Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Parashat Ki Tisa - Torah vs. Torah


One Torah, or Two?

When the Torah is brought out to be read on Shabbat morning, Ashkenazim sing "Baruch shenatan Torah Torah". The repetition of the word Torah fits the melody. But does it fit the religion?

The Mishnah, in describing the prayer service, states that it is prohibited for the Ba'al Tefillah -- the person leading the service from the Bimah -- to say "Modim, modim..." "We thank, we thank," because repeating the verb for thanks implies there exists more than one Supreme Being to whom we are to be thankful.

What are we to make of the chant that says "Blessed is the one who gave Torah Torah..."?

Is it merely a coincidence of scansion?

Is it a secret acknowledgement of the second giving of Torah, at the end of this week's Parasha?

Is it an admonition that, in trying to re-make Torah in our own image, we are only making a Golden Calf?


The Zohar on this week's parashah goes into an extended riff on the phrase 'Erev Rav, commonly translated as "Mixed Multitude", the non-Israelites who joined us and went up out of Egypt with us. But the Zohar reads it differently. For 'Erev means "mixture", but it also means "evening". And Rav means "great" or "large".

The Zohar says that there was 'Erev Rav and 'Erev Katan -- corresponding to Mincha Gedola and Mincha Ketana. Mincha gedolah is the earliest time permissible to say the afternoon (mincha) prayer. The word mincha means "offering" and the prayer services are set to correspond to offerings in the Beit HaMikdash -- the Temple in Jerusalem. Since the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, Tefillah (prayer) has been used as a substitute for the offerings. There is a disagreement as to whether the Divine Plan includes a rebuilding of a physical Beit HaMikdash, and a return to bringing actual animal sacrifices and agricultural offerings, or whether the Divine Plan is evolutionary, and we have now progressed to a spiritual level and must strive through Tefillah to perfect ourselves spiritually.

This discussion is particularly hot right now. In Israel, the Knesset just voted to approve the withdrawal from Occupied Territories. Government ministers are being denounced for giving away G-d's Land which, the argument goes, it was not the government's to give. Remember that Yitzhak Rabin was murdered over this dispute. There are now reports of Jewish religious extremists (I call them extremists -- they call me a traitor) preparing suicide bombing attacks against government officials. Members of Knesset who voted in favor of the pullout are being protected round-the-clock by Shin Bet, the Israeli intelligence agency.

Meanwhile, we are discussing the Sin of the Golden Calf. Some would argue that ceding one inch of Holy Land to non-Jews is anathema, and that Jews who participate in this act should be destroyed. If this sounds like something from recent headlines, recall Osama Bin Laden who sent three thousand people to their deaths to protest the presence of Infidels (read "US Military Personnel") on the sacred ground of Saudi Arabia. Lest Daled Amot ("four ells" -- a standard halachic measurement) of land in Israeli-occupied Gaza become the next Golden Calf...

OK, so you can guess where I stand on the Land-For-Peace issue.

Without going into detail about the derivations and meanings of the various times: Halacha divides the day into twelve hours. Regardless of the season, we divide the daylight time into twelve equal parts, each of which is then called a Halachic "Hour". (So, Yes, there really is such a thing as "Jewish time." And you thought it was a joke made up by your caterer!)

What is of interest to us here is the afternoon and evening, which is divided into Mincha Gedola, Mincha Ketana, Plag HaMincha, Sunset, and Tzet HaKochavim ("Stars Coming Out"). Mincha Gedola ("Great Mincha"), the first hour we are permitted to say the afternoon prayer, is shortly after halachic midday -- 30 halachic minutes. Mincha Ketana ("Little Mincha") is 3 1/2 halachic hours after halachic noon, and was the time of the daily afternoon sacrifice in the Beit HaMikdash. Then, 10 3/4 halachic hours into the day comes Plag ("Half") HaMincha.

The practical application today has to do with different Halachic rulings for when is the latest hour permissible to say the Mincha prayer, as well as when is the earliest hour permissible to say the evening prayer, known as 'Arvit, or Ma'ariv, and especially how early one is permitted to start Shabbat or Yom Tov. Since the prayer services were instituted to correspond to the sacrifices in the Temple, one might logically think there would be no prayer said at night. The only sacrifice brought at night was the Korban Pesach, hardly the basis for a daily ritual. But there were two aspects of the sacrifices that did apply after dark. First, there are sacrifices which may be consumed during the entire night. Second, there was a daily requirement to rake and shovel the ashes and bones from the altars.

Thanks for sitting through this digression. Now back to our story.

The Zohar says there was an 'Erev Rav, and an 'Erev Katan. This sets up a kind of Bizarro World of inverted halacha, where the services and rituals of day are carried out after nightfall in a travesty of the service of the Mishkan.

The Zohar tells us that the two head magicians of Egypt, Yamnes and Yambres, served as the priests during the various rituals of the evening: the offerings and sacrifices of the 'Erev rav and 'erev katan were Dark Side versions of the sacrifices and offerings due to be brought in the Mishkan, and later in the Beit HaMikdash. This Platonic inversion, bringing the Imperfect down to earth, has all the earmarks of a Star Trek episode. Remember the one where the guy from the antimatter universe was chasing after his twin from the matter universe, and they end up locked in eternity in a transitional dimension, because if they ever met in either universe -- matter encountering its antimatter analogue -- both universes would explode and cease to exist?

The Zohar, as is often the case, is really onto something here. It seems to place this inversion of the Avodah prior to the construction of the Mishkan, which makes it a good parallel to the two givings of Torah -- the one we could not accept, the one we finally did accept. The first giving, which the Midrash tells us Moshe did not read -- and the second giving, which Moshe appears to have written down himself, taking dictation from G-d.

The Zohar then switches to the other sense of 'erev rav, that of Mixed Multitude. The non-Israelites who came along wanted their own identity post-exodus. Aharon -- remember, Moshe is up the mountain and out of the picture -- fashions a golden calf, using an engraving tool. It is meant to for the idol-worshipping Multitude. But the Israelites see it and are intrigued. And when Yamnes and Yambres throw the magic switch, the calf comes to life and everyone gets into the act together.

What exactly is the Golden Calf?

In chapter 32, verse 6, the Torah tells us that after the calf had been made, and offerings brought, the people sat down to eat and drink, then got up to party. Drinking is an integral part of the Sin of the Calf, for the Rabbis note that the Torah only tells explicitly of drinking when there is a disaster associated with it. Other obvious instances are Noach, Lot and his daughters, and of course Nadav and Abihu.

To reinforce this, in verse 8, G-d tells Moshe that the people have made themselves an 'egel masecha -- translated as a Molten Calf. The word Masecha is from the root M'S'CH, from which are also derived words meaning various types of wine. The Midrash goes right to this and says the Calf is mesech , meaning clarified (fortified?) wine.

And what does Moshe do?

He destroys the Luchot, the stone tablets written by the finger of G-d. He also destroys the Calf. The Torah will be rewritten, will be re-created, but nothing else in this scene will be. Night and day are put back in their proper place, and the cycle of offerings and prayer is restored to forward motion, as it will be established in the Mishkan, which finally gets built next week. This Proper Order will carry over to the Beit HaMikdash and will ultimately take root in the Halachic order of our days: the rituals and prayers and blessings, the permissions and strictures with which we live our lives as Jews. With Divinity dwelling only in Heaven, and with the sacred service (Avodat HaShem) being carried out on Earth, the balance is restored.

So, did G-d give two Torahs? Or did G-d give the same Torah twice?

In chapter 34, starting at verse 11, we have a list of commandments (they can be squeezed into ten, if you like) which G-d gives Moshe imediately before giving the Torah for the second time. This is a clear replay of the Ten Words ("Commandments") given as a prologue to the giving of Torah.

Or you may want to take the entire narrative a vast logical leap forward and posit that, really, Torah was only ever given once. That the entire series of Parshiyot surrounding the giving of Torah are in effect a vast cubist canvas, a synasthesic confusion out of which a Torah emerges which, by virtue of its infinitude, can not comfortably be put into a straightforward narrative.

Torah is too complex to be studied in any one way, too powerful and infinite and profound and eternal to be taken in any single way. By receiving Torah, we receive Everything. And so G-d makes sure we experience the receiving of Torah over and over again, new each day, and in every way humanly conceivable.

* * * * *

Today (Wednesday 23 February / 14 Adar rishon) is Purim Katan -- the precursor to Purim, which will be celebrated next month on 14 Adar sheni. The occurence of two months of Adar, common enough, gives us an extra month before Purim. For what? To prepare to be drunk?

There are two "holidays" that we do not observe, and there is a balance between them: Purim Katan and Pesach Sheni -- a second Passover observed one month later, for people who were traveling and not able to bring the Paschal offerings to the Beit HaMikdash.

It is all about readying ourselves. Purim is Jewish Mardi Gras -- it is our last blast in preparation for the spiritual housecleaning that leads up to Pesach, the beginning of our spiritual year. For those who were not ready on time, there is a second chance -- Pesach sheni. And for those who need extra time to prepare, there is an extra Adar, a pre-minder of Purim.

Purim. Where night is turned into day. Where holy becomes profane and we can no longer distinguish between blessing Mordechai and cursing haman. Where Yamnes and Yambres appear, and we think they are Moshe and Aharon.

And where, for a little while, we are permitted to come dangerously close to what it must have felt like to worship the Golden Calf.

If we were not able to receive Torah the first time, we should be worried. We should be terrified! Gevalt! G-d came down on the mountain, we stood there and promised we would do and obey. And then we went out and got drunk and forgot everything!...

But G-d gives G-d's Torah over and over again. Twice? No! Constantly! Chazal ("the wise ones, of blessed memory" - a respectful and traditional way of referring to the Rabbis of ancient tradition) tell us that each time we pray, we are not merely repeating a cyclical act. Rather, when we recite Shema in the morning, and again in the evening, we are renewing our personal and national Covenant with G-d. That each time is mamash ("really") for the first time. Each act is new. Just as the Torah, which was given again after Moshe had destroyed it, is given to us new each day.

G-d does not abandon us to our fate. Each day is a renewal of Creation. We say it in the prayer service: "Who makes new eternally each day the Work of Creation." We forget that, in renewing all of Creation daily, G-d is renewing each of us, too.

Make a le'chayim for me this Purim Katan. And for all Israel -- we mamash need it desperately. Every blessing we can get. And make a lechayim for everyone you have ever loved, whether they are with you now, or gone forever. And make a lechayim for this whole beautiful, sad, beloved, sweet, sweet world.

Just to be on the safe side, though, this Shabbat morning -- as on all shabbat mornings -- I will sing the word "Torah" only once.

yours for a better world...

Simhat Purim Katan!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good people search post. I'll be sure to stop by often. Also check out people search

5:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your blog. I also run a site about online colleges and universities. We have programs for all kinds of career paths including
computer forensic training

6:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Join me and my circle of friends at http://www.watiti.com, an online social networking community that connects people from all over the world.

Meet new people, share photos, create or attend events, post free classifieds, send free e-cards, listen music, read blogs, upload videos, be part of a club, chat rooms, forum and much more!

See you around! Bring all your friends too!


6:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you wrote here about the Golden Calf and the expulsion of Jews from Gaza is disgusting.

2:29 PM  
Blogger ninest123 Ninest said...

ninest123 10.29
nike free, oakley sunglasses, burberry outlet, air max, louis vuitton handbags, michael kors outlet, rolex watches, tiffany and co, ugg outlet, polo ralph lauren, oakley sunglasses, longchamp handbags, jordan shoes, ray ban sunglasses, air max, oakley sunglasses cheap, louboutin, louis vuitton, burberry outlet, kate spade outlet, prada outlet, uggs, michael kors outlet, chanel handbags, louis vuitton outlet stores, coach outlet, gucci outlet, nike shoes, michael kors outlet online sale, longchamp outlet, ray ban sunglasses, ugg boots clearance, prada handbags, louboutin shoes, longchamp handbags, louis vuitton outlet, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet, cheap oakley sunglasses, cheap uggs, kate spade handbags, louboutin outlet, christian louboutin, michael kors outlet, polo ralph lauren outlet, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, tiffany and co, uggs outlet

10:21 PM  
Blogger ninest123 Ninest said...

michael kors outlet, nike free, michael kors uk, true religion jeans, hollister, hogan outlet, abercrombie and fitch, north face, true religion outlet, sac longchamp pas cher, nike tn, coach outlet store online, nike air max, nike trainers, lululemon outlet online, michael kors, nike air force, north face, nike roshe run pas cher, air max, true religion outlet, ray ban pas cher, ray ban sunglasses, polo lacoste, polo ralph lauren, longchamp, coach purses, new balance pas cher, louboutin, sac burberry, mulberry, nike huaraches, sac hermes, air max pas cher, coach factory outlet, ralph lauren, vans pas cher, nike roshe, oakley pas cher, vanessa bruno, converse pas cher, hollister, sac guess, air max, hollister, nike free pas cher, air jordan, timberland, true religion jeans, michael kors pas cher, longchamp

10:22 PM  
Blogger ninest123 Ninest said...

north face jackets, nfl jerseys, p90x, soccer shoes, instyler, air max, iphone 6s cases, louboutin, mcm handbags, north face outlet, ferragamo shoes, valentino shoes, nike roshe run, chi flat iron, converse, insanity workout, vans, air max, mac cosmetics, ray ban, wedding dresses, babyliss pro, timberland boots, iphone 6s plus cases, vans shoes, asics running shoes, gucci, abercrombie and fitch, reebok outlet, lululemon outlet, beats by dre, baseball bats, abercrombie, s6 case, ghd, ipad cases, celine handbags, ralph lauren, soccer jerseys, bottega veneta, oakley, mont blanc, jimmy choo outlet, hollister clothing store, new balance shoes, iphone cases, birkin bag, herve leger, iphone 5s cases, iphone 6 plus cases, giuseppe zanotti, iphone 6 cases, nike blazer

10:24 PM  
Blogger ninest123 Ninest said...

juicy couture outlet, swarovski, swarovski crystal, ugg, hollister, barbour, moncler, moncler, canada goose, montre homme, ugg pas cher, michael kors outlet, moncler, canada goose, ugg, converse shoes, toms shoes, moncler, louis vuitton uk, ugg, canada goose, pandora jewelry, wedding dresses, doke gabbana, pandora jewelry, marc jacobs, thomas sabo, canada goose jackets, links of london, sac louis vuitton, moncler outlet, ugg boots, moncler, michael kors outlet online, sac lancel, pandora charms, louis vuitton, michael kors handbags, moncler, juicy couture, louis vuitton, coach outlet store online, canada goose uk, rolex watches, canada goose outlet, sac louis vuitton, karen millen, canada goose, barbour, canada goose, moncler, supra shoes
ninest123 10.29

10:25 PM  
Blogger Liu Liu said...

Patriots QB Tom Brady vs. Jets CB NFL Tom Brady Jerseys Darrelle Revis. Normally it would be a receiver vs. a cornerback, but the Pats have a Nike Free Run slew of underrated receivers to choose from -- nfl jerseys store Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman, for starters -- and in the last Jets-Pats matchup, Brady seemed to target Christian Louboutin Women Flat Revis christian louboutin shoes in key Nike Air Max 2015 Shoes spots. It's really no secret christian louboutin men flat why. Revis has had a miserable season and, while the Jets' secondary cheap nfl jerseys as louboutin outlet a whole has struggled, the ex-Pat has been one of the most NFL Rob Gronkowski Nike Jerseys vulnerable spots. It's a good bet Brady will wholesale nfl jerseys do it again, especially if it works early. It's late in the season to be suggesting this, but it Nike Air Max 90 would probably a good idea if defensive christian louboutin uk coordinator Kacy Rodgers gets Revis some help. christian louboutin Panettone spiked leather wallet

7:37 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home