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5 – RAV RISKIN - Please respect the Holiness of these pages

5 – RAV RISKIN



Rabbi Shlomo Riskin: http://www.ohrtorah.org.il/index.htm#top

What is faith from the Biblical perspective? Conventional wisdom would suggest that it means total and unremitting trust in G-d. Indeed, the Talmud records in the name of R. Aha: "One who goes to a doctor for a blood-letting procedure is to say, "May it be thy will, Lord our G-d, that this enterprise heal me and that it be healed, because you G-d are a faithful healer and your healing is true. It is not the way of human beings to heal; they merely play-act" (B.T. Berachot 60a). Rashi interprets these words to mean that human beings ought not even be involved in medicine, but should merely seek Divine mercy; the great sage Nahmanides, who was himself a doctor, nevertheless taught that those who were on the highest level of faith in G-d should never seek human medical help, but should rather place their exclusive trust in G-d.

However, a strange dialogue between Moses and the Almighty in this week's torah reading would seem to contravene this commonly accepted definition of faith. Pharaoh decides to go after the Israelites, whom he now believes he never should have allowed to leave Egypt. The Israelites are smitten with fear at the advent of the marching Egyptian armies, cry out to G-d, and rail at Moses: "?It would have been better to have been slaves in Egypt than to die in the desert." Moses then comforts the people, urging them on to what we would imagine to be genuine faith: "Don't be afraid; stand firm?G-d will wage battle for you, and you can remain silent".

But G-d is not satisfied with Moses' lesson in faith. The Biblical narrative continues: "And the Lord said to Moses, 'Why are you crying out to me? Speak to the Israelites, and let them start moving!'" (Exodus 4:12-15). Rashi has G-d say, in effect: "this is not the time for prolonged prayer". It is rather the time for action!

I would submit that the Bible is imparting a critical lesson to the Israelites in this passage, providing a dramatic transformation of the pagan concept of faith. It is not by accident that the entire account of this dialogue opens: "G-d spoke to Moses saying 'speak to the Israelites and tell them to turn back and camp before Freedom Valley (Pi HaHirot; either where the Israelites are to learn the message of true freedom, or the Mouth of [the Pagan god] Horus) ...facing the god of the North (a huge idol, the only one who survived the ravages of the plagues according to Rashi ad loc) near the Sea" (Ex 14: 1-3).

Now the pagan gods demanded fealty, even to the point of child sacrifices; they expected absolute faith in their ultimate power, the only important act of human beings are to propitiate the gods, through offerings and sacrifices. World events, however, were effectuated by the gods, and not by humans.

The first important message of the drama of the Egyptian experience was to demonstrate the supreme power of the one true G-d of Israel and the universe - G-d and not Pharaoh or the Nile. And the Israelites believed in G-d and in His promises with every fiber of their being. This was the faith of a Joseph, who makes his brothers swear to bring his bones out of Egypt "for G-d will surely remember, yes remember you" and bring you back to Israel. This was the faith of parents from the tribe of Levi, who - despite the unspeakably cruel Egyptian slavery and persecution of the children of Joseph - gave their baby boy the name Amram, Exalted Nation, and their girl baby the name Yocheved, Glory to G-d. They were being nourished by the Abrahamic vision of the C ovenant between the Pieces; they had perfect faith in the ultimate execution of redemption by G-d.

But they had yet to understand that Jewish faith expects not only faith in G-d but faith in self; faith in our ability to act meaningfully, in our power to begin the process of redemption, in our responsibilities to repair ourselves and our society. This is the fullness of the message of Torah and its recipe of commandments; this is the Divine expectation that we function not as His chattel but rather as His partners - in perfecting the world in the Kingship of G-d.

So stuck were the Israelites in the former primitive nation of faith that they weren't even capable of responding to Pharaoh's armies. After all, the Egyptians had suffered a severe physical and traumatic defeat as a result of the ten plagues. Yes, Pharaoh is advancing against them with an army, but he commands only 600 chariots with chosen crews, Josephus suggests that there were an additional 50,000 horsemen and 200,00 foot soldiers (Antiquities 2:15,3). Ramses II is said to have had a force of 2,400 cavalry, independent of the chariots (Hertz, Pentateuch ad loc.). But there were 600,000 Israelite men! Why did they not think of organizing an army and fighting back?!

And so, when Moses confirms the Israelite concept by saying that they ought be silent and watch G-d do battle, the Almighty must correct him. If indeed the Israelite are to be his partners, they dare not stand silently by and wait. Much to the contrary, they must begin the process and act! Biblical faith means to do what has to be done, in the physical, spiritual and ethical realms; and only after we have done whatever we can do, have we the right and duty to faithfully rely on G-d "Those who begin by purifying will be aided from on High".

Hence the Codes of Jewish law do not accept the prayer suggested by Rav Aba when one enters a medical office. Abaye disagrees, citing a far more authoritative source: "Permission is granted by G-d to the doctors to do the healing". G-d works through human actions in the process of redemption.

We must believe in G-d as well as in ourselves!

HhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhH

6 -PROJECT GENESIS



The Jewish Learning Network Email: learn@torah.org URL: http://www.torah.org/

A). PG LIFELINE:



"...He made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided." [14:21]

"The sea saw and fled..." [Psalms 114:3]

What did the sea see? It saw the casket of Yosef. [Medrash]

According to the Medrash, the sea parted because it saw the casket of Yosef. But the next question to be asked is, what was so special about the bones of Yosef? Why would the sea turn back simply because of his casket, and not because of Moshe, Aaron, and all of the Children of Israel?

The HaDrash VeHaIyun answers that the sea didn't want to move, and not merely because of inertia. It claimed that "I am greater than man. I was created on the Third Day, and human beings were created only on the Sixth Day. I have seniority! Why must I be part of a miracle done for them?"

Then it saw the casket carrying Yosef. Yosef was younger than his brothers, but nonetheless he was the ruler over all of them -- to the point that they had to bow to him and to his will. Their descendents observed his word generations after his death, emerging with his casket according to his instructions. This proved that age isn't a necessary indicator of greatness. When the sea recognized this, it parted.

Having spoken about the importance of respect for elders last week, it is worthwhile to recall another statement of our Sages, in the Chapters of the Fathers: "Look not at the vessel, but at that which it contains. For there is a new vessel which contains aged [wine], and an old vessel which does not even contain new." [4:20]

Indeed, age is not everything. Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah became the Head of the Yeshiva at age 18, because he acquired greater wisdom than those many times his age. And as one subscriber pointed out correctly, it is certainly true that not every aged person behaves as if he or she has acquired wisdom over the years.

Age is a sign. It can indicate wisdom, and we must respect an aged person for his or her life experiences, but it is no guarantee. We also go by many other signs and titles, the "trappings" of knowledge and wisdom -- terms like Doctor, Professor, Rabbi -- and people automatically respect those who bear them. To a certain extent, this is appropriate, like the honor given a person of 70. Yet at the same time, we must heed the advice of the Sages, "look not at the vessel, but at that which it contains."

Several months ago, a friend of mine directed me to an article by a Professor of Talmud which was published on the Internet, which reached a surprising conclusion -- allegedly based upon a Talmudic passage. Upon reading it, I discovered an error so obvious that my friend, who has no background in Talmud, was able to perceive it as well when he looked up the sources in Soncino's translation.

My point here is not to focus upon this particular story, or to take aim at Professors of Talmud -- not at all. This only indicates the need for caution. People are starving for spiritual leadership. They want answers and guidance. And when someone is dying of thirst, even "brackish waters" seem like the pure waters of Torah. So it is very easy to take up the mantle today, and set up shop... not unlike the way Project Genesis did on the Internet several years ago.

"Caveat Emptor" -- let the buyer beware -- has never been more applicable than in the age of the Internet, when most anyone can set up a web site and promote himself or herself as the latest Jewish guru. With a few thousand more dollars, a physical site can be rented out for the latest spirit center.

Jewish learning has always involved questioning every detail. Don't take what anyone says at face value. Criticize. Examine. Question -- and see if the answers reflect knowledge or a facade. "Look not at the vessel, but at that which it contains."

B). RAV FRAND:



Insight Into An Age Old Dilemma



"And it came to pass when Pharo sent out the people the L-rd did not lead them by way of the land of the Plishtim, because it was near" [Shmos 13:17].

When the Jews came out of Egypt there were two possible paths to Eretz Yisroel, each of which had an advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage of the route by way of the land of the Plishtim was that the Jews would be travelling in civilized territory. They would travel among people in a place where food and water would be readily available. On the other hand, they would be travelling through a society of Plishtim, whose moral level was as bad or worse than that of the Egyptians. Choosing this path would run the risk of exposing the nation to great spiritual danger. In Egypt they had already been on the verge of falling into a spiritual black hole. The nation was on the "49th level of impurity", the last step before total spiritual doom.

The other alternative was the way of the wilderness. This route presented no spiritual challenges. It was desolate and unoccupied land. There would be nothing to worry about in terms of people or society having a bad impact on Klal Yisroel [The Jewish Nation]. But the problem with this route was -- how does one take a nation of 2-3 million people through a desert and feed them? Where would the food come from? Where would the water come from? This was the dilemma when the Jewish people left Egypt.

What does the verse tell us? G-d caused the people to circle away from the land of the Plishtim, by way of the Red Sea. G-d preferred the desert and all of its associated problems rather than sending the Jews through the land of the Plishtim.

The Chofetz Chaim, zt"l, says that this verse teaches us a lesson in life. This section resolves an age-old question. If one has a choice between a situation where sustenance will come easily but be accompanied by spiritual danger, or a situation where earning a livelihood will be difficult but there would be relative freedom from bad spiritual influences, the Torah tells us to pick spirituality over livelihood. One should opt for the less spiritually dangerous environment, even though livelihood will come with greater difficulty.

The reason for this is that as difficult as the yoke of earning a living is -- and we all know that it is a curse and it is a major problem -- it is the easier problem to solve. Furthermore, only the effort involved in earning a living is truly our worry. Providing the actual livelihood is G-d's worry. He will solve that problem. Our spirituality however, is our own problem. Therefore, we must choose the path that will allow us to best resolve that problem.

"Providing for man's livelihood is as difficult as the Splitting of the Red Sea" [Pesachim 118a]. The commentaries all comment on the analogy between providing for man's livelihood and the Splitting of the Sea. The reason for the analogy is that concerning the Yam Suf [Red Sea] it says "Speak to the children of Israel and let them travel forward" [Shmos 14:15]. This means that all we need to do is make an effort, even in the face of a hopeless situation, and G-d will take care of the rest. This is in fact what happened. The Children of Israel went into the water up to their necks, and then the miracle occurred. That is the way it is with a livelihood. Make the effort. That is all that we are required to do. If we make that effort, G-d will provide.

This is a lesson that we must review over and over again. If there is an option of uncertain livelihood and confident spirituality versus confident livelihood and uncertain spirituality, we must always opt for the confident spirituality.

C). PARSHA PARABLES (

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky)

Clear Intructions



It was a battle for the ages. As the Jews departed Egypt and miraculously crossed the Red Sea, they were brutally and savagely ambushed by Amalek, a nation who would prove to be the perpetual nemesis of the Jewish People until this very day. The nation of Amalek repeated their malice again during the Israelites' trek in the desert after the death of Ahron. At that time, they posed as Canaanites and once again tried to defeat the Jews (Numbers 21:1). Both times they were repelled. Amalek's venom spewed throughout history. Eventually, Amalek's direct descendant, Haman, would unsuccessfully try his hand at the total annihilation of our nation during the era between the destruction of the first Holy Temple and the rebuilding of the second Temple.

It therefore is no surprise that historians and scholars alike have traced the German butchers of World War II as descendants of the Amalekites.

But history did not have to be repeated. Amalek could have been quashed at the beginning of his ruthless career. After the first ambush, Hashem gave specific instructions on how the Jewish nation must deal with Amalek. The directive was not pretty. It entailed war, but following the directives precisely would have prevented generations of bloodshed and preserved millions of Jewish lives throughout our history.

The failure to fulfill them in toto would lead to the Jewish People's eventual and constant persecution, even attempted annihilation. The plans were so precise that instructions were given as to how the directive was supposed to be transmitted. Yes, even the instructions were given with instructions!

"Hashem said to Moshe, 'Write this as a remembrance in the Book and put it in the ears of Yehoshua (Joshua) that I shall surely erase the memory of Amalek from under the heavens' " (Exodus 17:14).

And so Moshe is told to instruct Joshua, his warrior, in no uncertain terms how the Jewish nation must deal with those who sought to abort their growth only days from their triumphant emergence from the parted waters of the Red Sea. He is told write it down and then place it in the ears of Joshua. What troubles me is the double directive. The entire Torah was either written or transmitted orally. The Torah hardly ever tells Moshe to do both write and transmit orally. Wasn't the entire Torah written and taught? Why, then, when it comes to this particular command does the Torah instruct both a written and verbal instruction, the latter to be placed directly into the ear of Joshua?

Towards the end of last year, a Judge in Denver Colorado was presiding over a civil trial when she noticed that a screw must have fallen out of the Venetian blinds over a window on the right side of the courtroom, and they were beginning to give way. As the window treatments were suspended directly over the jury box, the judge was concerned. A screw must have fallen out and the shades were beginning to tilt precariously.

She did not want to interrupt the testimony of one of the litigants, and quickly scribbled a note and motioned for the court officer.

With a look of concern, and without even directing her attention toward him, she handed the note to the court officer.

The officer looked at the note and immediately raced from the courtroom for assistance. Within minutes, an ambulance, sirens blaring, screeched to a halt in front of the courthouse. The paramedics raced to the courtroom, stretcher opened, fully prepared to treat a stroke victim.

The startled Judge looked up in horror as she protested the onslaught of medics - until they handed her the note, she had given the court officer. In her own hand it read, "Blind on the right side. Send for immediate assistance."

Instructions that deal in life or death situations can be easily misconstrued. Wars have been fought, lives have been lost, and nations defeated due to homonymic misinterpretations. The formidable foes were on the verge of defeat all too often in Jewish history when misplaced compassion led to progenitors who returned the Jewish kindness with murderous onslaught. And so, writing messages or telling stories were not enough. The message had to be oral and written, spoken and recorded, documented and preserved. For hatred and evil must be eradicated - in our minds, in our mouths, with our ears, and with our quills.

2010-07-19 18:44 Читать похожую статью
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