Thursday, February 27, 2014

Some of Today's Torah

Spoke a bit in my Mishmar Avot shiur tonight about Rabi Yochanan ben Zakai and how Hillel could sense when he wasn't there. How he went against most leaders at the time and snuck out to meet with Vespasian and predicted he'd be king and chose Yavneh.  A student asked why he didn't ask for Yerushalayim and the answer I gave was that it would not have worked and this worked better long term to save Judaism and even Yerushalayim in the long run.

I learned at taught something I'd never, to the best of my knowledge, noticed or learned before.  It says that Rabi Yochanan had five students, the Hebrew for this should be "Chamisha talmidim hayu leRabi Yochanan.  Instead it says, "Chamisha talmidim hayu lo leRabi Yochanan.  It adds the words, five students Rabi Yochanan had for him.  The emphasis here is on the connection between Rabi Yochanan and hi sstudents.  They were his, in a deep way, even more-so than the myriad other students he had.  This goes back to the connection that Rabbi Yochana had with his Rebbe, Hillel, that went so deep that Hillel sensed when Rabi Yochanan was not in the room.

Moved on in Chumash.  Did something I find cool about how the holidays mentioned in Re'eh are part of a block of mitzvot that have to do with social justice. How do the holidays at the end of Re'eh fit with this topic? Glad you asked. The dates are not mentioned.  What is emphasized is aliyah leregel and the mitzvah of simcha.  Simcha, however is mentioned in regard to Sukkos and Shavuot, not in regard to Pesach. We, generally, take the mitzvah of rejoicing on the holidays to mean simply that we, alone, rejoice with G-d. However we're told to rejoice with specific people- the ger, yatom, almana, levi.  These are all people who do not own their own land, and thus don't have their own food.  Their tendency would be to not be happy and we're commanded to be responsible and make them happy by sharing what we have with them, and including them in our happiness. Sukkos and Shavuos are the times for harvest of fruit and grain respectively. And they are the time to share what we reap.  So , the chagim, as presented here, fit well with the social justice theme of the mitzvot that preceded them (like Eved Ivri, Maaser, and Shmitah).


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