Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Parshat Beshalach - Amalek and Theology

This shiur is also based on the writings of Rav Tzadok HaCohen.

May this shiur be a Refuah Shleima for Shiri bat Gila.

Rav Tzadok says that remembering what Amalek did to us is really about remembering the sin that we committed which led to Amalek coming. But the Torah does not specify what the sin was.

By way of contrast, the Torah tells us
Remember, do not forget, how you angered G-d, your G-d, in the desert. From the day that you left Egypt until you reached this place, you have been rebellious against G-d.
. This is explicit and according to Rav Tzadok is a warning never to trust ourselves against the yetzer hara. No matter how close we are to G-d or how great His revelation to us, we must always continue to wage war against the evil inclination.

According to Rav Tzadok the sin which brought Amalek was a mistake in theology. The Zohar says that the people weren't questioning whether G-d was with them (they were surrounded by the Clouds of Glory) but whether it was YHVH or Ayin - which aspect of G-d was leading them. They asked questions that were beyond them, and this gave Amalek the chance to attack.

The reason the Torah does not explicitly state their sin is because it is not a sin of action, but of trying to understand things that they were not allowed to ask. The sin is one that cannot be stated explicitly.

I look forward to your comments.

Here is the audio shiur (and the pdf sheets to download if you want).

Parshat Beshalach - Amalek and Theology

(Right click and then 'download as')

Parshat Beshalach - Amalek and Theology

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  1. I'm not done yet, but I had too many tangential thoughts to wait for that.

    1- I think that had Tesla won, the acadamy wouldn't have chosen "chashmal" for electricity.

    To explain an intentionaly cryptic statement: Tesla's power distribution system was DC, Edison's was AC. They went into really dirty theatrics to win market share (the wikipedia entry has some examples). None of that won the war though; what did it was that AC loses less power when going down long power lines.

    Anyway... The to-and-fro of the chashmalim of Yechezqeil was probably chosen because Palestine was using AC current. And then later extended to batteries despite their being DC.

    Now moving on to Tzeduqim...

    2- My theory is not that the Tzeduqim would start omer on Sunday regardless of when Pesach began. Because that wouldn't justify their mangling the calendar -- only the date of Shavuos.

    The calendar found in Qumran had 364 days per year, exactly 52 weeks. Thereby placing Pesach on the same day of the week every year.

    Also even today, Easter is defined by a day of the week. Implying that they "hold" that Pesach is always on a Friday.

    I don't think either was the Tzeduqi calendar. However, it does show that the idea of a year being an even number of weeks was in common discussion. And having an even number of weeks per year makes dividing the service of the kohanim into one week mishmaros much simpler. In fact, the Y-mi Taanis mentions that the same family had mishmar on Tish'ah beAv both times it was destroyed -- and sang the song of Wed rather than the Sun song usually sung. (There is a dispute whether they broke from the norm, or whether this was the song for 9 beAv, like holidays having their own songs.)

    So, what I believe was that the Tzeduqim held that "mimacharas hashabbos" (from the day after the day of rest) meant that the previous day, which they agreed described the first day of Chag haMatzos would have to always be on Shabbos.

    3- I agree that the Qaraim can't be a direct evolution of the Tzeuqim -- there are centuries of silence between them. It was either in RMTreibitz's shiurim on Chasimas haShas or personal research they inspired that suggested that the Qaraim were a fusion of groups who were the counter-reformation to the rise of (perhaps still oral) Shas.

    However, the Qaraim believe they are the Tzeduqim. Even though their positions don't match. Instead of acknowledging that the Tzeduqim may have practiced differently than they do, they accuse Chazal of lying and ascribing silly positions to the tzeduqim as ridicule. (E.g. This essay on Qaraite Tzitzis.)

    I find that interesting enough to share.

    4- Another reason for the kohanim to go Tzeduqi: The Chashmonaim had the kehunah and political rule. The rabbinate was the only competing seat of power. It was therefore logical for the wealthy ruling class to join the camp that denies that authority.

  2. About Amaleiq and qotzeitz benetios....

    According to R' Chaim Volozhiner (Nefesh haChaim II), when Chazal speak of eating without a berakhah being a kind of theft, they do not mean theft from the Creator of that fruit, but theft from the rest of creation. Had the person made a berakhah, acknowledging the Shoresh to its empirical outcome, the apple would have brought more spirituality into the universe.

    I want to point out that while most translators and English writers who discuss Qabbalah take the smoother result of translating "Shoreth" as Source, it does mean root.

    Someone who denies the spiritual Shoresh of an object or event thus cuts the flow off at or near its root. Or, as the expression goes, he is "qotzeitz benetios -- cutting down the seedlings."

    (Similarly, chol hamo'ed could be thought of as basically chol days that happen to have some extra mitzvos, or basically mo'ed that happens to have fewer prohibitions of melakhah. Someone who puts on tefillin chooses the former, thereby cutting the flow of Pesach-ness or Sukkos-ness to the universe. Qotzeitz benetios.)

    Attempts to explain the tragic with the assumption that we can always understand Hashem's motivations and actions leads to either finding a sin by which to blame the victim, or to positions like Harold Kushner's "Why Bad Things Happen to Good People", which minimize the role of G-d in the Universe.
    Qotzeitz benetios.

    So we had the Jewish People trying to figure out exactly how Hashem does things. Then along comes Amaleiq, who (according to Chazal on "asher qorkha baderech") say everything is happenstance, miqreh. Qotzeitz benetios.