Emotional Spectrum

Emotional Spectrum

The depth of our despair measures what capability and height of claim we have to hope. -Thomas Carlyle

The first time God gave the people of Israel the Ten Commandments engraved upon the two Tablets of the Covenant – it didn’t work out very well. They created and worshipped the Golden Calf – quite a slap in the face to God. God is ready to destroy the nation. Moshe destroys the Tablets and intercedes, saving the Hebrew nation from destruction. Before and after all this action, we have the instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle, the Sanctuary where the actual Tablets are meant to rest in the Ark of the Covenant, in the epicenter of the entire effort.

Rabbi Hirsch on Exodus 35:1 provides an analysis of the narrative from the point of the receipt of the second set of Tablets and the actual construction of the previously instructed Sanctuary:

“Now that the Testimony of the Law, the pledge of God’s special Presence in the midst of the people, had been given to Israel once again, the erection of a dwelling place for this Testimony had again become relevant. The grim events described previously, which had jeopardized the realization of this task, are of the most far-reaching significance for the task as such, for the Sanctuary and the purpose for which the Sanctuary is to be erected.”

“The construction of the Sanctuary was to take place under the impact of a completely new experience. The people and the priests had come to realize how weak and imperfect they still were, how much they still needed to work upon themselves incessantly and how greatly they were in need of uplift and atonement. Moreover, they had come to know God in all the severity of His judgment, but also in all the fullness of His grace. They had experienced all the nuances of our relationship with God, from the feeling of utter rejection by God up to the height of Divine favor regained.”

“The Sanctuary to be constructed was to become the place from which the ideal of their vocation would shine forth forever to individual and community alike. It was to be the place where, at any stage of error or weakness, they would find renewed strength to work their way up again and to persevere on the high level of their vocation, and where they would find God’s help and blessing for both objectives.”

“Thus, the experience that had been recorded forever in the history of the nation between the time it had been commanded to build its very first Sanctuary, and the actual execution of that command, is documentary proof that it is possible at any stage of error to return, and to regain the favor of God.”

May we remember that the full gamut of experiences and emotions can always bring us to God.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To our children Eitan and Rebecca, on your wedding! It’s finally here!

 

Too Generous

 What seems to be generosity is often no more than disguised ambition, which overlooks a small interest in order to secure a great one. -Francois de la Rochefoucauld

money

Moses calls for the people of Israel to donate materials for the construction of the Tabernacle. Gold, silver, wood, precious stones, fine linens, skins and more, all flow as contributions. The donations become so extensive that Moses sends an order throughout the camp: Enough! We have more than enough to complete the work, please stop sending your contributions.

This is often presented as the classic example of Jewish generosity. However, the Sfat Emet in 5635 (1875) understands a possibly darker motivation to such lavishness. He claims that this was a case of inappropriate generosity. The donors gave more than they should have. Their motivation was no longer one of divine service, but rather had a very egocentric focus. Whether it was one-upmanship, the pride of attesting to a sizeable contribution or some other benefit, these donations were no longer for God’s sake and these types of gifts needed to be stopped.

The Sfat Emet further warns that there is a danger of becoming arrogant upon the completion of some effort. We may forget that God is truly the source of all wealth and success. If we attribute these matters solely to our own mortal efforts and forget the involvement of the Divine, we run the risk of receiving a harsh reminder that all is in God’s hands.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the fundraising campaign to send Rivka Sirkin to school in Israel. A good cause.

Wise Wives

First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/vayakel-wise-wives/

Baal Haturim Exodus: Vayakel

Wise Wives

Marriage is the best state for man in general, and every man is a worse man in proportion to the level he is unfit for marriage.  -Samuel Johnson

Voluntary single-hood is at a historic high. People in countries all over the world, of their own free will are making the decision that they do not wish to marry, they do not wish to be joined in matrimony, to share their lives with a significant other. I am not talking about people who have been searching for a spouse for years. I am not talking about people who due to various constraints would have difficulty finding or keeping a mate. I am talking about healthy, well-adjusted, capable people, who seem to think that the best course of action for them and for the world is to remain single for the rest of their lives.

This is probably one of the worst decisions they will make for themselves and for humanity in general. The very first command of God to humanity is to marry and bear children. The Talmud states that a man that is not married is considered dead in some respects. The Baal Haturim on Exodus 35:25 goes a step further and states that one who is married to a wise woman, that woman is credited for giving life to her husband.

May we find, keep and cherish the wise wives we need and may our womenfolk always be the sagacious spouses we rely on.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To Tamara

 

 

 

Spoils of the Sabbath

First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/vayakel-spoils-of-the-sabbath/

Netziv Exodus: Vayakel

Spoils of the Sabbath

“What is without periods of rest will not endure.” –Ovid

A day of rest has become a fairly common phenomenon. This was not always so. For most people, the weekly day off is seen as a time to relax, to have fun, to bond with family and friends and to enjoy life after a hard work-week.

However, there are two types of people who don’t enjoy the Sabbath. The first are those that feel the economic distress that prompts them to continue working. The second are workaholics. However, Jewish tradition advises them to take a break as well. Rest is not optional – it’s a requirement.

The Netziv on Exodus 35:2 takes the business of rest seriously and explains that not only are those who work on the Sabbath committing a sin, but that they will see no gain, no satisfaction, no benefit from their work. He brings an unusual example from the Israelite conquest of the Canaanite city of Jericho more than 3,000 years ago. According to tradition, the city was conquered on the Sabbath and the Jewish leader, Joshua, disciple of Moses, commanded the Jewish army not to touch any of the spoils of war.

One man however, didn’t listen to Joshua and did abscond some of the Jericho treasure. The next Israelite battle was a disaster as a direct result of the infraction of the lone Israelite. The Sabbath-taken treasure was cursed and affected the entire nation. The man who had taken the treasure was subsequently killed together with his entire family.

According to the Netziv (and many others), Sabbath-gained gains will do no good, and may even be cursed.

Workers beware.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To Kickstarter. They have a fantastic funding platform for making work projects fun, collaborative and successful.

Temple Fast-Pass

[First posted on The Times of Israel: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/temple-fast-pass/]

Ibn Ezra Exodus: Vayakhel

Temple Fast-Pass

“People don’t go there anymore. It’s too crowded.” -Yogi Berra

Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Florida is the world’s most visited attraction with 17 million annual visitors to that park alone. Disney has four theme parks, two water parks, twenty-four themed resorts, five golf courses and more, manned by 66,000 employees, all in the Orlando area.

Because of the incredible masses of people going through their doors, Disney World has become expert at crowd control. There is entertainment while one waits on line. There are “Fast-Pass” options for the discerning visitor. There are strategies for navigating the rides and lines in optimal time. There are books on strategies for beating the lines. There are websites that outdo the popular books with even newer strategies and analysis to maximize the precious time one has in the dream land of Disney.

However, looking more closely at the numbers gives the Magic Kingdom a daily average attendance of merely 40,000. The Tabernacle in the desert had 600,000 men descending upon it on the same day. There wasn’t enough space there for all of them!

Ibn Ezra on Exodus 35:20 explains very simply that they came in smaller groups and each group took its turn. It seems we had crowd control even back then.

May we join crowds and wait on lines only for truly positive things (or extremely fun rides).

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To my in-laws, lovers of all things Disney.

Real Generosity

Kli Yakar Exodus: Vayakhel

Real Generosity

“What seems to be generosity is often no more than disguised ambition, which overlooks a small interest in order to secure a great one.”

Francois De La Rochefoucauld (1613 – 1680)

There are at least three types of charity givers. Those that are forced to, pressured to, or shamed to give to something that they would really rather not. Those that don’t mind giving, but want to get something out of it, fame, recognition, connections or to satisfy some internal desire. Finally, there are those that want to give because it is the proper thing to do, because it is good use of the money he was blessed with, don’t even consider the money ‘theirs’ and have no other considerations or ulterior motives.

All charity is good, though there are different levels in the intentions behind the giving.

The Kli Yakar (Exodus 35:5) determines the different levels based on the different languages that are used for different contributions for the building of the sanctuary. Two terms are: “take from yourselves” and “the contribution of God.”

“Take from yourselves,” indicates someone who believes the money he has is his, gained by his own efforts. He is loathe to part with it, and does so either only when pressured or when he sees an advantage.

“The contribution of God,” indicates someone who recognizes that whatever he has is a gift from God and is only in his hands for safekeeping, to determine if he will use it to further God’s interests wisely.

May we realize the gifts we have, realize they are on loan to us and that there may be an accounting as to whether we used God’s resources wisely.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi

Dedication

To an industrialist friend of mine, who somehow became wildly successful, though never caring for money.