These notes are unofficial and unauthorized. Any and all mistakes are mine. Be careful to read them non-judgmentally, as every single figure in Tanach must be treated with respect, no matter his character flaws.
For the record, the Tanach Yom Iyun was completely packed- the estimate is over 800 people showed up.
Rabbi Brander: Good morning, everyone. It is a pleasure to welcome you to this special Midreshet Yom Rishon program that we are having today. Three years ago the President of YU began to actualize his dream for the CJF. He wanted to do three things: Inspire students to recognize their responsibility to interact with the larger Jewish community, to serve as the future lay and klei kodesh of the Jewish people and in many ways this day represents that because it was the idea of Yehuda Bernstein and Simcha Gross to have this Tanach Yom Iyun. Simchas Torah when 400 of our students went to 80 communities not only to inspire/ create ruach in those communities, but also to give those 400 students to realize a larger Jewish community outside the Tristate area. And that there is, contrary to popular belief, a Jewish community past the New Jersey Turnpike. Second goal: To work with communities throughout the country, help rabbis and laypeople grow their community. A few days ago with the help of Wurzweiler and the Sy Syms School of Business, 20 rabbis and young rabbis came together for a mentoring program so that throughout the year these rabbis would learn from rabbis who have a tremendous amount of experience- we’ve learned that just because you are a good rabbi doesn’t mean that you are a good mentor- doesn’t mean you know how to learn effectively and appropriately from your mentor. So under the leadership of Wurzweiler and the Business School, we were able to create a mentoring program so that the rabbis and their mentees learned/ grew from each other. Next week, a group of rabbis and mentees will come together in South Florida to learn from the Business School how to interact with/ learn about others/ we have been able to convene the energies of the Jewish community. Third pillar: to celebrate the ideals of what YU is all about, to share the message of Torah u’Madda. YUTorah, which I hope most of you are using, represents that idea. The holiday-to-go programs represent that idea and I was just told that many of you who may be here for the first time will realize that every single Sunday we’ll have the opportunity to learn – women who play significant roles – you’ll have the opportunity to learn from them. I want to thank not only the students but also Rav Schor from the CJF for all the work he does every week and I’d like to thank Stu Halpern for working on this project and acharon, acharon chaviv- I’d like to recognize some of my colleagues, Vice President Hillel Davis and Vice President Debrintsky- so here is Stu Halpern.
Stu Halpern: Thank you, Rabbi Brander. Welcome everyone to today’s Tanach Yom Iyun- my name is Stu Halpern and I work as the Student Life Coordinator. Yehuda Bernstein and Simcha Gross initiated this event- please feel free to approach any of us or anyone wearing a staff badge with questions about – title of today’s Tanach Yom Iyun is Controversial Figures in Tanach- in the words of R’ Shimshon Raphael Hirsch- “the knowledge which is given us of their faults and weaknesses, our great men are not any weaker” but rather better. Before we begin, we would like to thank all the educators and rabbanim- all the YU faculty members- be it the Israel campus, uptown or downtown campus who gave of their time and effort to come deliver shiurim to this today’s Tanach Yom Iyun- also would like to thank all of our many sponsors (and then he lists sponsors.) the recordings of today’s shiurim will be available at YUTorah.org- and the shiurim in this room will be video broadcast. Afterwards, the program will continue with 4 concurrent shiurim- for Furst Hall Beit Midrash, will actually be in Room 535. [And then he explains the schedule for the day.] Please turn off your cell phones, etc- please hold all questions till the end of the shiur.
First shiur given by Dr. David Pelcovitz.
YOSEF AND HIS BROTHERS- INSIGHTS ON FORGIVENESS
Thank you so much. My previous job used to have a visiting psychologist/ mental health professional come and give lectures- used to have someone with Poster Syndrome. The woman, who was a very respected psychologist, told her how she got into this- and she’s sitting down to see her first patient and she is about ten minutes into the first session and she’s about to say, “You really need professional help” when she bites her tongue. And that is how she began. I am too an imposter. I’m a psychologist- I don’t do Tanach at all but I can speak, hopefully a little bit about looking at a relatively new field of positive psychology (focusing instead of pathology on positive.) We learn – by focusing on various middos that are important to understand and nurture. A couple weeks ago on psychology- somebody came over to me and complained- she started telling me about how her best friend fifteen years ago stopped talking to her suddenly and she has no idea why. She says nothing would make me happier than her accepting my apology- I miss her! And that’s in fact what the psych research shows- in study after study in this field of positive psychology- shows that when people are able to let go of their anger/ grudges/ resentments/ other, include family members and other people in their lives- not only at the level of emotional health, but their happiness levels go up, sense of satisfaction, but perhaps most importantly even at the physical level, they show lower blood pressure rates (goes down) – forgetting halakhic implications. Holding onto anger makes us feel outside of ourselves. I think there are some incredibly rich insights from the story of the reciprocal interaction between Yosef and his brothers that can help us in our everyday lives.
A couple basic thoughts- hinted on the word mechilah.
Radak on “hafachta etc”- he says on the pasuk we say every morning – look at Reference #1- actually says “machol and mechilah” according to strict dikduk are not necessarily from the same shoresh- but he puts them together. And he says they are related words- just from a psychological standpoint- it’s true that maybe in Christinatiy you turn the other cheek and have one-sided mechilah but that isn’t something that is a very Jewish way of thinking nor is it what you learn from Yosef and his brothers. Psychologists say if you go from ____ to relevant contribution and look at your role, however hard it may be to find it and you rejoin the circle rather than being outside of it, a finger-pointing line, that’s when the machol, you reentered the circle- the people who tell me they’ve reconciled with parents/ children whom they have been estranged from for years, it brings them true joy- it’s exactly what psychology tells us. We see that echoed in the Yosef and mechilah process.
Magnificent thought from R’ Motti Alon- mechilah being related to Hebrew word for cave, machon. When Moshe learned 13 Middos (Formula for Forgiveness) that Hashem teaches us all the time- where is he- he’s put in the Machol- what’s the psychological lesson we learn from that? How does one excavate from a hollow tunnel in the rock- each party begins to excavate from his side until both parties meet in the center- this is exactly the divine Mechilah. God too excavates and tunnels from his side with the expectation that man does his part as well- I think that image is the visual imagery that I would like to talk about as we investigate and look a little bit at the story of Yosef and his brothers- let’s just quickly review the pesukim (summarized in reference 3, 4, and 5.) All familiar with this: basically the 3 steps of pesukim where you look at the Teshuva process of the brothers as they tunnel in their way.
The first one clearly echoes “hakaras ha’cheit” and true ownership which is when Yosef hears them at the beginning of the incident when they are supposed to go back and bring Binyamin- they are talking in Hebrew and they say (there is no interpreter present)- “Asheimim anachnu”- “We’re guilty for what’s happened.” From a psychological standpoint in a very practical way- sometimes psychologists/ other mental health professionals have to deal with this in a very practical way. Let’s say God forbid there is an abusive parent and now the child is over and the abuser realizes that s/he wants to make amends. They want to pick up the phone and call and say they are sorry. I can think of many such situations. One was when there was a group of girls who horribly bullied a girl in high school in a way that actually made her suicidal. She confronted them and the Queen Bee said, “I’m so sorry- I didn’t know.” And the elements of a true apology is not just I’m sorry- it starts with hakaras ha’cheit- then go to Reference #4- teshuva gemura as explained by the Rambam and here Yosef from his side of the tunnel shows and sets it up so that there is teshuva gemura. He sets it up so that there is a true mirroring of the original sin/ wronging of Yosef and the children of Leah have to make a choice- it’s all set up again, where a son of Rachel, Binyamin is about to be put in slavery- Yehuda steps forward and he, a son of Leah, says no- I am not going to allow a child of Rachel to be put in slavery. Yosef even set it up where the brothers are jealous of Binyamin- he gives Binyamin more food/ garments- it’s a behavioral replay.
Finally at the next step there is the actual first direct apology and here we see that actually what happens is that Yaakov dies and the brothers go to bury him and the brothers are now very concerned and the set of pesukim in reference #5 say “Lu yistameinu Yosef”- they are worried that Yosef will now hate them. R’ Hirsch says it’s human nature that after a parent dies, you don’t hang out as much- so they interpret this as a sign that he is maybe still harboring a grudge and will take his revenge- what happens there is a whole interchange and ultimately what do they do? You see this in pasuk yud-ches- they say “We will be (and they literally play out the prophecy of the dream) your servants” and they bow before him and he tunnels back at them in a way on which I want to spend the rest of my time.
Very clear that the brothers give a kind of apology that therapists dream about- there are still some issues, but in many ways- has hakaras ha’cheit, has clear indication that they would not do this over again, has actually a form of a direct apology in a way that now, they’ve done their part in tunneling through the Machol so that now they are meeting Yosef on his side. The question is: What did Yosef do?
There are some very interesting lessons in terms of what Yosef did. We may be holding on to our own feelings of anger/ resentment against community members/ family members. So I want to talk about three ingredients you see in the pesukim that show how Yosef did his share of tunneling. I want to start by talking about an image- the key ingredient of forgiveness per psychologists – you have to be able to make a conscious decision to focus on the positive in a mystic way and not just on the negative. We do have good reasons to be angry at people and we all have excuses to hold on to grudges at others- but look at what Yosef does (and I’d like to talk about this in terms of developing 3 ingredients.) Ingredient 1: The Menashe to Ephraim kind of thing.
We’re told when Yosef names his children Menashe- Menashe’s about not being able to integrate/ being a pessimist. Ephraim on the other hand is about optimism- “ki hefrani elokah”- perhaps why Ephraim goes first- it’s about focusing on optimism. It’s true Yosef was forced to go here against his will, etc but Ephraim is about focusing on positive from negative. Now there is a beautiful midrash that focuses on capturing this part of the tunneling that Yosef did- this is briefly described at the bottom of the page- Yosef is coming back with his brothers from burying their father (you can imagine how they are feeling)- they are nervous and haven’t really felt the total reciprocity of feelings- so what does he do? What does Yaakov do? Yaakov says- I mean Yosef says- let’s go make a detour. I want to make a detour and the detour is to the desert. He goes to the pit. You can imagine what they’re thinking, what’s being reflected about in their minds. People’s hearts reflect their emotions back to them- we talked about the beginnings of the teshuva process being reflected back. First thing Yosef does is to go to the pit- but here is where the Ephraim moment triumphs over the Menashe moment- he looks at the pit and doesn’t make threats- he says “Baruch HaMakom she’asa li nes ba’makom ha’zeh.” Thank you God for having created a miracle for me in this place. He focuses on the beautiful miracle that took place rather than the guilt of his brothers.
Famous study now: _____ takes a bunch of his students and has every presidential nomination speech given over the past hundred years and has his students rate it for optimistic vs. pessimistic speeches. Turns out this was an indicator of who would win the presidential election- the person who focused on hope (everyone laughs- this suggests Obama will win)- I’m truly not a political kind of guy. The power of Ephraim, the power of Yosef’s reaction at the pit- how do we take this into our lives? By looking at the positive in some way- it just makes us better, happier people and it even helps us with our blood pressure.
#2 in terms of ingredients that we see by Yosef- study after study on the psychology of forgiveness shows us that the key is – every time Yosef is faced with his brothers’ teshuva two things happen. Tacit response and tears. When Yosef says “Come here” he is trying to spare them shame. The Sefas Emes says that the beautiful pasuk “Come here”- I am Joseph your brother whom you sold to Egypt- the Sefas Emes says rather brilliantly that’s a similar lashon to what Hashem says to Moshe when the two luchos are broken- “which you broke”- he’s not trying to rub it in but is actually thanking Moshe for breaking them because good came from that. And “you sold me” is also thanking them for the good- Yosef also comes to believe that. Every time that Yosef is confronted by their teshuva, he responds with tears (interestingly, they don’t cry- and Yaakov doesn’t cry. The Midrashim specifically say that Yaakov did not cry, but more importantly the brothers don’t cry.) Why did the brothers not cry? Bereishis Rabbah- about Yosef’s crying- Yosef through his tears was trying to actually show empathy with his brothers. Psychology shows that one of the main components of crying is the show of empathy- abused children when they are faced with the tears of other children get angry and aggressive but regular, well-raised children who were treated with love respond to the pain of others with tears. The Medrish Rabbah ties it to Geulah- and says just like Yosef used tears to forgive/ appease/ comfort his brothers, so too Hashem will not redeem Bnei Yisrael except through tears- ultimately our Geulah will come through tears.
Yalkei Yehuda- brilliant sefer with incredible psychological insights- most of his sefarim were published in the 1970s- you can download them for free- talks about this and brings out a brilliant insight. He says: Why is it that the brothers never cry? It’s only Yosef who cries. Because the brothers were the ones feeling empty/ filled with remorse/ feeling dejected and despondent, there are no tears. Tears are a sign of connection. Often of empathy- availability of emotions. Yosef had it, but the brothers didn’t have it till the very end.
Therapists say that- you have to be an optimist, empathic, focus on positive- put yourself in the shoes of the person who wronged you and see how you may have wronged others in similar ways.
Hinted in the final reference in #5 where finally Yosef gives them a shift of perspective, of nechama. He says, what you did ultimately was transformed into good to make us an “am rav”- great nation. In the last pasuk, pasuk chaf-aleph, says “vayinachem osam.” Beautiful words of R’ Schwab: The word nechama doesn’t necessarily mean to comfort someone. Not just comfort- the word nechama really means a shift in perspective. Just read this in the end of Bereishis- God is reconsidering having made man. And if you look in your lives at times you were ultimately comforted, look back on something bad that happened to you, ultimately through nichumim of being able to see things a little bit differently- Yosef tunnels back at brothers in helping them get that nechama- being able to reconsider what happened as being for the good. Pasuk after pasuk says that and shows how Yosef showed them that shift in perspective. Crucial part of psychological process of forgiveness. What do you want to model for your children- a shift in perspective may mean having to focus on the positive, not the negative.
Mashal from Dubno Maggid: Nice way to tie these thoughts together- 3 ingredients that you see involved in this- ingredients of Yosef as a provider of empathy, Yosef as a provider of perspective and Yosef as the optimist able to focus on the positive. So the Dubno Maggid has this magnificent mashal and I apologize because I know it won’t be new to most of you- he talks about a King who has a crown and at the center of the crown is a jewel bigger than the hope diamond- and he gets a tremendous sense of confidence/ satisfaction from having this diamond. And one morning he wakes up and sees a flaw has developed right down the center of the jewel. He sees this as a terrible omen. He puts out a call to jewelers throughout the world- whoever can fix this diamond will be made very wealthy. So people come from all over the world to try to fix it and they can’t, till a little old Chassid comes in and he takes an engraving tool and he engraves magnificent leaves around the flaw- and then the trunk of a tree that makes the diamond even more magnificent than it was before. Ultimate message: can’t get rid of the flaw- the brothers did what they did- terrible pain and suffering of Yosef- and yet, what did Yosef’s optimism and what did Yosef Ha’Tzaddik- not because of Aishes Potiphar but because of his ability to forgive- what was his ingredient? He was able to take that flaw and turn it into the magnificent tree that set us onto our peoplehood.
SHIMSHON: THE “GREYEST” CHARACTER IN TANACH
Mrs. Nechama Price
Hi everybody- thank you for coming. When I got the email asking me to speak at the Tanach Yom Iyun about controversial characters, immediately I emailed back saying Shimshon. I think all characters in Tanach can be labeled- either they are good or bad, black or white- there are good people who do bad things or bad people who do good things, but you can normally assume who they are. Shimshon is really both and it’s hard to label him one way or another- what I want to do here today is why I think he is what I call grey- he’s both good and bad- then I want to show you that as opposed to the way Chazal treats all other characters in Tanach, because Shimshon is both good and bad, Chazal have to treat him differently (new phenomenon) –and then the question of why is that so, and what are we supposed to learn from that? Why is it that I have it at this point in time?
I’m going to run through our sources very quickly because I’m not even sure when I’m supposed to end at this point-
Why would I assume Shimshon was good?
1) Shimshon is a Shofet (Judge of the Jewish people, Leader of the Jewish people)
2) Not only does help save us from the Pelishtim, but he does it with God’s help- seems very clear God is helping him, so it seems like he is a positive figure
3) Added miracles- after one of his battles when he is thirsty he says so and he happens to be holding a cheekbone in his hand and God lets water come from the jawbone (reminds us of Moshe and the rock, etc)
4) Language of the pesukim, especially the introduction- it’s very positive- unusual to have a whole perek about the parents of Shimshon (all the other shoftim, we don’t have anything like that)- Shoftim 13: 2- we are introduced to man of Tzirah from family of Dan whose name is Manoah and his wife is barren. This pasuk reminds us of Sarah, Rivkah and Rachel (other barren women) and also Shmuel’s mother, Chana- exactly paralleling our pasuk- what we have here is a pasuk that very seemingly on purpose is paralleling stories of righteous people. Shmuel (it says in Bava Basra that he wrote Sefer Shoftim) is paralleling the introduction to his own parents here!
5) Judges 3- The angel shows up to Manoach’s wife, Shimshon’s mother and says you are barren, you will have a child (reminds us of angel coming to Sarah to say the same thing.) Also, if you look at Sefer Shoftim, there are very few angels appearing- the only other place you’ll find it there is the angel appearing to Gideon (see the parallel there.) So Shimshon seems parallel to Yitzchak and Gideon.
6) Message to the woman- don’t drink wine/ eat anything unclean because the child is going to be a Nazir. He will begin to save the Jewish people from the Pelishtim- so this person is supposed to be a Nazir (positive thing to be- from Bamidbar we see that nezirim are kadosh to Hashem) Also, the exact same language is used by Chana’s child. “And a razor will not touch his head”- Shimshon and Shmuel, that’s where you see that phrase in Tanakh (and Shmuel wrote both these texts so he is paralleling himself.)
7) Angel told Shimshon’s mother that he is designated from birth to be a savior of the Jewish people (you see this similarly by Jeremiah and Isaac.)
8) God is involved in the story- says this before Shimshon is born and four times within the story of Shimshon you see that this spirit of Hashem surrounds him and helps him do what he should (seems positive!) Ruach Hashem is only given to positive characters in Tanach- given to Asniel and Yiftach, also David.
So Shimshon seems to be a good person. But he also seems like a bad person.
1) He has forbidden relations with three women. First Pelishti woman, prostitute and Delilah. (What’s interesting is here we parallel the Avos in a negative way. The Avos are very careful of whom they marry – not women from Canaan. On the other hand, Ishmael marries a Mitzri and Esav marries a Chiti- so Shimshon parallels them.)
2) Shimshon doesn’t kill the Pelishtim because they are bad to the Jews but rather because he wants revenge- they figured out his riddle, they gave his wife away, then for killing his wife and father-in-law and then at the party where they are making fun of him- when he has been blinded.
3) He breaks his Nezirut- around dead bodies all the time, commits suicide at the end
4) The Jewish people don’t seem to associate with him
Chazal don’t know what to do with this information- normally we have a phenomenon where Chazal, when they have a good person, will try to rationalize away anything bad that they have (try to say they didn’t sin at all or to make the sin as small as possible.) If it were a bad person who seems to do a good thing, they try to make him into a bad person and that’s also bad.
Some examples of that kind of thought:
1. REUVEN- He’s a good character, but then it says he has a relationship with his father’s pilegesh. The Gemara says that they just mixed the beds, made it something much smaller.
2. SONS OF ELI- bad people, Benei Belial, they sleep with the women who come to bring korbanos- Gemara in Shabbos says really, they just didn’t let the women go home because they delayed them- rationalizing it and making it smaller
3. DAVID- Three times in the text David says he has committed a sin. A) sleeps with married woman and gets her pregnant, then sends off her husband to die B) counts Jewish people- The Gemara brings the idea of the retroactive get given to wife, so David didn’t really sleep with a married woman, as for sending Uriah off to die- he was mored b’malchus!
4. SHLOMO- Married lots of women, served avodah zara- the Gemara changes it to make it smaller
Normally the Midrash will say that people did not sin. Very hard to say that a good person did something wrong. Then again, we’ll take bad people and make them way worse than they really are.
1. ESAU- When Yaakov and Esav reunite, the pesukim don’t seem so bad there- seems very nice and helpful. Chazal make it into Esav trying to bite Yaakov, showing off the flock, and also how Esav tried to kill Yaakov. Midrash does this to bad people- we make them very bad.
2. LAVAN- It seems like he does hachnasat orchim- by servant of Avraham and also by Yaakov. The Midrash will say he was out for money, the same way Rivka got money and jewels. Yaakov as well- if servant had money, then surely the daughter would have money.
3. ISHMAEL- Why does Sara send him out of the house? Metzachek (from the word “laughter.”) Chazal and Rashi blame Ishamel for serving gods, gilui arayos- yes, there is reason in the pesukim to claim these things; but if you looked in the pasuk, you’ll see this.
Now let’s look at Shimshon. Let’s start with Bamidbar Rabbah. Chazal does something very different when it comes to Shimshon- they can’t claim he is good and rationalize away his sin, but then we can’t do what we normally do to bad people, which is embellish and make it worse.
So, we will talk about how he’s bad, but without embellishing. As for the good things he did- we’ll have a twist within the good midrashim to hint he is not as good as we think.
Bamidbar Rabbah Numbers 9:24 – Shimshon followed after his eyes and he was punished through his eyes (blinded at the end.) He gets punished in Aza because he slept with the prostitute in Aza.
Midrash Zoteh in Ecclesiastes 7:26- (What do we call Shimshon if we are trying to label him?) He’s a sinner.
What about the good ones?
Midrash Aggada in Deuteronomy 17 (Ecclesiastes 1:4): Shimshon was in his generation what Aaron was in his generation- the Beis Din of Gideon was as important to Hashem as the Beis Din of Moshe.
At first glance, this seems very positive. Question- is there something similar to Aaron or something different? What’s the difference, first of all? Well, Aaron is the peaceful person, whereas Shimshon is the revenge-seeker; he goes out there and fights and is angry- within this Chazal, we have a jab at Shimshon- within the comparison you see the negativity of Shimshon! Or maybe there’s something similar- what is similar about Aaron and Shimshon- is that they are both sinners?
1) Aaron creates the Eigel (gets blamed for it in Deuteronomy)
2) He is involved with lashon hara of Miriam about Moshe
3) By Mei Merivah/ hitting the rock
We have three times in the text that Aaron sins, though he is a positive character- so too Shimshon.
Non-peaceful revenge seeker or that he is a sinner! Either way, it’s negative.
Rashbam – Genesis 22:1- Seven righteous people of the Jews get killed by Pelishtim. So it seems he is comparing Shimshon to tzadikim! Which tzadikim? Well, he is being compared to Chofni, Pinchas (the Benei Belial!), then Shaul (not positive when he goes after David)- so these people also have negative things about them- there’s a jab even in the positive Midrash. We’re saying Shimshon is good, but still showing a bad aspect.
We see this struggle within the Rishonim as well, where Radak in Judges 13:4 demonstrates the struggle within him. – It must be that the women he married converted, because it can’t be that a savior of the Jewish people married Pelishti women! This is a Lo Taaseh from the Torah, where it brings about kefirah and other terrible things- in the pesukim it never says Shimshon is punished, it doesn’t say he did anything bad, and he wasn’t punished. But Radak concludes that at the beginning of the story his desires overwhelm him when he sees this woman and he loses his Godly intentions and his animalistic desires take over- and that’s why he’s punished and that’s why he is blinded. [So we started out with Shimshon being good and ending off that he did something wrong- this contradiction is symbolic of the confusion we have about Shimshon.]
Metzudas David Judges 14:7- Shimshon himself goes to speak to the woman- why? To see if she was smart. [From the text, it seems that he thought she was pretty. But Metzudas David wants it to be that he thought she was smart.]
Even an issue within Chazal of whether he was a leader at all…Radak seems to assume that “Vayishpot’ means he fought wars, not judge others (Abarbanel says he did judge.) How could he judge when he himself breaks the law?
Now, look at the verse itself- in all the other cases of Shoftim, there is no enemy- it’s a time of peace. Shimshon is the only one who while he is being a Shofet, the Pelishtim are still in control- he never makes peace for us (which the other Shoftim did succeed in.) Also, 20 years is a fascinating number- most of the other Shoftim, plus Eli, Shlomo, David have 40 years worth of time ruling. It sounds like the number 40 is associated with those who are ideal. Shimshon has 20- he’s not good, he’s not bad- just in the middle. And if you look at the years, the Pelishtim rule over us for 40 while he is the shofet only for 20- the pesukim are really pushing us in the direction of saying he’s good, he’s bad, he’s both.
BIG QUESTION: Why is it that Shimshon is the only character in Tanakh who is considered grey- why?
Look at the context where Shimshon comes in- after Shimshon there are three grey stories- the most confusing in all of Tanakh. These stories- you just, you get a major headache. Pesel Micha, Pilegesh b’Givah and then the Civil War.
1. Pesel Micha- he stole from his mother, then apologizes, then mother gives son back the money and tells him to build an idol, he has a yisrael acting as a kohen, then he has a Levi come around and act as a kohen. Then Dan comes around and see the idol and steal it and Micha is left without his whole god. (Question: Do we feel bad for anyone here? Everyone seems to have been doing something wrong!)
2. Pilegesh b’Givah: Woman who is a pilegesh cheats on the man, goes to her father’s house, husband comes to get her, him and the father-in-law are the focus in the story, then they go home but can’t reach home so they stop off in Binyamin, one old man invites them in and doesn’t feed them food but eats their food, then the people want to rape the man in the story! So the old man goes out and says don’t take the man- take my daughters and the pilegesh. The man shoves the pilegesh outside- they rape the pilegesh all night, collapsed on front door. (Pasuk never says she is dead.) He takes her home and chops her up into 12 pieces (well, now she is for sure dead)- and sends a message to all the tribes- we need to destroy Binyamin!
3. Battle One happens and we lose. Battle Two happens and we lose again. The answer: you’re not so good yourselves! Bad fighting bad, so everybody’s losing. We win, destroy most of Binyamin- but now we have a dilemma. The tribe will be wiped out because we swore not to let our daughters marry Binyamin. But we found Yavesh Gilad who didn’t come fight, we kill out their men, then save Binyamin by marrying them off to their women- very warped.
What is the message of these stories? There’s a pasuk that shows up four times that demonstrates what this is. The pasuk is that, during those days there was no king and each person did what was good in his own eyes.
The people are not following God’s ways or the king’s- they are just doing what they think is right. So there is mass confusion. So the end of Judges shows how bad things get when you stop listening to God.
Within the story of Shimshon, you have two pesukim that hint to us about this verse that we just read. Shoftim 14: 3- he tells his parents that she is “yashra b’enay”- she is good in my eyes. And later on says the same thing- she was good in his eyes. Shimshon was all about being a leader doing what was good in his eyes. He is the epitome of doing what is good in his eyes- if you are all going to do whatever you want, I (God) am going to appoint a leader who does what is good in his eyes.
Shimshon- it seems very clear God purposely wanted a leader of that sort. How do we see that? Because the verses throughout show that God is involved/ God was behind it- we see here on purpose that God is trying to pick this type of leader to show this is the lesson: you can’t do whatever you want! I’ll give you a leader who does whatever he wants and you’ll see how bad that is.
Parallel language between Avos & Shmuel- sounded like his parents were very positive characters, and he was meant to be a positive character. But if you continue reading Chapter 13, you’ll see that Shimshon is already going to be grey. Look in the story again and you’ll see there’s a lot of strangeness/ greyness about his parents as well.
A) The angel comes to the wife- that’s very not normal in Tanach- normally it would come to the male figure and tells her the message. She tells her husband and he does not believe her. The angel comes again to the woman and has to go get the man. Until the angel disappears in smoke, Manoach doesn’t believe that it’s an angel and then he starts freaking out- the wife tells him to chill. So this is not the Avos- we twist- these people also are confusing. An angel is coming to them, but they are on a way lower level than the Avos.
B) We have similar confusion about Manoach. Manoach was called Am Haaretz in the Gemara in Brachos but Esther Rabbah lists him as a Tzaddik! So we have the same confusion about him.
What’s the lesson? This is what happens when you do what is good in your own eyes- if you don’t listen to what God says, but rather do what you want.
DR. SHAWN ZELIG ASTER- Tzidkiyahu, the Last King of Judah and the Question of His Surrender
There’s some doubt about Tzidkiyahu because he was appointed by the Babylonians. Doubt about whether he is legitimate because the previous king, Yechanyahu, is alive and well, just in exile. In the meantime, Tzidkiyahu is on the throne in Jerusalem. Now, why else would you question Tzidkiyahu’s status as a king? Who comes after Tzidkiyahu who is not considered a king- Gedaliah, whom we don’t consider a king! What’s the difference between the two- Gedaliah was not from Beis David; that seems to be the major difference.
That is the basic background in which we find ourselves.
If you look at Jeremiah 37, the chapter begins with the only episode we really have about Tzidkiyahu in Tanach- what legitimates a king in Sefer Melachim; what is the ultimate test of legitimacy to make the king good or not good? The question is usually whether the king has obeyed God or disobeyed God- and the question of Tzidkiyahu’s obedience to God shows up in Jeremiah 37.
Tzidkiyahu is appointed as king. What are we told about him in the second verse of this narrative? That he is disobedient (he along with his court) are disobedient to Jeremiah. Despite the fact that he was disobedient to Jeremiah, what dos he do in verse 3? What does he ask of Jeremiah? “Pray for us.” Why? Because at this point the Babylonians have returned and are threatening to exile the Jews.
So you see already someone resistant to the advice of a prophet and at the same time cares about the advice of a prophet. (50 people walk into the room at this point, which is a party.) Tzidkiyahu is the last king of Judah.
Jeremiah’s instructions are detailed in verse 7. The Babylonians are called Kasdim here. The Babylonians will fight against the city, capture it and burn it in fire (prophecy of doom against the city.) Do not lift up your eyes- don’t let your souls be deceived- saying the Babylonians will go up from upon us because that won’t happen- even if all the Babylonians who are fighting against you go away and only a few injured people remain, they will come and defeat you. They will defeat you by supernatural means. Jeremiah is delivering a prophecy that God is opposing the city of Jerusalem. The idea of God fighting against Jerusalem is as shocking to Tzidkiyahu as it is to us and therefore forms a central part of our Kinnot on Tisha B’Av. Look at the beginning of the second chapter of Lamentations.
The beginning of Lamentations is how is it possible that Jerusalem is alone. The second has to do with God’s relationship to Jerusalem- how has God become our enemy? How is it that God is opposing Jerusalem? How is it that Jeremiah must submit to Babylonians and go into exile? Tzidkiyahu makes all possible effort to keep Jerusalem standing and opposed to Babylonians- to some extent that’s easy to understand because he does not accept the prophet’s words. To some extent, Tzidkiyahu comes off as a disobedient figure- but I think there is a bit more to him than just that- because it is, after all, very difficult to swallow the idea that God is fighting against Jerusalem- that there is no way to survive the siege. And that is the point of view that Tzidkiyahu seems to take here- essentially, he denies the authenticity of Jeremiah’s words as coming from God. He denies Jeremiah and says we will fight on.
If we look only at Sefer Yirmiyahu, Tzidkiyahu only emerges as a petulant child who refuses to listen to the prophet.
But I want to look at material from outside Tanakh that gives us a somewhat broader outlook on this- this is the view from Lachish.
The Lachish letters are letters that were written during this final battle of Judah against the Babylonians- they are army documents that record the orders from the middle echelon of officers to the lower echelon of officers- they are not from Jerusalem- they are found at Lachish, second-most important military fortress in Judah at the time of the battle against the Babylonians. Lachish is halfway between Jerusalem and Aza- mound is still there today- historic site of great resistance to enemies in earlier periods. Sancheriv fights against the Jews there and Sancheriv is proud that he has conquered Lachish- but Jerusalem still stands. In history of Judah in the first temple period- at this site that we have documents that give us perspective – these were found in the gatehouse at Lachish- immediately after these documents were buried, the city was burned by Babylonians and destroyed.
The documents have recently been shown by _____ (Benny) Bacon- showed that the documents are actually from Mareisha (not Lachish)- hometown of prophet Micha probably- not as important a site from Lachish. So the lower-level commander at Mareisha, let’s call him a seargent- Haesha- writing to a higher-level commander to the man at Lachish, we’ll call him Lieutenant- Yeiush.
So we have one side of the correspondence- from Heasha to Yeiush.
Letter #6- he is writing to Yeiush. All the letters open with the greeting- “May God show you peace/ good tidings” and become increasingly more and more urgent in their opening lines. The logic is obvious- Judah is under serious attack. It begins with the following statement- “Who am I, a dog that you have sent to me, letters from the King and the King’s officers saying, read these? The words of the officers are not good because they cause weakness of hands and paralysis among the people who know war.” [So Yeiush is getting letters of doom, letters in some way negative, that the option of surrender should not be taken off the table.] Weakening the hands of those supporting opposition to Babylonians. In line 8- “My lord, why don’t you write back to them opposing?”
So you see here that Hoshaya/ Heasha is expressing the point of view- let’s continue this battle!
Line 12- “Since I’ve read these letters, I’m in trouble, in distress.”
Let’s look at Lachish #4- in logical order this seems to come after Lachish #6, but the chronology is very unclear.
“May God cause you to hear good tidings.” [Seems a little more urgent than before- we are not hoping for peace so much as any good tidings] Then the word “v’ata”- this is an interesting use of the word “v’ata”- introduction to body of speech, usually. “I have followed your orders. I wrote on the column of parchment [deles as in Jeremiah 6, probably] everything you have said to me.” (But that sentence is difficult.) “You have sent me orders regarding Beit Ha’Rapah [we have no idea where that is, but we think it’s somewhere around Mareisha] but there is no one there. If you think that Semachyahu was there, Shemayahu took him back to the city (Lachish or Jerusalem). And your servant will send people there tomorrow- the idea of a patrol is that if you don’t have the personnel to staff a certain number of posts, you abandon them and do a patrol to try to keep the enemy out of those posts. So he’s doing a patrol at Beit Ha’Rapah- this indicates the increasingly low level of manpower at Hoshaya’s disposal. And he goes on and says, for whatever reason, he can no longer rely on signs from Azeika and he instead uses the signal fires of Lachish. He begins by expressing loyalty and ends with expressing loyalty to his commander but says he can’t hold ground.
This becomes increasingly urgent and stressed in Lachish Letter 3.
There was a tendency among people when they get stressed to begin to become accusatory- you’ll see it here.
“Please open the eyes of your servant’s ears” [basically, I don’t understand what you sent me]- “open my ear-eyes to the text that you sent me yesterday, last night. Because I am upset since you sent it to me. If you are going to say to me don’t you know how to read a message? By the life of God! [Notice how he wrote that Chai Hashem- abbreviated form and writing quickly] If anyone ever had to read me a book! [No one has to read me a book because I know how to read.] I swear that I never read it and considered it to be nothing. [Never took a text and considered it to be a nothing text.] I pay attention to your texts…And to your servant it was told that the officer of the army, Kenayahu son of Elyatan, has gone down to Egypt and taken someone from here, Hodayahu son of Achiyahu.” [So the army officers are retreating to Egypt- what logic? 1) To call for allied help 2) To get out of the way- with the understanding that in Egypt at least they’ll find refuge. In any case, they are not there to fight. Seems like a group went…]
So this seems to be against the intent of Hoshayahu to hold as much ground as possible.
The last line here is really fascinating- line 19, the end of Lachish 3- “And the message from Tobiahu, the servant of the King, that came to Shulam from the Prophet [we don’t know which prophet this is, but I’ll show you why I think this is from Jeremiah]- and the letter says “Hishamer.”
In what other text do you see “hishamer” used in a military context? In maftir for Yisro- take a defensive posture- don’t try to fight the battle- take a more neutral posture in battle between Aram and Ashur. The prophet is sending a letter saying, “Hishamer.” He said he sent that letter to Yeiush at Lachish.
But Hoshayahu is surrounded by certain series of demands- all of these letters are encouraging him to surrender- he’s doing everything he is supposed to be doing, but even so.
Even an objective observer looking at this dispassionately would conclude there is a certain level of bravery and stick-to-itness in Hoshayahu. And that type of steadfastness and heroism is something that in every war military people admire- and that gives us a sense of perspective of what’s going on with Tzidkiyahu. Because Tzidkiyahu to some extent is adopting the same approach- almost ____illian in its epic heroism.
And yet Tanach doesn’t show Tzidkiyahu as being a hero.
One indication in very final passage that indicates Tzidkiyahu as being a hero- albeit a tragic one.
Opening passage in Chapter 38- (the seal of one of these people was recently found, was in the news)-
What do these officers say? “Those who stay in the city will die,” Jeremiah says, “by sword, hunger and pestilence. And those who go out and surrender to the Babylonians, what will he retain? His soul. The city will be given into hands of King of Bavel.”
So the officers demand that Jeremiah should be killed, because of the negative effect he is having. Officers accuse him of sedition. There are officers that take the point of view that there should be a surrender but here at least they are taking a more militant position. Tzidkiyahu really does emerge tragically here because if you look at the continuation of Chapter 38, in verse 17, Jeremiah responds to Tzidkiyahu- “Please tell me the truth of what is going to happen” and Jeremiah answers with the same message that he has been accused of conveying- if you want to survive, you have to surrender! You’ll live if you surrender but if you remain in the city, the city will be burnt in fire.
Tragic nature of Tzidkiyahu is seen in verse 19- why is he not going to surrender? “I cannot really engage in surrender, not because I myself oppose surrender but because there are already Jews who have surrendered to the Babylonians- and if I surrender, the Babylonians will give me into the hands of those Jews and those Jews will torture me.” So Tzidkiyahu does not want to be tortured by his own people who have already surrendered who will accuse me of needlessly prolonging the conflict. I don’t have the option of surrender anymore.
What emerges in this is Jeremiah tries to convince him- Tzidkiyahu will not surrender- not out of bravery, but out of cowardice. He is fearful of becoming ridiculous.
The last verses of Tzidkiyahu’s life are in Chapter 39- fascinating portrayal of Tzidkiyahu’s last days or moments, a portrayal that is appropriate for a tragic figure, but with a certain heroic element hiding in it. Tzidkiyahu escapes the city as a tragic coward would do and yet there is a certain element of heroism in verse 27- his sons are slaughtered in front of him and he is blinded and kept as a prize. He is brought to Bavel. He is made to watch the death of his sons, blinded and brought to Bavel as a prize to the king of Bavel.
This recalls the image of the last Jew or Jewish fighter to have suffered a similar fate in Tanakh- that is the imagery of Shimshon. And if we look at Shimshon (look at last verses of Shimshon)- you have the image of Shimshon taken down to Aza imprisoned, in handcuffs, grinding in the prison house- finally his hair begins to grow- the Philistines gather for a sacrifice to their god and they are cheering over the capturing of Shimshon and at that point Shimshon kills them all.
Shimshon is the image of the heroic death (with the possible exception of Shaul)- yet considered glorious.
Had an interesting conversation with a rabbinic scholar last week- what is the glory in dying? No glory in getting up the next day and putting on Tefillin- if you have to surrender, you should. And yet there is a kind of glory in these deaths. Shimshon has that glory/ heroism because he kills more people in his death than he does in his life.
Yet Tzidkiyahu is given a somewhat more muted treatment- he is not accredited with any accomplishment in his death, but is being told that he is brought to be a ruler’s prize, is blinded, and there is a contrast with Shimson. Because while they both fight to the very last and they both battle all the way and both wind up as the ruler’s prize, Shimshon does accomplish something and becomes more of a hero than a tragedy. The comparison is meant to show how little Tzidkiyahu accomplished, for all that he held out.
In summary, we begin with Tzidkiyahu as disobedient figure, someone who refuses the orders of the Navi- stooge to Babylonians- see resistance per Lachish letters with heroism- but Tanach denies Tzidkiyahu that level of heroism because it portrays as someone unwilling to stand to his convictions- refuses to surrender out of cowardice- he winds up being tortured by Babylonians- portrayed similarly to Shimshon to contrast him- he does not accomplish anything in his death- the overarching message here, I think, is that Tzidkiyahu is aware of the prophet’s injunctions- he believes the prophet and ultimately is convinced that God has become the enemy of the Jewish people and Tzidkiyahu has to go with God against Jerusalem- very difficult thing for a King to do- to fight with God against Jerusalem- R’ Yochanan ben Zakkai faces that – very difficult challenge- let me go to Yavneh. But here Tzidkiyahu is asked to surrender Jerusalem- it’s because of the *motives* for which he makes the decision – it’s not because he is like Hoshaya fighting against all odds; it’s because of his cowardice- he is scared of the Jews. Unwilling to allow himself to be tortured by those who were previously his subjects- and so Tzidkiyahu emerges as someone who could have been a tragic hero by surrendering the city- and who ends up being portrayed as Shimshon but without the glory of Shimshon because he ultimately accomplishes nothing.
Fascinating portrayal, very painful, very difficult- implies there are times that God fights against Jerusalem. Side of God vs. Jewish independence- but for all that it is difficult, tragic, it is a message that Sefer Yirmiyahu sees as central to give to us about the fate of Judah in 586.
QUESTION: I think there is no comparison with Shimshon- because Shimshon is not doing it with the advice of a Navi.
ANSWER: Point well taken, that’s true, but then Shimshon is told that he will exist to fight the Pelishtim (seems somewhat prophetic.)
RABBI MENACHEM LEIBTAG- David Ha’melech- What Makes Him The Paradigm of the Moshiach?
President Richard Joel: (Is here! And is speaking!) If we need reminding what can bring us together from all different perspectives, it is today. Baruch Hashem, next year the Glueck Center will be open so we’ll be able to have overflow space- for us to celebrate what we are and what we need to be- unbelievable statement about our community for what we come together for and for what profusion, want to thank the Orthodox Union for their sponsorship and my colleagues and you- because if you look around, you’ll see the Yeshiva family. I don’t need to speak the advertising, because everyone you hear today is part of our faculty- this requires all of us together to be positive. Devote by devoting our time, effort and yes, our fortunes, to make sure that our world stays strong and positive- I want you to know that Yeshiva is going to be going through challenging times, some belt-tightening- I hope all and each of you, if you’re parents, that you’re absolutely devoted to sending your children to our schools, if you’re students, that you are devoted to participating in this. Look around- at what our Yeshiva is, what our University is- this doesn’t happen automatically- this happens because we are devoted to this, Torah u’Madda L’Chatchila- happens because you are going to help me make sure that we can get through these challenging times. I have to do that; that’s what they pay me for. I have to thank you for your education- every Sunday we have an extraordinary array of people who come and speak- please, you’re welcome- enjoy the day.
Rabbi Menachem Leibtag: I want to begin by talking about the – one of the most unpleasant things is having students eating in the middle of class, so therefore people eating during shiur is something ___, but people eating lunch when they are all Torah learning, they are all tzadikim. Therefore it’s okay to eat, you should eat – you should consider yourselves tzadikim that even when you’re eating, you’re learning Torah. Truth is this isn’t really a shiur; it’s more of a summary with a little bit of hashkafa.
Begin with Ushpizin- all the Ushpizin are in Chumash except one- David. So how did a non-Chumash character sneak into our Sukkah? How did David become one of the guests? David with all the problematic stories about David, even more so- I doubt if Yeshiva University would hire him today, based on those stories! [Lots of laughter]
David HaMelech’s Mashiach Tzidkeinu- in the short five-ten minutes that we’ll discuss this, I want to explain what makes David the paradigm of Mashiach. The concept is simple: I want to begin with not the only but one of the primary biblical goals of the Jewish nation is a nation representing God- we talk about that in the Rosh Hashana davening- we have a vision that if you don’t have the proper leadership, it just won’t happen. Without a CEO to put everything together, it’s not going to work. If you look at Jewish History, we came out of Egypt, received the Torah; we are given a challenge to be a nation and God promises to help us and we don’ta chieve that goal for hundreds of years. We enter the time period of the Shoftim- and the idea of representing God never happens. We only remain in survival mode- save us because we are in trouble. The first time where the goal of Chumash is fulfilled- two feet on the ground as a nation- is pretty much the time period of Shlomo. But who makes it happen from a religious leadership point of view? That will be Shmuel. From a political point of view, that will be David.
Said someone: “If you’re voting for President, I would vote for Clinton today- why? I don’t care about his behavior- he gets the job done.” When we elect a King, we’re not looking for Mr. Tzaddik- we want someone I can trust, that I can believe in- just because he did something wrong doesn’t mean he can’t be a Baal Teshuva. So I want to show you the sources- what makes David a Mashiach? He is the benchmark of Jewish leadership, political leadership, etc.
Began with Rambam in Melachot- it’s not on the source sheet but it’s a famous one- no difference between our time period and the time period of Mashiach except Shibud Malchiyot (the other nations will serve us.) Little story by R’ Yaakov Eidan, Rosh Yeshiva of Har Etzion, story of Chafetz Chaim who has a suitcase waiting with Shabbos clothes. R’ Eidan said he has another suitcase ready with working clothes- because he thinks that when Mashiach comes, now we can begin to get our job done- it’s time to get to work when Mashiach comes- out of survival mode and into revival mode. We can finally accomplish our goal as a nation.
So to prove that point, I have a little outline here on the source sheet- I’m going to use a model about how I think that develops.
Parshat Shavua is that first thing we find out about is Lech-Lecha- tells Avraham to go and makes him a promise- I’ll make you a great nation, bless you and will make your name great- and through you, make nation great. Viewed as a prediction and also can be viewed as a challenge. Many times prophecy is not just living history but shaping history – we have to help God get the job done. God will make the name great for us so that we can make the name great for Him. What technology can we use to get that job done? You’ll see that in Parshat Vayera- when God sends his angels to tell about the birth of Isaac and destruction of Sedom- God and Avraham have this discussion about Sedom, not about whether or not Sedom should be destroyed but rather how many righteous people do we need to save an entire city. If you look carefully, Avraham isn’t only davening to save Sedom- they are having a discussion over a concept of whether a small group of people can have an effect upon larger group of people. (Might be the source of the minyan, even.) If I can’t get a minyan in Sedom, God can’t save them.
Before Avraham has that conversation with God, Chumash tells the reader in almost a parenthetical way, about the background to this concept. In this interlude, source B, God tells Avraham as follows: (before God had mentioned how he cannot hide from Avraham what he is going to do to Sedom)- for what reason had God chosen Avraham earlier? Because he came to know him. Why did God choose him? Because Avraham can have his children and later pass on this tradition for all generations, they would keep the way of God, and do justice and righteousness. Why is it important that Avraham teaches this message? The challenge that God gave to Avraham to be this great nation- the way it will happen is through Am Yisrael doing tzedek and mishpat.
Kur HaBarzel- Am Yisrael has to go through basic training, a certain level of suffering in order to prepare ourselves to become that nation- God does not choose a ready-made nation. Rather, God finds a nation, almost like a test-tube baby, takes that seed and plants it in embryo of Egypt, some even compare Kriat Yam Suf to cutting the umbilical cord. After we went through this experience of suffering, becoming sensitive to that, we come to Har Sinai- enter a covenant to become a nation representing God- be a nation set aside/ a kohen is someone representing a God, a mamlacha is a sovereign nation- God is being represented by a nation and not just an individual- how will that affect the laws of Chumash, which relates to Election Week?
Lots of examples about how – the laws reflect individual behavior, but because we are a nation representing God, as a nation we have to act in a specific way. What type of government, but more so, how our political leaders should act- should we choose a monarchy? How should our monarch act? That doesn’t mean if we pick a democracy or parliamentary system, we are patur from all those laws. We have an economic system, which might help things out nowadays, called Shemitah- all land ownership goes back to original order every 49 years- a system that will prevent all the land from being with a small group of people. Every 6 years or so, we were capitalists and now become communists for a year. (Something about supporting our educators- laughter)- We have certain expectations from our judicial system- laws about how to go to war- we have to be careful- all the laws in Sefer Devarim about how to go to war, about responsibility to the community- all those laws stem from the covenant at Har Sinai. Why do we have 613 and they have 7? Because we are a nation representing God we have to be a model in all forms of behavior. Individual behavior: Parshat Mishpatim. National behavior: Sefer Devarim.
Because this mission is eternal, we need reminders of our covenantal commitment- a Mishkan, Mezuzah, tons and tons of other laws which you may call ritual but without them, we have nothing. In the laws received at Har Sinai, beautiful blend of laws that help us understand and core values- modern day political cliché, God is not working for us; we are working for God.
Yechezkel said something similar 2000 years ahead of him.
This idea of relating to other nations- I quoted from Sefer Devarim where Moshe is explaining it- be a light to other nations, by our keeping these laws, other nations will come to recognize God.
Glory and reputation of the name of God in the eyes of the other nations- that way we will be a nation representing God- as told you at Har Sinai.
This goal is key in Chumash- not achieved in the time of Joshua. We don’t hear about it. Might explain why they were so eager to accept the Givonim- why so eager to accept the Givonim? Because they didn’t realize who they were living with! In the time of the Shoftim, things go from bad to worse- our behavior is disgusting in some of the stories at the end of the book- we don’t see examples of people coming to-
What character in Source G- not just one pasuk in Sefer Shmuel, but a key pasuk that summarizes an entire idea in Sefer Shmuel- when David is the accepted leader, he is able to do tzedek and mishpat for his whole mission- he is making every effort as a national leader not only to build the country up, but also that the nation is known for doing tzedek and mishpat- in addition to that, David’s leadership ability to put that nation together, solve the problems of civil war- if you study Sefer Shmuel, you’ll see all the efforts David goes to- he strives to unite them wherever possible.
Perek in Tehillim that David wrote for his son- #72- a song written for Shlomo- he’s worried about his son who is going to take over. So he’s telling Shlomo- wants to make sure Shlomo applies that and does that as well. He’s hoping that he’ll judge his people, the poor people will bring him salvation- the downtrodden, those who are oppressed; he’ll stop oppression- he talks about people from other nations coming to hear about David- country who is interested in spreading the wealth to help those who have less.
Why is the story so central in Tanach- Queen of Sheba- when the Queen of Sheba comes to visit we reach a highlight in Jewish history. This woman hears about Shlomo through the name of God. How does she hear about Shlomo? Because he has a giant economy, a big army, he has builders- the economy is growing beautifully- that’s why she hears about Shlomo; because he is wealthy. But everything he does is always followed with the Sheim Hashem. In Tehillim, what does David do all the time? There’s tefillot and tehillot. In tefillot, we turn to God when we are in trouble- but there are also tehillot when nothing is wrong- barchi nafshi, etc- David talks to God even when he is not in trouble. Those two elements- good behavior + keeping the mitzvot God gives- talk about God.
If the same nation that acts so poorly is also walking over God’s name, the prophets get angry. Why does God destroy the Mikdash- if we are talking about God all day long but our behavior is disgusting- God basically says don’t be my marketing agent in that case. It’s in how we act and also how we talk- if we only have one of those, act morally and justly but don’t talk about God, then no one gets the message. If we talk about God but don’t act well, the message will cause a chillul- it’s both together that we need – that becomes a paradigm and ideal for the future.
Rehab= Exile. So exile and return is based on that same idea.
Our last line is what Chazal brings right before Tisha B’av- want to apply this a little bit today. If we want to return and bring Mashiach, what do we focus our efforts on? Use our knowledge of biology and find some grave of David and find the remnant of the house of David and make him King- is that what we learn from David HaMelech or do we study Tanakh/ Chumash and see what are the characteristics of David that make him successful- apply those concepts to our own leaders and teach our children and try to develop political leadership- if we want to learn, we ask Hashem- hashivu shafteinu- we talk about returning David- not just yearning for the physical connection, but to help bring Mashiach and the type of leadership, what we prioritize- what we do with that sovereignty, we can learn a lot from David and take the message from him- hopefully what we’re doing today can help make that happen.
RABBI SHALOM CARMY- THE PROPHET AND THE PROSTITUE: A LITERARY AND MIDRASHIC ANALYSIS
Since usually we hold faculty meetings here, I know I can speak loudly enough to be heard in the back. The title was announced, “The Prophet and the Prostitute,”- fortunately, the vast amount of people who asked me about the title knew that the prophet was Hoshea. Now, there actually are two perakim that I am going to speak about. That I’m not sure if everybody knows. Everyone knows Hoshea 1 is relevant, because everyone pays attention to the haftorah. But if people are not paying attention to the haftorah, it’s because they’re learning Daf Yomi- they’ve got to the Gemara Peh-Zayin which discusses Hoshea.
[We’re discussing Hoshea, Chapters 1 & 3.]
God spoke to Hoshea before he spoke to anybody else. The beginning of Hoshea’s career- the Gemara interpreted differently. And God said to Hoshea- go take an unfaithful woman and children of prostitution because this symbolizes the land will whore away/ betray Ribbono Shel Olam. And he went and took Gomer the daughter of Divalyaim. The first son should be called Yizrael because soon I will take into account the blood of Yizrael upon the house of Yehu. Yizrael is the name of a valley, the north of Shomron and south of Galil. The association of Yizrael is – well, there are two assosciations possible- you can look at the etymology of the word, in which case it is Yizra-El, the Seed of God. In terms of historical association, it is the area in which Yehu avenged the blood of Navot HaYizraeli. There are two stories in Melachim, one story is Achav framing Navot HaYizraeli, and rather than confiscate his land, Achav arranged a judicial murder, and then the house of Achav is also wiped out there. So Yizrael represents the sins of Achav and avenging the sins of Achav. Here the Navi takes into account the sins/ hosue of Yehu- the house of Yehu will be wiped out because of what they did to the house of Achav.
Interesting moral point- even though Yehu smoked the house of Achav at the word of the Navi and fulfilled the word of a Navi, appointed the word of a Navi, nevertheless Yehu is being punished- the general principle here is that when people engage in acts of violence, acts of murder, even when instructed by God to do it, motivation matters a great deal, and the people who wreak this vengeance themselves do not live up to the ideals of serving God, what’s left is just a murderer. It’s a very important point. It’s a point that applies in verses that are better known to most of us, regarding Amalek. Shaul is told to wipe out Amalek. He did so, almost, but he didn’t do so for the right motives, because he did not fulfill God’s word to precision; he introduced his own calculations, his own agenda, and as a result, he did not fulfill the mitzvah- important point to raise whenever there are halakhot that require us to act in a manner which does not conform to everday normal morality- are we acting purely Shem Shamayim or to fulfill our own personal agendas, nationalistic, secular agenda? That goes back and casts judgement on whether we act as n act of serving God or not. So here Yehu fulfilled the words of the Navi and a few generations later, since his dynasty did not live up to the high ideals required to replace Achav- they fell into the same patterns the house of Omri and Achav displayed- they are subjected to the same fate. And the kingship of the kingdom will come to an end.
On a simple level, once the house of Yehu is wiped out, even though there are some later kings of Israel, the real kingship has come to an end. Those of you who learned the Yerushalmi in Hodayos, remember that the King bringing a special korban- that did not apply to the kings after Beit Yehu- no longer a real kingship. Not according to the Yerushalmi.
Now, she had a daughter- you’ll notice the first child is born to Hoshea (va’teiled lo) while the second is va’teiled bat (not so clear who the father is)- and the name was Lo Ruchama because God will not continue showing mercy to Bnei Yisrael.
The name of the third child is Lo Ami (Not My People). Why the three children, what they symbolize- I don’t think we have that much time for it just now- perek beit, which we did not distribute today- the opening of perek beit- kind of nechama, consolation at the end of this nevuah- or it’s a beginning of chapter 2. Chapter 2 continues, in any event, with a very harsh nevuah- God says I’m not my husband/ she’s not my wife. Let her take away her adornments and whoredom- fairly harsh, very harsh language there- unless you want to compare it to the language in Yechezkel, which is even harsher- very hard language, and at the end of perek beit there is then a restoration- a point of teshuva and the marriage so-to-speak between God and Bnei Yisrael is restored. You have there pesukim that are not in the haftorah but familiar at least to the male people in the audience, reenactment of the – you recite these pesukim when you wrap the tefillin around your fingers. The bulk of perek beit continues that theme of the Jewish people betraying God like a treacherous wife and ends with the restoration of the marriage connection. So the 2nd chapter has clear thematic relations to perek aleph.
Now perek gimmel, which is not as well known- God said further to me, go love a woman, beloved of her friend [either means her husband or a woman who was attracted to her husband or loved by her friends], an adulteress, like the love of God to Bnei Yisrael. In perek aleph, did God tell the Navi explicitly that his relationship to his wife symbolized the broken relation between God and Bnei Yisrael? The way I’m asking it, you know what the answer is- it’s clear there is symbolism here- the explicit statement to begin with, when God says, “Take for yourself a woman”- indicates that symbolic relationship but does not explicitly say that Hoshea equals God and the woman equals Kelal Yisrael. Perek gimmel is more explicit in that regard.
If we are being careful with every word and assume the nuances matter, then there is a slight difference- all the hints are given to us, but it’s not spelled out 100%. In the first perek, it’s because it parallels; in perek gimmel the equation is made explicit. They turn away to other Gods, and they turn after the grape-cakes or fruit-cakes used in Avodah Zarah, fertility rites. Hoshea reports that he ratified that relationship, was mekadesh her with a significant amount of money, and he said to her, “Many days you will dwell with me, you will not betray me, you will not relate to any other man, and so I to you.” So the relationship that Hoshea outlines is one that is a marriage but there is no relationship for a very long time, for the conceivable future. Because many days will Yisrael have without king, officer, without korbanot, without matzeivah, and very often the Neviim will talk about these particular objects of worship even though these are objects not normally used in worship of God.
Then they will turn to God, yearn to God- so we have these two things- well, the classical discussion about perek aleph, as some of you know already- the Gemara in Pesachim pey-zayin. The Gemara says: In the beginning of God’s word to Hoshea, the Gemara asks- did they speak to him first; weren’t there many Neviim? Rather, he was the first of those Neviim belonging to that period- God initiated contact with him. And you will notice that we’re speaking about- these are Neviim who are known primarily for their writing- Neveii HaKetav- up to this time the Neviim are known for their actions rather than their words- think about Eliyahu and Elisha. It’s not so much the poetry- we know what they did; we know their actions. As a matter of fact, if you look at some of their actions, some of them are the backdrop to Hoshea perek aleph. It may very well be argued that the transition of the Neviim described primarily with regard to their actions to the Neviim who are known for their poetry is a transition from a period in which Ribbono Shel Olam intervenes in a political realm- there’s a quest for a good king and Neviim are there to put their finger on the scale and ensure that the good King is anointed- and what we have from Hoshea on, where it would seem that all these experiments in replacing Kings with other Kings are not worth Ribbono Shel Olam’s investment, prestige and time. Movement from more political way of thinking, Navi as outsider. Some other time we’ll discuss some of the features of this.
So Hoshea is the first of the so-called Nevii HaKetav, to substitute my language. So God said to Hoshea, “Your sons have sinned.” Hoshea should have said, “They’re not my children- they are your children.” Now, I believe the Gemara is assuming here that we are familiar with Chumash- because we have the precedent after the Cheit HaEgel where God said to Moshe, “Your people have become corrupted” and Moshe answers, “*Your* people.” So the Gemara is taking it for granted that we know Hoshea is being contrasted with Moshe. So he should have said they’re God’s children. “Children of your graciousness [or the manuscript edition- those who are tested by/ discriminated by]”- four kinds of arguments Hoshea should have used. Not only did he not say that, but he said to God, “Ribbono Shel Olam, exchange them for another people!” That’s exactly what God *said* to Moshe (I would like them out and would make you the nation in their place and Moshe turned that down)- Hoshea does not rise to the occasion in the same way. So God said, “What will I do with this old man? I’ll tell him to go marry a prostitute- and show him ____ heritage- and send her away.” So the Gemara now interprets this as go marry a prostitute. Which is a rather surprising way to initiate a career in Nevuah. Imagine someone going to yeshiva and his first day, Rosh Yeshiva says to him- go marry a prostitute. That Rosh Yeshiva would probably be up on charges for it.
[CHANA: It’s similar to Jonah and the Kikayon, isn’t it? Jonah has to learn what it feels like; here Hoshea must learn how it feels…and they answer God similarly afterwards.]
Then the Ribbono Shel Olam says to him- “shouldn’t you have learned from Moshe- Moshe separated from his wife? You too separate from her!” The logic here is a little bit strange, because the reason regarding Moshe is a little different from the reason regarding Hoshea. Moshe separated from his wife because he had to be ready for nevuah every moment. He had to be primed for nevuah every moment so could not indulge in sexual activity. It’s kind of like saying that if the kohanim are sober to go to duchaning, I have to be sober also. Thank God, I’m not a kohen; I don’t have to be sober! [Laughter] So offhand, the logic doesn’t seem to work- Hoshea could have answered that he was a different kind of Navi than Moshe was. The principle is that since Moshe had no trouble separating from his wife, Hoshea should be able to separate from his wife, too.
By Moshe it says: “Pereish” from her- withdraw might be a good translation
By Hoshea it say: “Nivdal”- really means separate
Clear discussion- there is nothing wrong by Moshe except that he had other things that were priorities, but by Hoshea he clearly has to separate from her. Hoshea says, “I have sons- five children with her; I cannot send her out and I cannot divorce her.” Why not? The simple reasoning would be that once you have children, it affects what you are going to do.
So God says: “Your wife and your children- you don’t know if they are yours or somebody else’s,” and then at that point Hoshea celebrates the destiny of Kelal Yisrael.
What is going on in this perek with the Gemara, without the Gemara- even without the Gemara, we have to say the relationship between Hoshea and Gomer parallels the relationship between God and Israel- there’s a sense that even though God and Yisrael are estranged, they must remain together in some way- simple reading is that they must remain together for the sake of the children. In perek beit, the Navi calls upon the children to take the side of the father against the mother- at end of the perek, it is the children who are restored- the children become the arena in which this relationship is restored- so this is what we have here. Terrifying image of a relationship between God and Israel as being like a man who separates from his wife- peculiar situation in which Am Yisrael is compared both to the faithless woman and to the children of that marriage. You want to work out a one-to-one symbolism, it doesn’t really work out perfectly.
Let me now turn to perek gimmel which is part of the sequence- here is the area where I think I have something to say that’s new. Let’s go back to perek aleph- before we look at this one more point which actually is represented in the rest of the handout here, there is a big debate among the mefarshim as to whether these events actually occurred or if they are part of a prophetic vision. Everyobdy knows that the Rambam and those that operate in the Rambam’s wake are very hesitant (weak way of putting it- averse) to ascribing to Neviim strange or immoral behavior. The idea that God would tell the Navi to do something strange- like Yeshaya running around naked or Yechezkel eating food cooked in excrement- those things can’t be; it’s all visionary. The Gemara, it seems- for the Rambam, then, those pesukim have to be figurative. The Gemara seems to be taking it literally. For the Rambam, it is occurring, but occurring in imagination, for Gemara it’s literal- the Targum seems to be saying that God is discussing this issue with Hoshea as a kind of parallel- Targum seems to translate the word “Kach lecha” as take as an example- does anyone remember a comedian named Penny Youngman saying “take my wife” where you expect him to say ‘Take my wife” as an example, but then he says, “Take my wife, please!” so he moves from Targum to literal- if you don’t know who Penny Youngman was, I’ll explain it to you later- so you have these three options.
The Abarbanel mounted an attack on the Rambam in the name of literalism- saying that if the pasuk says this is what happened, this is what happened and there is an enormous burden of proof on anyone who says it does not. I woke up from a dream where a Rabbi, priest and Protestant theologian were walking together- you assume it’s fictional because those are conventions. But other way around, if I say I met Father So-and-So, you would assume it’s true unless I say I am just telling you a story.
For the Rambam, the conventions are whenever there’s something the Navi should not be doing, it’s all imaginary, all part of a vision but Abarbanel is not so sure of that. You have to distinguish on literary sensiblities, not just theology- what’s more likely to be narrative, what’s more likely to be literary-
Hoshea, perek aleph- There is a third-person omniscient narrator telling this story. In perek gimmel, it’s Hoshea telling the story. For all that we know in perek aleph it could be Hoshea writing it in third person, also- but from a literary point of view, in perek aleph Hoshea is an object, in perek gimmel he is a person/ we see it from his point of view.
It is not clear at this point whether God is saying go marry a prostitute or go marry this woman who turns out to be a prostitute- in third person we are told Hoshea married her. In Chapter 1, the woman has a name. In Chapter 3, the woman does not have a name. Interesting. You could say it’s the same woman. If you made a movie out of it, you would have the same woman playing both roles. But Chapter 3 does not give her a name. Why not? I would suggest something here. Naming has the quality of making something opaque. Those who study philosophy are familiar with this- distinction between naming and describing.
Menachem Begin is somebody’s name. When Ben-Gurion wanted to insult him, he would say “The man sitting next to member of Knesset X,” – big difference between calling someone by name and saying the man sitting next to another person- when you give somebody a name, the person is described as unique- not simply whoever it is occupying that space- the person is unique, and when they are unique, they are mysterious. Louis XIV is a unique human being. The King of France in 1720 is a description which happens to fit Louis XIV. There is more mystery in a proper name than there is in a description. However you explain a name, a symbolic name and opaque name, even if you have a good explanation for it- remains somehow dense and not transparent- it remains mysterious, the way human beings are mysterious. In Chapter 3, an anonymous woman does not present the same kind of mystery. The world of Chapter 1 is a much more mysterious world- a world where we look at the Navi from the outside-in, no immediate access to what is going on in the Navi’s mind, but the Navi is in the third person; he’s not reporting to us- we have him marrying a mysterious woman and having children with very strange and mysterious names which are part of some kind of higher symbolic transaction. In Chapter 3, we see into the Navi- the woman does not have a name which means we see into her in a way that we do not see into Gomer in the first perek; she is known to us by description rather than by name. In Chapter 3, the marriage is described in terms of a transaction. Again, it takes a marriage from a symbolic level down to a very practical level. In Chapter 1, the exact equivalent between God and the Navi and Yisrael and Gomer are not made totally explicit- there remains some mystery about it- the imagination will never quite get its hands around the idea. In Chapter 3, it’s a lot more prosaic, whereas in Chapter 1, the end of the chapter is shattering- these children are not my children; I’ll have nothing to do with them anymore and Chapter 2 takes them back to some degree. In Chapter 3, the plan outlined for these two people is a very sober and realistic plan. The relationship has gone bad and therefore for a very long time, all the way through Galut, there will be a relationship between the husband and wife, an intimate relationship but not one that is totally consummated- you will wait for me.
Same woman or different woman- really don’t care right now- you’re going to be with me for a long time. Am Yisrael will never have another lover, another seeker; at the same time Am Yisrael will not have the same kind of closeness with God as good have been the case before the betrayal.
Now, if I take the two stories- I say the first story is one where the Navi does not fully understand what is going on; in fact, the Navi is taken by storm in the sitation. The Gemara- the Navi said whatever he said and God throws him into a situation which is completely mysterious to him, at the mercy of feelings he doesn’t understand- at a deeper level can’t expel this woman even though rationally he coud.
In Chapter 3, the storm has calmed down, the Navi has a clear idea of where he stands vis-à-vis his wife and as a result, there has been a character development of the Navi- character development in how to conceive the relationship between God and Bnei Yisrael. From betrayal, jealousy and terror to this long, lonely period in which that estrangement is very enigmatically repaired. I could elaborate on this much longer; I just want to make one more point here- want to raise a question that I don’t have a good solution for- namely, the duality where Am Yisrael is both compared to the woman and the children. Now the reason for that duality is pretty obvious- one person that I talked to, came out of the closet and discussed this issue with, R’ Yoel bin Nun, someone who would know at 1:30 in the morning, didn’t get too far with it- pretty obvious that the children of a relationship- you can divorce your wife; you can’t divorce your children. No matter how passionate Hoshea’s attached to her- you can break that. But if you go through Tanakh in general, you’ll find there are many places where you have that double imagery- in Yeshaya (Imchem- your mother and also the children, both Kelal Yisrael)- sometimes it happens- project aspects of different kinds of images- but this would be a whole different lecture and even if the temperature were a little bit more user-friendly right now, even if you told me please let’s go on another hour, I don’t have this fully prepared- if this were a real course, I’d probably take a few minutes, hit my head against the wall, try to make a breakthrough and then probably give up- since not a real course, hope we can have other opportunities.