Monday, June 05, 2006


Seven weeks after our flight from Egypt, we received the Torah (according to the Torah anyway). We didn’t receive our Torah in a great hall of a palace or in the innermost portions of a temple, we received it in a barren wilderness on a rocky mountain, not even a high rocky mountain, but the lowest mound in the desert. This did not stop the experience from being truly supernal and supernatural and the most amazing miracle of all, direct contact between the mortal and the Immortal. How this divine communion came about was nothing short of amazing. Even disregarding midrash for a moment, the pshat of the Torah itself presents the natural process being slightly interrupted. The entire nation saw great noises, the thunder and the sounds from the shofar. This is like seeing musical notes coming out of musical instruments in cartoons but real (some scholars dispute this too…). They also heard lightning. Nature was being unwoven. When God said the first word of the Ten Utterances (because Ten Commandments is a bad translation; there are at least 613 Commandments) “ANOCHI!” “I AM…” everyones’ souls ran away. I realize that I wrote everything I am writing here in my Dvar Torah on Parashat Yitro in February so I will stop with this portion of the dvar torah.

Shavuot is not only known as Zman Matan Torateynu, the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah, but also Chag HaKatzir, the Festival of the Ingathering Harvest. It is at this time of year that the barley grain which we had been counting with for 49 days since the second day of pesach was finally harvested. Another part of Shavuot is the events of the harvest-time a couple hundred years after the revelation at Sinai. This is the story of Ruth. Rabbi Feinstein gave a sermon at the Tikkun on the first night of Shavuot regarding the book of Ruth and Jews-By-Choice which I would like to partially incorporate in my comments She is tied to this holiday because this is when the real turn of events came around, it was during the festival of the ingathering, that is, the actual festival where the men had completed the harvest and were now celebrating, according to my Rabbi, with barley by eating bread and drinking beer (which is made from barley hops). Ruth, following the instruction of her mother in law, basically rapes Boaz in his drunken passed-out state. And it is from this we get the Royal Line and will get the Messiah. This I knew. What I never noticed before is the moniker that is attached to her once she leaves Moab. Once she enters the land of Israel she is known as and self-identifies as Ruth the Moabite. Only Boaz sees her simply as Ruth, without that detestable marker, the modern equivalent being called a shiksa or sheygetz. Even as Ruth says that she is a Moabite, Boaz sees past this and sees a foreign woman as equal.

Rabbi Hoffman and I had a long discussion on Thursday night about the agenda here. We discussed biblical criticism and the {A/a}uthorship of Deuteronomy in which the laws that a Moabite and a Bastard “cannot enter the Congregation of the Lord for ten generations” (Deuteronomy 23). As most biblical critics put the book of Deuteronomy at the time of Josiah, this is surprising as this disqualifies both King David (who is the 10th Generation of Perez, as seen in the genealogy at the conclusion of the Book of Ruth, Perez being the mamzer son of Judah and his daughter in law Tamar in the 38th chapter of Genesis. Another descendant of Perez is a woman by the name of Elisheba, the daughter of Aminadab and the sister of Nachshon, prince of Judah during the exodus. She is not only a mamzeret, but also according to Exodus 6:23 she marries Aaron, the high priest who must marry someone pure. What is going on here? I discussed these issues when I delivered a Dvar Torah on Parashat Ki Tetze on the first Shabbat of the school year at Seudah Shlishit this past year. I didn't know the answer then nor did we figure out the answer now. However, my thought was that it showed that if bastards like the entire Royal and Priestly lines (pardon my French) could achieve greatness then the sky is the limit for us (the sky is the limit, because nobody can become God…).

The program regarding Jews-By-Choice program which the synagogue put on during the tikkun was very appropriate and well done. Your people are my people, your God is my God. This is a major life-altering decision that all of these converts made and places them alongside the ranks of not only Ruth, but of the first-ever Jew-By-Choice, Abraham, who left his homeland and his father’s house to go with God. So too this is the lot of those who chose Judaism. I was at Sinai, I never had to make a choice. These people had to completely change their lives and suffer the slings and arrows of friends and family angry at them for making such a choice. The thirteenth bracha of the amidah, Rabbi Schulweis points out, talks not only about God blessing the righteous, the pious, the elders, the learned, and the righteous converts, along with us. May we all together be blessed.

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