Posts Tagged ‘Field’
A while back, a British newspaper, The Times, interviewed a prominent member of the Jewish community (let’s call him Lord X) on his 92nd birthday. The interviewer said, “Most people, when they reach their 92nd birthday, start thinking about slowing down. You seem to be speeding up. Why is that?”
Lord X replied, “When you get to 92, you start seeing the door begin to close, and I have so much to do before the door closes that the older I get, the harder I have to work.”
Something like that is the impression we get of Abraham in this week’s parshah. Sarah, his constant companion throughout their journeys, has died. He is 137 years old. We see him mourn Sarah’s death, and then he moves into action.
He engages in an elaborate negotiation to buy a plot of land in which to bury her. As the narrative makes clear, this is not a simple task. He confesses to the locals, the Hittites, that he is “an immigrant and a resident among you,” meaning that he knows he has no right to buy land. It will take a special concession on their part for him to do so. The Hittites politely but firmly try to discourage him. He has no need to buy a burial plot. “No one among us will deny you his burial site to bury your dead.” He can bury Sarah in someone else’s graveyard. Equally politely but no less insistently, Abraham makes it clear that he is determined to buy land. In the event, he pays a highly inflated price (400 silver shekels) to do so.
The purchase of the Cave of Machpelah is evidently a highly significant event because it is recorded in great detail and highly legal terminology – not just here but three times subsequently in Genesis, each time with the same formality. For instance, here is Jacob on his deathbed, speaking to his sons:
“Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebecca were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites” (Genesis 49:29-32).
Something significant is being hinted at here; otherwise why mention, each time, exactly where the field is and from whom Abraham bought it?
Immediately after the story of land purchase, we read, “Abraham was old, well advanced in years, and God had blessed Abraham with everything.” Again this sounds like the end of a life, not a preface to a new course of action, and again our expectation is confounded. Abraham launches into a new initiative, this time to find a suitable wife for his son Isaac, who by now is at least 37 years old. Abraham leaves nothing to chance. He does not speak to Isaac himself but to his most trusted servant, who he instructs to go “to my native land, to my birthplace” to find the appropriate woman. He wants Isaac to have a wife who will share his faith and way of life. Abraham does not specify that she should come from his own family, but this seems to be an assumption hovering in the background.
As with the purchase of the field, so here the course of events is described in more detail than almost anywhere else in the Torah. Every conversational exchange is recorded. The contrast with the story of the binding of Isaac could not be greater. There, almost everything – Abraham’s thoughts, Isaac’s feelings – is left unsaid. Here, everything is said. Again, the literary style calls our attention to the significance of what is happening, without telling us precisely what it is.
The explanation is simple and unexpected. Throughout the story of Abraham and Sarah, God had promised them two things: children and a land. The promise of the land (“Rise, walk in the land throughout its length and breadth, for I will give it to you”) is repeated no less than seven times. The promise of children occurs four times. Abraham’s descendants will be “a great nation,” as many as “the dust of the earth” and “the stars in the sky.” He will be the father not of one nation but of many.Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
My encounter with Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s “Unlocking the Torah Text” this weekend nearly gave me a stroke. And all I covered was his section on parsha Bereshis.
There were two terrible passages. We’ll deal with one now, and get to the other later.
In brief, I hold there are two incorrect theories of midrash. I call them the “moron approach” and the “skeptical approach.” The moron approach, beloved by idiots who think their stupidity proves their piousness, hold that our sages were merely receiving vessels who did nothing but repeat whatever they heard from their own rebbes. They say the midrashim, in their entirety, go back to Sinai, in one long game of telephone, with not one of the Sages ever making use of his own intelligence or creative powers to add or subtract from the original teaching.
This, thankfully, is not Goldin’s approach.
Instead, Goldin embraces the skeptical approach telling us that midrashim are not really interpretations of verses. Instead, they are something the Sages used to encode and transmit Deep Ideas. Here’s how he puts it:
Midrashim are vehicles through which the Rabbis.. transmit significant messages and lessons. As such, they are not necessarily meant… to explain the factual meaning of a Torah passage.
The Goldin passage I quote above is actually a (unattributed) paraphrase of something that the Ramchal says in Maamar al Haagadot. And let me make this clear: The Ramchal’s approach is a sound way of dealing with problematic midrashim. Trouble is, too many people use this approach to deal with midrashim that are not problematic at all. And this is precisely what Goldin does.
The Midrash he attempts, in this example, to reveal as a vehicle for transmitting secret lessons is found in Berashis Raba, Berashis 23:16 where various rabbis are quoted discussing competing reasons for Kayin’s attack on Hevel.
(1) The brothers divided up the world, with one taking the land, and the other taking the animals. When Kayin saw Hevel standing on “his” land he objected.
(2) The brothers divided up the land and the animals even-steven but both wanted the land where the future Bes Hamikdash would stand. So they fought
(3) The brothers both wanted Chava Rishona, and fought over her. (Chava Rishona is how the Midrash solves the problem of Eve’s two creation stories. The first Chava (the one created alongside Adam in Genesis 1:27) was rejected, and replaced by the Chava created from Adam’s rib in 2:21 leading Adam to declare in 2:23 “Zos Hapaam / This time [I am happy with the Chava]!”)
(4) Hevel had two twin sisters while Kayin had only one. They fought over Hevel’s extra sister (the existence of the twins are indicated by the superfluous word “es” in 4:1 and 4:2 where Kayin’s birth announcement is accompanied with only one “es”, thus one twin, while Hevel’s birth announcement has two appearances of “es” which to the Rabbis suggested two twins.
According to Goldin, none of this should be construed at an attempt to interpret and explain the Kayin and Hevel story. Instead the Sages are “expressing global observations” regarding the real reasons why men go to war, namely territory, religion and women.
And then he makes it abundantly clear that he hasn’t even taken the elementary first step of consulting the midrash in question, writing:
Fundamentally, the Rabbis make the following statement in this Midrash: We were not present when Kayin killed Hevel. Nor can we glean any information directly from the biblical text concerning the source of their dispute.”
Only, even the briefest glance at the text of the Midrash shows this is not true! The Rabbis are not making a statement in unison about Global Facts, nor are they sharing Big Ideas. Rather they are arguing about nothing more than the plain meaning of the verse.
Each of the four suggested reasons for the fight are based on something specific and anomalous in the text, as the Midrash itself tells us, namely the seemingly extra detail about where the fight occurred.
The verse says: “While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.”
Why mention the field?
(1) Because Kayin and Hevel split the world, with one (the farmer) taking the land, and the other (the sheep herder) taking the animals. In the field, Kayin objected to his brother standing on land, which he owned, so they fought.
(2) The word “field” is often a keyword for the Bes Hamikdash (eg Micha 3:12) The brothers successfully divided up the entire world, but when they got to the field, ie, the Bes Hamikdash they fought
(3 and 4) Field is also a keyword for women. Both are, um, plowed (Not my pun! Its in chazal!) and also because of Deuteronomy 22:25 where it says: “If a man finds a girl in the field.” So when the brothers reached the field, ie the woman, they fought.
None of this, by the way, is a DovBear interpretation. All of it is right there in the plain text of the midrash – which Goldin would have encountered had he checked the midrash before embarking on his unnecessary attempt to “decode” it.
The Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor will allocate 500 million shekel ($140 million) to the integration of Haredim in the labor market, Minister Naftali Bennett announced today during a debate at the Knesset State Control Committee, ma’ariv reported.
“Integrating Haredim in the labor market is an acute national mission for the state of Israel,” the chair of the Jewish Home party said.
According to Bennett, “the dominant dynamic here is poverty. People who do not possess the economic ability to study Torah from morning till night would naturally seek a job. This is a blessed thing, and we must start working [to encourage it].”
Bennett added that his ministry is developing several axes along which to test the best way of integrating Haredim. “We want to direct Haredim to seek employment in areas where the market needs workers,” he said. “The current situation is that people are going to study and become proficient in areas the market doesn’t need. There’s a lack of coordination between what is and what’s needed.”
He gave one example: “Everybody is studying Law, instead of programming. There aren’t enough programmers out there, and any reasonably proficient programmer will be hired. The manufacturers are crying out, the hi-tech market is crying out for a workforce. That’s why we work all the time with the field and receive feedback. And the people in the field know well what works and what doesn’t, and we base our investment on their impressions.”
Bennett said the process will necessarily be one of trial and error, but his aim is to see in ten years the majority of Haredim integrated into the market.
Michal Tzuk, a Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor official in charge of employment, told the committee about a plan to create a prestigious program to prepare Haredim looking to work in hi-tech, which will include academic education and promoting Haredim as skilled workers.Yori Yanover
Guest Post by Anonymous, Ph.D.
The following short post was written by a psychologist who is a Ph.D. and widely respected in his field. He originally wrote it as a comment to the previous post. But because of my respect for this man and my belief in his expertise I am offering it as a guest post. The poster has chosen to remain anonymous, and I am going honor his wishes. The following are his unedited words:
I am impressed with many of the comments here, and I welcome this discussion.
Firstly, I am a psychologist. Secondly, I have watched the positions of the APA for years. While this Rind et al. paper is not an official position of APA, it represents a sizable percentage of the field of psychology.
If we retrospect on many of the position changes that occurred in APA over the past several decades, we find a liberal bend that is unmistakable. There is validity to the premise that the revisions of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders) involved greater attention to empirical research, but there is likewise a major intrusion of “political correctness” that has affected these positions (and the field as a whole).
The revision of the DSM that omitted homosexuality was not based on research, nor was much else. It was “political” pressure. It essentially stated that, “If I don’t want such-and-such to be considered pathological, then leave it out of the manual”. Fortunately, subsequent revisions included less of this liberal thinking and more of the scientific research.
Now, let’s address a new concept that should be part of this discussion. It’s called “hardiness.” It is true that not every victim of CSA (child sexual abuse) will manifest symptoms. Some will have suppressed them enough to function normally, others will first display symptoms later, even years later (which is a strong challenge to the notion of statutes of limitations). But many will suffer no ill effects.
There is major trouble with the research on this, as most studies focus on known victims who manifest symptoms, while hardy victims are not under scrutiny. Let’s give an example. The recent jewelry heist of $136 million is undoubtedly significant. If someone had stolen a Bic pen from the sign in board at that display, it would be meaningless, although it was a theft. The child who overcomes the experience of CSA is hardy. But the crime occurred, the damage was attempted, and there is a pedophile that deserves all the imaginable consequences of removal from society.
All in all, I am unimpressed with the Rind paper. It trivializes the condition of the perpetrator just because some (even many) children are strong enough to maintain their emotional health despite what was inflicted upon them.
As for the “illness of pedophilia”, I’m not convinced of the accuracy of many of the labels in the DSM (worthy of discussion in a forum more targeted to the subject). There are obsessive features to pedophilia, there may be a hard wired attraction, there could be an addiction, and, yes, a tinge or more of sociopathy. We may be mislabeling this, and counting the angels who dance on the head of a pin.
Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .Harry Maryles
In a recent New York Times article, Robert Lipsyte, a sports author, posed the following question: “Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope?” For years, I have been dealing with this question in my office. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education’s reading tests for the last thirty years show boys scoring worse than girls in every age group, every year.
A few months ago, a boy who I will call Mordechai came to my office with his mother. Mordechai was struggling with kriyah and English reading and his mother wanted to know if there was something deeper going on.
After a thorough evaluation, I was able to rule many things out. Mordechai did not have dyslexia, attention deficit disorder (ADHD), or sensory processing disorder (SPD). What Mordechai was exhibiting was not a difficulty with reading, but rather a reluctance to read. He simply saw no value in the enterprise and was therefore not interested in learning the skill. Even as a second grader, he had decided what his priorities were: sports and math. Sports was not only physical, but social as well and math factored into his everyday life in a way he felt reading did not.
Now, came the tricky part. How can you get someone to learn something if they have decided that they do not want to? After all, as Robert Lipsyte points out, “boys’ aversion to reading, let alone to novels, has been worsening for years.” First, we should discuss why it is that boys feel that reading has little significance in their lives:
Fiction vs. non-fiction. Many English teachers, who also happen to be female, teach reading through works of fiction. Unfortunately, studies show that boys tend to relate better to non-fiction. Thus, during the formative reading years, children are exposed to reading materials that are better suited to one gender over the other.
Role models. Boys will often see their mothers reading on Shabbos afternoon or in the evenings, but many rarely see their fathers engaged in a book. This is not because their fathers do not read. Rather, frequently, this is because their fathers will be learning in shul or with a chavrusah – experiences that boys do not have until they are beyond the elementary stages of reading.
Biology. On the whole, boys develop fine motor skills (such as hand-eye coordination) slightly later than girls. This can create difficulty with reading and writing at a young age.
Limited selection. Teachers don’t always know what is out there for boys that will engage them on to interact with a text with empathy and sincerity. Schools tend to work with books that are classics because they will encounter less resistance from parents. However, this sometimes means that books that boys might find engaging never make it into the classroom.
Filling The Reading Gap
Why do we care so much about reading? Why is it important to get our boys reading to their greatest potential? The most basic reason is that reading is the most important skill that people have in order to enhance their intelligence. Through reading, people improve their vocabularies and memories, become better writers, and even relieve stress. On a more practical level, literacy levels are correlated with financial success. In sum, we need to ensure that our boys are reading because their lives will be more fulfilling, relaxed and comfortable.
Therefore, how can we help boys learn to read? Below are some time-tested solutions:
Instruction tailored to boys’ learning style. Teachers should create lessons that have clear, structured instruction with short bursts of intense work. When teachers set specific goals and praise students for their success, the boys will be more likely to push themselves in the future. In addition, hands-on learning models that are coupled with a sense of humor are great tools for getting boys involved in reading.
Role models. Young boys need to see male role models who are reading. Remember, any text is reading – including fathers studying Gemara at the dining room table after lunch on Shabbos or reading the newspaper on a weekday morning. The idea is that boys see their fathers reading and understand that this is an activity valued by both male and female role models.Rifka Schonfeld
I’m not talking about Duke Snider, Carl Furillo, Joe Campanella, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Junior Gilliam, Don Newcombe, Don Drysdale, Johnny Padres, Sandy Amaros, the young Sandy Koufax, and the rest of the old-time Brookline Dodgers.
(For your information, I remembered all those names without having to look them up on Google. In fact, when the old Dodger ballpark, Ebbets Field, was being torn down to make room for apartment buildings, my Dad snuck us into the stadium, where we dug up some earth from center field, where Duke Snider once roamed – as if it were blessed soil from the Holy Land – and took it home to put in our planter as a lasting memorial. Woe that I don’t remember Mishnayos as well as I remember starting Dodger line-ups!)
No, I’m not talking about those famed Brooklyn Bums, who stuffed their bats and gloves into duffle bags and deserted New York for the even smoggier shores of LA. I am talking about the other dodgers of Brooklyn, all those who still linger in Boro Park and Flatbush and Williamsburg and Crown Heights and Ocean Parkway and don’t come on aliyah.
I’m speaking about the Aliyah Dodgers, the Diaspora Giants, the Ultra-Orthodox Williamsburg White Sox, the Assimilated Cardinals, and the OU Washington Nationals.
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook would tell his students: “We don’t pick and chose what mitzvot to do. We don’t say, ‘This mitzvah is easy and pleasing to me, I will do it, but this mitzvah is hard and not so pleasing, so I won’t. We aren’t half-believers like the Spies in the Wilderness, about whom the Torah testifies, ‘In this matter, you didn’t believe in the Lord your God’ (Devarim, 1:32). In the matter of making aliyah to Israel they didn’t believe. In contrast, we find the true approach to Torah of, ‘Everything that the Lord said, we will do and listen’ (Shemot, 24:7). We will do it whether it pleases us or not. We believe in all of the Torah with complete emunah” (See, Torat Eretz Yisrael, Ch.1).
Once again, I am not speaking about people who, for whatever valid reason, are unable to come on aliyah. Let’s say, in a rough approximation, that 20% of the Jews in America fall into this category. Whether it’s because they have sick parents to care for, or no way of making a living in Israel, or any other legitimate excuse, let’s agree for the moment that they can’t come – but what about their children? What’s preventing them? Are they any less Jewish than my children? Why should my children have to serve in the Israeli Army (which is a great mitzvah that we are happy to do) and fight to defend the Jewish Homeland, while the Diaspora Dodgers go to ball games and spend the same three years getting stoned in college? And what about the 80% who could come – but don’t?
Let’s remember that the root cause of the destruction that befell our Nation on Tisha B’Av was the unwilling of the Spies in the Wilderness to journey on to the Land of Israel, which occurred on the very same date (Megilla 29A. See The Book of our Heritage, Ch.16, on the month of Av).
My beloved brothers and sisters in the Diaspora- when you are in shul this coming Shabbos, during the Torah reading of Matot, before the typical lavish Diaspora Kiddush and free open bar (which could make even the most ardent Zionist forget about Jerusalem with its line-up of Chivas Regals, Jack Daniels, and Johnny Walker Blacks), try to concentrate on the message of the parsha:
“Now a very great multitude of cattle had the children of Brooklyn, and the children of the Five Towns and Boca, a very great multitude… and they said to Moshe, ‘If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession – bring us not over the Jordan.’ And Moshe said, ‘Shall your brethren go to war, and shall you sit here? And wherefore will you turn away the heart of the Children of Israel from going over into the Land which the Lord has given them? Thus did your fathers when I sent them from Kadesh Barnea to see the Land. For when they went up unto the valley of Eshkol and saw the Land, they turned away the heart of the Children of Israel, that they should not go into the Land which the Lord had given them. And the anger of the Lord kindled on that day (Tisha B’Av), and He swore saying, ‘Surely none of these men that came up out of the land of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the Land I swore unto Avraham, unto Yitzhak, and unto Yaacov, because they have not wholly followed Me, save Calev ben Yefuneh and Yehoshua ben Nun, because they have wholly followed the Lord’” (Bamidbar, 32:1-12).Tzvi Fishman