January, 2012 Archives

5
Jan

Vay’hi:-Zealotry and Tolerance by David Hazony

by developer in Portion of the Week

The time of patriarchs was reaching its end. Jacob was dying, and alongside his dictation of burial arrangements, he also gave final words to his twelve sons, words in which he would tell them “what will befall you in the end of days.” We usually read them as his final “blessings.” But in the case of two sons, Simeon and Levi, they are assuredly curses.

Simeon and Levi are brothers; instruments of cruelty are their swords. Let my soul not come into their council; to their assembly let my honor not be united. For in their anger they slew a man, and in their willfulness they lamed an ox. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel. I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. (49:1–4)

Jacob knew full well the power of a father’s deathbed will: He had caused unspeakable pain to be inflicted on his brother Esau through words much milder than these. But the actions of Simeon and Levi, who deceived and slaughtered the men of Shechem in retaliation for the rape of their sister Dina, were too much for Jacob to suffer.

Does the Bible endorse Jacob’s view? Not necessarily. While Simeon’s offspring ultimately descend into historical irrelevance, the Levites become the guardians of the Temple, priests to God, teachers of the people.

This is not a small problem in the text. The stories of the twelve brothers are meant to tell us something about the fate of the tribes they sired. If Jacob’s curse on Levi doesn’t come true, it raises the possibility that he deeply misunderstood at least one of his own sons.

To unravel the mess, we need to reread the saga of Simeon and Levi, as individuals and tribes, as a five-act play. It’s a story of extremism, zealotry, and violence—and the difficulty in telling right from wrong in the high-stakes game of the love of God.

Act 1: Shechem. After the king of Shechem helps himself to Jacob’s only daughter Dina, Simeon and Levi conspire to vanquish the whole city. They pretend to cut a deal in which the Shechemites first circumcise themselves, and will then be allowed to marry Israelite women. They agree, and when they are at the height of their physical weakness, the brothers kill them all. Jacob is livid, on the grounds that all the other peoples will descend upon him and his family. The brothers respond, “Should he deal with our sister as with a harlot?” And here things get strange.

The brothers’ retort is left hanging in the air, at the very least suggesting they have fought to a draw. Later on, it becomes clear that Jacob’s fears were unfounded: “The terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.” We are left with a sense that Jacob’s judgment is not the same as that of the text itself.

Act 2: The Curse. In this week’s reading, Jacob curses Simeon and Levi, calling them “brothers”—the emphasis suggesting that he saw them as identical to each other, motivated principally by anger, deserving the same fate.

Act 3: The Test. Generations later, in the wake of the Golden Calf in the book of Exodus, Moses famously calls out “Whoever is with the Lord, come with me!” Only the Levites come to Moses’ side, and they slay two thousand Israelites with the sword as retribution and purification of the camp. Simeon’s tribe, for all its presumptive bloodlust, is nowhere to be found. And so, at a crucial moment, we discover that while Levi and Simeon may both have indulged in violence, their deeper nature was in fact different.  To put it bluntly, Levites are zealots for the Lord, while Simeonites are thugs.

The Levites are rewarded with the priesthood. It’s a double-edged reward: Their violent zealotry, so repugnant to Jacob, is channeled away from physical violence and towards extreme ritual, where any mistake can mean death, but where the consequences are purely religious. They are to be left out of military affairs and without land of their own. Their violence neutralized, their zealotry can be expressed in a more useful manner.

Act 4: The Last Battle. To make the point clear, in Numbers we find the head of the tribe of Simeon, Zimri ben Salu, publicly bedding the daughter of the king of Midian—an act not just of licentiousness but, in context, of idolatry as well. With Moses and Aaron standing by, powerless to stop it, Aaron’s grandson Pinhas, heir to the leadership of the Levite priests, hurls his javelin through Zimri and his concubine, killing them both. This is the final act of Levite violence, and it is aimed at none other than the chief of Simeon. Zealotry takes out thuggery, Levi defeats Simeon once and for all, thereby distinguishing himself and disproving Jacob’s claim that they are “brothers.”

Act 5: The Inheritance. In the book of Joshua, upon entry into the Promised Land, the Levites receive just the minimal land around urban centers and are teachers of God’s word and servants in the Temple. In this sense only, Jacob’s curse comes true. Simeon, on the other hand, is lost to history, his descendants unable to find a coherent piece of territory and utterly subsumed into Judah.

The message of all this? Our human world is a complex one, with some people built for the nasty business of diplomacy, nuance, and gracious maneuvering; while others are preternaturally primed for ideological purity, simplicity of principle, and extremity of action. Jacob was clearly the former, and had no room in his world for Levi. Somehow, however, biblical religion did make room for the Levite, not just by giving a place of honor and productive purpose to his otherwise uncontrolled zealotry—but also in requiring that the rest of us take care not only of the poor and orphaned, but also the “Levite in our gates”—as well as their spiritual heirs, the zealots, mystics, absolutists and other difficult individuals who, in spite of everything, are entrusted to our care.

David Hazony is author of The Ten Commandments: How Our Most Ancient Moral Text Can Renew Modern Life (Scribner, 2010).




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4
Jan

Haftarah-Vayechi-Reading the Text-David and Yoav I-Abner Part Four

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

In our journey of “Balance,” “David, Yoav & Abner I,” “Part Two,” and, “Part Three,” we’ve been studying David’s opening charge to Solomon urging him to balance his dual roles as person and king (Be a Man). We have watched as Joab battles the king’s sense of balance, and how he was willing to place his desires above the stability of the kingdom and God’s expressed will. We left off with David refusing to allow himself to stop Joab, because he is struggling to maintain balance between his drive for action and God’s Providence, especially when it is clear that it is God Who is guiding these major events.

Let’s return to the Abner-Joab story to discover what David learns about this issue:

Now when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into an inner chamber, as if to speak with him privately. And there, to avenge the blood of his brother Asahel, Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and he died.

Later, when David heard about this, he said, ‘I and my kingdom are forever innocent before God concerning the blood of Abner son of Ner. May his blood fall on the head of Joab and on his whole family! May Joab’s family never be without someone who has a running sore or leprosy or who leans on a crutch or who falls by the sword or who lacks food. (22-29)

“Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon (30).”

Why is David not angry with Abishai?

“Then the king said to his men, ‘Do you not realize that a commander and a great man has fallen in Israel this day? And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May God repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds’ (38-39).”

As Abner had done to Ish-Bosheth, Joab did to David: Ish-Bosheth, “did not dare to say another word to Abner, because he was afraid of him,” he was so weak that, not only did he not dare to say another word, he actually helps Abner’s plan to support David; “So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish!”

David makes a public declaration, even after saying, “I and my kingdom are forever innocent before God concerning the blood of Abner son of Ner. May his blood fall on the head of Joab and on his whole family! May Joab’s family never be without someone who has a running sore or leprosy or who leans on a crutch or who falls by the sword or who lacks food,” that, “today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May God repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds,” I am weak!

Joab made David appear weak, so much so, that even when David publicly curses Joab, “May his blood fall on the head of Joab and on his whole family! May Joab’s family never be without someone who has a running sore or leprosy or who leans on a crutch or who falls by the sword or who lacks food,” and, “May God repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds,” David’s reliance on God to exact retribution is perceived as a sign of weakness. Was that balance?

If the issue was David’s political weakness; no. However, David is not speaking of his inability to directly deal with Joab; he is speaking, in deep and honest self-reflection, of his self-doubt: Did he hesitate to confront Joab because he believed that God would deal with things, or, did his political weakness cause him to use the Divine Providence argument as an excuse to avoid a confrontation?

There is no balance without such honest introspection, and, it is only the balanced David who can be so honest.

This is one of the most important lessons he can convey to his son, Solomon, one that Solomon will repeat in the fourth chapter of Proverbs. See: “Receiving the Transmission,” and “Judgment Calls.”

We can now turn to the next assassination mentioned by David to Solomon, that of Amasa:

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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4
Jan

Haftarah-Vayechi-Reading the Text-David and Yoav I-Abner Part Three

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

It is clear in “Balance,” “David, Yoav & Abner I,” and “Part Two,” that David’s opening charge to Solomon is to urge him to balance his dual roles as person and king (Be a Man). We’ve begun to see how Joab is anti-balance, and why David includes his instructions regarding Joab in his opening charge. Let’s now see the balance in David’s immediate and long term responses to his powerful and essential general:

“Then he went to Hebron to tell David everything that Israel and the whole tribe of Benjamin wanted to do.

When Abner, who had twenty men with him, came to David at Hebron, David prepared a feast for him and his men. Then Abner said to David, ‘Let me go at once and assemble all Israel for my lord the king, so that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may rule over all that your heart desires.’ So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace (17-21).”

Abner speaks to David of, “Everything that Israel and the whole tribe of Benjamin wanted to do.” He does not speak of what he had convinced them to do. Abner does not mention his role. He is coming to David as the representative of the tribes that have yet to publicly support David as their new king. Abner has successfully learned from David how to place his own concerns to those secondary of the nation.

I would expect Abner to come to David with a huge contingent of leaders, soldiers, and common people; probably, a significant representation of the tribe of Benjamin as well. However, for this epochal meeting, Abner brings only twenty men with him. It is clear from the rest of the paragraph that Abner did not intend this as the final meeting, but only his opening gambit: “let me go at once and dissemble all Israel for my lord the king.” What was the purpose of this initial meeting?

“David prepared a feast for him,” for this was a meeting between David and Abner as men, not as powers. This was Abner’s way of conveying to David the message that he had heard, understood, and reified David’s message of balance.

“Just then David’s men and Joab returned from a raid and brought with them a great deal of plunder.

But Abner was no longer with David in Hebron, because David had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. When Joab and all the soldiers with him arrived, he was told that Abner son of Ner had come to the king and that the king had sent him away and that he had gone in peace.

So Joab went to the king and said, ‘What have you done? Look, Abner came to you. Why did you let him go? Now he is gone! You know Abner son of Ner; he came to deceive you and observe your movements and find out everything you are doing.’ Joab then left David and sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern at Sirah. But David did not know it.”

At that moment, Joab “returns from a raid with a great deal of plunder,” proving his importance to David. Yet, the verse stresses that the soldiers who accompanied Joab were “David’s men,” not Joab’s! In fact, while we would certainly expect the verse to say that ‘Joab and David’s men returned,’ placing the leader of the raiding party, the powerful general, Joab, first, the verse places David’s men before Joab; as if to say that the return to David with substantial plunder was not necessarily Joab’s preference. He, as opposed to Abner, has not decided to make his personal concerns secondary to those of his king.

Joab criticizes David for having allowed Abner to leave in peace. He accuses David of being naïve and not realizing that Abner’s approach was a pretense simply to allow him to “observe your movements and find out everything you are doing.”

It is difficult for a person who has no sense of balance to believe that David is anything but naïve. Joab became not understand the subtleties of the communication between David and his new ally. He sees things only from his perspective of power: Abner is a threat.

Joab makes his feelings clear, and with out articulating his intentions, he leaves David. He fully expects David to figure out his deadly intentions. Joab not only rebukes the King, he sends David the message that he, Joab, the mature general, will deal with this matter. There is an inherent challenge to David’s power in Joab’s message: “Try and stop me!” Abner had come to solidify David’s reign; Joab is placing everything at risk!

David, the balanced Man, has throughout his life steadily maintained a far more essential sense of balance; that of his desire to take action directed by God’s Divine Providence. Abner had clearly stated to all that his decision to support David was part of the fulfillment of God’s promise. David felt that these events were being directly provided by the Almighty.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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4
Jan

Is Israeli Society Unraveling? by Caroline B. Glick

by developer in Holidays, Reflections & Observations

We have far more that unites us than separates us. If we focus on this, there is no force either within or without our society that can defeat us.

On balance, Israeli society is extremely healthy.

Unemployment is at record lows. At a time of global recession, the Israeli economy is growing steadily.

Israeli Jewish women have the highest fertility rate in the Western world with an average of three children per woman. Education levels have risen dramatically across the board over the past decade with dozens of private colleges opening their doors to more and more sectors of the population.

Israel’s diverse Jewish population is becoming more integrated. Sephardic and Ashkenazi intermarriage has long been a norm. Secular Jews are becoming more religious. A new educational trend that received significant media attention in recent months involves secular parents who send their children to national religious schools to ensure that they receive strong educational grounding in Judaism.

And as secular Jews become more religious, both the national religious and ultra-Orthodox sectors are becoming increasingly integrated in nonreligious neighborhoods and institutions. Ultra-Orthodox conscription rates have increased seven-fold in the past four years. In 2010, 50 percent of ultra-Orthodox male highschool graduates were conscripted.

The IDF assesses that by 2015, the rate of conscription will rise to 65%.

While this is still below the general conscription rate of 75% among male 18-year-olds, the rapid rise in ultra- Orthodox military service is a revolutionary development for the sector.

With military service comes entrée to the job market. The trend towards employment integration was blazed by ultra-Orthodox women. Over the past decade, ultra-Orthodox women have matriculated en masse in vocational schools that have trained them in hi-tech and other marketable professions and so enabled them to raise their families out of poverty.

These ultra-Orthodox women, who are now being followed by their IDF veteran husbands, are part of a general trend that has seen women fully integrated in almost every sector of society and the economy. The fact that women make up the senior leadership echelons in both business and government is not a fluke. Rather it is a product of the largely egalitarian nature of Israeli society.

True, as is the case everywhere, Israeli women suffer from male chauvinism.

And like the rest of the world, Israel has its share of sexual abusers, rapists, and criminal and social misogynists. But imperfection does not detract from the fact that women in Israel are free, educated, empowered and advancing on all fronts.

As for the national religious community, its youth remain committed to serving as pioneers in strengthening Israel as a Jewish democracy. Not content to limit themselves to national religious communities in Judea and Samaria, more and more young national religious families are moving to poor towns and communities from Dimona to Ramle to Kiryat Shmona to strengthen their educational, economic and social underpinnings.

Modern Orthodox women are taking on expanded roles in religious councils, synagogues, religious courts and other bodies. Soldiers from the national religious sector remain overrepresented in all IDF combat units and in the officer corps.

Israel’s growing social cohesion and prosperity is all the more notable as we witness neighboring states aflame with rebellion and revolution, extremist Islamist forces voted to power from Morocco to Egypt and economic forecasts promising mass privation.

And in the Age of Obama, with cleavages between liberals and conservatives growing ever wider in America, and with the future of the European Union hanging in the balance as the euro zone teeters on the edge of an abyss, the fact that Israeli society is becoming increasingly fortified is simply extraordinary.

In light of these integrationist trends, the media circus in recent weeks that has portrayed Israeli society as frayed through and through has been startling. With women in Israel presented as underprivileged victims, national religious youth presented as terrorists and the ultra-Orthodox community presented as a gang of misogynist, violent crazies set to transform Israel – in the words of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – into another Iran, an average news consumer can be forgiven for wondering how he missed his country’s demise.

What explains this sudden flood of gloom and doom stories? Certainly it is true that in a highly competitive news environment, media coverage tends to over represent marginal social forces. Sensational stories make for banner headlines. And it is at the margins of society that a reporter is most likely to find sensational stories.

So it is that when reporters wish to push a socialist agenda, they descend on urban slums and talk to people hanging out on the street doing nothing. As a rule, these stories will not feature visits to vocational training schools that are educating poor people out of poverty.

Just as poor, uneducated single mothers in Lod can be depended on to blame their troubles on an insensitive government, so groups of ultra- Orthodox extremists in Beit Shemesh, whose own communities decry them, can be trusted to treat nonreligious women poorly.

None of this is to say that we should stand by and allow poor single moms and their children to go hungry or that we should accept abuse of women by ultra-Orthodox bullies. The former is an issue for social services. The latter is an issue for law enforcement bodies. And to the extent that these institutions are failing in their missions, they should be required to improve their performance.

But just the majority of single mothers, who are not impoverished, don’t deserve to be placed in the victim column, so, too, the majority of ultra-Orthodox Israelis do not deserve to have their reputation besmirched because of the bad behavior of a small, vocal and easily provoked minority.

ALL OF this brings us to the issue at hand. Stories highlighting the deviant behaviors of marginal social forces tend to be simplistic and misleading, and to serve identifiable political forces. And so, with our national discourse suddenly dominated by stories describing the demise of Israeli democracy, women’s rights and the rule of law at the hands of modern and ultra- Orthodox Jews, we need to consider who benefits from the stories.

It is notable that the seam lines being opened by all of the stories, which are again, about deviations from the norm of Israel’s social cohesion, all fall within the governing coalition. Stories of “Jewish terrorists” set the security hawks against the ideological hawks. They set the likes of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his supporters against the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and their representatives in the Likud, Israel Beiteinu, Habayit Hayehudi and other coalition parties.

Stories about ultra-Orthodox misogynists make it politically costly for the Likud and Israel Beiteinu to sit in the same government as ultra- Orthodox parties such as Shas and United Torah Judaism. They also serve to weaken Shas among its nonultra- Orthodox voters. The fact that the ultra-Orthodox bus lines were inaugurated with the support of the Kadima government in 2007 is beside the point. It is the Likud that is now being blamed for their existence.

The current media-supported outcries against the national religious and ultra-Orthodox sectors follow the pattern of last summer’s social justice protests in Tel Aviv. The purpose of those protests was to discredit the government in the eyes of working class voters and young people.

The current protests also follow in the footsteps of the protests of 1998 and 1999 that brought down Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s first government. Those protests pitted his Russian immigrant coalition members against Shas. They pitted secular Israelis against his ultra-Orthodox coalition members. They alienated young voters from his leadership.

They set his socialist partners against his capitalist partners.

The cleavages wrought in Netanyahu’s coalition made members of his own party as well as his coalition partners fear the electoral cost of maintaining their membership in his government. And so one by one, they bolted his government until it finally fell.

Notably, many of the same forces – from the New Israel Fund to various political consultants who work for the Israeli Left to European NGOs – who were active in the protests in 1999 and in the social justice protests last summer are also playing a role in the current protests. The New Israel Fund raised NIS 200,000 in “emergency funds” to pay for buses to transport protesters to Beit Shemesh last week.

It also paid for two rallies in Jerusalem attacking religious bans on female vocalists earlier last month.

Last summer, Israel’s New Left movement led by leftist political consultant Eldad Yaniv took credit for organizing the anti-free market protests. Yaniv and his colleagues were assisted in conceptualizing the protests by US Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, who was also the architect of the social protests in 1998-99.

Indications of how the political Left has been impacted by the current wave of demonstrations are mixed. A Shvakim Panorama poll from last week, which posited the existence of a new anti-religious party led by popular television personality Yair Lapid and a new anti-capitalist Sephardic party led by former Shas leader Arye Deri, indicated that the Left as a whole has been strengthened against the Right. While Kadima would lose most of its Knesset seats to Lapid’s party, it is Deri who would be the undoing of the Right.

The poll claimed that Deri, who since his release from prison has strengthened his bonafides as a secular- friendly political dove, would win seven mandates. Shas would drop from its current 11 seats to five. Deri’s rise would decrease the political Right in all its various forms from its current 67-seat majority in the 120 seat Knesset to a minority of 57.

The media have trumpeted this poll as the first harbinger of spring for Israel’s political Left. And certainly it provides some reason for celebration among leftist political forces. Like the protests in the late 1990s, and like last summer’s anti-capitalist protests, the current batch of anti-religious campaigns serves to turn Israeli against Israeli by feeding on and inflaming sectoral envies and insecurities. And given their success, we can certainly expect them to continue.

For the benefit of society as a whole, we must hope that the basic health and cohesion of Israeli society that has grown so miraculously over the past decade will prevail in the current contest. We have far more that unites us than separates us. If we focus on this, there is no force either within or without our society that can defeat us.

But if we give in to the forces of contention and chaos, we risk endangering everything we hold dear.

 

caroline@carolineglick.com

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4
Jan

Haftarah-Vayechi-Reading the Text-David and Yoav I-Abner Part Two

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

In “Balance,” and “David, Yoav & Abner I,” we began to explain David’s opening charge to Solomon from his deathbed, urging him to balance his dual roles as person and king (Be a Man). We’ve seen how David dealt with Abner, but we still must explain his reaction to, and his instructions regarding, Joab.

We continue with the story of Abner, David, and Joab:

“Abner conferred with the elders of Israel and said, ‘For some time you have wanted to make David your king. Now do it! For God promised David, ‘By my servant David I will rescue my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and from the hand of all their enemies.’

Abner also spoke to the Benjamites in person.”

Abner had already sent a message to David promising to bring all of Israel over to his side, and yet, it is only now that, “Abner conferred with the elders of Israel!”

“For some time you have wanted to make David your King. Now do it! For God promised David.” Clearly, Abner knew that the elders of Israel wanted to make David the king. There was only one thing stopping them all along; Abner!

When Abner approaches them, he is admitting that he had put his drive for power over the desires of the elders of Israel, and over God’s promise! What happened to allow this man so driven for power to make such a humiliating admission?

David’s balanced response to Abner. If the new King himself struggles with remaining a “normal” man even while assuming the reins of power, and is willing to convey that message to the man who can bring all of Israel to his side, then he is a man who understands Abner’s own internal struggle. Abner is now willing to confront the people he has been stopping from making David their king and admit his mistake.

Whereas Abner “conferred with the elders of Israel,” he, “spoke to the Benjamites in person.” Benjamin was the tribe of Saul and the current King, Ish-Bosheth. They would be forfeiting the power of being the tribe of the King. It is only Abner, who understands the quest for power, the nature of power, and, who is willing to his drive for power sublimate in order to fulfill God’s oath, and, to publicly make his humiliating admission, who can speak to the tribe of Benjamin. It is Abner’s “person,” that convinces Benjamin.

Perhaps Abner did not directly speak of David’s sense of balance, but the message transmitted in his conferring with the elders and ‘personally’ speaking to Benjamin, conveyed David’s message:

David’s reign would be one of great balance, something that had been painfully lacking when Saul was king. Abner is not only supporting David, the king, he is supporting David’s message.

This is the message of Abner that would be so damaged when he is assassinated by David’s general, Joab. Joab was the disturber of balance, again, an essential part of David’s opening message to Solomon.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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4
Jan

The Character in the Storm

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

“Talents are better nurtured in solitude, but character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe).”

We have been accompanying Jacob as he traces backwards the steps of his life in this life-defining portion, “Jacob Lived,” as his mission to reverse the steps taken by those who distanced themselves from the Garden in Eden, and, as the man who, “Did Not Die,” who addresses death and its consequences of “Envy,” & “The Green Master,” distance from God, leaking energy, and breaking links to the eternal (For King David’s similar concern, see, “Haftarah-Vayechi-Reading the Text I”). (“A Different Sort of Fear of Life,” “Not Waiting For the Monument,” “The Fragrance of Permanence,” “Stopping the Leaks,” “Strength from Brokenness, with a slight detour that, hopefully, will eventually become clear, in “Power of Softness”)

Jacob may very well have been a master teacher guiding Rachel and Leah in their relationship with God, but he still had much to do. Jacob decides to not directly address certain outstanding issues between Rachel and Leah but to allow them, now that they have developed their relationship with God in both, His Attribute of Compassion and His Attribute of Strength–judgment, to address their issues together.

“During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, ‘Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.’

But she said to her, ‘Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?’

“Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?” Leah is still angry with Rachel! Not only that, she accuses Rachel of taking Jacob from her! After all, Leah was Jacob’s first wife. Did Leah forget that she successfully folded Jacob only when her sister unselfishly confided certain predetermined secret signals to her sister so that we are would not be put to shame (Rashi, Genesis 29:25)? How could she possibly accuse her selfless sister of taking Jacob from her?

Was Rachel so insensitive to her sister that she did not suspect how Leah would feel when Rachel asked her for the mandrakes? The sister who was willing to give up her wedding bed to her sister was not an insensitive person.

‘Very well,’ Rachel said, ‘he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.’

When we pay careful attention to Rachel’s request, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes,” we see that Rachel is asking her sister to share. This is not Rachel saying, “I shared my bed with you, so you share your flowers with me!” This was the Rachel who had successfully incorporated Jacob’s lesson of relating to God both in His Attribute of Compassion and His Attribute of Strength–judgment: Rachel was saying to Leah, “We, who began with two very different relationships with God, and successfully learned to combine them, can now share everything in and eternal way.”

Leah was not yet ready to hear Rachel’s message. Leah had such a powerful sense of obligation to Rachel that she could not imagine denying her sister’s request. Rachel’s request was synonymous with a demand! In Leah’s mind, she was being forced to give up something her son had given her.

Rachel understands her sister. “Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your sons mandrakes.” Rachel does not say, “Jacob can sleep with you,” she says, “he!” Rachel understands that even though they had been discussing flowers, Leah was speaking only of her relationship with Jacob. Rachel, in the effect, was telling her sister, “I am willing to again share my bed with you!” What happened the night of your wedding to Jake up was not an emergency reaction; it was a statement to you, a statement I am reaffirming now, that I understand that we do not exist independent of each other and, just as we share this new level of a relationship with God, we share in that eternal connection with Jacob.

Did Leah understand Rachel’s message? We’ll see…

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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4
Jan

Haftarah-Vayechi-Reading the Text-David and Yoav I-Abner

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

We concluded Part One wondering how David’s opening message of balance to Solomon bears on all the instructions that follow. We pay close attention to the way the prophet formats the text, where he places an open space, indicating a new topic, or a closed space, indicating a related topic. The following verses are included in the same paragraph as David’s opening message, clearly indicating that they are part of the same message!

“Now you yourself know what Joab son of Zeruiah did to me—what he did to the two commanders of Israel’s armies, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether. He killed them, shedding their blood in peacetime as if in battle, and with that blood he stained the belt around his waist and the sandals on his feet. Deal with him according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace (I Kings 2:5-6).

“What he did to me!” Was Joab’s sin directed at David and not at the “commanders of Israel’s armies?” Does David need to mention the method Joab used to murder Abner and Amasa, “with that blood he sustained the belt around his waist and the sandals on his feet.” Why had David not dealt with Joab?

“During the war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner had been strengthening his own position in the house of Saul. Now Saul had had a concubine named Rizpah daughter of Aiah. And Ish-Bosheth said to Abner, ‘Why did you sleep with my father’s concubine?’

Abner was very angry because of what Ish-Bosheth said. So he answered, ‘Am I a dog’s head—on Judah’s side? This very day I am loyal to the house of your father Saul and to his family and friends. I haven’t handed you over to David. Yet now you accuse me of an offense involving this woman! May God deal with Abner, be it ever so severely, if I do not do for David what God promised him on oath and transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David’s throne over Israel and Judah from Dan to Beersheba.’ Ish-Bosheth did not dare to say another word to Abner, because he was afraid of him (II Samuel 3:6-11).”

We must begin with the powerful contrast between Joab and Abner: Both are men in positions of great power and attempting to strengthen their positions. Abner clearly knew of God’s oath to David, as he says, “If I do not do for David what God promised him on both and transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David’s throne over Israel and Judah.” Abner knew of the oath, and yet, still focused on supporting Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth because he was focused on, “strengthening his own position in the house of Saul.”

This man, so focused on his power despite God’s oath, when he understands what he is doing, changes from focusing on his power to strengthening David. Abner’s bottom line was to overcome his own drives and support David, the recipient of God’s promise.

We have David’s enemy coming to his senses. We have one of David’s most important supporters placing his concerns above his king’s.

“Then Abner sent messengers on his behalf to say to David, ‘Whose land is it? Make an agreement with me, and I will help you bring all Israel over to you.’

‘Good,’ said David. ‘I will make an agreement with you. But I demand one thing of you: Do not come into my presence unless you bring Michal daughter of Saul when you come to see me.’ Then David sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, demanding, ‘Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed to myself for the price of a hundred Philistine foreskins.’

“So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, ‘Go back home!’ So he went back (12-16).”

David’s response to Abner is to demand his wife. Before Abner agrees to David’s demand, “David sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth demanding,” that he return David’s wife, Michal, to, “whom I betrothed myself for the price of a hundred Philistine foreskins.” David wants his wife. David is functioning as a human being, not a king, at least, when he raises the issue with Abner. He then approaches Ish-Bosheth, King to King, demanding the wife to whom he betrothed himself by fighting for Ish-Bosheth’s father, Saul, the first King of Israel. David is definitely balancing his dual roles as king and a man.

Abner, whose support is necessary to make David king over all of Israel, must deal with a David functioning as a man: “Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, ‘Go back home!’ So he went back.” Did David do not think that he would benefit from dealing with Abner from his position of power, rather than that of a man pining for his wife?

David, the “balanced” King, clearly understands that although Abner is offering support to fulfill God’s promise to David, Abner is still the same man who, just a short while ago, was focused on strengthening his position in the house of Saul. The balanced King knows how to deal with Abner the loyal follower of God, and Abner the man focused on his own power. This, is the magnificence of a king who is able to maintain his own sense of balance; he is able to use that balance in his dealings with other people. This part of the Joab story must be in the same paragraph as David’s opening charge to Solomon: It is a lesson in the balanced wisdom in using power.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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4
Jan

Haftarah-Vayechi-Reading the Text

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, become a man, and observe what God your Lord requires: Walk in His ways, and guard preciously His decrees and commands, His laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moshe. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go, and that God may keep His promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’ (I Kings 2:1-4)”

In, “Be a Man,” and “The Power of Softness,” we spoke of fathers addressing children in positions of power about remaining connected to “normal” life. When we carefully examine David’s final words to Solomon, we find that it is more than urging the young king to retain his “normalcy.” David is actually addressing balance:

“I am about to go the way of all the earth,” I am just as are all the people of the earth. David speaks of himself as just another man even as he says that God promised him, “you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.” David is speaking to Solomon as a link in an eternal chain. (“Strength from Brokenness”) David’s greatness, the message he is conveying to Solomon in these words, is his ability to balance his power as King, the first link in an eternal chain with his basic humanity.

I suspect that it is only with this sense of balance that a king will be able to remember to “Walk in His ways, and guard preciously His decrees and commands.” David is not saying, “Do this,” referring to obedience, but, “Do this,” to live with this sense of balance.

This message of balance becomes even more essential as David continues his final instructions to Solomon.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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4
Jan

Power of Softness

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

“Softness triumphs over hardness, gentleness over strength .

The flexible is superior over at the immovable.

This is the principle of controlling things by going along with them,

of mastery through adaptation (Lao-Tzu).”

“Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years, and the years of his life were a hundred and forty-seven. When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, ‘If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.’ ‘I will do as you say,’ he said. ‘Swear to me,’ he said. Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel bowed toward the head of the bed (47:28-31).”

This is the first, and the only time that Jacob has summoned Joseph since their powerful meeting seventeen years earlier. For some reason Jacob waits for the end of his life to speak with Joseph about this important issue. Jacob was not someone who paid attention to all the large advertisements urging people to “Plan Ahead!”

What did Joseph expect his father to address when he received the summons? Did he think that Jacob would finally speak to him about the brothers? Would Jacob urge Joseph to forgive them? Would Jacob ask for all the details of how Joseph ended up in Egypt? Did Joseph expect Jacob to urge him to continue to support and protect them? Or, did Joseph know that Jacob would speak with him about funeral arrangements?

We aren’t privy to the entire conversation between father and son. We don’t know how they greeted each other or what they discussed. We don’t know if Joseph asked his father why he had been summoned. The text shares with us only what is absolutely necessary for us to know, and does so in a way that conveys through the subtext the underlying message of this epochal meeting.

Jacob is speaking as both a father (“Be a Man!” “Receiving the Transmission,” and, “Haftarah-Vayechi-Reading the Text) and as a subject supplicating before the mandarin, “he called for his son Joseph,” both, ‘his son,’ and, ‘Joseph,’ the viceroy:

“If I have found favor in your eyes,” “Israel bowed toward the head of the bed,” both indicate Jacob addressing Joseph as the Egyptian viceroy. A summons, “Put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness,” is a father speaking to his son, a person in power requesting an oath from a lesser person, just as Abraham made the same request of his servant Eliezer.

Jacob makes it clear that he expects Joseph the son to rise above his position as Joseph the Viceroy: “Do not bury me in Egypt,” something you do not say to the viceroy of the country that has welcomed you with open arms, gifted you with prime property, and supported you during a famine!

Once Joseph demonstrates his loyalty as son is greater than his position in Egypt, Jacob can be certain that the anamnesis of his death bed blessings will not trigger resentment and perhaps even vengeful feelings toward his brothers. Jacob demands, and Joseph accepts, that Joseph will primarily function as a member of the family and not as the powerful Egyptian viceroy.

The end of the previous portion, Vayigash, demonstrated Joseph as someone perfectly comfortable with taking full advantage of his awesome power. “Joseph acquired all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh (47:20).” “We will become serfs to Pharaoh (47:19).” “I have acquired you this day with your land for Pharaoh (Verse 23).” “So Joseph imposed as a statute till this day regarding the land of Egypt: It was Pharaoh’s for the fifth (Verse 26).” Joseph knew how, and was willing, to use his power.

Jacob understood Joseph’s intentions to protect the Children of Israel in the future so that they would not feel as outsiders (Rashi, 47:21), but he also understood that eventually Joseph would die, and the Egyptian historians would begin to examine his decisions and would write countless papers describing his arbitrary use of power to protect the throne. People would soon forget that it was Joseph who saved the nation (Exodus 1:8), and would deal with the long-term consequences of his usurpation of Egyptian land and independence.

Jacob used this meeting, in which he guided Joseph into insisting that his role as a brother, a member of a family, was far more important to him than his role as Viceroy. Jacob brought out the humanity of Joseph; he guided him into connecting to himself as a person, a quality he needed in his leadership skills. Jacob was softening Joseph.

I don’t know what Joseph was thinking upon receiving his father’s summons; but I do know that simply receiving a summons reminded him that underneath all his royal robes, he was still a son.

We often read stories of people who, with the best of intentions, assert their power over those weaker than they. Perhaps they should pay attention to Jacob’s powerful message to Joseph: If you want to use your power; always first remember that you, too, are a son to your father. Remember, when you spit at a little girl, that she is a daughter, just as you have a daughter; she is a child just as you were once a child. If you must use your power; use it with softness.

“Its (The Torah’s) ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace (Proverbs 3:17).” We may not use a Willow on Succot that has sharp edges because “its ways are ways of pleasantness,” and a sharp edge may make a small part of the Four Species unpleasant! We certainly may not use power and force to impose Torah in the most unpleasant of ways.

If someone gives you power use it  with caution. Silence is power

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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3
Jan

Strength from Brokenness

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Portion of the Week, Prayer

“I had not always believed that strength could come from brokenness, or that the thread of a divine purpose could be seen in tragedy. But I do now (Max Cleland).” (“Seven Levels of Teshuva: Avraham and Healing”)

The Torah uses a single verse to teach us that Jacob had a remarkable approach to life. (“A Different Sort of Fear of Life,” “Not Waiting For the Monument,” “The Fragrance of Permanence,” and, “Stopping the Leaks.”) We have seen that, “Vayechi is the story of a man who lived every moment of his life, even in death and after!” We determined that, “Jacob used these final scenes to guide his children to sense the fragrance of permanence, not of death and its ensuing impermanence.” We demonstrated that Jacob rarely “leaked” energy, a “death” experience, but managed to contain and expand the energy with which God filled him. The only time he “leaked” energy was when he lost the sense of the eternal.

Let’s continue to study Jacob’s life before Egypt to better understand where and how Jacob mastered eternal life. We left off after Jacob’s seven year wait for Rachel was as just a few days.

Jacob soon confronts someone thinking of death:

“When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’

Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of the Lord, Who has kept you from having children?” (30:1-2)

Jacob, who wept upon meeting Rachel because they wouldn’t be buried together, whose mother also wished for death when thinking of children, has no patience for his beloved’s intense feelings of sadness over being childless!

Professor Nechama Leibovitz a”h, in her usual masterful way, applies a teaching of the Akeidat Yitzchak to this scene: Rav Yitzchak Arama points out that there are two names for the Primal Woman: “Isha,” as explained by Rashi, derived from ‘Eish,’ fire, representing the woman as an independent being; and, ‘Chava,’ the ‘mother of life, representing the woman as mother and caregiver. Professot Leibovitz explains that when Rachel wanted to die if she remained childless, she was choosing only one of her roles, that of Chava, the mother, and rejecting her life as an Isha. Jacob’s response was to point out that she cannot choose only one of the roles; she had to live as both.

I use this to explain the custom of the husband preparing the wife’s Shabbat candles; He is nurturing her Isha.

As beautiful as that explanation may be, I do not define Isha or Chava the same way. Chava means to articulate, The Articulator, and Isha has an added dimension of a person with greatness who willing forfeits her status just to be with her husband, just as Eve left the Garden to be with Adam, in fulfillment of, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you (3:16). (See “Family Secrets from the Articulator,” “Vashti v Esther,” “Conversations with Myself,” and, “Morning Blessings for the Nine Days-Part Three: Who has not made me a woman.”)

A careful reading of the text will explain Jacob’s reaction to Rachel’s cry, his fear of her connecting to the negative aspect of Isha, and Cain’s sin:

“When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’” Rachel was jealous, breaking her eternal link to Jacob, just as Eve’s jealousy led her to trip Adam (Rashi; 3:6), and Cain to break his link to eternal life, humanity, and to murder Abel. (“Mistakes-Latznu,” “Ever Since Adam & Cain One,” “Trying Again,” “Commentary to the Vidui-Part Five; Avinu.”)

Jacob understood that again someone was breaking their link to the eternal and tasting death, so he said, “Am I in the place of the Lord, Who has kept you from having children?” Jacob was assuming the role of teacher, and repairing the break between “God,” the Attribute of Compassion, and “The Lord,” the Attribute of Power-Judgement:

“When God saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, ‘It is because God has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.’

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘Because God heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.’ So she named him Simeon.

Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.’ So he was named Levi.

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘This time I will praise God.’ So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children (29:31-35).” Leah consistently speaks of God, the Attribute of Compassion.

Rachel speaks of the Lord, the Attribute of Power-Judgment: Then Rachel said, ‘The Lord has vindicated me; He has listened to my plea and given me a son.’ Because of this she named him Dan (30:6).”

Then, something changes:

The Lord listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. Then Leah said, ‘The Lord has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.’ So she named him Issachar.

Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. Then Leah said, “The Lord has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun.

Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah [derived from ‘Din,’ judgment].

Then The Lord remembered Rachel; He listened to her and enabled her to conceive. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, ‘The Lord has taken away my disgrace.” She named him Joseph, and said, ‘May God add to me another son’ (30:17-24).” [For those of you bothered by my switching the more common translation of God and Lord; I am following the teachings of my father zt”l who insisted that it does not make sense to say, “The Lord is God,” because God is His Essence; the Shema is to accept God as our Lord, meaning that He cares enough to judge our actions.]

Rachel and Leah were each relating to one aspect of our relationship with the Ultimate Being, which is a break of “Hashem Elokeinu,” God is our Lord, in the Shema, and a break in the story of the relationship between the Spiritual and Physical creations, expressed in, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when God the Lord made the earth and the heavens (2:4).” (See “The Ladder Comes to Life.”)

Jacob taught Rachel and Leah that the only way we can maintain an unbroken link between the Spiritual and Physical creations, to link to the Eternal, is to relate to both God and the Lord.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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