Más allá de las asignaturas: Educación disruptiva para el siglo XXI

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Por Central de Noticias Diario Judío México

Estudiando en la biblioteca de Yad Vashem, en Jerusalem, leí en el Pirkei Avot 1:4, dos frases que he recordado siempre: “Haz que tu hogar sea un lugar de reunión para los sabios” y la segunda “¿Quién es sabio?”  Aquel que aprende de todas las personas.

El Talmud dice: “Quien no añade nada a sus conocimientos, los disminuye” Por ello, es importante siempre tener la intención de aprender, pero ¿qué significa aprender?

La educación es un factor estratégico para el progreso económico, social, cultural y político de la humanidad. Es necesaria y oportuna en todos sentidos, ya que para alcanzar mejores niveles de bienestar social y de crecimiento económico, así como para aminorar las desigualdades económicas, propiciar la movilidad social de las personas, acceder a mejores oportunidades de empleo, elevar las condiciones culturales de la población y ampliar las oportunidades de los jóvenes, la educación es una ventana de oportunidad que nadie debe dejar escapar.

Hoy en día la información y el conocimiento son la base de la competitividad entre las naciones. Por ello, las grandes economías han puesto mayor énfasis en el avance y consolidación de los procesos educativos, de manera que sus principales rubros de inversión se enfocan en tres aspectos fundamentalmente: innovación, desarrollo e investigación.

Una política educativa eficiente y democrática, es necesaria para alcanzar mejores niveles de aprendizaje. De acuerdo con Scolari, la sociedad actual está inserta en un proceso de “hipermediaciones”, en donde las formas de comunicación se concentran en una trama de procesos de intercambio, producción y consumo simbólico, que engloba sujetos, medios y mensajes conectados tecnológicamente. También hoy sabemos, que las Tecnologías de la Información y Comunicación (TIC) impactan en distintos ámbitos que conforman la estructura social, identificadas conceptualmente como generadoras y habilitadores de la competitividad, por lo que las naciones enfatizan su implementación y desarrollo en Planes de Acción y de Cooperación, a escala nacional como internacional.

No obstante, el aprendizaje es una labor que desarrollamos todos los días. De ahí la importancia de rescatar los esquemas de enseñanza y aprendizaje que se logra a través de la experiencia. Día tras día, la persona aprende algo. Es aquí donde debemos preguntarnos, ¿estamos conscientes de lo que aprendemos y cómo lo aprendemos? ¿somos conscientes de nuestra participación como líderes educativos en nuestra sociedad?, ¿cómo podemos fortalecer nuestra capacidad de liderazgo educativa? Esta y muchas otras interrogantes son abordadas en el libro Más allá de las Asignaturas: Educación disruptiva para el siglo XXI. Invitamos al lector a descubrirlo y a descubrirse como agende de cambio y líder educativo, a través de un ejercicio de reflexión y análisis de cómo aprendemos, para qué aprendemos, qué aprendemos y por qué aprendemos.

Según tomado de, https://diariojudio.com/opinion/mas-alla-de-las-asignaturas-educacion-disruptiva-para-el-siglo-xxi/274724/

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Mind-blowing 1,600-year-old biblical mosaics paint new picture of Galilean life

With its rich and vivid finds, Byzantine-period synagogue at Huqoq busts scholars’ earlier notions of a drab Jewish settlement in decline

  • A mosaic found in the 2018 Huqoq excavation is labeled 'a pole between two' and depicts a biblical scene from Numbers 13:23. The images show two spies sent by Moses to explore Canaan carrying a pole with a cluster of grapes. (Jim Haberman)
    A mosaic found in the 2018 Huqoq excavation is labeled ‘a pole between two’ and depicts a biblical scene from Numbers 13:23. The images show two spies sent by Moses to explore Canaan carrying a pole with a cluster of grapes. (Jim Haberman)
  • A fish swallows an Egyptian soldier in a mosaic scene depicting the splitting of the Red Sea from the Exodus story, from the 5th-century synagogue at Huqoq, in northern Israel. (Jim Haberman/University of North Carolina Chapel Hill)
    A fish swallows an Egyptian soldier in a mosaic scene depicting the splitting of the Red Sea from the Exodus story, from the 5th-century synagogue at Huqoq, in northern Israel. (Jim Haberman/University of North Carolina Chapel Hill)
  • Detail from the Huqoq synagogue's 5th century mosaic showing Samson carrying the gate of Gaza, from Judges 16. (photo credit: Jim Haberman)
    Detail from the Huqoq synagogue’s 5th century mosaic showing Samson carrying the gate of Gaza, from Judges 16. (photo credit: Jim Haberman)
  • The Huqoq synagogue's 5th century mosaic, with the upper register showing a war elephant. (photo credit: Jim Haberman)
    The Huqoq synagogue’s 5th century mosaic, with the upper register showing a war elephant. (photo credit: Jim Haberman)
  • Pair of donkeys in Noah's Ark scene at the Huqoq excavation. (Jim Haberman via UNC-Chapel Hill)
    Pair of donkeys in Noah’s Ark scene at the Huqoq excavation. (Jim Haberman via UNC-Chapel Hill)

In its eighth dig season, the vibrant mosaic flooring of a fifth century synagogue excavated in the small ancient Galilee village of Huqoq continues to surprise. The 2018 Huqoq dig has uncovered unprecedented depictions of biblical stories, including the Israelite spies in Canaan.

With its rich finds, the Byzantine-period synagogue busts scholars’ preconceived notions of a Jewish settlement in decline.

“What we found this year is extremely exciting,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Prof. Jodi Magness told The Times of Israel, saying the biblically based depictions are “unparalleled” and not found in any other ancient synagogue.

“The synagogue just keeps producing mosaics that there’s just nothing like and is enriching our understanding the Judaism of the period,” said Magness.

A recently unearthed mosaic shows two men carrying between them a pole on their shoulders from which is hung a massive cluster of grapes (the same as the easily recognizable symbol of Israel’s Ministry of Tourism). With a clear Hebrew inscription stating, “a pole between two,” it illustrates Numbers 13:23, in which Moses sends two scouts to explore Canaan.

A mosaic found in the 2018 Huqoq excavation is labeled ‘a pole between two,’ depicting a biblical scene from Numbers 13:23. The images show two spies sent by Moses to explore Canaan carrying a pole with a cluster of grapes. (Jim Haberman)

Before wrapping up the dig season last week, the team of 20 excavators uncovered a further biblical mosaic panel, which shows a youth leading an animal on a rope and includes the inscription, “a small child shall lead them.” It is a reference to Isaiah 11:6, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”

According to a 2013 Biblical Archaeology Review article by Magness, “Huqoq was a prosperous village about 3 miles west of Magdala (home of Mary Magdalene) and Capernaum (where Jesus taught in the synagogue),” located next to a fresh spring. It appears twice in the Hebrew Bible, in Joshua 19:32–34 and 1 Chronicles 6:74–75. “Our excavations have not reached these early occupation levels, however,” she writes.

University of North Carolina archaeologist Jodi Magness. (George Duffield © J3D US LP)

These two newly published mosaics join a pantheon of others — from 2012 and 2013, two Samson depictions, to fantastical elephants and mythical creatures from 2013-2015, Noah’s Ark in 2016, and colorful and as yet unpublished Jonah and the whale in 2017.

During this year’s dig, the team also continued to expose and study rare 1,600-year-old columns, first uncovered in previous seasons, which are covered in painted plaster with red, orange, and yellow vegetal motifs. Other discovered columns, said Magness, were painted to imitate marble.

However, despite these “imitation marble” columns, this was no poor man’s synagogue. Much in the manner of King Herod decorating his palaces with painted faux-marble frescos, the columns and gorgeous mosaics point to a wealthy, flourishing fifth-century Jewish settlement, said Magness.

“In general, unless you’re in a really important church in the Byzantine period, you won’t find marble, rather this common local alternative,” she said. She laughed, saying there is a feeling of “one-ups-manship” in the construction of the Huqoq synagogue.

A fish swallows an Egyptian soldier in a mosaic scene depicting the splitting of the Red Sea from the Exodus story, from the fifth-century synagogue at Huqoq, in northern Israel. (Jim Haberman/University of North Carolina Chapel Hill)

“Every village has its own synagogue,” Magness said. “In Huqoq there’s a feeling that the villagers said, ‘We’re going to build the biggest and best.’ It’s as if they decided to throw everything into it.”

The obvious wealth and disposable income displayed in the synagogue is “contradicting a widespread view — not my view — that the Jewish community was in decline,” she said.

However, not only the synagogue was rich and diverse, but also the Judaism it housed.

“The mosaics decorating the floor of the Huqoq synagogue revolutionize our understanding of Judaism in this period,” said Magness in a press release. “Ancient Jewish art is often thought to be aniconic, or lacking images. But these mosaics, colorful and filled with figured scenes, attest to a rich visual culture as well as to the dynamism and diversity of Judaism in the Late Roman and Byzantine periods.”

The Huqoq synagogue’s fifth century mosaic, with the upper register showing a war elephant. (Jim Haberman)

According to Magness, “Rabbinic sources indicate that Huqoq flourished during the Late Roman and Byzantine periods (fourth–sixth centuries CE). The village is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud in connection with the cultivation of the mustard plant.”

Aside from the outstanding mosaics and colorfully painted columns, there are other features of note in this synagogue: Discovered in 2012, an inscription flanked by the faces of two women and a man (a fourth face, presumably of a man, is not preserved) might be the first donor portraits found in a Jewish house of prayer. The practice, said Magness, was “not uncommon in Byzantine churches,” but has no parallel example found in a synagogue of the era.

Although there are aspects of the synagogue which may point to a Christian influence, for example the possible donor portraits, Magness does not believe the Huqoq community was more impacted than other neighboring congregations.

Detail from the Huqoq synagogue’s 5th century mosaic showing Samson carrying the gate of Gaza, from Judges 16. (Jim Haberman)

“In general there was some interaction between Jews and Christians, as well as Judaism and Christianity, in the sense that both religions laid claim to the same tradition and called themselves the ‘true Israel,’” said Magness. It is not coincidental that the same biblical themes appear in both forums.

“They is clearly some sort of dialogue, broadly speaking… A lot of what we see at Huqoq can be understood on the background of the rise of Christianity,” she said.

“There is evidence of occupation at the site during the Persian, Hellenistic, Early Roman, Abbasid, Fatimid and Crusader-Mamluke periods. The modern village was abandoned in 1948 during the fighting in Israel’s War of Independence. In the 1960s, the site was bulldozed,” writes Magness in BAR.

2018 Huqoq excavation with students from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, surrounding dig director Dr. Jodi Magness. (Jim Haberman via UNC-Chapel Hill)

It appears that the Huqoq synagogue is the ancestor of what seems to be a later, 12-13th century Jewish house of prayer. Faint, broken remnants of that incarnation’s mosaic flooring have also been discovered a meter above the dynamic mosaics of the Byzantine era.

It is possible, said Magness, that this is a synagogue mentioned by French 14th century Jewish physician-turned-traveler Isaac HaKohen Ben Moses, aka Ishtori Haparchi, mentioned in his 1322 geography of the Holy Land, “Sefer Kaftor Vaferach.”

Regardless, there are no extant medieval synagogues in Israel today, making this find potentially no less important than the more attention-grabbing images in the fifth century mosaic floors, said Magness.

Pair of donkeys in Noah’s Ark scene at the Huqoq excavation. (Jim Haberman via UNC-Chapel Hill)

Both of these finds — the medieval synagogue and beautiful Byzantine mosaics — are all the more remarkable in that they are a by-product of a different scholarly quest: Magness decided to excavate at Huqoq to test a wide-spread Galilean synagogue dating system, which dated the buildings based on their architectural structures.

“Since the early 20th century, when these synagogues began coming to light, scholars developed a tripartite chronology: The earliest, these so-called ‘Galilean-type synagogues,’ were dated to the second and third centuries CE, followed by ‘transitional synagogues’ in the fourth century, and then by ‘Byzantine synagogues’ in the fifth and sixth centuries,” writes Magness in the BAR article.

Although housed in a fifth-century village, based on its architectural features, according to previous scholarly consensus, the Huqoq synagogue should have been classified a “Galilean-type synagogue” and dated to the second or third centuries. This is, Magness has proven, clearly not the case.

Pictured is the Huqoq synagogue mosaic depicting the month of Teveth (December-January) with the sign of Capricorn. (Jim Haberman UNC Media Relations)

What was originally to have been a brief excavation has turned into eight seasons. And although Magness is assisted by Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Tel Aviv University, the excavation is funded independently of the IAA, by sponsors including UNC-Chapel Hill, Baylor University, Brigham Young University and the University of Toronto, the Friends of Heritage Preservation, the National Geographic Society, the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, and the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies.

There will be a 2019 dig season, said Magness, who estimated she needs at least another four years to complete the ever-evolving project.

As taken from, https://www.timesofisrael.com/mind-blowing-1600-year-old-biblical-mosaics-paint-new-picture-of-galilean-life/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=3868fc7269-EMAIL_WEEKEND_CAMPAIGN_2018_07_15_10_18&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-3868fc7269-54798245

Calling Jews ‘poisonous worms’ isn’t anti-Semitic?!

Do not underestimate the malice

Martin Luther’s vile invective was hate speech, no different from today’s racism disguised as anti-Zionism

A letter written by Martin Luther in 1543 has been put up for sale. In the letter, he refers to Jews as “devils incarnate” — but we are assured by a theology professor at Boston University that Luther was “not an anti-Semite.”

Prof. Brown told reporters,

Europe had a long history of mistreating Jews. Luther plays a part in this grim history, yet as appalling as Luther’s intolerance of his Jewish contemporaries was, Luther was not an anti-Semite. His criticism of Judaism was rooted in theological disagreement over the reading of shared Scriptures, not in racial animus.

Martin Luther described Jews as “wicked and hardened people,” “liars and bloodhounds,” “bloodthirsty, revengeful and murderous,” and “poisonous, bitter worms, who are not accustomed to work.” If that isn’t clear enough, he also stated that “the Jews…are veritably a mixture of all the depraved and malevolent knaves of the whole world over, who have then been dispersed in all countries…to afflict the different nations with their usury, to spy upon others and to betray, to poison wells, to deceive and to kidnap  children — in short, to practice all kinds of dishonesty and injury.”

But wait, there’s more: “Wherever you see or hear a Jew teaching, do not think otherwise than that you are hearing a poisonous Basiliskus who with his face poisons and kills people.”

Aoparently, none of this is hate speech. This American theology professor is telling us that Luther was not an anti-Semite, because hating us for our religion — the oldest form of anti-Semitism — is not anti-Semitism.

All around us — to the horror and consternation of most Jews — people and political groups are changing the definition of Jew-hatred. It seems that all incidents of anti-Semitism are now to be compared to the Holocaust, and anything that falls short of actually gassing us at Auschwitz or shooting us in a Lithuanian forest is not anti-Semitism. The standards are being lowered in order to make it easier to share hateful lies about the Jewish people. This is the way anti-Semitism spreads, because people hate us for what they THINK we do, not for what we do.

Here in the UK, the Labour Party has just rejected the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which means they have lowered the standard so that anti-Semitic hate speech can now be openly expressed within the party without fear of sanction. Labour Party members will now be free to contravene the definition of anti-Semitic racism that has been adopted by our government and by the 30 other countries who have signed up to the agreement.

The definition is being changed so that people can say the most terrible things about us without fear of social opprobrium or reproach.

Jews are a tiny minority, and it seems that there is very little we can do to stop the anti-Semites. We can sign petitions, go on demonstrations, write to our MPs — and all our protestations are turned against us. We are dismissed as “right-wing,” as racists, as liars, as politically manipulative and controlling, or as “Zionist agents of the powerful Israel lobby.” Arguments online end with the anti-Semites crowing with joy for having successfully baited us, the “Zionazis.” It has been years since I tried to engage in such online combat, because I go into these discussions filled with earnest goodwill, and come out of them in shock, dismay and disbelief.

And still it is getting worse. There is a new trope that is becoming increasingly popular — the notion that the Ashkenazim are all “converts,” who are responsible for “colonizing” the land of Israel after the war. Increasingly, I am seeing posts claiming that the Ashkenazim and everyone descended from them are “fake Jews,” who have no link to the Middle East:

This is becoming commonplace, and what it does is to enable people to tell themselves that they are not racists and anti-Semites, because the Jewish nation that they despise is not in fact Jewish. The real evil-doers, in their eyes, are not Jews but “fake Jews” — also known as “Zionists.”

In the newspeak of the Labour Party, it is not considered hate speech to paraphrase Martin Luther, so long as the word “Jews” is replaced with “Zionists.” Thus, “Zionists are wicked and hardened people, liars and bloodhounds, bloodthirsty, revengeful and murderous. Zionists spy upon others, poison wells and kidnap  children.”

Luther also anticipated “pinkwashing,” and the notion that anything Israel does that is seemingly praiseworthy is in fact an underhanded cover-up of its iniquities: “Should they at times do something good, however, know full well that it is not done out of love for you, nor for your good. In order to have space to live among us they must of necessity do something. But their heart is and remains as I have said. They are a heavy burden to us in our country, like a plague, pestilence, and nothing but misfortune.”

There is another way in which the storm clouds are gathering, and it isn’t pretty: Jews are joining the ranks of the Jew-haters. They are still a small minority in Britain, but they are recruiting. They are sharing the same terrible and manipulative lies and distortions about Israel that the mainstream Jew-bashers are disseminating, and. like many of the Gentile anti-Semites, they truly believe what they are saying. They are forming what they believe are “social justice” groups to support the Palestinians, which in principle is excellent — who doesn’t believe in justice? — but in practice, it is disastrous, because they are sharing the usual anti-Semitic tropes about exaggerated or imaginary human rights abuses, and they are distilling a complicated political struggle into a twisted tale of villainous conquering Jews and their helpless, peace-loving victims.

These groups are also embracing the notion that those of us who stand up for Israel are in fact murderous right-wing fanatics who do not wish for peace, justice or equality. These self-righteous children are sneering at those of us who think that Hamas is unlikely to join up with the Fatah party to form the government of a peaceful nation that will be a companionable neighbour to the people of Israel.

Saying kaddish for the Palestinians killed in the “March of Return” may be a symbolic gesture, but it is not harmless. What it does is to give license to anti-Semites, who can then point at these anti-Israel groups and use them to indicate that “the Good Jews are on our side and against the Zionists.” Another so-called Jewish group, Jewish Voice for Labour, is in essence a hate group run by people so anti-Semitic that some of them were actually thrown out of Labour (despite Labour’s low standards); it is a mix of Jews and non-Jews, and their commitment is to the destruction of Israel, which is to be replaced — via the “right of return” for Arabs — by a single Arab majority state.

I am curious to know where they think the Jews in this new Palestinian state are to go. Hamas’s official line is genocide of the Jews, while Fatah takes the more “moderate” position of achieving the “Complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence.” One Fatah official stated that the “first phase” in attaining this goal will be a two-state solution, adding darkly that “Hitler was not morally corrupt; he was daring.” It is therefore questionable what Jews are hoping to gain by assisting the Palestinians to achieve their war aims — and it is worth noting that Jeremy Corbyn has stated that “The Right of Return must be a reality,” so although the Labour Party Manifesto states that Labour supports a two-state solution, in practice, Corbyn advocates the destruction of a Jewish majority in Israel.

So what is to be done? Education is a good way forward, but do not tell yourself that you can educate radicalized bigots out of hating you. You can’t. Is it possible to “change the Labour Party from within”? You’re joking, right? If the Labour Party are elected, British Jews are in for a rocky ride. The pledge of a complete boycott of Israel — including musicians, artists and academics — has already been endorsed by the British Green Party, and there are those within Labour who are pushing for the party to officially join the boycott. We are not going to be rounded up and shoved into cattle trucks any time soon, but do not underestimate the malice that is out there.

About the Author
Rivka Bond is a retired Archaeology Professor living in the UK. She has lived in England, Wales, Scotland, Germany, America and The Netherlands, and has worked on excavations in Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Greece, Ireland and the UK.

A Strange Drawing Found in Sinai Could Undermine Our Entire Idea of Judaism

Is that a 3,000-year-old picture of god, his penis and his wife depicted by early Jews at Kuntillet Ajrud?

More than four decades after its excavation wound down, a small hill in the Sinai Desert continues to bedevil archaeologists. The extraordinary discoveries made at Kuntillet Ajrud, an otherwise nondescript slope in the northern Sinai, seem to undermine one of the foundations of Judaism as we know it.

Then, it seems, “the Lord our God” wasn’t “one God.” He may have even had a wife, going by the completely unique “portrait” of the Jewish deity that archaeologists found at the site, which may well be the only existing depiction of YHWH.

Kuntillet Ajrud got its name, meaning “the isolated hill of the water sources,” from wells at the foot of the hill. It is a remote spot in the heart of the desert, far from any town or or trade route. But for a short time around 3,000 years ago, it served as a small way station.

Dozens of drawings and inscriptions, resembling nothing whatever found anywhere else in our region, survived from that period, which seems to have lasted no longer than two or three decades. Egypt gained the artifacts with the peace treaty with Israel 25 years ago, but the release of the report on the excavation six years ago and a book about the site two years ago have kept the argument over the exceptional findings from the hill in Sinai alive.

Kuntillet Ajrud

The hill lies 50 kilometers south of Kadesh Barnea and 15 kilometers west of the ancient Darb el-Ghazza route, which led from Gaza to the Read Sea’s Gulf of Eilat. Its unique qualities were first noticed in 1870 by the British explorer Edward Palmer who discovered a fragment of a clay jar, a pithos, marked with the Hebrew letter aleph.

Later, in 1902, a Czech orientalist and explorer, Alois Musil, was attacked by local Bedouins who claimed that he was defiling a holy site. Exploration would only resume in 1975, by the Tel Aviv University archaeologist Ze’ev Meshel, as part of a collaboration between the university and the Israel Exploration Society.

The excavation showed that Kuntillat Ajrud was what’s called a “single-layer site,” meaning, it had been occupied for just one period, which the excavators dated to the late ninth century or early eighth century B.C.E.

Meshel estimated that it had been occupied very briefy, 25 years at most. Structure-wise, the excavators only found two fairly simple, unimpressive structures. The wonder lay in the drawings and inscriptions.

Ancient Hebrew writing on the rim of a bowl found at Kuntillet Ajrud, dating to about 3,000 years ago

Clay from Jerusalem

At first the archaeologists thought that the place was a military fortress. Other fortresses from the First Temple period had been found in the Negev. But no evidence that there had been a military presence was found, and in the third excavation season, Meshel decided that the structures weren’t that sort.

Nor would Kuntillet Ajrud have been suitable as an inn for travelers: it was too small and was off the beaten track. Nor did it seem to match any of the criteria of a trade station.

The first hint at the true character of Kuntillet Ajrud was the discovery of pottery fragments inscribed with ancient Hebrew letters: quf, quf resh, aleph and yud.

Analysis of the clay from which the pithos (pottery jars) was intriguing. The pots were made of hawar motza, clay only found by Jerusalem. In other words, the jars had been made in area of Jerusalem, which was certainly far away.

Among the inscriptions were a blessing and religious texts. That and the origin of the clay suggested to Meshel that the residents were priests and Levites, who were supported by tithes collected in the Temple in Jerusalem.

In line with the spirit of this interpretation, he also interpreted the letters on the dishes: quf as standing for kodesh (holy), quf-resh as the first two letters in the word korban (sacrifice), and aleph for a korban asham (guilt offering).

The letter yud, Meshel suggests, may represent a vessel that had been used to continued tithes, though he himself casts doubt on that theory: “In First Temple times, they used Egyptian numbers,” he points out.

Another inscription found there argues that the hill had been peopled by a literate elite and even hints at the presence of a school. One vessel contains the Hebrew alphabet twice — one in the crisp, competent handwriting of a well-trained scribe and another in what researchers suspect was the hesitant handwriting of a student.

If all this is true, what was a small group of priests and Levites doing in the middle of the desert?

When King Yoash conquered Judah

Meshel thinks the people dwelling at the site were providing an essential service: writing blessings. But from who, for who? The story gets even more complicated when one examines the site through the lens of geopolitics.

At the time the hill was occupied, the kingdom of Israel existed in the north, ruled from Samaria. The kingdom of Judah existed in the south and had its capital in Jerusalem.

However, the names and inscriptions found at Kuntillat Ajrud seem to be Israelite, not Judahite. It seems to have been an Israelite site — far, far to the south of Israel and even south of the Judah border.

Reconstruction of what may be the image of King Yoash, possibly the only known contemporary portrait of a Judahite king. Found at Kuntillet Ajrud

Why would one kingdom maintain a religious site at the far end of another kingdom?

Meshel thinks the Israelite presence in or beyond the Judean kingdom, and the fact that Jerusalem (the capital of Judah) provisioned this way station of the rival kingdom, indicates that at the time the kingdom of Israel was, or was turning into, a regional power.

Judah was a vassal state subject to the more powerful northern kingdom, he thinks.

As for why Judahite Jerusalem would provision this Israelite-manned hilltop in the middle of nowhere, Meshel suspects it all comes down to Kuntillat Ajrud having been founded by none other than King Yoash of Israel.

“The bible says that war broke out between Amatzia, king of Judah, and Yoash, king of Israel,” he says. Thus the Israelite king Yoash gained control of Judah.

It would have been convenient for Yoash to provision Kuntillat Ajrud from the Temple in Judah. Why would he have sent up north to bring supplies for it from Israel, Meshel asks rhetorically.

If indeed Meshel is right and King Yoash founded the site, he may be the figure drawn on plaster at the entrance of the building.

The drawing, possibly of the king, was restored by Prof. Pirhiya Bar based on similar drawings from the ancient east, in which the royal figure holds a lotus flower. It is a reasonable possibility that the figure depicted at Kuntillet Ajrud was a ruler or king, and if so, then it is the only contemporary visual description we have of a king from biblical times.

“I told myself look at the luck I had, finding the only drawing of a king from the First Temple period,” says Meshel.

A picture of God, and is that his tail

Kuntillet Ajrud also brought images of animals, humans and what seems to be gods.

The one causing the controversy shows a man and a women, drawn naively, with crowned heads and holding hands. The man has either a tail or a large penis, and above him the blessing “Yahweh and his Asherah” is written.

Could the couple on the pithos be a rendering of God and his wife Asherah, the only one ever found?

Dr. Yigal Bin Nun, a researcher and author of “A Brief History of YHWH.” has no doubt. “If you want to step away from reality then you can say this or that, but if you look at it as it is you can’t ignore the truth,” he says.

Among the detractors are Prof. Tallay Ornan, who has studied the images at the site, and Prof. Shmuel Ahituv, an acclaimed ancient inscriptions researcher. Both contributed to a book on the topic together with Meshel and Esther Eshel, published last year.

They think these figures show the minor Egyptian deity Bes, not YHWH, the Jewish god.

“Bes is a dwarf who was the deity of witches,” Ahituv says, adding that in his view, the picture shown wouldn’t befit a major divinity.

Defending the picture as that of YHWH, Ben Nun an Israelite religious site on the border of Judah, under the political auspices of Assyria, would be unlikely to hail Bes, or any Egyptian god or symbol. Egypt was considered hostile. “The Bes explanation is completely illogical,” Ben Nun says.

Furthermore, it’s hard to make sense of the writing “YHWH and his Asherah” without suspecting that this god, at least according to the people on this hill, was married.

God of the south and god of the north

Other phrases found at the site also challenge the known pantheon of Israelite faith. “Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah” and “Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah,” for example, were also found inscribed at the site.

These are doubly outrageous. If God is one, then how can there be god for the north (Shomron) and for the south (Yemen, still called Teman in Hebrew)?

To make matters worse, does the word “Asherah,” formulated as “his Asherah”, hint that the gods of Israel had a wife? If so, where has she gone?

For Meshel, the site’s main researcher, the issue remains unresolved.

He and Ben Nun suspect the site brings insight to the beliefs of the people living here 3,000 years ago. They did not worship a single al-powerful deity: they were devoted to a pantheon of gods.

It has also long been known that households with Jewish hallmarks, certainly in the First Temple era and later too, also had images of other gods, a.k.a, figurines.

If anything the discoveries at Kuntillet Ajrud indicate that in the late ninth century B.C.E. or the early eighth, the idea of a single deity had not yet consolidated, suggests Meshel. “In this religious reality YHWH is local, for the city, the village, for Shomron and for Teman (Yemen).”

Ashera the tree?

The sheer fact that Kuntillet Ajrud was so far-flung is what enabled it to survive, Meshel further claims – albeit not for long.

Come the seventh century B.C.E., Josiah King of Judah spearheaded a profound religious reformation, that included centralizing ritual sacrifice in Jerusalem and destroying competing sites.

By that time, Kuntillet Ajrud was long since abandoned. Meshel suspects the kingdom simply forgot about it.

Ahituv rejects this whole analysis and thinks that Ashera referred to a tree. Or maybe a thing or place. But not an independent female divinity.

“If you look at the Bible you can see that there is no sacrifice for Ashera – but rather the ashera is chopped down ahead of war,” he says. “It may be a tree but it was not an independent being.”

Regarding the varying names of Jehovah, Ahituv says these are different manifestations of the same god, “its like there are different manifestations of the Holy Mary in different places and everyone knows it’s the same Mary.”

Meshel does not agree: “If you read the phrase as is, clearly the meaning is that she is his partner.”

“The Bible reads: Ashera pesel (Ashera statue) — the statue had to represent someone. We can’t just say it was a log,” Ben Nun bolsters the point. Some also believe the early Jews worshipped trees.

This argument is bound to continue even though access to the actual findings is impossible. As part of the deal with Egypt, all archaeological findings were returned to Cairo in 1993. They have not been shown to the public since then. Meshel fears Kuntillet Ajrud will be forgotten again.

As taken from, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-a-strange-drawing-could-undermine-our-entire-idea-of-judaism-1.5973328

The New Leader of the Generation

By Rabbi Ginsburgh

At the end of the previous Torah portion, after Balaam’s impromptu blessing to the Jewish People, Balaam proposes that Balak attempt another method to subdue God’s Chosen People. In response to Balaam’s advice, Balak sends non-Jewish women to seduce the Jewish men.  As punishment for their licentious behavior, a plague wiped out many of the Jewish People. The plague ended abruptly when Pinchas publicly decried their behavior by killing Zimri and Kosbi. Then, God told Moses to take a census of the entire Jewish people.

Prior to entering the Holy Land, God commanded Moses to divide the Land of Israel into tribal territories. Knowing that he would not be privileged to enter the Land of Israel himself, Moses asked God to appoint a suitable leader to lead the Jewish People into the land after his death. What qualities would the new leader need?

Pinchas or Joshua?

This Torah portion begins with the great blessing that God bestowed upon Pinchas for his zealous act. We would be justified in believing that Pinchas would be chosen as the next leader of the Jewish People. Moses began his career as leader while still a prince in Pharaoh’s palace. He saw an Egyptian officer attack a Jew with the intention of killing him.[1] The officer had previously raped the same Jew’s wife,[2] and Moses’ instinctive reaction to save his fellow Jew was to smite the Egyptian.  Like Moses, Pinchas was a Levite and his zealotry is clearly reminiscent of Moses’ own self-sacrificial act. Both Pinchas and Moses acted out of a fierce sense of responsibility for God’s people. Taking responsibility during a crisis situation at the expense of one’s own welfare is a sure sign of a true leader. Pinchas therefore strikes us as an appropriate candidate to lead the Jewish people after Moses.

But, God told Moses to appoint Joshua, who served as Moses’ personal assistant for 40 years. Since Joshua’s appointment appears in the Torah portion that bears Pinchas’ name, let’s contemplate the difference between the two.

Patience or Alacrity?

Pinchas’ swift act brought an end to the plague that eradicated 24,000 Jews. For his dauntless life-saving deed, God blessed him with a covenant of eternal peace and priesthood. All priests have the talent to work quickly,[3] but Pinchas was particularly outstanding in his alacrity.

In contrast, Moses prayed that the new leader should be one who can adjust himself to the needs of anyone who asks for his guidance. This facet of leadership requires a great deal of patience, which was Joshua’s innate talent.

Each quality has its drawbacks too. On the one hand, acting impulsively is liable to lead to chaotic results. On the other hand, despite Joshua’s success as a warrior who triumphed over the nation of Amalek, the sages teach us that Joshua was negligent in conquering the Land of Israel. This negligence resulted from Joshua’s patient nature, which caused him to be somewhat slow in carrying out God’s command.

We learn from God’s selection of Joshua as leader that if faced with a choice between a leader who is zealous and a leader who is patient, it is better to select the person who has patience, like Joshua.

Nonetheless, Joshua’s appointment appears in Parashat Pinchas, which begins with praise for Pinchas’ swift act. This provides inspiration for Joshua’s patient temperament, suggesting that in order to refine his own tendency to bide his time, he should integrate something of the eagerness and agility of Pinchas.

Patience with Alacrity

We might say that the ideal leader would be a combination of Joshua together with Pinchas. At first glance, patience and alacrity seem incompatible. A person can either be swift and agile or slow and determined, but not both at the same time. Nonetheless, the Ba’al Shem Tov taught that serving God properly requires us to combine these two qualities and act with “patient alacrity” by directing the force of our eagerness through patient judgment.

In Kabbalistic terminology, Pinchas’ quality of alacrity corresponds to the chaotic lights of the World of Chaos. Joshua’s patience and perseverance are the vessels that can contain them. When the vessels are immature and unrefined, they are unable to contain the volatile energies. In the case of such immature vessels, the influx of excess energy is liable to shatter them. But, those lights are essential to bringing the redemption. The Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson) taught that Mashiach will come when we succeed in containing the lights of the World of Chaos within the stable, refined vessels of the World of Rectification.

Daily and Additional Sacrifices

The Torah portion of Pinchas concludes with a summary of the various sacrifices offered in the Temple services on Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and the festivals. These are the musafim, the extra sacrifices that are offered in addition to the two regular daily sacrifices (temidim). Here too, we can identify two extremes. Like Joshua, who habituated Moses’ study hall, the daily sacrifice represents routineness and patience. The additional sacrifice is occasional and more festive, representing Pinchas’ alacrity and enthusiasm.

The passage referring to the sacrifices is named “The Passage of the Musafim,” referring to the additional sacrifices. Nonetheless, it begins by outlining the daily sacrifices, the temidim. This is because the musafim are “in addition” to the daily sacrifices. In this case, like the entire portion, which is named after the agile Pinchas, patience and perseverance are included in alacrity.

The entire idea of sacrifices is suited to Pinchas. Apart from his being a kohen, his act was commendable mainly because, like a sacrifice, it atoned for the sin of the Jewish People. Similarly, just as Pinchas’ act is a shining example of self-sacrifice, so too, the intention in offering sacrifices is that the animal is sacrificed in place of the soul of the one who offers it. The animal’s body is no more than a vessel to achieve this end.

So, after appointing Joshua as leader, this Torah portion reinstates equilibrium by emphasizing the uniqueness of the musafim, reminiscent of Pinchas’ enthusiasm.

As mentioned, by definition the musaf sacrifice cannot exist without the daily sacrifice, otherwise it wouldn’t be “additional.” Each type of sacrifice thus complements the other. Joshua’s steadfast patience is the basis—the vessel—that can contain the added value of Pinchas’ alacrity. Without the occasional musaf sacrifice, the daily sacrifices would be dry and monotonous. So too, within the framework of Joshua’s leadership, some alacrity is necessary to spice it up.

Chaos Contained

When it comes to the final redemption, first we must aspire to access the lights of Chaos. Reaching up to this lofty goal is itself the power to rectify the vessels to contain them. This is the meaning of the Chassidic phrase, “When the [chaotic] lights condense, they form the vessels [that can contain them].” Pinchas reached up and touched the volatile energies at their source. It remained for Joshua to contain them in his rectified vessels.

When Mashiach comes, we will experience patience and alacrity at each and every moment. This will fulfill the Rebbe’s demand for “lights of Chaos, but within rectified vessels.”

[1] Exodus 2:12.

[2] Shemot Rabah 1.

[3] Baba Batra 90a.

As taken from, http://www.inner.org/parshah/numbers-bamidbar/pinchas/the-new-leader-of-the-generation-2

El Talmud y Levinas

Image result for Levinas

Emmanuel Levinas

Por Alicia Korenbrot

Diario Judío México – El estudio del Talmud –aprender, enseñar- de estilo idiosincrático, exige un amplio conocimiento de hebreo y de arameo. Desde su origen en la tradición oral  refleja y constituye la civilización del pueblo judío, según el rabino Weinkeberg;  “nunca buscó estrechez, prefirió cubrir todos los aspectos de la vida, nunca se limitó al ritual religioso, sino abarcó todos los hechos del hombre y sus capacidades; desarrolló e influyó en la creación espiritual y todas las áreas de la naturaleza y el arte, ciencia y política, todo lo que descubre el espíritu humano.”

Para la tradición judía la Biblia  no es autónoma, se acompaña de la contraparte oral que se encuentra en el Talmud, comprende el trabajo acumulativo rabínico desde Ezra hasta el siglo VI de la era común, aproximadamente 1600 años, es el centro y lugar del estudio y práctica rabínicas, incluyendo la filosofía, teología y costumbres. Históricamente está compuesto por la Mishna y la Guemara.

La Mishna – de la raíz שנה – implica aprender y repetir, se refiere al cuerpo de referencias rabínicas desde Ezra hasta el siglo II de la era común;  fue editado por rabi Yehuda Hanassi, quien lo codificó y ordenó en seis grupos principales -sedarim:

Zeraim –semillas- el hombre y la tierra.

Moed – fechas especiales- el hombre y el tiempo.

Nashim– mujeres- Hombre, mujer y sus consortes.

Nezikim– danos- el hombre y la sociedad.

Kodashim– cosas sagradas- el hombre y lo sagrado.

Taharot– purificaciones- el hombre y la muerte.

Fue estudiado en dos centros de Academias rabínicas – Yeshivot- en Babilonia y al norte de Israel durante 400 años.  Sus resultados se convirtieron en la Guemara –de la raíz  גמר-  que significa estudio. Por la ubicación de las yeshivot hay un Talmud de Babilonia y un Talmud de Jerusalén, editado en el siglo V, dos siglos después del Talmud de Babilonia.

Con el desarrollo de los estudios. La división establecida no resultó tan precisa y requirió que sus partes, Suggiot, fueran estudiadas minuciosamente para profundizar en la filosofía del judaísmo.

La forma más común de entender el Talmud es a través de sus aspectos legales. Una variante importante es el pilpul, ejercicio analítico intelectual, además del aspecto cognoscitivo busca el significado ritual de mayor importancia. Una tercera vía, surgida en los últimos 200 años es la lectura crítica  -método histórico-filológico- de los textos. Ocupación principal del mundo académico en el estudio del Talmud. Un ejemplo brillante de la crítica talmúdica son las Lecturas de Emmanuel Levinas que ya era un filósofo internacionalmente celebrado cuando empezó a interesarse en el Talmud en 1947.

Emmanuel Levinas, construccionista, fenomenólogo y hermeneuta de la experiencia vivida en el mundo, nació en Kovno, Lituania, estudió filosofía en Estrasburgo y Freiburgo con los filósofos más prominentes. En 1930 publicó su tesis en Francia: “La Teoría de la Intuición en la Fenomenología de Husserl”. El primero de sus muchos libros sobre filosofía. En ’39 se nacionalizó francés, participó en un movimiento clandestino contra los nazis, lo apresaron y lo enviaron a un campo de trabajo para oficiales franceses. Su familia que se encontraba en Lituania fue asesinada. Su esposa y su hija fueron ocultadas por religiosas en Orleans y sobrevivieron la guerra, igual que Emannuel Levinas, quien no dejo de pensar y elaborar su filosofía en el campo de trabajo, allí empezó a escribir su obra “Existencia y Existente”.

Aunque su primer idioma fue el hebreo no fue expuesto a una educación religiosa, en ’47 se inició en el  estudio del Talmud , por insistencia de un amigo, con Chouchani, gran especialista del Talmud, cinco años más tarde, cuando el maestro se fue a Israel, Levinas siguió estudiando con el grupo de sus seguidores.

En ’57, el historiador Edmond Fleg creo un fórum que había de dar a los jóvenes intelectuales la oportunidad de conocer un judaísmo diferente al ofrecido en las sinagogas, con el apoyo de Levinas y otros intelectuales, se creó el “Coloquio de Intelectuales Judíos en Lengua Francesa”. Cada año se organiza un Coloquio sobre un tema central en el judaísmo, como perdón, Shabat, etc. O sobre temas relevantes a la comunidad intelectual general, en ’68 el Coloquio fue a propósito de La Juventud o Judaísmo y Revolución, seguido de discusiones y debates.

En ’60 Levinas empezó a usar el Talmud como texto básico. Su primera presentación –Lectura- fue “Tiempos Mesiánicos y Tiempos Históricos en el Capítulo XI del Tratado de Sanhedrin”. Empezó diciendo que era una empresa muy atrevida para quien no era “Talmud-jajam” y siguió adelante. Cada año presentaba una lectura talmúdica que conectaba con el tema general del coloquio. La primera lectura se publicó en 1963, dos años después de “Totalidad e Infinito”, considerado como uno de los libros de filosofía más importantes del siglo XX. Las Lecturas se publicaron en cinco libros hasta su muerte en 1995, con el título” Lecturas del Talmud” – la traducción literal del título es “Leyendo el Talmud.” La última Lectura se publicó un año después.

Una de las características de la relación de Levinas con el Talmud es: “El Talmud como medio para expresar en griego (cualquier otro idioma occidental) lo que Grecia no pudo expresar.”

Para la filosofía tradicional, la metafísica se basa en la ontología y la ontología defiende la primacía del ser en general sobre el otro en particular.

Desde el inicio de su filosofar, Levinas se opuso a ese principio y empezó a desarrollar una fenomenología del otro dirigida a sus implicaciones éticas, el fundamento de su filosofía.

El Talmud le ofreció la posibilidad de demostrar que “el interés en el otro no es un ejercicio meramente teorético o retórico. En sus Lecturas, Levinas analiza situaciones humanas y las expresa en términos filosóficos que la tradición metafísica no comprehendía. El Talmud, como cualquier gran texto, es transferible más allá del tiempo y lugar de su redacción y provee un medio alternativo para expresar lo que los griegos no pudieron exponer.

El Talmud dice que la persona debe restringirse en el momento de un enfrentamiento. Según la enseñanza de Rabi Ila’a, “El mundo subsiste solo al través del mérito de quien se restringe en una riña” – bolem atzmo beshaat meriva. Se trata de interesarse en el bienestar del otro al punto en que voluntariamente deja que el interés del otro  preceda al propio, hasta restringirse a nada, para Levinas esto es lo que el Talmud enseña sobre el mundo y el papel del hombre en el.

Según tomado de, http://diariojudio.com/opinion/el-talmud-y-levinas/274214/

The Search for God: The Struggle to Achieve the Greatness of Halachic Living

By Rabbi Jonathan Lopes Cardozo

There is little doubt that Halacha greatly complicates life for the religious Jew. There is no other religion that requires so much dedication and includes so much emphasis on detail. There is hardly a nook or cranny of a Jew’s life in which Halacha does not make its demands. Many halachic volumes and responsa have been written about minor issues, seemingly blowing them out of all proportion.

The exact amount of matzah that must be eaten on the Pesach Seder night is a case in point. The law requires the consumption of a ke-zayit (a unit of volume approximately equal to the size of an olive) to fulfill one’s obligation. But what is the size of an olive? For hundreds of years, halachic scholars have debated this question, even including what is the weight of an olive. Is today’s olive equal in size to the olive from the time of the Bible or of the Talmud? Many opinions have been suggested, and to this day a substantial number of religious Jews will adhere to one and reject others, believing that only a larger measurement will ensure that one has completely fulfilled one’s obligation according to all opinions.

The same is true about the lulav and etrog. How tall must a lulav be? How green do the leaves have to be so that they are not considered dry? What if the etrog is not completely spotless? Is it still religiously valid? What is the correct size? What happens when its pitom, which biologists call its “stigma” (a flowered blossom protruding at the top), has been partially damaged? Thousands of questions like these are found in the Talmud and in the writings of later authorities.

To this day, the religious Jew takes delight in these debates and, in fact, discusses them as if his life depends on it. To an outsider this looks altogether ludicrous, and the dismissal of it all as “hair-splitting” is well known. One wonders what people would say if they were told that their Christmas tree has to be of a certain measurement, with a particular number of leaves and ornaments. What if there were to be major differences of opinion among the authorities on whether the leaves must be fully green or may include some spots that are a bit yellow? And what if God forbid one ornament is missing or damaged?

What is behind this obsessive way in which Halacha deals with all these issues? What has this to do with religion? Isn’t religion the realm of the soul, of deep emotions and beliefs?

In Devarim, we find a verse that directly deals with our problem:

Safeguard the month of the early ripening [Nissan] and bring the Pesach offering unto the Lord your God, for in the month of the early ripening the Lord your God took you out of Egypt at night.[1]

According to Jewish tradition, this verse instructs the people of Israel to ensure that Pesach, which commemorates one the most important events in Jewish history, will always be celebrated in the spring. Rabbi Obadiah Sforno, the great Italian commentator in the 15-16th centuries, comments on this verse in a most original way:

Guard with constant care that Nissan will fall in the spring by means of the ibbur, the aligning of the lunar and solar months through calculations, so that the lunar and solar years are equal.

A careful reading of Sforno’s comment seems to reveal a most daring thesis, which directly deals with our question. Since the lunar year has fewer days than the solar year, and since the Jewish year is, to a great extent, based on the lunar year, it is necessary, after a few lunar years, to add an extra month—Adar Sheini, around March—to make sure that Nissan (and therefore Pesach) will fall in the spring and not in the winter.

In that case, alludes Rabbi Sforno, there is a most important question: Why does the Jewish calendar not simply follow a solar year? If, in any case, we must make sure that Pesach falls in the spring, what is the purpose of consistently following lunar years, if eventually one has to align these with the solar years?

His answer is most telling: so as to complicate life and live in amazement. In order to make sure that the month of Nissan and the festival of Pesach will always fall in the spring, one has to make difficult astronomical calculations. The Torah deliberately complicated the Jewish year by modeling it on a lunar year, so that Nissan would not automatically fall in the spring, and so that the Sages would have to make complicated calculations. Sure, it would have been much easier to follow the solar year. But that would have come with a serious religious setback. “A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner,” says the English proverb.

Judaism wants to make the Sages and the Jewish community constantly aware that they live in the presence of God, and to accomplish that goal life must be complicated and an ongoing challenge! Only through constant occupation with the divine commandments and their minutiae, and only by confronting the obstacles to implementing these commandments, can one be cognizant of God’s presence.

Religion’s main task is to disturb. To make sure that in our day-to-day life, and on a very pragmatic level, we do not take anything for granted. It is through challenges and complications that we are constantly surprised. These give birth to wonder, which then reminds us of God’s presence. It is not philosophical contemplation that brings God closer to man. God is not an intellectual issue but the ultimate reality of life. Only in the deed, in the down-to-earth and heart-rending existence of daily life, which asks for sweat and blood, does one escape superficiality and enter awareness and attentiveness. By studying astronomy, encountering major complexities, and using scientific instruments for the purpose of ensuring that Pesach falls in the spring, the Sages were forced to find solutions, which then made them aware of the sheer uniqueness of this world. Their total commitment to a biblical commandment, including the need to investigate, discuss and implement it, gave them a sense of the mystery of life. Through the constant wonder that accompanied them in their search and ultimate resolution, they became aware of the living God.

This idea runs contrary to our way of thinking. If anything, Western civilization looks for ways to make life less complicated. Many of our scientific inventions are founded on this premise. And no doubt this is of great importance. Man’s life should be less complicated. It would grant him more time to enjoy life, to investigate elements of spirituality, and to search for deep, sacred beauty.

But in these matters it is ongoing effort that is required. Were that not to be the case, one would fall into devastating boredom, which, after all, is the result of no longer noticing the uniqueness of our lives. This has disastrous consequences for the human spirit. It will slowly die. To live means to stay alert, to take notice. When it comes to the spirit, man should never live an effortless and uncomplicated life.

Scientific research has often revealed parts of our universe that can stir the heart of man in ways that were not possible in earlier times. Scientists dedicate their lives to the minutest properties of our physical world. They are fascinated with and often even carried away by the behavior of cells, the habits of insects and the peculiarities of the DNA code. God is in the details, goes the saying.

So, too, halachic authorities look for the smallest details so as to make man sensitive to every fine point of his life. By making us careful about how much matzah to eat, what size lulav to use, and to what extent our etrog should be spotless, they create a subconscious awareness in us of every dimension of life. Everything is put under a microscope in order to ensure that we never take anything as a given.(A.J.Heschel)  Halacha is an anti-boredom device. It is the microscopic search for God.

Indeed, Judaism’s main purpose is to complicate life so as to create a psychological environment that makes the Jew constantly aware of living in the presence of God and enjoying it to the fullest. This is in no way an eccentric observation; it is consistent with the very purpose of religious life.

Religion is a protest against taking life for granted. There are no insignificant phenomena or deeds in this world, and it is through Judaism’s demands and far-reaching interference in our daily life that we are made aware of God as our steadfast Companion.

This is clearly the meaning of the famous talmudic statement by Rabbi Chanania ben Akashia[2] when he said: “The Holy One blessed be He desired to make Israel worthy, therefore He gave them Torah and mitzvot in abundance, as it is said: ‘God desires for the sake of His righteousness that the Torah be expanded and strengthened’[3].”

But all this comes at a heavy price: One of the great challenges confronting Judaism today is the problem of behaviorism. This habitual performance is the result of getting used to the way Judaism informs man to respond to all aspects of life, which should be nothing less than extraordinary, but for many of us it no longer is.

The observance of Halacha for the sake of observance can easily lead to “hair splitting,” when man becomes a robot, is obsessed with detail, and can no longer see the forest for the trees. This, in turn, drives him to fanatic behavior.

Halachic living has become self-defeating for many of us. It actually encourages what it wishes to prevent: observing Halacha by rote, and failing to see the extraordinary. New ways must be found to prevent this phenomenon. We must teach Halacha as a musical symphony in which all students see opportunities to discover their inner selves. Halacha teachers must stand in front of their classes as a conductor stands before his orchestra and draws it out of its confinement, moving it beyond itself. They must show their students how to pull the ineffable out of the dry halacha and turn it into an encounter with God, the Source of all mystery, turning the world into a place of utter amazement where one lives in a constant state of awe and surprise. This will be possible only when we take a new look at ourselves and ask who we are and why we live. But as long as the real man is crushed, hiding behind his own superficiality, no halacha will accomplish its goal. We live on the fringes of this world and have lost contact with our inner selves. Halacha then becomes an external entity, cut off from its living roots.

No halacha can be taught in a vacuum. It can be transmitted only when all of life is present. We must ensure that we can see all of life reflected in one detail of the halacha, infused with all the colors life offers us. This is impossible when the codes of Jewish law are taught as self-contained works. They are just the outer shells of the music behind the notes. Just as musical notes are useless unless you play your own music with these notes, so studying the codes is a meaningless undertaking unless with these notes we hear and play the music that cries out from our inner selves.

Sure, it is the duty of halachic authorities to find solutions to difficult problems and make Jewish life as easy as possible by advocating lenient rulings. But never at the expense of making life boring. It is their duty to make life enjoyable and uplifting. But that can only come about by making people to live in amazement and wonder.

In a play on Nietzsche’s observation that “anyone who has looked deeply into the world may guess how much wisdom lies in the superficiality of men”,[4] I would suggest that one of the great tragedies of today’s halachic man is his obliviousness to how much profundity his halachic superficiality hides.

To paraphrase Abraham Joshua Heschel:

Halacha is of no importance unless it is of supreme importance.

NOTES

[1] Devarim 16:1.

[2] Tractate Makkot 23b.

[3] Isaiah 42:21.

[4] Freidrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future (NY: Dover Publications, 1997) p. 45.

As taken from, https://www.cardozoacademy.org/thoughts-to-ponder/the-search-for-god-the-greatness-of-halachic-living/