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Archive for the ‘Shabbat’ Category

No Baskeball on Shabbat

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on March 9, 2008

The Herzl/Rocky Mountain Hebrew Academy boys basketball team in Denver qualified for the regional championship, but won’t be able to play because the game was scheduled to take place on Shabbat. The Colorado High School Activities Association governs the league the boys play in, and has refused to move the game to a time when the team could play without breaking Shabbat, claiming that rearranging the schedule on the regional level would be too complicated.
One of the comments on this story is from a Ali Eteraz, who said:
Wasn’t Lieberman nearly Vice President while observing Shabbos? I don’t particularly see why creating exemptions for those that observe it is necessary. Isn’t there a principle of darura (arabic for necessity) in Orthodox Jurisprudence as there is in Islamic? A rabbi should just say “necessity requires that these boys kick ass on shabbos — one time exception!” Why do we like to pretend that religions aren’t flexible? (My bold)
What is significant about this post and the comment is that it illustrates how Jews and Muslims actually agree on something as intimate as religious practice. It also illustrates how both Muslims and Jews face difficulties in terms of having consideration taken to their religious practice.

Posted in Jews and Muslims, Shabbat | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Second Take on Re’eh – Devarim 11:26-16:17

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 9, 2007

Focal Points: 12:8-10 and 13:1-8

8. You shall not do as all the things that we do here this day, every man [doing] what he deems fit. 9. For you have not yet come to the resting place or to the inheritance, which the Lord, your God, is giving you. 10. And you shall cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord, your God, is giving you as an inheritance, and He will give you rest from all your enemies surrounding you, and you will dwell securely.

I commented on a friend’s Blog the other day about an allegorical “time-line” within Torah and Tanakh.

“Perhaps this is another part of the “growing up” thing? If one reads the Tanakh as an allegory of Human Life reality – we are conceived (Creation), we are born (Expulsion from Gan Eden) we learn the elementaries of Human Life and build our first relationships – that to our parents and family as well as a fundamental relationship to G-d (The Patriarchs) we go to school and learn the intermediaries of Human Life along with the difficult adolescent years of rebellion and acquiring new values and “graduate” to the next part of life – responsibility over a home of our own (The Exodus and Conquering) in which we then expected to grow further, and part of this is realizing that although Mom and Dad are still there for us, they won’t come running just because we skin a knee or want them to be there ASAP – they need to be considerate of their own lives and we need to learn detachment as well as how to function without constant supervision (The Prophets and Writings).”

A Child’s life is in a way a time for trial and error – because it’s still learning – The time in the Desert was a time when The People was still learning, still doing it as “he deems fit” and what it seems on an individual level, for the sake of personal gratification perhaps, at the very least, to hear Mom or Dad, say “Well done!” or “You can do better than that!” or “Your Grounded!” Moshe was definitely Grounded big time! – The entire older generation was Grounded 🙂 It is clear that The People had been doing things quite differently during their travels on the Sinai Peninsula – not just in regards to the Mishkan (Tabernacle), but basically on a little of all issues… And now, that they are about to cross over into The Land – G-d tells them that this cannot be IN The Land. Uhuh, Sir, gotta shape up! Gotta get those rule down pat, Yessir!

To continue the allegory – the Child eventually grows up into a young adult, leaves Mom and Dad behind and have to fend for him/herself, in a new home, new apartment, that is all his/her own and that living will be based on what he/she was taught up till that point.

“Now, why on earth should I keep kosher – the Gentiles have been eating pork and shrimp and mixing milk and meat for millennia, and they are still around, so what’s big deal, any way? You don’t see them wearing weird pieces of clothes with strings on them, or cover their heads, or wrap leather straps around their heads and arms, and they sure don’t pray three times a day, they can have sex whenever they please and work on Saturdays to their hearts content, so why shouldn’t I be able to do just that?”

Because those are not the Tradition, Mitzvot and Torah of your forefathers. Those are the ways of those who did not hear the Torah on Har Sinai, who did not say: “All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear.” (Shemot 24:7)

“1. Everything I command you that you shall be careful to do it. You shall neither add to it, nor subtract from it. 2. If there will arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of a dream, and he gives you a sign or a wonder,3. and the sign or the wonder of which he spoke to you happens, [and he] says, “Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us worship them,” 4. you shall not heed the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream; for the Lord, your God, is testing you, to know whether you really love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul. 5. You shall follow the Lord, your God, fear Him, keep His commandments, heed His voice, worship Him, and cleave to Him. 6. And that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death; because he spoke falsehood about the Lord, your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and Who redeemed you from the house of bondage, to lead you astray from the way in which the Lord, your God, commanded you to go; so shall you clear away the evil from your midst. 7. If your brother, the son of your mother, tempts you in secret or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your embrace, or your friend, who is as your own soul saying, “Let us go and worship other gods, which neither you, nor your forefathers have known.”8. Of the gods of the peoples around you, [whether] near to you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth;”

They say that practice makes perfect, and in the 12 Step Programs they say “Fake it, till you make it” Torah says that if we DO, we will eventually understand “hear”.

Pretty simple, right? So if we have a G-d – which we do, somehow anyway, then keeping in touch with the Traditions, the Mitzvot, Torah, we will get closer to G-d. How do we keep in touch with Tradition, Mitzvot and Torah? By DOING THEM.

“It’s arguable that within mainstream Judaism, direct experience of God isn’t the point — and it certainly isn’t a prerequisite for Jewish practice. We do what we do because it is the Jewish path. Whether or not we feel confident that actual access to God is the endpoint, we follow the mitzvot anyway. Belief arises through action. If we waited until we felt called to act Jewishly, we might never get there — but if we act Jewishly even absent that “call,” we can bring the call into being for ourselves.

For many Jews today, though, that answer may serve as a distancing factor that keeps us from engagement with the tradition in the first place. Our culture privileges direct experience; it makes sense that in this area of our lives, we feel a particular longing for something we can access in our hearts. We want God to be at the center of our practice. We want our practice of mitzvot to follow from a preexisting closeness to God, not the other way around. We want, as this week’s Torah portion suggests, to be in relationship with a God Who we already know.”

For each time I put on my tzitzit, my tefillin, say my Prayers, eat kosher, and celebrate Shabbat, I bring myself closer to G-d. No matter what else my circumstances are, at least I will be right before G-d. To me it cannot get any better than that.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17, Parasha Re'eh, Shabbat, Torah, Weekly Parasha | Leave a Comment »

Parasha Matot – Bamidbar 30:2-32:42

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on July 12, 2007

Numbers 30:2-6

2. Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the children of Israel, saying: This is the thing the Lord has commanded.

3. If a man makes a vow to the Lord or makes an oath to prohibit himself, he shall not violate his word; according to whatever came out of his mouth, he shall do.

4. If a woman makes a vow to the Lord, or imposes a prohibition [upon herself] while in her father’s house, in her youth,
5. if her father heard her vow or her prohibition which she has prohibited upon herself, yet her father remains silent, all her vows shall stand, and any prohibition that she has imposed upon herself shall stand.

6. But if her father hinders her on the day he hears it, all her vows and her prohibitions that she has imposed upon herself shall not stand. The Lord will forgive her because her father hindered her.

This is interesting – because it is frequently used as a proof text that Judaism is misogynist, the text is mistakenly read, also by the Sages, to mean that a woman’s oath is null and void if her father or husband says it is – but what does the text actually say?

We need to examine exactly what is meant by “a woman” according to Torah:

Rashi says: 4. while in her father’s house. Under her father’s jurisdiction, even if she is not [actually] in his house. – [Sifrei Mattoth 12] in her youth. Neither a minor nor an adult [above the age of twelve and a half], since a minor’s vows are invalid, and an adult is not under her father’s jurisdiction to revoke her vows. What is considered a minor? Our Rabbis said: A girl of eleven years and a day-her vows are examined. If she knew in whose name she vowed, or in whose name she consecrated something, her vow stands. From the age of twelve years and one day, she does not need to be tested. — [Niddah 45b]

Now, children do not have legal obligation anyway, not even in our Society, so why should Jewish Law look at it any different? So is it misogynist to stop one’s under age child of making a binding oath, which she (or he, as the same goes for boys) might not have understood the seriousness of? I don’t think so. So this is put there to safe-guard both the validity of oaths and the legal integrity of children

Just because something is in Torah, doesn’t mean Torah agrees with it or promotes it – it means that Torah takes such things into account, and then it’s up to us to derive the core of it – and as with everything else Torah, we have to that in context of the entire Torah/Tanakh. And we need to know in what context, under what cultural and societal conditions Torah was given.

It is fully possible to arrive at largely the same conclusion by simply reading the text:

6. But if her father hinders her on the day he hears it, all her vows and her prohibitions that she has imposed upon herself shall not stand. The Lord will forgive her because her father hindered her.

The provision for the oath to be null and void – i.e G-d will forgive if it is not fulfilled – is that there’s an obstruction – in this case her father, for whatever reason, stops her from making and fulfilling the oath. And the woman is blameless, because she was not the one breaking the oath, her father was.

Here Torah takes into account that some times men do crazy things in relation to women, and states that women should not be held responsible for the actions of men.

Note that no such provision is made for men – they make an oath and they are bound to keep them. Also note that this only covers oaths made to G-d, not oaths and promises between people. So Torah actually takes human relations more serious than relations between G-d and human.

Novel thought, huh?

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in Misogyny, Numbers 30:2-9, Oaths, Parasha Matot, Shabbat, Torah, Weekly Parasha | 6 Comments »

A Walk in the Sun

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on May 19, 2006

The Table –
Chassidic Story

By: Shoshannah Brombacher & Yitzchak Buxbaum

“The Baal Shem Tov once spent Shabbat in the town of Kolomaya, and on the night of Shabbat, he sensed the presence in the town of a holy soul radiating great light. So he went out for a stroll to find that light. When he passed by a certain home, he saw the light radiating from it; he also heard, within, the sounds of singing and dancing. Seeing that the door was slightly ajar, he went in and saw Rabbi Yaakov Koppel dancing in ecstasy before his Shabbat table, which was laden with good food. Rabbi Yaakov Koppel sang and danced for a long time until he finally stopped and noticed the Baal Shem Tov. He welcomed his guest warmly, and the Besht asked him, “Why do you sing and dance this way before eating?” Rabbi Yaakov Koppel answered, “Before I partake of the physical food, I first stand in front of the table and absorb the food’s spiritual essence. Sometimes I become so aroused that I sing and dance.” What is the food’s “spiritual essence”? It is its divine aspect. A Jewish mystic meditates on how the food has been created and is being kept in existence (like all created things) every minute by G-d’s will. And a person’s profound realization that G-d has created this food to nourish and provide for him leads him to mystic joy.”, – republished in accordance with their copyright policy.)

Shabbat Shalom!Shabbat is a bubble in time, where the Sacred meets the Mundane andboth are even more Sanctified. I like Shabbat – it has been said about Sahbbat that it embodies the very moment of Creation when G-d ceased creating – He Paused – He didn’t stop creating, because humans are still being formed, animals are still being born and Nature is still producing Nature, but He Paused – He looked at what He had made so far and then through Pausing He completed the act of Creation. Shabbat is a Room in Time where we can Pause too, and so mimick the Creator. By Pausing in our weekly endeavors we complete what we are doing – and we sanctify the Creative Force both within ourselves and without ourselves, as well as the Creator Himself.It is interesting that we Humans Sanctify our world by Pausing, but Nature Sanctifies it in and of itself. Creation is in itself a Sanctification, and it is inviting us to join it on Shabbat for a stroll in the sun.

Or a dance in the rain – it really doesn’t matter as long as we are thoroughly soaked.


Posted in Shabbat, Torah | 3 Comments »

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