Friday, October 28, 2011
Reminiscent of the famous aphorism of the Chazon Ish: וואס זיי רופען ליבע... רופען מיר כרת = "What's referred to by them as love we call korais" . Except that in this case even those who normally refer to korais as love would agree that this is criminal/sinful!
בא המבדיל והעמידן על אחת
"Those who cannot tolerate Havdala cannot appreciate Qedusha"
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
I know this is hardly current events anymore and I'd initially planned on posting this in the end of July. But I'm trying to do some housekeeping and finally finish and post some of my drafts.
How degrading and perverse a spectacle it is when Havdala Oblivious human beans (NOT a Typo) begin to consider animals not only their servants and entertainers but their peers and companions.
In only the latest of a series of large posthumous bequests to pets, wildly successful fashion designer Alexander McQueen, who had hung himself, left the equivalent of $82,000 to his dogs.
Presumably this member of the jet set had access to depraved societies upper crust and, no doubt, had many lovers. Still, other than a few family members and servants, he apparently found no redeeming human companionship capable of saving him from self-destruction or worthy of bequeathing his estate to. His dogs weren't just his best friends they were his only friends. How canine must a man make himself to feel that the only ones who truly loved him were his dogs? How simian must a woman feel to share her bed, bath and beyond with a Chimpanzee?
Of the four charities named in the will two were also dedicated to animals; the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and the Blue Cross Animal Welfare Charity. Why leave money to dogs and cats when there are so many suffering boys and girls? I believe that he must have felt that animals are not only humans equals but their superiors, that dogs and cats are more worthy of compassion and kindness than are human beings. If this was the case maybe I am judging him too harshly. Maybe he did have a Havdala Consciousness after all, one in which homo sapiens were separated from and inferior to canines and felines.
While McQueens posthumous pet gift based on a warped assessment of animals may be the most recent it is hardly the largest or the most egregious.
Heiress Leona Helmsley left her dog Trouble, who recently passed away, $12 million (a sum that was later reduced to just $2 million). Heiress Gail Posner did the same, leaving her multimillion-dollar home and trust to her dogs.
British actress Beryl Reid reportedly left her only companions, a few stray cats, her entire $1.8 million estate. Publisher Miles Blackwell is said to have left his hen, Gigoo, over $16 million. Tina and Kate, two collie crosses, were give more than $738,000 by “reclusive spinster” Nora Harwell, according to the Telegraph.
Then there’s Gunther IV, a German Shepherd who inherited about $70 million from his father, Gunther III. He was owned by Countess Karlotta Liebenstein, according to the Daily Mail.But it makes me wonder what synergy of personal trauma and cultural brainwashing convinces a person of such mishigas and folly?
I don't think that I'm going out on a limb here to predict that the day will come when some dysfunctional entertainment star or trust-fund baby wills their money to a houseplant that they are fond of or, at the very least, to some particularly inspirational flower or tree. From there, it's a short hop skip and a jump to leaving your condo to your townhouse or your microwave to your toaster.
בא המבדיל והעמידן על אחת
"Those who cannot tolerate Havdala cannot appreciate Qedusha"
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Before the recently come and gone Yom HaQodosh I spent some time scanning the Meforshim in the Otzar HaTefilos Siddur on Vidui. There, I came across a succinct comment on על חטא שחטאנו לפניך בזלזול הורים ומורים to the effect that this particular sin is the root of ALL sin. (Sorry, no link @ HebrewBooks.org and can't remember which Pirush said it without the sefer handy).
It's pretty easy to understand that if one does not properly esteem temporal authorities and guides who have bestowed much manifest good, guides who are flesh-and-blood-sensory-perceivable, who reprove and offer direct instructions (or at least easily decipherable passive-aggressive instructions) again and again and who are only too happy to connect the dots connecting crime and punishment, then one hardly stands a chance of properly esteeming an unseen and mostly inscrutable G-d whose goodness and kindness are not always readily apparent and who oftentimes leaves no good deed unpunished. In the absence of G-d esteem evil will run rampant. So...I get it.
Still, if improperly relating to ones parents is the sin with the deepest roots it seems to me that improperly relating to ones children is the sin with the broadest branches and the farthest flung ripple effects. Think of it. If I am a bad child to my parents I have hurt two people but probably not dramatically altered their own behavior, lifestyle or Avodas HaShem. OTOH if If I am a bad parent to my children I may have hurt many more than two people immediately and/ or altered their own behavior, lifestyle or Avodas HaShem in the short run. In the long run one has probably damaged their future interpersonal relationships, especially with their own spouses and children, and thus impacted negatively on ALL of ones descendants עד סוף כל הדורות !
I'm not even talking about egregious parenting crimes such as alcoholism or physical, sexual or consistent verbal abuse. In the old days when folks were made of sterner stuff those may have been the entire gamut of parenting crimes. But in our shavkha doros when some overripe bananas have stiffer spines than many human beings, it doesn't take much to have a ruinous effect on ones offsprings psycho-spiritual well-being.
Being a "Do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do" role model or, perhaps worse yet, being a do-as-I-do role model for bad middos and behaviors, is the most ubiquitous of parenting sins. But it is hardly the only one. The catalog of thought, speech and behaviors that one can engage in and negatively impact on the kids form a veritable aleph to taf spectrum. Here are just a few (in no particular order, certainly not alphabetical):
Indulging the kids to the point that they become spoiled, incapable of gratification-deferment and precious.
Over disciplining the kids to the point that they feel deprived and persecuted.
Inconsistent treatment of various siblings or overt favoritism.
Lack of confidence and being high-strung and testy leading to insecurity, nervousness and low self esteem in the children.
Being a lousy provider that can impact everything from the kids feeling impoverished below community norms to the inability to provide them with the education or extra-curricular enrichment that would/ could maximize their human potential.
"Not-getting-it" in terms of communication, peer group and khopping the unique challenges and opportunities of your childrens generation.
Siding too much or too little with the Yeshiva/ Bais Yaakov Rebbeim Teachers and Moros when things are not going smoothly at school.
Mismanaging the shiddukh process due to, among other baggage, trying to live vicariously through the kids.
ועל כולם IMHuO making, in an, ahem, "moment of candor" the one cutting remark that destroys self-esteem and/ or trust forever. This could happen e.g. during such ostensibly "innocent" and routine activities as homework with a seven year old or a pre or post-date debriefing with a 22 year old.
A crusty world-weary gentleman I know once related a deliciously scatological Yiddish aphorism that went : פון איין פארץ ווערט מען נישט דערשטיקט = "One does not get asphyxiated by one episode of flatulence" in other words people are resilient and have the capacity to bounce back from a variety of traumas. Perhaps that was true for "The Greatest Generation" of which said gentleman was a card-carrying member. But for todays generations of parents and children??? I'm not so sure. Especially when the skunk/s doing the spraying is/ are the same one/s who changed our own diapers and with whom with live cheek by jowl for the first two to three formative decades of our lives.
Raising children is the ultimate high-risk high return investment and reciprocating loss of principal is a distinct possibility. It is not for the inflexible, dimwitted nor the faint of heart. Yet the ranks of parents are peopled by many who are inflexible, dimwitted and faint of heart.
This past Yom HaQodosh I shed more tears over the unlisted sin of על חטא שחטאנו לפניך בזלזול בנים ובנות= "for the sin that we sinned before you by degrading our sons and our daughters" than for any of the many listed in the Makhzor, Khayei Odom, Tefilas Zaqa et al. I think that our former First Lady had it right when she said: "If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do well matters very much. "
Monday, October 24, 2011
Well another blessed set of Yomim Tovim have been gained and now it's back to the darkness of the mundane. As I begin my latest descent deeper into the hell of J-Blogging I'm wondering whether or not to start on a downer.
I have to check my drafts and listen to / read about current events for post ideas but the only one that comes to mind immediately was an idea I had for a viduy post before Yom Kippur. If I make a post of this it will be decidedly depressing. Question is: Now that Yom Kippur has come and gone is it עבר זמנה בטלה מצוותה ? What do the three of YOU think?
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
My Problems with Tefilas Zaqah
Like Athletes doing their pre-game stretching Tefilas Zaqah= The Prayer of Innocence/Purity is a beautiful prayer and confessional that warms Jewish Penitents up for Yom HaQadosh. Yet I find it's central passage unsettling and troubling.
Arguably the most vital part of this prayer (it is indicated as such in many Makhzorim) is the passage wherein we forgive all those who have sinned against us interpersonally and pray that G-d intervene so that we find favor in the eyes of all those against whom WE have sinned so that THEY forgive us as well. Vital, because the Day of Atonement's powers are impotent in the face of unsettled interpersonal grudges and gripes even after monetary restitution has been made. Troubling, for the types of forgiveness it includes, excludes and for the motivation that informs it.
The prayer issues a blanket pardon and forgiveness to "all who've sinned against me physically or monetarily (presumably emotionally and spiritually as well although this is nowhere explicated) except money that I intend to sue for and except for one who sinned against me using '(s)he will forgive me anyway' as a rationalization for giving offense."
I understand the exceptions. There is no reason why a person should suffer a monetary loss in order to extend forgiveness, or necessarily, even to gain forgiveness. As for the part about: "except for one who sinned against me using '(s)he will forgive me anyway' as a rationalization" this parallels the limitations HaShem Himself placed on T'shuva for sins between ourselves and Him. As Khaza"l teach us: האומר אחטא ואשוב אחטא ואשוב אין מספיקין בידו לעשות תשובה = "One who says; 'I will sin and repent, sin and repent' Providence arranges that
(s)he lack the time/wherewithal to do T'shuva". In other words we need not be more compassionate or forgiving than G-d Himself. If G-d does not forgive in a particular scenario neither need we.
Or maybe not...The prayer DOES demand that we extend forgiveness to people who have not even apologized. Does HaShem do this? I think not. כל מי שהוא אומר שהקב"ה וותרן הוא יתוותרון בני מעוהי, אלא. מאריך רוחיה וגבי דיליה= "Anyone who says that the Holy Blessed One is a 'forfeit-er' has, in fact , forfeited his own viscera. Rather He is slow to anger (lit: lengthens His spirit) but collects his debts" . In other words though G-d's patience and capacity to forgive is infinite where there is no T'shuva on the part of the sinner there is no "forgiveness". Why must we then, as it were, be holier and more forgiving than G-d?
Similarly the passage regarding forgiving Lashon Hara speakers that says "or who has gossiped about me or even slandered me" implies a human capacity for forgiveness that exceeds the Divine. Because slander AKA מוציא שם רע =untrue malicious gossip in interpersonal sins correlates to חלול השם=desecrating HaShems name in the category of בין אדם למקום= sins between man and G-d . And our Sages taught that such sins cannot be forgiven through T'shuva, The Day of Atonement or even suffering, only the proverbial "Day of Death" can atone for the sin of defamation of HaShems Name. Why then must we be more forgiving than HaShem especially, at the risk of being redundant, in light of the fact that those who defamed us haven't even owned to their offenses or begged our pardon?
Finally I'm unsettled by the overt, self-serving quid -pro-quo. Let's face it. Tefilas Zaqah is a shortcut. The poskim have provided us with "how-to"-techniques and the limits of our obligations in asking forgiveness from those whom we've sinned against. The problem is not that we lack the ways and means for interpersonal T'shuva but that we lack the courage and ego-abnegation necessary to employ those ways and means. And so we take the cowards way out. Instead of investing the time for introspection to discern our interpersonal sins and then mustering the courage required to say to another "I wronged you" we weep under our Talesim or into our hankies for a few minutes before Kol Nidre and hope and pray for Divine intervention. And, in truth, we could really care less about the atonement for those who've wronged US. It's OUR atonement for having wronged OTHERS that we are after*.
Contemporary Kharedism has been criticized in some quarters , sometimes accurately, for it's proclivity for "horsetrading" with G-d, especially vis-a-vis Segulos. The trend today seems to be more and more towards things like: "If I say this many kapitlakh of Tehilim, read the Qetores from a Q'laf, contribute to Chai Rotel Mashkeh, say Perek Shira, visit Amuqa et al, then HaShem will do X,Y,Z for me." I hate to say it but this famous and heartrending passage may be the grandaddy of all Divine "hondeling": If I just say that I forgive others I will secure for myself the grandest of prizes...forgiveness.
Have you had YOUR Qedusha-Havdala today??? Hmm???
*ADDENDUM @ 5:23 EST : I've often wondered about the rule of our sages : המתפלל בעד חברו והוא צריך לאותו דבר...הוא נענה תחילה ="One who prays on another's behalf and shares the same need will be answered (i.e. G-d will fulfill his need) first". Does this work under all circumstances or only when it is not self-conscious. By this I mean does it only work if the petitioner on behalf of the other is unaware of the rule or unaware of the shared need e.g. Ruven prays that G-d should cure Shimon of his cancer and, t the time, Ruven has undiagnosed cancer or the very smallest of unnoticed tumors. Because if the one praying on behalf anf another IS aware of both his own similar need and the rule can it really be said that one is praying on behalf of another??? It seems to me that he is, somewhat cynically , praying on his own behalf with hopes for even speedier positive results. Similarly in Tefilas Zaqah are we really forgiving others at all or merely trying to "manipulate" kavayokhol G-d, into having THEM forgive US.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
"It was the worst of fasts...it was the best of fasts. "
Yom HaKippurim (henceforth YK) and Tisha B'Av (henceforth 9Av) share much in common and yet are decidedly different from one another. Both fast days are unique and separate from all other Jewish fast days in terms of length (sundown to star-sighting) and all 5 inuyim (ascetic abstinences) vs. only eating and drinking, being prohibited. Both have long, some might say excruciatingly long, prayer services. Both feature a prominent piyut describing the ten holy martyrs. YK is the culmination of a long 40 day period that begins with Rosh Khodesh Elul and 9Av is the nadir of a three week period that begins with the 17th of Tamuz. As such both have dots connecting them to the sin of the Golden Calf. Both are followed by joyous days on the 15th of their respective months. Both concentrate on bein ahdahm l'khaveiro =interpersonal, rather than ritual, sins (YK to apologize and make amends 9Av as a cause for the tragedies). Of more recent vintage, both have had Holocaust passages inserted into the liturgy.
And yet they are sooooooooo different.
YK- standing is prominent. Poskim bring a minhag to stand all of ones waking hours on YK. It's all part of the "be angelic" theme of the day.
9Av-sitting , as in sitting shiva, is the order of the day.
I find it interesting that both positions preclude movement.
9Av-we are forlorn, miserable and somewhat dehumanized
YK-we are angelic. something more than human
YK- tears of regret but with an emphasis on the future.
9Av-tears of mourning with an obsession over the past.
9Av-the Temple is destroyed, we are exiled from Israel. We lose access to sanctified space.
YK- The Kohen Gadol=High Priest our שליח צבור= Communal Agent/representative accesses the inner sanctum...the most consecrated place on earth
YK- we are close to G-d לפני ה' תטהרו and to one another (the ketores is ground even finer for YK and is symbolic of a "better mix" of the disparate elements of the Jewish People per Eretz Tzvi)
9Av-we are alienated from one another and expelled from G-d's kavayokhol home.
9Av-We wail, we contemplate our navels we??? What are kinnos anyways? Much more akin to poetry readings (dark depressing poetry, but poetry readings nonetheless) than to conventional prayer.
YK- We pray...and how. Think Ne-ilah. Per the Rambam this may just as easily be called the last of the עשרת ימי תפלה as it is called the last of the עשרת ימי תשובה
YK- The day the שטן=D.A. of the heavenly Court is off duty
9Av- The day the שטן triumphs...totally
9Av -has an overt agenda of mourning but a covert yearning for Teshuva. As megilas eikah concludes: כא הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ יְהוָה אֵלֶיךָ ונשוב (וְנָשׁוּבָה), חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם= "Turn Thou us unto Thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old". Also per the Rambam in Hilkhos Ta'anis...ALL fast days are Teshuva days
YK- is overtly about Teshuva yet has a strong subtext of mourning, loss and exile e.g. the 10 martyrs, Yizkor ומפני חטאתנו and וקרב פזורנו
I don't know what גידין are. I have seen the word translated variously as sinews, cartilage and nerve endings. Where is Rav Aryeh Kaplan z"l when you need him? In any event It is no accident that our tradition teaches that the human body comprises 365 גידין and that the Solar Year comprises 365 days. Each day thus corresponding to another sinew and per the S'fas Emes...
YK- corresponds to the גיד המילה=the mitzvah of circumcision and it's covenant
9Av- corresponds to the גיד הנשה= Judaisms answer to an Achilles heel
9Av- features the flimsiest of Jewish prayer books. Until very recently when all the goldmine-for-the-publisher annotated editions arrived the 9Av Eikhah -Kinnos were traditionally printed as cover-less paperbacks. I've seen in many seforim that there was a common custom among חסידים ואנשי מעשה to deposit their kinnos in the shaimos bin on their way out of Shul Motzi 9Av.
YK- features the thickest, most venerated and treasured of Jewish prayer books
9Av- we shed tears of pain and cry over the wages of sin
YK- we shed tears of remorse and cry over our sins themselves which paradoxically brings us back to yet another common root for both the best and worst of fast days. After all as Elbert Hubbard said “We are punished by our sins, not for them.” Or as our sages put it a millennium or so earlier ושכר עבירה...עבירה .
I hope that this will serve both as something to provoke though before and on the fast Day and as a useful primer in Havdala 101. before we can discern subcutaneous differences it is essential to establish many layers of superficial similarity. I wish all of K'lal Yisrael an easy fast.
magically cogitated by The Bray of Fundie