Posts Tagged ‘Return’
Title: A Day Is A Thousand Years
Author: Dr. Zvi Faier
Publisher: Chaim Mazo
Sadly, Dr. Zvi Faier, the gifted Torah scholar, theoretical physicist and poet, passed away in 2009, on the 10th of Tevet 5769, after a long illness borne with dignity and courage. There recently appeared the first of two posthumously published works that show the amazing breadth of his knowledge, insights and interests.
A Day Is a Thousand Years, published by Chaim Mazo, and with a moving and very perceptive preface by his daughter Tziporah Lifshitz, is notable not only for its being a unique exposition of major Judaic concepts related to the destiny of the Jewish people and their interplay with the rest of mankind throughout history and until today, but also for its rich language and beautiful flowing style and imagery combining prose and verse.
The salient facts of Zvi Faier’s life offer clues to the amazing breadth of knowledge, insight and language reflected in this work. Born in 1934 in the town of Hrubieszow in southern Poland, his childhood was spent in southern Russia where the family had fled to escape the Nazis. In 1948, the family emigrated to Canada where Zvi received a yeshiva education. In 1965, he completed his doctoral studies and was awarded a Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1965 at Northwestern University in Chicago. Here he met his wife Chaya, and also his mentor Rabbi Chaim Halevi Zimmerman, the head rabbinical scholar at the Hebrew Theological College. He embarked on a scientific career, first as research physicist at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, then as a member of the physics faculty at St. John’s College New York. At the same time, he taught at Touro College and edited INTERCOM, the journal of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists.
After making aliyah in 1973, he continued his Talmudic studies with Rabbi Zimmerman at the Harry Fischel Institute, where he received rabbinic ordination in 1976. In 1977 he embarked on a career of translating such classic works of Jewish exegesis as the Malbim commentary, Meam Loez, and the Daat Sofrim commentary, and in 1979 he published his first original work, Burnt Offering: a Return to the Physical and Intellectual Jerusalem, co-authored with Dr. Haim Sokolik.
In his teaching and research, Dr. Faier focused on clarifying and applying the conceptual links between modern scientific methods and results and fundamental teachings of Judaism, and developing a scientific analysis of Talmudic sources. His aim was to generate an integrated understanding of Torah, man and the scientific universe.
The book is characterized by great intellectual scope and freedom and a profound striving for true understanding. Whereas it is an impassioned hymn of praise to the G-d of Israel and the Torah, this work is also a plea, directed to reinforcing the sublime in the hearts of all men. The author felt deeply that his ideas have relevance not only for Jews, but for all men and women around the world who cherish and seek truth, compassion and beauty.”
In his prologue, the author describes a huge parchment covering the earth just above the atmosphere. On the outer side, facing the sun, are inscribed three lines:
“That honor may dwell in our land
“Kindness and truth have met
“Justice and peace have kissed” (Psalms 85:11).
On the inner side was the legend:
“The price of honey
“And the price of light
“Are now beyond my means
“Said the victim
“To the slayer
“Said the slayer
“To the victim.”
The inscription persisted as the parchment unrolled into the future. Sometimes the writing showed more clearly on the side facing the light, and sometimes on the other side facing lands of darkness… Then it came to pass that the sons of man forgot they spoke in different tongues and nations everywhere touched. Both sides of the parchment now read:
“Kindness and truth have met
“Justice and peace have kissed.”
But it took a thousand years when it could have taken a day. Along the edge of the parchment, between the inner and outer sides, it said:
“For a thousand years in Your sight
“Are as yesterday
“As a watch in the night (based on Malbim reading of Psalm 90:4)
After an expulsion and a lengthy 5 year battle, the Jerusalem District Court finally made a ruling on “Beit Hashalom” in Hebron. Judge Baram ordered the State to prepare to return the building to its rightful Jewish owners.
In 2007, the building was purchased from its Arab owners.
At the time, the Arab sellers, despite being secretly videotaped, denied the transaction had ever been completed once they realized the buyers were Jews who purchased the building through an intermediary.
In 2008, the army forcibly evicted the Jewish residents until the court would decide who owned the building.
Hebron residents are hoping this is the first step in the return of other buildings they’ve purchased and were evicted from by the government and IDF.
Nachi Eyal, CEO of the Forum for the Land of Israel welcomed the court’s decision and that the purchase of the house was legal. He added, “The Minister of Defense and representatives of the State Prosecutor need to apologize and compensate the owners in Hebron.”
Despite the conclusions of the court, Yariv Oppenheimer, head of Peace Now, called on Ehud Barak to not let the Jews back into the building.
The Gemara teaches that t’shuva existed before the world was created. In a similar vein, Rabbi Kook writes that the spirit of t’shuva hovers over the world and gives it its basic form and the motivation to develop. It is t’shuva which gives the world its direction and its inner energy to constantly progress. The desire to refine the world and to embellish it with beauty and splendor all derive from the spirit of t’shuva.
T’shuva is the Divine, spiritual force in the universe which is constantly propelling all of existence toward perfection. It is the voice of God calling, “Return to Me, you children of men.” Due to the “separation” from God through transgressions, improper living, or through the act of Creation itself, there is a constant drive in all things to return to a harmony with their Maker. Rabbi Kook writes that, “It is impossible to express this awesomely deep idea.” The force of t’shuva, like gravity in the physical world, is built into the inner fabric of life. It stands as the impetus behind all human history, all world development, all endeavor toward social improvement. It is the force which inspires all cultural, artistic, and scientific advancement. Similarly, the yearning of mankind for universal justice and moral perfection is a product of the encompassing, ever-present power of t’shuva.
On a personal level, when a man sells his house in the country because he wants to improve the quality of his life, he is involved in t’shuva. When a family has a fun and relaxing vacation, they are being motivated by forces of t’shuva. Though there may be underlying factors of profit and self-interest when a pharmaceutical company produces a new drug, they too are involved in t’shuva, if their product truly helps to benefit the world.
“T’shuva derives from the yearning of all existence to be better, purer, more fortified and elevated than it is. Hidden within this desire is a life-force capable of overcoming that which limits and weakens existence. The personal t’shuva of an individual, and even more so of the community, draws its strength from this source of life which is constantly active with never-ending vigor.”
In his writings, Rabbi Kook illuminates the phenomenon of t’shuva in an entirely new fashion. Here we encounter the notion of t’shuva, not as personal penitence alone, but as an ever-active force in the world which constantly works to unite all things with God.
“The currents of specific and general t’shuva flood along. They resemble waves of flames on the surface of the sun, which break free and ascend in a never-ending struggle, granting life to numerous worlds and numberless creatures. It is impossible to grasp the multitude of colors of this great sun that lights all worlds, the sun of t’shuva, because of their abundance and wondrous speed, because they emanate from the Source of life itself….”
In his poetic style, Rabbi Kook describes t’shuva like a sun which sends out constant flames of warming light to the world. Just as God has created the sun as life’s principle energy source, so too is t’shuva the spiritual energy source of existence. T’shuva does not only operate when a person decides to mend his erring ways – t’shuva exists all of the time. It exists both within man and all around him, as a personal t’shuva, and as a t’shuva which comes from Above. Like gravity, or the wind, or the rays of the sun, t’shuva is ever present. It is a constant force always at work, bringing the world to completion. One day the force may hit Jonathan; the next day Miriam; one day soon it will uplift the Jewish people as a whole. Its waves flow by us in a continuous stream. Minute by minute, the song of t’shuva calls out to us to hurry and join in the flow.
That’s our lesson for today. If you don’t want to wait for the daily doses of t’shuva that we’ll be delivering, you can get yourself a copy of The Art of T’shuva and give yourselves a jumbo fix. But one step at a time up the ladder of t’shuva is a wise way to do it, so that you don’t fall back down, God forbid, just as fast as you soared up.
This month, we will be dedicating our blogs to the subject of t‘shuva, as illuminated in the writings of Rabbi Kook. So you can look forward to daily light bulbs of inspiration and self-improvement, taken from our commentary, The Art of T’shuva, which I had the privilege of writing with Rabbi David Samson. It very well may be the most exciting and worthwhile voyage you ever experience.
Dear Reader — if you are looking to be happy, creative, in harmony with God and with the universe, Rabbi Kook has the answer — t’shuva.
For Rabbi Kook, t’shuva is a concept much deeper than the common understanding of repentance. It is much more than penitence over sins and the remorse a person must feel when he strays from the pathways of goodness and truth. While t’shuva includes these factors, the phenomenon of t’shuva spreads out over all the universe, bringing harmony and perfection to all of existence.
Return to the Source
While t’shuva is normally translated as penitence or repentance, the root of the Hebrew word t’shuva means “return.” T’shuva is a return to the source, to one’s roots, to one’s deepest inner self. Rabbi Kook writes:
“When one forgets the essence of one’s soul; when one distracts his mind from seeing the true nature of his own inner life, everything becomes doubtful and confused. The principal t’shuva, which immediately lights up the darkness, is for a person to return to himself, to the root of his soul. Then he will immediately return to God, to the Soul of all souls. And he will continue to stride higher and higher in holiness and purity. This is true for an individual, a nation, for all of mankind, and for the perfection of all existence….”
Anything which is a return to the pure, original, natural state, whether it be physical, moral, or spiritual, is a part of t’shuva. As Rabbi Kook develops his ideas about t’shuva, he speaks not only about the individual, but about the Jewish nation as a whole. T’shuva encompasses the nation of Israel, and more. All of humanity is destined for perfection and upliftment. Rabbi Kook even writes about the t’shuva of the heavens and earth — when the bark of a tree will be as edible as its fruit, and when the moon will return to its original size, as big and bright as the sun. In effect, t’shuva is the force which pushes all physical and spiritual worlds towards completion.
One can readily understand that to reach fulfillment and happiness, a person must be his true self. In modern times, this basic understanding has been corrupted into a “do your own thing” attitude. Rabbi Kook is advocating a deeper, inner search, far beyond the surface passions and emotions which often lead people to express their every desire and lust. Rabbi Kook understands that the individual, and all of existence, has a deeper, spiritual source. In the depths of this ever-pure realm, our true essence lies. A person who makes the inward journey of t’shuva comes to encounter his soul and the Creator who gave it. As Rabbi Kook writes:
“It is only through the great truth of returning to oneself that the individual, the nation, the world, all of the worlds, and all of existence, will return to its Maker, to be illuminated by the light of life.”
Throughout history, man has been searching to discover the driving force of life. To a capitalist, money makes the world go around. To a romanticist, love is what impassions mankind. Freudians claim that man’s unconscious desires and libido are to blame. Peering into a microscope, a modern physicist declares that atoms and neutrons cause the world to spin. For biologists, the uniting power resides in strands of DNA. When Rabbi Kook gazes into the inner workings of the soul, the soul of the individual, and the soul of the world, he sees that the force behind all existence is t’shuva.
The Age of Anxiety
It is no secret that there is great darkness, confusion, and pain in the world. Bookstores are filled with self-help books on how to be happy. Layman’s guides to psychology line shelf after shelf. Our generation has been called “the age of anxiety.” People often live out their lives plagued with depression, sickness, a sense of unfulfillment and constant unrest. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and humanists like Freud, Jung, Adler, Horney, Fromm, May, Erikson, Dr. Dryer, and dozens of others have become the prophets of the moment, proposing dozens of theories to explain man’s existential dilemmas. Whether it is because we suffer from an Oedipus complex, or from a primal anxiety at having been separated from the womb, from sexual repression, or from the trauma of death, mankind is beset with neuroses. Vials of valium and an assortment of anti-depressants and “uppers” can be found in the medicine cabinets of the very best homes. Not to mention the twenty-four-hour bombardment of work, television, computer games, discos, and drugs which people use to blot out the never-ending angst that they feel.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (www.metmuseum.org)
Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street, New York; (212) 535-7710
Suggested Admission; Adults $25, Seniors $17, Students $12, Children under 12 Free.
Until September 30, 2012
The Rylands Haggadah, created in Catalonia Spain sometime around 1330, is a towering masterpiece of Jewish Art. In addition to pages of piyutim surrounded by ornate decorative and figurative micrography, richly decorated Haggadah text and blessings, there is a 13 page miniature cycle depicting the Exodus story from Moses at the Burning Bush to the Crossing of the Red Sea. This breathtaking work of art has not gone unnoticed. A full-scale facsimile of the Haggadah with a scholarly introduction and translation was published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc. in 1988, aspects of which were reviewed on this page in March 2001. More recently the Rylands Haggadah was extensively compared to its “Brother” British Library Haggadah in Marc Michael Epstein’s “The Medieval Haggadah (2011)” as well as Katrin Kogman-Appel’s briefer investigation in “Illuminated Haggadot from Medieval Spain (2006).” Evidently one can even buy it as an iBook from iTunes. But most significantly for us, this diminutive gem is currently here in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until September 30 as part of a series of loans of Hebrew manuscripts funded by the David Berg Foundation. It is not to be missed.
The Met’s presentation under the supervision of curators Barbara Boehm and Melanie Holcomb has made every effort to present the miniature narrative cycle to its full advantage; “turning the page” every 4 weeks for the duration of the show. It is extremely unusual to actually show so many pages of a rare manuscript, especially since the Rylands Haggadah is very rarely shown even at home and was specially restored for this loan. Of course inherent to the exhibition of a bound manuscript is the fact that all of the images can never be physically seen at one time. While this could have been rectified by a digital and/or printed display, the Met chose to place this manuscript in the somewhat constricted space of the Medieval galleries in the effort to show “Medieval Jewish Art in Context,” here within the Christian Middle Ages. Additionally all the exhibited pages are beautifully reproduced on the Met website. The Met has programmed lectures and gallery talks to elucidate the complexities of the Rylands, the most notable of which was Marc Michael Epstein’s lecture on April 11, 2012, now available online (www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaoAOA5jQm0).
As of July 31st the miniature pages of the Plague of Locusts and Plague of Darkness will be facing the Death of the First Born and the Sack of Egyptian Treasures. Epstein comments that the Rylands Haggadah seems to express a somewhat “more literal attention to the text of scripture,” especially in relation to its model, the “Brother” British Library Haggadah. Overall the Rylands is more bloodthirsty toward the Egyptians with “more frogs, lice, wild beasts, and boils, more hideous grimacing on the part of the afflicted Egyptians; more suffering…” than its “Brother.” In the Plague of Locusts no less than 13 giant locusts swarm around Pharaoh and his advisors, one of whom grimaces in terror. Moses and Aaron are seen on the left side of the illumination calmly pointing to the destruction in the human realm (i.e. Pharaoh and his court) and how in the agricultural realm next to Aaron, i.e. Goshen, the vegetation was unaffected. So too in the panel directly below, the Plague of Darknesscompletely obscures the hapless wide-eyed Egyptians while the Israelites smile and point at their misfortune, basking in the bright light, even under a starlit sky.
On the opposite page the terrible Death of the First Born is depicted in uncompromising brutality. In the middle six panels, dead Egyptians, each mourned by two women, along with dead animals and a chained prisoner, are framed by Pharaoh on the right and Moses and Aaron on the left. Pharaoh seems to point accusingly at the death of innocents along with convicted prisoners whereas Moses and Aaron respond by pointing directly to him (and his hard heart) as the cause of so much agony. Interestingly Epstein comments that the wretched state of the dead prisoner forces us to notice that while the Egyptians (stand-ins for contemporary medieval Christians) were wicked, nonetheless they, “were to be depicted in a properly gracious and graceful manner,” much in the same tone and style as the oppressed and downtrodden Jews. It would seem that neither side was demonized.
I will begin with a disclosure: I am the head of The Israeli Academic Monitor, an organization whose goal is to expose publicly the political activities of those Israeli academics who engage in activities against the state of Israel and against its ability to stand up to the political and security pressures that it faces. These academicians call on institutions and individuals to boycott Israel, to impose sanctions upon it and to withdraw investments from it, while camouflaging and disguising these activities as if they are done in “the academic spirit.” It must be noted that there are, among Israeli academicians, some “righteous” people who call on states and academic institutions of the world to boycott Israeli academic institutions and to impose punishments on those same institutions in which they themselves are employed, and from where they receive their salaries, the source of which is the government of Israel. We, members of The Israeli Academic Monitor, out of concern for Israeli academia in particular and for the state of Israel in general, act within the boundaries of freedom of speech and expression, and publish widely the despicable deeds of these Israeli academicians.
Today I dedicate my article to a matter that has been with us for years, which is the status of the academic institution that was established 30 years ago in the city of Ariel, in Samaria; whether to have it remain as a college or “University Center” (a concept which is not clear to me), or perhaps to raise it to the level of a university. Those who are faithful to the land of Israel support promoting it to become a university, while those who object to Israeli rule in Judea and Samaria – they call it “occupation” – oppose it. Each side of the argument brings economic, budgetary and academic justifications to support its view, but it is clear that the basis for one’s position is primarily political, and that this position dictates which of the justifications are emphasized.
The fact that there is a political argument engenders the perception among the Israeli public that all of the other seven universities are “not political,” and only the institution in Ariel is “political” because it is “in the territories” and therefore its establishment in Ariel has a “political” meaning. My claim is that all of the universities in Israel are political, and moreover, all of the colleges, schools, yeshivas, hospitals, prisons, factories, places of residence, roads, trees – everything that we have established, built, and planted in Israel – everything, but everything, is political. The whole Zionist enterprise is a political project because it is the political and nationalistic manifestation of the desire of the Jewish people to return to its land and to renew within it its national life, its independence and its sovereignty. Everything that we have done here since the students of the Gaon of Vilna arrived in Israel two hundred years ago until today, everything is aimed at renewing our political life as of old, indeed, the whole Zionist enterprise – including universities – has a political, as well as national connotation, and there are also those who see a religious component in this matter, connected in some way to the final redemption.
Jews the world over have joined this great political enterprise of the Jewish people, whether with their bodies or with their wealth. Those who joined bodily came, fought, built, paved, planted, seeded, reaped, learned, taught and did research, all in order to establish the political enterprise of the Jewish people – the State of Israel. Those who joined with their wealth remained in the Diaspora and donated their money to the establishment of schools, hospitals, yeshivas for men, yeshivas for women, colleges and universities, all in order to take part in the political, national and collective endeavor of the people of Israel.
The cornerstone of the first academic institution in Israel was laid exactly 100 years ago. This was the Technion in Haifa. Dr. Paul Natan, was behind the idea to establish “the Technikum” (the original name), enlisted the aid of David Wissotzky (the Tea producer) to donate the required funds, and they established the institution specifically in Israel, and not in the Diaspora, for the same nationalistic and political reason that influenced others to establish other institutions in Israel. Their motivation was to promote the “return to Zion” and the fact that the government of the land was then in the hands of the Muslim Ottoman Empire didn’t bother them. When they founded the first academic institution, their connection was to the Land, not the state, and to establish the life of the people in its land was their top priority.
Daniel Gordis said “no” to the Levy Report in signing on to the far-left “Open Letter” (and the full text is below) released this week which has been fisked a bit here. At Haaretz, rather than his usual Jerusalem Post base, he defends his co-joining the left-of-center American Jews who decided to become very publicly upset at the publication of the Levy Report on Israel’s rights in, and to, Judea and Samaria. He published this piece, Choose hope: Don’t adopt the Levy report.
In short, he thinks that:
To state publicly that what we have in Judea and Samaria is not an occupation might be a legally justifiable claim. But it would also signal that it is time to give up even thinking about how a different reality in the Middle East might be achieved. That, we must not do.
Might be? And why is that “different reality” abhorrent enough for Gordis to join the left-of-center crowd, lend them his name, and that of the Shalem Center? Is the issue that important for him to decide to run with this group of Israeli critics?
Well, we need to review his thinking and so here are some extracts from his defense:
The letter did not argue that Justice Levy’s legal argument was legally incorrect; it also took no stand on settlement issue writ large…The letter simply asserts that if the Prime Minister adopts the Levy Commission report, he will do Israel serious damage.
And how much damage does the letter cause, and I am not arguing that Gordis, et al., do not have the legal right to publish their thinking, but need it have been such a public shaming? Here’s how AP had it in an analysis:
Jewish settlements are at the heart of a 3-year-old deadlock in Mideast peace efforts.
Is that the portrayal that Gordis is comfortable with? He cannot offset that? The “heart”? Not the 90-year old Arab total rejection of Jewish nationalism and a Jewish presence anywhere inEretz-Yisrael?
The letter caused no damage or is it only the damage Netanyahu could possibly cause that is a problem?
He then outlines the damage to Pals. are doing to themselves:
Sadly, Israel has no partner with which to make peace. Today’s Palestinian leadership insists on the refugees’ right of return, something Israel cannot permit if it is to remain a Jewish State. The Palestinians have also rejected Netanyahu’s demand that they recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, something that Israel must insist on if precluding the refugees’ return is to be defensible. Neither of those will change anytime soon.
He skips over a bit of terror, some incitement, the corrupt regime that is the Palestinian Authority vis-a-vis its own people and other aspects of a horrific reality but that is ignored. Given, though, those two problematic demands, what is Israel to do?
…A wise Israeli leadership would do everything in its power to communicate to the world that beyond those two existential issues [Israel as a Jewish state and the no return of refugees - YM], which are not negotiable, Israel will discuss virtually anything. There are matters on which Israel will compromise, and others on which it will not…
What “anything” is “virtual”? What issues can be compromised?
True Arab democracy?
IDF presence, long- or short-term on the Jordan River?
Educational curriculum change?
What about Rabin’s formula? From his October 5,1995 Knesset speech, where he summarized his
…vision of the permanent solution. It will include united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, the country’s security border will be on the River Jordan, there will be no return to the 4 June 1967 lines and new blocs of settlements will be built in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip. He spoke of the coming elections to the Palestinian Council, the IDF’s re-deployment and the creation of three zones in the territories.
Or that isn’t left or liberal enough for Gordis’ fellow-signers?
Israel should not establish itself on principles of law?
…While the Levy Commission insisted that its findings were legal and not political, that distinction would be utterly lost on the international community.
Really? And here we all thought that the most incriminating charge against Israel’s presence beyond the Green Line, what justifies the BDS movement, was the illegality of it all. That charge the world does understand but Israel proving that its presence in not illegal is incomprehensible? “Illegality” subverts Israel’s legitimacy but to disprove that is somehow no good?