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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Archive for July 22nd, 2008

Parshat Matot – Must tribes practice tribalism?

Posted by rabbiart on July 22, 2008

We start our study by listening to the words of Rabbi Arik Ascherman. He lives in Jerusalem. He is the executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel, dedicated to teaching and implementing the Jewish tradition of human rights and honoring God’s Image in every human being.  RHR works tirelessly to protect the rights of the powerless in Israel, even the powerless who seek, or affected by those who seek, to destroy us. Regarding the parshah he begins with this observation

“Each section is problematic for me: The first section treats women as property, the second describes a merciless war in which the Israelites slaughter men, women and children, while the third establishes the basis for some Jewish groups not only to want to hold on to the West Bank as part of the Land of Israel, but to aspire to ‘Both banks of the Jordan.'”

After observing that the oral law at times modifies or even negates the written law, he continues…

“This is difficult for me because I believe the Torah to be closer to God’s revelation to Moses than Torah sh’ba’al peh (the oral tradition that became the basis for rabbinic law), although I believe that the Torah was also passed by word of mouth for generations. This leaves open the right of interpretation and even the possibility of human additions and errors. However, what tools do we have for making such determinations and how can one do so with any measure of intellectual honesty? Are we at least being honest with ourselves? To what degree are we dedicated to discovering God’s Will for us? To what degree are we dedicated to continuing the tradition passed down to us? To what degree are we consciously or unconsciously bringing our ideologies, presuppositions and world views to the text?”


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Wedding Pictures from the Professional

Posted by rabbiart on July 22, 2008

You can get right to Jessica’s pictures here.

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Mitzvah 50: Off with their Heads

Posted by rabbiart on July 22, 2008

A study of the traditional 613 mitzvot (commandments/obligations) according to their order of appearance in the Torah.

No one ever said that all the mitzvot are easy – to study or to carry out.  So here is the Torah on capital punishment.  In Shemot 21:20 we read

וְכִי-יַכֶּה אִישׁ אֶת-עַבְדּוֹ אוֹ אֶת-אֲמָתוֹ, בַּשֵּׁבֶט, וּמֵת, תַּחַת יָדוֹ–נָקֹם, יִנָּקֵם.

And if a man smite his bondman, or his bondwoman, with a rod, and he die under his hand, he shall surely be punished.

Because the Torah is explicating a divine law, it assumes that punishments will not be carried out incorrectly.  We also know that the Talmudic sages put so many restrictions around the exercise of capital punishment that it became almost impossible to carry out.

Why does the Torah (as interpreted by our tradition) provide for capital punishment?  Does that mean that the Torah, or HaShem, is bloodthirsty by nature, or angry, or harsh?  Or does it mean that the world in which we find ourselves is unfortunately filled by people who answer to that description?  What are we to do when confronted by people who abuse, beat, imprison, even kill innocents.

A response is required, a deterrent is needed. If we do not respond in a significant way when we see injustice, what kind of people are we? If the evil inclination is not deterred, what kind of world are we living in? Consider this teaching. “At the root of this precept lies the reason that HaShem wished to eradicate from the midst of His holy people the heart’s evil and great cruelty. Therefore the Torah commanded that if anyone becomes so overwhelmed by fierce anger that he beats to death his servant who is in his home and has no one to save him, then let the one who did this be put to death. Even though (it may be the case) that the servant was his purchased possession (a separate topic), and he lost his own property (what kind of reason is that) by the other’s (the servant) death, nevertheless he is to be slain, since his rage prevailed over his spirt to such an extent.

From the tradition’s point of view, failing to execute this law when circumstances require, is tantamount to putting a stumbling block before the blind, because it encourages terrible behavior.

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