Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Weapons in Samuel

The relationship between Saul, Jonathan and David is very complex. It occurred to me that it is played out via their weapons of choice.

Saul's weapon is the Spear.
Jonathan's weapon is the Bow and Arrow.
David's weapon is the Slingshot and Stone.

All three of these weapons are the same in that all of them take flight in order to be effective. They are not like a sword, where one simply thrusts the sword through a person, or hacks them with it.

But Jonathan's weapon is most similar to David's weapon because both of their weapons require something else to launch it. Jonathan's bow launches his arrow and David's slingshot launches his stone, but Saul's hand is what throws the spear. Thus, Saul is different from the two of them. In the end, Jonathan and David are most similar to one another.


My student expanded upon this idea. He said that he thought that the Bow and Arrow and the Spear are similar, because an Arrow is like a Spear, just smaller. 

I ran with his idea to create this:

Jonathan's weapon shows the tension and inner struggle of his character. On the one hand, the bow and arrow is similar to Saul (the arrow has the same pointy tip as the spear). On the other hand, the bow and arrow is an implement being launched by another implement, similar to David. Jonathan is similar to both and has loyalties to both- hence his inner struggle, conflict and tension. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Aquatic Perfection: The Mitzvah of Mikvah, and The Wild World of Water

Tonight I had the pleasure of hearing Rabbi Eytan Feiner of The White Shul in Far Rockaway give a speech on "Aquatic Perfection: The Mitzvah of Mikvah, and The Wild World of Water."

I enjoyed hearing Rabbi Feiner speak. He included many references and gematriot in his speech which I did not catch/ write down, so what I'm going to reproduce below are some of the major themes and ideas that I found interesting. This should in no way be seen as reflecting his entire speech, or even all of his ideas. Some I'm deliberately skipping, and some I did not catch.

Rabbi Feiner began his speech with an interesting anecdote. He suggested that the Israelis and Palestinians decided that instead of fighting each other, they were going to create a war between dogs. Each of them had five years to breed the dog they wanted to put into the arena. And so the Palestinians made sure to get rottweilers, pitbulls and wolves and mate them together in order to create a really ferocious dog. The Israelis simply brought out an odd, very long daschund. When it came time to fight, the daschund swallowed the ferocious dog. When asked how they accomplished this, the Israelis said, "You spent five years trying to breed the most ferocious dog. We spent five years trying to get a plastic surgeon to get a crocodile to resemble a daschund."

In the time of Pharaoh, the Egyptians worshipped the Nile. In fact, Princess Bitya (or possibly her father) was named after the crocodile god, according to some sources. The reason that Pharoah would go down to the Nile River in the morning, per some other sources, was because he wished to worship the sun (Ra) and the Nile at the same time, so he made sure to be there at the sunrise. So we know that water was very powerful in ancient traditions and ancient religions.

The question is: Why do we as Jews see the water as powerful? Why is it that when we go to the mikvah, we dip in water rather than cream cheese or butter?

The answer to this is rather lengthy, and it begins all the way back in the time of Adam.

Adam is considered the Master Namer, the Namer of all Creatures. Adam names all the creatures, but he does not name the fish. There is no named fish mentioned in the Tanakh itself (the Leviathan appears elsewhere). (I was confused by this part. As far as I am aware, and I could be wrong, no animals are named in the Tanakh, either. I always thought the naming simply meant naming the animals as a species. I'll have to email the rabbi and see). Several sources explain that God literally brought the animals (the ones that were not domesticated) to Adam in order for him to name them, and thus it would have been impossible for God to bring the fish to him. After all, if you take a fish out of water, it will die. But this is not sufficient for some others, who question it and say, God is God. He can perform miracles. Why then doesn't he miraculously allow the fish to live and bring it to Adam? There must be a deeper reason.

A name is how we highlight the core essence of anyone. The word sham means 'there.' The word shem means 'name.' A shem gives someone a sham, a place to be, to exist. The word neshama, which means soul, has the word shem as its inner letters.

The Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisroel said that there is no name given to the fish by Adam because we do not have any communication with them. They do not live with us on dry land; they live in the water. Think about it. If you have a pet dog or cat, you probably communicate with them and play with them. But rarely if ever does one communicate with one's goldfish. A name is given when you want to form a relationship with something.  This to the point that in fact, if you name a cow, thus causing you to have a relationship with her, she will produce 250 liters more milk per day than a regular cow.

The mitzvah of Tashlich is meant to be performed by water where there are fish. The reason for this is because there is an idea that none of the fish's foibles creep past the water. There is an idea that no ayin hara (evil eye) can penetrate past the surface of the water. Kishuf (evil magic) also cannot penetrate water.

When God destroyed the world in the Mabul during the generation of Noach, the reason he did that, per R' Tzadok, is because that mabul served as a Mikvah. Everything that had contact with that purifying Mikvah died, with the exception of the people and animals on the ark, and the fish.

So clearly there is something in the world of water that is significant. There is an idea that we can trace the sophistication and civilization of the world by looking at beverages. The world began with water. Then we had beer, then spirits, then coffee, then tea, then coke, and now we are back to water again. There are over 800 brands of bottled water available.

In the Creation story, there are three disparate words that are used- Asa, Bara and Yatzar. The question is: What is the difference between these three words?

Briah refers to creation ex nihilo, something from nothing.
Yetzirah refers to giving something a tzayar, adding features and dimensions to it.
Asiyah refers to completing something- it's the idea of makeh b'patish, taking the final step to complete something and make it usable.

God deliberately left the world uncompleted. We as humans help to complete the world and help it to achieve perfection.

But the waters of the world belong to God. He completed them; there is nothing active to build or to create in the water. Hence there is an idea of the concept of asiyah referring to the waters. God finished the waters; humans cannot add more to them. This is part of the meaning behind the word Mayim being a palindrome- backwards and forwards it is the same. It needs no extra steps or completion.

But the earth is not done or ready- the world has features but we need to take it further. For instance, one of the commands we are given is to settle the world. One of the opinions is that when it came to the Dor HaFlaga, the Generation of the Dispersion, part of their sin was that they did not want to settle the world. They preferred to stay in one place and build rather than spread out.

If you look at the creation narrative, you will see the name Elokim used for God over and over. Elokim and HaTeva both have a numerical value via gematriyah equal to 86. Elokim can also be read as meaning Kel HaYam, God of the Seas. This is why God usually manifests via water. When we cried out Zeh Keli, This is my God, we did that by the splitting of the Sea of Reeds.

Fish do not need shechita, ritual slaughtering, beause we do not need to perfect them further. They live in God's element, the water, and thus they do not need us to help make them more godly. This is also the reason fish do not need to be brought as korbanot. The element of water is not our element- it is not our world. We cannot live there; if we would try to live underwater, we would die. There is an idea that Satan and Shedim live near the water because they do not live in our world. We live on the Yabasha, the place where God dried up the waters, but in the very beginning water covered the entire earth- God was everywhere.

There is an idea in Perek Shira that when the fish sing, what happens is that the Kol Hashem is heard constantly over the water. The Shem Mishmuel says that water of the world is a different dimension than the rest of the world. Thus, mikvah is when you want to remove the person of old and want to emerge a new person. Therefore, you leave behind your world and you go into God's world, the world of water. You need to be fully submerged within it, and when you leave, you emerge a briah chadasha, a new creation. It is almost like a form of symbolic suicide. It's like going back into the womb, surrounded by amniotic fluid, and then you come out and you are a new person.

When a woman comes out of the mikvah, she comes out fresh and tahor, ready to renew her marriage. But the Rav on Parshat Korach in Shiurei HaRav says that a person who wants to convert does both milah and tevilah. Why milah? In order to brand yourself with a mark that shows you are an eved Hashem, in the same way that knights have coats of arms that identify them. Going into the mikvah shows that the person now wants to connect with God. The person is leaving dry land and going into the water in order to connect to God. They are leaving the world of safety and security, of materialism, and connecting with God in his world.

The very nature of fish, that live in water, in God's element, is to be called Dag. Dag is comprised of two letters- daled and gimmel. Daled equates to 4 and gimmel to 3. Daled plus Gimmel gives you 7, the number of completion or satiety. (Rabbi Feiner wrote a 37-page-paper on the number seven; email him if you want to read it). Since a Dag is already at completion, there is no need to do anything more to it, such as shechita or korbanot, in order to make it better.

Then you have Gad. Gad was the seventh son born to Yaakov. Others point out he was born at seven months. And still others say that he was born circumcised- also, completed. There was no need to do anything more to him.

The Arizal writes that when a tzadik, a righteous person, has to be megalgel (return to the world again in order to fix a minor error), he reincarnates as a fish. It makes sense if you consider the fish to be the perfect creature that lives within God's element.

The largest creatures in the world live in the water (blue whale). The tallest mountain, from base to tip, is found in Hawaii and is found in the water. The Yam Suf and the Mabul are examples that show that when God wants to punish, He uses water. Ten minutes of one hurricane has more power than nuclear weapons. Most miracles involve water (Moshe by water, Yehoshua by water, Eliyahu and Elisha by water). The world melech equates to the gematriya of water, because God uses water to show His power over the world.

Even today, when we have so many amazing technological innovations, we cannot control the weather. We can be in charge of everything in the world, but not the weather. God's gevurah is highlighted via water. The very words gashmiut and matar show that everything material in the world comes from the rain (geshem) and that matter comes from dew (matar).

If seven is the number of satiety, completion and Teva, then 8 is the number that is l'maaleh min haTeva- one step further. This is why Shemini Atzeret is l'maaleh min haTeva. Obesity is called shamen- more than satiated. Neshama and shemoneh are the same letters. A horizontal 8 represents infinity. Chanukah is 8 days and the Chashmonaim are 8 times Shemoneh. Parshat Shemini includes the stories of Nadav and Avihu, where they went beyond what they were supposed to do.

When it comes to the holiday of Sukkot, for 7 days we are judged on water, and we use and wave plants that grow near the water. Only on the 8th day can we then approach and recite a Tefilat Geshem. There is an idea that Moshe corresponds to Shemini Atzeret; he was saved in the water and was able to control the water (Yam Suf) and sinned with water.

The main takeaway is that water is God's element, that the creatures that live within the water do not need to be perfected by  human means, and that thus, by immersing ourselves in water, we are showing our desire to reconnect with God in His element.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Imagined Conversation Between Tamerlan and Dzokhar

I still don't understand how this went down.

Tamerlan: I follow radical Islam and think that we need to teach the USA a lesson.
Dzokhar: Whatever, dude, I'm watching Game of Thrones right now.
Tamerlan: How about we buy some pressure cookers and turn them into bombs?
Dzokhar: Cool! We'll be like that guy on "Breaking Bad," running a meth lab out of his house.
Tamerlan: And then we can blow up half the world at the Boston Marathon.
Dzokhar: Totally, dude. I'm right there with ya. Just let me finish eating this Nutella sandwich.

I mean, where's the part where Dzokhar says "Bro, I hate to break it to ya, but that's kind of a crazy idea, and NO, I won't help you blow up half the world?"

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I'll Fix Your Damage And You'll Love Me- Right?

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month.

Due to this, Jenny Payne has written an article in The Columbia Spectator called 'Time To Talk.' In her article, she details the emotional coercion and abuse that she suffered at the hands of her depressed, obsessive and threatening boyfriend.

Her boyfriend would hold a knife up to his face and threaten to kill himself if she did not do certain things in order to 'save' him.

Or in her words:
    I didn't know how to respond when he said he would kill himself if I didn't do what he wanted, when I would Skype with him and he would hold a knife to his throat. 
     On Halloween night of my senior year of high school, he told me about his plan to run away from home. He wouldn't listen to me when I asked him not to, and I became scared when I read his increasingly violent texts.
     He only stopped his threats when I agreed to have sex with him. I didn't have any other choice unless I wanted to feel responsible for both his escape and planned suicide. 
     That was the first time I had sex.
The question that I think we need to ask ourselves upon reading this article is: what made this possible?

And I think the answer is that the media, pop culture, fairy tales and books that we raise our children on all give over this message. It comes in two forms. The first message, for girls, is the famous 'Beauty and the Beast' story. Only 'Beauty' can take an angry Beast who cannot control his temper, tame him, nurture him, heal him, fix his damage, and save him from himself. He is transformed through her. This is also the plot of every single Harlequin or Regency romance. It is also, more disturbingly, the plot of most contemporary teen fiction.

For men, the message appears in the 'Damsel in Distress' form. Men are consistently taught that they exist to rescue the 'Damsel in Distress,' whether it's the fact that they need to wake Sleeping Beauty, kiss Snow White awake or protect a girl who otherwise makes poor decisions. Contemporary books change the formula so that the boy is a rock who protects the girl from her otherwise maladaptive choices and/or her suicidal self.

The problem with these messages is that they resonate around the following scenario:

1. I fix your damage, in a completely selfless way that allows you to threaten me, yell at me, deride me, push me away, because I know that deep down you're just scared and you don't really mean it.

2. I officially expect nothing in return, but deep down I want you to be grateful to me for fixing your damage, and due to your gratitude to love me.

3. Usually, the reason I need you to love me out of gratitude is because I feel insecure/ not confident about myself, and don't think that you could or would love me for myself. You can only love me for what I do for you (mentally/ emotionally/ physically).

Thus, impressionable children and teens develop the notion that love exists when someone is 'saved' or 'rescued' by someone who comes along and selflessly 'fixes their damage,' asking nothing in return. Not only is this the model of love that the majority of our children see, but it is in fact the love, the great, the stormy, the deepest and most passionate love.

And while sometimes, in its most extreme form (like when it takes the form of domestic violence), we as a society discuss why this is problematic, much more often we not only respect this love but allow it to be the dominant love seen in our culture. It's this love that is portrayed in so many films, especially teen-focused films. It's this love that we uphold all the time. It's this love that wins the Oscar in Silver Linings Playbook, is the core idea of The Mortal Instruments, this love that's a drug described in the horrifically abusive relationship idolized by so many girls that manifests as the Edward Cullen-Bella Swann relationship. It's also this love that appears in the incredibly successful 50 Shades of Grey.

What all this means is that if you ask your average teen what the word 'love' means, they not only have no idea, but they usually have an unhealthy idea. Many believe love is something you fall into, it is completely uncontrolled (you cannot choose who you love, or how strongly you feel about that person), that it involves saving the other person, and it involves disturbing amounts of selflessness/ self-sacrifice. Alternatively, love is not distinguishable from lust, and is mainly a status issue (whose girlfriend/ boyfriend is hotter/ more attractive). The whole idea of love as two people walking together, growing together, trying to help each other to develop socially, mentally, emotionally and otherwise is not present. The whole idea of a loving relationship as not involving extremes, but rather involving measured thoughts, discussions, debates and even disagreement doesn't exist. Loving, as teens see it, is an all-or-nothing enterprise. And the idea of a relationship where one chooses to stay with one's partner, not because of an uncontrollable pull towards them, but because one respects their values, beliefs and character traits, is totally out of the question. That is seen as 'not romantic.' Because our idea of romantic has become skewed. We do not see passion unless a feeling is uncontrolled, we do not see love unless it is all-or-nothing love, and we do not like the characters in the loving relationships unless they are willing to sacrifice anything for the one they love, asking nothing or little in return.

What this means, in short, is that we need to teach the concept of love, and also of healthy relationships, because our society does not.

Although I do not know Jenny, I know myself. And thus I think it is likely that Jenny had a deep, intense, terrifying but at times possibly exhilarating relationship with her boyfriend. She felt needed by him. She knew that nobody else could help him except her, which made her feel special. At the same time, she was worried that she was not enough or could not do enough for him. And since her whole self-esteem and value had been reduced to: Can I or can I not fulfill my mission, can I or can I not save him- failure was not an option. She had to save him, to do whatever it took, in order to prove that she was that magical, important person that she secretly wanted to be but worried she wasn't.

In this article, Jenny has not yet addressed why this happened to her. She apportioned blame to the boyfriend- and rightly so. But she calls what happened to her rape, when in fact, at the time, it was consensual. It is almost as though she does not want to see her part in this at all, possibly because of the deep shame she feels in being complicit. She sees herself as the victim of intimate partner violence- when she was both a victim and simultaneously complicit in it- at the time. She talks about how she landed herself in the psych ward by "trying too hard to save another's life." She says that "nobody ever asks to be the victim of sexual violence." And all of this is true. But it's simultaneously not completely true. Because Jenny stayed in that relationship when other women would have left. And the question that I would argue she needs to explore is why. 

Not because I'm trying to say Jenny should be blamed. She should not be blamed. Nor should battered women who stay in abusive relationships be blamed. There are many factors for why a battered woman, or a partner in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship, stay in the relationship. But it's too easy to put it all on the partner and make him into a monster. The partner was manipulative, coercive, and obviously sick. But what was it in Jenny that made her stay? What needs did she have that were being met, in some twisted form, by this relationship? And once she identifies those, how can they be met in a healthy way?

Our society does not yet have the compassion to see that it should not be viewed as shameful when people are party to their own abuse. Our society likes a lily-white heroine, a story where Jenny was a sweet girl who  was a victim and her boyfriend was sick and manipulative. But what if that's not the true story? What if Jenny, too, had something in her that made her stay, whether that was low self-esteem or other insecurities that could only be assuaged if someone made her the center of his life, even in a negative way? Can it not be that she too has what to work on?

I've written before about the fact that I am not naturally attracted to men who are good for me. I had to work long and hard on understanding healthy relationships and unhealthy relationships, figure out what needs my unhealthy relationships were meeting, and how to refocus these needs or reframe them towards the goal of being a partner in a healthy relationship. But one of the first things I had to do- and obviously I am not Jenny- is admit, despite shame, that I had been a party to certain hurtful things that had been done to me. Which is not to say that I am deserving of blame. But it does say that the story is not so simple- that one person is the monster and the other is the angel. Usually, there's something there for both people to work on.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Sugihara: How The Mir Yeshiva Was Saved

Today is Yom HaShoa, and therefore an appropriate day to post an excerpt from Rabbi Dr. Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff's fantastic book, From Washington Ave to Washington St, that tells the story of how the Mir Yeshiva was saved, and especially of the life-saving work of Sempo Sugihara. The excerpt below is taken from pages 24-29.


Mir was part of Poland when the German forces crossed the frontier on September 1, 1939. The Soviet armies attacked Poland’s eastern border on September 17. Within a few weeks the German and Russian forces met and their mutual partition of Poland became a reality. Almost all the major Polish yeshivot were located in eastern Poland, which was now occupied by the Soviets. Atheism and enmity toward religion were basic to the Marxist and Communist doctrines. Numerous roshei yeshiva and yeshiva students had personally experienced this harsh reality under the Communists during the post-World War I period. Many had chosen to flee to independent Poland to avoid Soviet persecution. These yeshivot were now once again under Soviet control. As detrimental as this new reality was, the situation in the German-occupied zone was infinitely worse. There the yeshivot were under Nazi dominion. The immediate reaction to these events was that the yeshivot must flee and relocate in more secure locations. Nevertheless, there was no area available that was not under Communist or Nazi domination. On October 10, 1939 the Soviets reached an agreement with the neutral Republic of Lithuania to transfer to it control over the city of Vilna. This focal center for Jewish life and its environs now passed from Polish to Lithuanian sovereignty.

These tidings precipitated excitement and anticipation among the roshei yeshiva and their students. Hurried decisions were made to depart for Vilna. Among the first to leave were the students of the Kletsk Yeshiva headed by Rabbi Aaron Kotler (October 14) and the Mir Yeshiva led by Rabbi Eliezer Yehudah Finkel (October 15). Soon hundreds more joined the mass exodus to Vilna. By the time the new border between Lithuania and Soviet-occupied Poland was formally established, there were some fifteen thousand Polish refugees, including approximately twenty-four hundred yeshiva people in the greater Vilna area. The primary responsibility for maintaining and guiding the yeshivot fell upon Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzenski. A member of the Vilna ecclesiastical court (beit din), Rabbi Grodzenski was widely considered the leading scholar-respondent-statesman of the Lithuanian Torah world. He divided the various yeshivot among the Vilna synagogues and insisted that each school retain its unique atmosphere and method of study. Despite constantly ebbing strength, the Vilna rabbi appealed to his devotees throughout the Jewish world for material sustenance for the refugees. Rabbi Grodzenski was to pass away on August 9, 1940.

While the yeshivot and the refugees were attempting to adjust to the new reality, the situation abruptly changed once again. On June 15, 1940, Russian troops entered Lithuania, and in Soviet terminology its “liberation” began. On August 3, 1940, Lithuania was officially annexed by the Soviet Union as a constitutent Soviet republic. The refugee yeshiva people once again faced the dilemma of how to leave Lithuania and escape from Communist control. The point at issue was now where to move. The gateways to the Land of Israel and the American continent were closed to the would-be escapees. Nathan Gutwirth and Leo Sternheim, two Dutch yeshiva students, applied to Jan Zwartendijk, the honorary Dutch consul in Kovno, for permission to enter one of the Dutch overseas colonies. They could not return to their homes in Holland, since it was conquered by the Germans in May 1940. Zwartendjik was anxious to help and proposed they go to Curacao, an island in the Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela. Since he was only an honorary consul, Zwartendijk turned to L.P. Decker, the Dutch ambassador to the three Baltic States, who resided in Riga (Latvia). The ambassador informed the honorary consul that Gutwirth and Sternheim did not require a visa to enter Curacao, but rather the approval of the island’s governor. Fully aware of the life-saving implications, Decker authorized Zwartendijk to write in the passports that no visa to Curacao was necessary. The actual text read: “The Dutch consulate hereby certifies that no visa is necessary for the entry of foreigners to Surinam, Curacao, and other Dutch possessions in America.”

Soon many refugees turned to the consul for a similar stamp in their passports. It was a race against the clock since the new Soviet authorities ordered the consulate to cease operations by the end of August 1940. During the almost six weeks in which Zwartendijk was able to function (July 23 to August 31), he issued around thirteen hundred such Curacao visas.

It was now necessary to select an exit route and attain the appropriate transit visas. The only possible means of reaching Curacao in the summer of 1940 had to be via the Far East since nearly all of Western Europe was occupied by the Nazis. The path of escape would be to travel across the Soviet Union and through Japan. Japanese transit visas would now have to be acquired on the basis of the Curacao destination. To obtain these Japanese visas, they approached Sempo Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Kovno. This unique humanitarian was intensely agonized by the plight of the Jewish refugees. He began issuing Japanese transport visas to all who requested them, whether or not they possessed the Curacao visas. Even after receiving an urgent cable from the Japanese Foreign Ministry to discontinue granting these visas, Sugihara continued to distribute them. He charged each applicant only two litas (approximately 33 cents) per visa. Sugihara continued issuing transit visas even from the railway car in which he departed from Lithuania on August 31, 1940.

Once the Dutch passport addendums and the Japanese transport visas were obtained, the major remaining impediment was securing Soviet exit permits. This now became a perplexing quandary for the refugees. Any attempt to leave the Soviet Union could be interpreted by the authorities as a treacherous act. The special Soviet immigration offices were opened in the facitlies of the NKVD. Some decided to continue the process and succeeded in attaining the Soviet exit permits. Among the latter was practically the entire student body of the Mir Yeshiva. The next hurdle now became securing the necessary funds for this route of escape. The tickets had to be paid for in dollars at the considerably inflated tourist rate of 170 dollars per person. Penniless refugees were now required to put together these dollars despite the fact that it was illegal to possess foreign currency in the Soviet Union. With the support of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Commitee, the Vaad Hatzalah (Emergency Committee for War-Torn Yeshivot), and relatives in the United States, the money was raised and tickets were purchased.

The initial group of refugees who succeeded in acquiring all the necessary documents left Lithuania in September 1940. They traveled by train from Minsk to Moscow. From Moscow they journeyed on the Trans-Siberian railroad to the Soviet Pacific port of Vladivostok. From there they sailed to the Japanese port of Tsuruga. Most of the Polish refugees departed from Lithuania during the months of January and February 1941.

Once in Japan, the refugees were aided by representatives of the local Jewish communities. The evacuees were settled in Kobe, Japan’s second largest port. The local Kobe comunity included about fifty Jewish families, divided almost evenly between Sephardim and Russian Ashkenazim. The local Jewish community and even the Japanese people extended a warm welcome to the more than forty-six hundred refugees who now swelled the ranks of the heretofore small tranquil Jewish community. However, the new arrivals only possessed the Japanese transit visas, which were normally valid for just seven to fifteen days. Some were able to reach their final destination in the Western Hemisphere or Australia before the outbreak of the Pacific War. However, most of the Polish refugees had no visas to other countries. Their resettlement now became the prime dilemma for the greater Kobe Jewish community. While methods were devised to extend the visas, the Nazi pressure on their Japanese allies to spread the Nazi doctrines intensified. The refugees now lived with a constant fear of denial of their visa extension, which intensified their already existing sense of insecurity.

At a meeting of rescue activists in Kobe on February 19, 1941, the consensus was that the International Settlement of the nearby port of Shanghai should be utilized as the temporary transit station instead of Japan. Shanghai was not only geographically close, but it was also a location to which Jewish refugees could still gain entry. The International Settlement of the city was governed by a municipal council comprised of the delegates of the foreign powers that then possessed extraterritorial rights in Shanghai. Approximately eleven hundred Polish refugees were transferred to Shanghai in the fall of 1941 after their prolonged Japanese residence. Among the evacuees were more than four hundred rabbis, yeshiva students, and family members. Among these, the main component was the Mir Yeshiva, which soon found a home in the Beth Aharon Synagogue on Museum Road. This synagogue had been built in the 1920s as a second house of worship for the Sephardic community. It was not fully utilized until the moment that the Mir Yeshiva established its activities in Shanghai. for close to five years, this synagogues was to resound with the voice of Torah study. While the conflagrations of war and destruction raged throughout the world, the Mirrer students intensified their studies and spiritual advancement The tribulations of the outside were downplayed and the inside of the Shanghai synagogue was permeated with the spirit of Lithuanian Torah learning and piety.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

David & Joseph

I noticed an interesting parallel between David & Joseph today.

In Genesis 37:14, Jacob commands his son Joseph:

יד  וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ, לֶךְ-נָא רְאֵה אֶת-שְׁלוֹם אַחֶיךָ וְאֶת-שְׁלוֹם הַצֹּאן, וַהֲשִׁבֵנִי, דָּבָר; וַיִּשְׁלָחֵהוּ מֵעֵמֶק חֶבְרוֹן, וַיָּבֹא שְׁכֶמָה.14 And he said to him: 'Go now, see whether it is well with thy brethren, and well with the flock; and bring me back word.' So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.

Joseph goes to seek out his brothers. He finds them, and they are upset when he approaches. They decide to conspire against him to kill him and call out "Behold, the dreamer is coming." Due to this episode, Joseph is eventually sold, after which he works for Potiphar, is thrown in jail, and finally interprets the Pharoah's dreams, which leads him to becoming extremely powerful.

Similarly, in I Samuel 17:17-18, Jesse commands his son David:

יז  וַיֹּאמֶר יִשַׁי לְדָוִד בְּנוֹ, קַח-נָא לְאַחֶיךָ אֵיפַת הַקָּלִיא הַזֶּה, וַעֲשָׂרָה לֶחֶם, הַזֶּה; וְהָרֵץ הַמַּחֲנֶה, לְאַחֶיךָ.17 And Jesse said unto David his son: 'Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to thy brethren.
יח  וְאֵת עֲשֶׂרֶת חֲרִצֵי הֶחָלָב, הָאֵלֶּה, תָּבִיא, לְשַׂר-הָאָלֶף; וְאֶת-אַחֶיךָ תִּפְקֹד לְשָׁלוֹם, וְאֶת-עֲרֻבָּתָם תִּקָּח.18 And bring these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and to thy brethren shalt thou bring greetings, and take their pledge;

The JPS translation here does not give you the exact parallel, but this verse can be interpreted so that in fact Jesse was asking his son David to check on his brothers' welfare.

When David comes to the camp, his eldest brother upbraids him for his presumptuousness, telling him he is 'evil of heart' in verse 28. Due to this mission, David is in the right place at the right time when it comes to the fighting of Goliath, his fame spreads throughout the land, and eventually he becomes king.

In both cases, the youngest son (Benjamin was not yet born) goes out to seek his brothers' welfare at his father's behest. In both cases, there are brothers who do not respond positively. And in both cases, this is the beginning of the individual's ascent to power.

There are obviously more connections between David and Joseph. One of the most obvious is that each one is tempted by a beautiful woman; Joseph does not succumb but David does.

In addition, there is the traditional idea that there are two Messiahs. One is the Messiah son of Joseph, and the second is the Messiah son of David.

I have to explore the connections more to see if I can come to any conclusion as to why they are there. For now, I just want to note that they exist.