Tuesday, October 29, 2013


TRANSMIGRATION OF SOULS ARTICLE HEADINGS: Doctrine Refuted by Saadia. Influence of Cabala. Opposition to the View. The School of Luria. Impregnation of Souls. Special Instances. Gilgul. Read more: file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Owner/Desktop/Gilgul%20Ibbur/JewishEncyclopedia_com%20-%20TRANSMIGRATION%20OF%20SOULS.mht#ixzz2jA1iSrKV Doctrine Refuted by Saadia. The passing of souls into successive bodily forms, either human or animal. According to Pythagoras, who probably learned the doctrine in Egypt, the rational mind (ψρήν), after having been freed from the chains of the body, assumes an ethereal vehicle, and passes into the region of the dead, where it remains till it is sent back to this world to inhabit some other body, human or animal. After undergoing successive purgations, and when it is sufficiently purified, it is received among the gods, and returns to the eternal source from which it first proceeded. This doctrine was foreign to Judaism until about the eighth century,when, under the influence of the Mohammedan mystics, it was adopted by the Karaites and other Jewish dissenters. It is first mentioned in Jewish literature by Saadia, who protested against this belief, which at his time was shared by the Yudghanites, or whomsoever he contemptuously designated as "so-called Jews" (; see Schmiedl, "Studien," p. 166; idem, in "Monatsschrift," x. 177; Rapoport, in "Bikkure ha-'Ittim," ix. 23; idem, introduction to Abraham bar Ḥiyya's "Hegyon ha-Nefesh," p. lii.; Jellinek, in "Orient, Lit." 1851, p. 410; Fürst, "Gesch. des Karäert." i. 81). According to Saadia, the reasons given by the adherents of metempsychosis for their belief are partly intellectual and partly Scriptural. The former are as follows: (1) Observation shows that many men possess attributes of animals, as, for instance, the gentleness of a lamb, the rage of a wild beast, the gluttony of a dog, the lightness of a bird, etc. These peculiarities, they assert, prove that their possessors have in part the souls of the respective animals. (2) It would be contrary to the justice of God to inflict pain upon children in punishment for sins committed by their souls in a previous state. The Scriptural reasons are conclusions drawn from certain Biblical verses, such as: "Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; but with him that standeth here with us this day before the Lord our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day" (Deut. xxix. 14, 15); "Blessed be the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly," etc. (Ps. i. 1). Both sets of reasons are refuted by Saadia, who says that he would not consider it worth while to show the foolishness and the low-mindedness of the believers in metempsychosis, were he not afraid lest they might exercise a pernicious influence upon others ("Emunot we-De'ot," vi.). Influence of Cabala. The doctrine counted so few adherents among the Jews that, with the exception of Abraham ibn Daud ("Emunah Ramah," i. 7), no Jewish philosopher until Ḥasdai Crescas even deemed it necessary to refute it. Only with the spread of the Cabala did it begin to take root in Judaism, and then it gained believers even among men who were little inclined toward mysticism. Thus one sees a man like Judah ben Asher (Asheri) discussing the doctrine in a letter to his father, and endeavoring to place it upon a philosophical basis ("Ṭa'am Zeḳenim," vii.). The cabalists eagerly adopted the doctrine on account of the vast field it offered to mystic speculations. Moreover, it was almost a necessary corollary of their psychological system. The absolute condition of the soul is, according to them, its return, after developing all those perfections the germs of which are eternally implanted in it, to the Infinite Source from which it emanated. Another term of life must therefore be vouchsafed to those souls which have not fufilled their destiny here below and have not been sufficiently purified for the state of reunion with the Primordial Cause. Hence if the soul, on its first assumption of a human body and sojourn on earth, fails to acquire that experience for which it descended from heaven, and becomes contaminated by that which is polluting, it must reinhabit a body till it is able to ascend in a purified state through repeated trials. This is the theory of the Zohar, which says: "All souls are subject to transmigration; and men do not know the ways of the Holy One, blessed be He! They do not know that they are brought before the tribunal both before they enter into this world and after they leave it; they are ignorant of the many transmigrations and secret probations which they have to undergo, and of the number of souls and spirits which enter into this world and which do not return to the palace of the Heavenly King. Men do not know how the souls revolve like a stone which is thrown from a sling. But the time is at hand when these mysteries will be disclosed" (Zohar, ii. 99b).Like Origen and other Church Fathers, the cabalists used as their main argument in favor of the doctrine of metempsychosis the justice of God. But for the belief in metempsychosis, they maintained, the question why God often permits the wicked to lead a happy life while many righteous are miserable, would be unanswerable. Then, too, the infliction of pain upon children would be an act of cruelty unless it is imposed in punishment for sin committed by the soul in a previous state. Opposition to the View. Although raised by the Cabala to the rank of a dogma, the doctrine of metempsychosis still found great opposition among the leaders of Judaism in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In his "Iggeret Hitnaẓẓelut," addressed to Solomon ben Adret in defense of philosophy, Jedaiah Bedersi praises the philosophers for having opposed the belief in metempsychosis. Ḥasdai Crescas ("Or Adonai," iv. 7), and after him his pupil Joseph Albo ("'Iḳḳarim," iv. 29), attacked this belief on philosophical grounds, considering it to be a heathen superstition, opposed to the spirit of Judaism. The opposition, however, gradually ceased; and the belief began to be shared even by men who were imbued with Aristotelian philosophy Thus Isaac Abravanel sees in the commandment of the levirate a proof of the doctrine of metempsychosis, for which he gives the following reasons: (1) God in His mercy willed that another trial should be given to the soul which, having yielded to the sanguine temperament of the body, had committed a capital sin, such as murder, adultery, etc.; (2) it is only just that when a man dies young a chance should be given to his soul to execute in another body the good deeds which it had not time to perform in the first body; (3) the soul of the wicked sometimes passes into another body in order to receive its deserved punishment here below instead of in the other world, where it would be much more severe (commentary on Deut. xxv. 5). These arguments were wittily refuted by the skeptical Leon of Modena in his pamphlet against metempsychosis, entitled "Ben Dawid." He says: "It is not God, but the planets, that determine the temperament of the body; why then subject the soul to the risk of entering into a body with a temperament as bad as, if not worse than, that of the one it has left? Would it not be more in keeping with God's mercy to take into consideration the weakness of the body and to pardonthe soul at once? To send the soul of a man who died young into another body would be to make it run the risk of losing the advantages it had acquired in its former body. Why send the soul of the wicked to another body in order to punish it here below? Was there anything to prevent God from punishing it while it was in its first body?" The School of Luria. Upon the doctrine of metempsychosis was based the psychological system of the practical Cabala, inaugurated by the cabalists of the school of Luria. According to them, all the souls destined for the human race were created together with the various organs of Adam. As there are superior and inferior organs, so there are superior and inferior souls, according to the organs with which they are respectively coupled. Thus there are souls of the brain, of the eye, of the head, etc. Each human soul is a spark ("niẓaẓ") from Adam. The first sin of the first man caused confusion among the various classes of souls; so that even the purest soul received an admixture of evil. This state of confusion, which gives a continual impulse toward evil, will cease with the arrival of the Messiah, who will establish the moral system of the world on a new basis.Until that time man's soul, because of its deficiencies, can not return to its source, and has to wander not only through the bodies of men, but even through inanimate things. If a man's good deeds outweigh his evil ones, his soul passes into a human body; otherwise, into that of an animal. Incest causes the soul to pass into the body of an unclean animal; adultery, into that of an ass; pride in a leader of a community, into that of a bee; forgery of amulets, into that of a cat; cruelty toward the poor, into that of a crow; denunciation, into that of a barking cur; causing a Jew to eat unclean flesh, into a leaf of a tree which endures great suffering when shaken by the wind; neglect to wash the hands before meals, into a river. The main difference between the passing of the soul into a human body and its transmigration into an animal or an inanimate object consists in the fact that in the former case the soul ignores its transmigration, while in the latter it is fully aware of its degradation, and suffers cruelly therefrom. With regard to the transmigration of the soul into a crow Moses Galante, rabbi at Safed, relates that once he accompanied Isaac Luria to 'Ain Zaitun to pray at the tomb of Judah ben Ilai. On approaching the place he noticed on an olive-tree which grew near the tomb a crow which croaked incessantly. "Were you acquainted," asked Luria, "with Shabbethai, the tax-farmer of Safed?" "I knew him," answered Galante: "he was a very bad man and displayed great cruelty toward the poor, who were not able to pay the taxes." "This crow," said Luria, "contains his soul" ("Shibḥe ha-Ari," p. 29). Impregnation of Souls. A quite new development of the doctrine of metempsychosis was the theory of the impregnation of souls, propounded by the cabalists of the Luria school. According to this theory, a purified soul that has neglected some religious duties on earth must return to the earthly life and unite with the soul of a living man, in order to make good such neglect. Further, the soul of a man freed from sin appears again on earth to support a weak soul unequal to its task.Thus, for instance, the soul of Samuel was supported by those of Moses and Aaron; the soul of Phinehas, by those of Nadab and Abihu. However, this union, which may extend to three souls at one time, can take place only between souls of a homogeneous character, that is, between those which are sparks from the same Adamite organs. As the impregnated soul comes either to make good a neglect or to support a weak soul, it enters into the body only after the man has completed his thirteenth year, when he reaches the age of religious duty and responsibility The dispersion of Israel has for its purpose the salvation of man; and the purified souls of Israelites unite with the souls of other races in order to free them from demoniacal influences. Each man, according to the practical Cabala, bears on his forehead a mark by which one may recognize the nature of the soul: to which degree and class it belongs; the relation existing between it and the superior world; the transmigrations it has already accomplished; the means by which it may contribute to the establishment of the new moral system of the world; how it may be freed from demoniacal influences; and to which soul it should be united in order to become purified. He who wishes to ascertain to which of the four worlds his soul belongs must close his eyes and fix his thought on the four letters of the Ineffable Name. If the color he then beholds is a very bright, sparkling white, his soul has proceeded from the world of emanation ( ); if an ordinary white, from that of creative ideas (); if red, from that of creative formation (); and if green, from that of creative matter (). Special Instances. The cabalists of the Luria school pretended to know the origins and transmigrations of all the souls of the human race since Adam; and in their works accounts are given concerning Biblical personages and the great teachers of Judaism. Thus, for instance, the soul of Aaron is said to have been derived from the good part of that of Cain. It entered into the body of the high priest Eli, who, in expiation of the sin committed by Aaron in making the golden calf—a sin punishable with lapidation—broke his neck in falling from his seat. From Eli it transmigrated into the body of Ezra; and it then became purified. The name "Adam" contains the initials of David and Messiah, into whose bodies the soul of the first man successively entered. The name "Laban" contains the initials of Balaam and Nabal, who successively received Laban's soul. Jacob's soul passed into Mordecai; and because the former had sinned in prostrating himself before Esau, Mordecai obstinately refused to prostrate himself before Haman, even at the risk of endangering the safety of the Persian Jews. Interesting is the account given in the "Sefer ha-Gilgulim" of the souls of some contemporaries of Isaac Luria.The soul of Isaac de Lattes is said there to have been a spark from that of a pious man of the olden times (); that of Joseph Vital, one from the soul of Ezra; that of Moses Minz, one from the soulof Seth, the son of Adam. To the soul of Moses Alshech was united that of the amora Samuel ben Naḥmani; hence the former's talent for preaching. Both Moses Cordovero and Elijah de Vidas partook of the soul of Zechariah ben Jehoiada; hence the great friendship that existed between them. Because of some sin his soul had committed in a previous state Moses Vital was unable to acquire a perfect knowledge of the Cabala. The soul of Joseph Delpino entered into a black dog. Ḥayyim Vital possessed, according to Isaac Luria, a soul which had not been soiled by Adam's sin. Luria himself possessed the soul of Moses, which had previously been in the bodies of Simeon ben Yoḥai and Hamnuna Saba. Generally the souls of men transmigrate into the bodies of men, and those of women into the bodies of women; but there are exceptions. The soul of Judah, the son of Jacob, was in part that of a woman; while Tamar had the soul of a man. Tamar's soul passed into Ruth; and therefore the latter could not bear children until God had imparted to her sparks from a female soul. The transmigration of a man's soul into the body of a woman is considered by some cabalists to be a punishment for the commission of heinous sins, as when a man refuses to give alms or to communicate his wisdom to others. Gilgul. The theory of impregnation gave birth to the superstitious belief in "dibbuḳ" or "gilgul," which prevailed, and still prevails, among the Oriental Jews and those of eastern Europe. This belief assumes that there are souls which are condemned to wander for a time in this world, where they are tormented by evil spirits which watch and accompany them everywhere. To escape their tormentors such souls sometimes take refuge in the bodies of living pious men and women, over whom the evil spirits have no power.The person to whom such a soul clings endures great suffering and loses his own individuality; he acts as though he were quite another man, and loses all moral sense. He can be cured only by a miracle-working rabbi ("ba'al shem") who is able to cast out the soul from his body by exorcisms and amulets. The usual exorcism in such cases consisted in the rabbi's reciting, in the presence of ten men (See Minyan), the 91st Psalm, and adjuring the soul in the name of God to leave the body of the afflicted one. In case of refusal on the part of the soul to yield to this simple injunction, the ban and the blowing of the shofar are resorted to. In order that it may cause the least possible amount of damage to the body, the soul is always directed to pass out through the small toe. The belief that migrant souls seek refuge in the bodies of living persons became more and more deeply rooted; and regular methods for expelling them are given in the cabalistic works of the seventeenth century. This superstition is still widely spread, especially in Ḥasidic circles. Curtiss relates ("Primitive Semitic Religions of To-Day," p. 152) that a few years ago a woman was exorcised in Palestine, and that the spirit when questioned replied that it was the soul of a Jew who had been murdered in Nablus twelve years before. The migrant soul was generally believed to belong to a wicked or murdered person; but it may happen that that of a righteous man is condemned, for a slight offense committed by it, to wander for a while in this world. Such a soul is, however, free from demoniacal influences, and it enters the body of a living person not to avoid evil spirits (who have no power over it), but to atone for the fault it has committed.As soon as this has been accomplished it leaves the body of its own free will. Ḥayyim Vital records that while sojourning at Damascus in 1699 he was called upon to entertain himself with the soul of a pious man which had entered the body of the daughter of Raphael Anaw. The soul informed him that it was exiled from heaven for having slighted the virtue of repentance. For a time it dwelt in a fish, but this fish was caught and sold to Raphael for the Sabbath meal; the soul then entered the body of the daughter of the house. In proclaiming before Vital the great importance of repentance it became free to return to its heavenly abode ("Shibḥe Ḥayyim Wiṭal," ed. Lemberg, p. 11). Narratives of this sort abound in the cabalistic writings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and many of them are reproduced in the "Nishmat Ḥayyim" of Manasseh ben Israel, who showed himself a firm believer in all kinds of gilgulim and dibbuḳim. He even went so far as to endeavor to demonstrate that references to them are to be found in the Bible. It is noteworthy that most of the cases of exorcism occurred at Safed or in its neighborhood; that is, in localities where mysticism was flourishing. A curious case is cited by Moses Prager in his "Zera' Ḳodesh": it is interesting from the fact that David Oppenheim, the collector of Hebrew books and manuscripts, who was the rabbi of Nikolsburg, Moravia, was one of the signatories of the narrative. See Dibbuḳim. Bibliography: Azariah da Fano, Gilgule Neshamot, passim; Manasseh ben Israel, Nishmat Ḥayyim, part iii., ch. xiv.; part iv., ch. xx.; Luria, Sefer ha-Gilgulim, passim; Shebaḥe ha-Ari, passim; Israel Saruk, Shibḥe Ḥayyim Wiṭal, passim; Abraham Shalom Ḥai, Sefer Nifla'im Ma'aseka, p. 18; Ginsburg, The Kabbalah, p. 42; Karppe, Etude sur l'Origine du Zohar, pp. 320 et seq., Paris, 1902; P. Rudermann, Uebersicht über die Idee der Seelenwanderung, Warsaw, 1878; S. Rubin, Gilgul Neshamot, Cracow, 1898; Alexander W. M. Menz, Demonic Possession in the New Testament, Edinburgh, 1902; Güdemann, Gesch. i. 202, 205, 216 DIBBUḲIM: Transmigrated souls. "Dibbuḳ" (lit. "something that cleaves unto something else") is a colloquial equivalent, common among the superstitious Jews in eastern European countries, for a migrant soul. It represents the latest phase in the development of the belief in the transmigration of souls; namely, that the soul of a man who has lived a wicked life will enter the body of a living person and refuse to leave it. The exorciser, in such a case a "ba'al shem," or a wonder-working rabbi, is aloneable to cast out this evil spirit, which usually goes out through the small toe, where a little orifice from which blood oozes marks the exact point of its exit. Full descriptions of such successful acts of exorcism, where, however, the dibbuḳ is still called by its older name "ruaḥ," are given in Manasseh b. Israel's "Nishmat Ḥayyim" (part iii., ch. 14; part iv., ch. 20). Another detailed description of a similar incident is reproduced in "Ha-Shaḥar" (vi. 459, 697) from Moses Prager's (Graf) "Zera' Ḳodesh" (Fürth, 1696), and is curious from the fact that R. David Oppenheim, the celebrated book-collector, who was then rabbi of Nikolsburg, Moravia, is one of the signatories to the narrative. The first who wrote of the dibbuḳ under that name in modern Hebrew literature was P. Ruderman, but his "Ha-Dibbuḳ," of which the German title is "Uebersicht über die Idee der Seelenwanderung" (Warsaw, 1878), is of little value. The most interesting part of the book is the description of one of the dibbuḳim, which, according to his statement, were very common in Poland in those days. It proves that the manifestations of the dibbuḳ, and the belief in the power of practical cabalists to exorcise it, have undergone little change in the two centuries which have elapsed since the Nikolsburg incident referred to above. Dr. S. Rubin, in his "Gilgul Neshamot," the German title of which is "Die Metempsychose in Mythus und Kultur Aller Völker" (Cracow, 1898), points out the connection between the ancient belief in the transmigration of souls and in possession by evil spirits, and that in the dibbuḳim of modern times. He says at the end of his work (p. 29) that the belief in the wanderings of the soul "has come down to our time among the ẓaddikim and saints of the Ḥasidim, who cast out 'gil-gulim' and 'dibbuḳim' from insane people." See Exorcism; Metempsychosis.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Chumash: Chayei Sara, Shevi'i with Rashi

http://www.chabad.org/dailystudy/tehillim.asp?tDate=10/26/2013 Multimedia Now playing: VIDEO: Reflections on "Hayom Yom": Cheshvan 22 - Moshe Steiner (4:25) Show content in:EnglishHebrew Shabbat Cheshvan 22 5704 Torah Lesson: Chumash: Chayei Sara, Shevi'i with Rashi. Tehillim: 106-107. Tanya: Now, it is (p. 583) ...as stated above. (p. 585). One of the teachings of the Maggid of Mezritch, heard by the Alter Rebbe when he was in Mezritch for the first time, from late summer 5524 (1764) until after Pesach 5525 (1765): "I (Anochi) have made the earth, and upon it created man."1 Anochi, He who is the true "I",2 unknown to and concealed from even the loftiest emanations, clothed His blessed Essence through numerous condensations to give rise to the emanations and creatures, 3 to Serafim, Chayot, Ofanim,4 angels and "worlds" beyond number. Through countless condensations, "I made this (physical) world and upon it created (barati) man." Man is the end-purpose of Creation, and barati is the end-purpose of man. (Barati, "I created," has the numerical equivalent of 613, the number of scriptural commandments). 5 As (the book of) Pardes quotes Sefer Habahir: "Said the attribute of Chessed (kindness) before the Holy One Blessed-be-He, Master of the Universe, since the days Avram has been on earth, I have not had to perform my task, because Avram stands and serves in my stead." Because Avraham - a soul clothed in a body, occupying himself with hospitality to strangers as a means of disseminating the idea of G-d in this lowly world - is actually on a higher plane and level than the attribute of kindness of Atzilut. The complaint ("Said the attribute of Chessed before the Holy One etc.") is an expression of envy of Avraham's service by the attribute of kindness of Atzilut. Compiled and arranged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, in 5703 (1943) from the talks and letters of the sixth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory. FOOTNOTES 1. Yeshayahu 45:12. 2. Lit.: "I, Whoever I Am." 3. The phrase defies accurate translation; in Hebrew the verb-form corresponding to "emanations," le'haatzil, is used to describe the coming-into-being of the ne'etzalim ("emanations"), and the verb livra for the nivra'im ("creations"). Awkward, but perhaps slightly more accurate, would be "...to separate off (or ("emanate") the emanations and to create the creatures." 4. Three forms of angels. 5. I.e. the end-purpose of Man is (that he perform) Mitzvot.


Chapter 106 The psalmist continues the theme of the previous psalm, praising God for performing other miracles not mentioned previously, for "who can recount the mighty acts of God?" Were we to try, we could not mention them all! 1. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord for He is good, for His kindness is everlasting. 2. Who can recount the mighty acts of the Lord, or proclaim all His praises? 3. Fortunate are those who preserve justice, who perform deeds of righteousness all the time. 4. Remember me, Lord, when You find favor with Your people; be mindful of me with Your deliverance; 5. to behold the prosperity of Your chosen, to rejoice in the joy of Your nation, to glory with Your inheritance. 6. We have sinned as did our fathers, we have acted perversely and wickedly. 7. Our fathers in Egypt did not contemplate Your wonders, they did not remember Your abundant kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, at the Sea of Reeds. 8. Yet He delivered them for the sake of His Name, to make His strength known. 9. He roared at the Sea of Reeds and it dried up; He led them through the depths, as through a desert. 10. He saved them from the hand of the enemy, and redeemed them from the hand of the foe. 11. The waters engulfed their adversaries; not one of them remained. 12. Then they believed in His words, they sang His praise. 13. They quickly forgot His deeds, they did not wait for His counsel; 14. and they lusted a craving in the desert, they tested God in the wilderness. 15. And He gave them their request, but sent emaciation into their souls. 16. They angered Moses in the camp, and Aaron, the Lord's holy one. 17. The earth opened and swallowed Dathan, and engulfed the company of Abiram; 18. and a fire burned in their assembly, a flame set the wicked ablaze. 19. They made a calf in Horeb, and bowed down to a molten image. 20. They exchanged their Glory for the likeness of a grass-eating ox. 21. They forgot God, their savior, Who had performed great deeds in Egypt, 22. wonders in the land of Ham, awesome things at the Sea of Reeds. 23. He said that He would destroy them-had not Moses His chosen one stood in the breach before Him, to turn away His wrath from destroying. 24. They despised the desirable land, they did not believe His word. 25. And they murmured in their tents, they did not heed the voice of the Lord. 26. So He raised His hand [in oath] against them, to cast them down in the wilderness, 27. to throw down their progeny among the nations, and to scatter them among the lands. 28. They joined themselves to [the idol] Baal Peor, and ate of the sacrifices to the dead; 29. they provoked Him with their doings, and a plague broke out in their midst. 30. Then Phineas arose and executed judgement, and the plague was stayed; 31. it was accounted for him as a righteous deed, through all generations, forever. 32. They angered Him at the waters of Merivah, and Moses suffered on their account; 33. for they defied His spirit, and He pronounced [an oath] with His lips. 34. They did not destroy the nations as the Lord had instructed them; 35. rather, they mingled with the nations and learned their deeds. 36. They worshipped their idols, and they became a snare for them. 37. They sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons. 38. They spilled innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land became guilty with blood. 39. They were defiled by their deeds, and went astray by their actions. 40. And the Lord's wrath blazed against His people, and He abhorred His inheritance; 41. so He delivered them into the hands of nations, and their enemies ruled them. 42. Their enemies oppressed them, and they were subdued under their hand. 43. Many times did He save them, yet they were rebellious in their counsel and were impoverished by their sins. 44. But He saw their distress, when He heard their prayer; 45. and He remembered for them His covenant and He relented, in keeping with His abounding kindness, 46. and He caused them to be treated mercifully by all their captors. 47. Deliver us, Lord our God; gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to Your Holy Name and glory in Your praise. 48. Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, forever and ever. And let all the people say, "Amen! Praise the Lord!"

Lisbon Earthquake (1755)

Today in Jewish History • Lisbon Earthquake (1755) A great earthquake struck Lisbon, Portugal, destroying much of the city including the courthouse of the Inquisition.
The 1755 Lisbon earthquake, also known as the Great Lisbon Earthquake, occurred in the Kingdom of Portugal on Saturday, 1 November 1755, the holiday of All Saints' Day, at around 09:40 local time.[1] In combination with subsequent fires and a tsunami, the earthquake almost totally destroyed Lisbon and adjoining areas. Seismologists today estimate the Lisbon earthquake had a magnitude in the range 8.5–9.0[2][3]) on the moment magnitude scale, with its epicentre in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 km (120 mi) west-southwest of Cape St. Vincent. Estimates place the death toll in Lisbon alone between 10,000 and 100,000 people,[4] making it one of the deadliest earthquakes in history. The earthquake accentuated political tensions in the Kingdom of Portugal and profoundly disrupted the country's colonial ambitions. The event was widely discussed and dwelt upon by European Enlightenment philosophers, and inspired major developments in theodicy and in the philosophy of the sublime. As the first earthquake studied scientifically for its effects over a large area, it led to the birth of modern seismology and earthquake engineering. The Azores-Gibraltar Transform Fault, which marks the boundary between the African (Nubian) and the Eurasian continental plates, runs westward from Gibraltar into the Atlantic. It shows a complex and active tectonic behavior, and is responsible for several important earthquakes that hit Lisbon before November 1755: eight in the 14th century, five in the 16th century (including the 1531 earthquake that destroyed 1,500 houses, and the 1597 earthquake when three streets vanished), and three in the 17th century. During the 18th century, earthquakes were reported in 1724 and 1750. In 1755, the earthquake struck on the morning of 1 November, the holiday of All Saints' Day. Contemporary reports state that the earthquake lasted between three and a half and six minutes, causing fissures 5 metres (15 feet) wide to open in the city centre. Survivors rushed to the open space of the docks for safety and watched as the water receded, revealing a sea floor littered with lost cargo and shipwrecks.Approximately 40 minutes after the earthquake, a tsunami engulfed the harbour and downtown area, rushing up the Tagus river,[5] "so fast that several people riding on horseback ... were forced to gallop as fast as possible to the upper grounds for fear of being carried away." It was followed by two more waves. In the areas unaffected by the tsunami[citation needed][clarification needed], fire quickly broke out, and flames raged for five days. Lisbon was not the only Portuguese city affected by the catastrophe. Throughout the south of the country, in particular the Algarve, destruction was rampant. The tsunami destroyed some coastal fortresses in the Algarve and, in the lower levels, it razed several houses. Almost all the coastal towns and villages of the Algarve were heavily damaged, except Faro, which was protected by the sandy banks of Ria Formosa. In Lagos, the waves reached the top of the city walls. Other towns of different Portuguese regions, like Peniche, Cascais, and even Covilhã which is located near the Serra da Estrela mountain range in central inland Portugal, were affected. The shock waves of the earthquake destroyed part of Covilhã's castle walls and its large towers. On the island of Madeira, Funchal and many smaller settlements suffered significant damage. Almost all of the ports in the Azores archipelago suffered most of their destruction from the tsunami, with the sea penetrating about 150 m inland. Shocks from the earthquake were felt throughout Europe[6] as far as Finland and North Africa, and according to some sources even in Greenland[7] and in the Caribbean.[8] Tsunamis as tall as 20 metres (66 ft) swept the coast of North Africa, and struck Martinique and Barbados across the Atlantic. A three-metre (ten-foot) tsunami hit Cornwall on the southern English coast. Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, was also hit, resulting in partial destruction of the "Spanish Arch" section of the city wall. At Kinsale, several vessels were whirled round in the harbor, and water poured into the marketplace.[8] Although seismologists and geologists had always agreed that the epicentre was in the Atlantic to the West of the Iberian Peninsula, its exact location has been a subject of considerable debate. Early theories had proposed the Gorringe Ridge until simulations showed that a source closer to the shore of Portugal was required to comply with the observed effects of the tsunami. A seismic reflection survey of the ocean floor along the Azores-Gibraltar fault has revealed a 50 km-long thrust structure southwest of Cape St. Vincent, with a dip-slip throw of more than 1 km, that might have been created by the primary tectonic event.[9] Casualties and damage[edit] The ruins of the Carmo Convent, which was destroyed in the Lisbon earthquake.Economic historian Álvaro Pereira estimated that of Lisbon's population of approximately 200,000 people, some 30,000–40,000 were killed. Another 10,000 may have lost their lives in Morocco; however, a 2009 study of contemporary reports relating to the 1 November event found them vague, and difficult to separate from reports of another local series of earthquakes on 18–19 November.[10] Pereira estimated the total death toll in Portugal, Spain and Morocco from the earthquake and the resulting fires and tsunami at 40,000 to 50,000 people.[11][12] Eighty-five percent of Lisbon's buildings were destroyed, including famous palaces and libraries, as well as most examples of Portugal's distinctive 16th-century Manueline architecture. Several buildings that had suffered little earthquake damage were destroyed by the subsequent fire. The new Opera House, opened just six months before (named the Phoenix Opera), burned to the ground. The Royal Ribeira Palace, which stood just beside the Tagus river in the modern square of Terreiro do Paço, was destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami. Inside, the 70,000-volume royal library as well as hundreds of works of art, including paintings by Titian, Rubens, and Correggio, were lost. The royal archives disappeared together with detailed historical records of explorations by Vasco da Gama and other early navigators. The earthquake also damaged major churches in Lisbon, namely the Lisbon Cathedral, the Basilicas of São Paulo, Santa Catarina, São Vicente de Fora, and the Misericórdia Church. The Royal Hospital of All Saints (the largest public hospital at the time) in the Rossio square was consumed by fire and hundreds of patients burned to death. The tomb of national hero Nuno Álvares Pereira was also lost. Visitors to Lisbon may still walk the ruins of the Carmo Convent, which were preserved to remind Lisboners of the destruction. The royal family escaped unharmed from the catastrophe: King Joseph I of Portugal and the court had left the city, after attending mass at sunrise, fulfilling the wish of one of the king's daughters to spend the holiday away from Lisbon. After the catastrophe, Joseph I developed a fear of living within walls, and the court was accommodated in a huge complex of tents and pavilions in the hills of Ajuda, then on the outskirts of Lisbon. The king's claustrophobia never waned, and it was only after Joseph's death that his daughter Maria I of Portugal began building the royal Ajuda Palace, which still stands on the site of the old tented camp. Like the king, the prime minister Sebastião de Melo (the Marquis of Pombal) survived the earthquake. When asked what was to be done, Pombal reportedly replied "Bury the dead and heal the living,"[13] and set about organizing relief and rehabilitation efforts. Firefighters were sent to extinguish the raging flames, and teams of workers and ordinary citizens were ordered to remove the thousands of corpses before disease could spread. Contrary to custom and against the wishes of the Church, many corpses were loaded onto barges and buried at sea beyond the mouth of the Tagus. To prevent disorder in the ruined city, the Portuguese Army was deployed and gallows were constructed at high points around the city to deter looters; more than thirty people were publicly executed.[14] The Army prevented many able-bodied citizens from fleeing, pressing them into relief and reconstruction work The king and the prime minister immediately launched efforts to rebuild the city. On 4 December 1755, little more than a month after the earthquake, Manuel da Maia, chief engineer to the realm, presented his plans for the re-building of Lisbon. Maia presented five options from abandoning Lisbon to building a completely new city. The first plan was to rebuild the old city using re-cycled materials; this was the cheapest option. The second and third plans proposed widening certain streets. The fourth option boldly proposed razing the entire Baixa quarter and "laying out new streets without restraint". This last option was chosen by the king and his minister.[15] Model of the seismically protective wooden structure, the "gaiola pombalina" (pombaline cage), developed for the reconstruction of Pombaline Lower TownIn less than a year, the city was cleared of debris. Keen to have a new and perfectly ordered city, the king commissioned the construction of big squares, rectilinear, large avenues and widened streets – the new mottos of Lisbon. The Pombaline buildings are among the earliest seismically protected constructions in Europe. Small wooden models were built for testing, and earthquakes were simulated by marching troops around them. Lisbon's "new" Lower Town, known today as the Pombaline Lower Town (Baixa Pombalina), is one of the city's famed attractions. Sections of other Portuguese cities, like the Vila Real de Santo António in Algarve, were also rebuilt along Pombaline principles. The Casa Pia, a Portuguese institution founded by Maria I (known as A Pia, "Maria the Pious"), and organized by Police Intendant Pina Manique in 1780, was founded following the social disarray of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake Effect on society and philosophy[edit] The earthquake had wide-ranging effects on the lives of the populace and intelligentsia. The earthquake had struck on an important church holiday and had destroyed almost every important church in the city, causing anxiety and confusion amongst the citizens of a staunch and devout Roman Catholic city and country, which had been a major patron of the Church. Theologians[citation needed] focussed and speculated on the religious cause and message, seeing the earthquake as a manifestation of divine judgement. Most philosophers rejected that on the grounds that the Alfama, Lisbon's red-light district, suffered only minor damage. The earthquake and its fallout strongly influenced the intelligentsia of the European Age of Enlightenment. The noted writer-philosopher Voltaire used the earthquake in Candide and in his Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne ("Poem on the Lisbon disaster"). Voltaire's Candide attacks the notion that all is for the best in this, "the best of all possible worlds", a world closely supervised by a benevolent deity. The Lisbon disaster provided a counterexample. As Theodor Adorno wrote, "[t]he earthquake of Lisbon sufficed to cure Voltaire of the theodicy of Leibniz" (Negative Dialectics 361). In the later twentieth century, following Adorno, the 1755 earthquake has sometimes been compared to the Holocaust as a catastrophe that transformed European culture and philosophy. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was also influenced by the devastation following the earthquake, whose severity he believed was due to too many people living within the close quarters of the city. Rousseau used the earthquake as an argument against cities as part of his desire for a more naturalistic way of life.[citation needed] The concept of the sublime, though it existed before 1755, was developed in philosophy and elevated to greater importance by Immanuel Kant, in part as a result of his attempts to comprehend the enormity of the Lisbon quake and tsunami. Kant published three separate texts on the Lisbon earthquake. The young Kant, fascinated with the earthquake, collected all the information available to him in news pamphlets, and used it to formulate a theory of the causes of earthquakes. Kant's theory, which involved the shifting of huge subterranean caverns filled with hot gases, was (though ultimately shown to be incorrect) one of the first systematic modern attempts to explain earthquakes by positing natural, rather than supernatural, causes. According to Walter Benjamin, Kant's slim early book on the earthquake "probably represents the beginnings of scientific geography in Germany. And certainly the beginnings of seismology." Werner Hamacher has claimed that the earthquake's consequences extended into the vocabulary of philosophy, making the common metaphor of firm "grounding" for philosophers' arguments shaky and uncertain: "Under the impression exerted by the Lisbon earthquake, which touched the European mind in one [of] its more sensitive epochs, the metaphor of ground and tremor completely lost their apparent innocence; they were no longer merely figures of speech" (263). Hamacher claims that the foundational certainty of Descartes' philosophy began to shake following the Lisbon earthquake. The earthquake had a major impact on Portuguese politics. The prime minister was the favorite of the king, but the aristocracy despised him as an upstart son of a country squire (although Prime Minister Sebastião de Melo is known today as Marquis of Pombal, the title was only granted in 1770, fifteen years after the earthquake). The prime minister in turn disliked the old nobles, whom he considered corrupt and incapable of practical action. Before 1 November 1755 there was a constant struggle for power and royal favor, but the competent response of the Marquis of Pombal effectively severed the power of the old aristocratic factions. However, silent opposition and resentment of King Joseph I began to rise, which would culminate with the attempted assassination of the king, and the subsequent elimination of the powerful Duke of Aveiro and the Távora family. Benjamin, Walter. "The Lisbon Earthquake." In Selected Writings vol. 2. Belknap, 1999. ISBN 0-674-94586-7. The often abstruse critic Benjamin gave a series of radio broadcasts for children in the early 1930s; this one, from 1931, discusses the Lisbon earthquake and summarizes some of its impact on European thought. Braun, Theodore E. D., and John B. Radner, eds. The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755: Representations and Reactions (SVEC 2005:02). Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2005. ISBN 0-7294-0857-4. Recent scholarly essays on the earthquake and its representations in art, with a focus on Voltaire. (In English and French.) Brooks, Charles B. Disaster at Lisbon: The Great Earthquake of 1755. Long Beach: Shangton Longley Press, 1994. (No apparent ISBN.) A narrative history. Chase, J. "The Great Earthquake At Lisbon (1755)". Colliers Magazine, 1920. Dynes, Russell Rowe. "The dialogue between Voltaire and Rousseau on the Lisbon earthquake: The emergence of a social science view." University of Delaware, Disaster Research Center, 1999. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ http://nisee.berkeley.edu/lisbon/ Historical Depictions of the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake Jan T. Kozak, Institue of Rock Mechanics, Czech Academy of Science Charles D. James, National Information Service for Earthquake Engineering Note: With permission, this paper is abridged and edited from drafts of a longer work in progress by V. S. Moreira, C. Nunes and J. Kozak on the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. The images presented here are taken from the NISEE Kozak Collection of Images of Historical Earthquakes. Although not the strongest or most deadly earthquake in human history, the 1755 Lisbon earthquake's impact, not only on Portugal but on all of Europe, was profound and lasting. Depictions of the earthquake in art and literature can be found in several European countries, and these were produced and reproduced for centuries following the event, which came to be known as "The Great Lisbon Earthquake." The earthquake began at 9:30 on November 1st, 1755, and was centered in the Atlantic Ocean, about 200 km WSW of Cape St. Vincent. The total duration of shaking lasted ten minutes and was comprised of three distinct jolts. Effects from the earthquake were far reaching. The worst damage occurred in the south-west of Portugal. Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, was the largest and the most important of the cities damaged. Severe shaking was felt in North Africa and there was heavy loss of life in Fez and Mequinez. Moderate damage was done in Algiers and in southwest Spain. Shaking was also felt in France, Switzerland, and Northern Italy. A devastating fire following the earthquake destroyed a large part of Lisbon, and a very strong tsunami caused heavy destruction along the coasts of Portugal, southwest Spain, and western Morocco. The oscillation of suspended objects at great distances from the epicenter indicate an enormous area of perceptibility. The observation of seiches as far away as Finland, suggest a magnitude approaching 9.0. Precursory phenomena were reported, including turbid waters in Portugal and Spain, falling water level in wells in Spain, and a decrease in water flow in springs and fountains. Detailed descriptions of the earthquake's effects in Morocco, were, in some cases, based on Portuguese manuscripts written by priests. The cities of Meknes, Fez, and Marrakesh in the interior, and the coastal towns of Asilah, Larache, Rabat, and Agadir (Santa Cruz during the Portuguese occupation) suffered much damage in the quake. Mosques, synagogues, churches, and many other buildings collapsed in Meknes, where numerous casualties were reported. The convent, church, and Hospital de S. Francisco collapsed completely. Lisbon In 1755, Lisbon was one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The city retained some of its Moorish influence during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. This may be seen in the design of the streets in the quarters surrounding St. George Castle and extending as far as Rossio, the central part of the city. The Rosario, or main square, was the commercial center of Lisbon. The Estatus Palace, situated to the north, was where illustrious visitors to the Kingdom were lodged. On the east side, Saint Dominic Church and the All Saint's Royal Hospital, with its magnificent façade, were erected. On top of the hill, an ancient royal residence was situated. To the west, the church and its Convent were among the most magnificent buildings in Lisbon. Other famous buildings near the city center include the Cathedral, St. Paul's Church, St. Nicholas' Church, and St. Roch's Church. The Architecture of the city was complemented by that of the suburbs, including a majestic aqueduct constructed by King D. Joao V. in 1731, the Jeronimus Church, and the Tower of Belem. With an estimated population of 275,000, Lisbon was, in 1755, one of the largest cities in Europe. The Fire Soon after the earthquake, several fires broke out, mostly started by cooking fires and candles. Some of them were rapidly extinguished, especially in the densely populated areas. But many inhabitants fled from their homes and left fires burning. Narrow streets full of fallen debris prevented access to the fire sites. The public squares filled with people and their rescued belongings, but as the fire approached, these squares were abandoned, and the fire reached catastrophic proportions. Looters setting fire to some ransacked houses caused the belief that the fire had a criminal origin. The flames raged for five days. All of the downtown area, from St. Paul's quarter to St. Roch, and from Carmo and Trindade to the Rossio square area to the Castle and Alfama quarters were burned, along with the Ribeira, Rua Nova, and Rossio quarters. Remolares, Barrio Alto, Limoeiro, and Alfama, were partially burned. Several buildings which had suffered little damage due to the earthquake were destroyed by the fire. The Royal Palace and the Opera House were totally gutted by the flames. The Patriarchal suffered relatively little damage in the earthquake, and religious services continued there during the afternoon, but the church was evacuated as the fire approached. Later the building was completely burned out. Conclusion The extensive number of renderings of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake found throughout Europe demonstrate the traumatic effect the disaster had on the continent. Depictions of the Lisbon earthquake were created, copied, and widely distributed and discussed throughout all of southern, western and central Europe. Whether created by the new desire to investigate, record, and understand the earthquake in natural rather than strictly metaphysical terms, or created by the more sensational desire to report on human calamity, these depictions indicate that the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 represents a watershed event in European history. ____________________________________________________________________________________ http://www.lisbon-and-portugal.com/1755-lisbon-earthquake.html The Lisbon Earthquake and its Impact On November 1st, a great shaking was felt by people in many countries. A great quake, located in the Atlantic ocean, shook a great deal of the land area in Western Europe and North Africa. The earthquake was felt in France, Italy and Switzerland, as well as in Algiers and Morocco. It was Lisbon, however, that was hit most brutally. Not only was the violence of the earth’s upheaval felt, but fires broke out. Great fires raged through Lisbon for five days. Additionally there were many waves, and even a huge tsunami. The Lisbon earthquake is thought to be among the most violent in history: estimates measure it at about a 9.0. Even though there were no seismographs available at the time, there is evidence from Finland that the quake was felt even there. Therefore, the 9.0 seems a likely estimate.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Thus, a person with firmly "rooted" beliefs -- meaning, who acts on his convictions -- is a tree with many roots and few branches.

Chapter 3, Mishna 22 "He [R. Elazar ben Azariah] used to say: Anyone whose wisdom is greater than his deeds to what is he comparable? To a tree whose branches are many and whose roots are few, and the wind comes and turns it over. [This is] as it is stated, 'And he will be like a lonely tree in a wasteland, and it will not see when good comes. It will dwell on parched soil in the desert, a salty land, uninhabited' (Jeremiah 17:6). But one whose deeds are greater than his wisdom to what is he comparable? To a tree whose branches are few and whose roots are many, that even if all the winds in the world blow against it, they do not move it from its place. As it is stated, 'And he shall be like a tree planted on the water, and towards the stream it will spread its roots,and it will not see when heat comes. Its leaves will be fresh, in a year of drought it will not worry, and it shall not cease yielding fruit' (ibid. 17:8)." This mishna discusses the importance of actions over study. In theme it is identical to the earlier Mishna 12 (http://www.torah.org/learning/pirkei-avos/chapter3-12a.html) which stated: "Anyone whose good deeds are greater than his wisdom, his wisdom will endure, and anyone whose wisdom is greater than his good deeds, his wisdom will not endure." We explained there that knowledge of Torah alone, left as abstract, not-applied wisdom will not "endure". It will not become a part of a person and will not change him or her for the better. However, if a person studies the Torah and observes, the Torah's teachings will be integrated into his life. The Torah will come to life for him and will penetrate his soul. Only one who first observes the Torah will truly be able to both understand and appreciate its wisdom. Here R. Elazar (our mishna's author) illustrates this concept. He compares knowledge without deeds to a tree with many branches but few roots. We might at first think to compare wisdom to our roots -- the foundation of our beings, and deeds to the branches -- the results or the fruits of our convictions. Our mishna tells us otherwise. Actions form the basis of our beings. We are what we do, not what we admit to intellectually. If someone "knows" he should act a certain way, he knows G-d exists and will reward and punish, he knows the Torah is truth, he knows he should watch his cholesterol level, etc. etc. -- he "knows" all the right stuff but somehow it just doesn't reach the level of the practical: Well, that plus a subway token will get him a ride on the subway. (Probably a magnetic card nowadays, but would hardly have the same ring...) A person is truly his deeds. If he puts his actions where his mouth is, he stands for something. He does not just spout certain concepts or behaviors; he is willing to live by them. Thus, a person with firmly "rooted" beliefs -- meaning, who acts on his convictions -- is a tree with many roots and few branches. His faith will remain steadfast come the fiercest winds of ill-will and oppression. (Our mishna spoke in metaphor, so you'll indulge me as well.) ;-) One, however, who studies and says but does not do will not persevere in times of trouble. He may pay lip service and go through the motions when the weather is fair, but when faced with temptation and challenge, his faith will not endure. If anything, his excessive knowledge will burden him -- as a tree overladen with branches. He has learned more than he cares to know and observe. Eventually his very knowledge will increase his resentment of G-d and contribute to his toppling. R. Elazar illustrates his point by quoting verses from Jeremiah, describing trees growing in different environments. The truth is, the verses R. Elazar quotes were actually stated in a rather different context. Verse 6, which describes a tree in the desert, was an illustration of v. 5: "...cursed is the one who trusts in man and makes flesh his support, and whose heart is removed from G-d." Similarly, v. 8, describing a tree by the water, illustrates v. 7: "Blessed is the man who trusts in the L-rd...." Now the verses themselves are readily understandable. One who trusts in G-d draws his or her strength and support from G-d's infinite benevolence. He knows he is in G-d's hands. He will be able to withstand suffering and hardship, knowing that G-d is watching over him and that his experiences are purposeful and a part of G-d's plan. King David wrote, "Even as I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I fear not evil for You are with me" (Psalms 23:4). However, one who trusts in the flesh of man will not draw from any such infinite source. Suffering will be to him a meaningless accident. Even the good he does experience will not draw him closer to the true Source of all that is good. The obvious question, however, is how can R. Elazar quote these verses out of context and apply them to someone who has more or fewer deeds than his wisdom? Does having more deeds somehow relate to trusting G-d? Does a person have fewer deeds because of a lack of trust? I believe that R. Elazar, in his comparison, brings to light a fascinating insight, and teaches us a profound life lesson. Why would a person do less than he knows? Quite often it is because he is only willing to do that which he understands. If he can first make sense of it and convince himself that a mitzvah (commandment) is just, he will observe it. If, however, there does not seem to be any good reason not to eat pork or to have two sets of dishes (for meat and dairy), he will consider it a pointless burden and will discard it. He sets himself as arbiter over G-d's Torah. And his lack of observance stems from a lack of trust that G-d and His Torah are perfect. One who does more than he knows, however, is in effect stating the opposite:"I will do first even if I do not understand. Finding meaning and significance is of course important, but I do not make my fulfillment hinge upon this." This type of person will generally be doing more than he or she "knows" -- or understands why it is required. (See the previous class cited (3:12), in which we observed that this was precisely the intent of the Children of Israel when they accepted the Torah at Sinai. When they stated "We will do and we will hear" (Exodus 24:7), they accepted to first "do", and only to then "hear": study, delve and learn to appreciate.) Thus, the difference between these two types of people is trust. The second person is willing to say "I know G-d knows better and I will follow His laws regardless of whether or not they make sense to me." He has faith that an all-knowledgeable G-d commands in a manner both just and righteous, even if man, with his limited understanding, cannot always comprehend. He is not so different from the man of faith who -- as "a tree planted on the water" -- accepts that G-d knows best even when he endures suffering. The first person, however, is relying on his own sense of right and wrong to arbitrate the justness of G-d's laws. By observing only that which he understands, he is in effect stating that he is not ready to accept the Torah through humble submission to a Higher Authority. He trusts first and foremost his own mind (which has always been man's greatest undoing) -- just as one who works and expends but does not look towards G-d for success,"making flesh his support." I feel this sheds light on an error which many people make in their very worthy quest for spirituality and religion. Many people sincerely sense that Judaism contains truth and meaning, and they begin to study and experience it for themselves. There is no question, they are on the right track (MHO, that is...). But one thing we must keep in mind. Our criteria for discerning truth must not be if each commandment does or does not make sense to us. If the Torah really is the word of an infinite G-d, its veracity should not depend on our ability to understand it. If anything we should be surprised if we found every law in the Torah readily understandable to the human mind, just as we would hardly expect a breakthrough invention to employ no more than high school mathematics and engineering. (Our rule for any specialty area -- religious or not -- should be that if we can understand it, it can't possibly be very good. If I can master a game or piece of software in minutes, it can't be very profound. If I can easily understand how an appliance should be fixed, the repair shouldn't cost very much.) Rather, we must search for G-d on a deeper level: Is there an infinite Creator? Does the world around us point to a Master Designer? Did G-d have a purpose in creating man -- or did He put the requisite work in and then just forget about the whole thing? Does G-d have a plan for the world and a mission for mankind? Did He provide us with instructions for realizing that plan (does it make any sense that He would not)? Is there any evidence indicating that G-d appeared to millions at Mt. Sinai -- as our tradition claims? And lastly, does the pattern of world history seem to intimate a developing Divine plan, a march towards some great and cataclysmic finale to world history? (See class 3:20 (http://www.torah.org/learning/pirkei-avos/chapter3-20.html) regarding the final question; 3:10 (http://www.torah.org/learning/pirkei-avos/chapte r3-10a.html) regarding the second-to-last.) Let us not waste our time agonizing over precisely why G-d would forbid us to wear clothes containing mixtures of wool and linen or why a priest may not marry a divorcee. For if we can conclude the big issues, the smaller ones will not be issues to begin with. And we will then be ready to believe and to trust. As the Jewish Nation -- who did see their Creator close-up -- said first "we will do" and then "we will hear" (Exodus 24:7), we too will accept, follow and observe... and then we will truly understand. (I have heard R. Noach Weinberg OBM, of Yeshiva Aish HaTorah, Jerusalem (http://www.aish.com/rn/) make a point similar to our final.) ____________________________________________________________________________________ http://www.torah.org/learning/pirkei-avos/chapter3-12a.html Last week R. Chanina taught us that one's fear of sin must precede his Torah knowledge if his wisdom is to endure. Only one who fears sin -- who has a sense of accountability towards G-d and respect for tradition, will study the Torah with the requisite sense of commitment One, however, who studies without that basic sense of "fear" and commitment, may study out of curiosity or for intellectual stimulation -- or even spiritual stimulation -- but will not truly be ready to integrate the Torah's values into his life. His study will remain external to his essence; it will not become a part of him. Here R. Chanina offers another requirement for having one's wisdom "endure": practice. One's deeds must be greater than his or her wisdom. He must do more than he understands. He cannot fulfill G-d's word only after he's figured it out and has made sense out of it. He must first do and only then attempt to understand. When G-d offered the Torah to Israel at Sinai, the Children of Israel responded, "We will do and we will hear" (Exodus 24:7). They accepted to first "do": to follow the letter of the law, and only then to "hear": to study, delve and grow to appreciate. In a sense, the reason for this is self-evident -- G-d certainly knows best; we must obey regardless of our limited ability to make sense out of it. But I believe our mishna's message is far more profound. The Children of Israel accepted to "do" first: not to hinge their observance of the mitzvos (commandments) upon their understanding of them. This is simply because it is the height of folly to expect mitzvos which emanate from an infinite and all-knowledgeable G-d to be readily understandable to the human mind. If the Torah were manmade, if it were the brainchild of human creativity, however great, later generations could pass judgment on its worth and relevance based on their own notions of justice and morality. But the Children of Israel in the desert knew better: The Torah was not merely divinely inspired. It was the direct word of G-d. They *saw* G-d at Mount Sinai; they heard Him speaking to Moses (as well as hearing the first two of the Ten Commandments themselves). Man's observance of the Torah could never depend on anything as limited, skewed and frivolous as human understanding. R. Chanina, however, is not simply telling us that our observance must precede our understanding. He states that if it does not our wisdom will never endure. We must "do" or our wisdom will never truly make sense to us and become a part of us. On one level, this is true because the Torah is not very meaningful if not put into practice. The Torah was never intended to be an abstract science. It is not merely a philosophical treatise, providing an ordered system of logical beliefs. It contains lessons for living life. It is a practical guide for living in this world and making sense of it all. It is what R. Noach Weinberg (http://www.aish.com/rn/) describes as G-d's Users' Guide for Planet Earth. And such knowledge will never be fully appreciated if left on the shelf. It is an applied science, not an abstract one. It instructs us in how to integrate eternal beliefs and ethical principles into real-life situations, and how to use truth and morality to build happy, functioning, and productive individuals, homes and societies. Thus, the Torah can never be absorbed in any serious way through the intellect alone. It must be practiced and lived for its beauty and wisdom to truly penetrate the soul. I believe there is a second great truth behind R. Chanina's words, one in which Judaism distinguishes itself from many other religions. Judaism is sometimes viewed as a religion which focuses more on ritual and form than on substance and spirit. Other religions seem to preach that the important thing is to have a good heart, to believe, to love your neighbor, and to be yourself. (You'll pardon the oversimplification -- an ongoing fault of mine.) Judaism believes in all of that of course ("Love your fellow as yourself" does come from us, mind you (Leviticus 19:18)), but it almost seems to "ruin" it by instructing us to death. There are rules and regulations for nearly everything we say and do -- what we can eat, when we can eat, how we can eat, etc. etc. ad infinitum. I mean, does G-d *really* care if we have one or two sets of dishes? Sure, some of the rituals are meaningful and help give our religion structure. But isn't simple faith enough? Isn't man essentially good? Why be bogged down with so much onerous and burdensome ritual? Why can't we just let our natural goodness shine through? R. Chanina's answer is a bit sobering -- perhaps even a little depressing -- but contains a tremendous insight into life. G-d did not give us the Torah just so that we'd have good hearts or live with some basic tenets of belief. We actually *do* have that naturally. It was so that we'd develop ourselves as people. We all know that someone who wants to be great at almost anything -- be it an athlete, musician, pilot, or scholar -- has to train. People are not born winners (or losers for that matter). Talented athletes or musicians may have more potential than others, but realizing that potential takes lots and lots of hard work. It requires practicing, developing, honing, and drilling. And humankind likewise has an enormous potential for good -- for being giving, spiritual, G-dlike individuals. But it is only potential. Realizing that potential takes work: If we want to make anything of ourselves our deeds must far outweigh our wisdom. Being good is hard work. It *is* natural, but it does not *come* naturally. (And in fact, it can easily be corrupted). And this is the mission G-d presented us with when He created us: developing our latent abilities for good and bringing them to actuality. Towards this end G-d gave us the Torah and mitzvos -- the tools for our training. Knowledge and understanding alone are not sufficient. Our mishna tells us that we must practice if we want our wisdom to endure and truly become a part of us. By studying and practicing, we both develop good traits and sublimate "bad" ones in positive directions. But it does not happen automatically; it takes prodigious effort. For as above, being good is hard work. Being great takes a lifetime. We learned earlier in Pirkei Avos, "Study is not the primary thing but action [is]" (1:17). The Torah instructs us in G-d's will and Divine values, but words alone will never change us. For one's wisdom to endure, he must apply it and practice it. The purpose of the Torah is not to impart knowledge. It is to fashion individuals -- into human beings in the image of G-d. In the Sefer HaChinuch, a master treatise on the 613 Commandments, the author (a 13th Century Spanish scholar; the precise authorship is unknown) offers a profound psychological insight: One who acts a certain way -- whatever his intentions -- will be influenced by his deeds and will eventually become the person he impersonates (Mitzvah 16). Nazi underlings, under the pretext of following orders, quickly became the most bestial and sadistic of killers. And we, if we act out the part set out by the Torah, will find ourselves becoming more upright, moral, and caring human beings. Good deeds impact on a person: say we reluctantly give charity to the fundraiser who comes to our door. All good deeds influence us one way or the other, some in obvious ways, while others more subtly and metaphysically. And this, in a single word, is the purpose of the mitzvos -- and the ultimate purpose of our Torah study. We must not approach the Torah expecting to first understand and then to do -- and certainly not with the precondition that we will do only that which we first understand. Rather, we must be prepared to do. I know the Torah was commanded by an infinite Creator, and I know it contains truth. I will make my effort and show my readiness to grow. And I know the growth will then follow. ____________________________________________________________________________________

G-d's Jigsaw Puzzle

G-d's Jigsaw Puzzle Chapter 3, Mishna 20 By Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld "He [Rabbi Akiva] used to say: Everything is given on collateral, and a net is spread over all the living. The store is open, the Storekeeper extends credit, the ledger is open, the hand writes, and whoever wants to borrow may come borrow. The collectors make their rounds constantly every day, they collect from a person whether he realizes it or not, and they have what to rely upon. The judgment is true, and everything is prepared for the banquet [of Leviathan]." In this mishna, R. Akiva draws up for us an image of G-d's relationship with the world. G-d is a generous shopkeeper, who freely extends credit to anyone who wants to take more than he or she offers in return. The generosity only extends so far, however. G-d "writes down" and remembers everything -- even that which we do not ("whether he realizes it or not"). He has patience and forbearance, but ultimately, judgment will surely come. This should not, however, be viewed as a "trap" set by G-d -- allowing us to operate on a deficit, borrowing ourselves into a debt we can never repay. As our mishna continues, the ultimate purpose of G-d's system is to prepare us for the "banquet". (This is a reference to the reward the righteous will receive in the World to Come. See Talmud Bava Basra 74b that after the resurrection of the dead the righteous will feast upon the gargantuan "tanin" (sea monster?) created on the fifth day of creation (Genesis 1:21).) G-d's intention is that we ultimately repay the credit He extends us and become worthy of heavenly reward. It is true that man needs much credit -- and many of us will fail to ever truly make amends and become solvent, yet such is G-d's system. Man invariably slips and falls. G-d must exhibit patience and allow us the opportunity to repent. And though many will *never* do so, in the larger picture G-d's forbearance is a wondrous act of Divine mercy. This might seem a very depressing -- if accurate -- picture of the world. G-d freely allows man to sin and corrupt himself. Only slowly and almost imperceptibly -- albeit possibly without warning -- does G-d's justice take hold. And so, the world is a very permissive place. G-d makes temptation and sin available and inviting. And He is very slow to mete out Divine justice. The world gives not a hint of the exactness and the magnitude of G-d's ultimate judgment. Nobody seems to notice or care what we do in private (nor -- for the last generation or so -- in public). And so man goes about living as he pleases, failing to realizes that "for all of these will G-d bring you to judgment" (Ecclesiastes 11:9). And there is something very frustrating about such an image. We certainly could not handle G-d as Big Brother constantly looking over our shoulders. That is how G-d lived with us during our sojourn in the desert, and our response was to take refuge in Golden Calf. Yet today the world seems so out of control. G-d's guiding hand is hidden to a degree that He is invisible to all but the most perceptive among us. Man is given a free hand; G-d's "collection agents" come along only much later to demand long-overdue debts. And to be honest, we would really expect and in fact *wish* to see a far more proactive G-d in this world. Doesn't the Torah state that if we follow G-d's ways, "I will give the rain of your land in its time... and you will eat and be satisfied" (Deuteronomy 11:14-15)? And if we fail, "The L-rd's wrath will be kindled against you... and you will be quickly banished from the good land which G-d has given you" (ibid., v. 17)? Why then does the world operate so differently today? G-d might not be able to *openly* reveal Himself, but we would really expect -- and hope for -- a world far more reflective of the reality of G-d. To this R. Akiva tells us that there is a system. G-d has a plan. He may have patience, He may not seem in any hurry, but He does not forget. As we've explained many times in the past, G-d must allow the possibility of evil in the world -- at least for the time being. To allow free will, G-d must make evil enticing -- as if one can get away with it. If G-d would zap us with electric shocks every time we stepped out of line, we might not sin, but it would be worth very little. It would not be an act of growth -- of willpower and accomplishment -- of choosing good over evil. It would be a forced act -- done out of a superimposed fear of punishment. Many animals too can be trained to perform tricks for reward or to avoid acts which cause pain. But such actions are not acts of holiness; they are simple self-preservation. G-d did not create the world in order to train chimpanzees. It was so that man, following his conscience and Divine directives, would come to recognize G-d and willingly accept His sovereignty. So, tells us our mishna, G-d allows evil -- what seems unbridled evil -- to flourish in the world, but it does not imply a relaxing of His justice system. King Solomon wrote, "Rejoice young man in your childhood, let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth, follow the path of your heart and the sights of your eyes, and know that for all these G-d will bring you to judgment" (Ecclesiastes 11:9). G-d still holds the "net" -- one which slowly but inexorably closes around all sinners. The collectors will make their rounds when and only when G-d sees fit. And eventually, the world will become that reflection of the spirituality and godliness it was intended. This seems reminiscent of some of our recent classes -- free will, G-d's control of the world, why G-d allows human suffering -- we never seem to really be finished with such subjects. What our senses tell us -- of a world of little justice and accountability -- seems to run contrary to everything the Torah teaches. Possibly for this reason, when the Sages discuss such subjects, such as in our mishna, they almost wax poetic. They refer to the fundamental philosophical questions of life in metaphor, in vague generalities. The implication is that we could never dream of truly intellectualizing G-d's master plan for the world, of answering the "Where is G-d?" of Elie Wiesel (see our previous classes). But on a general, almost allegorical, level we are told that a pattern does exist and that G-d will never leave go His plans for mankind. Yet, in truth, we are allowed at least glimpses of G-d's direction for the world -- if we are observant enough to see them. Patterns are forming; the huge pieces of G-d's Master Plan are coming together. Over the past two generations, G-d has returned millions of Jews to the Land of Israel -- many of necessity rather than choice. And we have merited to turn desert and swampland into a thriving country of cities and farmland. The State of Israel has miraculously survived war after war; the vast majority of terrorist attacks fail before they begin. (See this link -- http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/171857 -- for a recent one, hardly noticed by the international media.) Paul Johnson, esteemed (non-Jewish) historian writes that for a myriad of reasons, as little as one year later, the Balfour Declaration (1917), declaring Britain's support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, would not have been able to occur (_A History of the Jews_, p. 430). Likewise, the U.N. vote of November, 1947, bringing Israel into existence, occurred only because Stalin's Soviet Union -- together with the entire Communist Bloc -- both before and since virulently anti-Semitic, briefly favored the creation of a supposed socialist state in the Middle East (as well as one opposed to British imperialism). Again, Johnson describes the turn of events "luck or divine providence, according to taste" (p. 524). (My "tastes" are very clear on the matter...) Yet other details are falling into place as well. I personally cannot help but notice that in spite of the mind-numbing technological developments we witness daily in computers, medicine and virtually all fields, the civilized world is literally incapable of going down the block without Middle Eastern oil. For all the world's goodwill, fair-mindedness and noble ideals (such as they are), it is literally locked in the strangle-hold of Arab oil. And all scientific efforts to the contrary have simply not panned out. (An environmentalist like myself watches eagerly -- but frustratingly -- the excruciatingly slow development and roll-out of hybrid and electric vehicles. And I strongly recommend that we all do our part. (SUV's are not our part...) Yet somehow, I just don't foresee any drastic improvements in the world situation coming any time soon.) Now of all the countries in that region, Israel is one of the few not blessed with the same cash crop (they're working on it, but not yet... -- and doubtlessly not in time...). Well, you can figure out the rest for yourselves. Will the rest of the world choose Israel, the one terrorism-fighting democracy in the Middle East, or oil interests? And when the showdown occurs, will we really have anyone to turn to other than G-d? We watch helplessly as the pieces of G-d's giant jigsaw puzzle fall into place. We brace ourselves for the conclusion. The Talmud (Makkos 24b) relates that once R. Akiva, author of our mishna, and a number of colleagues passed by the former location of the Temple in Jerusalem (they lived 1-2 generations after its destruction). They saw a fox run out of the place of the Holy of Holies. The colleagues began crying at the pathetic sight. R. Akiva, however, laughed. To his surprised colleagues he explained: "We have both the prophecy of Uriah and of Zechariah. Uriah foretold, "...Zion shall be plowed like a field..." (Micha 3:12). Zechariah foretold, "...Again shall old men and old women sit in the streets of Jerusalem...and the streets of the city shall be filled with boys and girls playing..." (Zechariah 8:4-5). Until the prophecy of Uriah was fulfilled (fully and literally) I was fearful lest the prophecy of Zechariah not be fulfilled. Now that the prophecy of Uriah has been fulfilled, it is clear that Zechariah's prophecy will be fulfilled -- to the last detail." R. Akiva, through his foresight and profound understanding of G-d's ways, was able to perceive G-d's guiding hand even in the darkest moments of exile. He recognized that the same G-d who has decreed such suffering will too bring the ultimate salvation. We, if we are fortunate, can see milestones, the pieces of G-d's giant puzzle taking shape. We will only recognize the masterpiece when it is complete.