Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Past Suffering Versus Current Suffering and Rabbinic Leadership

On Tisha Bi'av we say many Kinot, but there is only one kina that anyone says (many do not say it) that has to do with recent suffering. The majority of kinot refer to suffering that happened hundreds if not thousands of years ago. And you can forget about any kina with regards to the suffering that occurs in the State of Israel. Is this appropriate? It seems like this is an incorrect approach based on the Gemara in Brachos 12b-13a where it says:

It has been taught: Ben Zoma said to the Sages: Will the Exodus from Egypt be
mentioned in the days of the Messiah? Was it not long ago said: Therefore behold the days come,
saith the Lord, that they shall no more say: As the Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel
out of the land of Egypt; but, As the Lord liveth that brought up and that led the seed of the house of
Israel out of the north country and from all the countries whither I had driven them? They replied:
This does not mean that the mention of the exodus from Egypt shall be obliterated, but that the
[deliverance from] subjection to the other kingdoms shall take the first place and the exodus from
Egypt shall become secondary.....  A parable: To what is this like? To a man who was travelling on the road when he encountered a wolf and escaped from it, and he went along relating the affair of the wolf. He then encountered a lion and escaped from it, and went along relating the affair of the lion. He then encountered a snake and escaped from it, whereupon he forgot the two previous incidents and went along relating the affair of the snake. So with Israel: the later troubles make them forget the earlier ones.

Apparently, we no longer have the character traits of the children of Israel that the Gemara speaks. We are stuck on the destruction that occurred hundreds and thousands of years ago (excluding the loss of the Beis Hamikdash) in a, seemingly, inappropriate way. The Gemara is telling us that the tragedies that should be our focus are the more recent tragedies. The holocaust should definitely play a larger role on Tisha Bi'av. ONE KINA??? Are you kidding me? That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Why are we focusing on destruction of small communities in Europe? Who connects to that nowadays? Also, why is there nothing about the attacks on Israel? Surely all the attacks on Israel are just as important, or tragic, as the pogroms of the middle ages. However, the attacks in Israel are more recent and as the Gemara says, "the later troubles make them forget the earlier ones." 

This lack of commemorating anything in Israel or barely commemorating the Holocaust got me thinking, "What is the cause of this?" Then, someone mentioned to me that it is amazing that we have all these kinot for different communities and different suffering throughout Europe, but hardly anything for the Holocaust or anything bad that has happened to Israel. The Rabbis of previous generations clearly were much greater than any Rabbis alive today.

It is not just that the Rabbis were greater back in the day, it is that they commanded respect and people actually listened to them. They did not say what the community wanted to hear, but they said what the community NEEDED to hear.

This brings me to a Gemara that I was reading over Shabbos, Sanhedrin 97a. It says there that "The face of the generation [of the Moshiach] will be like the face of a dog." Now, there are several explanations, but Rav Elchonon Wasserman in Ikvasa DiMishicha cites a great explanation from Rabbi Yisroel Salanter. He says that "The face of the generation" refers to the leaders of the generation. The behavior of the leaders of the generation will resemble that of a dog. When a dog walks ahead of its master it gives the illusion that it is actually leading the master, but in reality it is being lead by its master. So too the leaders in the time of the Moshiach will appear to be leading, but in reality they will just be following the will of the masses.

This is what seems to be going on here by kinot, as well as in many other situations. The Rabbinic leaders may want to institute new Kinot that do commemorate the more recent suffering that is most appropriate for us to mention. However, the masses do not want it because it is not "FRUM," or whatever other reason they want to give. Why shouldn't the leaders of our generation get together and say, "You know what, we really should give a larger commemoration to the death of 6 million Jews and the suffering of many more millions. We should commemorate the constant struggle that the Jews in Israel go through and the suffering of those on the front lines." But no, that does not happen. Apparently, we are very close to the days of Moshiach, because our leaders are more of a "yes man" to the whims of the masses (or the kinayim) than they are actual leaders.

This is not speaking of all leaders, but it does seem to be very common nowadays.    

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Daf Yomi Question Daf 2b

I started Daf yomi on Friday, probably like a lot of people, and came up with a question that I could not find an answer to. If you have any ideas let me know. Here is my question, I have not come up with a satisfactory answer. 

Rashi says close to the top of 2b that a poor person does not have a candle and that is why, we originally think, he eats his meal before the stars come out. (This makes it that the time a poor person eats is before the time the Kohanim, or priests, can eat terumah.) However, as the Gemara continues we learn that the poor person actually eats his meal when the stars come out (same time as the Kohanim can eat terumah). And even further in the Gemara at the bottom of 2b we learn that the poor person actually eats his meal AFTER the stars come out.

This is very odd to me. Rashi seems to say that it is obvious that the poor person eats his meal before the stars come out because he has no candle. If this is true, then how can the Gemara claim that the poor person actually eats his meal well after the stars have come out? The poor person either has a candle or not. According to Rashi, the poor person would not eat his meal after dark. The Mesoras Hashas in the Oz Vehadar also links this claim to a Gemara in Yuma 74b that says "You cannot compare one who sees what he eats with one who does not see what he is eating" implying someone who does not see what he is eating enjoys it less since the Gemara continues on and says "R. Joseph said: This is an allusion to [the reason] why blind people eat on without becoming satisfied. Abaye said: Therefore let him who has a meal eat only in daylight."

So, my question is this: What does Rashi think is happening with the poor person's meal? Rashi holds that a poor person has no candle, therefore, they must eat before dark. However, the Gemara comes to teach us that really a poor person eats well after the stars have come out.