brings on waves of rockets which kill many Israelis. He was horribly wrong, but not a black-hearted evil-doer.

And so I end up excusing horrific actions.

Luckily for me, I am not Hashem. I don't need to judge them, and send them to Heaven or Hell. Perhaps my sense of fairness demands that those who put out hurt in this world be repaid in kind, but perhaps not. There is din, and there is a Dayan, and I will let Hashem sort this out.

Perhaps it is selfishness on my part, but I would rather concern myself with how *I* should react. I would like to know the optimal way to react to them, on an emotional level and intellectual level, besides on a practical level. I want to avoid misperceptions on my own part. I do not want to simplify, and just say that they are evil and that is why they are evildoers. I do not want to lie to myself and say, in an instance that it is not the case, that even were their assumptions true (e.g. avodah zarah), the proper process to follow would not include X. Is there anything I can learn from them about myself? Is there anything I can now think of to better react to them, now that I know their process and motivations?

That does not mean that I do not condemn them. Looking from outside the closed system, their actions were bad. But not only the actions were bad but they stem from ignorance, or from bad hashkafas. So not only are they bad, but their mother is overweight too! (I speak metaphorically.) What kind of society produces such misperceptions that result in such horrible behavior?

Delving into the closed system, I can also ask what about their society promotes such poor hashkafot or such ignorance.

Perhaps a recognition of such differing and flawed perceptions can help avoid kannaus. Yes, I do believe I am right. Absolutely. But others think otherwise, and are just as absolutely convinced. Maybe before I take such definitve action, I will stop and think that maybe I am not correct, but I am human and it is only my limited perception that makes it so. Or if not that, then I am absolutely correct. But that woman in the front of the bus who refuses to move to the back is not evil. She is the product of her own makom, and believes she is doing something correct and righteous. If so, then perhaps despite her assur actions, she should not be beaten up and spat upon.

The flaw with the above is that kannaim don't think like that, or they would not be kannaim. And they do not come from a society that promotes thinking like that. Nor would they be likely to engage in outreach efforts to realize that our opponents are people too. Normal people might join in Du Siach, dialogue, to understand the other position and the humanity of our opponents even as we ultimately disagree with their conclusions.

This is not a direct commentary on Rabbi Schorr, or his analysis of the situation as "avodah zarah," or his subsequent actions. One can read my previous posts for that. I care more about our own reactions than any actions done by others. There are plenty of others who already reacted to that situation. And I don't know enough about the event or the players to make a solid determination anyway. And not every Jew needs to pass judgment on every incident.

Terumah sources

by aliyah
rishon (25:1)
sheni (25:17)
shelishi (25:31)
revii (26:15)
chamishi (26:31)
shishi (27:1)
shevii (27:9)
maftir (27:17)
haftara (I Melachim 5:9), with Malbim, Kli Yakar, Ralbag

by perek
perek 25 ; perek 26 ; perek 27

Judaica Press Rashi in English
Shadal (and here)
Daat -- with Rashi, Ramban, Seforno, Ibn Ezra, Rashbam, Rabbenu Bachya, Midrash Rabba, Tanchuma+, Mechilta, Gilyonot.
Gilyonot Nechama Leibovitz (Hebrew)
Tiferes Yehonasan from Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz -- not until Tetzaveh
Chasdei Yehonasan
Toldos Yitzchak Acharon, repeated from Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz
Even Shleimah -- from Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Ehrenreich
R' Saadia Gaon's Tafsir, Arabic translation of Torah (here and here)
Collected commentary of Saadia Gaon on Torah
Torah Temimah
Kli Yakar (and here)
Zohar, with English translation
Baal Haturim
Baal Haturim (HaAruch)
Torat Hatur -- not until Tetzaveh
Ibn Janach
Rabbenu Ephraim
Ibn Caspi
Dubno Maggid
Imrei Shafer, Rav Shlomo Kluger
Ateret Zekeinim
Mei Noach
Arugat HaBosem
Yalkut Perushim LaTorah
R' Yosef Bechor Shor
Ibn Gabirol -- not until Ki Tisa
Rabbenu Yonah -- not until Ki Tisa
Rashbam (and here)
Aderet Eliyahu (Gra)
Kol Eliyahu (Gra)
Mipninei Harambam
Sefer Zikaron of Ritva -- not until Ki Tisa
Chiddushei HaGriz
Noam Elimelech
Michlal Yofi
Nesivot Hashalom

The following meforshim at JNUL. I've discovered that if you click on the icon to rotate sideways, change to only black and white, select only the portion which is text, it is eminently readable on paper.
Ralbag (pg 161)
Chizkuni (75)
Abarbanel (191)
Shach (119)
Yalkut Reuveni (pg 101)
Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite (117)

Daat, Rashi In Hebrew (perek 25)
Judaica Press Rashi in English and Hebrew
MizrachiMizrachi (on Rashi, 127)
Gur Aryeh (Maharal of Prague)
Siftei Chachamim
Berliner's Beur on Rashi
Commentary on Rashi by Yosef of Krasnitz
R' Yisrael Isserlin (on Rashi, 9)
Two supercommentaries on Rashi, by Chasdai Almosnino and Yaakov Kneizel
Rav Natan ben Shishon Shapira Ashkenazi (16th century), (JNUL, pg 83)
Levush HaOrah
Yeriot Shlomo (Maharshal)
Moda L'Bina (Wolf Heidenheim)
Dikdukei Rashi
Mekorei Rashi (in Mechokekei Yehuda)
Yosef Daas
Nachalas Yaakov
Also see Mikraos Gedolos above, which has Rashi with Sifsei Chachamim

Daat, Ramban in Hebrew (perek 25)
R' Yitzchak Abohav's on Ramban (standalone and in a Tanach opposite Ramban)
Kesef Mezukak
Kanfei Nesharim
Rabbi Meir Abusaula (student of Rashba)

ibn ezra
Daat, Ibn Ezra in Hebrew (perek 25)
Mechokekei Yehudah (Daat)
Mechokekei Yehudah (HebrewBooks)
Mavaser Ezra
R' Shmuel Motot (on Ibn Ezra, pg 27)
Ibn Kaspi's supercommentary on Ibn Ezra, different from his commentary (here and here) -- not until Tetzaveh
Mekor Chaim, Ohel Yosef, Motot
Avi Ezer
Tzofnas Paneach
Ezra Lehavin
Also see Mikraos Gedolos above, which has Ibn Ezra with Avi Ezer

Targum Onkelos opposite Torah text
Targum Onkelos and Targum Pseudo-Yonatan in English
Shadal's Ohev Ger
Chalifot Semalot
Avnei Tzion -- two commentaries on Onkelos
Bei`urei Onkelos
Or Hatargum on Onkelos
Targum Yonatan
Commentary on Targum Yonatan and Targum Yerushalmi
Septuagint (Greek, English)
Origen's Hexapla (JNUL)

Tanach with masoretic notes on the side
Commentary on the Masorah
Minchas Shai
Or Torah
Taamei Masoret
Masoret HaKeriah
Shiluv Hamasorot
Masoret HaBrit HaGadol
Rama (but based on alphabet, not parsha)
Vetus Testamentum

Midrash Rabba at Daat (25)
Midrash Tanchuma at Daat (25)
Shemot Rabba, with commentaries
Midrash Tanchuma with commentary of Etz Yosef and Anaf Yosef
Commentary on Midrash Rabba by R' Naftali Hirtz b'R' Menachem
Matat-Kah on Midrash Rabba
Nefesh Yehonasan by Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz
Mechilta -- not until Ki Tisa

haftarah (I Melachim 5:9)
In a separate Mikraos Gedolos (Rashi, Radak, Ralbag, Minchat Shai, Targum, Metzudat Tzion)
Rashis in English
Gutnick edition
Sefer Melachim with Ralbag and Radak (JNUL, pg 21, right side)
Abarbanel (pg 213)
Kli Yakar (pg 393, right, even though a misprint labels this perek daled)
Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite (pg 31)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Interesting Posts and Articles #122

  1. Some nice sources on Eldad HaDani. A telling over of his story in a Gaon's correspondence, and a summary of some of the halachot found in Sefer Amar Yehoshua. (here, here, here)

  2. An article on CNN about how we are programmed to marry our parents. Not convincing to me. But I encountered this article shortly after discussing in the parshablog comment section the midrash (apparently found in Zohar) that Bisya bas Pharaoh and Tzipporah were abandoned Cushite infants (asufis), taken in by Pharaoh and Yisro respectively. Aside from any kabbalistic or parshanut intents at play, this is troubling in terms of the apparent Oedipus complex at play. For surely Bisya played the role of mother to him. Besides marrying his mother's twin, he would also be marrying his aunt - perhaps similar to Amram's actions, before matan Torah.

  3. At, one of the "civilians" killed in Gaza shown posing holding a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and a Kalashnikov assault rifle that had been posted on a Hamas Web site. And at JPost, "World duped by Hamas death count."

  4. Supporting a Lamarckian view, it turns out that certain acquired characteristics may be inheritable. But this does not really support a Lamarckian view, as these are acquired traits in the mother mice (e.g. intelligence), and so it provides a different environment for the developing fetus and subsequent relating to the child; and environment affects how genetics manifests itself.

  5. The YU Commentator discusses how a new IBC course is bringing in MYP Roshei Yeshiva to address the students, once again. This is surely a good thing.

  6. Hallucinations caused by macular degeneration? Boing Boing discusses it, Omphalos suggests that perhaps Talmudic prescriptions for seeing shedim by putting ash in the eye were related, and PaleoJudaica considers it.

  7. Yeshiva World discusses an article by Rabbi Avi Billet, who is a mohel, about suggestions for sterile brisim. Because he suggests something relating to metziza be-feh (using a tube as has been suggested as a "be-feh" way of metzitza, or having the father do it), the reaction is strong. And of course, one of things they do is strip him of the title "Rabbi." I have spoken about this unfortunate tendency in the past, and how we should take care not to emulate the closed-minded in this regard, even where we feel strongly about other's positions or actions.

    In terms of metzitza, there are several positions one can take, but it is hard to cover al regel achat as one paragraph in a blog roundup. The gemara clearly considers it something done for health purposes, where there is a danger if it is not done, rather than a part of the milah. (I believe I could explain this based on outdated Greek science.) And if now it turns out it is dangerous, not only is it not required, but perhaps should be eliminated. Others can reply which midrashim that have Biblical characters performing the metzitza, where they try to derive halacha from various aggadot, usually not a good idea. Even if we do metzitza, a further point of difference is if it need to be done be-feh, or if a piece of gauze will do. And if be-feh, whether there needs to be direct oral contact. A major posek, purportedly to protect mohalim from AIDS from American babies (but likely in reality in the other direction) already permitted use of a tube for metzitza. And now we have a rabbi with semicha and some knowledge of the situation suggesting use of this tube, or if directly, an act by the father, who is after all the primary person obligated in fullfilling this mitzvah rather than the mohel who is his agent, and he is blasted as an apikores.

    A further note. Against what is suggested in the linked to page, proof that metzitza is medically necessary from the fact that gedolim allow metzitza on Shabbos nowadays is not a very strong proof, in my opinion. This is an explicit Mishna and gemara. Often, poskim, especially from a specific hashkafic background, do not reevaluate and argue against such sources in light of modern medical knowledge, either lekulah and lechumra.

  8. An article from the Iranian Press TV about the significance of the number 40, drawing from Jewish, Muslim, and Christian sources. See the reaction in the comment section.

  9. On the Main Line corrects the spelling of Peshitta in Hebrew letters. And he has some nice Valmadonna photos.

  10. Geulah Perspectives illustrates why it is often a waste of time speaking with Gedolim. You are just going to reinterpret their words to mean what you want, anyway! Perhaps Rav Kanievsky's point was that he had already fulfilled his obligation of Peru Urevu, such that of course he should keep trying to have children, but he should not be wasting his time running around to gedolim and mystics to get brachot, as if he and his wife were childless.

  11. Life In Israel about a purported chumra in Meah Shearim of not hanging men's clothing and women's clothing together to dry.

  12. Oh, and I picked up Rif blogging for a little bit. We are still somewhat behind daf Yomi...

More on Nevuat HaYeled

I touched on the modern kvetch on it in the previous post, how some are interpreting one sentence from this cryptic work to mean that an earthquake will destroy the Statue of Liberty (the idol of Rhodes) in preparation for mashiach's arrival.

Here, a little bit of the history of authorship and background to this sefer, from the Otzar Midrashim, a scholarly encyclopedic work by יהודה דוד אייזענשטיין, that also contains the full text of many midrashim. After a page or so of discussion and analysis -- I strongly encourage you to read it all, even though I provided a short excerpt to the right -- it indeed gives the full text of this sefer Nevuat Hayeled, in a clear font and with some corrections. Much better than the printing of the stand-alone sefer, also at

If I may elaborate on why I am skeptical of the claim of this early authorship. First, it was a work "discovered" in the ruins of Yerushalayim by the fellow who then provided a perush on it -- much as the Zohar was discovered. (I am not sure if the Chidah actually ascribes authorship of Nevuat Hayeled to the commentator Rav Avraham HaLevi-- my surface reading of the summary to the right suggests that he does.) And anyway, this discovery was fairly late. And still later, a commentary on it also was claimed to be "found" when it was really the work of the one who "found" it, R' Yitzchak Satnow, who was a known maskil, and who apparently forged some of the approbations for his sefarim. R' Yitzchak Satnow also either recorded or made up the whole introduction cited here.

But that is not what really makes me doubt it. Rather, I have heard this precise story too many times.

It is amazing that a child is miraculously born (in that he needed to be prayed for), immediately begins to speak with secrets, is silent for a while, and at the age of 12 began to speak. This is the story of Nachman Ketoma. But it is also the story of:
  1. Jesus
  2. Merlin
  3. Ben Sirah
  4. The boy who saved Yosef, according to Koran and then Sefer Hayashar -- though this is the weakest.
Thus, for Jesus, Mary had a miraculous birth. She was accused of infidelity and baby Jesus spoke up and saved her, and he also spoke wondrous things. Later, at about bar Mitzvah age, he wowed the Pharisee sages with his questions.

For Merlin , his mother became pregnant from an incubus. She was accused of infidelity and baby Merlin spoke up to defend her. Merlin also gave all sorts of prophecies. Later, at about that same age, he contends with the wise men of King Vortigern and comes out ahead.

For Ben Sirah, in the quasi-pornographic medieval work The Alphabet of Ben Sirah, Yirmeyahu HaNavi is forced by evil men in a bathhouse to expel seed. He then immerses in the mikveh. His daughter, a virgin kohenes, immerses in that same mikveh in order to eat terumah and thus becomes pregnant. Baby Ben Sirah defends his mother of the charges of infidelity. Later, at about thirteen, he gives all the poetry and wise sayings in the Alphabet of Ben Sirah in a contest with a certain king's wise men.

The boy who saved Yosef was 11 months old, but miraculously spoke up to defend Yosef from charges of attacking Potifar's wife. And this is something to be expected from the Koran. He does not speak up later, at the age of 13.

But the idea of a magically speaking wise child giving prophecies or saying wise sayings is not unique. Rather, there is a trend. And so when I see something along the same lines, my first inclination is not to be awed by the miracle, but to see it as part of the made-up literary trend. The same reaction you would have if the backstory somehow was the same as that of Pinnochio.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Why I take great offense at the amateur mystics gleefully predicting the fall of America

I am holding myself back here, so that I do not call people a bunch of names they justly deserve. But I take great offense at the amateur, know-nothing kabbalistic wannabes who hope for the destruction of my country, which is truly a great country.

Yes, that includes those who say that America is Rome, on the basis of nothing. And those who claim that President George Bush is Gog, on the basis of a stupid pun ("Gog Bush"), and on the basis of gematrias which can be used to prove anything. It is not the methodology that bothers me so much, even though it is nonsense, and even Baal HaTurim, renowned for his gematriot, would agree it is nonsense. What bothers me is the underlying desire which causes them to kvetch their interpretations and gematriot in the direction of the fall of America.

America is a wonderful country. Historically, it provided a safe-haven for Jews, it fought Germany in World War II, it is a great supporter of Israel on the world stage and in the United nations. It was founded on great ideas such as democracy and the rights of man. Even today, they send so much help to other countries to aid them in their time of need. America is good.

And George Bush is a good man. He was the leader of this wonderful nation I am proud to be a member of. And he meant well. Even though I do not share his Christian faith, and I might have disagreed with some of his policies. Even so, he most certainly meant well, and was guided by the desire to do good. He was not some evil dictator who was trying to start wars in order to kill innocent people, or bring about the apocalypse. To say he was Gog, in many people's minds, means that he is some evildoer and anti-Christ, leader of the forces of evil. Thus, all sorts of loony conspiracy theories that he was part of the freemasons, and was trying to cause this economic crisis.

The same goes for Barack Hussain Obama. I disagree with him on certain political points, both foreign and domestic, and I may think he is inexperienced. But is he evil? Is he now Gog? How insulting! I believe he is well-meaning, and wants to do good, even if I disagree with him. I do not think he is a closet Muslim who came to power in order to kill all the Jews or arm Iran with nuclear weapons, or who knows what not. To suggest he deliberately flubbed the oath of office, as part of a conspiracy involving the Republican justice Roberts, is the height of lunacy, and treats him like some sort of vampire who needs to avoid the cross and garlic, and whatnot. It is silly and, more importantly, hateful.

And America is not the new Rome. It is not the "wicked empire," the classic enemy of Israel. When I hear this, I am hurt and insulted on behalf of my country, which is a medinah shel chessed.

And when I hear gleeful predictions of the fall of America, I cannot help but think that those doing the predictions are no worse than the Muslim terrorists who hope for America's fall. The Palestinians danced in the streets hearing of the fall of the World Trade Center. And apparently the amateur kabbalists are just as gleeful, because they also think of America as a terrible influence on the world, which will be destroyed in fulfillment of messianic prophecies.

This includes predictions that all the banks in America will fail, followed by hopeful waiting for such false-prophecies to be carried out. Disasters such as Katrina, wildfires, and earthquakes are interpreted as America getting what was coming to it. I would like to tell you where to go, but I won't.

The latest was a prediction of the destruction of the Statue of Liberty, perhaps by an earthquake, based on a misinterpretation of a likely-forged kabbalistic text. Well, let me tell you. I live in New York City. I have family and friends in New York City. And if you look at New York City as a den of iniquity, and hope for its destruction -- and yes, with this prediction in place, you are hoping, because you think it will prove you right and also bring the mashiach -- then I do not think kindly thoughts towards you. In fact, I am pretty angry at you, you foolish jerks.

Here is a long video about the prediction, a video which is way too long:

You can get the gist of it from the excellent summary / transcription of it provided by Shirat Devorah. An excerpt:
After many prayers and fasting, Rachel finally became pregnant and on the Thursday which was Rosh Hashanah, she gave birth to a son who they were to call Nachman.

However, when Nachman was born, instead of a newborn cry, the baby began to speak, disclosing great secrets of the world.


Through all the generations these prophecies were accepted as holy, and the Rabbi of "Shomer Emunim" wrote in his book that they are known to be true and the "holy of holies". It is also known that the Tzemach Tzedek accepted these prophecies.


Recently the meaning of a section was discovered by an American - Yaakov Nathan - in the fourth prophecy, letter Tzadik.

The translation is :

"When the idol of Rhodes will be destroyed, know that the end of the Wicked Kingdom is near"

The "Idol of Rhodes" is the Statue of Liberty.

"When the statue of Liberty is destroyed, we will known that the Moshiach is about to be revealed"
As part of the video, at the 3:40 mark, the author introduces the Statue of Liberty and states that it "symbolizes mostly the western values of freedom and permissiveness of Europe and America." Thus, the "idol" that is the Statue of Liberty is taken to be a monument to decadence.

Listen, fella. You have no idea what freedom means. Even on Pesach, which we are soon to celebrate, we celebrate cherut, freedom. Perhaps you hope to establish a theocracy according to your version of your religion, but the ideal of Liberty is indeed an ideal. See Emma Lazarus' poem, The New Collosus:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

You perhaps do not understand the alternative to liberty -- of tyranny, of dictatorships, of religious and political oppression of various groups. In Europe, Jews were barred from certain professions, were exiled from place to place, were killed and generally oppressed. In the United States of America, we have freedom to strive to be what we want to be, to work to support our families without the government stopping us on the basis of our race or our religion. This is not the case in all countries. It is not "permissiveness." And stating that it is tells me just what you think of my country.

And if you think so little of my country and what the Statue of Liberty represents, then I am probably correct in thinking that you are hopeful and gleeful of the process of the statue's destruction, and of "Rome" being taken down a peg or two. That makes you a jerk.

In terms of interpreting this cryptic statement, firstly, here is the cryptic statement. The sefer Nevuat Hayeled together with commentary (which does not mention the statue of Liberty) is available here, at Hebrew Books . org.

The line beginning with tzaddi roughly says "the idol of Rhodes when it is destroyed, Rome will soon be destroyed." It does not say "Wicked Kingdom" as in the translation above.

Now, the idol of Rhodes was the statue called Colossus, and it was one of the seven wonders of the world. It was destroyed in about 280 BCE, and therefore many hundreds of years before the purported date of this prophecy. However, at that point, it merely snapped at the knees. It apparently existed for over 800 years at least, where people still went to see it. And at that So depending on the date of authorship of this prophetic poem, the statue itself may still have existed. Indeed, if we take at face value the authorship in the 5th century, then the Collossus itself still existed, so why assume that it refers to some future "Collossus" that will be built. Indeed, at about the same time, in 476, the Western Roman empire collapsed, and so this could have been referring to contemporary events -- or if written later, as a "prophecy" of the purportedly contemporary events, because people witnessed the dismantling and disappearance of the actual Colossus of Rhodes, and close to that time, the final destruction of the Western Roman empire.

But no, everything must focus on us, and we must take excerpts out of contexts from random kabbalistic seforim and interpret them to apply to the present day, for we know that the ketz is now, and not, say, in 100 years from now. Good for you!

Why should we believe it refers to the Statue of Liberty? Well, the Statue of Liberty was based in part on the Collossus, and Emma Lazarus referred to this in her poem. So it is a good fit. But why now?

And if now, I can propose at least three other interpretations:
  1. Here are a bunch of Mr. Potato Head statues in Rhode Island. Perhaps it was discussing the destruction of those statues, and referring also to the destruction of the actual Rome?

  2. Mark Rhodes was a contestant on Pop Idol, a British equivalent of American Idol. In that second season of Pop Idol, he came in in second place, rather than winning, and so we can consider it his destruction.

  3. Forget the Statue of Liberty. There are plans in the works of reconstructing the original Colossus, in Rhodes. To cite Wikipedia:
    In November 2008, it was announced that the Colossus of Rhodes was to be rebuilt. According to Dr. Dimitris Koutoulas, who is heading the project in Greece, rather than reproducing the original Colossus, the new structure will be a, "highly, highly innovative light sculpture, one that will stand between 60 and 100 metres tall so that people can physically enter it." The project is expected to cost up to €200m which will be provided by international donors and the German artist Gert Hof. The new Colossus will adorn an outer pier in the harbour area of Rhodes, where it will be visible to passing ships. Koutoulas said, "Although we are still at the drawing board stage, Gert Hof's plan is to make it the world's largest light installation, a structure that has never before been seen in any place of the world."
    Perhaps the intent was that this Colossus will be built and then destroyed.
May mashiach come soon. My messianic hopes do not include hopes for the destruction of New York City, though.


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