Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Broken Soul

I have previously discussed Man's Creative Capacity/ Man as an Individual.

Today I want to discuss the opposite- the ways in which people are hurt, controlled, ruined or destroyed by those that deny their individuality and attempt to do away with their ability to create.

I want to make a very firm statement before I begin.

I do not agree with, nor will I ever agree with, all of Ayn Rand's philosophy.

Ayn Rand's ideas are not always articulated perfectly, sometimes she contradicts herself, her word is a world of black-and-white and the characters are symbolic rather than human. She believes in a conqueror's, rapist's love as the ultimate form of worship, and oftentimes finds herself in a bind because her phraseology does not hold through. I am aware that there are problems with her ideas and her worldview, that she held a deep and personal hatred towards Communism and Marxism, and that sometimes her definitions- of happiness, of love, of whatever it may be- are shallow.

However, I still feel that there is much to be learned from her.

How is that possible? In the way of a parable. Ayn Rand sets up the kind of world that exists in the world of fables and parables, stories with morals. Her morals are uplifting. Her ideas are well-meant.

And her villains' speeches are disturbing- because they are so true.

If you have the time to read the entire speech, then you should download and read Ellsworth Toohey's speech here: Ellsworth_Toohey_Power_speech.doc

If you don't have the time to read the whole document, then look at the important parts over at this website. Scroll down past the bullet points, and read the excerpts from the actual essay.

These are the ways, according to Ayn Rand, to break a man's soul.

1. "Make man feel small. Make him feel guilty. Kill his aspiration and his integrity...To preserve one’s integrity is a hard battle. Why preserve that which one knows to be corrupt already? His soul gives up its self-respect. You’ve got him. He’ll obey. He’ll be unclean. "

2. "Kill man’s sense of values. Kill his capacity to recognize greatness or to achieve it...Don’t set out to raze all shrines—you’ll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity—and the shrines are razed."

3. "Kill by laughter. Laughter is an instrument of human joy. Learn to use it as a weapon of destruction...Don’t let anything remain sacred in a man’s soul—and his soul won't be sacred to him. Kill reverence and you’ve killed the hero in man. One doesn’t reverence with a giggle. "

4. "Don’t allow men to be happy. Happiness is self-contained and self-sufficient. Happy men have no time and no use for you....Bring them to a state where saying ‘I want’ is no longer a natural right, but a shameful admission."

5. "It stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there’s sacrifice, there’s something being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master."

6. "Don’t say reason is evil- though some have gone that far and with astonishing success. Just say that reason is limited. That there’s something above it. What? You don’t have to be too clear about it either...You tell him that there’s something above sense. That here he must not try to think, he must feel. He must believe. Suspend reason and you play it deuces wild. "

7. "A world in which man will not work for so innocent an incentive as money, but for that headless monster- prestige. The approval of his fellows- their good opinion- the opinion of men who’ll be allowed to hold no opinion."

8. "Let all sacrifice and none profit. Let all suffer and none enjoy. Let progress stop. Let all stagnate. There’s equality in stagnation. All subjugated to the will of all."


That was the world of Ayn Rand. Now let's apply it to the Orthodox Jewish world of today. Of if you won't go that far, let's apply it to Templars.

1. This is what Orthodox teenagers, at least the ones that I know, are taught all the time. Guilt and more guilt. Guilt because you don't dress modestly enough. Or because you talk to boys. Or maybe because a boy is being bittul Torah. Possibly guilt because a boy masturbates. Who knows why? The emphasis is always negative, always mussar, always explaining why we are bad or are not on the level of the generations before us. Guilt is our mantra. It chains so many teenagers. It's the reason people won't speak up at Templars. Because they've been made to feel guilty. I...I am an exception. I would not feel guilty for crimes I did not commit. But staying sane when so many people are accusing you is hard. I don't know if I could have done it without my parents.

2. We are taught- all of us teenagers are taught- that we will never live up to the Gedolim. That everybody is on a higher madreigah than we are. That all previous generations were more religious and better than we can ever be. Instead of focusing on the differences between us, instead of looking to our challenges and stating that we can be just as or even greater than they were in facing the problems and questions of our time, instead of teaching us to reach for the sky- they teach us never to try.

But beyond that, I personally know how it feels to break because your teacher enshrines mediocrity. My English teacher at Templars used to take the "best" essays and papers from the class and pass them out so we could learn from them. Generally this wouldn't bother me. At my new school, my AP English teacher reads aloud from the best essays, and fosters a sense of good-natured competition amongst the classmates. At Templars, I watched my teacher pick extremely shallow, poorly-written papers- and hold them up as examples to everyone. I watched her enshrine mediocrity. This is not only frustrating, not only hurtful, but it truly does break a person's soul. I know it.

3. Mockery. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been told that I take myself too seriously. The number of times people have poked fun at me and my views, telling me that I am just a child, just a little girl or teenager who is "confused" and needs to have more fun. Everyone is so quick to laugh nowadays. Many times, that laughter destroys your own soul.

4. Men are allowed to desire, to say "I want" and work for that goal. One cannot take the posessions of another- one cannot steal, or covet the wife of another- but there should be no harm in desire. And yet, so many Templars teachers preach sacrifice, telling us we should give up what we want to make another person happy. There are certain instances when this is understandable. Most times, however, it is not.

5. "For the good of the class, Chana, you need to stop rocking the boat..." "For the good of the class, Chana, you need to bring these questions up later..." "We have to go on, now, Chana; you can write down your questions and bring them to me..." "You can't switch to another class, Chana; it will send a message that the teacher is incompetent..." When someone- when a human- asks you to sacrifice something, they do not ask it of you without a motive, and most times that motive is wrong or cruel. I have to sacrifice my curiousity, my desire to learn, or my desire to be challenged "for the good of ________."

6. This is the typical "Accept, don't question," approach. Templars teachers, and most Orthodox teachers, have a very difficult time saying, "I don't know." Admitting ignorance is one of the hardest traits to master, but all good teachers share this trait. To state that there is something above reason or above a child's question, to answer, "God said so, that's why" is no answer at all. If you do not know, you do not know- and that in itself is an answer.

7. So much in the Orthodox world revolves around the way we are seen and perceived. "This above all- to thine own self be true," Polonius tells Laertes in Shakespeare's play Hamlet. How many people can really master this? How many people can really be true to themselves? Every day we are faced with concessions, questions of whether we are going to act a certain way to "fit in" or to earn another's good opinion, or whether we will act that way because it is truly how we feel. This is not meant to judge anyone. I can't say you are a lesser person because you compromise on certain things so as not to be kicked out of the community. I can say that there are certain times when one should not ever compromise- and there are very, very few who can say they have stood up for the truth.

8. Equality. A wonderful idea that was stressed to me over and over again at Templars. I was supposed to feel sorry for people who weren't as bright as I was, as smart as I was; I was supposed to feel pity and compassion for them and therefore endure classes that were utterly dull and boring. I was supposed to understand that I was "three steps ahead of the speaker," so when he talked, I had to make amends for his statements and instead listen to his speech in terms of what he meant to say rather than what he really did say. I was supposed to realize that every person can teach me something- and that was enough of a reason for me to stay in a class where the teacher wouldn't even call on me because she felt so threatened by me. I was supposed to love each and every Jew.

No. That's not equality. We don't have the same roles in the Torah. There are priests and there are levites. There are kings and there are commoners. There are Rabbis and pupils, students and teachers. We are not all equal. Korach's 'Common-Sense' Rebellion claimed that we were, and you can see how that turned out. We are all individuals, we combine to form a community, but we retain our individual identities. And stagnation as a form of equality is just not Judaism.

Ayn Rand writes of Ellsworth Toohey, possibly the vilest character in all fiction. He speaks of how to break men's souls.

So many marvel at the idea that today's youth are "turned off"Judaism. Oftentimes, we discuss the "lure of the modern world." But I ask you, if you don't teach your youth true Judaism, if you shelter them, if you break their souls in the aforementioned ways- why would they stay?

They may not have the ability to articulate this, or it may be too personal for them to tell you.

The broken that man comes to you, bearing the whip and chain, begging to be flogged.

Does it horrify you? It makes me weep...
But it is true.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Judaism, the Bible and our World: Part II

I want to clarify the differences between protection and sheltering.

Protection is a specific move to protect your child or anyone from harmful influences for a certain period of time (or at least, that is the form that I am envisioning here) whereas sheltering is to never expose them to those influences.

The best way to demonstrate this is through an example.

When you have children, you childproof your house. You'll put outlet covers over electric outlets lest the child stick his/her fingers inside of them. You keep them away from the stove or oven. You keep an eye on them, and when you cannot, you put them inside of a swing or a playpen so that they are unable to wander around and hurt themselves. However, this protection exists for a limited amount of time, and there will come a time, when your child is older, that you will take off the outlet covers and allow him/her to cook on the stove.

Sheltering, on the other hand, is when you don't even buy the stove. You won't have a stove in the house lest the child burn himself. You somehow live without electricity, because you're so worried about the electric outlets that you won't allow your children to ever have them.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?

But this all-or-nothing attitude is exactly the way people think about institutions like the Internet, or television, movies, magazines, newspapers and the like. They feel that sheltering is the way to go, as opposed to protection. Where these same people are fully apprised of the fact that they need to eat, and hence need a stove/ oven, and must protect their children from burning himself on it, they are not similarly apprised of this fact when it comes to television and the like.

Now, you may argue with me that a television is not a necessity, while a stove, quite practically, is. And you might be right. I would suggest, however, that knowing about world events- which include September 11, Tsunamis and Amona- is important. You might state that this idea is simply justification for having a television, and that I won't end up using the television to watch the news, but rather to watch Jerry Springer. But the type of person who argues this way is being a) pessimistic b) expressing the idea that s/he has no self-control c) expresses fear above all else. Fear that somehow the television is going to influence them against their will. That the television has some kind of magic, supernatural power, to hypnotize you and strip your ideas and values away from you. For some reason, they don't feel they are in control.

It's the same idea when it comes to the Internet. There are plenty of people who use the Internet for business purposes, to stay in touch with friends, even for purposes of blogging, like we do. But there's the incredible lure and attraction of the Internet, isn't there? And parents are deathly afraid of the fact that their children are going to be sucked into it. Sure, there are some extreme examples of children meeting people in chatrooms and deciding to go meet up with them. But what is the Internet, really? It's a world filled with information. It's this information that so many people fear- once their children are exposed to other ideas, to alternate viewpoints, are they going to stay religious? You can't use a pop-up blocker or Weblocker to block that. So you shelter children, and refuse to allow them Internet access.

And what about the people who are honestly worried about their children viewing pornography and other explicit sites? Well, you protect your children from this for a long time. But the key word is protection- and there comes a time for trust. I've been following the For Better or For Worse' comics lately, and they've really demonstrated the ideas that I believe in.

This is the first really important thing to note. Children are curious. Teenagers are curious. So yes, it's probable that if you have the Internet in your house, at some point in time your child is going to see a picture of a naked woman. It may not even be intentional- there are a lot of cleverly disguised web addresses that lead to pornographic material. At some point in time, your child is going to learn about drugs, and alcohol, and all kinds of negative influences. Does that mean that your child is going to do drugs, or become addicted to pornography? No.

You taught your children to be careful. You raised them carefully, intentionally deciding when to protect them and when to trust them. And do you see what she says? You taught me to make good choices. That's the end-all and be-all, the key phrase, the one idea that makes the difference between a Protector and a Shelterer.

My parents are Protectors. They protected me from negative influences when I was young. Just because we own a TV doesn't meant that I was wined and dined on Primetime. As I already mentioned, I do watch TV shows, but I watch them now- now when I can separate people's actions from my own, when I understand that just because someone acts or speaks a certain way doesn't mean that that is the way that I have to act or speak. And as I formerly mentioned, the TV I watch, the books I read, the movies I go to- these all enhance my Judaism rather than undermining it.

How can that be? Last time I gave you an example from Gone With the Wind. Here are some more examples.

The Leonardo DiCaprio version of The Man in the Iron Mask is a brilliantly designed movie that deviates from the book by Alexandre Dumas. What is extremely interesting about it, however, is how it deviates. With a plot detail that occurs nowhere in the book by Dumas, we see the influence of the Tanakh, once again. Which story is displayed? Why the story of Bathsheba, David and Uriah.

From the IMDB writeup:

"One day on a royal party, the young and unliked king gets a crush on Christine. This young lady is the fiancé of soldier Raoul, the son of Athos. Without further ado, the king has Raoul recruited and sent to war, so that he himself can take care of her. Soon Raoul dies in combat and the king has him out of the way. "

Take a look at Samuel II, Chapter 11 and then watch this movie. You'll be astonished by the similarities, down to the very fact that the King (DiCaprio) writes a letter stating that Raoul should be sent to the forefront. Later on Christine (who has become his mistress) confronts a very confused lookalike (the Man in the Iron Mask) about his cruelty.

Another example can be seen when you consider King Ahab and King Jehosaphat's conversation (about prophets). Ahab says something very interesting in Kings I 22:

    8 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat: 'There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah; but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.' And Jehoshaphat said: 'Let not the king say so.'

Guess where else I had seen that before? Where a king knew that the man spoke the truth, but resented his bad news/ incessant tidings of evil? That would be- the Lord of the Rings, specifically 'The Two Towers.'

    Slowly the old man rose to his feet, leaning heavily upon a short black staff with a handle of white bone; and now the strangers saw that, bent though he was, he was still tall and must in youth have been high and proud indeed.

    'I greet you,' he said, and maybe you look for welcome. But truth to tell your welcome is doubtful here, Master Gandalf. You have ever been a herald of woe. Troubles follow you like crows, and ever the oftener the worse. I will not deceive you: when I heard that Shadowfax had come back riderless, I rejoiced at the return of the horse, but still more at the lack of the rider; and when Eomer brought the tidings that you had gone at last to your long home, I did not mourn. But news from afar is seldom sooth. Here you come again! And with you come evils worse than before, as might be expected. Why should I welcome you, Gandalf Stormcrow? Tell me that.' Slowly he sat down again in his chair.

    [Wormtongue speaks here] ...Why, indeed should we welcome you, Master Stormcrow? Laithspell I name you, Illnews; and ill news is an ill guest they say.' He laughed grimly, as he lifted his heavy lids for a moment and gazed on the strangers with dark eyes.'

    JRR Tolkien, The Two Towers, Page 138-139

This entire incident is explained still more clearly if you read Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.

King Ahab makes a statement after Michaiahu tells him the statement that he really wants to hear- that he should go up:

    16 And the king said unto him: 'How many times shall I adjure thee that thou speak unto me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?'

But when Michaiahu does tell the truth, the king is extremely angry with him and throws him in jail on a bread-and-water diet until he (the king) returns from battle.

That's very similar to what happens with Oedipus.

Oedipus is speaking to the seer Teresias and says:

    Oh speak, Withhold not, I adjure thee, if thou know'st, Thy knowledge. We are all thy suppliants.

but he is enraged by what Teresias tells him, and states:

    Must I endure this fellow's insolence? A murrain on thee! Get thee hence! Begone Avaunt! and never cross my threshold more.

And a full reading of the play just brings more similarities to the forefront.

And now we come to a work written by an avowed Anti-Semite, Tolstoy. You can learn Torah from an Anti-Semite? Well, you would be surprised.

Take a good look at Leviticus 26:8 and Leviticus 26:36

Leviticus 26:8 here:

    ח וְרָדְפוּ מִכֶּם חֲמִשָּׁה מֵאָה, וּמֵאָה מִכֶּם רְבָבָה יִרְדֹּפוּ; וְנָפְלוּ אֹיְבֵיכֶם לִפְנֵיכֶם, לֶחָרֶב.
    8 And five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand; and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.

and 26:36 here:

    לו וְהַנִּשְׁאָרִים בָּכֶם--וְהֵבֵאתִי מֹרֶךְ בִּלְבָבָם, בְּאַרְצֹת אֹיְבֵיהֶם; וְרָדַף אֹתָם, קוֹל עָלֶה נִדָּף, וְנָסוּ מְנֻסַת-חֶרֶב וְנָפְלוּ, וְאֵין רֹדֵף.
    36 And as for them that are left of you, I will send a faintness into their heart in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a driven leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as one fleeth from the sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth.

Now for Tolstoy, specifically his masterpiece War and Peace: one can gauge the force of a detachment. Sometimes- when there is not a coward in front to cry: "We are cut off!" and start running, but a brave, spirited man who shouts: "Hurrah!"- a detachment of five thousand is worth thirty thousand, as at Schongraben, while at other times fifty thousand will flee from eight thousand, as at Austerlitz."

    Page 775

And then there are the famous lines from Deuteronomy 8:17 (kochi b'etzem yadi) that Tolstoy utterly and brilliantly refutes:

    During this entire period Napoleon, who is represented to us as the leader of all that movement (just as the figurehead on the prow of a ship may seem to a savage to be the power guiding the vessel), acted like a child who, holding onto the straps inside a carriage, imagines that he is driving the vehicle.

So- to those of you who fear the influence of the secular world, to the Shelterers, to those who cannot have a stove or oven for fear that the child will burn himself- I say, you set yourselves up for disaster. By removing and refusing access to ideas you stop your children from thinking, by sheltering rather than protecting you do not allow your children the most basic coping skills, and moreover, you prevent them from seeing the beauty of their religion reflected by the secular- which is something that is vey prevalent in our world. The secular strengthens us; it does not destroy us- but so long as you shut it out and pretend it does not exist, you teach your children that it is destructive and antithetical to the Torah. You let them believe there is something that the Torah does not understand or include, something outside of God's jurisdiction. You teach them to fear, to believe they have no self-control. You teach them that all that is secular is evil.

You prevent the publication of books like Making of a Godol because it states that men you view as great and holy read books, secular books and classics- and did not ban them. That- could it be possible- they drew strength from them.

You ruin yourselves through this persistent sheltering...because you deny yourselves the beauty of our world, and the beauty of God and our religion reflected within it.

But you don't see it this way. And there is no one who can persuade you of this.

You have closed your ears. Stopped them up with wax, like Odysseus/ Ulysses did.

But wait. You don't know who Odysseus/ Ulysses is. Because he's in a book with pagan gods, and of course you would instantaneously ban that. In fact, you've even tried to ban history. I remember some of you calling the principal when I was in sixth grade, complaining that the teacher was teaching us about polytheistic religions. So the teacher had to skip that unit in history.

When is this going to end? When are you going to see that blocking everything out, pretending that works of literature, that movies, that the Internet does not exist or is an unholy seductive demon- is incorrect? When are you going to see?

I don't know.

Because you are all very good at engaging in smear campaigns against anyone who is more open-minded. As in people who don't rewrite history. Or read classic books. Or even watch movies.

And who draw strength from this. And find God in this.

No. You don't understand it. You don't even give it a chance.

And you never will...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Speakers of the Truth

I never realized before.

I have just returned from my Tuesday night 'Jewish Business Ethics' class at TI.

And I am crying.

Tonight we saw a movie about whistleblowing. Whistleblowing is usually looked on as a negative trait, an informer, a traitor to his company or his kind. But under certain conditions, when whistleblowing arises out of a desire for truth rather than spite and hatred, it is not only something good but it is heroic, something dazzling and wonderful, something that can only be reached by those who are truly motivated for the good.

We watched a movie entitled 'The Perils of Whistleblowing.' I didn't know the title at the time, but came home and looked it up. It was made by Mark Wallace, in accord with the History Channel. It is shocking.

It is more than shocking. It is one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen.

What is it about?

From here, so that you may see:

    The Perils of Whistleblowing(1996) A Mike Wallace 20th century CBS program focuses on some high-profile whistleblowing incidents, including the Challenger O-ring disaster, the Brown & Williamson insider expose, GM’s surreptitious investigation of Ralph Nader, unsafe nuclear reactor situations, Silkwood, and defense analyst Fitzgeralds’ efforts to highlight fraudulent waste and overruns in the Air Force. The whistleblowers all seem credible in their charges. Virtually all of them were subjected to attempts to discredit and destroy them. Often careers were shattered. Despite a subsequent congressional whistleblowing law, the message is clear: become a whistleblower and face probable destruction of the messenger.

I never realized before.

I never realized there was a system, an actual, physical system, a way in which to unleash a smear campaign, to pour venom and hatred upon people. That people planned this. That people could lie so blatantly. That they could expend so much effort and energy in discrediting people who had been trying to tell the truth.

I have difficulty believing that there are truly evil people in the world. I want to believe- I want so much to believe- that my teachers at Templars were uninformed of all the harm they did. That it was all unintentional. That they never intended to cause me so much pain. That they truly did not and do not understand.

I want to believe in human goodness.

And to an extent, I can. To an extent, I do believe that humans have the capacity for goodness. I believe that people desire to be good.

But watching the video, seeing the enginners who knew there was a problem with the Challenger and hearing them speak...seeing that one of them had an actual memo in writing that said that if the problems were left unfixed something "catastrophic" would happen, and would result in the "loss of human life," seeing these men who have tears in their eyes as they describe how happy they felt when they saw they were wrong, that the Challenger was fine- and then seeing them describe what they felt when they saw the accident, how one of them returned to his office, closed the door, and just cried...seeing this, I feel such anger towards the needless waste of human life.

And I feel so much sadness for this man whose life was summarily ruined, for his company shunned him, his managers had nothing to do with him, he was slandered and known as the man who caused the death of the seven people on the Challenger, his children grew up hearing him persecuted and hated, he had to sell his house in Utah and leave...seeing this, I wonder at the strength of these people, and bow my head before them.

I look at the man who resigned from his job as head of a department with regard to nucler regulations, stating that at the moment Indian Point Three (the nuclear power plant) was not acting up to regulations, that he was very concerned about its performance and he felt that ultimately it would lead to disaster...seeing him, and then seeing the head of the entire company speak about the fact that this "young man should have expressed his concerns to his supervisors before making his pledge (i.e. resigning)"...and then seeing the response as the man states that he tried, he tried in every way he could, he attempted to talk to his supervisors and boss but was told to keep everything "low-key" and not to inform the public...

Or the man working at a tobacco company who unmasked the fact that they knew very well nicotine was addictive and that cigarettes caused cancer, that the company deliberately was chemically producing an effect on the cigarettes so that the nicotine would act faster and people would rely more and more on their "fix"...This man was fired, and the head of the company blatantly lied to Congress, stating that he did "not believe nicotine was addictive..." What ensued was a slander campaign, a 500 page book talking about the fact that this whistleblower was a wife beater, an abusive husband, and a shoplifter, allegations which the Wall Street Journal later said was based on "scanty and contradictory evidence." This man was hunted, his children were targeted, his name was blackened, and why? Because he had tried to tell the truth....

I had never before realized people could be so evil, so malicious, so deliberately pretend they knew nothing, to state that their former employee was a liar and an abusive man, to drag his private life into a public case...When asked whether he (the whistleblower) would do it again, he hesitated. Sometimes he thinks he would not, because the cost was so high, but there are other times when he feels that he was compelled and would again have been compelled to tell the truth.

There is a system, an actual system at work to discredit people, to make them into liars and fools, into criminals and people looking for revenge...there is a system to abolish truth in favor of falsehood.

When I saw this movie, I was so emotionally impacted by it that I could not speak when it was time to leave. I was amazed by the seemingly careless responses of my classmates, people who did not intend to be crass or rude but who stated that the movie "was interesting" or said that "it was so sad" but then promptly forgot about it and began speaking about more interesting things, such as gossip, fashion and homework assignments.

Sad? Sad does not describe it. These people, all people who stood up for the truth, were destroyed because of what they dared to say. Painted as heroes by the media, did we defend them? Did we protect them? Or did we forget them, and hence condemn them to the miserable, haunted lives that so many of them have led?

It is difficutl to stand up for the truth, to stand alone, a figure who will not be believed, a figure who will be persecuted and hated.

And so I bow to them.

Because I realize- on a much smaller scale- how difficult this is. And because I hope that during my life I have the courage and strength to be as truthful, as strong, and as unrepentant as they are. Because I hope never to give in, never to succumb, never to be pressured into a situation where I give up my ideals, my values, and my concept of myself...because of fear.

The only one I truly fear is God. There is no man who can hurt me- unless it is me, unless I betray myself.

My father comforted me. For these men- these men who were persecuted and hated- are the men who can sleep at night. The men who know they did the right thing. These others, these vile creatures who preach falsehood and destruction, cannot rest easy with themselves. For they know- in their heart of hearts, they know. And it cannot be a pleasant knowledge.

There are so many of us who have suffered at the hands of the Orthodox Jewish educational system. And while this is small in comparison to the types of scandals and truths that the men on this video revealed, we too must do our part. We know what has happened, what has been permitted to happen. And we must, must speak. Without fear of man and his ability to take revenge. Without fear of anyone but God.

God is my judge, and He knows what I speak is true.

We must accuse. And we must tell the truth, piece by piece, slowly and carefully. Each person must speak, for one individual may take a stand, but ultimately he will fall- fall prey to the campaign against him, the "dirt" that others have dug up on him. What you have seen and what you know.

Because if we speak- if I speak- then those who are to come will not suffer the way I did, the way you did. We will have prevented a great and terrible tragedy- a tragedy that grows ever closer.

It is difficult to be a whistleblower. It is difficult to tell the truth.

I hope that I may be as worthy as these men and women were. I hope that I withstand temptation so that I too may speak. I hope that I will not fall prey to cowardice.

I bow to them. Because it is in these people- in those that speak truth, and have been ruined because of it- that we see God.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Judaism, the Bible and our World: Part I

I have often heard it said that the reason we cannot read secular books, watch secular movies, or have close friends who are gentiles is because we will be corrupted, our Judaism will fail, we will suddenly see the lure of forbidden fruit, and lusting for it, we will no longer be believers or adherents to our religion. Can this be proven? Possibly. But why does it happen? That is what I will attempt to answer.

I would warrant that one of the main reasons this happens is because through sheltering your children, you raise them to be completely inept and incompetent when it comes to society and the "outside world." They cannot work in offices unless they are run by Orthodox Jews. They cannot survive college because there are members of the opposite sex there, and many times campuses run high with anti-Zionistic fervor. They can only speak in a dialectic that is curiously strewn with Yiddish and Hebrew phrases; these people who are born in this country cannot even articulate their thoughts in English. They do not know how to defend or discuss their own religion, and they are raised with certain prejudices that they have never concerned. In short, by refusing to allow children access to the world, you limit them immensely. But it is more than limitation. Sometimes, you utterly destroy them.

As an adult, you are given a task- to raise your children in the way you think best, and that conforms to state laws. My parents spent a lot of time simply learning how to raise children: what impacts a child, a child's emotional feelings, a child's self-expression, and a child's method of learning. They read stacks of books, took certain families as their role models, observed different people's parenting styles, and truly thought through their actions. I am amazed by the responsibility they felt, and the fact that they invested so much effort in figuring out what approach to take with each of us, which way to treat us, how to punish and reward us, and how to explain different ideas to us. Each of the four children in my family is different, and we all value different things and different concepts. I am more introverted, enjoy reading and writing over social activities. But I can also be spontaneous, happy and free, running through the snow and looking up at the twinkling lights. My everyday conversation focuses more on books I've read that have made an impression on me, or on ideas I've thought of, or opinions that I have than on what happened at school that day. I'm more analytical and creative than I am mathematical and scientific. I don't like to deconstruct everything, but I am detail-oriented. Hence, I am a mixture~ I like details but find it important to regard ideas in a holistic fashion, I adore fairytales and fantasies, fiction being my favorite genre, and dislike being limited by my surroundings or personal failings (whether these be classmates who do not understand me or my inability to understand math.)

My sister is different from me. Younger than I am, she is intelligent, clever and happy. She would prefer to spend the day with her friends (of whom she has many; she is constantly on the phone) at the mall, while I am perfectly happy sitting at Barnes and Noble reading an interesting book. Extremely extroverted, she is also more of a "doer" than I am, taking charge of different situations, organizing get-togethers and sleepovers, one of the popular children within her own set of friends. She likes animals (especially horses) and although she likes books, she is not as interested in classics or philosophy, opting to read a fun book over a difficult one. Her personality is grounded more in emotions than in ideas, unlike mine, and her fiery spirit contrasts with the water or earth that would describe me. She's also more skilled in actual upkeep and housekeeping abilities- she cooks dinner sometimes, she washes the dishes frequently, cleans the whole house, does the whole laundry, and instills the fear of God into anyone who has not done their part. She is more tempestous and headstrong than I am, her wavy auburn hair accentuates her personality. I am her opposite, but in my own way I am just as, if not more stubborn.

My parents raised us to be curious, to desire to learn about the world around us. One of the reasons I refer to myself as 'The Curious Jew,' is because I, the oldest child, was raised in exactly that fashion. My father decided not to teach me the alphabet or how to read; he didn't value accomplishments like that so much as a child's natural intelligence, curiousity and wonder. What most characterized my chidhood was my imagination. I was extremely imaginative; I made stories for myself and told them to both my parents, acted out plays in which I was a character picking blueberries in the woods, danced and sang frequently, would repeat over the Rabbi's derasha after pounding the lid of my garbage can (which was sloped like a shtender), and could not spell or write my own name. When I first went to kindergarten my teachers were horrified by this fact, thinking that I was "behind" when in truth I had just been raised in a creative fashion. I think that the fact that I was raised this way has really helped me, and is reflected by my talent for English, Chumash and literature, all of which involve both analytical and imaginative thinking.

I was never limited. My parents read me fairytales, especially Russian ones. I was raised on Baba Yaga, and my love for clever villains was instilled by her and her flying mortar and pestle. My favorite story was that of Vassilisa the Beautiful, specifically because of the brilliant dark images. I had my share of happy, colorful children's books, but I always the Russian illustrations, specifically this drawing:

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Because I was raised with so much variety in my life, and because my education took the form of everything from The Little Midrash Says to Baba Yaga to Corduroy Bear, because I was raised to be imaginative, I think that I am able to say that I am the one person (or one of the very few) at Templars who could have made the switch I did.

I don't say that to boast, but simply to state the obvious. How many other girls from Templars could have switched to a non-Jewish school and not gone dizzy because of the freedom that afforded them? Or have survived religiously? Or have continued to dress as they had always dressed, with the same standard of modesty? How many Jewish teenagers know who they truly are, and once being self-aware, know what they stand for? How many of them are curious, as opposed to being zombies, robots, programmed by their parents and schools to believe in certain things without ever hearing of the alternatives?

My parents raised me in a very open house (although there were some limitations, and in some ways they were very strict) but the synthesis allowed me a knowledge and freedom that allowed me to discover myself as I am as opposed to who I was forced to be.

Therefore, I want to make the following statement.

If your Judaism is strong enough and you live in America (or any country that permits freedom of religion) there is no way your Judaism can be destroyed by "exposure" to outside influences unless you yourself choose to destroy it. You are in charge. The influences cannot rule you, but you can rule them. And many times, they are not even evil- rather, they are good, and helpful, and what is more, they demonstrate Judaism.

This is actually one of the most fascinating things about our world- as far as I'm concerned. When I read, I cannot help but see God and Judaism in the subject matter. It isn't a conscious thought, it's not that I'm reading and thinking, "How can I make this Jewish?" but rather it's simply there. You can never be alone in the outside world, alienated and different...because the outside world oftentimes is not outside, but is simply an extension of the Bible that we learn.

Here we go!

From Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell:

    "We need more gold and I am asking you for it," the doctor continued. "I am asking a sacrifice but a sacrifice so small compared with the sacrifices our gallant men in gray are making that it will seem laughably small. Ladies, I want your jewelry. I want your jewelry? No, the Confederacy wants your jewelry, the Confederacy calls for it and I know no one will hold back. How fair a gem gleams on a lovely wrist! How beautifully gold brooches glitter on the bosoms of our patriotic women! But how much more beautiful is sacrifice than all the gold and gems of the Ind. The gold will be melted and the stones sold and the money used to buy drugs and other medical supplies. Ladies, there will pass among you two of our gallant wounded, with baskets and-" But the rest of his speech was lost in the storm and tumult of clapping hands and cheering voices.

    Scarlett's first thought was one of deep thankfulness that mourning forbade her wearing her precious earbobs and the heavy gold chain that had been Grandma Robilard's and the gold and black enameled bracelets and the garnet brooch. She saw the little Zouave, a split-oak basket over his unwounded arm, making the rounds of the crowd on her side of the hall and saw women, old and young, laughing, eager, tugging at bracelets, squealing in pretended pain as earrings came from pierced flesh, helping each other undo stiff necklace clasps, unpinning brooches from bosoms. There was a steady little clink-clink of metal on metal and cries of "Wait-wait! I've got it unfastened now. There!" Maybelle Merriwether was pulling off her lovely twin bracelets from above and below her elbows. Fanny Elsing, crying, "Mamma, may I?" was tearing from her curls the seed-pearl ornmanet set in heavy gold which had been in the family for generations. As each offering went into the basket, there was applause and cheering..."

    Page 185

Does this remind you of anything? I was in the middle of the book, and as soon as I came upon this passage, I was struck by its resemblance to:

Exodus 32

Judges 8:24

Secular books and the outside world are not always bad. And this is certainly a quasi-classic secular book, at that. It is one's outlook that influences the way you see something rather than the work itself. You could think of Gone With the Wind and worry about immoral love stories. Or you could think of Gone with the Wind, appreciate the romance...and also learn something that is found in the Torah and Bible.

One's outlook, and being raised with options. Not behind a veil, but free and dancing, coveting knowledge in all its various forms.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Mohammed, Cartoon Controversies, and Unreserved Violence

Enmity sells. Hatred sells.

At the moment, this takes the form of the uproar and brouhaha over the Mohammed/ Muhammed cartoons.

Here is a link to the cartoons.

And here is perhaps the most offensive one:

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So, my view on the cartoons.

This is wrong. This is vile, wrong and disgusting. There is no purpose in depicting the Muslims/Moslems' holiest prophet as a terrorist and bomber. If this is meant as social commentary, it is done in the poorest taste.

We wouldn't want anti-semitic pictures about Jews circulating. We would not want to be defined by one radical, extremist faction. So in my opinion, the cartoons are wrong. And although they may be protected by free speech when it comes to the letter of the law, I think that when it comes to the spirit of the law, such cartoons can only provoke enmity rather than any kind of realization that certain tactics are wrong.

Personally, therefore, I don't agree with Israpundit, who states that the Danish Newspaper is "courageous."

However, the reaction of Moslems around the world is unfathomable by the logical mind. It is pure insanity.

Take a look at Jameel's post about Insane Islamic Hatred, and you might wonder what the world is coming to. Or, as I discovered at S (On the Main Line), look at the fact that Iran has stated that it will engage in a Holocaust cartoon contest. Ezzie has a post about it as well, in which he includes a comic that I will show here.

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That truly demonstrates how ridiculously out-0f-hand this situation has gotten.

If anything, you would think tit-for-tat; you published a cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban; we'll publish a cartoon of Moses with a bomb on his head. But instead we head over for the Holocaust- an emotionally-packed issue- in order to get more responses and upset more people. That's a damnable kind of logic.

Dry Bones isn't surprised by the extent of this hatred.

DovBear writes about extremist supporters in the Gaza Strip who don't have anything that matters, but are busy burning Danish flags.

More importantly, this anger over cartoons has run so far that extremists have burned the Norweigan and Denmark embassies. Police don't appear to have done anything about it...

Because when someone accuses you of acting in a terroristic fashion...the best way to disprove them is to *eureka!* act in a violent and terroristic fashion.

The idiots at the Danish Newspaper don't mind running the Holocaust cartoons.

This is disturbing, upsetting and so on and so forth. In the end, I am left with two impressions.

1. I am distinctly glad that I am Jewish, and that Jews (to my knowledge) have never engaged in aimless rioting, destruction and violence in order to protest cartoons/ comic strips, even though many of them have offered quite a lot of provocation.

2. That, as my Art teacher said, this is extremely "disturbing and distressing" and doesn't bode well for the future of our society/ civilization. Or, as my fellow classmate said, "it's not that the world's gone suddenly insane- it's only that people are realizing it now."

In the end, Calvin is right. Enmity sells. Enmity against Moslems, deciding to depict their holiest prophet in unsavory ways. Enmity against Denmark, and a boycott of all Danish goods. Enmity, no matter who it's against. Just enmity.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Terrorism, Tanakh, and Truth

Journalist: M. Ben M'Hidi, don't you think it's a bit cowardly to use women's baskets and handbags to carry explosive devices that kill so many innocent people?

Ben M'Hidi: And doesn't it seem to you even more cowardly to drop napalm bombs on defenseless villages, so that there are a thousand times more innocent victims? Of course, if we had your airplanes it would be a lot easier for us. Give us your bombers, and you can have our baskets.


What is the role of terrorism in the Torah?

Terrorism is defined in many different ways. One of the most pivotal ways is that the attack is unprovoked. For example, no one would claim that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is a form of terrorism against the Nazis, even though it was a few citizens against a large body of people. Terrorism is often miscast as asymmetrical warfare. I think that assymetrical warfare makes sense in terms of the Nazis vs. the Jews, or enslaved African Americans vs. white plantation owners, but I cannot condone terrorism when it refers to bodies and groups of free people, such as it is often today, namely, with Palestinians vs. Israelis.

However, leaving aside that the most common definition of terrorism is that it seems to be unprovoked, there are other similarities between terror attacks. They often include disguised participants, suicide bombers (so small numbers of participants, limited to one person), and the like. The question is, how is this represented in our own Torah? And how are we to understand this?

One of the most thought-provoking episodes in the Torah is that of Shimon, Levi, Shechem and Dinah. Look at what happens here:

    יג וַיַּעֲנוּ בְנֵי-יַעֲקֹב אֶת-שְׁכֶם וְאֶת-חֲמוֹר אָבִיו, בְּמִרְמָה--וַיְדַבֵּרוּ: אֲשֶׁר טִמֵּא, אֵת דִּינָה אֲחֹתָם.
    13 And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father with guile, and spoke, because he had defiled Dinah their sister,

    יד וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵיהֶם, לֹא נוּכַל לַעֲשׂוֹת הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה--לָתֵת אֶת-אֲחֹתֵנוּ, לְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ עָרְלָה: כִּי-חֶרְפָּה הִוא, לָנוּ.
    14 and said unto them: 'We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us.

    טו אַךְ-בְּזֹאת, נֵאוֹת לָכֶם: אִם תִּהְיוּ כָמֹנוּ, לְהִמֹּל לָכֶם כָּל-זָכָר.
    15 Only on this condition will we consent unto you: if ye will be as we are, that every male of you be circumcised;

    טז וְנָתַנּוּ אֶת-בְּנֹתֵינוּ לָכֶם, וְאֶת-בְּנֹתֵיכֶם נִקַּח-לָנוּ; וְיָשַׁבְנוּ אִתְּכֶם, וְהָיִינוּ לְעַם אֶחָד.
    16 then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people.

    יז וְאִם-לֹא תִשְׁמְעוּ אֵלֵינוּ, לְהִמּוֹל--וְלָקַחְנוּ אֶת-בִּתֵּנוּ, וְהָלָכְנוּ.
    17 But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone.'

    Genesis 34

There are several problems with this scenario.

1. Look at the phrasing of the verse. The sons answer before Jacob. This is problematic because we have seen in Genesis 24 that:

    נ וַיַּעַן לָבָן וּבְתוּאֵל וַיֹּאמְרוּ, מֵיְהוָה יָצָא הַדָּבָר; לֹא נוּכַל דַּבֵּר אֵלֶיךָ, רַע אוֹ-טוֹב.
    50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said: 'The thing proceedeth from the LORD; we cannot speak unto thee bad or good

Apparently Rashi learns from the fact that Laban answered before Bethuel that Laban was a wicked person. So...what does this seem to say about Levi and Shechem?

2. Look at the word used here. The sons answer with "guile." We have seen this word before as well.

    לה וַיֹּאמֶר, בָּא אָחִיךָ בְּמִרְמָה; וַיִּקַּח, בִּרְכָתֶךָ.
    35 And he said: 'Thy brother came with guile, and hath taken away thy blessing.'

    Genesis 27

Now, Jacob was so worried about this blessing and the trickery behind it that he felt he was going to be cursed. What does that say about the brothers in this scenario?

Now, as we all know, Shechem and Levi go on to single-handedly decimate the entire city. But how does this reflect on them? The verse says:

    כה וַיְהִי בַיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי בִּהְיוֹתָם כֹּאֲבִים, וַיִּקְחוּ שְׁנֵי-בְנֵי-יַעֲקֹב שִׁמְעוֹן וְלֵוִי אֲחֵי דִינָה אִישׁ חַרְבּוֹ, וַיָּבֹאוּ עַל-הָעִיר, בֶּטַח; וַיַּהַרְגוּ, כָּל-זָכָר.
    25 And it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city unawares, and slew all the males.

These two men take the city when the men are in pain and the city is unawares. Who does that seem like?

Well, most unfortunately, it sounds like:

    יח אֲשֶׁר קָרְךָ בַּדֶּרֶךְ, וַיְזַנֵּב בְּךָ כָּל-הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִים אַחֲרֶיךָ--וְאַתָּה, עָיֵף וְיָגֵעַ; וְלֹא יָרֵא, אֱלֹהִים.
    18 how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, all that were enfeebled in thy rear, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.

    Deuteronomy 25

And that verse refers to Amalek.

When Jacob rebukes the brothers, he does not say that what they did was morally wrong, but rather that they have put him into a reprehensible position. Later on, when he blesses them, he curses their anger but he does not curse them...

    ל וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב אֶל-שִׁמְעוֹן וְאֶל-לֵוִי, עֲכַרְתֶּם אֹתִי, לְהַבְאִישֵׁנִי בְּיֹשֵׁב הָאָרֶץ, בַּכְּנַעֲנִי וּבַפְּרִזִּי; וַאֲנִי, מְתֵי מִסְפָּר, וְנֶאֶסְפוּ עָלַי וְהִכּוּנִי, וְנִשְׁמַדְתִּי אֲנִי וּבֵיתִי.
    30 And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi: 'Ye have troubled me, to make me odious unto the inhabitants of the land, even unto the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and, I being few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and smite me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.'


    שִׁמְעוֹן וְלֵוִי, אַחִים--כְּלֵי חָמָס, מְכֵרֹתֵיהֶם.
    5 Simeon and Levi are brethren; weapons of violence their kinship.

    ו בְּסֹדָם אַל-תָּבֹא נַפְשִׁי, בִּקְהָלָם אַל-תֵּחַד כְּבֹדִי: כִּי בְאַפָּם הָרְגוּ אִישׁ, וּבִרְצֹנָם עִקְּרוּ-שׁוֹר.
    6 Let my soul not come into their council; unto their assembly let my glory not be united; for in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they houghed oxen.

    ז אָרוּר אַפָּם כִּי עָז, וְעֶבְרָתָם כִּי קָשָׁתָה; אֲחַלְּקֵם בְּיַעֲקֹב, וַאֲפִיצֵם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל. {פ}
    7 Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce, and their wrath, for it was cruel; I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. {P}

    Genesis 49

This second rebuke is much stronger, however; their anger is described as being cruel.

What do Shimon and Levi have to say in their defense?

1. They were provoked- "Shall he treat our sister like a harlot?"
2. The entire city is to blame, for they should have set up courts of law to try Shechem for his crime of abduction and rape. That is why they are justified in killing out the entire city. (Rambam)

End of episode one.

Enter next episode.

Samson/ Shimshon, man of strength and power, the pillar of the Jews, mightiest amongst them.

It is clear that Samson is born into a time when/where the Philistines (Pelishtim) are attacking the Jews, and they must fight back. However, his methods seem unfair. That is why we must explore them further.

    ד וַיֵּלֶךְ שִׁמְשׁוֹן, וַיִּלְכֹּד שְׁלֹשׁ-מֵאוֹת שׁוּעָלִים; וַיִּקַּח לַפִּדִים, וַיֶּפֶן זָנָב אֶל-זָנָב, וַיָּשֶׂם לַפִּיד אֶחָד בֵּין-שְׁנֵי הַזְּנָבוֹת, בַּתָּוֶךְ.
    4 And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned tail to tail, and put a torch in the midst between every two tails.

    ה וַיַּבְעֶר-אֵשׁ בַּלַּפִּידִים, וַיְשַׁלַּח בְּקָמוֹת פְּלִשְׁתִּים; וַיַּבְעֵר מִגָּדִישׁ וְעַד-קָמָה, וְעַד-כֶּרֶם זָיִת.
    5 And when he had set the torches on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks and the standing corn, and also the oliveyards.

    Judges 15

Warfare is one thing, people coming to meet each other at the battlefield is one thing, even people coming to a duel (later on, David and Goliath) seems understandable, but is this permissable? And all because his wife was given to another man? (Interestingly, there are sources that state that once again, all the Philistines were held accountable because they did not create court systems to try the people who had taken his wife and given her to another man.) But the Gemarah provides a different sort of reasoning, and one that might seem more applicable.

    And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes.6 Why just foxes? — R. Aibu b. Nagari said in the name of R. Hiyya b. Abba: Samson declared: Let [the animal] come which turns backward7 and exact punishment of the Philistines who went back on their oath.8

    Sotah 10

What oath was this?

    כג וְעַתָּה, הִשָּׁבְעָה לִּי בֵאלֹהִים הֵנָּה, אִם-תִּשְׁקֹר לִי, וּלְנִינִי וּלְנֶכְדִּי; כַּחֶסֶד אֲשֶׁר-עָשִׂיתִי עִמְּךָ, תַּעֲשֶׂה עִמָּדִי, וְעִם-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר-גַּרְתָּה בָּהּ.

    23 Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son's son; but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.'

    Genesis 21:23

Once the Pelishtim went back on their oath, it seems that Samson was given the right to punish them (perhaps similar to the idea that when the Jews throw off the yoke of Torah, the nations are given the ability to 'punish' them, as it were.)

But are Samson's methods correct? He disguises himself, taking Pelishti wives for himself, seeming to be one amidst his enemy. Is this permissable?

It seems, while not desirable, disguise itself is not a capital crime. Where do we learn this?

From here:

    ד וַיַּעֲשׂוּ גַם-הֵמָּה בְּעָרְמָה, וַיֵּלְכוּ וַיִּצְטַיָּרוּ; וַיִּקְחוּ שַׂקִּים בָּלִים, לַחֲמוֹרֵיהֶם, וְנֹאדוֹת יַיִן בָּלִים, וּמְבֻקָּעִים וּמְצֹרָרִים.
    4 they also did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine skins, worn and rent and patched up;

    ה וּנְעָלוֹת בָּלוֹת וּמְטֻלָּאוֹת בְּרַגְלֵיהֶם, וּשְׂלָמוֹת בָּלוֹת עֲלֵיהֶם; וְכֹל לֶחֶם צֵידָם, יָבֵשׁ הָיָה נִקֻּדִים.
    5 and worn shoes and clouted upon their feet, and worn garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and was become crumbs.

    ו וַיֵּלְכוּ אֶל-יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אֶל-הַמַּחֲנֶה, הַגִּלְגָּל; וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו וְאֶל-אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל, מֵאֶרֶץ רְחוֹקָה בָּאנוּ, וְעַתָּה, כִּרְתוּ-לָנוּ בְרִית.
    6 And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel: 'We are come from a far country; now therefore make ye a covenant with us.'

    ז ויאמרו (וַיֹּאמֶר) אִישׁ-יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶל-הַחִוִּי: אוּלַי, בְּקִרְבִּי אַתָּה יוֹשֵׁב, וְאֵיךְ, אכרות- (אֶכְרָת-) לְךָ בְרִית.
    7 And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites: 'Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a covenant with you?'

    ח וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֶל-יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, עֲבָדֶיךָ אֲנָחְנוּ; וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם יְהוֹשֻׁעַ מִי אַתֶּם, וּמֵאַיִן תָּבֹאוּ.
    8 And they said unto Joshua: 'We are thy servants.' And Joshua said unto them: 'Who are ye? and from whence come ye?'

    ט וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו, מֵאֶרֶץ רְחוֹקָה מְאֹד בָּאוּ עֲבָדֶיךָ, לְשֵׁם, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ: כִּי-שָׁמַעְנוּ שָׁמְעוֹ, וְאֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה בְּמִצְרָיִם.
    9 And they said unto him: 'From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the LORD thy God; for we have heard the fame of Him, and all that He did in Egypt,

    י וְאֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה, לִשְׁנֵי מַלְכֵי הָאֱמֹרִי, אֲשֶׁר, בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן--לְסִיחוֹן מֶלֶךְ חֶשְׁבּוֹן, וּלְעוֹג מֶלֶךְ-הַבָּשָׁן אֲשֶׁר בְּעַשְׁתָּרוֹת.
    10 and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who was at Ashtaroth.

    יא וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלֵינוּ זְקֵינֵינוּ וְכָל-יֹשְׁבֵי אַרְצֵנוּ לֵאמֹר, קְחוּ בְיֶדְכֶם צֵידָה לַדֶּרֶךְ, וּלְכוּ, לִקְרָאתָם; וַאֲמַרְתֶּם אֲלֵיהֶם עַבְדֵיכֶם אֲנַחְנוּ, וְעַתָּה כִּרְתוּ-לָנוּ בְרִית.
    11 And our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying: Take provision in your hand for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them: We are your servants; and now make ye a covenant with us.

    יב זֶה לַחְמֵנוּ, חָם הִצְטַיַּדְנוּ אֹתוֹ מִבָּתֵּינוּ, בְּיוֹם צֵאתֵנוּ, לָלֶכֶת אֲלֵיכֶם; וְעַתָּה הִנֵּה יָבֵשׁ, וְהָיָה נִקֻּדִים.
    12 This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and is become crumbs.

    יג וְאֵלֶּה נֹאדוֹת הַיַּיִן אֲשֶׁר מִלֵּאנוּ חֲדָשִׁים, וְהִנֵּה הִתְבַּקָּעוּ; וְאֵלֶּה שַׂלְמוֹתֵינוּ, וּנְעָלֵינוּ, בָּלוּ, מֵרֹב הַדֶּרֶךְ מְאֹד.
    13 And these wine-skins, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they are rent. And these our garments and our shoes are worn by reason of the very long journey.'

    יד וַיִּקְחוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים, מִצֵּידָם; וְאֶת-פִּי יְהוָה, לֹא שָׁאָלוּ.
    14 And the men took of their provision, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD.

    טו וַיַּעַשׂ לָהֶם יְהוֹשֻׁעַ שָׁלוֹם, וַיִּכְרֹת לָהֶם בְּרִית לְחַיּוֹתָם; וַיִּשָּׁבְעוּ לָהֶם, נְשִׂיאֵי הָעֵדָה.
    15 And Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them, to let them live; and the princes of the congregation swore unto them.

    טז וַיְהִי, מִקְצֵה שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים, אַחֲרֵי, אֲשֶׁר-כָּרְתוּ לָהֶם בְּרִית; וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ, כִּי-קְרֹבִים הֵם אֵלָיו, וּבְקִרְבּוֹ, הֵם יֹשְׁבִים.
    16 And it came to pass at the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard that they were their neighbours, and that they dwelt among them.

    יז וַיִּסְעוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל-עָרֵיהֶם--בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי; וְעָרֵיהֶם גִּבְעוֹן וְהַכְּפִירָה, וּבְאֵרוֹת וְקִרְיַת יְעָרִים.
    17 And the children of Israel journeyed, and came unto their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, and Chephirah, and Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim.

    יח וְלֹא הִכּוּם, בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, כִּי-נִשְׁבְּעוּ לָהֶם נְשִׂיאֵי הָעֵדָה, בַּיהוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל; וַיִּלֹּנוּ כָל-הָעֵדָה, עַל-הַנְּשִׂיאִים.
    18 And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the LORD, the God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes.

    יט וַיֹּאמְרוּ כָל-הַנְּשִׂיאִים, אֶל-כָּל-הָעֵדָה, אֲנַחְנוּ נִשְׁבַּעְנוּ לָהֶם, בַּיהוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל; וְעַתָּה, לֹא נוּכַל לִנְגֹּעַ בָּהֶם.
    19 But all the princes said unto all the congregation: 'We have sworn unto them by the LORD, the God of Israel; now therefore we may not touch them.

    Joshua 9

Now, the Givonim are liars and they are deceitful; they come with guile and trick the Israelites, but though the people "murmur" against them; still they are sworn and must keep their oath. What this seems to demonstrate is that disguise itself is not forbidden- after all, if the disguise were considered deceitful enough, surely they would have been permitted to go back on the oath of peace! This is similar to the situation by Jacob, Esau and Isaac- if Jacob's disguise had been considered a true crime, then surely Isaac would have been able to rescind the blessings! Then again, perhaps it is also important to consider the intent. In both situations, nothing bad was happening- the Givonim wanted peace, and Jacob wanted the blessings. If they had disguised themselves with the intent of harm (like suicide bombers) perhaps this would have been seen differently.

Even Samson is unable to act until he is given a pretext...."You have plowed with my calf" to learn the answer to the riddle.

But it is now that we reach the most disturbing part. Samson commits suicide- killing thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Pelishtim alongside him.

    כה וַיְהִי, כי טוב (כְּטוֹב) לִבָּם, וַיֹּאמְרוּ, קִרְאוּ לְשִׁמְשׁוֹן וִישַׂחֶק-לָנוּ; וַיִּקְרְאוּ לְשִׁמְשׁוֹן מִבֵּית האסירים (הָאֲסוּרִים), וַיְצַחֵק לִפְנֵיהֶם, וַיַּעֲמִידוּ אוֹתוֹ, בֵּין הָעַמּוּדִים.
    25 And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said: 'Call for Samson, that he may make us sport.' And they called for Samson out of the prison-house; and he made sport before them; and they set him between the pillars.

    כו וַיֹּאמֶר שִׁמְשׁוֹן אֶל-הַנַּעַר הַמַּחֲזִיק בְּיָדוֹ, הַנִּיחָה אוֹתִי, והימשני (וַהֲמִישֵׁנִי) אֶת-הָעַמֻּדִים, אֲשֶׁר הַבַּיִת נָכוֹן עֲלֵיהֶם; וְאֶשָּׁעֵן, עֲלֵיהֶם.
    26 And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand: 'Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house resteth, that I may lean upon them.'

    כז וְהַבַּיִת, מָלֵא הָאֲנָשִׁים וְהַנָּשִׁים, וְשָׁמָּה, כֹּל סַרְנֵי פְלִשְׁתִּים; וְעַל-הַגָּג, כִּשְׁלֹשֶׁת אֲלָפִים אִישׁ וְאִשָּׁה, הָרֹאִים, בִּשְׂחוֹק שִׁמְשׁוֹן.
    27 Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport.

    כח וַיִּקְרָא שִׁמְשׁוֹן אֶל-יְהוָה, וַיֹּאמַר: אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה זָכְרֵנִי נָא וְחַזְּקֵנִי נָא אַךְ הַפַּעַם הַזֶּה, הָאֱלֹהִים, וְאִנָּקְמָה נְקַם-אַחַת מִשְּׁתֵי עֵינַי, מִפְּלִשְׁתִּים.
    28 And Samson called unto the LORD, and said: 'O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray Thee, and strengthen me, I pray Thee, only this once, O God, that I may be this once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.'

    כט וַיִּלְפֹּת שִׁמְשׁוֹן אֶת-שְׁנֵי עַמּוּדֵי הַתָּוֶךְ, אֲשֶׁר הַבַּיִת נָכוֹן עֲלֵיהֶם, וַיִּסָּמֵךְ, עֲלֵיהֶם--אֶחָד בִּימִינוֹ, וְאֶחָד בִּשְׂמֹאלוֹ.
    29 And Samson took fast hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house rested, and leaned upon them, the one with his right hand, and the other with his left.

    ל וַיֹּאמֶר שִׁמְשׁוֹן, תָּמוֹת נַפְשִׁי עִם-פְּלִשְׁתִּים, וַיֵּט בְּכֹחַ, וַיִּפֹּל הַבַּיִת עַל-הַסְּרָנִים וְעַל-כָּל-הָעָם אֲשֶׁר-בּוֹ; וַיִּהְיוּ הַמֵּתִים, אֲשֶׁר הֵמִית בְּמוֹתוֹ, רַבִּים, מֵאֲשֶׁר הֵמִית בְּחַיָּיו.
    30 And Samson said: 'Let me die with the Philistines.' And he bent with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead that he slew at his death were more than they that he slew in his life.

    Judges 16

What are we to make of this? Samson asks God to allow him to die alongside the Pelishtim, so long as he is able to bring them down and topple the entire hall.

What are the differences between Samson's attack and a terrorist attack?

Some possible answers-

1. The Pelishtim knew very well that they had an enemy in their midst. It was their mistake to think Samson harmless- remember, they forgot that Samson's hair "had grown again." It is logical to assume that they are given their fair chance at stopping Samson from doing anything of the kind, and it is their own foolishness that causes his death.

2. They provoke him, calling him in order to "make sport of him." All the members of the party either participated or observed this, and no one seems to have attempted to stop it.

3. From the Gemara, "And Samson called unto the Lord, and said: O Lord God, remember me, I pray Thee and strengthen me, I pray Thee, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.4 Rab said: Samson spoke before the Holy One, blessed be He, Sovereign of the Universe, Remember on my behalf the twenty5 years I judged Israel, and never did I order anyone to carry my staff from one place to another. " (Sotah 10) His action is a form of vengeance as opposed to a suicide bombing, which generally seems unprovoked.

But this answer (from the Gemara) seems difficult, for did not God ordain that Samson must lose his two eyes?

    GEMARA. Our Rabbis have taught: Samson rebelled [against God] through his eyes, as it is said: And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me, because she is pleasing in my eyes;19 therefore the Philistines put out his eyes, as it is said: And the Philistines laid hold on him and put out his eyes.20 But it is not so; for behold it is written: But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord!21 — When he went [to choose a wife] he nevertheless followed his own inclinations.22

    Sotah 9a

One could suggest the sort of answer we often receive when it comes to the Egyptians- "God gave them permission to punish us, but not to the extent that they did so, and hence they themselves were punished," but this answer has never fully satisfied me. Either God gives them permission to punish, in which case they seem blameless, or He does not, in which case they are guilty. How can it work both ways?

Even the answers I suggest- that in both scenarios (Shimon and Levi and/or Shimshon) the perpetrators are provoked, this still does not explain their behavior (sweet-talking the enemies/ Shimshon takes wives from amongst them!) If they truly felt they were correct and right in all they did, should they not have been honest? Can one mislead people if one intends to hurt them?

And, as my father mentioned, David was told that he must bring a dowry of 100 foreskins to receive Michal's hand in marriage. David doesn't bring 100, but more- 200! Doesn't this seem bloodthirsty, an unprovoked crime? How are we to understand this?

I don't have the answer...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Dance of Observation and Connections

Today, I want to dance. By this I refer to a mental dance, in which I dance across the pages of the Tanakh, form connections, make observations, and consider them in light of what interests me.

One of the most wonderful things about the Torah and Tanakh are the similarities to be found between many different ideas and stories. Oftentimes, these stories work best in conjunction with one another- a very important method of learning, that of comparing and contrasting different pieces. With this in mind, I introduce to you some parallel stories, ideas, symbols, objects, observations and/or questions.

Let the game begin!

One of the best-known scenarios in Tanakh deals with Rachel's decision to steal her father's terafaim. Observe:

    יט וְלָבָן הָלַךְ, לִגְזֹז אֶת-צֹאנוֹ; וַתִּגְנֹב רָחֵל, אֶת-הַתְּרָפִים אֲשֶׁר לְאָבִיהָ.
    19 Now Laban was gone to shear his sheep. And Rachel stole the teraphim that were her father's.


    ל וְעַתָּה הָלֹךְ הָלַכְתָּ, כִּי-נִכְסֹף נִכְסַפְתָּה לְבֵית אָבִיךָ; לָמָּה גָנַבְתָּ, אֶת-אֱלֹהָי.
    30 And now that thou art surely gone, because thou sore longest after thy father's house, wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?'

    לא וַיַּעַן יַעֲקֹב, וַיֹּאמֶר לְלָבָן: כִּי יָרֵאתִי--כִּי אָמַרְתִּי, פֶּן-תִּגְזֹל אֶת-בְּנוֹתֶיךָ מֵעִמִּי.
    31 And Jacob answered and said to Laban: 'Because I was afraid; for I said: Lest thou shouldest take thy daughters from me by force.

    לב עִם אֲשֶׁר תִּמְצָא אֶת-אֱלֹהֶיךָ, לֹא יִחְיֶה--נֶגֶד אַחֵינוּ הַכֶּר-לְךָ מָה עִמָּדִי, וְקַח-לָךְ; וְלֹא-יָדַע יַעֲקֹב, כִּי רָחֵל גְּנָבָתַם.
    32 With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, he shall not live; before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee.'--For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them.--

    לג וַיָּבֹא לָבָן בְּאֹהֶל יַעֲקֹב וּבְאֹהֶל לֵאָה, וּבְאֹהֶל שְׁתֵּי הָאֲמָהֹת--וְלֹא מָצָא; וַיֵּצֵא מֵאֹהֶל לֵאָה, וַיָּבֹא בְּאֹהֶל רָחֵל.
    33 And Laban went into Jacob's tent, and into Leah's tent, and into the tent of the two maid-servants; but he found them not. And he went out of Leah's tent, and entered into Rachel's tent.

    לד וְרָחֵל לָקְחָה אֶת-הַתְּרָפִים, וַתְּשִׂמֵם בְּכַר הַגָּמָל--וַתֵּשֶׁב עֲלֵיהֶם; וַיְמַשֵּׁשׁ לָבָן אֶת-כָּל-הָאֹהֶל, וְלֹא מָצָא.
    34 Now Rachel had taken the teraphim, and put them in the saddle of the camel, and sat upon them. And Laban felt about all the tent, but found them not.

    לה וַתֹּאמֶר אֶל-אָבִיהָ, אַל-יִחַר בְּעֵינֵי אֲדֹנִי, כִּי לוֹא אוּכַל לָקוּם מִפָּנֶיךָ, כִּי-דֶרֶךְ נָשִׁים לִי; וַיְחַפֵּשׂ, וְלֹא מָצָא אֶת-הַתְּרָפִים.
    35 And she said to her father: 'Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise up before thee; for the manner of women is upon me.' And he searched, but found not the teraphim.

    Genesis 30: 31-35
Now, it's probable you have read and learned various interpretations and explanations of these verses before. But did you learn this?

    יב וַתֹּרֶד מִיכַל אֶת-דָּוִד, בְּעַד הַחַלּוֹן; וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיִּבְרַח, וַיִּמָּלֵט.
    12 So Michal let David down through the window; and he went, and fled, and escaped.

    יג וַתִּקַּח מִיכַל אֶת-הַתְּרָפִים, וַתָּשֶׂם אֶל-הַמִּטָּה, וְאֵת כְּבִיר הָעִזִּים, שָׂמָה מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו; וַתְּכַס, בַּבָּגֶד. {ס}
    13 And Michal took the teraphim, and laid it in the bed, and put a quilt of goats' hair at the head thereof, and covered it with a cloth. {S}

    יד וַיִּשְׁלַח שָׁאוּל מַלְאָכִים, לָקַחַת אֶת-דָּוִד; וַתֹּאמֶר, חֹלֶה הוּא. {ס}
    14 And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said: 'He is sick.' {S}

    טו וַיִּשְׁלַח שָׁאוּל אֶת-הַמַּלְאָכִים, לִרְאוֹת אֶת-דָּוִד לֵאמֹר: הַעֲלוּ אֹתוֹ בַמִּטָּה אֵלַי, לַהֲמִתוֹ.
    15 And Saul sent the messengers to see David, saying: 'Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may slay him.'

    טז וַיָּבֹאוּ, הַמַּלְאָכִים, וְהִנֵּה הַתְּרָפִים, אֶל-הַמִּטָּה; וּכְבִיר הָעִזִּים, מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו. {ס}
    16 And when the messengers came in, behold, the teraphim was in the bed, with the quilt of goats' hair at the head thereof. {S}

    יז וַיֹּאמֶר שָׁאוּל אֶל-מִיכַל, לָמָּה כָּכָה רִמִּיתִנִי, וַתְּשַׁלְּחִי אֶת-אֹיְבִי, וַיִּמָּלֵט; וַתֹּאמֶר מִיכַל אֶל-שָׁאוּל, הוּא-אָמַר אֵלַי שַׁלְּחִנִי לָמָה אֲמִיתֵךְ.
    17 And Saul said unto Michal: 'Why hast thou deceived me thus, and let mine enemy go, that he is escaped?' And Michal answered Saul: 'He said unto me: Let me go; why should I kill thee?'

    Samuel I 19: 12-17
Very interesting! In both scenarios, it is the women who hide the teraphim, and what is more, use the excuse that someone is sick or unwell (Rachel says it is her time of the month, and Michal states that David is sick. ) Of course, the teraphim show up for different reasons (one is because Rachel has stolen them, the other because Michal is pretending David is actually there) but the similarity still exists.

While we're discussing the matter of similarites, notice how escapees almost always leave by the window.

As we have previously stated:

    יב וַתֹּרֶד מִיכַל אֶת-דָּוִד, בְּעַד הַחַלּוֹן; וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיִּבְרַח, וַיִּמָּלֵט.
    12 So Michal let David down through the window; and he went, and fled, and escaped.

And where do we first see this? By Rachab, of course!

    טו וַתּוֹרִדֵם בַּחֶבֶל, בְּעַד הַחַלּוֹן: כִּי בֵיתָהּ בְּקִיר הַחוֹמָה, וּבַחוֹמָה הִיא יוֹשָׁבֶת.
    15 Then she let them down by a cord through the window; for her house was upon the side of the wall, and she dwelt upon the wall.

    Joshua 2:15

    Back to Michal, however. Did you notice something interesting? Deception is associated with goats' hair.

      יג וַתִּקַּח מִיכַל אֶת-הַתְּרָפִים, וַתָּשֶׂם אֶל-הַמִּטָּה, וְאֵת כְּבִיר הָעִזִּים, שָׂמָה מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו; וַתְּכַס, בַּבָּגֶד. {ס}
      13 And Michal took the teraphim, and laid it in the bed, and put a quilt of goats' hair at the head thereof, and covered it with a cloth. {S}

    And when is the first time we see deception with regard to goats' hair? By Jacob, of course!

      טו וַתִּקַּח רִבְקָה אֶת-בִּגְדֵי עֵשָׂו בְּנָהּ הַגָּדֹל, הַחֲמֻדֹת, אֲשֶׁר אִתָּהּ, בַּבָּיִת; וַתַּלְבֵּשׁ אֶת-יַעֲקֹב, בְּנָהּ הַקָּטָן.
      15 And Rebekah took the choicest garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son.

      טז וְאֵת, עֹרֹת גְּדָיֵי הָעִזִּים, הִלְבִּישָׁה, עַל-יָדָיו--וְעַל, חֶלְקַת צַוָּארָיו.
      16 And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck.

      Genesis 27:16

    The idea of the voice, which is stressed in this story,

      כב וַיִּגַּשׁ יַעֲקֹב אֶל-יִצְחָק אָבִיו, וַיְמֻשֵּׁהוּ; וַיֹּאמֶר, הַקֹּל קוֹל יַעֲקֹב, וְהַיָּדַיִם, יְדֵי עֵשָׂו.
      22 And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said: 'The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.'

    is also very important by Saul and David.

      טז וַיְהִי כְּכַלּוֹת דָּוִד, לְדַבֵּר אֶת-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה אֶל-שָׁאוּל, וַיֹּאמֶר שָׁאוּל, הֲקֹלְךָ זֶה בְּנִי דָוִד; וַיִּשָּׂא שָׁאוּל קֹלוֹ, וַיֵּבְךְּ.
      16 And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said: 'Is this thy voice, my son David?' And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept.

      Samuel I 24:16


      יז וַיַּכֵּר שָׁאוּל, אֶת-קוֹל דָּוִד, וַיֹּאמֶר, הֲקוֹלְךָ זֶה בְּנִי דָוִד; וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִד, קוֹלִי אֲדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ.
      17 And Saul knew David's voice, and said: 'Is this thy voice, my son David?' And David said: 'It is my voice, my lord, O king.'

      Samuel I 27:17

    Strangely, David seems to resemble both brothers in this story. He is similar to Jacob in that he is involved in a deception with goatskins, but he was born ruddy and is in temperament similar to Esau (and that is a whole separate issue; the violence in their temperaments- the fact that David killed for God and Esau for himself, etc). He even has the same forces as Esau!

      א וַיִּשָּׂא יַעֲקֹב עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה עֵשָׂו בָּא, וְעִמּוֹ, אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת אִישׁ; וַיַּחַץ אֶת-הַיְלָדִים, עַל-לֵאָה וְעַל-רָחֵל, וְעַל, שְׁתֵּי הַשְּׁפָחוֹת.
      1 And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids.

      Genesis 33:1

    and by David

      יג וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִד לַאֲנָשָׁיו חִגְרוּ אִישׁ אֶת-חַרְבּוֹ, וַיַּחְגְּרוּ אִישׁ אֶת-חַרְבּוֹ, וַיַּחְגֹּר גַּם-דָּוִד, אֶת-חַרְבּוֹ; וַיַּעֲלוּ אַחֲרֵי דָוִד, כְּאַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת אִישׁ, וּמָאתַיִם, יָשְׁבוּ עַל-הַכֵּלִים.
      13 And David said unto his men: 'Gird ye on every man his sword.' And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword; and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the baggage.

      Samuel I 25:13

    Now, this reference to the "two hundred who abide by the baggage" instantly serves to remind us of Saul himself.

    Recall Saul's coronation?

      כא וַיַּקְרֵב אֶת-שֵׁבֶט בִּנְיָמִן, לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָו, וַתִּלָּכֵד, מִשְׁפַּחַת הַמַּטְרִי; וַיִּלָּכֵד שָׁאוּל בֶּן-קִישׁ, וַיְבַקְשֻׁהוּ וְלֹא נִמְצָא.
      21 And he brought the tribe of Benjamin near by their families, and the family of the Matrites was taken; and Saul the son of Kish was taken; but when they sought him, he could not be found.

      כב וַיִּשְׁאֲלוּ-עוֹד, בַּיהוָה, הֲבָא עוֹד, הֲלֹם אִישׁ; {ס} וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, הִנֵּה-הוּא נֶחְבָּא אֶל-הַכֵּלִים.
      22 Therefore they asked of the LORD further: 'Is there yet a man come hither?' {S} And the LORD answered: 'Behold, he hath hid himself among the baggage.'

    But here Saul is hunting David, and punishing him in different ways:

      מד וְשָׁאוּל, נָתַן אֶת-מִיכַל בִּתּוֹ--אֵשֶׁת דָּוִד: לְפַלְטִי בֶן-לַיִשׁ, אֲשֶׁר מִגַּלִּים.
      44 Now Saul had given Michal his daughter, David's wife, to Palti the son of Laish, who was of Gallim.

      Samuel I 25:44
    Does this remind you of anything? It should!

      כ וַתְּהִי, אֵשֶׁת שִׁמְשׁוֹן, לְמֵרֵעֵהוּ, אֲשֶׁר רֵעָה לוֹ. {פ}
      20 But Samson's wife was given to his companion, whom he had had for his friend. {P}

      Judges 14:20
    And we all know that didn't work out so well...

    But here's another interesting connection! Observe the next verse:

      א וַיְהִי מִיָּמִים בִּימֵי קְצִיר-חִטִּים, וַיִּפְקֹד שִׁמְשׁוֹן אֶת-אִשְׁתּוֹ בִּגְדִי עִזִּים, וַיֹּאמֶר, אָבֹאָה אֶל-אִשְׁתִּי הֶחָדְרָה; וְלֹא-נְתָנוֹ אָבִיהָ, לָבוֹא
      1 But it came to pass after a while, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said: 'I will go in to my wife into the chamber.' But her father would not suffer him to go in.

      Judges 15:1
    Notice that when Samson desires to have marital relations with his wife he "brings her a kid." Where have we seen this before?

    Why, by Judah and Tamar!

      טז וַיֵּט אֵלֶיהָ אֶל-הַדֶּרֶךְ, וַיֹּאמֶר הָבָה-נָּא אָבוֹא אֵלַיִךְ, כִּי לֹא יָדַע, כִּי כַלָּתוֹ הִוא; וַתֹּאמֶר, מַה-תִּתֶּן-לִי, כִּי תָבוֹא, אֵלָי.
      16 And he turned unto her by the way, and said: 'Come, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee'; for he knew not that she was his daughter-in-law. And she said: 'What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me?'

      יז וַיֹּאמֶר, אָנֹכִי אֲשַׁלַּח גְּדִי-עִזִּים מִן-הַצֹּאן; וַתֹּאמֶר, אִם-תִּתֵּן עֵרָבוֹן עַד שָׁלְחֶךָ.
      17 And he said: 'I will send thee a kid of the goats from the flock.' And she said: 'Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it?'


      כג וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה תִּקַּח-לָהּ, פֶּן נִהְיֶה לָבוּז; הִנֵּה שָׁלַחְתִּי הַגְּדִי הַזֶּה, וְאַתָּה לֹא מְצָאתָהּ.
      23 And Judah said: 'Let her take it, lest we be put to shame; behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.'

      Genesis 38

    This is a dance that could continue forever and a day...constantly becoming, changing, and affording me new insights, ideas and observations. But this is one of the many reasons that secular studies are so important- it was English class that taught me to think this way, to try to find connections between words and ideas, and hence to understand. It was only later that my Chumash and Navi tests started introducing 'B'keshers' as they are often called...and even then, they were never as broad and all-encompassing as I liked them to be.

    I enjoy learning so much when I can dance through it....and so I will.