26 octubre 2015

About love: love of delight vs. love of desire (Chasidic thought by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz)



Long Shorter Way : Discourses on Chasidic Thought [Adin Steinsaltz]
Chapter Nine. The animal soul




07 octubre 2015

Ona'at devarim (oppression by means of words - verbal abuse)

Bava Metzia 58b
MISHNAH. JUST AS THERE IS OVERREACHING IN BUYING AND SELLING, SO IS THERE WRONG DONE BY WORDS. [THUS:] ONE MUST NOT ASK ANOTHER, 'WHAT IS THE PRICE OF THIS ARTICLE?' IF HE HAS NO INTENTION OF BUYING. IF A MAN WAS A REPENTANT [SINNER], ONE MUST NOT SAY TO HIM, 'REMEMBER YOUR FORMER DEEDS.' IF HE WAS A SON OF PROSELYTES ONE MUST NOT TAUNT HIM, 'REMEMBER THE DEEDS OF YOUR ANCESTORS,' BECAUSE IT IS WRITTEN, THOU SHALT NEITHER WRONG A STRANGER, NOR OPPRESS HIM

The Mishnah teaches that ona'ah - a term that we have defined as "unfair business transactions" applies not only to buying and selling, but to other areas of personal interaction, as well. Thus, it is prohibited for a person to ask a shopkeeper for the price of an object that he has no interest in purchasing. This ona'at devarim applies in a range of other situations, as well - the Mishnah includes reminding a ba'al teshuvah (a penitent) of his earlier sins, or the child of a convert of the sins of his parents. According to the Me'iri, the main concept of ona'at devarim is the emotional pain and suffering that one person causes to another, whose linguistic root can be found in a passage in Yeshayahu (49:21). As we have seen, the Mishnah opens by describing a case of ona'at devarim that is connected with a commercial transaction, but then continues by including personal matters in this category, as well. The baraita quoted by the Gemara assigns a passage in Vayikra (25:14) as the source for ordinary, commercial, ona'ah, and a later pasuk, or verse (Vayikra 25:17) as the source for ona'at devarim. Rabbi Yohanan quotes Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai as teaching that ona'at devarim is the more severe of the two, since the Torah includes a comment that "you should fear God" in the passage from which we learn ona'at devarim. The Maharsha explains that this may stem from the fact that a person who is committing ona'at devarim will often deny the accusation, showing that he fears his fellow man - who cannot know his true intention - more than he fears God, who certainly knows what truly is his intent. Sages in the Gemara are quoted as pointing to a number of reasons that ona'at devarim is considered so severe - Rabbi Elazar suggests that it is the difference between making the individual suffer personally or making his money suffer; Rabbi Shmu'el bar Nahmani argues that money can always be returned, but ona'at devarim cannot be undone.
This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud.  To learn more about the Steinsaltz Daf Yomi initiative, click here.
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17 mayo 2015

Idolatria

"Il popolo, vedendo che Mose tardava a scendere dalla montagna, si affollo attorno ad Aronne e gli disse:'Facci un Dio che camini alla nostra testa'..."(Es 32:1)



 
Titolo: Le dieci parole. Il Decalogo riletto e commentato dai Maestri ebrei antichi e moderni
Autore: Ouaknin Marc-Alain

27 febrero 2015

Purim, the Bible, and a Vengeful God


From: http://www.reformjudaism.org/print/116526
 By

Cruelty and bloodshed abound in the Bible as, for example, the Pharaoh's ruthless treatment of his Israelite slaves and Moses' vengeful slaying of the Egyptian taskmaster in the Passover story. But one biblical story in particular dismayed theologian Martin Buber: the prophet Samuel's vengeful killing of Agag, king of the Amalekites. In I Samuel 15:3, God commands King Saul to kill all the Amalekites, "men and women, infants and sucklings, oxen and sheep, camels and asses." Saul proceeds to kill the Amalekites, the eternal enemies of Israel, but chooses to spare Agag. In response, the prophet Samuel travels to Saul's camp, interrupts the victory celebration, denounces Saul for allowing Agag to live, and then savagely slays the Amalekite king.
What bothered Buber most was the reason Samuel gives for his slaying of Agag: God commanded the slaughter of all the Amalekites.
The portrayal of a vengeful God full of wrath has led many people to reject the Bible as the fountainhead of faith. Buber himself was moving in that direction when he experienced a chance encounter with an old Orthodox Jew on a train. Buber told him of being very troubled by this episode. He admitted that he did not believe that God had commanded Saul to kill every Amalekite. The old man responded in a gruff tone:
"So, you do not believe it?" "No," I answered, "I do not believe it." "What do you believe then?" "I believe," I replied without reflecting, "that Samuel has misunderstood God." And he again slowly but more softly than before: "So? You do not believe that?" And I: "Yes." Then we were both silent. But now something happened….The angry countenance opposite me became transformed…."Well," said the man with a positively gentle tender clarity, "I think so too." [Martin Buber, Autographical Fragments]
Buber concluded: "An observant Jew…when he has to choose between God and the Bible, chooses God."
What a magnificent declaration of faith! Buber understood that those who recorded and preserved our sacred texts were human beings, fallible mortals who may have occasionally misunderstood the biblical intent. "Nothing," Buber declared, "can make me believe in a God who punishes Saul because he did not murder his enemy."
Did Samuel indeed kill Agag at the command of God? Or is it possible that a zealous scribe, one who might have had reason to despise the memory of the cruel Amalekites whose treachery had gone back to the days of Moses (Deut. 25:17), believed that Samuel would have hacked Agag to pieces?
A Talmudic story relating to Purim (during which time we read the Saul, Samuel, and Agag account) sheds additional light on the matter.
Rabba and Rabbi Zera joined together in a Purim feast. They got drunk and Rabba arose and killed Rabbi Zera. On the following day, he prayed for mercy, and Rabbi Zera revived.
For those who think our Talmudic sages lacked senses of humor, the story continues:
The next year Rabba said: "Sir, shall we get together for the Purim feast again?" Rabbi Zera answered: "One cannot depend on the regular occurrence of miracles."
Did one of the greatest sages of fourth-century Babylonia really murder a colleague? Incredulous that a great teacher of Torah would act like a drunken hooligan, the 17th-century Venetian scholar Rabbi Azariah Figo inquired:
How is it possible to establish a celebration and the remembrance of God's miracle on the kind of drunkenness that would cause a person to lose the power of common sense and judgment which are the essence of our humanity, the kind of drunkenness that can lead to injury?
Figo went on to contrast the performance of mitzvot, such as eating matzah and bitter herbs on Passover, which are intended to increase our understanding of God's miracles, with that of drinking excessively on Purim, which would decrease our understanding of the miraculous process by which God switches the fates of Haman and Mordecai-vizier Haman to the gallows and the Jew Mordecai to royal purple. For Figo, therefore, the mitzvah of imbibing on Purim has a limit-just up to that point when the distinction between "cursed be Haman" and "blessed be Mordecai" begins to blur.
Returning to the incident of Rabba killing Rabbi Zera, Figo asserts that as the two men argued, Rabba did not destroy Rabbi Zera physically but intellectually. Indeed, the more wine they drank, the more vehement and confused they became, until Rabba finally demolished Zera.
The next day, again according to Figo's reconstruction of the story, Rabba felt so badly about how he had treated his friend, he went to Rabbi Zera's home and apologized. This apology revived Rabbi Zera's spirits, but not so thoroughly that he was willing to chance being similarly annihilated the subsequent year.
It is notable that Azariah Figo, a traditional interpreter, would have had the temerity to disagree with the clear text of this Talmudic story, ruling out homicide because such an act offended his ethical sensibilities.
The person of faith must resolve for her or himself the tension between the word of God and that word as transcribed in our sacred texts by human beings. Like Figo, Martin Buber was able to keep his faith by rejecting a text which he considered to be in conflict with the will of the God who commanded that we be holy as God is holy. A truly believing Jew who has to choose between a time-hallowed text and God will choose the God whom she or he seeks to humbly imitate.

Rabbi Simeon J. Maslin is a past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the author of several books and numerous articles on Jewish practices. This article is adapted from an essay in his book, And Turn it Again. His latest book is Uncle Sol's Women .