A Simple Jew asks:
In his book Sabbath Peace, Moshe Braun wrote,
There is a well, the source of all blessing,
and the stone, the illusion of difficulty,
covering it. On the Sabbath, the stone is
removed, and all who desire to drink freely.
In what ways have you experienced this phenomenon?
First we must unpack the metaphor. I don't currently have access to Rabbi Braun's book but the reference appears to be to when Yakov removed the big stone from the well, from which all flocks drink, at which he met his destined bride, Rachel (Bereishis 21:2-3). The Torah tells us there that Yakov found a well on the mouth of which lay a great stone. When he saw Rachel, he singlehandedly rolled this stone away. Zohar in many places, including on the spot, tells us that the symbols of well, wife and Shabbos are related through being expressions of the sefira of Malchus. The idea is that every day of the week relates to a particular sefira, counting down from Bina to Malchus. Friday then is the expression of Yesod, a day on which the world prepares for Shabbos. Yesod is a masculine sefira, associated with Yosef and it gives, feeds and sustains. On Thursday night and Friday we function in the giving capacity as we prepare for Shabbos - cook, set up the meals, study, immerse in the mikve. The latter is significant because every going to the mikve (daily morning, before Shabbos, before Yom Tov, Erev Rosh Hashana, Erev Yom Kippur) demarcates a transition in Kedusha and so, the progression from Yesod to Malchus is marked by a visit to the mikveh before Shabbos.
Shabbos itself has both the qualities of Yesod and of Malchus. As Malchus is called "wife" and, "well", so those terms also apply to Shabbos (see Shaarei Orah, Ch. 1). Shabbos is the source, the well of blessings for the entire week. The transition from Yesod to Malchus takes place on Friday night - hence, Eishes Chayil, marital union and so many other features of the Friday night 'seder" echo the unification between the masculine and feminine elements (See Pardes 23: Shabbos, for the disagreement whether Shabbos is Malchus or Yesod, Shaarei Orah, Shaar 2, Chemdas Hayomim, Ch1 and others).
This implies that the process of preparing for Shabbos starts already on Friday. The first corollary of that is that to the extent of one''s ability, the transition into Shabbos begins Thursday night and intensifies as Shabbos approaches. It takes preparation; Shabbos is not something that just comes and happens. Shabbos is something that we must prepare for, something that requires our active committment and invovlement. This is why on Friday afternoons, as the sun set, the students of the Holy Ari dressed in white and they would walk to the outskirts of town and sing psalms of welcome to the Shekhinah who was envisioned as the Queen Sabbath, Israel’s bride. They would then symbolically escort the bride back to the synagogue, singing to her the bridal song Lecha Dodi, composed by Rabbi Shlomo HaLevi Alkabetz.
Whenever Malchus transitions in, and comes out of the protective cloud of Chashmal, the kelippos, the powers of impurity, congregate and attemtp to draw vitality from it (Shaarei Hakkavonos, Birchas Hashachar). This is called in the evocative language of Kabala, the Great Stone. "There is another stone, which is called Great Stone. When it stands on the opening of the WELL, Israel is subjugated under it.... and your reference is, "and Yakov approached and rolled off the stone from the opening of the Well" (Shaarei Orah, Shaar 1)."
What the methaphor implies is straightforward enough. It teaches us that Shabbos requires advanced preparation, and that Erev Shabbos is a transition time between two expressions of holiness, with its blessings, overflow, kindness, redemption and Shekhina, all personified by the "pulling together" of the marriage on Friday night. The man is the Yesod and woman is the Malchus around the Shabbos table. At the same time, during this transition, we not only give but also receive and, as a couple, rise to be enveloped in the holiness of the Seventh Day. But... we must also be vigilant for this is precisely the time when bad things can happen. Precisely at the time of the greatest ascent, is the possibility of a great fall. Anger, marital discord, and a host of other problems are just waiting to happen as Shabbos approaches. A Simple Jew has written of the fact that anger tends to flare most in domestic situations just before Shabbos. It is common also for other trials to arise at that vulnerable point. The metaphor of the great Stone that is stoppering the Well is not a vain one but reflects the realitities and exigencies of Shabbos Avodah.
You might be tempted to interpret Rabbi Braun's parable in the New Age terms - just let it go, don't fight, lay back and let the enjoyment and holiness surround you. But this is not the real lesson. What the parable teaches us is something different. On the contrary, it cues us into the active part that we must take in preparing for Shabbos and also how determined we must be avoid the pitfalls to which transitioning into the greater holiness of Shabbos exposes us.
The Sabbath Bride
Janet and Emmanuel Snitkovsky, Russian American
20th Century, Signed,
Oil on Canvas 44"x44"
Amateur Shakespearologist John Hudson is not the first to question whether the actor William Shakespeare was actually the author of the body of work we've come to know as his, but Hudson is the first to suggest that the true author was a Jewish woman named Amelia Bassano Lanier. Of Italian descent, Bassano lived in England as a Marrano and has heretofore been known only as the first woman to publish a book of poetry ("Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum" in 1611) and as a candidate for "the dark lady" referred to in the sonnets. Hudson is the first to argue that she's the true author of those sonnets. He is so convinced of Bassano's authorship that he formed a theater company, The Dark Lady Players, to bring out, through performance, the true meanings of the plays (Jewish religious allusions) as, he argues, Bassano intended them. The theory rests largely on the circumstances of Bassano's life... more here
See more by clicking here...By Neil Bar-Or)
Aug 14, 2003 | It's got the power struggles, intrigue, love triangles and plot twists of any soap opera. But in the world's first Hasidic "telenovella" -- as soaps are known in Israel -- there are no steamy love scenes and dialogue is peppered with "praise the Lord."
The first half-hour episode of "The Rebbe's Court" aired Thursday on Azure, a new Israeli cable channel focusing on Jewish issues. The show is set in a community of Hasidic Jews in Tel Aviv and portrays a world normally closed to outsiders.....
Comment: The fascination of the non-religious public with the lifestyle and mores of their relgious brothers is an interesting phenomena. This is very apparent when you read Haatretz or The New York TImes, for that matter. The chilonim are drawn to, at the same time as they attempt to steady and protect themselves from the call of the Torah. Hence constant attemtps to reshape the narrative of the religious life in their own image.
An article in the Jerusalem Post mentions this:
"An experiment conducted at Cambridge to teach young Orthodox Jews Aramaic as a classical language and thereby enable them to peruse the Talmud's text independently, without rabbinical guidance, ended in failure," said Mutzafi.
"The boys were not adept at grasping linguistic structures such as the verb categories or grammatical usage that could be found in the ancient text."
I was not able to find more about this; does anyone out there know and could tell us more?
(For a background on the terms Austritt and Gemeinde, see here)
Yehoshua Ben Perachyah And Nittai Of Arbel Received [The Oral Tradition] From Them. Yehoshua Ben Perachyah Said: "Provide Yourself With A Master; Acquire For Yourself A Friend; And Judge Every Person Favorably."
Nittai Of Arbel Said: "Keep Away From A Bad Neighbor; Do Not Fraternize With A Wicked Man; And Do Not Abandon Belief In [Divine] Retribution."
We do not know anything about Nittai Haarbeli. No sayings or teachings of his, except for this one have come down to us. More is known about R. Yeshoshua ben Perachia. This sage was forced to escape to Alexandria when King Yannai attempted to kill the sages (Sotah 47a). We are told that he keenly understood human nature and the pitfalls of leadership. "In the beginning, had someone told me go up to a high position, I would have bound and set him in front of a lion (figuratively, rendered him of no power). Now that I achieved a high position, anyone who would tell me to give it up, I would pour a pitcher of hot water over him ( Menachos 109b). Perhaps this connection to the escape to Egypt and his warning of the perils of arrogance are what connects him to the tradition that Yeshu was his student.
It is clear that these two sages lived at a period when the government not only turned its back on religion but openly allied itself with Saduccees, or (some claim) Essenes. It was a time when the vision of Shimon Hatsaddik of a Jewish polity that sustained itself upon the principles of justice, Torah, and Temple Worship appeared remote and improbable. In other words, it was a time much like our own.
How does the religious camp conduct itself in times such as this? This question repeatedly recurs in Jewish history and life. Two, and only two options present themselves and historically we know that the Torah leaders always split about this. Some felt that they must secede from the unjust and corrupt society around them and form their own communities, with their own leaders and internal social norms that bind them and keep them safe from the pernicious influence of the compromise and low standards of the corrupt society around them. Thus R. Yeshoshua ben Perachia says: "Make yourself a Rav and acquire for yourself a friend", that is, choose the right people to lead you and form for yourself a group of like minded individuals under their leadership".
The problem in following this course is the tendency of close knit communities to gradually come to view all those who do not "belong" with suspicion, to tag all outsiders as unbelievers and to question the purity of their motivations and actions. Hence, R. Yeshoshua teaches us that those who follow this course must be vigilant to "judge everyone favorably".
NIttai Hoarbeli, on the other hand, advocates remaining within the mainstream, for the great majority of simple folk are decent people, though they might err out of ignorance. How does one not then become co-opted and corrupted? Yiras Hashem must be an essential part of the make up of a person who lives with other people but aspires to act diffferently from them. One must make case-by-case decisions. The personal relationship with Hashem and the sense that He constantly judges and evaluates is the basic prerequisite to doing so successfully. A man can dwell with the common-folk but he must know to separate and withdraw from the bad neighbor, NOT join the evil doers and not lose sight of the recompense that awaits him who allows his environment to submerge him.
As we discussed in the past, making lists of similar cases in both Written and Oral Torah appears to have been an activity that engaged the generations before Tannaim. These teachers were called Sofrim because they made lists that "counted" and organized received laws into categories. These lists became the basic backbone of both the Mishna and Midrash. We have also seen that subsequent generations labored to understand and explain the omissions of one or two examples from some of these lists, Additional layers of interpretations were overlaid over the original lists in order to clarify, limit or particularize in an attempt to explain these omissions.
This introduction has methodologic significance for it guides us to take no list as final without looking for such omissions. If we find that there are really, say, five examples and the passage cites only three, understanding the passage requires addressing the similarities of the examples included in the list and how they are different from the examples not included. We now have a powerful tool to uncover the original intent of the passage. Let us look at an example of how it may prove helpful.
Three set out for ground and profaned themselves. These are Cain, Noah and Uziah.
Cain, as it says, "and Cain worked the earth (Gen. 4)". What does it state afterwards? "A stranger and sojourner shall you be in the land".
Noah, as it says, "And Noah, the man of the earth started and planted a vineyard…..
Uziah, as it says, ""for a lover of earth was he (Chronicles II, 26)". He was a monarch and he gave himself over to earth and did not connect to Torah. Once he happened to be at a Torah gathering and he asked them, "Where are you holding?" They said: "The stranger who approaches to sacrifice, he shall die (Num. 1)". He said: "He is a King and I am a king; it is fitting that a king serves before Him and sacrifices to the King." Right away he went in to offer incense…."and leprosy shined form his forehead". At that moment the Heichal cracked apart 12 by 12 mil and they rushed him from there… What caused this? That he did not study Torah and joined himself to the earth (Tanchuma Noah 13; see Gen. Rabba 36, 5 for a more concise version).
The passage lists three individuals who "lusted after the ground and there was nothing good that came of them". At first glance this appears to be a simple and complete list of three cases in which an individual was identified with ground to his detriment. This is not the case, however, for there are other examples. While these examples do not identify specific individuals, it is wholly within the midrashic style to use such passages in midrashic exposition, as long as the actual words are similar.
Zecharia 13, 5
but he shall say: 'I am no prophet, I am a man of earth ; for I have been made a bondman from my youth.'
Why does the Midrash not say something like this: and the false prophets, as it says "I am no prophet: I am a man of the earth"?
Isaiah 24, 21
And it shall come to pass in that day, that HaShem will punish the host of the high heaven on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.
This passage uses an unusual expression "kings of the earth" rather than "kings of nations"' yet, our passage does not cite it.
How are Cain, Noah and Uziah different from these other cases? Careful consideration of the local context of these three cases reveals an unexpected similarity - all three have descriptions of their earthiness juxtaposed to offering of sacrifices. This is most prominent and explicitly stated in case of Uziah; however, it is also the case with Cain and Noah as well.
Cain - but Cain worked the earth.
Noah - And Noah builded an altar unto HaShem; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar (Gen. 8, 20). And Noah the husbandman began, and planted a vineyard (Gen. 9,20).
Uziah - And be built towers in the wilderness, and hewed out many cisterns, for he had much cattle; in the Lowland also, and in the table-land; and he had husbandmen and vinedressers in the mountains and in the fruitful fields; for he loved earth. .
But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up so that he did corruptly, and he trespassed against HaShem his G-d; for he went into the temple of HaShem to burn incense upon the altar of incense (Chronicles II, 26:10-16).
The similar context of these three cases and not of the others, must of resonated with the audience who were undoubtedly intimately acquainted with their Scripture. These three were pulled down by their earthiness and crushed to the ground at the very pinnacle of their spirituality, as they sacrificed to Hashem. The unstated lesson of the Midrash may be exactly that earthiness is an impediment that pulls an individual down even as he soars to the heights of Divine Service. One cannot fly while wedded to earthiness. It must inexorably pull him down and subvert all spiritual progress. This idea is expressed in the following Midrash about Noah.
Once he joined to the ground he became profaned. R. Yehuda Bar Shalom said: In the beginning "righteous men in his generations" and now "man of the earth" (Tanchuma ibid)".
R. Berachia said: Moses is more precious than Noah. Noah after he was called "righteous man "was called "man of the earth". Moses after he was called "Egyptian man" was called "man of G-d) (Gen. Rabbah ibid, 6)".
The technique of finding similar expressions in Tanach and then looking for similarities of situations to derive therein insight has recently become common among certain circles of Tanach students in Israel and United States . It may be that once again the Sages were there first.
This is a file recording of weekly lessons/ discussions between a small group of seekers that began this week in Monsey, of which I am fortunate to be a member. We want to gain a profound understanding of Judaism, Torah and what it teaches us about our place in this wonderful and challenging world. Our sources are talmudic, philosophical and Kabbalistic classics, the best of wider science and learning, and above all committment and desire for personal avodah and growth. We want to understand how intellect and emotion, learning and service, and Torah and LIfe fit together.
Identifying features of those attending have been disguised.
The file is here: