Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Incomplete and Complete

R' Micha Berger bemoans his lack of desire for the restoration of sacrifices:

standing here after two millenia of exile, I no longer feel driven by a need to give to Him. There is something incomplete in my ahavas Hashem, love of G-d.

I for one do look forward to the restoration of sacrifices, and my job as janitor (or, if I'm lucky, singer). Perhaps not on a daily basis, as it's a bit hard to conjure up the whole imagery while dragging my eyes over the same old words yet again, but on Erev Pesach and on Yom Kippur, yes. I try to imagine myself there, involved in the service, in the audience, whatever. Sometimes it even works.

Micha speaks about it in terms of humans being innately generous, wanting to give to the One whom they love. I don't see much of it like that, except for korbanot nedavah, free-will offerings, which seem to be purely emotion-driven. Most of the sacrificial service that we see in the daily liturgy is mandatory, be it communal (in which case my emotions have little to do with it), or individual (in which case giving is, and should be, a hardship, a deterrent against further transgressions).

I see it rather as the complete fulfillment of the Torah, over half of whose mitzvot have to do with the Holy Temple and its service. Perhaps we feel incomplete if we don't have the emotional link, but our Geonim already seem to have recognized this and have adapted the service to recognize this, in partially distancing us from the reality of Temple observance.

I think Nusach Ashkenaz has lost some of its richness by switching from "ot'cha beyirah naavod" to "hamachazir shechinato letziyon" - it makes us far more passive observers, than active participants. Which is kind of ironic, in that most people, in the time of the Beit haMikdash, were just that, passive observers, usually not even there at all. But "returning His Presence to Zion" puts us entirely in the position of receivers, not active participants in Divine Worship.

What I'm not looking forward to, is being bankrupted by having to offer all those sin-offerings for all my sins, and then being executed by the court* for not having always been shomer shabbos.

R' Micha feels incomplete for not feeling sufficiently incomplete, whereas I look forward to the complete observance of the Torah, in chesed and din and rachamim, bimheirah beyameinu.

* Woo-hoo! Mass executions of all of us who were not Frum From Birth! At least if those elements who don't consider most modern Jews to be tinokot shenishbu gain control of the Sanhedrins. Given how the Israeli Government Rabbinate has been slowly taken over by hareidim, it's not inconceivable.


micha said...

I didn't quite say that humans are innately generous. I said that love inherently causes a desire to give to the beloved. I didn't turn that into an innate desire to love and give to everyone.

My point was therefore that my inability to really get emotionally behind qorbanos must indicate (via the contrapositive) that my love of G-d is incomplete. Wanting to fulfill that third (or half, as you estimate) of the Torah aside. That's more of an intellectual think than anticipation.

I can get into tzipisa liYshua. It's tzipisa lehaqriv, to actually anxiously and eagerly await qorbanos because I feel something missing from my life, that I simply miss. (And I also think more people are on the same page than might admit to themselves.)

As for your footnote: The whole point of eidus and hasra'ah is to guarantee that the only people killed were mumarim lehach'is. Also, I don't think mashiach could possibly come before attitudes like the one you describe changed. Judgmental divisionmaking and messianic unity are, if not contradictory, at least a pair of ideals no real group of people could balance.


Garnel Ironheart said...

Micha, your thoughts are laudatory.

Remember: you cannot miss what you never had. That's what makes it so hard to get into a real sad mood on Tisha B'Av. Having never seen the Temple, we don't really feel its absence. It's the same with korbanos. Having never offered one, never felt the spiritual effect, we are left with all we know: davening. We just don't know what we're missing.

micha said...


I find it easy to mourn the human cost of 9 beAv. You can miss what you never had -- I miss world peace, or at least an end to Jewish oppression. I guess if you had a taste of something, you don't need to have the real thing to know you would want it.


thanbo said...


you cannot miss what you never hadAs for korbanos - haven't you ever been to one of these restoration places, like Sturbridge Village or Van Cortlandt Manor? Where you might have seen an animal being slaughtered and butchered.

Now add that image to guys in white linen shifts and turbans, collecting the blood in golden bowls and passing it one to another to the altar you see towering in the distance inside the azarah, and tossing it on the corners.

Take your lamb and roast it on a pomegranate spit over an open fire - you've never seen such things in old movies? or TV shows about life in the Middle Ages or Renaissance or Frontier?

Add in your seder, and a picnic, and you have the korban Pesach, built up from snippets of real experience and some imagination.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Right Thanbo except:

1) I've never been to those places

2) You then ask me to add on a whole bunch of things I've never experienced either.

That's my point

thanbo said...

So your point is that you don't have an imagination, therefore nobody can miss these things?

You can only miss that which you have experienced? What about the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" - was their experience also inauthentic because they had lived under Czarist or Polish tyranny all their lives?

Of course we don't have the full experience, but we can try to create some semblance of the feeling in ourselves, through imagination, through analogy with similar feelings, etc.

RYBS says that the inuyim on the 3 Weeks and Tisha B'Av are in increasing severity, to bring us down to the level of sadness at a real death. We do things by analogy to create the feeling - which is why most of us at camp never really felt it, not having yet lost anybody close.

Thank God my parents are alive and mostly well, but I tap into my memory of my father-in-law's passing. An actor, similarly, taps into his experience to evoke the emotions he's supposed to be feeling in any given scene.

Micha: yes, you're right, I should have said "innately generous towards those whom one loves". Which is unfortunately not always true, but it usually is.

* * *

It's the 21st century: where's my flying car?

Litvak said...

"I think Nusach Ashkenaz has lost some of its richness by switching from "ot'cha beyirah naavod" to "hamachazir shechinato letziyon" "

Is it a done deal? I thought that both ways are out there, some do one and others the other. Maybe B has gained on A, but I think A is still out there.