Thursday, October 30, 2014

Collective responsibility

Hi,

In Joshua 7, the Jewish nation suffers military defeat, and it is blamed on the sin of an individual, Achan. Some commentators explain that collective responsibility is a natural function of the Jewish nation. For example:

"All Israel are bound together as one body, such that each individual will relate to the community as a limb of the body relates to the body. Just as illness or destruction of one limb causes illness or a defect in the entire body, so, too, when Achan took from the spoils it was considered as though the entire nation had trespassed..."
(Commentary of Malbim to Yehoshua 7:1)

"It is possible, without any impropriety, for chance to cause children to suffer punishment for parental sin; this will not involve impropriety at all. For example: If a person were to sin against the government and they would punish him justly, such that he would lose his wealth, this wwould cause punishment for his children, who would be paupers and would not inherit anything that they had been due to receive from their father's assets."
(Commentary of Ralbag to Yehoshua 7:1)

Have a great day,
Mordechai

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Take No Prisoners

Hi,

Deuteronomy 20:19 says: When you besiege a city for many days, fighting it to capture it, do not destroy its tree, to raise a hatchet upon it…

On this, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch commented:
"A midrash says: 'To capture it – not to destroy it.' Your goal should be only to subdue the city, not to enslave its residents as prisoners of war."

Have a great day,
Mordechai

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What to look for in a neighbourhood

Hi,

"A city must possess ten things before a Torah scholar may live there: A doctor, a phlebotomist, a bathhouse, a latrine, a ready water supply, like a river or spring, a synagogue, a teacher of children, a scribe, tzedakah collectors, and a court that strikes and imprisons."

(Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Deiot 4:23)

[Compare with Sanhedrin 17b here.)

Have a great day,
Mordechai

Monday, October 27, 2014

Responsibilities of Citizenship

Hi,

"One who dwells in a land for thirty days is compelled to give tzedakah to the kupah with the citizenry. One who dwells there for three months is compelled to give to the tamchui. One who dwells there for six months is compelled to give clothing for the local needy. One who dwells there for nine months is compelled to give tzedakah for burial."

(Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Gifts to the Needy 9:12)

Have a great day,
Mordechai

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The City of Jericho

Hi,

Why did Joshua declare that no one should rebuild the Canaanite city of Jericho (Joshua, Chapter 6)? Here are two rather different ideas:

Rambam, Moreh haNevuchim 3:50 -
"Yehoshua declared cherem upon one who would rebuild Jericho, ever, so that the miracle would endure. One who would see the wall sunken into the ground would perceive that this is not the way of a ruined building, but rather that the wall had sunk miraculously."

Commentary of Don Isaac Abarbanel to Joshua, Chapter 6 -
"I would suggest that Gd instructed him... and it is included in the statement [in Chapter 5, regarding Jericho], 'The place where you stand is holy,' so that the place be should be cherem, with everything in it."

Have a great day,
Mordechai

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Guard your ethical life in a time of war

Hi,

Deuteronomy 23:10-15 says:
"When you go to war against your enemy, guard yourself against every bad thing. When a man among you is impure… he shall leave the camp, he shall not enter the midst of the camp. Before evening he shall bathe in water, and at sunset he shall enter the midst of the camp. And you shall have a place outside the camp; go there, outside.

"And you shall have a peg among your weapons; when you sit outside, you will dig with it, sit, and cover your waste. For HaShem your G-d travels in the midst of your camp, to save you and to put your enemy before you, and your camp shall be holy. Nothing which should be covered will be seen, lest He leave you."

On this, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch comments:
"When you leave the normal boundaries of family and civil life, and you are in a military camp arranged against your enemies, then even though you are in a military camp, where the ethical reins are easily loosened and the actual goal of war is an unrestrained coarseness – then, too, 'guard yourself against every bad thing.' Do not cease examining yourself, with self-control, and be on guard against 'every bad thing.'"

Have a great day,
Mordechai

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Seeing Gd", Part 3 of 3

Hi,

"The first principle is the existence of the exalted Creator. Meaning, there exists something that is complete in all aspects of existence, and it is the cause of all that exists, and through Him is their survival, and from Him their survival flows… This is the first principle, as indicated by the statement, 'I am the Lord your Gd, etc.'

"The second principle is His unity. Meaning, this cause of everything is one. Not the unity of a species or a kind, and not like one entity which is of joined things, divisible into many individual parts, and not "one" like a body which is one in number but which can be divided and split infinitely. Rather, He is one, a unity which is entirely unlike any other unity. This is the second principle, as indicated by, 'Listen Israel, HaShem is our Gd, HaShem is one.'


"The third principle is the absence of any physicality for Him. This One is not a body and is not a force within a body, and no physical event – like motion or rest – happens to him… This is the third principle, as indicated by, 'For you did not see any image…'"

(Rambam, Commentary to Mishnah, Introduction to Sanhedrin Chapter 10)

Have a great day,
Mordechai