Hillel and Shammai received the transmission from them. Hillel said: Be of the students of Aaron, who loves peace and pursues peace, loves people and brings them closer to Torah.
Aaron is described in the present tense as someone who loves peace, as if he was still alive. This is consistent with the Chazal's understanding that one can be a student of a teacher who has long passed from among the living, for example in the first chapter of Yoma:ושני תלמידי חכמים .תלמידיו של משה לאפוקי צדוקין
The emblematic source for this definition of a student - not someone who actually learns from a particular teacher but someone who follows in the ways of a great master of the past is found here (Sanhedrin 11a):
It once happened that Rabban Gamaliel said: 'Send me up seven [scholars] early in the morning to the upper chamber [for this purpose].' When he came in the morning and found eight, he asked: 'Who is he who has come up without permission? Let him go down.' Thereupon, Samuel the Little arose and said: 'It was I who came up without permission; my object was not to join in the intercalation, but because I felt the necessity of learning the practical application of the law.' Rabban Gamaliel then answered: 'Sit down, my son, sit down; you are worthy of intercalating all years [in need of such], but it is a decision of the Rabbis that it should be done only by those who have been specially appointed for the purpose.' — But in reality it was not Samuel the Little [who was the uninvited member] but another; he only wished to save the intruder from humiliation.
Similarly it once happened that while Rabbi was delivering a lecture, he noticed a smell of garlic. Thereupon he said: 'Let him who has eaten garlic go out.' R. Hiyya arose and left; then all the other disciples rose in turn and went out. In the morning R. Simeon, Rabbi's son, met and asked him: 'Was it you who caused annoyance to my father yesterday?' 'Heaven forfend that such a thing should happen in Israel,' he answered.
And from whom did R. Hiyya learn such conduct? — From R. Meir, for it is taught: A story is related of a woman who appeared at the Beth Hammidrash of R. Meir and said to him, 'Rabbi, one of you has taken me to wife by cohabitation.' Thereupon he rose up and gave her a bill of divorce, after which every one of his disciples stood up in turn and did likewise. And from whom did R. Meir learn this? — From Samuel the Little. And Samuel the Little? — From Shecaniah son of Jehiel, for it is written, And Shecaniah son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam answered and said unto Ezra: We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women of the peoples of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. And Shecaniah learnt it from [the story told of] Joshua. ...
Similarly Tosef. Sot. 13:3: "Once the sages were gathered together in the upper chamber of the house of Guria in Jericho, when a heavenly voice came out and said to them: 'There is one here among you who is worth of receiving the holy spirit (prophecy), but his generation does not deserve it'. They all looked at Hillel the Elder. When he died they said: So humble; so pious – a true disciple of Ezra." Hillel lived much after Ezra but because Hillel followed in Ezra's ways he is called "a student of Ezra". There are other such passages in the Talmud. We will return to this point shortly.
Our mishna is quoted in Sanhhedrin 6b, except that insted of, "loves people and brings them closer to Torah", it says, " and makes peace between people".
Avis D"Rabbi Noson, Chapter 12 (3-4) it illustrates how Aaron did this. Aaron would see someone acting improperly, he would not go over and rebuke or criticize the fellow directly. He would *befriend* him, pretending not to be aware of his faults. The person would eventually grow ashamed: "What would my friend Aaron think if he knew I acted this way behind his back? How could I betray his trust and friendship?" Sooner or later the man would repent his ways. If Aaron would observe two people quarreling, he would afterwards approach one of them with the following: "I just saw the other fellow besides himself with grief. He's sitting there saying it's all his fault and how can he possibly face you again." Aaron then promptly went to the other fellow with the exact same story.... When the people met they were hugging and kissing each other. He also brought peace between man and wife as described there. The mishna attests that in those times thousands of children were named after him -- because they would have never been born had Aaron not been there to save the parents' marriages.
When we think about it we realize that not once is Aaron presented in Chumash as being confrontational or in conflict. Instead," And Aaron was silent (Lev. 10:3)". Even in the story of the Golden Calf, he acommodated, rather than chastised; in that case it was his undoing but still it accurately portrays his character. Sanhedrin 6b lays out the difference between Moshe and Aaron along these lines.
What makes Aaron a man of peace? Aaron is a priest and priests make peace. So did Malchi Tsedek, the "Priest of the Most High" brought out bread and wine to Abraham, as Rashi explains, "to demonstrate that he did not hold it against him that he killed his descendents in battle". Malachi 2:6.writes of the High Priest, "he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity."
It is interesting that in every place in which the priest's duties lend him to war, the Torah presents Eleazar, and not his father Aaron.
Numbers 27:21"Moreover, he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the LORD. At his command they shall go out and at his command they shall come in (in war), both he and the sons of Israel with him, even all the congregation."
Numbers 26: So Moses and Eleazar the priest spoke with them in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying,Take a census of the people from twenty years old and upward, as the LORD has commanded Moses."
Numbers 31:12 Then Eleazar the priest said to the men of war who had gone to battle, "This is the statute of the law which the LORD has commanded Moses:
Eleazar is also associated with Para Adumah and Ketores. WIthout going too far off-tangent, it is explained by the fact that the function of a priest/ cohen is to unite heaven and earth and connect the physical and spiritual by bringing up a physical animal flesh up to heaven - in other words, make peace between the lower and higher spheres. Incense and Red Heifer, on the other hand, require Eleazar rather than Aaron for they involve destruction of evil rather than its pacification, as explained here.
We started by suggesting that Hillel advised all men to be students of Aaron by living and acting as he did. However, this statement can also be explained in the most simpple of manners. To do so we must remember that HIllel's teachers were Shemaya and Avtalion. These two great personalities, albeit they were converts, functioned as High Priests according to this source:
Yoma 71b relates that at end of Yom Kippur the crowd deserted the High Priest upon the approach of Abtalion and Shamaia and followed them. When the two Sages came to greet the High Priest he told them: Let tthe descendents of Gentiles go in peace. (Rashi explains that the High Priest spoke in tones of contempt because they were of the descendants of Sennacherib, as mentioned in Gittin). The Gemara continues: "They said to him, 'the descendents of the other peoples greet you in peace, because they are like Aaron who loved peace and pursued peace. But you who are the descendant of Aaron do not behave like Aaron."
Accordingly, Hillel is calling his generation to study from his teachers, who took the place of High Priest. This explanation is strengthened by the following gemara:
Subsequently Hillel began to reproach them, and said: "What induced you to set me up as a prince among you? Only your own idleness in not taking advantage of the learning of the two great men of your generation, Shemaiah and Abtalion."
Some schools are handing out tsnius rulers. One uses it by folding it over the hem of a skirt and measuring 4 inches below the knee. An image of the tsnius ruler is displayed: Download Ruler
Comment: In general I support anything that assists and supports better fulfillment of mitsvos. I do hope that this aid is used with great sensitivity and for if not, "the loss outweighs the gain".
It would be interesting for someone to explore how and why tsnius has become emblematic of observance in the yeshivish community, more so than in others where it is either a non-issue or taken for granted. Is it because the yeshivishe women do not have a uniform, or because its left wing, fervently orthodox accountants, lawyers, doctors and businessman are perlously closer to falling off the edge into the "modern" crowd than they are prepared to admit.
In the Yizkor Prayer whenever the name of the deceased is mentioned, it is given in the following form: The deceased's Hebrew name followed by "ben", "son of", or "bat", "daughter of;" then, in the Ahskenazi siddurim, the deceased's father's Hebrew name; in the sefardic and Chabad rite, the deceased's mother's Hebrew name. To expand: Ruven and Shlomit were the parents of Yehoshua, who was the father of Levy and Dinah. Yehoshua, unfortunately, passes away. In the Ashkenazic Tradition, they would refer to him as "Yehoshua ben Reuven;" in the Sefardic Tradition, they would refer to him as "Yehoshua ben Shlomit." For inscription on the matzeiva, everyone agrees that the father's name is used.
This last Pesach, a family member asked me whay this is so. She used to say Yizkor from the ArtScroll SIddur, which uses the Ashkenazi formula but this year she davened out of Nusach Ari siddur and noticed this difference. This led me to investigate and I learned some interesting things.
First, in my experience the kvittlach are usually writen with the father's name except by Chabad, where they are written with the mother's name, consistent with the practice in the yizkor. Many years ago I saw a reason in the name of R. Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev. He explained that in tefilla we generally have a principle that it is important to be as specific as possible. Since the mother's name identifies a person more specifically than the father's name (i.e. it is possible that the father was someone else but the mother is more securely known), the mother's name is used.
The same argument is turned around by Mikdash Melech (p.84) to support the implication of the Zohar in Lech Lecha (1:84,1) that the mother's name is used. This, he explains is because this principle only applies to mortal human beings who don't really know who the father might have been. However, after a person's death, in Heaven they know. As such in memorial prayers the father's name is used.
See also Kaf Hachaim 284:37.
It is interesting then that in the notes to Alter Rebbe's Siddur, he is quoted as wondering why the custom is this way because usually we use the father's name...
The source to this is in Sefer Chassidim. "He who gets benefit from money that the departed left over within the year of the demise should say, 'and He is merciful, will atone for the sin that I derive benefit from the money of peloni the son of peloni...(using the father's name)". In his notes, R. Reuven Margolius brings a proof that the father's name should be used in a cemetery from the following passage in Brochos 18b.
The father of Samuel had some money belonging to orphans deposited with him. When he died, Samuel was not with him, and they called him, 'The son who consumes the money of orphans'. So he went after his father to the cemetery, and said to them [the dead]. I am looking for Abba. They said to him: There are many Abbas here. I want Abba b. Abba, he said. They replied: There are also several Abbas b. Abba here. He then said to them: I Want Abba b. Abba the father of Samuel; where is he?
He also suggests that, as Ramban explains in the beginning of Tazria, since the "form" ( identified by Rambam as the soul) comes from the father (and the "matter" from the mother), a person should be identified by the father (see Panim Yafos at the end of Bahaaloscha).
We, therefore have many sources suggesting that the father's name should be used but the custom of Sefardic Jews and Chabad is to use the mother's name. It is interesting that among the Ashkenazim, it was common in the 17-9th century to identify people by the mother's name, for example, R. Yair Bacharach, who wrote Chavas Yair, literally Chaya's Yair, calling himself by his gradmother's name, Chaya (but he also wrote the unpublished Makor Chaim), or the Noda B'Yehuda, who names one of his works, Tsiun L'Nefesh Chaya, after his mother, also named Chaya.
The most whole thing in the entire world is a broken heart (The Kotzker Rebbi)
Fortunate is the man who finds purity in all places, even when he falls and is told, "Go away, impure one". Because his heart is broken, impurity leves him.
They also used to say: A broken heart-but not a depressed one. A broken spirit, yes: a dejected one-absolutely not! The broken heart cries over what it had destroyed and damaged, while the depressed heart cries that it has been damaged and destroyed...
Let the depressed heart be banished and sit in its agony; bring the broken heart into the chamber and let it be clothed in greatness. This is true greatness, which comes after heartbreak, greatness that will last forever"
Eliahu Kitov, Sharp as a needle: Seven stories from the world of Peshischa and Kotzker chassidus, Book 2, p.71
One of the greatest problems of devotional life, if it be based on true faith, tangible spirituality and meaningful worship, is how to understand and relate to God. We are fortunate to have opportunities and challenges in how God is to be conceived because when we struggle with a lack if clarity in who He is, we also understand better who we are. A relationship requires both kinds of understanding.
Why is it a problem? Because the God who we feel in the deepest recesses of our beings, sense with our hearts and feeling and read of in the holy books is not He who our minds tell us He is.
Reason, philosophy and intellect lead us to the God who is perfect, immutable and distant, Pascal's "God of Philosophers, not the God of Abraham. Isaac and Jacob." Our minds conceive of Divinity that is too great to be contained within the heart of men; yet, if we can ever hope to relate to Him, we must reduce the dread and he awe of the overpowering Presence to manageable, workable concepts and images of God the Sovereign, Father, Teacher, Lover.
Philosophic cognition of God leaves us with an arid, distant and unappealing spirituality that fails to motivate and inspire. Man is small and God is great and never can the this gulf be bridged. Man worships the unattainable not because it cares for him or desires his attention but because he has no other choice, or, in the Maimonidean formulation, because all of Creation suffers the same fate. This is the tragedy of the neoplatonic mystic, to pine away for something that can never return his interest. Not only is it dry and unsatisfying because the object of our love is unattainable but also because there are no intermediate steps by which to approach it. There is no bridge between God and man and that's it. Go, do with it the best that you can. Personal God, on the other hand, we know and we recognize. All men have loved, rebelled, pined for, dealt with and negotiated with Sovereigns, Fathers, Lovers and Teachers. We know how to do it, and we can throw ourselves into this process of relating with ardent enthusiasm - consequently we can relate to God. In some way, the emotions do not ask questions, do not reason, do not pose philosophical problems. By turning the mind away from God as He is, man can submerge himself fully in God who we can love adn with who we can share. Not only this, we can enroll all our feelings, every nook and cranny of our personality, every quirk, every illogical and unreasonable emotion, bias and misconception into this process. Love is blind and so is the Lover's response. The lover of God has a full right to expect love in return, despite our failings, flaws, warts and all. We pray and get a response, we thirst and are watered, trust and are not betrayed, cry out in pain and are saved - gloriously! The philosopher, on the other hand has nothing to look forward to, except the grandeur of his vision. Maimonidean-like philosophical frameworks that set a transcendent Being in opposition to a lowly world, do not only not succeed in conveying a living religion to the masses, they often have an unintended effect of impoverishing the spirit and vitiating the commitment of the elite. It is of course an over-generalization to say that Maimonideans tend to be over-cerebral, dismissive of expressions of religiosity, and unaware of the great stores of religious feeling and sensibility that others possess. However, at least sometimes (and I know that I will get flack for it), they are cynical, distant and secretly racked by doubts... at the same time as they espouse a religious vision of grandeur and beauty. Why is it so? What can we learn from it? Perhaps that the mind alone is insufficient for religion.
There is yet a third religious approach -that of the Kabbalist. It is not just God and the universe out there, it is a world filled with unending gradations of supernatural. The spiritual is at hand, ready for taking. In a world like this, the spiritual is very, very close, part and parcel of existence. In fact, in such a world leading a purely physical existence is distinctly abnormal. For the affordable price of credulity, folk religion acquires an abiding closeness to God in all His manifestations, right here, all around us. The difference between popular sensibility and Maimonidean rationality is like that of a luscious rain forest and the driest of deserts. The former surrounds its dwellers with life-giving moisture from all ends. The latter deprives them of life-sustaining water, leaving them to be nourished by trust that it exists somewhere else and with measured, limited, barely sufficient cupfuls in their canteens.
My personal answer to this central conundrum of religious life is that the servant of Hashem must learn to transition easily and effortlessly between the three conceptions of God, moment by moment sliding into whichever one is appropriate to the time and place in which he finds himself. The rationale that warrants this is the inability of the human being to grasp all three conceptions at one. Like the three blind men and the elephant, our tools display a different Divinity to us, a God who constantly changes and transmutes as we attempt to deal with Him. "And you shall see my back and my front you will not see". Very simple, if I look at you from your front I cannot see your back and if I walk around and observe your back, your front is now invisible to me. Such are the limitations of human beings. Pragmatically, the Personal conception is the more productive in that the entire human personality can enter into it, it is effortless for prayer and love and it is the one emphasized in Scriptures. The kabbalistic conception requires more learning and socialization into a vocabulary and a way of thinking but can also be very productive. The Philosophic conception is useful at times. The fusion of all three make for a sophisticated, original and profound religious personality. A lecture on this topic can be found here and its summary here .
Having struggles with the Problem, I read Dr. Yochanan Muffs' book, The Personhood of God: Biblical Theology, Human Faith and the Divine Image with great expectation and a hope and a longing to encounter a kindred quest. The book is special but I was disappointed because I encountered an erudite and poetic soul but on a different pilgrimage. The author assuredly seeks to find Hashem and I agree with Dr. Arthur Green's description, "His vast but understated erudition is completely fused with his own passionate religiosity that make sfor stimulating and challenging reading". Dr. Muffs has a unique perspective, which is a source of his strength and his weakness - Mesopotamian cult. He is at his best when he compares Babylonian religious conceptions with the Biblical thesis, producing straddling and often illuminating insights. The book is written in an engaging style with flashes of recognition and interesting observations on almost every page. I was thoroughly diverted by its scintillating analyses but slowly a realization dawned on me that Dr. Muffs is no less pained than I am by the inscrutability of the Divine image... but his problem is not my problem. I apologize upfront to Dr. Muffs for making assumptions that are supported only by reading a book. After all I do not know the author and how can I draw conclusions? Still I must try, for the topic is cosmically crucial. I explain.
What bothers Dr. Muffs is the blandness of contemporary humanistic religion in comparison to the vivid, colorful and organic Mesoppotamian (and Biblical) model. He longs for the time when ritual and faith pervaded not only daily life but informed the entire outlook. Contemporary religion, he rightly observes is stifled by the scientific and rational outlook of our age. What I read between the lines is that Dr. Muffs wishes for the wholeness of the simple faith of a believer but he cannot see how it can possibly be preserved alongside critical inquiry, to which he is committed. Hence, the assumption that ":..doubt stimulated by critical inquiry is healthy...that it separates the person of real faith from the religious behavioralist. Faith is not a passive state but an inner struggle. It is an order superimposed on chaos that constantly threatens to break forth".
He makes a virtue out of a tragedy.
"It is doubt that stirs hearts from their complacency and sets the dialectic of faith and doubt in motion. Farthermore, the greater the faith the greater the amount of doubt the man of faith will be able to digest without losing his equilibirum...If the man of faith has teh great frtune to comeout fo this battle without having denied either religion or science, he will unknowingly develop a new skill: the ability to hold life like a bird, tightly enough that it doesn'tfly away, gently enoguh that it isn't choked to death (p.192)". Dr. Muffs calls for a "re-mytologizing" of religion along the Messopotamian modes, I presume, so that the vividness of ritual and supersition revives the flagging spirit being choked by scientific inquiry and doubt that comes from reading too many academic publications and breathing, eating and washing in scientific rationalism.
To this I say: "No, thank you". "Your ways are not my ways and neither your thoughts are my thoughts". I do not wish to hold on to two crutches at once. Neither is there a need to re-mythologize the Living God.
Dr.Muffs wrote an interesting book that, like many such books, answers the question that bothers him. The point of departure from the Mesopotamian tradition is interesting and productive but the questions that he asks could benefit from calling upon medieval philosophy and kabbala, of which there is precious little in this work. Had he done so, he would have perhaps discovered that the contrast between the Personhood and Transcendance of Hashem has occupied many before him but from within the tradition rather than from outside of it. Instead of asking the central questions of religion, Dr. Muffs focuses on what is a common but still a personal and psychological religious struggle, which he perceives and passes off as a central religious question of our times. I do not claim that such questions are not important- they are. However, they are not questions of religion but questions about religion. This omission and its point of departure, that tweaking the Personhood of God can somehow solve the internal conflict between faith and doubt, are the greatest weaknesses of a fascinating effort.