Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sefer Ha-Bloggadah: week 47

This is it! The end of year 1! And what a climax it is! We'll formally complete year 1 with a siyyum next week at the NHC Summer Institute. Post a comment if you'll be there and are interested in participating in the siyyum and haven't let us know yet.

  • Monday - 3:5:56-57 (The Messiah)
  • Tuesday - 3:6:1-7 (The Good That Is to Be)
  • Wednesday/Thursday - 3:6:8-17 (The Good That Is to Be)
  • Friday - 3:6:18-27 (Resurrection of the Dead)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sefer Ha-Bloggadah: week 46

From out of the the harsh experience of exile, we turn our thoughts to redemption. This is the penultimate week of the first year of the project!

  • Monday - 3:5:1-2 (Archives of Travails and Archives of Deliverance)
  • Tuesday - 3:5:3-8 (The Merit of the Fathers)
  • Wednesday - 3:5:9-22 (The Time of Redemption)
  • Thursday - 3:5:23-35 (The Footprints of the Messiah)
  • Friday - 3:5:36-49 (Redemption and the Ingathering of Exiles)
  • Saturday/Sunday - 3:5:50-55 (The Day of Darkness and Light)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sefer Ha-Bloggadah: week 45

The Three Weeks continue, and so does the narrative of exile.

  • Monday - 3:4:25-35 (The Hardship of Exile and the Enslavement by Kingdoms)
  • Tuesday - 3:4:26-39 (Israel: An Object of Derision among the Nations)
  • Wednesday - 3:4:40-48 (The Holy One is Partner in Israel's Travail)
  • Thursday - 3:4:49-58 (The Guardian of Israel)
  • Friday - 3:4:59-69 (Watchman, What of the Night?)
  • Saturday/Sunday - 3:4:70-79 (Watchman, What of the Night?)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sefer Ha-Bloggadah: week 44

The beginning of the section on exile coincides with the beginning of the Three Weeks of mourning leading up to 9 Av.

  • Monday - 3:2:92-109 (A Land Flowing with Milk and Honey)
  • Tuesday - 3:2:110-126 (Jerusalem)
  • Wednesday - 3:3:1-9 (The Sacred Tongue)
  • Thursday - 3:3:10-23 (The Sacred Tongue and Other Languages; Exactness in the Use of Language)
  • Friday - 3:4:1-14 (The Hardship of Exile and the Enslavement by Kingdoms)
  • Saturday/Sunday - 3:4:15-24 (The Hardship of Exile and the Enslavement by Kingdoms)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

3:2:49 Distorting the Law in Order to Save It?

This text says that, when Hanina the nephew of R' Yehoshua went to Babylonia (apparently after the crushing of the Bar Kochba rebellion), he made decisions regarding declaring Rosh Hodesh and intercalating the year, and that the authorities in the Land of Israel sent two scholars after him. They told Hanina, disingenuously, that they were coming to learn Torah from him. He then extolled them to the Jewish community in Babylonia, calling them great scholars. Then they began contradicting him -- he would declare an object impure and they would declare it pure; he would forbid an action and they would permit it. Frustrated, and embarrassed, he proclaimed that they were good-for-nothings, but they pointed out that he had already vouched for them and could not undo that. He then asked why they kept contradicting his rulings.

Their response is that it is because he had been making calendrical decisions outside the Land of Israel. This response is fascinating -- they do not indicate in any way that his decisions about ritual purity, or on prohibited actions, were wrong. They apparently set about systematically overruling all of his decisions on all sorts of halachic questions, even though, it seems, he was right in those decisions. Preserving the central authority to set the calendar was considered so important that it not only warranted sending two scholars on a trip to Babylonia, and not only warranted threatening Hanina and the entire Babylonian Jewish community with excommunication if they didn't fall in line. It also warranted actually making wrong legal decisions, telling people that they could use objects that were really impure, and telling people that they could perform actions that were really forbidden, just in order to undermine Hanina's authority.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

3:2:24 Planting and the M'shiah

"Rabban Yohanan b. Zakai used to say, 'If there was a planting [seedling] in your hand and they told you, "Here's the M'shiah [Messiah]," plant the seedling and afterwards go and greet him.'" I recognized this famous saying, but then I did a double-take. This chapter is "The Land of Israel," and this section is "The Land and its Settlement." What is this saying doing here? I've always understood this statement as a caution about over-eagerness for the M'shiah, perhaps a warning to be suspicious of a purported but possibly-false M'shiah, and a prioritization of small accomplishments in this world over focusing on the next world. None of this has anything to do specifically with the Land of Israel.

My guess is that B&R understood "planting" in light of text 3:2:22, about planting being the first activity the people is to undertake upon entering the Land. But then Rabban Yohanan b. Zakai's statement means something a bit different from what I thought it meant: now it's a statement about how important it is to plant in the Land of Israel -- it's so important that one even delays greeting the M'shiah in order to finish planting. Instead of an attempt to hold in check possible over-enthusiasm for the M'shiah, the statement accepts that enthusiasm and elevates planting in (and, it follows, settlement in) the Land even higher.

I wondered whether commentators on the original text might have explained the text in ways that would support B&R's apparent reading or my reading. Unfortunately, B&R cite the statement only to Avot d'Rabbi Natan version B. Schechter's text does not have any explanatory comment on this statement, and the version that appears in a standard set of Talmud is version A. (Likewise, Goldin's book on Avot d'Rabbi Natan uses version A.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sefer Ha-Bloggadah: week 43

More on the land of Israel. Remember, while reading all the denigration of the Diaspora, that Sefer Ha-Aggadah was published in Odessa.

  • Monday - 3:2:20-32 (The Land and Its Settlement)
  • Tuesday - 3:2:33-46 (Love for the Land; The Holiness of the Land)
  • Wednesday - 3:2:47-64 (Torah of the Land; The Dimensions of the Land)
  • Thursday - 3:2:65-69 (A Land Flowing with Milk and Honey)
  • Friday - 3:2:70-80 (A Land Flowing with Milk and Honey)
  • Saturday/Sunday - 3:2:81-91 (A Land Flowing with Milk and Honey)