Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A School in Beit Shemesh

The Agudath Israel of America released a statement concerning the violence in Beit Shemesh. Read it here. Here is my response:

many charedi Jews, men and women alike, see a need to take special steps – in their own lives and without seeking to coerce others – to counterbalance the pervasive atmosphere of licentiousness, so as to avoid the degradation of humanity to which it leads.

If increased modesty is expressed by individuals' attempts to avoid situations they feel are improper, that is one thing. If a man feels unable or uninterested in walking on the same sidewalk as a woman, and he switches sides, no one will complain. If a woman chooses to not speak with a man out of a sense of modesty, again, no one will complain (although people may question the motives, value and repercussions these types of behavior have on the individual and on the community).

However, if "special steps" taken include gender-segregated buses, signs asking women to walk on the other side of the street, and an unwillingness to vociferously reject the more radical embodiment of these strictures (such as assault (insults and taunts against adults and, more horrifically, children) and battery (spitting, brick throwing, etc)), then, far more than the "atmosphere of licentiousness" the charedi community wishes to avoid, they contribute to the degradation of humanity.

The true irony is found when considering the very concept stated above in my first paragraph: the idea that as long as one does not impact others with his "special steps" in modesty (or other strictness), one should be allowed to take them. This idea of personal autonomy and freedom comes not from the Torah, but from liberal philosophy.In the past, the danger posed to society from overly strict individual behavior was viewed as damaging no less than overly lax individual behavior. One who deviated too far off the golden mean, the societal norm, in either direction, was herded back to the norm. It is ironic that only in the context of modernity and the liberalism it engenders that the charedi world can support "special steps in their own lives", steps that have no basis in normative Halacha and derive their validity from modernity's "individual freedom".

Finally, while Aguda's condemnation of the violence is welcome, it comes belatedly, at a time when the media has picked up on an old story in Beit Shemesh. This has been going on for months, the segregated buses (and violence in their defense) has been going on for years. Why is the vast majority silent? Why is it only when the media pick up a story that the leaders of the charedi world in Israel feel the need to begin to condemn? Was there nothing to condemn months ago, when the heckling of little girlds started? Was there nothing to condemn years ago, when women were assaulted on buses for not moving to the back?

Could it be that the majority supports the goals of the violence, and therefore, they ignore the means?

Finally, I want to point out that there is a troubling view of today's society as extremely licentious. Judaism has existed and survived in cultures far more explicit and licentious than today's. Just think about ancient Greek or Roman culture, or the 18th century dress and behavior across Western Europe.

Later, Rabbi Yaakov Menken posted a comment responding in part to me. I fisked it, and this comment has yet to be approved by Cross-Currents, even though Yaakov Menken has commented since. Here is the unapproved comment from me:


Daniel Weltman
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
If you condemn the charedi separate buses, and do not condemn those in Korea and Mexico City, you are a bigot.
I guess I am not a bigot then, at least by your standards.
I know you don’t mean to sound this way, but you sound as though you are trying to defend the indefensible. And so:
They didn’t speak fast enough.
They sure didn’t. Women have had bricks thrown at them, been physically (!!) assaulted on buses that are segregated, and little religious girls (albeit not charedi) have been called whores and prostitutes, and yet there has been no backlash from official charedi organizations until now, until the media blitz. In fact, rabbis have said that they refuse to speak out against these activities, because they are not related to them at all. It is sad that it takes what you call a “deliberate provocation…media tactic” to get the ball rolling on some much-needed, sadly missing public charedi outrage.
They dare to operate gender-separate buses.
No, Egged does. They do not operate the buses. If this were a private bus company, things may be a bit different, don’t you think…
They dare to help their own values by suggesting opposite sides of the street before Sukkos, when the crowds and tiny sidewalks of Meah Shearim make physical contact mandatory.
Suggesting? Or enforcing? I think your comment suffers from pollyanism. How about the mob-style forcing of stores to keep the placards about “please only enter modestly dressed” in their windows? What happens to those who refuse, Yaakov? How about Manny’s bookstore? If these actions are really only those of fringe elements, then the complaint of the mainstream charedim is much too late, and too little besides. If not, then I do not really know what point you are making.
All of that means the charedim (including Rav Lipman, who is in Beit Shemesh and has vociferously opposed the Sikrikim) condone their behavior.
שתיקה כהודעה – Silence implies consent. I doubt that anyone would say that any rabbi who “vociferously opposed” the hooligans condones their behavior. Let’s discuss without the false choices.
Deliberate provocation is an acceptable media tactic against them.
See above.
or present a verbal confrontation as violence.
Yaakov, spitting at someone is considered נזיקין in Halacha. It is ironically listed with one who “uncovers a woman’s hair in public”, and has the same compensation to the victim — 400 zuz (quite a sum of money). See Bava Kama 8:6.
Screaming obscenities in public is certainly against the law, and not covered by Free speech when it is disorderly conduct. Particularly when directed at a person in a threatening way, it is assault. It is assault. Throwing feces, rocks, bricks, and other objects at a person or a home is battery and property damage.
When you say “present a verbal confrontation as violence”, do you mean to imply that the above occurrences (some recorded) did not occur?
truly the Jews’ Jews
If by “Jews’ Jews” you mean, finding a demand to react against fringe elements of their society vocally and consistently, and not to allow evil and thuggery to fester in their midst, yes they are Jews. If you mean the colloquial usage, that they are the scapegoat for the people who serve as scapegoats for the rest of the nations, you are simply wrong, and throwing around loaded terms will do nothing to help anyone in the Beit Shemesh situation today.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rav Soloveitchik and Historical Positivism

In this post on TorahMusings, Rabbi Wurzburger is quoted as saying: "The Rav’s objection to the employment of modern historic and textual scholarship to ascertain the meaning of halakha reflects not naive traditionalism but highly sophisticated post-modern critical thought. He insists that halakha operate with its own unique canons of interpretation. According to R. Soloveitchik, scientific methods are appropriate only for the explanation of natural phenomena but have no place in the quest for the understanding of the normative and cognitive concepts of halakha, which imposes its own a priori categories, which differ from those appropriate in the realm of science. It is for this reason that the Rav completely ignores Bible criticism and eschews the “positive historical” approach of the “Science of Judaism.”"

Perhaps the use, in the passage quoted above, of the term 'post-modern' is to simply refer to a category of thought that is "after" modernism. After all, Rav Soloveitchik is clear in Halachik Mind that (as pointed out in the passage), to the extent anything can claim the title "true" or "valid" in a post-Kantian world, there are many parallel systems of cognition, which are valid for their field of application. A key element of this is that, within their fields, these systems are valid. This is far from the standard definition of post-Modernism, that apparent realities are nothing more than social constructs, and that narratives take the place of the search for truth.

In fact, Halachik Mind ends up vouching for a methodology of religion and by extension, Halacha, which is essentially scientific: " would be fallacious to apply the method of independent philosophy in the field of religion. It would inevitably result in a labyrinth of mysticism. If modern philosophy, in it quest for "independence", has become arbitrary, then religious thought, which is particularly prone to abstruseness, needs be all the more wary of such an alignment. The student of religion, starting from the principle of cognitive pluralism, would act wisely in taking his cue from the scientist rather than the philosopher. The structural designs of religion cannot be intuited through any sympathetic fusion with an eternal essence, but must be reconstructed out of objective religious data and central realities. The uniqueness of the religious experience resides in its objective normative components." (62) We must go from the objective to the subjective, and not the other direction.

However, the scientific method wielded in Halacha must be based on different data points than in common scientific inquiry: legal ones. In Part Four, Rabbi Soloveitchik explains that the very data points of the scientific exploration of religion must be the normative objective components, the legal rules themselves. We start not from an ethical question of "why" but the descriptive question of "what". Instead of putting Halcha up to be constructed out of extra-religious considerations, he claims that Halacha contains the data from which we reconstruct our subjective activity. We blow the shofar, not because it (and only it) reminds us of teshuva; rather, we do teshuva because we recognize that as the subjective origin (and a non-necessary result which we are expected to glean) of the objective commandment (94-96).
This view of Rav Soloveitchik is not, to my mind, necessarily at odds with historical positivism. Nothing in this view fundamentally eschews the historical approach to legal theory and Halacha. Rav Soloveitchik's unwillingness to engage in the "science of Judaism" is much more a function of the prevailing mood in Weimar Germany against historicism. See Gordon's Rosenzweig and Heidegger: Between Judaism and German Philosophy 195n5, and see his reference to David Myers' Historicism and Its Discontents in German-Jewish Thought. This tendency is aptly summed up: "By the late nineteenth century and into the Weimar period, historicism was seen by many as a grinding force that corroded social values and was emblematic of modern society's gravest ills." (I am not here judging the merits of historicism or the dangers articulated by its critics.) Additionally, the realization that historical positivism would be a tremendous innovation and revolution in standard yeshiva study, to wit, the controversy over Wissenschaft des Judentums, probably also tempered the willingness of many rabbis to engage in it (as commenters point out on the post) . Thus it is not at all his post-Kantian view of reality that led Rav Soloveitchik to reject the historical positivist approach to Halacha, but, ironically, historical, sociological and cultural considerations.


After discussion with two friends, I realize that there is a need to differentiate between historical positivism as a theory, and historical necessity as an explanation of data points. Historical positivism as a theory states that the historical realities results in the creation of legal principles. For example, the shortage of wood leads to the creation of the Halachik concept of lavud, and the reticence of lenders leads to the creation of the concept of prosbol. The very concept is created out of historical necessity, and Halacha is in a large sense, a function of reactions to socio-historical events instead of a unified legal theory.

On the other hand, even one who rejects these theories on the grounds that Halacha is an objective, conceptual system which is unchanging at its core, would still accept historical data as explanations, not for the creation, but for the development (or discovery) of latent halachik principles into halachik tools or takanot. For example, the concepts at the root of lavud were part of the core halachik system from the beginning. The rule that loans owned by the courts are not subject to cancellation in the sh'mitta year, and the idea that one can pay a partner a certain amount and thus purchase the responsibility for fluctuations (up or down) in the business venture (the foundation of the heter iska), are concepts that are not groundbreaking; they existed in halacha from the very beginning. However, this viewpoint would not discount that the process of the development of halacha is historically contingent. Socio-historic necessity is valid as an explanation as to why the Rabbis decided to innovate the idea that one can give his personal loans to the courts, thus turning them into court-held loans which are not cancelled. The innovation lies in the willingness to turn a personal loan into a court-held one. Once this development is accomplished, application of the age-old idea that court-held loans are not subject to shemitta cancellation is non-controversial. Similarly, once social changes necessitated the chiddush that we may view interest on a loan as a business venture in which a partner purchases responsibility for fluctuations in the business venture's profitability in exchange for a fixed percentage, the application of the heter iska becomes non-controvesial as well.

Thus, historical considerations play a part in the development of the application of core halachik ideas, but they do not engage in the creation of these ideas. This is the point at which Rav Soloveitchik and historical positivists would diverge in principle, ideologically.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

R Judah Halevi and Asceticism

Rabbi Yehuda Halevi (turn of 11th century in Spain) wrote the Kuzari, a work of original and traditional Jewish philosophy. Rabbi David Cohen (הרב הנזיר), in the middle of the 20th century, gave a series of lectures upon this book in the Merkaz Harav yeshivah. His notes were edited and have been printed as a three volume commentary on the Kuzari. In this edition of the Kuzari, Rabbi Cohen points out that in his earlier years, Rabbi Yehuda Halevi tended towards asceticism. It is clear from the Kuzari (2:56), however, that the author changed his mind.

The Kuzari makes a passionate case against asceticism or פרישות, when he states: "It is not proof of the Godly [within a person] when he is overly careful about pronunciation, or lifts his eyebrows and squeezes his eyes shut, or engages in profligate pleadings, prayers, gesticulations and pronouncements which have no action backing them up. Rather the pure conscience is proven by actions whose commitment is hard for a person to accomplish, but he nevertheless acts upon them with motivation and love, with a goal of closeness to God..."

He goes on to describe the details and minutia of practical commandments not only which lead a person to ethical life and performance of loving-kindness towards others, but also allow a person the ability to become intimate with the Creator through עבודה, service as commanded by God. The choosing of one's own path towards closeness to God is the foundation of idolatry, for Rabbi Yehuda. It is only through meticulous performance of commandments from God, active physical expressions of closeness to God on his terms, that we are able to serve Him.

Centuries after Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, Rabbi Dr Eliezer Berkovits would write in God, Man and History, that, "the task of relating the physical component of the human being to God can be accomplished only by a divine law...the body is not accessible to logical reasoning. One can only teach it by making it do things. One does not learn to swim by reading books on swimming technique, nor does one become a painter by merely contemplating the styles of different schools. One learns to swim by swimming, to paint by painting, to act by acting. One learns how to do anything by doing it. This applies nowhere more strictly than in the realm of ethical action. The only way of educating the biophysical instrument of action is by making it perform."

The ascetic drive in Man can only bring him so far upon the path of service of the Divine. It is only physical, God-commanded, theonomic practice which allows the whole being of a human to serve God. The pre-occupation with asceticism is to engage in a never-ending enterprise which, if allowed, will easily prevent the whole human from accomplishing his religious and God-ordained goals.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Isaiah I

The book of Yeshaya starts during the reign of Judean kings, when Jerusalem sits secure and physically safe. However, the prophet looks to the moral state of Israel and finds the nation terribly wanting. The complaints listed by Yeshaya are all of the moral and ethical type. In fact, the language he employs makes it clear that the practice of the Jewish ceremonial-religious service has not lagged. By asking, למה לי רוב זבחיכם, Yeshaya admits that the sacrificial service in the temple is uninterrupted. When he says, חדש ושבת קרא מקרא, he implies that the societal structure is one which still maintains outward practice of the law of Moses.

Yeshaya complains, though, that the nation has lost its sense of social justice. The judges of Israel are corrupt; they do not seek justice. Halacha, instead of having as its goals good and "ways of pleasantness", has been turned into a tool for everything but that. The judges, those who are charged with the direction of the courts and halacha, have become corrupted. They do not judge correctly for יתומים, and they ignore the plight of widows (v 23). This corruption is the necessary and sufficient cause for the destruction of Jewish society. Courts no longer dispense justice, they contribute to injustice.

Moreover, Judean society has placed a premium on religious activity and piety, and has allowed expressions of these to overcome and hide the sins of the judiciary (and the judicial conscience within each individual). For example, in v 4: נאצו את קדוש ישראל נזרו אחור. Radak and Ibn Ezra bring as an explanatory verse on the word נזרו, the verse וינזרו מקדשי בני ישראל. The verb נ.ז.ר means to withdraw, to remove oneself. In the context of the Pentateuchal verse, this is a desirable action. The priests are exhorted to withdraw from taking קדשי בני ישראל, and doing so is right. The very commandment of נזיר, in which a person withdraws from worldly pleasure to focus on inner, spiritual development, is generally seen as a good thing (even if according to some the very need to do so is a negative). However, Judean society in the times of Yeshaya had perverted this concept of holy withdrawl, נזירות של קדושה, and twisted it into נזירות של רשעות, withdrawl from קדוש ישראל Himself. They have removed themselves from intimate and immanent communion with God through their didactic observance of details, while allowing themselves to ignore the injustice and evil of כלו אהב שחד ורדף שלמנים (v 23).

From this, comes the thesis of the prophets in general: החפץ ה' בזבחים ועולות כשמוע בקול ה'? Does God really want your offerings and automaton service in His Temple, if that means you ignore the moral and ethical spirit of His commands? Torah and Mitzvot are supposed to make us moral people, Halacha should make us cringe at injustice and in its face, burn with the fire of justified rage. The commands of God are supposed to make us better people. If they do not, then the result is exile and punishment.

The promise of God in v 25-26 is clear. Which enemies will God take vengeance upon? The judges and politicians, and those elements within indviduals that allowed injustice and perversion of social norms. Those who are charged with social justice are the ones who will be corrected, along with a society that allowed their perversion. Only upon justice will the righteous city be so called, and the returnees will enjoy צדקה (v 27).

When Israel returns to God, it begins by returning to the orphan and the widow. When halacha does not countenance the undue suffering of the innocent, then can Israel be redeemed.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Torah and Truth

(UPATE: In response to feedback from a reader, I decided that this post probably deserves a disclaimer. The topic it addresses is always a difficult topic to approach. It seems to border on a grey area which for many, may tread on ground thought of as Reform. First, let me say that the main problems with Reform Judaism are its antinomianism and its willingness to reject the giving of Torah by God directly to Moshe at Mt Sinai. I certainly deny both these stances: First, the Laws of the Torah (and the Oral Law and Rabbinic Traditions) are in force and every Jew is religiously obligated to follow them. Second, the Jewish people's collective experience at Mt Sinai is a crucial article of faith that I have no intention of denying or discussing in this present post.

Finally, allow me to draw a comparison to the present essay's discussion of the stories of the book of Genesis and parts of Exodus, and the midrashic discussion of the book of Job. There is ample support for the notion that the entire book of Job is an allegory; it does not purport to present a historical discussion of the life of a man named Job; rather, it tells a story with moral and ethical lessons. Additionally, keep in mind that the Rambam is willing to take various stories of the forefathers as prophecies rather than literal occurences (for example, the three angels appearing to Avraham after his circumcision). It is in the above light and the above vein that the following discussion of Genesis and Exodus should be taken.)

As science and the studies of history and archeology continue to progress, the Torah seems under attack from many different directions. Was the world created in six days? Is it really only 5,767 years old? Was there a global flood? These questions and many others like them have caused many to doubt the authenticity of the Torah. They have spawned countless apologetic re-interpretations and explanations, trying to resolve the apparent problems in our tradition1.

Some quite sophisticated mathematic acrobatics have been produced reconciling the six days of creation with different time-lines proposed by theoretical scientists. Heated debate raises questions on these types of work. While it is sometimes exciting to observe the ingenuity of such interpretations, they are unnecessary2.

As Rashi makes clear in his commentary on the first verse in B'reshit, the Torah is not a book of history. The purpose of God's word is not to tell us what was, but what shall be in our realm of thought and action. Torah is a book of ethical instruction. It is to teach us how to act, and how to live. And so, Rashi states that the purpose of the story of creation is to impress upon us the absolute dominion God has over creation, and explain that Jewish rights to the land of Israel are divine. The question of exactly how the world was created, while of possible esoteric value, is not the thrust of the creation story.

Indeed, the concept that the Torah existed before the creation of the world, and served as its blueprint, is certainly not to be taken literally. A basic tenant of Judaism is that God imbued Man with free will. The Torah could not have 'destined' our nation to the stories of the spies or the golden calf written within it. Even the concept of Adam's sin being predetermined would raise problems.

A Rabbi (זצ"ל) who taught me during my semicha studies agrees and quotes midrashim to the effect that the Torah is a unified, pure ray of light. It is the kernel and essence of truth in this world. It is in this regard that, 'אורייתא וקודשא בריך הוא חד הוא'. When exposed to the physical world God created, this light is refracted, much as sulight is broken up by a prism. The more complex the world, the more refraction occurs. In the world of Eden, the essence of truth was broken into one positive and one negative commandment. After the flood and the sins of humanity, it was broken into seven commands. Finally, it settled in our present situation of 613 commandments. The important point here is that the practical form of the divine Torah, in a different reality, could conceivably be different.

My teacher mentions in his writings the possibility that the book of B'reshit and parts of Sh'mot was written by the forefathers (he bases this on Psikta Rabati Chapter 3). It was the material studied by the Jews in Egypt. When the nation gathered at Mt. Sinai, God canonized the teachings of the forefathers and made it part of the divine Torah he imparted to Moshe3. It is certainly clear that our forefathers were not historians or scientists. Just as the people around them, they took for granted certain versions of the history of the world, and used them to teach moral lessons to their children. They even took laws from surrounding cultures (such as yibbum and certain civil and criminal laws) and, with certain changes, made them part of their teachings. These teachings and rules were canonized at Mt. Sinai for the ethical and legal lessons they contained. This was a natural way to teach these truths to a nation that was used to being taught lessons based on stories from the past.

Thus, the questions of historicity or science and Torah really are non-issues. The Torah's purpose is not to teach history or science. One might even say that the Canonical genre transcends the concepts of truth and falsehood. God utililzed the universal stories, the world's wisdom and the common idioms to convey to the Jews the eternal essence of truth that is that unadulterated ray of Torah. It is a generalized version of Rabbi Yishmael's "דברה תורה כלשון בני אדם", that the Torah is written in the lyric of the time in which it was given. (If one thinks about it, it is impossible to imagine otherwise; how, then, would the people receiving it understand it?!)

In the first book of his Guide, Rambam states that the Torah does, in fact, say things that are not true, in order to allow the people who received it to more readily understand it. He brings as an example the phrase 'the hand of God'. This anthropomorphic statement, implies the Rambam, was not naturally understood by most Jews to be an allegory. On the contrary, the majority took it literally! And although it is false that God has a hand, says Rambam, it is written in the Torah in order to make it easily understood.

In the same way, we may say that the Torah contains stories that may not have literally, historically, happened. There is not even a need (nor desire) to allegorize a story if it is proven to be unfounded. Although our forefathers may have believed in their literal truth, we do not have to in order to gain the true point that they are meant to teach. They are there to teach lessons in an approachable way to the Jewish nation that received it from God. The actual facts are simply vehicles to drive home the main thrust, which is the moral lesson and divine command. (This is not to say that we must or even should deny the literal historical occurence of these stories. Rather, what it means is that if they are ever somehow proven to have not historically have occurred in the way the Torah describes, this would not shake one iota of their import, lessons and ultimate truth value. The truth value of these stories lies not in their historical accuracy but in the lessons and molding of Jewish and global values. This remains in effect whether or not the stories in their literal form occurred. With this in mind, the goal of the stories shifts from literal historicity to moral teaching; this is perhaps a deeper understanding of Rashi's statement that Torah is not a history book. In addition, it causes the stories to transcend the binary dichotomy of truth and falsehood; the truth value of these stories no longer rests on their literal historical accuracy. They are transcendentally true (and valuable) even if they did not occur, by virtue of the noble and ennobling lessons they plant in the spirit of their audience.)

This view creates a theological foundation that is more flexible and thus more powerful than others. Science and history may lay claim to evidence that contradicts parts of our tradition. However, with our thesis in mind, these questions from fact become non-questions, ones that attack the outer garments of our faith as if these attacks are aimed at the beating heart. However, the heart continues to beat, and the stories themselves maintain their vitality, for their purpose is not historical accuracy but moral education.

While I cannot ensure that this essay will not be misinterpreted anyway, allow me to point out one caveat immediately. This post in no way denies the divinity of the Torah; on the contrary, it strengthens it. The practical laws of the Torah are certainly not under discussion here. They are the commands of God to His world. Also, the authority of the Oral Law is certainly not attacked. This discussion is limited to a study of how God chose to couch His teachings to the world at the time He revealed them.

This approach obviates the need to harmonize the literal word of the Torah with the latest scientific or archeological find. The Torah's lessons are ethical and theological, not scientific or historical. The more we internalize this, the faster we will find peace of faith in our modern world.

1 Many thanks to
S. His input was invaluable for this post.

2 Dr Wolowelsky's note at Tradition Online has recently come to my attention (after writing this essay). See footnote 9 at the end of his article at Tradition Online for expansion on this point, and the article in general, which agrees in large part with my essay here.

3 Also post-publication of this essay, see an explanation of Rabbi Emanuel Rackman's Bibilical theology, here. Also, see אגרות ראיה חלק א אגרת קל"ד which agrees with the thrust of this essay.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Peace as a Meta-Value

After zealously defending the honor of God and the Jewish people in an act of extra-judicial killing, Pinchas is blessed at the beginning of our portion with the covenant of peace. The blessing bestowed upon the zealot seems at odds with the profound violence of his act. Does the juxtaposition of a graphic act of killing and the promise of peace not seem vulgar? Upon further reflection, however, it may become clear that this vulgarity is a function of our general misunderstanding of peace as a value.

Also, another curiosity exists in the verse. Pinchas is promised a "covenant of peace". Should the verse not say "blessing of peace"? What is the meaning of this covenant? The same question applies to the mishna. The mishnah states in Uktzin: אין לך כלי שהוא מחזיק ברכה אלא שלום, שנאמר ה'--עוז, לעמו ייתן; ה', יברך את עמו בשלום. There is no vessel that holds blessing better than peace. Rabbi Tubi of Kerem B'Yavneh asks: why is it that peace is referred to as a vessel that holds blessing? Should not peace be the blessing itself?

The standard working definition of "peace" is the absence of conflict or violence. Nations that do not make war are at peace. However, upon closer examination, this definition breaks down. Would we call it peace, if World War II had come to an end of hostilities with the Axis powers destroying all opponents? That would be a cessation of war, but most would agree that their intuitive sense of what peace means would not be fulfilled by this outcome. What is it, then, that we really mean when we speak of peace?

Rabbi Hirsch points out that peace is not simply the absence of violence. It is rather the completion experienced when the world is right - when the world is on the path to fulfilling its mission to God. Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits discusses the purpose of the world in his God, Man and History. Free will is given uniquely to Man in order for humanity to take responsibility for what goes on down on earth. Only Man can choose to do good, go against their basic animalistic nature and live the higher moral and ethical life. Man is charged with the task of conquering with his free will his nature, and submitting his inclinations for evil to the good commanded by God.

Three times did man fail. Adam and Eve's fall in Eden was the first. Then, sin of the generations leading up to the flood caused God to try again, giving the world a fresh chance at holy greatness in the seed of Noah. In their third failure at the Tower of Babel, God decided to install a priestly nation, the Jews, to shine the light of the moral and ethical greatness and purpose of existence upon the rest of the nations.

Now that we have a basic understanding of the purpose of the world, we can answer the first question. If humanity had given the Nazis control over the world, there may have been an absence of war. However, there would certainly not be a concert of the real world with the word of God. Hitler made it his mission to destroy the two curses he said the Jews bestowed upon humanity: the curse of circumcision and the curse of conscience. Hitler wanted the social darwanistic, Nietzschean "might makes right", power of the sword to rule the world. This proposed destruction of Godly ethics and the destruction of the Jewish people would have cast the world into a shadow of darkness from which it would not have recovered. Without the light of the Jewish Torah and its ethical teachings, there would be no hope for humanity. And so, our intuition is right to tell us that Nazism over the world would have been far from peace. It would have been peace's antithesis. It was the world's fight to the last drop of blood against Hitler which was, paradoxically, its only chance at true peace.

And in the same vein, it is precisely the act of Pinchas, violent though it was, that brought about a semblence of true peace. Zimri's action was a direct rebellion against the kingdom of God and the very purpose of Israel's earthly charge. And it was Pinchas who stemmed the tide of that rebellion, and brought the Jewish world back into harmony with the commands and ethics of God.
As for the second question: why does God give a "covenant" of peace to Pinchas? A blessing is a gift that is uncontingent. However, a covenant implies a challange to the receiver, that he deserve and live up to it.
Each individual human is a microcosm of the world entire. Just as peace is a meta-value that provides correct and appropriate expression of the various and diverging values beneath it for the world, so does peace act as a meta-value for the individual, categorizing and applying various character traits appropriately for the service of God. Peace is not a value in and of itself. It is a meta-value that acts as a harbor for the other values and emotions that Man subscribes to, providing appropriate dock for each one. When one finds the appropriate use for each value, he is able to maintain stability in the face of diverse situations and conditions.

This is the meaning of the covenant of peace that God forges with Pinchas. Pinchas has demonstrated, by his violent actions on behalf of God’s honor, his ability and willingness to use the value of קנאות, zealotry, at the appropriate time. However, God needed to teach him of the balance that is necessary in life. Zealotry was appropriate here, but elsewhere it will be inappropriate. Therefore, God gave Pinchas the priesthood. כהונה is a mantle that requires the priest to be totally and unreservedly at one and in love with his brothers. Indeed, a kohen must feel this specifically, every day, when he blesses the nation באהבה. By making granting Pinchas the priesthood, God added to his natural zealotry the necessary counter-balance, meek willingness and fore-bearance to all. With this equilibrium, Pinchas is able to enter into covanental שלום, complete wholeness resulting in true peace, with God.

Aharon, the archetypical priest, is a shining example of the opposite personality. He was so loving, so full of חסד, that he participated in the Golden Calf with the people, all the while trying desperately to temper their sin. His overflowing love and willingness to give in was his Achilles heel, and is the only sin which we find him explicitly culpable for. To balance this value, God commands that it be him and his tribe who kill those who worshipped the idol. Perhaps this is also a reason for the prominent place the priest has in the array of war according to the Torah. Pinchas and Aharon represent one value that must be tempered with the other in order to bring about שלום, peace. Indeed, when they reach their perfection, each is an archetype of peace – Aharon the רודף שלום, and Pinchas, he who is granted בריתי שלום.

The same lesson is furthered in our haftarah. Eliyahu, prophet par excellence, leaves Jerusalem, his ministry largely failed. He finds himself in a desert, and, at a moment of personal and ministerial crisis, he calls out to God, declaring himself a קנאי and wishing for death. God provides him food and water, and then reveals a prophecy to him: a whirlwind, then an earthquake, and finally a consuming fire. Yet God is not to be found in these. In the stillness that follows, a small voice is heard. The metaphor is clear: sometimes, it is not in aggrandized, noisy and powerful displays of zeal, but in meek willingness to fore-bear in which the path to God can be found. However, Eliyahu is too much a zealot, and he again wishes for death. God realizes that Eliyahu is no longer suited to his ministry, and directs him to choose a successor.

The background story in this haftarah is recognizable in the later prophet, Yonah. After prophesying to Ninveh, he goes to the desert, where he asks, as did Eliyahu, for death. God provides him a tree for sustenance and shade, and then allows a worm to devour it. Again, the lesson teaches the prophet to recognize the need for mercy as opposed to zealous justice only. In contrast to Eliyahu, Yonah learns the lesson, and the Yalkut Shimoni completes the story that the prophet leaves unfinished, saying “he fell on his face and pleaded that God treat the world with mercy!”

The contrast of Aharon and Pinchas in the Torah and Eliyahu and Yonah in the Nevi’im certainly bear out the lesson of שלום. It is not enough to be zealous or meek. One must be both, at the appropriate time for each.

The lesson of שלום is not a simple one. We may find zeal and fore-bearance touted as the correct response to various occasions strewn throughout Jewish history and Rabbinic literature. God Himself is sometimes portrayed acting with strict justice, as when punishing the city of Sodom, rejecting the pleas for mercy from Avraham, and at other times, He is portrayed as acting with tender fore-bearance, such as when he waits patiently for the repentence of the idolatrous Ninveites. God is zealous for his honor when he kills the sons of Aharon when they offer a forbidden incense-sacrifice, and yet on the other hand, he is so self-effacing that he permits His holy name to be erased to reconcile the estranged husband and wife. We can often lose sight of the larger picture of peace as a meta-value throughout the year, as we become preoccupied with the values that make it up. It is common for us to feel the strength of mercy and its all-encompassing purification during the High holidays to be the only way to ever act, and yet then to feel the absolute zeal of Pinchas when we read the parasha of Balak a few months later. How then, in the face of contradictory evidence, are we to decide the true path to tread, in order to correctly apply the zeal of Pinchas and the self-effacement of Aharon appropriately, so that we may be inductees to the covenant of true peace?

When conflict arises, and we must engage, we may ask ourselves a critical question: would showing fore-bearance to the adversary destroy the moral and ethical fabric of our Torah? Would it destroy the soul of mankind? This question needs to be asked in every era and its answer may be different depending on the time. If the answer is yes, then there is no choice but to zealously set forth in battle, adorned with the values of Pinchas. For if we do not, the kindness and meekness we display will simply be the cause of the downfall of the task of Judaism in this world, to let the light of the Torah shine forth for mankind. If, for example, we had taken Gandhi’s advice to German Jewry in the 30’s and commit mass suicide as a non-violent protest to Hitler’s designs, the very ethics for which the world was created would be gone. If the allies had decided that, in order to avoid war at all cost, they would submit to the Nazi plan and allow Germany to rule over all, perhaps the most immediate immanence of war would have been avoided for a time; however, this would not bring peace, this would not bring a situation where good and God’s will prevail. On the contrary, it would bring darkness and savagery, and all that the morality of Torah sets about to eradicate from the world. With this possibility on the horizon, the task of Judaism and indeed, of all that is good in humanity, is to fight to the last drop of blood. Even within this just war there is peace, the peace of mind of a world that will not bow to evil, but stands up for God and good.

To use a more contemporary example, we may consider the “peace” process being shoved down Israel’s throat for the past 20 years. When an adversary explicitly states his desire to destroy your nation, fore-bearance and meekness, concessions and compromise is wrong. Giving in to this enemy irretrievably negates your very right to exist, and by extension, your claim to a moral code that is necessary for the world. As the midrash says, those who fight against Israel are really using Israel to fight against God.

Back to our portion, Pinchas’s killing of those who, at a critical time in Israel’s history, sought to destroy the morality and purity of the Jewish nation, was an act of peace precisely because inaction would have shattered those ideals without which the world is not worthy of existence.

On the other hand, if the answer to our critical question is no, and fore-bearance will not endanger the values of the Torah, then it is possible to utilize the value of חסד, meekness and fore-bearance, and Aharon’s technique of winning over an adversary with love.

In fact, far too often, we may find ourselves arguing with others and sure of our pure intentions, defending God’s honor, when it is in reality only our own honor which is at stake. These situations are ones where the proper path is that of Aharon, leaving the zeal of Pinchas for other times.

The story of Pinchas is here for us to learn from. While zealotry has its place, we must make sure that it is appropriate. Far too often, we stand upon principle when the only principle is personal pride. In order to be people of שלום, a nation of true peace, we must internalize the complexity of each situation, and choose the correct value. When we do so, we make ourselves privy to the true brotherhood of God, where each thing is done for the sake of heaven and with the purpose of bringing about the ultimate purpose, a world run in harmony with God’s plan, a covenant of peace.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Redemption of the Land

or, Apropos to the spies of Parashat Shelach

Leviticus 25:25 discusses the situation where a person has to sell his homestead in the land of Israel. Relations of the impoverished are expected to buy back the home or land, so that the land not be lost to the family. Interestingly, the Or Hachayim takes this opportunity to discuss the ultimate redemption of the Land.

At the culmination of his essay, he says that, "the redemption of the Land [with this double entendre he implies the final redemption of the nation of Israel] will begin when the souls of the righteous stir within them. They will ask themselves, is it really enough for us to remain outside, exiled from the table of our Father? How can we be satisfied with life in this world, when it is devoid of that divine communion? These righteous ones will begin to loathe the perceived glamor and luxury of life outside the Land. They will be gripped by a spiritual desire to perfect their actions in the Land, and thus redeem Israel. In this way will God affect the redemption of His land and people.

The leaders of the people and the great ones of the Jewish nation are destined to give an accounting of why they were not motivated thus, and it is from them that God will demand redress for the shame of His desolate house [a double entendre referencing the ruins of the Temple, and the poor man's house that is the subject of the verse]."

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Providence and Evil

On Shavuot, I was thinking about divine providence and the concept of evil. I would like to share a thought that may not be novel, but certainly seemed eye-opening to me (perhaps mostly due to the early hour of morning at which it occurred).

Rambam in the Guide accepts the idea (mostly found in Yerushalmi, and rejected in Bavli, see Y Elman's essay on rabbinic contributions to a philosophy of suffering in the Orthodox Forum series) that there is no suffering without sin. However, Rambam claims that the measure of divine providence experienced by a person is a direct result of the intellectual occupation with God. When his mind wanders, providence does too, and this is when evil can befall him. It seems clear that Rambam views the all too human proclivity to distraction from enraptured intellectual intimacy with God as the mechanism by which a person becomes available to the vagaries of the natural world and thus evil. Ramban replaces intellectual occupation with the more mystical d'vekut, cleaving to God, but it is the same idea.

Rav Saadia Gaon's view is less absolute. In Emunot V'Deot, he first states that most suffering can be understood as serving the purpose of punishment for past sins, or making the subject more worthy of reward, or a test for the subject. However, he also states that free will allows a person to plan a murder. However, in an occasionalistic passage, he explains that while Man can commit the act of murder (say by pulling a trigger), only God can cause death (the gun firing correctly and the bullet hitting its mark). Finally, he leaves wiggle room for cases that defy these rules by stating that divine providence does not abrogate the need for precaution and does not justify recklessness1: a person must take care to avoid known dangers and things of that nature (this last part is similar to the Bavli's caveats of luck, קביעה הזיקה, עידן דריתחא, etc).

It is interesting that though Rambam views evil and a lack of divine providence as products of sin, the sin which causes them cuts to the very core of what it means to be human. It is impossible to take suffering and evil away from the human condition, precisely because their causes are part of what it means to be human. The same idea is paradoxically accepted by the Bavli's (and to a lesser extent, Rav Saadia's) general conclusions which claim that there is suffering without reason. The world around Man, whether by nature, demonology, luck or astrology, can affect humans in negative ways that God does not always halt; nature often is left to run its course.

Essentially, as R Elman concludes, it is our inability to come to definite answers regarding these questions that leaves the Bavli and Rambam to an open ended philosophy of suffering, which, while trying to lay ground rules, leaves enough space for the reality witnessed around us, of things often countering these rules.

A similar open ended, non-answer appears in the midrashim and kinnot of the 10 martyrs, עשרה הרוגי מלכות. At the very climax of the suffering of the sainted rabbis, heavenly angels cry out to God, "is this the reward of Torah?!" This is a simple demand for divine justice in our world that is familiar to anyone who has witnessed suffering, especially that of a child. Is this the justice of God?!

It always bothered me that God does not answer the angels with words of comfort, or explanations regarding the world to come, of future reincarnation and dispensation of ultimate justice. God thunders back, "this is my decree, and if I hear another word, I shall destroy the whole world!" Why does God answer in this way?

I think perhaps the response of God (as imagined by the פייטן) leaves a very important imbalance or unease in the minds of readers. Yes, there is injustice and you have just witnessed it. Now, God will not provide you with comfort and make you feel good about it, for injustice is implied in the very free will that makes this world worth living! Injustice is woven into the fabric of our existence, and we are not to find comfort or solace from it. On the contrary, we must feel the tension, the evil, the wrong about it so acutely, for it is our task to fight it with every ounce of our strength. Any validation or justification for the evil or suffering which we witness weakens our resolve to fight it to the end. Although intellectually we know of the world to come, and future divine retribution, and we may discuss theodicy when we have nothing else to do, we are not to allow that to assuage our moral outrage at evil. And so, precisely at the times when injustice enflames our instinct for justice, at precisely those times, we are tasked not to explain away the injustice, but to fight it!

It seems to me that this is the response of the Bavli and Rambam as well: although we have a partial understanding of divine providence and the causes of suffering, we cannot have a full understanding; that is not within our power. What we are able to do, and this is our task, is realize that sometimes things will not fit in our philosophical boxes, and recognize the divinely mandated command to be His partners in perfecting the world: heal the sick, conquer disease, set up ordered and ethical societies, punish evil, reward good. We complete the intentionally unfinished business of creation by fighting injustice, destroying evil, and mitigating suffering as best we can.


1 Tangentially, Rav Saadia responds to those who rely on bitachon in a reckless manner by saying that if one believes in the concept of bitachon, they are essentially accepting the concept that God runs this world. In that case, he states, it would be a profound folly to believe that this gives them license to ignore the laws of cause and effect, which are the practical way that God causes the world to run according to His plan. Faith in God leads to wanton disregard for careful, planned living only in the most foolish of minds. See chapter 12 of Sefer Hap'rishut Hash'lema, which forms a sub-composition in treatise ten of Emunot V'deot.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Thread of Kindness

Upon a cursory reading of the book of Ruth, it may be hard to perceive why this simple, seemingly provincial story was canonized as part of the Bible. However, upon deeper consideration of the themes present in this megilah, universal lessons are revealed, which make our heroine, Ruth worthy not only of the canon, but of serious study, and her book as a moral text which sheds light on the social and religious bonds that give strength and versatility to a healthy society.

Of the many themes available in the book, this essay will focus upon that of חסד, loving-kindness. This word recurs repeatedly in Ruth, and, indeed, sets the motif of kindness playing a central role. While the firm, legal strictures of Halachah give a baseline by which we measure our actions, it is לפנים משורת הדין, extra-legal kindness which decides the survival of a person, family or society at large. Halacha cannot legislate each and every way in which one must help his fellow, but this does not weaken the importance of such non-legally required actions. Indeed, כופין על מידת סדום (see תוס' בבא בתרא יב: ד"ה כגון). It is this necessary (though unlegislated) חסד which forms a parallel structure which unifies the book of Ruth. On the one hand, we see Elimelech and the results of his actions, and on the other, we see Ruth and Boaz, and the effects of their activities.

At the beginning of Ruth, we are introduced to Elimelech, one of the leaders of the generation. The Malbim, echoing the midrash, explains that as a result of the famine, the poor would throw themselves before the rich, demanding sustenance. Elimelech fled this situation, fearing that his whole fortune would be consumed before the multitudes. Although one is not required to become poor himself by distributing all of his wealth to the needy, Elimelech is viewed as a selfish and flawed character by the midrash. "Anyone who turns a blind eye from those who need charity, is as though he has no God," quotes Malbim. Perhaps by the strict letter of the law, Elimelech cannot be faulted for not giving his all, on a חסד level, he failed. A famine, a time when society is at the verge of collapse, is precisely when greatness is required, when going above and beyond the call of simple duty is demanded. (We leave aside the sin of leaving the land of Israel, for which Elimelech is called to task by חז"ל. Even had he not left, his relative stinginess would remain reason for rebuke.)

Instead, Elimelech leaves his people and settles temporarily in Moav. And in the familiar irony of מדה כנגד מדה, as he forsook Judean society, leaving it to crumble, so does his own family security and cohesion begin to disintegrate. Elimelech dies, and his sons marry outside of the faith. They also, eventually, die, and leave their mother bemoaning her fate, telling her friends from happier times, "do not call me Naomi [= pleasant], rather call me Bitter, for God has made my life exeedingly bitter." (1:20) Judea thrives again, despite Elimelech's abandonment, for God has not abandoned the Jews; however, He seems to have abandoned the family of Elimelech. (This is reminiscient of another Jewish heroine, Esther, being warned precisely of this possible result by Mordechai, "...for if you are silent now [and choose not to use your position as queen to help your bretheren], salvation and comfort will be given to the Jews from another source, while you and your father's house will be lost." (Esther 4:14))

The Bible sets Elimelech as an example of someone who shied away from חסד. He went as far as the law required, ignored the larger picture of the situation regarding the starving Jews of the time, and refused to be swayed by the historical context of his actions into going beyond the letter of the law, into the realm of loving-kindness. For society cannot hope to exist by virtue of the letter of the law. Mutual consideration and feelings of extra-legal responsibility towards one another are critical in order for a nation to function. Avot declares (5:10) that "what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours...this is the trait of Sodom." When we think that strict legal possession should decide who gets a bite of bread, without considering our liability towards others, we exhibit the features of corruption, callousness and evil; in a word, Sodom. By acting in this way, Elimelech invited upon himself and his immediate family the very consequences he would have allowed to befall his nation.

How does one redeem a family whose lives, honor and wealth are deteriorated by a lack of חסד? This is the main question of the book of Ruth. The tragic tale of Elimelech is a preamble to a series of particular events which lead a weak and seemingly fogotten family back up to the position of kings. How is this accomplished? The answer is our heroine, Ruth, and hero, Boaz.

Ruth and Orpah, the widows of Naomi's sons, both insist upon going with her. This is the natural, socially expected loyalty of daughter-in-law to her new family. Especially in patriarchal social orders such as Moav and Judea, a marriage makes the wife a part of the husband's father's home. These two Moavite women performed their social responsibility by travelling with Naomi. However, when she beseeches them to return to their fathers' homes, Ruth and Orpah are freed from this responsibility. Orpah returns home. However, Ruth goes beyond the call of duty, refusing to abandon her poor, helpless and lonely mother-in-law. She declares her determination to stay with her until death. This is the first act of חסד, kindness beyond that which is required, and suddenly, Naomi is not so lonely, and not so helpless. Ruth has placed Naomi's physical and emotional well-being above the tempting comforts of her old Moavite home.

However, it does not stop there. As pointed out by others, Naomi must have been familiar with the laws of לקט, שחכה, פאה, and מעשר עני. As the wife of one of Israel's wealthiest, she probably witnessed the poor avail themselves of these in her husband's fields many times. However, precisely because of her wealthy past and subsequent shameful poverty, she is embarrassed, and does not even suggest that she and Ruth could find sustenance in the "Poor Laws" of the Torah. And so, Ruth takes the initiative in an unfamiliar social order and religious milieu, learning of these laws. She tells Naomi that she will bear the burden of shame; after all, what shame is there in a lowly convert-widow collecting forgotten gleanings in the fields of the wealthy? This is a second point where the megilah goes out of its way to point out the חסד Ruth continues to perform for her mother-in-law.

And yet again. Naomi, encouraged by Boaz's interest in Ruth, suggests that Ruth literally throw herself at his feet, and all but demand marriage. Ruth, a beautiful, young woman, would surely have been found an attractive wife for many of the young men of Beit Lechem, and would probably have wanted such a marriage herself. However, her next act of חסד was to follow Naomi's suggestion. She gives her life, dignity, and finally, her love, in her devotion to her mother-in-law. Boaz himself is amazed by the loyalty and expressions of kindness Ruth demonstrates towards Naomi, and agrees to marry her.

Boaz, the distant relative of Elimelech, furthers the mission of חסד which will ultimately redeem Elimelech's sins. Although the parallels between the mitzvah of yibum and what Boaz does are clear, it is equally obvious that Boaz is not actually doing yibum. He is not the brother of the dead husband of Ruth. He is a kinsman, and the book of Ruth makes it clear that this is not yibum by stating, "Boaz took Ruth to be his wife." (4:13) This is not the order of things in true yibum, where there is no separate acquisition of the wife other than beginning to live together. Here, Boaz did normal kiddushin. Legally, he had no requirement to marry this poor convert. Doing so, with the precise hopes to raise a family for the name of Ruth's dead husband, is a clear act of חסד, kindness beyond the requirements of law. In fact, his name, Boaz, is seen by some as a contraction of "בא עז" -- one who acts with valiance, for going above and beyond the call of duty. His word choice, "אנכי אגאל", can be taken to not only mean redeeming Elimelech's property, and marrying Ruth, but in the larger context, the redemption of Elimelech's sinful lack of חסד.

We have observed a thematic parallel structure in the book. We have, in the preamble, a lack of חסד, and its destructive results. This is symbolized by the names מכלון and כליון, of Elimelech's sons. Meaning emptiness and destruction, they are the natural "children" of the actions of Elimelech. Parallel to this, and yet in contradistinction, we have the kind acts of Ruth and Boaz, which bear, quite literally, the future royal line as their children.

The threads of kindness and compassion demonstrated time and again by Ruth and Boaz, culminating in their marriage, were sufficient to reverse the damage done by Elimelech's unwillingness to go beyond the law. A family once great, now low and trampled, is given a new chance, and produces the greatest family of Israel, that of Kind David. The delineation of this lineage at the end of the book of Ruth serves as a focal point, directing the theme of kindness towards its result. If a lack of חסד can nearly cut a strong, honored family off of the vine of Israel, then the profusion of חסד by a young convert girl and an old man can renew the spirit and honor of that family. The least noble of beginnings, when watered with the spirit of going beyond the call of duty for one another, can produce the nobility of the Davidic line.

The חסד theme of the book of Ruth justifies its use on the holiday of Shavuot. This spirit of ערבות, mutual responsibility, is noted at the foot of Mt Sinai just before the giving of the Torah. "ויחן שם ישראל נגד ההר," and חז"ל state, "כאיש אחד בלב אחד," that Israel was completely at one. Each Jew felt responsible and liable for the benefit of the others. It is in this spirit that we accept, each day, the Torah upon ourselves anew, as a nation committed to one another. In Orot Hakodesh (חלק ג' עמ' שכד), Rav Kook makes the point that the sin of the Second Temple era was that the people did not feel this way; they demonstrated שנאת חינם. The correction of this sin is אהבת חינם, as demonstrated by Ruth and Boaz. Through the application of mutual responsibility and חסד, may we merit the redemption soon.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Modern Hebrew and L'shon Hakodesh

On Rabbi Adlerstein's excellent latest post at Cross-Currents, the question arose in the comment section regarding the relationship between לשון הקודש and Modern Hebrew. Here is my response there:

The distinction is technical, and really hits at a question of modern theory of linguistics. One hundred years ago and beyond, changes in grammar were seen as corruptions with grammars being viewed as proscriptive (see Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar as an example of this school of thought). Later theory maintains that any spoken language changes, and these are shifts, not corruptions. Grammars are essentially descriptive in that they describe how a language is used, and do not define how a society may use language. One generation’s mistake is another generation’s rule (See the history of the word “ask” in English, for example.)

Modern Hebrew (MH) is unique in that it is a revived language. It started as a proscriptive grammar which takes its rules virtually completely from descriptive examinations (grammars) of Biblical Hebrew (I assume that is what you mean when you say L’shon Hakodesh; parenthetically, “Loshon Kodesh” or Loshon Hakodesh is grammatically incorrect — לְשון is in construct form, vowelized with a shva, not a kamats). Although there are stylistic differences (using for example simple perfect as opposed to the vav-consecutive imperfect), these are not changes or differences, but choices of use — generally using a subset of what is possible in Biblical Hebrew (BH) to simplify MH. MH contains the same grammatical rules and thus the same possibilities as BH. A student of modern Hebrew will be able to fluently read the Bible, for example, and understand it at least on a basic, literal level (of course there are places where this will not be sufficient to acquire the meaning of the text).

That said, certainly there are new words and idiomatic phrases, foreign words, and new concepts present in MH. However, these are not changes, but additions. Furthermore, once MH came to be used as a language by Israeli society, its very grammar will shift as any living language’s does.

Compare this question to the situation in English. Would one say that Shakespeare was not writing “English”? Would one say that his English is ancient English as opposed to Modern? (If you did, Chaucer would require a new category, would he not?) Clearly usages and grammars change over time, and any grammar, even one resurrected and therefore initially proscriptive as Modern Hebrew’s, will immediately begin to shift and therefore become of necessity descriptive; however, this does not mean that learning one will not give you the ability to read and understand the other. One learns English to read Shakespeare, with an eye out for shifts in meaning and grammar.

I find that usually those who distinguish between לשון הקודש and Hebrew do so with an agenda. (I believe this agenda has to do with an unwillingness to concede anything of inherent value or holiness in the enterprise of Zionism and the modern State of Israel.) It is implied that one is holy and one is not. By this measure, distinctions of linguistic holiness would have to be made between the Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvim, since the style and grammar does shift between them and even within them, as well (where does the word של appear in the Bible, for example? In Shir Hashirim, which Rabbi Akiva called קדש קדשים, incidentally. Why not earlier?). Furthermore, the implication is that Mishnaic Hebrew, Rabbinic Hebrew, and later Responsa are all holy (לשון הקדש), but they are even more different from Biblical Hebrew than Modern Hebrew (think of all the Aramaic)! Modern Hebrew was an attempt to revitalize the Hebrew of the Bible.

In fact, the very term לְשון הקודש does not imply a holy language at all! That would be הַלָּשׁוֹן הַקָּדוֹש — HaLashon HaKadosh. L’shon Hakodesh means quite literally "the language of holy things (texts)". Hebrew’s holiness is a function of what it was used to record (the word of God), the people who used it, and their self-perceived task in this world. (I am aware that this linguistic explanation accords generally with the view of the Ramban. In contrast, the Rambam views BH as לשון הקודש because it contains no indecent words of phrases. I do not entertain his view in this post because according to him, it is precisely the language used in T'nach which is לשון הקודש. If the vernacular of the times of Moshe were to contain "dirty" language, it would not be לשון הקודש to the Rambam. Hence, to him, it is a subset of ancient Hebrew which deserves the title לשון הקודש. It is less a linguistic explanation of the whole language that he presents, and more a description of the diction used, applying to the subset of the language (which, as a living language, almost certainly contained indecencies) found in the T'nach. Essentially, Rambam applies to part of ancient Hebrew, the part found in the Bible, and describes it as לשון הקודש.

Even so, the view of the Rambam is rational, in line with conventional linguistic theory. In Moreh 1:67, he points out that Hebrew, like all languages, is concention -"שכללי כל לשון מבוססים על רוב". See Kol Han'vuah (pp 28-32) by R' David Cohen for a more mystical view of the Hebrew language.)

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Extra-Judicial Killings

בן נח שרצח, הריגתו ע"י עד

לפני בערך שנה, עלתה ליד שולחן סעודת שבת בבית מורי חמי שאלה. כלי התקשורת בארה"ב היו כולם המומים מסיפור רופא בקליניקה להפלות שנהרג ע"י גוי מנוגד להפלות. ליד השולחן, אחד מן האורחים האיר שלדעתו, מה שעשה ההורג, בצדק עשה, מנקודת מבט של הלכות בן נח. חלקתי עליו בתוקף, ובסופו של דבר, החלטתי בליבי לחזור לסוגיה זו עם שובי ארצה. לצערי, לא מלאתי את הבטחתי זאת לעצמי עד היום. כמובן, אין לקחת את הלימוד הבא לקמן כפסק הלכה פסוקה, אלא כעיון בסוגיא חשובה, ולדעתי, לא מלובנת כל צרכה. אשמח לקבל כל הערה או הארה, להגדיל תורה ולהאדירה.

חשוב קודם כל לזכר את הגמ' בסנהדרין נז אשר שם ר' ישמעאל פוסק (וכן פוסק הרמב"ם כמותו, דלא כת"ק), שאסור לב"נ להרוג אפילו עובר. דבר זה לא שייך קודם מ' יום (כי לפני זה העובר מיא בעלמא), אבל לאחר מ' יום, בניגוד למשפט התורה ליהודים, לב"נ יש דין מיוחד, והריגתו מעוררת דין מוות. סיבת הדין הינה מח' בין רש"י לרמב"ם, שלרש"י, העובר כל זמן שלא יצא לאויר העולם לאו נפש הוא, ואיסור הריגתו לב"נ הינו דין מיוחד שניתנת לדחייה אם קיים סכנה לאמו, כי כל איסור נדחה מפני פקו"נ. אבל לרמב"ם, עובר הוי נפש, ורק ליהודי שאינו חייב מיתה על עובר מותר להפיל להציל האם, אבל לב"נ, אסור. ר' משה פיינשטיין פסק כרמב"ם ולכן אסור כל הפלה לב"נ, וציץ אליעזר פוסק כרש"י וסיעתו, יעויין שם בחלק ט' סימן נ"א לביאור חשוב ומפורט. (אציין פה שבלא לפגוע בכבודם, איני הקטן מבין את שיטת שני הרבנים משה, כי האם נאמר אותו דבר לב"נ, שגניבה, אבר מן החי, וכל המצוות שלהם (שעליהם חייבים מיתה) לא נדחים בפני פקו"נ? היאך יכולה חברה לפעול אם כל איסור הוא יהרג ואל יעבר?)

לאור דברים אלו, ברור שהדו-שיח בבית חמי התמקד על הפלה שאסורה לב"נ, לפי איזה שיטה שתבחר. (עיין בסוף דברינו פה אות ד' שאפילו לדברי הרמב"ם לא נראה שיהיה עונש מוות מעשית לב"נ הרוצח עובר.) אבל כמובן, כל רעיון של הריגת רופא או עובד בקליניקה להפלות מיד מצומצמת נורא ובכלל לא פרקטית, כי האורח חשב שברור שאסורה כל הפלה לב"נ, וזה טעות גמורה. (בנוסף, האם בדק ה"הורג" שהרופא אכן ביצע הפלות אסורות? איזה מין בדיקה הלכתית היתה כאן?)

קיימות שתי סיבות אשר לפיהן יוכל לחשוב איש שמא מותר לב"נ להרוג ב"נ בלא משפט: 1) מטעם רודף, ו2) מטעם עונש. נדבר בקצרה על הראשונה, כי עיקר הענין שעליו דיברנו אותה שבת התמקד על הסיבה השנייה, ועליה נתמקד גם עתה.

א. רודף: היה מקום לומר שכל אדם שרואה אדם בא לרצוח עוד אדם, מותר לרואה להרגו. ואכן, זה נכון, בתנאי שאין בידו דרך אחרת לעצרו. אבל אם יכול הוא לעצור את המעשה ע"י מעשה פחות קיצוני, אפילו הפסקת חשמל, מכות או חתיכת יד, עליו לעצרו בדרך זו. כמובן, אם עוצר הב"נ את המעשה ע"י מעשה יותר חמור ממשנדרש, יהיה הוא עצמו חייב מיתה. ברור איפא, שעל טעם רודף לא מדובר.

ב. עונש: יש מקום לדון אם גוי שעובר עבירה וחייב מיתה, אם הוא נהרג ע"י כל רואה, או רק בבית דין, אף אם זה בית דין שלהם. הגמ' בסנהדרין נז אומרת:

1. בן נח נהרג בדיין אחד ובעד אחד,שלא בהתראה,
2. מפי איש ולא מפי אשה,
3. ואפילו קרוב...

על הפסקה הראשונה לא אומר רש"י דבר. אבל על הפיסקה השלישית, אומר רש"י, "ע"י דיין איש או עד איש". מזה רצה האורח לומר שרק בעי או עד או דיין, כלומר, זה שרואהו עובר, הורגו כב"ד. ובאמת, כן מבין המנחת חינוך במצווה ת"ד, באמרו, "הוא העד הוא הדיין". ובת"ג, אומר שמיד בעשות הגוי עבירה, להרגו, ובניגוד למשפט היהודים, עד נעשה דיין. ועיין אות ד' בסוף מאמר זה.

אבל מה אעשה, שתוס' בע"ז כ"ב ע"ב, ובס"ד ע"ב (ד"ה איזהו) חולקים על זה, ואומרים שבעי דין בפני ב"ד. וגם הגהות אשרי שם. וכן כותבים המאירי ור' יונה בפירושם לסנהדרין (עוד לא ראיתי אותם בפנים). לדעתי, הם מבינים בגמ' כמו שאני הבנתי, שבעי עד וגם דיין. נקודת רש"י אולי תפורש באחד משתי דרכים: שבעי רק אחד, או שרק אחד צריך להיות זכר. מה שלא יהיה, הלשון שכותב הרמב"ם במלכים ט:יד, היא בדיוק השפה של האגדתא דבי רב, "דיין ועד", לא "או". נראה מזה שהרמב"ם דוחה את דעת רש"י. הרגלינו בדיוק לשונו של רמב"ם מטה אותנו לדעה שאם היה מקבל רמב"ם את הרעיון של "או" ולא "ו", הוא היה כותב זאת במשנה תורה. אדרבא, אם היתה הגמ' כותבת "או" ורמב"ם כותב "ו", היה כל אחד מפלפל בדעתו על שינוי הגרסא. עלינו להיות מדוייקים גם כאשר רמב"ם שומר על גרסת הגמ'.

מה שיוצא זה מח' בין כמה ראשונים נגד מנחת חינוך ואולי רש"י. נראה לי שקיים, אם כן, ספק יהרג ואל יעבר, לב"נ שרואה ב"נ אחר עובר עבירה. מענין להדגיש שלבן נח, עדיין קיים רעיון של "אחרי רבים להטות", אף לדעת המנחת חינוך, עיי' מצווה ע"ח.

חושבני שדברי הקודמים מכניסים מספיק ספק לתוך השאלה של הריגה בלא משפט. אבל יש עוד כמה נקודות המחזקות את דעתי בזה:

א. אע"פ שב"נ לא בעי התראה, הרמב"ם פוסק שצריכים לדעת שמה שעשה היה במזיד. בשוגג, פטור. אע"פ שהמנחת חינוך כותב ש"אומר מותר, חייב", אולי זה לא בתוקף במצב כזה שאנו מדברים בו, שהרופא חושב שאדרבא, הוא עושה מעשה חמלה, במיוחד במצב סכנה לחיי האם.

ב. מה שלא יהיה, עדיין בהריגת ב"נ שרצח, אם הב"נ ההורג גם יהרג אחרים חפים מפשע או אפילו יחבל או יהרס אפילו ממון, יהיה חייב מיתה מדינים אחרים של בני נח, אשר גם עליהם חלה חיוב מיתה (אף אם אולי לא עונש מעשי). ואיך יעשה דבר שיביא לחיוב מיתה על עצמו, רק מכוונה טהורה לענוש אחר?

ג. שמא יש כח בידי השלטון להפקיר חיי העובר כאשר הוא מהווה סכנה לאם, כמו ששלטון יהודי יכול להחליט על עונש מוות שלא מן הדין מטעמים מיוחדים (עיי' דרשות הר"ן דרשה ח'). אבל איני כלל בטוח במהלך כזה שצריך יותר עיון.

ד. אם שלטון יאסור הריגה בלא משפט, כמדומני שזה יהיה אסור, משום תיקון החברה, דינא דמלכותא ומשפט המלך. שוב, איני בטוח במהלך זה, ובעי יותר ליבון.

ה. המנחת חינוך במצוה כו מצטט את הרמב"ם מלכים ט:ב שכל שאין בית דין של ישראל ממיתין עליה אין בן נח נהרג, אע"פ שאסור. לפי זה לא ברור כלל שב"נ שהרג עובר ימות על מעשה זה למעשה, אף לשיטת רמב"ם ור' משה פיינשטיין. אע"פ שאסור, לא יוענש עונש מוות, וכמובן לא תהיה דמו מותרת לכל עד ראייה, אלא בדברים שבית דין של ישראל ממיתין עליו, וזה אינו בהריגת עובר.

ו. דבר אחרון, מח' רמב"ם ורמב"ן במהות מצוות ב"נ של "דינים". לדעת רמב"ן, מהות המצווה זו תיקון חברה, שלא יהא כל אחד עושה כחפץ ליבו, אלא שיהיה סדר חברתי. כמובן לדעה זו, רעיון שכל גוי יהרוג גוי אחר שעובר עבירה מופרכת מיניה וביה. וכי איזה תיקון חברה, איזה סדר ושיטתיות חברתית יש כאשר כל אדם בא לחבירו והרגו בלא הסבר? ונניח שרואהו גוי שלישי מייד אחר כך, ויבוא להרגו מאותו סיבה!? אין זה מדניות חברתית אלא מדינת דמים אשר בו כל אדם יפחד שמחר מגיע סופו בידי שכינו.

אבל מדומני שאף לדעת הרמב"ם, שסובר שדינים זה פשוט בית דין לפסוק את כל שאר השש מצוות, עדיין, בענין זה של כל אחד ואחד עושה חשבון דין לעצמו מופרכת. וכי היאך יכולה הב"ד לדון אם איש את רעהו חיים בלעו? שמא מטעם זה ציטט הרמב"ם את הגמ' בסנהדרין בלי להתחשב ב"או" של רש"י.

דברי דלעיל מוגשים כחומר מחשבה ומבקשים תגובות. כל מאן דבעי, כל מי שחושב שטעיתי במשהו לעיל, או שיש שיטות שהתעלמתי מהם, מבוקש לומר כן. ולוואי שיתקיים בתורתינו הקדושה, דרכיה דרכי נועם וכל נתיבותיה שלום.

בחודש אב, ראיתי לראשונה ספר "דרך המלך" מאת ר' אריאל פינקלשטיין, בו הוא מדבר על אותו רעיונות שהבאתי פה, החל מדף 102. ראה כאן.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Shadal On Shaatnez

Shmuel David Luzzatto, who lived through the first sixty-five years of the nineteenth century, was a leader of the Italian Jewish community. He fought against what he saw as extremists on either side of him, was willing to accept truth no matter its source, and was confident that even if under-appreciated in his lifetime, the century would come in which his work would find its full glory.

I have just read a letter from him to his father in law, in which he outlines a general overview of the Jewish purpose. In it, he stresses חמלה, which I think he would have translated as intimate sympathy with the position of the other. It transcends straightforward justice or social fairness, and is לפנים משורת הדין; precisely this facet of it is an important foundation of the Jewish ethic. Shadal writes that this emotion is one which is fostered by Judaism as the best way to make Man moral, and to build a healthy, stable society. (Shadal goes through a number of rational arguments for ethics from Greek philosophy, bemoaning the fact that none of them engendered a proper sympathy and caring for fellow humans.) He discusses several places in the Torah where חמלה may seem to be disregarded, and shows that it is not. Usually, this חמלה is applicable to all humanity; Jews believe all humans to be sons of the same Father, and that they should be treated so. Shadal explains the few places where halacha treats Jews and gentiles differently as places where special חמלה is an expression of particularly close national-brotherly bonds. (For example, lending with interest is not immoral, it is perfectly ethical -- indeed, all nations do so. This normative ethic is also acceptable for Jews doing business with gentiles. However, in order to produce strong intra-national links and feelings of fraternity within the Jewish nation, God demands that we abstain from this practice with relation to other Jews.) Essentially, the Torah raises to the status of commandment this חמלה-compassion, sympathy and fraternal love.

Additionally, belief in השגחה, providence, occupies another cornerstone of the Jewish faith, bolstering the possibly weak committment that חמלה creates towards morality and Godliness. Man needs to know that God cares, and indeed, rewards and punishes him for his actions.

The letter goes on to discuss various individual commandments. I found his explanation for שעטנז and כלאי אילן to be interesting. Shadal provides as part of their purpose to deny the idolatrous practices surrounding the Jews. In idolatrous cultures, he writes, it was common to combine naturally separate elements in order to bind together the providential assistance of otherwise competing forces (gods) in benificent kindness towards the idolator. To further remove Jews from any association with idolatrous practices, much less idolatry, these (to the modern mind, seemingly harmless) practices were forbidden, and contributed to the three basic elements of Jewish practice, the betterment of individual morality, strength of religious passion, and the national general good.

Monday, April 18, 2011

This is the Bread of Shame

It strikes me as emblematic of a waning propensity towards introspection and self-examination in our generation that the Passover seder can be celebrated with such blasé contentment by diaspora Jewry. Blithely are so many comfortable Jews able to glide over the words of our daily prayers, asking God to "assemble us from the four corners of the earth", and the Hagaddah's many appeals for redemption and return to the land of our forefathers fare no better. How can it be that only a generation or two after the Holocaust, Jews have forgotten the bitterness of exile, and relish their self-inflicted imprisonment?

This was never supposed to be. The sting of physical and spiritual exile were supposed to hurt us so badly, that we would do all within our power, and perhaps more, to return to the condition of old, where we sat at our Father's table. We should feel shame, pain, disharmony, angst, in our dispersion. In fact, Rabbi Kook sees this as the reason the Hagaddah starts out with the הא לחמא עניא. The seder is supposed to be a time of glory, pride and happiness. However, during the exile, we read in our seder of customs gone by, and splendor lost. How can a Jew rejoice when he reads of the קרבן פסח, the offerings of Passover, the Temple service, Divine immanence and national exaltation, and yet knows the depths of despair and lowly shame his nation wallows in during the present exile?

For this reason, says Rabbi Kook, the Hagaddah starts with the bread of affliction, literal and metaphoric. Know, says the Hagaddah, that when the Jews suffered in the sweltering heat of oppression and slavery, when their bread was depressed and their hope fleeting, even from that point, God saved them. The הא לחמא עניא is an empathetic passage reminding us in the exile that God once saved us, and he will again. When we say, כל דכפין ייתי וייכול, "all who are hungry, come and eat!", we serve God out of the depths of despair. The responding parallel phrase, כל דצריך ייתי ויפסח, "all who are in need, come and share in the passover offering," is the reward that awaits those who valiantly celebrate in the ignominy of exile; they will merit to take part in the paschal offering in Jerusalem. In this way, the Hagaddah attempts to break the depression and sadness of the dispersed Jews, even if only for one night.

In our present day, it would seem that the opposite lesson is needed. Find shame in the exile, find debasement in your lives as a nation dispersed by God's fury! Come to the point where you need הא לחמא עניא to lift your spirits! A renewed awakening to the ignominy of exile is what is needed now. We stand free of 2000 year old shackles, and God invites us home. Will we take the first step?

May the story of our first deliverance spur us to take the steps to the final salvation, and that of the entire world.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Not In Heaven

In Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits' extremely interesting work on the essence of Halacha, I found an important paragraph (Not In Heaven, 140) on the relationship between the modern State of Israel and its religious population:

This twofold alienation, from life and from halacha's concern with it, can be best illustrated by the one-sided educational ideal of the yeshivot in Israel. In general, they frown on secular studies. But a state needs an army, an economic system, health and welfare services, scientific research, technology, etc. The question, therefore, is: Does the Torah desire a Jewish people living in its own land or not? If the answer is affirmative, then the Torah must also desire soldiers, physicians, scientists, architects, engineers, policemen, social workers, etc. To say that these professionals should all come from the secular segment of the population would be a confession that the Torah cannot cope with life. On the other hand, to divide the people into a religious elite, exclusively dedicated to Torah study, and a professional majority, rather ignorant of Torah, incarcerates students of the Torah in another form of a Diaspora Museum, that of the present-day yeshivot.
I would highly recommend the whole book, and particularly the paragraph that comes before the above quote. (Read it to see why I am being so vague.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Journalistic Integrity

Today, when reporting on the bombing at a Jersualem bus stop, Reuters reported that:

Police said it was a "terrorist attack" -- Israel's term for a Palestinian strike.
An Israeli media source asked for clarification as to why Reuters implied that there was any doubt that this was a terror attack, and received a response from Reueters:
It is not up to Reuters to say who carried out an attack. We always need to quote the authorities, such as the police. On Wednesday, Israeli police used the Hebrew word "peegooa", without specifically mentioning the Palestinians - but in the local context it is clear that this is who they were referring to. We spelt that out to an international audience to clarify precisely who was being blamed.
We were certainly not trying to give a judgment value. We were simply seeking to present the facts, with all the correct attribution.
We have used the same approach for years. This is not a policy we apply only to the Middle East conflict. It is a policy which we use across the globe in all situations.
This biased attitude is similar to that of CNN, who reported the butchery in Itamar (when Arabs entered a home and brutally stabbed to death a sleeping husband, wife and small children and a baby) as "Israeli Family of 5 Killed in 'Terror Attack'". This is a gross, sick understatement, in the guise of objective journalistic impartiality.

Firstly, the term "murder" is the correct one when discussing the illegal taking of lives. To use the term "kill" is to report less than actually took place.

Similarly, the common usage for "terror" is when violence is committed against civilians in order to strike fear in the hearts of the rest of the population. Therefore, placing this term in quotes implies that there is a chance that the event in question was not against civilians, or that it was not an attempt to cause fear in the civilian population. However, any witness would be clear that this attack was indeed against civilians and that it was just the latest in a tradition of bombings, a policy of terror, well reported by the Arabs themselves, attempting to cause Israelis to doubt their safety. Therefore, the use of quotations (or of euphamisms such as "strike") does not only fail to preserve journalistic integrity, it does the opposite: it creates a serious journalistic bias against the truth.

Sometimes, a journalist, or any observer, by simply reporting the honest facts, will have to make a value judgement. Any report from a witness of Jeffrey Dahmer in action would be negligently incomplete without the words "murder", "cannibal" and "repulsive". In this type of extreme circumstance, when purposely using terms that minimize the event observed in order to shy away from passing moral judgement, a reporter ends up making the opposite moral judement. One who claims that Jeffrey Dahmer "killed" instead of "murdered" and "recycled" instead of "cannibalized" would be, in effect, condoning his actions, and making them palatable and justifiable to the audience.

The same applies when reporting on terror and murder. To call the acts of the Itamar terrorists anything less than "brutal murder" simply falls short of the journalistic requirement to report what one sees. To call an Arab bombing in Israel a "Palestinian strike" is an attempt to neutralize the evil being done by the terrorists, and in effect justify it to the readers. It also serves as an attempt to make Israeli "strikes" morally equivalent to Arab terror, ignoring the obvious and clear intent of the Israeli Army to avoid civilian casualties, and the obvious and clear intent of the Arab terrorists to specifically target civilians.

The question to Reuters is: You say that "Police said it was a 'terrorist attack' -- Israel's term for a Palestinian strike." What do you call it when a suitcase filled with explosives is detonated at a civilian bus stop? A "strike". When you are so careful to remove any perceived moral judgement by avoiding the standard terms society uses, you end up siding morally with terror.

Yes, this is exactly what Reuters and CNN have done. The news agencies use euphemisms that they believe will remove any moral judgement, presenting only the dry facts. However, instead of sounding neutral, they end up biased, questioning the basic facts that any witness would acknowledge. They end up at the very least, excusing, and, most likely, rationalizing and validating the murder of innocents. This is bad reporting and an unconsciable display of immorality.

This is not to say that these types of "morally neutral" euphemisms are new to Jews. We Jews have heard these types of phrases before. "Resettlement" (death camps), "lovely new homes for Jews" (Thereisenstadt), "work camp" (Auschwitz), "special treatment" (gas chamber and crematoria), and "final solution" (genocide). The fact is that the media outlets have a huge impact on how the world sees conflicts, and their reporting definitely has taken a side with the "militants" (terrorists) against the "Zionist regime" (democratic, civil Israel).

Not too long ago, another media outlet also tried to supress the reporting of evil perpetrated upon the Jews:
On November 14, 2001, in the 150th anniversary issue, The New York Times ran an article by former editor Max Frankel reporting that before and during World War II, the Times had maintained a strict policy in their news reporting and editorials to minimize reports on the Holocaust. The Times accepted the detailed analysis and findings of journalism professor Laurel Leff, who had published an article the year before in the Harvard International Journal of the Press and Politics, that the New York Times had deliberately suppressed news of the Third Reich’s persecution and murder of Jews.Leff concluded that New York Times reporting and editorial polices made it virtually impossible for American Jews to impress Congress, church or government leaders with the importance of helping Europe’s Jews. (source)

CNN and Reuters editors and journalists should be cognizant of the implications of what they write, apologize to the Jews of Israel, and learn a lesson for the future.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Murder In Itamar

The world again is witness to Jews being murdered in the most brutal way, for being Jews. Parents and three children, the majority of the Fogel family, is wiped out in a way that is reminiscient of the pogroms of years past. It is up to our government to protect us from the animals that surround us, and yet they point the finger of blame at the enemy instead. Is it any wonder that Arabs murder Jews? Is anyone seriously surprised? The shock should be at the Jewish government which gambles time and again with its citizens' lives, like an addicted gambler, every time coming out the loser.

The 12 year old daughter came home and found her three siblings stabbed, mortally wounded, and a baby lying next to his father crying, "Daddy, wake up!". May God avenge the souls of those murdered, and may this be the last tragedy we suffer.

This poem by Bialik speaks of similarly slit throats, babies snuggling close to dead mothers in an attempt to revive them, and the depths of the galut. As we step through the redemption, may we gather our strength and ensure that this evil occur no more.

בְּעִיר הַהֲרֵגָה
קוּם לֵךְ לְךָ אֶל עִיר הַהֲרֵגָה וּבָאתָ אֶל-הַחֲצֵרוֹת,
וּבְעֵינֶיךָ תִרְאֶה וּבְיָדְךָ תְמַשֵּׁשׁ עַל-הַגְּדֵרוֹת
וְעַל הָעֵצִים וְעַל הָאֲבָנִים וְעַל-גַּבֵּי טִיחַ הַכְּתָלִים
אֶת-הַדָּם הַקָּרוּשׁ וְאֶת-הַמֹּחַ הַנִּקְשֶׁה שֶׁל-הַחֲלָלִים.
וּבָאתָ מִשָּׁם אֶל-הֶחֳרָבוֹת וּפָסַחְתָּ עַל-הַפְּרָצִים
וְעָבַרְתָּ עַל-הַכְּתָלִים הַנְּקוּבִים וְעַל הַתַּנּוּרִים הַנִּתָּצִים,
בִּמְקוֹם הֶעֱמִיק קִרְקַר הַמַּפָּץ, הִרְחִיב הִגְדִּיל הַחוֹרִים,
מַחֲשֹׂף הָאֶבֶן הַשְּׁחֹרָה וְעָרוֹת הַלְּבֵנָה הַשְּׂרוּפָה,
וְהֵם נִרְאִים כְּפֵיוֹת פְּתוּחִים שֶׁל-פְּצָעִים אֲנוּשִׁים וּשְׁחֹרִים
אֲשֶׁר אֵין לָהֶם תַּקָּנָה עוֹד וְלֹא-תְהִי לָהֶם תְּרוּפָה,
וְטָבְעוּ רַגְלֶיךָ בְּנוֹצוֹת וְהִתְנַגְּפוּ עַל תִּלֵּי-תִלִּים
שֶׁל-שִׁבְרֵי שְׁבָרִים וּרְסִיסֵי רְסִיסִים וּתְבוּסַת סְפָרִים וּגְוִילִים,
כִּלְיוֹן עֲמַל לֹא-אֱנוֹשׁ וּפְרִי מִשְׁנֶה עֲבוֹדַת פָּרֶךְ;
וְלֹא-תַעֲמֹד עַל-הַהֶרֶס וְעָבַרְתָּ מִשָּׁם הַדָּרֶךְ –
וְלִבְלְבוּ הַשִּׁטִּים לְנֶגְדְּךָ וְזָלְפוּ בְאַפְּךָ בְּשָׂמִים,
וְצִיצֵיהֶן חֶצְיָם נוֹצוֹת וְרֵיחָן כְּרֵיחַ דָּמִים;
וְעַל-אַפְּךָ וְעַל-חֲמָתְךָ תָּבִיא קְטָרְתָּן הַזָּרָה
אֶת-עֶדְנַת הָאָבִיב בִּלְבָבְךָ – וְלֹא-תְהִי לְךָ לְזָרָא;
וּבְרִבֲבוֹת חִצֵּי זָהָב יְפַלַּח הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ כְּבֵדְךָ
וְשֶׁבַע קַרְנַיִם מִכָּל-רְסִיס זְכוּכִית תִּשְׂמַחְנָה לְאֵידְךָ,
כִּי-קָרָא אֲדֹנָי לָאָבִיב וְלַטֶּבַח גַּם-יָחַד:
הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ זָרְחָה, הַשִּׁטָּה פָּרְחָה וְהַשּׁוֹחֵט שָׁחַט.
וּבָרָחְתָּ וּבָאתָ אֶל-חָצֵר, וְהֶחָצֵר גַּל בּוֹ –
עַל הַגַּל הַזֶּה נֶעֶרְפוּ שְׁנַיִם: יְהוּדִי וְכַלְבּוֹ.
קַרְדֹּם אֶחָד עֲרָפָם וְאֶל-אַשְׁפָּה אַחַת הוּטָלוּ
וּבְעֵרֶב דָּם שְׁנֵיהֶם יְחַטְטוּ חֲזִירִים וְיִתְגּוֹלָלוּ;
מָחָר יֵרֵד גֶּשֶׁם וּסְחָפוֹ אֶל-אַחַד נַחֲלֵי הַבָּתוֹת –
וְלֹא-יִצְעַק עוֹד הַדָּם מִן הַשְּׁפָכִים וְהָאַשְׁפָּתוֹת,
כִּי בִּתְהֹם רַבָּה יֹאבַד אוֹ-יַשְׁקְ נַעֲצוּץ לִרְוָיָה –
וְהַכֹּל יִהְיֶה כְּאָיִן, וְהַכֹּל יָשׁוּב כְּלֹא-הָיָה.
וְאֶל עֲלִיּוֹת הַגַּגֹּות תְּטַפֵּס וְנִצַּבְתְּ שָׁם בָּעֲלָטָה –
עוֹד אֵימַת מַר הַמָּוֶת בַּמַּאֲפֵל הַדּוֹמֵם שָׁטָה;
וּמִכָּל-הַחוֹרִים הָעֲמוּמִים וּמִתּוֹךְ צִלְלֵי הַזָּוִיּוֹת
עֵינַיִם, רְאֵה, עֵינַיִם דּוּמָם אֵלֶיךָ צוֹפִיּוֹת.
רוּחוֹת הַ"קְּדוֹשִׁים" הֵן, נְשָׁמוֹת עוֹטְיוֹת וְשׁוֹמֵמוֹת,
אֶל-זָוִית אַחַת תַּחַת כִּפַּת הַגַּג הִצְטַמְצְמוּ – וְדוֹמֵמוֹת.
כַּאן מְצָאָן הַקַּרְדֹּם וְאֶל-הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה תָּבֹאנָה
לַחְתֹּם פֹּה בְּמֶבָּטֵי עֵינֵיהֶן בַּפַּעַם הָאַחֲרוֹנָה
אֶת כָּל-צַעַר מוֹתָן הַתָּפֵל וְאֶת כָּל-תַּאֲלַת חַיֵּיהֶן,
וְהִתְרַפְּקוּ פֹּה זָעוֹת וַחֲרֵדוֹת, וְיַחְדָּו מִמַּחֲבוֹאֵיהֶן
דּוּמָם תּוֹבְעוֹת עֶלְבּוֹנָן וְעֵינֵיהֶן שׁוֹאֲלוֹת: לָמָּה? –
וּמִי-עוֹד כֵּאלֹהִים בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר-יִשָּׂא זֹאת הַדְּמָמָה?
וְנָשָׂאתָ עֵינֶיךָ הַגָּגָה – וְהִנֵּה גַם רְעָפָיו מַחֲרִישִׁים,
מַאֲפִילִים עָלֶיךָ וְשׁוֹתְקִים, וְשָׁאַלְתָּ אֶת-פִּי הָעַכָּבִישִׁים;
עֵדִים חַיִּים הֵם, עֵדֵי רְאִיָּה, וְהִגִּידוּ לְךָ כָּל-הַמּוֹצְאוֹת:
מַעֲשֶׂה בְּבֶטֶן רֻטָּשָה שֶׁמִּלּאוּהָ נוֹצוֹת,
מַעֲשֶׂה בִּנְחִירַיִם וּמַסְמֵרוֹת, בְּגֻלְגָּלוֹת וּפַטִּישִׁים,
מַעֲשֶׂה בִּבְנֵי אָדָם שְׁחוּטִים שֶׁנִּתְלוּ בְּמָרִישִׁים,
וּמַעֲשֶׂה בְּתִינוֹק שֶׁנִּמְצָא בְּצַד אִמּוֹ הַמְדֻקָּרָה
כְּשֶׁהוּא יָשֵׁן וּבְפִיו פִּטְמַת שָׁדָהּ הַקָּרָה;
וּמַעֲשֶׂה בְּיֶלֶד שֶׁנִּקְרַע וְיָצְאָה נִשְׁמָתוֹ בְּ"אִמִּי!" –
וְהִנֵּה גַם עֵינָיו פֹּה שׁוֹאֲלוֹת חֶשְׁבּוֹן מֵעִמִּי.

וְעוֹד כָּאֵלֶּה וְכָאֵלֶּה תְּסַפֵּר לְךָ הַשְׂמָמִית
מַעֲשִׂים נוֹקְבִים אֶת-הַמֹּחַ וְיֵשׁ בָּהֶם כְּדֵי לְהָמִית
אֶת-רוּחֲךָ וְאֶת-נִשְׁמָתְךָ מִיתָה גְּמוּרָה עוֹלָמִית –
וְהִתְאַפַּקְתָּ, וְחָנַקְתָּ בְּתוֹךְ גְּרוֹנְךָ אֶת הַשְּׁאָגָה
וּקְבַרְתָהּ בְּמַעֲמַקֵּי לְבָבְךָ לִפְנֵי הִתְפָּרְצָהּ,
וְקָפַצְתָּ מִשָּׁם וְיָצָאתָ – וְהִנֵּה הָאָרֶץ כְּמִנְהָגָהּ,
וְהַשֶּׁמֶשׁ כִּתְמֹל שִׁלְשֹׁם תְּשַׁחֵת זָהֳרָהּ אָרְצָה.
וְיָרַדְתָּ מִשָּׁם וּבָאתָ אֶל-תּוֹךְ הַמַּרְתֵּפִים הָאֲפֵלִים,
מְקוֹם נִטְמְאוּ בְּנוֹת עַמְּךָ הַכְּשֵׁרוֹת בֵּין הַכֵּלִים,
אִשָּׁה אִשָּׁה אַחַת תַּחַת שִׁבְעָה שִׁבְעָה עֲרֵלִים,
הַבַּת לְעֵינֵי אִמָּהּ וְהָאֵם לְעֵינֵי בִּתָּהּ,
לִפְנֵי שְׁחִיטָה וּבִשְׁעַת שְׁחִיטָה וּלְאַחַר שְׁחִיטָה;
וּבְיָדְךָ תְמַשֵּׁש אֶת-הַכֶּסֶת הַמְטֻנֶּפֶת וְאֶת-הַכָּר הַמְאָדָּם,
מִרְבַּץ חֲזִירֵי יַעַר וּמִרְבַּעַת סוּסֵי אָדָם
עִם-קַרְדֹּם מְטַפְטֵף דָּם רוֹתֵחַ בְּיָדָם.
וּרְאֵה גַּם-רְאֵה: בַּאֲפֵלַת אוֹתָהּ זָוִית,
תַּחַת מְדוֹכַת מַצָּה זוֹ וּמֵאֲחוֹרֵי אוֹתָהּ חָבִית,
שָׁכְבוּ בְעָלִים, חֲתָנִים, אַחִים, הֵצִיצוּ מִן-הַחוֹרִים
בְּפַרְפֵּר גְּוִיּוֹת קְדוֹשׁוֹת תַּחַת בְּשַׂר חֲמוֹרִים,
נֶחֱנָקוֹת בְּטֻמְאָתָן וּמְעַלְּעוֹת דַּם צַוָּארָן,
וּכְחַלֵּק אִישׁ פַּת-בָּגוֹ חִלֵּק מְתֹעָב גּוֹי בְּשָׂרָן –
שָׁכְבוּ בְּבָשְׁתָּן וַיִּרְאוּ – וְלֹא נָעוּ וְלֹא זָעוּ,
וְאֶת-עֵינֵיהֶם לֹא-נִקֵּרוּ וּמִדַּעְתָּם לֹא יָצָאוּ –
וְאוּלַי גַּם-אִישׁ לְנַפְשׁוֹ אָז הִתְפַּלֵּל בִּלְבָבוֹ:
רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל-עוֹלָם, עֲשֵׂה נֵס – וְאֵלַי הָרָעָה לֹא-תָבֹא.
וְאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר חָיוּ מִטֻּמְאָתָן וְהֵקִיצוּ מִדָּמָן –
וְהִנֵּה שֻׁקְּצוּ כָּל-חַיֵּיהֶן וְנִטְמָא אוֹר עוֹלָמָן
שִׁקּוּצֵי עוֹלָם, טֻמְאַת גּוּף וָנֶפֶשׁ, מִבַּחוּץ וּמִבִּפְנִים –
וְהֵגִיחוּ בַעֲלֵיהֶן מֵחוֹרָם וְרָצוּ בֵית-אֱלֹהִים
וּבֵרְכוּ עַל-הַנִּסִּים שֵׁם אֵל יִשְׁעָם וּמִשְׂגַּבָּם;
וְהַכֹּהֲנִים שֶׁבָּהֶם יֵצְאוּ וְיִשְׁאֲלוּ אֶת רַבָּם:
"רַבִּי! אִשְׁתִּי מָה הִיא? מֻתֶּרֶת אוֹ אֲסוּרָה?" –
וְהַכֹּל יָשׁוּב לְמִנְהָגוֹ, וְהַכֹּל יַחֲזֹר לְשׁוּרָה.
וְעַתָּה לֵךְ וְהֵבֵאתִיךָ אֶל-כָּל הַמַּחֲבוֹאִים:
בָּתֵּי מָחֳרָאוֹת, מִכְלְאוֹת חֲזִירִים וּשְׁאָר מְקוֹמוֹת צוֹאִים.
וְרָאִיתָ בְּעֵינֶיךָ אֵיפֹה הָיוּ מִתְחַבְּאִים
אַחֶיךָ, בְּנֵי עַמֶּךָ וּבְנֵי בְנֵיהֶם שֶׁל-הַמַּכַּבִּים,
נִינֵי הָאֲרָיוֹת שֶׁבְּ"אַב הָרַחֲמִים" וְזֶרַע הַ"קְּדוֹשִׁים".
עֶשְׂרִים נֶפֶשׁ בְּחוֹר אֶחָד וּשְׁלֹשִׁים שְׁלֹשִׁים,
וַיְגַדְּלוּ כְבוֹדִי בָּעוֹלָם וַיְקַדְּשׁוּ שְׁמִי בָּרַבִּים...
מְנוּסַת עַכְבָּרִים נָסוּ וּמַחֲבֵא פִשְׁפְּשִׁים הָחְבָּאוּ,
וַיָמוּתוּ מוֹת כְּלָבִים שָׁם בַּאֲשֶׁר נִמְצָאוּ,
וּמָחָר לַבֹּקֶר – וְיָצָא הַבֵּן הַפָּלִיט
וּמָצָא שָׁם פֶּגֶר אָבִיו מְגֹאָל וְנִמְאָס – – –
וְלָמָּה תֵבְךְּ, בֶּן-אָדָם, וְלָמָּה תָלִיט
אֶת-פָּנֶיךָ בְּכַפְּךָ? – חֲרֹק שִׁנַּיִם וְהִמָּס!
וְיָרַדְתָּ בְּמוֹרַד הָעִיר וּמָצָאתָ גִּנַּת יָרָק,
וַאֲוֵרָה גְדוֹלָה עִם הַגִּנָּה, הִיא אֲוֵרַת הֶהָרֶג.
וּכְמַחֲנֵה תִּנְשְׁמוֹת עֲנָק וְאֵימֵי עֲטַלֵּפִים
הַסְּרוּחִים עַל-חַלְלֵיהֶם שִׁכּוֹרֵי דָם וַעֲיֵפִים.
שָׁם עַל קַרְקַע הָאֲוֵרָה שָׁטְחוּ לָהֶם שֶׁטַח
אוֹפַנִּים מְפֻשְּׂקֵי יְתֵדוֹת כְּאֶצְבָּעוֹת שְׁלוּחוֹת לִרְצֹחַ,
וּפִיפִיּוֹתָם מְגֹאָלִים עוֹד בְּדַם אָדָם וָמֹחַ.
וְהָיָה בַּעֲרֹב הַיּוֹם, בִּנְטוֹת שֶׁמֶשׁ מַעֲרָבָה,
מְעֻטָּף בְּעַנְנֵי דָּם וְנֶאְפַּד אֵשׁ לֶהָבָה,
וּפָתַחְתָּ אֶת-הַשַּׁעַר, בַּלָּט וּבָאתָ אֶל-הָאֲוֵרָה
וְאֵימָה חֲשֵׁכָה תִּבְלָעֶךָּ, וּתְהֹם זְוָעָה נַעֲלָמָה:
מָגוֹר, מָגוֹר מִסָּבִיב... מְשׁוֹטֵט הוּא בַּאֲוֵרָהּ,
שׁוֹרֶה הוּא עַל הַכְּתָלִים וְכָבוּשׁ בְּתוֹךְ הַדְּמָמָה.
וּמִתַּחַת תִּלֵּי הָאוֹפַנִּים, מִבֵּין הַחוֹרִים וְהַסְּדָקִים,
עוֹר תַּרְגִּישׁ כְּעֵין פִּרְפּוּר שֶׁל-אֲבָרִים מְרֻסָּקִים,
מְזִיזִים אֶת הָאוֹפַנִּים הַתְּלוּלִים עַל-גַּבֵּיהֶם,
מִתְעַוְּתִים בִּגְסִיסָתָם וּמִתְבּוֹסְסִים בִּדְמֵיהֶם;
וְאֶנְקַת חֲשָׁאִים אַחֲרוֹנָה – קוֹל עֲנוֹת חֲלוּשָׁה
מִמַּעַל לְרֹאשְׁךָ עֲדַיִן תְּלוּיָה כְּמוֹ קְרוּשָׁה,
וּכְעֵין צַעַר נֶעְכָּר, צַעַר עוֹלָם, תּוֹסֵס שָׁם וְחָרֵד.
אֵין זֹאת כִּי אִם-רוּחַ דַּכָּא רַב-עֱנוּת וּגְדֹל-יִסּוּרִים
חָבַשׁ כָּאן אֶת-עַצְמוֹ בְּתוֹךְ בֵּית הָאֲסוּרִים,
נִתְקַע פֹּה בִּדְוֵי עוֹלָם וְלֹא-יֹאבֶה עוֹד הִפָּרֵד,
וּשְׁכִינָה שְׁחֹרָה אַחַת, עֲיֵפַת צַעַר וִיגֵעַת כֹּחַ,
מִתְלַבֶּטֶת פֹּה בְּכָל-זָוִית וְלֹא-תִמְצָא לָהּ מָנוֹחַ,
רוֹצָה לִבְכּוֹת – וְאֵינָהּ יְכוֹלָה, חֲפֵצָה לִנְהֹם – וְשׁוֹתֶקֶת,
וְדוּמָם תִּמַּק בְּאֶבְלָהּ וּבַחֲשָׁאִי הִיא נֶחֱנֶקֶת,
פּוֹרֶשֶׂת כְּנָפֶיהָ עַל צִלְלֵי הַקְּדוֹשִׁים וְרֹאשָׁהּ תַּחַת כְּנָפָהּ,
מַאֲפִילָה עַל-דִּמְעוֹתֶיהָ וּבוֹכִיָּה בְלִי שָׂפָה – – –
וְאַתָּה גַם-אַתָּה, בֶּן-אָדָם, סְגֹר בַּעַדְךָ הַשַּׁעַר,
וְנִסְגַּרְתָּ פֹּה בָּאֲפֵלָה וּבַקַּרְקַע תִּכְבֹּשׁ עֵינֶיךָ
וְנִצַּבְתָּ כֹּה עַד-בּוֹשׁ וְהִתְיַחַדְתָּ עִם-הַצַּעַר
וּמִלֵּאתָ בּוֹ אֶת-לְבָבְךָ לְכֹל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ,
וּבְיוֹם תְּרֻשַּׁשׁ נַפְשְּךָ וּבַאֲבֹד כָּל חֵילָהּ –
וְהָיָה הוּא לְךָ לִפְלֵיטָה וּלְמַעְיַן תַּרְעֵלָה,
וְרָבַץ בְּךָ כִּמְאֵרָה וִיבַעֶתְךָ כְּרוּחַ רָעָה,
וּלְפָתְךָ וְהֵעִיק עָלֶיךָ כְּהָעֵק חֲלוֹם זְוָעָה;
וּבְחֵיקְךָ תִשָּׂאֶנּוּ אֶל-אַרְבַּע רוּחוֹת הַשָּׁמַיִם,
וּבִקַּשְׁתָּ וְלֹא-תִמְצָא לוֹ נִיב שְׂפָתַיִם.
וְאֶל-מִחוּץ לָעִיר תֵּצֵא וּבָאתָ אֶל בֵּית-הָעוֹלָם,
וְאַל-יִרְאֲךָ אִישׁ בְּלֶכְתְּךָ וִיחִידִי תָּבֹא שָׁמָּה,
וּפָקַדְתָּ קִבְרוֹת הַקְּדוֹשִׁים לְמִקְּטַנָּם וְעַד-גְּדוֹלָם,
וְנִצַּבְתָּ עַל עֲפָרָם הַתָּחוּחַ וְהִשְׁלַטְתִּי עָלֶיךָ דְּמָמָה:
וּלְבָבְךָ יִמַּק בְּךָ מֵעֹצֶר כְּאֵב וּכְלִמָּה –
וְעָצַרְתִּי אֶת-עֵינֶיךָ וְלֹא-תִהְיֶה דִמְעָה,
וְיָדַעְתָּ כִּי עֵת לִגְעוֹת הִיא כְּשׁוֹר קוּד עַל הַמַּעֲרָכָה –
וְהִקְשַׁחְתִּי אֶת-לְבָבְךָ וְלֹא-תָבֹא אֲנָחָה.
הִנֵּה הֵם עֶגְלִֵי הַטִּבְחָה, הִנֵּה הֵם שׁוֹכְבִים כֻּלָּם –
וְאִם יֵשׁ שִׁלּוּמִים לְמוֹתָם – אֱמֹר, בַּמֶּה יְשֻׁלָּם?
סִלְחוּ לִי, עֲלוּבֵי עוֹלָם, אֱלֹהֵיכֶם עָנִי כְמוֹתְכֶם,
עָנִי הוּא בְחַיֵּיכֶם וְקַל וָחֹמֶר בְּמוֹתְכֶם,
כִּי תָבֹאוּ מָחָר עַל-שְׂכַרְכֶם וּדְפַקְתֶּם עַל-דְּלָתָי –
אֶפְתְּחָה לָכֶם, בֹּאוּ וּרְאוּ: יָרַדְתִּי מִנְּכָסָי!

וְצַר לִי עֲלֵיכֶם, בָּנַי, וְלִבִּי לִבִּי עֲלֵיכֶם:
חַלְלֵיכֶם – חַלְלֵי חִנָּם, וְגַם-אֲנִי וְגַם-אַתֶּם
לֹא-יָדַעְנוּ לָמָּה מַתֶּם וְעַל-מִי וְעַל-מָה מַתֶּם,
וְאֵין טַעַם לְמוֹתְכֶם כְּמוֹ אֵין טַעַם לְחַיֵּיכֶם.
וּשְׁכִינָה מָה אוֹמֶרֶת? – הִיא תִּכְבֹּש בֶּעָנָן אֶת רֹאשָׁהּ
וּמֵעֹצֶר כְּאֵב וּכְלִמָּה פּוֹרֶשֶׁת וּבוֹכָה...
וְגַם-אֲנִי בַּלַּיְלָה בַלַּיְלָה אֵרֵד עַל הַקְּבָרִים,
אֶעֱמֹד אַבִּיט אֶל-הַחֲלָלִים וְאֵבוֹשׁ בַּמִּסְתָּרִים –
וְאוּלָם, חַי אָנִי, נְאוּם יְיָ, אִם-אוֹרִיד דִּמְעָה.
וְגָדוֹל הַכְּאֵב מְאֹד וּגְדוֹלָה מְאֹד הַכְּלִמָּה –
וּמַה-מִּשְּׁנֵיהֶם גָּדוֹל? – אֱמֹר אַתָּה, בֶּן אָדָם!
אוֹ טוֹב מִזֶּה – שְׁתֹק! וְדוּמָם הֱיֵה עֵדִי,
כִּי-מְצָאתַנִי בִקְלוֹנִי וַתִּרְאֵנִי בְּיוֹם אֵידִי;
וּכְשׁוּבְךָ אֶל-בְּנֵי עַמֶּךָ – אַל-תָּשׁוּב אֲלֵיהֶם רֵיקָם,
כִּי מוּסַר כְּלִמָּתִי תִּשָּׂא וְהוֹרַדְתּוֹ עַל-קָדְקֳדָם,
וּמִכְּאֵבִי תִּקַּח עִמְּךָ וַהֲשֵׁבוֹתוֹ אֶל-חֵיקָם.
וּפָנִיתָ לָלֶכֶת מֵעִם קִבְרוֹת הַמֵּתִים, וְעִכְּבָה
רֶגַע אֶחָד אֶת-עֵינֶיךָ רְפִידַת הַדֶּשֶׁא מִסָּבִיב,
וְהַדֶּשֶׁא רַךְ וְרָטֹב, כַּאֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בִּתְחִלַּת הָאָבִיב:
נִצָּנֵי הַמָּוֶת וַחֲצִיר קְבָרִים אַתָּה רוֹאֶה בְעֵינֶיךָ;
וְתָלַשְׁתָּ מֵהֶם מְלֹא הַכַּף וְהִשְׁלַכְתָּם לַאֲחוֹרֶיךָ,
לֵאמֹר: חָצִיר תָּלוּשׁ הָעָם – וְאִם-יֵשׁ לַתָּלוּשׁ תִּקְוָה?
וְעָצַמְתָּ אֶת-עֵינֶיךָ מֵרְאוֹתָם, וּלְקַחְתִּיךָ וַאֲשִׁיבְךָ
מִבֵּית-הַקְּבָרוֹת אֶל-אַחֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר חָיוּ מִן-הַטִּבְחָה,
וּבָאתָ עִמָּם בְּיוֹם צוּמָם אֶל בָּתֵּי תְפִלָּתָם
וְשָׁמַעְתָּ זַעֲקַת שִׁבְרָם וְנִסְחַפְתָּ בְדִמְעָתָם;
וְהַבַּיִת יִמָּלֵא יְלָלָה, בְּכִי וְנַאֲקַת פֶּרֶא,
וְסָמְרָה שַׂעֲרַת בְּשָׂרְךָ וּפַחַד יִקְרָאֲךָ וּרְעָדָה –
כָּכָה תֶּאֱנֹק אֻמָּה אֲשֶׁר אָבְדָה אָבָדָה...
וְאֶל-לְבָבָם תַּבִּיט – וְהִנּוֹ מִדְבָּר וְצִיָּה,
וְכִי-תִצְמַח בּוֹ חֲמַת נָקָם – לֹא תְחַיֶּה זֶרַע,
וְאַף קְלָלָה נִמְרֶצֶת אַחַת לֹא-תוֹלִיד עַל-שִׂפְתֵיהֶם.
הַאֵין פִּצְעֵיהֶם נֶאֱמָנִים – – וְלמָה תְפִלָּתָם רְמִיָּה?
לָמָּה יֱכַחֲשׁוּ לִי בְּיוֹם אֵידָם, וּמַה-בֶּצַע בְּכַחֲשֵׁיהֶם?
וּרְאֵה גַם-רְאֵה: עוֹד הֵם נְמַקִּים בִּיגוֹנָם,
כֻּלָּם יוֹרְדִים בַּבֶּכִי, יִשְּׂאוּ קִינָה בְּנִיהֶם,
וְהִנֵּה הֵם מְתוֹפְפִים עַל-לִבְבֵיהֶם וּמִתְוַדִּים עַל-עֲוֹנָם
לֵאמֹר: "אָשַׁמְנוּ בָּגַדְנוּ" – וְלִבָּם לֹא-יַאֲמִין לְפִיהֶם.
הֲיֶחֱטָא עֶצֶב נָפוֹץ וְאִם-שִׁבְרֵי חֶרֶשׂ יֶאְשָמוּ?
וְלָמָּה זֶה יִתְחַנְּנוּ אֵלָי? – דַּבֵּר אֲלֵיהֶם וְיִרְעָמוּ!
יָרִימוּ-נָא אֶגְרֹף כְּנֶגְדִי וְיִתְבְּעוּ אֶת עֶלְבּוֹנָם,
אֶת-עֶלְבּוֹן כָּל-הַדּוֹרוֹת מֵרֹאשָׁם וְעַד-סוֹפָם,
וִיפוֹצְצוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם וְכִסְאִי בְּאֶגְרוֹפָם.
וְגַם-אַתָּה, בֶּן-אָדָם, אַל-תִּבָּדֵל מִתּוֹךְ עֲדָתָם,
הַאֲמֵן לְנִגְעֵי לִבָּם וְאַל-תַּאֲמֵן לִתְחִנָּתָם;
וּבְהָרֵם הַחַזָּן קוֹלוֹ: "עֲשֵׂה לְמַעַן הַטְּבוּחִים!
עֲשֵׂה לְמַעַן תִּינֹוקוֹת! עֲשֵׂה לְמַעַן עוֹלְלֵי טִפּוּחִים"!
וְעַמּוּדֵי הַבַּיִת יִתְפַּלְּצוּ בְּזַעֲקַת תַּאֲנִיָּה,
וְסָמְרָה שַׂעֲרַת בְּשָׂרְךָ וּפַחַד יִקְרָאֲךָ וּרְעָדָה –
וְהִתְאַכְזַרְתִּי אֲנִי אֵלֶיךָ – וְלֹא תִגְעֶה אִתָּם בִּבְכִיָּה
וְכִי תִפְרֹץ שַׁאֲגָתְךָ – אֲנִי בֵּין שִׁנֶּיךָ אֲמִיתֶנָּה;
יְחַלְּלוֹּ לְבַדָּם צָרָתָם – וְאַתָּה אַל תְּחַלְּלֶנָּה.
תַּעֲמֹד הַצָּרָה לְדוֹרוֹת – צָרָה לֹא-נִסְפָּדָה,
וְדִמְעָתְךָ אַתָּה תֵּאָצֵר דִּמְעָה בְלִי-שְׁפוּכָה,
וּבָנִיתָ עָלֶיהָ מִבְצַר בַּרְזֶל וְחוֹמַת נְחוּשָׁה
שֶׁל-חֲמַת מָוֶת, שִׂנְאַת שְׁאוֹל וּמַשְׂטֵמָה כְבוּשָׁה,
וְנֹאחֲזָה בִלְבָבְךָ וְגָדְלָה שָׁם כְּפֶתֶן בִּמְאוּרָתוֹ,
וִינַקְתֶּם זֶה מִזֶּה וְלֹא-תמְצְאוּ מְנוּחָה;
וְהִרְעַבְתָּ וְהִצְמֵאתָ אוֹתוֹ – וְאַחַר תַּהֲרֹס חוֹמָתוֹ
וּבְרֹאשׁ פְּתָנִים אַכְזָר לַחָפְשִׁי תְשַׁלְּחֶנּוּ
וְעַל-עַם עֶבְרָתְךָ וְחֶמְלָתְךָ בְּיוֹם רַעַם תְּצַוֶּנּוּ.
עַתָּה צֵא מִזֶּה וְשׁוּב הֵנָּה בֵּין הַשְּׁמָשׁוֹת
וְרָאִיתָ אַחֲרִית אֵבֶל עָם: וְהִנֵּה כָּל-אֵלֶּה הַנְּפָשׁוֹת
אֲשֶׁר-חָרְדוּ וְהֵקִיצוּ בֹקֶר – שָׁבוּ לָעֶרֶב וַתֵּרָדַמְנָה,
ִויגֵעֵי בֶכִי וְדַכֵּי רוּחַ הִנָּם עוֹמְדִים עַתָּה בַּחֲשֵׁכָה,
עוֹד הַשְּׂפָתַיִם נָעוֹת, מְפַלְּלוֹת – אַךְ הַלֵּב נָחַר תּוֹכוֹ,
וּבְלֹא נִיצוֹץ תִּקְוָה בַּלֵּב וּבְלִי שְׁבִיב אוֹר בָּעָיִן
הַיָּד תְּגַשֵּׁשׁ בָּאֲפֵלָה, תְּבַקֵּשׁ מִשְׁעָן – וָאִָיִן...
כָּכָה תֶּעְשַׁן עוֹד הַפְּתִילָה אַחֲרֵי כְלוֹת שַּמְנָהּ,
כָּךְ יִמְשֹׁךְ סוּס זָקֵן אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּר כֹּחוֹ.
לוּ אַגָּדַת תַּנְחוּמִים אַחַת הִנִּיחָה לָהֶם צָרָתָם,
לִהְיוֹת לָהֶם לִמְשִׁיבַת נֶפֶשׁ וּלְכַלְכֵּל שֵׂיבָתָם!
הִנֵּה כָלָה הַצּוֹם, קָרְאוּ "וַיְחַל", אָמְרוּ "עֲנֵנוּ" – וְלָמָּה
עוֹד הַצִּבּוּר מִתְמַהְמֵהַּ? – הַיִקְרְאוּ גַּם "אֵיכָה? –
לֹא! הִנֵּה דַרְשָׁן עוֹלֶה עַל-הַבָּמָה,
הִנֵּה הוּא פוֹתֵחַ פִּיו, מְגַמְגֵּם וּמְפִיחַ אֲמָרָיו,
טָח תָּפֵל וְלוֹחֵשׁ פְּסוּקִים עַל מַכָּתָם הַטְּרִיָּה,
וְאַף קוֹל אֱלֹהִים אֶחָד לֹא-יַצִּיל מִפִּיהוּ ,
גַּם-נִיצוֹץ קָטָן אֶחָד לֹא-יַדְלִיק בִּלְבָבָם;
וְעֵדֶר אֲדֹנָי עוֹמֵד בִּזְקֵנָיו וּבִנְעָרָיו,
אֵלֶּה שׁוֹמְעִים וּמְפַהֲקִים וְאֵלֶּה רֹאשׁ יָנִיעוּ;
תַּו הַמָּוֶת עַל-מִצְחָם וּלְבָבָם יֻכַּת שְׁאִיָּה.
מֵת רוּחָם, נָס לֵחָם, וֵאלֹהֵיהֶם עֲזָבָם.
וְגַם אַתָּה אַל-תָּנֹד לָהֶם, אַל-תְּזַעְזַע חִנָּם פִּצְעֵיהֶם,
אַל-תִּגְדֹּשׁ עוֹד לַשָּׁוְא סְאַת צָרָתָם הַגְּדוּשָׁה;
בַּאֲשֶׁר תִּגַּע אֶצְבָּעֲךָ – שָׁמָּה מַכָּה אֲנוּשָׁה,
כָּל-בְּשָׂרָם עֲלֵיהֶם יִכְאַב – אֲבָל נוֹשְׁנוּ בְּמַכְאוֹבֵיהֶם
וַיַּשְׁלִימוּ עִם חַיֵּי בָשְׁתָּם, וּמַה-בֶּצַע כִּי תְנַחֲמֵם?
עֲלוּבִים הֵם מִקְּצֹף עֲלֵיהֶם וְאוֹבְדִים הֵם מֵרַחֲמֵם;
הַנַּח לָהֶם וְיֵלֵכוּ – הִנֵּה יָצְאוּ הַכּוֹכָבִים,
וַאֲבֵלִים וַחֲפוּיֵי רֹאשׁ וּבְבֹשֶׁת גַּנָּבִים
אִישׁ אִישׁ עִם-נִגְעֵי לִבּוֹ יָשׁוּב הַבָּיְתָה,
וְגֵווֹ כָּפוּף מִשֶּׁהָיָה וְנַפְשׁוֹ רֵיקָה מִשֶּׁהָיְתָה,
וְאִישׁ אִישׁ עִם נִגְעֵי לִבּוֹ יַעֲלֶה עַל-מִשְׁכָּבוֹ
וְהַחֲלֻדָּה עַל-עֲצָמָיו וְהָרָקָב בִּלְבָבוֹ...
וְהָיָה כִּי-תַשְׁכִּים מָחָר וְיָצָאתָ בְּרֹאשׁ דְּרָכִים –
וְרָאִיתָ הֲמוֹן שִׁבְרֵי אָדָם נֶאֱנָקִים וְנֶאֱנָחִים,
צוֹבְאִים עַל חַלּוֹנוֹת גְּבִירִים וְחוֹנִים עַל הַפְּתָחִים,
מַכְרִיזִים בְּפֻמְבֵּי עַל-פִּצְעֵיהֶם כְּרוֹכֵל עַל-מַרְכֹּלֶת,
לְמִי גֻּלְגֹּלֶת רְצוּצָה וּלְמִי פֶּצַע יָד וְחַבּוּרָה,
וְכֻלָּם פּוֹשְׁטִים יָד כֵּהָה וְחוֹשְׂפִים זְרוֹעַ שְׁבוּרָה,
וְעֵינֵיהֶם, עֵינֵי עֲבָדִים מֻכִּים, אֶל יַד גְּבִירֵיהֶם
לֵאמֹר: "גֻּלְגֹּלֶת רְצוּצָה לִי, אָב "קָדוֹשׁ" לִי –תְּנָה אֶת תַּשְׁלוֹמֵיהֶם!"
וּגְבִירִים בְּנֵי רַחֲמָנִים מִתְמַלְּאִים עֲלֵיהֶם רַחֲמִים
וּמוֹשִׁיטִים לָהֶם מִבִּפְנִים מַקֵּל וְתַרְמִיל לַגֻּלְגֹּלֶת
אוֹמְרִים "בָּרוּךְ שֶׁפְּטָרָנוּ" – וְהַקַּבְּצָנִים מִתְנַחֲמִים.
לְבֵית הַקְּבָרוֹת, קַבְּצָנִים! וַחֲפַרְתֶּם עַצְמוֹת אֲבוֹתֵיכֶם
וְעַצְמוֹת אַחֵיכֶם הַקְּדוֹשִׁים וּמִלֵּאתֶם תַּרְמִילֵיכֶם
וַעֲמַסְתֶּם אוֹתָם עַל-שֶׁכֶם וִיצָאתֶם לַדֶּרֶךְ, עֲתִידִים
לַעֲשׂוֹת בָּהֶם סְחוֹרָה בְּכָל-הַיְרִידִים;
וּרְאִיתֶם לָכֶם יָד בְּרֹאשׁ דְּרָכִים, לְעֵין רוֹאִים,
וּשְׁטַחְתֶּם אוֹתָם לַשֶּׁמֶשׁ עַל-סְמַרְטוּטֵיכֶם הַצֹּאִים,
וּבְגָרוֹן נִחָר שִׁירָה קַבְּצָנִית עֲלֵיהֶם תְּשׁוֹרְרוּ,
וּקְרָאתֶם לְחֶסֶד לְאֻמִּים וְהִתְפַּלַּלְתֶּם לְרַחֲמֵי גוֹיִם
וְכַאֲשֶׁר פְּשַׁטְתֶּם יָד תִּפְשֹׁטוּ, וְכַאֲשֶׁר שְׁנוֹרַרְתֶּם תִּשְׁנוֹרְרוּ.
וְעַתָּה מַה-לְךָ פֹּה, בֶּן-אָדָם, קוּם בְּרַח הַמִּדְבָּרָה
וְנָשָׂאתָ עִמְּךָ שָׁמָּה אֶת-כּוֹס הַיְגוֹנִים,
וְקָרַעְתָּ שָׁם אֶת-נַפְשְׁךָ לַעֲשָׂרָה קְרָעִים
וְאֶת-לְבָבְךָ תִּתֵּן מַאֲכָל לַחֲרוֹן אֵין-אוֹנִים,
וְדִמְעָתְךָ הַגְּדוֹלָה הוֹרֵד שָׁם עַל קָדְקֹד הַסְּלָעִים
וְשַׁאֲגָתְךָ הַמָּרָה שַׁלַּח – וְתֹאבַד בִּסְעָרָה.