Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Parshas Emor (5776)

Who Was the Blasphemer?

The Torah writes (Leviticus 24:10-12):
And the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and the son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp. And the son of the Israelitish woman blasphemed the Name, and cursed; and they brought him unto Moses. And his mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. And they put him in ward, that it might be declared unto them at the mouth of the LORD.
Rashi writes (ibid):
THE SON OF AN EGYPTIAN MAN — It was the Egyptian whom Moses had killed ... AMONG THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL — This teaches us that he had become a proselyte
Rashi above (Exodus 2:11) explains further:

AN EGYPTIAN MAN — This was one of the taskmasters appointed over the Israelite officers and he used to rouse them from their beds at cock-crow that they might proceed to their work ...  SMITING A HEBREW MAN — beating and flogging him. The latter was the husband of Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri (see Leviticus 24:11), and the Egyptian taskmaster had set his fancy upon her. During the night he compelled him (her husband) to rise and made him leave the house. He, however, returned, entered the house and forced his attentions upon the woman, she believing it was her husband. The man returned and became aware of what had happened, and when the Egyptian perceived that he was aware of it he beat him and flogged him the whole day long
The Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 1:28) explains that she was the wife of Dathan

The Zohar (Vayikra 106a) also states that the blasphemer was either fighting with another son of Dathan from a different wife, for Dathan divorced Shelomith or he was fighting with Dathan himself

However, Pirkey deRabbi Eliezer (48:1) cites another opinion:
Bedijah, the grandson of Dan, married a wife from his tribe, Shelomith, daughter of Dibri,' and in that night the taskmasters of Pharaoh came to her, for they slew him and came to her, and she conceived and bare a son.
[There are also some opinions that he was the son of an Egyptian convert, whose name isn't known]

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Parshas Kedoshim 5776

What is Molech?

The Torah writes (Leviticus 20:1-2):
And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: Moreover, thou shalt say to the children of Israel: Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones.
Rashi explains (above 18:21):
This was an idol the name of which was "Molech", and this was the manner in which it was worshipped: that he (the father) handed his child over to the priests of the idol. These lit two large pyres one opposite the other and made the child to pass on foot between the two pyres (based on Sanhedrin 64)
Ibn Ezra (ibid) based on the Talmud adds:
And our Rabbis taught that this includes anything [i.e. any idol] that one makes a king over him
Rashi (Kings II 23:10) explains the process further:
the Tofeth: This was the Molech. Since priests would bang on drums so that the father would not hear the groans of the child when he would be burned by the hands of the pagan image, Molech, they called it Topheth. 
(other commentaries ibid say that the child was burned between the two sets of fires and not the hands of the idol, see also Rashi on Jeremiah 7:31 that elaborates that they placed the child in the hands of the idol which were heated up)

Sefer HaChinuch (208) explains a disagreement as to what the exact worship of Molech was:
Rashi and Rambam learn that they did not burn the child only that the worship of this idol was to pass the child in front of it, and once the child has passed the parents are liable. However, the Ramban learns that they would pass the child into the fire until his/her soul left [and he/she died]
Ibn Ezra (ibid) cites a similar opinion:
And some say that they would pass the child through the fire, and some children lived and some died
Ramban (ibid) cites opinions connecting this with other idols in Tanach:
It is an idol named "Molech" and it is mentioned by name for it was well known in Egypt and thus known to them, and Rabbi Abraham says that this was probably "Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon" (Kings II 23:13) and "then did Solomon build a high place for Chemosh the detestation of Moab, in the mount that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestation of the children of Ammon" (Kings I 11:7) and it was also known to them
(see also our earlier post)

However, the Talmud cites another opinion that Molech was not an idol - as explained by Rashi (ibid):
For Molech specifically was mentioned in the verse ... and not because it is an idol only because it is a decree (חוק) for them and the Torah punishes this decree with stoning
 Sforno (ibid) explains the reasoning behind this:
the difference between offering sacrifices to the Moloch and to G’d respectively is that to G’d only animals are sacrificed, whereas to the deity known as Moloch, human beings, specifically one’s son, is sacrificed. This would indicate that the worshipper of the Moloch considers him as more powerful than G’d, for why else would he sacrifice his dearest possession, his son, to him and not to G’d?

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Parshas Acharei Mos (5776)

What is Azazel?

The Torah writes (Leviticus 16:8):
And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for Azazel.
Rashi (ibid) explains (based on the Talmud Yoma 67b):
עזאזל AZAZEL — (The word is taken to be a compound of עזז "to be strong" and אל "mighty"). It was a precipitous and flinty rock — a towering peak, for it is said (v. 22) "[and the goat shall bear upon it their iniquities into] an גזר) "ארץ גזרה means to cut) — into a craggy land (Yoma 67b).
(see also Ibn Ezra ibid that explains that this refers to a name of a mountain, and it was a mountain near Mt. Sinai)

Daas Zkenim (ibid) explains this is referring to the Satanic forces:
גורל אחד לה' וגורל אחד לעזאזל, “one lot for the Lord and one lot for Azazel.” Ibn Ezra, [at the conclusion of his commentary on this verse, Ed.], writes that when we get to thirty three, we will be able to understand the meaning of this procedure. [At the beginning of his commentary, he had already hinted that there is a mystical element, kabbalah, in all this. Ed.] What he meant was that when we count the next thirty three verses in the Torah and we get to Leviticus 17:7 the Torah will explain that the procedure described here is meant to teach us not to sacrifice to Satanic forces in the universe anymore. These Satanic forces are symbolised by the scapegoat. Just as the bird released into the air by the priest performing the ritual of the person afflicted with tzoraat is perceived as taking away his former sins, so the scapegoat is supposed to do this on behalf of the whole Jewish nation on the day of Atonement. Ibn Ezra understands the word עזאזל as a combination of two words, similar to גלעד in Genesis 31:47 or to בנימין in Genesis 35:18 or ראובן in Genesis 29:32 and many others. Whereas the first male goat is offered to the Lord as a burnt offering, the second one is symbolically tendered of the Satanic forces, the complete destruction of that animal pointing at the uselessness of idolatry The two words לעז אזל, “it went to waste, to destruction ” symbolise this concept.
Shadal (ibid) explains in a similar fashion:
It seems that this used to be a name of an evil god - Satan ... and for those who believe in the oneness of G-d do not believe in the existence of an evil god, this simply refers to complete evil, similar to the way today we say "Satan" to talk about a great evil and destruction, and this goat was sent to its destruction in the desert for it died from hunger ... however after the land was settled and there was not enough wilderness left it was then necessary to pus hthe goat off a cliff so it does not wonder into another city
Kli Yakar (ibid):
It seems that these two goats were similar to the two goats that Jacob made for Isaac, and one was made into good foods that he loved and that is the portion of Samael...
Yalkut Shemoni (44:1) explains that this refers to angels:
[At the time of the Flood] two angels stood up and said in front of G-d ... gives us permission to go down and walk among mortals and see how we will sanctify your name. G-d told them to descend and they sinned with the daughters of men ... Shamchazai repented ... but Azael did not repent ... and therefore the Jews sacrifice sacrifices on the Days of Atonement - one to G-d to atone for the Jewish people, and one to Azazel
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (The Living Torah ibid) cites other opinions:
... others say that azazel means 'to be sent away' (Septuagint), or 'to carry away sins' (Symachus; Vulgate) ... Some say that Azazel represents the forces of nature (Hirsch)

Where Did the Sons of Aaron Die?

The Torah writes (Lev. 16:1):
And the LORD spoke unto Moses, after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the LORD, and died;
Sifra / Toras Kohanim (Shemini, Milum 35) writes:
Rabbi Eliezer said: they did not die but outside, in a place Levites are permitted to enter as it said: "they drew near and carried them by their tunics". If so, why does it say "they died in front of G-d"? An angel obstructed them, and pushed them out, and they went out. Rabbi Akiva said: they died inside as it says "and they died in front of G-d". If so, why does it say "they drew near and carried them by their tunics"? - to teach us that they took hooks of iron and dragged them out.

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