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Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Different Way of Looking At Those Forty-Nine 49 Days in Desert and Pesach Sheini

Especially for the past year and a half, since I've been studying במדבר Bamidbar, the Book of Numbers in Matan with Atara Snowbell, I simultaneously see more clearly and have more questions about period immediately after the Biblical Jewish People were freed from slavery to Pharaoh in Egypt.

Their impatience for Moses's return from visiting G-d at Mount Sinai is even  more inexplicable:
We ask rather rhetorically:
"How did we manage in the days before cell phones?"

One thing was that we had to be more patient, trusting and planned things better in advance.  We knew that since there was no way to contact someone on their way,  we just had to wait a bit longer, or more and trust that there was some perfectly legitimate reason for the delay.  That's what makes the sin of the golden calf, the rapid and impatient building of an idol, that golden calf, so inexplicable and bad.  The recently released from slavery to Pharaoh in Egypt Jewish People had decided that Moses must have deserted them, died or whatever when he didn't come at the moment they expected him and demanded from Aaron that they construct a god, that infamous golden calf.
Time should have been more flexible without modern clocks, watches, computers etc.  The only rationale behind the rapid construction of that idol, the golden calf, was that the people had been planning it all along.  It's hard to believe that it could have been planned, gold collected, melted, molded and cooled within hours.  I can't see how it was physically possible.
Rashi explains that the sin of the Golden Calf originated in a misunderstanding. Moses ascended Mount Sinai on the 7th day of the Jewish month of Sivan with the stated intention of being gone for forty days and returning on the morning of the forty-first day. The people interpreted this statement to include the day of the ascent in the count of the forty days, and therefore expected Moses to return on the morning of the 16th of Tamuz. Moses actually meant that he would be away a full forty days and nights. The day of his ascent could not be counted as part of the forty days since he left in the morning (in the Jewish calendar the day starts in the evening and part of the day had already passed by the time of his departure), and the day of his projected return was the 17th of Tamuz, the day on which he duly arrived, right on schedule.
We must approach the misunderstanding that occurred here in Jewish cultural terms to appreciate it fully; the misunderstanding concerned the proper way to interpret spoken words. The interpretation of scriptural words is a rabbinic function par excellence. There is no doubt that the greatest rabbinic authorities of the desert generation, including Aaron himself, were consulted. Many people are aware that rabbinic decisions always reflect the majority consensus. This means that according to the best rabbinic authority available at the time, the correct interpretation of Moses' words was that he would be back on the 16th. Torah tradition teaches that the best rabbinic authority is the true Torah position. The conclusion: the Jewish people were fully justified to conclude that Moses was late.
It should have taken about a week or so until the idol was constructed and cooled, right?  Are there any sculptors or jewelers reading this?

There's a similar mentality in the Appease aka Peace Now movement and philosophy. There's something inherently sinful in this worship of a non-Jewish concept of "peace" and begging non-Jews for it.  Jewish survival, victories, nationhood etc. are only due to G-d Almighty and not conventional weapons, so called super powers, the United Nations etcetera... The late Professor Benzion Netanyahu's The Founding Fathers of Zionism is worth reading especially to see the different approaches the early Zionist leaders had to the eventual acceptance by the goyim, secular authorities of Jewish Nationhood.  None of them had any spiritual, religious or Jewish concept of the road to a Jewish state. At the official book launch to the republishing of the book a number of years before Netanyahu's death, Moshe Shamir, davka not a Torah observant Jew,  stated that Netanyahu made a serious mistake leaving out the religious Zionist leaders from his book.  Shamir understood that our existence depends on G-d.

Peace and victory for the Jewish Nation and Jewish People also depend on G-d and G-d gives us those things according to our behavior.  I had never before celebrated, in anyway possible Pesach Sheini.  Pesach Sheini is the "second chance Passover."  During Biblical times when there was a Passover sacrifice, those who were ritually unclean during the actual time of Passover could make up the sacrifice a month later.  Considering that we haven't done a proper Passover sacrifice, because there isn't a Holy Temple, it is becoming very popular to do  some sort of Pesach Sheni celebration. 

my Pesach Sheini matzah
Many people now eat matzah on that day, just to identify with our loss of a Temple.  I had been among those who didn't do anything for Pesach Sheini, but my friends who came to Shiloh the day before include a few who do celebrate the day with matzah.  And then on the actual Pesach Sheini day, I heard more news of pressure on the Israeli Government to "try giving Land to the Arabs again for peace," and I just knew that it was a sign to celebrate Pesach Sheini.  So I ate matzah and prayed to G-d with every bite that our government leaders would be gifted by G-d with true Jewish Torah wisdom.  And considering that Israel is a democracy, meaning that we ordinary citizens choose our leaders/government officials, we all must get wisdom from G-d to choose well. 

It was explained to me that Pesach Sheini, the "second chance Passover" is symbolic of the opportunity to correct our mistakes, do teshuva, repent to G-d for our sins. The door to repentance is always open. G-d welcomes us to Torah Life.  And looking back, Lag B'Omer is the day I began my journey.  On Lag B'Omer, 1963, I attended my very, very first NCSY event.  It was a picnic at Bear Mountain State Park, NY.  I had no idea what I was starting and where it would take me.  But here I am in Holy Shiloh, and I have been here for almost thirty-two years, B"H, Praise the Lord!

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