Alternative Perspective?

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Re: Alternative Perspective?

Postby Kira » Mon Mar 01, 2010 1:37 pm

Interesting. You have some good points, but also some misconceptions.

You are right that the encounter at Sinai required tremendous spiritual preparation. You are right that the phrase that is your signature is very hard to understand given the rest of the instructions. You are also right that there was a missed opportunity at Sinai.

However, while your translation of Shamo'a Tishme'u is rather fanciful, it cannot stand up to scrutiny. This phrase appears 5 times in the Torah (twice in plural, 3 times singular - most famously Deut 11:13, which we say as part of Shema). It cannot be translated the way you suggest in those places. Moreover, the double verb form is incredibly common in Biblical Hebrew. Its purpose is emphasis. See Exodus 23:5, for an example with a donkey.

As for the order of events at Sinai, in order to understand what happened, one must study the second half of the story - Exodus 24. According to most opinions, the Torah chose to bookmark the 10 Commandments and even the laws of Mishpatim (19-23) with the occurences at Sinai, and chronologically, it all happened beforeMoses went up the mountain for 40 days. (I agree with you about his knees!)

BTW, looking up the classical commentaries on your verse, I found that they actually translate it as: "after the Shofar is pulled away, they will be allowed to go up the mountain". Those who translate it as "when the Shofar is sounded", explain the "they" as those who did go up part way, namely Aharon & sons, and the elders.

Now about the missed opportunity. First of all - and this is important - the entire nation heard G-d's voice speaking to them. This is not a small thing. This is the absolutely biggest thing EVER in the history of mankind. It is the only time that an entire nation of people experienced G-d directly.

You cannot say "they didn't hear". They heard.

That is first, and foremost, and the very foundation of the Torah, which you seem to hold in esteem. The only reason we have held on to it for all those millenia is because of the experience at Sinai, where we all heard G-d. The very fact that you can read these words at all is due to that experience.

So what was missed?

Two things. First, we see that only the first two commandments are written in the first person. When the Jewish People came to Moses and said, "we can't take this any more", they had heard those two commandments. The other 8, they heard through Moses. Maybe if they had prepared themselves better, they might have been able to handle more? Perhaps. You have a good point there.

The second is, of course, the Sin of the Golden Calf. Whatever level they reached at Sinai, they dropped drastically due to that sin, and the entire Torah was affected by it.

And let's be honest, would a holy nation, a kingdom of priests really need formal rules to forbid idolatry, murder, adultery, thievery, bestiality etc. ad nauseam? I wouldn't think so.
And you would be wrong. If you look carefully, you'll see that priests have even more formal rules than other people.

I hear you, it's counter-intuitive. One would imagine that those who are holy are intuitively holy and know how to serve G-d with a minimum of commandments. Adam, for example, had only a couple. Noach had 7. Why do we need 613? And some really embarrassing ones, as you point out. I mean, really, a nation that went through the Exodus from Egypt, the Splitting of the Sea, the Manna, miracles with water, miraculous war with Amalek, THEY need to hear "Do not have other gods before Me"?

Yet, there it is.

Turns out, human nature and human free will is such that in order to serve G-d properly, the more commandments He gives, the more we serve Him.

And if we cannot fulfull those commandments on a practical level (like the commandments of the Temple), we can still fulfill the hearing of those commandments by studying them. So there, too, you are correct.

I will agree with you on another thing, too: The Kotzker Rebbe was once asked, "Where is G-d?" He answered, "Wherever you let Him in".

You are completely correct that in order to study the Torah, in order to understand what G-d wants from us, we have to open our minds and our hearts, to let Him in, and not rely on our own pre-conceptions.

-Kira
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Re: Alternative Perspective?

Postby Windborne » Sat Mar 06, 2010 4:58 am

I came across an article entitled Golden Calf still with us — except it has multiplied by Rabbi Berel Wein. I don't know the man, but here's part of his article:

Rabbi Berel Wein wrote:How did human beings that experienced godly Revelation at Sinai revert to worshipping a Golden Calf just a few short weeks later? What happened to the "the kingdom of priests and holy nation" to cause this terrible reversal of course?

It's an interesting riddle, because there was no reversal of course. The fall had already occurred. The rabbi thinks it was due to a lack of visionary leadership. Hmmm....

I understand what you've written, Kira, but I'm afraid you're the one with misconceptions.

First, I picked up on the intent of double verb usage when I first started reading Hebrew years ago - I thought emphasis was understood universally to be the point. Perhaps I should have translated, "If you'll really hear and understand what I'm trying to get across...."

Yes the people heard G-d's voice, but they had to hear (with their ears). G-d had stated that it would happen in Exodus 19:9, and so it had to happen regardless of the people's preparation, their response, or lack thereof. But that's not the kind of "hearing" I meant, and it's not the kind of hearing meant by im shamo'a tishme'u, is it?

I do hold Torah in high esteem, but I don't think it means what most folks think. Six hundred thirteen rules won't make a holy nation or kingdom of priests - isn't that obvious after all these millennia? The heros of Torah (Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc.) didn't become holy be keeping rules. They were holy because they set their hearts apart fully and desired, above all, for that deep intimacy we might call "walking with G-d."

I don't advocate ignoring the commandments, but let's not kid ourselves that conformance = walking with God.
Soul-challenged.
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Re: Alternative Perspective?

Postby rivka » Sun Mar 07, 2010 6:03 am

Rabbi Berel Wein is one of -- if not the primary -- current experts on Jewish history. You should read his books and listen to his lectures. They are excellent. He has a blog too.

He's also a talmid chacham and a real mensch.
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Re: Alternative Perspective?

Postby Kira » Sun Mar 07, 2010 7:33 am

I actually do know R' Wein in real life, and I second Rivka's recommendation of his books and tapes. He has remarkable perspective.

Windborne, may I please remind you of the forum rules that are at the top of every page, in particular #6.

Six hundred thirteen rules won't make a holy nation or kingdom of priests - isn't that obvious after all these millennia? The heros of Torah (Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc.) didn't become holy be keeping rules. They were holy because they set their hearts apart fully and desired, above all, for that deep intimacy we might call "walking with G-d."
What you appear to be saying is that after the Torah was given, there are no heroes in the Torah and the Jewish nation is not in fact a holy nation.

G-d was wrong to give the Torah with its 613 commandments?

The only conformance we're talking about here, btw, is comformance with G-d's commandments. As in English, in Hebrew, "to listen to" means to do what you're told.

To prevent further misunderstanding between us, could you please tell us a little bit about your background?

-Kira
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Re: Alternative Perspective?

Postby Windborne » Sun Mar 07, 2010 5:30 pm

Kira wrote:What you appear to be saying is that after the Torah was given, there are no heroes in the Torah and the Jewish nation is not in fact a holy nation.

G-d was wrong to give the Torah with its 613 commandments?

*sigh*

No. Well, no to most of it. I take it that you believe, despite current appearances and the history of TANACH, the descendants of Israel (or at least those of the southern kingdom) are holy. OK. Since I'm not to my knowledge a descendant of Israel, you can make that call for yourself.

Was G-d wrong? No. Did heros exist after the commandments of Torah were given? Yes. But according to the TANACH, were these people heros because they kept the rules or because of their hearts?

I have the 613 commandments open in another tab from the Judaism 101 website. In this rendering, the word "heart" appears exactly once: "Not to cherish hatred in one's heart." And while this is a worthy rule, will keeping these commandments, or at least as many as reasonable given the current circumstances, make you a hero from G-d's perspective? Will keeping as many commandments as you are able and as well as you are able put you in the same league as Deborah, Ruth, David, Isaiah, Ezekiel? The same league as Moses, Joshua, Abraham, Noah, Enoch?

Did these men and women observe G-d's commandments? Yes (well, for the most part). Is that what made them heros? Was their level of commandment-observance the reason their names are remembered and revered? Was it their intelligence? Their insight into and interpretation of Torah commandments?

Or was it because these heros burned with desire to know G-d intimately, to hear his voice in their lives, to walk with Him heart-to-heart? Was it because they willingly gave themselves into an eternal romance set in the midst of a desperate battle?

This is my alternative perspective of Torah. Does halacha mean "Jewish Law" or "one's walk [with G-d]?" Is the essence of Torah commandment-observance or seeking the heart of G-d?

Moses gave the people of Israel a command not explicitly included in the 613:
וּמַלְתֶּם, אֵת עָרְלַת לְבַבְכֶם
What a fascinating command! In the same instruction Moses said (JPS 1917): "And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep for thy good the commandments of the LORD, and His statutes, which I command thee this day?" Notice the order; notice the emphasis.

Moses knew.
Soul-challenged.
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Re: Alternative Perspective?

Postby Poster » Mon Mar 08, 2010 1:20 am

I just saw this thread.

First off, the word 'love' is in the Krias Shma.

You have to love G-d with all your heart, soul and possessions. It's required to have this particular verse written on all door frames of every Jewish house. It's required to wear this next to our hearts and heads, every day twice.

It's required to *say* this 'love' verse at least twice or three times a day WITH MEANING as part of the requirements.

It's required to say this love verse just before death, if possible.

Windborne, I used to be a Christian. I love talking to Christians.

I think they are sincere and wonderful folk, and I hugged one yesterday in shul (of all places - he just happened to be a janitor, we shared some mutual insights into religion, he said some warm things to me and I hugged him sincerely, without any thought of trying to win him to my 'side').

Just curious, Windborne, do you believe in Jesus or the other name used for the same person, 'Yeshua'?

Please forgive my question if you don't, this would be your chance to make it clear one way or the other.

Huge thanks for sharing.

I used to be a Christian, but not any more. I like Christians, I care about them, just curious if you are one of my former brethren.
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Re: Alternative Perspective?

Postby Windborne » Mon Mar 08, 2010 2:32 am

Sorry, Poster: Forum Rule #3.
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Re: Alternative Perspective?

Postby Windborne » Mon Mar 08, 2010 2:59 am

Kira wrote:To prevent further misunderstanding between us, could you please tell us a little bit about your background?

Poster wrote:Just curious, Windborne, do you believe in Jesus or the other name used for the same person, 'Yeshua'?
Please forgive my question if you don't, this would be your chance to make it clear one way or the other.
Huge thanks for sharing.
I used to be a Christian, but not any more. I like Christians, I care about them, just curious if you are one of my former brethren.

I came here to discuss Torah, it's importance and relevance in our lives. If I'm all fouled up, fine. Let's discuss the issues.

But, I really don't appreciate folks trying to finesse Forum Rules in thinly veiled attempts to marginalize me. You wouldn't lure someone you didn't know into contravening a Torah commandment. So why is this different?

So let's stick to Torah, please. What is it? What does it mean? How do we live it?
Soul-challenged.
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Re: Alternative Perspective?

Postby rivka » Mon Mar 08, 2010 3:43 am

Trying to figure out where you're coming from and if you have an agenda is not the same thing at all as "trying to finesse Forum Rules in thinly veiled attempts to marginalize me". But it's very interesting that you've gotten so defensive, and that you keep resisting answering such questions.
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Re: Alternative Perspective?

Postby Windborne » Mon Mar 08, 2010 3:56 am

rivka wrote:But it's very interesting that you've gotten so defensive, and that you keep resisting answering such questions.

... because discussion of comparative religion is forbidden by rule #3. I've already stated that I'm not a descendant of Israel to the best of my knowledge.

Frankly, the motives behind these personal inquiries are transparent and irrelevant to the focus of this thread. If my perspective of Torah is bogus then let fly. My motive is to discuss Torah, what it is, what it means, how we live it. If that's not good enough for you, then you'll just have to deal with it.
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