Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why Did Avraham Wait Until After Yitzchak (Isaac) Married Rivkah (Rebecca) To Marry Keturah?

IN this week's Parsha we have the story (Breishis 24) of Avraham's servant, Eliezer, finding a wife for Yitzchak. However, what is interesting is the fact that it is only after Yitzchak finds a wife that Avraham marries another woman, Keturah. At the end of Breishis 24 (verse 67) it says:

סז. וַיְבִאֶהָ יִצְחָק הָאֹהֱלָה שָׂרָה אִמּוֹ וַיִּקַּח אֶת רִבְקָה וַתְּהִי לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה וַיֶּאֱהָבֶהָ וַיִּנָּחֵם יִצְחָק אַחֲרֵי אִמּוֹ:
67. And Isaac brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother, and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife, and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted for [the loss of] his mother.

The very next verse (Breishis 25:1) says:

א. וַיֹּסֶף אַבְרָהָם וַיִּקַּח אִשָּׁה וּשְׁמָהּ קְטוּרָה:
1. And Abraham took another wife and her name was Keturah.

The Midrash Tanchuma comments on this (Chayei Sarah 8) and tells us "From here you can learn that if a man's wife dies and he has sons, he should not remarry until he has married his sons off and only then should the father get remarried. [This is learned from Avraham] for he did this after the death of Sarah, he married off Yitzchak (Isaac) and only afterwords remarried." The Midrash Tanchuma goes on to say that it was even Yitzchak's idea that Avraham should remarry. 

I think there is one last piece of the puzzle missing. What is the reason a man should marry of his sons before getting married himself? Is there a halachic reason, psychological reason? What is going on here? 

For this, we bring in the two Rashis on the last verse of Chapter 24. Rashi says:

 האהלה שרה אמו: ויביאה האהלה ונעשית דוגמת שרה אמו, כלומר והרי היא שרה אמו, שכל זמן ששרה קיימת היה נר דלוק מערב שבת לערב שבת, וברכה מצויה בעיסה, וענן קשור על האהל, ומשמתה פסקו, וכשבאת רבקה חזרו
To the tent of Sarah his mother: He brought her to the tent, and behold, she was Sarah his mother; i.e., she became the likeness of Sarah his mother, for as long as Sarah was alive, a candle burned from one Sabbath eve to the next, a blessing was found in the dough, and a cloud was attached to the tent. When she died, these things ceased, and when Rebecca arrived, they resumed (Gen. Rabbah 60:16).    

אחרי אמו: דרך ארץ כל זמן שאמו של אדם קיימת כרוך הוא אצלה, ומשמתה הוא מתנחם באשתו:
For…his mother: It is the way of the world that, as long as a person’s mother is alive, he is attached to her, but as soon as she dies, he finds comfort in his wife. — [Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 32.]  

The first Rashi, combined with the second Rashi is telling us something very interesting about Yitzchak. Both point to the idea that once Sarah died Yitzchak was upset and in anguish. He could not get over the loss of his mother. This is why the second Rashi tells us that a person is comforted by their wife once their mother dies. However, Yitzchak did not have a wife until now. Also, this is alluded to in the first Rashi when it says the miracles that occurred in Sarah's tent ceased until Rivkah came. The picture here is clear, Yitzchak, like most children, was devastated by his mother's death and, without a wife, could not get over this loss. This is why Avraham, after dealing with the burial of Sarah in Chapter 23, immediately dealt with finding Yitzchak a wife. 

Now, we can understand why it is that Avraham could not get remarried until he found his son a wife. It is not a halacha, but rather an appeal to human emotion. Avraham could have gotten remarried before Yitzchak found a wife. However, Yitzchak had suffered a loss, the greatest loss, of his mother. If Avraham would have remarried without first finding Yitzchak a wife, then Yitzchak would have felt abandoned and uncared for. For, as Rashi points out, what really helps a person get over the loss of a parent is a spouse. There are many other things, but the main comfort is having a support system. This is why it was so important for Avraham to find Yitzchak a wife at this time. 

Rashi also points out that, immediately, after Rivkah entered Sarah's tent that she took the place of Sarah. Why does Rashi say that Rivkah "was Sarah his mother?" because she was now Yitzchak's suport system (like every spouse should be). Sarah was the one to stand up for Yitzchak. For example, she saw Yishmael mistreating Yitzchak and immediately insisted that he be thrown out of the house. Rivkah took over this role. Her assuming this role is best seen when Yitzchak is giving out the blessing. Rivkah wanted to protect Yitzchak and thereby she helped Yaakov trick Yitzchak into giving him the bracha. It was only after this occurred that Yitzchak realize how bad it would have been to give Esau the blessing. This is why, after Yitzchak realizes he gave the bracha to Yaakov, he was trembling in fear, because he almost gave the blessing to the wrong child. If it were not from Rivkah's protection of Yitzchak, then he would have made a grave error. 

The lesson, I think, we can take away from this is the role of a spouse. When a person is growing up they are protected by their parents. Their parents look out for their best interests and help them out. However, when a person finds his or her spouse, the spouse is supposed to assume this role. That is why it is so important to find the right spouse because you must now look after each other like your parents looked after you.  

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why Would G-D Test Avraham By Asking Him To Sacrifice His Son Yitzchak (Isaac)?

In this week's Parsha we find the confusing task that G-D gives Avraham, to sacrifice Yitzchak (Isaac). This seems very odd to me for several reasons. However, once I looked up child sacrifice in the Tanach (Bible) there were two other instances that are mentioned. One is that of Jephthah's daughter (Judges 11:30-40) and the other is that of the son of the King of Moab (Kings II 3:27). I think that these two later verses will help us understand the Akeida (binding of Isaac on the alter).

 It seems to me that the King of Moab, in Kings II reveals to us a custom of the nations that surrounded Israel. The verses there (Kings II 3:26-27) state:

כו  וַיַּרְא מֶלֶךְ מוֹאָב, כִּי-חָזַק מִמֶּנּוּ הַמִּלְחָמָה; וַיִּקַּח אוֹתוֹ שְׁבַע-מֵאוֹת אִישׁ שֹׁלֵף חֶרֶב, לְהַבְקִיעַ אֶל-מֶלֶךְ אֱדוֹם--וְלֹא יָכֹלוּ. 
26 And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew sword, to break through unto the king of Edom; but they could not.  

כז  וַיִּקַּח אֶת-בְּנוֹ הַבְּכוֹר אֲשֶׁר-יִמְלֹךְ תַּחְתָּיו, וַיַּעֲלֵהוּ עֹלָה עַל-הַחֹמָה, וַיְהִי קֶצֶף-גָּדוֹל, עַל-יִשְׂרָאֵל; וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵעָלָיו, וַיָּשֻׁבוּ, לָאָרֶץ.
27 Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt-offering upon the wall. And there came great wrath upon Israel; and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.

The idea here is that the Moabite nation thought that the ultimate sacrifice that was a last ditch effort to conjure up the gods favor was to sacrifice your most prized possession, your favorite child. This is why the verse tells us that this was the child who was the heir to the throne. Who is the heir to the throne? The kings favorite child. The one that the king chooses and says, "You will be my heir." So, we learn from this verse in Kings II that, at the very least, the Moabites believed that the ultimate act of faith in the gods was to sacrifice your child, your FAVORITE child. The one who would be your heir. (I don't want to go into the reason why this sacrifice worked in the Moabite kings favor, but it is something to think about.)

However, what happened in Judges (11:30-40) by Jephthah's daughter:

ל  וַיִּדַּר יִפְתָּח נֶדֶר לַיהוָה, וַיֹּאמַר:  אִם-נָתוֹן תִּתֵּן אֶת-בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן, בְּיָדִי. 30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said: 'If Thou wilt indeed deliver the children of Ammon into my hand,
לא  וְהָיָה הַיּוֹצֵא, אֲשֶׁר יֵצֵא מִדַּלְתֵי בֵיתִי לִקְרָאתִי, בְּשׁוּבִי בְשָׁלוֹם, מִבְּנֵי עַמּוֹן--וְהָיָה, לַיהוָה, וְהַעֲלִיתִיהוּ, עֹלָה.  {פ} 31 then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, it shall be the LORD'S, and I will offer it up for a burnt-offering.' {P}
לב  וַיַּעֲבֹר יִפְתָּח אֶל-בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן, לְהִלָּחֶם בָּם; וַיִּתְּנֵם יְהוָה, בְּיָדוֹ. 32 So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hand.
לג  וַיַּכֵּם מֵעֲרוֹעֵר וְעַד-בֹּאֲךָ מִנִּית עֶשְׂרִים עִיר, וְעַד אָבֵל כְּרָמִים, מַכָּה, גְּדוֹלָה מְאֹד; וַיִּכָּנְעוּ בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן, מִפְּנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.  {פ} 33 And he smote them from Aroer until thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto Abel-cheramim, with a very great slaughter. So the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel. {P}
לד  וַיָּבֹא יִפְתָּח הַמִּצְפָּה, אֶל-בֵּיתוֹ, וְהִנֵּה בִתּוֹ יֹצֵאת לִקְרָאתוֹ, בְּתֻפִּים וּבִמְחֹלוֹת:  וְרַק הִיא יְחִידָה, אֵין-לוֹ מִמֶּנּוּ בֵּן אוֹ-בַת. 34 And Jephthah came to Mizpah unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances; and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.
לה  וַיְהִי כִרְאוֹתוֹ אוֹתָהּ וַיִּקְרַע אֶת-בְּגָדָיו, וַיֹּאמֶר אֲהָהּ בִּתִּי הַכְרֵעַ הִכְרַעְתִּנִי, וְאַתְּ, הָיִית בְּעֹכְרָי; וְאָנֹכִי, פָּצִיתִי פִי אֶל-יְהוָה, וְלֹא אוּכַל, לָשׁוּב. 35 And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said: 'Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art become my troubler; for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.'
לו  וַתֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, אָבִי פָּצִיתָה אֶת-פִּיךָ אֶל-יְהוָה--עֲשֵׂה לִי, כַּאֲשֶׁר יָצָא מִפִּיךָ:  אַחֲרֵי אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לְךָ יְהוָה נְקָמוֹת, מֵאֹיְבֶיךָ--מִבְּנֵי עַמּוֹן. 36 And she said unto him: 'My father, thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD; do unto me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon.'
לז  וַתֹּאמֶר, אֶל-אָבִיהָ, יֵעָשֶׂה לִּי, הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה:  הַרְפֵּה מִמֶּנִּי שְׁנַיִם חֳדָשִׁים, וְאֵלְכָה וְיָרַדְתִּי עַל-הֶהָרִים, וְאֶבְכֶּה עַל-בְּתוּלַי, אָנֹכִי ורעיתי (וְרֵעוֹתָי). 37 And she said unto her father: 'Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may depart and go down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my companions.'
לח  וַיֹּאמֶר לֵכִי, וַיִּשְׁלַח אוֹתָהּ שְׁנֵי חֳדָשִׁים; וַתֵּלֶךְ הִיא וְרֵעוֹתֶיהָ, וַתֵּבְךְּ עַל-בְּתוּלֶיהָ עַל-הֶהָרִים. 38 And he said: 'Go.' And he sent her away for two months; and she departed, she and her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.
לט  וַיְהִי מִקֵּץ שְׁנַיִם חֳדָשִׁים, וַתָּשָׁב אֶל-אָבִיהָ, וַיַּעַשׂ לָהּ, אֶת-נִדְרוֹ אֲשֶׁר נָדָר; וְהִיא לֹא-יָדְעָה אִישׁ, וַתְּהִי-חֹק בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל. 39 And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed; and she had not known man. And it was a custom in Israel,
מ  מִיָּמִים יָמִימָה, תֵּלַכְנָה בְּנוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל, לְתַנּוֹת, לְבַת-יִפְתָּח הַגִּלְעָדִי--אַרְבַּעַת יָמִים, בַּשָּׁנָה.  {פ} 40 that the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year. {P}

Other than some oddities in this story, we see that Jephthah is greatly distressed over having to sacrifice his daughter. He does not want to, but he had made a vow that, he felt, he could not undo. This was not intentional, he did NOT WANT to sacrifice his daughter. Leaving alone the idea that Chazal (the Rabbis) tell us that he was punished for sacrificing his daughter, we can see even in the Tanach itself that the Jewish people did NOT sacrifice children. It was something that Jephthah was distressed about, as he clearly states in verse 35.

With this in mind I can now offer an explanation as to what was going on with this whole sacrificing your son business. First, as we saw above, the pagans believed that the ultimate show of faith to the gods that would conjure their favor was the sacrificing of the child that was the person's heir to the gods. So too, it is possible that, in the time of Avraham (Abraham), the pagan cultures that surrounded him believed the same thing. People would only do this if they wanted to show their ultimate faith to their gods. However, it was probably a rare occurrence because people would want their heir's to outlive them, hence why it is called an heir. This is also why the Moabite King did not sacrifice his heir until he exhausted all other options. He only sacrificed his son once he realized he was doomed without some type of divine intervention.

So, why is this connected to Avraham? I think it is appropriate to bring up the Rambam's opinion on regular sacrifices here. The Rambam, in the Sefer Moreh Nevuchim (3:46) says, 

"Scripture tells us, according to the Version of Onkelos, that the Egyptians worshipped Aries, and therefore abstained from killing sheep, and held shepherds in contempt. Comp. "Behold we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians," etc. (Exod. viii. 26); "For every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians" (Gen. xlvi. 34). Some sects among the Sabeans worshipped demons, and imagined that these assumed the form of goats, and called them therefore "goats" [se‘irim]. This worship was widespread. Comp. "And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto demons, after whom they have gone a whoring" (Lev. xvii. 7). For this reason those sects abstained from eating goats' flesh. Most idolaters objected to killing cattle, holding this species of animals in great estimation. Therefore the people of Hodu [Indians] up to this day do not slaughter cattle even in those countries where other animals are slaughtered. In order to eradicate these false principles, the Law commands us to offer sacrifices only of these three kinds: "Ye shall bring your offering of the cattle [viz.], of the herd and of the flock" (Lev. i. 2). Thus the very act which is considered by the heathen as the greatest crime, is the means of approaching God, and obtaining His pardon for our sins. In this manner, evil principles, the diseases of the human soul, are cured by other principles which are diametrically opposite."
The whole reason for sacrifices in the first place is to completely separate us from the false principles of idolatry. With this, I think it is quite obvious what the purpose of the Akeida was. Avraham was told by G-D to take his son Yitzchak to be sacrificed. However, the Torah tells us that G-D said "Take your son, your only one, whom you love, Yitzchak." Why does G-D give such a vivid description of Yitzchak? The reason is, as pointed out above, the ultimate sacrifice that would conjure up the favor of the gods is the sacrifice of the heir, the most loved child. G-D needed to purge Avraham of this insane ritualistic act of faith. However, the only way to do that was to confront it head on. G-D needed Avraham to experience the whole situation in order for him to realize just how crazy and absolutely moronic this act of sacrificing one's heir is. Once Avraham got to the point just before killing Yitzchak, he is stopped, G-D has an angel call out to Avraham, "Avraham! Avraham! Do not stretch out your hand against the lad!" G-D was telling Avraham that this is not the proper way to worship G-D. G-D needed Avraham to overcome the idea that was engraved in Avraham's mind, that you must be willing to do the unthinkable in order to properly worship your gods. That is utterly false, G-D would never ask you to do something so ridiculous.

However, there were two lessons learned on that day. The first was that Avraham realized that he was willing to do anything for G-D and the second was that idol worship and G-D worship are completely different. Idol worship is full of false ideas and wicked practices, I mean, who the heck would kill their child? This is the main reason G-D tested Avraham in this manner, it was to purge these false beliefs from his psyche and to teach us a valuable lesson, we do not serve G-D like the rest of the world serves their gods.

This lesson was most appropriate in the times of the crusades and the Jihaads of the Middle-Ages. The other monotheistic religions were constantly killing people in the name of G-D. This is not what Judaism is about, we do not kill in the name of G-D. We kill only for self defense purposes and not because some guy who claims to know the will of G-D says so. However, I think this lesson is applicable now more than ever because we have the State of Israel. It may be true that there are Islamic Terror Organizations like Hamas and Hizbollah that are trying to kill Jews all the time. They do it in the name of their religion and god. We can NEVER sink to this level. Any Jew that kills in the name of G-D is a fool, plain and simple. They are not following G-D's commands, nor are they acting in the Jewish people's best interest. However, killing in self defense is acceptable and should be done, everyone has a right to defend themselves from harm. 

This, I think, is one of the lessons to be learned from the Akeida. Jews need to be able to recognize unacceptable society norms. In this situation it was that sacrificing children is the ultimate show of faith. Nowadays, it is many other things that I don't want to go into right now, but I will let you think about what those other things are.  

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Importance of Learning the Truth

Being in Medical school I have, obviously, learned how to take a history and physical (to a certain extent). The teachers always emphasize that 80% or more of the cases we will see can be solved just with a good history and physical. However, in the introduction to our Cardiovascular system class we had a great teacher that explained something that seems so simple, "You see only what you look for and you recognize only what you know." Obvious? I thought so, but then I realized the significance of this statement after I read a section in Discover Magazine (Vital Signs by H. Lee Kagan). The story goes like this:

"The Student emerged from the examination room, chart in hand, and planted himself next to me in the hallway where I was finishing up my notes on another patient. Anxious to share his discovery, he leaned over and whispered, 'I think she has a mass in her pelvis (hip area).'.......I knew the student had asked the patient a battery of questions, but how good was he at taking the next step-- making the connections between her answers and his physical findings (E-Man: Basically, the doctor is wondering if the student can figure out what is causing the pelvic mass). I asked him if she had any symptoms related to the mass. 'Related to the mass?' he echoed as I watched him struggle to come up with something......'You told me that she had no complaint of pain....[Was there] Dyspareunia?' His brow furrowed and his eyes nearly crossed. I realized he didn't know what the word meant.....'Dyspareunia,' I told him, 'pain with intercourse. It can accompany a number of conditions, including pelvic tumors.' He stared at me, bewildered. I stared back at him, 'What?' He glanced away and then whispered, 'I thought intercourse was supposed to hurt the woman.' He was dead serious...When we had chatted earlier, he told me he had been raised outside of the United States, in a country that I knew had less progressive views of women's rights. Had he brought this bit of nonsense with him from the old country?"

This story details a serious problem with misinformation, it can be deadly. If this student had never learned that intercourse is not supposed to be painful for the woman then he could have missed many diagnosis of ovarian cancer which, as the author points out later, sometimes only shows up as pain with intercourse. That is a very scary thought, someone's cultural influence with misinformation could lead to life endangerment.

I think this story, along with countless others, can reveal the need for people to teach young people the truth. The culture which this young medical student came from could have cost a number of women their lives.

This is not only true about science and medicine, but I think it is true of Judaism as well. There is a lot of misinformation that is found out there with regard to Judaism that is spread by Jews and people who hate Judaism. For instance, this incident  that the Wolf talks about is mind boggling. This idea could ruin a persons future marriage or love life with their spouse. Also, when the child discovers that he or she was lied to that could turn them off from the religion entirely. This is true with regard to how some people discuss Chazal's infallibility and scientific knowledge found in the Gemorah as well. When someone lies, states something that is easily falsifiable, to their children or students, that is the most dangerous thing. In fact, it turns so many people off and ends up "killing" many student's or childrens' desires to learn more about the religion, they just give it up because it is "full of false beliefs."

There are appropriate ways to teach children about difficult subjects and there are bad ways to teach children about difficult subjects. If you are incapable of discussing it with them, you shouldn't lie about it. Please, find someone who can discuss this subject with them, they will thank you for your ability to realize when you do not understand how to deal with something and G-D will thank you for your intelligent decision to explain these difficult situations appropriately and meaningfully, aka by using someone more knowledgeable about the subject. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How the Torah and the Rabbis Teach Us to Treat Our Wives

This week's Parsha, Lech Licha, has an absolutely MIND BOGGLING discussion between Avraham and Sarah. The verses state (Genesis 12:11-13):

יא. וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר הִקְרִיב לָבוֹא מִצְרָיְמָה וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל שָׂרַי אִשְׁתּוֹ הִנֵּה נָא יָדַעְתִּי כִּי אִשָּׁה יְפַת מַרְאֶה אָתְּ:
11. Now it came to pass when he drew near to come to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, "Behold now I know that you are a woman of fair appearance.
יב. וְהָיָה כִּי יִרְאוּ אֹתָךְ הַמִּצְרִים וְאָמְרוּ אִשְׁתּוֹ זֹאת וְהָרְגוּ אֹתִי וְאֹתָךְ יְחַיּוּ:
12. And it will come to pass when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, 'This is his wife,' and they will slay me and let you live.
יג. אִמְרִי נָא אֲחֹתִי אָתְּ לְמַעַן יִיטַב לִי בַעֲבוּרֵךְ וְחָיְתָה נַפְשִׁי בִּגְלָלֵךְ:
13. Please say [that] you are my sister, in order that it go well with me because of you, and that my soul may live because of you."

Avraham is basically asking his wife to pretend to be his sister. Let's think about what that means. Well, the argument here is that since they will kill Avraham and take Sarah anyways, why not pretend Avraham is her brother and, because she is going to be courted by other men, he will benefit from her. That sounds like a strange request. However, it is a pekuach nefesh (life endangering) situation so Avraham was probably justified in this request especially since, as her brother, Avraham could protect her to some extent and she would not be "forced" into anything. The Egyptians, apparently, would try to honor him into allowing one of them to be with Sarah. However, if Avraham descended into Egypt as her husband they would have just killed him and raped her. This is, seemingly, the way Avraham was thinking. 

The mind boggling thing here is that he was pleading with Sarah to allow him to carry out his plan. This seems counter to the way society was run up until more modern times. Even in Rome, a "civilized" society, the law was a man could do whatever he wanted to do to his family, kill them, beat them and so on. The fact that Avraham would not carry out his plan without Sarah's go ahead speaks mountains of his character. The truth is that even if Avraham had not consulted with Sarah he could have just told the Egyptians that she was his sister and whatever she said would be worthless. Why would the Egyptians kill him if he said she was his sister regardless of what she said? However, Avraham cared what Sarah had to say and would only carry out his plan if she gave the go ahead. This is a very different attitude towards women than that of most ancient civilizations. In fact, it was only very recently (1920 in the United States and no earlier than 1881 in the Isle of Man: that women were allowed to vote in elections. 

However, this appreciation for a wife was not lost on Avraham. A good example of this value is found in the Gemorah on 59a in Babba Metzeia. It states, "R. Helbo said: One must always observe the honour due to his wife, because blessings rest on a man's home only on account of his wife, for it is written (Genesis 12:16), 'And he treated Abram well for her sake.' And thus did Rava say to the townspeople of Mahuza, Honour your wives, that ye may be enriched."

Also, the Rambam says in the Laws of Women (15:19):
וכן צוו חכמים שיהא אדם מכבד את אשתו יותר מגופו ואוהבה כגופו. ואם יש לו ממון מרבה בטובתה כפי ממונו. ולא יטיל עליה אימה יתירה ויהיה דבורו עמה בנחת ולא יהיה עצב ולא רגזן:
"So too, the Rabbis commanded that a man should honor his wife more than himself and love her like himself. If he has money, then he should increase his goodness towards her according to how much money he has. He should not place upon her a lot of fear, he should speak to her soothingly, he should not cause her grief and he should not be ill-tempered with her."

We find in Judaism that throughout our existence as a people we have always held the value of respect for women no matter what the situation. Avraham did not speak to Sarah with haste or with an ill-temper even though he was fearful FOR HIS LIFE. Rambam tells us that we MUST speak to our wives in a soothing nature and without causing grief no matter the situation, rather we must look at Avraham as an example for how to treat our wives.

I think it is quit obvious why the Torah points out that Avraham treated Sarah with respect and the Rabbis specifically tell us a man must honor his wife, because the societies that they were surrounded by did not do this. The Midianites treated their women like weapons, using them as tools to fight the Jewish people by sending them to have illicit relations with them. The Egyptians would take women against their will, as pointed out in this week's Parsha. In the time of the Gemorah, the Romans would allow a husband to KILL his wife without batting an eyelash. The Rambam lived in a Muslim society and, although he was influenced to some degree, seemingly kept this Jewish value of honoring your wife more than yourself.

Unfortunately, there are some Jewish men that do not honor this Jewish value. However, they are the few outliers and transgressors of this Jewish law. The Torah explicitly teaches us that a man must honor his wife and the Rabbis reinforce this idea. Avraham and Sarah were equal partners and, we can see from this story, he consulted with her for her opinion.

Avraham and Sarah had a very trying life together. They were tested over and over. However, they were able to make it work because they were in it together and respected each others ideas and truly loved one another. Their life together is one to be emulated.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rambam- Yisodei Hatorah Perek 5 Halacha 10- How Others View G-D Through The Jews

כל העובר מדעתו בלא אונס על אחת מכל מצות האמורות בתורה בשאט בנפש להכעיס הרי זה מחלל את השם. ולפיכך נאמר בשבועת שקר וחללת את שם אלהיך אני ה'. ואם עבר בעשרה מישראל הרי זה חילל את השם ברבים. וכן כל הפורש מעבירה או עשה מצוה לא מפני דבר בעולם לא פחד ולא יראה ולא לבקש כבוד אלא מפני הבורא ברוך הוא כמניעת יוסף הצדיק עצמו מאשת רבו הרי זה מקדש את השם:

"Anyone who knowingly and purposefully transgressed one of the commandments stated in the Torah with disgust and out of spite is performing a Chilul Hashem (Desecration of G-D's name). Therefore it says by one who makes a false oath (Vayikra 19:12), 'And you disgraced the name of your G-D, I am G-D.' If this person [performs this] transgression in front of ten other Jews then he or she is disgracing G-D's name in public.

[On the other hand,] anyone who separates himself or herself from performing a sin or anyone who performs a commandment without being compelled, not by fear, or trepidation, or to gain honor, rather [they are performing this commandment] simply because of the Creator, blessed be He, just like Yosef the righteous one held himself back from the wife of his master, then this person is performing a kiddiush Hashem (sanctification of G-D's name)."

There is a very valuable idea that can be taken away from this idea in the Rambam. Other people view G-D based on the actions of a Jew. It is not even the actions of the Jewish people as a whole that matter, but every single Jew. This is also not exclusively for a non-Jew basing his or her opinion on the Jewish people based on a single Jew, but a Jew basing his or her opinion of the Jewish people solely on individuals.

Here is a good example, if a Jew from Dallas is visiting Chicago and the Jew from Dallas sees another Jew in Chicago eating at a Burger King then the Jew from Dallas will think that Jews from Chicago do not keep kosher. Similarly, if a non-Jew sees a Jew running a Ponzy Scheme, then that non-Jew will think all Jews are thieves. However, this will not only reflect on the Jewish people, but G-D as well. Why? People will think that the G-D of the Jews must not be real or care about His people because they do whatever they want.

The essence of a desecration of the name is not the action that is being performed, but the backlash that comes off of that action. The statements that will be whispered around because of the action. If one Jew steals, that is not the nations problem. However, the gossip that leads to a bad reputation for all Jews IS the ENTIRE nations problem.

This is most easily seen by the old joke that all Jews are bankers and are money hungry. Also, it can be seen by Muslims since everyone says Muslims are terrorists. These things are based on individuals or small groups that lead to the larger population of that religion being labeled as evil because of a select few.

Also, when a nation is labeled as evil then their G-D is attacked as well. Again, this is easily seen by the fact that many people say Allah is an evil god or that  G-D is evil. These declarations are either made by complete idiots (which we don;t need to worry about) or people that have come to this conclusion based on people that misrepresent the religion.

On the other hand, a person that is able to cause people to respect our religion or love our religion is to be applauded. Respect leads to peace and tranquility that will allow us to pursue our goals of serving G-D and making connections with Him. We should all believe that this peace and tranquility is dependent upon us, as individuals, and think that every action we make is being scrutinized by those around us. If we act appropriately and lovingly, people will respect our religion and our G-D. If we act with hate and disgusting behavior the exact opposite will happen and people around us will not only hate us, but our G-D as well.