Monthly Archives: January 2019

How Shabbat Observance Has Preserved the Jewish People

by Pini Dunner

The interior of the famous “Grande Synagogue” in Paris. Photo: Reuters/Yoan Valat.

Sometime in the 18th century, a group of Russian-Orthodox Christians revolted against the strict hierarchical religious environment of Russian-Orthodoxy and embraced Judaism — or at least that is what they thought they were doing.

This group soon became known as Subbotniki — “Sabbath observers” — as a result of their decision to adopt Saturday as a holy day, and to observe Shabbat.

The lack of any ethnic Jewish origins of this unusual religious sect has fascinated scholars ever since they were discovered and studied by anthropologists and historians during the 19th century.

The sect — also known as Shaposhniki (“hat wearers”) — first appeared prior to the Russian Empire’s annexation of the areas in Poland later referred to as “the Pale of Settlement,” which was home to a significant Jewish population. Before that time Jews were not permitted to live in Imperial Russia — and although Subbotniks were eager to claim Jewish descent, it would appear that their Jewish-inspired belief system was entirely self-generated, evident from the absence of any Hebrew in their liturgy, and also from the non-existence, at least initially, of any laws or customs originating in the Talmud.

Unsurprisingly, the Subbotniks were viciously persecuted, despised both by the state and by the devoutly Christian population. By the end of the 1830s most of them had been exiled from European Russia to Siberia or the Caucasus. Additionally, Subbotnik children were forcibly taken from their parents and given to Christian families for adoption.

In the late 1800s, a large contingent of Subbotniks who had formally converted to Judaism joined the first wave of aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, and a number of Israel’s most prominent public figures were descended from these Subbotnik immigrants, including Ariel Sharon, whose mother Vera Schneirov-Scheinermann was of Subbotnik descent, and former Chief of Staff and Cabinet Minister Raful Eitan.

Today, there are approximately 20,000 Subbotniks scattered across the former Soviet Union, mainly in tiny communities that are shrinking and disappearing at a rapid rate. Some efforts have been made to bring them to Israel, but this is complicated by the lack of certainty as to their Jewish identity and their consequent exclusion from the Law of Return.

Earlier this week, I found myself thinking about this obscure quasi-Jewish sect while trying to figure out a puzzling Talmudic reference to Shabbat observance.

The Talmud (Sab. 118b) quotes the Babylonian sage Rav: “Had the Jewish people properly observed the first Shabbat … no nation would have ever ruled over them.”

Rav goes on to cite a source text from Beshalach to prove the nation had flunked their very first Shabbat-observance test (Ex. 16:27): “and it was on the seventh day, some of the nation went out to gather [manna] but they did not find it.” Having been given specific instructions regarding restrictions on Shabbat, there were still those who disregarded Moses and went to look for manna.

Tosafot (Sab. 87b) is mystified by Rav’s assertion that the first Shabbat had been defiled. A few verses earlier, the narrative describes an incident at Marah (Ex. 15:25).

According to the Talmud (San. 56b), at Marah, Moses told the nation about Shabbat, and stressed its centrality to the Jewish faith. There is no indication whatsoever that the nation desecrated this Shabbat, which was their actual first — a fact that rather undermines Rav’s assertion about the long-term negative effect of the nation’s failure to observe their first Shabbat.

Rabbi Judah Loew, the Maharal of Prague, suggests an intriguing solution to this obvious contradiction. The Shabbat defined by Moses at Marah involved positive precepts, but no restrictions. Only later on, when the rules regarding manna were handed down — rules that included restrictions concerning the collection of manna on Shabbat — did the observance of this holy day of rest take on real meaning. And it was these flouted restrictions that Rav proclaimed had resulted in Jewish suffering at the hands of gentile nations.

The Maharal’s explanation is profound. Nothing worthwhile can ever be defined purely by what it is; indeed, something only has meaning when contrasted with what it is not. Shabbat is a day devoted to God because it is a day when we desist from our mundane daily tasks. Without these associated restrictions, all the actions of Shabbat lack true meaningfulness and depth.

Rabbi Hershel Shachter of Yeshiva University takes this idea even further. By definition, the concept of sanctity necessitates prohibitions. For example, a kohen (priest) is considered sanctified as a result of the restrictions imposed on him regarding who he cannot marry, and the fact that he is restricted from any contact with the dead. The land of Israel is considered sanctified as a result of the many restrictions placed upon any produce that grows there.

Similarly, Shabbat is holy because of the many activities that are prohibited on that day. Our challenge is to take this time sanctified by restrictions and turn it into a meaningful holy day via the medium of mandated and permitted actions.

Although the Subbotniks denied the divinity of Jesus, and rejected the notion of a Second Coming, it was not their heresy that defined them for the Russian authorities. It was their observance of Shabbat. And indeed, it was this aspect of their religious sectarianism that gave them their name. Not the fact that they gathered in their houses of worship on Saturdays and prayed, but because they refused to work on Saturdays, and took upon themselves, to the best of their knowledge, all the restrictions of Shabbat observance.

Ahad Ha’am famously quipped: “More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews” – an astounding observation from someone who had himself abandoned Shabbat observance in favor of cultural Judaism. But notwithstanding his own drift away from Shabbat observance, on this point, he hit the nail squarely on its head.

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Posted by on January 18, 2019 in Uncategorized


The Divided Sea: Natural or Supernatural?

by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

The splitting of the Reed Sea is engraved in Jewish memory. We recite it daily during the morning service, at the transition from the Verses of Praise to the beginning of communal prayer. We speak of it again after the Shema, just before the Amidah. It was the supreme miracle of the exodus. But in what sense?

If we listen carefully to the narratives, we can distinguish two perspectives. This is the first:

The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left…The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. (Exodus 14:22, 28-29)

The same note is struck in the Song at the Sea:

By the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up.

The surging waters stood firm like a wall;

The deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea. (Ex. 15:8)

The emphasis here is on the supernatural dimension of what happened. Water, which normally flows, stood upright. The sea parted to expose dry land. The laws of nature were suspended. Something happened for which there can be no scientific explanation.

However, if we listen carefully, we can also hear a different note:

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. (Ex. 14:21)

Here there is not a sudden change in the behaviour of water, with no apparent cause. God brings a wind that, in the course of several hours, drives the waters back. Or consider this passage:

During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. The Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.” (Ex. 14:24-25).

The emphasis here is less on miracle than on irony. The great military assets of the Egyptians—making them almost invulnerable in their day—were their horses and chariots. These were Egypt’s specialty. They still were, in the time of Solomon, five centuries later:

Solomon accumulated chariots and horses; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses, which he kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem…They imported a chariot from Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty. (I Kings 10:26-29)

Viewed from this perspective, the events that took place could be described as follows: The Israelites had arrived at the Reed Sea at a point at which it was shallow. Possibly there was a ridge in the sea bed, normally covered by water, but occasionally—when, for example, a fierce east wind blows—exposed. This is how the Cambridge University physicist Colin Humphreys puts it in his The Miracles of Exodus:

Wind tides are well known to oceanographers. For example, a strong wind blowing along Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes, has produced water elevation differences of as much as sixteen feet between Toledo, Ohio, on the west, and Buffalo, New York, on the east…There are reports that Napoleon was almost killed by a “sudden high tide” while he was crossing shallow water near the head of the Gulf of Suez.[1]

In the case of the wind that exposed the ridge in the bed of the sea, the consequences were dramatic. Suddenly the Israelites, traveling on foot, had an immense advantage over the Egyptian chariots that were pursuing them. Their wheels became stuck in the mud. The charioteers made ferocious efforts to free them, only to find that they quickly became mired again. The Egyptian army could neither advance nor retreat. So intent were they on the trapped wheels, and so reluctant were they to abandon their prized war machines, the chariots, that they failed to notice that the wind had dropped and the water was returning. By the time they realised what was happening, they were trapped. The ridge was now covered with sea water in either direction, and the island of dry land in the middle was shrinking by the minute. The mightiest army of the ancient world was defeated, and its warriors drowned, not by a superior army, not by human opposition at all, but by their own folly in being so focused on capturing the Israelites that they ignored the fact that they were driving into mud where their chariots could not go.

We have here two ways of seeing the same events: one natural, the other supernatural. The supernatural explanation—that the waters stood upright—is immensely powerful, and so it entered Jewish memory. But the natural explanation is no less compelling. The Egyptian strength proved to be their weakness. The weakness of the Israelites became their strength. On this reading, what was significant was less the supernatural, than the moral dimension of what happened. God visits the sins on the sinners. He mocks those who mock Him. He showed the Egyptian army, which revelled in its might, that the weak were stronger than they—just as He later did with the pagan prophet Bilaam, who prided himself in his prophetic powers and was then shown that his donkey (who could see the angel Bilaam could not see) was a better prophet than he was.

To put it another way: a miracle is not necessarily something that suspends natural law. It is, rather, an event for which there may be a natural explanation, but which—happening when, where and how it did—evokes wonder, such that even the most hardened sceptic senses that God has intervened in history. The weak are saved; those in danger, delivered. More significant still is the moral message such an event conveys: that hubris is punished by nemesis; that the proud are humbled and the humble given pride; that there is justice in history, often hidden but sometimes gloriously revealed.

This idea can be taken further. Emil Fackenheim has spoken of “epoch-making events” that transform the course of history.[2] More obscurely, but along similar lines, the French philosopher Alain Badiou has proposed the concept of an “event” as a “rupture in ontology” through which individuals are brought face to face with a truth that changes them and their world.[3] It is as if all normal perception fades away and we know that we are in the presence of something momentous, to which we sense we must remain faithful for the rest of our lives. “The appropriation of Presence is mediated by an event.”[4] It is through transformative events that we feel ourselves addressed, summoned, by something beyond history, breaking through into history. In this sense, the division of the Reed Sea was something other and deeper than a suspension of the laws of nature. It was the transformative moment at which the people “believed in the Lord and in Moses His servant” (Ex. 14:31) and called  themselves “the people You acquired” (Ex. 15:16).

Not all Jewish thinkers focused on the supernatural dimension of God’s involvement in human history. Maimonides insisted that “Israel did not believe in Moses our teacher because of the signs he performed.”[5] What made Moses the greatest of the prophets, for Maimonides, is not that he performed supernatural deeds but that, at Mount Sinai, he brought the people the word of God.

In general, the sages tended to downplay the dimension of the miraculous, even in the case of the greatest miracle of all, the division of the sea. That is the meaning of the following Midrash, commenting on the verse, “Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its full flow [le-eitano]” (Ex.14:27):

Rabbi Jonathan said: The Holy One, blessed be He, made a condition with the sea [at the beginning of creation], that it should split asunder for the Israelites. That is the meaning of “the sea went back to its full flow” – [read not le-eitano but] letenao, “the condition” that God had earlier stipulated.[6]

The implication is that the division of the sea was, as it were, programmed into creation from the outset.[7] It was less a suspension of nature than an event written into nature from the beginning, to be triggered at the appropriate moment in the unfolding of history.

We even find an extraordinary debate among the sages as to whether miracles are a sign of merit or the opposite. The Talmud[8] tells the story of a man whose wife died, leaving a nursing child. The father was too poor to be able to afford a wet-nurse, so a miracle occurred and he himself gave milk until the child was weaned. On this, the Talmud records the following difference of opinion:

Rav Joseph said: Come and see how great was this man that such a miracle was wrought for him. Abaye said to him: On the contrary, how inferior was this man, that the natural order was changed for him.

According to Abaye, greater are those to whom good things happen without the need for miracles. The genius of the biblical narrative of the crossing of the Reed Sea is that it does not resolve the issue one way or another. It gives us both perspectives. To some the miracle was the suspension of the laws of nature. To others, the fact that there was a naturalistic explanation did not make the event any less miraculous. That the Israelites should arrive at the sea precisely where the waters were unexpectedly shallow, that a strong east wind should blow when and how it did, and that the Egyptians’ greatest military asset should have proved their undoing—all these things were wonders, and we have never forgotten them.

Shabbat shalom

[1] Colin Humphreys, The Miracles of Exodus, Continuum, 2003, 247-48. For a similar analysis see James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition, Oxford University Press, 1996, p199-215.

[2] Emil Fackenheim, To Mend the World, New York, Schocken, 1982, p14-20.

[3] Alain Badiou, Being and Event, trans. Oliver Feltham, Continuum, 2006.

[4] Ibid. p255.

[5] Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Yesodei ha-Torah 8:1.

[6] Genesis Rabbah 5:5.

[7] In general, the sages said that all future miracles were created at twilight at the end of the six days of creation (Mishnah, Avot 5:6).

[8] Shabbat 53b.

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Posted by on January 16, 2019 in Uncategorized


Why I (Refuse to) Pray

Recently, I have been invited to respond to ten personal questions asked by Rav Ari Ze’ev Schwartz of Yerushalayim. I have agreed to answer them honestly and to the best of my ability.

Here is the second question and my response. (For the first question, see

I thank Rabbi Schwartz for posing these questions.

Question two

A recurring theme in your writings is that Jewish spirituality must not only be understood intellectually but experienced personally by each individual. I therefore want to ask you a personal question about your own spiritual experience. Could you describe what it is like for Rabbi Cardozo to pray each day?

Nathan Lopes Cardozo: It is a major problem and demands enormous effort. There are days when praying goes easily, and other times when it is nearly impossible. I am not always clear on why that is. First of all, it seems to me that it depends on what mood I’m in—exalted, or low in spirit. Why these moods take place (besides being due to normal daily stresses) is also a mystery to me. It obviously has a lot to do with the subconscious, which often brings to the fore feelings we are not even aware of. We carry the memory of many generations with us, and I suppose that has a lot to do with it.

Secondly, I am confronted with the question of whether there is any point in praying: God does not need my praises. In fact, it is somewhat of a chutzpah. Goethe once said: Wer einen lobt, stellt sich ihm gleich— he who praises another places himself on the level of the other.

Moreover, God is the greatest threat to conventional religion, since the greatness of God renders it absurd that He needs our worship. And when it comes to asking for help and sustenance, He already knows what I need. And He already knows that I’m going to pray for it. (One of the great paradoxes in the God idea).

So for me, praying is the admission that we need His help and that we are NOT God! I have to make myself aware that I need to praise Him because I am not His equal; not because He needs me for anything. This is indeed Maimonides’ point of view, which he discusses in great length in the first chapters of his monumental Guide for the Perplexed. If average religious Jews would fully understand what Maimonides actually says, they would be in total shock. After all, what he claims is that any worship of God is essentially impossible and hopeless, and that one can only approach Him in total silence, without any action. (By making these points, Maimonides actually lays the foundations for Spinoza’s pantheism.) Having said this, he tries hard to reconcile it with the world of action and Halacha. A major tour de force showing Maimonides’ genius. In our days, it was Abraham Joshua Heschel who tried to solve this problem by proposing that God is in need of man and even experiences pathos.[1]

Thirdly, there are times—such as after a terrorist attack or earthquake, or when having just read about a monstrous episode during the Holocaust (I’m now again reading Elie Wiesel’s Night)—when I feel a strong urge to rebel and protest to God, to tell Him that I am absolutely not prepared to praise Him. That I would like to storm the heavens and accuse Him of complete negligence, of having a hand in these evil deeds, and, in fact, of making these deeds possible. (To deny His existence is, in my opinion, a cop-out. But that’s a story on its own.)

These are deeply emotional moments. Very hard to endure. I even have these childish feelings of wanting to deliberately violate one of the commandments to express my protest.

The only reason I don’t, is because I also stand in awe and am incredibly impressed by the magnitude of His creation. I see the enormity of good that is in the universe, and I know that my brain is too small to ever grasp Him and that these moments of rebellion are nothing more than the result of my arrogance. But Oh, so human! The same is true about the miraculous survival, against all odds, of the Jewish people, its astonishing influence on this world, and the transforming impact of the Torah on mankind. They are only explainable in terms of radical wonder.

All of this awakens in me a deep need to pray. I get carried away by all this beauty and wisdom, just as I get carried away by great music such as Mendelsohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1. And the latter is minor compared to what I feel about the former!

I constantly catch myself speaking to God, expressing my awe and thanks. But I must admit that I sometimes express my annoyance to Him as well. And I don’t regret that.

In other words: I go back and forth between my left and right brain, which represent opposite parts of being human.[2]

I am not a “Shulchan Aruch Yid,” someone who carefully follows every detail of the celebrated codex of Halacha, written by the great Rabbi Josef Karo (1488-1575), because I consider that dangerous. Any religious codification carries risky elements. One cannot acquire religiosity from an established codex without losing the complexity of genuine religious life.

The Shulchan Aruch and Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah were meant for the general population, but not for people like me; not because I am better, but because I am different. And it will be good to realize that there are many more people like me who cannot find themselves within this structure, which may be too narrow for them. Looking into the Talmud, one is offered many more options—including minority opinions and suggestions—all part of this great Torah Sheba’al Peh, the Oral Torah, of which many insights already existed long before the days of Mishna and Talmud, and which was cut short when it was written down. The Oral Torah may have included many other options that we are not even aware of, but which probably gave people a much broader base to build their religious life on, and which allowed for much more spiritual autonomy. How to rediscover them is a long and complex story.

So, I also do not always pray Mincha and Maariv. Depends on what my religious condition is. In other words: I follow the original halacha, which states that one should not pray when one is not in the right spiritual position. As Rambam clearly states:

Every prayer without kavana [devotion] is not a prayer, and when one prays without devotion one should pray again. And when one is confused and one’s heart is heavy, it is forbidden to pray until his mind is settled. Therefore, if somebody returns from a journey and he is tired or tense, it is forbidden to pray until his mind is settled. Said the Sages: He should wait three days until he has properly rested and his mind is settled, and only then should he pray.[3]

And I change parts of the Shacharit prayers, depending on how I feel about them, although I try to keep to the overall structure. Truth is that in earlier days there were no fixed prayers. They were completely spontaneous, and it was even forbidden to compose a fixed prayer book.[4] While not easy, I wonder whether it would not be wise to introduce spontaneous prayer again for those who are in sincere need of it. And there are many!

But what should be clear is that I am very disturbed that I frequently don’t manage to pray Mincha and Maariv as the Sages wanted us to do. Indeed, I sometimes make up my own prayers instead, when I feel that that works better for me. What I’m absolutely not prepared to do is just go through the motions when I feel that I will surely not succeed. There is something insincere about it.

This is unlike other commandments such as tefillin, because it is the deed of tefillin that is the crucial part, not the intention. Prayer, however, is completely different. It has no meaning if there is no intention. What I do succeed in doing is saying the Shema with great concentration. However, this is not a prayer but rather the most central declaration of Judaism.

While I believe that there is much beauty and profundity in the words of the prayer book, the constant repetition of these words is counterproductive for me. But that’s true for me; others may need a three-times-a-day structure, which I greatly appreciate…but cannot join.

Nobody should take an example from me if they feel differently, and they should definitely not misuse these observations in order to make it easier for themselves and subsequently be negligent in their devotion or prayer! To accuse me of insincerity, as some have done, is entirely missing the point. One should remember the wise observations of our Sages: Kol ha-posel be-mumo posel: He who accuses someone of having a defect usually does so because he himself has that defect.[5]

I do not go to synagogue on weekdays, because I need to pray in solitude in order to be able to concentrate on making it “work.” On Shabbat, I go to all synagogue prayers (I am never late!)—not because of the prayers (sometimes I pray first at home), but because I want to be part of Am Yisrael and I like to hear the parashat hashavua, the weekly portion of the Torah.

But there is also another reason why I no longer go to synagogue on weekdays. I used to go every morning to a serious minyan and tried to put my neshama into my prayers. When a terrorist attack would take place (sometimes close to where I live in Yerushalayim) a few hours earlier or the night before, I was completely shocked when there was not the slightest change in the prayer service. I was sure that the shaliach tzibur, the person who led the prayers, would break down in the middle, or that somebody else would start sobbing or would at least have a few tears in his eyes. I myself had great difficulty saying any of the words and couldn’t concentrate. But none of this happened. Of course, it’s impossible to know what people are feeling inside, and they may not want to show their emotions. I was giving the synagogue members the benefit of the doubt. But when people walked out at the end of the service without uttering a word of what had just recently happened and started discussing their daily business and trivialities, as if nothing had happened, it became too much. This happened several times. (We’ve had our share of terror attacks. I lost several friends. My daughter and her children were once attacked by a mob of Arab terrorists surrounding their car and barely made it out alive.)

I suddenly realized that the prayer service had nothing to do with real life, or God. It stood as an island on its own. As if God had nothing to do with the tragedy that had just happened. Nobody asked Why; Nobody suggested that perhaps we should do something special in our service: add a prayer, say a few words, or meditate. It was not even discussed. I was waiting for somebody to walk out in protest, unable to endure the prayers. This would have been the ultimate form of real religiosity! I nearly did walk out but constrained myself out of doubt as to whether I had the religious credentials to do so. I want to emphasize that all these were fine, honest people. And I don’t doubt their integrity.

Sure, all of this may be the result of some kind of denial, to avoid confronting the huge question of why God permits such tragedies to happen. But after all is said and done, isn’t the synagogue the place where we encounter the living God and should at least respond to this? Has the synagogue turned into a place of atheism? Where are our prayers and their living meaning if not here? I believe that they, as well as I, have become deafened by all these prayers and have lost the connection because we pray too much.

Something similar happened when, after several tsunamis and other natural catastrophes took place, I suggested that our synagogue add one short prayer to ask God to have mercy and prevent such tragedies from happening. I had written a very short prayer  and suggested that it be said on Shabbat after the prayer for our soldiers, or that someone else should write such a prayer. My purpose was not so much to plead with God but to let our fellow Jews and our children know that we are not indifferent to what happens in the non-Jewish world, and that there’s no greater tragedy than apathy. In other words, a most important educational device. This suggestion fell on deaf ears. I got some highly questionable explanations as to why there was no point in saying this prayer, and I never heard anything more about it. Rest assured that the people who declined are my very best friends and good people.

Since my seventieth birthday I also “lay” the tefillin of Rabenu Tam.[6] It helps me feel closer to God. I am sure that some people will say that this is purely psychological, and perhaps that’s true. But it helps me to concentrate, and that is what counts!

Since I live in physical and existential loneliness (I am a great genius at being alone! See my short autobiography: Lonely but Not Alone), I need to experience people and want to feel them around me. I love people and am by nature very sociable. It gives me a deep feeling of being human while living in isolation.

Every Friday, I immerse myself in a mikva. This helps me to feel some kedusha (holiness), which makes praying easier, or rather, more profound. It turns me into a fighter and hopefully makes me a tiny bit more noble.

Sure, there are many other aspects to prayer, which I did not discuss, including the need for community prayer. Hopefully we will discuss them another time.

[1] See his God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism (New York: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1955). For a critique, see Eliezer Berkovits, “Dr. A. J. Heschels Theology of Pathos” in his Major Themes in Modern Philosophies of Judaism (New York: Ktav Publishing House, Inc., 1974.) See also Shai Held, Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2013).

[2] See: Jonathan Sacks, The Great Partnership: God, Science and the Search for Meaning (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2011).

[3] Rambam, Hilchot Tefilah 4:15. See, however, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim (98:2), which states that one should pray anyway, even without devotion. For me, it cheapens the concept of prayer and makes it pointless. After all, prayer is only prayer when it is done with devotion. Otherwise, it is nothing more than going through the motions. The Kotzker Rebbe called a person who offered a prayer today as he did yesterday worse than a scoundrel! (Abraham Joshua Heschel, A Passion for Truth, London: Secker & Warburg, pp.10-11.)

[4] See Shabbat 115b. For the history of the prayer book, see Ismar Elbogen, Der Judische Gottesdienst, 4th Edition (Hildesheim: George Olms, 1962) p. 8.

[5] Kiddushin 70a.

[6] There are two versions of tefillin. The standard one is called after Rashi, the other after Rabenu Tam. The difference is the order in which the parashiyot, the biblical passages, are arranged in the teffilin. Both types of teffilin precede these scholars by probably thousands of years.

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Posted by on January 16, 2019 in Uncategorized


¿Por qué le pasan cosas malas a la gente buena?

¿Por qué le pasan cosas malas a la gente buena?
por Rabino Benjamin Blech

Si Dios es bueno, ¿por qué el mundo es tan malo?

Buena parte de lo que nos molesta sobre los caminos de Dios puede ser atribuido a las acciones del hombre. ¿Pero qué hay de las veces en que el mal emana directamente de Dios?

¿Qué pasa si un doctor te informa que tu hijo tiene un cáncer incurable? Nadie ha herido a tu hijo. Este mal parece estar viniendo de Quien supuestamente sólo hace bien. Si hubiese sido que una persona malvada le hizo daño a tu hijo, quizás no lograrías perdonarla, pero al menos sabrías a quién culpar – a la maldad humana. Pero si Dios mismo es quien le ha hecho el daño a tu hijo, entonces eso es algo que simplemente es demasiado difícil de soportar.

Sin embargo, hay niños pequeños e inocentes que sufren cada día. E invariablemente nos preguntamos: ¿Cómo puede un Dios bueno ser tan cruel?

Esta pregunta también le molestó al más grandioso líder judío: Moshé. Él se atrevió a hacerle esta pregunta a Quien sabe la respuesta. Y esa sabiduría eterna es compartida con nosotros en el Libro de Éxodo. Es aquí, dice el Talmud, que la Torá habla por primera vez del problema de por qué sufren los rectos.

A primera vista, la sección pareciera críptica:

[Moshé] Dijo [a Dios]: “Te ruego que me muestres tu gloria”. Él [Dios] dijo: “Yo haré pasar toda mi bondad delante de ti, y proclamaré con el nombre de Ado-nai delante de ti; mostraré gracia cuando elija mostrar gracia y mostraré compasión cuando elija mostrar compasión”. Y dijo: “No podrás ver mi rostro, pues ningún ser humano puede verme y vivir”. Y dijo Ado-nai: “He aquí que hay un lugar conmigo; y tú podrás pararte sobre la roca. Y sucederá que cuando pase mi gloria, te pondré en una hendidura de la roca y te cubriré con mi mano hasta que Yo haya pasado. Luego retiraré mi mano y verás mi espalda, mas mi rostro no será visto” (Éxodo 33:18-23).

La mayoría de la gente que lee esto literalmente asume que Moshé le estaba pidiendo a Dios saber cómo se ve y, en respuesta, Dios no le mostró Su cara, sino que dejó que Moshé viese Sus poderosos omóplatos.

Eso es, obviamente, absurdo.

Cuando veo un bebé con leucemia, y sé que morirá pronto, no entiendo lo que Dios está haciendo.

El Talmud (Brajot 7a) nos cuenta que Moshé no estaba pidiendo “ver” a Dios; Moshé era más sabio que eso. Moshé sabía que Dios no tiene ni cuerpo ni forma y que, por lo tanto, no puede ser visto por los ojos humanos. Moshé le estaba pidiendo realmente “ver” Su gloria, para poder entender Su plan. De hecho, Moshé le estaba diciendo a Dios: “Dios, Te amo, honro y respeto en todas las formas posibles, pero hay cosas de ti que no entiendo. Cuando veo un niño con parálisis infantil, cuando veo un niño con leucemia, cuando veo un niño sufriendo mucho dolor y sé que va a morir pronto, no entiendo lo que estás haciendo. Y me gustaría mucho tener un entendimiento total de Tus caminos, para poder darte todo el honor que mereces”.

Es muy importante el hecho de que este pasaje aparezca después de que Dios perdonó a los israelitas por el terrible pecado del Becerro de Oro. Dios había sacado a los israelitas de la esclavitud en Egipto, había realizado increíbles milagros ante sus ojos, les había hablado en el Monte Sinaí y luego, cuando Moshé subió a la montaña, los israelitas le retribuyeron toda esta bondad rechazando a Dios y construyendo un ídolo. Y sin embargo, cuando fueron perdonados por este gran pecado, Dios no sólo los perdonó, sino que también respondió describiendo Su esencia como un Ser de completa misericordia y compasión.

Es en ese momento que Moshé eligió hacer este pedido, como diciendo: “Si eso es cierto, entonces ¿puedes explicar cómo Tu gloria está reflejada en el sufrimiento de los niños y en el regocijo de los malvados? ¿Puedes dejarme ver cómo todo eso tiene sentido?”.

En resumen, Moshé quería saber por qué le pasan cosas malas a la gente buena.

La respuesta de Dios contiene lo que Moshé, al igual que todos quienes estamos leyendo estas palabras miles de años después, tenemos derecho a saber.

Por lo tanto, observemos cuidadosamente, punto por punto, lo que Dios nos está diciendo.

La imagen completa

“Yo haré pasar toda mi bondad delante de ti, y proclamaré con el nombre de Ado-nai delante de ti”.

Los nombres con los que Dios se identifica a Sí Mismo son extremadamente importantes. Aquí, Él usa el incomparable nombre de cuatro letras, conocido como el Tetragramatón, el cual está prohibido pronunciar; generalmente es traducido como “Señor” (Ado-nai). Como fue notado antes, este nombre significa bondad y compasión, en contraste con el nombre Elo-him, que se refiere a Dios como el juez duro pero justo. Por lo tanto, vemos que Dios se revela a Moshé con el nombre que está relacionado con Su misericordia.

Una vez que logremos ver la imagen completa, veremos al sufrimiento como una manifestación del lado compasivo de Dios.

Se nos dice que “toda” la bondad de Dios será testimonio de la cualidad misericordiosa del Eterno. Y, por implicación, que una vez que hayamos visto “todo”, cambiaremos nuestro entendimiento del dolor y del sufrimiento. Ver sólo la mitad de la historia nos lleva a pensar que Dios es cruel, pero una perspectiva más completa nos permitirá entender por qué cada juicio estricto fue, en realidad, un acto necesario de amor.

Una vez que logremos ver toda la imagen, veremos al sufrimiento como una manifestación del lado compasivo de Dios.

“… mostraré gracia cuando elija mostrar gracia y mostraré compasión cuando elija mostrar compasión”.

¿Acaso Dios está diciendo: “Haré lo que quiera sin importar lo que sea justo”? No, no está diciendo eso. Pero sí está diciendo: “Tendré gracia con quien Yo quiera tener gracia, y no con quien tú creas que debería tener gracia. Tendré misericordia con quien Yo quiera ser compasivo, y no con quien tú creas que debería ser compasivo”.

El Talmud (Pesajim 50a) enseña que en el Mundo Venidero todo será dado vuelta. Quienes están en el fondo estarán en la cima y viceversa. El punto al que se refiere es que, a menudo, nuestro juicio sobre quién es santo y quién es un pecador está muy errado. La forma en que el mundo ofrece honor está literalmente dada vuelta. Sólo en la vida después de la muerte veremos quiénes son realmente los merecedores.

El Baal Shem Tov, fundador del movimiento jasídico en el siglo 18, explicó lo que esto significa por medio de una maravillosa historia:

En una cierta casa vivían dos judíos y sus familias. Uno era un erudito y el otro un pobre trabajador. Cada día el erudito se levantaba de su cama al amanecer e iba a la sinagoga, donde primero estudiaba una página del Talmud. Luego, como hacían los hombres piadosos de antaño, esperaba un momento, dirigía su corazón al cielo y decía las plegarias matutinas tranquila y lentamente, estirando su rezo hasta casi el mediodía.

Su vecino, el pobre trabajador, también se levantaba temprano e iba a trabajar –rompiéndose la espalda con un trabajo que exprimía cuerpo y alma por igual- hasta el mediodía, sin tener tiempo para ir a rezar a la sinagoga con la congregación a la hora que correspondía.

Cuando llegaba el mediodía, el erudito dejaba la sinagoga para volver a casa, lleno de satisfacción. Se había ocupado con Torá y plegaria, y había realizado escrupulosamente la voluntad de su Creador. Cuando iba volviendo de la sinagoga, se encontraba con su vecino, el pobre trabajador, quien iba con gran apremio a la casa de rezos, donde recitaría las plegarias matutinas con gran rapidez, angustiado y arrepentido por su tardanza. Ellos se cruzaban uno con el otro en la calle.

Cuando el pobre trabajador pasaba al lado de su vecino, hacía un gemido de lamento, enojado porque el otro ya había terminado su estudio y plegaria holgadamente antes de que él pudiera siquiera comenzar: “Oy, aquí estoy recién yendo al shul. Él ya ha terminado. Yo no lo he hecho bien, ¡ay, ay, ay!”. Mientras tanto, los labios del erudito hacían una mueca burlona, y en su corazón pensaba: Amo del Universo, ¿ves la diferencia entre esta criatura y yo? Ambos nos levantamos temprano en la mañana; yo me levanto para Torá y plegaria, pero él…

Pasaron los días, semanas, meses y años. Las vidas de ambos hombres fueron vividas de forma diferente, una con la libertad de la Torá y la plegaria, la otra en la esclavitud de tener que ganarse un sustento. Cada vez que sus caminos se cruzaban, el erudito sonreía burlonamente y el trabajador gruñía.

Como le pasa a todos los hombres, la muerte le llegó al erudito y, poco tiempo después, a su vecino el trabajador. El erudito fue llamado ante el tribunal celestial para rendir cuenta por sus acciones. “¿Qué has hecho con los días de tus años?”, preguntó la voz de arriba.

“Estoy agradecido”, contestó el erudito con la voz firme, en la que podía detectarse un poco de orgullo. “Todos mis días Le serví a mi Creador, estudiando mucha Torá y rezando de todo corazón”.

“Pero”, comentó el acusador celestial, “él siempre se burló de su vecino, el pobre trabajador, cuando se encontraban cerca de la sinagoga”. La voz de arriba dijo: “Traigan la balanza”.

De un lado, pusieron toda la Torá que había aprendido y todas las plegarias que había realizado, mientras que del otro lado pusieron las sonrisas burlonas que estuvieron en sus labios cada día en que se encontró con su vecino. Y entonces, el peso de las sonrisas burlonas inclinó la balanza hacia ‘culpable’.

Después de que el caso del erudito fue completado, llevaron delante del tribunal celestial al pobre trabajador. “¿Qué has hecho con tu vida?”, preguntó la voz de arriba.

“Toda mi vida he trabajado duro para proveer a mi esposa e hijos. No tuve tiempo para rezar con la congregación en el momento adecuado, y tampoco tuve el tiempo para estudiar mucha Torá, ya que había bocas hambrientas que alimentar”, respondió el trabajador avergonzado y con pena.

“Pero”, comentó el defensor celestial, “cada día, cuando se encontraba con su vecino el erudito, emitía un quejido desde lo más profundo de su alma. Sentía que no había cumplido con sus obligaciones con Hashem”.

De nuevo, se trajo la balanza, y esta vez el peso del quejido del pobre trabajador inclinó la balanza a ‘inocente’.

La misma idea fue explicada por el famoso talmudista y filósofo del siglo 12, Moshé Maimónides, en el Mishné Torá (Leyes de Arrepentimiento, 3:2). En su obra maestra él concluye que, ante los ojos de Dios, las buenas acciones de las personas, al igual que sus errores, son juzgados cualitativamente – y no cuantitativamente. Un pecado terrible puede pesar más que una vida entera de buenas acciones; una buena acción especial puede eliminar muchos pecados. Sólo Dios sabe realmente qué hay en el corazón de cada persona, al igual que el valor real de nuestras acciones.

Por lo que cuando Dios le dijo a Moshé: “Tendré misericordia con quien tenga misericordia”, le estaba diciendo: “Sé mejor que tú quién es justo y quién es malvado, quién merece y quién no. No presumas que puedes mejorar Mi juicio”.


“Y Él [Dios] dijo: ‘Ningún ser humano puede ver mi rostro y vivir'”.

¿Qué significa eso?

Moshé quiere “ver” a Dios, entender Sus caminos. Pero Dios le dice a Moshé: “Mientras estés vivo, nunca ‘verás’ todo”. La imagen completa no es visible desde nuestra limitada perspectiva en este mundo.

Imagina que estás parado con tu nariz aplastada sobre una pintura impresionista. En un lugar ves manchones del más asombroso azul, en otro hay un gran manchón de negro, en otro un manchón de blanco. No es sino hasta que te paras unos metros atrás que puedes ver lo que bosqueja la escena – es “Irises” de Van Gogh.

Esto es igual de cierto cuando se trata de entender los planes de Dios. En ocasiones vemos las partes coloridas, en ocasiones las oscuras, pero nunca podemos pararnos a la distancia suficiente como para ver toda la imagen. Pararse lo suficientemente lejos significa pararse en el mundo venidero.

Nuestra existencia aquí en la Tierra, y nuestra comprensión del significado real de nuestras vidas, es muy limitada. Ese es el mensaje que le da Dios a Moshé, y es el mismo mensaje que le da a Iov cuando ese hombre tan sufrido pidió entendimiento. Dios le dijo: “Los hechos a tu disposición, en el escenario de la vida, son insuficientes para el tipo de conocimiento que deseas poseer”.

En sociedad con Dios

Y dijo Ado-nai: “He aquí que hay un lugar conmigo; y tú podrás pararte sobre la roca”.

Para ayudar a Moshé a entender las razones de la presencia del mal en la tierra, Dios le dijo que se pare “a su lado”. Esta frase hace reminiscencia a una idea similar en Génesis: cuando el hombre es creado a imagen de Dios. El hombre recibió un rol – completar el trabajo de Dios – acorde a su grandeza. Se le dijo que él es un socio de Dios, que está arriba; no es sólo un observador pasivo aquí abajo.

¿Por qué se le dijo a Moshé que se ponga sobre una roca? Porque la palabra hebrea para roca, tzur, viene de una raíz que significa forma. La roca alude al propósito del hombre en la Tierra. Al igual que Dios es un Creador, también lo es el hombre. De hecho, el hombre es socio de Dios en la creación; un socio en la consumación y perfeccionamiento del mundo.

El mal es una manifestación de un mundo que aún es incompleto, esperando que el hombre haga su parte y termine el trabajo.

Para darle al hombre una oportunidad para ejercitar esta función, Dios ha dejado intencionalmente el mundo sin terminar; el mundo fue creado incompleto. Eso es lo que significa que Dios descansó al final del sexto día. Es obvio que Dios no estaba cansado, “Dios descansó” significa que se detuvo a la mitad del trabajo. ¿Por qué? Para que el hombre tuviera la oportunidad de colaborar en perfeccionar el mundo. Dios permite la existencia de enfermedades para que el hombre pueda tener un rol inventando curas. Dios permite hambrunas para que el hombre pueda tomar parte inventando nuevos métodos de agricultura. Dios permite que haya sequías para que el hombre pueda participar en el acercar al mundo a su estado ideal inventando nuevos métodos de irrigación, y construyendo represas y plantas de desalinización

Por lo tanto, el mal en el mundo simplemente nos señala el trabajo que aún tenemos que hacer. El mal es una manifestación de un mundo que aún está incompleto, que está esperando que el hombre haga su parte y termine el trabajo.

“Y sucederá que cuando pase mi gloria, te pondré en una hendidura de la roca y te cubriré con mi mano hasta que Yo haya pasado. Luego retiraré mi mano y verás mi espalda, mas mi rostro no será visto”.

Aquí que es brindada la parte más importante de la respuesta. Al decirle a Moshé que no podrá ver Su cara, pero sí Su espalda, Dios está diciendo que será imposible que Moshé entienda los eventos mientras estén ocurriendo. Pero después, en retrospectiva, será posible entender lo que ocurrió.

Mientras estés confrontando una crisis, mientras estés en el medio de la tormenta, no podrás comprender el objetivo ni la lógica de Dios. Pero una vez que la crisis haya pasado, mirando hacia atrás en el tiempo te será posible entender los caminos de Dios.

Todos podemos mencionar eventos de nuestras vidas que parecieron ser terribles cuando ocurrieron, pero que cuando los vemos en retrospectiva resultaron ser buenos. Un hombre está apurado camino al aeropuerto. Se le pincha un neumático y entra en pánico – sabe que va a perder el avión. Está enojado con el destino. En ese momento, parece ser algo terriblemente malo. Cambia el neumático y maneja como un loco hasta llegar al aeropuerto, pero no sirve de nada – el avión ha despegado sin él. Una hora más tarde, se entera que el avión se estrelló. Ahora, la rueda pinchada que tanto maldijo unas horas antes, resultó ser una bendición.

Hay una historia memorable que es contada en el Talmud (Brajot 60b), la cual enseña el principio de “esto también es para bien”:

El renombrado erudito del siglo 1 EC, Rabi Akiva, iba viajando en burro por un pequeño pueblo y no pudo encontrar albergue en ningún hostal. Se lo tomó con calma y asumió que sus dificultades tenían un propósito divino. Acampó en los bosques, en la periferia del pueblo, feliz de tener su linterna para poder leer y su gallo para levantarse en la mañana. Pero enseguida fue visitado por más calamidades – su burro huyó, su gallo murió y su linterna se apagó. Pero Rabi Akiva aceptó pacientemente su destino.

A la mañana siguiente, cuando volvió al pueblo, encontró que una banda de pilladores había masacrado toda la población. De repente, entendió cada una de las dificultades que había atravesado: “Si me hubiese hospedado, hubiese sido asesinado. Si la lámpara hubiese estado encendida, me hubieran visto. El gallo podría haber cacareado, el burro podría haber rebuznado. Ahora veo que todo lo que me pasó fue para bien”.

La ilusión de lo bueno y lo malo

Cuando hacemos la pregunta: “¿Por qué le pasan cosas malas a la gente buena?”, a menudo estamos teniendo asunciones erróneas. Lo que percibimos como “malo” puede, en realidad, ser lo mejor que podría haber pasado.

Conozco un multimillonario que perdió su primer trabajo como encargado del correo. Dado que le fue imposible encontrar empleo, se vio forzado a comenzar una empresa propia. Él ahora dice: “Sólo logré el éxito porque fui despedido”.

Conozco un joven que en su época de estudiante estuvo tan perturbado por una ruptura con una chica, que se quería suicidar. Claramente pensaba que ese era el peor trauma de su vida; yo pasé toda una noche hablando con él, confortándolo.

Veinte años después, me encontré con este hombre de nuevo. “¿Me recuerda?”, dijo sonriendo.

“Claro que sí. Me debes una noche de sueño”, le dije.

“Vine para contarle el final de la historia”, respondió. Y compartió conmigo lo que le había ocurrido a partir de ese momento. Su vida había estado llena de bendiciones; tenía una hermosa esposa e hijos y estaba muy feliz. En tanto, la mujer por la que había considerado terminar su vida se había convertido en alcohólica y, hasta donde él sabía, ya se había casado y divorciado tres veces.

Por lo que al final, en retrospectiva, él se dio cuenta que gracias a esa “trágica” ruptura terminó estando mucho mejor. Por supuesto que cuando quería suicidarse y yo traté de hacerle entender que todo estaría bien, él no quería escuchar, y mucho menos podía entender por qué era mejor de esa forma.

El Zóhar, el principal trabajo sobre Cábala – misticismo judío – comenta que cuando Dios creó el mundo lo llamó tov meod, “muy bueno”. Pero cuando vemos el mundo, cuando estudiamos historia, cuando vemos las noticias, nos resulta muy difícil concordar con este juicio divino.

“La vida sólo puede ser entendida en retrospectiva, pero debe ser vivida hacia adelante”.

Por lo tanto, el Zóhar señala que Dios nos da una pista en el nombre que elige para el primer hombre – Adam. En hebreo, Adam se deletrea usando las mismas letras que la palabra meodmem, alef, dálet – pero en una secuencia diferente: alef, dálet, mem. Más aún, el Zóhar dice que Adam es un acrónimo que representa los tres eventos más importantes de la historia humana. La alef, que es la primera letra del alfabeto hebreo, representa el comienzo de la historia de la humanidad con Adam. La dálet, por David, representa el punto más alto de la historia judía. La mem representa Mashíaj (Mesías), quien llevara al mundo a su anhelado estado de realización.

Cuando finalmente lleguemos al momento de la historia aludido por la mem, los días del Mashíaj, seremos capaces de ver todo lo que alguna vez pasó en toda la historia, desde la alef de Adam y pasando por la dálet de David, y junto con Dios podremos proclamar no sólo que el mundo es bueno, sino que es muy bueno – tov “meod”.

Como dijo elocuentemente el filósofo danés Søren Kierkegaard: “La vida sólo puede ser entendida en retrospectiva, pero debe ser vivida hacia adelante”.

En resumen

El intercambio bíblico entre Dios y Moshé nos enseña que debemos cuidarnos de las suposiciones incompletas y erróneas, suposiciones que nos llevan a cuestionar la bondad de Dios.

Moshé le dice a Dios: “Dios, quiero honrarte por completo, pero mi falta de entendimiento de Tus caminos interfiere. ¿Cómo puedo honrarte completamente cuando veo gente buena a la que le va mal y gente mala a la que le va bien?”.

Dios responde: “Espera un momento. No estoy de acuerdo con dos de tus premisas”.

“¿Qué premisas?”.

Número uno, no te apresures tanto a llamar a algunas personas ‘buenas’ y a otras ‘malas’, porque no puedes estar seguro. Número dos, cuando dices que les va mal o que les va bien, ¿estás seguro de tus definiciones? ¿Estás seguro de saber de lo que estás hablando? No puedes estar seguro. Y no puedes estar seguro porque no puedes ver Mi rostro, sólo lograrás verme en retrospectiva. En retrospectiva, algo terrible podría ser lo mejor. En ocasiones te tomará años verlo, y en ocasiones no lo verás en tus días en la tierra”.

Sin embargo, lo que le molesta a tanta gente son las muchas ocasiones en las que incluso el regalo de la retrospectiva no pareciera darnos una mayor claridad. Mirar hacia atrás en la vida puede ser esclarecedor, pero también puede dejarnos con muchas preguntas sin responder. ¿Qué hacemos en ese caso? ¿Significa que terminaremos nuestra vida en este mundo con problemas no resueltos, heridas nunca sanadas, crueldades nunca explicadas, injusticias nunca ajusticiadas?

Es fácil decir: “Bueno, perdió su trabajo. Encontrará otro que le gustará mucho más – no es tan malo”. Pero cuando vemos a alguien morir lentamente a causa del cáncer, y lo vemos sufrir con cada suspiro, no es tan fácil – de hecho, es casi imposible – decir: “Esto también es para bien”.

Una mujer me dijo: “Mi esposo enfermó, continuó enfermo durante el resto de sus días, y luego murió. ¿Dónde está el bien en eso? No me digas que tengo que esperar el final de la historia, ya lo he visto: Murió”.

Y, sin embargo, Dios nos dice: “El hombre no puede verme y vivir”. Ni siquiera al momento de morir podemos apreciar la imagen completa. La muerte es el portal al grandioso más allá – y esa misma descripción nos recuerda que hay más después de nuestro paso por la tierra. Dios pareciera decirnos que lo que aún no es claro durante nuestra existencia finita, será entendible una vez que seamos bendecidos con la perspectiva divina de la eternidad.

Puede que quienes están de duelo por sus seres queridos encuentren difícil ver la muerte como algo positivo; para ellos representa una pérdida atroz. Pero para los fallecidos, la muerte no es un problema, sino una solución al problema. Para la persona involucrada, la muerte es el comienzo de todas las respuestas.

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Posted by on January 16, 2019 in Uncategorized


Los Huesos de José

Ellos dicen adáptate o muere. ¿Pero debemos deshacernos de lo viejo para adoptar lo nuevo? ¿La elección está limitada a moderno o anticuado, o podemos ser tradicionalistas contemporáneos? ¿Pueden coexistir el pasado y el presente?

Al comienzo de la Parashá de esta semana leemos que Moisés mismo estaba ocupado con una misión especial mientras los judíos abandonaban Egipto. Moisés tomó con él los huesos de José. Más de cien años antes del gran Éxodo, José hizo jurar a los Hijos de Israel que lo llevarían con ellos cuando eventualmente abandonaran Egipto. Como virrey de Egipto José no podía esperar ser sepultado en Israel cuando muriera, como lo fue su padre Jacob. Los egipcios no tolerarían que su líder político fuera sepultado en una tierra extranjera. Pero él hizo que sus hermanos se comprometieran solemnemente a que cuando llegara el momento y todos los israelitas partieran tomarían sus restos con ellos.

Y fue así que mientras todos los demás estaban ocupados empacando, cargando sus burros y preparándose para el Gran Viaje por el Desierto, Moisés estaba ocupado con esta misión, cumplir la sagrada promesa hecha a José generaciones antes.

Pero José no fue el único re sepultado en la tierra santa. Sus hermanos también recibieron el mismo honor y último homenaje. Sin embargo es sólo a José a quien menciona explícitamente la Torá. ¿Por qué?

La respuesta es que José fue único. Mientras que sus hermanos eran simples pastores que atendían a sus rebaños, José se encargaba de los asuntos de estado de la más poderosa superpotencia de la época. Ser un judío practicante mientras se pasea plácidamente por las praderas no es complicado. Sólo en los campos, comulgando con la naturaleza, y lejos del ajetreo y el bullicio de la vida en la ciudad, uno puede ser más fácilmente un hombre de fe. Pero manejar una gigantesca infraestructura gubernamental como el hombre de estado más elevado en la tierra y aun permanecer fiel a las tradiciones de uno —no es sólo una novedad, es inspiración absoluta.

Fiel como fue desde la vida simple de un joven pastor hasta el centro de la capital para hacer equilibrio con los roles de virrey y judío, José representa la tradición en medio de la transición. Es posible, enseñó al mundo, ser un tradicionalista contemporáneo. Uno puede cabalgar exitosamente en ambos mundos.

Ahora que estaban por abandonar Egipto, los judíos estaban enfrentando un nuevo orden mundial. Atrás quedaban la esclavitud y la opresión, y en su lugar estaba la libertad. Durante ese tiempo de transición, sólo José podía ser su modelo de conducta. Necesitarían su ejemplo para mostrarles el camino hacia esa tierra desconocida, la nueva frontera.

Es por eso que la Torá sólo menciona a José como aquel cuyos restos salieron con el pueblo. Necesitaban tomar a José con ellos así, al igual que él, también harían su propia transición exitosamente.

Desde que dejamos Egipto, hemos estado deambulando. Y cada traslado ha traído con él sus propios desafíos. Desde Polonia a América o de Lituania a Sudáfrica, toda transición vino con choques culturales para nuestra psiquis espiritual. Cómo ganarse la vida y seguir cuidando el Shabat como lo hacía en el shtetl cuando el dueño de la fábrica dice “Cohen, si usted no viene el sábado, ¡no se moleste en venir tampoco el lunes!” Era una prueba de fe que no era para nada fácil. Muchos sucumbieron. Pero muchos otros se mantuvieron firmes y sobrevivieron, y hasta florecieron. Fue la prueba de la transición —y aquellos que tomaron como modelo a José pudieron hacer la transición mientras permanecían comprometidos con la tradición.

La democracia y la cultura de los derechos humanos han hecho que parte de la vida judía fuera de alguna forma más fácil, pero aun abundan los desafíos. En todas nuestras transiciones de hoy, debemos continuar aprendiendo de José.

Por Yossy Goldman

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Posted by on January 15, 2019 in Uncategorized


The Mystery of Miriam’s Song

Did the women actually sing? And why the musical instruments?
by Yehuda Shurpin

After the great miracle of the Splitting of the Sea, Moses led the Jewish people in singing praises to G‑d. The Torah then describes how Miriam led the women in singing their own song of praise, while dancing and playing musical instruments:

Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women came out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam called out to them, “Sing to the Lord, for very exalted is He; a horse and its rider He cast into the sea.”1

This is the only instance recorded in the Torah where women sang their own song. Why is that, and why was Miriam the one to lead it?

Righteous Women

The Talmud tells us that the Jews were redeemed from Egypt in the merit of the righteous women.2 Many men had lost hope and chose not to procreate so as not to subject their offspring to a fate of slavery and suffering. The women kept hope alive, trusting that they would soon be redeemed. With that in mind, they enticed their husbands to procreate.

This faith is reflected in the words “a timbrel in her hand.” The Midrash explains that the righteous women were so confident that G‑d would perform miracles that when they left Egypt, they took musical instruments with them “in hand,” ready to sing praise.3

Did the Women Actually Sing?

The Torah refers to the song Moses sang as a shir, a “song.” Conversely, the words used regarding the women’s song is vata’an, “and she answered” or “called.” Some commentaries (including Targum) explain that the women didn’t actually sing.4 Apparently this is because it is generally considered immodest for a woman to sing in the presence of men who are not her relatives. Others are of the opinion that they did sing (more on that below).5 According to the Yalkut Reuveini, they played the musical tune with their instruments but didn’t sing.6

Following the opinion that they did sing, the Midrash explains the curious use of the word vata’an. The angels wanted to sing G‑d’s praise before the women, but Miriam “answered” them and called for the women to sing first.7

Others explain the “answering” as referring to how the song was sung: either they repeated the same song as the men, or the women repeated the stanzas after Miriam.8

Why the Need for Instruments?

Some explain that the women specifically chose to play their instruments since it is considered immodest for women to sing in front of a male audience, so the instruments drowned out their voices.9 Alternatively, as mentioned, they didn’t sing at all and only played music due to these considerations of modesty.10

Others, like Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai (known as the Chida), explain that although in general it may be considered immodest for women to sing in front of men, due to the fact that the Shechinah (Divine Presence) rested upon the Jewish nation at that time, there was no prohibition for the men to listen to the singing.11 Thus, the women played instruments simply to enhance the singing.

Miriam the Prophetess, Aaron’s Sister

In the above verse, Miriam is referred to as “the prophetess, Aaron’s sister.” This is the first time Miriam is mentioned by name in Scripture. She had two brothers, Aaron and Moses. Why is she specifically referred to as a prophetess and as the sister of Aaron?

The Talmud and Midrash teach that Miriam prophesied before Moses was even born, when she was only the sister of Aaron. Miriam was about 6 years old when Pharaoh decreed that all Israelite baby boys be killed. Hearing this, Miriam’s father, Amram, divorced his wife, Yocheved, because he couldn’t bear the possibility of having a son who would be killed. Seeing the actions of Amram, one of the leaders of the generation, all of the other Israelite men followed and divorced their wives as well.12

Miriam told her father, “Your act is worse than Pharaoh’s! He decreed that only male children not be permitted to live, but you decreed the same fate for both male and female children!” She then predicted that her parents would give birth to a son who would save Israel from Egypt.13 Now that the Egyptians were completely vanquished, “Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron,” finally saw the fulfillment of her prophecy and burst into song.14

The Meaning of Miriam

The sages explain that the name “Miriam” is from the root word mar, “bitter.” She was thus named because the bitterness of the enslavement increased right around the time she was born. As a result, throughout her young life, people viewed her negatively, associating her with the bitter suffering.

But Miriam would respond with encouragement, explaining that like childbirth, when the closer it is to the time of “birth,” the more painful it is, so too, this extra bitterness was a sign of the impending redemption.15

Indeed, the Midrash explains that G‑d intensified the harshness and bitterness of the exile so that the quota of suffering would be completed faster than originally anticipated.

Now that the Egyptians were destroyed, Miriam declared, “Now you can see that it was true that ‘from the bitterness, salvation shall emerge.’ ”16

Our sages teach us that just as the redemption from the first exile was in the merit of the faith of the righteous women, so too, redemption from the final exile will be in their merit. May it be speedily in our days!

1. Exodus 15:20-21.
2. Talmud, Sotah 11b.
3. Mechiltah D’Rabbi Yishmael, Shirat Hayam 10.
4. See, for example, Targum Onkelos and Targum from R’ Saadia Gaon ad loc.; Rabbi Avraham ben HaRambam, Exodus 15:21; Oznayim L’Torah, Exodus 15:21.
5. See, for example, Mechilta ad loc.; Yalkut Shimoni, Hosea 518.
6. Yalkut Reuveini ad loc. and Likutei Sichot, vol. 21, p. 381.
7. See Midrash Sechel Tov on Exodus 15:21; Torah Shelemah on Exodus 15:21, no. 240.
8. See Torah Shelemah on Exodus 15:21, no. 239, for some of the varying opinions on how this responsive singing was structured.
9. See Yalkut Meam Loez and Tzofnat Paneach ad loc.
10. See Yalkut Reuveini ad loc. and Likutei Sichot, vol. 21, p. 381.
11. Devash Lepi, Ma’arechet Kuf.
12. See Talmud, Sotah 12a; Midrash, Shemot Rabbah 1:31; Mechiltah D’Rabbi Yishmael, Shirat Hayam 10.
13. Mechiltah D’Rabbi Yishmael, Shirat Yayam 10.
14. See Shach al Hatorah and Meam Loez on Exodus 15:20.
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid.

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Posted by on January 15, 2019 in Uncategorized


The Most Troubling Verse in the Bible

Man holding an open Bible in the palm of his left hand

By Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs

The Hebrew Bible contains 23,145 verses and if I had permission to excise only one, I have no doubt which it would be: “Happy the one who seizes and smashes your infants against the rock” (Psalm 137:9).

Psalms 137 is a stirring lament over the destruction of Judah in 586 B.C.E. and the exile of a significant percentage of its population to Babylon. The rage and humiliation of the exiles, with their “harps hung on the willows near Babylon’s rivers,” is palpable as they commit to remember their beloved Jerusalem even as Judah’s captors taunt them: “Sing us some of Zion’s songs!” (Psalm 137:2-3, 5).

Coming as it does, so abruptly at the end of one of Scripture’s most poignant passages, verse 9 stuns the reader, and as Robert Alter writes in The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary, “No moral justification can be offered for this notorious concluding line.”

Perhaps the greatest strength of the Hebrew Bible is its honesty. As I wrote in What’s in It for Me? Finding Ourselves in Biblical Narratives, “The Hebrew Bible knows no perfect people. All of its characters have significant flaws.”

The same must be said of the biblical author. We understand his (or her) anger at seeing his homeland conquered, his beloved Temple razed to the ground, and loved ones savagely tortured and killed. But to wish to brutally murder the infant children of the captors … that is too much. I find myself ardently wishing the editors had deleted the psalm’s final words.

Aside from the sheer horror they evoke, they distract readers from the power and beauty of connecting to the Jewish homeland, the way the poet, our people, and we ourselves do.

In the current debate about whether being anti-Israel is a form of anti-Semitism, we must remember that the land of Israel has been an inextricable part of our people’s covenant with God since God first charged Abram to go forth from the land of his birth “to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). And this, too: Since God first called us to be a people, the land of Israel has been part of what it means for us to be Jews.

Of course, it is possible to support Israel and criticize the actions or policies of her government just as those of us who love this country freely take its leaders to task for things they say and do. But saying Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state while failing to question the right of more than 20 Arab and Islamic states to exist is crossing a line to anti-Semitism.

In Leviticus Rabbah 36:5, Resh Lakish told the parable of a king who had three sons, each one brought up by one of his maidservants. So, whenever the king inquired about the well-being of his sons, he would add: Inquire also about the well-being of her who brought them up.  So, too, whenever the Holy One mentions the patriarchs, God mentions the Land with them.

Psalm 137 is a magnificent statement of the centrality of Israel to our being. Can we ever forsake or forget Jerusalem? Never. Nonetheless, I would love to forget the psalm’s final verse!

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Posted by on January 15, 2019 in Uncategorized


Is Your Optimism Grounded in Reality?

By Hanna Perlberger
Art by Michelle Gaynor
Is he an optimist or is he foolish?

After delivering a lecture on optimism to a large tech company, Shawn Achor, one of the gurus of Positive Psychology, was being driven to the airport by the CEO. Ignoring the persistent and annoying dinging of the alarm for not using his seat belt, the CEO smiled at Shawn and explained that he was just being “optimistic.”

“Optimism is good for a lot of things,” thought Shawn, “but it will not prevent this CEO from getting into a car accident, nor will it prevent him flying through the windshield.” This is not optimism; rather, it’s a form of insanity, otherwise known as “irrational optimism.”

In the Torah portion Beshalach, after the Jewish people left Egypt, Pharaoh sent his army of charioteers after them, cornering the Jewish people with Egypt at their back, the vast desert on both sides and the sea in front of them. Short of a new miracle, the Jewish people were facing imminent slaughter.

The Splitting of the Sea

According to Midrashic commentary, some people wanted to surrender and go back to Egypt. Some were ready to commit suicide. Some were willing to fight the Egyptians. And another group started to pray. Moses cried out to G‑d, and G‑d replied (in essence): “Stop praying and journey forth. Do something!” It was at that point that the famous Nachshon ben Aminadav moved into the sea, and when the water reached his nostrils, the sea began to part. Was he an optimist or insane? Irrational or grounded?

In his book, Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology explains that there are two ways of looking at life: as an optimist and as a pessimist. And he gives an example. A young couple has their first baby. The father looks at her in her crib and he calls out her name. Although the baby is awake, she doesn’t respond. Dad picks up a toy with a bell and shakes it. No response. His heart starts to beat rapidly, and he summons his wife. The mother was also unable to get the baby’s attention with loud sounds. “My G‑d, she’s deaf,” concludes the father.

Mom consults a baby book for advice, reading how there is no reason for alarm since it takes time for the startle and sound reflex to kick in. Mom is reassured. Nevertheless, she leaves a voice message with the pediatrician’s office to schedule an appointment, and she goes about her weekend as usual. Dad, on the other hand, remains a worried mess, ruminating that he has a “bad feeling about this.”

On Monday, the pediatrician administers a neurological exam and finds the baby perfectly healthy. The father does not believe the test results, and still remains depressed and worried. A week later, when the baby startled at the noise of a backfiring car, the father began to recover his spirits and was able to enjoy his child once again.

These are the two basic outlooks on life. The pessimist “awful-izes” events, viewing harmful situations as long-lasting, if not permanent, and allowing the upset to permeate all areas of life, taking it personally. The optimist, on the other hand, doesn’t anticipate defeat but when it happens, sees defeat as a challenge to be surmounted, limits it to this pertinent situation, and sees the cause as something external.

OK, now it’s a little chutzpadik, but I think there is another explanatory style, which I am calling “Jewish optimism,” and since I’m coining the phrase, I get to define it. “Jewish optimism” takes the best aspects of optimism, such as looking at events in their most favorable light and rising to the challenge with an “I can” or an “it can be done” attitude.

But when it comes to causality, “Jewish optimism” would not regard events as external and impersonal. Just the opposite. In “Jewish optimism,” everything is “about me” (for my spiritual growth, that is). And this brings in the quality of faith—believing that the universe is not out to “get me,” but to “teach me.”

Getting back to the scene at the banks of the Sea of Reeds, in facing Pharaoh’s army, the same G‑d that liberated the Jewish people through His Divine intervention was now telling them to go, to “do something.” And so Nachshon, the Jewish optimist, walked calmly into the sea, and in so doing, he also paved the way for the Jewish expression of faith.

And this sets Judaism apart because Judaism calls for belief-driven behavior, and the expression of faith through deliberate action. Judaism teaches that the garments of the soul are for us to actualize our potential. The trick is knowing when the focus needs to be our thought, when it is about speech and when it must manifest through action.

So the next time you face a challenge, decide first whether grounded optimism is appropriate, and if so, try adding a little faith. Know that whatever test you are undergoing is the test you were meant to have—that you can pass it, and that you will emerge emotionally stronger, intellectually wiser and spiritually higher. Become a Jewish optimist, and there is no telling how many seas you will be able to part in your life.

Internalize & Actualize:

  1. Are you more prone to being an optimist or a pessimist? Write down five situations when your gut reaction was either positive or negative before you even knew what the actual outcome would be.
  2. Based on the above, was your gut reaction accurate? Did the situation unfold as you thought it would? If you were an optimist and it didn’t turn out as expected, how did you feel when the result was not positive? If you were a pessimist and the situation came out positively, did you regret the negativity and stress you felt for no reason?
  3. Think about a situation, right now, that you are facing where you still don’t know the outcome. What do you think will happen? Is that an optimistic response or a pessimistic one? If an optimistic one, are you being an “irrational optimist” or is your optimism grounded? Why? If a pessimistic response, rewrite below an optimistic view you can have of the situation. After you write that, write how this new thought makes you feel.

By Hanna PerlbergerMore by this author
Hanna Perlberger is an author, attorney, spiritual teacher and coach. She speaks to people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning and spiritual engagement. This article is excerpted from A Year of Sacred Moments: The Soul Seeker’s Guide to Inspired Living. Art by Michelle Gaynor.

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Posted by on January 14, 2019 in Uncategorized


Who Were the Levites?

This pitcher graces a 19th century grave of a Levite in the Jewish cemetery in Baden-Württemberg, Germany (Photo: Dietrich Krieger).
by Menachem Posner

This pitcher graces a 19th century grave of a Levite in the Jewish cemetery in Baden-Württemberg, Germany (Photo: Dietrich Krieger).

The Levites, descendants of Jacob’s son Levi, were selected to serve G‑d in the Holy Temple. Most served in peripheral roles, playing music, opening and closing the gates, and standing guard. In the case of the portable Tabernacle (which preceded the Holy Temple in Jerusalem), they were responsible for packing up, transporting, and reconstructing the Tabernacle whenever the Israelites traveled to a new camp. The most sacred tasks, including bringing the sacrifices, were reserved for the kohanim (priests), descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses.

How Was Levi Selected?

Originally, the firstborn sons were to have been the priests. When G‑d spared the Jewish firstborns in Egypt, He “acquired” them and designated them for this special role.

When the Jewish people made and worshipped a golden calf after the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, the only tribe that did not participate was Levi. At this time, the firstborns lost their special status, and it was transferred to the Levites.

In truth, however, the Levites were special from beforehand. Even during the Egyptian bondage, they were exempt from the crushing labor and permitted to devote themselves to spiritual pursuits, providing the rest of the Israelites with much needed encouragement and a strong moral compass.

How Were the Levites Divided?

Levi had three sons, Gershon, Kehot, and Merari. When transporting the Temple, each clan had different duties. Kehot would transport the Holy Ark and other accouterments, Gershon carried the curtains, Merari carried the beams, sockets, and bars.

In later generations, as the population grew, the Levites were divided into 24 mishmarot (guards). Each group served one week in the Temple before relinquishing their place to the next mishmar in the roster.

The Priests

Aaron’s descendants had their own set of duties, honors, and responsibilities. Expected to be ready to serve in the Temple at a moment’s notice, they were forbidden to drink too much wine, defile themselves by coming into contact with corpses, or marry certain women.

In the Temple, they had their own uniform: a linen tunic, turban, and trousers, and a colorful sash.

The priests were given the mitzvah to bless the people of Israel using a special formula, which is still done today.

Explore: The Priestly Blessing

In every generation, there was a High Priest (Kohen Gadol), heir to Aaron, who was tasked with performing the most sacred Temple duties. His uniform comprised eight garments, richly woven of golden thread, and adorned with gems. On Yom Kippur, he performed the most sacred service, which included entering the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was housed.

How the Levites Lived

Where Did They Live? When Israel was apportioned among the 12 Tribes, the Levites were not given any land of their own. Instead they lived in certain towns scattered all over Israel. Many of these were designated as cities of refuge, where people accused of manslaughter could live, safe from vengeful relatives of the victim, and be inspired by the devout Levites to become more caring and spiritual.

Priestly Gifts: With no land of their own, the Levites were not able to farm. Additionally, their Temple duties may have prevented them from investing themselves in working a trade. They were supported through a system of tithes and other “gifts” outlined in the Torah. Every Jewish farmer gave maaser, a tenth of his produce, to the Levite, and terumah, a smaller amount, to a kohen. The kohanim would also receive portions of the animals and meal offerings brought to the Temple.

Levites Today

Unique Family Names: Many Jewish families treasure the fact that they are of Levite or kohen heritage (following a direct line of males). Levine, Levy, Segal, Horowitz, and their various iterations are all trademark Levi surnames. Cohen, Kagan, Katz, and Azulay are some examples of common kohen names. It is important to note, however, that many people of kohen or Levite ancestry do not have surnames that reflect this aspect of their ancestry, and many people with these last names don’t have a tradition indicating that they are Levites.

Special Observances: In the absence of the Temple and most tithes, the Levites live pretty much the same as other Jews. There are some key things to keep in mind.

  • As a mark of honor, it is customary that the first aliyah (being called to the Torah) is given to a kohen and the second is given to a Levite. When they are called up, the words HaKohen or HaLevi are appended to their Hebrew names.
  • The male kohen is still to avoid contact with the body of a deceased person, unless it is immediate family. This includes not going to cemeteries or funerals, expect of those of his immediate family.
  • The kohanim bless the congregation with the priestly blessing. The widespread custom in the Diaspora is to do this only on holidays. In Israel, however, many do this on a daily basis. Before the blessing, the Levites wash the hands of the kohanim.
  • The kohanim (but not other Levites) can only marry certain women (read: Kohen Marriages).

Everyone a Levite

Despite the importance placed on the Levite lineage, it is important to note that anyone can accomplish greatness, and that G‑d is equally accessible to all. In the words of Maimonides:

Not only the tribe of Levi [was chosen by G‑d], but any human, man or woman, who is spiritually motivated and has the intellectual understanding to set himself aside and stand before G‑d to serve Him and minister to Him and to know G‑d, proceeding justly as G‑d made him, removing from his neck the burden of the many plans people pursue, he is sanctified as holy of holies and G‑d will be his portion and heritage forever…1


1.  Laws of Shemitah 13:13.

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Posted by on January 13, 2019 in Uncategorized


La perspectiva judía

La perspectiva judía
Por Rav Ken Spiro

Quien salva una vida es como si salvara todo un universo.

Exploremos la perspectiva judía sobre los seis valores fundamentales.

Valor de la Vida – La santidad de la vida es unos de los conceptos más importantes en la visión judía del mundo. Esta idea está expresada, clara y simplemente, en el sexto de los Diez Mandamientos: “No matarás” (Éxodo 20:13).

Paz Mundial – La noción de la humanidad viviendo en paz y armonía es una invención judía. La paz es un concepto central de la Torá, como lo vemos bellamente descrito por los profetas (¡La palabra “shalom” aparece en la Biblia 240 veces!).

Justicia e Igualdad – “Justicia, Justicia perseguirás” (Deuteronomio 16:20). Los judíos están obsesionados con el concepto de la igualdad ante la ley. El requisito para un juez de ser recto y no apoyar a ninguno de los lados es constantemente reafirmado en la Torá, en donde la palabra “tzedek” (justicia) – aparece 120 veces.

Educación – La obsesión judía con la educación es bien conocida. Para asumir responsabilidad e incidir un cambio positivo en el mundo, un ser humano debe ser educado.

Familia – Una familia sólida es de importancia central para los judíos. En las áreas de sexualidad y de la relación entre hombres y mujeres, el judaísmo ha introducido algunas innovaciones altamente significativas.

Responsabilidad Social – El pueblo judío ve a cada persona como responsable por la sociedad y por el mundo entero. Esta conciencia social tiene sus inicios en la Torá.

El pueblo judío no siempre ha sido perfecto, ni tampoco los demás fueron siempre malvados. Los judíos han cometido abundantes errores, de índole individual y nacional. Sin embargo, el pueblo judío siempre ha defendido estos seis valores fundamentales, que comprenden nuestra visión de un mundo perfecto. El judaísmo le otorgó a la humanidad una visión moral única, un esquema para un mundo ideal.

A pesar de las horrendas persecuciones por siglos, el pueblo judío ha mantenido un nivel de humanidad y de cuidado que superó a las civilizaciones circundantes.

El Valor de la Vida

“No matarás” (Éxodo 20:13). El judaísmo dice que la vida es sagrada.

La ley judía prohíbe el infanticidio, el sacrificio humano y el asesinato por deporte. La Torá nos dice que prácticamente todos sus mandamientos pueden ser violados, y que no se debe escatimar en gastos ni esfuerzos, para salvar una vida.

Una de las expresiones más hermosas del valor de la vida es encontrada en el Talmud (Sanedrín 4:5):

“Quien salva una vida… es como si salvara un mundo entero. Quien destruye una vida… es como si destruyera un mundo entero”.

Esta afirmación fue dicha hace casi 2.000 años, por los sabios del Talmud, en la misma época en que los romanos estaban matando a miles de personas por deporte

El Concepto de Paz

“La paz no tiene precio, dado que el nombre de Dios es Shalom” (Midrash – Bamidbar Raba 11:18).

“La Torá ha sido dada a la humanidad para establecer la paz” (Midrash Tanjumá – Ki Tisá 96:3).

La Torá es llamada paz, como dice: “Sus caminos son placenteros, y todas sus sendas son de paz” (Proverbios 3:17).

“Hilel solía decir: ‘Sean de los discípulos de Aarón, que aman y persiguen la paz’” (Talmud – Ética de Nuestros Padres).

“El Maestro de la Paz desea la paz para todas Sus criaturas” (Séfer HaJinuj 206).

Maimónides (Rambam), quien vivió hace 850 años, fue uno de los eruditos de Torá más grandes de todos los tiempos. En su trabajo trascendental, una codificación de la ley judía llamada Mishné Torá, Maimónides explica la visión de la Torá del estado ideal de paz:

Los sabios y profetas no desearon la era mesiánica para regir sobre el mundo ni para subyugar a las naciones, sino para ser libres para perseguir la Torá y su sabiduría. En ese tiempo no habrá hambre ni guerra, no habrá celos ni conflictos. El mundo entero estará ocupado adquiriendo el conocimiento de Dios, como dice: “El mundo estará lleno del conocimiento de Dios como las aguas cubren el mar” (Isaías 11:9).

Se puede encontrar un testimonio de la visión judía de la paz mundial en los cuarteles de la institución moderna dedicada a la paz mundial: las Naciones Unidas. En la muralla exterior del Cuartel de la Asamblea General, en Manhattan, está el lema de la ONU esculpido en el “Muro de Isaías”:

“Y ellos cambiarán sus espadas por arados, y sus lanzas por tijeras de podar. Ninguna nación levantará espada en contra de otra. Ninguna de ellas aprenderá guerra nunca más” (Isaías 2:4).

La ONU reconoce que la visión utópica de paz, hermandad y armonía es una invención judía expresada por Isaías hace 2.500 años. El pueblo judío trajo la visión de paz al mundo, y hemos estado ansiando que llegue desde entonces.

Este ensayo está adaptado de “Mundo Perfecto: El Impacto Judío en la Civilización” (WorldPerfect: The Jewish Impact on Civilization). En esta notable obra, el rabino Ken Spiro analiza 4.000 años de historia humana para mostrar cómo los valores éticos y morales occidentales provienen de la Torá.

Según tomado de,

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Posted by on January 12, 2019 in Uncategorized