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September 30, 2016 / 27 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Shema’

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Ekev: Shema and all that Jazz

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

A close reading of the first paragraph of the Shema and an examination of its context can reveal a great deal that most have likely not noticed. For example, one key is its placement within the book of Devarim, which precedes the second paragraph of the Shema by five chapters (11:13–20). While these two passages cover much the same ground, they are atypical of repetitive biblical passages. Generally, repetitive passages are either right next to each other or separated by many chapters or even whole books. They also usually consist of almost the exact same content. What’s more, because the second passage is repeated in a new context, it is stated for reasons different from those of the first.

Here, however, we have something quite different. For one, the passages are neither immediately adjacent to each other nor far removed from one another. Moreover, the passages, while quite similar in content and meaning, are uniquely stylized: certain phrases in the first passage are omitted in the second, new passages are inserted into the second that did not appear in the first, and grammatical schemes differ.

In addition to the particulars of their specific content, these sections also bookend what others have already identified as the fundamental “mitzva” section of Moshe’s discourse (Devarim 6:4–11:25). The primary theme of “the mitzva” is basic allegiance, and it is quite clear that we are dealing with a distinct thematic section which opens with the first paragraph of the Shema and concludes with the second and is all about the need to be loyal to God. When these elements combine with the fact that the verses between these two passages have much the same substance and style as their “bookends,” we see something quite singular being created. At the very least, the Torah has brought the different pieces together to create a larger thematic section of text.

An objection could be raised that this unit appears to be highly unwieldy and has parts that don’t to fit very well with the general theme. Yet not all patterns and themes work in the same way. In fact, sometimes a certain amount of disorder is itself a part of the art. For those familiar with jazz music, this may ring a bell.

The entire passage (i.e., Devarim 6:7–11:20) actually has some very striking affinities with jazz. For one, a jazz composition begins and returns to a common, unifying theme. Moreover, the final rendition of the theme at the conclusion of the piece is usually presented in a different, somewhat more robust form. The latter is exactly what we find in the second

paragraph of the Shema. Even more helpful is what we find in the middle section, between the bookends. As in jazz, the binding thread is not always easy to follow and sometimes even leads to a complete tangent. Nevertheless, we get constant reminders of it, with variations of the theme’s components finding their way into key parts of the composition, most commonly at points of transition.

Along these lines, the phrase, “the Lord, your God,” which we find in the second verse of the Shema, is found clustered throughout the entire section. Immediately after the first occurrence of “The Lord, your God” comes bechol levavecha u’vechol nafshecha (with all of your heart and with all of your soul). This too is pointedly repeated (10:12) in the middle section, as is the very famous beginning of the section, Shema Yisrael (8:1). Both these last two phrases reappear only once, but given their very uncommon word combinations, it is hard to see their repetition as mere coincidence.

As mentioned, a jazz piece reverts to its main theme at the very end. It does so because the melody that begins and ends the song informs the essence of the piece. The same can be said of our text as well: the central purpose of the repetition at the end, as well as of its various strands that emerge in the middle, is to demarcate the larger unit’s major theme.

Admittedly, there are parts of the “mitzva” section where the main pattern is less clear; the discussion of the golden calf incident immediately comes to mind. But I would suggest that the atypical parts can be likened to jazz riffs. And so when looking at the entire piece, a pattern comes through clearly – one made up of various components that create a very sophisticated thematic unit.

Rabbi Francis Nataf

Jordan Says Law Prevents Jews from Praying on Temple Mount

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Jordan’s State Minister for Media Affairs warned on Monday that Israel’s allowing Jews to pray on the Temple Mount and “allowing extremist settlers to violate the sanctity of Al Aqsa Mosque under the protection of the Israeli police and army, will ignite violence and religious extremism in the region.”

Jordan’s official Petra News Agency reported that the minister, Mohammed Momani, pointed “to the religious importance of Al Aqsa Mosque to 1.7 billion Muslims as it is one of Islam’s three holiest sites and Islam’s first Qiblah.”

No mention was made that the Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site, and the Jordan Times stated, “By law, Jews are not allowed to pray at the site and although non-Muslim visitors are permitted, such high-profile visits by right-wing government figures are very rare and tend to stoke tensions.”

The statement referred to Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who frequently visits the Temple Mount and did so on Sunday, prompting Arabs to riot and throw rocks at policemen.

“Jordan rejects Israeli escalation in Al-Aqsa as well as measures that allow radicals to violate Al-Aqsa under protection of police and occupation forces,” Momani said.

Contrary to the Jordanian report, there is no law barring Jews from praying at the Temple Mount. The Chief Rabbinate, citing Jewish laws, forbids Jews from ascending to the location where the First and Holy Temples once stood. An increasing number of national religious rabbis allow and often encourage Jews to ascend to certain parts of the Temple Mount, after immersing in a mikveh (ritual bath).

The “law” against praying on the Temple Mount is imposed by the Muslim authorities on the Temple Mount, whose a ”custodianship” was granted by Israel to Jordan, the same Jordan that closed all holy sites to Jews and Christians during its occupation of the Old City of Jerusalem and all of Judea and Samaria from 1949 to 1967.

The question remains why the Arabs are so afraid that a Jew will pray on the Temple Mount? The standard answer is that they are afraid that Jews will eventually build a synagogue there. The Arab world loves to be paranoia that the Jews in Israel secretly want to undermine the Al Aqsa mosque and cause its collapse, making way for the building of the Third Temple.

That idea is ridiculous, if for no other reason than 99 percent of the construction workers in Israel are Arabs. Can you see Arabs going to work to build the Third Temple in place of the Al Aqsa mosque?

But there is another reason the Arabs don’t want Jews praying there, or anywhere else for that matter. God might listen to the Jews’ prayers.

The Muslims are big on making themselves heard. The loudspeakers at every mosque in the world, especially in liberal Israel, produce enough noise pollution to put a Madonna concert to shame.

The loudspeakers routinely drown out Jewish prayers at the Patriarchs’ Cave in Hebron and often at the Western Wall. It brings to mind the shouts of the idol worshippers whom the Prophet Elijah challenged to offer sacrifices and bring rain to break a drought.

When the rain did not come, he asked them, “Wha’ happened? Maybe your gods are asleep? Yell a bit louder and wake them up.”

When the idol worshippers gave up, Elijah offered sacrifices, doused the altar with water and prayed to God, Who responded with a holy message – rain.

The Muslim idiots don’t realize that the essence of Jewish prayers are the Shema, recited out loud with the second verse said in a faint whisper that no one except the worshipper and God can hear, and the Silent Prayer, known as the Amidah, which is recited three times day.

God responds to prayers, not noise, and the more noise Jordan makes, the more God is going to hear the whispered prayers of Jews, even those prayers that cannot be said on the Temple Mount because of Islamic paranoia, which is the real incitement to violence.

The video below shows one of those Muslims on the Temple Mount cursing Rabbi Yehuda Glick, who was ushered by policemen off the Temple Mount lest his presence “incite violence.”

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/jordan-says-law-prevents-jews-from-praying-on-temple-mount/2014/03/18/

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