Tuesday, July 16, 2013

God Dwells Within Us: The Human Beis HaMikdash

I was reading the Tisha B'av-To-Go put out by Yeshiva University, specifically the article by Rabbi Yehuda Willig, when I came across this fascinating Alshich (in Chapter 31 of Shemot) being cited:

ואם כן כיון שהמשכן אין השראת שכינה בו מצד עצמו כי אם באדם כמה דאת אמר (לעיל כה ח) ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם, כי בתוכו לא נאמר אלא בתוכם שהוא כי היכל ה' הוא האדם וממנו יתפשט אל המשכן. ואם כן אמור מעתה איך בשבת שהאדם הוא היכל ה' יעשה מלאכה במשכן שהוא עצמו מצד עצמו אין בו שכינה אלא ממה שנמשך לו מן האדם, שעל ידי היות האדם היכל ה' נמשך אל המשכן:

Well, actually, the one cited in the article was from Shemot, Chapter 25:

ושכנתי בתוכם ולא אמר בתוכו. והוא כי הנה שמעתי לומדים מכאן כי עיקר השראת שכינה באדם הוא ולא בבית מאומרו בתוכם.

This is translated as: It says that I dwell among them and not (that I will dwell) in it. And the idea is, because I heard those who extract from here that the main residence of the Shechinah is in man himself, and not in the home (Beis HaMikdash), from the fact that it says (I will dwell among) them. 

Rabbi Willig goes on to say:
This incredible concept demonstrates the thought we mentioned previously, that each person has such immense significance. Each person is charged with the responsibility to become a living Beis HaMikdash, to use his abilities and talents to bring more Godliness into this world. Therefore, with the loss of every single Jewish life, we mourn and grieve as we do over the loss of the Beis HaMikdash.
He then goes on to explore the idea that the earth with which God created Adam originated from the place the Beit HaMikdash would one day stand, and given what we now know (in addition to another point he sets up about Eicha vs. Ayekah), we understand why.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Fairy Tales & Tanakh: Famine in Lamentations and The Arabian Nights

As I listened to Eicha being read tonight, the following pasuk in Chapter 4 struck me:

ה  הָאֹכְלִים, לְמַעֲדַנִּים, נָשַׁמּוּ, בַּחוּצוֹת; הָאֱמֻנִים עֲלֵי תוֹלָע, חִבְּקוּ אַשְׁפַּתּוֹת.  {ס}5 They that did feed on dainties are desolate in the streets; they that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills. {S}
I was reminded of the story in Gittin 56a of Martha, daughter of Boethius.
The biryoni11  were then in the city. The Rabbis said to them: Let us go out and make peace with them [the Romans]. They would not let them, but on the contrary said, Let us go out and fight them. The Rabbis said: You will not succeed. They then rose up and burnt the stores of wheat and barley so that a famine ensued. Martha the daughter of Boethius was one of the richest women in Jerusalem. She sent her man-servant out saying, Go and bring me some fine flour. By the time he went it was sold out. He came and told her, There is no fine flour, but there is white [flour]. She then said to him, Go and bring me some. By the time he went he found the white flour sold out. He came and told her, There is no white flour but there is dark flour. She said to him, Go and bring me some. By the time he went it was sold out. He returned and said to her, There is no dark flour, but there is barley flour. She said, Go and bring me some. By the time he went this was also sold out. She had taken off her shoes, but she said, I will go out and see if I can find anything to eat. Some dung stuck to her foot and she died.12  Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai applied to her the verse, The tender and delicate woman among you which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground.13  Some report that she ate a fig left by R. Zadok, and became sick and died. For R. Zadok observed fasts for forty years in order that Jerusalem might not be destroyed, [and he became so thin that] when he ate anything the food could be seen [as it passed through his throat.] When he wanted to restore himself, they used to bring him a fig, and he used to suck the juice and throw the rest away. When Martha was about to die, she brought out all her gold and silver and threw it in the street, saying, What is the good of this to me, thus giving effect to the verse, They shall cast their silver in the streets.14
I had the nagging feeling that I had read this story before in the Arabian Nights. After doing some searching, I discovered this was true, and that this exact story is paralleled in "The City of Brass."

O thou, if thou know me not, I will acquaint thee with my name and my descent. I am Tedmur, the daughter of the King of the Amalekites, of those who ruled the countries with equity. I possessed what none of the Kings possessed, and ruled with justice, and acted impartially towards my subjects; I gave and bestowed, and I lived a long time in the enjoyment of happiness and an easy life, and possessing emancipated female and male slaves. Thus I did until the summoner of death came to my abode, and disasters occurred before me. And the case was this:—Seven years in succession came upon us, during which no water descended on us from heaven, nor did any grass grow for us on the face of the earth. So we ate what food we had in our dwellings, and after that we fell upon the beasts and ate them, and there remained nothing. Upon this, therefore, I caused the wealth to be brought, and meted it with a measure, and sent it by trusty men, who went about with it through all the districts, not leaving unvisited a single large city, to seek for some food. But they found it not; and they returned to us with the wealth, after a long absence. So thereupon we exposed to view our riches and our treasures, locked the gates of the fortresses in our city, and submitted ourselves to the decree of our Lord, committing our case to our Master; and thus we all died, as thou beholdest, and left what we had built and what we had treasured. This is the story: and after the substance there remaineth not aught save the vestige.
It is the exact same story. Both Martha and Tedmur (Tadmurah in some versions) are extremely wealthy. Both send out individuals with lots of riches to purchase food. The individuals are not successful in their mission. Therefore, both individuals take all of their riches, put them in the street (as though to say, what good are these riches to us now), and perish. 

I think it's particularly interesting that in our version, Martha is Jewish, and in the Arabian Nights, Tedmur is the daughter of the Kings of the Amalekites. There's definitely something worth exploring there, although I'm not sure what.