Shirata for Jewish Prayer & Song
Sha'alu sh'lom Yerushalayim - Pray for the peace of Jerusaelm.
Number 4 - 23 of Kislev 5765 - December 6, 2004
Thoughts about Hanukkah

The Jews have experienced four exiles: Egypt, Babylon/Persia, Greece, and Rome (Edom). We are currently living in the last exile, that of Rome (Edom), which is the longest exile, and perhaps even the most difficult. Some say that this last exile includes the characteristics of the three earlier ones.

The Greek exile was not a physical exile, as the Jews remained living in Israel. Nor were the Greek interested in destroying the Jews. The Greek wanted the Jews not to be Jews. They wanted the Jews to stop circumcising their sons, to stop celebrating Shabbat and the new moon. The wanted the Jews to be like them.

The struggle between the Greeks and the Jews has been the struggle between a way of life based on the power of the human mind through education and enlightenment, as represented by Greek art, philosophy, politics and military force -- and a Jewish way of life based the power of faith in the Holy One through learning Torah and obeying its commandments.

Matthew Arnold, an English (and very Christian) critic of culture, said in Culture and Anarchy (1882): "And to give these forces names from the two races of men who have supplied the most signal and splendid manifestations of them, we may call them respectively the forces of Hebraism and Hellenism. Hebraism and Hellenism,--between these two points of influence moves our world. At one time it feels more powerfully the attraction of one of them, at another time of the other; and it ought to be, though it never is, evenly and happily balanced between them."

Any Jew living in the modern world must find a way to live in both traditions. There is an infinite number of ways to live Torah with reason, or to live a modern life with faith. Ultra Orthodox Judaism, at one end of the gamut, has chosen to live mostly in the world of Torah and have little as possible to do with the modern world. At the other end, many secular Jews committed to Judaism, consider Judaism a religion, a culture or a civilization to which they belong, while regarding themselves as part and parcel of the whole modern world and its Greek inheritence: rational thinking, science, technology, democracy, equality, humanism, etc.

Our prophets say that at the end of time, HaShem will be One and His name One. To a person of faith, there is no doubt that these prophesies will come true. Belief in prophesy is the essence of our faith, since Torah, was given in prophesy.

Suppose, for the sake of poetic justice, that the Torah observing Jews are one eights (12.50%) of the total number of Jews. Consider that the whole of the Jewish nation forms this huge Menorah, and that the faith of one eights of them forms the oil to miraculously enlightens the entire Menorah. The Menorah needs the oil, and oil needs the Menorah in order to represent the light of creation which will shine upon the entire existence at the end of times, just as it did in the beginning.

The Besht on Parashat MIketz

"I heard from my teacher [the Besht] an explanation to the teaching in the Talmud (Berachot 35b): "Many have behaved in the way Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai behaved, but did not succeed in ascending as he did," etc. There are two types of people: One type behaves according to nature. He plows at the time of plowing, and harvests at the time of harvesting, etc. The other type behaves beyond nature in his faith that HaShem will provide him, with little effort on his part, enough for his living, so that he can spend all his time worshiping the Blessed Holy One. His work is done by others for him, i.e., a righteous person lives in his faith. The Talmud says (Berachot 24a): [the prophet] "Havakuk came and set them [all the commandments of Torah] on one": [the righteous person] lives by his faith. The person who does not have the level of faith, but desires the spiritual results of Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai, leaves his natural level but does not reach a higher one, and so he loses both. Our sages say: "Many have behaved in the way Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai did..." Whomever is not on this level, did not succeed..."

Sefer Sefer Ba'al Shem Tov al HaTorah, Parashat Miketz 5.

My understanding of this teaching: the Holy One Blessed Be He provides for all at all times. Providence is provided according to the level of the person's faith. Those who have faith in nature are responded in kind with natural challenges and rewards. Those who have faith in the Holy One are responded with beyond-nature challenges and rewards. The level of faith cannot be faked: you can behave the way righteous people behave, but without their unique level of faith, your providence will faithfully correspond to your level of faith.

Tikkun Haklali Preparation Practice

This week we'll learn Psalm 77 and add it to our practice.

The following file contains a first draft of the Hebrew, transliteration and translation of the first five Psalms of the Tikkun Haklali.

Song of Song Class

We having a Hanukkah part on Wed, 25 Kislev 5765, December 8, 2004 at 7:00pm, second candle of Hanukkah.

Please bring dairy kosher food.

There's a link to a file with all our Song of Songs work on the website.

No class on Dec 15 -- I'll be out of town.
We're on for Dec 22.
We'll then be off until mid January.

The following file contains our translation, Malbim commentary and creative verse commentary on Song of Songs 1:1-2:9. The file size is about 450Kb.


Ronnie Serr
1725 S. Genesee Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90019
323 939 1669

It's around Venice and Fairfax -- 3 blocks East of Fairfax, Between 18th Street and Airdrome

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