Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’

In Yesterday’s post I shared from Nefesh haChayim the reason our bodies produce physical waste, that is, that most foods have a component that nourishes the spirit, and elements that do not. The body absorbs that which nourishes and excretes the rest. As a result, the generation that ate manna in the desert did not “go to the bathroom” since the manna from heaven was all nourishing.

Nefesh haChayim goes on to explain the connection between this concept and the worship of the idol known as Baal Peor. According to our traditional sources, Baal Peor was worship by performing one’s bathroom functions onto the idol. What is the reason for this bizarre (and disgusting) practice? How could this be a form of worship?

According to the above, however, the answer is understandable. The physical waste of the body represents everything that is completely of this physical world with no spiritual connection, no connection to the soul. Those who worshipped Baal Peor engaged in the most extreme form of hedonism, indulging the body only, with no limitations of the soul, no connection to God, no obeisance to a Higher Power. That is why those who worshipped Baal Peor (the daughters of Midyan) engaged in immoral sexuality and seduced the Israelites to do the same. They worshipped only the physical, with no spiritual component. So their form of worship involved the act revolving around that substance that has no spiritual component — excrement.

​In the Institutes of Menu, which according to Sir William Jones are nearly as ancient as the writings of Moses, the account of the six days of creation so closely resembles that given in Genesis, that it is scarcely possible to doubt its being derived from the same patriarchal communication. There is, however, a particular definition given of the word day as applied to the creation, and it is expressly stated to be a period of several thousand years. If this interpretation be admitted, it will remove the difficulty that some have felt in reconciling the epochs of creation with the six days mentioned by Moses. The six days in which Creative Energy renovated the globe and called into existence different classes of animals, will imply six successive epochs of indefinite duration. The absence of human bones in stratified rocks or in undisturbed beds of gravel or clay, in dicates that man, the most perfect of terrestrial beings, was not created till after those great revolutions which buried many different orders and entire genera of animals deep under the present surface of the earth. That man is the latest tenant of the globe, is confirmed by the oldest records or traditions that exist of the origin of the human race…

Compared with the ephemeral existence of man on the earth, the epochs of these changes may appear of almost inconceivable duration; but we are expressly told, ‘that with the Creator a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years.’         

-Robert Bakewell, Introduction to Geology, pp. 15-16

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Women and Tefillah

[NOTE: The word “tefilah” here connotes the silent meditative prayer, also called “Shemoneh Esreh” or “Amidah,” that forms the core of all Jewish prayer services.]

Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law), Orach Chayim 106:1:

“Women… even though they are exempt from reciting the Sh’ma, are obligated in tefillah, because it is a positive commandment that is not time-bound.”

Mishnah Berurah, ad loc, 4:

“All this is according to the Rambam (Maimonides), that only the times for tefillah are from the Sages, but the principle commandment of tefillah is from the Torah, as it says, ”and to serve Him with all your heart’ — What is the service that is with the heart? This is tefillah,’ but that there is no known formula (i.e. wording) from the Torah, and one may pray with any wording that one desires and at any time that one desires. And once one prays, either by day or by night, one has fulfilled one’s obligation from the Torah. And Magen Avraham wrote that according to this reasoning it is the practice of the majority of women that they do not pray Shemoneh Esreh consistently by day or night, since they say in the morning, immediately after washing, some request (‘bakashah’), and they fulfill their obligation from the Torah with this, and it is possible that even the Sages did not obligate more. But the opinion of the Ramban (Nachmanides) is that the principle obligation of tefillah is from the Sages, that is, the Men of the Great Assembly, who established the eighteen blessings in their order, as obligatory to pray them morning (‘Shacharith’) and afternoon (‘Minchah’), and as optional in the evening (‘Arvith’). And even though this is a positive commandment from the Sages that is time-bound, and women are exempt from all positive time-bound commandments, even those from the Sages… even so [the Sages] obligated them to pray Shacharith and Minchah like men, since tefillah is a request for mercy, and this is the principle opinion, for this is the opinion of the majority of authorities… therefore it is correct to instruct the women to pray Shemoneh Esreh… All this is as regards Shacharith and Minchah, but the tefillah of Arvith which is optional, even though now all Israel has accepted it upon themselves as obligatory, nevertheless, the women did not accept it upon themselves, and the majority of them do not pray Arvith.”

Artwork by zbush -- http://zbush.deviantart.com/

Yonah ben Amitai being swallowed by the “big fish.”

In an earlier post, I quoted from Tana d’Vey Eliyahu Rabah a story about Eliyahu haNavi (Elijah the Prophet) visiting a widow and instructing her to separate a portion of bread for him first as a sign that he (Eliyahu) would first come to the exile, followed by the redeemer. (Please read that story to understand my comments here.)

One interesting point in that midrash was that it identified the widow’s son as “Mashiach ben Yoseph” (see there), the title for a quasi-redeemer in Jewish oral tradition. We remarked there, amid our confusion, that there was no indication in the text as to the identity of this child.

However, upon perusal of another text, Yalkut Shimoni (Yonah, Ch. 1), we do find an interesting opinion regarding the identity of the widow’s son:

Yonah (Jonah) ben Amitay was from Asher, as it is written: ‘Asher did not remove the inhabitants of Ako and the inhabitants of Tzidon’ (Judges 1:31), and it is written (regarding Eliyahu): ‘Get up, go to Tzorphath which is of Tzidon… Behold, I have commanded there a widow to sustain you’ (I Kings 17:9), and Rabbi Eliezer taught: Yonah ben Amitay was the son of the widow of Tzorphath.

A second opinion there has it that Yonah is from the tribe of Zevulun (Zebulun), and the conclusion appears to be that his father was from Zevulun and mother (the widow) was from Asher.

Be that as it may, this midrash indicates the identity of the widow’s son as none other than the prophet Yonah (of the book of Yonah, or “Jonah”). Is this midrash at odds with Tana d’Vey Eliyahu?

Was this boy Yonah or Mashiach ben Yoseph? If he was from either Asher or Zevulun, then he was from neither of the tribes of Yoseph (Menasheh or Ephrayim). And in what way did he fulfill the role of Mashiach ben Yoseph?

While I admit ignorance regarding the full extent of the role of Mashiach ben Yoseph, I understand that he may be a redeemer for the nations of the world (as opposed to a redeemer for Israel particularly), as was Yoseph, who saved Egypt from a bitter end by famine, and rather, was able to sustain the entire world during the years of famine with the stores of food he had saved. “Son of Yoseph” could mean not a biological heir but a spiritual one, one who carries the mantle of Yoseph by also being a redeemer of the nations.

Yonah very much fulfilled this role as one who came to the people of Nineveh, a gentile city, to warn them of their impending doom. They repented and were saved. In this way there need not be seen any conflict between the two midrashim.

Perhaps now we understand the relevance of Eliyahu’s “sign to the world.” Since this child would become a harbinger to the nations of the world, it would be appropriate for him to carry Eliyahu’s message to them.

And what of Eliyahu’s message? Why should the nations of the world know that Eliyahu will come first and then the Son of David?

I don’t know, but my offhand guess is that just as Yonah came first to Nineveh to warn them, allowing them to repent and be saved, so too will the nations have a similar opportunity in the future, to return to the One True G-d before the arrival of Mashiach ben David, by which time it may be too late for repentance.

Dunno, just a thought.

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Please see the introduction to this series for context.

So we were talking about whether Pinchas and Eliyahu are the same. Popular belief has it that they are, while the sources we’ve examined so far indicate that they aren’t. Now, that said, the view that Pinchas is Eliyahu is not without basis — there are sources that indicate this, we just haven’t examined them yet. And, G-d willing, we’ll get there. But first I’d like to “cheat” a little bit — that is, share with you some thoughts I’ve had lately that I believe are very illuminating. So in order to just “get them out there,” we’re going to skip ahead a bit.

Basically, the main source (that I am aware of so far) that Pinchas IS Eliyahu is the Zohar, one of the primary sources in Jewish tradition for Kabbalistic or “mystical” ideology. But, as we have seen, this source appears to be contradicted by other midrashic sources. So, I was thinking lately, is this REALLY a contradiction?

While I do not intend right now to quote the entire passage of the Zohar and analyze it in depth, my current awareness of it has it indicating the following. When Pinchas stood up to slay Zimri in front of the nation, he had to go up against the entire tribe of Shimon who supported their leader, Zimri. Pinchas, despite his courage to undertake this mission, in the moment became so frightened that his soul forsook his body. In other words, he died. On the spot, however, the souls of Nadav and Avihu, the two sons of Aharon (Aaron) that had died earlier in the Torah, were thrown into Pinchas’ body so that he remained “alive” to carry out his mission successfully. This explains how he became a Kohen (priest) as a result of this event — heretofore he was not a Kohen since he was a grandson of Aharon before the status of priesthood was conferred upon Aharon and his sons. Any grandson already born did not receive Kohen status. But by absorbing the souls of these two Kohanim, the newly invigorated Pinchas was now a Kohen by virtue of his Kohen soul.

The absorption of the two Kohen souls also explains (to some degree) the status of immortality conferred upon him according to these sources, as every human being is indeed only “half” a soul. The normal means of uniting with one’s “other half” is through marriage, however, here, two “half souls” united in one body to create a “whole” soul. As a “whole” person, Pinchas body and soul(s) could now live unendingly together, since his was no longer deficient in any way.

But what about Pinchas’ original “non-Kohen” soul? I would like to synthesize this question with the sources that indicate that Eliyahu was not a Kohen but was, indeed, from the tribe of Binyamin (Benjamin). Perhaps, when the mystical sources indicate that “Pinchas is Eliyahu,” it refers to Pinchas’ original non-Kohen soul being reincarnated into the non-Kohen Eliyahu later in history.

In this way, Pinchas remains Eliyahu while Eliyahu need not be a Kohen by lineage.

Make sense? Opinions?

See this earlier post for a primer on Lilith.

More on Lilith:

After the murder of Adam’s son Hevel (Abel) by Adam’s older son Kayin (Cain), Adam and Chavah (Eve) do not have any more children until they are 130 years old, at which time they procreate once again “in their image,” having a son they name Sheth (Seth). See Genesis (B’Reshith) 5:3.

Why the gap between their first two children and the third? According to Jewish tradition, the murder of one of their sons by the other caused Adam and Chavah to reconsider having children, and therefore separated from one another for an extended period.

Jewish tradition further asserts that while Adam did not procreate “in his image” during that time, he did procreate in a diminished image, namely creating ‘shedim’ — demons.

How so? Some sources indicate that during this period of separation from Chavah, Adam cohabited with a spirit or spirits (against his will), and from this union came the race of demons.

In Samuel (Shemuel) II 7:14, G-d tells Nathan the prophet to announce to David that he will have a son who will sit on the throne after him, and that his dynasty will be everlasting:

“I (G-d) will be for him a Father, and he will be for Me a son, that when he sins, I shall rebuke him with the rod of men, and with the blows of the sons of man (ובנגעי בני אדם).”

According to Rashi, the sons or “children” of “man” here refer to the non-human (demon) offspring of Adam produced during the 130-year separation from Chavah during which time “spirits” engaged with Adam and reproduced from him. The prophet’s words here foreshadow when a powerful demon named Ashmedai will dethrone David’s son Shelomoh (Solomon) for a time, as recounted in the Talmud in Tractate Gitin.

According to those commentaries that understand Lilith to be the mother of the demons (see earlier post), she was the being with which Adam cohabited during this period.

A reference to this is seen by Rabbi Avraham Aharon Friedman in his commentary to the Passover Hagadah, Chochmath Aharon.

He cites the verse in Amos 2:6, “For their sale of the righteous for silver, and the destitute because of [a pair of] shoes,” a reference to the sale of Joseph (Yoseph; “the righteous”) by his brothers, and the accompaniment of the Divine Presence (“the destitute”) in Yoseph’s descent to Egypt.

R’ Friedman explains, according to the Arizal, that the central reason for the descent of Israel to Egypt was to “harvest” the “holy sparks” that “fell” from Adam during the aforementioned 130 years. The sale of Yoseph initiated the eventual descent of Israel to and subsequent exodus from Egypt, thereby redeeming the holy sparks that had been trapped there.

Rabbi Friedman explains the verse in Amos in this light. The sparks are the “silver” for which Yoseph was sold. The numerical value of “because of [a pair of] shoes” (בעבור נעלים) is 480, the same as “Lilith” (לילית), hinting that she was the cause of Adam’s “fallen sparks” that necessitated the sojourn in Egypt.