Sunday, July 25, 2010

Between The Sessions

On Friday night Rabbi Nachman Cohen gave a talk about the effect of Rachel and Leah on their sons. What stayed with me most was a surprising aside. Yaakov says to Rochel, "Hatachat Elokim anochi." Rabeinu Bachai says that this was a declarative statement, while the general understanding is that it's a rhetorical question. I wish I was able to take notes - perhaps, if I decide it's appropriate and muster up the courage I'll contact him for his notes. He developed the idea that Leah's major focus was to be loved by her husband. Thus, her early children are all given names that reflect her feeling unloved. And their personalities reflect her mood. They are impulsive and angry, quick to defend honor. Her later children, after she declares that her husband now loves her, have names and personalities that reflect peacefulness and being comfortable in their own skin.

I hope before the day is over to walk around Southbury, Connecticut. It's lovely here and the hotel has maps of walking routes. I've met some nice people and had a good time. I'm not big on going away like this, something I should probably change.

Over Shabbos I met someone who is researching the topic of relevancy and asked me if I had any sources up my sleeve. The mishanh in Avot says that a sign of a sophisticated/wise person is that they respond to first things first and last things last. Rabeinu Yonah explains that one does not need to be very savvy to remember to answer three questions in the same order in which they were presented. Rather he says the sign of a wise person they respond to points in the order which makes most sense, which generally entails reordering the original information.

I believe in mussar and middot. I'm not saying the work is easy and I'm not saying I'm good at it. But I do wonder what man is if not a mentsch. When I attend lectures or prayer services I can't help but have a spiritual radar. Is there sincerity at the core? Gentleness? Humility? The body language of human interactions rises above any spoken words. That's one of the things I've been thinking about at this convention, between the sessions.


Blogger kishke said...

I'm leery of these psychological profiles of our avos & imahos. Shouldn't we preserve some distance, some recognition that they were more than we?

July 25, 2010 at 5:51 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

i hear what you're saying, but there is also a story about humans and lessons to be learned - the names leah gave her sons are unsubtle and it's hard to pass over them. also. i am always curious who said something as much - or more - than simply what the idea was.

rabbi nachman cohen is a very advanced, conservative, serious, frum , brillaiant talmid chachom.

July 25, 2010 at 6:50 PM  
Blogger kishke said...

I think we have to be very careful. It's so easy to slip into saying things that are really not acceptable.

This was not meant as a personal criticism of Rabbi Cohen, who I do not know.

July 25, 2010 at 8:50 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

I agree about the need to be careful. There can't be open hunting season, on the other hand the Torah itself in this case makes clear that Leah felt unloved and then more loved and gave her sons names (shem goreim) that reflected her feelings.

July 25, 2010 at 11:07 PM  
Blogger rr said...

If this is the Rabbi Nachman Cohen who I know very well, he is not conservative, but orthodox! Perhaps there are two?

August 3, 2010 at 12:14 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

He is an Orthodox rabbi. I meant that he is conservative regarding issues like critiquing the Avot.

August 3, 2010 at 11:19 AM  

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