web analytics
December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



A Chumash For All Times

The Rav  (Photos courtesy of Yeshiva University)

The Rav (Photos courtesy of Yeshiva University)

However, Jacob continued, my brother Esau will also ask a third question: “and for whom are these before you?” Are you ready to contribute your talents, capabilities, and efforts toward the material and cultural welfare of the general society? Are you willing to pay taxes, to develop and industrialize the country? The third inquiry is focused on the temporal aspects of life.

Jacob told his agents to answer the third question in the positive. “It is a gift sent to my master.” We feel obligated to enrich society with our creative talents and to be constructive and useful citizens. Yet in regard to the first two questions, he commanded his representatives to reply in the negative, clearly and precisely, boldly and courageously. He commanded them to tell Esau that their soul, their personality, their metaphysical destiny, their spiritual future and sacred commitments, belong exclusively to God and his servant Jacob.

The Rav here presents the proper attitude to the world. On the one hand, we are citizens of society who have much to contribute with our talents and resources. On the other, we are a distinct religious community. The Rav propounded similarly about Abraham’s self-description as a “ger ve-soshav, a stranger and an inhabitant” (23:4):

What is our position vis-a-vis modern civilization – with respect to science, to Western culture, to the countries in which we live? The answer is enshrined in these words. Certainly I am a resident, I am one of you. I engage in business as you do, I speak your language, I take full part in your social-economic institutions. But at the same time I am a stranger and, in some aspects, a foreigner. I belong to a particular world, one that is completely foreign to you. It is a world in which I am at one with the Creator… It is a world full of altars and sacrifices, a world of Torah, of lovingkindness, of sanctity and purity. You live differently, pray differently. Your conception of charity is different from ours; your days of rest are different from ours, and so on. In these matters I am a stranger in your world, and you are strangers in mine.

To my mind, there is no greater description than this of the Orthodox Jew’s role in American society. We are proud citizens, working hard and contributing to society on many levels. But we are also our own faith community with distinct beliefs and values. We see the world in terms of commands and obligations. We look to the Torah for our values. Our very conception of charity is different! The Orthodox Jew must be a valuable citizen and a cultural foreigner at the same time.

Teshuvah, repentance, served as a recurring subject of the Rav’s analysis. Human experience consists of a string of failures and successes. Our response to failure is just as important, if not more, than our response to success. The Torah attitude to personal failure is to grow from the experience, to undo our failings as much as possible and to become better people through the teshuvah process.

The Rav often dissected the Rambam’s ten chapters on teshuvah with lomdus (Talmudic concepts) and psychological insight. He also used it to explain difficult questions in the biblical narrative. For example, he asked why Abraham argued with God that Sodom should be saved if it contains ten righteous people? Why shouldn’t the wicked majority still be punished? Because, the Rav explained, Abraham had hope in the power of teshuvah (repentance). If there is a presence of righteousness in the city, even the most wicked people stand a chance of repenting. Unlike Noah, who accepted without argument the demise of all civilization, Abraham exhibited patience and hope in human potential (18:26). Those who fail must repent. Those who observe failure must retain hope in the power of teshuvah, man’s ability to repair his relationships with others and with God.

Living in prosperous America, the Rav was aware of the intoxicating allure of wealth. This society of plenty, the culture of excess and runaway consumption, is dangerous but that very threat can strengthen us. The Rav used the tools of biblical commentary to express the proper values and attitudes in the face of a prosperous but amoral (or immoral) society (39:1):

About the Author: Rabbi Gil Student writes frequently on Jewish issues and serves as editor-in-chief of TorahMusings.com. Rabbi Student previously served as managing editor of OU Press and still maintains a connection to the publisher but did not work on this book in any way.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “A Chumash For All Times”

  1. Uws IH says:

    I followed 3 Parshiyot before giving up on the book. I recommend a read of the commentary on ויתרוצצו הבנים בקרבה on p. 187 to see if it is your cup of tea.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Soldiers check Palestinian Authority Arabs for knives,explosives, guns, screwdrivers and anything else that can be used to murder.
Palestinian Authority Terrorist Tries to Kill Soldier at Checkpoint
Latest Sections Stories
Games-121914

Here are examples of games that need to be played by more than one person and an added bonus: they’re all Shabbos-friendly.

South-Florida-logo

The incident was completely unforeseeable. The only term to describe the set of circumstances surrounding it is “freak occurrence.”

South-Florida-logo

The first Chabad Center in Broward County, Chabad of South Broward, now runs nearly fifty programs and agencies. T

The NHS was also honored to have Bob Diener as keynote speaker.

Written with flowing language and engaging style, Attar weaves a spell that combines mystery, humor, adventure and Kabbalah in the most magical place in the world, the Old City of erusalem.

There are those who highlight the diversity of these different teachings, seeing each rebbe as teaching a separate path.

Rav Dynovisz will be speaking in Hebrew on Wednesday, January 7, at 7:30 p.m.

Rabbi Simeon Schreiber, senior chaplain at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, saw a small room in the hospital that was dark and dismal but could be used for Sabbath guests.

“The secret to a good donut is using quality ingredients and the ability to be patient and give them time to proof.”

I so desperately want to have a loving relationship with my stepsons.

The Liberty Bell is a symbol of American Independence.

Because you can’t have kids pouring huge jugs of oil into tiny glasses, unless you want to turn your house into an environmental disaster.

Try these with your kids; there’s something for every age group and once all the recipes are made, dinner will be ready!

You children will build the country and you will help restore Israel to her former glory.

More Articles from Rabbi Gil Student
We are always in His presence

If we can learn to fear the surveillance of the Internet, we can learn to fear God’s constant watching.

Rabbi Gil Student

Traditional Jewish texts clearly discuss men and women as categories – as distinct groups – even though individual men and women vary.

There must be an Orthodox presence and an Orthodox refusal to attend Limmud NY.

I am from the generation that never saw or heard the Rav but lived in his shadow, feeling his recently departed presence in his students’ lectures. My poverty in this sense pales in comparison to that of the next generation, who have only a distant notion of who this great man was and his sprawling impact.

The Internet is a medium that has made its way in its short existence all the way to the center of contemporary life. Many of our daily tasks are now tied to it, and will be more so in the future.

In light of all the attention that the recent Internet Asifa garnered, we thought it wise to offer this analysis on the subject by Rabbi Gil Student, founder of TorahMusings.com and former managing editor of OU Publications.

Israel is a Jewish country – but can it continue to be so when Judaism threatens to destroy the state?

The unfair longstanding attacks on Israel’s legitimacy are a permanent stain on the international community. For over 60 years, Israel has valiantly grown under hostile conditions while fighting lies and half-truths in the international arena. Israel suffers doubly, however, when its very essence, its Jewish character, supports its opponents’ narrative.

There are two types of people in the world – those who are inspired by Mussar and those who are turned off by it.

Mussar is a school of study that teaches religious self-improvement. Traditional Mussar, as practiced in many yeshivas to this day, has a rabbi exhorting his listeners, often yelling at them, to be more careful in their actions and attitudes. This is frequently accompanied with a Torah insight and maybe even a good parable. But it can be scary: fire, brimstone, judgment day – all the horrible implications of religious failure, in graphic detail.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/book-reviews/a-chumash-for-all-times/2013/11/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: