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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘fought’

Why Did Kayin Kill Hevel? (Rabbi Goldin Gets It Wrong)

Monday, September 30th, 2013

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.

In summary:

(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.

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Their Heroes and Ours…

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

I know I have said this before, but I have to say it now. This morning. Now. Last night, we released 26 murderers – cowards, terrorists. The most pathetic of “men.” Really, to call them men is to insult 50% of the world. These are not men by any stretch of the imagination.

The government of Israel understands how sickening, how disgusting it is, how painful it is for Israelis to watch the Palestinians celebrate the return of these sniveling things and so it arranged to release them at night. How pathetic, how stupid. Did you really think the Palestinians wouldn’t come out to celebrate because it was at night? Seriously?

Let me tell you about the heroes of Israel. We have many…

Natan Sharansky has always been one of my heroes. He’s a quiet man, brilliant. He’s short…really short…and yet he is one of the tallest of men because unlike many (including most of the ministers in the government), he stands straight and tall. He risked imprisonment in the Soviet Union to be who and what he was…

His application to marry Avital was refused by Soviet authorities. He married her in a Jewish ceremony which was not recognized by the government. Today, the Soviet Union is no more; their marriage remains and they are now grandparents. Within 24 hours of that wedding, Avital had to leave the Soviet Union.

Three years later, Natan was arrested and convicted for his ongoing activities…mostly centered around maintaining his Jewish identity and trying to leave the Soviet Union to join Avital in Israel (and to get that right for millions of other Soviet Jews). For 13 years, Avital fought for Natan… and Natan fought for Avital and their life together. In 1986, Sharansky was finally freed. They came home to Israel, where they were greeted by thousands.

On July 4, 1976, Israeli soldiers flew to Entebbe and rescued more than 100 hostages. For days, the drama of the kidnapping of an Air France flight had held the world’s attention – but nowhere more than in Israel. The hijackers – German and Palestinian – separated Jew and non-Jew, releasing the non-Jews and holding the Israeli/Jewish passengers. The crew of the jet, though not Jewish, refused to leave their passengers and remained hostages as well.

The lives of the passengers were threatened and in a daring raid, Israeli fighters flew over 1,000 miles to rescue them. In the battle that followed, Yoni Netanyahu, the leader of the operation, was killed. The only casualty. He had given orders that wounded among the forces were not to be treated until the hostages were rescued – that all focus must be on saving the Jews in that terminal. Yoni was in the front, running towards the terminal where they were held, when he was hit.

Within hours, the planes were loaded and flying back to Israel. Thousands met them at the airport and celebrated their return. These are our heroes – Natan Sharansky, Yoni Netanyahu, the passengers of the plane who held on, knowing Israel would never abandon them.

For these, thousands come out to welcome them home.

The obvious connection here is to compare what Gaza and Ramallah came to welcome last night. I can’t make the comparison – or maybe I have already. For me, I am filled with gratitude that my heroes are men who lived with honor, not cowards who stabbed women and axed men to death.

I know the so-called peace talks will continue – personally, I couldn’t even look at these negotiators or be in the same room with them. They sicken me; their culture of death sickens me. There is inside of me a part that thinks our greatest victory, even if the world does not recognize it, is simply that we are not like them. That when we come out in the thousands to welcome someone home – it is for a man who has fought for freedom; a man who has died for others…not killed for his religion.

At the end of the day, I would rather belong to a people who mourn the death of Yoni Netanyahu, than one that celebrates the life of Samir Kuntar or the 26 miserable murderers we released last night.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/a-soldiers-mother/their-heroes-and-ours/2013/08/14/

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