Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wherefore art thou, Yerushalayim?

R' Alan asked*, wherefore do we say Yerushalayim? Is it not spelled Yerushaleim?

Mr' Jonathan responded, hie thee to Google, and ye shall find.

In summary, Urusalim is attested as far back as the 19th century BCE, and repeatedly in the El-Amarna letters in the 14th century BCE. For reference, Avraham Avinu was born in the 18th century BCE, encountered Malchitzedek King of Shaleim (which is today called Jerusalem) in the 17th century, and the Exodus was in the 13th century.

Why the dual form Yerushalayim? In short, nobody knows. It was a choice of the Masoretes, so it was comparatively late (early Middle Ages), and we don't know why they did it. Perhaps it was a reference to the two cities: the old one below Har haMoriah, and the new one built to the north and west, approximately where the current "Old City" is today on Har Tzion.

* on another list.

Alternate Nacheims

For those who might feel motivated to use an "alternate Nacheim" this afternoon, on the grounds that talking about a desolate Jerusalem and Israel are no longer appropriate after 1948 and 1967, here are the two main options.

תפילת נחם

רחם ה' אלוהינו ברחמיך הרבים ובחסדיך הנאמנים

עלינו ועל עמך ישראל

ועל ירושלים עירך, הנבנית מחורבנה,

המקוממת מהריסותיה והמיושבת משוממותה.

על חסידי עליון שנהרגו בזדון

ועל עמך ישראל שהוטל לחרב.

ועל בניה אשר מסרו נפשם ושפכו דמם עליה

ציון במר תבכה וירושלים תתן קולה,

לבי לבי על חלליהם מעי מעי על חלליהם.

והעיר אשר פדית מידי עריצים ולגיונות

ולישראל עמך נתת נחלה ולזרע ישורון ירשה הורשת

נטה עליה סכת שלומך כנהר שלום

לקים מה שנאמר : ואני אהיה לה נאם ה'

חומת אש סביב ולכבוד בתוכה,

ברוך אתה ה' מנחם ציון ובונה ירושלים.

(פרופ' אפרים אלימלך אורבך:)

נוסח של הרב שלמה גורן לאחר מלחמת ו הימים

נחם, ד' אלוקינו, את אבלי ציון ואת אבלי ירושלים ואת העיר האבלה, החרבה וההרוסה. ציון במר תבכה, וירושלים תתן קולה. לבי לבי על חלליהם, מעיי, מעיי על הרוגיהם. ולישראל עמך נתתה נחלה, ולזרע ישורון הורשתה. נערה, ד' אלוקינו, מעפרה, והקיצה מארץ דוויה, נטה אליה נהר שלום וכנחל שוטף כבוד גויים. כי אתה ד' באש הצתה ובאש אתה עתיד לבנותה, כאמור: "ואני אהיה לה נאום ד', חומת אש סביב ולכבוד אהיה בתוכה". (זכריה ב', ט(

[ברוך אתה ה' מנחם ציון ובונה ירושלים.]

Note that R' Yosef Ber Soloveitchik zt"l and yblcht"a R' Ovadia Yosef are both opposed to changing the nusach, on the basis of it being written by the Men of the Great Assembly and thus inspired, and on the basis of Jerusalem still being largely not occupied by Jews, and the Temple Mount still home to two large mosques. Against the first argument, one could say that there are several different nuscha'ot already, so what's wrong with adapting to changed circumstances, as long as the main elements remain? Against the second argument, not much can be said.

R' Chaim David Halevi proposes a compromise: just add "שהיתה" before the words of destruction: העיר שהיתה אבילה...

See Hirhurim from a couple of years ago for halachic references. R' Goren's Nachem was originally published in the IDF Siddur, and Prof. Urbach's was promulgated by Kvutzat Yavneh.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Altar: Before and After

On the one hand, we have Deuteronomy promising us that the Altar (and thus the Temple) will be "in the place that will be chosen [by God]". On the other hand, the Rambam tells us, in the Laws of the Temple 2:1, that the location of the Altar is very intentional (mechaven beyoter), and that it never changes, for which the prooftext is that the Akeidah (Binding of Isaac) was performed in the land of Moriah, and that the Temple was built on Mount Moriah. So which is it? Is Moriah no more or less important than any other location that could have been chosen (which is the simple meaning of the verses), or is it predestined to be the location of the Altar, as seems to be implied by the Binding of Isaac, and countless other stories of offerings made there: Adam, and Cain and Abel, and Jacob's dream, etc.?

The late Lubavitcher Rebbe makes a diyuk (close reading) in the Rambam that resolves the question. When Rambam says "it never changes location," he's literally saying "we never change its location". That is, as long as it was not chosen, it wasn't special, but once God chose it, it became permanently holy and its location cannot change from then on. So what about all the ancestors who used the location for offerings? They knew, through prophecy, that this location would be chosen for the Altar, so they figured it was a propitious location for themselves. Thus, causality is preserved.

This demonstrates an important theological point, one that the late Rebbe probably would not have agreed with, as it doesn't proceed from a Lubavitch panentheism.

This understanding of Rambam demonstrates that God is outside of time (and space). For God, all of Time is an instant, simultaneous. For us, time is linear. We experience events one after the other, and only memory (for most of us) and prophecy (for the very rare few) allow us to see beyond the now.

Consider God as a line, and the universe as a circle. God chooses the place of the Altar in His timeless moment, the eternal Now. The universe is a wheel rolling along the line. C. some date around 970 BCE, God chooses Mt Moriah as the site of the Temple and Altar. At that point in time, some point on the wheel is tangent to the line of timeless time. That point of tangent contact is what we experience as the moment of choice. But that choice reverberates up and down the circumference of the wheel, enabling prophets to pick up on it.

So yes, the Place is chosen once in Time. But prophets, attuned to the vibrations of the Universe and God's effect thereon, pick up on that moment of choice ahead of time, and realize that this is an auspicious place to make offerings. God, outside of Time, affects all of us in Time by His choice, and His Prophets up and down the line. Causality, from our perspective is preserved, yet the prooftexts are also true - that the place was used in the past for offerings, yet that fact did not cause the place to be chosen.

May the chosen moment of our final Redemption be felt speedily in our days.

(P.S.: pls excuse the railfan metaphor)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Shomer Shabbos Skip

Seen on 32nd St. between 6th and 7th Avenues, in Manhattan, end of June 2009

This dumpster collects trash, but never on Shabbos!