Category Archives: liturgy

Wild Strawberries for Tisha B’Av

I just received an email that Drisha will be screening and discussing the Ingmar Bergman film Wild Strawberries at 4pm on Tisha beAv. I take this as another indication of our relating to God as a therapeutic deity.

In the 1970’s Conservative congregations spoke of Jewish history and the Holocaust on Tisha Be-av. Reading of Josephus and Ghetto diaries. During this time period, Rav Soloveitchik spoke of the ontic catastrophe of the destruction of the Temple and the existential state of acquiring emotions in a case of “old mourning” and turned it into a day of shiurim on mourning and the mikdash.
Flashy Rabbis gave lectures on “why do we still mourn now that we have a state of Israel?”

By the 1990’s Centrist Orthodoxy used the talks of Rav Soloveitchik to speak of Jewish History and the Holocaust, or discussing the halakhot of the land of Israel. Holocaust films were shown and protests are held at the UN and embassies. The halakhic God of Lonely Man of Faith gave way to a God of History, Land, and War.
On the more yeshivish side, there are lectures on hastening the geulah- either through not talking lashon hara or not doing any of the activities that hasten it.

In the last few years, there has been a shift to the brokenness of the world. Renewal announcements ask: How do we deal with the brokenness, trauma, and injustice in the world. Yeshivish announcements offer sessions on the destruction in our lives and restoring family and teens in trouble. And now Drisha is leading a discussion about Wild Strawberries, a movie in which the protagonist a retired medical professor sees his life as loveless and without meaning. He is haunted by memories, brought on by dreams and by people he meets, about the chances for love, family, and forgiveness that he messed up. Tisha Be-Av is a chance to undo psychic damage.

One path that is not being continued is the Tisha BeAv rally held several years ago in Jerusalem in which Rabbis Lichtenstein, Cherlow, Lau, and others as an occasion for justice. They denounced the lack of in Israel of worker’s rights, the human trafficking, the oppression of the poor, of the Arab other, of unfair business practices. The event did not have continuity. (Can someone send me the links from Haaretz, Ynet or the speeches?)
Rabbi SR Hirsch also emphasized the ethical since the prophets denounced Israel for its immorality.

As a side topic- Here is Reb Shlomo from 1992 asking for intimacy with God, to heal from the pain of the Holocaust, to rebuild the Temple. It’s longing is palpable.

It is possible to do everything G-d wants you to do and not to be intimate with G-d. You know, beautiful friends, Mount Sinai is where G-d told us what to do. But Jerusalem, the Holy Temple, is where we are intimate with G-d. The Holy Temple is the headquarters for being close to G-d and to each other. But when the house is destroyed, there is no place to be intimate anymore. And gevalt! Are we longing and crying to be intimate with G-d, with every Jew, with every word of the Torah, and, one day, with the whole world…On Tisha b’Av the Messiah comes. On Tisha b’Av until the Six Million you only heard the sound of the destruction of the Temple; you could not hear the footsteps of the Messiah. Today, the voice of destruction gets further and further away, the voice of the coming of the Messiah gets closer and closer. Let it be this year that the whole world will be fixed and G-d’s holy intimacy comes back into the world and into our lives. You know, beautiful friends, I’m so proud of our moshav and our shul because they are filled with prayers, with so much dancing and joy, but also with so many tears begging G-d for intimacy with every word of the Torah with every Jew, with every human being, with all of nature. I have a feeling it will be this year.

Shlomo offers an undifferentiated healing love- primordial and oceanic.
Viewing Wild Strawberries offers self-scrutiny of one’s wrong choices and how does one let go of hindrances that prevent healing. One sees that one’s choices are the cause of one’s meaninglessness, therefore a person needs to take responsibility, a therapeutic mussar.

Updated- One week later Drisha sent out an announcement that they will be showing a Holocaust movie and not Wild Strawberries.

Copyright © 2010 Alan Brill • All Rights Reserved

R. Moshe Cordovero on the Amidah.

R. Yosef Karo writes that he followed the kavvanot of the Ramak.

In contrast, to Provençal method where there is an ascent to tiferet or binah. In Cordovero’s method, as mentioned above, the shekhinah itself is raised and the entire system collapses up like the folding up of a telescope. One folds shekhinah up beyond nezah and hod which makes her the same as tiferet, not that there is only tiferet or that she merged into tiferet, but that she has been raised to the point of tiferet.  From tiferet, the shekhinah together with tiferet receive from an influx from binah. There is  loss of differentiation and integration within binah. This ascent during the silent prayer allows the entrance and then the merging of the soul into the supernal realms.

The passage contains the division of ADNY into AY, the Infinite oneness found within ten sefirot showing unity of keter, tiferet, and malkhut, and DN the forces of judgment and materiality showing the emanation process as privation from the Divine goodness.

Here we have words of the amidah especially the name A-donai (A-d-n-y) divided into Aleph for the top three sefirot, and daled-nun as judgment of the world, and yod as the ten sefirot. The infinite light (aleph) above descends to the earthy world of judgment (daled-nun) through the means of the ten sefirot (yod). The infinite light cascades down in emanation as the discrete units of the three Divine names, E-hyah, Y-H-V-H, and A-donai.

ADNY, this name is malkhut.

Meditate that She is now higher than nezah and hod, as She is silently rising between the two shepherds during the unification of the recitation of the Shema. The mystery of prayer is their literal union, that they completely unite. The individual is silent because the union is in silence. Voice (kol), tiferet, is not heard outside at all,. The mystery of this verse is to open the door of the palace for the worshiper to enter inside. Thus, he knocks on the opening of the palace gate, holy of holies, in order to enter inside, to unify and bind. As it is known, inside the palace is malkhut, bound with the three fathers whose mystery is love (ahavah).

One knocks and says, “my Lord” (ADNY), who is malkhut, as she is the aspect bound in the mystery of daled nun that she is the mystery of alef, which is the name eh-yeh in binah and the mystery of yud, which is Y-H-V-H in tiferet. This is why she is called Ado-nai, tied to three names, Eh-yeh, Y-H-V-H, Ado-nai on nezah and hod.

“My lips” are nezah and hod;

“open” (tiftah) from inside the palace. These are the openings of palace of the gates of righteousness so that I may enter them and praise Y-H (Psalms 118:19).

“and my mouth” (u’fi) for through the opening of the lips the mouth is formed, which is malkhut. Since She does not have a mouth without open lips, immediately you will see malkhut.

Immediately, “will express” (yaggid), from the side of hokhmah, which is the mystery of gimmel daled, seven sefirot GYD, a drop from the brains that are drawn down in the mystery of semen that shoots like an arrow.

First Blessing

The goal of the first blessing of the silent amidah is to draw down from binah into the lower sefirot of yesod and malkhut.

The following paragraph is a note written above the liturgy, so that the reader does not misunderstand the process and think that one is still just connecting the lower to the higher sefirot, The entire first berakhah is not only in binah, but in the depths of binah; while the other mentioned sefirot are all within binah. The imagery is of the infinite king, a cosmic deity, who is so great, that there are many aspects (bekhinot) , called inner limbs. This passage is not included in the first Rosh Hashanah commentary  and may be by another hand, but it does express the characteristics of the practice of the Cordovero intentions.

This entire blessing is in the depths of binah until “shield of Abraham” that She descends into hesed. Whenever it says that [the pray-er] goes down into malkhut and the avot, it is all hidden in binah. For the first blessing is the first principle of the king, and all the higher inner limbs are included in it. Thus, she will have many aspects.

Cordovero wrote notes above the words Bless and You explaining how the blessings within the amidah work.  He reiterates that his method is to go from top to bottom during blessings drawing down from the eyn sof to malkhut.

“Bless” During the amidah, one should direct “bless” down from the Ein Sof to yesod including all ten sefirot from the Source of everything. The power to bring down influence from on high until malkhut below depends on thought.

This is why the Zohar says that one should not start at the level of “Your face,” so that you do not admonished, God forbid. Should he start “bless” from bottom-up, standing in din, then the going bottom-up is din. Rather, start from the top and go before His face below; this is the mystery of “blessed” from top-down to repair it beforehand with influx and sweetening its judgments.

Energy is drawn down from the top three sefirot to the middle six, first as keter, hokhmah, and binah into tiferet, then in the middle blessings one draws daat the animating vitality of the world into the twelve-sided version of tiferet, and in the concluding blessings of the amidah one brings the spiritual energy into malkhut.

Yesod includes yesod malkhut (YM) from keter until yesod seals this world of yesod malkhut from the world of the male, spreading top-down.

Blessed (Barukh)

Malkhut is the world of the female. Alef (A) is keter; tav (T) is hesed, binah, gedulah, gevurah; hei (H) is tiferet until malkhut.

Are You (Atah; ATH)

Tiferet, which binds together male and female from the bottom up.

Lord (Y-H-V-H)

Ein Sof keter of keter:

yud hei vav hei (YUD HY VYV HY); [72]

alef hei yud hei (ALF HA YUD HA); [143]

yud hei vav hei (YUD HA VAV HA); [45]

alef dalet nun yud (ALF DLT NUN YUD). [#zzz]

Bind head to head YAHH-VYHHhokhmah and binah.

Bind body to body YAHD-UNHYtiferet and malkhut.

Binah

Our God (e-lo-heinu)

Hokhmah that lights up binah

And God of (vei-lo-hei)

In the mystery of her three roots, gedulah, gevurah and tiferet inside her.

Our fathers (avoteinu)

Hesed of hokhmah bound in hesed of binah.

God of (e-lo-hei) Abraham (avraham)

Gevurah of hokhmah bound in gevurah of binah.

God of (elo-hei) Isaac (yizhak)

Tiferet of hokhmah bound in tiferet of binah.

And God of (vei-lo-hei)  Jacob (ya’akov).

Mystery of three fathers revealed in the great binah of gedulah

The God  (ha-e-l) The great (ha-gadol)

Gevurah

The mighty (ha-gibbor)

Tiferet

And the awesome (ve-ha-nora)

To bring them influence and blessing from the source of the right of keter, called or zah, the mystery of yud in the name yud hei vav hei (YUD HY VYV HY) [72]

God on high (e-l elyon)

Who brings influence from hokhmah to binah

Benefactor of (gomeil)

Hasadim that are great and give light, that her aspect is from the right, hesed; and all the aspects from her side are kind

Great kindness (hasadim tovim)

From the source of binah of keter, which is the name alef hei yud hei (ALF HA YUD HA) [143]

And possesses all (vekoneih ha-kol)

The sprouting of three fathers, all hasadim from the highest white light.

And remembers the kindness of the fathers (vezokheir hasdei avot)

Mystery of the name yud hei vav hei (YUD HA VAV HA) [45] of keter, vav of the name of arikh anpin and keter revealed

And brings redemption (u’meivi go’eil)

Nezah and hod, children of the three fathers

To the sons (livnei) of their sons (veneihem)

Meditate on spreading the last letter hei in the name Y-H-V-H of keter

For the sake of His name (lema’an shemo)

From there, spreading out the exiled malkhut who will be bound between two arms.

In love (be’ahavah).

Now return to unify from bottom to top through hokhmah and binah as one. Malkhut bound with malkhut of keter.

King (melekh)

Tiferet bound to tiferet of keter yud hei vav hei (YUD HA VAV HA) [45]

Helper (ozeir)

Gevurah bound in the name Eh-yeh of keter

And savior (u-moshia)

Hesed bound in the mystery of the highest hesed of keter, yud hei vav hei (YUD HY VYV HY).[72]

And Shield (u-magein).

Yesod including all ten sefirot from the world of the male

Blessed (barukh)

Malkhut including all ten sefirot from the world of the female

Are You (atah)

Going up to unite in keter until Ein Sof

Lord (Y-H-V-H)

YAHD-UNHY; YAHA-VYHH;

alef dalet nun yud (ALF DLT NUN YUD); [#zz]

yud hei vav hei (YUD HA VAV HA);[45]

alef hei yud hei yud hei vav hei (ALF HA YUD HA YUD HY VYV HY).[#]

Bind three fathers of malkhut in hesed to bring everything out from binah and bring them to hesed.

Shield of Abraham (magein avraham).


Copyright © 2010 Alan Brill • All Rights Reserved

Rabbi Eliezer Ashkenazi on Pour out thy Wrath

Rabbi Eliezer Ashkenazi (1513-1585), rabbi in Egypt, Italy and Poland, was a rational thinker and major influence in his era. He wrote an important Biblical commentary and defended the traditional medieval rationalism against Maharal. The following passage played a role in subsequent early modern legal discussions and seems to have been forgotten in twentieth century discussions. Ashkenazi removes his, and our, current gentiles from the curse.

“Pour out thy wrath upon the nations”

Some of the Gentiles among whom we are exiled under their protection have thought that God forbid we are cursing them.

It only applies to the nations that do not know Him, that deny the Exodus from Egypt because they don’t accept the miracles and wonders. It is quite clear that the Gentiles among whom we are exiled all know about the Exodus and believe in it, and know its details…We only curse the idol worshipers who don’t believe in creation and who destroyed the Temple, not the nations who became Edom and Ishmael (Christianity and Islam) because they were still not created…But now our Gentiles and the Ishmaelites know God, and acknowledge the Exodus, forefend for us to curse them from our religion.
And when we do curse those who afflict us and unjustly persecute us, that curse is not from our religion, forefend, but as a person who curses one who afflicts another…
Our holy Torah announces this in the name of the head of the faithful [Abraham] that God does not desire this, as it is written, “Will you destroy the righteous with the wicked?” And the master of the prophets [Genesis 18:23] said, “One person will sin and the whole community should be cut off?” And from the writings it is clarified that we are not allowed from our religion to curse nations that acknowledge the Exodus from Egypt and know God even if they have not received the Torah…
That is why it was not permitted for Israel to conquer the land of Canaan until after the Exodus, that even after they know about God they did not believe or accept….

Rabbi Ashkenazi acknowledges that Gentiles accept God, creation and even the providential Exodus story. Ashkenazi draws a distinction between the negative attitude toward Gentiles in the Talmud and the attitude toward contemporary Christians by stating that Gentiles at the time of the Temple were idolaters without a belief in God. He further distances himself from prior teachings of contempt by stating that the curses that the Midrash heaps upon Rome have no connection to the later nations of Edom. Ashkenazi proclaims that Jews do not curse others. Even when Christians persecute Jews, the persecution stems not from their religion but from unfortunate occurrences between people. One cannot hold a people accountable for the injustice of some of them, and certainly one cannot hold their religion responsible for the injustice committed by certain members of it.

Ashkenazi also explains the four sons as the wise son is Isaac, the wicked son is Christianity, the simple son is Jacob, and the son that does not know how to ask is Islam. There is a recent dissertation written under the direction of Menachem Kellner on Ashkenazi, Neta Ecker, Universalism in the Thought of Rabbi Eliezer Ashkenazi” Unpublished Dissertation Haifa University 2010)

The importance of this passage of Rabbi Eliezer Ashkenazi is that it is quoted as a source text by R. Moshe Rivkes in the eighteenth-century as a general halakhah.

The rabbis of the Talmud meant by the term ‘idolaters’ the pagans who lived in their time, who worshipped the stars and the constellations and did not believe in the Exodus from Egypt and in the creation of the world out of nothing. But the nations under whose benevolent shadow we, the Jewish nation, are exiled and are dispersed among them, they do believe in the creation of the world out of nothing and the Exodus from Egypt and in the essentials of faith, and their whole intention is toward the Maker of heaven and earth, as other authorities have written…
So rather than a prohibition not to save them [if they were idolaters], on the contrary, we are required to pray for their welfare as Rabbi Eliezer Ashkenazi wrote at length on the passage from the Passover haggadah “Pour out thy Wrath.” King David prayed to God to pour out his wrath on the idolater who did not believe in creation from nothing or the signs and wonders that God performed for us in Egypt and at the giving of the Torah. The nations
In whose shadow we live and under whose wings we are protected do believe in all of this. Therefore, we are always required to pray for the welfare and success of the kingdom and the ministers, in all their provinces. Indeed, Maimonides ruled according to Rabbi Joshua, that the pious of the nations have a portion in the world to come. (Be’er haGolah to Hoshen Mishpat 425:5)

Translation and comments – Copyright © 2010 Alan Brill • All Rights Reserved

Pour out thy Love Upon the Nations and Miriam at the Seder-Updated

Years ago before the computerized library age, I was asked to check if a certain library in Europe possibly had a copy of a small book “Shefokh Ahavatkha” by Chaim Bloch, the famous Neturei Karta forger. Bloch claimed in another work that he wrote such work and it provided evidence for a medieval tradition of “Pour out thy Love upon the nations.” Since he forged the Anti-Zionist letters and was involved in the Kherson forgeries, it was more of a wild goose chase. What is interesting is that in recent years both the Mekhon Hartman Haggadah and the Midrasha Oranim include the forged version in their haggadot, with a very mild caveat that “scholars debate the issue.” They like the universal sentiment regardless of its source. To see it in the Hartman’s Haggadah see pages 142-143 in A Different Night.

This year I noticed that in 2009 an Israeli paper helped spread the false story as true, So I was gratified to see there is a nice article by Rabbi David Golinkin on the topic. Golinkin also has a nice discussion of the custom of dressing up a Elijah, but his discussion of the forged Maharal Haggadah and the prayer for salvation did not catch that one of prime reasons for the forged Maharal Haggadah was to spread the Kotzker-Izbitz practice of drinking a fifth cup.

In Hatza’ah L’Seder, a new Israeli Haggadah published by the staff of the Midrasha at Oranim Teachers’ College in 2000, the following addition appears after the three traditional Shefokh verses:

A piyyut which exhibits a different attitude to non-Jews (found in a Haggadah manuscript from the early 16th century):

Pour out your love on the nations who know You
And on kingdoms who call Your name.
For the good which they do for the seed of Jacob
And they shield Your people Israel from their enemies.
May they merit to see the good of Your chosen}
And to rejoice in the joy of Your nation.

This prayer was first published by the bibliographer Naftali Ben-Menahem in 1963. It was supposedly discovered by Rabbi Hayyim Bloch (1881-ca. 1970) in a beautiful manuscript on parchment from the estate of Rabbi Shimshon Wertheimer (1658-1724).

The Haggadah was supposed to have been edited in Worms in 1521 by “Yehudah b”r Yekutiel, the grandson of Rashi”, but the manuscript was lost during the Holocaust.

However, a number of scholars have pointed our that this prayer was probably invented by Hayyim Bloch himself, who was born in Galicia and later moved to Vienna (ca. 1917) and New York (1939). He was one of the rabbis who published the Kherson letters attributed to the Besht and his disciples, which later turned out to be forgeries. He also published a letter from the Maharal of Prague, whose authenticity was already disproved by Gershom Scholem.

Finally, from 1959-1965 he published three volumes containing over 300 letters of great rabbis opposed to Zionism, but Rabbi Shemuel Hacohen Weingarten has proved that these “letters” were invented by Rabbi Bloch himself. Therefore, we may assume that “Shefokh Ahavatkha” was not composed in Worms in 1521, but rather by Rabbi Hayyim Bloch ca. 1963.

On the other hand, the traditions of connecting Miriam to the Seder are traditional as are customs connecting Bitya to the Seder. From an article in Ynet in 2006.

The most basic practice was a piece of fish placed on the Seder plate to commemorate Miriam.

We have two cooked foods on the seder table – an egg and a shank bone.The Talmud explains this as reflecting the holiday’s two sacrifices, the special Paschal lamb and the general holiday offering.

It turns out, however, that the number of dishes at the seder wasn’t fixed.

Rabbi Sherira Gaon of 10th-century Babylon noted a custom of putting three foods on the plate.
“Those three cooked foods are fish, meat, and an egg corresponding to the foods that Israel will eat in the Time to Come; fish corresponding to Leviathan, egg to Ziz (an enormous mythic and fabulous bird), meat corresponding to wild bull.” The foods symbolizes the mythic creatures from the realms of sea, air and land that will be eaten in the Meal of the Righteous in the Messianic times.

A second reason offered by R. Sherira , however, is one that resonates more strongly with our generation: “There are those who put an additional cooked food in memory of Miriam, as it says, “And I sent before you Moses, and Aaron, and Miriam” (Micah 6, 4). According to this, Miriam and the role she fulfilled in the redemption from Egypt is represented by the third cooked food on the seder table.

Another rabbi cognizant of the importance of women to the Passover story was Rabbi Abraham Grate of Prague. His 1708 Haggadah commentary explained several seder rituals, including the initial hand washing, as referring to Pharaoh’s daughter Bitya and her rescue of Moses from the Nile.

And if these proto-feminist commentaries are from relatively forgotten sources, how to explain the fact that a basic interpretation of haroset revolves around women – and almost nobody knows it? According to the Talmud, haroset is in memory of the apple tree, and Rashi in his commentary makes reference to the midrash in which, the women would go to their working husbands and would conceive children between the fields. When the women were ready to give birth, they would leave their homes out of fear of the Egyptians. They would lie underneath the apple trees and give birth. Apple haroset, then, is about the fact that the Jewish women did not lose hope in those difficult times.

Update- It turns out that Jonathan Sacks also has the pc version of “pour out your love.” but he puts it below the line as an “there is a manuscript.” The Tabori JPS haggadah places this version in the introduction

The official source is Heichal l’divrei chakhamim upithgameihem (1948) where Bloch adduces this quote, and in the extensive footnote
says he published a reproduction of this page-and the shaar of the manuscript in his fictitious book Der Judenhas. Here is the source Look at both pages 591 and 592.

Marc-Alain Ouaknin, Haggadah

One of the most interesting commentaries on the haggadah of the last decade was the one by
Rabbi Marc-Alain Ouaknin, Haggadah: The Passover Story (Paperback)

Ouaknin, a follower of Levinas and Lacan who teaches at Bar Ilan, when he is not busy writing profitable coffee table books, does some serious engagement with contemporary French thought, especially in his The Burnt Book. For him, the Talmudic project of the Eastern European beit midrash has no closure, ever changing, ever forgetful and driven by desire. He freely mixes R. Hayyim of Volozhin, Rav Nahman, Reb Zadok with psychoanalysis, symbolist poetry, and semiotics. Ouaknin has a reading of Judaism as indeterminacy. “Man must reject the illusion of thinking that life is already written and the way is drawn.” He are various fragments from the web that give some indiation of his approach to the Passover haggadah.

My favorite section is his explanation of Yachatz, breaking the middle matzah, as the Lacanian Real sending us on our quest through the seder for our ever receding Real , creating a symbolic order in the Lacan sense. Breaking the matzah creates an open space for our symbolic registry to occur. We are throw in the seder just as we are thrown into our quest for the recovery of the real.

On the telling of the Passover story, he writes:
“The words of telling emerge from that break, from the empty place left between the two pieces of matzah.”
The act of telling the story of the Exodus occurs through an exchange of conversation and ideas. We take the one whole matzah and break it in half because discussion and conversation occur when there is a minimum of two — me and the other.

On opening the door for Elijah, Ouaknin quotes the story in which Elijah goes alone to a cave on Mount Horev in the desert. God brings a great wind, and then an earthquake, and then a fire—but God was not in any of these. Instead, after the fire, he finds God in ‘a still, small voice.’ (1 Kings 19:11-13) Ouaknin comments that one must reach the level of Elijah, self-forgetfulness in the desert.

One must have sharpened one’s hearing, to be led to the absolute level of attention, to become capable of perceiving such a tenuous breath. One must have sounded oneself, have explored oneself in the darkest places of consciousness, to the furthest of thoughts, to have made the circuit of one’s inner domain many times, in constantly growing but nevertheless tightening circles, so as to attain the intimate desert of self-forgetfulness, to be able to be stroked lightly, touched, visited by such an inaudible sigh.
The point of concluding the seder with opening the door for Elijah is to signify that this journey in ‘the intimate desert of self-forgetfulness’ is the ultimate intention of the seder. While we aim to find ourselves on seder night, to reconnect with the story of our people and see ourselves as having personally left Egypt, remembering who we are paradoxically requires losing ourselves at the same time.

For his approach to “my forefathers worshiped idols” he quotes J.L. Marion about idols as false forms that distort reality and fill in the gap between us and the divine.
What the idol tries to reduce is the gap and the withdrawal of the divine… Filling in for the absence of the divinity, the idol brings the divine within reach, ensures its presence, and, eventually, distorts it. Its completion finishes the divine off… The idol lacks the distance that identifies and authenticates the divine as such–as that which does not belong to us, but which happens to us. (Ouaknin, The Burnt Book, p. 65)

Lord Jonathan Sacks on the Siddur

1] When I think of certain prayer books commentaries, I sometimes think of them with a few words. Hirsch – moral aspiration, Birnbaum – historical anti-Semitism Artscroll – Hashem centered,   Rebbe – attachment to God

For Sacks, the words are hope, faith, and dignity.

Full disclosure – I received a copy from the publisher after my last post on the idea of witness in his thought. In short, my reaction is that his books are generally well crafted and delivered publicly, but here we have short comments not fully explained or justified.

2]  Collective Prayer

His message throughout the siddur is collective faith, we join with others. Prayer concerns the past and future of the community, the people Israel. The prayer is adoration and praise for God – our highest aspirations for the Jewish people. He favors Yehudah Halevi– prayer shows a God of history and human events. We learn from prayer the need to maintain faith, hope, dignity, and pride.

What is prayer? Prayer changes us – it is self-fulfillment He opens the book with a definition that prayer is conversation with God and never actually uses that definition in the book. From his commentary, prayer is listening and shaping oneself from the liturgy. Symbols need meditations therefore many do the yehi ratzon (cf. Hirsch).

His commentary is not very spiritual, emotional, or experiential, despite his use of these words. For example, he states the repetition of the amidah is the peak of religious experience because it contains the kedushah which was based on prophetic and mystic visions. Liturgy is not experience or experiential. Nor will one find much solace or human struggle in the prayer book.

Like the commentaries on Book of Common Prayer – he offers Biblical teachings applied in everyday life. The book is not very Rabbinic.

The commentary on the weekday shaharit is on the history of the liturgy and on the Shabbat shaharit is more theological.

3] Justice

His vision is that prayer will teach us personal and social responsibilitie. There is a cosmic moral standard of justice  God’s eternal values for the affairs of humankind-are justice to the oppressed, food to the hungry, freedom to captives, and hope to those at the margins of society.” Korban (sacrifice) is the pledging of ourselves to do his will. Peace the ultimate hope of monotheism. [Wow – this is nice universalism and good ethical monotheism- will it mold Orthodoxy?]

He writes: We believe that “The world is the product of single will , not the blind clash of conflicting elements”.[what of divine mandated clashes and exclusivism?]

He writes “Havdalah means making distinctions”, “to make order out of chaos, God wants us to be creative.” That is great homiletic but will it encourage the production of what the wider world calls creativity?

4] Revelation

Sacks writes that in contrast to the universal demands on Jews, Revelation is particular – it is our covenant of love with God – a relationship.Torah is our written constitution, collective memory, and record of covenant- not just sacred literature The message, however, of revelation is the universal justice, compassion, inalienable rights for the downtrodden.[This is the point were I find this commentary as selected quotes from his books on global ethics. Nothing is substantiated or justified here but they are justified in the books.In addition, the books come from speeches delivered in public to answer a need. These comments have no criteria for their inclusion.]

5] Christian locutions

a) Sacks writes that Resurrection is hope “ Jews kept hope alive, hope kept the Jewish people alive.”We have a divine promise and hope defeats tragedy

This is one of my pet peeve – tikvah and spes are not the same even if both translated as hope.

The former word tikvah is restoration –

[There is a debate of Radak and Ramban is if has the same meaning as kav – to make a line.]

Nahmanides says that just as a blueprint has lines drawn so too our tikvah for the national redemption is already drawn. Christian meaning of spes is of unseen things, the future, as part of the supernatural virtues of faith hope, and charity. For Christians hope is a virtue, for Jews, God (or Torah) has kept up Jewish hope for the redemption. One hopes in God, one does not hope as a virtue.

Sacks uses the word in several places in the Christian sense  and even has locutions like faith, hope, and dignity – cf the Christian faith, hope and charity

The use of the word hope in this sense is also used often in Shakespeare

b) On page 146 – he writes we are your witnesses, the bearers of your name. (Jews don’t use it like this)- see my prior post

c) He uses the phrase “free air of hope” – page 152 coined by the Irish theologian George Tyrrell (1861 – 1909).

6] He views religious language as metaphor

In many places he has a variant of the following: God is unknowable and belong words – the goal is to get behind words.

7] As a book

Well…A large number of quotes are quite cryptic – he likes good phrases better than good comments. Many times one cannot make out what it means. The full ideas in other books are here reduced to bon mots. Comments sometimes say “it may be” “may reflect” – so the effect is a more of a homily than a commentary.

Sometimes he cites his sources – in one case there are three cited names in a single  passage—and then there are many pages without a single citation. Yet, in his other works he cites the author of the interpretation. It seems arbitrary.

8] Sources and comparisons

a) On the topic of liturgy and spontaneity, he surprisingly does not use the usually rabbinic passages on keva and kavvanah but discusses the topic through passages the in Bible. Source seems to be an unnamed book on the Bible or early Rabbinics.

b) He cites historical material from a much much earlier decade with any new insight- he does not references to Yakovson (Jacobson), Abrahams, Elbogen or other works that he relies on.

c) Conspicuous in its absence is the Lubavitcher Rebbe since Sacks relied heavily on the Rebbe in earlier works and adapted a volume of the Rebbe on parashah. But Sacks makes prayer thankfulness and adoration – and does not follow the Rebbe that prayer is connection to God.

d) Sacks noticeably quotes Rav Soloveitchik in his introduction, as if to claim continuity or authenticity, but does not follow his approach to prayer in the commentary.For Soloveitchik, Prayer is the personal existential cry in which there is personal redemption through the tefilot and more importantly, the Torah give us words that raise us above our natural inarticulate grunts of animals.

e) Isaiah Berlin on negative freedom and positive freedom – is unattributed here, and presented as Hazal. In addition, he states that Jews as eternal from Tolstoy (in an earlier work he credited the citation to Hertz quoting Tolstoy) This quote of Tolstoy is also in Isaiah Berlin.But quoting that Jews are eternal from Tolstoy—and not from Krokhmal, Kook, Rosenzweig or Reines—reduced it to a bon mot.

f) In Alenu, he explains “leTaken Olam bemalkhut Shadai” as Lurianic tikkun – is it from Elliott Dorff in My People’s Prayer Book?

9] The sections in the introduction on study, mysticism, and history was less than adequate and quite vague. The section on mysticism could be from more than half a century ago. It has a tone of “Mysticism devalues world”

He takes Kabbalat Shabbat from Elbogen recognized by Elbogen’s its mistaken reliance on Solomon Schechter.  And one is not inspired to confidence when he writes that the source of Ushpezin is a nebulous “Jewish mystical tradition.”

10]  Now what of his frequent citation of Franz Rosenzweig on creation, revelation, redemption? I don’t get this one.

This triad is originally from Hermann Cohen where the triad is a divine meaning to creation in the natural order, the revelation of ethics in the human mind, and human work to make the world a better place. (One finds this Cohen triad occasionally in Rav Soloveitchik;s homilies.)

For Rosenzweig, it is God presence as meaning that negates nihilism, revelation is human love for God, and the liturgical fulfillment of eternity. Prayer along with poetry and love are means to let us be existentially human. For Gershom Scholem, it is a creation of emanation and tzimtzum, revelation of creativity and antinomianism, and redemption through apocalyptic change.

But for Sacks, it is God in nature, God revealed in Torah and prayer, and our redemption in history and life. Where is this mild version from and why bother linking it to Rosenzweig? I have not checked yet, but Netiv Binah by Jacobson and Taamei Hamizvot by Heinneman both combine Hirsch and Rosenzweig into a milder form.

Yet the way Sacks frames the triad it can just as well be Albo’s God, Revelation, and Reward or Cordovero’s God, Torah and Israel. There is a triad in Rabbinic thought and liturgy and in the Rabbinic reading of the Bible which has been formulated different ways in different eras. (see Max Kadushin’s Organic Thinking on this thinking in triads) I am not sure why Sacks attributed his reading to Rosenzweig when Albo or Cordovero would have better served his needs.

But then I found on the web a position similar to Sacks—“Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe explained that mans’ relationship with G-d is three-dimensional; we know Him through His creation, His revelation at Sinai, and His promise of redemption.” Did both Sacks and Wolbe take it from Jacobson or Heinneman? Or another secondary source produced by German Jewry? Hmm..

In short, I like the Orthodox universalism, but will stick to reading his longer works,

Service for Thanksgiving Day 1945 – Rabbi David de Sola Pool

For those who can still get their congregations to add a service this week:

Here is the 1945 Minhat Todah- Service for Thanksgiving Day, Congregation Shearith Israel, NY by Rabbi David de Sola Pool.

Happy Holiday- Let me know if anyone uses it.

Thanksgiving Service- 1945 Rabbi de Sola Pool (pdf of full service)

There are several good sermons from Rabbi Leo Jung for Thanksgiving Sabbath and a couple of shiurim on the web from Rav Soloveitchik from the Wednesday on the eve of Thanksgiving. Here is one of my favorites from Nov. 22, 1975

Update 2017 

in 2016, I posted a 1905 service for the Sabbath before Thanksgiving written by Rev H. Pereira Mendes of the Spanish- Portuguese synagogue of NY

And in 2014, I posted the Thanksgiving service from Kehilath Jeshurun 1940 and prayer from Rabbi Joseph Lookstein.

Avot, Ibn Ezra, and Being a Mentch

This year Haaretz did not translate their 2009 Rosh Hashanah Jewish culture supplement with its book reviews. The Hebrew edition had some interesting articles, including one by Etkes and a funky one by Haviva Pedaya. But this week they did translate their November 2009 literary supplement. There was a certain gentleness to all their choices. Here are three of the reviews.

The first review is on the new edition of Pirkei Avot that has been a runaway bestseller this Fall. It reminds us of the Israeli project of creating a Jewish cultural heritage, when the books by Dvir and Bialek Presses: Sefer HaAgadah, Sefer HaZemanin on the holidays, Mishnat HaZohar Sifrei Dorot, were on every shelf. They let the Jewish reader approach the Jewish classics outside of yeshiva, orthodoxy, and authority, the way we approach penguin paperback classics. So it is nice to know that the Pirkei Avot is a best seller. Dinur, creator of the Israeli educational curriculum, Beit Hatefuzot, and Yad VaShem, created the older edition. The review has a nice sense of the role of Avot and rabbinic literature on our proverbs and wisdom.

The art of succinct statements By Zvia Walden

Pirkei Avot: Perush Yisraeli Hadash , edited and annotated by Avigdor Shinan Yedioth Ahronoth Books and the Avi Chai Foundation,

“A fundamental challenge facing our generation — living in a country that also happens to be our ances­tral homeland — is figuring out the proper ways to preserve the spiritual and moral image of the individual and society in Israel.” Does this not sound very contemporary and disturbingly relevant? Yet these words were written in 1972 by Prof. Ben-Zion Dinur, who served as Israel’s third minister of education (1951-1955 ) and who initiated the draft­ing of the Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Law in 1953, which officially established Yad Vashem. That same year, Dinur was also responsible for the law that established public education in Israel, in the wake of which the various ideological streams were united into a single school system.

Dinur made the preceding observation in the introduction to his annotated and explicated edition of Tractate Avot of the Mishna, that is, Pirkei Avot (Sayings of the Fathers ). He noted that he had begun work on the edition back in 1917-18, when he was teaching at the Tarbut teachers training college in Kiev. He continued his efforts when he served as a lecturer at the Hebrew teachers seminar in Jerusalem (today the David Yellin Teachers College). Which is to say that Israel once had a liberal-minded education minis­ter, one who had actually taught (for years ) in teachers training schools. He diligently prepared his commentaries from a his­torical perspective, because he believed that knowledge of their context was crucial for under­standing their content. Imagine if we had cabinet ministers like that today.

Shinan’s new commentary on Pirkei Avot has featured prom­inently on the Israeli bestseller lists for weeks.

How can one explain the suc­cess of a volume such as Shinan’s? Is it due to the ever-growing thirst to “preserve the spiritual and moral image of the individual and society in Israel,” as Dinur had it? Or is it due to the acces­sible writing style of the editor, a professor of Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University? Or, per­haps native Hebrew speakers are attracted to this edition because Shinan chose to devote much at­tention to the Hebrew text and to connecting the tractate to names, places and landscapes in Israel, while sufficing with only a brief survey of Pirkei Avot’s tradi­tional commentators?

Phrases from Pirkei Avot have penetrated deep into modern Hebrew, even if many of those doing the quoting are unaware of where they first appeared.. Many Hebrew speakers in Israel might quote the phrase, “Love work, and hate lordship,” but few know its continuation, “and make not thyself known to the government” (chapter 1:10 )

The late Levi Eshkol be­longed to the generation that was familiar with the phrase, “The ledger is open and the hand is writing,” but many of the Young Turks working at the Finance Ministry today, who may well believe that “the workmen are sluggish,” have no idea that “the master of the house is urgent” (2:18). We are part of a generation that has become cut off from its cultural roots; we must carry out the difficult work to amend the situation.

The second book reviewed is the Yesod Mora, a perennial Jewish classic on the need to have a broad education and the nature of mizvot. The book has fallen out of fashion in our era. Science, linguistics, mathematics, and philosophy were integrated into Torah. Ibn Ezra rejects the number 613 for the mizvot. He also criticizes the various Biblical and Talmudic scholars of his era for a too provincial education and worldview. Hananel Mack offers us the hypothetical of conjuring up the book that Ibn Ezra would write against the scholars of 2009.

Thirteen gates to infinity By Hananel Mack

Yesod Mora Abraham Ibn Ezra, edited by Uriel Simon Bar-Ilan University Press (Hebrew ), 272 pages, NIS 115

One of Ibn Ezra’s late works is “Yesod Mora Vesod Hatorah” (“Foundation of Awe and the Secret of the Torah” ), commonly called by the first two words of its name, a book dedicated to examining the essence of the commandments and their place in religious thought and at the foundation of Jewish belief.

According to the editor, Prof. Uriel Simon, an expert in research of the Bible and its com­mentaries, particularly the works of Ibn Ezra: ” His thinking is disjointed and jumpy, his arguments emotional, argumentative and associative, and his phrasing too abbrevi­ated, tending toward suggestion.”

According to him, a wise per­son’s approach to the holy writings and to religious philosophy requires a broad edu­cation encompassing all the branches of science, and must reject narrow-minded expertise in specific fields at the expense of others. This cosmopolitan position pre­vents those who do not share the breadth of Ibn Ezra’s perspective from properly understanding his writings, particularly those pertaining to philosophy and sci­ence.

According to Simon, “The first chapter is dedicated to a detailed proof of the re­ligious need for multidisciplinary educa­tion.” Toward that end, Ibn Ezra describes four types of “learned men of Israel” who specialize in narrow and defined fields of Torah and wisdom study but are unable to see the whole ensemble, and for whom, for this reason, even their fields of specializa­tion are found wanting.

Most of the remaining chapters deal with the Jewish religious mitzvot and their place in the system of belief and knowledge. Unlike other medieval books on the commandments, such as those of Rabbis Saadia Gaon, Maimonides and Nachmanides, here there is no discussion of halakha — religious law — and its minu­tiae; rather, the discussion is entirely on a theoretical level. Chapter two deals with the numbering of the commandments, wherein the scholar presents and criti­cizes the systems of several earlier “com­mandment-counters.”

Especially interesting is the status of the number 613, the traditional total number of all the commandments. The source of that enumeration is the homi­letical sermon of the Talmudic sage Rabbi Shamlai…Unlike many other homiletical sermons, this one was accepted with great serious­ness, although there were some who saw in Shamlai’s words a tale not to be taken too seriously; Ibn Ezra belonged to the lat­ter.

The afterword added to the new edition deals with the text’s polemical side. Simon draws to­gether the main points of criticism, some of it bitter, leveled by Ibn Ezra against the majority of learned scholars in Israel and Christian Europe, and to a lesser extent also those in Spain, for their tendency to over-specialization and for their lack of systematic education in the sciences.

Contemporary readers are invited to imagine the criticism, tongue-lashing and overt disdain that would have been elicit­ed from Ibn Ezra had he foreseen current trends in the world of Torah and yeshiva study.

Finally, an interview with Michael Wex, author of “Born to Kvetch.” “Just Say Nu,” and this fall “How to Be a Mentsh (and Not a Shmuck ) (Harper, 224 pages, $24 ). Wex discusses how Yiddish culture valued character, being a mentch, and being.ehrliche.  They use to say frumkeit is for the galah, a yid is ehrliche. And a litvish lamdan was called a “tzelemer kop.” Wax points out the role of Pirkei Avot, that the average Jew was not learned and to avoid khnoykishkay.

Questions & Answers: A conversation with Michael Wex

Judaism is all about refinement of character and becoming a better person; if performing ritual or ceremonial com­mandments or studying all day is not mak­ing you a better person, then there’s some­thing wrong with the way you’re doing it. And we’ve got a couple of thousand years of popular ethical manuals, starting with Pirkei Avot, to help show average people the right way to do things.

Post-Holocaust we’ve been given a rosy picture of pre-Hitler life in Europe, in which every Jew was a talmid haham [learned person]. That just wasn’t the case. People stammered out the prayers, but didn’t necessarily know that they meant. Much of the joke with Sholom Aleichem’s Tevye is that he’s always mistranslating biblical verses and rabbinic sayings, and people still argue about whether or not he — Tevye, I mean — was supposed to be doing so on purpose. What you got as a sort of counterbalance to the traditional exaltation of scholarship, was this idea that character is as important as anything else. This is re­ally just an idea that was re-expressed, that regained prominence, in early Hasidism. I talk a little about earlier instances of it, and the way people looked at things. In part it’s the idea about having the basic Jewish common sense to know when something of anything is too much. You look at some­thing like the story in the Talmud about the destruction of Jerusalem, about Kamtso and Bar Kamtso. Ultimately it turned on a piece of khnoykishkayt [hypocritical sanc­timoniousness], about being punctilious about the wrong things at the wrong time.

Lord Jonathan Sacks on the concept of Witness-Updated

Lord Jonathan Sacks has a style that addresses his Anglican listeners and at the same time addresses his Jewish audience.

Jews generally speak of Torah, avodah, gemilat hasadim; or God, Revelation and olam haba;  or God, Torah, and Israel; and now creation-revelation-redemption. All sets point back to Torah.

Christians use the words witness, mission, covenant, proclamation- all about good news to be brought to the world.   “witness.” in their reading of Israel’s covenant history: means the proclamation and exchange of views held with conviction.

Jonathan Sacks has discussed “witness” as a theological concept in almost all of his books.

In his 1992 Crisis and Covenant, he writes,  “An early rabbinic commentary put the point audaciously: ‘ “You are My witnesses, says the Lord, and I am God” (Isaiah 43:12)” (28) In this work he uses the word the way Emil Fackenhim does, we as witnesses to the destruction of our people in the holocaust and now we give witness by the survival of the Jewish people. Our news to the world is the survival of the Jewish people.

In 1997, he writes “Somehow the Jewish people would be the people in whose daily lives the will of G-d, and in whose collective history the presence of G-d would be particularly evident.  You could look at Jews and see G-d.  In that magnificent phrase in Isaiah: “you are my witnesses, Isaiah 43:10, says G-d and so it happened.” Jews are witnesses to God’s existence.”  This is a Jewish version of the Christian doctrine of the witness; Jews point to God and the original revelation to humanity.

But Jews usually assume the verse talks to Jews about their own redemption   As examples, Rashi explains the witness as Abraham and Jacob testifying to their promise for Israel’s redemption and Radak explains that the prophet testifies that just as Sanherib was destroyed so too all of Israel’s enemies will vanish and Israel will be redeemed. Or the use of it for the haftarah of Bereshit is that just as God created the world he is true to his promise to redeem Israel.

A decade later in his Dignity of Difference, Sacks writes “ But from here on he will focus on one family, and eventually one people, to be his witnesses and bearers of his covenant.”(52) The argument is that undifferentiated pluralism leads to totalitarianism, but God chose a single people, the Jews, to teach the world that each people is unique and that there is a pluralism of diversity of different peoples. But the locution is more Christian, Jews are to witness and bear the covenant of Gods’ designs.

None of the Jewish commentators ad loc interpret it in that direction

In his Heal a Fractured World, he writes that we witness to Godnot by seeking to convert those of another faith, but simply by reaching out to embrace the image of God in another human being, by seeing the image of God in another human being (47) We have Levinas adapted as an answer to the Christians who seek to convert those of another faith.

Finally, in his recent siddurThe Jewish people … have … been singled out for the most exalted mission ever entrusted to mankind: to be witnesses, in ourselves, to something beyond ourselves: to be God’s “signal of transcendence” in a world in which his presence is often hidden (Siddur p. xxiv).

Jews have Mission to mankind for the presence of God. Hmm… I did a quick online check of the 19 letters to see if Hirsch used it that way, and from my quick check of 19 Letters- Rabbi Hirsch limits witness- Edut to contexts of duty and service of mankind toward God. God is know through the natural order, duty is the Jewish message. I need to check other works of Hirsch and Hertz. But here in Sack’s prayer book the very knowledge of God is the Jewish mission. Is this more Anglican or Jewish?

Update

I checked the commentary of Dr Mendel Hirsch on the Haftarot (called by most people as the commentary of the father) on the relevant verses in Isaiah. Dr. Hirsch comments that only man has will to act on a higher calling of righteousness. Only through zedek will people realize the nature of reality consisting of freedom from  material slavery in order to live in happiness and freedom. We are a light to the nations when there will be righteousness in the governments. The concept of witness is that the proof of every historical fact rests , on people who were there, on tradition The Jewish people have witnessesed the rise and fall of the nations around them. You were all at the going out from Egypt, which proves a world of providential care. You are witness to your revelation becuase you saw God’s hand in history.

Hmm..Hirsch does not seem like Sacks. I will check the essays if I get a chance.

Kallir for Shmini Atzeret – The Rabbinic View of Rain

I am still thinking about the 9th century. Here is  an article that give the rabbinic background on the science of rain for the piyyutim for Shmini Atzeret.

Aleph: Historical Studies in Science and Judaism Volume 9, Number 1, 2009

Clouds, Rain, and the Upper Waters: From Bereshit Rabbah to the Piyyuṭim of Eleazar be-rabbi Qillir

Michael Rand

In two Qillirian piyyuṭim for Shemini Atzeret—one seder yeṣirah and one rahi—we observe the glimmer of an attempt to explain the origin of rain in a rational scientific manner. In this regard they are unique among pre-classical and classical sidrei yeṣirah (and rahiṭim) for rain, which treat the role of water and precipitation

We may observe first of all that although the rabbinic account makes use of the basic assumptions of its biblical counterpart—the existence of two cosmic reservoirs (Ber. Rab. 4:3–5) and the importance of clouds in distributing water (Ber. Rab. 13:10–11)—it is more naturalistic, in that it does not envision God as being actively involved in each and every act of rainmaking, but rather as having set up a process that continues to function autonomously, independent of His direct intervention. The rabbinic account also shows a greater interest in the structure and disposition of the heavenly reservoir: it is suspended by the Divine logos [] (Ber. Rab. 4:3, 4), like a heated pool covered by a dome (Ber. Rab. 4:5), etc.

The most important aspect of the rabbinic view, that on which all the other speculations are predicated, is that the process that causes precipitation is unidirectional The upper waters are the source of the rain; but no matter how much it rains, the total amount of water in the heavenly reservoir is never diminished. This assertion is backed up by the analogy of the sweating man who, according to the sage, does not lose any weight (Ber. Rab. 4:4).The rabbinic view of precipitation as a one-way process with its source in a cosmic reservoir goes hand in hand with the absence of any notion of evaporation (and condensation)… The absence of a concept of evaporation, together with a notion of clouds as hollow vessels designed to transport water droplets

From this analysis, it is apparent that our piyyuṭim weave a narrative out of several of the midrashim cited above. In doing so, they combine views that are logically incompatible, so that whereas their narrative may be (in some measure) comprehensive, it is not internally consistent: The contribution made by the piyyuṭ literature with regard to the question of internal coherence is to underscore the incompatibility of the various midrashic accounts by inserting them in a narrative framework, which is something that piyyuṭ only rarely does.

Sukkot Misc from the 9th and 20th centuries

Sukkot is the holiday of the 6th to 9th centuries: Hoshanot are from this period, according to Goldschmidt. As is the custom of waving the lulav in 6 directions.

First, Some random 6th -9th century ideas

Guilt and treating the sukkah as exile, not as presense.

Said R’ El’azar bar Maryom: Why do we make a sukkah after Yom Kippur? To teach you that on Rosh Hashanah The Holy One, Blessed Be He, sits in judgment on all mankind, and on Yom Kippur He signs the verdict. Perhaps Israel’s sentence is exile; therefore they make a sukkah and exile themselves from their homes to their sukkah Pesikta of Rav Kahana Parasha 2 addenda, Mandelbaum 457)

Don’t go to Great Adventure or other entertainment for chol hamoed.

The festivals make a difference between the nations and Israel: the nations eat and drink, and go to the circus and the theater, and anger the Lord by their words and deeds; Israel eats and drinks and goes to the houses of prayer to praise His name and to the houses of study  to learn His glory. Pesikta 340-1

Vicarious atonement for the nations

Just as this dove atones for sins, so does Israel atone for the nations, for all those seventy bulls which are sacrificed on the festival are on behalf of the seventy nations, so that the world not be bereft of them, as is written (Psalms 109) “They answer my love with accusation but I am all prayer” Midrash Shir Hashirim Rabba 1.

“All seventy bulls that Israel used to sacrifice on the festival were for the seventy nations of the world, so that they not be removed from the world, as it is said: ‘They answer my love with accusation, but I am all prayer’ (Ps. 109:4). That is, now they are protected by prayer instead of sacrifice.” Pesikta de Rav Kahana (par. 30)

And now 1000 years later, three very different fin de siècle 20th century ideas

1] Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks writing that the sukkah helps us identify with the poor of “Calcutta and Caracas.” Dignity of Difference 112

2 The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950) spoke of seven “chassidic ushpizin” as well: the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid (Rabbi DovBer of Mezeritch), and the first five rebbes of Chabad: Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch, Rabbi Menachem Mendel (the “Tzemach Tzeddek”), Rabbi Shmuel, and Rabbi Sholom DovBer.

Where I was for one or the meals the debate was between the method starting with the Besht or now should they start with the Alter Rebbe and end with the 7th Rebbe. This seems more widespread than I thought. Have the Biblical Ushpizin lost their resonance?

3] Old time R Shlomo Carlebach moving he six directions from cosmology or sefirot to personal experience of religion.  link

First, face right. Right in Kabbalah signifies the attribute of hesed, kindness, mercy, overwhelming beneficence. Do you find it too hard to be generous? Or are you suffering from an excess of generosity, of kindness, of love? ”

Then face left. Left in Kabbalah is gevurah – strength, strict judgment, limits. Gevurah is Isaac – bound for sacrifice on Mount Moriah, unflinching, accepting of judgment. Take this opportunity to think of the limits, the judgments in your life. Are your circumstances too confining? Do you need more boundaries, or fewer? Do you need more strength? This is an opportunity to invite God to help you fix the limits in your life.

Next, face straight ahead: tiferet, or beauty. This is the balance, where the beneficence and the boundaries are in their proper proportions. It is Jacob, it is the middle course.

Then, look up. Can you connect with God? What’s the holiness you need in your life? How high can you rise this year?

Then, aim down. This is about groundedness, about your foundations. And it’s about your ability to find the buried treasures, under your feet; the truths buried in the dirt.

Finally, backwards. The essence of repentance is being able to go back and fix your past  by your coming to terms with it

I find these three approaches to be quite different: the metonymic ethical, the binding to a saint, and the introspective.

Avodah: Priests, Angels, and bestiaries

AVODAH: An Anthology of Ancient Poetry for Yom Kippur (2006) YAHALOM, Joseph, SCHWARTZ, Michael D.

I finally got to read the excellent work Avodah – a beautiful translation of the various versions of the Avodah for Yom Kippur.

The book shows that the avodah piyyut, even though it is based on the Mishnah, makes the avodah a narrative entirely about the priests. It removes the Mishnah’s granting to the Sages the ability to give oversight to the priests. It also removes the Sages’ distrust of priestly groups.

Here we have more theology of 6th to 9th century. The book focuses on tracing these images to DSS and Heikhalot and offers little on the actual 6th-9th centuries

In all the versions, the world was created to worship God in the Temple and they give a history of the world including early creatures. The book points out how the use of  myth and mythos in the piyyut. Adam was originally of great size and appearance and was originally worshiped by the other creatures. The piyyutim describe how the high priest overcame the hostility of the angels, but from a theology perspective I missed any reference to the debates of Scholem, Idel, and Schaffer.

Is this still relevant? Well, we still use the version called Ata Konanta  but we do not use versions like “Az be en Kol” which describe rivers of fire, cosmic ice, demigods, and adam kadmon.

For an alternative reading, see  Rav Soloveitchik on the Avodah

“Unetaneh tokef” – Who wrote it?

In the beginning of the web era, Haaretz still commissioned academic Judaica articles before every Jewish holiday. They made great printouts to take to shul.

In 2002, Yosef Yahalom wrote a concise article showing that the piyyut is originally a conclusion to a piyyut by Yannai  later attached to Kalir and was not written by R. Amnon in Ashkenaz.

The piyyut, or sacred poem, “Unetaneh tokef kedushat hayom” (“Let us recount the power of the holiness of this day”), is one of the central and most thrilling texts in the liturgy of the High Holy Days.

This text was written by Yanai’s most celebrated student, Elazar Hakalir.

A year later Hananel Mack wrote a follow up article, less certain which Byzantium author wrote the poet. But Mack shows that the vision of the angels themselves being judged is a theme of Kedusha, so the piyyut was originally a ending poem to a kedushah piyyut.

Additional corroboration for the claim that the liturgical poem `Unetaneh Tokef’ was written during the period of Yanai and Elazar Hakalir and not, as tradition says, by Rabbi Amnon of Mainz.

However, here we hear for the first time of the fate shared by heavenly beings and humans, who are all judged on Judgment Day – that is, on Rosh Hashanah and, apparently, also on Yom Kippur, which is also a judgment day and is also mentioned in the body of the piyyut.

This topic is a reminder that we do not have a good book on the theology of Judiasm 600-1100, the great age of Piyyut and Aggadic Midrash.

Yahalom

Mack

Update 2010- Haaretz is no longer giving free access to the articles.