UnderGround Forums
 

HolyGround >> The Etherial and the Temporal


4/1/10 1:12 PM
Ignore | Quote | Vote Down | Vote Up
770mdm
14 The total sum of your votes up and votes down Send Private Message Add Comment To Profile

Edited: 04/02/10 11:29 AM
Member Since: 7/24/08
Posts: 1287
 
Rabbi Ian Shaffer
The 10th chapter of Tractate Pesachim (recently covered in the Daf Yomi (page of Talmud a day) cycle) contains the famous topic of ‘ein Kiddush ela bemakom seudah’ ( meaning that the prayer to sanctify the holy day such as Shabbat or Yomtov can only be recited where one eats one’s meal). The Talmud doesn’t seem to give a rationale for this law. My thesis is that this law is part of a much wider world view that Judaism has regarding the material world around us. This brief essay will begin by looking at the book of Shir Hashirim, The Song of Songs, of King Solomon and the way it has been handled by some Rabbis of the late 20th Century.

Approximately 30 years ago the Artscroll publishers brought out their first books, which included the series of megillot, which were translated and explained in beautiful detail according to Rabbinic tradition. The discomfort that I had concerning the Artscroll Shir Hashirim was with the editorial decision to present Shir Hashirim only as a ‘Nimshal’, an allegory of the love between God and the Jewish people. As a consequence, it was decided to ignore almost totally the ‘Mashal’, which is the actual love story itself and override it with deep and holy Rabbinic interpretations, as quoted by the Artscroll commentators. After reflection I truly believe that this decision was not correct and actually does a disservice to their reading public. I will explain why.

It is clear to me that it has been felt by many that the erotic/love content of the mashal of Shir Hashirim is not appropiate for the non-Hebrew speaking Jewish reading public to be subjected to. The very sensual images presented by Shlomo are possibly too explicit for the Artscroll ‘reader’ and it is here that the problem lies. The Rambam in the 10th chapter of the laws of Teshuva writes about the incredibly difficult Mitzva of Ahavat Hashem’-loving God’. How can one love Someone or Something which one cannot see? Rambam, basing himself on Shir Hashirim mashal, answers the problem by suggesting that we take the example of the love between husband and wife and use that as a guide on how to feel towards God in terms of the mitzvah of ‘loving God’. The Rambam clearly understands that as human beings we are unable to relate to anything spiritual unless we approach it from the physical world. This becomes the means to understand a deeper spiritual cause and such is the way to perceive the very deep idea of loving God. It is only through the temporal that we can remotely come close to appreciating the spiritual dimension in this world.

Interestingly, as an aside, this is the reason why, according to Rabbinic tradition, Yaakov recited the Shema when he met up with Yoseph after 22 years. At that moment he felt such love for his son that it became the vehicle to express his feelings about loving God, especially in this moment of being reunited with his son after such a long time. He took the ‘physical’ feeling and made it spiritual. So too with the mitzvah of loving God and even more so with the whole understanding of the book of Shir Hashirim.

Shlomo Hamelech realized that man cannot easily connect to God on a deep spiritual plane and he needs a vehicle to achieve such closeness. This can only be through the medium of the physical world, which we truly appreciate as human beings. The love story of the Song of Songs is crucial for us to have any chance of connecting to God and it is its ‘earthiness’ and eroticism that we can relate to as human beings. This essence of the book must not be ignored. Rather, it must be read and almost emphasized, so that our feelings are affected and we can then direct them toward the deeper spiritual goal of loving and respecting God.

Now we can understand that the idea of ‘ein Kiddush ela bemakom seudah’ is that the deepest level of holiness on a Shabbat or Yom Tov can only be achieved through the mundane act of eating. When we feel satisfied from the food we eat, then we can feel closer to the deeper ideas of Kiddush, which relate to Godly matters and are on a totally spiritual plane. The Torah does not shy away from using the most explicit imagery for this cause and if we ignore it I believe we are missing the core of the whole book and its desired effect, which is to bring us closer to God in our daily lives. Many great Rabbis would take each mouthful of food on Shabbat and eat it after declaring that it is being eaten for ‘the sake of the holy Sabbath’. This is true living Judaism, seeing the material world as a means to an end, but not denigrating the material side of life in the process.

When we read of David and his son Shlomo, we are told that there is a fundamental difference of approach in the way they serve God. Shlomo is the extravagant person who can offer 1000 animals as one sacrifice. His whole lifestyle is opulent but behind it is the desire to become closer to God in the process. This is called in kabbalistic terms ‘Itaruta Diletata’, when the inspiration for the elevation to God comes from ‘below’, that is, from the basic material world around us. David, on the other hand, achieves great closeness to God (known as ‘Itaruta Dile’ela’- inspiration from above) without the need for material help. He is the writer of Psalms and achieves incredible heights of holiness without all the physical trappings which characterize Shlomo’s worship of God..

We can now explain and appreciate a fundamental aspect of Jewish life. We are more likely to relate to Shlomo’s way of serving God than to David’s, which was only reserved as such for the very holy members of our nation. Our Kiddush requires a meal to be effective, and we hope that through this meal of food we can achieve the same heights that David could grasp and put into his incredible collection of praises and poems known as Tehillim. The challenge for us is always to find ways to elevate the physical and not become a slave to it. This approach provides a true way to connect to God, even through the most mundane of human activities. 
4/1/10 4:42 PM
Ignore | Quote | Vote Down | Vote Up
Robert Wynne
87 The total sum of your votes up and votes down Send Private Message Add Comment To Profile

Edited: 04/02/10 1:59 PM
Member Since: 1/1/01
Posts: 5481
..

 
4/1/10 4:44 PM
Ignore | Quote | Vote Down | Vote Up
Robert Wynne
87 The total sum of your votes up and votes down Send Private Message Add Comment To Profile

Edited: 04/02/10 1:59 PM
Member Since: 1/1/01
Posts: 5482

4/2/10 7:49 AM
Ignore | Quote | Vote Down | Vote Up
Robert Wynne
87 The total sum of your votes up and votes down Send Private Message Add Comment To Profile

Member Since: 1/1/01
Posts: 5489
 ?
4/2/10 10:42 AM
Ignore | Quote | Vote Down | Vote Up
770mdm
14 The total sum of your votes up and votes down Send Private Message Add Comment To Profile

Edited: 04/02/10 11:46 AM
Member Since: 7/24/08
Posts: 1290
I cut and paste because I feel the Jewish message is lost out there.  I was having an impromptu conversation with my H.R. rep about Good Friday and her normal termenology was "As you know" and also things like "like everybody does".  She knew I was Jewish but couldn't understand I didn't "know" and I don't "do" as she does.  There is an ingrained thought pattern in non-Jewish minds that what they do and understand is the right way and that the Jewish message is meaningless because they don't know it.  So, I seek out responsa that would legitimize Judaism and their responsa's are better then mine.  This instance I cut and pasted it in for the sheer beauty of the idea and the fact it is a Jewish idea. 

I know its wrong to a degree to do this and I do post my own thoughts often.  I'm at work and sometimes my cut and paste does't capture everything.  I am somewhat embarrased that the Rabbi's name wasn't captured.  I knew I should have went back and check the post and put in the Rabbi's name if I saw it wasn't there.  Because I'm at work my time is either interupted and I have to attend to something and sometimes I have time to write, like right now. 

However, if I were trying to publish something I would give credit, I'm not a plagerist.  There is a Jewish notion that once you've learned something you CAN pass it along as if were your own.  I did that in my Muay Thai classes I taught.  I literally copied my instructors until I could come up with my own classes.  It taught me a great great deal about teaching.  So I don't have too much of a problem cutting and pasting stuff. 

I do believe that the Rabbi's might not be too concerned with it.  You know what?  I'll ask a Rav and post back what he says.  I'll try and post the question and his response.  That could be interesting yes?

What did you think of the article?  
4/2/10 11:03 AM
Ignore | Quote | Vote Down | Vote Up
Robert Wynne
87 The total sum of your votes up and votes down Send Private Message Add Comment To Profile

Member Since: 1/1/01
Posts: 5497
 loved the article...the thoughts are one that after i had given it thought, i found i could totally agree with.
4/2/10 11:36 AM
Ignore | Quote | Vote Down | Vote Up
770mdm
14 The total sum of your votes up and votes down Send Private Message Add Comment To Profile

Edited: 04/02/10 2:01 PM
Member Since: 7/24/08
Posts: 1293
I know you’re busy but I have a question about blogging on the internet.  I’ve searched your site regarding blogging but I think my question is somewhat different.  I frequent a multi-religious blogsite where I post a lot entries and responses.  I think there are Jews there that read more then post but as far as I can tell I am the only practicing Orthodox Jew there, maybe one more but I’m not sure. 
 
Anyway there is an overwhelming Christian presence and my feeling is there is no real Jewish voice there except for me.  I have not been to Yeshivah but cull a lot of information from your site and others to promote a Jewish voice.  This all being the case I have not always given credit to every essayist or Rabbi and even sometimes echoed some of their work off as my own voice, very infrequently and sometimes inadvertently.  Recently I copied and pasted The Etherial and the Temporal but didn’t credit Rabbi Ian Shaffer.  This was inadvertent but I was called on it and have fixed the problem.
 
I do read blogs during downtimes at work and my employer’s seem to be pretty liberal about my toggling back and forth between work screens and internet screens.  But my time is limited and I cannot formulate all of my own answers and not nearly as coherently as Rabbi Sacks or yourself or whomever so I’ve taken certain liberties.  I have gotten my points across but the bloggers who do seem to have the time to formulate their own perspectives are a little upset.  My response was that I don’t have the time all the time and as long as I’m voicing a Jewish message in a sea of non-Jewish voices that these Rabbi’s might not mind so much.  For the most part I do credit them but like I said not always.  I said I’d post my question and also the response because I think other people do this too and it would just benefit the forum.  But for my own education what do you make of this?  Am I allowed to take these liberties or is this wrong. 
 
Any help would be greatly appreciated. 

Robert:  Thoughts on my question before I send it? 
  
4/2/10 2:04 PM
Ignore | Quote | Vote Down | Vote Up
770mdm
14 The total sum of your votes up and votes down Send Private Message Add Comment To Profile

Member Since: 7/24/08
Posts: 1296
The Rabbi wrote, 
I'm not sure I understand your question. Is it whether it is improper to fail to cite your sources when commenting on blogs? My understanding of the standards is that if you use your own words then it's OK but if you are copying and pasting then you should include a link to the source.

Greetings Rabbi,
It does answer my question. I thought that using my own language when condensing a longer work wouldn’t need a link because of my re-arrangement. I wouldn’t change the tone or message but I’d bullet point, so to speak, to get my point across. However, I will make sure to either post a link to my source or credit the author of an idea.  Or I’ll note a particular author’s ideas are overwhelmingly present over my own because of how well that author elucidated or articulated a theme or point… 
Have a wonderful Pesach Rabbi and Good Shabbos-
4/7/10 2:42 PM
Ignore | Quote | Vote Down | Vote Up
770mdm
14 The total sum of your votes up and votes down Send Private Message Add Comment To Profile

Member Since: 7/24/08
Posts: 1299

Passover has concluded for this year and I got a response from my personal Rav about the copying and paste of other works into a blog:

Write a disclaimer on each NEW post for originality. State that you do not have the time to be exact and want no credit. On the other hand, because of this lack of tiime you may misquote (because of lack of understanding) and that would be worse. So, say that if it is 100% coredct, you probably got it from otehrs. If in  error then you are to blame. Either way, you are doing your best.

 They haave a story of a greta Rabbi whose students were atealing his ideas. When asked he said "better that they say my words in their name then their words in mine."
 
Don't worry. It is not serious. No one will accuse anyone on a blog as being an original theologian. Just as I said, state up front your sincerity and lack of time.

Reply Post

You must log in to post a reply. Click here to login.