Boruch Dayan Hoemes.
Rav Aryeh Carmell, a towering presence.
More in this week's Yated.
Boruch Dayan Hoemes.
Rav Aryeh Carmell, a towering presence.
More in this week's Yated.
(adapted from torah.org series on Yonah)
Yonah - 3: 8-10
Who knows, G-d may turn and change His mind, and turn back from His wrath so that we do not perish (3,9).
The King had called his people: "Let each man turn away from his evil ways and from the injustice which is in his hand (3,8)." He now expresses a hope that this repentance may be accepted and save his people from assured destruction. This reading of the verse as expressing doubt and hope, is found in Radak and Ibn Ezra and it is supported by a very similar sentiment expressed by the sailors during the storm in Chapter 1, 6, "Perhaps G-d will give it thought and we will not perish". An almost identical verse is found in Yoel 2, 14 and there it is also supported by cantillation notation.
(The verse itself is quite ambiguous in the original Hebrew for it can also be read as: "He who knows will repent and G-d will change His mind and turn back from His wrath…". This statement is much more emphatic that forgiveness must always follow repentance. This understanding, shared by Targum, Rashi, Ibn Ezra and Mahari Kara is supported in the Yonah verse by its cantillation marks which place a separating stop, a kind of a comma, after "repent and not after "knows", so that it reads, "He who knows will repent, and G-d will change His mind…" rather than, "Who knows, G-d may repent and change His mind…".)
The apparent insecurity and lack of certainty that Hashem will accept sincere repentance is in remarkable contrast with the assurance expressed by many other Scriptural sources. Compare it, for example, with the assurance of complete acceptance of his repentance exhibited by David in Psalm 51.
The contradiction to one of the most accepted tenets of religion, that sincere repentance is always answered, is noted by Radak to Yoel 2,14, who writes: "Even though we said that it is one of the attributes of Blessed G- d that he repents of evil and this is beyond doubt, still, if the sins are great, He may not repent until minor punishment is meted out…".
The insecurity expressed by the sailors, the inhabitant of Nineveh and even in the book of Yoel may be a reflection of the distance and a gulf from G-d that they experienced. One who had given G-d nary a thought, suffers a profound sense of alienation and dislocation when suddenly thrust before his Presence. The sailors and the Ninevites were shaken out of their complacency and their acceptance of injustice and callousness as normal order of things; even the Israelites, in the midst of the plague of locusts, felt very far from G-d's grace and forgiveness. Without warning and unprepared, they abruptly perceived themselves and their life as G-d sees them, not how they thought of themselves. Suddenly, they were no longer paragons of virtue and pinnacle of civilization; now they saw themselves as puny and woefully stained human beings standing in judgment before the Most High.
This abrupt reversal in self- perception is a part of the conversion experience well-attested in psychological literature since William James. The complete and total reversal plunges the self into utter darkness that can only be inverted by surrender of the hitherto most precious, basic and ingrained components of personality, a sacrifice of self in order to save oneself. In fear and trembling, man surrenders before overwhelming might of G-d and offers up parts of himself in shaky hope for salvation and survival. There is little security, love and sense of uplift in this kind of experience, although it may initially feel so. Surely it is better than nothing; yet, it is full of darkness and it is so, so tempting for darkness to come in.
Most Jewish thinkers, with a few notable exceptions, have seen repentance of this kind as suspect. On the deepest level, it demands a form of self- death, giving up- and denying a part of one's personality, past history and nature. It is often accompanied later by deep regret and a sense of loss, grief and depression or, in an attempt to deny that loss, by fanatical intolerance and hostility turned outwards as religious intolerance. Sometimes the penitent, unable to bear the loss, quickly rejoins his past life. At other times, he or she remains profoundly conflicted; in lieu of a life-affirming and uplifting religious experience, conversion-repentance leaves the individual to dwell in darkness and loss. Even if the change is stable, the real work of inner change only begins, not ends, at the point of conversion experience (See more on this in the beginning of Orot Hateshuva by R. A.I.Kook). One has to change one's way, not only one's actions.
It seems to me that the book of Yonah deliberately sets up a contrast between Yonah and the Ninevites. Yonah certainly did not repent all at once. He resisted and kicked and screamed every step of the way. Yet, as he confronted one cherished belief and assumption after another, he changed inside in ways that were much more profound, meaningful and lasting than if he had undergone a sudden conversion. Yonah did not or reject any part of himself; her transformed and ennobled himself. Yonah's long process of inner change is contrasted with the quick and unexpected change of heart of the sailors in Chapter 1 and the Ninevites in Chapter 3.
The King of Nineveh understood that repentance is more than a conversion experience. He asked his people to return the "injustice" in their hands and he also called them "to turn each man from his evil way". Interestingly and significantly, they complied only in regard to "And G-d saw their deeds that they turned away from their wicked ways…". They turend their back on their past but did not redeem and transform it.
As the great and awe-inspiring Day of Atonement approaches - may we learn the long, arduous and joyous path of true change - one that intergrates and elevates, not the one that fractures and thrusts into despair.
SHOFAR SO GOOD..
An interview with Shuli Rand, here, http://www.ou.org/pdf/ja/5767/fall67/44-49.pdf
|by Meir Levin|
Excerpted from "WITH ALL YOUR HEART" - The Shema in Jewish worship, practice and life. Published by Targum Press, Inc. - www.targum.com.
There are many theories about love. Some claim it is but an extension of self-concern; others, that it is no more than a biological adaptation designed to assure the survival of society. The Western world has trumpeted romantic love, a state of physical and spiritual intoxication triggered by secondary characteristics of an idealized human object. Some psychologists claim that love is familiarity, a sense of identification with a person, object, or situation -- essentially a projection of oneself.
The Sages have thought deeply and profoundly about love. They addressed love between spouses and among friends, love between neighbors and colleagues, and among students and teachers. They see it above all as arising out of a religious impulse. "You shall love the Lord your God" -- make Him be loved by people, as Abraham did (Midrash - Pesikta, Devarim 32), so that because of you the Name of Heaven will come to be beloved (Talmud - Yoma 86a).
The Sages also realized that love is a composite term. The Hebrew word for love, "ahavah," carries two meanings. The first is sacrificing and giving up for the beloved, and the other is preoccupation with Him in thought and longing for His presence. The first one eventuates in self-sacrifice, if necessary; the second, in clinging to God in all of one's actions, at all times (HaAmek Davar, Deut. 6:4).
On a deeper level, complete and perfect love is possible only when it is directed toward a perfect and indivisible being. The Sefer Ha'ikarim (3:35) astutely points out that there are three kinds of love. Average people love that which gives them pleasure. Those with more maturity and experience love that which provides security. And an elevated person loves that which is good, solely because it is good.
The young are beset by urges and desires; they love things that give them pleasure. People in their thirties and forties pursue security by amassing power and control, and this is what inspires love in them. Those yet older, having tasted of the evanescence of life, find it easier to love goodness for its own sake.
A person loves God according to his stage and station life, because He is the One Who created pleasure, provides security and power, and is the Source of all good. Fear of God, too, is an elevated emotion that at its root draws from awe and wonder at the world and the Divine spirit that animates it. Judaism knows two kinds of fear -- one is termed "fear of punishment," and the other is best translated as "awe of greatness." The second type of fear arises out of love. Maimonides explains how this is so:
"How can one attain love and fear of God? When a person contemplates His great and wondrous deeds and creations, and sees in them wisdom unlike any other, he immediately loves, praises, and exalts Him. He is overcome by a great desire to know the great Name, as King David said, 'My soul thirsts for God, for the Living God.' And when he considers these matters, he immediately draws back and is frightened and recognizes that he is but a puny created being, an inferior, lowly creature who, with his limited and inferior understanding, stands before He Who is perfect. As the Sages said concerning love, "So that you may come to know Him by Whose word the universe came into being." (Fundamentals of Torah 2:22)
The kabbalists compare love and fear to two wings of a bird (Tanya 1:4). Only with two wings can a bird fly upward. Similarly, only with love and fear together can man draw close to Heaven.
Can love be commanded? The idea that feelings no less than actions are subject to regulation is foreign to modern man's way of thinking. It is, however, an accepted and integral part of the biblical mindset (see Chovos HaLevavos, Introduction). That granted, can love be commanded? After all, more than any other emotion, the ability to love varies among human beings. There are those who love easily and passionately and are able to open themselves to the risks that come with commitment. Others are more cautious by nature and need a great deal of habituation and training to attain some measure of love.
Some claim that God demands only the harnessing and directing to Him of the powers of love that He already implanted within every human being. At each stage of life, we possess the resources to do so. The young who love pleasure can love Him, because He is the source of all enjoyment. People who value security and power can love the God Who is their protector. The spiritually able relate to Him as the Source of all good with the power of good within themselves.
Others submit that love is a normal, natural result of contemplating God's special providence over us. "Through meditating in Torah, love will settle into the heart of necessity" (Sefer HaChinuch 217). In truth, the question is not whether one can command love, but who can command it. The answer is -- God can.
"Yes, of course, love cannot be commanded. No third party can, but the One can. The commandment to love can proceed only from the mouth of the lover. Only the lover can and does say, "Love me..." In His mouth the commandment to love is none other than the voice of love itself. (Franz Rosenzweig, The Star of Redemption)
God, Who is above human comprehension Himself, in His might and glory, asks for love, for He loves us first. No, love is not being demanded -- it is being offered, and the only possible response is to return it.
Rabbi Zev of Zabritch lived to next to his small synagogue, so his wife thought of it as nothing more than an extension of their modest home (it was what we now call a shtibel). She was always angry at him and the entire world and as people with anger in their heart are want to, she often loudly berated and insulted him. She would do it even when he would preach or sit at a festive meal with his chassidim. She would something like: "If all these people really knew how stupid you are, they would leave you and go home, to do something productive, rather than listening to your nonsense".
Rabbi Zev would only smile and continue with his sermon.
His followers and students would become outraged for his honor, for they dearly loved and esteemed him. "Rabbi, they would say, we can't tolerate this balsphemy anymore. Divorce her and you can find a hundred women more fitting to you than she...".
Rebbe Zev shrugged his shoulders. "Thank you," he would say, "dear friends, but if I divorce her, who would give me my daily dose of medicine. Who would treat me for the disease of arrogance. I must keep her for the health of my soul"
From R. Lazer Brody's, The Trail to Tranquility, p. 119, link here http://www.lazerbrody.typepad.com/