Thursday, July 30, 2009

תשעה באב - מעשה דבן אבקולס

OK, this actually does have what to do with Tish'a B'av...

Well, I was able to make it to a Moroccan synagogue last night (not that I usually say “synagogue” instead of “shul”. It’s just that I try to keep those accursed yiddishisms out of the purity of this blog), unlike last year in the meat plant where the minority Israeli-Ashkenazim seemed to take over the kinot situation. Honestly I think Moroccans have too much fun with the kinot (as they’re recited melodically). I’m actually joking; melodically is much better. There is one night kinah that I find touching even, if it’s sung correctly, and that is, of course, “אליכם עדה קדושה”. The contrast of joy and sorrow through the usage of black humor has always had me more captivated than most of the other night kinot (though there are some other really good ones)

In regards to Eicha, of course I notice new things every time I hear it. This year I concentrated on its unusual theology. Anyone who says that the G-d of the Tanach is not one of "fire and brimstones" obviously hasn’t read the Tanach. Though He’s far from being an "angry G-d" (I don’t know who formulated that usage, but it’s obviously quite heretical as far as “we’re” concerned). He obviously does give people a chance—chance after chance in fact—but He’s pretty adamant when He puts His foot down. As it says in chapter 3 (verse 8), “even when I call out or cry for help, He shuts out my prayer”, and then in verse 10, “like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding”. This is from the NIV (New International Version translation), but the Hebrew is simply He “is” a bear and “is” a lion, something which is very unusual to say about G-d. Usually we say He’s “Great, Powerful and Awesome" (in the “shmone esre”), and now He’s “a bear waiting to ambush” and attack us, and “a lion, hiding in the shadows” waiting to trounce upon us (it also says in the first chapter that G-d has become as “an enemy”). So, it’s not like He’s the bad guy, but there is a limit to His patience, there is a limit to how much you can do before you can’t do t'shuva anymore. Or, you can do t'shuva, but the punishment will not be recalled. Truthfully this does border on the whole "does the “old testament” believe in an afterlife” discussion, but even without that it’s understandable.

One other thing I wanted to mention was the "Agadot of the destruction" in (Masechet) Gitin: usually when we attend lectures on Tish’a B’av the message and moral we’re supposed to be learning from these stories seems pretty unified, though when you read the Agadot yourself you see that they can be, and in fact are, interpreted to have a great many, differing, morals. Take for example the very first related passage on 55b, the “story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza”. In rabbinic circles it is clear that the only moral of the story is to relate how unfounded animosity towards people does not lead to anything positive. Yet not only is that moral not stated in the text, it is highly disputed even among rabbinic authorities. To start with, it is disputed who is really the “source” of evil in this story, is it the householder who refused to let bar Kamtza stay, is it Bar Kamtza who let his own degradation lead him to betray his nation, or the rabbis who said nothing. Yet these three are only the “common” culprits.

A much more likely culprit is of course rabbi Zachariah ben Avkulas, who is guilty for his “religious fundamentalism” either for not having Bar kamtza killed, or for not letting the emperors’ sacrifice ascend the alter, to the extent that rabbi Yochanan ben Zacai himself said about him that he singlehandedly “destroyed our house, burned our sanctuary and exiled us from our land”. So, as far as I’m concerned, rabbi Zachariah ben Avkulas is the culprit, but not him per-se, but his fundamentalism. The true leader of the Jews, rabbi Yochanan, was not only not a fundamentalist in the sense that rabbi Zachariah was, but he was also a “member of the peace party” (so to speak, i.e. he didn’t believe a war with the Romans would end very well). his is especially true considering the interpretation Avigdor miller followed, which holds that there was an extremely specific reason the householder and the rabbis wanted Bar Kamtza out; because he otherwise had a connection with the Romans, and the party itself was not a “party” at all but rather an excuse to gather and secretly discuss the proper course of action in regard to the Romans.

I have more to say, for example about the status of Jews in reference to political leadership, but that would already be burdensome for me to write, and for it to be read.


inkstainedhands said...

"and for it to be read." -- I did not know you ran your blog based on your readers' preferences.

I tagged you here.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Ha-ha. Well, I was considering my previous post and how I barely have the patience to go through it, ..and how I don’t have the patience to go through posts of a similar length in other peoples blogs..

…so, it’s not about conforming to the wishes of philistines, ..but it’s about having posts that are more or less readable to the average person…