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THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING-A FIRST GLANCE: VAYIKRA ("He called...")
A short study of the readings by Yaakov Fogelman, who lectures on Torah and
Religious Zionism; sets and disks of these studies, as well as his audio
and video tapes, are available at TOP. See In the Service of God, by Shalom
Freedman (Jason Aronson), for his views, together with those of 20 other
teachers of Torah, on Judaism, Zionism and the Jewish People today ($30).
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PREFACE: Rav Mordecai Gafni defines loneliness as my inability to convey my own unique essence and attitudes to those about me; they simply don't understand me, tho they may extend love and aid. In a sense, it's not me whom they love, but their image of me. Agony and anxiety accompany close encounters between those who love, and feel responsible for, each other, yet are so distant in outlook and essence. You pick your friends, not your relatives! Tho you also pick your spouse, you are, in the process, unconsciously working out your earliest parental relationships-see "Getting the Love You Want" for how to use this knowledge to enhance your marriage. Rav Gafni also notes that we must be sensitive and responsive to possibly even basic changes in the goals, values and personalities of all our significant others; their agenda and pace is not necessarily linked to, and synchronized with, our own. Only God always hangs in there, with our own constant change, expressing varied aspects of our Divine Image. He also explored a hassidic-kabbalistic concept that we may meet, even marry, soulmates who contribute to our growth, tho not our ultimate soulmates.
Rav Yosef Soloveichik points out that one can feel loonily lonely in a crowded room, yet not feel alone at all, when completely alone with God, Who hearkens to prayer, Who hears every nuance of my self-expression, Who "looks over my shoulder" as I pore over His Torah in the middle of the night. The Rov noted the deepest connection between those who are "chaverim l'deah", who share aspirations, inspirations and insights, tho not biologically or matrimonially related. I personally feel at home, amidst "chaverim l'deah", at Rav Gafni's holistic shiurim-happenings-he tries to "put it all together", to blend the intellectual, the emotional and the spiritual, Carlebach and Soloveichik, the Ishbetzer and Ibsen, as do most of the many folks who come, joining him in Carlebach nigunim before and after the shiur. Gafni stressed the link of memory and morality in Esther, as opposed to impulsive evil, which lives only for, and in, the moment; without a past, there is no future (per Freud, you travel back to your unconscious past to reach your future). Changing venues may lead to a new higher level of life-he who changes his place, changes his luck! Many hardships are indeed forerunners of great success-the Jews grew and prospered in Egypt, in direct proportion to their persecution.
Rav Gafni portrayed Moshe as a lonely man of faith, as was Adam, before Eve appeared (cf. Avraham, Rambam and the Kotzker). We now begin Leviticus, which opens with God's call of love to Moshe and to each of us, to which we respond by drawing near to Him, via The Divine Sacrificial Service, temporarily replaced by prayer alone. Rambam ("Guide", III:17-18) notes that God's Providence, as manifested to individual human beings, is in proportion to how much they develop their own unique Divine intellectual Image (emulating Him, Whose main attribute is His Oneness, His Uniqueness-Rav JBS); Rambam, whose mother died at birth, and whose father's love was linked to little Rambam's intellectual development, stresses intellect over emotion, like the Vilna Gaon, so unlike the Besht; his ardent (enjoying logic is an emotion too!) followers are usually of similar disposition); this unique view of Providence may reflect the inability of truly rugged individualistic men of faith to overcome their loneliness other than via Divine proximity (Rav Gafni's tape on Loneliness is $7 from TOP)
HOLY HEBREW SCHOOL: The Hebrew language is God's own native tongue, from which all other languages derive, after the Babelian dispersion (see Yitzchak Mozeson 's TOP video lecture); the universe is created by God, using holy Hebrew words (see Genesis I); it interfaces with His Torah, also in holy Hebrew. Only a holy language, transcending normal linguistic rules, could be revived as a living language, in the holy land, after an almost 2000 year lapse. We'll use a few specially holy Hebrew words in this study:
KORBAN (plural: korbanot) is a sacrifice, literally "that which draws one near (to God)"
MISHKAN is The Tabernacle, literally "(God's) Dwelling Place"
BEIT (BEIS in Ashklenazis) HAMIKDASH (plural: batei mikdash ), literally "House of The Holy", is the Temple; the first two were in Jerusalem-the third will probably be 45 mil away; either it (per Rashash, B.B. 122a) or Jerusalem (per Malbim, Zech. 4:4) will relocate; see Artscrolls' wonderful Eisemann Ezekiel, Chs. 40, 45 and 48.
CHAREDIM are those very traditional Jews, who attempt to perpetuate life as
it was hundreds of years ago, including its food and clothing; they
somewhat resemble the Mennonites, who preceded them by 200 years, in this
respect; but charedim have nothing against modern technology, e.g.
computers and cigarettes, per se, and aren't specially attuned to
simplicity, handicrafts and nature, as are Menonite and Amish folks, tho
early chassidic masters wandered the woods, while praising tobacco (see
Gene Wilder's wonderful film, "The Frisco Kid", for the Jewish-Amish
interface); they tend to take the strictest interpretations of ritual law,
and stress family unity, outward behavior and conformity
Charedim are often confused with "Chassidim" , a subgroup of charedim, followers of the Baal Shem Tov and his pupils; they left the mainstream ashkenazic community of Eastern Europe, which stressed intellect, via talmudic study, as the male path to God and Godliness; but the Besht stressed service of the heart, prayer and religious joy as the primary path, even for men. Traditional fierce opponents of chassidim are called "misnagdim" . See Eliyahu Yehuda Schochet's "The Hasidic Movement and The Gaon of Vilna" for a sensitive balanced exploration of both societies and their conflicts. His pragmatic conclusion is that chassidut was a good thing, despite the often valid critique and persecution of the misnagdim, for it worked.
Both types of charedim, and their many sub-groups, are still going strong; but the war between chassidim and misnagdim has lost much of its force; both groups now face much greater threats-the modern secular world, with all its tangible attractions of pleasure and power, and non-traditional Judaism; the latter groups-Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform- tend to identify with the chassidim, "fellow rebels". But the chassidim, as earlier disputants, e.g. Hillel and Shamai, retained and followed the truly traditional belief in a Divinely Dictated Torah, both written and oral, and generally submitted to the authority of halacha (Jewish Law)- unlike Reform, Reconstructionist, and most of Conservative, Judaism, which accept the Documentary Hypothesis, of German non-Jewish origin; they claim, often in far-fetched fashion, that the Torah is a collection of ancient documents, later united- see Hertz's critique of them.
COHEN (plural: cohanim) is a hereditary priest, descended from Aharon, who must avoid close contact with the dead, and marriage with divorcees and converts.
SHUL,is a yiddish term for a synagogue, SHTIEBEL for a small informal shul.
ALIYA is ascent to the Holy Land of Israel.
YIDDISHKEIT denotes Eastern European Jewish religious civilization a century ago, only one of many equally valid interpretations & civilizations of authentic Judaism, e.g. Sephardim, Yemenites.
THE BACKGROUND, AND AN OVERVIEW, OF LEVITICUS-VOL. III OF GOD'S TORAH.
In Exodus, Vol. II, 2 stages in the Divine plan for world redemption from Zion were realized-- 1) the first truly Jewish family develops into the nation of Israel and 2) in the mishkan, and via the pillars of cloud and fire, that nation achieves a constant intimate relationship with God, just as He related to the patriarchs (Ramban). The mishkan raised Jewish consciousness-it symbolically portrayed all aspects of the universe, their relationships, and their relation to Divinity. It's Ark represented Heaven descending to Earth, its sacrificial services Earth reaching up toward Heaven. The Book of Leviticus (Vayikra) opens with detailed laws of Divine korbonot, to be performed only in the Mishkan and its successor Batei Mikdash; this experience can help man come closer to God (the root of korban is "k'rov", to draw near). God's Passionate Presence permeates every detail and law of nature and Torah-all knowledge stems from awareness of His existence; this impels one to explore His world and Torah in detailed depth and breadth, to get closer to His Essence-clal v'prat v'clal- general perceptions lead to specific knowledge, which leads to deeper, yet subtler, generalizations. Torah often deepens, rather than resolves, basic existential issues and conflicts (Rav JBS). So Einstein merited grand inspiring overviews only AFTER mastering the details of science. Dedicating or sacrificing all realms of life to Him concretely expresses and reinforces this worldview, tho He wants us to enjoy His world too.
Leviticus also teaches us how to RETAIN and RESTORE ritual purity of the mishkan (15:31, 16:16,33). The Cohanim, assisted by the Levites, are in charge of the mishkan and korbanot; thus this book is called Toras Cohanim, the Teaching for (or "of") The Priests, in Jewish tradition (Ramban). The Greek Septuagint Bible also calls it Leviticus-laws of the Levites and Cohanim. But much of Leviticus doesn't specifically relate to cohanim or korbonot (e.g. marital relations, awe of parents, love of fellow man, and empathy with the stranger-see Lev. 18-20). Indeed, it contains 247 of the 613 biblical commandments, per Rambam. Ramban claims that most of these commandments do specially relate to the priesthood, but doesn't show how. Perhaps the mishkan's rituals and korbanot contain the moral messages which underlie and define all the subsequent laws of the Teaching OF (not for) The Cohanim, who are also leading teachers of Torah.
A BROADER PERSPECTIVE: Rav David Hoffman applies "The Teaching For/Of The Cohanim" to the laws for the entire Jewish people, God's "kingdom of PRIESTS (mamleches cohanim ) and holy nation (goy kadosh)", ultimately blessing and teaching Mankind by their example. Concentric circles of Universal Man, his Jewish Priests, and the Priests within Israel itself, are to work together for Everyman's return to Eden (Ex. 19:6, Gen. 12:3, 18:18). The Intimate contact between God and His "kingdom of Priests" is to radiate from all aspects of their national life, as His "holy nation"; this, in turn, reinforces their intimacy with God; but it can only arise amidst integrity, efficiency, and ethical holiness, both public and private. Lev. 1-17 deals with Israel's first step-achieving Divine intimacy, via korbonot and the mishkan; Chs. 18-20 then give Divine laws and principles to apply this holiness, elevating and sanctifying all realms of public and private life in Israel-may it happen soon (cf. election rhetoric, the fall of Mafdal)! So the mishkan's furnishings represent all realms of life, e.g. the table of wealth and power and the menora of intellectual light; every realm must be imbued with holiness, with God's presence.
Prof. Shmuel Vigoda equates holiness, the essential theme of Vayikra, with a realization that nothing belongs to me- space, time, my body, my home, my possessions are all really God's stuff, to be used by me to fulfill His Will. Through their ritual and the Tabernacle, the priests, who have no share in the land, raise Israel's consciousness to this essential message, reflected in the many laws and proclamations of Vayikra, thus called Torat Cohanim.
THE HAFTARA: ISAIAH 43
Isaiah proclaims that Israel's prayer and repentance can bring them back to God, replacing korbonot, which can't be brought in exile; korbanot are worthless, a disgrace to God's Name, WHEN they're not used to return to God. So God addresses "observant" Jews, who persecute others-"MY SOUL HATES YOUR HOLIDAYS AND NEW MOONS. I CANNOT BEAR SIN AND ASSEMBLY" (Isaiah 1). Christian missionaries ignore this, when they equate atonement with blood sacrifices; they also ignore God's strong warnings against human sacrifice, from the Akada to the Molech cults, and His insistence upon their learning about His ways from His People, rather than teaching them (Isaiah 2).
SHABAT HAGADOL'S HAFTARA IS MALACHI 3:4-24 ; the theme is Israel's restoration and return to God's moral and religious law: "And the meal offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be sweet to God, as days of eternity and former years... lo, I will send you Eliyahu the prophet before the coming of God's awesome and great day. He will turn the hearts of fathers back to their sons (first) and (then) sons' hearts back to their fathers... ." Per Rav B. Zolti z"l, parent-child relations are most complex, if only Eliyahu can resolve them! We take a big step forward with the child-sensitive Hagadah!
HAFTARAT HACHODESH-When Shabat Vayikra precedes or is Rosh Chodesh Nissan, we read Ex. 12:1-20, about beginning the holiday calendar from Nissan, the month of Exodus, Passover, and its subsequent commemoration; if it is Rosh Chodesh, we also read Num. 28:9-15, the detailed korbonot of Shabat and Rosh Chodesh. The haftara then is Ezek. 45:16- 46:15, which discusses the respective contributions of the princes and the people to the Temple service, as well as the annual purification of the altar, done, as recital of the annual blessing over newly blossoming fruit trees, from 1 Nissan on-see our Pesach study.
SACRIFICES-PRO & CON
RAMBAM (Guide 3:32, 46) views korbanot as an alien form of worship, for which God gave special dispensation... as the only mode of worship experienced by captive Israel was the Egyptian sacrificial system. The Jews had no experience in relating to, or communicating with, an Invisible God (we've studied the nation's repeated, stubborn insistence upon relating to Moshe or a tangible surrogate, rather than directly to God-cf. statues and frescos in churches, obsessive adoration of rebbes and roshei yeshiva). "It's impossible to go from one extreme to the other", says Rambam; "the nature of man will not allow him to suddenly discontinue everything to which he's been accustomed"-cf. Toeffler's "FUTURE SHOCK."
Suppose this Shabbat we're told to go outside and spin around and around until we fall from exhaustion, instead of davening musaf! We wouldn't only be dizzy, nauseous and feel ridiculous, but wouldn't achieve a spiritual experience. Yet Sufi Whirling Dervishes have done so for centuries, successfully attaining peak mystical experience in the process; Sufis consider verbal prayer a lower level. Rambam also posits that one can't radically change a known mode of worship and expect it to be an effective spiritual event. So it was necessary to use the same forms of worship, but to transfer the "object" of worship to God-cf. Chanuka bushes, Yom Haatzmaut liturgy. Thus animals would now be sacrificed only to God, and an altar built only for Him. Incense would be burned only to God; all religious acts would be devoted exclusively to his service. So God led Israel on an indirect route, lest they meet battle and run, frightened, back to Egypt (Ex. 13:17). A slave nation couldn't become brave soldiers at once (Per Rambam, korbonot also demonstrated that DOMESTIC animals, held sacred by Egyptians, Sabeans, and Hindus, were to be killed for God).
Besides, continues Rambam, korbonot and Temple ritual were not the primary end of worship-prayer, supplication and obedience were. Laws of ritual impurity were to keep non-Levite folks from hanging about the Beit Hamikdash, rather than doing their work (cf. the beggers at the Wall). The mishkan itself is but a means to a moral and ethical lifestyle. Prophets often criticize the abuse of korbanot-Jeremia states that God didn't command sacrifices when the Jews first left Egypt (7:22). They are only a technique to achieve higher consciousness, but otherwise counterproductive. Many wrongly infer that once prayer provides a direct relationship between God and Israel, the need for korbonot is obviated and the korban system can be disposed of as an atavism (The Reform and Conservative position). Rambam refuted such inference at the end of his Code: "The Mashiach will arise in the future and restore the kingship of the House of David... he will build again the sanctuary... korbonot will again be offered...". For whatever God's reasons, says Rambam, the korbanot system became part of the Torah and Mitzvot, and we remain completely committed to its detailed observance for all times.
CLONE ME ONCE AND CLONE ME TWICE, AND CLONE ME ONCE AGAIN, ITS BEEN A LONG, LONG TIME- TO CLONE OR NOT TO CLONE, THAT IS INDEED A BURNING QUESTION:
Nice new facilities often inspire nice new programming. Two Jerusalem Institutions have recently completed attractive renovation of their premises; both have greatly improved new programs. I recently attended an outstanding conference on Jerusalem Under the British Mandate, organized by Mishkenot. All lecturers on aspects of the mandate were first class academic scholars, experts in their fields; but the conference was not limited to lectures, nor was it overly academic, but featured great food and music too. A documentary film was constantly screened and an impressive display of photos of the period was mounted as a constant exhibition throughout the 3 days. The concerts featured Israeli music during the mandate and many of the speakers lived here then. The setting, the King David Hotel and the YMCA, was not only highly appropriate, but also a beautiful and tasteful setting for the event. I had several nice chats with the King David mashgiach, a very learned and pleasant man.
Tonight I attended the first in a series of programs at the newly renovated
Israel Center. Conceived and directed by Rav Emanuel Quint. Rav Yaakov
Weiner, an erudite, articulate pupil of Haredi Rav Elyashav, explored
"Cloning: medical, ethical and halachic perspectives, concluding that it
was forbidden to clone a human being; Rav Elyashev's halachic sources were
highly questionable, e.g. relying on Sefer Hachinuch's comments re the
prohibition of mixed plantings, Kelayim, that we mustn't interfere with
God's order of nature; but that simply begs the ?- if our human minds and
the world are organized to be able to do such a thing, it is as natural as
baking bread; God never forbade it; the general ethical problems involved,
due to the small chances of success and possible horrific consequences to
the clonee, certainly would justify a ban, as any cruel act, not
specifically cloning; modern Zionist scholar Rav Dovid Derovan, citing a
work on eternal life by Arye Kaplan, delivered "Cloning: a different
perspective"- he looked at cloning as the beginning of the revival of the
dead, a huge advance in human progress. There were ample opportunities for
questions and response from the large audience after the lecture; later in
the evening, ancient kabbalist Rav Yitzchak Kadoury appeared on TV to bless
and encourage those engaged in cloning research, who wanted to make Israel
#1 in this field, but he seemed "out of it" and was led by the interviewers
in his responses. God seems to have wanted this to be cloning day in
Jerusalem (could we clone extra help for Pesach?) and, last minute, I found
a fine scholarly article in the Post, which could have added a lot to the
evening at the Israel Center-
The case against cloning humans By David Golinkin
(March 25) - Last week Dr. Avi Ben-Avraham and his Italian colleague created an uproar when they announced that "the first human clone will be born in Israel." Ben-Avraham even claimed that "unlike Catholicism, the Jewish religion does not absolutely oppose the idea of cloning. The time has come to cross the laws of nature." As a matter of fact, Judaism has yet to develop a clear approach regarding cloning, and the subject demands careful study. There is no doubt that if doctors clone human beings, many halachic and ethical questions will arise: Who is the mother - the egg donor, the cell donor, the surrogate mother - or all three? Who is the father - the cell donor, the mother's father, or perhaps the clone has no father? Or perhaps the clone is the identical twin of the cell donor? May we clone someone without their knowledge? May we clone a dead person? Does the nucleus donor fulfill the mitzva to "be fruitful and multiply?" If a child is fatally injured in a car accident, may we take one of his cells and clone him? These questions show just how complicated human cloning is from a moral and religious point of view.
There are four sources which would seem to permit human cloning:
1. Rabbi Israel Lifshitz stated in the nineteenth century that "anything which we cannot find a reason to prohibit is permissible without justification." According to this, human cloning is permissible until we find a specific reason to forbid it.
2. According to Genesis (2:21-23), Eve was created from Adam's rib without sexual relations. Perhaps we may imitate God through human cloning? 3. Rabbi Menahem Hameiri ruled in his 14th century commentary to the Talmud that "anything done by a natural method is not considered magic [which is forbidden], even if they knew how to create beautiful creatures without sexual relations, which is possible according to the science books." If so, it might be permissible to clone human beings "by a natural method." 4. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ruled in 1958 that artificial insemination by a donor is permissible as long as there is medical supervision to avoid mamzerut (the state of offspring of forbidden sexual relations), since we should not "forbid good people from doing what is permissible because of irresponsible people." According to this, if cloning itself is permissible, we should not forbid it to good people just because we fear abuse by evil people.
On the other hand, there are five sources which would seem to prohibit human cloning:
1. Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook warned that when people improve nature, they have "the obligation to be careful lest they destroy nature" (Ozrot Hari'iya). In other words, we must ask before every medical experiment: Does the benefit outweigh the damage?
2. The Jewish ideal is that, "There are three partners in a human being: God, the mother, and the father" (Niddah 31a). Since the 1930s, we have gradually developed artificial means of reproduction which contradict this source. We progressed from artificial insemination by the husband to artificial insemination by a donor to artificial insemination of a single woman to IVF to surrogate mothers to human cloning. Could artificial wombs be next? Some rabbis and doctors have stressed that in Judaism, bringing children into the world is not an ideal outside the framework of marriage. On the contrary, the result of these medical procedures is to separate birth from marriage and to hasten the dismantling of the Jewish family.
3. The Sages praised God in many passages for creating human beings who are different from each other in appearance and intelligence (Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5 et al). Today, scientists use the concept of bio-diversity, which means we should protect as many plant and animal types as possible so that a specific disease should not wipe out an entire species. Cloning enables the production of many "copies" of the same person. This trend runs contrary to the rabbinic sources and to the need for bio-diversity.
4. The above description of Eve's creation may actually prove the opposite that God may clone a human being, but it is forbidden for us to enter His domain and to "play God." Human beings were created in the image of God, but in the Bible, every time they tried to overreach and to achieve equality with God or play God, it led to disaster (Genesis 3:5, 11:4 et al). We are "little less than divine" (Psalm 8), but we are not divine. 5. Finally, a Jewish court of law may forbid something through a takkana or a "temporary measure" (Rambam, Sanhedrin 24:4). We believe that the arguments against cloning human beings are much more convincing than those in favor. Therefore, the Knesset acted wisely in December 1998 when it ruled "a fixed period of five years during which certain types of genetic manipulation of human beings shall not take place," including "human cloning." May God give us the wisdom to use science and technology for the benefit of mankind and not, God forbid, the opposite. (The writer is the president and rector of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. This article was abbreviated from a Hebrew responsum written for the Va'ad Halakhah of the Masorti Movement in Israel.
Mazel Tov to the Berry and Bodenheimer families, both models of Torah im Derech Eretz, upon the Jerusalem marriage of Joseph and Sigalit; Dr. David Greenberg, who recently spoke on religious obsessional behavior at the Nefesh Conference, notes that obsession is pretty much spread evenly among human cultures, those of each group expressing their obsessions in terms of their own religious and cultural traditions. Mazal Tov to all the Greenbergs and Hochausers upon the forthcoming wedding of Yoel Simcha, who beautifully led this week's Carlebachian service at Bet Yisroel, Yemin Moshe- ken yirboo!
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