Posts Tagged ‘adultery’

Once again I offer a new, narrative presentation of the 3rd chapter of the book of Jeremiah, incorporating classic commentaries into the text. The color coding is as follows: 





My own words (for clarity)

Please enjoy, comment and share. And without further ado:

Jeremiah continued speaking in the name of HaShem. (1) “I could say you are no longer worthy of me, for if a man sends away his wife, and she goes from him and becomes the wife of another man, will the first husband return to her again? Behold, the land would surely be corrupted by such an act! And you have been unfaithful with many lovers! Nevertheless, return to Me! (2) Lift up your eyes upon the high places and see! Where have you not lied down? Upon the ways you have sat, ready for your lovers, like an Arab in the wilderness, and you have corrupted the land with your unfaithfulness and your evil. (3) The early rains have been held back, and the latter rains did not occur, yet you have had the brazenness of an unfaithful woman, you have refused to be ashamed. (4) If only from this moment you would repent of your wickedness and call to Me, ‘My Father, You are the Teacher of my youth!’ (5) Would your Lord bear against you forever that which you sinned toward Him? Would He hold onto it for eternity? He would not hold onto it! Behold, you have declared, ‘We will not come to You again,’ and that evil you will perform, paying no mind to repentance, and you will succeed in rebelling absolutely.

(6) In the days of King Josiah, HaShem commanded Jeremiah to bring back the Ten Tribes of Israel. A portion of them returned in the 18th year of Josiah (Rashi, v. 12). HaShem said to Jeremiah, “Did you see what the wayward Ten Tribes of Israel did? They would go up on every high mountain, and under every fresh tree and act unfaithfully to Me there, serving idols. (7) And I said through My prophets Amos and Hoshea son of Be’eri and others, after she (Israel) had done all this, ‘Return to Me!’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw that Israel was exiled, but Judah did not learn their lesson. (8) And I saw that Judah saw everything that happened because wayward Israel was unfaithful, that I sent Israel away, and I gave to Israel her document of divorce, but treacherous Judah, Israel’s sister, did not fear that I would send her away also, and did not consider repentance, rather, Judah went and acted unfaithfully also. (9) Because her unfaithfulness was light in her eyes, the land became corrupt; in her unfaithfulness she served stone and wood. (10) And even with all this, having seen the downfall and punishment of Israel, her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, rather falsely.” The generation of Josiah showed themselves to be righteous while they were actually wicked. They made images of idols on the insides of their doorways, half on one side and half on the other, so that when those seeking to eliminate idolatry would inspect the homes, the door would be open and the images were not recognizable.

(11) HaShem said to Jeremiah, “Wayward Israel has exonerated herself of judgment, for she did not have from whom to learn, as opposed to treacherous Judah. (12) Go and call out these words to the north, to the places where Israel was exiled, to Assyria, and say, ‘Return O Wayward Israel! I will not send my wrath against you, because I am abundant in kindness. I will not hold your sins against you forever. (See v. 6 above.) (13) But know your sin, for you rebelled against HaShem your God, and you were unfaithful to HaShem, spreading your legs for strangers under every fresh tree, and you did not listen to My voice. (14) Return, O rebellious sons! For I have been your master, and you have therefore been called by My name, and for you to remain among the nations takes away from My honor. Therefore, I will take you out of exile, even though you remain one in a city of gentiles, or two among an entire gentile nation, and I will bring you to Zion. (15) I will give you leaders who perform My will, and they will lead you with knowledge and wisdom. (16) And it will be, when you multiply and increase in the land in those days, they will no longer say, ‘The Ark of the Covenant of HaShem,’ nor will it even be a thought, nor will they remember it, nor will they consider it, nor will that be done with it which was done in Shiloh, when the Ark was brought out to war against the Philistines in the days of Eili the High Priest, for whole congregation will be holy, and I will dwell in the congregation as though it is the Ark. (17) At that time they will call Jerusalem the Throne of HaShem, and all the nations will gather to it for the sake of HaShem’s name, to Jerusalem, and they will not go anymore after the thoughts of their wicked heart. (18) In those days, the House of Judah will walk with the House of Israel, and they will come together from the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to their forefathers, becoming one kingdom.

(19) “I had thought, ‘How can I place you, My daughter, My congregation and My nation, among sons, among other nations, among idol worshippers?’ Therefore I set aside a better portion for you, giving you a desirable land, a portion that is the envy of the host of nations, and I said, ‘Call me Father, and do not turn away from Me.’ (20) However, you did not do as I wished, rather like a woman who betrays her beloved because he is unable to provide her needs, so you betrayed Me, O House of Israel, though I provide you with every good thing. (21) Over the rise, in the near future, the sound of the begging cries of the Children of Israel can be heard, for they have perverted their ways, they have forgotten HaShem their God. (22) Return O rebellious sons! I will forgive your rebellion!’”

Yirmiyahu then instructed the people to confess to HaShem and say, “Behold, we have come to You, for you are HaShem our God! (23) Indeed, for naught we hoped for salvation from false gods that we worshipped upon hills and in multitudes upon mountains! Indeed, by HaShem our God is the salvation of Israel! (24) Because of our shame, that we worshipped false gods, the toil of our fathers has been consumed from our youth, their sheep and their cattle, their sons and their daughters. (25) We will lie down in shame because of our sins, and our degradation will cover us, for we and our fathers have sinned to HaShem our God from our youth until this day, and we did not listen to the voice of HaShem our God.”

“All of the assembly in its entirety are holy and G-d is among them!” shouted Korach, poised at the head of the mob of rebels who had gathered to challenge Moses and Aaron. “Why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of G-d!” (Numbers 16:3).

The Talmud records that Korach’s attacks against Moses were not merely political, but far sharper and more personal. According the Talmudic account, among other criticisms, Korach actually accused Moses of the crime of adultery!

While attacking Moses on the basis of his position of authority seems understandable, to malign a man of Moses’ inimitable character and reputation with intimations that he had committed adultery enters the realm of the ridiculous! What is the meaning of this strange Talmudic teaching?

The answer to this mystery, as with many mysteries of the Torah, lies at the core of the history of Man.

“Let Us make Man…” (Genesis 1:26). The Almighty consulted with his council of spiritual ministers before creating Mankind. Our tradition teaches that these heavenly ministers objected to the Almighty’s plan, explaining that Man, as a being with physical elements, may succumb to material temptation, polluting the universe with sin. Man, therefore, deserves not any place in the kingdom of the Almighty. G-d overrides the opinion of his ministers and proceeds with the creation of Adam. Thenceforth, throughout history, as mankind failed to live up to the course of holiness prescribed for them by the Almighty, the angels would continually remind the Lord of their initial objection and His failure to heed their counsel.

Subsequent to Adam’s fall from grace, the Torah describes how Adam’s sons Cain (Kayin) and Abel (Hevel) vie for the Almighty’s favor. While Abel brings an offering from the fattest of his flock, Cain offers only the cheapest of his crop. The Almighty favors Abel’s offering, and in a fit of jealousy, Cain murders his brother Abel.

“G-d said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel, your brother?’ [Cain] said, ‘I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’ [G-d] said, ‘What have you done! The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to me from the earth! And now you are accursed from the earth that opened its mouth to take your brother’s blood from your hand!’” (ibid 4:9-11).

Our tradition further teaches that Cain’s jealousy of Abel stemmed not only from the Almighty’s reaction to their offerings, but from a number of other factors as well. Among them, Cain was born together with a twin sister who would become his wife, while Abel was born with two twin sisters who would become his wives. Cain thought, “Should the younger have two while the elder has but one?”

Subsequent to Abel’s murder, the Almighty’s heavenly ministers seize the opportunity to brag that they were right once again about mankind. “Look how this one murdered because of jealousy over such material desires!” G-d replies to them that so long as they, as spiritual beings, cannot be tempted by physical desire, they have no right to criticize those who suffer from such temptation. The Lord’s ministers, disgusted at the suggestion that something so lowly as the material could offer any allure to beings so pure as themselves, urge G-d to offer them the opportunity to prove themselves. The Almighty obliges, sending two of these spiritual beings to earth in physical form.

What follows? “The Sons of Eloh-im saw that the daughters of Man were good, and they took for themselves wives from whomever they chose” (ibid 6:2). According to Rashi, these “Sons of Eloh-im” were, “the ministers who act in the agency of the Lord,” i.e. G-d’s spiritual ministers who had been sent to the earthly realm. According to mystical tradition, the “daughters of Man,” here mean not merely women of the human persuasion, but the actual daughters of Adam, i.e. the two sisters of Abel. G-d tests those spiritual ministers who criticized Cain’s actions with the exact same stimulus that led Cain himself to commit his jealous murder. These spiritual beings too, now susceptible to material temptation, succumb to their newfound urge to take these woman as wives.

The visitors from the spiritual realm solicit the daughters of Adam for marriage. These holy women, not wanting to enter such an ill-conceived relationship, but knowing these beings hold the power to force the issue, concede, but on condition. The daughters of Adam stipulate that as these spiritual visitors hold the option to return to the heavenly realm at any time, they must teach these women the Name of G-d that would allow them to do the same in such an eventuality. The spiritual beings comply, teach them the Name, and immediately the daughters of Adam use the Name to ascend to the heavenly realm before any union can be realized. While the spiritual ministers remain below, wreaking the havoc that the Almighty predicted, these holy women remain above, seeking asylum from these destructive creatures.

According to mystical tradition, many generations later, during the ascendance of the Pharaohs of Egypt, these two women are brought back into the earthly realm, one as Bithyah, daughter of Pharoah, the other as Tziporah, daughter of Jethro. At that time as well, the souls of Cain and Abel are brought back into the world as Korach and Moses, respectively. The daughter of Pharoah, one of Abel’s former wives, rescues Abel, now Moses, from the Nile River, and raises him as a son. Moses later marries Tziporah, also his wife during his previous incarnation.

As Moses achieves ascendency over Israel, the soul of Cain, now Korach, undergoes the same trial of spirit to overcome his jealousy that he failed during his first incarnation. The Almighty has granted Korach the opportunity to achieve rectification for his tainted soul, yet Korach tragically allows his millennia-old jealousy to overwhelm him, mounting a rebellion against the man that G-d has favored once again.

But how does this help us understand Korach’s shocking accusation against the humblest of all men?

According to Torah law, if a man dies childless, his brother should marry the widow in order to grant continuity to the deceased brother’s legacy. In the case of Cain and Abel, since Abel died childless, the rights to marry Abel’s wives belonged to Cain. This was the substance of Korach’s accusation. As the reincarnation of Cain, these rights now belonged to him! Tziporah, then, formerly the wife of Abel, should be the rightful wife of Korach, not Moses. Ergo, Moses’ marriage to Tziporah constituted an adulterous relationship!

Korach erred in his calculation, however, his raging jealousy blinding him to the elementary precept that, “one cannot fulfill a commandment through transgression of another commandment.” Since Cain’s obligation to marry Abel’s wives only came about through the murder of Abel, no such obligation actually took effect! In this case, Cain had no legitimate claim to Abel’s wives, nor did Korach have any legitimate right to marry Tziporah. Moses escapes any calumny laid upon him by Korach, while Korach must face the consequences of his missteps once again.

We can now gain a deeper appreciation of Korach’s bizarre demise. “The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them” (Numbers 16:32). Why was this the form of Korach’s destruction? Remember the words of the Almighty to Cain after the murder of Abel: “The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the earth! And now you are accursed from the earth that opened its mouth to take your brother’s blood from your hand!” Just as the earth opened its mouth to absorb Cain’s original sin, so would the earth open its mouth again to claim the perpetrator of that sin. And indeed, according to mystical tradition, the place where the earth “opened its mouth” to swallow Korach was the same exact spot where Cain had murdered Abel millennia earlier.

The Torah instructs us not to be like Korach and his assembly. Korach’s character flaws plagued him not only through two lifetimes, but for all eternity. Our Sages teach us that Korach remains forever suspended in the endless chasm born of his reticence to accept reproof for his recalcitrance, eternally declaring his regret. Learning not from his errors, he doomed himself to repeat them. Let us not be like Korach. Let us assert ourselves in a genuine effort to perfect our character, and instead of the legacy of strife left behind by Korach, may we merit to bring a legacy of everlasting peace to our world, to our posterity, and to all Israel.