Monthly Archives: April 2018

Does Judaism Believe in the Apocalypse?

The word “apocalypse” (literally translated as “an uncovering”) historically referred to revelations and prophecies related to the ultimate destiny of humanity, what some would call “the end of days” (eschatology).

However, the term is commonly used in reference to large-scale catastrophic events leading up to the doom of humanity and the end of the world as we know it.

So in answer to your question, if you’re referring to the original meaning, then yes, Judaism definitely believes in the apocalypse—as in the coming of Moshiach and the resurrection of the dead. (The details of what will happen vary significantly from the prophecies and traditions familiar to other religions. Learn more about it here.)

If, however, your question is about the apocalypse in the colloquial sense, then it is a bit more complicated.

Six Thousand Years—Then Destruction

Perhaps the best place to start is with the following statement in the Talmud:

Rav Ketina says: “Six thousand years is the world, and it is in ruins one [thousand], as it is stated: ‘The L‑rd alone shall be exalted on that day’1 (and the day of G‑d lasts one thousand years).” Abaye says: “It is in ruins for two thousand years, as it is stated: ‘After two days He will revive us; in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His presence.’”2

. . . It has been taught in accordance with the opinion of Rav Ketina: Just as the Sabbatical year abrogates debts once in seven years, so too the world abrogates its typical existence for one thousand years in every seven thousand years, as it is stated: “The L‑rd alone shall be exalted on that day,” and it states: “A psalm, a song for the Shabbat day,” meaning a day—i.e., one thousand years—that is entirely Shabbat. And it says, “For a thousand years in Your eyes are but like yesterday when it is past . . .”3

What Does It Mean?

There is much discussion regarding the exact meaning of Rav Ketina’s statement.

Some commentators, like Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the Rashba)4 and Rabbi (Don) Isaac Abarbanel5 explain it in the literal sense, that the world will ultimately return to the state of nothingness from which it came. Others, like Rabbeinu Bechayei, while also interpreting it in the literal sense, explain that it refers to only part of the world.6 Maimonides, on the other hand, is of the opinion that the Talmudic statement is figurative.7

In this vein, Rabbi Menachem Meiri offers a number of possible explanations. One approach is that the millenium of destruction refers to a period of great persecution of the Jewish people. According to this explanation, the “year of destruction” is actually the sixth millennium, and Rav Ketina’s statement should be read as saying, “Six thousand years is the world, and it is in ruins one thousand—of those six. Afterwards, there will be the messianic era.”8

Alternatively, he explains that the “destruction” may actually refer to the destruction of the coarseness of the mundane world.9

The Thousand-Day Shabbat

The third Lubavitcher Rebbe, known as the Tzemach Tzedek, points out that on the one hand there are Torah sources that state that the reward for our Divine service will be in the seventh millennium,10 while on the other hand, Rav Ketina states that the world will be desolate in the seventh millennium. How can both be true?

He explains that when the Talmud compares those thousand years to Shabbat, it is explaining the nature of the “desolation.” The word “Shabbat” itself can mean either “rest” or “annulment”—and in this case it means both.

When the Talmud says the seventh millennium will be “desolate,” it means that there will be such a great spiritual revelation during that period that we will have no physical needs, like eating and drinking. Thus, all physical work that comes along with our physical needs, like plowing and planting, will be “annulled.” Instead, the souls will delight in the Divine glory.11

Nevertheless, the ultimate goal is the eighth millennium, when the physical itself will be refined to the point where the physical world and the great spiritual revelation will be integrated.12

May we merit the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days!

1.Isaiah 2:11.
2.Hosea 6:2.
3. Talmud, Sanhedrin 97a.
4. Teshuvot HaRashba 1:9.
5. Yeshuot Meshicho, Iyun 1:1.
6. Rabbeinu Bechayei, Numbers 10:35.
7. Guide for the Perplexed 2:29.
8. Meiri, preface to Pirkei Avot.
9. Ibid. See also Tzemach Tzedek, additional comments to Tehillim 9–10 (Sefer HaLikkutim, s.v. charuv, p. 943).
10. See, for example, Tanya, Likkutei Amarim, ch. 36.
11. Tzemach Tzedek, Tehillim, pp. 631–632; Sefer HaLikkutim, s.v. charuv, pp. 944–945.
12. Tzemach Tzedek, Shir HaShirim 14; Sefer HaLikkutim, s.v. charuv, p. 949.
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Posted by on April 30, 2018 in Uncategorized


In the diary

Time management is more than management and larger than time. It is about life itself. God gives us one thing above all: life itself. And He gives it to us all on equal terms. However rich we are, there are still only 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, and a span of years that, however long, is still all too short. Whoever we are, whatever we do, whatever gifts we have, the single most important fact about our life, on which all else depends, is how we spend our time.[1]

“The span of our life is 70 years, or if we are strong, 80 years,” says Psalm 90, and despite the massive reduction of premature deaths in the past century, the average life expectancy around the world, according to the most recent United Nations figures (2010-2015) is 71.5 years.[2] So, concludes the Psalm, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom,” reminding us that time management is not simply a productivity tool. It is, in fact, a spiritual exercise.

Hence the following life-changing idea, which sounds simple, but isn’t. Do not rely exclusively on To Do lists. Use a diary. The most successful people schedule their most important tasks in their diary.[3] They know that if it isn’t in there, it won’t get done. To Do lists are useful, but not sufficient. They remind us of what we have to do but not when. They fail to distinguish between what is important and what is merely urgent. They clutter the mind with trivia and distract us when we ought to be focusing on the things that matter most in the long run. Only a diary connects what with when. And what applies to individuals applies to communities and cultures as a whole.

That is what the Jewish calendar is about. It is why chapter 23, in this week’s parsha, is so fundamental to the continued vitality of the Jewish people. It sets out a weekly, monthly and yearly schedule of sacred times. This is continued and extended in Parshat Behar to seven- and 50-year schedules. The Torah forces us to remember what contemporary culture regularly forgets: that our lives must have dedicated times when we focus on the things that give life a meaning. And because we are social animals, the most important times are the ones we share. The Jewish calendar is precisely that: a structure of shared time.

We all need an identity, and every identity comes with a story. So we need a time when we remind ourselves of the story of where we came from and why we are who we are. That happens on Pesach, when we re-enact the founding moment of our people as they began their long walk to freedom.

We need a moral code, an internalized satellite navigation system to guide us through the wilderness of time. That is what we celebrate on Shavuot when we relive the moment when our ancestors stood at Sinai, made their covenant with God, and heard Heaven declare the Ten Commandments.

We need a regular reminder of the brevity of life itself, and hence the need to use time wisely. That is what we do on Rosh Hashanah as we stand before God in judgment and pray to be written in the Book of Life.

We need a time when we confront our faults, apologize for the wrong we have done, make amends, resolve to change, and ask for forgiveness. That is the work of Yom Kippur.

We need to remind ourselves that we are on a journey, that we are “strangers and sojourners” on earth, and that where we live is only a temporary dwelling. That is what we experience on Sukkot.

And we need, from time to time, to step back from the ceaseless pressures of work and find the rest in which we can celebrate our blessings, renew our relationships, and recover the full vigor of body and mind. That is Shabbat.

Doubtless, most people — at least, most reflective people — know that these things are important. But knowing is not enough. These are elements of a life that become real when we live them, not just when we know them. That is why they have to be in the diary, not just on a To Do list.

As Alain de Botton points out in his Religion for Atheists, we all know that it is important to mend broken relationships. But without Yom Kippur, there are psychological pressures that can make us endlessly delay such mending.[4] If we are the offended party, we may not want to show other people our hurt. It makes us look fragile, vulnerable. And if we are the offending party, it can be hard to admit our guilt, not least because we feel so guilty. As he puts it: “We can be so sorry that we find ourselves incapable of saying sorry.” The fact that Yom Kippur exists means that there is a day in the diary on which we have to do the mending — and this is made easier by the knowledge that everyone else is doing so likewise. In his words:

It is the day itself that is making us sit here and talk about the peculiar incident six months ago when you lied and I blustered and you accused me of insincerity and I made you cry, an incident that neither of us can quite forget but that we can’t quite mention either and which has been slowly corroding the trust and love we once had for one another. It is the day that has given us the opportunity, indeed the responsibility, to stop talking of our usual business and to reopen a case we pretended to have put out of our minds. We are not satisfying ourselves, we are obeying the rules.[5] 

Exactly so: we are obeying the rules. We are following the Jewish calendar, which takes many of the most important truths about our lives and, instead of putting them on a To Do list, writes them in the diary.

What happens when you do not have that kind of diary? Contemporary Western secular society is a case-study in the consequences. People no longer tell the story of the nation. Hence national identities, especially in Europe, are almost a thing of the past — one reason for the return of the Far Right in countries like Austria, Holland and France.

People no longer share a moral code, which is why students in universities seek to ban speakers with whose views they disagree. When there is no shared code, there can be no reasoned argument, only the use of force.

As for remembering the brevity of life, Roman Krznaric reminds us that modern society is “geared to distract us from death. Advertising creates a world where everyone is forever young. We shunt the elderly away in care homes, out of sight and mind.” Death has become “a topic as taboo as sex was during the Victorian era.”[6]

Atonement and forgiveness have been driven out of public life, to be replaced by public shaming, courtesy of the social media. As for Shabbat, almost everywhere in the West the day of rest has been replaced by the sacred day of shopping, and rest itself replaced by the relentless tyranny of smartphones.

Fifty years ago, the most widespread prediction was that by now almost everything would have been automated. The work week would be down to 20 hours and our biggest problem would be what to do with all our leisure. Instead, most people today find themselves working harder than ever with less and less time to pursue the things that make life meaningful. As Leon Kass recently put it, people “still hope to find meaning in their lives,” but they are increasingly confused about “what a worthy life might look like, and about how they might be able to live one.”[7]

Hence the life-changing magic of the Jewish calendar. Philosophy seeks timeless truths. Judaism, by contrast, takes truths and translates them into time in the form of sacred, shared moments when we experience the great truths by living them. So: whatever you want to achieve, write it in the diary or it will not happen. And live by the Jewish calendar if you want to experience, not just occasionally think about, the things that give life a meaning.

Shabbat Shalom.


[1] For an excellent recent book about the way our behaviour is governed by time, see Daniel Pink, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Riverhead Books, 2018.


[3] See Kevin Kruse, 15 Secrets Successful People Know about Time Management, 2017.

[4] Of course, Yom Kippur atones only for sins between us and God, not for those between us and our fellows. But it is a day when, traditionally, we seek to make amends for the latter also. Indeed most of the sins we confess in the long list, Al Cheit, are sins between humans and other humans.

[5] Alain De Botton, Religion for Atheists, Hamish Hamilton, 2012, 55 – 56.

[6] Roman Krznaric, Carpe Diem Regained, Unbound, 2017, 22.

[7] Leon Kass, Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times, Encounter Books, 2018, 9.

As taken from,



Posted by on April 29, 2018 in Uncategorized


Rut y Orfa: El desafío de la vida

Rut y Orfa: El desafío de la vida

El Libro de Rut nos enseña sobre el gran potencial del ser humano y sobre los catastróficos resultados de utilizarlo de manera incorrecta.

por Rav Dovid Rosenfeld

En Shavuot conmemoramos la revelación en el Sinaí, cuando Dios descendió sobre el Monte Sinaí y proclamó frente a la nación, “Yo soy Hashem, vuestro Dios”. En la sinagoga leemos el Libro de Rut, el cual relata la conmovedora historia de Rut la Moabita, quien dejó todo atrás para seguir a su suegra Naomi a la Tierra Santa, donde terminó convirtiéndose al judaísmo y transformándose en la bisabuela del Rey David.

La relevancia que tiene el libro de Rut para Shavuot es suficientemente clara. Tal como nosotros aceptamos la Torá y la misión judía en el Monte Sinaí, asimismo Rut ingresó voluntariamente al pacto para volverse parte de aquella gloriosa misión.

Pero hay una fascinante trama secundaria en la historia que tuvo grandes implicaciones en la historia judía.

El Libro de Rut comienza con el relato sobre la hambruna que hubo en Tierra Santa. Elimelej de Beitlejem deja el país para dirigirse a Moab, llevando con él a su esposa Naomi y a sus dos hijos. Elimelej muere en Moab y su esposa y sus hijos se quedan allí. A continuación sus hijos se casan con mujeres no judías: con las princesas moabitas Rut y Orfa. Los hijos también mueren y finalmente Naomi decide regresar a Israel, viuda, sin hijos y empobrecida.

Las nueras de Naomi, Rut y Orfa, la acompañan a lo largo del camino. Como se ve con claridad en el Talmud (Yevamot 47b), no lo hicieron como una mera cortesía, sino que ellas también querían entrar y residir en la tierra de Israel. A lo largo de sus años de matrimonio se apegaron al judaísmo. Querían convertirse por completo en judías, observar la fe y vivir en la tierra. Naomi intentó disuadirlas en tres ocasiones (versículos 1:8, 1:11 y 1:12; el Talmud deriva de aquí la cantidad de veces que debe ser disuadido un potencial converso). En dos ocasiones ellas se mantuvieron firmes; en la tercera, Orfa se debilitó y decidió regresar. Rut, sin embargo, se mantuvo fuerte. Continuó acompañando a su suegra rumbo hacia la Tierra Santa.

Naturalmente, el Libro de Rut continúa relatando la historia de Naomi y Rut: cómo regresaron empobrecidas a Beitlejem, cómo Rut atrajo la atención del ilustre pariente de Naomi, Boaz, y cómo ella le señaló de manera poco convencional que se casaran y preservaran el linaje de Elimelej.

Tan pronto como Orfa se apartó de la compañía de Naomi y Rut, se fue al extremo opuesto.

Orfa, por otro lado, desaparece de la historia y es olvidada. Luego de una breve aparición, sale del escenario y presumiblemente ya no vuelve a desempeñar ningún papel en ella. Había sido una de tantos “casi” a lo largo de la historia: gente que luchó por alcanzar la grandeza y la inmortalidad, pero que no resistieron y, en lugar de eso, se desvanecieron en el anonimato.

Pero nuestros sabios nos cuentan una fascinante secuela de la historia de Orfa: sus descendientes desempeñarían un importante papel en la historia judía… pero al otro lado de la calle.

Uno pensaría que Orfa no era un personaje tan malo. Era una seria candidata para la conversión, y se tomaba con seriedad la religión y la espiritualidad. Simplemente no alcanzó a llegar a una conversión total.

Pero el Talmud nos cuenta otra cosa. Tan pronto como Orfa se apartó de la compañía de Naomi y Rut, se fue al extremo opuesto. Naomi se refiere a ella como que “retornó a su gente y a sus dioses” (1:15). El Talmud (Sotá 42b) explica lo que ocurrió a continuación. Luego de dejar a Naomi, Orfa corrió hacia un batallón de 100 soldados y se sometió voluntariamente a todos ellos. De alguno de ellos quedó embarazada y dio a luz al gigante Goliat, con quien se enfrentaría posteriormente el joven David. (énfasis mío)

¿Cómo es posible que una mujer con tanto potencial para alcanzar la grandeza haya llegado a un extremo tan desenfrenado?

Hay un poderoso mensaje en esto. Orfa tenía el potencial para alcanzar la grandeza. Casi se desprendió de su pasado y de su tierra natal para unirse a una nueva religión. Estaba dispuesta a entregarse por completo por sus creencias, por seguir a Naomi a cualquier costo. Claramente tenía las semillas de grandeza en su interior.

Pero no lo hizo. Se echó atrás. Y tomo ese mismo fervor y autosacrificio, y lo llevó al extremo opuesto.

En lugar de transformarse en un gigante espiritual, se transformó en la madre de gigantes físicos.

Lo que le ocurrió a Orfa es lo mismo que le ha ocurrido a muchas personas a lo largo de la historia. Si una persona tiene el potencial para alcanzar la grandeza (como todos nosotros) y no lo aprovecha, entonces puede tomar esa misma energía y utilizarla para el mal. Orfa casi alcanzó la grandeza. Pero no pudo aguantar. Y, frustrada con la religión, tomó los mismos poderosos impulsos de lograr cosas y los dirigió hacia el plano físico. En lugar de transformarse en un gigante espiritual, se transformó en la madre de gigantes físicos. El libro de II Shmuel 21:18-22 describe cómo eventualmente dio a luz a cuatro gigantes, todos los cuales fueron posteriormente asesinados por el Rey David y sus hombres.

La némesis de Orfa era Rut, quien aguantó y quién sí transformó su potencial en una vida de grandeza. Rut se transformó en madre dentro del pueblo de Israel, bisabuela del gigante espiritual David. Y Goliat cayó ante David en batalla, en lo que era en esencia una batalla entre dos formas de ver el mundo, una batalla entre lo físico y lo espiritual. Como dice el Talmud (Sotá 42b): “El Santo, bendito sea, dijo: ‘Que los hijos de la besada (de Orfa, a quien Naomi besó como despedida) caigan en manos de los hijos de quien se aferró”.

La historia de Rut y Orfa es por lo tanto una historia sobre el tremendo potencial de la humanidad, y de lo mucho que está en juego dependiendo de cómo se utilice dicho potencial.

Esto también nos enseña una importante lección sobre la revelación en Sinaí, la cual celebramos en Shavuot. Los seres humanos tenemos un tremendo potencial para alcanzar la grandeza. Tenemos un impulso natural de transformarnos en personas importantes, de alcanzar la inmortalidad. Dios le dio la Torá a Israel para permitirnos dirigir dichos impulsos. Los mandamientos de la Torá no son simplemente actos que debemos realizar, o formas de ganarnos nuestra recompensa celestial, son medios para desarrollarnos a nosotros mismos, para dirigir nuestro impulso de lograr cosas hacia la espiritualidad y el perfeccionamiento del mundo.

En Sinaí nos encontramos cara a cara con Dios, un Dios al que anhelábamos acercarnos. Y se nos ordenó apegarnos a Él, tratar de cerrar la brecha que hay entre el mundo físico y lo divino. El encuentro del Sinaí despertó en nosotros un enorme impulso por alcanzar espiritualidad e inmortalidad. Y desde entonces, los judíos no han sido capaces de quedarse sin hacer nada. Tenemos un impulso por lograr cosas, por sentirnos realizados, y por volvernos semejantes a Dios y eternos.

Y con estas nobles metas frente nuestro, hay mucho que está en juego en la vida. Dios nos dio la Torá para que dirijamos nuestras energías hacia la divinidad y a lograr cosas significativas. Debemos tomar nuestros sentimientos y emociones más fuertes, y dirigirlos hacia Dios. Y si lo hacemos de forma apropiada, no habrá límite para lo que podemos lograr y para cuán significativa se volverá nuestra relación con Dios. Pero si no lo hacemos, sentiremos un impulso por cualquier otra causa imaginable: comunismo, anarquismo, liberalismo, capitalismo, lo-que-quieras-ismo. Luego de haber visto a Dios en el Monte Sinaí, nunca más podremos quedarnos sin hacer nada y mantenernos sin cambiar. Nos volvimos vivos, poseídos, y con un impulso por marcar una diferencia. Y la Torá nos enseñó cómo canalizar ese impulso.

Parte de las ideas escritas anteriormente se encuentran basadas en pensamientos de Rav Mattis Weinberg.

Según tomado de,

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Posted by on April 29, 2018 in Uncategorized


Arab Commentators Seek to Explain Why Israel Is So Far Ahead of Other Middle East States

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Egyptians celebrate in Cairo’s Tahrir Square following the announcement that President Hosni Mubarak had resigned, February 2011. Photo: Jonathan Rashad.

Over the past several months, a series of Arab commentators have sought to explain why Israel appears so far ahead of the Arab world in politics, economics, and military power.

According to translations published on Thursday by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), the general consensus was that Israeli democracy gives the country this strength. In particular, the emphasis on the rule of law, the fight against corruption, and the importance of education.

Although the commentators at times engaged in racist rhetoric and smeared Israel as an “apartheid” state, they nonetheless acknowledged that Arab nations have failed in their basic responsibilities to their citizens, whereas Israel has not.

Reda Abd Al-Salam, the former governor of Egypt’s Al-Sharqiya province and a lecturer at Mansoura University in Egypt, noted, “The Arab and Muslim peoples live under regimes that for decades have engaged not in developing their peoples and establishing themselves in economy, society, science, and democracy, but in establishing their [own] rule.”

At least nine teenage seminary students died after they were swept away by a flash flood in the Negev Desert…

“During this time,” he continued, “those we called ‘the sons of apes and pigs’ [i.e. the Jews] engaged in real building. They focused on education, health, economy, and technology, and of course on the democratic process. So often we have heard of the imprisonment of a president or prime minister in Israel.”

“What [heights] have the sons of apes and pigs reached,” he lamented, “and where is Egypt, the greatest Arab country, mired? … Have we education, health services, or social justice?”

“If only we would stop lying to ourselves,” Al-Salam stated.

To catch up with Israel, he asserted, “Education, education, and again education is our first problem.” What Egypt needs, he said, is “universities to spread enlightenment and bring us out of our ignorance and darkness into the light of science and industry.”

Jordanian politician Rahil Ghorayba also weighed in on the question. Referring to the ongoing investigations of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ghorayba stated, “Investigating a prime minister is one of the manifestations of justice in any country — even an enemy country — that shows strength, not weakness. … Israeli society has an ability that Arab societies do not. It is to easily prosecute officials and influential figures, without causing an uproar and without this being out of the ordinary or some kind of miracle.”

“In modern Arab history,” he continued, “there is no [case] of a trial or investigation of this kind of a leader or influential figure. Therefore, it can be said frankly that this is a highly significant weak point in the Arab homeland, and that there is no chance of revival and advancement of Arab society until we reach a stage where it will have the capability to prosecute officials who embezzled state and public funds without any oversight, who caused economic collapse, and who obstructed the Arab peoples’ [ability] to regain their power and sovereignty over their resources and to protect them.”

Palestinian writer Suhail Kiwan also pointed to the strength of the Israeli legal system, saying it is “the final arbiter, because it remains an independent institution, despite all that is said and that we say against the racist apartheid anti-Arab Zionist regime.”

“Indeed,” he went on to say, “this regime is criminal, murderous, and barbaric against the Arabs, but with respect to the Jewish citizens, it is still very good, and it cannot be compared to the regimes that murder Arabs because they are Arabs, wiping out civilians for the sake of the interests of the homeland, and indiscriminately oppressing people and the homeland.”

The results of Arab failure to match Israel in this regard, Kiwan stated, are not pretty, “for it leads us to the situation in which my nation is mired, to our wretchedness. I do not enjoy self-flagellation, but that is the painful truth — they [in Israel] surpass us in managing their affairs and identifying their interests.”

“There is much corruption in Israel,” he pointed out, but “a judicial system that can take the corrupt to task is one of the most important secrets of Israel’s power — not the advanced technology, the advanced aircraft, the sizeable army, or the compulsory [military] service for young Jewish men and women, but the capability of the regime itself to identify and rectify flaws.”

Lebanese writer Abd Al-Rahman Abd Al-Mulla Al-Salah took a wider view of the issue, saying, “Israel is stable, and despite all its racism, it is a democracy for the Jews within it. Whether we like it or not, Israel is a country of institutions, law, and a constitution, in which the transfer of power is carried out [in an organized fashion].”

Decrying the lack of democracy in the Arab world, Al-Salah stated, “Since [Israel’s] establishment in 1948, it has held 19 elections, which played a very important role in its political development … while in the Arab world, the presidential and parliamentary elections are a mere formality.”

As taken from,

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Posted by on April 27, 2018 in Uncategorized


Biblical Stories in the Koran: The Basis for Inter-Religious Conflict

“Grass withers, flowers fade— But the word of our God is always fulfilled!” Isaiah 40:8 (The Israel Bible™)

Many of the political conflicts between the Arabs and Israel can be traced back to Biblical stories the Quran usurped and reworked in disturbing manners to suit the goals of Islam. Some scholars recognize this phenomenon as an even more egregious form of Replacement Theology than Christianity ever was, leaving no room for compromise.

“The entire basis of the regional conflict is based on religion and begins inside the holy books,” Dr. Bat-sheva Garsiel, of Bar Ilan University, told Breaking Israel News. “Islam agrees that God gave the Torah to the Jews at Mount Sinai but the details and the differences are what fuel the conflict.”

Muslims believe the Quran was verbally revealed by God to Muhammad through the angel Jibril (Gabriel ) over a period of 23 years, beginning on 22 December 609 CE. Written more than 500 years after the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 CE and almost 2,000 years after Rabbinic sources claim God gave Moses the Torah at Mount Sinai, the Quran acknowledges that it is based the Torah. The Torah basis is unmistakable as there are no less than 50 characters in the Quran that have their sources in the Bible.

The commonalities between the Quran and the Jewish Torah are indeed extensive and Dr. Garsiel has written several authoritative books on the convergence of Judaism and Islam. She believes the differences between the texts are significant and have real-world implications.

The common elements shared by the Torah and the Quran first appear at the very beginning, with the story of Adam and Ḥawwā (Eve) and continue with Cain and Hābīl (Abel). For the most part, the stories in the Quran and the Torah are very similar. These common elements are intentional from the side of Islam.

“Islam believes that both the Quran and the Torah came down from heaven at Sinai,” Dr. Garsiel said. “The Arabs of Muhammad’s time respected the Jews and held them in high regard. Scholars of Islam believe that because of the status of Jews, Muhammad learned directly from Jews in Saudi Arabia.”

“Ibn Ishaq, a Muslim Arab author who wrote about the life of Muhammad less than one hundred years after his death, wrote that Muhammad used to go to the Jewish readings of the Torah which the Jews read first in Hebrew and then in Arabic for the Arabs who came to hear the reading.”

Dr. Garsiel noted that there are many differences in the Biblical accounts as they are related to in the Quran.

“Since Muhammad did not write it down, many of the details differ from the Jewish tradition though the main themes are the same,” Dr. Garsiel said. “The Muslims explain this by saying that Jews changed the Torah. There are also some aspects of the Torah, for example, some of the laws of keeping kosher, that Islam believes are specific to the Jews and not relevant to the Muslims.”

These similarities, rather than bring Islam and Judaism closer, are actually the basis for the inter-religious conflict, beginning with the story of Abraham, who is described very differently in the Quran.

“Abraham is revered as the biological father of Isaac but he is described in the Quran as establishing Islam,” Dr. Garsiel explained. “Despite Abraham being a devout Muslim, the people around him did not believe in Allah. This did not change until Muhammad who re-established Islam and purified the Kaaba in Saudi Arabia (Islam’s holiest site) which, according to the Quran, was first established by Adam.”

The textual conflict between the Quran and the Torah continues with the Jewish patriarch, Isaac and the Arabic patriarch, Ishmael.

“When it comes to the Binding of Isaac, there is an ongoing dispute within Islam as to which of Abraham’s son was on the altar,” Dr. Garsiel said. “The Quran only describes him as ‘the son.’ This is a dispute with major implications since the son who was on the altar has greater merit. This is further confused since many of the aspects of Isaac in the Torah were adopted by the Quran to describe Ishmael.”

This dispute between Ishmael and Isaac is still expressed today in the ancient city, Hebron. At the heart of the city is a large structure built by King Herod, the king of Judea in the first century BCE. The structure is the location of the Cave of the Patriarchs, the burial site of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs. Abraham’s purchase of the site is mentioned in the Torah.

And then Avraham buried his wife Sarain the cave of the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre—now Chevron—in the land of Canaan.Genesis 23:19

Despite the Quran’s rejection of Isaac’s spiritual relevance and his bloodline, Islam has laid claim to the Cave of the Patriarchs and in the 12th century, the entire site was converted into a mosque. Though Muslim interest in the site is clearly due to the significance of Abraham and his purchase of the site as it is related in the Quran. Nonetheless, it is, ironically, the Hall of Isaac that is designated for solely Islamic use and Jews are forbidden to enter.

“Isaac is revered by the Muslims because he was related to Abraham and Ishmael,” Dr. Garsiel said as an admittedly less than an optimum explanation for the current situation in the Cave of the Patriarchs.

The burial site of Moses is unknown and therefore, not a source of dispute. But he is the Biblical character whose representation in the Quran has been the basis of the century-long conflict in Israel between the Muslims and the Jews.

“Moses in the Quran is more or less similar to what the Torah wrote about him,” Dr. Garsiel said. “The biographical details are almost identical. The Quran wrote that Moses brought the Jews out of Egypt and God gave them the Torah at Mount Sinai. It does not mention the Jews going into Israel. The Jews went into ‘the Holy Land’ or the “Promised Land’. This is understood to be ‘Greater Syria,’ which includes parts of today’s Syria, Israel and Jordan.”

On the basis of the Quranic Exodus narrative, the Jews should have a clear claim to Israel, but it is specifically this story which is the basis of Islam’s rejection of the Jewish State.

“Modern Islam, especially radical Islam, has changed the precise meaning of what is written in the Quran in this regard,” Dr. Garsiel said. “Islam believes that the land was indeed promised to the Jews but since the Jews sinned, the land, all of ‘Greater Syria,’ no longer belongs to the Jews.”

“They acknowledge that Jerusalem and Israel were Jewish, are still Jewish in their essence, but it is no longer relevant,” Dr. Garsiel emphasized.

Another interesting difference between the Quran and the Bible that has present day political implications is based on the differences between the versions as they relate to the story of the Prophet Samuel anointing King Saul.

“In the Bible, Samuel initially resists the imperative to anoint a king,” Dr. Garsiel noted.

Shmuel was displeased that they said “Give us a king to govern us.” Shmuel prayed to Hashem. I Samuel 8:6

“In Judaism, a flesh-and-blood king is not the optimal condition,” Dr. Garsiel explained. “In the Quran, Samuel is immediately enthusiastic, indicative of the Islamic emphasis on its role as a political structure.”

This conflict over Biblical narratives is even greater between Islam and Christianity with regards to their different interpretations of Jesus. Dr. Timothy Furnish who teaches history at Reinhardt University has a Ph.D. in Islamic studies. As a devout Lutheran, the appearance of Jesus in the Quran is personally significant to Dr. Furnish.

“The Quran does tell about Jesus as a Muslim Prophet,” Dr. Furnish told Breaking Israel News. “But the Quran changes many of the details, denying the role Jesus has in Christianity. The Quran specifically rejects the crucifixion story and resurrection, and the Hadiths (Islamic oral traditions) explain that Judas was crucified in his place. Islam claims that Jesus went straight to heaven without dying.”

“In the hadiths, it is written that when the Mahdi (the Muslim messiah) arrives to conquer the world for Islam, Jesus will also arrive and work with him,” Furnish continued. “He will kill all the swine since they are impure and break all the crosses since the crucifixion never happened. He will offer the Christians the choice of converting to Islam or dying.”

Dr. Furnish described Islam as basing itself upon Replacement Theology, a belief that it has replaced all previous religions. Replacement Theology was a core tenet of Christianity. Subsequent to and because of the Holocaust, some mainstream Christian theologians and denominations have rejected Replacement Theology, also known as supersessionism.

Tahrif, Islamic Replacement Theology, is a much more extreme form than Christianity ever was,” Dr. Furnish claimed. “There are many branches of Christianity that allow for other religions, but there is no branch or interpretation of Islam that allows for any other religion.”

Dr. Garsiel agreed with Furnish’s characterization of Islam.

“As its basis, Islam believes that every other religion, especially Judaism and Christianity, are no longer valid,” Dr. Garsiel said. “Islam acknowledges that the Torah and New Testament were both given from heaven but since Muhammad’s arrival, there is no place for other religions in the world. At its core, Islam believes that everyone must be Muslim.”

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Posted by on April 26, 2018 in Uncategorized


Love Is Not Enough

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By Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

The opening chapter of Kedoshim contains two of the most powerful of all commands: to love your neighbour and to love the stranger. “Love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord” goes the first. “When a stranger comes to live in your land, do not mistreat him,” goes the second, and continues, “Treat the stranger the way you treat your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were strangers in Egypt. I am the Lord your God (Lev. 19:33-34).[1]

The first is often called the “golden rule” and held to be universal to all cultures. This is a mistake. The golden rule is different. In its positive formulation it states, “Act toward others as you would wish them to act toward you,” or in its negative formulation, given by Hillel, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour.” These rules are not about love. They are about justice, or more precisely, what evolutionary psychologists call reciprocal altruism. The Torah does not say, “Be nice or kind to your neighbour, because you would wish him to be nice or kind to you.” It says, “Love your neighbour.” That is something different and far stronger.

The second command is more radical still. Most people in most societies in most ages have feared, hated and often harmed the stranger. There is a word for this: xenophobia. How often have you heard the opposite word: xenophilia? My guess is, never. People don’t usually love strangers. That is why, almost always when the Torah states this command – which it does, according to the sages, 36 times ­– it adds an explanation: “because you were strangers in Egypt.” I know of no other nation that was born as a nation in slavery and exile. We know what it feels like to be a vulnerable minority. That is why love of the stranger is so central to Judaism and so marginal to most other systems of ethics.[2] But here too, the Torah does not use the word “justice.” There is a command of justice toward strangers, but that is a different law: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him” (Ex. 22:20). Here the Torah speaks not of justice but of love.

These two commands define Judaism as a religion of love – not just of God (“with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might”), but of humanity also. That was and is a world-changing idea.

But what calls for deep reflection is where these commands appear. They do so in Parshat Kedoshim in what, to contemporary eyes, must seem one of the strangest passages in the Torah.

Leviticus 19 brings side-by-side laws of seemingly quite different kinds. Some belong to the moral life: don’t gossip, don’t hate, don’t take revenge, don’t bear a grudge. Some are about social justice: leave parts of the harvest for the poor; don’t pervert justice; don’t withhold wages; don’t use false weights and measures. Others have a different feel altogether: don’t crossbreed livestock; don’t plant a field with mixed seeds; don’t wear a garment of mixed wool and linen; don’t eat fruit of the first three years; don’t eat blood; don’t practice divination; don’t lacerate yourself.

At first glance these laws have nothing to do with one another: some are about conscience, some about politics and economics, and others about purity and taboo. Clearly, though, the Torah is telling us otherwise. They do have something in common. They are all about order, limits, boundaries. They are telling us that reality has a certain underlying structure whose integrity must be honoured. If you hate or take revenge you destroy relationships. If you commit injustice, you undermine the trust on which society depends. If you fail to respect the integrity of nature (different seeds, species, and so on), you take the first step down a path that ends in environmental disaster.

There is an order to the universe, part moral, part political, part ecological. When that order is violated, eventually there is chaos. When that order is observed and preserved, we become co-creators of the sacred harmony and integrated diversity that the Torah calls “holy.”

Why then is it specifically in this chapter that the two great commands – love of the neighbour and the stranger – appear? The answer is profound and very far from obvious. Because this is where love belongs – in an ordered universe.

Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist, has recently become one of the most prominent public intellectuals of our time. His recent book Twelve Rules for Life, has been a massive best-seller in Britain and America.[3] He has had the courage to be a contrarian, challenging the fashionable fallacies of the contemporary West. Particularly striking in the book is Rule 5: “Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.”

His point is more subtle than it sounds. A significant number of parents today, he says, fail to socialise their children. They indulge them. They do not teach them rules. There are, he argues, complex reasons for this. Some of it has to do with lack of attention. Parents are busy and don’t have time for the demanding task of teaching discipline. Some of it has to do with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s influential but misleading idea that children are naturally good, and are made bad by society and its rules. So the best way to raise happy, creative children is to let them choose for themselves.

Partly, though, he says it is because “modern parents are simply paralysed by the fear that they will no longer be liked, or even loved by their children if they chastise them for any reason.” They are afraid to damage their relationship by saying ‘No’. They fear the loss of their children’s love.

The result is that they leave their children dangerously unprepared for a world that will not indulge their wishes or desire for attention; a world that can be tough, demanding and sometimes cruel. Without rules, social skills, self-restraints and a capacity to defer gratification, children grow up without an apprenticeship in reality. His conclusion is powerful:

Clear rules make for secure children and calm, rational parents. Clear principles of discipline and punishment balance mercy and justice so that social development and psychological maturity can be optimally promoted. Clear rules and proper discipline help the child, and the family, and society, establish, maintain and expand order. That is all that protects us from chaos.[4]

That is what the opening chapter of Kedoshim is about: clear rules that create and sustain a social order. That is where real love – not the sentimental, self-deceiving substitute – belongs. Without order, love merely adds to the chaos. Misplaced love can lead to parental neglect, producing spoiled children with a sense of entitlement who are destined for an unhappy, unsuccessful, unfulfilled adult life.

Peterson’s book, whose subtitle is “An Antidote to Chaos,” is not just about children. It is about the mess the West has made since the Beatles sang (in 1967), “All you need is love.” As a clinical psychologist, Peterson has seen the emotional cost of a society without a shared moral code. People, he writes, need ordering principles, without which there is chaos. We require “rules, standards, values – alone and together. We require routine and tradition. That’s order.” Too much order can be bad, but too little can be worse. Life is best lived, he says, on the dividing line between them. It’s there, he says, that “we find the meaning that justifies life and its inevitable suffering.” Perhaps if we lived properly, he adds, “we could withstand the knowledge of our own fragility and mortality, without the sense of aggrieved victimhood that produces, first, resentment, then envy, and then the desire for vengeance and destruction.”[5]

That is as acute an explanation as I have ever heard for the unique structure of Leviticus 19. Its combination of moral, political, economic and environmental laws is a supreme statement of a universe of (Divinely created) order of which we are the custodians. But the chapter is not just about order. It is about humanising that order through love – the love of neighbour and stranger. And when the Torah says, don’t hate, don’t take revenge and don’t bear a grudge, it is an uncanny anticipation of Peterson’s remarks about resentment, envy and the desire for vengeance and destruction.

Hence the life-changing idea that we have forgotten for far too long: Love is not enough. Relationships need rules.


[1] Note that some read these two verses as referring specifically to a ger tzedek, that is, a convert to Judaism. That, however, is to miss the point of the command, which is: do not allow ethnic differences (that is, between a born Jew and a convert) to influence your emotions. Judaism must be race- and colour-blind.

[2] Had it existed in Europe, there would not have been a thousand years of persecution of the Jews, followed by the birth of racial antisemitism, followed by the Holocaust.

[3] Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: an antidote to chaos, Allen Lane, 2018.

[4] Ibid., 113-44.

[5] Ibid., xxxiv.

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Posted by on April 25, 2018 in Uncategorized


Will new conversion bill help 400,000 Israelis of ‘no religion’? Not likely

Activists predict dire consequences as draft legislation circumvents High Court rulings recognizing private conversion courts that help immigrants become Jewish

Amanda Borschel-Dan


Convert 'Katya' and her daughter sit before the independent Giyur Kahalacha conversion court, led by Rabbi Nahum Rabinovitch (center) on August 10, 2015. (courtesy/file)

Convert ‘Katya’ and her daughter sit before the independent Giyur Kahalacha conversion court, led by Rabbi Nahum Rabinovitch (center) on August 10, 2015. (courtesy/file)

Some 600 recent converts to Orthodox Judaism are caught in the crossfire as the Israeli government drafts legislation aimed at outlawing the Orthodox rabbinical court — endorsed by High Court of Justice — that converted them.

The converts, mostly children of immigrants from former Soviet Union countries, are among the 400,000 Israelis currently held in limbo in the Jewish state, categorized as having “no religion”; they cannot marry or be buried according to the faith of their fathers.

According to a recent Haaretz report, a bill drafted by Moshe Nissim, a former justice, finance, and industry minister, would make conversion a uniform process under the auspices of a stringent state-authorized Orthodox body. This law would directly oppose a 2016 High Court ruling that decided that the conversions of private rabbinical courts should be officially recognized by the state.

One of the “more troubling” clauses in the draft legislation also addresses how conversions may be revoked, according to a source close to the issue. It is still unclear whether this clause would be used against the hundreds of Israelis who have been converted in private Israeli Orthodox courts.

The language of the bill is not final and Nissim, who served as a member of Knesset on and off from 1959 to 1996, mostly for the Likud party, is continuing consultations with major Jewish thinkers, including Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky, whom he is set to meet in the coming days.

The law, one of several attempts to legislate conversion, comes on the heels of several High Court cases which have slowly broadened the state’s definition of who is a Jew — and therefore who is eligible to become an Israeli.

Outgoing Supreme Court President, Miriam Naor (C-R), and incoming President Esther Hayut (C-L) at the Supreme Court during Naor’s last ruling and retirement ceremony, in Jerusalem, on October 26, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In March 2016, the High Court decided that non-Israelis who were converted in Israel by private, mostly ultra-Orthodox, rabbinical courts outside of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate could seek Israeli citizenship.

A full plenum of judges heard from the representatives of four defendants from three cases, one in 2006 and two in 2011, in a combined petition against the Interior Ministry, the population registry, the Conversion Authority (through the Prime Minister’s Office) and the immigration authority. Joining as respondents were Israel’s Reform and Masorti movements, and the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

In then-court president Miriam Naor’s decision, she wrote that a broad reading of the 1950 Law of Return is essential for the State of Israel to maintain its Jewish and democratic natures. At least for secular civil purposes, she wrote, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel cannot be the only recognized auspices for conversion.

“The people of Israel are indeed one people, but spread out in all the corners of the globe, and made up of many communities, with different shades and variations within those same communities. Therefore, the Law of Return reflects, in addition to the promotion of aliya, also the purpose of maintaining the unity of the Jewish people in the Diaspora and Israel,” wrote Naor.

The court therefore decided that if the converting individuals were legally residing in Israel, their conversions are considered valid for consideration for citizenship under the Law of Return.

The Law of Return stipulates that any individual who has at least one Jewish grandparent, or has converted in a recognized court outside the State of Israel, may apply for citizenship. The Law of Return does not, however, provide for such a citizen’s automatic recognition as Jewish by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

Immediately following this landmark decision, the Orthodox parties in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition began renewed attempts at legislation and regulation of conversion through state auspices alone.

In the wake of sensitivities following the freeze of the Western Wall pluralistic prayer platform compromise, Netanyahu shelved the conversion bill for six months and tasked Nissim with finding a palatable solution.

In this January 30, 2018 photo, new Jewish immigrants from Ukraine arrive on a flight funded by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

‘No religion’ means no legal lifecycle events

The March 2016 case is potentially landmark in that it paves the way for recognition of private conversion courts, as well as domestic Israeli conversion as a path to citizenship. However, its greatest significance is for the growing number of Israel’s 400,000 citizens who immigrated and became citizens under the Law of Return but are registered as having “no religion.” Now, they would have a choice of means to convert to Judaism.

Increasingly feeling shut out of the state conversion program but still seeking an Orthodox conversion, over 600 of these Israelis have turned to a relatively new initiative called Giyur Kahalacha (a pun in Hebrew, meaning both “conversion as it should be” and “conversion according to Jewish Law”). The state rabbinical courts annually convert some 2,000 people to Judaism.

One of the converts named in the 2016 High Court case was represented by the nonprofit group Itim, which was founded in 2002 by American immigrant Rabbi Seth Farber to aid individuals in negotiating the state’s religious bureaucracy. (Itim currently has a case in a Jerusalem municipal court calling for the implementation of the High Court’s 2016 decision. Farber said it is being delayed as the court awaits the state’s conversion legislation.)

Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky speaks at a conversion conference held at the Jewish Agency in January 2018 as Rabbi Seth Farber (left) looks on. (Ezra Landau)

Giyur Kahalacha’s rabbinical courts, which follow the precepts of Jewish law, were founded by Farber along with many of Modern Orthodoxy’s biggest names — Efrat’s Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Rabbi Nachum Rabinovitch from Ma’ale Adumim, Rabbi Haim Amsalem, Otniel’s Rabbi Re’em HaCohen, head of the Tzohar rabbinical movement Rabbi David Stav and Prof. Benjamin Ish-Shalom, the founder of the Israel Defense Force’s Nativ conversion program, which now has an annual cohort of some 850 converts.

The process of converting through the more tolerant courts of Giyur Kahalacha, wrote Farber in a Times of Israel blog, “represents an opportunity for families who once were persecuted for being Jewish to fully realize their Jewish identities in the Jewish homeland.”

Farber explained: “Israeli citizens with ‘no religion’ are unable to marry in state-recognized Jewish weddings (the Chief Rabbinate has exclusive legal authority over Jewish marriages in Israel), and their children will be unable to prove their Jewishness or to marry as Jews in Israel.

“More than half of all immigrants to Israel in 2017 were from Russia and the Ukraine; 75% of them are now lost in the ‘no religion’ bureaucratic void.”

The conversions of these citizens with “no religion” through Giyur Kahalacha would not, however, be recognized for purposes of Jewish status by the rabbinate, which overseas all life cycle events, including marriage, divorce and burial. Therefore, even if a private court’s convert may register as Jewish in the Interior Ministry and even become a citizen of the State of Israel, he still would not be considered Jewish by the rabbinate.

Efrat’s Rabbi Shlomo Riskin (second left) officiates at a conversion examination for the Giyur Kahalacha conversion court, November 2015. (courtesy)

Farber believes that were Giyur Kahalacha to be given state recognition as an Orthodox religious provider, the initiative would be able to serve thousands of such “no religion” cases a year. However, the new bill, said Farber on Monday, is blatantly seeking to undermine the Giyur Kahalacha conversions.

“We’ve proved it can be done a different way — and completely within halachic terms,” said Farber. “We understand the sensitivities of the complex cultural divide between the Orthodox and immigrant communities. The fact that we are now doing 18% of the Orthodox conversions shows we have the recipe right.”

What the draft legislation means for liberal Jewry

Since 1989, conversions performed outside the State of Israel by any Jewish denomination are considered legal grounds for citizenship under the Law of Return. Since 2005, however, the High Court had pushed off ruling on the status of domestic Israeli conversions for citizenship under the Law of Return — until the March 2016 decision.

Has the ruling opened hypothetical doors to non-Orthodox conversions as well? That’s the question the government is attempting to circumvent with the new Nissim draft legislation.

After overseas Reform conversions were recognized in 1989, the 1990s saw a sharp uptick of cases of Israelis who requested civil recognition after being taught in the Israeli Reform movement followed by a “quickie conversions” abroad. By 2002, the High Court decided that regardless of where the Reform conversion took place — in Israel or abroad — the Interior Ministry must register the convert as Jewish for purposes of the population registry.

Mikvah immersion is required for Orthodox and Conservative conversions and strongly recommended for Reform conversions. (Mayyim Hayyim/Tom Kates via JTA)

But the decision on citizenship is yet to come.

“That’s the issue that awaits a ruling,” said Rabbi Uri Regev, the head of Hiddush, a non-denominational, non-partisan nonprofit, which works alongside world Jewry towards religious freedom in Israel.

“Everyone is quite confident that the court will rule in favor of the non-Orthodox converts, based on the ruling that was rendered on the private Haredi conversion,” Regev, who is an ordained Reform rabbi as well as a lawyer, told The Times of Israel on Monday.

Regev believes that the legislation equally targets Farber’s Giyur Kahalacha and Progressive Jewry.

“With the irony that for the Chief Rabbinate and their puppet masters there is little difference between the two. But they will be careful to maintain that it will not bar recognition for civil purposes of conversions done overseas, trying to block opposition from America,” said Regev.

For Regev, this unusual convergence of interests between liberal Jewry and Modern Orthodoxy could lead to a more unified front.

Soldiers considering conversion during a November 7, 2013 visit to a kindergarten in Efrat on Hannukah (Gershon Elinson/ Flash 90)

In a fiery press release, Regev predicted, “The minefields of Israel’s religion and state arena and Israel-Diaspora relations will explode in the coming days.”

“The recommendations regarding the appointment of an exclusive conversion authority to approve conversions in Israel were expected, but unlike the previous rounds of ‘Who is a Jew’ battles throughout Israel’s history, this time the move is directed not only against the non-Orthodox denominations, but also against Modern Orthodoxy. Therefore the intensity of the explosion will be greater than ever,” said Regev.

Itim’s Farber is also concerned about potential dire consequences from the bill on the Israeli-Diaspora relationship. He said that while some progress had been made and that Nissim’s work was to be commended, “the solutions don’t respond to the needs of the hour.”

Perhaps to mitigate fallout from the Diaspora, Nissim is set to meet with Sharansky of the Jewish Agency to discuss the bill, one of several such meetings the two have held.

One positive aspect of the bill, said Farber, is that it legislates the Right of Return for Progressive Jewry’s converts — something that is currently only enshrined through a High Court decision.

“It would anchor that in the law — which is a step forward for the world Jewish community,” said Farber.

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Posted by on April 24, 2018 in Uncategorized


Why Kabbalists Are Celebrating Israel’s 70th Anniversary

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by Dr. Michael Laitman

“Out of the darkness came forth light, and out of concealment came forth and revealed the deep. One came out of the other. Out of good came forth bad, and out of mercy came forth judgment. Everything is included in one another, the good inclination and the bad inclination, right and left, Israel and the rest of the nations, white and black. Everything depends on one another.”
– The Zohar, Kedoshim, 7-8.

Kabbalists are adding to the celebration of Israel’s 70 years of Statehood an additional reason to celebrate: that in the State of Israel, a major spiritual resurgence is starting to take shape after 2,000 years of spiritual exile.

Darkness and light, descents and ascents, exile and glory, are all characteristic of the people of Israel, ancient and modern. We have enjoyed states of blossoming unity and brotherly love at the time of the First and Second Temples. We have endured states of bitter defeat, where unfounded hatred breached our unity, allowing the Roman Empire to take advantage of our disunity and bring about the ruin of the Temple.

In exile, even while detached and dispersed around the world, we found ways to prosper and develop the countries we settled in, making our mark in education, economics, science, technology, law, and society. However, while doing so, since there is a seeded expectation in humanity’s subconscious upon the people of Israel to bring a completely different kind of prosperity and growth than the materialistic version we’ve brought till now, then we’ve been plagued with the constant phenomenon of anti-Semitism: from slander and blood libel to the devastating pogroms and the Holocaust.

After the utter horror millions of our ancestors experienced in the Holocaust, the world had mercy on us and supported the establishment of our new national home: the State of Israel. However, not even a single day passed of relishing our independence, and we were once again at war to hold onto what we were given.

70 years have passed. Wars and instability with our every neighboring nation have spurred our development of a well-equipped army and what has been ranked as the world’s mightiest air force. Struggles to build infrastructure and develop exports on a land that provides little natural resources has catalyzed our becoming one of the most technologically advanced nations.

All that remains is to rekindle the national love that is dwindling, to revive the national essence that has been inactive for 2,000 years, to reawaken ourselves to unity and illuminate the light that humanity subconsciously expects from us.

Therefore, I’m very happy that on Israel’s 70 years of independence, we have been given a golden opportunity to proudly carry the wisdom of truth and publicize it. After 2,000 years of ups and downs, light and darkness, glory and exile, the veil has been lifted over the wisdom of Israel—the wisdom of Kabbalah—and we are becoming ripe to start using it to realize our true role in the world: to achieve “love your friend as yourself” and “each shall help his friend” in order to become “a light unto nations.”

As with a fruit’s development, our external skin has been getting tougher, yet the sweet inner part is still hidden within. The time has come to learn how we can peel off this skin and expose the sweet, inner part of Israel to the world.

The annual shift from Yom HaZikaron, the day we pay homage to Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, to Independence Day, when we celebrate the establishment of the State of Israel, is symbolic of the way we can only experience a rise after a preceding fall.  The people of Israel experience darkness and light adjacently, and we gain discernments from these combined states. Our remembrance and our independence are as one, in the morning we mourn and in the evening we cheer. “And there was evening and there was morning, one day” (Genesis 1:5).

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Posted by on April 21, 2018 in Uncategorized


¿Qué opina el judaísmo del martirio?


¿Los judíos tienen mártires? Sé que hay religiones en las cuales es muy apreciado morir por su fe, y esto lo hace un santo o le consigue la entrada al paraíso. ¿Cuál es la visión judía? ¿Se supone que una persona deba morir por su fe?


Los judíos nunca buscamos el martirio – el martirio nos encontró antes. Desde que Abraham fue lanzado en un horno ardiente por Nimrod, millones de judíos en cada era de la historia han dado la vida por su fe en la mano de los asirios, persas, griegos, romanos, musulmanes, bizantinos, cruzados, de la Inquisición, bolcheviques, nazis y muchos más.

El judaísmo, llama al martirio Kidush Hashem– “la santificación del nombre de Di-s” y un mártir es llamado kadosh– “santo“. Pero, no esta permitido que un judío busque el martirio, sino debe buscar la vida y sostener la vida. Es verdad que el Talmud dice sobre los que murieron al Kidush Hashem que su lugar en el mundo por venir está más allá del alcance de todo ser creado.1 Pero, el mismo Talmud también enseña que, “una hora de Teshuba y buenas acciones en este mundo son más valiosas que toda la vida en el mundo por venir.2 ”

El Talmud nos cuenta cómo Rabi Akiva, fue arrestado por el crimen de enseñar Torá en público, gritó Shema Israel (“Oye Israel Di-s, nuestro Di-s es Uno”) mientras su piel era arrancada de su cuerpo por los verdugos romanos.

Sus estudiantes le preguntaron “¿También ahora dices Shema?”

Rabí Akiva contestó, “toda mi vida deseé cumplir con el versículo, “… amarás a Di-s con toda tu vida”. Significa, que aunque te quiten la vida debes amar a Di-s. Siempre me pregunté, ¿”Cuando me llegará la oportunidad de poder cumplir este versículo”? 3

Rabbi Akiva no esperó que el martirio le llegara, sino que se escapó y ocultó de sus perseguidores romanos mientras podía. De la misma forma, los judíos a lo largo de toda la Diáspora utilizaron todos los medios posibles para sobrevivir en las tierras de su exilio.

Encontramos una paradoja. Ésta es una de las cosas que ocurren con los judíos y el judaísmo: no hay nada sobre nosotros que podamos definir de forma unánime. Por cada reflexión hacia un lado, encontrarás otra que diga lo contrario. Lo mismo ocurre con el martirio. Puede decirse que el martirio es el tema principal y al mismo tiempo la antítesis del judaísmo.

Usted probablemente ha oído cientos de veces declaraciones tales como, el “judaísmo es la afirmación de la vida.” “El judaísmo busca la salvación aquí y ahora” “”No estamos preocupados en llegar al cielo, estamos intentando traer cielo acá a la tierra.” Todas estas afirmaciones son absolutamente ciertas. Sin embargo, dentro de ese vibrante entusiasmo por la vida, usted encontrará el corazón del mártir que nos ha sostenido en cada punto de nuestra historia.4

Fuego del Cielo

Comencemos con la historia bíblica de los dos hijos de Aaron, Nadav y Avihu. Cuando los hijos de Israel habían terminado de erigir el santuario portátil para Di-s llamado el mishkan, y el fuego vino del cielo a consumir las ofrendas en el altar, Nadav y Avihu estaban tan inspirados que rompieron el protocolo, entraron en el compartimiento interno del Mishkan y quemaron allí incienso “que no fueron ordenados”. Una vez más fuego descendió del cielo, esta vez tomando sus almas y dejando sus cuerpos perfectamente intactos.

Moses le dijo a Aaron, “esto es lo que me dijo Di-s cuando dijo, “seré santificado con quienes están cerca de Mi, y ante toda la gente seré glorificado”.Y Aarón calló.5

Esas palabras llaman la atención. Pero se aclaran leyendo el siguiente Midrash:

¡Moses dijo a Aarón, “Aarón, hermano! Sabía que esta casa debía ser santificada con los amados del Omnipresente, pero pensé que serías tú o yo. ¡Ahora veo que ellos eran más grandes que nosotros dos!6

Es verdad que, Nadav y Avihu sabían en lo que se metían. Como el Or HaJaim explica7, anhelaron la unión mística con la luz infinita y la consiguieron. ¿Pero cómo puede ser que el santuario de Di-s requiera la “santificación” con la muerte de sus amados?

De algún modo el escape de Nadav y Avihu de la vida terrenal es la antítesis al tema de traer a Di-s a este mundo que representa el Mishkan: “Hagan para mí un santuario, 8Más que salir de este mundo para visitar a Di-s en el otro mundo él quiere que lo encontremos aquí, en un santuario pequeño , práctico, construido por la gente para la gente en nuestro mundo diario donde la gente come, duerme, siembra y cosecha sus plantaciones. El Mishkan era una especie de “primera parada” para que la luz divina brille en nuestro mundo. De allí podíamos tomarlo y esparcirlo por todas partes. Como las palabras del Midrash de Rabí Tanjuma,9 “Di-s deseó una morada en este mundo físico.” Si es así, abandonar sus cuerpos por la unión mística era un vehículo anticuado de adoración, ahora reemplazado por un nuevo paradigma “de encontrar a Di-s aquí y ahora”

Con todo Moisés parece decirle a Aarón lo contrario: La única manera de traer a Di-s al santuario era a través de estas dos almas santas que abandonaron su vida física para enlazarse con la luz divina. El paradigma es afirmado por su antítesis.10

Los Mártires de Noé

No es el único caso. Considere este Midrash:

Noé ha desembarcado del arca y ofrenda un sacrificio para Di-s en un altar. Di-s “huele la fragancia agradable”11 (obviamente en un sentido figurado) y hace votos de nunca más destruir el mundo. Él promete a Noé que conservará el ciclo de las estaciones y la naturaleza de ahora en adelante, asignando el arco iris como señal eterna de este convenio. En este punto, el Midrash hace una aserción sorprendente —que el catalizador a esta resolución no era sólo el sacrificio animal de Noé, sino muchos sacrificios humanos todavía por venir:

Él olió en las ofrendas de Noe la fragancia de Abraham nuestro padre que se levantaba del horno ardiente, la fragancia de Hananiah, Mishael y Azariah levantándose del horno ardiente… la fragancia de los mártires de la era de conversiones forzadas…12.

Nuevamente vemos la contradicción: Di-s está haciendo votos de mantener al mundo. Como dice Isaías, “él no lo creó para que este desolado, 13 Pero solo está dispuesto a sostener este mundo porque contendrá a quienes den sus vidas por él.

El Profesor Bill, el Anarquista

En mis años formativos, uno de mis mentores era un anarquista. Su nombre era Bill, un hombre larguirucho, altamente articulado en sus 50 quien fue profesor en varias importantes universidades en el pasado. Pero ahora las repercusiones de sus actividades políticas lo habían forzado a conformarse con enseñar en un secundario privado. Bill me presentó a sus amigos que habían luchado como anarquistas en la guerra civil española. Yo solo tenía quince, pero organicé un grupo de discusión anarquista para la Universidad Gratuita de Vancouver. Fue el grupo mejor organizado y más duradero de esta universidad.

Tengo viva en mi memoria la reunión que llevamos a cabo en el salón de la JCC (Centro Comunitario Judío por sus siglas en ingles) de Vancouver. La política radical estaba de moda en 1971 y los sofás que alineaban las paredes quedaron abarrotados con oyentes de todas clases. Mi mentor anarquista habló, reviviendo las palabras de Proudhon, Kropotkin y Murray Bookchin, relacionándolos con la comuna y el movimiento colectivo que se estaba difundiendo a través de la región de British Colombia. El gobierno central era una afrenta a la dignidad del ser humano. El instinto natural del hombre es cooperar, hacer las paces, y los gobiernos son responsables de la guerra y la devastación. Deseo poder creer estas palabras hoy como lo hice en mi inocente juventud.

Entonces, mientras todos estábamos fascinados e inspirados, él lanzó una simple pregunta a la audiencia. ¿”Cuánta gente aquí está dispuesta a morir por la causa del anarquismo?” preguntó.

¿Morir? ¿Por una Causa? La gente parpadeo y se miró unos a los otros como si alguien acabara de contar una broma pesada. Era una charla interesante. Ideas frescas. Quizá algunos iríamos por unos meses a una comuna en el Lago Arrow. Pero… epa, ¿morir por una causa?

Entonces Bill se sentó decepcionado. Le dije, “Bill, nada de lo que usted dijo genera violencia. No estamos hablando de derrocar a un gobierno, solo propagar estas comunas y establecer una red entre nosotros hasta que el “viejo y decrépito régimen” muera por si mismo.”

Bill contesto, “si una madre oso no está dispuesta a arriesgar la vida por su cachorro, el cachorro no sobrevivirá. Si una causa no tiene a nadie dispuesto a morir por ella, eventualmente la causa morirá.”

Lecciones de los Peces

Bill hablaba sobre algo que el pueblo judío sostuvo durante miles de años: Nuestra existencia se mantiene por nuestra predisposición al autosacrificio.

¿Recuerdan la historia de Rabí Akiva mencionada al inicio? Antes de que los romanos lo capturaran, un hombre llamado Popus ben Yehuda lo había amonestado por enseñar en público, desafiando abiertamente a las autoridades romanas. A lo que Rabí Akiva contestó con una fábula:

Un zorro dio un paseo a la orilla del río y vio que los peces se movían de un lugar a otro rápidamente. El zorro preguntó a los peces, “¿por qué huyen de un lugar a otro?”

Los peces contestaron, “¡debido a las redes que los hombres tiran para capturarnos!”

El zorro les dijo, “tengo una idea. ¿Suban a tierra seca y viviremos juntos, como mis padres lo hicieron con sus padres? ”

Los peces contestaron, “¿tú eres llamado el más listo de los animales? ¡No eres nada listo, sino un tonto! ¡Si en el lugar que nos da vida estamos asustados, tanto más en el lugar que nos da la muerte!14

Traducción: Si los judíos dejan de arriesgar sus vidas por la Torá, dejaran de existir como pueblo.

El mismo concepto podemos utilizar para la situación global actual: Si el terror logra disuadir a la gente, refrenándolos de reconstruir lo que el terror destruyó, impidiéndoles volver a la vida cotidiana donde el terror ha traído muerte, han sacrificado la fe en la humanidad en su totalidad. La vida humana en este planeta se mantiene por quienes no temen morir por él.

Llegar a la Esencia

Volviendo a la historia del Mishkan, el hogar propuesto por Di-s en la tierra. Se han seguido todas las instrucciones, todo el trabajo se ha hecho según lo ordenado. Un fuego ha descendido desde lo Alto, la presencia Divina se revela a todo el pueblo. Pero Él no esta allí. Como el rey Solomon dirá más adelante en la inauguración del Templo que construyó en Jerusalén: “Los cielos y los cielos de cielos no pueden contenerle… sino esta casa…15

Di-s está en todas partes, más allá de todas las cosas, pero él quiere que su esencia misma fuese encontrada dentro del tiempo y espacio, comenzando con ese lugar que construimos para él. No es otro lugar para ver milagros, no es un lugar para comunicarse con él— sino un lugar para unirse, para ser uno con él, con su esencia.

Pero para hacer eso, Él necesita un socio que trabaje desde adentro. No solo alguien que siga las instrucciones, sino alguien que realmente crea en todo esto, alguien que experimente la idea como propia, dispuesto a entregar todo por ella, incluso haciendo algo que no era ordenado, entregando todo—incluso la vida misma— solo para encontrar la unicidad con Di-s. Con los dos hijos de Aaron, y mientras que vinieron a Él, Él entró a su Mishkan16.

Ahora llevemos esto al mundo en general. En última instancia, el mundo entero es considerado el Templo de Di-s. Él lo creó como un lugar en el cual podría revelar su misma esencia, en todas las cosas, en cada alma.

Una vez más él necesita un socio. Él mira hacia abajo, a su mundo y dice, “¿si debo estar allí por ti, tú estás para mí?”

Y le contestamos, “desde nuestro patriarca Abraham, hemos dado nuestras vidas por ti. En cada generación, procuran convertirnos, con la espada o con un beso, y caminamos a través del fuego por ti. Nos matan solo porque pertenecemos a ti, y continúamos contigo a pesar de todo. Podríamos cambiar nuestra fe, uniéndonos a otras más poderosas y felices que la nuestra, y Tú nos diste excusas suficientes para hacerlo. No obstante, por casi cuatro mil años, hemos estado parados firmes, e incluso ahora, cuando nada parece tener sentido, cuando los justos son mirados con desdén y las criaturas humanas más decrépitas tienen éxito, nosotros todavía nos aferramos a Ti y aumentamos nuestros esfuerzos. Tienes un socio. Tienes una puerta abierta con nosotros. ”

Como escribí anteriormente, los judíos nunca han buscado el martirio, fue el martirio el que nos buscó a nosotros. En última instancia, el propósito es la vida en la tierra. Bastantes ofrendas y sacrificios ya se han hecho, y ahora, por primera vez en la historia, la fragancia placentera llega desde la India, también. Hemos hecho nuestra parte millones de veces. Ahora es el turno de Di-s de cumplir la suya.17

Notas al Pie
1. Talmud Baba Batra 10b.
2. Pirkei Abot 4:17.
3. Talmud, Berajot 61b
4. Ver Tania, Capitulo 25, donde declara que la llave para el cumplimiento de todas la mitzvot es el reconocimiento por parte del Judío que prefiere entregar su vida antes de estar separado de Di-s..
5. Levítico 10:3.
6. Rashi ad loc; Levitico Rabba ad loc; Talmud Zevajim 115b.
7. Levitico 16:1
8. Exodo 25:8
9. Midrash Tanjuma, Numeros 16.
10. Fuentes de noticias reportaron que cuando los miembros de Zaka (equipo de rescate y recuperación de cuerpos) entraron al Beit Jabad de Mumbai después de la masacre, encontraron balas en el Arca de la Torá. Al abrir la Torá descubrieron que el rollo recibió un impacto justo debajo del versículo: “Di-s hablo a Moshe después del fallecimiento de los hijos de Aaron que se acercaron a Di-s y murieron.” (Levítico 16:1) Muchas fotos fueron publicadas de este suceso incluso el Rabino Eliashiv examinó este rollo de Torá.
11. Génesis 8:21.
12. Génesis Rabba 34:9.
13. Isaías 45:18.
14. Talmud Berajot 61b.
15. 1 Reyes 8:27.
16. Ver Likutei Sijot volumen 27, pp. 116.
17. Ver Maamar de Parshat Noaj, 5740.
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Posted by on April 20, 2018 in Uncategorized


Las Dos Razones Por Las Que el Judaísmo Ortodoxo No Es Opción Para Mí

Por Diego Edelberg

Hay dos motivos por los cuales jamás podría sentirme parte de la interpretación de algunos de mis hermanos judíos ortodoxos. Esto no quiere decir que no respeto su abordaje. Todos estamos de igual manera ante la búsqueda del sentido más profundo y la verdad en la vida. La diferencia es que nuestros esquemas de referencia y nuestra constitución biopsicosociocultural hacen que esa búsqueda y esa verdad emerja de formas diferentes en cada uno de nosotros. Por eso cada uno debe trabajar para descubrir por qué razón le hace más sentido una aproximación y no otra a su tradición. Las dos razones (entre otras) que encuentro a menudo en la visión ortodoxa y que me alejan de mi pertenencia judía son:

  1. La creencia que los judíos son moralmente mejores o intelectuamente superiores porque tienen un alma más elevada que el resto (es decir la supremacía racial).
  2. La falta de honestidad en la ceguera tendenciosa de creer que el judaísmo siempre dice lo que me gustaría que dijera. Curiosamente, este segundo punto también remite a lo que dice el punto 1 ya que generalmente intenta demostrar que el judaísmo siempre dice que los judíos y el judaísmo mismo son los únicos verdaderos y perfectos y el resto está mal o es una imitación falsa de la única verdad que la tiene la tradición judía porque es más elevada que el resto.

Obviamente y por eso dije “algunos”, sería una falta de respeto poner a todos los ortodoxos en la misma bolsa. No todos creen ni hacen los dos puntos mencionados pero sí son los que más a menudo encuentro entre sus comunidades siendo entre los dos que más me perturban por no ser necesariamente tradicionales sino una respuesta más del judaísmo.

Respondiendo de una vez antes de entrar a desglosar mis ideas a lo que planteo, quiero comenzar por dejar en claro que no creo que los judíos sean mejores que nadie. Creo que son diferentes y únicos, como todas las demás criaturas. De hecho, creo que ni siquiera los judíos son tan diferentes ya que todo ser humano está creado a imagen y semejanza de lo divino según la Tora. En el fondo y como expresó el Rabino ortodoxo Jonathan Sacks, “el judaísmo es lo diferente y no los judíos”. Por otro lado y en respuesta al segundo punto mencionado, el judaísmo en su diferencia o singularidad no demanda fe incuestionable sino una profunda sinceridad intelectual y emocional que nunca deja de ser sagrada. Es lo que llamamos jutzpah, el atrevimiento sagrado judío. Por este último motivo la llegada en el judaísmo es una pregunta y no una respuesta. Quien busca respuestas en el judaísmo no las encontrará. Encontrará preguntas como respuestas a la búsqueda más profunda de la vida judía y la verdad. Así es el Talmud y así son todos los comentarios rabínicos a la Tora. Preguntas y más preguntas. Así es ser judío, es tener buenas preguntas que no se responden con un “sí” o un “no” sino con un “depende del contexto asi que analicémoslo”. El objetivo de la vida judía es alcanzar la pregunta adecuada.

El que busca siempre encuentra

Pero de nada sirve expresar estos dos puntos sin ofrecer una discusión enraizada en la tradición. De todos modos debo aclarar que una tradición con 3000 años de producción literaria tiene tanto material que uno puede encontrar algunas fuentes para fundamentar la superioridad del alma judía y también puede encontrar autores para fundamentar su posición con respecto a lo que uno quiere que un texto signifique o diga.

Estoy convencido que de alguna manera en el judaísmo se cumple el dime qué te gustaría que el judaísmo diga y te aseguro que puedo encontrar fuentes para justificar lo que quieres que la tradición diga (¡incluso si son fuentes que se contradicen entre sí!). Por eso lo importante no es “qué se dice” ni “cómo se lee” sino la sinceridad de “desde qué lugar” uno está buscando lo que está buscando. Si quiero probar que el judío es mejor que el no judío entonces “desde ese lugar” quizás logre encontrar un texto que diga eso. La pregunta es ¿qué gano con eso? ¿por qué estoy necesitando buscar algo que me diga que soy superior a otros seres humanos? Debo decirles que poder encontrar de todo en el judaísmo no quiere decir que el judaísmo en sí es malo o incoherente. Esto no es una falla. Por el contrario, la sabiduría judía demuestra que es tan compleja la existencia que las preguntas más profundas de la vida no pueden encontrar respuestas únicas, directas, simples y excluyentes ante cualquier otro escenario desafiante que se presente. Nuevamente, en el judaísmo más profundo nadie dice, “el judaísmo dice…” sino “¿qué preguntas hace el judaísmo sobre…?“.

Por esta razón y finalmente para presentar entonces mi argumento en esta publicación al desafiar estos dos motivos que me alejan de la ortodoxia (la superioridad racial genética judía y el ser tendencioso a forzar que todo lo judío demuestre esta superioridad) les ofrezco una fascinante discusión que es profundamente judía y está basada ni más ni menos que en la Tora misma. Comienza con uno de los tantos enigmas que ha intrigado a nuestros más grandes sabios: ¿quiénes son las dos parteras con las que habla el Faraón y a quienes les ordena asesinar a todo varón israelita que naciera? Recordemos la historia desde la Tora misma:

Luego el rey de Egipto habló a las parteras de las hebreas, una de las cuales se llamaba Shifra y la otra Pua, y les dijo:

Cuando asistan a las mujeres hebreas a dar a luz y vean en la silla de parto que es niño, mátenlo; pero si es niña, déjenla vivir.

Pero las parteras temían a Dios y no hicieron como el rey de Egipto les mandó, sino que dejaban con vida a los niños varones. (Éxodo 1:15-17)

Las parteras según la tradición son obviamente…

Antes de analizar las respuestas toménse un instante y respondan para ustedes mismos: ¿las parteras eran judías o egipcias? Si piensan que eran judías acertaron. Pero si piensan que eran egipcias…¡también acertaron! ¡¿Qué?!

Según grandes rabinos medievales entre los que se encuentran RaShi, Ibn Ezra, Rashbam y Ramban, basados en un comentario del Talmud (Sota 11b), las parteras eran judías. En el Talmud leemos que ambas en realidad eran Iojeved y Miriam (la mama y hermana de Moshe) o también Iojeved y Elisheva (madre y nuera, la esposa de Arón). Es importante aquí ponerse dentro de los zapatos y la cabeza de un judío ortodoxo para entender porqué cree lo que cree y enseña lo que enseña. Incluso en el libro más comercial y popular El Midrash Dice (Shemot pagina 8) impreso por la editorial de Jabad Luvabitch, leemos que “Shifrá y Pua eran ni más ni menos que Iovejed y Miriam“. Tiene sentido entonces imaginar la razón por la cual un judío ortodoxo puede creer toda su vida que estas mujeres eran judías: tiene textos tradicionales que avalan su interpretación y pueden decirlo porque el midrash lo dice.

Sin embargo lo más interesante aquí es preguntarse, ¿qué llevó al midrash a declarar algo así? ¿Por qué no podría la Tora misma decirnos quienes eran por su propio nombre directamente? ¿Qué busca el midrash enseñarnos? La respuesta de algunos comentadores es la que compartimos al comienzo de esta publicación: eran judías porque pertenecían a la noble galaxia de heroínas judías que arriesgaron sus vidas para salvar al pueblo.

Una mujer no judía (es decir sin alma para algunos ortodoxos que gracias a Dios son pocos) no arriesgaría su vida así como sí lo haría una mujer judía. Y esta temática también es coherente con las mujeres judías que son muchas veces presentadas de esta forma en la ortodoxia, como “más elevadas” o “especiales” para poner un paño frío a la realidad que no poseen los privilegios que los hombres poseen en tanto a lo que ellos sí pueden estudiar y los rituales que ellos sí pueden hacer.

En esta lógica de superioridad, no solamente la mujer judía es presentada como superior frente a la no judía sino que dentro del judaísmo ortodoxo mismo, la mujer es presentada como superior o “más elevada” que el hombre judío. Esto hace que las mitzvot sean más numerosas para el hombre las cuales son presentadas en la interpretación ortodoxa como una “carga” que debe soportar por ser más animal. Esta sí es una lectura sorprendente en lugar de entender las mitzvot como una invitación a experimentar la hermosura de la práctica judía. ¡Y el colmo de presentar esto así es que debemos sentir lastima por el pobre el hombre que tiene que sufrir tanto haciendo mitzvot mientras que la mujer es superior y más sagrada y por eso no tiene que hacer tantas mitzvot como el hombre! ¿O sea que usando esta lógica lo mejor es ser mujer y hacer menos mitzvot? ¿En la vida cuanto menos mitzvot uno tenga que hacer es mejor? Hummm…

La moral y el intelecto no tienen étnia ni genética

Pero otra tradición interpretativa tan antigua como la mencionada arriba y que comienza ya con Filón de Alejandría plantea que las parteras sin duda eran egipcias. Curiosamente esta interpretación también surge de la misma línea jasidica del Baal Shem Tov que nutre a Jabad pero no es de Jabad misma sino de otra dinastía: la de Rofshitz. Encontramos ahí en el comentario Imrei Noam del Rabino Meir Horowitz de Dzikov que las parteras era originalmente egipcias que abrazaron el judaísmo. Si no fue así el autor se pregunta, ¿cómo podría el Faraón ordenarle a mujeres judías que maten niños judíos? ¿Cómo podrían ellas siendo judías haber accedido a algo así? ¿Era el faraón tan ingenuo? La tradición judía dice que hay tres razones por las que uno debe quitarse la vida antes de transgredirlas: idolatría, incesto y asesinato. Por esta razón el comentarista dice que el texto original aclara que “las parteras temían a Dios” implicando que antes no necesariamente lo hacían. Si hubiesen sido judías el texto no debería aclararnos que temían a Dios porque así lo hacen por naturaleza y obviedad las mujeres judías. ¡Mucho menos debe aclararnos esto si son Iojeved y Miriam de quienes estamos hablando!

ShaDal (Samuel David Luzzatto) toma esta misma lectura y no solo menciona lo inconcebible que es pensar que el Faraón hubiese ordenado a mujeres judías matar a niños judíos imaginando que ellas no divulgarían el plan, sino que además agrega que cualquiera que tiene un dios (verdadero o falso) no realizaría actos tan inmorales. Pero esta última frase de ShaDal pone los pelos de punta a Najama Leibowitz quien no puede creer lo que lee. Si bien es claro que ya no tiene sentido decir que eran judías a pesar que una tradición midráshica así quiso mostrarlo, por otro lado bien sabemos cómo la humanidad asesina en nombre del dios del amor, tortura en nombre del dios de la misericordia y hace la guerra en nombre del dios de la paz. ¿Y entonces?

Najama Leibowitz vuelve a darnos una clase magistral aquí. Ella nos dice que es justamente la actitud hacia las minorías, el pobre, la viuda, el huerfano y el extraño en nuestras sociedades lo que determina si una persona o un pueblo posee realmente “temor de Dios”. Cómo tratamos a la minoría es cómo será la mayoría del pueblo. No hay dudas que las parteras eran egipcias según Leibowitz y otros comentarias importantes. Si aceptamos esta postura finalmente el texto no dice lo que nos gustaría que tal vez dijera. Nos deja con un mensaje final que desarticula la superioridad moral y ética de los judíos al mismo tiempo que desafía la lectura tendenciosa de una sola forma de leer el mensaje según un midrash.

En resumen, la Tora nos enseña aquí cómo un individuo puede resistir su inclinación hacia el mal más allá de si tiene alma judía o no. Nadie debe encogerse en su responsabilidad moral sino elevar su alma humana sobreponiendose a la “obediencia debida”. El texto contrasta los brutales decretos de esclavitud y genocidio iniciados por un faraón tiránico que son acatados por sus gobernantes en contraposición de la desobediencia civil por parte de parteras egipcias que “temen a Dios” (y no al faraón). Ni el coraje moral ni la perversión y la maldad son cualidades étnicas. Muchos menos el intelecto que no se transmite por la genética. Moab y Ammon nos dieron a Rut y Naamah. Egipto nos dio dos grandes parteras, Shifrá y Pua.


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Posted by on April 20, 2018 in Uncategorized