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Torah Portion

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ACHAREI MOS and K'DOSHIM, LEVITICUS 16:1-18:30 and 19:1-20:27

A short study of the reading by Yaakov Fogelman,
who lectures on Torah and Zionism

This study is sponsored by our kind and faithful friends, Jeffrey and Sandra Cagan of Evanston, Illinois


This portion's 2 major themes, the elaborate Yom Kippur sacrificial service and a list of forbidden sexual acts, set Jews sharply apart from pagan Egypt & Canaan (and USA Today?); they have been our Yom Kippur Torah readings for thousands of years. Today, however, Reconstructionists substitute an extra reading about sacrifices for the sexual laws. R. D. Laing describes two types of social taboos-- an act may be prohibited, but discussing or viewing it is OK, e.g. murder on TV. But some prohibited acts may not even be discussed or viewed, e.g. incest-- he claims that this indicates a normal desire for such acts among civilized adults, tho it is successfully repressed. Dennis Prager notes that the Torah does not condemn our uncontrollable thoughts and feelings, no matter how terrible-- God judges only our actions. So we should be careful to associate with those who have fine values, with which they relate to others, not with those who have only charming personalities. I've known both absolute thieves who are "beautiful people" and scrupulously honest folks with unpleasant, even dour, personalities- cf. actors and talmud teachers.

Eva Hoffman writes in "Lost in Translation-- a life in a new language", the story of her uprooted Polish upbringing: "A few days later, the area was intensively searched by the local Gestapo; but by that time, my mother and father had found someone who was willing to shelter them. My mother offers a strange picture of the peasant who was effectively their savior-- stingy, nearly mute, a hunchback. His two strapping sons belonged to the Banderowcy-- a Fascist group of Pro-German partisans. And yet this glum, seemingly harsh, man started showing signs of affection and attachment to my parents and found it hard, when the time came, to part with them. `You never know what can come out of a person,' my mother says musingly, as she talks about him, and sometimes tears come to her eyes".

The Talmud (Hag. 2:1) prohibits teaching (the depths and details of) sexual prohibitions to 3 or more pupils-- 2 of them may work it out among themselves, while the teacher's busy with the 3rd. Even (or especially?) great students of Talmud have strong sexual passion-- so the 2 pupils may distort the law toward leniency, if not carefully supervised! Dr. Karen Shanor reported that men 12-40 think about sex about 6 times per hour. A Ladies' Home Journal follow-up survey showed average normal men think of sex 4 or 5 times a day... when encountering attractive women; both surveyed the general U.S. culture-- truly traditional Jews try to limit such arousal by modest dress and deportment; those who hug and dance with others' wives, against Jewish Law, are much more likely to sleep with them, than are those who refrain from such conduct (Horas too? See Edith LaZebnik's memoirs of her youth in Russia, "Such A Life", for what happened when her haredi aunt took in a fine pleasant non-Jewish doctor as their boarder; we can also learn from her the assimilatory dangers of a boring, stifling, poor and repressive shtetel; Rav Shmueli Boteach makes peace between sex and Torah in "Kosher Sex", also in Hebrew, and "A Kosher Guide to Adultery").

Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel of Y.U. discusses rabbinic attitudes toward non-observance in the medieval period in "Jewish Tradition and the Non-traditional Jew" (an Orthodox Forum, convened by Rav Norman Lamm); he concludes: "Sexual promiscuity and even adultery were never absent from any region in the medieval Jewish world"-- the rabbis often could only realistically strive for the least of several evils, tho they differed as to which was least, e.g. permitting concubinage or allowing single women to use the mikveh.

U.S. Reform liturgy eliminates all traditional Yom Kippur Torah readings-- it just repeats "nice" Rosh Hashana readings about repentance, more P.C., per western liberal religious notions. On closer examination, however, both traditional Yom Kippur realms are most relevant today, teaching important messages. Ignoring the Torah reading on incest prohibitions may have contributed to the recent Reform decision to allow their rabbis to perform "commitment ceremonies" for those engaged in the perversion of homosexual intercourse, another major break with traditional Judaism, as Reform creates its own religion. Freud indeed showed how incest sublimation is the basis of all civilization (see E); we probed the depths of sacrifices in our Vayikra and Tsav studies.

P.G. or X?: "While some are... appalled that prohibited sexual relations should form the Yom Kippur reading, their inclusion in the Torah is indicative of its `true to life' approach towards such intensely human situations. From the viewpoint of sex education... only when such topics are subjected to detailed treatment in Scripture, do they assume the measure of importance which they rightly deserve. To blind oneself to their existence, and to fail to assess their place in the social structure, is to be blissfully unaware of the vices to which humans are prone... study of such passages contributes to the knowledge of the place which sexual relations occupy within... human experience, and is a useful aid in gaining insight into the moral fabric essential for a healthy society" ("Jewish Marriage", Isaac Levy, Soncino, p. 35).

Sacrifice has been a basic religious institution, from the days of Abel and Noach; it begins as man's voluntary effort to appease and/or thank God, by burning an animal, so that no one can derive further benefit from it; God later kept it as a useful edifying institution, but subjected it to strict rules and limited it to one holy site, the Temple (Shadal). Avraham's devotion to God peaks with the sacrifice of Yitzchak, Rosh Hashana's theme; but Yitzchak's body is to be sacrificed to God only vicariously, via the ram; thus his more essential and unique soul and mind can be "sacrificed", i.e. "brought close", to Him. This usually won't occur in one grand gesture or moment-- only, with gradually increasing intensity, over an entire life span of accumulating wisdom, sensitivity and experience. So Arye Kaplan became one with his teachings only toward the end of his tempestuous life-- from Bronx H.S. of Science to Mir Yeshiva, from teaching Hebrew School in Louisville to becoming besotted physicist Oppenheimer's secretary, from serving as a conservative rabbi in upstate N.Y. to becoming a Breslaver teacher and NCSY leader (Per Rav G. Fleer, who providentially knew Arye at many stages). One can't relate to the Torah (or another person?) as it really is until he learns it-- otherwise his faith and enthusiasm are often directed to a figment of his own imagination- cf. spouses, parents, & children. Rav Matis Weinberg, in his eulogy for his father, ztllh"h, taught that "the golden calf" is a symbol for any projection by people as to what they think Judaism should be, as opposed to what the Torah says it is. Rav Matis is outspoken that there is a lot of projectionism going on out there, which has little to do with the actual path of the Torah (Moshe Eliovson).

The Temple's sacrificial service, especially on Yom Kippur, teaches man how to achieve ideal states of being and relationships to God and his fellow man; the animals represent varied aspects of human personality-- e.g. bullish activity, sheepish passivity, and goat-like stubbornness and rambunctiousness (S. R. Hirsch; cf. the symbolic Seder). So Jerusalem Rav and psychologist Ze'ev Haim Lifshitz, formerly of Darchei Noam, director of Sadnat Enosh, sees in The Book of Jonah, read on Yom Kippur, a most profound analysis of life, especially how to deal with inevitable failure-- how to indeed save the world, using the empty half of the glass (in "The Paradox of Human Existence", Jason Aronson); as a tot, Lifshitz sat on the rocks of Jaffa, contemplating life and the sea, near Yona's point of departure. But Man must take ritual instruction precisely as directed by God-- he is not so perfect that he can author his own rites (Hirsch; cf. Reform, chavurot- "...and do not rely upon your own understanding- Prov. 3:5"; Rashi interprets this that one should spend his hard earned money on a teacher of the tradition, rather than trying to figure it out himself; Mezudat David explains: "Do not think that you will surely succeed since you perform your undertaking with understanding, for everything is in God's hands, not in the power of man's understanding"). Nadav and Avihu couldn't successfully combine divine revelation with eating and drinking (Ex. 24:11); so God now reveals Himself only to the high priest and only on food-free Yom Kippur. It's just too dangerous otherwise.

We now return to the tragic death of Aharon's two most outstanding sons (unnamed here), 6 chapters after it's reported in 10:1-7. Sometimes we only relate to tragedy much later, its full impact too much for the moment (delayed grief reaction). Here, however, the intervening chapters may simply be a logical sequel to the tale of their death:

Moshe first taught the surviving cohanim the law regarding their eating of the meal offerings, immediately after their brothers' death (10:12-20). Ch. 11, the discipline of the laws of kosher and non-kosher consumable creatures, was then given to Israel via the survivors-- Aharon, Eleazer, and Itamar (besides Moshe); their personal involvement in transmitting this mitzva rewarded them for their great self-discipline, accepting their personal mini-Holocaust with quiet faith (see Rashi). Ch. 11 also follows the law prohibiting cohanim from imbibing wine while on duty (10:8-11). Its message, the impact of wine on the soul, leads to the Torah's guidelines of just what foods are "kosher"-- good for Jewish souls and their special mission (Hirsch). Laws of ritual impurity of animal carcasses complete the section on the laws of animal consumption, followed by similar laws of human impurity in Chs. 12- 15; so the creation of human life follows that of animal life in Genesis; so more animal-like Adam precedes more civilized and human Eve, who dedicates her life to helping him win his struggle with his own animal impulses, to achieve his Divine Image potential (cf. Avigayil, Mrs. Naval). Now Ch. 16 resumes the tale of Aharon's greatest tragedy, suddenly occurring amidst his greatest joy, the dedication of the tabernacle.

The expansive useful take-charge (typically American) personality tends to do as much as he can as quickly as he can-- his approach to possibilities is: "Why not?", e.g. Rav Shlomo Riskin's "optomistitis", faith that things will somehow work out, fall into place; but Rav Riskin also quotes Rav J. Soloveichik, who recited both versions of the blessing upon counting the omer-- "__ days TOWARD the (7 week) counting of the omer" and "__ days IN the counting of the omer"-- stressing both the ultimate goal, and each day's specific task to gradually achieve that goal; forest and trees, family and the universe, are equally important. But the swashbuckling American's crown of kingship usually suffers fatal defects, when he can't exercise proper care and control over the QUALITY of his QUANTITY (cf. Saul, David, Solomon, Begin, Clinton). Breadth replaces depth. This is more than OK in many everyday realms-- better that many have basically nice mass-produced homes, howbeit with a few flaws, than that only a few have homes of master craftsmanship; better that many enjoy good mass-produced art, than that only a few possess unique expensive handmade items. Better that all have good $20 Casio watches, than that only a few enjoy $500 precision crafted Swiss Rolex timepieces.

But the holier the realm, the more care has to be taken to do it very carefully, e.g. child raising and Torah study. Especially in such realms, haphazard action may be worse than inaction. Nadav and Avihu reach for the stars, seeking Divine Intimacy, but may have died because they lacked sufficient preparation and trepidation. Udi Leon, former head of Jerusalem's fine religious Maaleh film school, now with Gesher, compared the fate of Nadav and Avihu, destroyed by Divine fire in response to their unbridled religious ecstasy, with that of Korach & Co. and the theme of the Italian film, "The Cinema of Paridiso", which he screened during his Parsha lecture at Van Leer. His Gesher TV film, "We've seen this film before: Is The People of Israel Alive?" opened the 2000 Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival. It is part of a 7 part TV series, exploring Israeli society as reflected thru the mirror of Israeli cinema. Each segment explores a different character/stereotype, for example The Sabra, the Israeli woman, etc.

This episode looks into the image of the Orthodox Jew in Israeli cinema, from pre-state to the present. An intelligent combo of film clips and interviews, the film exposes Israeli secular society's fear of religious Judaism. As a result of political and social tensions between secular and religious Jews, the Orthodox Jew has come to be seen as anti-Zionist and as the embodiment of everything that the modern state of Israel and its "new" Jews were supposed to replace.

Meir Blinkin (1879-1915) was a prominent and popular U.S. immigrant Yiddish writer of short stories, dealing with similar issues, at the beginning of the 20th century; as other young writers, called "Die Yunge," he explored individual characters in depth, rather than just writing about immigrant society; he was born in the same town as Shalom Aleichem, and arrived in NYC at 25 in 1904, among 105,000 Jews to reach America that year. He wrote many pieces in the remaining brief 11 years of his life, becoming quite well-known. His stories tell us what life was like in the immigrant community, conveying a strong sense of the stresses and changes to be endured. Besides illuminating the social conditions of the times, his tales provide deft psychological analyses of troubled immigrants, with their conflicting claims of loyalty to the secular world and Jewish Orthodoxy. Blinkin is also a master of the evocation of mood, of psychic tensions and the claustrophobia of tenement life. In the best traditions of mimetic realism, he captures the vividly demonic speech of his characters, with their Anglicisms and malapropisms.... A tribal memory man, he saves us from cultural amnesia (Ruth Wisse).

One of his gripping stories, "Dr. Machover," is about the transformation of an Orthodox Jewish child, who has become a great talmudic saint-scholar, into a man of science, who is torn by his loss of faith, after finding an old heretical note in one of his holy books; but he soon loses faith in science too, when he realizes its great limitations and uncertainties, which prevent him from curing a friend's critically ill child; he then somehow develops faith in simple cures, like a glass of water (cf. The late great Habad rebbe), and concludes that his remarkable success is due to faith in him by simple people, faith being the greatest power of all; he identifies such faith in the future with the patriarchs and chooses his relationship to him as his own faith:

"At the moment he silently pronounced the names of the 3 patriarchs, Dr. Machover was suffused with a strange warmth. Even admitting that those ancestors may never have existed, admitting that they were only myths by which we designate certain historic epochs or worlds or even eternities, those names were nonetheless dear to him; they comforted his soul and exalted his spirit. With a mingling of joy and pain, Dr. Machover felt that he was again a believer- but now he was a believer in faith itself. To those who came to him for help, he would offer this word of consolation: `God will help; have faith.' A rumor spread that Dr. Machover was again a devoutly observant Jew, who prayed 3 times a day. Every morning, several people appeared outside his home, to see for themselves. At 6 O'clock, they were already gathering. The weaker-willed among them made no attempt to hide their curiosity or feelings. They peered brazenly into windows, they argued about Dr. Machover's "conversion" at the top of thweir voices, so that not only the doctor heard what was going on, but the whole neighborhood as well. `With my own ears, I heard him reciting the verse, `I will betroth myself to You forever'! `Me too, I also heard him'. `No doubt about it- he's dovening'. The Jewish intellectuals of the town now avoided Dr. Machover, whenever possible. If they had to pass his home, they walked on the opposite side of the street and kept their heads down, as if they didn't want to see what was going on there.

"Some of them felt, deep in their hearts, that Moyshe Dovid Machover was not altogether wrong. Others felt that they themselves were somehow responsible- if not completely, then at least in part- for what had happened to him, altho they couldn't have told you why or how. Every evening, when Dr. Machover took his daily walk, many pairs of searching, inquisitive eyes followed him. People walking in the same path stepped aside. But dr. Machover continued towards his destination, without even looking around. His gait was slow and measured, in time to the clicking of his thick mahogany walking stick against the sidewalk. A calm and gentle aura, free of passion, hovered about him, like the falling of fresh white snow. There had once been a time when people approached him with awe, now it was with fear. Once people had immersed and sanctified themselves in his glance; now they see eyes that are cold and deep, the hidden source of secrets still untapped.... (translation by Max Rosenfeld)."

Several of Blinkin's other stories deal with sexual sins, adultery and even incest, especially when the immigrant Jews focused on worldly pleasure as their goal, in America, and used sex as an escape from dreadful existential and real conditions in Eastern Europe. A major theme in his stories is that adultery is best avoided not by threats of punishment to errant wives, but by lively, joyous love and attention from their husbands. In "Card Game", he reflects the talmudic theme, re Sota, that a straying husband, no matter how circumcised and circumspect, is likely to engender a straying wife, upon whom the waters of testing will not work. He also shows the dangers in not giving one's wife "good", loving, rather than mechanical, sex, just as every mitzva, e.g. lulav and esrog, must be done attentively and beautifully.

The Gesher film includes haredi Jews who dispel the stereotype of religious Jews as awkward naive "Kunny Lemels", or hate-filled fanatics, such is indeed often the case, as re most stereotypes- if I have 500 folks from Africa or Puerto Rico, and 500 Ashkenazic Jews from London, I can reasonably predict that the former will far more likely excel the latter in sports, dance, jazz, etc., while the latter are far more likely to succeed in abstraction, e.g. math, philosophy and law, tho there will be a fair number of exceptions. So one is far more likely to find highly intolerant and insular folks among charedim, who have little sense of Jewish history, what happened when and what other's believe, than among most of the rest of Israeli society- when I placed Yeshivat HaKotel's Rav Nebenzthal's ardent defense of Rav Ovadia, and his utter condemnation of the Pope, Yossi Sarid and blacks, in my window, many local haredim strongly and enthusiastically identified with his views, while those in modern Zionist religious circles, e.g. Menachem Tziyon and Beit Yisroel of Yemin Moshe, were highly horrified, being much more in tune w/Rav Soloveichik and Rav Kook. Being a modern liberal place, reflecting Meretzkeit more than Yiddishkeit, the Cinematheque had to achieve liberal ethnic balance at the reception after the film presentation- they generously offered extraordinary kosher gefilte fish and chopped liver, with Ladino music by Yehuda Freiman's band! Ephraim Kishon's life work was honored; his good friend Chaim Topel, '99 honoree, serving as M.C.

Due to a shorter Chol Hamoed in 2000, there were fewer films and fewer folks watching them, despite the fine selection. The cooperation between the basically secular Cinematheque and the religious film institutes was wonderful; a new series of 6 new Gesher films on Jewish themes for Israel TV's "Enchanted Legends" series was premiered and I obtained free tickets for six of my grandchildren. But my very sharp, very savvy and very haredi daughter Naomi decided that she wants to raise them in as pure an environment as possible, guarding what enters their minds and souls as much as what enters their mouth, not to open gates which you don't want your children to enter. Tho the films were fine, she did not want them to enter a secular theater, with its garish immodest posters, scantily dressed women, invitations to watch immodest movies, etc. It would be a broadening inclusive gesture for the Cinemateque to have haredi clean film evenings", with separate male-female seating and covering up the posters, just as secular pools have separate swimming days; but they are not inclined to do so, as it might turn off their regular clientele. The best solution, in my opinion, is for someone to open a haredi theatre, with their rabbis' blessings, to enrich and broaden their lives. They do show appropriate films in their schools and hotels.

"66 was a Good Year for Tourism" is a documentary on uprooting and emigration, on identity and belonging- following the filmmaker's family's trail thru Alexandria, T.A., L.A. & N.Y. Tho many years in the States, the mother, a sculptress, can't stand it; one of her sons, whose girlfriend is not Jewish, but who feels very connected to Israel, insists that his children will be raised Jewish, tho he is not too clear just what "Israeli" and "Jewish" mean to him; he insists that they will only celebrate Jewish holidays- his girlfriend cannot understand why. "From Swastika to Jim Crow" tells the unknown story of about 50 of the 1200 Jewish intellectuals who escaped Nazi Germany in the 30's, who found satisfying and satisfactory teaching positions in black colleges in the segregated US South; tho their teaching style was formal and European, they drew close to their relaxed students, with mutual empathy for discrimination and persecution, tho that of the Jews, in Europe, was far worse; local whites did not know what to make of these professors, who treated their black students with respect and friendship and threatened them when they invited their students to their homes; some felt that the Jews weren't really white folks, but some other version of colored!

Some professors remained in their schools for many years, supported the civil rights movement and had much "nachas" from their pupils; they, like civil rights activists, later suffered from the black power movement, which wanted blacks to learn from other blacks the impassioned black version of their history, not the calm dispassionate teachings of German Jews. The older generation had warm and kind faces in the film, the Black Power people faces of hate and anger, similar to those of rioting Palestinians.

"The House Where Time Stood Still" is an intimate look into the lives of one haredi family, as young parents take their children thru the first steps of Jewish ritual, while "Tale of Two Worlds" follows the stories of Eli and Nehama, two young people who have left the fold of their haredi families and communities. The production and projection of such films helps dissolve unwarranted stereotypes of haredim and to get to know them as real people, with both positive and negative traits. While "Prince of Egypt" may not exactly correspond to Jewish Biblical tradition, it is very significant in focusing world attention on the force and majesty of Israel's Exodus and Revelation. "The Revenge of Itzek Finkelstein" and "The Governess" share the theme of taking self-responsibility in responding to difficult life situations, but neither should be supported by believing Jews, as they feature nudity and promiscuity, against Jewish values- actors and actresses who perform any sexual acts as part of their professions are engaging in a form of high class prostitution- sex for money, in no way justified by art- the aesthetics of Yavan, must be a "servant" to the tents of Shem, to ethical monotheism, to Torah, not v.v.

"What I Saw in Chevron" portrays the testimonies of survivors of the 1929 massacre of Jews by Arabs in Chevron, by a leftish producer who found her own grandmother's eye witness account of the events, which may have contributed to Dr. Goldstein's later terrible massacre of descendants of those Chevron Arabs- his grandparents were among those Jews of 1929. Thank God it is Israel which is now in the position of power- otherwise we'd probably experience such pogroms today too. "Who Created Me A Woman" portrays the changes taking place in the religious lives of modern Orthodox women in Israel today, along with the difficulties they still encounter- it was followed by a high-level panel discussion by Jewish feminist activists, e.g. Tamar Ross. A really magnificent and unique film, "La Genese", a dramatic portrayal of Jacob's return to Israel, and his interaction with Chamor (both are shown as truly spiritual leaders with wild sons), is a joint French-Mali project, in Mali (now you've heard of it!), with English subtitles. This close African reading of Genesis (tho they confuse the order of the rape of Dina and the sale of Joseph) features an all-African cast, incredible scenery and parallels between Biblical and African ways of agricultural life.

I went, between films, to hear Prof. Stephen Reif's colorful account of the Cairo Geniza documents, upon the publication of his new book; as I walked toward the Holiday Inn, I passed Binyanei Haomeh, which had two evening concerts of Shlomo Carlebach's music- what a pleasant surprise to hear it broadcast in full force outdoors, creating a true festive ambiance around the drab and somewhat abandoned area of the old Central Bus Station, under re-construction, supposed to have been finished by Pesach 5761. May it be fully rebuilt by Pesach 5762, when we will all, hopefully, peaceably attend an expanded Jewish Film Festival. While there was none in 5761, due to budget problems, Sukkot 5762 may see one.

Some realms require slow painstaking care by the opposite type, non-monarchial man (often Swiss), who severely limits his goals and experiences, saying: "Why should I?", "Exactly how must it be done?". He does not aspire to world revolution, but is less likely to mess things up. He often just strives to live his private life with integrity and harmony, while fulfilling a socially useful, tho perhaps unglamorous, role. God prefers an ultra-careful annual entry of one man (the high priest) to Divine Intimacy, to a more frequented Sanctuary. Also, departure from life on this earth on Yom Kippur, Sabbath of Sabbaths, SHOULD be limited to once a year-- the rest of the time we should be involved in the world and its redemption and perfection. So our nightly departure from reality, sleep, is compared to death-- we wash to rid ourselves of ritual impurity upon awakening. God likewise wants to keep non-Levite Jews, who have to build our holy model state (itself a universal model temple), AWAY from the Temple (except for their periodic holiday visits), via the laws of tuma (ritual impurity), so that familiarity not breed contempt (Rambam, "Guide", III:47).

Ben Gurion, Herzl and other secular Zionists were justifiably turned off by the haredi Yerushalmis' lack of physical development, communal concern and secular savvy, tho JP's Jonathan Rosenblum is quick to attribute any dislike or critique of haredim to Jewish anti-semitism; haredim are, in turn, justifiably turned off by the cheap, profane and non-family oriented atmosphere of secular Tel Aviv and non-Judaic kibbutzim. Intense modern, open and tolerant religious Zionism may indeed be the only way to Jewish success, integrity and unity.

"God addressed Moshe after the death of Aharon's 2 sons, when they approached close before God and died" (16:1). Weare NOT told just what God said to Moshe here; per Ohr Hachayim, God forbade even Aharon to enter the holy of holies at will, despite his protektzia. The Jews would only heed God's warnings against getting too close to the Sanctuary AFTER Nadav and Avihu so died (Rashi-- seeing is believing). THEN God spoke to Moshe to address Aharon, warning him not to come, WHENEVER (per some midrashim: HOWEVER) he wants, into the Holy of Holies, where God appears in a cloud above the ark cover (16:2). The high priest himself must bring sin and burnt offerings upon his annual Yom Kippur entry into the Holy of Holies; there he wears only his 4 plain linen garments, as he encounters God in Eternity; the furnishings in the outer tabernacle represent the variegated array of temporal worldly Creation, as do the high priest's ornate multi-colored additional 4 garments, which he wears there. He had to wash his hands and feet each time he removed or donned a garment, and had to immerse himself with each change of garments (5 times, 10 washings, including the immersion and washing for the daily offering). The verses follow the order of the Yom Kippur service, except for 16:23, which occurs after 16:25- but it's set forth together with other Divine service performed while wearing linen garments.

The high priest presents the two communal goats and casts lots over them-- one for God, one for AZAZAL. Per Rashi, Azazal is the rock from which the scapegoat was cast; per Ramban, it's the devil himself!-- ALL life is ultimately sacrificial; one can choose a meaningful life of direct sacrifice to God, or a meaningless one of sacrifice "to the devil"; this sacrifice will also ultimately return him to God, but only via a long detour, thru the desert of existential bankruptcy, of a life wasted (Rav J. Soloveichik; cf. "ex"-criminal and drug addict returnees to rigid and/or magical religion- No! No! Nachman!).

Prof. Benjamin Siegel, a leader of Conservative Neve Shechter, rejects both the traditional belief in Divine Dictation of the Torah (tho he believes, as Louis Jacobs, Eliot Dorf and many other Conservative rabbis, in some Divine Inspiration amidst his Documentary Hypothesis);(therefore?) he also rejects Drashot which imply that God is delivering moral messages, not just technical information, in His Torah Laws; he does appreciate them, but only as a different genre, i.e. later rabbinic exposition; so L.A. Conservative Rabbi David Wolpe chose this Pesach to publicize his view that Moshe and the Exodus, tho they serve as morally uplifting tales, never happened, and are thus not found in archeological findings from the period! Many folks fail to learn from the past, but Wolpe doesn't even learn from the present- just as the Palestinians try to pretend today that Israel was never Israel and that the Temple Mount is not the Temple Mount, so ancient enemies of God and the Jews would never write a word about the abysmal defeat of them and their ideology by Israel and God; this is just another illustration that there is no basic theological division between the Reform Movement and most of the Conservative Movement, as pointed out in Milton Himmelfarb's appraisal of contemporary Jewish Theology, "The Condition of Jewish Belief".

Thus, in his talk on the scapegoat at Van Leer's weekly dati-chiloni parsha lecture (Sundays, 6PM), Siegel rejected the above messages, while trying his best to compare the ritual with those of nearby pagan peoples, by which, he claims, the Torah was influenced, and with the destruction of dogs in Himalayan religion! I and others present duly protested the unwarranted far fetched comparisons and his basic approach, as did the truly traditional Jewish leaders of L.A. re Wolpe, tho both are very nice people. Tova Saul of the Jewish 1/4 asks why God isn't concerned with the suffering of the goat, which must feel pain, unlike animals which are speedily slaughtered with an ultra-sharp knife- any comments out there?

The super sabbath of fasting, Yom Kippur, is ordained to accompany our expiation via the high priest, to purify us from all our sins; perhaps that's why Yom Kippur is only mentioned in the Torah AFTER its long sacrificial ritual is spelled out. The Torah concludes: "... before God YOU shall purify YOURSELVES" (16:30)-- ultimate purity is in OUR hands, after getting a big boost from the cohen's service and our own Yom Kippur observance. The high priest's successors, preferably his sons, continue the elaborate service every Yom Kippur-- even when they are anointed only via the extra garments, when no anointing oil is available. When Yom Kippur came, Aharon performed the service in full detail; he sought only to fulfill God's command, not to gain his own personal glory. ALL sacrifices MUST be brought in the central sanctuary, when it's extant; otherwise sacrifice of a suitable (Zev. 112a) animal (not one treifa, sodomized, etc.) is akin to murder of a human being (Lev. 17:1-4*, Rashi)! Indeed, during Israel's desert trek, all slaughter had to be sacrificial, at the tabernacle. But, tho the priests only processed sacrifices in the tabernacle, once it was dedicated, the common folk continued to offer them outside the tabernacle, in the desert, and punishments came upon them, causing other nations to mock Judaism, whose adherents were so punished by God.

* "God spoke to Moshe, to pass on: `Speak to Aharon, to his sons, and to all the children of Israel, and say to them: `This is the thing that God has commanded, saying: A man, a man, from the house of Israel, who slaughters an ox, or a lamb, or a goat in the camp, or who slaughters outside the camp, and to the door of the tent of meeting , he did not bring it to slaughter as an offering to the Lord before the sanctuary of the Lord, blood shall it be reckoned to that man; he has spilled blood, and that man will be cut off from the midst of his people"

Therefore God here clearly prohibits such sacrifices and declares them sinful and causing shedding of (the offerors') blood (Lev. Raba, 22:5; in 22:6, Isaiah 66:3 is cited: "He who kills an ox is as if he slew a man, he that sacrifices a lamb, as if he broke a dog's neck; he that offers a meal-offering, as if he offered swine's blood; he that makes a memorial offering of frankincense, as if he blessed an idol". All these verses are taken to refer to robbery, as 2S26:5 refers to Saul's "killing" of the Givonim, i.e. depriving them of work- this brought a plague upon Israel, until David delivered Saul's sons for them to hang!- God sometimes takes the side of those wronged by Israel too. Lev. Raba 22:8 says that God wanted them to sacrifice only at the Temple, so that they would not forfeit their lives in demonic sacrifices outside the tabernacle). Later, when the Jews enter the land, God says that they needn't sacrifice animals in the far-off Temple, just because they crave hotdogs (as I write this, I do! Do you, reading it?)-- just "slaughter it as I commanded you" (Deut. 12:21)-- but the Torah doesn't tell us how to slaughter animals; it's only spelled out in the Oral Law, tractate Chullin-- thus the Written Torah itself refers us here to the Oral Torah, Israel's unique heritage (S. R. Hirsch, an important message for non-Orthodox rabbis). Indeed, the Oral Tradition, not the written Torah, may well be what non-Jews will eventually learn from Jews (see Isaiah 2).

The centralization of sacrifice and strict regulation of its procedure is to preserve it as a vehicle only for passionate attachment to God (religion can itself become a "substance abuse"-- see Rav Dr. Avraham Twersky's TOP video lecture on the 12 step method and Torah, which are blended in Conservative Rav Olitsky's Jewish Light books; Rav Twersky wrote the preface to the first volume, Rav Nebensthal of Yeshivat HaKotel ordered the last volume, owned by a Philly student at HaKotel, burnt, despite the contrary ruling of the Aruch HaShulchan); Jews used to sacrifice to satyrs (he-goats represent unrestrained sensuality), an excuse for orgies (17:7). The priest is in charge of sacrifices, for God is pleased only by properly performed Divine Service (or ignorant folks' folksy service, e.g. the recital of aleph-bet or whistling, by those who can't read, per hassidic tradition-- would Rambam and the Vilna Gaon agree?).

An animal's blood, containing its vital soul, may not be consumed by a Jew; yet it helps him achieve atonement, when used as a symbol of a human soul brought close to God upon the altar (Hirsch; cf. Yitzchak's sublimated sacrifice, via the ram caught in the thicket; when God decides to destroy the misused Temple, prayers and/or study of the laws of sacrifices substitute for animal sacrifices). Blood of fowl or wild kosher animals must be covered with earth. It may attract demons to the wilderness (per relatively enlightened, but far from 20th century, Sporno-- see "Jewish Magic and Superstition", Trachtenberg, $25 from TOP)! So Prof. Uriel Simon, at an annual Independence Day dinner of Cong. Menachem Tziyon here (highly recommended), noted that each person, no matter how great, is still a product of the age in which he lived, so that even so inspired a personality as David would eagerly bring hundreds of Philistine foreskins as a tribute to King Saul, not exactly what hesder boys would do today, even in the biased, besmirching film "Hesder". Blood of domestic animals isn't covered, as it is offered on the altar (Sefer Hachinuch, who claims that birds are rarely offered and thus not exempt from this law; but all new mothers bring birds as sacrifices!-- Lev. 12:f). Eating carrion, meat from a dead animal which wasn't ritually slaughtered, engenders ritual impurity.

Then God orders Moshe to tell the Jews: "I AM GOD, YOUR LORD OF NATURE" (Who doesn't tolerate perversion of nature; cf. modern separation of cohabitation and procreation, which leads to demonstrative claims of being natural anyway, e.g. excessive focus on health foods and jogging)-- He will be the Lord of only those who follow His sexual prohibitions (Ibn Ezra); marriage, reproduction and God-awareness interface-- see Prov. 31:30; cf. Jerusalem's sordid discos, cinemas, TV and pubs-- Yoel Solomon z"l would be ashamed of some things going on in his Jerusalem street. Jews must not copy corrupt acts of the old country (Egypt), nor assimilate to such behavior in the new land (Canaan; discos, 2nd Ave. Yiddish theatre?), nor follow arbitrary non-Jewish social customs, e.g.:

1) over-chatting, or dancing, with others' wives, and escorting them at formal dinners.
2) spending lots of time upon, and venting violent pagan emotion about, who kicks or throws the little ball better (e.g. Sheffield); rather than exploring life's meaning on Shabat, via the holy 22 letters, bloodthirsty men vicariously identify with 22 others, kicking a piece of leather about, trying to destroy each other.
3) glorifying art, using it as an excuse for nudity and on-stage promiscuity (e.g. the cheap 1994 Bahia Brazil ballet, sponsored by boycottable Mei Eden and Yediot Aharonot, pre-WWII German & Austrian "Cabaret culture", and the Jubilee Bells celebration of the 50th anniversary of Israel, where the pagan Hellenistic Bat Sheva Dance Company insisted on stripping to scanty underwear in public or quit, rather than be modestly clothed-- they believe that their artistic expression has to override all morality and Jewish values).
4) Having a drink, e.g. vodka, at every occasion (tho tranlated into l'chayim).
5) Superstition (e.g. black cats; astrology, per the Rambam, vs. Ibn Ezra; reincarnation, per Saadya & Albo, vs. The 1278 Zohar, the Ari and Chaim Vital).

We're only to keep God's judgments (vs. secular civil and military law in Israel?) and obscure laws (such as shatnes and the red heifer); "ANY MAN who performs them will truly live thru them- I am God" (18:5). Therefore, per Rav Meir, non-Jews gain merit too in learning Torah and doing mitzvos (B.K. 38a; see San. 59a, A.Z. 3a). The talmud limits his seemingly sweeping statement to study of the Torah's Noachide Code for non-Jews, to reconcile it with Rav Yochanan's prohibition on Torah study by non-Jews; but some midrashim, e.g. Yalkut Shimoni 591, have no such limitation. Later authorities differ. Sporno studied with non-Jews. Perhaps the unspoken criterion is the likely effects of such study-- mocking and persecuting Judaism, or admiring and adopting it, by non-Jews who study it (Y. Leibowitz-- cf. George Foote Moore and Chas. Taylor). Rav A. Kook permitted widespread teaching of kabbala today-- it is widely available anyway; better that people learn it correctly; Torah for non-Jews may be similar. Tho these talmudic passages imply that Noachide Laws are no longer obligatory, Rambam posits a Jewish duty to teach them to all mankind today- M. T. Kings 10.

But detailed Shabbat observance is God's unique gift to Israel, included in the Decalogue, only addressed to Jews; non-Jews should commit some act forbidden to Jews on Shabbat, e.g. photographing the kotel, tho ignorant angry zealots may attack them. The list of illicit sexual relations-- incest, adultery, homosexual intercourse, bestiality, and intercourse with a menstruant woman-- contains many more than those, basically maternal, prohibited to non-Jews under the universal Noachide code (Amram and Auntie Yocheved's 3 holy offspring-- Moshe, Aharon and Miryam-- would have been illegitimate, were they conceived AFTER the Revelation at Sinai). Sexual relations between a father and his daughter are not prohibited explicitly in the Torah, only by exegesis, a fortiori, from prohibited relations between a man and his daughter's daughter, or from the prohibition of rendering one's daughter a harlot (see San. 76a, Yev. 3a); the prohibition of one's daughter could not be included in that of sex with a woman and her daughter, which does not apply to the case of a woman whom one raped, and then married her daughter. I found no explanation of why the Torah is not explicit here; if you have, let me know.

How do Karite fundamentalists deal with this unwritten prohibition of father and daughter? Violation of these sexual prohibitions, whether by us or Canaanites, defiles the land, which expels sinners; thus it's advisable for non-Jews to keep our sexual prohibitions too. Jews who violate these prohibitions will be "cut off from the midst of their people" (karet)-- THE CUT-OFF POINT varies in the 36 severe sins so punished. "Karet" may imply premature death or childlessness in this world, sometimes oblivion in the hereafter, sometimes both. Individuals may be cut off form the community, but a sinful community itself will not be "cut off" (only re the hereafter?- cf. the 10 Lost Tribes; see Torat Cohanim, 9:2, 10:11).

Rav Yehuda Henkin contends that mass sin per se involves an element of mistake, e.g. external influences, wrong leaders or bad education, not willful violation. Indeed, communal willful sin is treated as a mistake re communal guilt offerings (Lev. 4:13, Sifrei, Bamidbar 111). Yet we soon read of the terrible fate of sinful communities (26:14f; cf. the idolatrous city, Deut. 13:13)-- this, however, isn't karet, punishment, but a natural result of their behavior (cf. smoking, overeating, and AIDS). "God is understanding and merciful, but there are inexorable laws of Jewish history (similar to natural laws), which Jewry violates at its peril". Per Hirsch, sins engendering karet cause one to abandon the Jewish People's basic beliefs about the nature of God and Man.

What's the common theme of Yom Kippur's readings, sacrifices (Lev. 16) and sexual prohibitions (Lev. 18)?-- God teaches Lev. 16 "AFTER THE DEATH OF THE TWO SONS OF AHARON". Their sin was a spontaneous subjective attempt to enter God's Intimate Presence (cf. Jewish Renewal); the Torah now severely limits such experience to Yom Kippur. So the incest prohibitions separate those naturally CLOSEST in body and soul. Both BASIC JOINING IMPULSES, to merge with God's essence and with those closest to me, are limited in our portion. TOO MUCH LOSS OF ONE'S SENSE OF INDIVIDUALITY AND `OTHERNESS' defeats the Divine aim for man-- to leave his pre-fetal soul state, her intimate relationship with God, to descend into a human womb and physical world; this descent results in his ultimate ascent, and that of the universe, as he discovers the Divine WITHIN HIS OWN UNIQUE SELF AND THE UNIVERSE, especially in doing kindness, showing people that there really is a kind and providential God (cf. Avraham). God made all life with most powerful drives for self-preservation and reproduction, rather than self-annihilation (see "Pele Yoetz" on self-love; you can love others only if you love yourself)-- cf. mystical doctrines of "bitul", losing one's sense of self. Are they truly Jewish teachings or imports from the Far East?

Freud shows how successful DETACHMENT from parents leads to development of knowledge and civilization; successful resolution of the Oedipal complex sublimates the search for the mysteries of mother into intellectual exploration. His complex theory is implied in one pithy talmudic passage-"IF ONE DREAMS THAT HE HAS INTERCOURSE WITH HIS MOTHER, HE MAY EXPECT TO OBTAIN UNDERSTANDING, as written-- "YEA, YOU WILL CALL UNDERSTANDING MOTHER" (Proverbs 2:3, Ber. 57a)". Another branch of knowledge, "wisdom", is implied in a dream of intercourse with one's sister; knowledge of Torah is predicted in a dream of intercourse with a betrothed maiden-- see "Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition", D. Bakan, Beacon Press. Would today's Roshei Yeshivot have written such a Talmud? The rabbis of Ohr Hatroah, Pardes or Reshit Yerushalayim might have (but would their donors approve?)!

Joseph Berke is a physician, psychotherapist and writer. He is the author of many books and articles on psychological, social and spiritual themes including: Mary Barnes: Two Accounts of a Journey Through Madness ( with Mary Barnes); I Haven't Had to Go Mad Here; The Tyranny of Malice; Sanctuary (co-editor) and Even Paranoids Have Enemies ( co-editor), He is currently working on Psychoanalysis and Kabbalah ( with Stanley Schneider) adopts and expands Bakan's conclusions about Freud's kabbalistic roots, tho later repudiated by Bakan himself, in "Psychoanalysis and Kabbalah, Psychoanalytic Review (Vol. 83, No. 6, 12/96)". Joe describes these two seemingly disparate realms as theories about the nature of existence and "mediations", methods for restoring shattered lives, which have been separated from their source. Joe explored schizophrenia, together with his patient Mary Barnes, in "The Tyranny of Malice: Exploring the dark side of character and culture" (Simon & Schuster, 1988), and in a BBC radio drama. You can contact him at 5 Shepard's Close, (Highgate) London N6 5AG. We were pleased to have him and Shree as Pesach guests; he brought me a much appreciated gift last year, his new article, with Stanley Schneider, in Psychoanalytic Review, Vol. 87(1), Feb. 2000, revealing and exploring 42 year old Chabad Rebbe Shalom Dov Bear's apparently successful therapy with Freud, 1902-1903. I hope to review this article in a future study.

Per Maimonides, incest prohibitions prevent constant sexual activity from replacing constant intellectual and spiritual development-- I'd waste my life in physically integrating with those most around me and closest to me. "Forbidden... sexual intercourse seeks... to inculcate the lesson that we ought to limit sexual intercourse altogether, hold it in contempt, and only desire it very rarely" (Guide 3:49); "Shelot Yavitz (II:15)" attributes this view to non-Jewish influence; in his commentary on the Mishna (San. 7:4), Rambam claims that the true purpose of intercourse is to propagate the race, its pleasure only being a stimulus to that end). Rambam, whose mother died bearing him, whose father despised both him and her until he became a genius ("Shalshelet Hakabala"), generally disdains the body, its passions, and those addicted to them, especially in "The Guide", written in his later ailing years * ; so he views animal sacrifices as a concession to idolatrous habit there, cited by Prof. Siegal supra. But Russell Handel ("TRADITION" 1976) argues that "The Guide" was only an attempt to make the Torah palatable to those who accepted Greek philosophy, which disdained the body as an enemy of the soul, not reflecting Rambam's own views. Rambam's legal ruling ("M. T. Ahava, Order of Prayers") that we pray daily for restoration of the sacrifices may be simple proof (tho written much earlier, he didn't change it).

* see "Sex Ethics in the Writings of Moses Maimonides" by Fred Rosner. Also see Dr. Zev Harvey's overview of the Rambam's teachings on sexuality in "Moses Maimonides-- Physician, Scientist and Philosopher", edited by Drs. Fred Rosner and Samuel Kottek ($25 from TOP); Harvey contends that Rambam was pro-sexuality, viewing it as a basic biological need, like food and drink. When one lives in harmony with God's laws of nature, only indulging in food, drink and sex when he really needs them for his health or procreation, they themselves become Divine service, bring him close to God, and help develop the rapturous love relationship between creature and Creator (see M. T. Daot 3:3, 4:19, and 5:4-5). Indeed, by not pursuing or arousing sexual pleasure, one might ultimately have much more, and more genuine, pleasure when sexual release is truly needed.

So misnagdic sages railed against stimulating religious ecstasy, gooey inner spiritual states; if one just studies and obeys God's Torah, genuine religious ecstasy and closeness to God will automatically result-- "This word that God commanded do-- and (as a result) God's Glory will appear to you" (Lev. 9:6-see R. Meir Simcha HaCohen of Dvinsk, 1843-1926, "Meshach Chochma" ibid, and our Shmini study; during WWI, only a few very poorest Jews remained in Dvinsk; Reb Meir Simcha declared that as long as 9 Jews remained, he would be the tenth!). Rambam also stresses that sexual union be accompanied by mutual joy and freely entered into by the woman, tho he seems to expect this behavior only from a scholar (M. T. Daot 5:4-5). In their pre-sin state, where intellect, rather than imagination and passion, guided them, Adam would never use Eve as an object for self-satisfaction; they could even go unclothed, with no danger that he'd rape her; but after the sin, they had to be clothed to keep passion within its proper bounds. Harvey also recommends Michal Aharoni's H.U. master's thesis, "Bein k'dasha l'mikudeshit", for a sophisticated academic study of Rambam's views on prostitution and marriage. If you have any ?? or comments, contact Dr. Harvey at (02)586-4548 (H) or 588-3663 (O), or by E-mail:

Hirsch's positive approach: Torah wants man to develop despite and beyond his natural inclinations; he is a creature of free will, rather than primarily instinctive, as animals. I should develop my powers of love and communication with other (Jewish) families, rather than just continue natural existing relationships with my relatives! I would also destroy valuable family relations by mating with close relatives; they'd be submerged into the marital relationship, or v.v. ADULTERY is living with another man's wife-- the O.T. (Only Testament) permits a man more than one wife, tho many rabbis discouraged it (e.g. Avot 2, Yoma 13a, Yev. 65a, Targum Ruth 4:6). Ashkenazim adopted R. Gershom's recently expired ban on polygamy, but Sefardim did not (see M. T. Ishut 14:3). The O.T. may reflect existing Middle East sociology; God may have been content to ensure basic rights for each wife at that stage. The double standard probably reflects the importance of knowing who my parents are, to give them honor and reverence. If any woman has more than one man, "who is Daddy?" is in doubt. But if one man has even 1000 wives, e.g. Shlomo (would yeshivot engage him as a teacher?), everybody knows who are his/her Daddy and Mommy, beyond doubt (some women, perhaps unwisely, would prefer a few nights and a child with Shlomo to a lifetime with an ordinary guy!); also, when men are in short supply, e.g. during war, one man can father children for several women, who can only be pregnant by one man at a time (but this theory does not explain the legal complexities of divorce from halachic marriage, granted only by the husband).

Perhaps all, both M & F, need holier and more nuturing females for their emotional security and stability; so girls and women frequently hug each other, hold hands, etc. in the most religious circles, despite the prohibition of lesbianism (see K'doshim D., infra); we all begin life within mothers, who then nurse us and gradually wean us. Hopefully, women will develop the inner strength to sustain themselves as well as others, unless deprived of their own maternal example-- then they might even expect their minimally breasted husbands to nurture them! Widows are generally far stronger emotionally than widowers. Talmudic rabbis note that a man w/o a woman is not a man (R. Elazar, Yev. 63a), and lives without joy, God, Torah, peace, etc. (R. Chanilei, Rav Ulla, et al-- Yev. 62b)-- but not v.v.

Only the male is commanded to marry and procreate, women having a natural drive to do so (unless messed up by Westernization); women may be less fussy about whom they marry (per Resh Lakish, Kid. 41a- since they may not need him as much as v.v.). Yet the male is the overt pursuer (Kid. 2b). So every wife is also her husband's "mother"; terrible "sibling rivalry" would ensue, were she to have more than one husband; this is also the reason why God forbids one from marrying his wife's sister during her lifetime. Wives who withhold themselves, their affection and their bodies from their husbands, using sex as a weapon, probably cause far more harm to them and society than those who are sloppy housekeepers; they may share responsibility for any resultant rape and sexual harassment at work-- cf. children abandoned by their mothers, e.g. Rambam supra; Abaye defines a bad wife as one who sets a beautiful table for her husband, accompanied by her harsh biting tongue (cf. the Woman of Valor's kind tongue, Prov. 31); Rava's example is one who both serves him and turns her back to him (a euphemism?; Yev. 63b) . "Old age jumps on a man with an evil wife" (Tan. Chaye Sara-- depression can engender illness and impotence).

Rav prayed that God save Rav Chiya from a fate more bitter than death-- a bad wife (Yev. 63b, Ecc. 7:26; cf. Koh. Raba 7, Shabat 11a, Yev. 63a, Sochar Tov 59, B.B. 145b). Conversely, the Talmud praises a good wife as man's greatest treasure and joy, and urges her husband to respond accordingly, to be concerned with his wife's happiness and welfare. Alexander King describes how his father adored his mother, a lousy housekeeper, but very joyful and affectionate. Men with unpleasant wives, especially shrews, may take out their anger, frustration and instability on others and the public-- Rav Huna (Gen. Raba 80:4) even claims that Esav, public enemy #1, would have been fine, had Yaakov given him his sweet little Bet Yaakov girl, Dina. Instead, when he withheld her, she was raped by Shechem. Eli Sagan, in "Freud, Women & Morality", shows that conscience, love and kindness all stem from early maternal nurturing, not from Freudian superego fear of the castrating father. Until recently, Western European and British middle and upper-class mothers didn't nurse their own kids, leading to heartless aggressive societies.

"THE DESPAIRING DEVELOPER" by Timothy Morris is the extraordinary diary of a social aid worker in Yemen, who questions the desirability and practicability of imposed change upon another-- far different and faraway-- culture; he shows the close connection between lack of respect for women's vital role in helping man to build a world of harmony, stability and compassion, and the terrible callousness, venality, and corruption of Yemenite society-- almost everyone in charge is only out to further their own interests, not caring about suffering, illness and death. So Pirke Avot (II:3) warns us not to trust power-grasping politicians, only out to further their own interests and feather their own nests; such pols give important government posts, e.g. attorney general, to mediocre candidates, who will reciprocate, rather than selecting top-flight appointees (cf. Israel today).

A pro-feminist explanation for God's Biblical double standard: God may impose a higher standard of loyalty and commitment upon woman, created "Like His own personality", than upon the male, closer to the undisciplined earth and animal. She replaces his eternally committed mother as his source of holiness, and is the sole determinant of her children's Jewish status, tho they appear on Schindler's Jewish List. A male chauvinist explanation: a leader can lead many, each of whom can have but one leader-- cf. "HE shall rule over her...", Gen. 3:16, a curse and punishment; some authorities long ago permitted (only the court?) beating (only) a bad otherwise uncorrectable wife, most didn't-- Ency. Tal. "Isha"). So Rama in Even Haezer cites T'DER-- a kosher wife is one who does her husband's will; so Rambam says that she's to treat him like a king, serve him and wash his hands and feet (M. T. Ishut), tho she needn't cook and clean if they have servants; he, in turn, must provide her material needs, which take precedence over his own. Nevertheless, the talmud implies that her devotion and commitment to him may be conditioned on his to her, despite the double standard-- if he has acted improperly, the bitter waters won't test her sexual loyalty (Sota 28a, 47b, Shev. 5a, Kid. 27b, Yev. 58a; see our Naso study).

The sexual prohibitions thus may reflect and perfect the essence of life; they are the basis of ideal-Man, as portrayed in the tabernacle and temple Yom Kippur service. Our studies of Vayikra and Tsav explore the connection of sexual activity between man and woman, the deepest interpersonal union, and the animal sacrifices between Man and God, the deepest spiritual relationship. Orach L'Chayim quotes the Mezritcher Maggid-- "When the desire for (sexual) sin was totally nullified, people lost all enthusiasm. They couldn't even pray with feeling on Shabbat... Each person must take the evil inclination, emanation of enthusiasm, and use it to serve God" ("Torat Hamagid II", Kid. 30a, p. 139; cf. haredi bans on video and, now, in Bnei Brak, radio, and the unsuitability of most TV and cinema for the sexually modest)*. "Prayer is like intercourse with God's Imminent Presence (Shchina). At the beginning, there are movements... Later one can stand attached to the Divine Presence, motionless, yet with a powerful bond" (ibid, Hanhagot, p. 14). On the basis of such writings and rumors, Misnagdim accused chassidim of arousing themselves sexually during prayer (see "The Hassidic Movement and The Gaon of Vilna" by Rabbi Eliyahu Yehuda Shochet; Rav Gafni explored eros, human vitality and sensuality as the basis for Jewish and human living on Ch. 2).

* A typical current application form for a Bnei Black haredi girls' Bet Yaakov high school includes: "The goal of our education is to raise up pupils who will build homes on pillars of Torah and God-awareness, refined, without any trace of admixture of alien spirits, which have also penetrated our streets and homes, for the spirit of Torah and the spirit of the times cannot dwell in one house-
1) Studying music in a conservatory, etc. is prohibited.
2) Study of dance and drama are alien to us (YF: cf. Miriam & Co.- is such killing or limiting of human spirit a form of soul-murder?). As understood, the reference is even to frameworks which are called "haredi", a fortiori those not so designated...
4) A house with TV, our soul enemy, as well as a house which has non-haredi newspapers, even hardei newspapers which have an alien spirit (e.g. Yom Hashishi)...; we cannot respond to an application from such a home.
5) A house which contains any type of radio, e.g. a transistor or radio-tape: we cannot respond to their application. (YF: As far as I know, no harm came from all the houses which had radios, before the rabbis imposed this recent ban; it is a shame that they do nothing to make available radios and TV, which can only receive a special hardei channel, rather than depriving their followers of this wonderful gift of God, tho they may occasionally show videos in their schools).
6) All study outside of the framework of the school requires prior approval of the Seminar- otherwise she will not be permitted to study here.

YF: While these haredi Bnei Brak rules are very stifling, and of highly questionable religious validity, I encounter similar phenomena in our allegedly modern and tolerant religious Zionist high schools. In my son's Jerusalem school, they ban long hair, even if neatly styled, insisting that all pupils have short haircuts- does this have anything whatsoever to do with Torah, or is it simply to introduce a bourgeois conformist ambiance, to control student's personal lives, turning off the more independent pupils, who think into what they do? So Rav Nachman of Breslav condemns "old age", rote lifeless activity, in every realm (he died at 39; would he have changed his views later in life?-- cf. other famous people who died young, e.g. Mozart and Jesus, l'havdil squared; Rav Riskin claims that Jesus realized that he wouldn't make it as Messiah, that great human being who will end all war, when he was executed, without "fixing" his warlike world-- see his TOP video, made at NCSY). As God renews creation constantly, Man must approach each hour as an opportunity for complete renewal, harnessing his creative drives. "The dead shall not praise God nor those who go down into silence" (Ps. 115:17).

F. THE HAFTARA, EZEKIEL 22:1-19: Ezekiel predicts the downfall and destruction of a lustful arrogant ancient State of Israel, characterized by violence, idolatry, adultery and incest (but not by intercourse between men, or humans and animals; cf. today's cheap Israeli newspapers, magazines, TV, films, Jubilee Bells, and the Israel Festival). The only purging remedy is exile and national disgrace, which will eventually arouse God-awareness among the survivors (cf. yordim, who suddenly discover Judaism in L.A.). As in a smelting furnace, only the purified remnant shall survive the fires of exile and conquest, four years later, in 586 B.C.E. (the academic historical date; rabbis of the talmud date it much later). But their descendants (us!) will eventually return to build an indestructible Israel, which will truly be a model "KINGDOM OF PRIESTS AND HOLY NATION" (The Jewish National Mission-- Ex. 19:6ff). May it happen soon!


All the preceding laws of sacrifice and incest are to make the Jews holy, as God Himself is Holy. Sacrifices bring them close to God, as a "KINGDOM OF PRIESTS"; the Torah now links this holiness to every realm of life-- Israel must also be a model "HOLY NATION", to bring all mankind back to God, themselves & Eden (Rav Dovid Hoffman, Ex. 19:6-- cf. the Bar On affair, Shas). Rav Zvi Kanotopsky (in "NIGHT OF WATCHING") expounds Ramban's 3 basic realms of Jewish Law:
1) man's physical preoccupations (sex and food)
2) his relationship with God (reflected in Shabbat)
3) his relationship with his fellow man.

One must give up his life rather than commit the worst violation in each realm-- 1) incest & adultery, 2) idolatry, and 3) murder. One can be immersed in all of God's detailed laws (the trees), yet be unaware of the overall teachings (the forest- see the great Jerusalem Botanical Garden, while everything is still blooming- God started man off in a garden, his proper environment; but popular names of plants, meaningful descriptions, and great sayings about them there would make the experience much richer); Ramban posits that not all behavior can be precisely predicted and directed by detailed rules in any legal system. Both unique situations, combining many factors, and new realities, hitherto inconceivable (e.g. test tube babies, computers, trips to the moon) will arise.

So the Torah also gives general principles in each realm, both to give spirit to the law and to guide us in ambiguous situations: re Shabbat we conclude: "you should cease, withdraw" (tishbos- from worldly absorption)-- focus on God as Creator. After all the monetary laws, we read: "you shall do what's right and good"-- become a friend to all. Finally, in the midst of sexual and dietary laws, we read: "YOU SHALL BE HOLY"; One can be obnoxious, while observing all religious laws to the dot, unless he assimilates these general principles (cf. "glatt kosher" night clubs, perhaps even advertised in The Jewish Press). Man himself becomes the object of mitzvah in these general principles, as do lulav and matzah in more particular commandments. One shouldn't feel that he merely refrains from bad activity by observing negative prohibitions-- in so doing, he also renders himself a holy honest being, with Divine perspective. Only truly observant couples, as a rule, have the unique thrilling deep experience of having sexual pleasure from only their mate. Others even dance with others' wives, mimicing Western non-Jewish social norms or lack of norms.

Read near Independence Day, K'doshim proclaims that our dream of 2000 years isn't ONLY to be "a FREE PEOPLE in our land", tho that is a necessary prerequisite to our dream (Rambam says that our political independence is the essence of the Messianic era). A one word change in the refrain of Hatikva expresses our TRUE ULTIMATE DREAM-- "Liyot am kadosh", "to be a HOLY PEOPLE in our land-- in the land of Zion and Jerusalem" (see and spread our bumper sticker). Even Rav Ovadia Yosef, now the enemy of modern religious Zionist education, can sing this improved version (1:49) of Hatikva in good conscience!

B. THE HAFTARA, Amos 9:7-15:
Amos predicts destruction of the ancient State of Israel-- it didn't fulfill its destiny, to be a HOLY nation. Yet the Jewish people, the house of Yaakov, will NEVER be destroyed, only sifted in the sieve of historic exile. Those who will eventually return (us?) will rebuild Israel as a light to the nations. She'll bloom and prosper agriculturally; her ruins will be rebuilt- "I'll plant them on their land and they'll never again be uprooted out of their land, which I've given them-- says God your Lord".

God tells Moshe to address the entire Jewish people: "You SHALL (both "can" and "should") be holy for (or "as") I am Holy, God, your Lord (of nature)" (19:1). The concepts and practice of reverence for mother and father and sabbath observance also interface with the recognition of "I AM GOD, YOUR LORD"; thus idols are forbidden and festive sacrifices may not be consumed after the 2nd day-- stale religious life, as idolatry, may drive God from this world; but one acquires true spirituality by absorbing God's Dual Objective Revelation-- Torah and Science; the latter leads to the love of God (see Lev. 9:6, M.T. Y'sodei Hatorah 2:1f, 4:12); but learned, vital and stimulating Reform Jewish Renewal Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, ordained by Chabad (before turning Eastward, a Biblical symbol of regression), stresses subjective ecstasy (cf. Nadav and Avihu). He unfairly equates conformity to Torah and society with spiritual morbidity (see "In Jerusalem", 4.15.94); many Israeli Zionist rabbis, e.g. Adler, Dolgin, Gafni, Gold, Lau, Landes, Rosens and Riskin, are themselves inspired and inspire thousands of others, refuting Schacter's claim of Israeli spiritual constipation (an excuse for not living here?); they also stress female spiritual power, but in its natural setting, the home or women's groups, rather than the male minyan.

We have a video of a Schachter evening, done by his ordained disciple, our friend Sara Leah, where everyone is encouraged to do his/her own thing, "what works for them", in Judaism; but one young woman in the audience, a voice in the western wilderness, seriously suggests that they can find even more satisfaction in "doing Judaism" in traditional fashion, with all its established associations and sanctity. Schachter discusses various optional arrangements with those wishing to mate-- most non-observant Jews do not wish to commit themselves to Jewish Law and its ban on any sexual relationships outside of marriage by married women, even during a drawn-out divorce, or when a spouse is missing or long gone; he recommends that such people create non-halachic or only rabbinic commitments instead, to avoid the terrible sins of adultery and creating illegitimate children. See P.S. 4/96 below. His long-term friend and colleague, one of the greatest Torah leaders of the day, Rav Shlomo Carlebach, began the modern returnee movement with Schachter, under the direction of the previous Lubavitch Rebbe; after each went his own way, Shlomo concluded that they each stressed one valid major realm-- he the uniqueness and unity of Judaism and the Jews, Zalman the unity of the universe and all mankind, of human experience.

After Shlomo, so alive, died (very hard to believe and accept), his disciples made a poignant memorial tape, "Echoes of Shlomo". Zalman opened it with a brief eulogy; he declared that those going to Shlomo concerts and happenings to be entertained were unaware that they were going to the final service of Yom Kippur (Niela), a great spiritual purification. They reminisced about their lives and mission in Berkeley in 1994 (The tape, with a great photo of them together, by Yehudit Goldfarb, is $18 from TOP, occasionally available). Corners of the field and gleanings are for the poor and stranger-- "I AM GOD YOUR LORD". Stealing, lying and swearing falsely by God's attributes are prohibited-- "I AM GOD". Day wages must be promptly paid. The deaf may not be cursed, nor a stumbling block put before the blind, e.g. cheating the unsophisticated, selling arms to aggressive nations (Sefer Hachinuch-- why don't Israel's "religious" parties raise this issue?), or giving money to those who can work and support themselves. Tho those affected may never know that you did it, He does-- "HAVE AWE OF YOUR LORD".

Justice must be absolute and impartial. You (and I) may not go about with gossip, nor stand by while our neighbor is endangered (even if you learn and pray for him?)-- "I AM GOD" (and he a Divine Image). In "Guard Your Tongue", the Chofetz Chayim notes the special sin in slandering the dead; but he fails to note there the exception for constructively criticizing their behavior, so as not to copy it, e.g. Biblical criticism by God and the Prophets of even our greatest heroes, like Noach, Moshe and Dovid, and Ramban's critique of Avraham; also we learn about human nature in discussing real examples of it, as long as our intention is not malignant. Don't hate your neighbor in your heart-- tell him where you think he's wrong, without embarrassing him; when you hear his reply, you may no longer hate him, or he may change. Some claim that you're responsible for another's sins if you keep quiet-- everyone's business is everyone else's (cf. modern cool non-intervention and Rashby's example of his boat-mate to a man who drills a hole only in his end of the boat). Per R. Bachye, one must rebuke with love (and respect-- see Rav S. Gold's words in our Yom Haatzmaut study); Rav Carlebach was careful to build up a person's image while correcting him, making him feel above tawdry deeds. Don't rebuke fresh, mocking, or aggressive folks, except teenagers-- they are still flexible, behind their iron front. Don't take revenge or hold a grudge (but one should take another to court-- Ramban). "LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR (who is?) LIKE YOURSELF- I AM GOD".

Next come a list of "chukim", hard to understand statutes, teaching symbols of great abstract concepts (Hirsch; Rashi claims that they are beyond understanding). Don't mix animals in breeding, nor sow together various vegetables, grains and vines, nor wear a garment of wool and linen ("shaatnez"- collar linings, button thread, etc. of wool garments are checked for linen, using revelatory chemicals; since fabric labeling is often wrong or inaccurate, one should check any garments which definitely contain some wool or linen or have a linen-look, a significant 5-10% of which are treif, per Rav Yaakov Gurvitz, Director of the Shaatnez Lab of Har Nof; many Orthodox Jews are not careful enough in this realm and almost all Conservative and Reform rabbis, who deny the divinity of the Torah, ignore it, per Milton Himmelfarb's AJCom survey in "The Condition of Jewish Belief"). A Caananite slave woman's adultery (if she's designated to a Jewish slave) doesn't entail the death penalty-- only an asham (guilt) offering is brought (19:20). This applies to a half slave, per Kritot 11a; Ibn Ezra says that 19:20 refers to such a Jewish girl.

(Kind and compassionate?) Bet Shamai insisted on freeing a half slave, to be able to marry and lead a normal life; (tough?) Bet Hillel didn't, but finally acceded to Bet Shamai's argument that God created all life to propagate and populate the earth, per Isaiah 45:18: "For thus says God, Who created the heavens ex nihilo; He is the Lord, who formed Earth and made it; He established it; He didn't create it as chaos, He formed it to be inhabited- I am God, and there is nothing else" (see Gittin 41a-b, Bek. 47a, Arakin 2b, Eduyot 3a, B.B. 13a, Hag. 2a-b, Pes. 88b, Meg. 27a, Yev. 62a-b); cf. optimistic Kohelet (11:6), source of the mitzva of having as many children as possible (Yev. 62b), a mainstream Jewish value, vs. Avraham ben Maimon, who urged spiritual folks not to marry, if they could transcend their sexual drives, and to have few children if they had to marry, in order to focus on their spiritual development. Holy land fruit is prohibited for 3 years from planting or replanting of a tree; it is holy (eaten only in Jerusalem), tho redeemable, in the 4th year. Eating "on blood" (an occult practice of premature eating of meat) is forbidden; so is heeding omens and auspicious times (Y. Emden decried Y. Eibshitz's amulets; see Eibshitz's defense in Rav Jung's "Men of The Spirit"; cf. Baba Sali, Rav Sharabi, & red strings).

A 1995 FOLLOWUP: In Truma, we noted the predicament of outspoken ardent Jeff Lifshitz of Aish and Shappel; the latter institution, among others, refused to allow him to continue learning there after he decided to attend JTS (tho he continued to work for tolerant Phil Chernofsky of NCSY). JTS then set up a program for him at Neve Shechter, featuring Richie Lewis, who used to teach at Shappel-- the Lord works in mysterious ways! Will Jeff, Miriam Knight and their few JTS cohorts who claim adherence to truly traditional beliefs in one divinely revealed Torah and the authority of halacha be able to survive the atmosphere of JTS, so much to the contrary? Will they wind up at Dovid Halivni Weiss' breakaway seminary, with our reader Lance Fogel? (1999: Miriam didn't- she graduated JTS and is now asst. rabbi at the Park Ave. Synagogue; 2001: I believe that the Seminary folded- do any of you have further info?) Will they be able to reject JTS teaching of the documentary hypothesis? It's widespread ignoring of basic halachos, such as shatnes, mikva and the prohibition of yichud, e.g. male and female flatmates and hotel mates, sometimes even by Conservative leaders?- see "The Condition of Jewish Belief" supra, which concludes that there's no difference between Reform and Conservative theology; both deny the Divine Origin and Unity of the written and oral Torah; they differ only in practice: the Conservatives like old ways and change their practices slowly; the Reform like to try new things, with little regard for tradition).

Some folks told me that I would understand Conservative Judaism much better from Elliot Dorff's study of the movement, "Conservative Judaism: Our Ancestors to Our Descendants", which portrays the philosophy of streams within the movement. It is very informative and provocative, but indeed reinforces and proves Himmelfarb's conclusion. Conservative spokesman Dorff (p. 66, 112) quotes Nehemiah 8-10, where the Torah is read to the returnees from Babylon, who commit themselves to its observance; he comments: "If you accept Orthodox belief, all of the Torah had already been given at Sinai some 800 years earlier, and this was merely a rededication to it. If you study the Bible historically, as the Conservative Movement does, then this is nothing less than the Jewish Philadelphia, when the Torah became the Constitution of the Jewish People. Until that time, many of the biblical laws and stories had been known and accepted by the people, but they had not been put together as one document. In fact, the Torah contains many materials from widely different time periods and places, and that is why some of the laws and stories actually contradict each other. It was only in Ezra's time that Torah became `canonized'-- that is, that it received its final form and became the authoritative constitution of the Jewish people."

Dorff then "proves" that the Torah is a collection of old documents, rather than the word of God, from the contradiction between Deut.16:3, where the Jews are commanded to eat matzah for 7 days (as in Ex. 13:6 and Lev. 23:6), and Deut. 16:8, where they are told to do so for only 6 days! But, obviously the latter passage, only a few verses away from the former, was intended to give a special message-- otherwise, Dorff's alleged Biblical editor is careless and incompetent, so why take the Torah seriously at all? The Talmud (Menachos) indeed explains that there is a certain type of matzah that can only be consumed for 6 days of Passover, that made from new grain, which is not permitted until the omer offering is brought, on the SECOND day of Pesach (see Lev. 23:15). But Dorff shares the other Conservative heresy, that the Oral Law arises only much later than the written, and ignores it in solving this simple problem; in truly traditional (orthodox) Judaism, law is derived ONLY from the Oral tradition, tho the written Torah abounds with hints of it, as above; likewise, one would not derive the Big Bang theory from the Torah, but once it is derived, hints of it are found in the Torah by religious physicists, e.g. Yaakov Schroeder and Natan Aviezer.

P.S. 4/96: Jeff left academically difficult, religiously non-enthusiastic, JTS, his future religious path not yet clear. If anyone out there knows, let me know!

The temples, upper sideburns, and corners of the beard may not be shaved (some also prohibit even a close scissors cut-- chassidim and yemenites grow payos, to show their love of this mitzva, even shaving the rest of their head for accent and contrast- but is that an unwarranted destruction of the attractive hair which God has bestowed upon man?). One may not cut one's skin in mourning or tatoo-- "I AM GOD": your Divine Image body isn't your own (so should one shave his/her head?). "I am God YOUR LORD" is added to the promise of lots of fruit from the tree's 5th year on-- only the Lord of Nature can keep such a promise. Israel won't yield fruit (tho the rest of the Earth does), if Jews give their daughters over to non-marital intercourse (Rashi); but Ramban, as Rashba, excludes women living as concubines, common law marriage, from the prohibition of promiscuity (vs. Rashi and Rambam)-- only those living with men whom they may not marry are legally considered "zonot" (harlots; see Ramban, 19:29); Y. Emden (Sh'alot Yavitz II:15) tried to revive concubinage to circumvent Rav Gershom's ban on polygamy, allegedly influenced by non-Jewish values; Rav J. Soloveichik praised the ban.

Highly educated haredi women often have difficulty getting married; I heard that some in Boro Park are becoming concubines, observing mikva, in order to have children before it's too late. We know so much of God's Torah & Science, but so much is still unclear (see "Dear Maimonides", by Andrew Sanders-- he shows how much more science we know than did Maimonides, and, God Willing, how little, compared to future generations, as man gradually shifts his focus from the physical to the intellectual. Sanders, as Maimonides, (e.g. in his "Introduction To The Mishna"), ignores the emotional and interpersonal realms of life. His brilliant work strikes me as a unique blend of Reform doctrines of the changability of Torah and Orthodox faith in its Divinely Dictated Origin. He wrote the book amidst his return to Judaism, before becoming more knowledgeable and observant. "GUARD MY SHABBATS AND REVERE MY SANCTUARY-I AM GOD". Shun magic and respect and honor the (wise-- Rashi) aged "AND FEAR YOUR LORD (they're helpless), I AM GOD". Love strangers and be honest in measures, as He redeemed us from Egypt. God then speaks against those who give children over to the Molech cult and black magic: "YOU SHALL SANCTIFY YOURSELVES AND BE HOLY FOR I AM GOD YOUR LORD... I AM GOD WHO SANCTIFIES YOU". Cursing parents is condemned, as is adultery, intercourse with animals, homosexual intercourse, incest, and sleeping with a menstruant woman. (Rashi sees this last ACT as bad; per Ramban, the woman herself is innately harmful then). These laws, as kashrut, separate and sanctify us in Israel. "BE HOLY TO ME FOR I GOD AM HOLY AND HAVE SEPARATED YOU FROM THE PEOPLES TO BE MINE". Stone wizards!

The sexual relationships prohibited in Lev. 18 are repeated here, giving their punishments and terse descriptions. 16 engender the death penalty, others dying childless, and still others being "cut off" from "the midst of their people" or "in the sight of their people". National exile is a predicted consequence of national sexual immorality, fulfilled in Ezekiel 22. The holy land of Israel won't tolerate such perversion-- it vomits out any nation with such Wild Western "alternative life styles", Jewish or non-Jewish (as promoted by Israel's vulgar TV). If Eilat's ambiance is shaped by the low-life lifestyle of its many young foreign tourists, it threatens our Jewish development and existence (cf. Yamit; not ALL tourism is good for Israel). Besides the severe prohibition of homosexual intercourse, lesbian sexual relationships are also prohibited (Yev. 76a, Sifra, Lev. 18:3). Only relations with a menstruant woman engender full ritual impurity (Lev. 15), but all of the prohibited acts defile the participants (18:24), cutting them off from God's presence (Hertz).

Ramban, who negates bodily pleasures, claims that "YOU SHALL BE HOLY" means "separate yourself even from PERMISSIBLE pleasures" (19:2)-- Rashi restricts the admonition to illicit pleasure. He attributes the nazirite sin offering to denying oneself even wine and haircuts (but see Klei Yakar), Ramban to ending their denial! Ramban explains ZIMAH (lewdness), applied to sleeping with both a mother and her daughter, tho not re rape: a man sleeping with either thinks of the other, who is similar, badly affecting any offspring (souls, not just bodies, must join in procreation; cf. Ned. 20b). So if one sleeps with his daughter-in-law, tho divorced, she'll think of his similar son at the time. "Tevel", mixture, is used to condemn relations with animals as well as with daughters-in-law, who "mix-up" the two men in their hearts. A sister of one's wife may not be taken in her lifetime, that they not become jealous rivals (cf. Sheine & Chaya in Cynthia Freeman's A-1 Jewish Saga, "No Time for Tears"). She is permitted to the widower after her sister's death. Per Ramban, a menstruant woman is forbidden, for she can't conceive then. Yet one must cohabit with his pregnant, barren or post-menopause wife, if she wishes. Per The Zohar, intercourse, even with a barren woman, can produce pure souls (who may wind up in someone else's child), if done with pure intent, when permissible. Ramban cites the latest medieval "medical science": there are two types of blood, menstrual and normal (vs. Rambam); the child is formed from blood, and menstrual blood kills or maims the child conceived; so the glance of such a woman is impure and harmful, producing red spots on an iron mirror!!

Apparently, Ramban holds that reproduction is the PRINCIPAL, but not EXCLUSIVE, purpose of sex-- he quotes (18:20) Ibn Ezra's 3 purposes of sex: procreation, relieving the body of its fluids, and animal passion, pleasure (What happened to love?). Thus the Torah prohibits (18:20) taking another man's wife L'ZERA, "FOR SEED", EVEN to procreate, tho procreation is a great deed. So the Torah specially prohibits fire on Shabbat, tho its light and warmth may enhance the joy of Shabbat (Ex. 35:3). Capital punishment and excision only apply to forbidden intercourse; forbidden sensual petting is punished only by flogging (is there such a legal category between members of the same sex?). Kissing and hugging of one's relatives (or friends?) in a non-sensual context is condemned by Rambam (M. T. Isurei Biah 21:6)-- except for parents & kids (Shab. 13a, Kid. 80b-83a). But talmudic rabbis kissed or held their sisters & granddaughters-- human warmth is a great Divine value too (especially in Carlebachian Judaism). Tosofot concurs (Kid. 82a), vs. Sefer Hachinuch (see Ket. 17a, Ber. 22a). Yaakov's kissing Rachel is a model for one of 3 non-obnoxious kisses, that of relatives (Ex. Raba 5:1, Gen. 70:11). Ramban rejects Rambam's alleged Torah-based prohibition on any physical contact with forbidden women (Neg. Command 353), but only permits embracing relatives to those with firm sexual control (e.g. the elderly?). "S.A. Even HaEzer" (21:7) allows contact only with one's minor children and siblings. For an exceptional overview of this realm, see "SEX LAWS & CUSTOMS IN JUDAISM", EPSTEIN, p. 104ff.

As the Torah has to specially punish one with cutting off of his soul after death, from his people, the normal presumption is that the soul continues to exist after death. A sexual relationship of brother and sister is called CHESED, KINDNESS!!! (20:17). Rashi translates chesed: "disgrace"-- Ramban rejects this Aramaic adaptation. "Chesed" describes the ideal relationship of kindness, where one's brother should find her a husband; here he has done the opposite (per Hirsch). "You shall love your neighbor like (or "who is like") yourself- I am God." One CANNOT love all mankind as oneself, or even all one's fellow Jews-- so use of the dative here indicates that one must only ACT LOVINGLY TOWARD one's neighbor (Ramban, Hirsch). We are all brothers and sisters, created by God. Rav G. Fleer expounds kabbalistic sources (quoting HaAri), which posit that one's "friend" or "neighbor" here is God himself (see Rashi, Prov. 27:10)-- it is difficult to love God amidst all the trials of life and nature. The verse hints that the difficulties emanate from God's reveled aspect, the impersonal LORD of nature, elokim = 86 = hateva, nature = Kamocha, "like yourself"; nature responds to man's spiritual level. But beyond nature lies the infinite loving essence of Divinity- I AM GOD (= 26, = 13 + 13 = love + One), the real object of your love.

So today the Jews only returned to their land and built the State of Israel with great sacrifice, at the risk of their lives. Every Israeli soldier's routine sacrificial life is generally unknown to his young American Jewish, or Israeli haredi, peers. To know it, read "Self-Portrait Of A Hero, The Letters of Jonathan Netanyahu"-- martyr of the Entebbe airport rescue of 103 Jewish hostages of pro-Palestinian terrorists; his brother Bibi was Israel's PM, after Likud overcame its infighting, as did Rabin and Peres, for their common cause- cf. HaIchud HaLeumi of 1999. I personally believe that the Arabs would gladly help us build and re-build Israel-- IF we lived as an inspiring "kingdom of priests and holy nation" (Ex. 19:6). Rav David Hartman noted how different history would have been had the Arabs welcomed their long lost cousins back home here. In cooperation, we could have developed the land for mutual benefit. Our devoted reader Norma knew that her son would love Yoni's book. A local book seller wanted $150 to search for it, so she telephoned Yoni's father, Prof. Benj. of Cornell; he wasn't there, but they gave her his number in Jerusalem; after a really long phone call, he gave her the number of his son Bibi, Israel's ambassador to the UN, in N.Y. When she called, they asked who she was and what country she represented! His dad, as was his wont, gave her Bibi's emergency hotline number for foreign ambassadors! She got the book the next day, via UPS!

FROM HERMAN WOUK'S INTRODUCTION to the book: "... these impressionistic glints and glimpses of him in training, in battle, and in brief peaceful interludes of study, comprise a true and brilliant portrait of a hero-- the only wholly convincing one that I know of, in a contemporary literature of anti-heroes. This is what a 20th century hero is really like. The lands of the free need such men, until the day when the last tyrannies that spawn the terrorists are faced down, and we enter the coming age of peace, the only long range alternative to a planet of ash. In his grim truth, lies the importance of Netanyahu's letters. Their charm and force lies in the man himself... Usually I start my day with Scripture or Talmud study. I shifted Yoni's letters into that place. Why? Yoni was respectful of our religion, but not observant. To call this book a sacred text would be maudlin. And yet, in it, I did glimpse an ember of sacred fire. He wrote a simple pure Hebrew. Scriptural words and phrases showed up naturally in his jottings, sometimes with arresting force. Modern Hebrew rests on that ancient vocabulary and the best modern writers... tend to hold to the strong old roots and forms... Heroes are not supermen; they are good men who embody-- by the cast of destiny-- the virtue of their whole people in a great hour. FROM YONNIE'S LETTERS AT 17: "Two things can happen to an Israeli in America-- either he becomes a full-fledged American (something that, I'm sorry to say, I have seen happen many times), or he becomes, in blood and spirit, more of an Israeli than he has ever been (YF: compare effects of the Holocaust upon faith in Judaism-- 30-40% of the German children who escaped to the UK via the Kindertransporten converted or assimilated). I'm waiting for the moment I can go back-- and begin to live again... My school has about 1500 students who don't know what they're doing there. It looks more like the Tel Aviv Sheraton than a school (beautiful even by American standards, brand new, and it cost $6,500,000 to build). My house is "terribly" nice, surrounded by lawns and trees and empty, meaningless life. The only thing people talk about is cars and girls. Life revolves around one subject-- Sex; I think Freud would have found very fertile soil here. Bit by bit I'm becoming convinced that I'm living among apes and not human beings... I have little contact with people my age... They're too frivolous... I, as an individual... constitute an entire world. My life will be complete not because of others, but because of myself... " "Death-- that's the only thing that disturbs me. It doesn't frighten me; it arouses my curiosity. It is a puzzle that I, like many others, have tried to solve without success. I do not fear, because I attribute little value to a life without purpose. And if I should have to sacrifice my life to attain its goal, I'll do so willingly... I can't stand America and I'm dying to return."

As I have found many who speak on Jewish-Catholic relations woefully ignorant of the facts, I am reprinting here a 2000 article by the former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, David Rosen- "A History of Reconciliation: The Catholic and the Jews":
Pope John Paul II is due to arrive in Israel in the latter part of March. While he has been talking about such a trip since the early years of his Pontificate, the timing of this visit at the beginning of the new Millennium, has given it even greater meaning. It is not that he considers the date to be historically accurate. He knows full well that the calendar date of 2000 is far from precise and certainly does not consider it to be a Heavenly calculated apocalyptic date. However the Pope is a master in the use of symbols and milestones. Designating the year as the Great Jubilee four years ago (based on the Biblical concept regarding the fiftieth year; Leviticus, Chapter 25 v. 10) the Vatican released a document outlining the Pope's expectations and instructions for the years leading up to and culminating in the millennial year. In this document ("In Tertio Millenio Adveniente") John Paul II not only calls on the Catholic faithful to make pilgrimage both to Rome and to the Holy Land, he refers to his own plan to come here as a pilgrim. In addition, he indicates his hope that both the Millennium and his visit will serve as an opportunity for reconciliation between Christians and Jews, Christians and Muslims and among all three. To this end, he initiated a series of conferences as well as statements expressing Catholic remorse for violence done in the name of the Church, especially towards the Jewish people.

Indeed, Pope John Paul has played a remarkable role in the advancement of Catholic-Jewish relations, continuing the revolutionary work initiated by Pope John XXIII. His visit to Israel will be, in addition to all else, a visible symbolic expression of this historic transformation of Catholic attitudes towards Jews, Judaism and Israel. In order to appreciate the extent of this transformation, it is appropriate to recall the reply of Pope Pius X to Theodore Herzl in January 1904, when the latter asked the Pontiff for his support for the Zionist enterprise. In his diaries, Herzl records Pius X as saying: "We are unable to favor this movement. We cannot prevent the Jews from going to Jerusalem, but we could never sanction it. As head of the Church, I cannot answer you otherwise. The Jews have not recognized our Lord. Therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people; and so, if you come to Palestine and settle your people there, we will be ready with churches and priests to baptize all of you." In fact, Cardinal Merry del Val, instructed by the Pope to pursue the correspondence with Herzl, wrote him that "as long as the Jews deny Christ's divinity, we cannot take a stand favorable to them." The subsequent Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, was bitterly opposed to the Balfour Declaration, and he wrote in 1919 that "the danger that frightens us the most, is that of the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine." These attitudes were, of course, not new at all.

The "teaching of contempt" towards the Jews, portrayed as accursed and condemned on high for failing to recognize the "true Messiah," had its origins already in the first centuries of Christianity. The tragic historic condition of the Jewish people was accordingly portrayed as proof of the Christian claim. For Justin Martyr (second century), the destruction of the Temple and the consequent exile were ultimate confirmation of the thesis that the Mosaic Law had been abrogated and replaced by the Christian faith. In fact, the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile and dispersion of the Jew were presented by John Chrysostom (fourth century) not just as Divine punishment on the Jews for their rejection and killing of Jesus, but as "proof" of the fact that Jesus was himself Divine. The fact that Jews endured so much suffering, the logic went, proved that they were an accursed people. Since they had broken the Divine Covenant by not recognizing Jesus as the "fulfillment" of that Covenant, a new people - the believers in Jesus - had been covenanted to replace them. Accordingly, the Church was the new chosen people, "versus Israel", - the true Israel - in the Divine plan of salvation. If this "teaching of contempt" was not necessarily always the motivation for the persecution of the Jews in so-called Christian lands, it certainly created the climate for it.

While the spirit of modern scholarly research in the earlier part of the century had much to do with a review of Catholic teaching concerning the Jews, it was both the impact of the Holocaust and the personal commitment of Pope John XXIII that led to the radical break with this past theology. As Papal envoy in Turkey during World War II, he helped save thousands of Jews from the clutches of the Nazis and their collaborators. He was also substantially affected by his personal encounters, especially with the Jewish historian Jules Isaac. The French-Jewish scholar published in 1948 a book entitled "Jesus et Israel", which brought out, as no study had done before, how closely the contempt for the Jewish people and the vilification of the Jewish religion were linked to Christian preaching, which drew on the Gospels. In convening the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, John XXIII sought, inter alia, the reappraisal of Catholic theological attitudes towards the Jewish People. As a result, the document promulgated in 1965, known as "Nostra Aetate," categorically repudiated "the teaching of contempt" towards the Jewish People and ushered in the "positive revolution" in Church teaching regarding the Jewish people and Judaism, that has continued over the last thirty-five years.

In "Nostra Aetate," the Church rejected the idea of Jewish collective, let alone continuous responsibility for the death of Jesus; it affirmed the Divine Covenant with the Jewish people as eternal and unbroken, condemned anti-Semitism and emphasized the Jewish roots of Christianity. Since "Nostra Aetate," the Vatican, and in particular Pope John Paul II, have made many additional and forthright condemnations of anti-Semitism, declaring it to be "a sin against God and man," and thus incompatible with Christian Faith. In 1986, the Pope made his historic visit to the Great Synagogue in Rome and emphasized Christianity's unique link and debt to Judaism. In 1990, he reiterated the declaration made in Prague by Cardinal Cassidy and the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jewish People, by saying that the fact that anti-Semitism has found a place in Christian thought and teaching, demands an act of Teshuvah (repentance) on its part. And in closing the European Bishops Synod in 1991, Pope John Paul II made an eloquent prayer expressing contrition for the sins committed toward Jews by Christians in Europe down through the centuries, particularly during the Shoa.

Formal recognition of the significance of the State of Israel for the Jewish people was expressed by the Pope in his Apostolic letter "Redemptionis Anno" in April 1984 and was reflected a year later in an official Vatican document relating to Jews and Judaism. Accordingly, the normalization of relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel was the natural outcome of these profound changes in theology and attitudes. Indeed, for many years before the establishment of diplomatic ties, the Holy See had categorically stated that there were no theological barriers to full relations with the State of Israel. Why then did it take the Vatican another thirty years after the promulgation of "Nostra Aetate" to establish them? Theology was not the problem. While it seems fair to say that there were undoubtedly those within the Church hierarchy who still adhered (and some may continue to adhere) to the "old theology", they were not the major obstacle.

The Vatican's reluctance to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel was rather the consequence of secular political considerations. The Church has communities, institutions and assets in Arab and other Muslim societies, and it feared that any rapprochement with Israel could trigger a backlash. Above all, most Catholics in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are Arabs, who identify, to varying degrees, with the Palestinian cause. Christians living in the Palestinian nationalist society had no interest in any change in the status quo as long as Palestinian and Israeli interests were seen as in conflict. This was made clear to the Vatican. The Vatican's position however changed, as did global and regional realities of realpolitik, in the Nineties. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War facilitated the ensuing Middle East Peace Process, and as the Vatican spokesman Joachin Navarro-Valls put it at the time, if the Palestinians were talking with the Israelis, why shouldn't the Vatican? In the three years prior to the Madrid Peace Conference, Israel had more than doubled its diplomatic missions, through the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with African countries (who had terminated them after the Yom Kippur War), and the establishment of new relations with the emerging States of the former Soviet Union and Communist bloc.

The Vatican remained one of the last entities outside the circle of Israel's diplomatic relations. Were the Holy See to have further delayed rapprochement with Israel, its own credibility would have suffered and protestations regarding the theological acceptance of Israel would have rung hollow. Not least of all, as the peace talks moved ahead, the Church did not want to be left out in the cold, especially regarding the future of Jerusalem where the Holy See has substantial interests. Significantly on this matter, the Vatican was no longer talking of the internationalization of Jerusalem, but rather of "international guarantees" for the status of the religious communities and the holy sites. The formal turning point came in July 1992, with the establishment of the Permanent Bilateral Commission of the State of Israel and the Holy See. This culminated in the Jerusalem signing of the Fundamental Agreement that established full bilateral relations between the two, on December 30 1993. While Vatican spokespersons emphasized that this was an agreement between states, it is evident from the text of the Agreement itself, that it was much more. The Preamble of the Agreement made clear that the normalization took place within the context of the historic reconciliation of the Catholic Church with the Jewish people.

Furthermore, as Archbishop Luigi Barbarito, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Court of St. James, pointed out at Westminster on February 28, 1994, the document was also historic in its recognition of the "unique character and universal significance of the Holy Land for the Jewish People". Indeed the very act of the Holy See signing an agreement and normalizing its relations with the restored sovereign Jewish people in the land of its ancestors, was the culmination of the revolution in Church teaching. Dr. Yossi Beilin, who chaired the Israeli negotiating team on behalf of the government of Israel, described it at the signing ceremony as "a triumph for the Jewish people". Moreover in the second article of the Fundamental Agreement, the Church went beyond its past condemnation of anti-Semitism and pledged to work with Israel to combat such bigotry, giving even greater impetus to the increasing shift of focus in Jewish-Christian relations, from the past to the present and future. All this is not to ignore the fact that there have been a number of controversies, if not conflicts, between Jewry and the Catholic Church, most of which have overwhelmingly been related to the Church's past teachings and persecution of the Jews - particularly concerning the Holocaust.

It was against this background that Jewish organizations protested against the Carmelite Convent at Auschwitz, as an offensive appropriation of Jewish victimhood. Similarly opposed was canonization of Edith Stein, a nun who converted from Judaism to Catholicism and perished in the Holocaust. Another example was the Pope's reception and honoring of Kurt Waldheim. Such incidents led many Jews to question the genuineness of the Church's goodwill towards the Jewish People and the integrity of its historical reckoning. In response to the strong negative Jewish reaction to his reception of Waldheim, Pope John Paul II informed Jewish leaders, in 1987, that the Holy See would produce a document dealing with the relationship between past Church teachings and the persecution of the Jews, culminating with the Holocaust. Various national Bishops' Conferences took up this initiative with impressive candor and self-criticism. Particular mention should be made of the remarkable statements released by the German and French Bishops' Conferences, in 1995 and 1997 respectively. In asking forgiveness of the Jewish People, these documents declared that "Christians were guilty of both an indirect and a direct role in the process which led to the Shoah," for which "the Church bears guilt and co-responsibility."

However when the Vatican document that was eventually issued in 1998, it was a disappointment for many, as it did not go as far. The Vatican explained that the character of the text was determined by the need to address parts of the world, which had little or no knowledge of the Holocaust, let alone a direct relationship to it. In fact, the Vatican insisted that the document not only acknowledged Christian responsibility and need for repentance, but in addressing the billion Catholic faithful throughout the world, it serves as a significant bulwark in the battle against Holocaust denial. Nevertheless the statement also sought to justify and applaud the role of Pope Pius XII during the period of the Holocaust, portraying his position as one of heroic support for Jews. The fact that most Jews have a very different if not diametrically opposite view of Pius XII, meant that the document elicited a very negative response. The controversy over the role of Pius XII has been compounded by references to his candidature for beatification by the Holy See (a process actually begun during Pope Paul VI's pontificate, along with that of Pius IX, infamous anti-semitic kidnapper of a Jewish child).

These issues have highlighted the fact that the differences between Christians and Jews concern not only our identities and faith affirmations, but also the way in which we relate to history and memory. Yet, notwithstanding these difficulties, the last thirty-five years have witnessed a truly historic revolution that is above all evidenced in the educational materials relating to Jews, Judaism and Israel used by the Catholic Church in the U.S. As my late senior colleague, Dr. Geoffrey Wigoder, put it: "Today the Catholic Church is not only not part of the problem (of anti-Semitism), it is part of the solution". Indeed as far as the State of Israel is concerned, the visit of the Pope - who will pay his respects to the highest elected officials of the Jewish nation, now restored to sovereignty in its historic homeland, and with Jerusalem as its capital- is more than simply a great opportunity for Israeli tourism, it is the ultimate symbol of the transformation in Catholic-Jewish relations.

COMPLAINT AND CLARIFICATION DEPT.: "Tamar Tessler" wrote: "I was just pointing out the all-encompassing statement that you had made, that tumah is not a function nowadays, it's lo-shayach . Nidda is a state of tumah too..." I replied: 1) right!- but we do not care about tumat nida today, only isur nida; there is no sin in becoming tumah. 2) After thinking about your letter a bit more, I thought about one case where the special rules of birth would apply to nida (today too)- if the woman has a boy, her treating her bleeding as nida today entails at least 12 days separation, quite a bit more than the 7 days for yoledet; but if she has a girl and does not bleed for more than 6 days, she still has to wait 14 days, rather than 12 for nida.

From: "Joseph Baruch Silver" Dear Mr. Fogelman, Please remove me from your list- I didn't know that you were an ignorant homophobe. The following (YF: from our brief summary) is pure BullShit: "... their profanation, via forbidden sexual acts, leads to the severe individual penalties now specified (cf. AIDS)" If G-d sent a pride of lions to devour Gays in Tel Aviv or in Jerusalem (including me), and they left everyone else alone, you could see it as a divine penalty. AIDS is a disease, presently the biggest killer of men, women and children in Africa. It is a disease, no more, no less. As well, see the deaths of Ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox Jews in the Holocaust as Divine Retribution, for whatever you choose (I DON'T). If G-d is using AIDS in any way (and I think HE is), it is to test us for our menschlichkeit in dealing with those suffering from it - not as a narrow-minded way to hit moralistically (NOT MORALLY!) at those already suffering. Remember that Rachmanut is a hallmark of the Jew; try to have some. He later added: Please feel free to put my name, and e-mail address along with my critical comments, in your material. (cf. Whether the deaths of four Haredi Rabbis and the wife of one in a traffic accident while driving to Netivot for a funeral, was a Divine punishment for another Haredi Rabbi stating categorically that the then recent accident involving a bus full of schoolchildren from Petach Tikva, which had been hit by a train at Hof Dor, was a punishment from G-d for the opening of cinemas on Shabbat in Petach Tikva two weeks earlier).

My reply: When I use the term "cf.", I do not imply any conclusion, but simply that comparing two things MAY be illuminating or relevant. Where Silver admits that a pack of lions in Tel Aviv, attacking only gays, would clearly be giving an anti-gay Divine message, one might indeed think that a disease, mostly affecting, and transmitted through, gays is indeed a sign of Divine displeasure. However, I buy his argument (probably Rambam's too!) that we ultimately cannot know why God does something and what the message is, tho we can be sure that we will, at some level, perhaps even unconscious, get the message and be affected by it, as God intends. Indeed, his argument seems good- if we view AIDS as a punishment, it is hard to view other tragedies, e.g. the Shoa, otherwise, especially re the many chassidim so dreadfully hurt by it. The current Intifada is another example- is it because we sell aggressive arms to other nations? While we can know that that practice is very wrong, we cannot know, only guess, that the Intifada may be a Divine response to such wrong. Yet I think that most of us Jews, and many non-Jews, would view the establishment, perpetuation and growth of the State of Israel as a clear sign of Divine Grace and Blessing. Thanks to Silver for this insight. While our tradition does suggest that, when bad things happen to us, we examine our acts, seeking out likely causes in our conduct, I do not recall that it urges us to do so to other people.

What I generally try to say about homosexuality, tho I have not studied it thoroughly (Great Rabbi Norman Lamm has- see EJ) is that the Torah only severely condemns the act of homosexual intercourse, not the person who has such impulses, just as most males have impulses to sleep with many women who are forbidden to them. Nevertheless, since the Torah does so condemn that act, and exclusively homosexual sexual behavior will not enable one to fulfill the mitzva of producing Jewish babies (except via artificial insemination), I feel that we should do all we can to at least keep borderline homosexuals on the heterosexual side, by such reinforcement as described in George Gilder's "Sexual Suicide." I wonder if halachic categories such as Negia, touching one who is forbidden sexually, and yichud, being alone together, apply to those who strongly desire sex with other men or animals? Is petting Lassie religiously difficult for some folks? In general, Rambam (M.T. Tshuva) teaches that only God can make a total evaluation of each person and no one has a right to believe that he is better, in totality, than anyone else; yet we still have a duty to criticize specific objectively bad behavior and try to prevent it, without any sanctimonious ambiance or counter-productive coercion. I have not studied the alleged genetic components of some homosexuals (genetic therapy might indeed eventually be a remedy), nor their ability to nevertheless refrain from the Torah's forbidden act; but I found intense academic discussion of Orthodoxy's approach to the origins of, and dealing with, homosexuality in RCA's recent issues of "Tradition (subscribe!)," 34:1-34:4, triggered by Nathaniel Lehrman's piece, "Homosexuality: A Political Mask for Promiscuity." He decries the "common misconception that homosexuality is irreversible", once that behavior has begun. But Seth Gordon of Allston, Ma. Writes that there is little to substantiate this and cites much evidence to the contrary. In both science and halacha, the more comfortable theory is not always the more credible one. Dr. Joseph Berger agrees with Lehrman, but views his tone as counter-productive. JONAH, POB 313, Jersey City, N.J. 07303, tel. (201) 433-3444, helps Jews change homosexual orientation.

Rav Emanuel Feldman's deeply serious and deeply humorous "The Editor's Notebook" theme, in 34:4, is "7:11AM," in which he ardently, not just academically, balances the need for sincere, heartfelt public prayer with today's need to maintain a structured and scheduled public and private life. Our academic journals SHOULD be different from those of others; an intelligent passionate prayer for good prayer belongs in Tradition just as much as an abstract philosophical analysis of the Brisker method, if we are not to be schizoid in our academic lives. Feldman writes: "so we are faced with a perplexing dilemna- On the one hand, the need for the set liturgy and the minyan; on the other hand, our craving for individual spontaneity and personal reflection. While it may not be possible for a minyan to accommodate the spiritual needs of each individual member, all members can be accommodated their occasional need to reflect, by instituting a very simple procedure: the addition of another few minutes to the normal davening time. The allocation of, say, only 1 or 2 extra minutes to psukei d'zimra, another minute or two to the shma, and another minute or two to the shmoneh esrei- a net addition of some 5 minutes- could have a powerful effect on kavana. And, if there is a practical need to conclude by a certain time, one can always begin the dovening 5 minutes earlier. The express can become a local, giving even the most seasoned commuter a chance to appreciate the scenery. And, in this case, the local may reach God faster than the express.

Even if we are not spiritually constituted to spend 3 hours in a weekday morning prayer, and even if circumstances prevent us from kicking the habits of rote, it is valuable to bear in mind that the habits we are engaged in are far from ideal. That we may be incapable of scaling the peaks of the spiritual Mt. Everest is no reason to lose sight of the fact that the summit exists, and that some rare souls attain it... Yes, I realize that time and prayer cannot be totally separated from one another (YF: Hassidim try to!), and that time is an integral element in our reaching out to God... Your purchases and donations enable us to continue our mission. The perspective is eclectic and holistic, but traditional-- that the written Torah is the word of God, much of the oral His explanation. Together with science, they comprise His factory authorized instruction manual for mankind.

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