Friday, May 30, 2008

Kabbalah and Philosophy pt iii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest quotes sources which equate the kabbalistic position on the soul with that of the philosophers. There are distinctions, but the guest says that these are mere additions to the philosophical position. He notes that this was not done with evil intent, but rather to be mekarev those with a philosophical bent. The text of the Vikuach follows:

And he {=the author of the Akeida} further said that this was the position of the sages of kabbalah, and he brings down a lengthy citation from the sefer ha-Zohar which establishes his opinion.

The author: You are always returning to learn demerit upon the kabbalists, but this I will never believe, that the position of the kabbalists agrees with the opinion of the philosophers in the matter of whether the nefesh is only potential and preparation, and that the remnants are not natural {/automatic} to it but rather by happenstance, according to what it merited to learn and be completed -- this I have not seen nor heard from the kabbalists.

The guest: Take to me the sefer HaBrit and you will see the words with your eyes.

{The author relates:} And I took the sefer haBris and the man searched and found written in it (chelek 1, maamar 18, chapter 1): "And you, my brother and head {?} do not be astounded on the matter, when I say that the soul of man is composed of the form of the four elements, for this is not of my own heart, but from the one who is righteous, holy, and faithful in all of Israel, the Ari Luria za"l in his sefer Etz Chaim, and this is what he said in his holiness there: 'The "speaker" {medaber} is the innermost of all of them, and it is from the portion of fire which is in every element of those four.' End quote. Further, there: ' And these four aspects are called one nefesh, but are drawn from the form of the four elements.' End quote.

And if you say in your heart, 'have we not already said that anything connected to the four elements will separate in the end, and its components will be dispersed and return to the four elements as at the start, in all the points that it came, so shall it go {from Kohelet 5:15}, and if so it will happen here as well to every soul of man, that it will be lost and be nullified from existence, and then where is the belief in the soul's remaining, which all the children of Shet already established and accepted upon themselves and upon their descendants, and certainly the nation which Hashem has chosen for Himself? Upon this, my tongue will answer your statement a soft response, responding in a clear and appropriate manner: Know, my son, that in truth all the faithful kabbalists, and at their head the Ari Luria za"l and his student Rav Chaim Vital za"l, have said that this nefesh which is called the elemental nefesh is what receives destruction in its nature and substance of its creation, for since it is formed from the four elements, it has in it the aspect of corporeality, just as Rabbi Chaim Vital za"l wrote in his sefer Shaarei Kedusha, and this is his language: "In his body and in the forces of his elemental soul, and in them alone, is the aspect of corporeality." End quote. Thus it is explicit that there is an aspect of corporeality in this bitter {??? marah} soul. Therefore it is not called by the kabbalists by the name nefesh gemurah, but rather it is only called the force {koach} of the body, it and all that is in it, even the force of study {iyun} which is in it is within this designation, just as the Arizal wrote in Etz Chaim, and this is his language:

"And behold, all this nefesh is to be the force of the body. It is not called by the name nefesh gemurah, but rather is called the force of the body." End quote.

But, via the 613 commandments that the Israelite fulfills, or the 7 commandments that a righteous gentile fulfills, an everlasting remnant is acquired in this nefesh, and it remains living and existing forever as a reward for these commandments, as they za"l said, "the righteous of the nations of the world have a portion of the world to come." But those not of them remains its first nature, that it receives destruction, and his soul does not live. However, still the upper soul which is made {???} from heaven, which is in every man of Israel, that is called the nefesh gemura, and its nature and substance of its creation is that it does not receive destruction, for it has no corporeal aspect, and all the more so the ruach of formation and neshama of creation, and one need not say the aspect of life and unity {chaya veyechida -- two additional souls} which are from the world of emanation and from the world of First Man."

I {=the guest} said to him: Behold you see with your eyes that the opinion of the kabbalists does not agree at all with the opinion of the philosophers, for the philosopher says that one who does not study and become a philosopher, his soul is entirely cut off. And the kabbalist says that even if the elemental soul is cut off, behold in every man of Israel is the nefesh gemurah which exists in man.

The guest: This is an addition which the kabbalists added onto the words of the philosophers, in order to give honor to the children of Israel, and to flatter the ignorant so that they would not stone them. But what will you say about one who things that there is no living nefesh {nefesh chaya} except to the members of his nation, only? Is he a wise man or a fool? Or do you think that our teachers also believed this, for they said "you are called man {adam}? Say to me, please, my master, when Antigones asked Rabbi {Yehuda haNasi}, "when is it {=the soul} given into man, from the time of "visitation" {=when a man visits his wife} or from the time of formation," how did he not answer him "from the time that he is a Jew?"

But the truth is that the kabbalists took the positions of the philosophers who were in their days, and they switched around a few things in order to make them accord with our Torah and our faith, and they acquired them via changing them {as is an halachic concept}, and they called it after their name. And behold, the wisdom of kabbalah is indeed received in the hands of the kabbalists, but not from our forebears, but rather from the philosophers.

And also I will not despise that for what they did, for indeed their intent was good. For when they saw that most of those learning were drawn in their days after the corrupt Arabic philosophy, they labored to extract from it a few things, and to change a few of its matters a small bit, in order to bring close also the philosophers into the faith. And this is similar to what the greats the other nations did, each person to his language.

Bamidbar: Eleph as Military Unit

Some are troubled by the difficulty of 600,000 men (+ women and children) leaving Egypt, claiming it impossible, or incredibly impossible. I am not persuaded of its impossibility, or troubled by it. But anyway, there is alternative to calling it entirely made-up, which some scholars have proposed -- that eleph does not mean 1000 but rather refers to a military unit. Just as we see e.g. shalishim, the captains over Pharaoh's chariots.

This could work with רָאשֵׁי אַלְפֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל in Bemidbar 1:16:
טז אֵלֶּה קריאי (קְרוּאֵי) הָעֵדָה, נְשִׂיאֵי מַטּוֹת אֲבוֹתָם: רָאשֵׁי אַלְפֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, הֵם. 16 These were the elect of the congregation, the princes of the tribes of their fathers; they were the heads of the thousands of Israel.
as a setup for the alaphim listed later in the perek.

Thus, we rashei haAlaphim have in I Divrei Hayamim 12:21 in a military sense.
כא בְּלֶכְתּוֹ אֶל-צִיקְלַג, נָפְלוּ עָלָיו מִמְּנַשֶּׁה עַדְנַח וְיוֹזָבָד וִידִיעֲאֵל וּמִיכָאֵל וְיוֹזָבָד, וֶאֱלִיהוּא, וְצִלְּתָי: רָאשֵׁי הָאֲלָפִים, אֲשֶׁר לִמְנַשֶּׁה. 21 As he went to Ziklag, there fell to him of Manasseh, Adnah, and Jozabad, and Jediael, and Michael, and Jozabad, and Elihu, and Zillethai, captains of thousands that were of Manasseh.
כב וְהֵמָּה, עָזְרוּ עִם-דָּוִיד עַל-הַגְּדוּד, כִּי-גִבּוֹרֵי חַיִל, כֻּלָּם; וַיִּהְיוּ שָׂרִים, בַּצָּבָא. 22 And they helped David against the troop, for they were all mighty men of valour, and were captains in the host.
And in Shoftim 6, we have:

יד וַיִּפֶן אֵלָיו, יְהוָה, וַיֹּאמֶר לֵךְ בְּכֹחֲךָ זֶה, וְהוֹשַׁעְתָּ אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל מִכַּף מִדְיָן: הֲלֹא, שְׁלַחְתִּיךָ. 14 And the LORD turned towards him, and said: 'Go in this thy might, and save Israel from the hand of Midian; have not I sent thee?'
טו וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו בִּי אֲדֹנָי, בַּמָּה אוֹשִׁיעַ אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל; הִנֵּה אַלְפִּי הַדַּל בִּמְנַשֶּׁה, וְאָנֹכִי הַצָּעִיר בְּבֵית אָבִי. 15 And he said unto him: 'Oh, my lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.'
where alfi means my family.

And in Michah 5:1:
א וְאַתָּה בֵּית-לֶחֶם אֶפְרָתָה, צָעִיר לִהְיוֹת בְּאַלְפֵי יְהוּדָה--מִמְּךָ לִי יֵצֵא, לִהְיוֹת מוֹשֵׁל בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל; וּמוֹצָאֹתָיו מִקֶּדֶם, מִימֵי עוֹלָם. 1 But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from ancient days.

(Though of course we have in Shemos וְאַתָּה תֶחֱזֶה מִכָּל-הָעָם אַנְשֵׁי-חַיִל יִרְאֵי אֱלֹהִים, אַנְשֵׁי אֱמֶת--שֹׂנְאֵי בָצַע; וְשַׂמְתָּ עֲלֵהֶם, שָׂרֵי אֲלָפִים שָׂרֵי מֵאוֹת, שָׂרֵי חֲמִשִּׁים, וְשָׂרֵי עֲשָׂרֹת so it certainly is expected that these are nesiim, judges over some subsection.)

Mendenhall in "The Census Lists of Numbers 1 and 26" notes the above (as well as other things) and suggests that the eleph was a subsection of tribe, upon which the king imposed a levy of men to participate in the military. Thus in that quote from Shofetim, he claims that Gideon is saying that his eleph, the military unit over which he has command, is the smallest in Menashe. For eleph is not a number, but a unit.

He suggests that what we have in Bemidbar is a list of how many elephs there were and then across all elephs, how many men were contributed from the entire tribe. See the figure to the right.

כט פְּקֻדֵיהֶם, לְמַטֵּה יִשָּׂשכָר--אַרְבָּעָה וַחֲמִשִּׁים אֶלֶף, וְאַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת. {פ} 29 those that were numbered of them, of the tribe of Issachar, were fifty and four thousand and four hundred. {P}

would not mean that there were 54,400 men, but rather that Yissachar contributed 400 men, from its 54 elephs (where each eleph had to contribute to some quota).

His totals them match what we might expect for the size of an army looking at contemporary military censuses.

It is an interesting theory. It does not work with certain aspects of the Biblical text. For example, Bamidbar also sums up these tribal contributions, and hundreds carry over to thousands. And we saw in sefer Shemos, in Shemos 38:26
כו בֶּקַע, לַגֻּלְגֹּלֶת, מַחֲצִית הַשֶּׁקֶל, בְּשֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ--לְכֹל הָעֹבֵר עַל-הַפְּקֻדִים, מִבֶּן עֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וָמַעְלָה, לְשֵׁשׁ-מֵאוֹת אֶלֶף וּשְׁלֹשֶׁת אֲלָפִים, וַחֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת וַחֲמִשִּׁים. 26 a beka a head, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that passed over to them that are numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men.
He assumes that these lists were misunderstood by later authors and works from there.

So this theory does not really seem to save or justify traditional understanding of the nature of Biblical text.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Interesting Posts and Articles #38

  1. Was Shakespeare a Jewish woman?
  2. My Machberes on the Oz veHadar Talmud. Interesting stuff. But I don't think they will get all the errors. An excerpt:
    Twenty years ago, Rabbi Yehoshua Leifer, Skverer Dayan, undertook a project to reprint Shas with all errors corrected and fully source-cross-referenced. The effort would include the entire works of published commentaries....
    Before the invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg in 1440, seforim were copied by hand. Needless to say, errors were made in the copying, as well as in printing by machine. Those errors led to additional errors and made understanding the seforim quite difficult, if at all. Errors were also responsible for many errors in halachic decisions that are only understood when the error is uncovered....
    He realized the importance of the work that should have been undertaken years, if not centuries, earlier....
    Each elucidation, each error detected, each contraction wrongly made, each contraction wrongly opened, each missing word added, each extraneous word identified – allowed additional understanding and clarity of the basic text.
  3. A speech in Obama's church:

  4. Some weird theology over at DreamingOfMoshiach. Perhaps I'll elaborate in a later post.
  5. Was this Yeshiva's money well spent?
    Was it necessary for him to learn it by heart? Or could his time have been better put to use by learning it extremely well and moving on to another tractate and learning that very well too? Is there a point at which the extra effort of learning it by heart causes diminishing returns in the extra understanding of it that he gets from an extra review?
    I would say yes, because besides the knowledge this student now has of this material, he was enthusiastic about the project and feels a sense of accomplishment. This is an important thing to develop

Bamidbar: How the sum of two censuses can be identical

(All of the following expanding upon Shadal.)

The count in parshas Bemidbar lists each tribe and the amount of people in that tribe. Then, in Bemidbar 1:45-47:
מה וַיִּהְיוּ כָּל-פְּקוּדֵי בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם, מִבֶּן עֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וָמַעְלָה, כָּל-יֹצֵא צָבָא בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל. 45 And all those that were numbered of the children of Israel by their fathers' houses, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel;
מו וַיִּהְיוּ, כָּל-הַפְּקֻדִים--שֵׁשׁ-מֵאוֹת אֶלֶף, וּשְׁלֹשֶׁת אֲלָפִים; וַחֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת, וַחֲמִשִּׁים. 46 even all those that were numbered were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty.
מז וְהַלְוִיִּם, לְמַטֵּה אֲבֹתָם--לֹא הָתְפָּקְדוּ, בְּתוֹכָם. {פ} 47 But the Levites after the tribe of their fathers were not numbered among them. {P}
Thus, not including the Levviim, there were 605,350.

The Leviim are counted in the third perek, from the age of one month and up:

לט כָּל-פְּקוּדֵי הַלְוִיִּם אֲשֶׁר פָּקַד מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן, עַל-פִּי ה--לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם: כָּל-זָכָר מִבֶּן-חֹדֶשׁ וָמַעְלָה, שְׁנַיִם וְעֶשְׂרִים אָלֶף. {ס} 39 All that were numbered of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron numbered at the commandment of the LORD, by their families, all the males from a month old and upward, were twenty and two thousand. {S}
and number 22,000, though when summing up the numbers for Gershon (7500), Kehat (8600) and Merari (62000) earlier in the perek, there are an additional 300. (Rashi cites Bechorot 5a to explain that these additional 300 were themselves firstborn and thus

These were in place of the firstborn, who were approximately the same amount -- there were 273 more Israelite firstborn than the count of Levites.

מה קַח אֶת-הַלְוִיִּם, תַּחַת כָּל-בְּכוֹר בִּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאֶת-בֶּהֱמַת הַלְוִיִּם, תַּחַת בְּהֶמְתָּם; וְהָיוּ-לִי הַלְוִיִּם, אֲנִי יְהוָה. 45 'Take the Levites instead of all the first-born among the children of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle; and the Levites shall be Mine, even the LORD'S.
מו וְאֵת פְּדוּיֵי הַשְּׁלֹשָׁה, וְהַשִּׁבְעִים וְהַמָּאתָיִם--הָעֹדְפִים, עַל-הַלְוִיִּם, מִבְּכוֹר, בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. 46 And as for the redemption of the two hundred and three score and thirteen of the first-born of the children of Israel, that are over and above the number of the Levites,
מז וְלָקַחְתָּ, חֲמֵשֶׁת חֲמֵשֶׁת שְׁקָלִים--לַגֻּלְגֹּלֶת: בְּשֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ תִּקָּח, עֶשְׂרִים גֵּרָה הַשָּׁקֶל. 47 thou shalt take five shekels apiece by the poll; after the shekel of the sanctuary shalt thou take them--the shekel is twenty gerahs.
Now for the difficulty. In Shemot 38:26, by the donations to the Mishkan at its construction:
כה וְכֶסֶף פְּקוּדֵי הָעֵדָה, מְאַת כִּכָּר; וְאֶלֶף וּשְׁבַע מֵאוֹת וַחֲמִשָּׁה וְשִׁבְעִים, שֶׁקֶל--בְּשֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ. 25 And the silver of them that were numbered of the congregation was a hundred talents, and a thousand seven hundred and three-score and fifteen shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary:
כו בֶּקַע, לַגֻּלְגֹּלֶת, מַחֲצִית הַשֶּׁקֶל, בְּשֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ--לְכֹל הָעֹבֵר עַל-הַפְּקֻדִים, מִבֶּן עֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וָמַעְלָה, לְשֵׁשׁ-מֵאוֹת אֶלֶף וּשְׁלֹשֶׁת אֲלָפִים, וַחֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת וַחֲמִשִּׁים. 26 a beka a head, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that passed over to them that are numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men.
So here there was also a count and donation, and the sum total of the people was once 603,550. This makes sense, since these two counts were in close. As Rashi writes there:
for six hundred three thousand, etc. This is how many the Israelites were. Their number equaled this [too] after the Mishkan was erected, [as appears] in the Book of Numbers [Num. 1:4]. Now too, when they donated to the Mishkan, this is how many they were. The number of the half-shekels of 600,000 [people] equals one hundred talents, each one the equivalent of three thousand shekels. How so? Six hundred thousand halves [of a shekel] equal three hundred thousand wholes, which equal one hundred talents. The [additional] 3,550 halves equal 1,775 shekels.
Shadal is bothered by this, for even though these two counts were in close proximity, they could not be the same census. For here the Levites were not counted, while there there is no reason to say they were not counted, for the Levites were not at that point separated off, nor were they mentioned at all in all the Torah. And furthermore, this count is to families, to beit avot (larger groups headed by a paterfamilias) in order to know how many are in each tribe, to make the encampments by flags, while there (in Shemos) each person gave a beka of silver, and the silver was counted without paying heed to the specifics of each and every tribe.

And, if in the count in Shemos the Levites were counted and in the one in the beginning of sefer Bemidbar Sinai they were not counted, how could both sums be 603,550?

My {=Josh} own answer would be: nu, nu -- Hashem knew what would be in the future, and so there as well He said not to take from the Leviim, and perhaps people even wondered about this until the matter was clarified later.

Shadal's answer is that we see that the Levites were basically the same number as the firstborn Israelites -- there were only 273 more firstborns. And those firstborns at that point had the status that the Levites would later take, and since they served bodily in the Mishkan they would not donate their money. And it is not so farfetched that 273 people from all of Israel died in the period between the two counts.

If so, the first (Shemos) count is the entire nation, including the Levites but not including the firstborn.
And the second (Bemidbar) count is the nation excluding the Israelite firstborn and excluding the 273 who died in the meantime.

Thus, the counts end up identical.

(I {=Josh} would suggest that the round numbers for the various tribes suggests that these were approximates, such that deaths and people entering their 20th year in the meantime can vary from tribe to tribe and still end up with the same total approximate.)

Now there are actually two opinions about how age is determined. According to Rashi on Shemot 30:16, age in years was determined on Rosh haShana, in Tishri. Thus, everyone becomes one year older on the same day. If so, there is no problem of someone all of a sudden becoming 20 in between the first and the second count.

Rashi writes:
and use it for the work of the Tent of Meeting [From this] you learn that they were commanded to count them at the beginning of the donation for the Mishkan after the incident of the calf. [They were commanded then] because a plague had befallen them, as it is said: “And the Lord plagued the people” (Exod. 32:35). This can be compared to a flock of sheep, treasured by its owner, which was stricken with pestilence. When it [the pestilence] was over, he [the owner] said to the shepherd, “Please count my sheep to know how many are left,” in order to make it known that he treasured it [the flock] (Tanchuma, Ki Thissa 9). It is, however, impossible to say that this counting [mentioned here] was the [same] one mentioned in the Book of Numbers, for in that one [counting] it says: “on the first of the second month” (Num. 1:1), and the Mishkan was erected on the first [day] of the first month, as it is said: On the day of the first month, on the first of the month, you shall erect, etc. (Exod. 40:2). The sockets were made from shekels realized from that counting, as it is said: “One hundred talents of the silver were used to cast, etc.” (Exod. 38:27). Thus you learn that they [the countings] were two-one at the beginning of their donation [to the Mishkan] after Yom Kippur in the first year [after the Exodus], and one in the second year in Iyar after the Mishkan had been erected. Now if you ask, how is it possible that in both of these countings the Israelites equaled six hundred three thousand, five hundred fifty? In the case of the silver of the community census, it says this number, and also in the Book of Numbers it says the same: “And all the counted ones were six hundred three thousand, five hundred fifty” (Num. 1:46). Were they [the countings] not in two [separate] years? It is impossible that in the first census there were none who were nineteen years old and consequently not counted, and by the second counting became twenty years old [and were counted]. The answer to this matter is that in the context of the ages of people, they were counted in the same year, but in the context of the Exodus they [the two dates] were two [separate] years, since [to figure the time] from the Exodus, we count from [the month of] Nissan, as we learned in [tractate] Rosh Hashanah (2b). In this context, the Mishkan was built in the first year [after the Exodus] and erected in the second year, for the new year started on the first of Nissan. People’s ages, however, are counted according to the number of years of the world, beginning with [the month of] Tishri. Thus, the two countings were [taken] in the same year. The first counting was in Tishri after Yom Kippur, when the Omnipresent was placated toward Israel to forgive them, and they were commanded concerning [building] the Mishkan. The second one [counting] was on the first of Iyar. -[from Num. Rabbah 1:10]
But Shadal also offers an answer according to Ramban that age is determined from the day of one's birth, along similar lines. See inside -- there is more to it.

Here is the text of Shadal, taken from the website:

הסך הזה מסכים בצימצום עם הסך היוצא מכסף פקודי העדה בשנה ראשונה קודם שהוקם המשכן ( שמות ל"ח כ"ו ועיין שם בנתיבות השלום שהאריך), והנה אי אפשר לומר ששני המנינים מנין אחד הם, כי כאן לא נמנו הלויים, ושם אין שום טעם לומר שלא נמנו, כי עדיין לא נבחרו ולא נבדלו ולא נזכרו הלויים כלל בכל התורה, ועוד כי המנין הזה הוא למשפחותם לבית אבותם , לדעת מזה כמה בכל שבט לעשות הדגלים, ושם לא היה הדבר כן, רק נתן איש איש בקע כסף ונמנו השקלים בלא השקפה לפרטי כל שבט ושבט, כי זה היה המבוקש במנין השני הזה. אם כך ששני מנינים הם, ובראשון נמנה שבט לוי ובשני לא נמנה, איך הסכימו שני הסכים האלה זה עם זה? אומר אני כי כשם שלא נמנו הלויים במנין השני הזה, מפני שנבחרו לשירות המשכן תחת כל בכור בבני ישראל, כן במנין הראשון לא נמנו הבכורות, כי עדיין היו ניגשים אל ה' לשרת בקודש. והנה מספר הבכורות היה קרוב למספר הלויים ויותר עליהם רע"ג ( למטה, ג' מ"ו ), ובכן איננו רחוק שקרה מקרה שהמתים בין מנין למנין היו ג"כ רע"ג, והנה נשאר המנין השני שווה לראשון, כי המנין הראשון היה העם בזולת בכורות, והמנין השני היה העם בזולת הלויים וזולת המתים. ומספר הלויים עם המתים הוא (לפי ההנחה) שווה למספר הבכורות. וכל זה בשיטת רש"י ( שמות ל' ט"ז ) ובמדבר רבה (פ א ח) (עיין נתה"ש שם) שלמנין שנות בני אדם מונין מתשרי, ובכן לא נוספו במנין השני הנערים אשר השלימו שנת עשרים, אבל לשיטת רמב"ן ( שמות ל' י"ב ) שלמנין שנות בני אדם איש איש ראש השנה שלו ביום היוולדו, ואם כן בהכרח הרבה נוספו במנין השני שלא היו בני עשרים במנין הראשון, יש לומר, שאע"פ שהבכורות כשנמנו מבן חודש ומעלה היו יתרים על הלויים, מ"מ בהימנותם מבן עשרים היה מספרם פחות מהם, כמו שהיה העניין במשפחות הלויים, שכשנמנו מבן חודש ( למטה פרק ג') היו בני גרשון 7500 ובני קהת 8600 ובני מררי 6200, בני מררי פחות מכולם, וכשנמנו מבן שלושים עד חמישים שנה היו בני גרשון 2630 ובני קהת 2750 ובני מררי 3200, בני מררי מרובים מכולם; אף כאן אולי הבכורות שהיו מרובים מן הלויים, מבן חודש היו פחותים מהם מבן עשרים, ושנכנסו במנין שני במקום הלויים, יצא שכר המשלימים שנת עשרים בהפסד מה שהיו הבכורות פחותים מן הלויים ובהפסד המתים בין ספירה לספירה, ונשאר המספר כשהיה, בלא תוספת ובלא מגרעת, כזה:

מנין ראשון מנין שני

ישראל ישראל

לויים בכורות

X אותם שמתו בין מנין למנין
Z אותם שהשלימו שנת עשרים בין מנין למנין

Y יתרון הלויים על הבכורות ( Z=X+Y ).

ואם תרצה, אמור שהבכורות כשנמנו מבן עשרים היה מספרם שווה למספר הלויים מבן עשרים, ושהמתים בין מנין למנין היה מספרם שווה למספר הנערים המשלימים שנת עשרים בין מנין למנין . וזה אמנם במקרה לא בנס, כי יהיה נס ללא דבר וללא תועלת כלל. ואל תתמה איך לא נמנו הבכורות במנין ראשון מבלי שתזכיר התורה דבר מזה, כי הלא כן תצטרך לומר בלויים במנין שני, שהיו בהם ש' בכורות שלא היו מן המנין ( עיין למטה ג' ל"ט בפי' רש"י). ואמנם הטעם האמיתי למה לא נמנו הבכורות במנין הקודם ההוא, כי שם לא היתה הכוונה למנות את העם, אלא שייתן איש תרומת כסף לצורך המשכן, והנה הבכורות שהיו עובדים עבודת ה' לא היה ראוי שייתנו מכספם להקמת המשכן, כי כבר הם וגופם נתונים אל המשכן ולכל עבודתו.

Kabbalah and Philosophy pt ii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The author plugs one of his sefarim -- Kuntres Havdalos haNirdafim. The author and guest are in accord in their dislike of philosophical derash, into which pashtanim sometimes stray. In order to make philosophy accord with Judaism, they reinterpret Tanach, Mishna and gemara in a forced manner, and one which is not in line with the original intent of Chazal. Thus they abandon peshat and also corrupt the beliefs of Chazal. One case in point is the nature of the soul. And not only that, but kabbalists follow the philosophers in this as well. {The text in block print is not in the online scan at SeforimOnline, but is from my own copy of the book.} The text of the Vikuach follows:

But rather the opposite, together let us rejoice with love in words of Torah and wisdom, and let us laugh at wealthy men who increase their anguish, and in all their striving and effort, they do not find not recognize the rest of the spirit and the joy of the soul. And behold, with me are several things which I wrote about the wisdom of language and about the wisdom of Torah. I will bring them out to you, and you will examine them in the spirit of investigation which I see in you, and you will inform me of your opinion and your criticisms, and I will accept them in happiness.

And I brought him to my house and placed before him my kuntres havdalos hanirdafim {I would guess a pamphlet about the slight differences between synonyms} and he read in it, and also within the meal and after it, until close to midnight. And I found him to be ten times what I had estimated him to be before, and in no small amount did he offer to me his insights to fix afterwards that which I wrote. After this, the man went to his house of lodging. And I lay down and slept. And it was in the morning, and I was on my bed, and the sound of the man knocked and called my name, and I arose and opened {the door} to him, and I said to him: What is this that you have hurried, and I thought that you loved sleep, after all that you have complained about our custom to learn on the night of Hoshana Rabba.

And the man answered me and said: My master should not say words such as this, for if slumber is sweet to me, behold it is sweeter to me to learn Torah and to hear pleasant novelties as you caused me to hear yesterday. And now, don your clothing and show me your honor and your writings which are left for me to read, and afterwards we will go to shul.

And I did in accordance with his words, and he read my pamphlets until he finished them, another three hours, and afterwards we went together to the synagogue, and then together we left and returned to the house, and our heats feasted.

And I said to him: While is is indeed true, that I derive great enjoyment from the examinations I continuously make in the depths of our language and in the poetic phrases of our prophets, and that my soul also rejoices that my fathers left me a place to fence in, behold when I see the difficulty of the word, and its length and breadth, it is impossible that I not be aggrieved, how come our the sages and commentators and early composers, whose little finger was thicker than our waists, did not precede us to apply their hearts to dear examinations as these, to lighten from us a bit of this awesome burden. And what it especially wondrous in my eyes is the small number of those who seek peshat, among the many great sages who arise in the congregation of our nation after the closing of the Talmud. And even more that this I am astonished when I see that even the sages who cleaved to peshat did not cleave to it completely {גמורה}, such that they did not divert from it many times.

Behold Rashi, the head of the pashtanim, in many places distances himself from the peshat to got in the way of derash

and aggadah. And even if his intent was desirable, behold the Rashbam and the Ramban wage battle with him to establish the peshat in its proper place. And they themselves, though their words are sweeter than honey, behold their words only come on Chumash but not on the rest of the Biblical books (with the exception of Iyyov which the Ramban commentated upon).

And if we turn to the other great commentators -- Ibn Ezra, Radak, and Don Yitzchak Abarbanel, we find that in many places they lean from the path of peshat to another side -- is it not the philosophical derash.

And the man {=the guest} replied to me and said: You have spoken correctly. A great and grievous damage has the mixed up philosophy damaged us -- which spread in the world via the Arabs, who took Aristotle as head and chief, and in his name they swear, and they wish to make his words agree with their beliefs which they received from their fathers, and they innovated a confused wisdom which confuses the hearts - which when the kingdom of Ishmael spread in the lands, this {ideology}also spread, and confused the thoughts and ruined the beliefs.

And the chachmei yisrael also, in order to make the words of this philosophy agree with our Complete Torah, forced and pressed the words of the Torah, Neviim, and the Sages of the Mishnah and the Talmud in order that they say what they did not say and never entered their hearts in {all} their days. And in order to do this they {the chachmei yisrael} brought out the {tools of} derash, remez and mashal {allegory}. And they abandoned the peshat and did not serve it.

And if this philosophy served another purpose, it is this: To distance the souls from the Creator, Yisbarach. Behold in many other matters it damages, caused loss, ruined and corrupted our holy faith.

And the beginning of everything, in the matter of the soul {nefesh} of man, how much has philosophy damaged! And how much has it distanced the Jews from the belief of their forebears! There is no doubt that the belief of Razal was that the nefesh was a substance that stood by itself before the formation of the body, for they said (Chagiga 12b)
{ערבות שבו צדק משפט וצדקה גנזי חיים וגנזי שלום וגנזי ברכה ונשמתן של צדיקים ורוחות ונשמות שעתיד להיבראות } "Arvos, for there are ... spirits and souls which will eventually be created." And they said (Sanhedrin 91): "That she {=the nefesh} is given into man at the time of visitation." That is to say: at the time a man "visits" his wife. And they explicitly said that the infant in the womb of his mother has an intelligent neshama, for behold they say (Niddah 30) that in the 9 months of pregnancy they teach it the entirety of Torah. And even though they only said this thing by way of derash, still

they would not say this if they did not believe that the nefesh is something which stands on its own. And this nefesh, or neshama was not something separate from the substance by which the person lived and moved an felt, but rather they believed that life, movement and intellect were all in man via a single substance called nefesh or neshama, which is given in all people at the time of conception, whether he been good or bad. For behold they said (Sanhedrin 91), "the body says "the soul sinned, for from the time it separated from me behold I am left lying as a silent stone." Behold it is made clear that anyone who is not left lying as a silent stone has in him an intelligent neshama which exists in man, which is to be found before the body and is found after his death, just as they said "and the soul says 'the body sinned, for from the day that I separated from him behold I hover in the air like a bird.'"

And yet the philosophers do not say so, and explicitly we find that to Rambam in Moreh {Nevuchim} (chelek 1, chapter 69), that the neshama which remains after death is not the neshama which exists in man when he exists, for this existence at the time he exists is only potential {koach} and preparation. End quote.

The author: But they said that the neshama fixes the remnants via delving into wisdoms, then the intellect that was in it potentially returns to be active.

The guest: The matter is so, and what is derived from this it that one who does delve does not have remnants, and there is no punishment to the nefesh after death except that it is cut off and does not live. And also this we have found explicit to the Rambam in the laws of teshuva (perek 8): "The revenge, upon which there is no greater revenge, is that the nefesh is cut off and does not merit to that life {olam haba}."

And what extends from this is that there is no distinction between a completely wicked person and a person who sins at far-apart times and with minor sins.

The guest: Already many of the great Sages were aroused about this to save the Rambam za"l from this criticism.

The guest: I will not give a proper answer about the Rambam za"l, but I do say that this was the position of the philosophers and the opinion of anyone who was seduced after them.

And there is no doubt that this was the position of the author of the Akeida, and is made clear in his sefer, gate 6, that the nefesh at the beginning is only potential and preparation, and via study {iyun} and good traits it is raised up to a substance which stands on its own; and he says that this is not an opinion which is new from him, but rather it is an explanation of what the sages who say it are saying, quietly and in secret.

{This paragraph is from the next segment, but I repeat it here.}
And he {=the author of the Akeida} further said that this was the position of the sages of kabbalah, and he brings down a lengthy citation from the sefer ha-Zohar which establishes his opinion.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Interesting Posts and Articles #37

  1. Life Of Rubin on chillul Hashem -- being nice won't kill you
  2. Medieval censorship of Yona Matz'ah.
  3. OnTheMainLine on a mother's milk segulah.
  4. Pravda Neeman, and Yeshiva World, and naturally Emes veEmunah on how a police demand for an autopsy sparks a riot in Geulah.
  5. Muslims are upset about the trend of Saudi youth wearing kabbalah red string. But then notes that Saudi girls wear green or yellow thread around their wrists. This is what the article had to say:
    Thamir Abdullah, a secondary school student, said that many of his friends were influenced by international football players in wearing the red string bracelet. He added that he stopped wearing his own red string band after reading some of the warnings that were carried by websites.

The following is not new, but who says is has to be?
  1. Avakesh has a review of Heaven on Earth: Reflections on the Theology of Rabbi Menachem Mendel M. Schneerson.
  2. A shiur by Rav Schachter about the mitzvah of mezuzah for renters

Kabbalah and Philosophy pt i

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) In this chapter, the guest will claim that many kabbalistic beliefs are at odds with the beliefs of Chazal and are instead drawn from philosophy. In this particular segment, the guest complains about his lot and the author tells him not to be aggrieved. This post includes scans which were accidentally omitted from the online Vikuach (in block print):

Day Two

And it was on the night of Shemini Atzeret, after Maariv, that I went to the place the man was sitting in shul and greeted him. And he went with me to come to my house, and he began to relate in my ears his story and the hardships which befell him, and his poverty and descent {?}, and I said to him: This is enough for you. Do not further speak to me about this matter, for why are you making me sad on a day of joy?

And if I were a wealthy man, you would be speaking well, but now that I am a teacher of children and sell a bit of my wisdom for small coin and a loaf of bread, what am I able to do for you?

And the little which is cast upon me to do according to my dues {?}, I already do with the poor of the city, and if I share with you my bread a day or two, is this not already a lot in that which is appointed for me?

And now, the only good thing is that you learn from me how it is fitting for a man to be happy with his lot, whether it be a little or much; and how it is fitting for a Torah scholar to be happy with his wisdom, and to rejoice and to be gratified in it much more that others rejoice in their silver and gold, and in their food and drink, and in their wives and concubines. Do you not see that I am killing the vessel that gives life to all {did not get married} (*) so as not to place the heavy burden upon myself of the troubling for livelihood and working in the world. And even though the killing of the aforementioned vessel, and the overcoming of that which intensifies every day is difficult as death and even more, behold the joy of bringing out the truth in Torah and wisdom overcomes all.

When it comes down to it, I fulfill for myself {Kohelet 7:14}:
יד בְּיוֹם טוֹבָה הֱיֵה בְטוֹב, וּבְיוֹם רָעָה רְאֵה; גַּם אֶת-זֶה לְעֻמַּת-זֶה, עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹהִים, עַל-דִּבְרַת שֶׁלֹּא יִמְצָא הָאָדָם אַחֲרָיו, מְאוּמָה. 14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider; God hath made even the one as well as the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.
for according to the events of the world which cause changes from day to day and from month to month, the wise one warns that a person, when he is in a good situation, should not be grieved
(*) When I wrote this book I was, in the year 586 {=1826} I was unmarried, and only in Elul 588 {=1828}, when I was 28 years old, I took a wife.

, lest the hour reverse upon him {and be the opposite}, but rather he should be joyful and happy with lot. Not so on a bad day, for then it is fitting for him to consider. That is to say, to cast his eyes and his heart on the reversals of the matters of the world, and to be comforted from his travail, saying: Perhaps in a bit, I will drink from the cup of salvations.

Therefore, you as well, my brother, since you are not sick not starving, and your bread {/food} is prepared for you for this day or two, be joyful and do not breach your soul and mine with the sufferings of tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Interesting Posts and Articles #36

  1. OU: Why Orthodox Jews should pray for Kennedy
  2. Chaptzem has a photo of an ambulance from the women's division of the New Square Hatzalah. Not really.
  3. The NY Times on how high tech devices keep the elderly safe from afar.
  4. The New York Times: Atomic monitor signals concerns over Iran's work.
  5. A tale of three criminal records, and why tougher gun-control laws may be ineffective if the courts do not make use of even existing ones and prosecute criminals.
  6. Mystical Paths has two miraculous mezuzah stories. In the first, the mezuzah is affected by its owner, a missionary in disguise. But in the second, the mezuzah affects its owner, causing him to limp, and then causing its next owner to limp. If I believed this to be so, I would be reluctant to advise anyone to put up a mezuzah, since it is effectively a time-bomb which will harm its owner as soon as it develops a psul. Mikey makes an interesting comment on that post.
  7. Rabbi Eli Mansour on whether it is permissible to put a mezuzah in a car. A good follow-up to that early story about that irreligious taxicab driver who had it affixed on the doorpost of his car.
  8. Did Obama lie about his uncle being part of the brigade that liberated Auschwitz?
  9. Did a company in Singapore patent images which are hyperlinks? It is possible. On the other hand, see this comment from Slashdot:
    "If you read their patent claims on their website they aren't quite making that broad of a claim. They believe they have a patent on submitting a search and showing image (of the respective website) links as a result of that search. I agree that was done long before, and they actually state on the website that it was not in "wide use" for "enterprise websites" prior to 2000. So apparently the think they can patent ideas that have prior art, just as long as they aren't being used by the majority of large companies.

    If you actually subscribe to their insane claims, or are extremely paranoid, you could get around it very easily by not having the image use a href. Their patent claim specifically mentions hrefs."
  10. UK approves research using animal-human hybrid embryos. Lemon Lime Moon is against this, and against savior siblings. Personally, I think there is nuance to be seen here, and the moral arguments, and Torah position, is not so clear cut.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xxxiii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) In the matter of (apparent) dispute amongst the kabbalists about the nature of the Sefirot, the author now pleads ignorance of kabbalistic subject matter and claims that one cannot make any sense of words in kabbalistic books, basing himself on Chavos Yair. The guest rejects this plea of ignorance. He notes that Chavot Yair himself suggests that the ideas of the kabbalists are not actually based on Chazal. In the footnote, Shadal discusses the identity, and confusion, of the Raavad who received kabbalistic secrets from Eliyahu haNavi. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The author: There is one answer to this, that I am not a kabbalist nor have I learned this wisdom from a kabbalistic sage. Therefore I do not understand these lofty matters. And similarly, I recall that I have seen from the great gaon, the author of Chavos Yair (siman 210) that he wrote that we, when we read the words of the Ari {also meaning lion} and his whelps, nothing understandable enters our thoughts, but only the reading of the words.

The guest: If so, who would give that I know why all these sefarim were written, if it is not possible to stand, from reading them, upon the matter intended by them. And who will give that I know further, why the light of intellect was given in man, if it is not in our ability to conclude that two opposites contradict each other, and cannot stand in the same subject at the same time.

And to me as well that teshuva from the gaon Chavot Yair is not unknown, whose entire purpose is to distance man from learning kabbalah, and he mentions as a plain and known matter that there is dispute between the kabbalistic sages, and changing of opinions in disparate matters. And there is written as well that even though the sefer haZohar and all the kabbalists say that many kabbalistic secrets are hinted to in the Mishna and Talmud, if it is tradition it is accepted {im kabbalah hi nekabel -- implying the possibility it is not}, but if there is no worry of sin in this, he would say that the kabbalists supported these secrets {sodot} on the words of Razal, just as the baalei mussar supported words of reproof on the laws of the shofar, which was something not intended by Chazal and which never entered their minds.

And he wrote as well that the words of the Mishnah which Rabbenu haKadosh from the words of the arguing Tannaim, and all the more so the Talmud which Rav Ashi composed by a great gathering of ages and great in-depth study {pilpul}, from where does it come to us that they intended sod {kabbalistic secrets}?

And furthermore, on what the rabbi Yosef Shlomo Rofeh {=Delmedigo} of Candia {=the Yashar of Candia} wished to answer to the words of the author of Bechinat haDat {? Eliyahu del Medigo}, in saying that there is no proof against the kabbalah from the fact that its secrets are not mentioned at all in the Mishna and in the Talmud, since those sodot were not the subject matter of the Mishna and Talmud, just as the work of woodchopping is not mentioned in medical book, he, z"l, (=the author of Chavos Yair} said that this is no answer at all, for behold in terms of the sages of the Talmud, we already find to them that they spoke of the wisdom of astronomy and of medicine, even those these matters are also outside of their main topic, z"l.

One other thing I saw brought down in sefer Chavos Yair, and this is the language of Rabbi Moshe Isserles, in sefer Toras HaOlah, and it suits you well as well as the opposing kabbalists, and they do not sense that they are opposing, and they believe that which has been disproven and do not recognize that which is improbable, and this is his language: And how much does the fool not feel ill or sense, who is naked of all of the nature of the improbable, and nothing whatsoever is difficult for him.

The author: After you have hurled words against the virtue of the geonim of the land, the kabbalists, I would not be astonished if also upon me you cast the cup of your blasphemies and imprecations. And also perhaps I am a fool that I brought you into my room and inclined my hear to the sound of your wonds.

And now, behold the day declines {see e.g. Yirmeyahu 6:4}, and I need to prepare myself for the Yom Tov which is coming upon us, and also you should do as well.

The guest: In truth I have no garment to wear other than what you see on my flesh. Also food {/bread- lechem} to eat I do not have if I do not take from the small amount of money in my purse for the purpose of the meal.

The author: Since the matter is so, behold you are called to me to eat food at my table all these two Yamim Tovim which come to us in peace. Since you are doing this thing, do not speak to me from good to bad in such matters as these which are loftier than the consideration of man, which are concealed from me and from you an absolute concealment.

The guest
: Today I know that the men did not lie to me, who told me of your wisdom and straightforwardness of you ways, and that you love the truth and despise honor and the like, and like this many. Since because of this I filled my heart to come to speak to you thinks which are not said before a man of Israel in this interchange.

Is this wisdom not fitting to call it in truth the wisdom of truth, to love our fellow as ourselves, without considering at all the opinions in his heart, whether they agree, or not, with the opinions which are in out heart, in matters which do not touch ethics, and love of the good and upright.

May Hashem repay your deeds, and may your wages be complete from Hashem, God of Israel, as you have spread your cloak upon me and have not abandoned your loving-kindness from a pauper and disadvantaged person. And also I will endeavor, according to me ability, to make my company sweet with words of Torah and with dear investigations which perhaps will arise before your wisdom in a way you desire. And my master, peace.

The author: Go in peace, and after Maariv come back to me. (*)

(*) In the matter of what I brought above (page 12) in the name of the author of Avodat haKodesh, that Eliyahu was revealed to Rabbi David, father of the Raa"vid, know that that author of Avodat haKodesh called this Rav Dadid "av Bet Din." But Rabbi Shem Tov in sefer haEmunot (gate 4 chapter 10) says that Eliyahu was revealed to Rabbi Avraham (not to Rabbi David), the av bet din, and from him the great rav the Raavad, "rav pealim" {=who has done many deeds -- this is a title} received (and he was not his son). End quote.

And the author of Avodat haKodesh, after he erred an
d made the Raavad the son of the av bet din, he was required to call the rav, av bet din, by the name "David," for it is known that the Raavad, author of the gloss {hasagot haRaavad} was named Avraham ben David.
Rabbi Avraham the av bet din is also mentioned in sefer haYuchsin, and his father's name was Yitzchak. And the author of shalshelet hakabbalah brings down as well that he was the father-in-law of the author of the hasagot {thus, the father-in-law of the Raavad}.

And know that the title "Rav Pealim" which was given to the Raavid in sefer haEmunot is not given to a sage {but for other reasons}. Come and see the words of Rabbi Binyamin in his Masaot {=Masaot Binyamin}: "And there was a great yeshiva run by the great rav, Rabbi Avraham bar Rabbi David, zatz"al, a great sage in Talmud and halachic rulings, and they came from distant lands to him to learn Torah, and they found peace in his house and he taught them. And whoever did not have, he took out for them from his possessions and money for all their needs, and he was a very wealthy man." End quote. And about the matter of the secrets of kabbalah which he received from Eliyahu, Rabbi Binyamin does not relate to us at all.

{To perhaps clarify matters, there were three Raavads, and the two Shadal is discussing were related by marriage. There was a Spanish Jewish philosopher and historian, Rabbi Avraham Ibn Daud, Raavad I, who has no bearing on any of this. Shadal makes no mention of him.

Then, there is Raavad III, who was Rav Avraham ben Rabbi David, and he wrote the hasagos haraavad, and was wealthy and supported his students. Then there was his father-in-law, Rabbi Avraham ben Yitzchak of Narbonne, the av bet din, who is Raavad II, who wrote sefer HaEshkol.}

Bemidbar Sinai: Why Mention It, And How Is It Different From Behar Sinai?

Why specify that parshat Bemidbar occurs in midbar Sinai? Why mention place name at all?

One idea which should not be overlooked is that this is the beginning of a Chumash, and besides being part of Torat Moshe, each sefer can stand on its own. Therefore, setting is important.

In Bereishit this is established as the beginning of Creation. In sefer Shmot this is accomplished by repeating a pasuk from sefer Bereishit about those who went down to Egypt: וְאֵלֶּה, שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הַבָּאִים, מִצְרָיְמָה: אֵת יַעֲקֹב, אִישׁ וּבֵיתוֹ בָּאוּ. In sefer Vayikra we have וַיִּקְרָא, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה; וַיְדַבֵּר ה אֵלָיו, מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר. In Bemidbar we have an elaborate description of time and place: וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה בְּמִדְבַּר סִינַי, בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי בַּשָּׁנָה הַשֵּׁנִית, לְצֵאתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם--לֵאמֹר. And in Devarim we have five full pesukim to elaborate upon time and place:
א אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים, אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-כָּל-יִשְׂרָאֵל, בְּעֵבֶר, הַיַּרְדֵּן: בַּמִּדְבָּר בָּעֲרָבָה מוֹל סוּף בֵּין-פָּארָן וּבֵין-תֹּפֶל, וְלָבָן וַחֲצֵרֹת--וְדִי זָהָב. 1 These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel beyond the Jordan; in the wilderness, in the Arabah, over against Suph, between Paran and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Di-zahab.
ב אַחַד עָשָׂר יוֹם מֵחֹרֵב, דֶּרֶךְ הַר-שֵׂעִיר, עַד, קָדֵשׁ בַּרְנֵעַ. 2 It is eleven days journey from Horeb unto Kadesh-barnea by the way of mount Seir.
ג וַיְהִי בְּאַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה, בְּעַשְׁתֵּי-עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ; דִּבֶּר מֹשֶׁה, אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֹתוֹ, אֲלֵהֶם. 3 And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them;
ד אַחֲרֵי הַכֹּתוֹ, אֵת סִיחֹן מֶלֶךְ הָאֱמֹרִי, אֲשֶׁר יוֹשֵׁב, בְּחֶשְׁבּוֹן--וְאֵת, עוֹג מֶלֶךְ הַבָּשָׁן, אֲשֶׁר-יוֹשֵׁב בְּעַשְׁתָּרֹת, בְּאֶדְרֶעִי. 4 after he had smitten Sihon the king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who dwelt in Ashtaroth, at Edrei;
ה בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן, בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹאָב, הוֹאִיל מֹשֶׁה, בֵּאֵר אֶת-הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת לֵאמֹר. 5 beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, took Moses upon him to expound this law, saying:
So it makes sense in Bamidbar to have this detail.

Others (Shadal, Aharon ben Yosef) focus on the role in dating the instruction, and the distinction between Behar Sinai and Bemidbar Sinai.

As the Karaite Aharon ben Yosef writes (right column, to the right) that the words bemidbar Sinai is to distinguish it from behar Sinai. After all, earlier in parshat Behar (from sefer Vayikra) we were told behar Sinai, and so all those parshiyot were from there.

There is a progression from Yetzias Mitzrayim to Har Sinai to being in the wilderness in Sinai. But (now from the super-commentary) since ain mukdam umeuchar baTorah, certain things happened in a different order than as they appear in Mikra. Thus, Shmitta, Yovel, and so on were before the rest of Toras Kohanim even though they appear later in the text. Bemidbar Sinai in the Ohel Moed is after Har Sinai, once the Mishkan is built. (In between, Hashem spoke to Moshe in Moshe's own Ohel.)

Shadal writes something similar:
במדבר סיני: כל מקום שנאמר בהר סיני זהו קודם שהוקם המשכן, אבל משנבנה אוהל מועד לא נאמר אלא במדבר סיני ( רשב"ם ), כי אז לא היה ה' מדבר עם משה בהר, אלא במשכן, בכל מקום מן המדבר שהיו חונים בו ומקימים בו המשכן.

One might bring a related point from Rashi on parshat Behar about mah inyan shmitta eitzel har Sinai:
on Mount Sinai What [special relevance] does the subject of Shemittah [the “release” of fields in the seventh year] have with Mount Sinai? Were not all the commandments stated from Sinai? However, [this teaches us that] just as with Shemittah, its general principles and its finer details were all stated from Sinai, likewise, all of them were stated-their general principles [together with] their finer details-from Sinai. This is what is taught in Torath Kohanim (25:1). [And why is Shemittah used as the example to prove this rule, especially since the very fine details are not even specified here (Sefer Hazikkaron)?] It appears to me that its explanation is as follows: [At the plains of Moab, Moses reiterated the majority of the laws of the Torah to the Israelites before their entry into the land of Israel, this reiteration comprising most of the Book of Deuteronomy. Now,] since we do not find the laws of Shemittah [“release”] of land reiterated on the plains of Moab in Deuteronomy, we learn that its general principles, finer details, and explanations were all stated at Sinai. Scripture states this [phrase] here to teach us that [just as in the case of Shemittah,] every statement [i.e., every commandment] that was conveyed to Moses came from Sinai, [including] their general principles and finer details [and that the commandments delineated in Deuteronomy were merely] repeated and reviewed on the plains of Moab [not originally given there].
(It is unclear that others mentioned here besides Rashi would agree with this.)

One might also cast this as the Torah's explicit Documentary Hypothesis. (Not my own theory, but I will not attribute it here online.) The Torah informs us that it was given over in three different locations and times, and we can consider these three texts. There is HS (Har Sinai), OM (Ohel Moed) and AM (Arvos Moav). Each time was a different nevuah, and all were given to Moshe. Moshe may have then compiled these together, and this could perhaps account for what seems to be three textual strains.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xxxii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest further cites Shomer Emunim and the Raavad that the Sefirot are not Divinity. The author cites the sefer Emunat Chachamim which offers a harmonization of sorts, that they are inconsistent in the use of Ein Sof to sometimes refer to Sefirot, and sometimes Divinity to refer to Sefirot, even though what was intended was emanations of Divinity. The guest does not accept this explanation as plausible. The text of the Vikuach follows:

And the man said: And so too in this sefer, sefer Shomer Emunim, you will find explained that the Sefirot are "effects" from Ein Sof.

And he read before me in the first dispute, siman 41, and this is its language: And we ascend the steps from the bottom effect until the upper effect, until we stand at the first effect which the Creator brought out, and this is the Supreme Crown {kesser elyon}, and we will establish that it is found uniquely complete to the extent of completeness which is possible to exist in an effect, etc.

And this is what the Raavad wrote in the introduction to his commentary to sefer Yetzirah. And this is its language: The cause of all causes {=Ein Sof} induces from it the Supreme Crown {=keter elyon, the first Sefirah} which is simple {all of one thing} to the full extent of simplicity, such that there is not between it {keser elyon} and its cause {=Ein Sof} anything except that this one {=Ein Sof} is the cause and this one {=keser elyon} is the effect.

And he {=the guest} said: Go now, please, and harmonize the Raavad, Rav Moshe Cordevero, the Rama {miPano}, the Ari, and the author of Shomer Emunim, who say that the Sefirot are effect and new things, and the others whom the Rama {miPano} mentioned who commit themselves as a matter of halacha that the Sefirot are entirely the Identity of the Divinity.

The author: Go and I will show you in sefer Emunat Chachamim one introduction, by which will be explained and whitened all these contradictions.

And I took the sefer and I found written in it, at the end of chapter 23, and this is its language: Only this I have seen fit to mention in order to remove the stumbling block from the eyes of those who learn from books {sefarim} and not from scribes {sofrim}, that in the words of the Sages of truth and righteousness, the term Ein Sof, Baruch Hu does not refer in every place to the Creator Yisbarach, but rather at times it is not so. And the Rama {mipano} zatza"l in Pelach haRimon delved into this, and in the introduction of sefer Yonat Elem he {=Rav Menachem Azarya miPano} explains this more. And I have not merited to receive it ftom the motuth of Maharma"z, who received this from Rav Binyamin haLevi, who received it from Rabbi Chiyya Rofei, who received it from the mouth of Rav Chaim Vital himself.

Further, all the sages of peshat know that in the words of the sages of truth, "Divinity" is not God Yisbarach but rather emanations of His Light, just as the light of the sun is not the actual sun. And therefore, be not astounded if you find in the words of the Acharonim that Divinity is the ten Sefirot, etc. And behold the sun which enters the house is not the sun itself, but rather its light which spreads through the words, and it is just exactly so the Shechina {Divine presence} of Hakadosh Baruch Hu." End quote.

And the man {=the guest} answered: The haughtiness of {King} Yerovam drove him out of the world, and the haughtiness of the kabbalists causes them to choose to deny God, and to say that God is not God, and that Ein Sof is not Ein Sof. in a way that they have no God anymore at all, rather than admitting that there is dispute between their sages, something with is clear like the sun at noon.

A World In Progress

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Extrospective vs. Introspective Derashot

Recently, I have seen too many divrei Torah with the message of "here is why we are great and those other people are entirely without merit." Those other people are on occasion religious Zionists, secular Israelis, people who don't belong to a particular end-of-times kabbalistic cult, and so on. This annoys and offends me -- first because I think it is not true, and second because even if it were true, is this really what one should be expending energy on? How is this productive? It just boosts feelings of superiority rather than introspection and true love for one's fellow man. There are indeed times and places when there is a need for such derashos, but I do not think the present situation warrants it.

I think that Rabbi Yochanan felt the same way, in an exchange in Kesubos 111b with Rabbi Eliezer. And I think that the proper way to learn this gemara is to realize what is happening on this meta-level, an almost homiletic level, rather than the actual interpretation of texts.

Ketubot 111b reads:
R. Eleazar said; The illiterate will not be resurrected, for it is said in Scripture, The dead will not live etc. So it was also taught: The dead will not live. As this might [be assumed to refer] to all, it was specifically stated, The lax will not rise, [thus indicating] that the text speaks only of such a man as was lax in the study of the words of the Torah.

{The pasuk was Yeshaya 26:14:
יד מֵתִים, בַּל-יִחְיוּ--רְפָאִים, בַּל-יָקֻמוּ; לָכֵן פָּקַדְתָּ וַתַּשְׁמִידֵם, וַתְּאַבֵּד כָּל-זֵכֶר לָמוֹ. 14 The dead live not, the shades rise not; to that end hast Thou punished and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish.
and refaim, "shades," is understood here as lax.
First the statement was that the dead shall not live, but this is not all the dead, only the refaim -- the lax.

Said R. Johanan to him: it is no satisfaction to their Master that you should speak to them in this manner. That text was written of a man who was so lax as to worship idols.

'I', the other replied, 'make an exposition [to the same effect] from another text. For it is written in Scripture, For thy dew is as the dew of light, and the earth shall bring to life the dead. him who makes use of the 'light' of the Torah will the 'light' of the Torah revive, but him who makes no use of the light of the Torah the light of the Torah will not revive'.

{This is a verse a few pesukim later in the same perek:

יט יִחְיוּ מֵתֶיךָ, נְבֵלָתִי יְקוּמוּן; הָקִיצוּ וְרַנְּנוּ שֹׁכְנֵי עָפָר, כִּי טַל אוֹרֹת טַלֶּךָ, וָאָרֶץ, רְפָאִים תַּפִּיל. {פ} 19 Thy dead shall live, my dead bodies shall arise--awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust--for Thy dew is as the dew of light, and the earth shall bring to life the shades.

Observing, however, that he was distressed, he said to him, 'Master, I have found for them a remedy in the Pentateuch: But ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day;

{ Devarim 4:4:

ד וְאַתֶּם, הַדְּבֵקִים, בַּה, אֱלֹהֵיכֶם--חַיִּים כֻּלְּכֶם, הַיּוֹם. 4 But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day.


now is it possible to 'cleave' to the divine presence concerning which it is written in Scripture, For the Lord thy God is a devouring fire? But [the meaning is this:] Any man who marries his daughter to a scholar, or carries on a trade on behalf of scholars, or benefits scholars from his estate is regarded by Scripture as if he had cleaved to the divine presence. Similarly you read in Scripture, To love the Lord thy God, [to hearken to His voice,] and to cleave unto Him. Is it possible for a human being to 'cleave' unto the divine presence? But [what was meant is this:] Any man who marries his daughter to a scholar, or carries on a trade for scholars, or benefits scholars from his estate is regarded by Scripture as if he had cleaved to the divine presence.
The "illiterate" refers to amaratzim, and in fact soon Shadal will be discussing Rabbi Eliezer's first derasha in the context of the philosophical notion that only intellectual study will allow the soul to be everlasting, instead of being cut off.

The problem with Rabbi Eliezer's derasha is not that something about the pasuk which acts as a prooftext works correctly, or better, about idolaters than an interpretation about not learning Torah -- even though the previous pasuk is:
יג ה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, בְּעָלוּנוּ אֲדֹנִים זוּלָתֶךָ; לְבַד-בְּךָ, נַזְכִּיר שְׁמֶךָ. 13 O LORD our God, other lords beside Thee have had dominion over us; but by Thee only do we make mention of Thy name.
But this is not Rabbi Yochanan's issue, I think. Rather, he states his issue -- " it is no satisfaction to their Master that you should speak to them in this manner."

Homiletic derashos such are this are in the hands of man, and this is an unproductive and possibly hurtful path to take. I doubt that an am haaretz hear this derasha and so, "Oh noes! I had better start studying!" Rather, it makes those who learn Torah feel more accomplished, but more than that, that they solely will be getting reward. As opposed to the unlearned man in the market, who is their fellow Jew. I don't know how Hashem will reward effort, though I hope all good people, even if unlearned, will get their just reward. But in terms of my own attitude, it is not positive to think of other people, who in general will not be changing, with disdain, and to consider their lives of little or no value. Even if the derasha, and the actual facts, are true, it is not to the satisfaction of their Master that I speak of them in this manner. Rather, I should value them as fellow human beings, and regard them with love and respect. Even if my priorities and judgments differ.

If one does not make such a derasha, the pasuk still stands waiting for a derasha. And Rabbi Yochanan provides one. And it is one against idolatry. This places those not to be resurrected at a greater extreme, for those do not worship Hashem at all, but worship other gods. But in terms of fellow Jews, even those who do not commit themselves to the study of Torah, they still will merit resurrection. But I do not think the point was the alternate derasha.

Rabbi Eliezer's response is to seize on a pasuk a bit later in the same perek in Yeshaya, and darshen it in the same manner as he first attempted.

Rabbi Yochanan is not happy. This is not because of a problem with linguistic merits of the derasha. Rather, Rabbi Yochanan is vexed by the conclusion of the derasha. And if presses, surely one could come up with an alternative homiletic derasha here. But Rabbi Eliezer has certainly not won the argument against Rabbi Yochanan. Rather, Rabbi Yochanan blocked his first derasha by showing an alternative interpretation, and Rabbi Eliezer (perhaps tone-deaf) circumvents this block by showing that he will just take another verse (and perhaps another verse, and another verse, and so on) and apply it to this class of people.

It is indeed the conclusion that vexes Rabbi Yochanan. How could Rabbi Eliezer write out so many of his fellow Jews, who simply did not merit to learn Torah? Rabbi Eliezer senses this, and is willing to meet Rabbi Yochanan half-way. Those Jews who agree to the general program and priorities, and even though they do not themselves learn, respect learning and do what they can to support it -- they can also be resurrected. Thus the pasuk in Devarim reads
ד וְאַתֶּם, הַדְּבֵקִים, בַּה, אֱלֹהֵיכֶם--חַיִּים כֻּלְּכֶם, הַיּוֹם. 4 But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day.
which is interpreted as those who attach to Talmidei Chachamim. Those will be alive on that day, hayom.

This is a more inclusive picture, though not an entirely inclusive one. Still, it answers to the problem of superiority and sinas chinam, for these also have their place and are valued by Hashem values them. And it gives a role to those who are not cut out to study, because of whatever life-circumstances. And it is productive in that it brings these people from the outside in to the mission, in a way they can participate.

A while ago, when discussing a similar derasha made by Rabbi Yochanan (in comparison to statements made by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef), someone suggested that this was all self-serving of Rabbi Yochanan, as a way of garnering support for himself and other Torah scholars. But we can see from this exchange that it was not this. Rather, it is out of love for a fellow Jew and a desire to find a place for others of different backgrounds in the service of Hashem.

This actually brings us to that other derasha, which occurs in Berachot 34b:
וא"ר חייא בר אבא א"ר יוחנן כל הנביאים כולן לא נתנבאו אלא למשיא בתו לתלמיד חכם ולעושה פרקמטיא לתלמיד חכם ולמהנה תלמיד חכם מנכסיו אבל תלמידי חכמים עצמן עין לא ראתה אלהים זולתך
This is remarkably similar to Rabbi Eliezer's derasha, but Rabbi Eliezer was Rabbi Yochanan's student, and he made the derasha in conversation with Rabbi Yochanan. What is happening here?

I do not think this is the general trend some claim that statements from Eretz Yisrael are attributed to Rabbi Yochanan. No. I think that it is possible that Rabbi Eliezer knew of Rabbi Yochanan's derasha, and patterned his own after it. Or potentially vice versa.

Rabbi Yochanan's derasha in Berachos is in fact different in slight ways, which are really major ways.
  1. Here, Rabbi Yochanan is not merely allowing them to be resurrected in techiyas hameisim, but rather is saying that all the rewards mentioned in Tanach are going to them.
  2. Of course, Rabbi Yochanan is not talking about those who do not contribute in this manner, but I would not read that as agreeing with Rabbi Eliezer about such people. Such people as e.g. do chessed, but are not committed to learning Torah.
  3. It is entirely positive all around. Not only does it encourage everybody to take part in this great Torah-learning endeavor, but it also encourages the Talmidei Chachamim by saying they will get even more, something which is unimaginable. You do not need to knock down others to promote your own group as doing something more important.
Maharatz Chayos actually treats this derasha as homiletic, and as a guzma, in order to encourage certain attitudes one should take. But I think it would be unfortunate if someone takes Rabbi Yochanan's derasha, meant to encourage each group, in order to foster attitudes of low-worth to e.g. those who do not commit themselves to learning while working, or (in from another person's perspective) those who do not commit themselves to kollel-only, but instead work for a living. Not everyone is cut out for such a life, or such a direction to their efforts. Personalities are different, and abilities are different. Some people may be well-suited for hours of intensive Talmud study, and others might have talents in creative endeavors such as painting, or in working with people in a bein adam lachaveiro realm.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin