Monday, September 22, 2014

Divine Inspiration, Part 2

Hi,

"The second level of prophecy:

"When a person finds that something has set upon him, a force has newly arrived, and it makes him speak, speaking in wisdom or in praises or in effective instruction, in practical or spiritual matters, and he is awake and using his senses normally, this person may be said to speak with ruach hakodesh.

"With this breed of ruach hakodesh King David composed Tehillim; and Shlomo composed Mishlei, Kohelet and Shir haShirim; and Daniel and Iyov and Divrei haYamim and the rest of the Ketuvim were composed with this breed of ruach hakodesh. Thus they are called Ketuvim ["written"], to say that they were written with ruach hakodesh. And the sages said explicitly, 'The book of Esther was stated with ruach hakodesh'…

"This is not full prophecy, not like 'The word of Gd came to Avram in a vision, saying,' and not like, 'And Gd said to Israel in the visions of the night,' and not like the prophecies of Yeshayahu and Yirmiyahu. Regarding each of them, even though the prophecy came in a dream, the prophecy itself informed him that it was prophecy, coming to him prophetically…


"This level is below that of 'I speak in a dream' [words with which Gd described low-level prophecy] for those who prophesy in a dream do not call it a dream in any way, once the prophecy comes to them in the dream. They declare it a prophecy, entirely. It is as our ancestor Yaakov said when he woke from the prophetic dream; he did not say it was a dream, but he declared, 'Gd is in this place, etc.'… And this is why the nation determined to arrange the book of Daniel among the Ketuvim, not the Neviim."

(Rambam, Moreh haNevuchim 1:45)

כתיבה וחתימה טובה,
Mordechai

Sunday, September 21, 2014

An apology; and Divine Inspiration, Part 1

Hi,

First, a personal request: I would like to take a moment to ask everyone receiving this email/RSS feed for mechilah (forgiveness) for anything hurtful or offensive I wrote, or should have written and did not, in the past year. I know that people's sensitivities are varied, but I am not always as careful as I could be. If there was anything at all, please do let me know. I can grow by learning from my mistakes.

The first of the prophetic levels is for Divine aid to accompany a person, moving and energizing him to a great positive deed, like saving an important group from evildoers, or saving a great, important person, or benefiting a large number of people. He will find something moving him to action; this is called "the spirit of Gd." Regarding one who is accompanied by this, the text will say, "the spirit of Gd was powerful upon him," or "the spirit of Gd clothed him," or "the spirit of Gd rested upon him," or "Gd was with him," and similar expressions. This was the level of all of the Jewish judges, regarding whom the Torah said in general that Gd established judges for them, and Gd was with the judge and He rescued them. This is also the level of all of the distinguished counselors of Israel…

And know that a force like this never left Moshe Rabbeinu from the time he reached maturity. This was what motivated him to kill the Egyptian and to halt the wicked one of the two fighters. The power of this force in him was such that after panicking, fleeing and arriving in Midian, a frightened stranger, when he saw a hint of corruption he could not keep himself from eliminating it. He could not bear it! As it says, "And Moshe arose and he saved them."…

None of these [examples of those who experienced ruach hakodesh] was moved to state anything. The purpose of this force is to awaken the strengthened person to a specific action. And it is not for any action that might be at hand, but to help the oppressed, a great person or a community, or to prevent an event that would lead to that [oppression].


And just as not everyone who sees a true dream is a prophet, so, too, not everyone who is accompanied by assistance at a particular event that occurs, like acquiring property or reaching some special goal, can be said to have the spirit of Gd join with him, or to have Gd with him, that he has done something with ruach hakodesh. It is stated regarding one who performs an outstanding great deed, or a deed that leads to that, like Yosef's success in the house of the Egyptian, which was a first cause leading to the great matters which occurred afterward, as has been explained.

(Rambam, Moreh haNevuchim 1:45)

כתיבה וחתימה טובה,
Mordechai

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Getting help and receiving forgiveness

Hi,

"One who sins against another, and requests forgiveness and is rejected, should assemble a line of people to appease his former victim… Regarding one who does this, Job 33:28 says, 'He redeems his soul from passing into destruction.'"

(Talmud Yerushalmi, Bava Kama 8:7)

Have a great day,
Mordechai

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Is shofar a decree, or a rational statute?

Hi,

Psalms 81:5 says of blowing the shofar that it is "a decree [chok] for Israel, a law [mishpat] for the Gd of Jacob." On this, Malbim explains:

"We do not analyze the reason for this mitzvah of blowing shofar; for Israel it is a law, without any reason other than a decree from Gd. But it is a statute for the Gd of Jacob; Gd knows its reason, and for Him it is statute, not law."

[Note that the terms "law" and "statute" do not truly translate the Hebrew. The point here is to distinguish between chok as a law with power and force without need for explanation, and mishpat as a rational rule.]

(Malbim to Tehillim 81:5)

Have a great day,
Mordechai

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Shofar and other musical instruments of Rosh HaShanah

Hi,

"This holiday [Rosh haShanah] is different from all of the other appointed times, in that we blow the shofar on this day. The shofar is always a sign of fright; we normally blow the shofar on fasts for rain or for any other trouble, times when we do not play musical instruments. On Rosh HaShanah, though, the Levites play music in the Beit haMikdash and we also blow the shofar, such that the shofar blast does not frighten the nation."

(Malbim to Tehillim 81:2)

Have a great day,
Mordechai


Monday, September 15, 2014

The connotation of the word "cherem"

Hi,

Note: The word cherem is popularly used to refer to a decree of ex-communication, but among its original uses is a term for dedicating one's property to the Beit haMikdash [Temple]. In the following passage, we see that such an act of dedication might be viewed as a negative.

"All consecration includes two aspects: A negative aspect, in which one renounces mundane benefit, and a positive aspect, in which one delivers the consecrated item to a sacred purpose. 

"In normal consecration, the positive aspect of delivering the item to a sacred purpose is the main action, and the negative aspect of renouncing mundane benefit is only a byproduct. In an act of cherem, though, the negative aspect of renouncing mundane benefit is the primary goal, and the positive sanctification is only a byproduct of that renunciation."

(Commentary of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch to Vayikra 27:28)

Have a great day,
Mordechai

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Job and the Jews

Hi,

[The following midrash triggers many questions, of course...]

"Yirmiyahu said: When I ascended to Jerusalem I lifted my eyes and saw a woman seated atop the mountain… 

"Yirmiyah said to her: Your blows resemble the blows of Iyov:
Iyov's sons and daughters were taken from him, and your sons and daughters were taken from you. 
I took Iyov's silver and gold, and I took your silver and gold. 
I cast Iyov into the heap, and I made you a heap of manure. 

"And just as I returned and comforted Iyov, so I will return and comfort you:
I doubled Iyov's sons and daughters, and I will double your sons and daughters. 
I doubled Iyov's silver and gold, and I will do so for you. 
I moved Iyov from the heap, and regarding you (in Yeshayah 52:2) it says, "Shake yourself from the dust, arise, return to Jerusalem"…"

(Midrash, Psikta Rabti 26)

Have a great day,
Mordechai