Monday, September 20, 2021

Shaken By The Lulav

There are many aspects of Judaism which make people feel uncomfortable. The mitzvah of arba minim sometimes falls into that category. Shaking a bunch of branches ritualistically feels not just mystical, but even pagan. Yet from a rationalist perspective, it's not about influencing metaphysical forces, but rather summoning certain ideas in one's own mind. Still, in today's urbanized society which is very far removed from the plant kingdom and the agricultural cycle, even that may feel somewhat "alien" to some people.

But I'd like to suggest an entirely different way of framing things. There is a tendency to miss the forest for the palm trees. Why not focus on the bigger picture?

A recent article in the New York Times stated that "Many Palestinians consider the Aqsa compound the embodiment of Palestinian identity, the animating force behind the aspiration for a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.” Indeed, that is true. However, the Aqsa compound has been the embodiment of Palestinian identity for a couple of decades. What the New York Times failed to mention is that the Temple and Jerusalem has been the embodiment of Jewish identity for two orders of magnitude greater than that. 

Of course, there is am abundance of archeological evidence for the ancient Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. But sometimes, there are finds which provide particularly striking reminders.

A few years ago, the bronze coins in this photo were found in a cave in Jerusalem, near Temple Mount. As you can see, a number of them bear images of the arba minim!

These coins have been very precisely dated. They are one thousand, nine hundred and fifty years old, give or take a few years. The cave in which they were found was used by Jews who were hiding from the Roman siege, up until the destruction of the Second Temple and the city of Jerusalem. The coins bear an inscription, “For the Redemption of Zion.”

I don't know about you, but personally I was shaken to see a visual record of how our ancestors, two thousand years ago, were waving the lulav and esrog, just as we do today. And they were doing so at a time when Jerusalem was being destroyed by the might of the Roman Empire, while having faith in the eventual redemption of Zion. And here are we, two thousand years later, when Rome is a nothing and Israel is a thriving country with extraordinary achievements.

Jewish identity is incredibly ancient and precious. It has survived against numerous attempts to destroy it - attempts which from a "rational" perspective would have seemed overwhelmingly likely to succeed. There are still attempts to obliterate the Jewish People, nowadays via erasing our ancient connection to our homeland. This Sukkos, while we are shaking the lulav and esrog, let us fell ourselves shaken to contemplate how we are participating in something that our ancestors have done for millennia (and for many of us, in the very same country). How many people in the world can claim such a thing?

Wishing you all a chag kosher v'sameach - and if you are fortunate enough to be spending it in the Holy Land, come take a tour of the new Biblical Museum of Natural History!


 


67 comments:

  1. Question: can we learn from these coins how the halachot of lulav and Etrog were kept during the beit hamkidash? For example, there seem to be two etrogim in every picture, is there such a minhag? Or what about the minhag of having multiple hadassim? It seems like there is multiple hadassim in each picture?

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    1. Well, we know now how people could stone Yannai with their etrogs without fear of not being able to find their own etrogs afterwards - they simply carried two etrogs: One for use with the lulav and one for stoning people... :D

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    2. I would say the two ethrogim are there for symetrical outlook. Having multiple hadassim (and aravoth), however, is a very anciently attested custom.

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    3. Josephus mentions "a branch of" myrtle and willow, and a palm-bough, in addition to the etrog. He was writing in the decade or two after the destruction of the 2nd Beit Hamikdash.

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  2. Here's an interesting fact: Bar Kochba's coins, from a few decades later, also have lulav and etrog on them. But only one hadas and arava each. Why? Because Bar Kochba was a talmid of R' Akiva, and R' Akiva's clear opinion in the Mishna is that there's only one hadas and one arava.

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    1. Oh, and one more thing: We actually have a letter- you can see it in the Israel Museum- from one of Bar Kochba's commanders back to HQ saying that his men need X number of arbaa minim sets. (One of each, of course.) In the middle of a war, that's what he (and the IDF today) see as important.

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  3. Why would the lulav make you feel uncomfortable? What's "pagan" about it? It's a mitzvah from our L-rd and Master like any other! You only make like mitzvos that make sense according to a secularized value system? Or is it because you can't find a reason for it? Open the books of the Commentators, they are filled with reasons for it!

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    1. I wouldn’t consider commentators explanations for lulav as reasons in a logical scientific sense. You’ll find many justifications for a religious shaking of a date palm but not a reason in the same logical sense as say, the reason for magnetism. You’ll find many unfalsifiabile explanations but hardly a reason.

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    2. His point is that many people recognize in these mitzvot & rituals (lulav, animal sacrifice etc.) derivatives of pagan ritual -- and of course that is what they are. Altar sacrifice would have been a ritual known to all peoples from time immemorial - they were just wrapped in a different prism. I once had an argument with a Rabbi who simply could not fathom that altar sacrifice was not an 'innovation' that differentiated Israelite ritual because it did not involve human sacrifice - despite the fact that non-human sacrifice to a diety or dieties was of course the norm. The motivation and reasoning behind the action change - the action though, remained the same. It was so normative, that the Pagans, Greeks & Romans found nothing abnormal in the ritual in and of itself.

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    3. Yes, and none of them are particularly compelling.

      The lulav is like a spine, the hadasim and aravos resemble lips and eyes, and if you bring them all together, it represents unity. Um, ok . . . do you have anything better?

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    4. Meir Moses, do you have any source that lulav is a derivative of pagan practices, or did you just make it up on the spot? Assuming that any "rituals" are "pagan", because, uh, pagans do rituals. (If you have a source I would be interested, even if I disagree.)

      "I wouldn’t consider commentators explanations for lulav as reasons in a logical scientific sense."..."The lulav is like a spine, the hadasim and aravos resemble lips and eyes, and if you bring them all together, it represents unity. Um, ok . . . do you have anything better?"

      Not sure what you are looking for then. Of course there aren't scientifically compelling explanation for any of the mitzvos! How is lulav different than, say, fasting on YK in this respect? Is that also "pagan"? Or, is it that you just don't appreciate the reasons given? Then you need to work on them. Just like anything else in Judaism, it takes work, learning, and preparation. You can't just roll from YK into Succos and expect to appreciate the mitzvos!

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    5. The etrog resembles a full womb and the lulav assembly resembles what facilitated said fullness. Are there any traditional sources that suggest this?

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    6. Happy-
      let's look at two levels here: objective weirdness (for lack of a better term) and specific relevance to Am Yisrael's history or relationship to Hashem.

      Most mitzvos and minhagim are objectively weird - Chazal called those Chukim! C'mon, nobody in your shul ever did an annoying werewolf howl during Kiddush levana? Nobody ever questioned the very concept of swinging a chicken around your head?

      Often, the historical or symbolic relevance of a mitzvah helps us get by the objective weirdness. We eat stale crackers in the middle of the night because that is extremely relevant to Yetzias Mitrayim. We don't eat all day on YK because we believe that we are actively on trial and we need to focus on spirituality. Lighting candles to evoke memories is an accepted concept the world over. There is no passuk, no history, no anything to explain using a lulav! Moshe didn't rip off a date pam branch at Refidim, esrog was not a special food that they ate Egypt, etc. There is only the "sudden" commandment to take these 4 items.

      Therefore, all we are left with are cobbled together post-facto remazim like the 4 body parts or 4 types of Jews. These are not explanations, not Ta'amei Mitzvah. These are fun things to trot out when we already know the mitzvah. Now, *I* think the arba minim has something to do with being nidonim al hamayim, something to do with triumph after vindication on YK, but I cannot say with 100% certainty. Sefer Chinuch I'm sure says much better than I ever could, but even so, "The real meaning of the Daled Minim" is a popular shiur topic.

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    7. Yosef, not sure what you mean. The Torah also doesn't state the reason for fasting on YK. Or tekias shofar. Several reasons are given by Chazal and Commentators. Matza is an exception in that the Torah states the reason. Are you saying that you appreciate the reasons given for fasting or shofar, but you don't appreciate the reasons for lulav?

      Also, I don't understand what you mean that the reasons given are not Ta'amei Hamitzva. The reasons said by Chazal and Rishonim are not just "fun things to trot out", C"V!

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    8. Happy, I mean that many mitzvos - whether clearly stated or not - have clear connections to something historical or at least to some significant aspect of the day (if we are talking about Yom Tov). You bring up shofar, and that's a good one to pick at. Why blow a trumpet in the middle of davening? It is a good question. But when we say that the New Year is a renewal of the time of kingship of Hashem, then we can understand heralding it with trumpets. When we tie the idea of forgiveness to how awesome our forefathers were, and how we therefore have zechus Avos, then using a part of a ram in the "please forgive us" service makes sense.

      Please tell me a story in the Torah where Esrogim or Lulavim play a role. Please tell me a clear connection between "waving a bunch of branches around" and "because Hashem sat you in booths/clouds." Unlike shofar, matzah, or the sukkah itself, there is nothing obvious. Just the pesukim about the Arba Minim themselves, and what they imply:

      Actually, what I said before about rain is even two steps removed. One derasha I heard this Chag posited that peshat-wise, waving these branches is part of the hoda'ah to Hashem for the bounty of the year: gather these species and then go "Usmachtem lifnei Hashem" - which makes sense on a peshat level and how the verses flow. My one beef with this interpretation is that two out of the four of them do not seem to be crops that farmers would have been working on so diligently. Why waste time on the myrtle and willow tree when the wheat and vines need tending?

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    9. Parenthetically, I agree with you (Happy) on the pagan thing but for different reasons: I also have never heard about non-Jewish cultures using tree branches in service, but it wouldn't bother me if they did. We know that pagans had sacrifices. We know that their temples and our Temple were oriented and laid out very similar ways. We know they blew animal horn trumpets and probably did so in ritual services. Why should we be surprised if they also waved tree branches around? It's then a whole quasi-Maimonidean discussion about which came first and what was HKB"H's purpose in commanding us to utilize these mechanisms, but that can be its own thing.

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    10. And as far as your (Happy's) critique about my language, sure, I'll walk it back a bit, but what I mean to say is that these little p'shetlach are like gematrias - something the Gemara itself is mildly dismissive of (I forget the term, something like parparei chochma, but I think parpar is a butterfly so that's probably not it). Sure they are Torah, but we don't base major mitzvos on a gematria. We can have a minhag of eating an egg at the Seder because of Atbash to Tisha B'Av, but if the symbolism of "be aware of the wheel of fortune, how tonight you are on top, but you can easily be on the bottom" wasn't there, I do not know if this minhag would be meaningful. (We do not do any other customs to reference Tisha B'Av.)

      For example: the three matzos - why have them at the Seder? Oh, one might say, I know that: Kohen, Levi, Yisrael! And that is INCORRECT. We have 3 matzos because we need lechem mishneh, and we lose that because of yachatz (of course, see the Gra's minhag). But once we have legislated the need for three, we now turn around and say that they can ALSO represent the 3 strata of Jews.

      (Lechem Mishneh itself is also tied to a historical reason and is not a Chok in a vacuum.)

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    11. Yosef, I don't think the reasons for lulav are so difficult?

      See the Chinuch:

      וכמו כן מצות הלולב עם שלשת מיניו מזה השרש היא, לפי שימי החג הם ימי שמחה גדולה לישראל כי הוא עת אסיפת התבואות ופרות האילן לבית, ואז ישמחו בני אדם שמחה רבה, ומפני כן נקרא חג האסיף. וצוה האל לעמו לעשות לפניו חג באותה העת לזכותם להיות עקר השמחה לשמו יתברך, ובהיות השמחה מושכת החמר הרבה ומשכחת ממנו יראת אלקים, בעת ההיא צונו השם לקחת בין ידינו דברים המזכירים אותנו כי כל שמחת לבנו לשמו ולכבודו, והיה מרצונו להיות המזכיר מין המשמח כמו שהעת עת שמחה, כי צדק כל אמרי פיו, וידוע מצד הטבע כי ארבעת המינין כלם משמחי לב רואיהם.
      ועוד יש בארבעה מינין אלו ענין אחר, שהם דומים לאברים שבאדם היקרים (עי' מדרש רבה ויקרא פ' ל' ומדרש תנחומא אמור אות יט). שהאתרוג דומה ללב, שהוא משכן השכל, לרמז שיעבד בוראו בשכלו, והלולב דומה לשדרה שהיא העקר שבאדם לרמז שיישיר כל גופו. לעבודתו ברוך הוא, וההדס דומה לעינים, לרמוז שלא יתור אחר עיניו ביום שמחת לבו, והערבה דומה לשפתים, שבהן יגמר האדם כל מעשהו בדבור, לרמז שישים רסן בפיו ויכון דבריו ויירא מהשם יתברך אף בעת השמחה.

      Is that really unreasonable?

      As for the reason kneged the four types of people, (With or without Torah/Mitzvos) that seems pretty clearly tied to the idea of the kappara of Yom Kippur which is for all of Klal Yisrael together "v'nislach LKOL adas bnei Yisrael..." and the achdus of Klal Yisrael when we are oleh l'regel after that kapparh "v'smachtem lipnei Hashem...". It also represents the hierarchy within that achdus, not everybody is on the same level.

      Another reason may relate to the fact that this is an agricultural holiday, and we daven for rain "b'chag nidon al hamyim" and so we use agricultural species. Like you mentioned.

      And maybe there are multiple reasons, and so they converge on a single mitzva.

      Of course, maybe these explanations are wrong. But I don't think they are totally out of left field, like you are asserting. They seem in context to me, similar to tekias shofar.

      Regarding your last comment, where do you see the Gemara is mildly dismissive of these reasons? And what does this have to do with gematria?

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    12. It's not unreasonable. In fact, it's what I said (albeit, I acknowledge, said better).
      But it is only by inference in the passuk. And I still have my objection - though the Chinuch adds a wrinkle, saying these species in particular make one happy, and so that's why they were chosen. I don't know one way or the other. After all is said and done, I still look at matzah as an integral part of the essence Pesach and a sukkah as an integral part of the essence of Sukkos in a way that I cannot feel for lulav. (Obviously today my holiday is not complete without it, nor do I have any negative feelings toward it whatsoever, just to preempt anyone saying silly things.) To use the example I started with, a shiur entitled "the REAL meaning of lulav" would be more interesting to me than one titled "the REAL meaning of matzah." [Of course, matzah has a lot in it; a good shiur should be called "the many layers to matzah."]

      And I was comparing the little vortlach of the four representations to gematria. Your connection to Yom Kippur is nice also, but it is not The Reason for the mitzvah.

      And I don't think either of us is saying anything new anymore, and if I cannot get you to understand my POV (not to agree with it - that's not my purpose) by now, then I got nothing else.

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    13. I think I do understand your POV as you said "To use the example I started with, a shiur entitled "the REAL meaning of lulav" would be more interesting to me than one titled "the REAL meaning of matzah."'

      That sounds to me that even after the reasons given by the Midrashim, the Real reason is still unclear. Ok, it happens to be that I feel the same way about shofar, but I get your POV. But that's very different than saying that the lulav feels "uncomfortable" and "pagan"!

      By the way, another reason given by the Midrash with a connection to Rosh Hashana, you have probably seen it, but I'll mention it anyways:

      ויקרא רבה פרשה ל סימן ב

      אָמַר רַבִּי אָבִין מָשָׁל לִשְׁנַיִם שֶׁנִּכְנְסוּ אֵצֶל הַדַּיָּן וְלֵית אֲנַן יָדְעִין מַאן הוּא נוֹצֵחַ, אֶלָּא מַאן דְּנָסַב בָּאיָין בִּידֵיהּ, אֲנַן יָדְעִין דְּהוּא נָצוֹחַיָיא, כָּךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֻמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם בָּאִין וּמְקַטְרְגִים לִפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בְּרֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה וְלֵית אֲנַן יָדְעִין מַאן נָצַח, אֶלָּא בַּמֶּה שֶׁיִּשְׂרָאֵל יוֹצְאִין מִלִּפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא וְלוּלָבֵיהֶן וְאֶתְרוֹגֵיהֶן בְּיָדָן, אָנוּ יוֹדְעִין דְיִשְׂרָאֵל אִינוּן נָצוֹחַיָּא, לְפִיכָךְ משֶׁה מַזְהִיר לְיִשְׂרָאֵל וְאוֹמֵר לָהֶם: וּלְקַחְתֶּם לָכֶם בַּיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן.

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    14. OK, so shofar has its own issues - not least of which being how the mitzvah is rather obscure in the pesukim (there is no description of what to blow, no description of how to blow, not even a tzivui to blow - just a tzivui to "Have a Yom Teruah" which has multiple meanings anyway). At least with lulav there is a command to "Take" these species, and indeed, we fulfill the mitzvah immediately upon picking up the Arba Minim.

      And I actually like the imagery of the sword being raised in triumph (I had not read this in the original; I read it in The Midrash Says like God intended :) )- it is an explanation that fits with why this mitzvah is only written in the Moadim list that includes the Yamim Nora'im. It's not completely compelling of course, bc what do the other 3 species have to do with this, and why this tree as opposed to any other tree, but there is a peshat connection that some other interpretations do not have.

      I already commented on the pagan thing. But to add to the idea of avoiding uncomfortable practices: I did not hear this from his mouth, but supposedly Rav Aharon Lichtenstein did not do tashlich (at least, not at a water site) because it had avoda zara elements to it. (Maybe he really just didn't go over Yom Tov bc it got crowded and we only had a little artificial moat around the building while really he went with his family to a true river sometime during the weekdays of Aseres Yemei Teshuva! I do not know for certain, but that was the entertaining rumor we had in Yeshiva...)

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  4. Don't see why Arba Minim is stranger than, say, bris milah.

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    1. See my shpiel above - bris mila, while "objectively weird," carries with it a connection to history, to the Avos, and the meaning/purpose is spelled out in the text. Lulav has none of that.

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  5. Good post. The Bar Kochba letter in which he requisitions the 4 species for his men has always struck me in the same vein.

    I dont know why the mitzvah feels pagan to you, though. I grant that later writers saw in the waving certain mystical notions at odds with modern thinking you might prefer. At its core though, the mitzvah is of agricultural symbolism appropriate for a harvest festival and should not be troubling.

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    1. I think you answer the point yourself in your last sentence. Harvest festivals and their associated rituals, rites & symbols were not new but existed as pagan derivatives since time immemorial.

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  6. So instead of finding something meaningful to us in the mitzvos, we should use them as ''proofs'' for land claims?
    Please...

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    1. FYI Many people are denying the Jewish ties to ancient Israel. It is one reason the Palestinians block archeology near the Mosque. I have heard they even destroy any such findings while they themselves excavate ! ACJA

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    2. Not the mitzvah per se, but the evidence that the mitzva was performed. Similarly, pig bones are not found in many places in archeological sites in Israel, testifying to that sort of kashrus keeping.

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  7. How about the achdut and unity that the Lulav symbolizes. Something many readers and posters should pay attention to. Including myself. We are one. All heading to redemption. A good sweet year to all my brothers and sisters that read this blog.

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    1. Ain't nuttin wrong with that... except it's a post-facto drasha, not a reason for the mitzvah.

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  8. Friendly SpelllcheckerSeptember 21, 2021 at 12:08 AM

    "Of course, there is *am* abundance of archeological evidence" (*an*)

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  9. Moadim lesimcha. I liked your point about carrying on a tradition, and I don't even consider myself a rationalist...that said, people often joke or perhaps even seriously call certain mitzvot pagan or barbaric, but come on: Do you even know anything about pagans or barbarians? Did pagans really wave around branches and fruit? Did barbarians really circumcise their kids? Maybe that's the answer a rationalist should give...

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    1. Are their pagan parallels to Torah ? Yes. Don’t take my word for it. See the Moreh by Rambam. ACJA

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    2. The pagan parallels to Torah are pervasive and deep. It shook my solid foundation in traditional Judaism to its depth and it came crashing down. Not even Rambam’s heroic effort could rebuild my belief in Traditional Judaism, although Rambam does have some valid insights. I explain in depth at my blog, including Sukkos and Rambam apologetics. Caution - my blog posts contain kefirah. ACJA

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    3. So pagans having copied/received from the original proto-religion (what Adam, Noach, etc practiced) is off the table?

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    4. Well okay, ACJA, I read your post. It was not particularly earth-shaking for me. I myself have never been comfortable with Rambam's view on these matters. I've never been a hard-core Maimonidian. The view I currently hold is that similarities between Judaism and other cultures/religions comes from the understanding that all are branches of a single, original monotheistic proto-religion, that which was followed by Adam, etc. The Hebrews were the only ones that managed to preserve it in its purest form. Other ethnicities degenerated into idolatry. I'm sure you'll be rolling your eyes and saying that the first religion was Animisim or something like that. Shkoyech. You do you. :) Moadim Lesimcha.

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    5. What are some parallels? And how do you know the pagans didn't take it from Torah?

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    6. The branches do not feel mystical or even pagan to me. Not at all.

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    7. This proves the land belong to Israel.

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    8. @Yakov Google: Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist (and now you also know what ACJA stands for). Search Sukkot in the blog to find the relevant post.

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    9. @HArel - In yeshiva the prototype apologetic was provided. BTW if memory serves me RAMBAM himself also advocated a prototype idea. It sort of helped,but I eventually found it wanting. see http://altercockerjewishatheist.blogspot.com/2014/06/explanations-of-pagan-customs-in_30.html Caution may contain kefirah. ACJA

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    10. @ACJA not enough space on a third party blog comment section for a more serious debate and nor do I have time right now (ערב שבת, בכ"ז), but I found that most of your arguments in that particular post are weak. A few do merit more serious discussion, but I don't know if that'll interest you בכלל. Would it?

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    11. Not for the purposes of being makarev you, ACJA, but for the future readers: I find Rav Hertz' explanation of Torah vs ancient Near East culture to be a sufficient answer to "What do we do with Hammurabi/Akhenaten/Ain Dara?" - in a Maimonidean fashion, these may have been tools the world utilized, but the laws practices that were commanded of us were more moral and more directed toward true spirituality.

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  10. @ACJA god chose the practices of the era to introduce ethical monotheism to the world. It worked. All 9f the good things are now a result of that judeo christian revolution. So what if there are elements that seem ritualistic in our age? We can supplement it with divrei tora and drush - 70 faces to the Torah.

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    1. “…chose the practices of the era to introduce ethical monotheism to the world“ quite similar to one Rambam’s main apologetics which I have found wanting. ACJA

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    2. I understand that this is one normative approach to resolving the 'challenge' of the adoption of existent pagan ritual and retroactively applying some kind of whitewashing of these rites in the name of monotheism, but given how much we hold to the action of ritual as specific to Judaism, it is not a satisfactory theocratic response, especially as orthodoxy holds how unique and original every aspect of origin Judaism is. When we add the sheer physical/visual impact of (defunct but primed to be 'returned' in an eventual messianic era) animal slaughter & ritual sacrifice to serve a single godhead, then it is especially jarring.

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    3. WADR, you are setting yourself up for a fall. I don't know where you get "orthodoxy holds how unique and original every aspect of origin Judaism is." As a matter of fact, the halakha is that one is liable for AZ for doing the same four acts that are done for God (bowing, slaughtering, burning and libation) as well as any form that is used especially for that AZ (kedarcho).

      And as someone pointed out, there was service of God by Adam and Noah before AZ. Noah brought animal sacrifices to God. Any wonder that some of his pagan descendants copied that for idolatory.

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    4. @TB so Adam and Noah came up with animal sacrifice on their own ? Hashem did not suggest it to them ? Then it is codified in Torah ? Meaning people really came up with how to worship Hashem ? ACJA

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    5. What difference does that make? Perhaps Hashem told them to do it, or perhaps it was implied, or perhaps they intuited it through Ruach ha Kodesh. Whatever the case may be, they did it, and that showed the world one way of serving God.

      The idolators then grabbed onto that. Remember, acc. to the Rambam, idolatry originally was conceived as a form of honoring Hashem through honoring the stars, and then degenerated into what it became later.

      Delete
    6. @TM You seem to be suggesting that Hashem desired to be worshiped via sacrifice by ADam and Noach. Considering they did do it without afaik hashem objecting, that the Torah codifies the practice and even writing hashem likes the smell I can see your POV. But I scratch my head. Why would hashem desire people perform animal blood sacrifice and sometimes even wasteful sacrifice ? I also think there are some other problems with the prototype apologetic - more detail at my blog which has kefirah. Link provided above. ACJA

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    7. @ACJA: This is not pologetics. You seem to be unaware of one of the most well-known Rambans in Chumash where he takes the Moreh to task about sacrifices.
      See here:
      https://www.sefaria.org/Ramban_on_Leviticus.1.9.1?lang=bi

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    8. @DYK - Thank you very much for pointing out the Ramban as in that link. I hope to read it carefully. What also struck me was how pointed Ramban could be when critiquing the great Eagle. Ramban even discredits Ibn-Ezra ( expert on Hebrew grammar) on some Hebrew GRAMMAR! ACJA

      Delete
  11. I just read a short article on The Torah.com titled "What sukkot meant to Jews and gentiles in Greco-Roman antiquity".
    He discusses the rituals with the lulav as being reminiscent - to gentiles too - of Baccic rituals with the thyrsos carried by the votaries of Dionysus/Bacchus and used in his festivals. In particular, he quotes passages from Plutarch and Tacitus and even Josephus.

    https://thetorah.com/article/what-sukkot-meant-to-jews-and-gentiles-in-greco-roman-antiquity

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  12. You have to pity these Observant Jewish rationalist types, the way they have to suffer through the whole month of Tishrei:
    *Rosh Hashana is a significant day of judgment because it was the day of Adam's creation and sin? Nope. Adam is a mythical figure, remember?
    *Yom Kippur's climax is when a goat is pushed off a jagged cliff and the red fabric turns white signifying Divine forgiveness? Clearly pagan-rooted irrational superstition.
    *Succos--I didn't know rationalists suffered through this one until this post informed me that it feels pagan to some people. And now that I think about it, circling the bima 7 times holding 4 minim and chanting prayers must seem downright satanic.

    But I would imagine Simchas Torah would be the most painful of all. The typical song list for the hakafos are ridden with all kinds of benighted, naive assertions about the alleged truth of the Torah:

    תורת ה' תמימה? The Torah is "perfect"? --with all its moral shortcomings, patriarchy, and lack of tolerance for outsiders?
    משפטי ה' אמת? How can you say Jewish law reflects truth when Chazal paskened halacha based on their primitive understanding of reality?
    והבדילנו מן הטועים? Jews are not unique--they harbor so many fundamentally mistaken beliefs --just as in any other religion.
    ונתן לנו תורת אמת? The Torah is true? With all its mistaken descriptions of pre-history, nature and its superstitious beliefs?

    They must be glad this month is finally over and we start reading Sefer Bereishis again in shul-- where everyone is going to be talking about six days of creation, Adam and Chavah and the nachash in Gan Eden, and Noach and the world-wide mabul.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Observant Jewish RationalistSeptember 29, 2021 at 6:44 AM

      You have to be jealous of these ignorant and/or intellectually dishonest charedim, it must be so easy to live as a Jew in the modern world without grappling with any scientific or moral questions! O, to be able to completely ignore dinosaurs!

      Delete
    2. Without grappling...uh huh, right. Like there haven't been entire books by chareidim grappling with scientific or moral questions. The degree of disingenuous mischaracterization of your opponents is astounding.

      Delete
    3. Observant Jewish RationalistSeptember 29, 2021 at 5:26 PM

      Perhaps you can refer us to books by charedim discussing such questions as the different eras of prehistoric creatures, the continuous records of Egyptian civilization throughout the entire period of the Deluge, the moral question of how the Torah commands us to kill babies of various peoples, and the question of how to deal with people who are homosexual?

      Delete
    4. Rabbi Kornreich has already stated his opinion regarding homosexuals, he said that they should explore the option of suicide...

      Delete
    5. Ah, I knew this was coming--moving the goalposts.
      The claim you first made was that chareidim don't "grapple with any scientific or moral questions." The word you used was ANY.

      When I called you out on this bald-faced, deliberate lie, instead of conceding it like a man, you immediately shift to ask if they discuss the questions that YOU PERSONALLY find extremely difficult or irreconcilable. Not a hint of admission that you were falsely smearing chareidim. That's what I call chutzpah!
      Since when does the chareidi world have revolve around your pet problems?

      (But as a matter of fact, Rabbi Dovid Brown discussed the question of different eras of pre-historic creatures in the very first chapter of his book, "Mysteries of the Creation". And Rabbi Aharon Feldman devoted large portion of Vol. 3 of Dialogue (Fall 5772/2012) to the question of how to deal with Jewish homosexuals.
      I'm sure you'll respond that these answers don't satisfy you personally, and there are other questions never addressed! Ah, but then you will be moving the goalposts once again-- to avoid having to admit you were wrong and these kinds of issues generally are indeed being grappled with by chareidim.)

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    6. Observant Jewish RationalistSeptember 30, 2021 at 7:53 AM

      Rabbi Dovid Brown's book? It's entertainment, not a serious attempt at grappling with science. He doesn't remotely address the clear divisions in rock strata between different types of fossils. Do you even understand what that means?

      Delete
    7. Reposting since it seems the first time didn't get through.
      This is truly remarkable. I am accusing you of intentionally lying about chareidim not grappling with any scientific or moral questions, and you have nothing to say in response other than to complain that you aren't impressed with how they grapple with those questions!
      You don't even realize how caught up you are in your false smear!
      When one side has to constantly resort to these kinds of blatantly false characterizations of the other side to attempt to discredit them, you know which side is losing.

      For your readers who may not be as blind as you, here are almost a dozen books by chareidi authors which grapple with all kinds of challenges--moral and scientific-- to traditional Jewish beliefs. New books of this genre come out every year or so. (The genre was started by Rabbi Avigdor Miller about 50 years ago by the way--well before you or I were born.)

      *https://www.feldheim.com/living-with-g-d-in-the-21st-century-1
      *https://www.amazon.com/Search-Torah-Wisdom-Questions-Forgot/dp/1937887057/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&qid=1632986853&refinements=p_27%3AYisroel+Miller&s=books&sr=1-1#detailBullets_feature_div
      *https://www.feldheim.com/beyond-a-reasonable-doubt-revised-and-expanded-original-edition
      *https://www.feldheim.com/why-bad-things-don-t-happen-to-good-people-1
      *https://www.feldheim.com/jew-got-questions-1-1
      *https://www.feldheim.com/strengthen-your-emunah
      *https://www.amazon.com/Making-Sense-Suffering-Yitzchok-Kirzner/dp/1578197589/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=making+sense+of+suffering+kirzner&qid=1632993854&s=books&sr=1-1
      *https://www.amazon.co.uk/Emunah-Rabbi-Dovid-Sapirman/dp/1937887553
      *https://www.amazon.com/Ask-Rabbi-Chaim-Mintz/dp/1422627470/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=ask+the+rabbi+mintz&qid=1632993981&s=books&sr=1-1
      *https://www.amazon.com/Informed-Soul-Artscroll-D-Gottlieb/dp/0899065716/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+informed+soul+gottlieb&qid=1632994181&s=books&sr=1-1
      *https://www.amazon.com/Genesis-Genes-Respectfully-putting-science/dp/1598260251/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=genesis+and+genes&qid=1632994242&s=books&sr=1-4

      (And yes, I understand what that means. Rabbi Brown addresses it on page 73-74 starting with the words "fossils of certain types..." He rejects the Mabul as being a valid explanation.
      Again-- you may not appreciate his answer, but that isn't going to help you escape your blatant falsehood.)

      Delete
    8. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    9. Observant Jewish RationalistOctober 1, 2021 at 6:08 PM

      "Grappling" means taking the question seriously. Not throwing out whatever comes into your head, and not making any serious attempt to actually deal with the scientific evidence or the Torah/ rabbinic texts.

      "Rabbi Brown addresses it on page 73-74 starting with the words "fossils of certain types..." Ah, where he says that they are from 974 previous worlds that rejected the Torah, which R. Meiselman points out never existed (not to mention that science does not support 974 epochs of sentient life!). Somewhat similar to the approach of the Tiferes Yisrael, which Rabbi Meiselman says was "utterly rejected by his contemporaries and successors." So, again, where is there a serious attempt to deal with different prehistoric eras? Certainly not in your Rebbe's book!

      Delete
    10. "Grappling" also doesn't mean saying Chazal were simply wrong, or mysognistic, or immoral, or that the entire story of Ma'aseh Bereishis is fake. Those can be described by many things, but "grappling" they are not.

      Delete
  13. "The mitzvah of arba minim sometimes falls into that category. Shaking a bunch of branches ritualistically feels not just mystical, but even pagan."

    This has to be among the more bizarre statements I have seen in a while. What about daled minim is pagan? That you are using something physical to serve Hashem? That would eliminate most of the Torah.

    As far as similarities to pagan rituals (not established, but I will assume it for arguments sake), acc. to the Rambam, Avodah Zarah began as a form of honoring God. Stands to reason that some of the forms of worship were carried over as well.

    Prostrating oneself has been a form of showing subservience and honor from time immemorial, and in many cultures. Not surprisingly, it is one of the forms of avodah for Hashem, and is also used for Avodah Zarah. Doing that to one's body makes one completely vulnerable to the other, and demonstrates subservience. I don't know why our doing it to the Almighty should somehow make one feel pagan because numerous idolators also do so.

    ReplyDelete

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