Saturday, March 16, 2013
Dvar Torah: Lv 1:2 - one may bring offerings from the cattle, from the herds, and from the flocks.
Why three froms? Rashi (from B. Tem. 28a-b, Toras Kohanim)- exclusions: not from animals that were used for bestiality, nor used or even just set aside for idolatry, nor a goring ox - but all of these are only for cases without sufficient evidence for conviction and execution.
What's the commonality? They are all metaphysical/spiritual flaws in the animal. I.e., not just physical blemishes can disqualify offerings, but also use of the animal for anti-holiness (big-3 prohibited behavior).
What's the takeaway? Just as animals used for anti-holiness but not convicted are still disqualified, so too when we do the wrong thing, it has consequences beyond simple reward/punishment. Which is why we pray to the Investigator of Failures and Hearts (bochein k'layot valeiv) for forgiveness. Let's remember the spiritual meaning of chametz (leavened food) qua bad behavior, and remember to clean up our behavior while we're cleaning our houses of chametz. Repentance/forgiveness are not just for the High Holidays, they're for every day, as we pray thrice.
Monday, November 26, 2012
I have some problems with this proposal, aside from simple Orthodox "my way or the highway."
1. Slippery slope (this seems to have been intentional in many congregants' thinking). You start adding and there's no end to adding. The same is said for adding praises of Hashem - start adding and there's no end to adding, which is how we have the list of praises in Yishtabach - these are praises explicitly said by Moshe. It's also said in the Talmud at the beginning of Tr. Yoma, that one doesn't appoint a substitute wife for the Kohen Gadol, because the first might die and he needs a living wife to do the service - the mishna explicitly says if you do, "there is no end" to the substitutes you'd have to appoint.
2. National consensus. There has been a lot of regional variation in the texts of the Amidah, some still remains, but everybody (from the Talmud until the 1980s) has followed the consensus text of the first three paragraphs, which are laid out in the Talmud.
3. Theology (I-Thou). It seems to me that we include the Avot because the Torah gives us some clue about their varying relationships to God. What clue do we have about the varying relationships between the Imahot, let alone Z&B who are barely mentioned as brood mares, and God? Sarah & Rivka related to God as arbiter of disputes between themselves and their husbands over preferential treatment of the children. Rachel & Leah's relationships to God only come out of Midrash.
4. Textual. Well, really, we include the Avot because most of the Amidah is made up from verses or phrases from verses. Is there a verse "elokei Sarah, elokei Rivkah, elokei Rachel Leah Bilhah uZilpah"? Or even of each phrase separately?
Shoehorning the Imahot into the Amidah feels about as awkward as the love interests shoehorned into "The Hunt for Red October" (Clancy's publisher forced him into it) or the movie version of "Fantastic Voyage" (Asimov's novelization has no love interest, but I did learn a lot about biology from it).
Full disclosure: I've been teaching a series on the brachot of Shmoneh Esreh for the past year and a half, intermittently, when the rabbi is not present at seudah shlishit, at the Yavneh Minyan of Flatbush. I cover both interpretation (phrase by phrase and structural, via Baer, Gra, Netiv Binah, RY Emden, and others) and textual history (via Fleischer, and Luger's book on the Genizah texts of the Shmone Esreh). We're in the middle of the Blessing of the Righteous, and I plan to cover Al Hanisim during Chanukah. If you're in the area, come on by - mincha at 4 pm Saturdays for the next 3-4 weeks.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Monday, June 18, 2012
E.g., מ' פכטר, which you would think is Mordechai Pachter, becomes Fechter.
Moshe Hallamish is rendered Chalamish.
Rivka Schatz-Uffenheimer becomes Schatz-Oppenheimer.
Chabad bibliographer and historian Yehoshua Mondshine becomes Mundstein. Since there's no Tet or Tav in מונדשיין, that's just careless.
Mendel פייקאז', usually rendered Piekarz from Polish, is now Feikazh. Which is probably how the Polish name is pronounced.
And when he cites European non-Jewish authors, whose Hebrew names are already transliterations, we enter the world of Invisible Insanity.
Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens becomes Hoyzinga, האדם המשחק.
And who is Poko, author of Toldot haShigaon? None other than Michel Foucault, author of History of Madness.
Evidently, Prof. Mark is more comfortable reading in Hebrew than other languages, which is understandable, so he listed his sources as he read them in Hebrew translation, as much as possible. But somewhere along the line, someone didn't realize that these authors, writing for a wider academic world, had spellings that they used for their own names in Roman alphabets.
I've seen this before, in that R' Yuval Cherlow is often advertised as R' Sherlo, transliterating from Hebrew. But he prefers that English audiences see his name as it should be spelled, not just as a transliteration from Hebrew. And then there are names that are just confusing, like Dr. Shlomo Pines.
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
What differentiates the first two from the last name? The first two sound Greek, while the last is clearly Jewish. The most common name-form for angels in Hebrew mythology is a Hebrew word or expression suffixed with -el or -iel. E.g. Michael -who is like El? Gabriel- strength of El. Etc., where El is a God-name.
Metatron is one of the more interesting myths. Enoch, who lived between Adam and Noah, is not listed as dying in the Begats list. Rather, he "walked with God". This anomaly is the basis of the Enoch myth, where Enoch is taken up bodily into Heaven, much like Elijah was centuries later, and is transformed into the chief angel, Metatron.
However, in early apocalyptic literature, Metatron is known under different names, more like the standard theophoric angel names: Yahoel (a combination of the God-names Yaho and El), or Hashem Katan, the small God. By the time of the Tannaim, though, he is known as Metatron (which sounds like a Japanese robot name, like Voltron; or a 1950s computer, like Datatron). Sandalphon (which sounds like the late-antiquity version of the Sports Illustrated Sneakerphone[TM]) only appears in the Tannaitic period.
Which leaves me wondering, why the sudden shift to Greek names for the highest-level angels? Had the names become so holy that they needed kinnuyim (euphemisms)? Even today, many religious Jews won't even pronounce the Greek angel names, preferring an abbreviation such as "the angel Mitat" for Metatron. Did a new growth in metaphysical speculation engender a shift to exotic foreign cognomens?
Further, what do the names mean? The articles below offer a variety of suggested etymologies for Metat and Sandal, but generally leave them as "we don't really know". I checked out Metatron (with a couple of possible spellings) on Google Translate, and they translate the word as "conversion" or "converted". I wonder if it could be that simple - Enoch was converted into Jahoel/Metatron - so his name could be "the converted one".
Gershom Scholem, "Jewish Gnosticism and Merkabah Mysticism", JTSA 1965.
Monday, April 02, 2012
R Moshe Sokol, our LOR, In his Shabbos Hagodol drasha suggested that the modern Seder is the reverse of the pre-Hurban seder. We say maggid then eat. In Temple times, if you read the Mishna, and even in the post-Hurban Tannaitic era, it seems that they ate first, then said Maggid, and benched.
- Mah Nishtanah - the child asks about the oddness of the meal he has *just eaten*.
- the Sages sitting up at Benny Baruch telling of the Exodus - after the meal.
- eating the Korban Pesach hot off the spit, rather than 3 hours later.
Ha Lachma Anya then is seen as a later addition, introducing Maggid, when we haven't eaten yet. It reminds us we're in practice mode, in a broken world, waiting for the Final Redemption when we can do it properly.
Friday, September 23, 2011
The Blessings of the Shofar
Although, as your cantor, I am very much engrossed with the proper interpretation of the Yomim Noraim liturgy, there is no question that the moment that captures the attention of every worshipper is when the shofar is sounded.
The blowing of the shofar is the oldest ritual that is still heard in synagogues all over the world. It is interesting to note that it was used to proclaim the Jubilee Year in biblical times, as seen in Lev. 25:9-10: "to proclaim liberty throughout the land," the same verse engraved on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia! The shofar's purpose is to proclaim G-d's Kingship, and at the same time, to summon the Jewish People to repent. As the Baal Tokeahfor at least one day of R"H, I will recite two blessings in a traditional melody which is also used for the Megillah on Purim, and which some also utilize for the Shehecheyanu on Yom Kippur Eve. My teacher, Cantor Macy Nulman, theorizes that "the same melodic theme was intended for all three occasions in order to direct the worshipper's attention to the same sentiment. On Rosh Hashana the shofar reminds us of the Day of Judgment, on Yom Kippur each person's lot is determined, and on Purim Haman cast lots to determine the most favorable month and day ... to exterminate the Jews of Persia."
May the sound of the shofar awaken our hearts and encourage us to repent. But, may it also be the harbinger of the day when all of the world will recognize G-d's kingship and usher in an era when humankind will live together in peace and harmony.
Shana Tova! Daven well and sing along!
DAVEN WELL, DON'T TALK, AND SING ALONG!
© 2011 LSS and Sherwood Goffin