Monthly Archives: December 2020

Prophecy and the Gift of the Future

by Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

The Tragic Absence of Prophecy in Halachic Judaism

As mentioned in our last essay, Halacha cannot express the “Heilsgeshichte”, the redemptive history, of Israel and of the world, nor can it lead us toward it. This is both its power and its weakness—its power because it is the “eternity” of Halacha that makes it “a-historical” and gives it its strength and authority. But it is also a weakness, because Halacha cannot grow within history and runs the risk of becoming stagnant (signs of which we see in our present world). Halacha is unchangeable because it is rooted in Heaven and hovers above history; it is thus untouchable.

This does not mean that Halacha cannot change on a practical level. But its foundationsits major principles, are not within this world, and therefore they remain constant.

What the Jewish sages did was to connect Halacha to history before it would become entirely inoperable. This is why they uprooted certain laws of the Torah or gave them an entirely new meaning and application. (For more on this, see my book: Jewish Law as Rebellion, A Plea for Religious Authenticity and Halachic Courage, Urim Publications , Jerusalem/New York, 2019, chapter 27.)

But all this also means that most of the time Halacha runs after history and responds to history, but cannot shape history or run in front of history. Its “a-historicity” makes that impossible.

Consequently Halacha cannot show us the nature of the road itself on which Judaism and the world is traveling to its destination i.e., its redemptive goals and aspirations. It can only show us how to behave while traveling; the understanding of where we are going and what we may encounter on the way are not part of its being, nor within its capacity to solve.

Halacha Fails to Represent the Jewish Mission

Thus, Halacha has almost nothing to say about the mission of Judaism, its visions of the future, or its ideals and ideology. It is for this reason that the codices of Jewish Law—the Shulchan Aruch and others—include nothing about the spirit and vocation of Judaism. (Some of this broader information is however found in the Rambam’s Mishne Torah, which is not only a halachic work but also delves into philosophy and ideology. This is what makes this work so unique.)

We’ve argued that the “Heilsgeshichte”, the vision of Judaism’s redemptive history, was lost with the destruction of the Temples, when prophecy ceased (and perhaps even before that). This was a catastrophic loss of much of the motive force of Judaism, its redemptive task. Gone were the men and women who could tell people the meaning of their history, its future, and its role in liberation.

The Prophets as People of Great Sensitivity

A closely related service provided by the prophets, which was of crucial importance, was also diminished. Since redemptive history consists of a road with many bumps and obstacles, it is in need of highly sensitive people who can deal with these kinds of challenges, who can help people on an individual level with overcoming these obstacles and seeing meaning in them. This too was one the tasks of the prophets.

These are things that touch on the personal and emotional life of individuals, which often exist outside the parameters of the Halacha. Halacha is in many ways a law of conformity, and can only speak in terms of the general needs of—and guidelines for—the community. This is equally true of other forms of (secular) law. Legislation cannot take the individual or personal-emotional matters into account. Any legal system would collapse if it attempted to do this; it can only work with generalities.

But the life of the individual does not consist of generalities. Every human being is different from every other in his or her distinct and specific needs. Legislation has no place for such needs. And while it may be true that Halacha takes such needs into account more than other legal systems, owing to its religious foundation, it is still far from ideal when dealing with such highly personal issues.

In such circumstances, it was the prophets who came to the rescue. They were involved in people’s individual lives, and hence could relate to these personal matters. To do this effectively, they had to be people of great sensitivity.

In fact, the greatest prophets in Tanach often had to deal with their own personal issues, which were often disturbing and quite painful. This gave them the foundation they needed to deal with the pain of others. Like Moshe Rabbenu, they could even challenge God for bringing suffering upon human beings, questioning His right to do so. See for example: Yirmiyahu 12:1,2; Iyov 27:2-6.

Such issues are external to Halacha.

The Devastating Result of Exile

All of this collapsed the moment that prophecy ceased to exist. The damage was compounded by the exile of the Jews following the destruction of the Second Temple. Not only did Judaism lose its redemptive dimension, it could no longer function as a moral/religious guide to humankind at large.

The prophets had a universal message, far beyond the Jewish people. Their message included redemptive history for all human beings. Their cry for peace and justice was universal. Their calls to aid the poor, widows and orphans, and the promise of the coming of the Messianic age were meant for the whole world. But all this came to an end with the termination of the prophetic voice.

As mentioned, Judaism was amputated of a part of itself, and consequently turned within to become something akin to a conventional religion. From being “particularistic” and “universalistic”, it became mainly particularistic, focused primarily on the Jewish people and less on the outside world. As such, it became artificial and lost much of its raison d’etre.

This became even more problematic over the next 2,000 years as the Jewish people lived “outside” history in foreign countries. Whether they lived in the 7th , the 12th or 15th centuries , nothing changed. Their lives were centered around a more or less static Halacha and traditionalism, which for the most part took place in the home and synagogue behind the walls of the ghettos, even in the face of pogroms and inquisitions .

The Jewish people became a “halachic” entity, since this was all that remained, allowing Judaism to escape total annihilation.

Anti-Semitism and the End of the Jewish Mission

But with the dispersion of the Jews, scattered nearly worldwide, something else happened as well: The universal and redemptive mission became completely impossible.

A large part of the gentile world saw the Jews as a pariah nation (See Max Weber, Ancient Judaism, NY,1967 and The Sociology of Religion, Boston 1963), supposedly cursed and rejected by God, due, among other things to their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. This status was supposedly proven by the loss of the Jewish homeland, which was seen as a punishment.

And so Israel’s prophetic voice—or what was left of it—was not only ignored, but opposed. To learn from the Jews was considered sacrilege.

And if anti-Semitism was not enough, others rejected Israel’s prophetic voice because its call for peace and moral behavior was an affront to many whose very existence was built on a sensual, egocentric, and materialist way of life, which had no place for a higher moral-religious calling.

So even where Judaism’s prophetic call still lived, it could have little impact. It was caught between religious—often Christian—denunciation and materialistic sensual craving and barely survived these dual pressures.

The Opposition of the Prophets to a Purely Particularistic Judaism

Jews could do nothing else but turn within and build high psychological (and physical) walls between themselves and the often-hostile gentile world. In fact, this explains many halachic rulings and ideological attitudes in the Talmud that are unsympathetic toward the gentile world. A large part of the non-Jewish world of those days rejected the moral values of the Jews. Driven into a corner of history, the sages saw separation as the only way Jews could survive under these extreme circumstances.

Thus, Judaism itself was forced to employ measures with which the prophets would never have agreed—rulings that ran against the prophetic teachings and the very spirit of Tanach, which was to a great extent universalistic.

The spirit of Judaism was compromised by these measures introduced by the sages to guarantee the survival of the Jews and Judaism. The sages themselves realized this, and often softened and limited their own rulings, or those of their predecessors, concerning the non-Jewish world, especially when it became clear that many non-Jews were highly moral people. (See Jewish Law as Rebellion, chapter 27, second part.)

At the same time, it should be emphasized that the prophets definitely were strongly “particularistic” regarding the Jewish people, and were strongly opposed to assimilation. They believed in the mission of the Jews as the “chosen people”, which meant that the Jews had to remain a separate entity, apart from the other nations.

Nevertheless, the prophets were universalists in their belief that the Jewish prophetic message must impact all the nations of the world. They strongly believed that Jews were missionaries of peace and justice to the rest of the world, and that Jews could carry out this mission only as committed Jews.

The illusion of Assimilation

The tragic loss of the prophetic voice came to a head in the last hundred years, as Jews attempted to assimilate into non-Jewish cultures. Many Jews rejected their mission and dreamed of a world where Jews could live as gentiles, thinking that they would fully integrate into the larger non-Jewish world and end their suffering at the hands of gentiles. They truly believed that integration would put an end to anti-Semitism.

In this, they themselves rejected their own prophetic voice. But the more they tried to adapt to the gentile world, the more they were rejected by that world. This did not make any sense. It became increasingly clear that the prophet’s warning ( Yechezkel 20:32-33) was true: Jews could not escape their redemptive destiny, however much they tried. All this came to a peak with the Holocaust, when so many assimilated Jews were confronted with their Jewishness as never before.

This was one of the greatest tragedies in Jewish history.

Even those Jews who did not want to abandon their prophetic mission, who wanted to remain Jewish while emphasizing the universal dimension of Judaism discovered that this did not work. Even though they gave up the particularistic dimensions of Judaism as emphasized by Halacha (Shabbat, circumcision, kashrut, etc) to gain entrance into the cultures of the nations among whom they lived, it did not succeed. They continued to be seen as foreigners by the gentile world. In fact, and paradoxically, the more of these rituals they gave up, the less the non-Jewish world respected them. This is well expressed in the Yiddish saying: “If the Jew does not make kiddush Friday night, the gentile will make Havdalah (a distinction) on him on Saturday night.”[1]

It is here that something radical happened in Jewish history. When Jews realized that they would never be fully accepted by the gentile world and would always be the “other”, and the “foreigner”, they no longer continued to believe in the possibility of total integration.

Many Jews ,even the most assimilated ones, realized that there was only one way to succeed: a return to the Jewish people’s uniqueness and a return to their homeland.

The Remarkable Restoration of the Jewish Commonwealth

The establishment of the State of Israel allowed the Jewish people to “come out of the closet” after nearly 2,000 years. It put an end to the notion of the “pariah nation” and gave the Jewish people the opportunity to have a voice in the world that would be heard, respected, and acted on. The State of Israel, with all its enormous accomplishments, suddenly became a center of world affairs—something that almost nobody foresaw. Jews re-entered history, this time as Jews. They became active partners in the world’s restorative history.

In fact, the establishment of the State of Israel was one of the most outstanding proofs that the notion of redemption was very much alive. It bore witness to the restoration of Israel’s prophetic mission.

That this was, and still is, accompanied by great turmoil, birth-pangs, and ups and downs cannot be denied. It will take some time before the way is made smooth. Still, it is remarkable that the very return of the Jews to their homeland comes in fulfillment of an old prophecy, in which the biblical prophets predicted the rebirth of the Jewish commonwealth.

The State of Israel is itself the greatest proof that prophecy is slowly coming alive again. In our age, Judaism has been handed an opportunity to restore its full capacity, including its redemptive message, to heal the world and end the amputation of the best part of itself.

This however presents the greatest challenge to our religious leadership, which now needs to recognize this and act on it.

We will discuss further steps into this prophetic future in the next essay.

With thanks to Yael Shahar for her editorial comments.

[1] Kiddush, the blessing over wine, is the ritual which inaugurates Shabbat and Havdala is the ritual by which the Jew makes a distinction between Shabbat and the weekdays at the end of Shabbat.

As taken from, Thought to Ponder: The Upcoming Post Corona Crisis – Part 4 (

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Posted by on December 31, 2020 in Uncategorized


The Concealed ‘End of Times’

by Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz)

The veiled ketz Jacob calls his sons and says to them, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what will befall you in the end of days.”1 

But in practice, Jacob’s prophecy merely relates to distant times and does not reach the actual end of days. Rashi’s comment on the subject is well known: “‘Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you’ – he wished to reveal the ketz, but the Shechinah departed from him, and he began to speak of other things.” To be sure, after the departure of the Shechinah, Jacob does not suddenly become an ordinary person speaking of ordinary things. After all, his words here are still words of prophecy. Although those “other things” do not relate to the actual end of days, still, they refer to the distant future, hundreds and thousands of years ahead. Thus, the Shechinah does not depart completely; it is still with him to a certain extent.

Jacob attempts to cut through the veil that conceals the events of the future, but he is stopped at a certain stage. Why does this happen to him?

According to the Yalkut Shimoni2 and other midrashim, a great dread falls upon Jacob, as he does not understand why this has happened. Concerned, he asks his sons, “Are you all believers?” They answer him, “Hear, O Israel: God our Lord, God is one.” When the time of the Messiah’s coming was concealed from Jacob, he was overcome with anxiety that perhaps not all the tribes were worthy of blessing. After hearing their answer, he is encouraged, and the Shechinah rests upon him once again.

What emerges from the midrash is that this concealment, the curtain that stands before Jacob, is neither a result of sin nor a result of a defect in his sons or in himself. Jacob faces something else, which does not let him see through to the end of days. This is a phenomenon that we all experience: At one point or another, every person wants to know what will happen in the distant future, but this is always denied him.

Limitations of the audience

Why can’t Jacob reveal the ketz? When a person describes things or situations that lie within the range of his perception, he has words, concepts, and modes of expression for this. But when Jacob must speak of a phenomenon that is beyond his audience’s range of perception, it turns out that he lacks the vocabulary to express himself. How can we explain to someone who has been blind from birth what other people see in the world? How can we explain to someone who is colorblind the difference between green and purple? These are things of which the listener has an utter lack of understanding. In such a case, there is a block, a real barrier in communication.

In other words, there are some fundamental gulfs that are impossible to bridge. Nothing can be said to get one’s ideas across; any attempts to do so would be meaningless. The problem of how to talk about the incomprehensible, how to describe what cannot be described, is a problem that has no solution. At the point of transmitting the essence, there is a curtain that blocks the audience’s view. It is not a matter of finding the right words, because the right words simply do not exist.

Consider, for example, the Maaseh Merkavah, Ezekiel’s vision of the workings of the divine chariot. We take for granted that the angels, the ofanim, and the holy chayot are spiritual entities, or, as Maimonides put it, “separate intellects.”3 But when we read Ezekiel’s account, he seems to be describing physical forms, as if these are creatures that one might see at some kind of bizarre zoo. What is happening here? Ezekiel sees the holy chayot, and for some reason he is compelled to describe them in words. Though he sees and feels the reality of his vision, he lacks the right words to describe it. Instead, he settles for the inaccurate language of physical descriptions.

This point is part of the reason that the Shechinah departs when people begin to speak of the end of days. Jacob sees all the way to the true ketz; not just “until he arrives in Shiloh,”4 but even afterward, after the end of the exile. When he tries to tell his sons about this, he discovers that this is a vision that cannot be communicated – not because he is not permitted to do so, but because any attempt to speak about it is irrelevant.

There is a recurring prophecy in Tanach – “every man will sit under his grapevine or under his fig tree”5 – that is meant to describe a condition of wealth and tranquility. Yet there are many people today who, if promised a future in which all they do is sit under a tree, would be completely uninterested – they would rather attend a nightclub instead. The prophecy tries to describe a future of wealth and harmony, but this can only be communicated using the range of concepts that people have. We can make an effort to describe the future using the most beautiful words that exist, but my message will only be successful if it is couched in terms of what is presently meaningful to our audience. When we have to transcend these bounds, anything we say will be incomplete. We are unable to describe things that are not within the range of the human imagination; even if we are able to comprehend these things, the concepts turn out to be meaningless without the proper tools of expression.

No eye has seen

The ability to relate to the end of days is limited not only by short­comings of human nature, but also by something more basic: ­limitations in the nature of reality. Reality allows us to relate only to things that belong to the plane of being, experience, and action in which we exist. Just as we cannot fit a large object into a small receptacle, we cannot fit anything into a vessel – a concept, a description, or a figment of our imagination – that cannot receive or contain it.

This idea is expressed in the following talmudic passage: “All the prophets prophesied only regarding the days of the Messiah, but regarding the World to Come, ‘No6 eye has seen, O God, but You.’”7 No prophet’s eye has seen what God will do for those who wait for Him; it can be seen by God’s eye alone. The Talmud then asks, “What is it that ‘no eye has seen’? Rabbi Yehoshua b. Levi said, ‘This refers to the wine preserved in its grapes since the six days of Creation.’

”Similarly, the Talmud states8 that in the World to Come, the righteous will partake of the Leviathan’s flesh. Both of these rewards for the righteous – the wine preserved in its grapes since the six days of Creation and the Leviathan preserved in salt by God even before the creation of man – are things that have never existed in the realm of human experience. These descriptions of the World to Come are beyond our limits as human beings. It is a promise of things that we have never seen and cannot hope to comprehend.

The end of days is a period that “no eye has seen” – it is beyond our perceptual range, beyond the human conceptual ability that exists in the reality of the present day.

When we speak of the ultimate ketz, we refer to what cannot be seen or understood. When we speak of what will happen in the future, we can reach a certain point until we are stopped by a thick curtain. Even those who can see through this curtain cannot bring back a report of what they have seen. They cannot relate what they have beheld, because there can be no point of comparison to it, nothing in their lexicon to describe it.

In our generation, because of the many technological advances we continuously witness, we have a better sense of the gulf between the reality of this world and the reality of the World to Come. Products are invented, the likes of which we could not have even dreamed beforehand, whose existence we could not have imagined.

This also explains a puzzling talmudic statement: “Three come unawares: the Messiah, a found article, and a scorpion.”9 At first glance, this statement raises a question: What does it mean that the Messiah comes unawares? After all, there are always Jews who pray for, talk about, and concern themselves with his coming. The entire Jewish people mentions the Messiah, in one form or another, in its prayers. So how can it be that he will come unawares?

The answer is that the Messiah whom everyone talks about, and whose coming everyone prays for, is not the Messiah who will actually arrive. We have no way of knowing or imagining what will happen when the Messiah comes, because his coming is something that “no eye has seen.” It is inevitable, then, that the Messiah will come unawares, because no one really knows what to expect.

An example of this problem can be seen in the Or HaChayim’s commentary on Parshat Acharei Mot. As a rule, the book is written as a standard commentary, each section according to its particular case. In Parshat Acharei Mot, however, something interesting happens: The author attempts to describe the experience of man’s contact with what is beyond him. Some of the language in the commentary is confusing: It is evident that the author felt and understood certain things that he was unable to communicate with his readers. It is the same block that Jacob encountered when he sought to reveal the ketz, the same block that inherently exists in these matters, and there will be no full solution for it until the end of days.

Developing sensitivity

The inability to define certain things has ramifications beyond esoteric discussions of the divine chariot and the end of days. The expression, “the heart cannot reveal to the mouth,”10 appears in connection with all sorts of subjects, for not everything that a person thinks can be expressed easily in words. There also exists a much more complex and difficult situation, when “the heart cannot reveal to the heart,” that is, that the heart cannot reveal even to itself. These are difficulties that every person experiences at one point or another in his lifetime.

The Talmud11 presents a list of things that are concealed from us: the day of a person’s death; the day of consolation; the full depth of justice; that which is in another person’s heart – and the list goes on. The connection between these things is that they are all impossible to determine.

Why is it impossible to know what is in another person’s heart? Because everything that a person draws from deep inside him he must communicate through an intermediary mechanism, the translation from thoughts and feelings into words. The listener then transfers the matter from those words into his own heart. My contact with another person’s heart is, at best, twice removed from the source; there is no possibility of direct contact, of one spirit truly connecting with another.

We constantly try to solve the difficulty of communicating what is in our heart to the best of our ability, since that is the only way that a person can have an impact on the world around him. We hope that the other person not only hears our words, but is able to translate them back in his own heart while maintaining some of the purity of the original emotion. To be sure, the content of a person’s heart is difficult to formulate in words, but if there is true resonance between two people, between two beings who are otherwise entirely separate, then while perhaps it cannot be said that each person knows what is in the other’s heart, at least they are on the same wavelength.

There are some skills that are not included in any course of study, yet everyone must learn them. Sometimes a person must dedicate much of his life to these skills. One of these skills is the ability to develop a keen sense for things that cannot be said. Every Jew has his own inner dilemmas, but everyone shares the universal problem of faith – whether it is faith in God, or in other things. In matters of faith, anything that can be studied or articulated in words is irrelevant and unhelpful. If only we had a kind of window that would give us a direct view of God’s glory! But there is no such window. What remains is the responsibility to learn to sense, to intuit, that something exists that is beyond our comprehension, beyond the range of man’s ordinary perception, and to learn to relate to it. We must reach a point where we have, in addition to the vague awareness that such a thing exists, the maturity to understand that there is more to explore on the other side of the curtain, a continuation of our path. There may be no way to reach it, see it, or explain it, but it is possible to sense what lies on the other side of existence.

Our task, in any form of faith, is to develop an awareness that beyond the place that I know lies a place that I do not know. If we can accomplish this task, we can truly claim to have experienced even that which “no eye has seen.”

1.Gen. 49:1.
3.Guide for the Perplexed, I:49.
4.Gen. 49:10.
5.Mic. 4:4.
6.Is. 64:3.
7.Berachot 34b.
8.Bava Batra 74b.
9.Sanhedrin 97a.
10.Ecclesiastes Rabbah 12:10.
11.Pesachim 54b.
As taken from, ESSAY: The Concealed ‘End of Times’ (

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Posted by on December 27, 2020 in Uncategorized


La Notable Venganza de Iosef

De la cárcel al palacio: la "novela" de José, el otro hebreo que fue  esclavo en Egipto - Infobae

Por Rabí Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

“Pero ahora no estés triste, y no te preocupes por haberme vendido aquí, porque fue para preservar la vida que Dios me envió antes que tú.” Bereshit 45: 5

Pocas cosas son tan difíciles como tomar venganza sin dejar de ser recto. La combinación parece paradójica. Sin embargo, resulta más difícil no vengarse. A veces es inconcebible; los efectos de una injusticia penetran de forma enconada y tenaz las cámaras más recónditas del corazón de la víctima. Su devastador efecto puede llegar a destruir la vida de la víctima como muy pocas cosas pueden hacerlo. Grita por una salida para su deseo de venganza.

¿Cómo se puede dominar el deseo de represalias sin ser destruido por él? ¿Es posible no tener rencor? Los sentimientos de venganza no desaparecen simplemente a través de un acto de negación. Seguramente explotarán, y las secuelas serán peores que la venganza original aunque a uno le hubiera gustado ejecutarlo pero que concluyó siento reprimida.

Entonces, ¿cómo puede la Torá prohibir cualquier forma de represalia? “No te vengarás ni guardarás rencor a los miembros de tu pueblo”. [1] ¿No es esto pedir lo imposible? ¿Acaso no es, de hecho, peligroso? Podríamos comprender que no se nos permita ninguna forma de venganza, pero el que ni siquiera se nos permita guarda rencor es algo imposible, además de contraproducente. No se pueden reprimir los sentimientos sin esperar consecuencias.

Tomar venganza versus guardar rencor

¿Cómo lidió Yosef con sus sentimientos de injusticia después que sus hermanos lo maltrataron y lo vendieron como esclavo? ¿Realmente no se vengó o no les guardaba rencor, como afirman muchos comentaristas? Incluso el texto bíblico parece presentar esto como una posibilidad cuando nos dice cómo los hermanos de Yosef estaban preocupados de que él les reprochara el trato que le habían dado después de la muerte de su padre, Yaakov:

Los hermanos de Yosef vieron que su padre había muerto y dijeron: Quizás Yosef nos odiará y nos pagará todo el mal que le hicimos. [2]

Y Yosef les dijo: No temáis, porque ¿estoy yo en el lugar de Dios? Aunque pretendiste el mal contra mí, Dios lo diseñó para el bien, para que el resultado sea como realmente es en este día, para mantener viva a una gran nación. [3]

¿Por qué, entonces, Yosef no se reveló en la primera oportunidad que surgió, cuando sus hermanos se pararon frente a él? En cambio, se burla de ellos sin piedad. Les pide que vengan y luego los despide; los arresta después que tiene dinero y su copa real plantada en el costal de un hermano; arroja a uno de ellos a la cárcel y los pone a todos en un estado de miedo mortal. Si esto no es venganza, ¿qué es? Los comentaristas luchan con este episodio y han presentado explicaciones, algunas de ellas brillantes y otras débiles.

Yosef es un expert psicólogo. Su autopercepción es suprema. Se da cuenta de que la venganza es un intento inútil para remediar el sufrimiento vivido. La venganza no puede defenderse como un instrument para  “enseñarle una lección al agresor” o “vengarse”. Simplemente no funciona. La venganza en lugar de sanar la violencia y las heridas experimentadas, hace lo opuesto: se dispara e intensifica. Pero uno no debe asumir una actitud moral basada en la represión del impulso de venganza. Esto tampoco funcionará; porque para lograrlo exigiría que los humanos fueran ángeles.

En cambio, la rabia que alimenta la venganza debe ser redirigida hacia pensamientos y acciones positivas. El impulso de venganza debe debilitarse; y en su lugar, debe surgir un dolor genuino. Se debe dar tiempo a la necesidad de represalias para que desaparezca lentamente. Ésta no muere de la noche a la mañana.

Sanación “vengativa”

Al mismo tiempo, es necesario hacer que el perpetrador se dé cuenta de su error, haga las paces consigo mismo y se arrepienta sinceramente. La venganza solo puede ser significativa si cura tanto a la víctima como al perpetrador. Entonces, ya no es venganza sino “curación vengativa”. Lo que hace Yosef es establecer una estrategia mediante la cual se cumplen ambas condiciones.

Yosef, en realidad no se venga. Todo lo que hace es permitir que su subconsciente se salga con la suya y crea que se está vengando. Si bien su razón dicta que no debe tomar represalias, porque carece de propósito; él sabe que los sentimientos de odio pueden estar acechando en su subconsciente, incluso cuando él los ignora. Su experiencia con los sueños del panadero, el mayordomo y el faraón, le ha enseñado lo poderosa que es la voz subliminal. No hay escapatoria, por mucho que uno quiera eliminar cualquier sentimiento de venganza. Debe salirse con la suya. De lo contrario, puede manifestarse de la manera más contundente y causar un daño enorme. Ignorarlo es un gran error. Necesita ser reconocido. Debe haber venganza, incluso si va en contra de nuestro buen juicio . Pero nunca debe manifestarse en hechos; solo puede ser una venganza subconsciente.

Yosef es consciente de otro aspecto más de la necesidad de represalias. Es necesario que los perpetradores piensen que la persona afectada sí tuvo venganza, después de lo cual, puede haber un cierre completo.

Engañando al subconsciente

Por tanto, lo que Yosef hace es muy ingenioso. Engaña a su subconsciente y también a sus hermanos creando una estrategia que hace que todas las partes crean que en realidad se está vengando. De esta manera, satisface a todas las partes.

Al mismo tiempo, debe asegurarse que sus hermanos tengan la oportunidad de arrepentirse de sus errores, y eso solo se puede hacer si se crea un escenario en el que encuentren una situación similar a la del momento en que lo vendieron.

Maimónides define el arrepentimiento de la siguiente manera:

¿Qué constituye el arrepentimiento completo? El que se enfrenta a la situación idéntica en la que pecó anteriormente, y está en su poder volver a cometer el pecado, sin embargo se abstiene y no sucumbe porque desea arrepentirse… este es un verdadero penitente. [4].

Consciente de lo terriblemente culpables que se sentirán sus hermanos una vez se de a conocer, Yosef necesita crear una situación que evite esta posibilidad. Debe establecer un escenario que una vez más incitará al odio hacia uno de los hermanos, y debe ser nuevamente el hijo menor y favorito de Yaakov. Este sólo puede ser Binyamin. De hecho, es él quien satisface todos los requisitos necesarios para provocar una seria disputa entre los hermanos. Entonces Yosef procedo a distinguir a Binyamin, para asegurarse que se le vea como el culpable de causarle problemas a todos los hermanos; y para lograrlo se utiliza la taza y el dinero que colocaron en su saco, dándose la apariencia de un robo [5], luego procede a favorecerlo replicando la conducta de su padre quien favoreció a Yosef hace muchos años. [6] Este escenario le da a los hermanos una buena razón para odiar a Binyamin y abandonarlo. He aquí la prueba definitiva. ¿Dejarán caer a su hermano pequeño o lucharán por él y no lo venderán al enemigo?

Si eligen lo último, finalmente obtendrán tranquilidad; una vez que Yosef se revele, ya no habrá necesidad de sentimientos de culpa. ¡Sabrán que se han arrepentido! Han desarraigado su comportamiento anterior de manera óptima.

Al hacer todo esto, Yosef satisface la necesidad de su propio subconsciente de vengarse, y también permite que sus hermanos crean que él tuvo su venganza, mientras les presenta la oportunidad de hacer teshuvá. Todo esto se logra en un movimiento brillante, cuidadosamente planeado y ejecutado.

De lo que Yosef no se da cuenta es que es posible que el plan no funcione del todo. ¿Qué pasa si los hermanos no creen que después de haber tenido su “venganza” ya no los considerará culpables y todo estará bien? ¡Quizá continuará vengándose ahora que Yaakov ya no está vivo! Y de hecho esto es lo que los hermanos parecen creer.

Semejante situación crea un enorme dilema para Yosef. ¿Cómo los convencerá de que ese no es el caso? Si no puede persuadirlos de su genuina convicción donde no hay lugar para la venganza, entonces no hay posibilidad de que su relación con ellos, de una vez por todas, se sane. De lo único que podría convencerlos es que no se vengará. Pero se da cuenta que no puede demostrarles que no les guarda rencor. No le creerán.

Volteando las mesas

Una vez más, hace un movimiento inteligente. En lugar de intentar convencerlos les pregunta: ¿Y ustedes? ¿No tienen motivos para guardarme rencor, incluso después de todo lo que me han hecho? Quizás tenían razón en su animosidad contra mí. Después de todo, mi comportamiento fue desagradable. Hablé mal de ustedes a nuestro padre. [7] Mis sueños donde se inclinaban ante mí obviamente les angustiaban. ¿Quién no se enojaría? Entiendo que se sintieron maltratados cuando nuestro padre me dio la túnica multicolor a mí y no a ninguno de ustedes. De muchas formas, puse la trampa que les atrapó. Entonces, ¿por qué echarse toda la culpa? Todos somos culpables. Quizás hice sus vidas tan miserables como ustedes hicieron la mía. Más que eso, sé que me estaban buscando cuando llegaron a Egipto. No vinieron solo a comprar comida, sino también a buscarme y hacer las paces conmigo. Pero no quería que tuvieras la satisfacción de encontrarme, así que preparé el escenario, amenazándolos, metiendo a nuestro hermano Shimon en la cárcel y causándoles enormes problemas al tratar con nuestro hermano menor, Binyamin.

Entonces, ¿no estamos ya parejos? Vivo una vida de riqueza. Tengo sirvientes a mi entera disposición. Soy el segundo en poder, probablemente no solo en Egipto, ya que Egipto es, con mucho, el imperio más grande del mundo. Entonces, ¿quién tiene más motivos para quejarse, tú o yo? Tuviste que sufrir una terrible hambruna y vivir día y noche con un padre deprimido, mientras yo disfrutaba como el mimado segundo monarca de Egipto.

¿No es sorprendente que intentaron hacerme daño, pero solo lográndolo parcialmente? Los acontecimientos se desarrollaron de una manera que nadie podría haber esperado. Sus actos “terribles” fueron fundamentales para convertirme en quien soy hoy: un hombre rico y poderoso, que disfruta de su vida como pocos pueden. Entonces, ¿por qué debería vengarme de ustedes? ¡Son ustedes quienes tienen buenas razones para vengarse de mí! Me han convertido en un hombre grande, poderoso y rico. Pero, ¿qué he hecho por ustedes durante todos estos años? Los dejé en el frío, sin extenderles mi mano en la Tierra de Israel. Nunca intenté ponerme en contacto con ustedes y con nuestro padre; y nunca nos hubiéramos conocido si no hubieran tomado la iniciativa. No fui yo quien los buscó. ¡Los habría dejado morir de hambre! ¿No es tan malo como lo que me hicieron? De hecho, ¡es mucho peor!

Por lo tanto, debería estar agradecido por lo que me hieron, aun cuando los comienzos fueron difíciles. No solo eso: me pregunto porqué no quieren vengarse de mí ahora, ¡ahora que están frente a mí! Soy el más vulnerable. Podrían gritarme, herirme e incluso matarme. Aquí no hay sirvientes; ¡le ordené salir a todos para asegurarme que estuviéramos solos!

¿No se dan cuenta de que son unos tzadikim excepcionales? ¡Por mucho, soy inferior a ustedes! Por lo que me hicieron, puedo salvar a nuestra nación. Así que no soy yo quien debe ser alabado; son ustedes quienes han logrado todo esto. Mirando aún más profundo, no hay explicación para esta historia surrealista, a nos ser que Dios mismo la diseñó y nadie más.

Ante semejante análisis, Yosef no solo convence a sus hermanos de su inocencia, sino que logra su objetivo final: convencer a su subconsciente. Al planificar toda esta estrategia y argumentar que no es él quien debería estar molesto, sino sus hermanos, queda claro que no hay absolutamente ningún lugar para la venganza.

¿Venganza? ¡No sé de qué estás hablando! No solo no me vengaré de ti; ni siquiera puedo guardarte rencor.

Ésta es la ingeniosa e incomparable sabiduría que demuestra Yosef. Argumenta contra sí mismo y se convence a sí mismo de que solo hay Uno que está detrás de esta historia y que los sentimientos personales no tienen nada que ver con esto.

Caso cerrado en todos los niveles.


[1] Vayikra 19:18.

[2] Bereshit 50:15.

[3] Ibid. 19-20.

[4]. Mishne Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah 2:1.

[5] Bereshit 44:12.

[6] Ibid. 37:3-4.

[7] Ibid. 37:2; See also Rashi.

Según tomado de,

Traducción por drigs (CEJSPR)

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Posted by on December 24, 2020 in Uncategorized


Yosef’s Remarkable Revenge

The Joy of Saying “I am Sorry” – Centro Estudios Judaicos del Sur de PR

But now do not be sad, and let it not trouble you that you sold me here, for it was to preserve life that God sent me before you. Bereshit 45:5

Few things are as difficult as taking revenge while remaining righteous. The combination seems paradoxical. Even harder, though, is not to take revenge. It is sometimes inconceivable; an injustice enters the innermost chambers of the victim’s heart, festering and tenacious. Its devastating effect can destroy the victim’s life as few things can. It cries for an outlet in vengeance.

How does one master one’s desire for retaliation without being destroyed by it? Is it possible not to bear a grudge? Feelings of revenge cannot be eliminated simply by denying them. They will surely explode, and the aftermath will be even worse than the original revenge one would have liked to take but suppressed.

How, then, can the Torah forbid any form of retaliation? “You shall neither take revenge nor bear a grudge against the members of your people.”[1] Is this not asking the impossible? Is it not, in fact, dangerous? We might understand that one is not allowed to take revenge in the form of action, but not even to bear a grudge seems to be impossible, as well as counterproductive. One cannot suppress feelings without expecting consequences.

Taking revenge vs. bearing a grudge

How did Yosef deal with his feelings of injustice after his brothers mistreated him and sold him into slavery? Did he really not take revenge or bear a grudge against them, as many commentators claim? Even the biblical text seems to present this as a possibility when it tells us how Yosef’s brothers were worried that he would hold their treatment of him against them after their father Yaakov died:

Yosef’s brothers saw that their father had died, and they said: Perhaps Yosef will hate us, and will pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.[2]

And Yosef said to them: Fear not, for am I in the place of God? Though you intended evil against me, God designed it for the good, to make the outcome as it actually is on this day, to keep a great nation alive.[3]

Why, then, did Yosef not reveal himself at the first opportunity that arose, when his brothers stood before him? Instead, he teases them mercilessly. He bids them to come and then sends them away; arrests them after he has money and his royal cup planted in one brother’s sack; throws one of them into jail and puts them all in a state of mortal fear. If this is not revenge, what is? Commentators struggle with this episode and have come up with explanations, some of them brilliant, and some weak.

Yosef is a skillful psychologist. His self-perception is supreme. He realizes that revenge is a futile attempt to remedy past suffering. Vengeance cannot be defended as “teaching the aggressor a lesson,” or “getting even.” It simply doesn’t work. Rather than bringing closure after suffering violence and injury, revenge spirals and escalates. But one cannot take a moral stand based on suppressing the urge toward revenge. This also will not work; for it would require humans to be angels.

Instead, the rage that feeds vengeance should be redirected to positive thought and action. The impulse toward revenge must be weakened; in its place, genuine sorrow should emerge. The need for retaliation must be given time to slowly die out. It cannot be killed overnight.

“Vengeful” healing

At the same time, it is necessary to cause the perpetrator to realize his mistake, make peace with himself and sincerely repent. Revenge can be meaningful only if it is healing to both the victim and the perpetrator. Then, it is no longer vengeance but “vengeful healing”. What Yosef does is to set up a strategy by which both conditions are fulfilled.

Yosef does not take actual revenge. All he does is allow his subconscious to have its way and believe that he is taking revenge. While his reason dictates not to retaliate, because it has no purpose, he knows that feelings of hate may be lurking in his subconscious even as he is unaware of them. His experience with dreams, via the baker, the wine butler, and Pharaoh, has taught him how powerful is the subliminal voice. There is no escape, however much one would like to remove any feelings of vengeance. It must get its way. Otherwise, it may manifest itself in the most forceful manner and cause enormous damage. To ignore it is a major mistake. It needs to be acknowledged. There must be revenge, even if it goes against one’s better judgment. But it should never manifest itself in deeds; it can only be subconscious revenge.

Yosef is aware of yet another aspect of the need for retaliation. It is necessary for the perpetrators to think that he had his revenge, after which, there can be complete closure.

Tricking the subconscious

Thus, what Yosef does is most ingenious. He tricks his subconscious as well as his brothers by creating a strategy that makes all parties believe that he actually is taking revenge. In this way, he satisfies all sides.

At the same time, he must make sure that his brothers have the opportunity to repent for their mistakes, and that can be done only if he creates a scenario where they find themselves in a similar situation as at the time when they sold him.

Maimonides defines repentance as follows:

What constitutes complete repentance? He who is confronted by the identical situation wherein he previously sinned, and it lies within his power to commit the sin again, but he nevertheless abstains and does not succumb because he wishes to repent…this is a true penitent.[4]

Aware of how terribly guilty the brothers will feel once he reveals himself, Yosef needs to create a situation that would preempt this possibility. He must set up a scenario that will once again incite hatred for one of the brothers, and it must again be Yaakov’s youngest and favorite child. This can only be Binyamin. Indeed, it is he who satisfies all the requirements needed to bring about a serious dispute among the brothers. And so Yosef sets Binyamin apart, making sure he is guilty of getting all the brothers into trouble—due to the discovery of the cup and the money in his sack, which he seemingly stole[5] —and favoring him, just as their father Yaakov, favored Yosef many years earlier.[6] This gives the brothers good reason to hate Binyamin and to abandon him. It is the ultimate test. Will they let their little brother down, or will they fight for him and not sell him to the enemy?

If they choose the latter, they will finally gain peace of mind; once Yosef reveals himself, there will no longer be need for feelings of guilt. They will know that they have repented! They have uprooted their earlier behavior in an optimal way.

In doing all this, Yosef satisfies the need of his own subconscious to take revenge, and also allows his brothers to believe that he had his revenge, while presenting them with the opportunity to do teshuvah. All of this is accomplished in one brilliant move, carefully planned and executed.

What Yosef doesn’t realize is that the plan may not entirely work. What if the brothers don’t believe that after he has had his “revenge” he will no longer consider them guilty and all will be well? Perhaps he will continue to take revenge now that Yaakov is no longer alive! And indeed this is what the brothers seem to believe. It creates an enormous dilemma for Yosef. How will he convince them that such is not the case? If he can’t persuade them of his sincere belief that there is no place for vengeance, then there is no chance that his relationship with them will, once and for all, be healed. The only thing he might be able to convince them of is that he won’t take revenge in deed. But he realizes that he can’t prove to them that he doesn’t bear a grudge. They won’t believe him.

Turning the tables

Again, he makes a smart move. Instead of trying to convince them of what they believe is impossible, he asks them: What about you? Don’t you have reason to bear a grudge against me even after all you have done to me? Perhaps you were right in your animosity toward me. After all, my behavior was obnoxious. I spoke evil about you to our father.[7] My dreams that you would bow down to me obviously distressed you. Who would not be upset? I understand that you felt mistreated when our father gave the many-colored garment to me and not to any of you. In many ways, I laid the trap that ensnared you. So why put all the guilt on yourselves? We are all guilty. Perhaps I made your lives as miserable as you made mine. More than that, I know that you were looking for me when you came to Egypt. You didn’t come only to buy food, but also to find me and make peace with me. But I didn’t want you to have the satisfaction of finding me, so I set the stage — threatening you, putting our brother Shimon in jail and causing you enormous problems when dealing with our youngest brother, Binyamin.

Are we not even, then? I live a life of wealth. I have servants at my beck and call. I am second in power—probably not only in Egypt, since Egypt is by far the largest empire in the world. So who has more reason to complain, you or me? You had to suffer through a terrible famine and live day and night with a depressed father, while I enjoyed myself as the spoiled second monarch of Egypt.

Is it not remarkable that you tried to harm me, but it only partially succeeded? Events turned in a way that nobody could have expected. Your “terrible” deeds were actually instrumental in my becoming who I am today: a wealthy and powerful man, enjoying his life as few can. So why should I take revenge on you? It is you who have good reason to take revenge on me! You have made me a great, powerful and wealthy man. But what have I done for you all these years? I left you out in the cold, never stretching out my hand to you in the Land of Israel. I never tried to make contact with you and our father; and we would never have met had you not taken the initiative. It was not I who searched for you. I would have let you die in the famine! Is that not as bad as what you did to me? In fact, it is much worse!

So, I should be thankful to you for what you did to me, even if the beginnings were difficult. Not only that: I wonder why you don’t want to take revenge on me now, now that you stand in front of me! I am most vulnerable. You could shout at me, injure me, and even kill me. There are no servants here; I sent them all away to ensure that we would be alone!

Don’t you realize what outstanding tzaddikim you are? I am by far inferior to you! Because of what you did to me I can save our nation. So it is not I who is to be praised; it is you who brought all this about. Looking even deeper, there is no explanation for this surreal story but that God engineered it, and no one else.

Arguing this way, Yosef not only convinces his brothers of their blamelessness, but he achieves his ultimate goal: convincing his subconscious. By planning this whole strategy and contending that it is not he who should be upset but his brothers, it becomes clear that there is absolutely no place for revenge.

Revenge? I don’t know what you’re talking about! Not only will I not take revenge on you; I cannot even bear a grudge against you.

This is the ingenious wisdom that Yosef demonstrates. He argues against himself and convinces himself that there is only One Who is behind this story, and that personal feelings have no part in this.

Closure on all levels.

This essay appears in my book Cardozo on the Parasha, Bereshit, Kasva Press, St Paul Minnesota, 2019, page 221. Next week we will continue with the “Post Corona Crisis”.


[1] Vayikra 19:18.

[2] Bereshit 50:15.

[3] Ibid. 19-20.

[4]. Mishne Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah 2:1.

[5] Bereshit 44:12.

[6] Ibid. 37:3-4.

[7] Ibid. 37:2; See also Rashi.

Questions to Ponder from the DCA Think Tank

  1. Strategies to promote healing for victims of violence and abuse are, sadly, as relevant as ever in our modern world. Yosef’s strategy, by Rabbi Cardozo’s account, is one that seeks healing for the victim (Yosef), the perpetrators (the brothers) and their relationship. It involves acknowledgment of his pain and vulnerability as well as understanding and empathy for the perpetrators. That is a tall order, and it is noteworthy that Yosef does this when he is no longer in a position of risk vis-e-vis his brothers. In our modern world, are there circumstances where this strategy of mutual healing is appropriate (family mediation or therapy)? Are there circumstances where it is inappropriate?
  2. In Rabbi Cardozo’s account, revenge does not work, and is even counter-productive, since it leads to an escalating spiral of violence. Is there a place for revenge in maintaining the moral equilibrium of civilization? Societies, for example, solve the problem of the escalating spiral by taking punishment out of the hands of the victim and placing it in the hands of an independent penal system. Is revenge the (or an) underlying principle of the concept of punishment?
  3. Yosef understood his suffering as also giving rise to the circumstances that enabled him to affect great good in the world, primarily to save his family, the future nation. It was in this way that he perceived God’s hand in his fate. Our modern world, too, has its moral heroes, for whom great suffering and tragedy has been a springboard for doing good in the world. Might this be an alternative to theodicy—of justifying God in the face of the existence of evil.

As taken from, Thought to Ponder: Yosef’s Remarkable Revenge (

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Posted by on December 24, 2020 in Uncategorized


¿Qué es lo que creemos los judíos/as acerca de Jesús?

Cómo el judaísmo ve al hombre que los cristianos veneran como el Mesías.

Jesús es una figura central del cristianismo, que los cristianos creen que es el Mesías, el hijo de Dios y la segunda persona de la Trinidad.

Pero, ¿qué es lo que creen los judíos acerca de Jesús?

– Para algunos judíos, el nombre es casi un sinónimo de los pogromos y las Cruzadas, acusaciones de deicidio y siglos de antisemitismo cristiano.

– Otros judíos, de manera reciente, lo han llegado a ver como un maestro judío. Esto no significa, sin embargo, que crean, como los cristianos, que se levantó de entre los muertos o que era el Mesías.

Aunque ahora mucha gente ve a Jesús como el fundador del cristianismo, es importante resaltar que nunca tuvo la intención de establecer una nueva religión, al menos acorde a las fuentes más antiguas, y que nunca usó el término “cristiano”. Nació y vivió como un judío, y sus primeros seguidores también fueron judíos. El cristianismo surgió como una religión distinta sólo en los siglos después de la muerte de Jesús.

¿Quién era Jesús?

Prácticamente todo lo que se sabe del Jesús histórico proviene de los cuatro evangelios del Nuevo Testamento (Mateo, Marcos, Lucas y Juan), que los académicos creen que fueron escritos varias décadas después de la muerte de Jesús.

Pese a que no hay evidencia arqueológica o física de su existencia, la mayoría de los académicos están de acuerdo en que Jesús existió, que nació en algún momento de la década anterior a la Era Común, y que fue crucificado entre el 26 y el 36 EC (los años en los que el gobernador romano, Poncio Pilato, rigió Judea).

Vivió en una época en la que el Imperio Romano gobernó lo que hoy es Israel y en la que el sectarismo estaba extendido, con grandes tensiones entre los judíos, no sólo en cuanto hasta qué punto cooperar con los romanos, sino también en cuanto a cómo interpretar la Torá. También fue, para algunos, un tiempo inestable cuando el descontento con las políticas romanas, así como con los sumos sacerdotes del Templo, sembraron las esperanzas por un redentor mesiánico que echaría a los ocupantes extranjeros y reestablecería la soberanía judía en la Tierra de Israel.

¿Fue Jesús el Mesías?

La cuestión: “¿Fue Jesús el Mesías?”, requiere de una pregunta anterior: “¿Cuál es la definición de Mesías?”. Los Profetas (Nevi’im), quienes escribieron cientos de años antes del nacimiento de Jesús, tuvieron la visión de una era mesiánica como un período de paz universal, en la que la guerra y el hambre serían erradicadas, y la humanidad aceptaría la soberanía de Dios. Durante el primer siglo, la idea desarrolló que la era mesiánica atestiguaría una resurrección general de los muertos, la reunión de todos los judíos en la Tierra de Israel, incluyendo las 10 tribus perdidas, un juicio final y paz universal.

Algunos judíos creían que el Mesías sería un descendiente del Rey David (basándose en la interpretación de la promesa de Dios a David de un reino eterno en Samuel 2:7). Los Rollos del Mar Muerto hablan de dos Mesías: un líder militar y un sacerdote. Otros judíos esperaban al Profeta Elías, al ángel Miguel, a Enoc, y a cualquier otro número de figuras para que dieran paso a la era mesiánica. Historias en los Evangelios acerca de Jesús sanando a los enfermos, levantando a los muertos o proclamando la inminencia del reino de los cielos, sugieren que sus seguidores lo veían como alguien designado por Dios para traer consigo la era mesiánica.

Más de 1,000 años después de la crucifixión de Jesús, el sabio medieval Maimónides (también conocido como Rambam) expuso en su Mishné Torá cosas específicas que los judíos creen que el Mesías tiene que cumplir para que se confirme su identidad, entre ellas, la restauración del

Reino de David y de su antigua gloria, lograr la victoria en batalla contra los enemigos de Israel, reconstruir el Templo (que los romanos destruyeron en el año 70 EC) y la reunión de los exiliados en la Tierra de Israel. “Y si no logra tener éxito en esto, o si es asesinado, será sabido que no fue aquél prometido por la Torá”, escribió Maimónides.

¿Qué hay acerca de “Judíos para Jesús”?

“Judíos para Jesús” es una rama de un movimiento más amplio llamado Judíos Mesiánicos. Los miembros de este movimiento no son aceptados como judíos por la comunidad judía en general, aun cuando algunos de sus adherentes hayan nacido judíos y que su vida ritual incluya rituales judíos. Aunque un judío por sí mismo podría aceptar a Jesús como el Mesías y técnicamente seguir siendo judío (la negación de cualquier creencia o práctica judía no anula lo judío de uno), las creencias de los judíos mesiánicos son teológicamente incompatibles con el judaísmo.

¿Los judíos mataron a Jesús?

No. Jesús fue ejecutado por los romanos. La crucifixión fue una forma romana de ejecución, no una judía.

En la mayor parte de la historia cristiana, los judíos fueron considerados los responsables de la muerte de Jesús. Esto es debido a que el Nuevo Testamento tiende a colocar la culpa de manera específica en el liderazgo del Templo y, de manera más general, en el pueblo judío. De acuerdo a los evangelios, el gobernador romano Poncio Pilato se mostró reticente a ejecutar a Jesús, pero fue alentado por judíos sedientos de sangre, una escena que fue capturada de manera bien conocida por la controversial película de Mel Gibson del año 2004, “La Pasión de Cristo”. De acuerdo al Evangelio de Mateo, después de que Pilato se lava sus manos y se declara a sí mismo inocente de la muerte de Jesús, “todo el pueblo” (es decir, todos los judíos en Jerusalén)  responden, “Su sangre sea sobre nosotros, y sobre nuestros hijos” (Mateo 27:25).

Este “clamor de sangre” y otros versículos fueron usados para justificar siglos del prejuicio cristiano contra los judíos. En 1965, el Vaticano promulgó un documento llamado “Nostra Aetate” (el latín para “En Nuestra Época”) que declaró que los judíos en general no deberían ser tomados como responsables por la muerte de Jesús. Este texto cimentó el camino para un acercamiento histórico entre judíos y católicos. Varias denominaciones protestantes alrededor del globo subsecuentemente adoptaron declaraciones similares.

¿Por qué fue asesinado Jesús?

Algunos han sugerido que Jesús fue un rebelde político que buscó la restauración de la soberanía judía y fue ejecutado por los romanos por sedición, un argumento que se propuso en dos obras recientes: “Zelote” de Reza Aslan y “Jesús kosher” de Shmuley Boteach. Sin embargo, esta tesis no es ampliamente aceptada por académicos del Nuevo Testamento. Si Roma hubiera visto a Jesús como el líder de una banda de revolucionarios, habría arrestado también a sus seguidores. Tampoco hay evidencia alguna en el Nuevo Testamento que sugiera que Jesús y sus seguidores eran zelotes interesados en una rebelión armada en contra de Roma. Más plausible es la hipótesis de que los romanos veían a Jesús como una amenaza para la paz y lo asesinaron debido a que estaba ganando seguidores que lo veían como una figura mesiánica.

¿Jesús rechazó el judaísmo?

Algunos han interpretado ciertos versículos en los Evangelios como rechazos de la creencia y práctica judía. En el Evangelio de Marcos, por ejemplo, se dice que Jesús declaró “limpios” a alimentos prohibidos, un versículo comúnmente entendido como un rechazo de las leyes dietéticas kosher, pero esta es la extrapolación de Marcos y no necesariamente la intención de Jesús. Jesús y sus primeros seguidores judíos continuaron siguiendo la ley judía.

El Nuevo Testamento también incluye numerosos versículos que declaran a Jesús como igual a Dios y como divino, una creencia difícil de reconciliar dada la insistencia del judaísmo de la unicidad de Dios. Sin embargo, algunos judíos de la época encontraron compatible con su tradición la idea de que lo divino podía tomar una forma humana. Otros quizá vieron a Jesús como un ángel, tal como el “Ángel del Señor” que aparece en Génesis 16, Génesis 22, Éxodo 3 (en forma de una zarza ardiente) y en otros versículos.

¿Existen textos judíos que mencionen a Jesús?

Sí. El historiador judío del primer siglo, Josefo, menciona a Jesús, aunque la mayor referencia en su “Antigüedades de los Judíos” parece haber sido editada y aumentada por escribas cristianos. Hay pocas referencias en el Talmud a “Yeshu”, que muchas autoridades creen que se refiere a Jesús.

El tratado Sanhedrin del Talmud, originalmente registró que Yeshu el Nazareno fue colgado en la víspera de Pésaj por el crimen de llevar por mal camino a los judíos. Esta referencia fue eliminada de versiones posteriores del Talmud, probablemente debido a su uso por los cristianos como un pretexto para la persecución.

En el período medieval, un trabajo llamado Toledot Yeshu, presentó una historia alternativa de Jesús que rechaza las creencias fundamentales cristianas. La obra, que no es parte del canon de la literatura rabínica, no es tan conocida.

Maimónides, en su Mishné Torá, describe a Jesús como el fallido Mesías previsto por el Profeta Daniel. En vez de redimir a Israel, Maimónides escribe, Jesús causó que los judíos fueran asesinados y exiliados, cambió la Torá y llevó al mundo a adorar a un falso Dios.

Lee en ingles aquí

To read this article, “What Do Jews Believe About Jesus?” in English, click here.

Agradecimientos especiales a Amy-Jill Levine, profesora universitaria de la Facultad de Nuevo Testamento y Estudios Judíos de la Escuela de Teología Vanderbilt y el Colegio de Artes y Ciencias, por su asistencia con este artículo.

Según tomado de, ¿Qué es lo que creen los judíos acerca de Jesús? | My Jewish Learning

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Posted by on December 24, 2020 in Uncategorized


7 conversos judíos increíbles

por Ivette Alt Miller

7 conversos judíos increíbles

Historias inspiradoras de quienes se unieron al pueblo judío.

A lo largo de la historia, el pueblo judío se vio enriquecido por nuestros conversos. Algunas figuras centrales de la Torá que se convirtieron al judaísmo son Rut (la tatarabuela del Rey David), el profeta Obadiá, Batia (la hija del Faraón que rescató a Moshé del rio), Tzipora (la esposa de Moshé) y Rajab (quien ayudó a Iehoshúa a llevar al pueblo judío hacia la Tierra de Israel y luego se convirtió en su esposa).

También en tiempos más modernos, hubo quienes decidieron unirse al pueblo judío. Aquí presento a siete conversos judíos y sus extraordinarias historias.

La reina Helena

A principios del siglo I EC, la reina Helena gobernaba un pequeño reinado llamado Adiabene al norte de Israel, posiblemente en Iraq o Siria. Muchos mercaderes judíos pasaban por Adiabene y Helena admiraba su honestidad y disfrutaba aprender de ellos sobre el judaísmo. Un mercader en particular, llamado Ananias, le enseñó a la reina Helena y a su hijo Izates sobre el judaísmo. Ambos decidieron convertirse.

La tumba de la reina Helena de Adiabene

Cuando falleció el esposo de la reina Helena, ella nombró rey a Izates. La costumbre de la época era ejecutar a los otros hijos del rey fallecido para asegurar que su sucesor no enfrentara rivales al trono. En vez de cumplir con esa costumbre barbárica, la reina Helena y el rey Izates influenciados por su nueva fe judía perdonaron la vida de los príncipes y en vez de ejecutarlos enviaron a los otros hijos del rey fallecido al exilio en Roma.

La reina Helena viajó a Jerusalem. El historiador judío Flavio Josefo afirma que ella ordenó que le construyeran allí un hermoso palacio. Durante el reinado del emperador romano Claudio (41-54 EC), hubo hambruna en la Tierra de Israel. La reina Helena usó su riqueza personal para ayudar a aliviar el sufrimiento de sus hermanos judíos; compró granos y frutas a Egipto y Chipre para ayudar a alimentar a la población. La reina Helena murió en su reino de Adiabene, pero tanto ella como su hijo Izates fueron enterrados en Jerusalem.


Un adinerado aristócrata de la antigua Roma, Onkelos era el sobrino del emperador romano. (Algunos dicen que era pariente del Emperador Adriano y otros del Emperador Tito). En el año 135 EC, las autoridades romanas detuvieron brutalmente una sublevación judía que quiso recuperar el control de la Tierra de Israel que estaba en manos de sus conquistadores romanos. Los soldados romanos masacraron a miles de judíos y decretaron que, a partir de ese momento, no podían quedar judíos en Jerusalem. El emperador romano Adriano incluso ordenó a sus soldados cambiar el nombre de Jerusalem a Aelia Capitolina. Adriano envió a Onkelos para ayudar a supervisar la ciudad.

El comentario de Onkelos, a la derecha

Cuando llegó a Jerusalem, Onkelos conoció judíos y al parecer lo abrumó la belleza y la lógica de la fe judía. Finalmente, Onkelos se convirtió al judaísmo. Esto enfureció al emperador Adriano, quien envió a Jerusalem escuadrones de soldados para que llevaran a Onkelos de regreso a Roma. En vez de seguirlos, Onkelos les enseñó a los soldados sobre el judaísmo y también ellos decidieron quedarse en la Tierra de Israel y convertirse al judaísmo.

Durante la vida de Onkelos ganó popularidad el idioma arameo, similar al hebreo y escrito con letras hebreas. Onkelos tradujo los Cinco Libros de Moshé al arameo. Esta traducción (también llamada “Targum)” hoy en día se incluye en muchas Biblias judías. El “Targum Onkelos” es un comentario crucial de la Torá. Cada día, judíos de todos los rincones del mundo consultan la traducción de Onkelos para entender su penetrante análisis de las palabras sagradas.

Johannes, hijo de Dreux

Johannes nació en Francia, en una familia de clase alta originaria de Normandía, y a fines del siglo XI vivía en el sur de Italia. Roger, el hermano gemelo de Johannes, se convirtió en un caballero y fue conocido como Sir Roger. En vez de aspirar a una vida aristocrática similar, Johannes tomó una decisión radicalmente diferente.

Él escuchó hablar del infame arzobispo de Bari, también del sur de Italia, quien se había enamorado tanto del estudio y la verdad judía que se convirtió al judaísmo y se mudó a Constantinopla. Este cambio fue muy impactante. Por toda Europa, los cristianos llevaban a cabo cruzadas en contra de los judíos y otros no cristianos. Unirse a la comunidad judía parecía algo impensable. Sin embargo, cuando Johannes escuchó sobre el arzobispo de Bari, algo hizo eco en el joven y también él decidió comenzar a estudiar sobre el judaísmo. En algún momento, alrededor del año 1102, Johannes tuvo un fuerte sueño sobre el judaísmo y eso ayudó a darle el ímpetu necesario para estudiar.

Los judíos europeos vivían en terror por las Cruzadas. Por eso Johannes decidió irse a estudiar a Constantinopla. En el camino lo hirieron los cruzados que tenían como blanco a la comunidad judía. Él se recuperó y en cierto momento se unió al pueblo judío y adoptó el nombre hebreo Obadiá. Vivió por todo el Medio Oriente, incluso en la Tierra de Israel, y se convirtió en un célebre erudito.

Un fragmento escrito por Obadiá encontrado en la Guenizá de El Cairo

Obadiá escribió una autobiografía y compuso un bello rezo que se canta en la festividad de Shavuot. Fragmentos de estos y de otros de sus escritos fueron preservados en la Guenizá de El Cairo. Su plegaria de Shavuot, que incluye notas musicales, es la partitura judía más antigua del mundo.

Robert de Reading

Robert era un brillante estudiante de la ciudad británica Reading a finales del siglo XIII. Él estudió cristianismo y hebreo en la Universidad de Oxford y se convirtió en un fraile dominicano. A pesar del intenso odio antijudío que reinaba en Inglaterra en esa época, Robert se interesó en el judaísmo y decidió unirse al pueblo judío. Él se convirtió formalmente, tomó el nombre hebreo Jagai y se casó con una mujer judía.

Trágicamente, Robert fue arrestado y llevado ante el rey. Él defendió enérgicamente al judaísmo y habló en contra de su antigua fe cristiana. El rey le ordenó al arzobispo de Canterbury castigar esa “blasfemia” y Robert fue quemado vivo por herejía.

Lord George Gordon

Lord Gordon nació en 1757 en Londres. Su padre era el Duque de Gordon y el pequeño George creció rodeado de riqueza y privilegios. A pesar de su cómoda vida, a Lord Gordon le preocupaban las necesidades de los pobres y oprimidos. Se convirtió en un abolicionista después de haberse unido a la Fuerza Naval británica y ser testigo de los horrores de la esclavitud en Jamaica. Entró al parlamento en 1774. Se negó a unirse a cualquier partido político y afirmó que representaba “al partido del pueblo”. Fue una figura polarizada en el parlamento, defendió a los pobres y también lo acusaron de fomentar una semana de revueltas anticatólicas en 1780, conocidas como las revueltas “Gordon”.

Lord George era un devoto protestante, pero una visita al pueblo británico de lpswich cambió su vida. Al caminar por una angosta callejuela en el área judía del pueblo, vio un cartel arriba de la puerta del líder de la comunidad judía local, Isaac Titterman. Reb Titterman era el mohel y el shojet de lpswich y dirigía los servicios en la sinagoga del pueblo. “Todo aquel que tenga hambre que entre y coma” decía el cartel, repitiendo las palabras de la Hagadá de Pésaj. Lord George quiso saber más sobre el pueblo para quien ayudar a los pobres y los hambrientos era tan importante. Lord Gordon comenzó a estudiar hebreo y Torá y se unió formalmente al pueblo judío en 1787. Se volvió un judío extremadamente devoto, se dejó crecer una larga barba y se dedicó al estudio de Torá y a la caridad.

Lord George Gordon

Tristemente, sólo pudo disfrutar de un año de vida como un hombre judío libre. En 1788 fue juzgado por traición. Los motivos fueron complejos. Lord Gordon había visitado Francia años atrás y se había horrorizado por el gran contraste entre ricos y pobres. Él no tuvo problemas en criticar la política francesa y apoyó a una figura polarizada de la política francesa. En 1778 lo condenaron por traición contra la reina de Francia, María Antonieta. Lord Gordon fue sentenciado a prisión en Newgate, en Londres.

Como era un aristócrata, en la prisión le dieron su propia habitación y le permitieron tener visitas. El flujo constante de visitantes judíos implicó que sólo comiera comida kasher y que pudiera rezar con minián cada día. En Newgate había otros prisioneros judíos que se beneficiaron de estos servicios. Lord Gordon era famoso por alegrar a sus compañeros de prisión tocando el violín, llenando a Newgate de música. Lord Gordon falleció en prisión en 1793, siendo uno de los judíos británicos más conocidos de su época.

Warder Cresson

Warder Cresson nació en Filadelfia en 1798 y durante su juventud experimentó con muchas doctrinas religiosas. Él rechazó la fe cuáquera de su familia y exploró otras denominaciones cristianas. Eventualmente se hizo amigo de un granjero judío llamado Isaac Leeser que vivía en las cercanías. Mientras más aprendía sobre el judaísmo de su nuevo amigo, más se convencía de que esa era la religión que él estaba buscando.

Warder decidió viajar a la Tierra de Israel para aprender más y consiguió que le ofrecieran el puesto de Cónsul de los Estados Unidos en Jerusalem. Finalmente no asumió el cargo: después de haberse embarcado hacia el Medio Oriente, un oficial del gobierno de los Estados Unidos escribió una carta denigrante sobre los intereses religiosos de Warder, y afirmó que Warder llevaba “varios años funcionando con una aberración mental”, tal como lo dejaba en evidencia su fascinación por el judaísmo. Le retiraron la oferta de ser Cónsul general.

Warder Cresson

De todos modos, Warder se quedó en Jerusalem durante cuatro años y se convirtió formalmente al judaísmo en 1848. Adoptó el nombre hebreo Mijael Boaz y regresó a su casa en Pensilvania como un orgulloso judío. Su esposa y su hijo se habían negado a acompañarlo a Jerusalem y no estaban contentos con la nueva fe de Warder. Ellos le pidieron a una corte de Filadelfia que lo declarara demente; la “prueba” era su conversión al judaísmo. Increíblemente, un juez accedió y Warder fue declarado mentalmente insano por haberse unido al pueblo judío.

Warder apeló la decisión y finalmente se le concedió un nuevo juicio en 1851. Esta vez el jurado decidió que el judaísmo era una religión legitima y que Warder no sufría ninguna enfermedad mental por haberse convertido. Mientras esperaba esta crucial decisión, Warder siguió viviendo una vida religiosa, se unió a la sinagoga Mikve Israel y formó parte de la vida judía de Filadelfia. Se divorció de su primera esposa y regresó a vivir en Jerusalem en 1852.

Allí se casó con una mujer judía llamada Rajel Meladano y escribió un libro sobre teología judía. Warder siguió en contacto con su amigo de Pensilvania Isaac Leeser, quien publicó las cartas que Warder enviaba desde Jerusalem en el periódico judío norteamericano The Occident. Warder falleció en Jerusalem en 1860 y fue enterrado en el Monte de los Olivos. Era tan querido en la comunidad judía de Jerusalem que le brindaron los honores que generalmente se otorgaba a los rabinos destacados.

Mike Flanagan

Mike Flanagan nació en Irlanda. Cuando estalló la Segunda Guerra Mundial, se ofreció como voluntario para el ejército británico, a pesar de que era menor de edad (tenía sólo 16 años). Mike luchó valientemente y ayudó a liberar el campo de concentración de Bergen Belsen. Lo que vio allí lo impactó.

Después de la guerra, Mike fue enviado a lo que hoy en día es Israel, que hasta 1948 estaba gobernado por Gran Bretaña. A pesar de que el ejército británico favorecía los intereses árabes en la región, Mike se sintió atraído hacia los judíos y la causa de reestablecer una patria judía en la tierra de Israel. “Mi abuelo dijo que él quiso quedarse en Israel y ayudar a la débil comunidad judía a pelear contra los árabes”, explicó su nieto Lior Hertz. Él “siempre tuvo simpatía hacia los judíos”.

Mike Flanagan frente a un tanque Crombwell en Israel, 1948.

En mayo de 1948 Israel declaró su independencia, convirtiéndose nuevamente en una nación independiente para los judíos después de 1.878 años. De inmediato cinco estados árabes invadieron al diminuto estado judío.

Unas pocas semanas después de comenzar la guerra, en junio de 1948, Mike y un compañero del ejército británico, Harry McDonald, decidieron ayudar. Amparados por la oscuridad, entraron a una base militar británica y se llevaron dos tanques Cromwell británicos, que entregaron a los luchadores judíos en Tel-Aviv. De esta manera, Mike y su amigo crearon el primer escuadrón de tanques de Israel.

Mike se enroló en el ejército israelí y peleó en la Guerra de la Independencia. Posteriormente se convirtió al judaísmo y se casó con una compañera soldada llamada Rut Levy. Cuando ella murió, se fue a vivir a Canadá, pero cuando falleció en el 2014 a los 85 años, sus restos fueron trasladados y enterrados en Israel. En su funeral, fue honrado por las Fuerzas de Defensa de Israel por su crucial contribución a su patria y al pueblo que adoptó en un momento de gran necesidad.

Según tomado de, 7 conversos judíos increíbles (

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Posted by on December 23, 2020 in Uncategorized


Perseverence Vs. Perfection

by Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz)

Parshat Vayigash deals primarily with the events surrounding Jacob’s arrival in Egypt. After many tribulations, Joseph reconciles with his brothers, Jacob arrives in Egypt and finally reunites with Joseph, and the story comes to a close. By the time we reach Parshat Vayechi, we are already dealing with Jacob’s death and his final reckoning with his sons.

As a rule, the haftarah traditionally associated with each parshah emphasizes the central elements of that parshah as understood by our sages, and in effect constitutes a form of interpretation of the entire parshah. Sometimes the connection between the haftarah and parshah is clear and obvious, and sometimes it is so remote that, in order to understand why the sages paired a particular haftarah with a particular parshah, one must sit down and think. In the case of the haftarah associated with Parshat Noach, for example, the only similarity to the parshah seems to be the appearance of the words “the waters of Noah.”1 When there are divergent opinions and customs regarding which haftarah we read – as in the cases of Parshat Vayishlach or Parshat Vayeitzei, for example – these disputes usually revolve around the question of what the parshah’s essential point is.

The essence of Parshat Vayigash would appear to be the descent to Egypt, but the haftarah,2 which relates Ezekiel’s prophecy of the stick of Judah and the stick of Ephraim, shifts the focus away from this subject to the meeting, or perhaps clash, of Joseph and Judah. This, according to the haftarah, is the essence of the parshah; everything else is ancillary material.

Judah and Joseph

The Joseph-Judah relationship and the points at which their paths converge continue throughout history. From the sale of Joseph onward, Judah and Joseph constantly interact with each other, and their relationship continues in various forms. Here, in Parshat Vayigash, their interaction is a confrontation, as the Midrash comments, “‘Then Judah went up to him’3 – advancing to battle.”4 The Midrash views this confrontation as a momentous event, adding, “‘For lo, the kings converged’5 – this refers to Judah and Joseph; ‘they grew angry together’6 – this one was filled with anger for that one, and that one was filled with anger for this one.”7 This is an epic clash between two kings, one that continues to occur in various forms throughout history.

There are times and places where the Joseph-Judah relationship is one of cooperation and even love. In the battle against Amalek, the leadership of the People of Israel consists of Moses, Aaron, and two other people: Chur, a member of the tribe of Judah, stands by Moses’ side opposite Aaron, while Joshua, from the tribe of Joseph, leads the actual war. This connection appears again in the story of the spies, where Joshua and Caleb are the only two spies who refrain from “spreading calumnies about the land.”8 Moses himself is connected by blood to the tribe of Judah (Aaron married the sister of the tribe’s prince, Nachshon the son of Aminadav, and Miriam, Chur’s mother, was married to Caleb the son of Yefuneh). On the other hand, Joshua – of the tribe of Joseph – is his close disciple.

This duality does not end there but continues through the generations. The Shiloh Tabernacle stood in the territory of Ephraim for over 300 years, whereas the Temple was built in Jerusalem, on the border of the territories of Judah and Benjamin.9 The dirges of Ezekiel10 feature the sisters Ohola and Oholiva, who correspond to the kingdoms of Judah and Israel: “Ohola is Samaria, and Oholiva is Jerusalem.”11 In the royal house, although Saul is not from a tribe of Joseph, he is a descendant of Joseph’s mother Rachel, while David is from the tribe of Judah. The encounter between them is one of antagonism, but, as if to balance out that animosity, we read of a parallel and opposite relationship: the friendship and love between Jonathan and David. There is Joshua and there is Caleb; the tribe of Judah and the tribes of Joseph; the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel; David and Jonathan. We see that this duality is woven throughout our history, to the point that we ourselves are an example of it: The Jewish people today consists solely of descendants of Judah and Benjamin.

This complicated relationship between Joseph and Judah, in all its manifestations, continues to persist, and will continue until the end of days: Even our eschatological texts describe a division between the Messiah son of David and the Messiah son of Joseph.

Glory and eternity

The meeting of Joseph and Judah in Parshat Vayigash illuminates one aspect of their relationship. On the larger historical plane, Joseph possesses an aspect of glory that Judah lacks, in the real sense and in the esoteric sense. At their first meeting, members of the tribe of Joseph almost always overshadow members of Judah. Even from birth, Joseph has an advantage: He is smarter, more handsome, more successful, and more loved. In this respect he lives up to his characterization as the sun in his famous dream, in that he is far more lustrous than his peers, while Judah appears inferior from the very beginning.

This paradigm follows here as well. How do they meet? Joseph, unofficially the king of Egypt, meets with Judah, a peasant shepherd from some remote place. Joseph stands there in all his glory, and facing him, “Judah went up to him.”

What, in comparison to Joseph, does Judah have to offer? What is unique about him? It appears that Judah’s unique point is continuity and endurance. Judah perseveres, as he did when he admitted his responsibility to Tamar, and this is a point that can be observed in the cases of many other members of his tribe. Joseph outshines Judah with respect to glory, but as for perseverance and staying power – “‘and the eternity’12 refers to Jerusalem”13 – Joseph, for all his nobility, does not measure up.

Judah perseveres because he has the advantage of being able to fall, as it says, “Though he may fall, he is not utterly cast down.”14 When Judah falls, he is able to get up again. This is Judah’s special quality; it is part of his essence.

The point of “Judah went up to him” is that Judah, in spite of being a person of minor importance – the contrast between his and Joseph’s appearance must have been striking – nevertheless dares to approach the king. To some extent, this evokes the way in which Saul meets with David. Saul is the king, and David is a youth brought in from tending the flock to entertain Saul.

Intrinsic to Joseph and his descendants is a sort of perfection, but this perfection is very fragile: When something breaks, they are unable to fix it. For Joseph, every situation is all or nothing, whereas Judah is adept at raising himself up again.

For an example of this dichotomy, one must look no further than Saul and David. Saul and David both sinned. The difference between them is the following: After Saul “breaks” once, he breaks again a second time and a third time. Though Saul came from a distinguished family and was considered “of greater stature than all the people”15 – a courageous warrior; a humble, modest, and worthy individual; a pure soul – when he falls, he is unable to get up. When Saul sins, he reaches a state in which he is ready to die and is also willing to accept the entire punishment he deserves. In contrast, when David sins, he draws new wisdom and maturity from the experience, penning the book of Psalms in its wake. This is quite an accomplishment! King David can sink low, but he can channel that low point in his life into real spiritual growth. This is something that Joseph, by his very nature, cannot do.

This difference surfaces again when the Kingdom of Israel is divided in two, with the House of Joseph and the House of Judah going separate ways. Upon reading the assessment of the midrashim of the characters involved, it is clear whom our sages favored.

Yerovam is an exalted and impressive figure, a man chosen by God to rule over the ten tribes of Israel. No matter what we think of him, he is certainly an extraordinary personality, as demonstrated by a series of talmudic anecdotes: He is capable of rebuking King Solomon when the latter is at the height of his glory. When Yerovam is together with Achiyah the Shilonite, all the wise men are like the grass of the field in comparison with them,16 and God says to Yerovam, “Repent, and then I and you and the son of Jesse will stroll together in the Garden of Eden.”17

Facing Yerovam is Rechavam. Who is Rechavam? On the whole, he is a man who is a bit confused, who does not know what to do exactly with the fairly large kingdom that he inherited and which, through ill-advised harshness and imprudent softness, he manages to lose. Besides this, we are told little of Rechavam.

Nevertheless, Yerovam – who certainly was a great man and a far greater scholar than Rechavam – is among those who have no share in the World to Come. He sinned and caused others to sin, and there is no way to atone for this. Rechavam may not have been a righteous king or an especially significant king, but he carried on the line of the House of David. No royal line of the kings of Joseph manages to last more than a few generations. By contrast, the kings of the House of David – who certainly count some wicked men in their number – are able to build a stable dynasty, and are able, ultimately, to persevere.

Elisha b. Avuyah, the tannaitic apostate known as “Acher” (literally, “Other”), was similar to Yerovam in this sense. He was perhaps the most brilliant man of his generation and was younger than all the other scholars with whom he would confer. According to his own account,18 Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Eliezer attended his circumcision; thus, they were already scholars when he was born. But Elisha b. Avuyah could not tolerate a world that lacked perfection, and when he discovers that there are problems in the world, he begins to fall apart. And when he falls apart, he cannot recover from the fall.

This conception of perfection is reflected in a saying of his: “One who learns when young, to what may he be compared? To ink written on fresh paper. But one who learns when old, to what may he be compared? To ink written on paper that has been erased.”19 Elisha b. Avuyah does not want to write on erased paper; he wants ink written on fresh paper. He is saying – and this is part of his personality – that since he has been erased once, he cannot rewrite himself. By contrast, Rabbi Akiva is like Judah, a peasant from an undistinguished family. Unlike Elisha b. Avuya, who came from one of the prominent families of Jerusalem, Rabbi Akiva was the son of converts. Throughout his life, Rabbi Akiva “broke” not just once but several times, including during difficult events in his personal life, yet he always overcame his setbacks.

The tzaddikand the baal teshuvah

Joseph was a true tzaddik. Sometimes this identity is apparent in a person’s character from birth, and it is immediately clear that this person is innately good. There is a type of personality for whom perfection is innate. Jonathan, Saul’s son, seems to fit this characterization – he is a person with no apparent defects.

Let us note, however, that such a person – a man who bears an aspect of perfection by his very nature, who was born with all the great gifts and who exercises them in perfect fashion – must be judged by his ability to remain at this level. Possessing all the virtues is not enough if he is unable to rectify himself the moment he becomes flawed.

In nature, too, there are structures that do not reach perfection by way of development but, rather, emerge perfect from the outset. The Talmud20 mentions the possibility of using an egg to support the leg of a bed. This talmudic statement is strange and surprising. After all, even if this were possible, who would use an egg to support the leg of a bed? But the truth is that from a physical standpoint, an egg is one of the most perfect structures in existence. The only problem is that an egg’s strength depends on its complete integrity. It is like a dome: The moment one stone falls, the whole structure collapses. This is often the nature of this kind of perfection: It can last only as long as there is no flaw.

In this sense – as is evident from their interaction before and after this point – the relationship of Joseph and Judah is that of a tzaddik and a baal teshuva. The story of Judah and Tamar compared to the story of Joseph and Potifar’s wife is a striking example of this relationship.

Judah’s character seems to deteriorate. He sells Joseph, which is a particularly despicable act. His conduct with Tamar demonstrates a moral deficiency as well. Nevertheless, he is also capable of confronting Joseph – “Judah went up to him.” Here is a person who has quite a few matters on his conscience and an unsavory past. We might have expected him to sit quietly on the sidelines, but as we see, he takes action instead.

Judah not only puts his life on the line but is also willing to face up to his past actions. The wide gulf between those actions and his present conduct is precisely what defines Judah’s essence. The Midrash21 comments that Joseph attempted – rightfully – to silence Judah, asking him, “Why are you speaking up? You are neither the eldest nor the firstborn. So what are you doing? Let your eldest brother Reuben speak. Why do you even have the right to open your mouth?” Yet Judah, despite all his baggage, rises anew, ready to come to grips with whatever he must face. That is Judah’s strength. By contrast, Joseph – by nature and as a matter of principle – cannot change, cannot be flexible. He is a perfectionist, and this is precisely what breaks him.

The Talmud22 recounts an interesting conversation between Elisha b. Avuyah and Rabbi Meir. Elisha b. Avuyah asks Rabbi Meir to interpret the verse, “Gold and glass cannot match its value, nor can vessels of fine gold be exchanged for it.”23 Rabbi Meir responds, “This refers to Torah matters, which, like vessels of gold, are hard to acquire, but like vessels of glass are easily lost.” Elisha b. Avuyah says to him, “Rabbi Akiva, your master, did not interpret that way, but, rather, ‘Both vessels of gold and vessels of glass, if broken, can be repaired.’” One can melt them and form them anew. But there are vessels – such as those of clay, mother of pearl, or even diamond – that, after being broken, remain forever broken. One cannot do anything about it; the defect remains a defect.

We read in Megillat Esther, “But Mordechai neither bowed down nor prostrated himself.”24 On the one hand, this conduct reflects his strength and glory; but on the other hand, it gets him into trouble: According to the Talmud,25 the Jews became furious with him for not acquiescing to Haman’s demands. “Why did you get us into all of this trouble?” they cried. “Bow down!” Mordechai is cast in the same mold as his ancestors Saul and Joseph before him. He is called “Mordechai the tzaddik,”26 and tzaddikim often cannot abide even the slightest flaw. Mordechai’s essential nature requires that he be perfect.

Before going out to his last battle, Saul knows that he and his sons are going to die, and he does not care. An aspect of strength and idealism accompanies this man throughout his life – even at his fall. Just like Elisha b. Avuyah, Saul does not act in half measures; if his flaws cannot be corrected completely, then he does not want them corrected at all. He aims for the highest heights, but if he cannot achieve this, he will consign himself to the lowest depths. To go halfway is not an option.

By contrast, for someone like Judah – the true baal teshuva – the existence of flaws is intrinsic to him and to his personality. If he did not have flaws, he would not be who he is. The baal teshuva thrives on his ability to deconstruct his personality in order to reshape it in another form, to make changes within himself.

Judah begins entirely from below. Like David, he comes “from following the flock;”27 he begins from nothing. Judah is neither the firstborn nor the most physically imposing of Jacob’s children. However, he “prevailed over his brothers” (I Chr. 5:2), and he continuously perseveres, generation after generation.

Joshua and Caleb seem similar, to a large degree. However, though the Talmud likens Joshua to Moses, saying, “Moses’ countenance was like that of the sun; Joshua’s countenance was like that of the moon,”28 Joshua had no children. Caleb had a son and a brother – he had successors, generation after generation. Not all of his descendants were important or significant people, and most certainly did not measure up to his eminence, but Caleb’s essence lived on. When Joshua died, however, only a tombstone remained. After the tribes of Joseph were smashed and exiled, they did not return home. We – who are basically the Kingdom of Judah – had our first Temple destroyed, but we built the Second Temple. We were exiled again for a period of time, but once again, we are returning.

Wherever Judah and Joseph interact, it is a meeting between perfection and adaptability. Throughout history, Joseph represents splendor, even heroism. In contrast, Judah is flawed and beleaguered, beset with difficulties; but in the end, Judah always prevails.

Rectifying the world

At the end of the parshah, there is a section that the commentators discuss extensively, even though it seems to have little to do with the main theme of the parshah, and is connected to a different aspect of the relation­ship between Judah and Joseph.

The entire final section of Parshat Vayigash is the story of how Joseph handles Egyptian politics for Pharaoh and how he governs the Egyptians. That Joseph was a powerful ruler over the entire land has already been stated, but here we find a whole story about how Joseph interacts with the Egyptians.

Shortly before this story, the Torah states, “And he [Jacob] sent Judah before him unto Joseph, to show the way before him unto Goshen.”29 Where do Judah and Joseph stand at this juncture?

In contrast to Judah, Joseph is practically a king. He speaks seventy languages, while Judah no doubt stammers in the only language he knows. But that is not the point. Here we see that Joseph acts not only in his own interest; rather, he tries to rectify the world. Joseph endeavors on behalf of the entire country and puts it back on its feet. While Joseph is saving the country, Judah brings the family to the land of Goshen, where they organize themselves in their own matters. While Joseph is engaged in a great undertaking, Judah deals with the small matters: his flock, his herd, and the question of how to support the family.

The interpretation by our sages30 that Jacob sent Judah in order to establish a house of study does not affect the analysis. The same conclusion emerges: Joseph is not just the most successful son in his family. He is a man who concerns himself with the whole world, while Judah concerns himself with parochial Jewish pursuits. Whereas Joseph is universal, Judah is only a Jew, engaging in his own pursuits and his own matters.

On the surface it appears that Joseph, the man of the world, is the hero of this narrative, while Judah is of minor importance. Precisely here, the haftarah plays a crucial role, presenting the differences in the nature and character of Judah and Joseph as fundamental distinctions between two parallel worlds. When the Judah-Joseph duality is viewed under a different light, as it is in the haftarah, we see the world of Joseph – who transcends his own individuality and represents a whole way of being – and a world of Judah, whose essence is that he begins from below, from crisis, from distress, and from the minutiae of life.

What Joseph does almost instantly takes Judah several generations to accomplish. Even when Judah builds, the building is not straight; his progress is characterized by ups and downs. But which is the ideal path, the worldview that we should adopt and strive for? Neither the book of Genesis nor the Torah as a whole presents a clear answer to this question.

When Jacob blesses his sons before his death and gives Judah and Joseph the biggest and most significant blessings, they are on equal ground, one facing the other. Evident in the blessings to Joseph is not just greater love for this son; they are blessings of tremendous scope – Jacob grants him heaven and earth: “May your father’s blessing add to the blessing of my parents, to the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills. May they rest on Joseph’s head, on the brow of the elect of his brothers.”31 He gives him everything that can possibly be given. Correspondingly, Judah receives eternity: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet.”32 Joseph is given grandeur, while Judah is given eternity.

The conclusion is not found in this parshah, nor in the book of Genesis, nor anywhere in the entire Torah. The final reckoning is that of the Messiah: Who will be the true Messiah? Since this reckoning moves back and forth over the generations, it is clear that Joseph and Judah are equals: It is the ultimate conflict between the perfect and the imperfect, between those who begin with a stacked deck and those who forge themselves.

The stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph

The haftarah presents Judah and Joseph as two branches, and the conflict between them is not personal but, rather, a conflict between essential natures. It is very difficult for them to join together, because they are two different character types that cannot be integrated.

The haftarah concludes that in this disagreement, although from time to time the scales tip to the stick of Judah or the stick of Joseph, it is impossible to truly favor one side or the other. According to the haftarah, ideally the two aspects should be able to work together, as the Likkutei Torah writes33 regarding the verse, “We will add circlets of gold to your points of silver.”34

In all the texts that deal with this subject, it is clear that there will be no solution to this question until the end of days. This conflict, like the “dispute for the sake of Heaven” of Shammai and Hillel,35 will ultimately endure.

When we say that these two aspects should go together, the meaning is not that they should be joined together like two planks, forcing each to adapt to the nature of the other. When the stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph join together, they should each exist independently, but side by side, in the perfect harmony of a string quartet. Judah and Joseph represent two different elements, each of which retains its distinctness. The inevitable internal conflict in this coexistence is the very thing that creates the beauty.

In Joseph’s case, there is an element of great tragedy. People who possess the character traits of Joseph are incomparable in their splendor and virtual perfection. They are radiant suns, but they have no way of recovering from a fall. Must it always be that those of us who approach closest to perfection are also the most fragile among us? Will the spiritual descendants of Joseph never be able to lift themselves up and repair themselves?

Apparently, until the end of time, these two types will remain: one who is characterized by wholeness and perfection, and one who is characterized by fault and repair; one who draws his strength from his perfection, and the other, from the power of renewal. These two will never completely unite, but together they comprise the tension that makes our lives so vibrant. We live between Judah and Joseph, and when the two elements work in perfect tandem, the symphony of life is formed.

1.Is. 54:9.
2.Ezek. 37:15–28.
3.Gen. 44:18.
4.Genesis Rabbah 93:6.
5.Ps. 48:5.
7.Genesis Rabbah 93:2.
8.Num. 14:36.
9.Yoma 12a.
10.Chap. 23.
12.Chr. I 29:11
13.Berachot 58a.
14.Ps. 37:24.
15.Sam. I 9:2
18.Ruth Rabbah 6:4.
19.Avot 4:20.
20.Beitzah 3b.
21.Tanchuma, Vayigash 4.
22.Chagigah 15a.
23.Job 28:17.
24.Est. 3:2.
25.Megillah 12b.
27.Sam. II 7:8.
28.Bava Batra 75a.
29.Gen. 46:28.
30.Genesis Rabbah 95:3.
31.Gen. 49:26.
33.Shir HaShirim 13a.
34.Song. 1:11.
35.Avot 5:17.
As taken from, ESSAY: Perseverence Vs. Perfection (

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Posted by on December 22, 2020 in Uncategorized


Do Jews Believe in Satan?

In Jewish texts, the devil is sometimes an adversary and sometimes an embodiment of evil.

Satan occupies a prominent place in Christianity, which generally regards  him as a rebellious angel and the source of evil who will meet his ultimate demise in battle at the End of Days. Jewish sources on the whole don’t dwell as much on the satanic, but the concept is nonetheless explored in numerous texts.

Satan appears in the Bible, was discussed by the rabbis of the Talmud and is explored in detail in Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah. In Hebrew, the term Satan is usually translated as “opponent” or “adversary,” and he is often understood to represent the sinful impulse (in Hebrew, yetzer hara) or, more generally, the forces that prevents human beings from submitting to divine will. He is also sometimes regarded as a heavenly prosecutor or accuser, a view given expression in the Book of Job, where Satan encourages God to test his servant.

Kabbalistic sources expand the view of Satan considerably, offering a rich and detailed portrayal of the demonic realm and the forces of evil in the world, which are to be warded off in some cases with various forms of magic, from amulets to exorcisms.

Satan in the Bible

The Bible contains multiple references to Satan. The word appears just twice in the Torah , both times in the story of Balaam, the seer who is asked by the Moabite king Balak to curse the Jews. When Balaam goes with Balak’s emissaries, God places an angel in his path “l’satan lo” — as an adversary for him. The term appears in multiple other instances in the Prophets, often in a similar context — referring not to a specific figure as the Satan, but rather as a descriptor for individuals who act as a satan, i.e. as adversaries.

Only twice in the Hebrew Bible does Satan appear as a specific figure, as HaSatan — the Satan. One is a brief reference in the Book of Zecharia, where the high priest is described as standing before a divine angel while Satan stands at his right to accuse him. The other is in the Book of Job, where Satan has a central role in the story as an angel in the divine court. According to the biblical narrative, Satan — here too commonly translated as the Adversary — seems to urge God to create hardship for his righteous servant Job, arguing that Job is faithful only on account of his wealth and good fortune. Take those away, Satan claims, and Job will blaspheme. God permits Satan to take away Job’s wealth, kill his family and afflict him physically, none of which induces Job to rebel against God.

The Book of Job is sometimes cited to support the claim that the Jewish view of Satan as an agent of God is different from the Christian view, which sees Satan as an autonomous force opposed to God. In the story, Satan inflicts suffering on a human being and seeks to induce him to sin — but only with God’s permission.

Satan in the Talmud

Satan makes many appearances in the Talmud. A lengthy passage in the tractate Sanhedrin accords Satan a central role in the biblical story of the binding of Isaac. According to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, it was Satan that caused the Jewish people to despair of Moses returning from Mount Sinai by showing them an image of the prophet on his deathbed.  A passage in the tractate Megillah says that Satan dancing at the party of the Persian King Ahasuerus is what led to the killing of Queen Vashti in the Purim story.

In Tractate Bava Batra, Reish Lakish says that Satan, the yetzer hara and the Angel of Death are all one. Maimonides, the medieval Jewish philosopher, endorses this position in his Guide for the Perplexed. The word Satan, Maimonides writes, derives from the Hebrew root for “turn away.” Like the evil inclination, Satan’s function is to divert human beings from the path of truth and righteousness. Maimonides seems not to believe Satan actually exists, but rather that he is a symbol of the inclination to sin. The entire Book of Job, he writes, is fictional, intended merely to elucidate certain truths about divine providence. And even if it is true, Maimonides continues, certainly the portion in which God and Satan speak with each other is merely a parable.

Satan in Kabbalah and Hasidism

The Jewish mystical tradition has much to say about Satan. Indeed, kabbalistic texts offer a rich description not merely of Satan, but of an entire realm of evil populated by demons and spirits that exists in parallel to the realm of the holy. Satan is known in Kabbalah as Sama’el (rendered in some sources as the Great Demon), and the demonic realm generally as the Sitra Achra — literally “the other side.” The consort of Sama’el (who is mentioned in pre-kabbalistic Jewish literature as well) is Lilith, a mythic figure in Jewish tradition more commonly known as the rebellious first wife of Adam.

The kabbalistic sources portray the demonic as a separate and oppositional realm in conflict with God. Kabbalah even offers explanations of the origins of the demonic realm, the most common of which is that this realm emerges when the attribute of God associated with femininity and judgment, is dissociated from the attribute of God associated with grace and masculinity, and becomes unconstrained. Evil, in this reading, results from an excess of judgment.

Many of these ideas would later find expression in Jewish folk beliefs and in the works of the Hasidic masters. Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Poloniye, one of the chief disciples of Hasidism’s founder, the Baal Shem Tov, wrote in his Toldos Yaakov Yosef that God would eventually slaughter the angel of death during the messianic age — a belief that clearly echoes the Christian view of a final showdown between God and Satan at the End of Days. Hasidic folk tales are replete with descriptions of demonic forces, among them a famous story in which the Baal Shem Tov defends a group of children from a werewolf. Even today some  Hasidic Jews will seek out protections from such forces in the form of amulets or incantations. Some Jewish communities, particularly in the Sephardic world, also prize amulets as protection from evil spirits and maintain a number of customs and rituals aimed at keeping those spirits at bay. Jewish sources dating back to biblical times including formulas for exorcisms to free the possessed of an evil spirit, known as a dybbuk.

Jewish vs. Christian Conceptions of Satan

On the whole, Satan occupies a far more prominent place in Christian theology than in traditional rabbinic sources. The Book of Revelation, in the New Testament, references an “ancient serpent” — commonly understood as the snake that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden — “who is the Devil and Satan.” It describes a reg dragon with seven heads and 10 horns that stands opposite a pregnant woman about to give birth in order to devour the child — that is, Jesus. Revelation further describes a war in heaven in which Satan is hurled to earth, where he proceeds to lead the world astray. (In the New Testament’s Book of Luke, Jesus says he saw Satan “fall like lightning from heaven.”) According to Christian prophecy, Satan will be bound by a chain for 1,000 years after the return of Jesus.

Some of these Christian ideas are echoed in Jewish tradition, but some also point to fundamental differences — most notably perhaps the idea that, in the Hebrew Bible at least, Satan is ultimately subordinate to God, carrying out his purpose on earth. Or that he isn’t real at all, but is merely a metaphor for sinful impulses.

The kabbalistic and Hasidic literature complicate this view, offering a closer parallel to Christian eschatology. Both the kabbalistic/Hasidic and Christian traditions describe the forces of the holy and the demonic as locked in a struggle that will culminate in God’s eventual victory. According to some scholars, this is born of the considerable cross-pollination between Christian and Jewish thinking in the so-called “golden age” of Jewish culture in Spain during the Middle Ages, from whence many of the early kabbalistic texts, including the Zohar, emerged.

As taken from, Do Jews Believe in Satan? | My Jewish Learning

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Posted by on December 21, 2020 in Uncategorized


The Do’s and Don’ts of Talking to Converts

Tips from a Jew by choice who’s heard it all.

Jews by birth often unwittingly offend Jews by choice or make them uncomfortable by singling them out for special attention or questions. Below is some advice from a Jew by choice who’s heard it all.

Don’t ask why he or she converted.

The number one question you want to ask a convert is exactly the question you shouldn’t. Asking someone why they converted, just after meeting them, is a little like asking to see their underwear. It’s like you’re asking us to get very naked about something deeply personal when we’ve just met. Like anything else, wait until you really get to know someone before expecting them to bare their souls. People will often let you see the skeletons in their closets when they’re comfortable with you.

Don’t tell others he or she is a convert.

If a convert does tell you about her conversion, that doesn’t mean it’s your story to tell. My friend Danielle says her former roommate told everyone Danielle was a convert. Danielle didn’t want people to know (and no, not because she was embarrassed about it). It just wasn’t her roommate’s story to tell. I know you’re wondering, “Why can’t I tell someone that Danielle is a convert, it’s a fact!” Remember how Judaism feels about gossip? What if people were discussing your personal business behind your back without your permission? Indeed, the Talmud (Bava Metzia 58b-59b) forbids us from oppressing converts by treating them as anything other than a regular member of the tribe.

Remember, no one looks like a convert.

“James William? That’s not a very Jewish name!” People of color and blondes with oh-so-blue eyes, the “exotic” faces in the Ashkenazi Jewish fold, frequently get questions like this that try to get around directly asking, “Are you a convert?” In The Color of Jews, Yavilah McCoy, whose ancestors were converts, says:

When I walk into a room and say to people I meet ‘I’m Jewish’ often I will get the response ‘but you’re Black.’” Since when are the two mutually exclusive? People often make offensive racial assumptions about Jews (and converts) of color. Just like we’re not all named Rosenberg, one convert of color says it’s helpful to note that “Judaism is not a ‘race’ of white people. One of the things people should be mindful of is not to assume all people of color in the synagogue are converts (or the help, for that matter).

Converts are not therapists.

The worst is when “Why did you convert?” turns into “Why would anyone convert to Judaism?” We’re converts, not therapists. We’re not here to help you figure out why you can’t imagine that people would find Judaism so amazing that they’d turn their lives upside down just to be a part of it. If you’re staring at us in disbelief, you may not be prepared to hear the answers.

Don’t assume someone converted for marriage.

After I met my husband midway through the conversion process, I noticed that people stopped asking me why I had decided to convert. They just assumed I was doing it for him. Okay, but I’m off the hook, right? I wasn’t part of a couple when I first made my decision so obviously I did it for the right reasons? Wrong, wrong, wrong. Just because someone is or was in a relationship doesn’t mean that they’re converting for marriage. Things are always way more complicated than that.

People convert for many reasons. A friend of mine says, “Often people assume someone converted due to marriage. As if people couldn’t make up their independent minds to join a faith! There are people with whom Judaism resonates and [they] find their home in the religion. There are single people who convert. There are people who convert to reclaim their family heritage. There are so many reasons people convert.” And remember, none of them are any of your business.

Goy jokes are not funny.

But one reason that frequently gets thrown around and isn’t very nice, and doesn’t work so well for someone from a non-Jewish family, is the idea that we converted to Judaism because Jews are just better than everyone else. One fellow told me that all that inbreeding has led to all those Nobel Prize winners. So, what, I’m polluting the sacred bloodlines? Sadly, people don’t think twice about whether a convert is sitting in their midst when they tell the latest “How many goyim does it take to put in a lightbulb?” joke.

Words like shiksa (gentile woman) and shaygetz (gentile man) both derivations of the word for “dirty” in Yiddish, don’t make converts feel welcome either. Blondes with blue eyes, converts or not, tend to hear these words more often than converts like me with olive skin and big brown eyes. Still, my first Passover went south after someone repeatedly threw the word shiksa around along with some other ugly words about non-Jews. At the first bar mitzvah I attended, jokes about non-Jews were flying all over the place.

And don’t forget to say, “Welcome.”

There are things I still can’t believe people have said to me. Fresh out of the mikveh (the last stage of conversion is immersion in a mikveh, or ritual bath), I heard, “But you’re not really Jewish. I mean I’m still more Jewish than you, right?” Oy vey. In the end, all converts want to be accepted as good Jews. We want to fit in. Possibly the reason Jewish tradition goes out of its way to tell you to be kind to us is that there are so many ways you can make us feel left out. It only takes one insensitive word. So, be careful with us. Changing our lives to join your ranks should at the very least earn us a little respect. And maybe even a “Welcome home.”

As taken from, The Do’s and Don’ts of Talking to Converts | My Jewish Learning

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Posted by on December 18, 2020 in Uncategorized


El Segundo Templo y el Pan Halajá

por Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

En mi último ensayo traté de analizar las razones subyacentes de una crisis global en curso, de la cual no es la causa el COVID-19, sino simplemente un poderoso síntoma.

Ahora es nuestra tarea ver qué se puede hacer para rectificar esta situación. Pero primero, necesitaremos identificar algunos de otros importantes problemas. Empecemos por remontarnos a la historia.

Con la destrucción del segundo templo, el judaísmo perdió su dirección y comenzó a volverse artificial. [1] Esto fue una bendición como también una maldición. Fue una bendición porque el judaísmo fue capaz de desconectarse de una religión sacerdotal, simbolizada por leyes altamente formalistas con poco contenido espiritual. Estas leyes aparecieron en el servicio del segundo templo, pero su impacto se sintió mucho más allá del templo mismo.

Sin embargo, la desventaja es que con la destrucción del segundo templo, se perdió el último recuerdo del primer templo. En comparación con el segundo templo, el primero había sido muy espiritual (aunque incluso en ese momento, la gente no estaba libre de la adoración ocasional de ídolos). Mientras estuvo presente el segundo templo, todavía le recordaba al pueblo los gloriosos días del primer templo y un mundo que ya no existía.

El judaísmo del primer templo superó con creces el mundo de la estricta conformidad, obligación y observancia halájica, que Abraham Joshua Heschel solía llamar “judaísmo pan-halájico”, es decir, un judaísmo que consiste en una Halajá que excluía todo lo demás.

En el primer templo, los rituales mostraron autenticidad espiritual y una conciencia muy fuerte en cuanto a la presencia de Dios, el “hashra’at hashechina”. En todas partes se sintió una maravillosa profundidad religiosa. Esto fue encarnado por el Arca de la Alianza, que se encontraba en el Lugar Santísimo. También se colocaron en este espacio más sagrado las Tablas de piedra, el recipiente lleno de mannah y el bastón de Arón. Además, el “shemen hamischah”, aceite de la unción todavía estaba disponible, al igual que el “Choshen”, el pectoral del Sumo Sacerdote, con sus diferentes piedras proféticas (el Urim Ve Tumim). En este Templo, el fuego sagrado del cielo, que nunca se apagó, podía ser visto por todos. Según el Talmud, el primer templo incluía muchos milagros diarios. Cuando los seres humanos entraron al Templo, fueron elevados y se encontraron en otro reino espiritual, en el que la ley de la Torá era omnipresente, pero no lo abarcaba todo.

El Segundo Templo carecía de todos estos fenómenos. Sobre todo, el Arca de la Alianza, el foco central del Templo, había desaparecido. [2]

De hecho, la observancia de las leyes de la Torá siempre tuvo el propósito de aumentar la conciencia de la presencia de Dios en términos muy reales y, como tal, reforzó la presencia casi tangible de Dios. Pero nunca pudieron reemplazarlo. Hubo un cuidadoso equilibrio entre la Ley, el ritual y el espíritu. La presencia de Dios fue tan abrumadora y creó tal arrebato de auténtica religiosidad, que el conductismo ritual fue casi imposible.

La genuina religiosidad era lo que respiraba el pueblo en esos días. Dios ocupó todo el espacio. Su existencia se encontraba y experimentaba en todas partes: en el sol, el viento, en la flor que crecía, en el insecto que se arrastraba, en la totalidad de la naturaleza y en el universo en general.

Con la destrucción del segundo Templo, se perdió hasta el recuerdo de esta cosmovisión. Los judíos no solo fueron exiliados cuando el segundo templo fue destruido, sino que el espíritu mismo del judaísmo se vio gravemente comprometido. Ese momento también fue el punto de partida hacia los primeras manifestaciones  de un proceso de secularización.

El retiro de Dios

Después de la destrucción del segundo Templo y el exilio de los judíos, Dios ya no fue experimentado como un Participante “activo” como lo había sido en los períodos anteriores. Era como si se hubiera retirado y hubiera quedado en silencio. Estaba allí, pero solo desee la distancia. Su mano ya no se veía en hechos reales.

Para los sabios, preservar el judaísmo en esas circunstancias se convirtió en un gran problema. Se dieron cuenta que algo más tenía que ocupar el lugar de la Presencia perdida de Dios, algo que recordara a la gente Su existencia. Lo que quedaba de los primeros días eran los rituales, las leyes y las costumbres, por lo que los sabios se centraron en todo esto, profundizando en ellos hasta que todo lo que quedó fueron las “four amot”, los cuatro codos, de la Halajá “(Berajot 8a).

Y así, el judaísmo, por pura necesidad, cambió de dirección y se volvió abrumadoramente halájico. Esta fue realmente una operación de rescate por parte de los sabios, y funcionó en gran medida durante los últimos dos mil años mientras los judíos vivían en Galut. Logró mantener vivo el judaísmo entre las naciones gentiles, pero el precio fue alto. Con la carencia de la participación  “activa” de Dios, la conciencia profunda y casi tangible de Su presencia abrumadora estaba ausente–o al menos disminuida- por eso perdió gran parte de su grandeza. Dios ya no hablaba a su pueblo y los milagros abiertos dejaron de ocurrir.

Este fue un grave desgarre en el tejido del judaísmo. Y es este judaísmo “desgarrado” lo que conocemos hoy. Está construido sobre cimientos que son realmente compromisos de lo que alguna vez fue un judaísmo pleno y espiritualmente vibrante: un judaísmo en el que Dios jugó un papel abrumador y en el que Su mano se veía en todas partes, un judaísmo en el que la Halajá jugó un papel importante pero mucho más humilde. Mientras que en los primeros días, Dios estaba en el centro del judaísmo, en los últimos días fue la Halajá la que sirvió como pieza central.

Y como mencioné, esta retirada de Dios introdujo los primeros signos de secularismo. Porqué Dios “decidió” retirarse es un asunto de crucial importancia para cualquier “teología” judía moderna, asunto que necesitamos discutir en otro momento. Parece como si Dios quisiera que los seres humanos lo encontraran por sí mismos, no ofreciéndoles su presencia, sino buscándolo. Pero para un gran número de judíos, este llamamiento divino se convirtió en algo muy difícil de manejar; asi los primeros signos de de una religiosidad decrecida y debilitada entró lentamente en sus vidas.

Heilgeschichte y la falta de profecía

Pero el mayor problema de todo esto fue que el judaísmo perdió uno de sus componentes más importantes: la profecía, y con ella la enseñanza de los Nevi’im (profetas) y su mensaje. Con la destrucción del Templo, la era de los profetas llegó a su fin y el judaísmo fue despojado de una de sus voces más importantes. Mientras los profetas estuvieran presentes, la palabra de Dios se escuchó en cada esquina de las calles a través de la boca de estos hombres y mujeres inusuales. En los días del primer Templo y antes, hubo cientos de profetas (solo los más importantes se mencionan en el Tanaj). En casi todas las ciudades había profetas, y ellos eran los portavoces/mujeres de Dios. Colocaron a Dios en el centro de la historia, explicaron el significado de lo que estaba sucediendo, lo que Dios estaba tratando de decirles, y lo que podía traer el futuro. Se aseguraron que Dios siguiera siendo el “Dios de la historia” como siempre lo había sido.

Los profetas también mostraron la “Heilgeschichte” (historia de la salvación), el papel redentor de Dios en los eventos de la historia, tanto judíos como no judíos. Revelaron cómo la historia, a pesar de sus altibajos, eventualmente llevaría a la humanidad a un clímax espiritual en la era mesiánica.

Esto era diferente de la Halajá, que al menos en lo que se refería a sus fundamentos, era “constante” y no podía cambiarse, por lo que era ahistórica. En esto radicaba su poder, y también su debilidad. Dado que la Halajá tenía que permanecer eterna, nunca podría ser realmente redentora.

Por otro lado, el concepto de historia redentiva debe tener un espacio en la historia. De lo contrario, no puede ser redentora. Esta enseñanza fue la principal preocupación de los profetas. Esto era importante porque el pueblo judío se enfrentaba constantemente a nuevas condiciones para las que se necesitaba orientación. La Halajá no pudía proporcionar esta guía, porque debido a su eternidad y constancia significaba que realmente no podía adaptarse.

Es posible que el destino no cambie, pero el camino hacia ese destino se movió constantemente, y todavía continua moviéndose, a menudo creando condiciones inesperadas. Lo que esto significa en términos reales, es que hay cuestiones cruciales en este mundo que no son halájicas, sino que conciernen al espíritu; la gran visión del judaísmo, su funcionamiento interno, su misión universal, la razón de su existencia. No hablamos del cómo comportarnos mientras viajamos, sino de cuál es la naturaleza del camino por el que viajamos hacia nuestro destino. Era tarea de los profetas dar a conocer esto, al pueblo judío en particular, como a nivel universal a toda la humanidad.

Ninguna obra halájica se ha ocupado de esto y, en consecuencia, no hay ningún lugar en el Shulchan Aruch (el códice de la ley judía) que se ocupe o atienda ni tan siquiera uno de estos temas. No hay una sola palabra sobre la misión del pueblo judío, sus sueños, su visión del mundo futuro, su maravillosa música espiritual, su sentido de Tikkun Olam (la reparación del mundo), etc.

En última instancia, por pura necesidad, también causada por el exilio de los judíos, condujo a la codificación de la Halajá, lo que la hizo aún más estática.

La tragedia de un judaísmo amputado

La voz de los profetas, con su mensaje religioso moral universal, se ha perdido. Lo que esto significa es que el judaísmo ha sufrido una amputación; en lugar de caminar sobre dos piernas, Profecía y Halajá, ahora solo camina sobre una pierna, Halajá. Esto también significó que la Halajá misma fue mal entendida, ya que, como veremos más adelante, debería depender en gran medida de la voz profética para darle su espíritu y motivación. Debido a la ausencia de la profecía, este componente espiritual falta o se pasa por alto en la experiencia del dia a dia de los sabios y halajistas.

Como tal, el “judaísmo profético” fue rechazado y dejó de existir, y así el judaísmo convencional se convirtió en una religión estándar y predecible. Así perdió su ilustre impacto universal y ya no pudo desempeñar un papel en el progreso espiritual de toda la humanidad. Se convirtió en una religión unilateral y amputada, que solo aseguró la supervivencia del judaísmo de manera limitada, y solamente para los judíos.

Esta falta de voz profética ha dado lugar a una crisis espiritual mundial. La realidad de esta crisis se hizo evidente con el COVID-19 no solo por la crisis médica resultante, sino porque el mundo estaba patas arriba en todos los niveles: económico, psicológico, educativo, político y religioso. Los cimientos mismos de nuestra sociedad han sido desafiados como nunca antes. Nuestra felicidad, vida familiar, el futuro de nuestros hijos y mucho más se han visto socavados. Durante años hemos negado los efectos del cambio climático, la obsesión por el consumo de carne, el gasto excesivo, el abuso infantil, la discriminación de las mujeres (dentro y fuera del judaísmo), y ahora nos encontramos con problemas casi irresolubles en todos los frentes.

Todo esto se debe, creemos, a la falta de dimensión profética.

Quienes creen que con la vacunación de toda la humanidad contra la actual pandemia todo irá bien, una vez más, están cometiendo un gran error. Las vacunas, aunque necesarias, de alguna manera tratarán el síntoma en lugar de la causa.

Lo que necesitamos es un cambio drástico y de gran alcance hacia la vida misma y su propósito. Necesitamos aprender de qué se trata realmente la verdadera felicidad, qué la religión genuina está tratando de enseñar a judíos y gentiles. Debemos encontrar un camino para regresar al judaísmo profético, incluso cuando todavía no podamos encontrar profetas.

Esto está lejos de ser una empresa fácil, especialmente mientras vivimos en un mundo secular (que en sí mismo es el resultado de la falta de profecía). Pero tendremos que ver cuáles son nuestras opciones, una tarea que intentaré abordar en el próximo ensayo.

Agradecemos a Yael Shahar y Yehudah DovBer Zirkind por sus comentarios editoriales e informativos.


[1] La verdad es que algunos comentarios, como Ovadya Sforno (Italia, 1470-1550), opinan que incluso la Carpa del Encuentro en los días mismos de la Torá ya era un reflejo artificial del judaísmo real. Esto habría sido cierto para el primero y, más aún, el Segundo Templo  (Ver, por ejemplo, el comentario de Sforno sobre Vayikra: 11.2). Véase también mi libro, Jewish Law as Rebellion, A Plea for Religious Authenticity and Halachic Courage, Urim Publications, Jerusalem / New York, 2018, capítulo 18.

[2] No todo está claro con respecto a los detalles exactos de ambos Templos y las diferencias entre ellos. Aquí hay algunas fuentes: Yoma, 21b, 52b, 53b; 73b Yerushalmi, Taanit, segundo Perek; Pirke Avot, 5: 5; Yerushalmi, Bava Batra 6: 2; Tosefta, Sota 13: 2, Rambam, Hilchot Kle HaMikdash, Capítulo 10. Varios comentarios no están de acuerdo con respecto a la interpretación correcta de estas fuentes.

Según tomado de,

Traducido por drigs (CEJSPR)

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Posted by on December 17, 2020 in Uncategorized