Chavarah- Jewish Community Learning

A blog of Jewish study and traditions. Notes from classes: Torah Study with Rabbi Marder, Toledot and Shabbaton as well as other details found of interest.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

We are what we eat?

Torah Study 5/23
Rabbi Marder

Genesis 9:1

Renewal of Life after the flood.

On the ark the animals living together and being cared for made them tame. Man did not fear animals and animals did not fear man.

There was a rupture in the relation between man and animals.

Rashi points out the natural fear that animals have of man. ( mice will not attack a live person / baby only one who is dead )

There is the notion the man came from animals but there was a separation and change.

Now animals can be food for humans. A major change from vegetarians they were.

Reasons for the change –
Animals survived because of humans.
Human care of animals as payment
All plants were destroyed also and there was fewer other food sources
Terms with the nature of humans were compromised.

The case of the Vegetarian vs the Omnivore

Kashrut is a reminder that we started as vegetarians and were allowed to eat meat. Kashrut gives limits to what and how to eat as a reminder.

Rav Kook believes that the permission to eat meat was only a temporary concession; he feels that a God who is merciful to his creatures would not institute an everlasting law permitting the killing of animals for food.

Eating meat was related to man’s aggressive impulses. Allowing to eat meat was a transitional dispensation.

Samson Raphael Hirsch: Different opinion on eating meat.
the attachment between people and animals was broken which initiated a change in the relationship of people to the world. [14]

The permission given to Noah to eat meat was not unconditional. There was
an immediate prohibition against eating blood.

There was fierce debate among rabbis on this issue.
Note: Life span of humans was much longer before the flood.

Eli Munk: Mystical interpretation.
Diet did not effect man’s nature or aggression. It was simply a new era marking the end of strict vegetarianism.

Cordavera – Hierarchy of nature. Goal to come closer to the divine. “you are what you eat” type concept and as you get higher on the food chain what you eat gets closer to the divine.

This new approach is God’s attempt to set a new system of discipline relating to eating habits (pre Kasrut laws)

Hassidic interpretations continue to analyze why we eat. We eat to stay alive. Don’t eat with gluttony, eat with appreciation and respect for it’s purpose.

Excess is not good.

Wine as example: It not only includes quantity but also HOW you consume it that makes a difference. Wine in a beautiful Kiddish cup drank with ceremony and celebration is much more beautiful and proper. Same with sexuality that is more meaningful when ‘put in a container of love and caring’.

NO BLOOD – next verse:
In no other religion is there a prohibition of consuming blood. Blood is thought of as the life source.

Do not eat the limb torn from a living animal. This law is given 10 times in Tanach.
Flesh with life still in it is like eating part of the soul. Meat to be consumed must be slaughtered properly. This teaches compassion rather than cruelty.

(Eli Munk) A method of teaching self discipline - Points
Sanctity of Human Life
Moral Freedom
Decision Making
Control of Instincts
Maintain Dignity

7 Noahite Laws for all humans :
The Talmud and Midrash canonized this notion in lists of commandments believed to have been given to Adam and supplemented in a new revelation to Noah. The generally accepted list consists of seven items, with respect to: 1) idolatry; 2) blasphemy; 3) homicide; 4) incest and adultery; 5) robbery; 6) eating the flesh of a live creature; 7) establishing a system of justice.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

God Cares. Nature and Nurture.

Genesis 8: 21 – 22 (notes from the podcast)

Yetzer – Good and Bad Instincts and direction needed for self improvement

Jewish tradition is to learn to direct our instincts – not to beat it out – but to identify and nourish the goodness in children. - emphasize the good.
Man’s potential to do good and evil.

Entire story that God cares about us.

God recognizes that there is a ‘job’ to educate and discipline people!

Need to bring God’s presence to earth!

Noah’s Sacrifice – God’s reaction.
Leon Kass: the sacrifice says more about Noah than about God and his desire for meat / animal sacrifice.

Humans have animal nature, also have spark of divine and also they are free...

Devine Realism. - God’s growing awareness of the nature of man.

Hasidic reading:
“In uncertain times the order of nature changes. Summer in winter, winter in summer...”

Shin Bet Tav ( root for stopping ) - nature changes its ways.

Global Warming – if you meddle with order of nature – nature will ‘fight back’. (lesson from 18th century)

Paradise (not perfect leisure) - study of Torah.

New Order – Life is harder – Life span is shorter

Eli Munk: Evil influence has a barrier from the shorter life span – humans can open the road to hope for young people – children the continual infusion of potential for good in the world.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Decisions After The Flood

Genesis 8: 21-22

“God said to himself...”

A contrasting view of scholars.

Eli Munk: Danger in thinking of the corporality of God... But not as dangerous as not comprehending God at all... - stresses a more personal God.

As compared to Maimonodes view that stresses a completely abstract God.

Literal Hebrew: “He said TO his heart”

The discussion continued with questions: “Is God perfect?” “What is perfect?” and do we have a “learning God”? Has God’s opinion of mankind changed?

God promises never to destroy the earth again as done with the flood.

And gives the reason because ‘yetzer’ of man’s heart is evil from his youth.

It is a vow that there will not be ‘collective punishment’ ever again.

Is man inclined to bad behavior?

Is God giving up any dreams of perfection? Deciding to go forward differently?

The discussion of “yetzer” with two yuds: a Kabalistic story

The Hebrew word for fashioned is vayeetzer (וייצר).] The word is written with two yuds ,3 which [our Sages say] indicates that man was born with two yitzrin, inclinations, one for good (the yetzer tov), and the other for evil (the yetzer hora).4

But at the age of Bar Mitzvah one should be able to control this.

Samson Raphael Hirsch – on Youth and Evil

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the verse, "for the impulse of man's heart is evil from his youth":

Now, as far as we can see, the following, "for the impulse of man's heart is evil from his youth," has been completely erroneously taken to be the cause of this new determination of destiny… The words, "for the impulse, etc.," are in parenthesis: If the impulse of the heart of man should be evil again, and even in his youth, so that the only way of saving it would be the destruction of the generation, nevertheless I will not again, as I did… Youths are neither righteous nor evil. Woe unto them that take the average of child and adolescent nature to be evil! Who has really observed children say, No, it is not true that youth is bad, the impulse of man's heart is not evil from his youth, it is not in his youth that man names evil his ideal. In normal times one finds a much greater number of adults than of adolescents whose hearts and minds are directed to evil. (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, commentary to Bereishit 8:21)

Rabbi Hirsch understands that the verse is not making an assertion, but rather setting a condition: even if the heart of man will be evil from his youth, even then I shall not destroy mankind. Under normal circumstances, argues Rabbi Hirsch, the heart of youth is not evil. And indeed, the question of man's basic nature has been the subject of dispute among Jewish Sages as well as gentile thinkers. This is one of the most important and decisive issues in our spiritual world.

God decides to ‘work with what He has’...