Education is not merely a means for earning a living or an instrument for the acquisition of wealth. It is an initiation into life of spirit, a training of the human soul in the pursuit of truth and the practice of virtue. -Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
The biblical account of Noah’s Flood is mirrored in the literature of a number of ancient civilizations. While there is much that is unique about the Torah’s telling of the flood, one of the aspects which stands out in particular, is that the Torah relates the flood as a punishment for man’s misdeeds. The earth, its human and animal denizens had become so corrupt that God had no other option but to literally wipe them all off the map and restart almost from scratch, using Noah, his family and all the animals that he saved on his ark as the starting material for rebuilding the world.
The Meshech Chochma wonders as to why Noah and the ark passengers needed to be on the ark for a year. The job of wiping the slate clean was accomplished after the first days of the deluge. In theory, the flood survivors could have gotten off the ark the next day and started the arduous and vital work of repopulating the earth without waiting a year.
The Meshech Chochma answers that the year-long confinement to the ark wasn’t because of what needed to happen to the planet outside the ark, but rather was needed by all those inside the ark. They needed a year-long curriculum to rectify themselves.
All of creation, not just humans, but even animals, had become so vile, so distorted and corrupt that God had no choice but to start over. Now even though those who made it onto the ark were the best of the best, they were still heavily influenced by their environment. They too had a measure of corruption and vileness. They needed their own cleansing, their own deprogramming, their own re-education.
That was the purpose of the twelve months on the ark. It was to educate the flood’s survivors as to how to behave. It was to curb their sexual appetite; calm their gluttony and cravings. The animals needed to be fed by the hands of humans and learn to respect humans again and not attack wildly. After twelve months of such instruction and practice, after both humans and animals had learned to control themselves, then they were allowed out to the clean air of a new world, ready to lead more correct, virtuous lives, with a second chance to start over again.
May our educational efforts lead us and those we impact to more moral and honorable lives.
To our children on the beginning of their new educational paths.
We are digging our graves with our teeth. -Thomas Moffett
It seems that literally, since the beginning of time, man has had a struggle with food. The first and only command God gives Adam in the Garden of Eden is as follows:
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you are free to eat; but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die.”
God gives man a very simple command, a very simple diet – don’t eat from this one single tree out of the entire garden. However, man is often weak and foolish. He eats from the very tree he was commanded not to eat from. The consequences of his foolishness are so severe that he dooms himself and all of humanity to a mortal existence filled with anguish and tribulations that extend to our very day.
The Berdichever on Genesis 6:21 (Noah) notes that when God commands Noah to construct his famous ark and gather the animal kingdom into it, he also directs him to “take for yourself of all food that will be fed.”
Besides being the permission for humanity to discontinue their previously vegetarian diet, allowing man to eat animals as well, there is a deeper meaning that hints at how mankind can repair the enormous spiritual damage Adam caused by violating God’s initial, single stated prohibition. The way to repair the original food sin is an extensive, detailed, comprehensive and highly regulated biblical and rabbinic approach to food.
The Bible has literally dozens of commandments that are concerned with food. What to eat, what not to eat, when and where to eat it. The Rabbis conveyed more details, explanations and safeguards as to what we put in our mouth, how an animal must be slaughtered, what the health of the carcass needs to be, how to prepare the food, what tithes and gifts must be separated from the food, what blessings need to be said both before and after eating, what can and can’t be eaten together, how much time to wait between consuming meat and dairy products and much more.
The Berdichever explains that with every single food-related commandment we perform, every single food-related prohibition we abide by, we are correcting Adam’s sin. The deep, world-affecting damage which Adam caused is rectified by our blessing God for our food, by ensuring that the food we eat is prepared according to the Torah’s standards, of eating the right food in the right way at the right time.
Food is a tremendous gift from God. When we partake of it properly, in a holy fashion, we elevate the food, we elevate the process and we elevate ourselves.
I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying. -Woody Allen
Modern scientists have reached a stage of technological development where they can start to dream of extending man’s life indefinitely. While immortality still remains in the realm of science-fiction, multiple solutions are being worked on that should there be a breakthrough in any one of them, would signify a serious change in man’s longevity. The search for eternal life has often been connected with Messianic dreams.
It has long been taboo in Judaism to predict when the long-awaited Messiah may finally arrive. Maimonides declared it a fundamental principle of Judaism that we need simple belief and faith that the Messiah can arrive any day and to await him expectantly. Not that this has stopped countless Rabbis throughout the generations from giving dates and deadlines (all the past ones clearly erroneous so far) as to when the personification of our redemption will show himself.
Rabbeinu Bechaye does something a little different. In his commentary on Genesis 11:10 he predicts when the Messianic age will end. Back when he wrote his commentary, around the year 1290, he predicted that the Messianic age would end by 2077. And it would end with eternal life, for some.
When the Torah provides the list of generations and descendents of Shem son of Noah, it doesn’t mention their deaths, as opposed to the similar list of descendents of Adam until Noah. Rabbeinu Bechaye explains that the reason may be because Shem was the ancestor of the Davidic monarchy and the Messiah son of David will not die, but rather will live forever.
He states that after the year 2077 (really, 5837 in the Hebrew calendar) we will enter the seventh millennium which is the Sabbath of the world, and eternal life. He further implies that only those who cleave onto God will merit that eternal life.
For the younger ones among us, they may very well live to test Rabbeinu Bechaye’s prediction 60 years from now. The rest of us need to work on our life extending strategies. All of us need to work on cleaving to God.
May the Messiah show up rapidly in our own days.
To the staff and volunteers of IsraAID who consistently provide life-saving help in disaster scenes around the world.
If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear. –Gene Roddenberry
According to the biblical account, all of humanity descends from Noah’s three sons, Shem, Cham and Yafet. Rabbi Hirsch on Genesis 6:10 explains that the name of each son carries great significance.
Shem, literally means “name”, suggestive of man’s ability to name things, to get to the heart of the phenomena he confronts. This is an intellectual and spiritual attribute.
Cham, meaning “hot”, represents the sensual aspect of man.
Yafet, from “beauty”, signifies man’s search for beauty in the world.
Rabbi Hirsch explains that these varying traits are purposeful and are meant to be channeled individually in the proper fashion as well as brought together to complement each other.
He learns it from the verse that states that Noah was “righteous, morally pure and walked with God.”
The intellectual attribute of Shem, instead of being directed to mundane matters, should seek to “walk with God”; the sensual traits of Cham need to strive for moral purity; and Yafet’s search for beauty should rather be a search for righteousness, for goodness. Each of these corrected traits then complement each other.
May we correct all of our traits at the individual level as well as at the global level.
To the US Elections. While not harmonious it is certainly entertaining.
The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. -James Allen
Perhaps one of the most popular words in Uruguay is “tranquilo” which espouses a relaxed outlook on life. There is a related Hebrew word “menucha” which has a tremendous depth to it, signifying, among other things, pleasurable physical, mental, spiritual and emotional rest that also leads to rejuvenation.
The most well-known use of the word menucha is in conjunction with Shabbat, the Sabbath. Shabbat Menucha is a description of the fact that the Sabbath is designed for rest and rejuvenation.
The Sfat Emet on Parshat Noach during the year 5631 (1871) wrote that “when man is cleaved to his root, where his place of menucha is, he has no worries.” The Sfat Emet correlates ones roots with menucha, and menucha to a worry-free life. By attaching oneself to our sources, which include the familial, historical and textual, we approach a tranquility of spirit. It has to do with tradition, with a faith that imbues one with confidence and hope for the future. The tree with deep roots grows strong. We have amongst the deepest roots of any people on earth. We will know it is our root when we achieve “menucha”, a refreshing oasis of tranquility, of strength and of peace.
May we correctly identify our true roots, cleave to them, and experience menucha and peace.
To World Bnei Akiva and an outstanding event for over 200 participants from all over the globe in Israel this past week.
When being dishonest, people can still tell the truth. Be mindful of the treacherous that do not lie. -Eric Parslow
The generation that God decided to destroy by flooding the land was considered particularly evil. The Baal Haturim on Genesis 6:11 gives an example of their behavior: Ruben would ask his friend Simon to guard his money as well as a persimmon. Helpful Simon, wanting to take good care of Ruben’s belongings would dig up the hiding place of his own treasure and place Ruben’s money and persimmon together with his own hard-earned possessions.
Later that night, Ruben would explore the grounds around helpful Simon’s property. Ruben would then detect the faint but unmistakable smell of the persimmon. Ruben, with his handy shovel, proceeds to dig out his money as well as all of helpful Simon’s treasure.
Now Ruben did not do anything that was “illegal”. There is nothing wrong with asking his friend to guard his belongings. There is nothing wrong with going around digging in public property. If by digging one should incidentally discover something of value, strictly speaking, it is ownerless and free for the taking. There isn’t even anything “illegal” with arranging things to work out that way.
However, what is patently clear is that Ruben abused and took advantage of his friend’s kindness in a most horrible way. He might have done it legally; he might have never told a lie, or gone against any laws – but it is clearly, horribly wrong.
God looks beyond the letter of the law. God doesn’t care if we follow the laws perfectly if we corrupt the spirit. God wants the heart. God wants the soul. There is an innate morality and good that is beyond what is written in any book and He wants that as well.
May we have occasions to understand and reach the spirit of the law.
To all the volunteers, contributors, organizers and participants in the Uruguay Shabbos Project. It is already a huge success and I look forward to together enjoying the fruit of our labors. Yasher Koach!
Nimrod saltó los escalones de la torre de a tres a la vez con poderosas zancadas enérgicas. Se puso de pie en la parte superior de la torre como los primeros rayos de sol que brillaban sobre ella. Toda la población de la zona vio a su cuerpo grande y musculoso tapar la monstruosa e imponente estructura. Él marcó el comienzo de un nuevo día y formalizó su condición de Rey y Dios.
Sacerdotes de Nimrod ofrecían sacrificios y libaciones convencionales. El olor de la quema de grasa animal y el incienso impregnaba el aire. Se dirigió a una habitación por debajo de la parte superior de la torre donde él consumió un delicioso desayuno de pan, carne, huevos y verduras con un apetito feroz. Se comió delante de sus lugartenientes y funcionarios, todos esperando su menor capricho. Saciado, contenido y viendo su imperio, Nimrod permitió a sus lugartenientes que informe sobre la actividad y los asuntos del día. Nimrod hizo un gesto hacia un hombre alto y delgado parado delante de sus lugartenientes, Mebtah.
“Su Majestad,” Mebtah, su principal lugarteniente, hizo una profunda reverencia,” todos los grupos de trabajo se están quedando atrás en los hitos programados. He investigado personalmente cada grupo y fui testigo de que su productividad se ha deteriorado. Mi preocupación es que sus esfuerzos se reducirán aún más. No podemos completar toda la estructura de la torre antes de que las lluvias de otoño.”
“Esto es muy preocupante,” Nimrod afirmó amenazadoramente. “¿Qué propones?”
“Mi conclusión, Majestad,” Mebtah continuó imperturbable, “es que permitimos el día semanal de descanso solicitado. Permítanme dar un ejemplo. Este ladrillo;” Mebtah tendió en su delgada mano derecha un sólido y atractivo ladrillo, “se produjo a principios de nuestra construcción. Me tomé la libertad de mantenerlo como un modelo para la futura construcción. Sin embargo,” Mebtah tendió la mano izquierda igualmente delgada, extrayendo una pieza mala de forma, fea y frágil, “este ladrillo, se produjo ayer.”
“Ya veo. ¿Y cómo se hará con un día de descanso para resolver este problema? Pensaría que nos retrasaría aún más,” dijo el rey, el ceño fruncido en su rostro rubicundo creciendo.
“Sí, Majestad,” Mebtah respondió: “un día de descanso parece en un primer momento ir contra la razón. Sin embargo, creo que la principal causa de los pobres esfuerzos es que estamos empujando a los trabajadores demaciado. Si tienen la oportunidad de recuperarse de manera consistente, estoy seguro de que veremos una mejora de la productividad.”
“¿Qué va a pasar si te equivocas, Mebtah?”
“No lo sé. Pero incluso si lo supiera, perderíamos a lo sumo un día de trabajo, su Majestad.”
“¿Y qué soluciones podríamos tratar a continuación?”
“Necesitaríamos una manera de trabajar más difícil, motivar aún más.”
Nimrod se sentó pensativo durante unos minutos, mirando Mebtah, mirando a lo lejos, y mirando a los trabajadores que realizan sus tareas a lo largo de la torre y en la planta de abajo.
Se puso en pie de repente, como un animal a punto de saltar sobre su presa.
“Mebtah, no puedo correr el riesgo de que usted está equivocado.”
“Tenemos que completar la torre antes que lleguen las lluvias.”
“Estoy completamente de acuerdo.”
“Para mostrar suavidad en este momento crítica tendría un efecto negativo en la moral.”
“Um, tal vez, su Majestad.”
“Mebtah, has sido un teniente leal y dedicado.” Nimrod dijo con una mueca irónica en su rostro.
“Sí, su Majestad.” Mebtah repentinamente confuso, no siguiendo el pensamiento de su rey, como usualmente lo hacía.
“¿Podría dar tu vida a mi orden sin dudarlo?” Preguntó Nimrod.
“¿Por qué, por supuesto, su majestad.” Mebtah respondió lentamente, sintiendo como si una trampa había saltado sobre él, pero aún así no vio sus contornos .
“Entonces comprenderás lo que voy a hacer.”
Y sin más dilación, Nimrod agarró enérgicamente el alto pero delgado Mebtah. Nimrod se aferró a la correa de la cintura de Mebtah y la prenda por el hombro y alzó Mebtah sobre su cabeza. Para Nimrod, Mebtah era tan ligero como una marioneta en manos de un niño. Nimrod se subió con Mebtah a la parte superior de la torre. Mebtah, sus ojos salvajes y confusos, se agarró con fuerza a los ladrillos en cada mano, casi a la muerte.
En la parte superior de la torre, con Mebtah sobre su cabeza, Nimrod gritó con voz atronadora.
“Preste atención a las palabras de su regla!”
“El hombre que tengo en mis manos es Mebtah, mi jefe el teniente leal.”
“Él siente que no podemos completar nuestra Torre en tiempo.”
“Él está mal, y su falta de fe, es ofensivo para los dioses.”
“Esto es lo que pasa con los que no trabajan duro, y no obedecen a los dioses.”
Nimrod, con gran ademán y drama, procedió a lanzar a Mebtah desde el techo de la torre. Los ojos de todos los trabajadores estaban en el cuerpo de Mebtah. El descenso parecía una eternidad, sin embargo, el rotundo golpe seco se produjo muy rápidamente.
En cuestión de segundos, los trabajadores empezaron corriendo como hormigas y regresaron a sus tareas con renovado vigor y energía.
Nimrod tranquilamente vuelto hacia dos de sus otros tenientes y dijo:
“Asegúrasen de traer los dos ladrillos de Mebtah a mí.”
Corrieron hacia abajo, cada uno ansioso por llegar a los ladrillos primero.
Fuentes Bíblicas :
8. Y Cus engendró a Nimrod, quien llegó a ser el primer poderoso en la tierra. 9. Este fue vigoroso cazador delante de Dios, por lo cual se dice: “Así como Nimrod, vigoroso cazador delante de Dios.” 10. Y fue el comienzo de su reino Babel, Erec, Acad y Calne, en la tierra de Sinar.
Talmud de Babilonia, Tratado Julin 89a
“Dios le dio fama a Nimrod, sin embargo, dijo: ”Ven, vamos a construir una ciudad y una torre, cuya cúspide llegue hasta el cielo… ” (Génesis 11:04)
“Asesinos no son monstruos, son hombres. Y eso es lo más aterrador de ellos.” -Alice Sebold
Hay un debate en cuanto a la diferencia moral entre el uso de las llamadas armas de destrucción masiva contra viejas armas convencionales de moda. Ambos matan, y ambos dejan a sus víctimas por igual sin vida en formas horribles, dolorosas y violentas.
Algunos argumentan sobre la hipocresía de protestar contra las armas químicas, sin dejar de ser en silencioso en cuanto a la utilización de balas, ametralladoras, tanques, morteros, artillería, cohetes lanzados desde granadas y misiles de diferentes formas, tamaños, cargas útiles y capacidades de matar. No voy a entrar en las motivaciones políticas o económicas por las cuales algunos conflictos reciben más atención.
El Netziv en Génesis 9:05 sin embargo, hace una clara diferenciación no tanto en cuanto al tipo de armas de muerte, sino más bien en cuanto a los roles de los participantes en un escenario de guerra. Matar a no combatientes es un crimen, no importa la forma en que son asesinados, y debe ser castigado con todo el rigor. Quien mata a un enemigo, no es un asesino y no conlleva ninguna sanción o incluso culpa. El Netziv va tan lejos como para afirmar que incluso los líderes que envían jóvenes a una guerra no existencialmente crítico, en el que saben que van a perder soldados, no se lleva a cabo la culpa.
La cuestión no es tanto las armas que se utilizan, sino contra quien se está utilizando. El asesinato es asesinato, no importa la forma en que se ha comprometido. Los soldados en el otro lado, siempre han sabido que desde el momento en que se pusieron los uniformes que pueden llegar a ser víctimas de la guerra – no las víctimas de asesinato.
Que Dios proteja a nuestros soldados estén donde estén, y mantener a los no combatientes lejos de los asesinos fanáticos.
Para Nadine Segall y Diego Turn en la boda próxima. Es un honor que me han pedido conducir la ceremonia.
“Murderers are not monsters, they’re men. And that’s the most frightening thing about them.” -Alice Sebold
There is a debate as to the moral difference between using so-called weapons of mass destruction versus old fashioned conventional weapons. They both kill; they both leave their victims equally lifeless in painful, violent, gruesome ways.
Some argue as to the hypocrisy of protesting chemical weapons, while remaining silent as to the use of bullets, machine guns, tanks, mortars, artillery, rocket-launched grenades and missiles of various shapes, sizes, payloads and flesh-tearing capabilities. I will not get into the political or economic motivations as to why some conflicts get more attention.
The Netziv on Genesis 9:5 however, does make a clear differentiation not so much as to the type of weapons of death, but rather as to the roles of the participants in a theatre of war. According to the Netziv, to kill a non-combatant is murder, no matter how they are killed, and should be punishable to the full extent. To kill a combatant is not murder and does not carry any penalty or even guilt. The Netziv goes so far as to state that even leaders sending young men into a non-existentially critical war, where they know they will lose soldiers, are not held to blame.
The question therefore is less about the weapons being used but rather who they are being used on. Murder is murder no matter how it is committed. Soldiers on the other hand, have always known that from the moment they put on their uniforms they may become casualties of war – not murder victims.
May God protect our soldiers wherever they are, and keep non-combatants away from murdering zealots.
To Nadine Segall and Diego Turn on their upcoming wedding. I’m honored they’ve asked me to conduct the ceremony.
“There are incalculable resources in the human spirit, once it has been set free.” –Hubert Humphrey
After the cataclysm of The Flood, the descendants of Noah congregated in the plains of Shinar within the Fertile Crescent, and built a city. A city with a tower that reached for the heavens. It was meant to be a city for all mankind, where all of humanity could be united in peace and harmony in one place. God however, had other plans. He confused the languages of the idealistic builders which led to the dispersion of mankind across the face of the Earth. The structure became known as the Tower of Babel and it was never completed.
Most Rabbinic commentators view the effort of the Tower of Babel as one of hubris, of man reaching to compete with God, to supplant God. They view the dispersion as a punishment. Ibn Ezra has a different take.
Ibn Ezra (on Genesis 11:3) feels that there was no sin in the construction of the Tower and neither was there a punishment. Man in his youthful idealism sought to unite all people. To unite them around a physical structure that could be perceived by all. To keep the people concentrated in one place. Not to have divisions, or borders, or geographic differences, or national allegiances. They wished for a utopian unity of all people. There was no sin in these goals – they just weren’t what God planned for mankind – certainly not at that stage of history.
God wanted Man to cover the Earth, to reach for the peaks of Everest and the plains of the Serengeti, to spread and divide, to form tribal and national identities, to have unique sub-groupings of families and peoples, to diversify and differentiate. God did not want a world of people with the same language, thoughts, opinions and tastes. He wanted a pageant of ideas, a cacophony of voices, a symphony of traditions. The dispersion of the Tower of Babel was not a punishment. It was a blessing.
It has given us a world full of color, and sound, and discovery, and delight, in almost every corner of the globe. Imagine how much poorer we’d all be, if we were still congregated in some megalopolis, looking up at a tower in the plains of southern Iraq?
Thank God He kicked us out of there.
To my brand new nephew, Azriel Zechariah Tocker, to his parents Ilan and Rachel, to his grandparents and to his four older brothers. Mazal Tov!
To his Honor, Judge Menachem Lieberman on his promotion to Lieutenant Colonel (Sgan Aluf) of the IDF. May he keep executing justice, strongly and fairly.