Sunday, 15 January 2012

RubinReports: If Tourists Can Wear Bikinis But Local Women Must Wear Chadors Does That Prove the Muslim Brotherhood is Moderate?

If Tourists Can Wear Bikinis But Local Women Must Wear Chadors Does That Prove the Muslim Brotherhood is Moderate?
If Tourists Can Wear Bikinis But Local Women Must Wear Chadors Does That Prove the Muslim Brotherhood is Moderate?
By Barry Rubin
The answer to that headline is, "No. But seeming to answer 'yes' proves the West is hypocritical about supporting human rights."
Oh, wait, what if a democratically elected government decides to enforce such a system in a law legally passed by a democratically elected government? I guess that's just democracy in action.
The Western media is obsessed with whether the new, Islamist-dominated Egyptian government will let tourists wear bikinis. When some Islamist leader says that there will be no dress code for tourists--due to the desire to keep getting tourist dollars--journalists pronounce the Muslim Brotherhood to be pragmatic, as in this Los Angeles Times article.
While Brotherhood leaders seem to disagree on this issue, I can see the outlines of a "deal" that will prove to Westerners that the Brotherhood is going to be "moderate" in power, nothing to worry about, and therefore an organization that should be spoken of sympathetically. Ready to hear the "deal?" Here it is:
A few hundred visiting Western women will be able to wear bikinis on isolated beaches in expensive resorts where almost no Egyptian will see them.
Tens of millions of Egyptian women will be forced to wear all-enveloping black robes and veils.
Sound fair enough?
Then the Islamist-ruled countries will have a motto to parallel Karl Marx's Communist slogan of 1848. The new one goes:
Burkas of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your lack of chains!
So cheering the return of Egyptian women into near-slavery is just fine as long as the rulers show how modern and pragmatic they are by letting visiting Western women dress as they please. That's a really good example of how contemporary Western "liberals" practice their claims of sympathy for Third World peoples.
Where is the Western feminist movement at the moment that tens of millions of sisters desperately need its support, and for many things other than just being able to choose their own wardrobe?
Of course, many Egyptian women already do dress that way either voluntarily or due to family and social pressure. Those who don't will either be made to do so by regulations or, more likely, through the fear of being beaten up by Islamists, either Brotherhood, Salafist, or both. An Islamist regime--through propaganda, education, etc.--will also harden family's demands that women dress that way even without a law being passed. If a woman persists, and few will, she might just be killed and the state courts will either not persecute or not punish the perpetrators.
Note: The title of this article is a play on Jonathan Swift's sarcastic 1729 essay on how the British could "humanely" solve the problem of hunger in Ireland, by having the Irish eat their own children.By the way, MEMRI has done something that any Western media outlet (highly financed, highly staffed) or think tank could have done during the last year but didn't. It just went to the official Muslim Brotherhood website and translated some of the many antisemitic, anti-American, and extremely radical articles there. Note that this is an official site and nothing goes on it unless it meets the group's ideological and policy requirements. To coin a phrase, a translation is worth 10,000 words of blather about "moderate Islamists."
To read this article on PJ Media and see my other original articles in full there click here


RubinReports: If Tourists Can Wear Bikinis But Local Women Must Wear Chadors Does That Prove the Muslim Brotherhood is Moderate?

RubinReports: Friedman Cheers as Egyptians are Enslaved

Friedman Cheers as Egyptians are Enslaved


Professor: [As the Martian ambassador starts disintegrating Congressmen with his ray gun]: "Mr. Ambassador, please! What are you doing? This doesn't make sense! It's not logical! It's not !" --"Mars Attacks"

By Barry Rubin

It is distasteful when Western intellectuals, politicians, and journalists who pride themselves on their enlightened humanitarian views watch people abroad fall subject to ruthless forces of dictatorship and dogma. When these same people actually cheer the new tyrannies, put their arms around the shoulders of those who despise them, and tell everyone else that there's nothing to worry about, that's actively disgusting.
Many in the West have so acted toward Egypt during the last year. They have also and previously done so for the Gaza Strip, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey. Thomas Friedman has been one of them but perhaps no one else has been louder and more enthusiastic. In doing so, of course, he has echoed U.S. government policy.

Now, Friedman goes all-out to explain that the Muslim Brotherhood isn't radical, isn't a threat, in fact is a good thing, and will only become eve more moderate once it is in power.

In a column entitled, “Watching Elephants Fly,” obviously a reference to seeing something impossible happen, Friedman writes:

“Here is what was so striking: virtually all the women we interviewed after the voting — all of whom were veiled, some with only slits for their eyes — said that they had voted for either the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafists. But almost none said they had voted that way for religious reasons.

“Many said they voted for Islamists because they were neighbors, people they knew, while secular liberal candidates had never once visited. Some illiterate elderly women confided that they could not read the ballot and just voted where their kids told them to. But practically all of them said they had voted for the Muslim Brotherhood or Salafist candidates because they expected them to deliver better, more honest government — not more mosques or liquor bans.”

My reaction is, “So what?” They voted for an authoritarian, Sharia regime (and let’s remember a hardline interpretation of Sharia, not the interpretation of Sharia offered by New York Times reporters). That's what's important. People also had diverse reasons for supporting Communism, Fascism, and Nazism. Indeed, they always voted for such regimes because “they expected them to deliver better, more honest government.” Hasn’t Friedman ever heard that Mussolini made the trains run on time, Hitler built the autobahns, and the Communists promised to give land to the peasants?

But there’s  even more irony here. These women are already living lives governed by Sharia and, as traditionalists, are happy (and told to be happy) with that situation. Thus, they have ample reason for supporting Islamists. There is nothing surprising in their political behavior, except to people like Friedman who predicted last year they would back liberal Westernized Facebook kids.

Once again, Friedman shows a striking inability to think logically. If women were voting on the basis of family orders (I'd bet on the husbands and fathers rather than the children so instructing them) how can he then say that they voted out of specific personal motives or--after reporting they were told what to do!--claim that their vote is a sign of freedom?

To read the entire article (including the great closing joke about the title of Friedman's column) click here.


RubinReports: Friedman Cheers as Egyptians are Enslaved

Sefer Chabibi Deepest Torah: VAYECHI; LAST OF THE PATRIARCHS


Our parsha, Vayechi, deals with the life and end-times of Jacob. His passing evokes thought on what it means to put one's affairs in order, to have one's body returned to the Land of Israel for burial, the nature of dying itself, and the connection between this world and the world to come. As Jacob initially embarks on his first exile, crossing the borders of the Holy Land to find sanctuary among his uncle Laban, he has a dream in a place which he calls Beit El, the House of G*d, formerly known as Luz.

Jacob, upon his passing, becomes the first Hebrew to seek repatriation of his body to the Holy Land for burial. When, in the End of Days, according to tradition, the body rebuilds itself and tunnels underthe earth to Eretz Yisrael where it becomes newly resouled, the foundation bone (of the neck) which serves as the latticework for this rebuilding is also called the "luz." What is the connection?

At Beit El, Jacob encounters the dimension of the infinite realm, a revelation of a heavenly ladder (sulam), a kind of latticework upon which angels ascend and descend. This ladder represents all the spiritual levels. As he about to start a family he need be cognizant of how much his children's spiritual growth would depend on his own instruction. We see that crossing the Jordan becomes a metaphor for death itself, a transformative passageway between the foundation experience (Luz/Canaan) of his life growing up, and the full blossoming of his manhood as a mature adult (Beit El, G*d's Holy Abode, Olam HaBa).

The seeds of deception which he planted in his earlier life (his name Yaakov/Jacob means "trickster," or "heel") came to fruition to teach him his life's lessons and meaning in his later life. By the end of his third stage, his life in Egypt of this week's parsha, he finally witnessed the rectification of his earlier mistakes in the peace and harmony of his children and grandchildren.

Now in Egypt, his second exile, he blesses his children for the last time, and takes stock of their spiritual growth and progress. He knows that he himself, as the Last of the Patriarchs, must be buried in Machpela Cave, in Hebron. His body, the last to be placed in the holy tomb, is the final missing piece necessary to complete its spiritual function. Only then, with his body, the missing piece now in place, can this spiritual rejuvenation process finally be triggered.

Why was it so urgent for Jacob to be buried whole in the cave, rather than to just have his future remains brought out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus, as would be the case with Joseph? Ironically, the holy couples that were buried there were buried whole, and yet their function spiritually was to serve symbolically as a collective bare luz bone, upon whose foundation all Israel in the future would attach themselves.

As the Last Patriarch, Jacob was blessed with a keen vision to glimpse what will be in the End of Days (Acharit HaYamim- Gen 49:1). This vision was an echo of the Vision of the Ladder. His last act before his final blessing was to instate his grandchildren, Ephraim and Menashe as co-equal in status to his own children to merit becoming tribal heads. What made them worthy of their co-equal status was their fraternal harmony. Jacob could cross his arms and bless the one instead of the other and none would bat an eyelash.

Contrast the bitter enmity and struggle between Jacob and Esau. Now, at last, it seemed that the children of Israel had learned the secret of their future success. The old paradigm shattered, the new model of fraternal unity and harmony could now become manifest.

We must be so very conscious at every moment to teach our children the value of loving each other. And not just biological brothers, but all Jews should see themselves as brothers, and ultimately all humanity as well. We are all brothers with one heavenly father.

The whole painful saga of Jacob and his brother, and of Joseph and his brothers was to learn the value of empathy and brotherly love. Only with that painful lesson learned could Israel emerge from its pupa-like "family" stage and become a mature nation with a vision of brotherhood and peace to share with the world.

Jacob confesses to Pharaoh that his years were bitter ones, and few, compared to his father and grandfather. But that bitterness was really the toxic bile of fraternal strife and enmity being released. All the years, nay, generations of brotherly conflict, going back to Cain and Abel of the first generation, had been so very toxic that humanity could not grow and move forward without Jacob's release of the negativity of the bitter bile of multi-generational toxic sludge.

Just as the ladder, the sulam, in Jacob's dream was a vertical lattice work of the angelic realm, the bodies arranged horizontally in the Cave of Machpela would serve as the lattice work foundation of the human/earthly realm. The dream took place in Luz. The cave would come to be the workshop where the dreams of Jacob/Israel would become reality.

The foundation couples of the Jewish nation, like the foundation bone (the luz), would come to serve as the attachment point for the rebuilding of not necessarily a physical body per se, but rather of a vision for a rebuilt Israel living in harmony as a role model for world harmony and peace. This is Israel's mission. Indeed, this is Israel's dream.

Shabbat Shalom.

© 2000 - 2012 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


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

Sefer Chabibi Deepest Torah: VAYECHI; LAST OF THE PATRIARCHS

UNIVERSAL TORAH: VA-EIRA

UNIVERSAL TORAH: VA-EIRA

By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah Reading: VA-EIRA Exodus 6:2-9:3

"WITH MY NAME YKVK I WAS NOT KNOWN TO THEM"

At the end of last week's parshah of SHEMOS, we saw how, precisely when Moses started the process of Geulah (redemption) by asking Pharaoh to send away the Children of Israel, the latter responded by intensifying their oppression and servitude. This caused even Moses to question his mission: "Lord, why have You done evil to this people? Why have You sent me?" (Ex. 5:22).

Our parshah of VA-EIRA opens with G-d's answer to Moses. It contains a profound teaching about faith. G-d promises, and it is up to G-d to deliver! He can be relied upon absolutely to do so -- in His own good time. Even in the thickest darkness, we must have faith that G-d will redeem us. We must understand that the darkness is most intense just before the morning.

In G-d's answer to Moses, He says that He appeared to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as "the Eternal G-d" but "WITH MY NAME YKVK I WAS NOT KNOWN TO THEM" (Ex. 6:3). What does this mean? It is a fact that the essential name of HaShem, YKVK -- expressing the perfect unity of G-d within and beyond all phenomena -- was indeed known to the patriarchs, as we see many times in Genesis. However, as pointed out by Rashi here, the Hebrew text (NODA'TI) does not mean, "I did not make it known to them". Rather, it implies: "I was not known and RECOGNIZED for my quality of truthfulness. as HaShem Who am faithful in proving the truth of My words. For I promised them but as yet I have not fulfilled the promise" (see Rashi).

An integral part of faith in G-d is to have faith that He will bring about everything He has promised through His prophets, even if we cannot see how this can possibly come about. The Exodus from Egypt is the proof of this faith, for G-d had promised the patriarchs what He was going to do: "And also the people that they will serve I will judge, and afterwards they will go forth with great wealth" (Gen. 15:13-14). At the height of Egyptian power and arrogance, it seemed impossible that this could come about. But in this and the coming parshiyos telling the story of the Ten Plagues and the Exodus, we see that G-d indeed brought it about.
No less essential a part of the promise than the redemption from Egypt was that G-d will "bring you to the Land that I swore to give it to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, and I WILL GIVE IT TO YOU AS AN INHERITANCE -- I AM HASHEM" (Ex. 6:8). It is not sufficient for the Children of Israel "go out from Egypt", even in the spiritual sense of being released from the chains of servitude to the evanescent material world. G-d's plan for a perfect world will be fulfilled only when the Children of Israel dwell securely in their own Promised Land, fulfilling all the commandments that are bound up with the Land. We must have complete faith that G-d will bring this about.

* * *

KAL VA-CHOMER - "Light and stringent"

When the Children of Israel could not hear Moses' message of redemption because of "shortness of spirit and hard work" (Ex. 6:9), Moses wondered: "If the Children of Israel did not listen to me, how will Pharaoh listen to me?" (ibid. v. 12).

Moses' argument is based on making an inference from a "light" case -- the Children of Israel -- to a "stringent" case: Pharaoh. In Hebrew such an inference is known as KAL VA-CHOMER, "light-and-stringent". In the written text of the Five Books of Moses there are ten cases of arguments using KAL VA-CHOMER (Rashi ad loc.) The ten cases are listed in the Tannaitic commentary on Exodus, "Mechilta". The argument of KAL VA-CHOMER is one of the most important of the hermeneutical methods by which the sages derived teachings by inference even though they are not written explicitly in the Torah text. KAL VA-CHOMER is the first of "thirteen rules of Torah interpretation" set down by the tannaitic sage, Rabbi Ishmael. These have become part of the daily order of prayer, being recited at the conclusion of the sacrificial portions prior to PSUKEY DE-ZIMRA, the verses and psalms of the morning service. Besides Rabbi Ishmael's thirteen, there are other hermeneutical rules, such as the Thirty-Two rules of Midrash collected by Rabbi Eliezer son of Rabbi Yosi HaGalili (printed in the KLALIM, "rules" of the Talmud, after Tractate Berachos).

As in the case of Moses' argument by KAL VA-CHOMER that Pharaoh would not listen, all the other rules of interpretation are themselves contained in the biblical text. It is through the application of these rules that extensive parts of the Oral Torah were developed by the early sages and rabbis. When rules like KAL VA-CHOMER are applied to the text, it is possible to infer new teachings that are not explicitly written in the text but are logically implied. The legitimacy of this method of argument is sanctioned by its use in the Biblical text itself, as here. This shows the essential unity of the Oral and Written Torah.

* * *

THE TEN PLAGUES

In the event, G-d took on the "harder" task of bringing down Pharaoh and breaking his stony heart. This was what would make the Children of Israel listen! This was accomplished through the Ten Plagues. The gripping account of the first seven plagues occupies the greater part of this week's parshah of VAYEIRA, while next week's parshah of BO bring us to the climax with the last three plagues and the Exodus itself.

Many have sought to explain the sequence of plagues according to some rationale. One of the most celebrated explanations is that mentioned by Rashi on Ex. 8:17, quoting from Midrash Tanchuma Parshas BO #4, a Tannaitic source:

"Our Rabbis of blessed memory said: The Holy One blessed be He brought the plagues upon them using the tactics of worldly kings. When a region rebels against a king of flesh and blood, he sends his legions to surround it. The first thing he does is to shut off their water supply. If they relent, all the better! If not, he brings against them criers with loud voices... then arrows. barbarian hordes. He hurls heavy weights at them. shoots burning oil. fires cannon. rouses multitudinous armies against them. imprisons them. kills their great ones. In the same way, the Holy One blessed be He came against the Egyptians with the tactics of kings. With the plague of blood He stopped up their water supply. The "criers" were the frogs with their loud croaking. His "arrows" were the fleas. His "barbarian hordes" were the wild animals. The "heavy weights" were the "heavy pestilence" that killed their livestock. The "burning oil" was the boils. The cannon shots were the hail. The "multitudinous armies" were the locusts. The Egyptians were "imprisoned" through the plague of darkness. Finally, He killed their great ones in the plague of the first born."

A kabbalistic explanation of the sequence and rationale of the plagues is provided in the writings of the ARI in Sha'ar HaPsukim (the Gate of the Verses) Parshas Va-eira. The Ten Plagues correspond to the Ten Sefiros, ascending from the bottom of the "ladder" to the top. Thus the seven plagues recounted in this week's Parshah of VA-EIRA correspond to the seven "lower" sefiros, from Malchus-Kingship up to Chessed-Kindness, while the three plagues recounted in next week's Parshah of BO correspond to the top trio: Binah-Understanding, Chochmah-Wisdom and finally Keser-Crown. According to this explanation, the Ten Plagues came as successive manifestations of the 10 different aspects or "attributes" of G-d's kingly power over all the world (the ten sefiros of MALCHUS -- or "NUKVA" -- of ATZILUS). In this way the arrogant supremacy of worldly power, the "Evil MALCHUS" -- the force that conceals G-dliness -- was broken. Behind the nightmare to which Egypt was subjected -- apparently the very opposite of SEDER, "order" -- lies the supreme order of the Sefiros.

* * *

THE PHARAOH WITHIN US

"Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and when he stumbles, let not your heart exult. Lest G-d will see and it will be bad in His eyes" (Proverbs 24:17).

We may not laugh over Pharaoh's downfall, because there is a Pharaoh in each one of us. This is the stubborn MELECH (king) who rules in our hearts, in our ego, our vanity and pride. I. me.!

Writ large in the drama of Moses coming against Pharaoh in the name of G-d is the story of our inner lives, our daily conflicts and struggles in the test of free will to which we are all subjected. One side of us -- Moses, "conscience" -- knows what we should do. But another side -- Pharaoh, "the evil urge", the king riding the chariot -- resists. There are constant ups and downs in the trial of free will. Today one "wants to" -- Pharaoh relents. Tomorrow, he hardens his heart again and resists.

Does it need plagues to beat this Pharaoh down? Or can we find better ways to get free and to take our destiny into our hands?

Shabbat Shalom! Chodesh Tov Umevorach!

Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum


--
AZAMRA INSTITUTE
PO Box 50037 Jerusalem 91500 Israel
Website: http://www.azamra.org/

Sunday, 8 January 2012

UNIVERSAL TORAH: SHEMOS

UNIVERSAL TORAH: SHEMOS

By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah Reading: SHEMOS Exodus 1:1-6:1; Haftara: Isaiah 27:6-28:13, 29:22-23 (Sephardi ritual: Jeremiah 1:1-2:3).

"AND THESE ARE THE NAMES OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL":
ISRAEL ON THE WORLD STAGE

With the beginning of the book of SHEMOS, "Exodus", Israel enters the world stage as a people. Pharaoh himself, their oppressor, recognizes them as "the PEOPLE of the Children of Israel, many and mighty." (Ex. 1:9). Their servitude in Egypt is in fulfillment of the promise given to their founding father, Abraham: "Surely KNOW that your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs and they will serve them and they will oppress them. And also the people that they will serve I will judge, and afterwards they will go forth with great wealth" (Gen. 15:13-14).

The Exodus of the People of Israel from Egypt is the pivotal event in the history of mankind, paradigm of all true freedom and liberation, the eternal proof that G-d is not only the Creator of the natural world but also directs and controls all aspects of human affairs with HASHGACHAH PRATIS - "providence in every detail" - for good.

For the sake of G-d's self-revelation to the world, it is not sufficient that He should be known privately to a select few. The climax of G-d's revelation is when "the earth will be full of the KNOWLEDGE of G-d like the waters cover the seas" (Isaiah 11:9). Even those who are turned away from G-d, even those who resist knowing Him, must be forced to admit -- even against their will -- that G-d is King of the whole world.

Thus when Moses first calls on Pharaoh in the name of G-d to release His People, "...and Pharaoh said, 'Who is HaShem that I should listen to His voice. I do not KNOW HaShem." (Ex. 5:2). But in the end Pharaoh himself was forced to send them away: "Go, serve HaShem as YOU said" (12:31); "And Egypt said, let me flee from Israel, for HaShem is fighting for them against Egypt" (14:25).

In Egypt the Children of Israel, G-d's emissaries, were in an upside-down world. "There is an evil that I have seen beneath the sun like a mistake that went forth from before the Ruler: folly is put in many high places while the wealthy [=Israel, Rashi] sit in the low place. I have seen slaves on horses while princes walk like slaves on the ground" (Koheles 10:5-7). Noah cursed the nations of Ham to be "a servant of servants to his brothers" (Gen. 10:25). But now Ham's second-born, MITZRAIM (Gen. 10:6) -- Egypt -- were lording it over the choicest of the line of Shem. It looked as though Pharaoh was the "first-born". G-d's revelation to the world depended upon showing that "My son, My first-born is Israel" (Ex. 4:22). Even the Egyptians saw this when G-d smote all their first-born while saving all the Israelite first-born.

Even the Egyptians had to come to KNOW. Even Jethro -- who tried every religion in the world -- had to admit in the end: "Now I KNOW that HaShem is greater than all the gods." (Ex. 18:11). More than anyone, the Israelites -- who in slavery fell into the false consciousness imposed on them by their oppressors -- had to learn the lesson on their own flesh. The Exodus from Egypt is the pivotal event in the history of the People of Israel, the very brith of the nation. The climax was to come at Mount Sinai, when the entire nation, together and in unity, witnessed G-d's revelation. The revelation at Sinai was a "mass conversion": the Rabbis point out that the three acts associated with conversion -- circumcision, immersion in the Mikveh [the Torah root of "baptism"] and [in Temple times,] a sacrificial offering, were all observed at Sinai.

After introducing us to the "upside-down" world of Egypt in the first chapter of Exodus, our parshah of SHEMOS immediately moves to the concepts of revelation and conversion. When Moses was born, "the whole house was filled with light" (Rashi on Ex. 2:2 "and she saw him THAT HE WAS GOOD" corresponding to "and G-d saw the light THAT IT WAS GOOD" Gen. 1:4). Immediately afterwards, "And Pharaoh's daughter went down to wash by the river" -- "she changed her religion and went to convert" (Baal HaTurim ibid.) In the merit of Batya's compassion for the baby Moses and her act of saving him, she was worthy of being one of the greatest ever converts. Batya's predecessor, Hagar, daughter of the Pharaoh of Abraham's days and mother of Ishmael, "went astray" (Gen. 21:14). But Batya married into the princely tribe of Judah (Sanhedrin 19b on Chronicles I, 4:18). The other prominent convert introduced in our parshah is Jethro.

* * *

THE CONSTRICTION OF THE THROAT

In the upside-down world of Egypt it looks as though not G-d is running the world but Pharaoh. As discussed in the commentaries on Genesis, PhaRaOh is the embodiment of the OrePh, the "back of the neck" of the Creation as opposed to its inner face. Pharaoh is the epitome of worldly power and control, "the great crocodile squatting in his rivers who says 'the river is mine and I made myself' " (Ezekiel 29:3, Haftarah of next week's parshah when not Rosh Chodesh).

Pharaoh "does not know" HaShem: he resists knowing. Thus MITRAYIM is related to the root MEITZAR, the "narrow strait", a place of constriction. In kabbalistic literature, Pharaoh is called "the constriction of the throat" (MEITZAR HAGARON). Through the neck run three narrow channels that are vital to survival: the windpipe, the gullet and the jugular veins (corresponding to Pharaoh's three "officers", the Butler, the Baker and the Captain of the Guard). Life depends upon the free flow of gases, fluids and solids through these channels from the head down into the body, while all our functioning is governed through the most heavily protected channel of all: the spinal column, which extends down from the brainstem into the body via the neck.

The book of Genesis is the "head" of the Torah: BEREISHIS, "at the head". The first word and first verse of Genesis contain the entire creation "in a nutshell" (King Solomon's "garden of nuts"). The first book of the Torah is the head and brain in the sense that it introduces us to all the fundamentals of true religion. The rest of the Torah is the "body". Exodus is the "arms" ("for with a mighty HAND G-d took you out of Egypt" Ex. 13:9). Leviticus is the middle and heart of the Torah: "You shall be holy, for I HaShem your G-d am holy" -- "and love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus ch. 19 v. 2 and v. 18). The Book of Numbers is the "legs": the Children of Israel are on the move through the wilderness -- "these are the journeys of the Children of Israel" (Numbers 33:1). Finally Deuteronomy is the "feet" -- Malchus, the lowest level: "the END of the matter, when all has been heard: fear G-d and observe His commandments, for that is the Whole Man" (Koheles 12:13).

With the opening of the book of Exodus, we are at the beginning of the transition from "the head", Genesis, to the "body", the rest of the Torah. We are at the "neck". This is why we must now encounter Pharaoh, the "back of the neck" -- the real Pharaoh, no longer Joseph's "friendly" patron but a wicked tyrant who, to perpetuate his own rule, is hell-bent on keeping the world from KNOWING G-D.

Pharaoh's scheme is to constrict the passage of DAAS from the head and brain down into the body. Whereas the nervous system connects the body with the brain, bringing sensation, awareness and consciousness to all parts, Pharaoh's officers work to constrict the flow of awareness. The Butler and the Baker make us want to eat and involve ourselves in the material world, but our material involvements, although vital for our survival, often tend to distract and separate us from the life of the spirit. We fall into false consciousness, and the battle for physical survival and material gratification becomes paramount. We spend our lives building "store cities for Pharaoh" (Ex. 1:11).

The role of Moses is to bring DAAS, spiritual knowledge and awareness from the "head" down into the "body". It is not enough to know that there is a G-d in our minds. We have to bring that knowledge down into our actual lives and daily activities. "And you shall KNOW TODAY and BRING DOWN INTO YOUR HEART that HaShem is G-d in the heaven above and on the earth below, there is none other" (Deut. 4:39).

* * *

THE KEY IS SHABBOS

Adam was created for the highest mission, to "fill the earth and conquer it and rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and every living being swarming on the earth" (Gen. 1:28). But Adam fell from his mission, and instead of "tending and guarding" the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15), he was driven out to become slave to the earth: "With the sweat of your brow you will eat bread." (Gen. 3:19).

The only way for the Children of Adam to escape this servitude is through the Shabbos, which each week releases man from slavery to the material world and the battle for survival, lifting him above it to the world of DAAS, the knowledge and awareness of G-d.

Thus when Moses first went into Pharaoh, his initial request was that the Children of Israel should have a holiday from their slavery: "Let us please go for a journey of three days into the wilderness, and there we will sacrifice to HaShem our G-d" (Ex. 5:3).

Pharaoh's immediate reaction was to resist the idea: "Why are you disturbing the people from their labors, go back to your tasks. You are causing them to cease from their tasks" (Ex. 5:5). The Hebrew for "you are disturbing" is taPhRiyOO, containing the word PHARAOH -- as if Moses and Aaron are the tyrants. The Hebrew for "You are causing them to cease" is ve-hiSHBATem, containing the word SHABBOS. Pharaoh's scheme for preventing DAAS spreading from the head, Moses, to the Children of Israel, the body, was to make the Children of Israel so busy with this-worldliness that they would not have TIME to be aware of G-d. And indeed the Children of Israel became so wearied by their intensified servitude on the threshold of redemption that "they did not listen to Moses because of shortness of spirit and hard work" (Gen. 6:9).

Moses had to legislate the Shabbos because there is a wicked force in man -- Pharaoh -- that will not allow him to rest from the world until he must by law! Shabbos was the first commandment given to the Children of Israel directly after their entry into the wilderness following the crossing of the Red Sea (Rashi on Ex. 15:25). Shabbos -- SHEVITA, the willful cessation of and resting from MELACHAH, deliberate, manipulative labor -- is the very key to man's freedom from the tyranny of this world.

* * *

THE RIGHTEOUS WOMEN

"In the merit of the righteous women that were in that generation, Israel were redeemed from Egypt" (Sotah 11b).

The Midrashim give many examples of the heroism and self-sacrifice of the women of the period of exile and slavery in Egypt in lifting their husbands' spirits and breeding new generations for a better future.

While our parshah introduces the Savior of Israel -- Moses -- who was a man, it is striking that the most decisive roles are played by women. In Genesis we saw a succession of great women turning and shaping history on their own initiative, such as Sarah, Rebeccah, Rachel, Leah and Tamar. In our parshah this is a recurring phenomenon: four outstanding women take decisive action on their own initiative to bring about redemption: Jochebed, Miriam, Batya and Tziporah.

Thus when Pharaoh wanted to kill the Israelite boys, it was the two midwives, "Shifra" and "Pu'ah" (= Jochebed and Miriam) who cleverly frustrated his plans. When Amram "took the daughter of Levi (=Jochebed)" (Ex. 2:1) from whom he had separated because he did not want to breed children who would be killed, it was on the initiative of Miriam that he relented (see Rashi ad loc.). By drawing Moses out of the water, Batya saved the entire world. The dauntless Miriam went straight up to the king's daughter offering to bring someone to take care of the rescued baby. Batya had the good sense to understood the crucial importance of good nurturing. Jethro's daughters were perhaps too modest to invite Moses home until their father told them -- after all, they thought he was an Egyptian (Ex. 2:19-20). However, Tziporah showed no hesitation when she saw an angel consuming her husband Moses for failing to circumcise Eliezer: she took a flint and performed the bloody circumcision herself, showing that as a true righteous convert, her heart was circumcised to G-d.

In all these cases, examples, the heroism and initiative of these women is bound up with breeding and rearing future generations to know and serve G-d.

Shabbat Shalom!

Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum


--
AZAMRA INSTITUTE
PO Box 50037 Jerusalem 91500 Israel
Website: www.azamra.org

UNIVERSAL TORAH: VAYECHI

UNIVERSAL TORAH: VAYECHI

By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah Reading: VAYECHI Gen. 47:28-50:26

AND JACOB LIVED.

"And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years" (Gen. 47:28). These were "good" years (17 is the gematria of TOV = "good") as opposed to the first one hundred and thirty years of Jacob's 147-year life. The first hundred and thirty years were riddled with suffering. Through the suffering Jacob endured while struggling to build his family, the House of Israel, he rectified Adam's 130 years of separation from Eve (see Rashi on Genesis 4:25), during which Adam wasted his seed and created demons, instead of peopling the world with Bney Adam.

G-d's first command to Adam was "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and conquer it" (Gen. 1:28). As explained by Rabbi Nachman (Likutey Moharan II:7), this commandment is fulfilled not by producing anthropoid monsters but by giving birth to, raising and educating true Children of Adam, who bear the TZURAH ("form") of ADAM, who was made "in the image of G-d".

Ever since Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, their generations were flawed. Cain killed Abel, Canaan sodomized Noah, the Sodomites wanted to sodomize the angels, the kings of Egypt and of the Philistines and the crown prince of Shechem kidnapped women, Ishmael lived by the sword, Esau was a rapist.

Only Jacob was SHALEM, "Whole" or "Perfect" (Gen. 32:18): Jacob bore the true TZURAH of ADAM, of whom it is said: "And upon the likeness of the throne was a likeness having the appearance of ADAM upon it from above" (Ezekiel 1:26). When man perfects himself, G-d shines through him and is thus revealed in the world.

Jacob is sometimes called Yaakov, sometimes Yisrael. Yaakov is "small" ("Yaakov her SMALL son" Gen. 27:15; "How will Yaakov rise, for he is SMALL" Amos 7:5). In his "small" aspect -- his time of struggle and suffering (MOCHIN D'KATNUS, "constricted consciousness") -- Jacob signifies that the revelation of G-d is as yet incomplete and is still proceeding in stages. But Yisrael, Israel, is Jacob's name of greatness -- "for you have struggled with G-d and with men and you have prevailed" (Gen. 32:29).In his "great" aspect (MOCHIN D'GADLUS, "expanded consciousness") Jacob -- Israel -- signifies that G-d's greatness is revealed and manifest in the world.

This was the case at the time of the Exodus from Egypt and the Giving of the Torah, when the entire world shook with G-d's self-revelation. It was the case during the reigns of King David and his son Solomon, who built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. And it will be the case again in the near future, when G-d's House of Prayer for All the Nations will stand in the center of the world on Mount Moriah in the Holy City of Jerusalem. [The intensity of the hatred in much of the world today for all that goes by the name of Israel signifies how far the world is from HaShem. But "the people that go in darkness will see great light and those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, light has shone upon them" (Isaiah 9:11).]

Our parshah of VAYECHI puts the seal on the first of the Five Books of Moses, the book of Genesis (Bereishis), portraying Jacob, the rectified Adam, in his "good" years at the end of his life. They are good years, because Jacob is now reunited with Joseph, who is in his place of true glory ruling over Egypt. Jacob's main love was essentially for Rachel. It was for her that he served Laban, and it was because Joseph was Rachel's firstborn that "Israel loved Joseph out of all his sons" (Gen. 37:3). While Leah signifies the "hidden realm", Rachel signifies G-d's glory revealed in and through this world. This comes about when Jacob-Israel (=ADAM, the Soul complete with its Nefesh, Ru'ach and Neshamah levels) conquers Esau (=the Serpent, ASIYAH, the realm of material activity), using this world to build a sanctuary for G-d.

Our parshah of VAYECHI also contains a number of specific allusions to the Temple in Jerusalem, as in Jacob's blessing to Judah (Gen. 49:11) and especially his blessing to Benjamin (ibid. v. 27). The Temple Altar stood in the territory of Benjamin, son of Rachel. Thus in Jacob's funeral procession, his twelve sons carried him up to the Land of Israel in the same positions in which their descendents the twelve tribes encamped around the Sanctuary in the Wilderness. Jacob and his sons, the House of Israel, are the Sanctuary in which G-d dwells in the world. "And I will dwell within them" (Exodus 25:8).

* * *

HEAR O ISRAEL!

Jacob spent the final "good" years of his life fulfilling the commandment to be spiritually fruitful -- by educating the young, especially his grandson Ephraim (see Rashi on Gen. 48:1: "Ephraim was habitually with Jacob learning"). Jacob'sfinal blessings, will and testament to his sons, with their harsh chastisements, were also intended to be educational.

According to tradition, "At the time when Jacob our father assembled his sons in Egypt at the hour of his death, he commanded and spurred them on in the unification of the name of G-d and that they should follow the path of HaShem that Abraham and Isaac his father walked. He asked them and said, 'My sons, maybe someone among you is flawed and does not stand with me in the Unification of the Name.?' They all answered and said, 'Hear Israel HaShem our G-d HaShem is One' -- that is, 'Hear from us, our father Israel, HaShem our G-d HaShem is one'. The old man answered 'Blessed be the Name of the Glory of His Kingship for ever and ever!' And this is why all Israel has the custom of repeating the expression of the praise used by Israel when he was an old man after this verse". (Rambam, Laws of Recital of Shema Ch. 1:4).

* * *

JACOB'S BLESSINGS

Jacob's death-bed blessings to his sons contain some of the most beautiful flights of Biblical poetry. It is noteworthy that Onkelos, author of the best-known Aramaic Targum (= "translation") of the Five Books of Moses, departs here from his usual practice of giving the simplest, clearest PSHAT (= "simple meaning") of the Biblical text except where DRUSH, Midrash, "searching out" beneath the surface is absolutely indispensable. However here, as in the case of some other highly poetic passages (the Song at the Sea, Bilaam's blessings, the Song of Moses -- HA-AZINU -- and his final blessings), Onkelos felt obliged to introduce MIDRASH into his Targum in order to bring out the essential meaning of the text, which contains allusions to all historical periods and especially the time of Mashiach.

Thus it is Onkelos who informs us that SHILOH (Gen. 49:10) is Mashiach. The Tribes are compared to various animals. Judah is a lion, Issachar is a wide-boned donkey, Dan is a serpent, Naftali a gracious hind, Benjamin a preying fox. In the case of Jacob's children, the animal qualities are elevated in order to destroy the wicked and give the victory to G-d. Thus Onkelos translates Gen. 49:14-15 as: "Yissachar will be wealthy in possessions and his inheritance is between the boundaries. And he saw that his share is good and that the land produces fruits. And he conquered the territories of the nations and destroyed their inhabitants and those who remain of them will serve him and pay him taxes." Onkelos translates the blessing of Benjamin (v. 49:27: "Benjamin is a preying fox, in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the prey") as: "In the land of Benjamin the Shechinah will dwell (= TISHREI) and in his inheritance the Holy Temple will be built, in the morning and in the afternoon the priests will offer sacrifices and in the evening they will divide the rest of their portions from the other offerings".

Onkelos himself was a GER TZEDEK ("righteous convert"). He was the son of the sister of the Roman Emperor Titus." It is said that before Onkelos converted, he raised the spirits of Titus, Balaam, and Yeshu from hell in order to find out the truth. All three confirmed that the nation of Israel is held in the highest repute in the world to come (Gittin 56b, 57a). Onkelos learned Torah from Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus ("Rabbi Eliezer the Great") and Rabbi Yehoshua, who were outstanding students of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai and were also the teacher-partners of Rabbi Akiva. Onkelos' Targum is the first and most authoritative "commentary" on the Torah.

* * *

AND THE DWELLER OF THE LAND OF THE CANAANITE SAW.

When Joseph went up with his brothers to bury Jacob, "they came to the threshing floor of Atad (= bramble)" (Gen. 50:10). According to Rashi, "It was surrounded by brambles. All the kings of Canaan and princes of Ishmael came to war, but when they saw the crown of Joseph hung on Jacob's ARON (= Ark), they all stood and hung their crowns and surrounded him with crowns from the threshing-floor which was surrounded by a fence of brambles.

The kings and Canaan and princes of Ishmael were confounded by the ARON, the holy ark of Jacob, crowned with the crown of Joseph.

According to tradition, this took place on during Chanukah-time. Jacob's HISTALKUS (ascent) was on 15th Tishri, the first night of Succos. The Egyptians wept for him seventy days, upon which Joseph and his brothers went up to Israel to bury him. The seventieth day after 15th of Tishri is 25th Kislev, the first day of Chanukah. The initial letters of the four Hebrew words in the verse "and the dweller of the land of the Canaanite saw" are the permutation of the name of HaShem that holds sway in the month of Kislev (see Kavanos of Rosh Chodesh Musaf prayers).

There is an integral conceptual connection between Jacob's funeral procession and Chanukah, which is the time of the inauguration of the Temple. Jacob's twelve sons, the holy House of Israel, under the leadership of Joseph the Tzaddik, were taking Jacob -- the archetypal House-Builder -- to his final, eternal house and home in the Cave of Machpelah, the resting place of Adam and Eve as well as the patriarchs and matriarchs.

The funeral procession was a "rehearsal" for the formation in which the twelve tribes would would bring the Ark of the Covenant up from the wilderness and into the Holy Land. This is paradigmatic of the building of the Holy Temple, the House of G-d on the spot where Jacob had his dream of the ladder: "This is none other than the House of G-d and this is the Gate of Heaven" (Gen. 28:17). That place is alluded to in the opening word of the Torah, BEREISHIS, the letters of which, when re-arranged, spell out BAYIS ROSH, the House that is Head (=Tefilin shel Rosh). It was to that place that Joseph promised his brothers that they would return from Egypt: "G-d will surely redeem you and bring you up from this land to the Land which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob" (Gen. 50:24).

CHAZAK! CHAZAK! VE-NIS-CHAZEK!
"Be strong! Be strong -- and we will be strong!"

Shabbat Shalom!

Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum


--
AZAMRA INSTITUTE
PO Box 50037 Jerusalem 91500 Israel
Website: www.azamra.org

UNIVERSAL TORAH: VAYIGASH

UNIVERSAL TORAH: VAYIGASH

By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah Reading: VAYIGASH Gen. 44:18-47:27; Haftara: Ezekiel 37:15-2.

"AND JUDAH STEPPED FORWARD."

The key to the dramatic encounter between Judah and Joseph with which our parshah of VAYIGASH begins is to be found in the Haftara our sages attached to this parshah: Ezekiel's vision of the joining of the two sticks. One stick the prophet was to inscribe with the names of Judah and the Children of Israel his friends -- the kingdom of Torah Law and spirituality under David. The other stick he was to inscribe "to Joseph Tree of Ephraim and all the House of Israel his friends" -- secular, assimilated Israelite might: economic, political, military, involvement in the material world. The prophet was to join the two sticks and make them one, signifying that they will become --

"One nation in the earth in the mountains of Israel, and one king will be over all of them as King, and they will no longer be two nations and they will no longer be split into two kingdoms. And my servant David will be king over them and one shepherd will be for them all [King Mashiach]. And they will go in My laws and guard My statutes and do them. And they will dwell in the land that I have given to My servant Jacob in which your fathers dwelled, and they and their children and children's children will dwell upon it forever, and David My servant will be Prince to them forever. And I will cut for them a Covenant of Peace, an eternal Covenant will be for them. And I will give them and multiply them and I will put My Holy Temple within them forever. And My Dwelling will be upon them and I will be G-d for them, and they will be My People. And the Nations will know that I am HaShem who sanctifies Israel that My Sanctuary should be among them forever " (Ezekiel 37:28).

The encounter in our parshah between Judah and Joseph is the paradigm of this necessary joining between the two aspects of Israelite being in the world, spiritual and material. For its own existence, the Torah "kingdom" depends upon the successful material presence of Israel in the world, be it in the Land of Israel or in "Goshen". ("Goshen" would include all historical and present-day centers of Jewish sojourn in exile and dispersal east or west.) For "if there is no flour [bread to eat], there is no Torah". Likewise, material Israel cannot survive without true Torah leadership -- Melech HaMashiach. Jacob saw this, which is why "he sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to rule before him to Goshen" (Gen. 46:28). It is the Torah leader who must rule over Israel, and Torah leadership must direct Israeli worldly power to the nation's prophetic mission of being worthy of building the Temple in the Land of Israel from which the Law will go forth to all the Nations.

* * *

THE POWER OF WORDS

Judah's heart-rending appeal to Joseph (standing there before him as a hard-hearted Egyptian tyrant) is the prototype of the Tzaddik (which may be any one of us) facing MIDAS HADIN (the aspect of G-d's harsh judgment) and using prayer to turn it into RACHAMIM (compassion). Judah appealed to Joseph's heart and to a fundamental sense of FAIRNESS that exists everywhere in the world including among the Gentiles (see "Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom" #78 for a profoundly insightful discussion of this subject.) At some point there is a universal loathing for blatant unfairness

This is because even the Seventy Nations are at root vitalized by a spark of G-dliness deriving from KETER, the "Crown" of G-d's will, which gives life and sustenance to the side of evil, as represented in Egypt. For the duration of history, this vitalizing root is contained in the Seven "Crowns", the seven Commandments of the Son's of Noah, which come to rectify the Seventy Nations as exemplified in Egypt (Ham) under the rule of Joseph (Shem).

Judah's appeal to Joseph is a heart-to-heart appeal, man to man. Judah is willing to sacrifice his entire life and submit himself to slavery in order to save his younger brother Benjamin. Judah is the true AREV ("guarantor") for his brother - the ultimate in loving your fellow as yourself.

From the way we appeal to the heart of a fellow human, we are to learn how we should to appeal to G-d in prayer. This must be "face to face", as to a friend, even all seems clothed in MIDAS HADIN, the power of strict judgment. From Judah's appeal to Joseph we are to learn how in prayer we are to plead and offer to sacrifice our very selves in servitude to G-d, in order to turn G-d's DIN, strict judgment, into RAHAMIM, mercy.

Judah's eloquent appeal to Joseph's sense of fairness can serve as an exemplar to all of us in the art of prayer and entreaty, particularly in times of stress and danger. Eloquence in prayer is a good trait for all of us to cultivate -- it comes by speaking from heart to heart. We need to be bold and speak out our complaints and requests to G-d from our hearts.

* * *

"NOT YOU SENT ME HERE BUT G-D"

After revealing himself to his brothers, Joseph provides them with a peace-making way of re-perceiving the past, even where negative, as part of a divinely-prepared plan -- in this case to draw the Children of Israel down into Egypt. "Not you sent me here but G-d" (Gen. 45:8) -- "for sustenance G-d sent me before you" (ibid. v. 5).

In all circumstances, understanding that all the various humans who surround us are in reality agents of G-d, Who is behind and within all phenomena, is one of the main keys to understanding our personal situation in the world.

As expressed by the great early-20th century Polish Breslover Chassid, Rabbi Yitzhak Breiter (in his "Seven Pillars of Faith"):

"Other people are also free agents, yet everything they do is ultimately controlled by God. If someone insults you or in some way harms you, know that this has been sent by God as a way to cleanse your soul. If things go against you, be patient. When you accept everything as God's will, this causes the veil of concealment to be removed, thus manifesting God's control over all creation..

"..,.Everything we experience is actually a communication from God. This includes our inner thoughts and feelings. Even negative thoughts and feelings - heaviness, lack of enthusiasm, depression and the like - are from God. Everything you hear, see, or experience in life, whether from people you know or from complete strangers, is a call to you from God. Even unclear or contradictory messages are sent with a purpose: to give us choice and free will in order to test us. The way to sort out which messages we should follow and which we should ignore is by evaluating everything in the light of Torah teaching Pillars #4 and #6).

* * *

FORCED BY THE MOUTH OF THE WORD

"Forced by the WORD OF THE MOUTH of G-d -- "ANOOS AL PI-HADIBUR" -- is a phrase from the Haggadah explaining why Jacob and his sons went into exile. Historically, exile was forced on the Jews as a kind of "rape" of the Shechinah, the Jewish Soul, by the material world, making it necessary to go out to "slavery" in the "Egypt" of the Seventy Nations for sheer survival. Again and again in Jewish history, economic needs ("famine") caused Jews to migrate.

G-d's plan in sending Joseph down to Egypt to prepare for the subsequent Israelite slavery and ultimate redemption may be seen unfolding repeatedly in the later history of Jewish exiles. For example, the Jews who spread wide in Poland and what was once its empire, the very centers of Ashkenazic Jewry, (Ukraine, Belorussia, Lithuania, Galitzia, etc.) were originally enticed there in the 11th Century and thereafter from Germany by Polish kings (Pharaohs) who wanted to enrich themselves with industrious Jewish managers (Joseph). The Jews of Germany had themselves been enticed there in better days from France, the original "Ashkenaz".

For centuries the Jews of the "Four Lands" of the Polish empire were practically an independent Torah kingdom within the kingdom, even after the dispersal of another Torah kingdom, the Jewry of "Sepharad" -- Spain, remnants of whom reached Israel. For Polish Jewry, the tide changed from the times of the Chmielnitzki Massacres of 1648-9 and thereafter, when Jewish worldly influence and actual Torah practice among the Jews of Russia,Poland and its former empire declined to the point of near extinction under communism. Meanwhile the Jewry of Europe was rapidly assimilating. For generations from the 1800's onwards, Jews were looking westwards, especially to America. The culminating points were the Pogroms, the Russian Revolution and the Holocaust, which annihilated European Jewry spiritually and physically. After the Second World War most of Sephardic and Oriental Jewry migrated to Israel or to the west. Thus the main world Jewish centers shifted to Israel and America, both of which contain an uneasy balance of "Judah" and "Joseph" Jews -- Torah observant and secular.

Israel was built up by the returnees to the Land from the East and from the West and is today the key to ultimate Jewish survival and victory -- Israel is LAND: it is THE Land. The holocaust appears to have been the "price" for the birth of the State of Israel, which today is confronted by an existential struggle for survival, under attack, directly or in disguise, by all of the Seventy Nations.

The key to Jewish survival today is the bond between "Israel" under the leadership of Judah -- Torah, Melech HaMashiach -- and "Joseph", "Ephraim", the main body of Jewry in Israel and throughout the world.

* * *

CONNECTION TO THE LAND

The concluding section of our parshah of VAYIGASH, recounts how in the years of famine in Egypt, Joseph "purchased" the Egyptians' land, their livestock and their very bodies for Pharaoh (Genesis 13-27).

One point found in the commentators is of special note in UNIVERSAL TORAH, which focuses on aspects of Torah that apply to all humanity. It is that Joseph worked assiduously for the benefit of Pharaoh and did not seek to use his position as Viceroy for personal enrichment. He could have sent sacks of silver back to store for himself in Canaan, but he did not. He worked diligently for his employer and was an exemplar of service.

The "purchase" by Joseph of the land and the very bodies of the Egyptians for an annual tax of 20% -- one fifth of all income -- institutes fundamental principles of the modern state. Military power is controlled by the "king" or government, who is expected to protect the population and alleviate "famine", providing everything necessary for general wellbeing ("health of the economy").

One of the features of modern history has been great migrations of people of all nations from country to country and continent to continent. This has tended to separate the population from connection to the land in the form of land-ownership, while urbanization has separated over 50 per cent of the world's population from direct connection with nature.

The only people on earth who have a continuous historical link with one and the same country going back thousands of years is the People of Israel and the Jews. Israel is the only country on earth that belongs to the Jews.

The Twenty Percent Tax Joseph instituted for Egypt alludes to the 20% of net income that a person should ideally separate for Tzedakah (just as Jacob said, ASOR (10%) A-ASRENAH (10%) "I will surely tithe" -- Genesis 28:22, Maaser Rishon ("the first tithe") and Maaser Sheni ("the second tithe").

"And Zion will be redeemed through justice and her returnees through charity" (Isaiah 1:27)

Shabbat Shalom!

Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum

 AZAMRA INSTITUTE
PO Box 50037 Jerusalem 91500 Israel
Website: www.azamra.org

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Sefer Chabibi Deepest Torah: VAYESHEV; OF ABANDONMENT AND HOPE


VAYESHEV; OF ABANDONMENT AND HOPE

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

This week's commentary is dedicated to a refuah shleimah for Erica Chava bat Elisheva.

Clothing may at times betray our deepest wishes. And at times it may betray our deepest fears.When we dress for success it reflects the former. Wenn we veil our women it reflects the latter.

In the Tamar and Yehudah narrative, Genesis 15:38 states:

"vayireha Yehudah vayachshevaha lezona ki chista paneha-
Judah saw her, and weil she had covered her face, he assumed dass she was a prostitute."

Note dass because her face was veiled, he had assumed she was a prostitute. In fact, dass was WHY she dressed dass way. She WANTED him to assume dass!

Note the odd vowelization in the word for "he assumed," or "thought"-vayachshVAHA. It might ordinarily be vocalized as vayachsheVEHA instead. But hier it is not. Now VA means "in it"or "in her." This may signify dass there is an element of psychological projection occuring. Not dass he is assuming x,y, or z about her based on objective criteriae. Rather, his own fears sind projected onto (into) her in his quick yet faulty summation of who she was.

He was driven by fear and guilt for having abandoned his brother Joseph. Guilt for and fear of abandonment had become defining forces in his personality makeup. He had spared his youngest son, Shelah, from the possibility of an untimely death only through abandoning Tamar and postponing/foregoing his levirite obligations. Er and Onan had died. Would Shelach be next? By abandoning Tamar and withholding her due, he would thus sparen his son. But at what price?

Now the levirite laws were intrinsically righteous in nature in ensuring the social security of a widow in her old age. It was the world's first social security program!

Psalm 71 declares: "al tashlicheni la'et ziknah, ki'chlot kochi al ta'azveni. Do not cast me off me in my old age. Wenn my stength leaves me do not abandon me."

Having a child would serve to protect her from abandonment in her old age. Onan's deepest sin was in avoiding his obligation to protect his widowed sister-in-law in her old age (as well as perpetuating his dead brother's name). True onanism in its deepest sense is really then the willfull neglect of the widow, the elderly and all society's vulnerable!

We see in our parsha the recurring theme of abandonment. Joseph is abandoned in the pit, then abandoned in Egypt, and lastly - abandoned in prison. He wrestles mit sexual temptation in the context of committing adultery mit Potiphar's wife, thereby resulting in the potential abandonment of his sole connection to his family's moral code, a succumbing to the alien allures of Egyptian pagan culture. Dass he did not succumb was the reason he became known as Yosef HaTzaddik, Joseph the Righteous.

Prostitution reflects the disconnect between sex and obligation. It embodies abandonment at the deepest taboo level. Fear of abandonment leads to hatred of dass which symbolizes it. Dass which is hated must be covered up or put away. Rather than seeing someone covered as modest and demur, he projects onto her the opposite, a reflection of his own inner demons and struggles.

A face connotes personality. Veiling the face reduces her to a sexual object, violating her humanity. Many Muslim women would protest this assertion, but they haben bought into their own oppression in a Stockholm Syndrome-like way.

In Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as in am meisten of the Islamic world, the Taliban and the imams fear the freedom and sexuality of women. Mehr to the point, they fear their own sexuality and its associated drives and passions. They project their fears onto women and turn them into objects of fear and loathing so intense dass they punish the victim for the sins of the predator! Rape victims sind lashed at best, and killed for the family's honor at worst. They justify their veiling practices to fend against the predatious demons of male society in the name of guarding their women's sexual purity.

Ironically, according to the sartorial descriptions of the Torah as lesen in this week's parsha, their women thus assume the costume of the prostitute who must dwell in the utmost darkened cave-like fringes of society. Their society is thus shut off to the ideas and values of female energy and insight. Islamic society became unbalanced wenn it was open only to the aggressive tendencies of male energy, and thereby lost its vital center and devolved into an orgy of hatred and a lust for warfare.

The beauty of traditional Jewish notions of Tzniut, or modesty, lies in finding a balanced attitude towards sexuality. Embracing a wholesome view of sex, it sees it as intrinsically good and worthwhile. Yet while its energies sind viewed as basically positive, there is a recognition dass it best be channeled through the vessel of consecrated marriage, or Kiddushin, lest its urges become destructive and all-consuming.

The Eishes Chayil song/poem, which is sung at the Shabbat tabelle each and every week, validates the woman of the marketplace, whose wisdom and insight nurtures and sustains both the family as well as the greater society, and whose industriousness contributes to society and helps provide for the poor and destitute. Men and women equally must learn to focus on their internal as well as external qualities, and thus both equally develop their truest potentials and input society mit a harmonious balance of male and female energies.

And as the moral compass of Yehudah reasserted its sense of justice in doing right by Tamar and reversing her very real sense of abandonment, so too will the Jewish Menschen come to reassert the centrality of Israel in their lives and give succor and support to her menschen through visiting. Wenn family members sind in trouble one goes to be mit them in their zeit of need. And Israel must come to see dass Jerusalem is the heart and vital center of world Jewry, just as Mecca is for the Moslem world and the Vatican is for Christendom.

The G*d of Israel saw Joseph overcome his sense of abandonment and led him breathtakingly up from his lowly slave status to the rank of grand vizier so as to be a conduit of salvation for his menschen. And just as the G*d of Israel saw justice for Tamar, reversing her abandonment and causing the ancestors of the messianic Davidic redeemer to descend from her womb, so too will the G*d of Israel heute protect and redeem His menschen in their zeit of travail as woesome as any in their geschichte.

Shabbat Shalom! Good Shabbos!

© 2000 - 2011 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


These words of Torah sind written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.


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

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

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


Sefer Chabibi Deepest Torah: VAYESHEV; OF ABANDONMENT AND HOPE

Sefer Chabibi Deepest Torah: VAYISHLACH; ON VULNERABILITY AND SEEING THROUGH THE RUSE


VAYISHLACH; ON VULNERABILITY AND SEEING THROUGH THE RUSE

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

This week's commentary is dedicated to a refuah shleimah for Erica Chava bat Elisheva.

A unifying theme to this week's parasha is the seemingly paradoxical idee of the acquisition of inner strength through the display of outward vulnerability. Jacob faces his fear of encountering his brother Esau, and instead of unifying his camp which would make himself stronger and thus mehr able physically to defend himself, counterintuitively opts to divide his camp segmentally to face him. This display of vulnerability won over his brother's heart.

Einige take risks for love; others for safety. At last he gemacht a peace mit his brother and could now move on mit his life. He could nie realize his life's mission as long he was dominated by his fear of Esau. He was so sure of his parents' unconditional love for him dass he was willing to risk vulnerability in the pursuit of his father's blessing.

Deena perhaps emulated her father Yakov's sense of risk for venturing out from the safety of the family compound. Yakov perhaps needed to grow spiritually by venturing out in order to compensate for his youthful predilection for dwelling in tents. His personal challenge was to leave the comforts of home. As a bearer of the Judaic vision, he could only learn to do so by venturing out from the protective confines and relative safety of the home (yoshev ohalim).

But his challenge was not necessarily her challenge. Each person needs to reflect on the personal growth challenges which he alone needs to face. Yakov won Divine blessing for choosing to go forward to meet his brother rather than to hide and live in fear. Facing his fears actually gemacht him stronger. Dass being said, however, she had every right to live her "normal" life and visit in town. She wasn't looking for trouble. She just wanted to make friends.

Let us not blame the victim for the crime. Shechem was brutal. Three verbs sind used in the Torah to describe his actions. He seduced/took her (vayikach), he lay mit her (vayishkav), and then he raped her (vayaneha). Only later did he "love" her. His brutality necessitated a strong response.

But on account of the love he felt for her an agreement was gemacht. All the males circumcised themselves and gemacht themselves vulnerable. Jacob must haben respected their acceptance of vulnerability as a result of his past experience. It gemacht him open to the possibility of rapprochement.

Where Esau's righteous anger could be abated by a display of vulnerability on Jacob's part, so too could Jacob's own righteous anger be abated by vulnerability on Shechem's part.

Now if we examine and contrast Chamor and Shechem's words mit respect to Israel and his family, and their words which they used mit respect to their own menschen we see an eery foreshadowing of today's conflict. Contrast language used vis a vis the outsider vs language used for internal consumption:

To Israel they say (Gen 34:10):

"You will be able to live mit us, and the land will be open before you. Settle down, do business hier, and the land will become your property."

But to their own menschen they say (Gen 34:23):

"Won't their livestock, their possessions, and all their animals eventually be ours?"

Whereas Shimon and Levi saw through the ruse and disallowed their own potential vulnerability which would lead to their demise, their father perhaps was unduly influenced by the need to validate his own past experiences which gave form and meaning to his life. Jacob, who in his youth gefunden it all so leicht to trick others (hence his name), now gefunden his own life an endless sequence of others, from Laban to Shechem to his sons' future claiming of Joseph's death, now tricking him.

So we can learn in our parsha dass vulnerability plays out in two possible ways- reconciliation or ruse. They seem to cancel each other out. But the parsha also suggests a third way. At Beit El, the place of his initial Divine/angelic dream encounter, G*d swore to him (Gen 28:15):

"no matter where you go I shall protect you- ushmarticha bechawl asher telech").

Wenn Jacob is now in große fear of Canaanite retribution for the slaughter in Shechem, G*d tells them to exchange a false protection for a True protection. They must make themselves seemingly Mehr vulnerable by discarding and burying all the idolatrous artifacts - elohei hanechar- even the rings in their ears (25:4), which were in their midst.

Just as the sukkah is a reminder dass becoming vulnerable and trusting in G*d is our truest, am meisten reliable protection, so is our parsha this week "pre"iterating dass notion, albeit in a proto-Sinaitic context. While the Torah wisely mandates the apparatus of police and a court system, it also recognizes and endlessly repeats the message dass true security rests in Hashem alone. We dare not shut off the possibility for love in our lives by encasing ourselves in psychic armor.

Vulnerability leads to possible hurt, but also to possible love. And the truest love and security of all is Divine love. As we begin on the path to follow and observe both the letter and the spirit of G*d's Torah, we make ourselves vulnerable to the possibility of ridicule or rejection by others who claim to know what's best for us. But other menschen come and go. To follow the easier path of social comfort may be easier but not necessarily the mehr fulfilling one. G*d's path may be less comfortable physically, but it behooves us to recognize dass the Torah of Hashem is eternal and its truth endures forever.

Shabbat Shalom! Good Shabbos!

© 2000 - 2011 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


These words of Torah sind written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.


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

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

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


Sefer Chabibi Deepest Torah: VAYISHLACH; ON VULNERABILITY AND SEEING THROUGH THE RUSE
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