14 posts categorized "Talmudic Wisdom"

A Fence of Roses

Fence of Roses

The Gemara tells the following story (Ketubot 66b): Rebbe Yochanan ben Zakai was riding on a donkey a short time after the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and vanquished Jerusalem. On the outskirts of the city, he saw a young woman gathering grains of undigested barley from amongst the droppings of Arab-owned cattle. As soon as she noticed him, she sprung to her feet, covered her hair and pleaded, "Rebbe, give me something to sustain myself." He asked her who she was. She answered that she was Nakdamon Ben Gurion's daughter, who before the destruction of the Holy Temple, was the richest man in Jerusalem.

Our sages comment on the above episode and say, "How fortunate you are, O Israel! When you do Hashem's will, you are above the angels; no nation can prevail over you. But when you don't do Hashem's  will, you are not only subservient to the most contemptible of nations and even below their cattle, but you are even below the droppings of their cattle."

No, there's not much middle ground for a Jew - it's either good or evil. A tzaddik who maintains a standard of impeccable personal holiness is higher than an angel; he gives off the spiritual fragrance of Gan Eden. But a lowlife who breaches every clause of personal holiness stinks worse than the dung of an animal.

King Solomon in Song of Songs (7:3) describes the Jewish People who fulfill Hashem's will as a "fence of roses". Why a fence of roses? Why the juxtaposition of the beauty and the thorns? What's the praise here?

The Jewish Laws of modesty for women and personal holiness for men seem to many people like thorns in the side. They are! Their purpose is to keep people from toying with the roses, which symbolize the beauty of the Jewish woman. All unauthorized personnel must keep their distance. Anyone who doesn't look at what is not rightfully his by way of holy marital bond will certainly not touch what is not rightfully his. That's the fence of roses. 

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Abortion and Moshiach

RebbeThis post is in loving memory of the Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed and saintly memory, whose 24th yahrtzeit is tomorrow
on Shabbat, 3 Tammuz. The Rebbe was instrumental in bringing me close to observant Judaism way back in the beginning of my search, in the early 1980's. I even had the privilege of spending Shabbat with him, exactly 31 years ago, on Shabbat Korach, 5747 (1987). I owe him an eternal debt

The Rebbe loved life, loved everyone, and loved every mitzva of the Torah. With this in mind, he was vehemently against abortion.

There's a well-known story of a childless young couple who came to the Rebbe for a blessing. Several months later, the woman became pregnant. When she was in the advanced stages of pregnancy, a fire broke out in her home. The woman, who was alone at home, inhaled smoke and fainted from the lack of oxygen. The rescue squad and firefighters carried her out of the burning house in a state of clinical death. The doctors resuscitated her for hours before she was out of danger. Then the haed physician decided that the woman's unborn child had to be aborted, because it was certainly lifeless, and even if it does live, it won't be more than a vegetable after such prolonged deprivation of oxygen. The doctor asked the husband to sign a release form but the husband refused. He sent an urgent telegram to the Rebbe, saying what the doctors wanted to do.

The Rebbe replied as follows: "Do not agree to an abortion; get a second opin­ion." The couple followed his advice, but the second doctor was equally adamant and admonished the husband for not agreeing to the abortion. "Forget about the baby; do you want to lose your wife too? The abortion must be performed im­mediately."

The husband sent another urgent telegram; the Rebbe's answer remained the same: "No abortion under any circumstances. With Hashem's help, everything will be fine." Eventually, the mother gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and later to another healthy child.

Wow, that's the Rebbe...

Why was the Rebbe so against abortion? The Gemara emphatically tells us that abortion delays the coming of Moshiach. Here's how:

The Talmud in tractate Yevamos (pg. 63b) says, "[Moshiach] Ben David won't arrive until all the souls are depleted from the body."

Rashi, our 11th Century sage from Ashkenaz (Germany-France) and the most important Talmudic commentator of all times, explains this very cryptic passage. "Body," says Rashi, "is the name of a partition that separates the Shechina (Divine presence) from the angels, which serves as the warehouse for all the souls that were created during the six days of creation, and that are destined to be given to bodies that will subsequently be created."

The above Talmudic passage teaches us that all the souls must assume bodily forms on earth before Moshiach can come. Even though unborn babies all possess divine souls (neshoma, since the unborn learn the entire Torah - oral, written, and esoteric - from an angel while in the mother's womb), the entire spiritual/soul complex that includes nefesh, ruach, and neshoma [basic vitality, spirit, and divine soul] all come together in the body momentarily before the baby is born (for further reference see Talmud in tractate Nida, pg. 30b; Tanya, first chapter; Eleph Hamagen, commentary on Mateh Efraim, intro. to laws of Rosh Hashonna; Sha'ar Hagilgulim, Seder knisas haneshoma). So, when for some reason the baby is not born, then the soul cannot leave "Body" (or 'Guf' in the original Hebrew), the heavenly warehouse for unborn souls. Until Guf is empty, Moshiach is delayed in arriving.

In light of the above Talmudic teachings, any person who performs, supports, assists, or encourages abortions is delaying the arrival of Moshiach with his or her own two hands.

I often wondered why the Talmud is so severe in its condemnation of doctors, when it says (tractate Kiddushin 82a), "the best of doctors are destined to Gehennom (purgatory)." When considering that in Israel alone, doctors perform over 20,000 abortions a year, then it's easy to understand why Moshiach is not yet being allowed to reveal himself. No, one does not receive a prize for contributing to the delay of Moshiach. Our sages in their infinite wisdom could see far into the future; that's why they said what they did about doctors.

So, if you'd like to lend a helping hand in bringing Moshiach as fast as possible, do what you can to fight against abortion in every way possible. I pray for your health, but if you ever need a doctor, I strongly suggest that you choose a physician who's opposed to abortion. A good physician recognizes the sanctity of human life.

The Pashtuns: Lost Brothers پښتانه ورک شوي ورونه

Pathan Taliban
The holy Talmudic sage Reish Lakish (Rebbe Shimon ben Lakish) was a Baal Teshuva and even a gladiator before Rebbe Yochanan - his future brother-in-law and learning partner - brought him back to Hashem. Reish Lakish was skilled in all areas of combat arts. As such, he was an authority on fighting, weapons and warfare. Reish Lakish says (see Gemara in Tractate Sota, 25b) that Israel is the fiercest of nations. The Maharsha, in his classic elaboration of the Gemara, says that Israel inherited its fierceness from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The "Pnai Yehoshua" adds that if Israel would put its efforts into fighting rather than Torah, it would rule the world. The Malbim in his elaboration of Parshat Vayichi and Jacob's blessing to each of his twelvw sons before he died, says that each of the tribes of Israel had its own style of combat. In short, as opposed to the wimpy stereotypes of "Fiddler on the Roof" and the cowering Jew make that above-cited Gemara hard to believe for those Jews who don't know enough about their own people, the Jews are rough dudes.

Here's more to substantiate Reish Lakish's point:  stop and think who the greatest guerrilla fighters of all time were: how about Abraham and Eliezer, who defeated four entire armies. Or how about Shimon and Levi, who right after their Bar Mitzva, wiped out the Canaanite town whose prince raped their sister Dina. Don't forget the Maccabees, a small family of Cohanim who routed the Syrian-Greek army. Think about Bar Kochba, who with his small band of followers defeated the Roman Army and reigned as king for two years. If I had the time, I'd write a book on this, for there's so much to add...

Let's fast forward in history: who is the one people that the Moguls, the British, the Russian Army, the entire US military or anyone else has ever been able to defeat? If you answered the Afghan Pashtuns, you're right. 

The are loads of research, proofs and documents showing the link between the Pashtuns (aka Pathans) and the Jewish People. Anthropologist Shalva Weil of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem says, "Of all the many groups in the world who claim a connection to the 10 lost tribes, the Pashtuns, or Pathans, have the most compelling case." Researcher Nadav Sofy notes, "The Pashtuns are beyond any doubt the 10 tribes of Israel. The have more than 40 Jewish customs and commandments rooted in Torah, Talmud and Kabala."

If you're still skeptical about the Pashtuns being one of the Lost Tribes of Israel, take a long at some of their customs (gleaned from the above links and other resources, especially this article):

  1. Pashtuns obeserve Saturday as their Sabbath and light candles on Friday night
  2. They don't eat shellfish (lobsters, shrimp and crabs), they don't use camel milk and they don't mix milk and meat
  3. They circumcise their baby sons on the 8th day
  4. They cover their heads at all times.
  5. Many do not cut their sidecurls 
  6. The women perform a ritual immersion in the river at the end of menstruation.
  7. Their names are right out of the Torah.
  8. They carefully avoid eating blood - they check eggs for blood and salt their meat after slaughtering.

I can go on and on, for there are dozens of additional points, but I'm sure you get the idea.

Compare the Pashto language to Hebrew; for example:

* Gazera means carrot. In Hebrew it is Gezer 

* Dor means an era. In Hebrew the word Dor refers to an era or a generation.

* Orezy means rice. In Hebrew it is Orez.

* Qurban means sacrifice. In Hebrew it is Qorban

What do our own sages say about this? Professor Navras Jaat Aafreedi of the Presidency University in India refers to our great rabbis Rebbe Saadia Ga'on (9th Century, CE) and Moses Ibn Ezra (11th Century, CE) who mention Afghanistan and the Pathan territories in Pakistan as the home of Jews descended from the lost tribes.

What does all this have to do with today?

Rebbe Eliezer ben Hyrcanos says in tractate Sanhedrin that when Moshiach comes, he'll tell the lost tribes who they really are and bring them back to Israel - this is the Israel of Moshiach and Torah, for Hashem's law will reign. You know what that means? The Pashtuns, who today make up the bulk of the Taliban, will become the defenders of Israel.

Just looking at them is like looking at brothers. Change the attire of the Pashtan elders pictured below (image with appreciation to thepashtuntimes.com), and you could be looking at the men around a Seuda Shlishit table in our local Sefardi synagogue - notice that all these men have untrimmed beards and sidecurls tucked under their lungee, their traditional turbans. As we can see, a lot of excitement awaits us as Moshiach comes, may it be soon, with the ingathering of all the exiles, amen!