Sh’lach

Be careful what you wish for, it might come true

Thoughts on parashat Sh’lach

Menachem Mirski

Our Torah portion for this week tells us a story of 12 spies sent by Moses to investigate the Promised land before conquering it. They return forty days later, carrying a huge cluster of grapes, a pomegranate and a fig, to report on a lush and bountiful land. But ten of the spies warn that the inhabitants of the land are giants and warriors “more powerful than we”; only Caleb and Joshua insist that the land can be conquered, as it was commanded by God.

Our rabbis analyzed this story from many perspectives. One of the issues they were particularly focused on can be expressed in the following questions: What was the sin of the spies who were sent to investigate the promised land? What did the spies do so dreadfully wrong that it brought the punishment of additional forty years of life on the desert for all the Israelites, making many of them never see the Promised land? One of the answers suggested by our rabbis is that they presented their biased opinion about the land and the possibility of conquering it instead of giving a relatively unbiased factual account on what the Promised land was like. According to Ramban, their goal was to gather the information about the land mainly for logistic purposes, to be able to develop a good strategy to conquer it; this, according to Rashi, is expressed in the name of the parasha shelach lecha – “send out (the spies) for yourself”. But none of that happened and it even seems that these ten spies were on the side of all the complainers among the Israelites who constantly murmured against Moses and God and wanted to come back to Egypt. They did not really go to investigate the land; they went there to collect the information that would prove their narrative, to use contemporary language.

What can we learn from it? The ten Israelite spies who lacked faith in God deemed the Promised land impossible to conquer. The remaining two, Joshua and Caleb, who had faith in God help were way more positive about the land and the ability to conquer it, although they admitted that the Divine help is necessary:

And Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, of those who had scouted the land, rent their clothes and exhorted the whole Israelite community: “The land that we traversed and scouted is an exceedingly good land. If pleased with us, יהוה will bring us into that land, a land that flows with milk and honey, and give it to us; only you must not rebel against יהוה. Have no fear then of the people of the country, for they are our prey: their protection has departed from them, but יהוה is with us. Have no fear of them! (Numbers 14:6-9)

The entire story can serve as an illustration of the 20th century proven epistemological view that our perception of the world (and ourselves) is dependent on our previously acquired knowledge about the world. In other words, we perceive and interpret everything that is around us (and within us, like our identity) in terms of what we have already learned, what we already believe about reality, through the entire cognitive apparatus that is the core structure of our knowledge and our belief system. This cognitive apparatus might be an adequate tool with an adequate language to describe reality; it might be a less adequate or completely inadequate tool for comprehending reality, and therefore a serious obstacle to our perception and ability to process information. It’s not a new concept. The idea that the human subject plays an active role in comprehending reality, was already developed in the writings of philosophers such as David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and some versions of it can already be found in the writings of ancient Greek philosophers. However, this knowledge/belief based determination of our perception and cognitive abilities, contrary to the opinions of some postmodern thinkers, does not create an absolute obstacle in our cognition would make it impossible for us to know the objective truths of the universe. We have already learned how to overcome these obstacles; much of what we call the methodology of science is about overcoming various cognitive limitations, including these ones. Generally speaking, scientific methodology has been very successful in this matter and it is important to mention this because some postmodern concepts completely blurred  the distinctions between science and pseudoscience, opening a path to the reign of ignorance, cognitive nihilism, bringing and perpetuating a variety of cognitive delusions.

Our perception is then determined by our knowledge and beliefs. All of that, in turn, influences our actions. What we believe to be true can have a tremendous impact on our actions and therefore on our fate. But fortunately our beliefs can usually be verified in practical life; therefore, whatever we do we should reflect on (practical) consequences of our beliefs and constantly ask ourselves questions like these: what my beliefs led me to? Do they make me happy? How do they influence my relationships with other people, including my loved ones? How do they influence my career? Are they helpful in achieving my life goals? Is there something I need to correct in my belief system? How, in fact, did I get to believe this and that? An so on.

Getting things wrong can have a bad impact on us; some consequences of our beliefs might be terrible for us, equally bad to those the Israelities faced in our biblical story. The only remedy for that is a prudent, reflective life in which we are able to critically look at our beliefs, even the most fundamental ones, and subject them to re-evaluation. Only this can ultimately save us from many things we never want to experience.

Shabbat shalom!

Menachem Mirski- student rabinacki w Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University, Los Angeles, USA.
Menachem Mirski is a Polish born philosopher, musician, scholar and international speaker. He earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy and is currently studying to become a Rabbi at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. His current area of interests focus on freedom of expression and thought as well as the laws of logic as it pertains to the discourse of ideology and social and political issues. Dr. Mirski has been a leader in Polish klezmer music scene for well over a decade and his LA based band is called Waking Jericho.

 

Bechukotai

Justice as a collective venture

Thoughts on parashat Bechukotai

Menachem Mirski

Our Torah portion for this week is called Bechukotai, which can be translated as “in my laws”. It starts with אם־בחקתי תלכו (im bechukotai telechulit. 'if you walk in my laws’) and centers on a brief but eloquent promise of blessings for those who follow God’s ways and an lengthy series of curses for those who reject God’s ways:

If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments, I will grant your rains in their season, so that the earth shall yield its produce and the trees of the field their fruit. Your threshing shall overtake the vintage and your vintage shall overtake the sowing; you shall eat your fill of bread and dwell securely in your land […] I will look with favor upon you and make you fertile and multiply you […] I will establish My abode in your midst, and will not spurn you. I will be ever present in your midst: I will be your God, and you shall be My people. (Leviticus 26:3-5,9-12)

But if you do not obey me and do not observe all these commandments, if you reject My laws and spurn My rules, so that you do not observe all my commandments and you break my covenant, I in turn will do this to you: I will wreak misery upon you – consumption and fever, which cause the eyes to pine and body to languish; you shall saw your seed to no purpose, for your enemies shall eat it. I will set My face against you; you shall be routed by your enemies, and your foes shall dominate you […] Your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit. (Leviticus 26:14-20)

The entire passage of these blessings and curses is 43 verses long. The quotations above are only the excerpts that give us the general picture of what we are dealing here with. it is one more expression of the deuteronomic doctrine of the reward and punishment, which lies a the core of the oldest Jewish concept of justice, which can be summarized in one sentence: if you do good, you will be rewarded, if you do bad, you will be punished, which means that all your (moral) actions have consequences and determine your fate (in a pretty simple way). All of that implies individual responsibility for each and every action we take.

This Jewish doctrine of reward and punishment has been theologically challenged by the rabbis basically in two different ways. Firstly, it was seen through the lens of theodicy, which typically puts the human individual at its center and deals with the problem “why the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer”. The answer to that question depends on who is to take a bigger chunk of responsibility for what happens in this world, God or human beings. Another way the rabbis reflected on this doctrine has to do with the question: is there an undeserved suffering? Does the fact of suffering always imply a sin committed prior to it? Is moral wrongdoing the only cause of suffering? If the answer is yes, then it results in reversing the logical implication at the core of the entire concept: not only if you do bad, you will be punished, but also if you are suffering it means that you are punished and this means that you must have committed a sin. This radical answer is sometimes called the doctrine of retribution and it is theologically grounded in the Song of Moses (The Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 32), which defines the default moral and existential position of the Chosen People as pretty low: we are corrupt, stiff necked people, and for this reason we have a huge debt to the Eternal for his great deeds and the miracles He had performed to save us from Egyptian slavery and to lift us from our spiritual misery.

But there is yet another way we can approach this passage and it has to do with how we understand the pronoun 'you’ in it: whether this pronoun denotes a human individual or whether it is understood collectively and denotes the entire group of people. As mentioned above, the rabbis tended, although not exclusively, to view this doctrine through the individualistic lens (and that’s the typical way modern people view it), and this brought them to the problems mentioned above, however, if we understand it collectively, it completely changes the direction into which it leads us intellectually. If we understand it the latter way, it leads us to the vision of what the world will be like when it truly becomes God’s kingdom, when most members of the human community would follow God’s ways. It’s worth mentioning here that the Torah articulates here the necessity to view not only the people, but also the mitzvot in a collective way:

But if you do not obey me and do not observe all these commandments, if you reject My laws and spurn My rules, so that you do not observe all my commandments and you break my covenant, I in turn will do this to you […] (Leviticus 26:14)

Therefore you, the people of Israel, shall observe ALL my commandments, says God, and if you do so the righteous will (always) be rewarded and the wicked will (always) be punished. Thus, this doctrine will work only if the (vast) majority of the society would observe the (vast) majority of laws (we should have said that ALL people should observe ALL the divine laws to make this happen but given what we experience and know about human beings it seems to be a pretty unrealistic idea).

Only by creating a situation like that are we able to establish a system in which justice prevails. There will still be a margin of people experiencing injustice and unjust suffering – that seems unavoidable given, for example, the general lack of widespread, fundamental and rigid structure defining what’s the proper ethical conduct and what is not. There will always be cases of premeditated evil and inadvertent evil, which will result in undeserved human suffering. But our goal is to always limit the scope of possible wrongdoings and to constantly expand the sphere of justice, Divine law and all other Jewish values – love, devotion to communal life, education, truthfulness, kindness, respect and responsibility. All of that should be done maintaining a proper balance between individual freedoms and the interests of the community, which is a theme for another d’var Torah.

Shabbat shalom,

Menachem Mirski- student rabinacki w Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University, Los Angeles, USA.
Menachem Mirski is a Polish born philosopher, musician, scholar and international speaker. He earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy and is currently studying to become a Rabbi at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. His current area of interests focus on freedom of expression and thought as well as the laws of logic as it pertains to the discourse of ideology and social and political issues. Dr. Mirski has been a leader in Polish klezmer music scene for well over a decade and his LA based band is called Waking Jericho.

Paraszat Kdoszim

Paraszat Kdoszim

פרשת קדשים

(Wajikra 19:1 – 20:27)

Miriam Klimovastudentka rabinacka w Hebrew Union College w Jerozolimie
oraz rabinka kongregacji „Szirat ha-Jam” w Haifie.

Wyobraź sobie idealny poranek: zapach świeżo zaparzonej kawy, śpiew wiosennych ptaków za oknem. Otwierasz drzwi mieszkania, bierzesz do ręki świeżą gazetę, którą listonosz przyniósł jeszcze przed świtem, siadasz przy stole i z przyjemnym szelestem papieru otwierasz ją i czytasz najnowsze wiadomości. Nagle staje się jasne – świat idealny nie istnieje, i ludzi idealnych też nie ma…

Podobnie otwieramy nasz tygodniowy rozdział Tory.

Widzimy, że rozpoczyna się od zaskakującego przykazania: kdoszim tihju „świętymi bądźcie!”, ale natychmiast stajemy przed ciężkim pytaniem – jak człowiek może być świętym?! Jeśli bycie świętym wymaga od nas stania się ideałem, to najprawdopodobniej nie ma to nic wspólnego z otaczającą nas realnością.

Paraszat Kdoszim wymaga od nas zastanowienia się nad tym, czym jest świętość. Czy jest to pewna emocja, czy doświadczenie, a może „świętym” trzeba się urodzić?

Nakaz uświęcania się i bycia świętym pojawia się w TaNaChu w wielu miejscach i zazwyczaj chodzi o uświęcenie się od czegoś lub uświęcenie kogoś. Na przykład w 2 Księdze Samuela 11:4: „I została uświęcona od swojej nieczystości”, w Księdze Jozuego: „Uświęćcie lud”. Znamy przykazanie uświęcania imienia Bożego i też uświęcamy Szabat. Czyli pojęcie „świętości” ma różne definicje.

Do najbardziej znanych badaczy tego pojęcia należy Rudolf Otto, niemiecki filozof i teolog, który napisał słynną książkę zatytułowaną „Idea świętości”. Próbuje zdefiniować to pojęcie i sposób, w jaki świętość jest doznawana przez człowieka. Będąc protestanckim teologiem, był zaniepokojony tendencją liberałów do sprowadzania religii do etyki. Starał się udowodnić, że w naturze ludzkiej istnieje element religijny, który jest z natury niezależny od elementu etycznego. Jest to część nas, która reaguje na to, co tajemnicze i zaskakujące, na rzeczywistość, która jest zarówno oszałamiająca, jak i fascynująca, której nie da się ani odpowiednio zrozumieć, ani racjonalnie wytłumaczyć. Słowo „święty” i jego odpowiedniki wskazują, według Ottona, na poczucie „tajemniczej” boskiej rzeczywistości, która wywołuje lęk, szacunek i pokorę. To uczucie, w swojej najprostszej i najbardziej prymitywnej formie, jest przerażające, wstrząsające i straszliwe. Jego zdaniem świętość jest połączeniem dwóch sił: lęku wobec wzniosłości tego czegoś, a także tęsknoty za zbliżeniem się do niego.

Inni opisują świętość jako wzniosły i najwyższy wymiar poza rzeczywistością. Być może jest w tych definicjach trochę prawdy, ale trudno je pogodzić z przykazaniem „świętymi bądźcie” – tu i teraz!

Przykazanie „świętymi bądźcie” podaje też przyczynę: „bo Ja Pan, Bóg twój, jestem Święty”. Świętość jest cechą Boga, a skoro tak, to musimy zrozumieć, w jaki sposób człowiek materialny może być bliski Temu, kto nie posiada żadnych wad?!

Poszukać odpowiedzi proponuję w słowach midraszu Awot de-Rabi Natan 27:

„Rabi Tarfon nauczał: Nie unikajcie pracy, która nie ma granic, ani pracy, która nie może być doprowadzona do końca. To tak jak w przypadku człowieka, który został najęty do noszenia wody z morza i wylewania jej na ląd. Ale ponieważ w morzu woda nie ustępowała, a ląd nie był wypełniony wodą, załamał się. Wtedy pewien człowiek powiedział do niego: „Głupcze! Dlaczego masz się zniechęcać, skoro za każdy dzień pracy otrzymujesz złotego dinara?”.

Dążenie do tego, co nieosiągalne, może być środkiem do jego osiągnięcia. Dystans między wzniosłą doskonałością Boga a naszymi ziemskimi ograniczeniami jest bezmierny jak wody morza, ale Tora zachęca nas, byśmy dążyli do zmniejszenia tego dystansu.

Kluczem do zrozumienia pojęcia świętości w judaizmie jest stwierdzenie, że drogą do osiągnięcia świętości jest przestrzeganie drogi wskazanej przez Boga. W literaturze rabinicznej znajdujemy wiele sposobów, dzięki którym można osiągnąć bliskość Boga i w ten sposób stać się osobą świętą:

“וכי אפשר לאדם להלך אחר השכינה? אלא להלך אחר מידותיו של הקדוש ברוך הוא: מה הוא מלביש ערומים – אף אתה הלבש ערומים; הקדוש ברוך הוא ביקר חולים – אף אתה בקר חולים; הקדוש ברוך הוא ניחם אבלים – אף אתה נחם אבלים; הקדוש ברוך הוא קבר מתים – אף אתה קבור מתים” – (תלמוד בבלי, מסכת סוטה דף יד) „Lecz czy rzeczywiście jest możliwe, aby człowiek naśladował Boską Obecność? Chodzi raczej o to, że należy naśladować cechy Świętego, Błogosławionego. Tak jak On przyodziewa nagich, tak i wy powinniście przyodziewać nagich. Tak jak Święty, Błogosławiony, odwiedza chorych, tak i wy powinniście odwiedzać chorych. Tak jak Święty, Błogosławiony, pociesza żałobników, tak i wy powinniście pocieszać żałobników. Tak jak Święty, Błogosławiony, grzebał zmarłych, tak i wy powinniście grzebać zmarłych”. – Talmud Babiloński, Traktat Sota, 14.

Człowiek może być święty, gdy kroczy drogami Boga, czyni dobro innym i pracuje na rzecz istnienia świata. Być może nie jest to wcale przypadek, że kilka wersów później natrafiamy na inne znane i cytowane przykazanie:

  וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ… „i miłuj bliźniego swego jak siebie samego”.

W judaizmie świętość nie jest doświadczeniem, nie jest emocją i nie trzeba się ze świętością urodzić. W judaizmie świętość – jest działaniem!

Więc wróćmy do idealnego poranku: znowu zapach świeżo zaparzonej kawy, śpiew ptaków, gazeta, najnowsze wiadomości… nagle staje się jasne: świat potrzebuje świętości, twojej świętości!

Szabat Szalom!

Miriam Klimova,
Rabbinic student at HUC in Jerusalem, 
A Rabbi at the Shirat ha-Yam congregation in Haifa.

Thoughts on Pesach 5782

Leave Behind

Thoughts on Pesach 5782

Menachem Mirski

This Friday at sunset we will mark the beginning not only of Shabbat, but also the festival of Pesach, which is one of the main pillars of our religious experience and our identity. Passover is a festival of freedom and joy, but also of certain duties and necessary sacrifices which are supposed to shape us psychologically so that we become conscious “owners of freedom”:

The Egyptians urged the people on, impatient to have them leave the country, for they said, “We shall all be dead.” So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls wrapped in their cloaks upon their shoulders… Moreover, a mixed multitude went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had taken out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, since they had been driven out of Egypt and could not delay; nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves. (Ex 12:33-34;38-39)

The above story is the source of a law according to which during Pesach we don’t eat not only leavened bread, but also any kind of products containing chametz, i.e. made based on the leaven of five grains: rye, wheat, spelt, oat and barley, or containing even trace amounts of them, if the process of their production could have led to the creation of leaven. Not only eating, but also owning these products on Pesach is forbidden.

Sometimes it is generally said that we do all this to commemorate those events; but this statement is not correct, since this tradition is based on a “stronger” rabbinical rule expressed in the Mishna (Pesachim 10:5): “In each and every generation a person must view himself as though he personally left Egypt, as it is stated: ‘And you shall tell your son on that day, saying: It is because of this which the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt’ (Exodus 13:8)”. This rabbinical rule is almost ordering us to “embody” the fact of leaving Egypt, so that we never go back there again and so that once and for all we can remain free people, which in the human world has always been and still remains a challenge, often an uneasy challenge.

That’s among others the reason why our tradition abounds in rituals and laws helping us “embody” the experience of the exodus from Egypt. Some of them are laws regarding chametz:

When one searches for chametz on the night of the fourteenth or the day of the fourteenth [of the month of Nissan] or in the middle of the festival, he should recite the blessing before he begins to search: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us about destruction of chametz. And he searches and seeks [it] in all of the places into which we introduce chametz, as we have explained. (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Leavened and Unleavened Bread 3:6)

And he searches and seeks [it] in all of the places into which we introduce chametz…– such a search can be very time consuming or actually never ending, if someone treats this matter very meticulously. So we don’t become obsessed over this, the Rabbis decided that there must be a rule limiting the practice of searching and getting rid of the chametz:

And when he finishes searching – if he searched on the night of the fourteenth or on the day of the fourteenth [Nissan] before the sixth hour, he must nullify all of the chametz that remained in his possession and that he does not see. And he should say, “All the chametz that is in my possession that I have not seen – behold it is like dust.” (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Leavened and Unleavened Bread 3:7)

Therefore we are obliged to end the search for the chametz at a certain point and recognize that we’ve done everything in our power and seal this with the above mentioned statement. In my opinion what’s very important here is that we should use such “limiting rules” not only with regards to chametz, but also many other areas of our lives. Let us then engage in an intellectual experiment and let’s consider that chametz is: a burden, a problem, a hardship, a yoke or – a weakness or addiction. All such things are obstacles limiting our freedom. We should be always eliminating them from our lives. In many cases we should be as meticulous as with the searching for and destruction of chametz, otherwise the problems and burdens will quickly come back to us. But here we also need a “limiting rule”, so that we don’t become obsessed with fighting against all these things, since this can yield contrary to expected effects. For example focusing obsessively on one’s own weaknesses or an exaggerated search for evil in everything that surrounds us, even if the motivation behind it is positive, doesn’t make our life better. At a certain point while fighting against such things we must simply recognize that we’ve done a lot, that we’ve done all that was in our power, seal it with a blessing, leave those burdens and weaknesses behind us and keep on living our lives, not letting ourselves be determined by something we have already largely overcome, yet not completely.

Shabbat shalom,

Chag Pesach Sameach!

Menachem Mirski- student rabinacki w Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University, Los Angeles, USA.
Menachem Mirski is a Polish born philosopher, musician, scholar and international speaker. He earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy and is currently studying to become a Rabbi at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. His current area of interests focus on freedom of expression and thought as well as the laws of logic as it pertains to the discourse of ideology and social and political issues. Dr. Mirski has been a leader in Polish klezmer music scene for well over a decade and his LA based band is called Waking Jericho.

Translated from Polish by: Marzena Szymańska-Błotnicka

Refleksja na Pesach 5782

Zostawić za sobą

Refleksja na Pesach 5782

Menachem Mirski

W najbliższy piątek, o zachodzie słońca, rozpoczyna się nie tylko szabat, ale także i święto Pesach, będące jednym z głównych filarów naszego religijnego doświadczenia i naszej tożsamości. Święto Pesach jest świętem wolności i radości, ale i pewnych obowiązków oraz koniecznych wyrzeczeń, mających nas psychologicznie uformować tak, żebyśmy byli świadomymi “posiadaczami wolności”:

I nalegali Micrejczycy na lud, by ich czemprędzej wyprawić z kraju, bo rzekli: “Wszyscy pomrzemy”. I poniósł lud ciasto swoje, zanim się zakwasiło, donice swoje obwinięte w zwierzchnie szaty swe, na barkach swoich. […] I także różnoplemiennego ludu mnóstwo wyszło z nimi i trzody, i stada, dobytek wielki bardzo. I wypiekli ciasto, które wynieśli z Micraim, na placki przaśne; ponieważ się nie zakwasiło, bo wypędzeni zostali z Micraim, a nie mogli się zatrzymywać; a także zapasów nie przygotowali sobie. (Wj 12:33-34;38-39)

Powyższa historia jest źródłem prawa, wedle którego nie jemy w Pesach nie tylko chleba kwaszonego, ale także wszelkich produktów zawierający chamec, tzn. sporządzonych na zakwasie z pięciu zbóż: żyta, pszenicy, orkiszu, owsa i jęczmienia, jaki też zawierające choćby śladowe ich ilości, jeśli proces ich produkcji mógł doprowadzić do powstania zakwasu. Nie tylko jedzenie, ale i posiadanie tych produktów jest w Pesach zakazane.

Potocznie mawia się czasem, że robimy to wszystko na pamiątkę owych wydarzeń; stwierdzenie to jednak nie jest adekwatne, bowiem owa tradycja opiera się na “mocniejszej” rabinicznej zasadzie, wyrażonej w Misznie (Pesachim 10:5): W każdym pokoleniu człowiek winien postrzegać siebie tak, jakby osobiście opuścił Egipt, jest bowiem napisane: I opowiesz synowi twojemu dnia onego, mówiąc: to dla tego, co uczynił mi Wiekuisty, gdym wychodził z Micraim. Owa rabiniczna zasada nakazuje nam niemalże “ucieleśnić” fakt wyjścia z Egiptu, po to, ażeby nigdy do niego już nie wracać i aby raz na zawsze pozostać ludźmi wolnymi, co w świecie ludzkim zawsze było i jest wciąż wyzwaniem, często niełatwym wyzwaniem.

Między innymi z tego właśnie powodu nasza tradycja obfituje w rytuały i prawa pomagające nam “ucieleśnić” doświadczenie wyjścia z Egiptu. Jednymi spośród nich są prawa dotyczące chamecu:

Szukając chamecu w nocy lub w ciągu dnia czternastego [miesiąca Nissan], lub w czasie święta, należy odmówić błogosławieństwo, zanim zacznie się szukać: Błogosławiony jesteś, Boże nasz, Królu Wszechświata, który uświęciłeś nas swoimi przykazaniami i nakazałeś nam zniszczenie chamecu. Szukamy [go] we wszystkich miejscach, do których mogliśmy go zanieść, jak wyjaśniliśmy powyżej. (Majmonides, Miszne Tora, Kwaszony i niekwaszony chleb 3:6)

Szukamy [go] we wszystkich miejscach, do których mogliśmy go zanieść… – takie poszukiwania mogą być bardzo czasochłonne lub wręcz nie mieć końca, jeśli ktoś traktuje sprawę bardzo skrupulatnie. Byśmy więc nie popadli w obsesję w tej kwestii, rabini uznali, że potrzebna jest reguła ograniczająca praktykę poszukiwania i pozbywania się chamecu:

A kiedy skończymy poszukiwania – jeśli szukaliśmy w nocy czternastego lub w ciągu dnia, czternastego [Nissan] przed godziną szóstą, musimy unicestwić cały chamec, który pozostał w naszym posiadaniu i ten, którego nie widzimy. I powinniśmy powiedzieć: „Cały chamec, który jest w moim posiadaniu, a którego nie widziałem, jest jak proch”. (Majmonides, Miszne Tora, Kwaszony i niekwaszony chleb 3:7)

Jesteśmy zatem zobligowani zakończyć poszukiwania chamecu w pewnym momencie i uznać, że zrobiliśmy wszystko, co było w naszej mocy i przypieczętować to powyższą deklaracją. Co jest moim zdaniem bardzo tutaj istotne to to, że tego rodzaju “zasady ograniczające” powinniśmy stosować nie tylko wobec chamecu, ale i w wielu innych dziedzinach naszego życia. Zróbmy więc intelektualny eksperyment i uznajmy chamec za: ciężar, kłopot, uciążliwość, brzemię, albo – słabość czy uzależnienie. Wszystkie tego rodzaju zjawiska stanowią przeszkody ograniczające naszą wolność. Powinniśmy je stale z naszego życia eliminować. W wielu przypadkach powinniśmy być tak skrupulatni, jak z szukaniem i unicestwianiem chamecu, inaczej kłopoty i uciążliwości szybko do nas wrócą. Jednakże i tu potrzebujemy “zasady ograniczającej” żeby nie popaść w obsesję w walce z tymi wszystkimi zjawiskami, bowiem to może przynieść efekty przeciwne do zamierzonych. Obsesyjne skupianie się na własnych słabościach, na przykład, lub też przesadne doszukiwanie się zła we wszystkim wokół, choćby pozytywnie motywowane, nie czyni naszego życia lepszym. W pewnym momencie walki z tymi zjawiskami musimy po prostu uznać, że zrobiliśmy dużo, że zrobiliśmy wszystko, co było w naszej mocy, przypieczętować to błogosławieństwem, zostawić owe ciężary i słabości za sobą, i iść przez życie dalej, nie dając się determinować czemuś, co w dużym stopniu już przezwyciężyliśmy, choć jeszcze nie całkowicie.

Szabat szalom,

Chag Pesach sameach!

Menachem Mirski- student rabinacki w Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University, Los Angeles, USA.
Menachem Mirski is a Polish born philosopher, musician, scholar and international speaker. He earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy and is currently studying to become a Rabbi at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. His current area of interests focus on freedom of expression and thought as well as the laws of logic as it pertains to the discourse of ideology and social and political issues. Dr. Mirski has been a leader in Polish klezmer music scene for well over a decade and his LA based band is called Waking Jericho.

Neal Brostoff: Polish Jewish Art Music

Beit Polska and Friends of Jewish Renewal in Poland present a new series

Freighted Legacies: The Culture and History of Jewish Interactions in Poland

Neal Brostoff:  Polish Jewish Art Music

Klezmer music has dominated the conversations about the post-communist Jewish culture renaissance in Poland.

However, creative activity in art music (classical music) has its own proud history, beginning with the virtuoso pianist and composer Maria Szymanowska in the late 18th century We will listen to one of her nocturnes, which strongly influenced Frederic Chopin’s compositional style. The webinar will offer an overview of primarily 20th century music of the Polish-Jewish experience, including the work of Krzysztof Penderecki (not Jewish) whose powerful Kaddish Oratorio concludes with the version of the Kaddish prayer sung at the High Holydays morning services. Szymon Laks survived Auschwitz, where he conducted the inmates’ orchestra. We will learn about his haunting art song on the poem of Antoni Slonimski, Elegy for the Lost Jewish Villages.

The program’s presenter, Neal Brostoff, taught courses in Jewish and Israeli music history and Jewish music  performance in UCLA’s Departments of Ethnomusicology and Musicology from 2011 to 2016. Mr. Brostoff has also served as the music programs coordinator for the Mickey Katz Endowed Chair in Jewish Music at UCLA. He has taught Jewish music courses at Loyola Marymount University and at American Jewish University in Los Angeles. In his professional career, Mr. Brostoff has produced Jewish music concerts and festivals and has lectured on Jewish music topics. He has also served as director of cultural affairs for the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles and as a music specialist at the Skirball Cultural Center. Active as a cantorial accompanist and choir director, Mr. Brostoff served congregations Adat Ari El and Temple Aliyah in Los Angeles from 1971 to 2007. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in music from Mount St. Mary’s College and California State University, Fullerton.

 

********************************************************************
LINKS:
FREIGHTED LEGACIES
THE CULTURE AND HISTORY OF JEWISH INTERACTIONS IN POLAND
https://www.jewishrenewalinpoland.com/freighted-legacies/

 

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Shemini

Things we deserved and things we didn’t deserve

Thoughts on parashat Shemini

Menachem Mirski 

Does everything (bad) that happens to us happen for a reason? If so, where should we look for answers? In theology, science or our moral conduct as individuals or groups? The Torah portion for this week brings up this topic. On the eighth day, following the seven days of their inauguration, Aaron and his sons begin to officiate as kohanim (priests); a fire comes down from God to consume the offerings on the altar, and the divine presence comes to dwell in the Sanctuary. Aaron’s two elder sons, Nadav and Avihu, offer a “foreign fire before God” and die before God. Aaron is silent in face of this tragedy. Moses and Aaron subsequently disagree as to a point of law regarding the offerings, but Moses concedes to Aaron that Aaron is in the right.

The reason that Nadav and Avihu died is mentioned in theTorah:

And the sons of Aharon took each his censer, and they put in them incense. And they offered before יהוה foreign fire which He had not commanded them.

(Leviticus 10:1)

Yet the Sages and the midrashim give numerous reasons and explanations as to what their sin was and why they died. Some commentators praise Aharon’s sons and consider them as exceptional people: the sons meant what they did for the best and did more than they were commanded. But they were punished because no man has the right to do more or less in the Divine service than he was commanded. Other commentators find serious faults in the actions of Aharon’s sons. Some claim that they showed disrespect for the Mishkan and the Divine service, for example, that they entered the Mishkan wearing the robes of a regular Kohen rather than those of a Kohen Gadol; they had previously imbibed wine; they offered a sacrifice which they had not been commanded to bring. There are also commentators who accuse them of improper behavior which discredited their priesthood: that they were arrogant and did not take wives because of their conceit, for they felt that no other family was as distinguished as theirs, and they did not have children; that they were not friendly to one another; they wanted to determine the halachah in the presence of their Rebbi (Moshe), or, they awaited the death of Moshe and Aharon, so that they could take over the leadership of the nation.

The list of reasons for their sudden death goes on and on. Thus, it is legitimate to ask why the Rabbis were not satisfied with the simple answer given by the Torah and had to bring all of the other reasons. The answer to that question lies in the two fundamental theological assumptions of rabbinic thinking with regard to theodicy: 1) Everything bad that happens to the (Jewish) people can be and generally should be seen as Divine punishment; 2) The rabbinic mind has always been sensitive to injustice, and consequently, to any sort of incommensurability of the Divine punishment. The first assumption actually belongs to the oldest strata of biblical theology and theodicy: God is always just and every suffering/injustice comes from human sin/error. It’s not the only theodicy in Judaism; other answers to the problem of evil, including various concepts of unjustified suffering, had been successively developed starting from the late Second Temple period. But the idea that every misfortune and suffering is a result of human and not Divine action marks the rabbinic mind definitely until Holocaust and to some extent even until today. Thus, regarding the second assumption, the Rabbis, seeing the disproportion of the punishment, had no other choice than to come up with a variety of reasons for it.

Whether it is right to see everything that happens to us through the lens of Divine reward/punishment is a very extensive topic. To see everything that way is more “faith oriented”, so to say, whereas to admit that there is undeserved pain and suffering seems to be more “reason oriented”. Both approaches have their pros and cons. To see everything through the lens of Divine punishment can be for us, and often is, a driving force to be more moral, more careful, more observant, namely, to be conscious of our own responsibilities. To admit that there is an undeserved pain and suffering opens our eyes and minds to everything we have no influence on and it often helps us deal with our feelings of guilt.

All that is particularly relevant in our political judgments today. There are always things we, as individuals, communities or nations could have done better. But there are also the things we had no influence on, even though we could sense long before that they would determine our fate in a way we would want to avoid. Let’s apply this to the current situation of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people: this country has a long record of corrupt governments and social injustices stemming from it. Had they done better in this matter, as a nation and society, their position right now would have probably been better. Even their president, Zelensky, with my entire sympathy and admiration towards him, committed several mistakes, like those in his speech in Knesset a few days ago: his comparisons of the present situation of Ukraine to the Holocaust, as well as his claims about the role of Ukrainians in saving Jews during that time, were very inaccurate. But none of what the Ukrainians and their leadership did or didn’t do in recent decades makes them deserve Putin’s Russia aggression. What the Ukrainian people absolutely deserve is greater support from the West, in every politically doable matter. But on the other hand, this fact should not make us blind to the difficult and painful events that took place in the course of Polish-Jewish-Ukrainian history. It’s not necessary to talk about these events right now but it’s also unnecessary to idealize the victims in order to help them to bring peace and justice.

Shabbat shalom!

Menachem Mirski- student rabinacki w Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University, Los Angeles, USA.
Menachem Mirski is a Polish born philosopher, musician, scholar and international speaker. He earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy and is currently studying to become a Rabbi at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. His current area of interests focus on freedom of expression and thought as well as the laws of logic as it pertains to the discourse of ideology and social and political issues. Dr. Mirski has been a leader in Polish klezmer music scene for well over a decade and his LA based band is called Waking Jericho.

Szemini

Rzeczy, na które zasłużyliśmy i te, na które nie zasłużyliśmy

Refleksja nad paraszą Szemini

Menachem Mirski 

Czy wszystko (złe), co nam się przytrafia, wydarza się z jakiegoś powodu? Jeśli tak, to gdzie szukać odpowiedzi? W teologii, nauce czy w naszym postępowaniu moralnym jako jednostek lub grup? Porcja Tory na ten tydzień porusza ten temat: ósmego dnia, po siedmiu dniach ich inauguracji, Aharon i jego synowie zaczynają sprawować urząd jako kohanim (kapłani); ogień zstępuje od Boga, aby strawić ofiary na ołtarzu, i tym samy przybywa boska obecność, aby zamieszkać w Sanktuarium. Dwaj starsi synowie Aharona, Nadab i Abihu, ofiarowują „obcy ogień przed Bogiem” i umierają. Aaron milczy w obliczu tej tragedii. Mosze i Aharon później nie zgadzają się co do kwestii halachicznej dotyczącej ofiar, ale ostatecznie Mojżesz przyznaje Aaronowi rację.

Powód śmierci Nadaba i Abihu jest podany w Torze:

I wzięli synowie Ahrona – Nadab i Abihu, każdy kadzielnicę swoję, i włożyli w nie ognia, i położyli nań kadzidła, i tak przynieśli przed oblicze Wiekuistego ogień obcy, którego nie przykazał im (Kapłańska 10:1).

Jednakże nasi mędrcy i ich midrasze podają liczne powody i wyjaśnienia, jaki był ich grzech i dlaczego umarli. Niektórzy komentatorzy chwalą synów Aharona i uważają ich za wyjątkowych ludzi: synowie wiedzieli, co robili, ich intencje były dobre, lecz zrobili więcej, niż im nakazano i zostali ukarani, ponieważ żaden człowiek nie ma prawa wykonywać w służbie Bożej więcej lub mniej, niż mu nakazano. Inni komentatorzy dopatrują się natomiast poważnych błędów w poczynaniach synów Aharona. Niektórzy twierdzą, że okazywali brak szacunku dla Miszkanu i służby Bożej, na przykład, że weszli do Miszkanu w szatach zwykłego Kohena, a nie Kohena Gadol; inne wyjaśnienie – wcześniej pili wino; złożyli ofiarę, której nie nakazano im złożyć. Są też komentatorzy, którzy zarzucają im niewłaściwe zachowanie, kompromitujące ich kapłaństwo: że byli aroganccy i nie żenili się z powodu swojej zarozumiałości, gdyż uważali, że żadna inna rodzina nie była tak wyróżniająca się jak ich, w rezultacie – że nie mieli dzieci; że nie byli dla siebie przyjaźni; że chcieli ustalić halachę w obecności ich Rebbi (Mosze) lub wręcz czekali na śmierć Moszego i Aharona, aby mogli przejąć przywództwo narodu.

Lista przyczyn ich nagłej śmierci jest długa. Dlatego uzasadnione jest pytanie, dlaczego rabini nie byli zadowoleni z prostej odpowiedzi udzielonej przez Torę i musieli podać te wszystkie inne powody. Odpowiedź na to pytanie tkwi w dwóch fundamentalnych założeniach teologicznych myśli rabinicznej w odniesieniu do teodycei: 1) Wszystko, co złe, co dzieje się z narodem (żydowskim) może być i powinno być postrzegane jako kara Boża; 2) Umysł rabiniczny zawsze był wrażliwy na niesprawiedliwość, a co za tym idzie, na jakąkolwiek niewspółmierność kary Bożej. Pierwsze założenie należy właściwie do najstarszych warstw teologii i teodycei biblijnej: Bóg jest zawsze sprawiedliwy, a każde cierpienie/niesprawiedliwość pochodzi z ludzkiego grzechu/błędu. To nie jedyna teodycea w judaizmie; inne odpowiedzi na problem zła, w tym różne koncepcje nieusprawiedliwionego cierpienia, były sukcesywnie rozwijane, począwszy od późnego okresu Drugiej Świątyni. Ale idea, że ​​każde nieszczęście i cierpienie jest wynikiem działania ludzkiego, a nie Boskiego, naznacza umysł rabina zdecydowanie aż do Holokaustu, a do pewnego stopnia nawet do dzisiaj. W związku z tym drugim założeniem rabini, widząc dysproporcję kary, nie mieli innego wyjścia, jak starać się odnaleźć różne jej inne przyczyny.

To, czy słuszne jest postrzeganie wszystkiego, co nam się przydarza, przez pryzmat Boskiej nagrody/kary, to bardzo obszerny temat. Widzenie wszystkiego w taki właśnie sposób nazwałbym „zorientowaniem na wiarę”, podczas gdy przyznanie, że istnieje w świecie niezasłużony ból i cierpienie, wydaje się być czymś bardziej „zorientowany na rozum czy rozsądek”. Oba podejścia mają swoje plusy i minusy. Spojrzenie na wszystko przez pryzmat kary Bożej może być dla nas i często jest siłą napędową, aby być bardziej moralnym, bardziej uważnym, bardziej spostrzegawczym, i np. bardziej świadomym swoich własnych obowiązków. Przyznanie się, że istnieje niezasłużony ból i cierpienie, otwiera także nasze oczy i umysły na wszystko, na co nie mamy wpływu i często pomaga nam radzić sobie z poczuciem winy.

Wszystko to jest szczególnie istotne w naszych dzisiejszych osądach politycznych. Zawsze są rzeczy, które my jako jednostki, społeczności lub narody mogliśmy zrobić lepiej. Ale są też rzeczy, na które nie mieliśmy wpływu, choć już dawno wyczuwaliśmy, że zadecydują o naszym losie w sposób, którego chcielibyśmy uniknąć. Zastosujmy to do obecnej sytuacji Ukrainy i narodu ukraińskiego: kraj ten ma długą historię skorumpowanych rządów i wynikających z tego niesprawiedliwości społecznych. Gdyby radzili sobie lepiej w tej sprawie, jako naród i społeczeństwo, ich pozycja w tej chwili byłaby prawdopodobnie lepsza. Nawet ich prezydent Zełenski, z całą moją sympatią i podziwem dla niego, popełnił kilka błędów, jak te w swoim przemówieniu w Knesecie kilka dni temu: porównanie obecnej sytuacji Ukrainy do Holokaustu, a także twierdzenia o roli Ukraińców w ratowaniu Żydów w czasie Zagłady była bardzo nieadekwatne. Jednakże nic z tego, co Ukraińcy i ich przywódcy zrobili lub czego nie zrobili w ostatnich dziesięcioleciach, nie sprawia, że ​​zasługują na agresję Putina na Rosję. To, na co naród ukraiński absolutnie zasługuje, to większe wsparcie Zachodu w każdej politycznie możliwej sprawie. Z drugiej jednak strony fakt ten nie powinien przesłaniać nam trudnych i bolesnych wydarzeń, które miały miejsce w polsko-żydowsko-ukraińskiej historii. Nie trzeba koniecznie rozmawiać o tych wydarzeniach właśnie teraz, ale i też nie jest konieczne idealizowanie ofiar po to, aby pomóc im przywrócić pokój i sprawiedliwość na świecie.

Szabat szalom!

Menachem Mirski- student rabinacki w Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University, Los Angeles, USA.
Menachem Mirski is a Polish born philosopher, musician, scholar and international speaker. He earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy and is currently studying to become a Rabbi at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. His current area of interests focus on freedom of expression and thought as well as the laws of logic as it pertains to the discourse of ideology and social and political issues. Dr. Mirski has been a leader in Polish klezmer music scene for well over a decade and his LA based band is called Waking Jericho.

Eliyana Adler „Survival on the Margins”

Beit Polska and Friends of Jewish Renewal in Poland present a new series

Freighted Legacies: The Culture and History of Jewish Interactions in Poland

Eliyana Adler „Survival on the Margins: Polish Jewish Refugees in the Wartime Soviet Union”

The implementation of the August 1939 accord between Germany and the Soviet Union (Molotov-Ribbentrop) erased Poland. The Jews in the Soviet controlled sector of the former Poland, many of whom fled eastward or were deported by Soviet authorities or simply exiled to vast howling regions found a paradoxical refuge. They were at a far remove from unfolding persecutions and murders the Germans planed. The narrative about the fate of the 200,000 Polish Jewish refugees in the Soviet Union remained peripheral to the study of the Holocaust for over 75 years. Dr. Adler’s ground breaking work has opened up these areas of study for the English speaking audiences.

In the Soviet Union, refuge was an arduous path including meager food, hard labor, freezing temperatures, illness, inadequate shelter, and the Soviet system – all, were a tortuous obstacles to survival. Initially Jewish Poles were designate to the Artic regions – “Siberia” and later, other locations in central Asia. After the war, they were allowed to return to Poland, where they discovered the full extent of the Holocaust’s destruction. By 1946, these Jewish Poles were the majority in the Displaced Persons camps established in Germany. Their story was subsumed into the main Holocaust narratives.

In a prescient supplementary essay What’s in a Name? How Titles Construct and Convey Knowledge about Migrants, Adler frames for us some of the difficulty and complexity facing those of us who seek to understand the circuitous paths of Polish Jewish Refugees. Dr. Adler remarks cross temporal boundaries to indirectly, comment on contemporary and historical constructs about migrants. Dr. Eliyana Adler’s ground breaking study employs the still meager Soviet era archival sources but foregrounds the recollections of survivors. Adler’s work confronts us with several questions: how we understand the Holocaust? What does it mean to be a survivor? We are left to understand and ponder the paradoxes of history.

********************************************************************
LINKS:
FREIGHTED LEGACIES
THE CULTURE AND HISTORY OF JEWISH INTERACTIONS IN POLAND
https://www.jewishrenewalinpoland.com/freighted-legacies/

CLICK HERE TO BUY THE BOOK
https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674988026

EXCERPT FROM SURVIVAL ON THE MARGINS
https://www.jewishrenewalinpoland.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Adler-Intro.pdf

EXCERPT FROM SURVIVAL ON THE MARGINS. (POLISH)
https://www.jewishrenewalinpoland.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Introduction_Adler_POL.pdf

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Cedaka צדקה PAYPAL
paypal.me/BeitPolska

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Account number:
Bank Pekao S.A.
IBAN: PL47 1240 1040 1111 0010 3311 7066
SWIFT/BIC: PKOPPLPW
Transfer title: „Donation for statutory objectives for Beit Warszawa”

Vayakhel

Defending our values requires sacrifices

Thoughts on parashat Vayakhel

 Menachem Mirski 

Our Torah portion for this week is among those that deal with the building of the Mishkan / Tabernacle. At the very beginning of our parasha Moses speaks to the Israelites about the necessary contributions they need to make in order to build the House in which God Himself resides.

Moses said further to the whole community of Israelites:This is what יהוה has commanded: Take from among you gifts to יהוה; everyone whose heart is so moved shall bring them—gifts for יהוה: gold, silver, and copper; blue, purple, and crimson yarns, fine linen, and goats’ hair; tanned ram skins, dolphin skins, and acacia wood; oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the aromatic incense; lapis lazuli and other stones for setting, for the ephod and the breastpiece. And let all among you who are skilled come and make all that יהוה has commanded: the Tabernacle, its tent and its covering, its clasps and its planks, its bars, its posts, and its sockets […] And everyone who excelled in ability and everyone whose spirit was moved came, bringing to יהוה an offering for the work of the Tent of Meeting and for all its service and for the sacral vestments. Men and women, all whose hearts moved them, all who would make an elevation offering of gold to יהוה, came bringing brooches, earrings, rings, and pendants — gold objects of all kinds. (Ex 35:4-11;21-22)

The Israelites brought these precious materials and did this work in the name of faith in fundamental, holy principles, as well as to build their national and religious identity and unity. Today all of this is in a deep crisis, especially in the Western World. We, people of the West, are narcissistic when it comes to our lifestyle and self-obsessed in terms of what we believe our role on Earth is. One of our fundamental mistakes is that we think that the entire world thinks like us and wants what we want, namely, economic prosperity and good life for every citizen. The thing is that this is not the case of countries ruled by dictators and oligarchs, like Russia, China or Iran.

In April 2019 the Levada Center pollster published a poll according to which 70 % of Russians believe that Stalin played a positive role in the history of Russia (only 19 percent viewed Stalin’s role negatively, down from 32 percent in 2016.) The prevalence of such a view in Russian society was almost unthinkable in the 90’s or even in the early 2000’s. Nostalgia for the „old greatness” of the Soviet Empire has significantly grown in the recent two decades and it doesn’t matter that the entire Russian economy has a GPD almost the same as the state of Florida. It doesn’t matter because the leadership of countries like Russia, China or Iran doesn’t care about the prosperity and good life of their citizens – it is actually at the very bottom of the list of their priorities. Their top priority is the “mythical greatness” of their countries, to which, unfortunately, a significant part of their society gives the green light (not forgetting, of course, about those who strongly protest against such mythomania). Thus I suppose that the economic sanctions will have a little, if at all, impact on Russia and her “imperial ambitions”.

Another problem that we have in our Western societies is that currently we can’t even unify what our chief social philosophy is or what our values are. We can’t even unify that our history has a deeper meaning and is worth reverence, or at least – respect. What is pervasive instead is self loathing, pointing fingers at each other and virtue signaling – pointing out who is smarter, more just and more moral, and it is usually “us” who are all those things. It all means nothing if there are no unified standards in this matter and if there are no commonly shared values, it becomes yet another driving force for social tribalism and political divisions. Without unifying standards more and more people involved in politics don’t care about values they used to stand for: all they care about is power, and that is the way they become more and more like Russian or Chinese oligarchs. Falsehoods like “everything is about power” openly spread in the Western intellectual and political discourse not only question all the values we believed in, all our morality and even ordinary decency. Platitudes like that are not only wrong; they are harmful because they relativize everything, open a path to Machiavellism and invite bad actors, like Putin, to the game.

But that’s enough bitterness, especially that our life is disgustingly comfortable compared to what the Ukrainian people experience at this moment, seeking shelter in the Kiev metro or deciding to find a refuge in Poland (like those who found shelter at the train station in my hometown, Przemyśl.) Times and moments like this should make us realize what are the real values on which our Western, free societies are founded; that there are things in life that are more important than comfort and everyday pleasures; that it is the fundamental values such as truth, justice and liberty that make our joyful and comfortable lives possible. The societies that don’t cherish these values drift fast towards the reality of Egypt, where tyrants or a small groups of oligarchs benefit enormously from work of impoverished masses that work from dawn to dusk without the day of rest, or, in an alternative scenario these masses have no work at all and no purpose of life other than survival, or no purpose at all, and nobody cares about it. That’s the reality that is looming everytime our true values are questioned. Maimonides believed that the essence of the first commandment is an unshakable faith in the Eternal and the minute we question His divinity, we question all our values, all our ethics, law and societal order. Absolutism can be a source of injustice, as history has shown numerous times, but there are times and places where being absolutely tied to our fundamental values is necessary and for the benefit of all of us. This, however, often requires sacrifices and that’s exactly the message Moses brought to our forefathers.

Shabbat shalom,

Menachem Mirski- student rabinacki w Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University, Los Angeles, USA.
Menachem Mirski is a Polish born philosopher, musician, scholar and international speaker. He earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy and is currently studying to become a Rabbi at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. His current area of interests focus on freedom of expression and thought as well as the laws of logic as it pertains to the discourse of ideology and social and political issues. Dr. Mirski has been a leader in Polish klezmer music scene for well over a decade and his LA based band is called Waking Jericho.