Siyyum on Sefer Yeshoshua with the Boys – Shamma’s Dvar Torah

February 23, 2010

For the past year Adin, Shamma and I have been studying the Book of Joshua.  We have spent much of our time at the HIR’s parent-child learning progam v’shinantem.  The boys have loved the learning as well as the pizza.  Shamma decided that he would give a dvar torah and this is what he shared:


Yoma 74b to 75a – Understanding the Deeper Message of the Manna

February 23, 2010

In this shiur we completed the aggadic tangent in the beginning of the 8th chapter of Yoma.  I presented a deep theological message that grows from a careful read of the sugya.

The topic of the Manna came up as a result of the position of Tanna d’vei Rebbi Yishmael that claims that we learn the concept of inuy (suffering / torture) on Yom Kippur from the way that the Torah uses the word inuy in the context of the manna.  Immediately after learning of this relationship from Rebbi Yishmael we are introduced to the nature of the suffering of the manna.

We encounter the position of either Rebbi Ami or Rebbi Assi that says that the reason that the torturous nature of the manna comes from the fact that it only fell once a day.  Therefore, there was always a sense of uneasiness – will the manna really fall tomorrow?

At the conclusion of the sugya we learn of a question posed by students to Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) as to why the manna fell daily and not yearly.  Why not just save up for the year?  Rashbi replies that in order to make sure that the Jewish People keep praying to God the system was set up in such way that we would need to collect on a daily basis, never certain if the manna would fall the next day.

That which the gemara had defined as inuy (divine torture) has been turned into a tool used by God to maintain a relationship with the Jewish People.

In a parallel move Hazal make a powerful statement about experiencing God in the absence of the Divine (Yoma 69b).  Yirmiyahu and Daniel are presented as altering the text of the prayers as established by Moshe because they no longer felt the might or awe of God.  Hazal understand that precisely because God allows the nations of the world to dance in the Temple and enslave the Jewish People that is how we know that we are in a relationship.

If only on this Purim we are able to experience the gentle hand of God in the absence that we feel in the Megila and in life.

You can find the key mekorot at this link.

In addition, here is the audio of the shiur itself:

Yoma 75b – The Inuy of the Manna as Relationship

Rabbi Asher Lopatin – in Israel!

February 10, 2010

Kol ha-Kavod to Rav Asher!  I hope that he is able to bring his inspired vision of the possibilities of Jewish life and living to Israel in a meaningful way.  If only more of us had the courage to do what he is doing.

See the article in the Chicago Tribune!

Is there a Biblical Mitzvah of Genocide?

February 10, 2010

This shiur was given within the context of a study of Sefer Yehoshua.  We studied the various Biblical texts that outline the Mitzvot of wiping out the memory of Amalek as well as expelling the seven Canaanite nations.

While there is no doubt a strand of traditional Jewish thinking that reads these as simple and straightforward commandments to destroy an entire people, there are other ways to read this material.

Here you can find a list of the Biblical citations that we worked with.

Here you can find the Rabbinic and Halakhik material that we discussed in the shiur.

In addition, here is the auidio of the shiur itself:

A Mitzvah of Genocide – Hadar – 2 10 10

Michael Oren Shouted Down at UCI

February 10, 2010

It is frightening to imagine what it means that Oren basically could not finish his talk.

Here is the article from the Jerusalem Post.

Yoma 75a – Did the Slav start and stop?

February 9, 2010

The aggadic tangent into the world of the manna and the slav that appears toward the beginning of the eighth chapter of masechet Yoma continue to puzzle me.  Its placement in the masechet as well as a deeper meaning are clearly significant.  My sense is that the Bavli is teaching us something about the relationship between the manna and the prohibitions of Yom Kippur.  How exactly that works still remains to be seen.

The gemara seems to be trying to work out a clean synthesis of Exodus chapter 15 and Numbers chapter 11 – the two main chapters in which we learn about the manna.  In addition, the gemara goes on a tangent from the tangent to address some of the miraculous properties of the slav.

The shiur started with a brief excursion into the world of the slav (the quail-like bird the the Jewish People ate in the desert).  There is a fundamental problem with the narrative when we compare Exodus 15 to Numbers 11.  It is clear that in Exodus they are given the meat of the slav to eat.  They do not move very far until the 10th chapter of Numbers as the march to Israel begins.  Surprisingly, at the beginning of the chapter the people complain about not having meat and they are given the slav.  Did the slav stop and then re-start?  Did something change in the people that lead them to ask again?

The gemara in Arachin (16a-b) seems to address this question.  There is a debate on the page between Rashi (never stopped) and Tosafot (Rav Yosef Kara – stopped and started) that is mirrored by the debate of Ramban (never stopped) and Chizkuni (stopped and started) on Shemot 15.  You can find those sources here.

You can follow the material in Yoma here.

Here is the audio of the shiur that includes the question of the Slav as well as some of the gemara in Yoma:

Yoma 75b – Slav and Manna – 2 9 10

Thoughts from a Cafe in Jerusalem

February 4, 2010

As I sit here in the German Colony I feel torn between two poles of Jewish life in the twenty first century .  There is no doubt in my mind that Jewish destiny can best be fulfilled living in a Jewish state.  At the same time, I am not certain that the Jewishness of the Jewish State aligns with my understanding of what God wants from am yisrael.  At the same time, the cultural and philosophical baggage of America seem to fundamentally contradict my commitment to Halakha.

The Jewry of the Diaspora needs people who are able to translate Jewish texts, wisdom and history into a modern idiom.  This is the language that I speak – attempting to bring people from all backgrounds into conversation with their own Jewish life and at the same time, insuring that the carriers of our tradition are able to speak to a living, vibrant Jewish community.

Ironically, the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem is perhaps the greatest translator of our tradition – and they live in Israel.

Israeli society sorely needs a liberal notion of Judaism that can make room for multiple levels of commitment under the same roof.  What might it look like if Synaplex were able to help create synagogues through out the country?  If Yeshivat Hadar were the model for yeshivot around Israel, how might Israeli society be different?  Imagine what “Limmud Tel-Aviv” or “Limmud Afula” might look like – (LimmudUK, LimmudLA, LimmudNY,)

There are, no doubt, people on both sides of the Atlantic who are learning from one another.  The Israeli Academy for Leadership is a place that is attempting to present a fresh vision of what Jewish Life could be.  Yeshivat Ma’alei Gilboa offers a Yeshiva environment in which all ideas are on the table.

One solution is a mass aliyah of progressive Jews from around the world to Israel.  Will that work?  Will that happen?

As the internet shrinks the world, it is my hope and prayer that we are able to learn to embrace the creativity and vibrancy of both communities.