Pesah and the Coronavirus: Where is God

Pesach: The Mystery of Karpas – Centro Estudios Judaicos del Sur de PR
Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Therefore it is important to strengthen our recognition that there is nothing to be afraid of. All images of fear are merely scattered colors of the big picture which needs to be finalized. Once the picture is complete the segregated images will emerge together and elicit a robust, forceful and tremendous trust that fills the soul with determination and courage.

—Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Middot HaRe’iyah, Fearfulness, Section Four.

The Coronavirus has once more confronted us with the absence of God in modern times. This absence is often seen as the cause for much secularism. Since the days of the Renaissance man has become more and more skeptical of the occurrences of divine intervention. No longer, it is argued, are there enough indications for God’s interference in the national and private affairs of mankind. This viewpoint ultimately leads to the collapse of much of religious authority and in many ways undermined the role of religion in man’s life.

When the Israelites left Egypt, divine intervention was most visible. The ten plagues, the splitting of the Reed Sea and the many other smaller and larger miracles gave full evidence for God’s intervention in man’s affairs. Consequently our general reading of those years makes us believe that anyone living under such miraculous conditions would not have had any other option but to be a deeply religious person.

Rashi in his commentary on the Torah gives us however a totally different version of the events:

As the result of the sin of the spies in which they spoke evil about the land of Israel, the speech of God did no longer seclude itself with Moshe for 38 years. (Vayikra 1.1)

Whatever the deeper meaning of these mysterious words may be, it can’t be denied that this is a most remarkable and a far-reaching observation. What we are told is that most of the time in which the Israelites traveled through the desert, there was no special divine providence. God did not speak to Moshe or to the Israelites in His usual way and consequently the Israelites had to deal with the question of God’s interference not much different from the way in which the modern human being does. Although the miraculous bread, manna, fell and other smaller miracles did take place, it becomes clear that these events did no longer have any real effect on the religious condition of the Israelites. Not for nothing did they say that this manna was lechem hakelokel, repulsive bread (Bamidbar 21.5). They saw these miracles as common events not much different than the way we view the laws of nature. (We are reminded of Rabbi Dessler’s famous observation that the laws of nature are nothing more but the frequency of miracles,[1] something which famous philosophers of science such as Karl Popper have fully endorsed from a secular point of view.[2]) Indeed on several occasions the Israelites asked whether God still lived among them.

It is perhaps this fact which makes Pesach so relevant for our own times: The realization that even at the time of the greatest of miracles, many years passed by without God making Himself known in any revealed form or way!

Sitting at the Seder table we often feel that we are reading a story which has little in common with our days and lives. We complain that God has become silent and that His spoken word is no longer available. How then can we believe in His existence and why should we listen to His words of many thousands of years ago? We are today confronted with a Deus Absconditus, an absent God, and no story about God’s open intervention in history is able to reach us any longer. God’s silence has made us deaf. So we complain.

And even when we admit that God did not speak with Moshe and the Israelites for 38 years, we still would make the powerful point that we have not heard from Him for more than two thousand years! So why asking us to deliberate on an event of thousands of years ago with which we have nearly nothing in common?

But with hindsight we may have to radically change our view. We need to realize that the silence of these 38 years must have been much more frightening than all the Divine silence of our last two thousand years. While we are, to a great extent, able to take care of ourselves, and much more independent, this was not the case for our forefathers in the desert. They encountered the emptiness of desert land. There were no natural resources, food, water, or any other basic items without which even the most elementary forms of life are impossible. True, we are told that they miraculously had water and food, but once God stopped speaking with them in the middle of the desert and with the realization that this thundering silence of God went on day after day, accompanied by the frightening awareness that they had nothing to fall back on in case God would possibly also decide to stop providing them with water and food, this Godly silence must have been more dreadful than anything we can imagine. Being used to open miracles and then suddenly overnight finding oneself in an icy absence of any divine voice, right in the middle of a desert, must have been too much to bear. God’s “indifference”, no doubt, created a devastating traumatic experience without precedence.[3]

On the other side, the generation of our parents or grandparents experienced the Holocaust. This was far more calamitous than the forty years in the desert of our forefathers. So why not arguing that we are, after all, much worse off than those Israelites who had to undergo God’s absence in the desert? Would this not make the Exodus story completely irrelevant and meaningless to us?

However, it was our generation which, despite the absence of God in the Holocaust, clearly saw the return of the hand of God in the establishment of the State of Israel three years after the destruction of most of European Jewry. Without falling victim to the idea that all this is for sure the beginning of the messianic age, a highly dangerous idea, it is impossible to deny that God’s miraculous interference in the establishment of the Jewish State and the successes of its inhabitants which are nothing less but sui generis and touching on the impossible, remind us that despite the Divine silence in the Holocaust, God had re-entered history which make the story of the Passover exodus very relevant. It was Ben Gurion who used to say that if one does not believe in miracles, one is not a realist.

When we realize that the story of the exodus was mainly a story of divine silence and that only occasionally a word of God entered the human condition, we also become conscious of the fact that the story which we read on the Seder night is most relevant. While the words of the Hagada relate the miracles, the “empty spaces” between the words tell us of the frightening divine silence of these very 38 years. And just as our forefathers must often have wondered what happened to God’s presence, in all these years, so do we. But just as they came through, so must we.

For reasons unknown to us, God disappears and suddenly emerges in this great drama called the history of mankind making the Jewish people the ultimate symbol of this queer spectacle.

The art is to hear God in His silence and to see His miracles in His paradoxical “hide and seek” with mankind. It is in the balance of these two facts that religious life takes place.


[1] Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler. Michtav Me-Eliyahu, volume 1.

[2] Karl Popper: The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 1934, Conjectures and Reflections, 1963.

[3] The absence of God’s word for all these 38 years throws a radical different light on much of the Israelites’ upheavals and complaints in the desert as mentioned in the Torah.

As taken from,

‘Blood Libel Never a Church Teaching,’ Says Prominent US Catholic Academic, as Defenders of Antisemitic Italian Painting Come Forward

Italian Artist Giovanni Gasparro Revives Antisemitic Blood Libel ...
by Ben Cohen

The Italian Catholic painter whose artistic rendering of a medieval blood libel caused a storm of protest in the Jewish community last week is winning over some supporters notwithstanding.

An editorial published on Wednesday in the Italian newspaper L’Quotidiano Italiano praised artist Giovanni Gasparro’s creation — titled “The Martyrdom of St. Simon of Trento By Jewish Ritual Murder” — as “objectively a masterpiece.”

The paper, which serves the Adriatic port city of Bari where Gasparro resides, described the painter as an “internationally-renowned artist,” noting as well that “ecclesiastical bodies” of the Catholic Church were among those who had purchased Gasparro’s works in the past.

Critically, the editorial defended the historical veracity of the blood libel episode depicted in Gasparro’s painting — which features stereotypically-lurid Jewish characters crowding around a terrified infant as they drain his blood.

In March 1475, the discovery of the body of a missing child named Simon in the Italian city of Trento, supposedly in the cellar of a local Jew, led to the entire Jewish community being charged with the “blood libel” — the false accusation that Jews used the blood of Christian children for religious rituals. The result was an anti-Jewish frenzy in which Jewish men, women and children alike were tortured and beaten, and the leaders of the community burned at the stake following a show trial.

But as one leading American Catholic academic pointed out in an extensive interview on Wednesday, unlike the long-ago spurned charge of “deicide” — collective Jewish responsibility for the execution of Jesus by the Roman authorities — historically the 900-year-old blood libel was never endorsed by Catholic teachings.

“This particular accusation of Jews killing Christian children was never a church teaching or doctrine, and was rejected even by Popes during the medieval period,” Prof. Philip Cunningham — director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic relations at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia — told The Algemeiner.

One of the several pontiffs to have rejected any theological basis for believing the blood libel was Gregory X (1271-76), who asserted, “Most falsely do these Christians claim that the Jews have secretly and furtively carried away these children and killed them, and that the Jews offer sacrifice from the heart and blood of these children, since their law in this matter precisely and expressly forbids Jews to sacrifice, eat, or drink the blood, or to eat the flesh of animals having claws. This has been demonstrated many times at our court by Jews converted to the Christian faith: nevertheless very many Jews are often seized and detained unjustly because of this.”

In the case of Simon of Trento, however, this doctrinal rejection of the blood libel did not prevent the 15th-century Pope Sixtus IV from declaring that the Trento Jewish community had deserved its punishment. Nor did it prevent Pope Gregory XIII from canonizing Simon as a “martyr” during the 16th Century. It was not until 1965 — the year that the Second Vatican Council issued its historic “Nostra Aetate” Declaration disavowing antisemitism — that Simon’s canonized status was formally revoked by Pope Paul VI.

Yet more than fifty years after the Catholic Church recognized the “Jewish covenant with God” through Nostra Aetate, Prof. Cunningham said, there were still some “outliers” who espoused antisemitic views and continued to believe that “this is a zero-sum game, and if the Catholics are right, then the Jews have to be wrong.”

And while Wednesday’s newspaper editorial in Italy defending Gasparro lauded the painter as a part of the “traditional Catholic world who celebrates Mass according to the ancient Roman rite,” Cunningham cautioned against the misuse of such labels.

“‘Traditionalism’ is absolutely not the same thing as tradition,” he explained. “The deicide charge was taught by lots of Christian theologians for centuries, so you can call it part of the Christian tradition, but not the blood libel — that was outlandish even by the standards of the time.”

Instead, the spread of the blood libel around Europe was a reflection of local superstitions derived from certain religious practices such as the eucharist, in which the bread and wine consumed by believers is held to be the body of Jesus.

During the period that the blood libel surfaced, said Cunningham, there was a “deeply physical understanding of the eucharist,” encouraging the folk belief that the Jews would continue shedding the blood of Christians just as they had allegedly done with Jesus himself.

These popular legends were frequently accompanied by baser economic motives for demonizing Jews, Cunningham said. Debts owed to Jews could be voided by persecuting the local community through such libels, while towns and cities whose inhabitants were canonized could look forward to lucrative annual pilgrimages drawing outside visitors.

Asked about his own reaction to Gasparro’s painting, Cunningham said he had been “appalled by it.”

“It clearly revives all of the old tropes and visual stereotypes and caricatures in the context of an incident that historically-speaking is very murky,” he said.

The task of countering those with Gasparro’s views was not equivalent to a battle between “left” and “right,” Cunningham emphasized.

“I don’t want to to give the impression that the historic changes in relations with Jews are what you might call ‘liberal’ or ‘left-wing’ phenomena,” he said. “It encompasses the entire mainstream community. There are bishops who might be labeled ‘right of center’ who strongly condemn antisemitic actions on the part of Catholics, and who promote positive relations with Jews.”

Cunningham stressed that those who opposed the “living” Catholic tradition established by Nostra Aetate had distanced themselves from their faith “by their own choice.”

“They are no longer simply ‘right-of-center,’ so to speak,” Cunningham remarked. “They are outside the community.”

As taken from,

Cómo lograr tu éxodo personal

Pair of shoes standing on a tarmac road with yellow arrow ...
por Rev Dov Heller

Libera tu voluntad al aceptar el poder de lo pequeño.

Pésaj es la fiesta de la libertad, la oportunidad de expandirse y crecer más allá de lo que percibimos como nuestras limitaciones. En hebreo, la palabra Egipto tiene relación con la palabra “estrecho”. Egipto era un lugar que limitaba el potencial humano y esclavizaba la voluntad. La liberación de nuestro “Egipto personal” es la experiencia de expandirse e ir más allá de nuestras limitaciones personales aprovechando y liberando nuestra voluntad.

Nuestro “Egipto personal” es el dolor de esperar mejorar en una forma específica, pero sentirnos impotentes de lograr ese cambio. En vez de crecimiento sentimos estancamiento y desesperanza.

Desde que tiene memoria, Gaby se esforzó por amar a las personas y sentirse conectado. Él probó muchas técnicas, con la esperanza de que alguna de ellas le permitiera alcanzar el progreso que tanto ansiaba. Tenía un patrón repetitivo en el que aprendía sobre una nueva herramienta para llegar a amar a los demás, se emocionaba de la novedad y dos semanas más tarde abandonaba todo al comprender que para él no funcionaba. Hace poco leyó sobre una técnica llamada “el juego del amor”: la sugerencia es estudiar de cerca a una persona y hacer una lista de cinco virtudes que ella posee. En este contexto, el amor se define como el placer de llegar a identificar a alguien con sus virtudes y perdonar sus defectos. Una vez más Gaby se emocionó, porque la idea parecía tener sentido. Lamentablemente, dos semanas más tarde todo perdió su brillo. Gaby se sintió un perdedor y se resignó a una vida de desconexión.

Me parece que todos nos podemos identificar con la frustración de Gaby. Hay algunos aspectos de nosotros mismos que deseamos cambiar, pero nos rendimos, nos resignamos a vivir con nuestras limitaciones.

Nuestro verdadero punto de libre albedrío es ese pequeño paso que podemos dar de forma consistente sin realizar un esfuerzo sobrehumano.

Nuestros Sabios enseñan que “nada se interpone ante la voluntad”. Tenemos la fuerza para mejorar de cualquier forma que realmente deseemos hacerlo. Rav Eliahu Dessler enseñó que el secreto de liberar nuestra voluntad es identificar dónde se encuentra nuestro punto de libre albedrío, o lo que yo llamaría “nuestros puntos personales de posibilidad real”. Nuestro verdadero punto de libre albedrío es ese pequeño paso que podemos dar de forma consistente sin realizar un esfuerzo sobrehumano.

Siempre existe algún cambio significativo que podemos hacer, algún paso para ser mejores. Ese cambio puede ser tan pequeño que tendemos a descartarlo por pensar que no es un gran logro. Este es un gran error. Cualquier cambio, sin importar cuán pequeño sea, es significativo y profundamente satisfactorio. Esta es la “fuerza de lo pequeño”, y es la clave para liberar la voluntad y lograr un auténtico crecimiento y transformación.

Una razón habitual por la que no logramos mejorar es porque fijamos un objetivo muy elevado, demasiado difícil de alcanzar. El Talmud nos enseña que “el que trata de abarcar demasiado, termina sin nada”. La mejor manera de evitar lo que yo llamo el desgaste y la desesperanza respecto al desarrollo personal, es apuntar a un crecimiento realista con una perspectiva honesta de nuestro punto de libre albedrío. No te dejes seducir por los logros dramáticos que alientan los coaches y mentores. Para muchas personas, esta es una fórmula para la frustración crónica y la depresión.

Conócete a ti mismo y acepta tus limitaciones. No te compares con los demás. Competir con otros nos distrae y no nos permite ser honestos con nosotros mismos. Tienes que estar seguro respecto a lo que eres: una persona imperfecta que se esfuerza por crecer. Evita la grandiosidad y el perfeccionismo. En cambio, celebra cada pequeño paso de crecimiento.

El verdadero problema de Gaby era que siempre fijaba el objetivo demasiado lejos de su punto de libre albedrío. Las herramientas que intentó aplicar estaban fuera de su rango real de posibilidades. Si Gaby hubiera sido capaz de ser honesto consigo mismo, habría descubierto que su punto de libre albedrío era un cambio muy pequeño. Afortunadamente, con un poco de ayuda, Gaby descubrió dónde estaba su punto de libre albedrío: una vez al día se propuso saludar a una persona con una sonrisa sincera y genuina. Cuando recibía en respuesta una agradable sonrisa, se sentía conectado y más positivo respecto a esa persona.

Después de un mes, Gaby se sorprendió del cambio en la forma que se sentía consigo mismo y con los demás. Se sentía con más fuerza y estaba convencido de que podría mantener ese cambio sin esforzarse demasiado. Una vez que Gaby sintió que había dominado este cambio, estuvo listo para elevar un poco el objetivo. Incluso sintió que el siguiente paso podía ser: buscar las virtudes de los demás.

Este enfoque sobre el crecimiento da mucha fuerza. El poder de lo pequeño en definitiva es la posibilidad de vivir en la realidad y esforzarse por lograr una transformación genuina. Cada éxodo de nuestro “Egipto personal” comienza con pasos pequeños que se encuentran en nuestros puntos de libre albedrío. Con la fuerza de lo pequeño, podemos entender por qué nuestros sabios dijeron que nada se interpone a la voluntad.

Segun tomado de,

Jerusalem Rabbi Uses Ancient Wall to Solve Mystery in Book of Isaiah

Old Jerusalem Cityscape Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty Free ...
Old Jerusalem

For those visiting Israel, exploring archaeology is a must. 

But how many people can honestly say that an ancient ruin was actually the missing piece to a complex puzzle that baffled Bible scholars for years?  

This is one of the facets of the teachings of Rabbi Chaim Eisen,founder of Zion Bible Studies. As a prominent Bible scholar who isn’t afraid to teach Christians the Scriptures in its original language (Hebrew) and from a Jewish perspective, Rabbi Eisen also takes his pupils on Biblical tours of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Speaking candidly to Breaking Israel News, Rabbi Eisen explained that there is a big mystery in the Book of Isaiah that was only solved after excavations following the Six-Day-War in Jerusalem. 

When that happened, a wall was uncovered in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. 

So what’s the big deal?

As Rabbi Eisen explains, it was this wall that Isaiah spoke about when he blasted King Hezekiah:

and you constructed a basin between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you gave no thought to Him who planned it, You took no note of Him who designed it long before. (Isaiah 22:11)

In Hebrew, the word for ‘two walls’ is חֹמֹתַיִם (chomotayim) which appears nowhere else in the Bible. And until this wall was discovered in the aftermath of the ‘Six-Day War, no one knew what ‘walls’ Isaiah was referring to.

But as it turns out, that wall was actually an additional wall that was built by King Hezekiah to protect the city against the imminent Syrian onslaught. 

The houses

This incredible find settled another unsolved mystery Rabbi Eisen explains. That’s because in the previous passage in Isaiah, the prophet mentions demolished houses:

and you counted the houses of Yerushalayim and pulled houses down to fortify the wall (Isaiah 22:10)

What’s interesting to note is that at the base of King Hezekiah’s recently discovered wall are neighborhoods of demolished houses. As Rabbi Eisen explains, it was these very houses that had to be ruined in order to erect an additional wall to protect Judea against Sancherib’s assault. 

This outer wall was discussed in the Book of Chronicles:

He acted with vigor, rebuilding the whole breached wall, raising towers on it, and building another wall outside it. He fortified the Millo of the City of David, and made a great quantity of arms and shields. (Chronicles 2 32:5)

As Rabbi Eisen explains, these homes belonged to the ten lost tribes who fled from Samaria to Jerusalem when Sancherib ransacked the northern region. 

There was just one problem

As Rabbi Eisen notes, “Jerusalem was surrounded by mountains. So you can’t just build a wall wherever you want.” He added that Hezekiah’s wall had to coincide with the ridges of the mountains which meant that some houses would have to be destroyed in the process. 

In Isaiah 22:10, the prophet indicts King Hezekiah for destroying the homes of the ten lost tribes on the outskirts of the city saying:

and you counted the houses of Yerushalayim and pulled houses down to fortify the wall (Isaiah 22:10)

Hezekiah’s tunnel

In the following verse, Isaiah speaks of a water basin between the two walls.

and you constructed a basin between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you gave no thought to Him who planned it, You took no note of Him who designed it long before. (Isaiah 22:11)

But the location of this water basin is something that only made sense after Hezekiah’s wall was discovered in Jerusalem. That’s because there was no basin between the eastern and western walls of David’s village. But there is one between the two inner and outer walls (built by Hezekiah) on the western side of David’s Village. 

This basin was in reference to Hezekiah’s water tunnel that was discovered in the 19th century. The only two walls that this basin lies between is the outer wall and the inner wall on the western side of David’s Village. 

Rabbi Eisen also points out that the Bible isn’t just a history book. Rather, the words of the prophets like Isaiah are meant to teach us how to live. He emphasizes the importance of understanding that “the words of the prophet come from a historical context.” The rabbi added that it helps to “be able to understand what he’s saying in context before he’s saying it to us.”

And although many might say that there’s no better way to tour Jerusalem than the Bible, Rabbi Eisen says that “there’s no better way to tour the Bible than Jerusalem.”

As taken from,

31 de Marzo: Fecha Funesta

SYNAGOGUES IN TOLEDO, SPAIN בתי כנסת יהודיים בטולדו, ספרד
Sinagoga en Toledo, España

Analisemos una de las fechas más siniestras en la historia del Pueblo Judío.

La España medieval no existía: era una sucesión de reinos como Castilla, León, Navarra, Aragón y otros, independientes entre sí. En 1469 se casan Fernando de Aragón y Isabel de Castilla, lo que iniciará la formación de España como país.

Isabel era profundamente católica y tenía al fraile Tomás de Torquemada como su confesor. España tenía el mayor contingente de conversos judíos en el mundo, llamados Cristianos Nuevos, vistos con profunda sospecha por la iglesia y por los “Cristianos Viejos”. Torquemada nutria un odio profundo hacia los Judíos e incita a la corona a perseguirlos, bajo el argumento de “sangre limpia”, la eliminación de los no cristianos del reino.

El reino atravesaba una grave crisis financiera y un renacimiento de la fe cristiana. Los Judíos ya eran una poderosa burguesía urbana. Prohibidos de poseer tierras, se dedican al comercio y las finanzas. Fernando de Aragón ve esta combinación de hechos como una buena razón para respaldar las ideas de Torquemada y, en 1478, autorizó la persecución de judíos y conversos acusados de prácticas judaizantes. La persecución comienza exactamente confiscando los bienes de los judíos y los nuevos cristianos y cancelando las deudas de la Corona con los financistas Judíos, lo que alivia las finanzas del estado y le da a Fernando de Aragón mayores razones para aumentar la libertad de acción de Torquemada. . Siendo Dominicano, usa el derecho de crear Tribunales del Santo Oficio y comienza a publicar instrucciones que lleven a delacciones. Algunas de sus instrucciones:

  • “Si notas que tus vecinos visten ropa limpia y colorida el sábado, son judíos”.
  • Si limpian sus casas los viernes y encienden velas antes de lo habitual esa noche, son judíos.
  • Si comen pan azimo y comienzan su comida con apio y lechuga durante la Semana Santa, son judíos.
  • Si dicen sus oraciones frente a una pared, inclinándose hacia adelante y hacia atrás, son judíos “.

Lo más intrigante fue la orden de observar si sus vecinos se bañaban y denunciar a cualquiera que usara toallas limpias en la víspera del sábado, mientras la Iglesia condenaba el baño por considerarlo un lujo innecesario y pecaminoso, ampliamente practicado por los Judíos. Los Padres, por ejemplo, se bañan solo dos veces al año y los más entusiasmados con la limpieza se bañan, como máximo, dos veces al año. El rey mismo lo hacia solo con prescripción medica y con las debidas precauciones.

Sin embargo, los Judíos estaban obligados a limpiarse, ya que la religión obliga al Judío a lavarse las manos al despertar, antes de tocar su cuerpo. También tres veces al día, antes de las oraciones y nuevamente antes de cada comida. Finalmente, el mandamiento de Mikve, el baño ritual obligatorio generalmente los viernes y, para las mujeres, después de la menstruación. Esta limpieza ayudó a las delaciones.

Torquemada realizó un notorio juicio en 1490, durante el cual acusó a los Judíos de rituales satánicos y de crucificar a niños Cristianos. Su predicación aumentó el odio a los judíos y en 1492 convenció a Fernando e Isabel de expulsar a los Judíos del territorio español. La ley se firma el 31/03/1492 y recibe el nombre de Edicto de Granada o Decreto de la Alhambra. La ley se hace pública el 29 de abril de 1492 y los judíos tienen un período máximo de 90 días para “convertirse al catolicismo o abandonar España para nunca volver al Reino”, dejando lógicamente sus propiedades al Reino. Cualquier Judío que quedara sería asesinado.

Miles se convierten y decenas de miles se exilian, una gran parte en Portugal. Dom Manuel I les da la bienvenida y en un período relativamente corto los Judíos crean una economía próspera y un centro intelectual en Portugal. Fernando de Aragão ve esto como una amenaza. Se le propone casarse con la hija de Fernando e Isabel, también llamada Isabel, que albergaba un profundo odio hacia los Judíos. ¡Isabel, la hija, le escribió a D. Manuel que no cruzaría la frontera mientras hubiera un solo Judío en el reino!

Las condiciones establecidas en el pacto nupcial fueron:

  1. Portugal no se uniría a Francia y lucharía junto con España contra los Turcos.
  2. Judios y moros serían expulsados de Portugal

Diario Judío México – La inquisición Española llevó a 300,000 judíos a prisión, tortura y muerte en la hoguera o colgandos, en los llamados auto da fe.

La Inquisición continuó en España hasta 1834, durante 356 años. En Portugal se extinguió después de 324 años, en 1821, casualmente el mismo día del 31 de marzo.

Según tomado de,

Italian Artist Giovanni Gasparro Revives Antisemitic Blood Libel With Graphic Painting of Medieval Child ‘Martyr’

avatar by Ben Cohen

Italian artist Giovanni Gasparro’s painting graphically revived the medieval ‘blood libel’ against the Jews. Photo: Facebook.

An Italian painter whose work has been honored by the Catholic Church for its devoutly Christian themes and masterful baroque style unveiled his latest canvas this week — a grotesquely antisemitic depiction of hook-nosed Jews engaged in the “ritual murder” of a terrified Christian infant.

Giovanni Gasparro, an artist based in the Adriatic port city of Bari, uploaded images of the 7ft X 5ft painting that revives the antisemitic blood libel of medieval times onto his Facebook page on Tuesday.

That the painting is replete with the basest antisemitic tropes is instantly apparent. Titled “The Martyrdom of St. Simon of Trento in Accordance With Jewish Ritual Murder,” it shows an infant boy surrounded by a crowd of sinister Jewish men, variously wearing side-curls and religious items, who strangulate him, cut him open and drain his blood.

A detail of Gasparro’s painting relays his readiness to invoke antisemitic stereotypes. Photo: Facebook.

Gasparro’s brush purposively accentuates the stereotypes of classic antisemitism: large hooked noses, yellowing uneven teeth, blood-stained fingers and visceral pleasure at forcing a non-Jewish child to suffer in a manner reminiscent of Jesus on the cross. As the child in the painting weeps with fear, the Jewish figures cackle and laugh with manic energy.

The historical event on which Gasparro’s painting is based occurred on March 21, 1475, when the disappearance of a two-year-old child named Simon in the northern Italian city of Trento sparked one of the most notorious episodes in the 900-year history of the blood libel. When the body of a little boy was discovered later that week — according to local rumor, in the cellar of a Jewish man named Samuel — a storm of anti-Jewish fanaticism erupted during the Christian holiday of Easter. The entire Jewish community was arrested and forced to confess under torture to having murdered Simon in a bloody ritual, with 15 of its leaders burned at the stake.

In later centuries, Simon was regarded as a martyr by the Catholic Church. That status was removed by Pope Paul VI in 1965 when the Vatican issued “Nostra Aetate” — its historic repudiation of antisemitism and the “deicide” charge that held the Jews collectively responsible for the death of Jesus at the hands of the Roman Empire.

An artist who concentrates primarily on devotional Christian themes, the 36-year-old Gasparro has been hailed by some art critics for his technical brilliance, as well as his choice of figurative painting over more modern forms of artistic expression.

Another detail of Gasparro’s painting highlights Simon’s “martyrdom.” Photo: Facebook.

But with this latest work, Gasparro seems determined to revive the tradition of Christian antisemitism as well. Writing about the blood libel painting in the Italian Jewish publication Mosaico on Thursday, the Italian-Jewish commentator Ester Moscati noted Gasparro’s dedication to “sacred art — with a particular taste for the macabre and the grotesque (lots of flesh and lots of blood).”

Moscati concluded with the observation that Gasparro was now directing his mastery of painting “to a work that is full of anti-Jewish hatred, as if he felt the need, at a time when the fake news is going crazy, to dust off [similarly fake news] from the dark and gloomy past.”

Gasparro has exhibited his work in Italy and other countries for more than 20 years. His career highlights have included solo exhibitions in Paris in 2009 and at the Venice Biennale in 2011.

Also in 2011, Gasparro was commissioned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Italy’s L’Aquila region to restore a medieval basilica that had been badly damaged in an earthquake. In 2013, he was awarded Italy’s prestigious Pio Alferano prize for “young and talented artists.”

A Jewish figure in Gasparro’s blood libel painting with bloodstained fingers. Photo: Facebook.

As taken from,

The Prophetic View of Sacrifice

Image result for Loving the world

by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Sacrifices, the subject of this week’s parsha, were central to the religious life of biblical Israel. We see this not only by the sheer space devoted to them in the Torah, but also by the fact that they occupy its central book, Vayikra.

We have not had the sacrificial service since the destruction of the second Temple almost 2000 years ago. What is deeply relevant today, however, is the critique of sacrifices we find among the Prophets of the first Temple. That critique was sharp and deep and formed many of their most powerful addresses. One of the earliest was delivered by the Prophet Samuel: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obedience to the Lord’s command? Surely, obedience is better than sacrifice, compliance than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22).

Amos said in the name of God: “If you offer Me burnt offerings—or your meal offerings— I will not accept them; I will pay no heed to your gifts of fatlings … But let justice well up like water, righteousness like a never-ending stream” (Amos 5:21-24). Likewise Hosea: “For I desire goodness, not sacrifice; obedience to God, rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6).

We find a similar critique in several Psalms. “Were I hungry, I would not tell you, for Mine is the world and all it holds. Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?” (Ps. 50:8-15). “Lord, open my lips, and let my mouth declare Your praise. You do not want me to bring sacrifices; You do not desire burnt offerings. True sacrifice to God is a contrite spirit; God, You will not despise a contrite and crushed heart” (Ps. 51:17-19).

Jeremiah seems to suggest that the sacrificial order was not God’s initial intention: “For when I freed your fathers from the land of Egypt, I did not speak with them or command them concerning burnt offerings or sacrifice. But this is what I commanded them: Do My bidding, that I may be your God and you may be My people; walk only in the way that I enjoin upon you, that it may go well with you” (Jer. 7:22-23).

Strongest of all is the passage at the beginning of the book of Isaiah that we read on Shabbat Chazon (before Tisha b’Av): “‘What need have I of all your sacrifices?’ says the Lord. ‘I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before Me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of My courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to Me’” (Is. 1:11-13).

This entire line of thought, sounded by many voices and sustained across centuries, is extraordinary. The people were being criticised not for disobeying God’s law but for obeying it. Sacrifices were commanded. Their offering was a sacred act performed in a holy place. What then aroused the Prophets’ anger and rebuke?

It was not that they were opposed to sacrifice as such. Jeremiah foresaw the day when “People shall come from the towns of Judah and from the environs of Jerusalem … bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, meal offerings and frankincense, and bringing offerings of thanksgiving to the House of the Lord” (Jer. 17:26).

Likewise Isaiah: “I will bring them to My sacred mount and let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices shall be welcome on My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Is. 56:7).

They were not criticising the institution of sacrifices. They were criticising something as real now as it was in their time. What distressed them to the core of their being was the idea that you could serve God and at the same time act disdainfully, cruelly, unjustly, insensitively or callously toward other people. “So long as I am in God’s good graces, that is all that matters.” That is the thought that made the Prophets incandescent with indignation. If you think that, they seem to say, then you haven’t understood either God or Torah.

The first thing the Torah tells us about humanity is that we are each in the image and likeness of God Himself. Therefore if you wrong a human being, you are abusing the only creation in the universe on which God has set His image. A sin against any person is a sin against God.

In the first mission statement of the Jewish people, God said about Avraham, “For I have chosen him that he may instruct his children and his posterity to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is just and right” (Gen. 18:19). The way of the Lord is to act justly and righteously toward your fellow human beings. In context, this meant that God was inviting Avraham to pray on behalf of the people of Sodom, even though he knew that they were wicked and sinners.

It is specifically in the book of sacrifices, Vayikra, that we find the twin commands to love your neighbour as yourself, and love the stranger (Lev. 19:18, 33-34). The sacrifices that express our love and awe of God should lead to love of the neighbour and the stranger. There should be a seamless transition from commands between us and God to commands between us and our fellow humans.

Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah and Jeremiah all witnessed societies in which people were punctilious in bringing their offerings to the Temple, but in which there was bribery, corruption, perversion of justice, abuse of power and the exploitation of the powerless by the powerful. The Prophets saw in this a profound and dangerous contradiction.

The very act of bringing a sacrifice was fraught with ambiguity. Jews were not the only people in ancient times to have temples, priests and sacrifices. Almost everyone did. It was precisely here that the religion of ancient Israel came closest, outwardly, to the practices of their pagan neighbours. But the sacrificial systems of other cultures were based on totally different beliefs. In many religions sacrifices were seen as a way of placating or appeasing the gods. The Aztecs believed that sacrificial offerings fed the gods who sustained the universe. Walter Burkert speculated that the ancient Greeks experienced guilt when they killed animals for food, so they offered sacrifices as a way of appeasing their consciences.

All these ideas are alien to Judaism. God cannot be bribed or appeased. Nor can we bring Him anything that is not His. God sustains the universe: the universe does not sustain Him. And wrongs righted by sacrifice do not excuse other wrongs. So intention and mindset were essential in the sacrificial system. The thought that “If I bring a sacrifice to God, He will overlook my other faults” – in effect, the idea that I can bribe the Judge of all the earth – turns a sacred act into a pagan one, and produces precisely the opposite result than the one intended by the Torah. It turns religious worship from a way to the right and the good, into a way of easing the conscience of those who practice the wrong and the bad.

To serve God is to serve humanity. That was the point made memorably by Micah: “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: To do justice, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”(Micah 6:6-8). Jeremiah said of King Josiah: “He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know Me? says the Lord” (Jer. 22:16). Knowing God, said Jeremiah, means caring for those in need.

Maimonides said essentially the same at the end of The Guide for the Perplexed (III, 54). He quotes Jeremiah: “Only in this should one glory: that they have the understanding to know Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ says the Lord” (Jer. 9:23). To know God is to know what it is to act with kindness, justice and righteousness.

The danger of the sacrificial system, said the Prophets, is that it can lead people to think that there are two domains, the Temple and the world, serving God and caring for one’s fellow humans, and they are disconnected. Judaism rejects the concept of two disconnected domains. Halachically they are distinct, but psychologically, ethically and spiritually they are part of a single indivisible system.

I believe that to love God is to love our fellow humans. To honour God is to honour our fellow humans. We may not ask God to listen to us if we are unwilling to listen to others. We may not ask God to forgive us if we are unwilling to forgive others. To know God is to seek to imitate Him, which means, said Jeremiah and Maimonides, to exercise kindness, justice and righteousness on earth.

Shabbat Shalom

As taken from,

La electricidad y el Shabat: dejar de trabajar o aprender a descansar

Podría definirse como el común denominador de lo que está prohibido hacer en Shabat, como todo aquello que resulta en cambios permanentes o durables en nuestro entorno. El propósito de cocinar es transformar algo crudo en cocido. El propósito de escribir es guardar información para recuperarla después. Pero usar una parrilla eléctrica para calentar comida ya cocida, podría estar permitido.


Thomas Edison, el gran inventor norteamericano, desarrolló en 1879 el foco incandescente. En 1882 echó a andar la primera planta generadora de electricidad en la parte baja de Manhattan, para darle servicio a 85 clientes que en total tenían 400 focos en sus casas. De entonces a la fecha, Edison nunca hubiera imaginado la cantidad de funciones que la electricidad llenaría en nuestros hogares. La usamos para una infinidad de actividades en nuestra vida diaria. Cuando se nos “va la luz”, nuestras vidas se trastornan enormemente. Ya no entendemos cómo se vivía sin electricidad.

Nuestros sabios empezaron a cuestionar como afectaba este nuevo paradigma a la vida judía. Especialmente en vista de que la electricidad nos daba luz y facilitaba mucho el desempeño de muchas de las labores domésticas habituales, como cocinar o lavar, por lo que se preguntaban cómo su uso afectaría el respetar el Shabat: ¿el usar un dispositivo eléctrico pudiera considerarse un “trabajo” (melajá) o afectar nuestra capacidad de descansar (shvut) en Shabat?

Hay 39 trabajos, melajot, que nuestros sabios definieron como prohibidos en Shabat y que la electricidad puede afectarlos. Por ejemplo, algunos consideran que subir o bajar el interruptor de una lámpara viola la prohibición de encender (37) o apagar (36) un fuego, pues consideran la incandescencia del foco equivalente al fuego. Otros opinan lo contrario. No consideran a la luz eléctrica como un fuego, pues no hay combustión, no hay una flama y no se genera carbón.

Hay otras melajot que se han usado para argumentar en favor o en contra del uso de aparatos eléctricos en Shabat. El uso de la computadora o el celular, se enfrenta con la prohibición de escribir (33). Usar parrillas eléctricas, con la prohibición de cocinar (11). Para algunos, encender la luz de un cuarto, equivale a terminar de construirlo (34) o a completar una tarea (38).

Podría definirse como el común denominador de lo que está prohibido hacer en Shabat, como todo aquello que resulta en cambios permanentes o durables en nuestro entorno. El propósito de cocinar es transformar algo crudo en cocido. El propósito de escribir es guardar información para recuperarla después. Pero usar una parrilla eléctrica para calentar comida ya cocida, podría estar permitido. Usar una tarjeta con banda magnética para abrir el cuarto de un hotel sería el mismo caso. En general se puede decir que un trabajo manual que está prohibido en Shabat, también está prohibido si se hace usando algo eléctrico. Rabi Joel Roth, citando escritos tan diversos como los de Samson Raphael Hirsch, Mordejai Kaplan y Abraham Joshua Heschel, nos explica que todos ellos coinciden en definir “melaja”, los trabajos prohibidos en Shabat, como todo aquello que les permite a las personas “dominar o cambiar” su entorno.

Muchos rabinos han tratado el tema del uso de la electricidad en Shabat y hay una diversidad de posturas, desde las más restrictivas hasta las más permisivas. Además, surgen nuevos dispositivos, como los focos a base de diodos (LED) que obligan a repensar viejas reglas. En el fondo, el asunto está más en el aspecto de “shvut”, descanso, que de “melajá”, trabajo. No es tanto qué trabajos no se deben hacer, sino qué debo hacer para descansar verdaderamente en Shabat.

Según tomado de,

Jewish Responses to Epidemics Throughout History

Although the recent outbreak of COVID-19 seems unlike anything we’ve seen before, plagues and epidemics are nothing new. And in fact it’s been a lot worse in the past. Let’s take a look at epidemics throughout history to put things in perspective and gain some insight into how Jews were affected and how leaders responded.

Aaron’s Incense Saved

In the book of Numbers, after Korach’s rebellion, a plague strikes the Jewish people and thousands begin to die. Moses tells Aaron to quickly take a firepan with incense (ketoret), go into the midst of the congregation and atone for their sin. Aaron stands “between the living and the dead” with the ketoret, and the plague is halted.1

How did Moses know that ketoret would avert the plague? The Talmud relates that when Moses went up to heaven to receive the Torah, the angels bestowed gifts on him. The gift that the Satan (who is, of course, an angel) gave was the secret of the power of the ketoret.

Ketoret Today

Although we unfortunately no longer have the Temple, the Kabbalists say that by reading the portion in the Torah that discusses the incense, it is as if one actually brought it. Thus, although many have the custom to recite this portion daily, one should take extra care to learn and recite it at the time of an epidemic.

It is said in the name of the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, that in a time of an epidemic one should learn the following verses, together with the commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi):2

  • Exodus 30:1–10 (which discusses the making of the golden altar)
  • Exodus 30:22–38 (which discusses the making of the anointing oil and the ketoret)
  • Numbers 16:31–17:15 (which discusses part of the rebellion, the subsequent epidemic, and how they were saved with the ketoret)

Additionally, one should read the above sections twice in Hebrew and once in Aramaic translation.

If one is able to, one should also learn these laws in Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Temidin u-Musafin 3:1–11.

King David and 100 Blessings

The Midrash relates that during the reign of King David an epidemic broke out, claiming the lives of 100 people a day. Through Divine inspiration King David understood the cause of this epidemic, and instituted that everyone recite at least 100 blessings a day.3

The Talmud tells us that there is an allusion to this in Deuteronomy: “Now, Israel, what does the L‑rd, your G‑d, ask of you? . . . To walk in His ways . . . and to serve Him.”4 The Hebrew word for “what,” mah (מָה), is phonetically similar to the word me’ah (מֵאָה), which means “100.” In other words, the verse can be understood as saying: “Now, Israel, 100 does the L‑rd, your G‑d, ask of you”—100 blessings.5

For more on this requirement6 (and how it isn’t as difficult as it may seem), see How Many Blessings does a Jew Say Each Day?

In a letter to the people of Israel during a cholera outbreak in the year 1848, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, known as the Tzemach Tzedek, writes that although nowadays we are accustomed to reciting 100 blessings throughout the day, nevertheless during an epidemic one should be extra careful not only to recite the blessings, but to understand the meaning of the words.7

The Talmud: Avoid Infection

The Talmud gives us a number of ways in which the sages would avoid infection, which may seem obvious to us now but were fairly radical in the times of the Talmud:8

  • Rabbi Yochanan would announce: Be careful of the flies found on those afflicted with ra’atan (a type of infectious disease), as they are carriers of the disease.
  • Rabbi Zeira would not sit in a spot where the wind blew from the direction of someone afflicted with ra’atan.
  • Rabbi Elazar would not enter the tent of one afflicted with ra’atan.
  • Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Asi would not eat eggs from an alley in which someone afflicted with ra’atan lived.

Black Death and Handwashing

Perhaps the most devastating epidemic of history was the Black Death, the bubonic plague that decimated much of the world population during the 14th century. More specifically, between the years 1347–1351 it is estimated to have killed somewhere between 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia (30–60% of the population at that time).

What is perhaps less known is that Jews were blamed for the plague, resulting in massacres of Jewish communities throughout Europe. In all, it is estimated that over 500 Jewish communities were decimated.

Besides the general anti-Semitism in that period, historians explain that overall the Jews seemed less susceptible to the plague. This was due both to the fact that many Jews had to live in ghettos away from the general population, and to the Jewish laws that compelled Jews to ritually wash and bathe. In an age when washing and bathing were difficult and not done often, the Jews were markedly more hygienic than their non-Jewish neighbors and were thus less likely to contract the disease. However, many saw this as evidence that the Jews had caused the plague.9

Making the Most of Quarantine

In 1774, Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai (Chida, 1724–1806) was traveling to raise money for the Holy Land, when he was quarantined for 40 days in the port city of Livorno, Italy. While in quarantine he compiled one of his most famous works, Shem ha-Gedolim (“Names of the Great Ones”), a bibliography of great Jewish scholars who preceded him, together with their works. It is due to this work that he is considered one of the fathers of Jewish bibliography.

For a list of works written in isolation, see 9 Jewish Works Written in Prison or Confinement.

Charity Saves From Death

In late 1827 an epidemic broke out in the city of Orsha (near the city of Lubavitch), in which three or four people were dying daily. Since Rabbi Dovber of Lubavitch was out of town at the time, the inhabitants turned to his son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, later known as the Tzemach Tzedek, for advice.

In addition to quoting a story in the Zohar about reading the portion of the ketoret during an epidemic, the Tzemach Tzedek suggested that, in light of the verse in Proverbs “And charity will save from death,”10 they should add in charity. However, he stressed that, as is explained in Tanya,11 it is preferable to give charity many times throughout the day (especially before prayer) in smaller denominations than just giving one large sum, even if it equals the same amount. Ideally, the total sum of each day should be a multiple of 18.12

Cholera 1831: Limit Crowds

During an outbreak of cholera in 1831, people turned to one of the leading rabbis of the generation, Rabbi Akiva Eiger, for advice regarding large gatherings. His many rulings helped stem the tide of the epidemic, and in fact he later received a commendation from the government for his help. In one of his rulings he writes that there should be a schedule of different prayer times, starting from the earliest time one is permitted to pray, and each minyan should be limited to 15 people. Each group should pray and add some chapters of Psalms, and then the next group should enter. He adds that they should turn to the police and get a guard to limit the crowd, if need be.13

Keeping Healthy

In the summer of 1848, Vilnius (commonly referred to as Vilna), Lithuania, was hard-hit by a cholera epidemic. As Yom Kippur approached, Rabbi Israel Lipkin (1810–1883), better known as Rav Yisrael Salanter, was concerned that fasting would weaken people and make them more vulnerable to the disease. He hung placards throughout Vilna urging all who felt weak to eat on the fast day, and, according to some accounts, publicly made kiddush and ate some cakes to encourage all those in need to follow suit.14

This, however, was not without controversy. One rabbi later wrote in response:

It is my obligation to make it known for all generations this great matter—that for three successive years, more than 12,000 men and women fasted [on Yom Kippur during the cholera epidemic] throughout our lands, and no ill befell any of them—and this was known to virtually the entire world at the time.15

It is extremely important to take care of our health and strengthen our bodies enough to withstand disease, but at the same time we should consult with a rabbi and medical professional regarding specific circumstances.

Helping Others

One final note: During times like these, people can often become marginalized and overlooked. Let us do our part to ensure that does not happen in our communities.

Rebbetzin Chana (the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s mother) relates that when her son (the future Rebbe) was twenty years old, “a typhus epidemic broke out in Yekaterinoslav, and people were falling like flies. My son left his studies and assisted those who were ailing, bringing them aid himself and organizing others to do so. He paid a steep price for his effort. He helped others, but he himself contracted the illness. He had extremely high fever, and in his delirium he was muttering words of Chassidut.”16

May G‑d bring strength and healing to all!

1.Numbers 17.
2.See Me’ah She’arim 20b.
3.See Midrash Tanchuma, Korach 12; see also Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav, Orach Chaim 46:1.
4.Deuteronomy 10:12.
5.Talmud, Menachot 43b.
6.See Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav, Orach Chaim 46:1.
7.Igrot Kodesh Admor HaTzemach Tzedek, pp. 93–94.
8.Talmud, Ketubot 77b.
9.See for example Naomi E. Pasachoff and Robert J. Littman, A Concise History of the Jewish People (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), p. 154.
10.Proverbs 10:2.
11.Tanya, Iggeret ha-Kodesh 21.
12.Igrot Kodesh Admor ha-Tzemach Tzedek, p. 14.
13.Igrot Rabbi Akiva Eiger 71.
14.Tenuat ha-Mussar I, pp. 160–161.
15.See Rabbi S. Y. Zevin, Ha-Moadim ba-Halachah, p. 97.
16.Di Yiddishe Heim, no. 19 (Adar, 5724), p. 4, quoted in Early Years, p. 111. For more about whether one can or should put themselves at risk to save others, see Does Jewish Law Allow a Nurse to Treat an Ebola Patient? Am I permitted to put my life in danger to save another?

By Yehuda ShurpinMore by this author
A noted scholar and researcher, Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin serves as content editor at, and writes the popular weekly Ask Rabbi Y column. Rabbi Shurpin is the rabbi of the Chabad Shul in St. Louis Park, Minn., where he resides with his wife, Ester, and their children.

As taken from,

Two Approaches to Torah and Mitzvot

Image result for Yehuda DovBer Zirkind

by Yehuda DovBer Zirkind

The Abolition of the Mitzvot in the Messianic Era
In the first two parts of this essay we discussed two different approaches to the Torah: 1) the “perfect Torah” approach which emphasizes the absolute and eternal nature of the mitzvot; and 2) and the “evolving Torah” approach which highlights the historically conditioned aspects of Halacha which are potentially subject to revaluation and revision.These two paradigms are related to a broader theological question about the nature of the mitzvot: 1) do the mitzvot reflect God’s ultimate and unconditional will (kvayachol);[1] or 2) do the mitzvot reflect God’s instrumental will for humanity, providing an instruction manual for how to redeem the world? In other words, is the main purpose of the mitzvot for the sake of God (i.e. that humankind should fulfil God’s wishes) or for the sake of man (i.e. that God’s plan for humanity should be realized)?The former approach is a transcendent or vertical paradigm, (i.e. the mitzvot are oriented toward the divine realm); the latter approach is an immanent or horizontal paradigm, (i.e. the mitzvot are oriented toward the human realm). Rabbinic literature abounds with statements that support both points of view. On the one hand, for example, Chazal state that God says (regarding the offering of sacrifices), “it causes satisfaction to Me, that I gave commands and My will was executed.”[2] On the other hand,  there is another statement of Chazal that, “the mitzvot were given only in order to refine human nature.”[3]The late rabbi and professor Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) analyzes these two paradigms in his magnum opus Torah min Hashamayim Ba-aspaklaria shel Ha-dorot in great detail.[4] He attributes the first model to the theological school of thought espoused by Rabbi Akiva and his disciples, and the second model to the school of Rabbi Ishmael.[5] According to Rabbi Heschel, these two paradigms form two major structural columns which uphold the Jewish theological edifice.  These two overarching ideas are articulated in various iterations throughout the different ages and genres of Torah texts. One of the major differences between these two conceptual paradigms concerns the theoretical possibility of God changing or abolishing the commandments in the future. This hinges on the question of whether Halacha is an end in itself or a means toward achieving a higher end. According to the transcendent view of the commandments as God’s ultimate and unconditional will, the mitzvot are ends in themselves and therefore they are eternally binding (just as God Himself is eternal, so too His will is eternal);[6] whereas according to the immanent view of the mitzvot as God’s instrumental and functional will, the mitzvot serve as a means of implementing a greater spiritual vision for humanity. Hence, it is possible for the instructions to vary based on changing circumstances, or to be suspended entirely once their mission has been accomplished. This finally brings us back to the Mei Hashiloach. The Mei Hashiloach’s views about the possibility of changes in Halacha seem to be predicated on the latter approach, which views the mitzvot as a spiritual means, rather than an end in itself. This can be deduced from the Mei Hashiloach’s comment on Rav Yosef’s opinion that mitzvot beteilot le-atid lavo (the Mitzvot will be annulled in the future).[7] There are many opinions regarding the exact meaning of this statement and what le-atid lavo (in the future) means in this context. Some opinions maintain that it refers to the Messainic Age. Others opine that it refers to the period after the resurrection of the dead. Still others state that it simply refers to the time after a person dies.[8]The Mei Hashiloach’s comments about the annulment of the mitzvot in the future are cryptic and difficult to understand. He makes the radical claim that Torah and mitzvot are akin to garments whereby one can grasp God (in the same manner that, lehavdil, one can embrace a person through their clothes), but they do not constitute the unmediated and “naked” divine essence. (This idea is discussed in Kabbalistic sources, but I won’t elaborate on this here). This is analogous to a king and his royal garments. The royal garments reflect the glory and majesty of the king, but they are not identical with the king himself. The Mei Hashiloach explains that, while in our current reality the only way to connect to God and His will is through the garments of Torah and mitzvot, in the future there will be a direct revelation of Godliness without the mediation of garments. He thus distinguishes between God Himself, who is the (unchanging) Absolute, and the mitzvot which are a—at least for now—a necessary but transitional means of reaching the divine.[9]The implications of the Mei Hashiloach’s analogy between garments and mitzvot can be extended further. Garments serve a dual function; they provide both a revealing lens and concealing mask whereby a person is revealed to, and perceived by, others. Furthermore, a person can change their garments at will. The analogy of garments to mitzvot indicate that they offer only a partial glimpse of the divine light, but not the full expression of the divine glory. Furthermore, just as garments can be changed, so too it is theoretically possible for the mitzvot to be changed or abolished if God (the King) deems it necessary to metaphorically change his wardrobe, i.e. express Himself in different ways based on His desires and the spiritual capacity of His subjects to behold His light. It must be noted that this idea is a mystical conception of the mitzvot and not a halachic one. Thus it runs the risk of leading to antinomianism and therefore must be checked and controlled by the authority of Halacha. Indeed, one can detect in the Mei Hashiloach’s statements a tension between his theological-mystical outlook and his normative-halachic commitment.[10]These ideas can also be analyzed from a different angle. The Mei Hashiloach is known for his highly original approach of vindicating biblical sinners and villains by uncovering the spiritual intention behind their ostensible sins (although they are ultimately inappropriate for that specific situation).[11] For example, he discusses the juxtaposition in Parashat Shelach of the story of the mekoshesh (the wood gatherer on Shabbat) and the commandment of Tzitzit.[12] The Mei Hashiloach explains that Tzitzit alludes to and represents Yira’ah—the need to exercise fear and restraint in one’s actions, lest they transgress God’s will. According to the Mei Hashiloach, the wood gatherer reasoned that since Shabbat is a foretaste of the Eternal Shabbat when Mitzvot will be abrogated, he need not be guided by the discipline of fear and restraint. Thus, the Mitzva of Tzitzit—which is supposed to evoke the fear and awe of God—is written in the Torah in close proximity to the story of the wood gatherer, in order to warn us that contrary to the wood gatherer’s belief, we must serve God with fear.[13] However, this is true only until we reach the point of complete Berur (the process of clarification whereby we remove all ulterior motives and only do what God wants us to do).[14] Thus, the conditions for the fulfilment of the mitzvot may be altered based on one’s spiritual predicament.In another passage,[15] the son of the Mei Hashiloach, Rabbi Ya’akov Leiner of Radzin (1828–1878),[16] also known as the Beit Ya’akov, quotes a teaching in the name of his father regarding Orla (the prohibition to eat fruit produced by a tree during the first three years after planting). The Mei Hashiloach cites this law to convey the idea that certain things are prohibited only temporarily, because a person is not yet ready to absorb them, like unripe fruit which cannot be digested properly. Likewise, all forbidden foods contain a spark of holiness, but they also contain harmful properties. Therefore, these foods cannot be consumed before the time is right, but there will be a time when the fruits will become ripe for consumption. He invokes the concept of the annulment of the commandments in the future as support for his idea.
Contraction and Expansion
Another key concept in the Mei Hashiloach’s philosophical system is the tension between tsimtsum (contraction) and hitpashtut or harchava (expansion).[17] He maintains that during the earlier stages of spiritual work, we must exercise maximum restraint (tsimtsum) and fear (yira’ah) to ensure that we do not veer off the path of divine service. At this stage, we may be required to take upon ourselves additional restrictions and stringencies (gedarim and sayagim) not required by Halacha. The rationale behind this is that in order to engage in a specific activity we must ensure that the action can be infused with holiness. If we have not fully developed our divine consciousness such that it permeates everything we do, and instead we engage in a certain activity only to satisfy our desires, that action can interfere with our divine service and the manifestation of divinity in the world. However, if we have already attained a higher stage of divine consciousness, we can engage in a mode of harchava (expansiveness) instead of restraint. At this point, we can let go of certain restrictions and release ourselves from a fear-based mode of observance. Instead of excluding certain activities from the sphere of our divine service, we can broaden the “playing field” and partake of many more activities and physical pleasures. One of the examples cited by the Mei Hashiloach[18] is the permission given in Devarim for the mundane consumption of meat, as opposed to the previous requirement[19] that only meat brought as a sacrifice may be consumed. The Torah states, “When the Lord, your God, expands your boundary, as He has spoken to you, and you say, ‘I will eat meat,’ because your soul desires to eat meat, you may eat meat, according to every desire of your soul.”[20]According to the Torah, the only permission to eat non-sacrificial meat is, “When the Lord, your God, expands your boundary.” The Mei Hashiloach explains this based on the statement in the Talmud that an Am Ha’eretz (ignoramus) is not permitted to eat meat.[21] The Am Ha’eretz, writes the Mei Hashiloachwill eat meat only in order to indulge his appetites, rather than to gain strength to speak words of Torah,  hence he is proscribed from eating meat. Only someone who has attained a state of harchavat hada’at (an expanded consciousness and greater spiritual awareness) may eat meat, since the energy derived from the eating will be elevated toward divine service. This, according to the Mei Hashiloach is the spiritual meaning of “When the Lord, your God, expands your boundary”: it refers to an expanded spiritual consciousness. Based on the this, he offers an ingenious interpretation of why we eat dairy foods on Shavuot: we commemorate the fact that before the giving of the Torah (i.e. before they reached an advanced stage of divine service), the Israelites—like the Am Ha’eretz—were afraid to eat meat. This dialectic between tsimtsum and hitpashtut —when we are allowed to expand our sphere of activity because we are “spiritually safe” vs. when we must restrict our sphere of activity out of concern that we are not yet on a high enough spiritual level for that activity to be spiritually safe—is the basis for another idea brought up by Rabbi Cardozo in his presentation. This is the idea that there are certain prohibitions that we must observe, not for their own sake, but because those around us are on a lower level and are not yet spiritually refined. In Rabbi Cardozo’s words: “There could be mitzvot which I must keep, not because I need it, but because my neighbor needs it.” This idea is illustrated by the Mei Hashiloach’s commentary on the verse in the story of the Akeda: atah yada’ati ki yerei elokim atah (“Now I know that you are a God-fearing man.”)[22] There is a difference, writes the Mei Hashiloach, between yir’at elokim (fear of God) and  yir’at y-h-v-h (fear of Hashem). The fear of God refers to a situation where someone refrains from an activity because they have not yet reached a level where this activity can be done in an untainted manner. On the other hand, fear of Hashem (yir’at y-h-v-h) refers to a situation where one is allowed to engage in a particular activity based on their own spiritual status but is prevented from doing so by God’s command only for the sake of his/her fellow. The Mei Hashiloach elaborates upon this idea in many other places. In an interesting comment[23] he offers a clever homiletical interpretation for the difference between the way the word ani kadosh (I am holy) is vowelized at the end of Parashat Shemini[24] (dealing with forbidden foods) and Parashat Kedoshim (which discusses the mandate of holiness).[25] In the former case, the word ani is vocalized with a kamats, whereas in the latter case, it is vocalized with a patach. The Mei Hashiloach explains that kamats alludes to tightness and constriction, similar to the action of clenching the fist (related to the Hebrew words kemitsa and lekamets). This alludes to the state of affairs which prevailed when the Israelites were first commanded to keep the laws of kashrut. Due to the sharp transition from being allowed to eat whatever they desired to keeping the strict dietary laws, they had to exercise great restraint and tsimtsum. The patach, on the other hand, refers to openness (related to the Hebrew words petach and liftoach) and is related to the mode of Harchava, or expansiveness, when one reaches a higher state of holiness and can engage in a more open and inclusive form of divine service.[26] To be continued.
[1] The idea that the mitzvot are not only divinely revealed and commanded but express God’s personal and ultimate will is discussed in kabbalistic and chassidic sources, see, for example, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Tanya, section 1, Likkutei Amarim, chap. 4-5, 23-24, 38, 40-41, 46-47, 53; Ibid., Tanya, section 4, Igeret ha-kodesh, siman 29,  and in numerous other places.
[2] Sifrei Bamidbar, section #107; Ibid., section #118; Ibid., section #143.
[3] Bereshit Rabba, Vilna ed., 44:1; Vayikra Rabba, Vilna ed., 13:3.
[4] My exposition of these ideas is my own interpretation and variation on Heschel’s broader theme.
[5] Abraham Joshua Heschel, Torah min Hashamayim Ba-aspaklaria shel Hadorot (Theology of Ancient Judaism) [Hebrew], 3 vols. (Vols. 1-2, London: Soncino Press, 1962-1965; vol. 3, New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1995). An abridged translation in English has appeared as Heavenly Torah: As Refracted Through the Generations, edited and translated by Gordon Tucker with Leonard Levin (New York: Continuum, 2005). Numerous studies are devoted to this work. For some general reviews and summaries, see Arnold Jacob Wolf, “Heschel’s ‘Torah from Heaven’,” Judaism 53, no. 3 (Summer 2004): 300-309; Reuven Kimelman, “Torah Min Hashamayim Ba-Aspaklaria Shel Hadorot (Theology of Ancient Judaism)/Heavenly Torah as Refracted through the Generations.” Shofar 26, no. 1 (Fall 2007): 225-229; Idem, “Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Theology of Judaism and the Rewriting of Jewish Intellectual History,” The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 17, no. 2 (January 2009): 207-238. Relevant to our discussion is the notion of Mitzvot  tsorech gavoha (‘‘the commandments as divine need’’) which is connected to the transcendent paradigm of Mitzvot explained in this essay. On this topic, see Arthur Green, “God’s Need for Man: A Unitive Approach to the Writings of Abraham Joshua Heschel,” Modern Judaism 35, no. 3 (October 2015): 247-261.
[6] For an eloquent articulation on this view based on the teachings of Chabad Chasidism, see the essay of my teacher Rabbi Yoel Kahan, Machshevet ha-Chasidut, ed. Menachem Mendel Kaplan (Kfar Chabad, Sifriat Eshel, 2001), 1:175-182.
[7] Niddah 61b.
[8] See Yehuda Chayun, Ozarot Aharit Hayamim, vol. 1, chap. 12,
[9] Mei Hashiloach, vol. 1, folios 51b-52a on Bamidbar 19:2; Ibid., folio 19 on Tractate Megila 12b; Ibid., vol. 2, p. 122 on Tractate Megila 12b. (Note: the references to the Mei Hashiloachrefer to the New York: Rabbi M.J. Lainer, 1984 edition, available online at See the source sheet #6 accessible online at: Cf. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Tanya, chap. 4.
[10] There are many studies which analyze the Mei Hashiloach’s views about Halacha. For an important recent study, see Benjamin Brown, “Theoretical Antinomianism and the Conservative Function of Utopia: Rabbi Mordekhai Yosef of Izbica as a Case Study,” The Journal of Religion 99, no. 3 (July 2019): 312-340.
[11] The Mei Hashiloach sought to rehabilitate the sins of biblical characters and their perpetrators by showing that there is a deep spiritual idealism underpinning these actions. Thus, according to him, hidden behind the surface appearance of coarse sins are profound spiritual truths which the protagonists are trying to convey through their actions. Nevertheless, they are regarded as sins because despite their good intentions they are misguided by executing an inappropriate course of action. For a treatment of this issue, see Herzl Hefter, “Reality and Illusion: A Study in the Religious Phenomenology of R. Mordekhai Yosef of Ishbitz,” (MA thesis, Tel Aviv University, 2018), 18-24.
[12] The story of the wood gatherer is in Bamidbar 15:32-36. The commandment of Tzitzit follows immediately thereafter in verses 37-41.
[13] Mei Hashiloach, vol. 1, folio 49b on Bamidbar 15:38. See the source sheet #7.
[14] According to the Mei Hashiloach each individual person is born with their own flaw that they need to clarify and rectify. See Morris M. Faierstein, All Is in the Hands of Heaven: The Teachings of Rabbi Mordecai Joseph Leiner of Izbica, rev. ed. (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2005), 56-62. Idem, “Personal Redemption in Hasidism,” in Ada Rapaport-Albert, ed., Hasidism Reappraised  (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 1996), 214-224; Idem, “Two Radical Teachings in the Mei ha-Shiloah and Their Sources,” Kabbalah: Journal for the Study of Jewish Mystical Texts 21 (2010): 111-114.
[15] Rabbi Ya’akov Leiner, Sefer Beit Ya’akov on Bereshit (Warsaw: Chaim Kelter, 1890), p. 25 on Bereshit 1:11. See the source sheet #8.
[16] See Shaul Magid, “Izhbits-Radzin Hasidic Dynasty,” YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe
[17] See Morris M. Faierstein, All Is in the Hands of Heaven, 38, 64-66.
[18] Mei Hashiloach, vol. 2, p.  71 on Devarim 12:20. See the source sheet #9.
[19] See Vayikra 17:3-7.
[20] Devarim 12:20.
[21] Pesachim 49b.
[22] Mei Hashiloach, vol. 1, folio 9a on Bereshit 22:12. See the source sheet #10.
[23] Mei Hashiloach, vol. 2, p. 50 on Vayikra 19:2. See the source sheet #11.
[24] Vayikra 11:44-45.
[25] Vayikra 19:2; Ibid., 20:26.
[26] For more examples of the Mei Hashiloach’s teachings on this idea see this source sheet:
As taken from,