53. HA’AZINU & YOM KIPPUR 5781


(Please scroll down for Yom Kippur Readings)

 FROM THE TORAH

Deuteronomy 32:1-52

In the previous Sedra Vayelech, Moses anticipates the future idolatry of the Children of Israel upon the Land of Settlement.  He introduces a poem, to be taught to them, and to serve as God’s witness against them.  In this week’s Sedra Ha’azinu, the poem is recorded.  Then the Eternal advises Moses of the time and place of his death.  He reiterates that Moses shall not enter the Land. 

THE POEM
32:1-47

Moses, together with Hosea son of Nun, delivers all of the words of this poem,
in the hearing of the people:

Testimony Before Heaven and Earth

Give ear (Ha’azinu), O heavens, and I shall speak;
pay heed, O earth, to the words of my mouth!
Let my teaching come down as rain,
my words as dew upon the grass.
As I declare the Eternal’s Name,
ascribe greatness to our God!

Justification of God’s Judgment

The Rock, His work is perfect,
all of His ways are just,
faithful God,
without unrighteousness,
true and upright is He.
Of corruption:
not His,
but His children’s,
a generation
crooked and perverse!

Ungrateful People

Is this how you repay the Eternal,
O people foolish and unwise?
He is your Father, your Creator;
He made you and sustains you!
Remember the days of old,
study the past generations.
Ask your father, he will tell you.
Consult your Elders, they will teach you.

For the Sake of Israel

When the Most High granted portions to the nations,
He established their borders with Jacob in mind,
the Children of Israel, His people,
whom He found in the desert;
like an eagle, He spread His wings,
bearing them upon His pinions,
with no strange god at His side.

He carried him
to the Land’s sacred heights,
He fed him its yield:
honey from the rock,
oil from the flint,
the milk of cows and goats,
rams of Bashan,
the finest of wheat,
and the drink of grapes.

Jeshurun Rebelled

But Jeshurun grew fat and rebelled—
you grew fat and heavy!—
he abandoned the God who made him,
spurned his saving Rock,
they angered Him with their alien abominations,
sacrificed to gods unknown to their fathers—
you forgot the God who bore you!

The Eternal Would Punish Them…

When the Eternal saw this,
angrily He determined:
Let Me hide My face from them,
and I shall see what becomes of them!
They are a generation of perverseness,
children with no faithfulness.
They have insulted Me with a no-god,
so shall I insult them with a no-people.
For My wrath is a fire
that burns to the bottom of She’ol;
it consumes the land and its produce,
destroys the mountains’ foundations.

I would use up My arrows on them,
let loose plague and pestilence,
reptiles and vipers,
the sword from outside
and terror from within,
against boy and girl,
both the suckling and the aged!

…Except for the Enemy’s Arrogance

Except that the enemy might think,
our hand has prevailed,
not that of the Eternal,
for they lack understanding
(if they were wise,
they would understand
what lies ahead for them):
how could one of them
have pursued a thousand of Israel
unless Israel’s Rock had sold them!

What our enemies consider
to be their “rock”
is not like our Rock!
Their wine is from grapes
grown on the vines
of Sodom and Gomorrah,
the venom of poison vipers.
I have it, stored up,
ready for vengeance
when their foot slips,
as their day of disaster is near!

God’s Vengeance Is His People’s Vindication

For the Eternal will vindicate His people,
seeing that they are helpless.
Where are their gods, He will say,
whose sacrifices they ate,
and whose libations they drank?
Let them get up and shield them!
But only I, I, am He,
there is no true God besides Me,
bringing death and life,
wounding and healing,
none can override My power!

As I raise My hand to heaven
and whet the flame of My sword,
My hand shall grasp justice
and inflict vengeance
upon My enemies!
I shall intoxicate My arrows and My sword
with the blood of the fallen and captive,
and from those who drive the enemy.

Acclaim His people, O nations,
as He avenges on His enemies
the blood of His servants
and restores His people
upon its Land!

Testament for the Future

When Moses completes the recitation of all of these words to all of Israel, he calls for their attending to this, his testimony, as a testament to their children to preserve and observe all the words of this Torah.  For this is not a vain thing, he says, rather it constitutes your life and your length of days upon the Land which you are crossing the Jordan to possess.

ANTICIPATION OF THE DEATH OF MOSES
32:48-52

On the same day, the Eternal speaks to Moses himself:  Ascend to the hill country of Avarim, to Mount Nebo in Moab, overlooking Jericho, and see the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Children of Israel for a possession.  You are to die there in that mountain and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, for both of you acted unfaithfully against Me at the waters of Merivat-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Tsin, by failing to sanctify Me in the midst of the Children of Israel.  From a distance you may view the Land, but you may not enter it, the Land which I am giving to the Children of Israel.


FROM THE PROPHETS

Haftarah for Shabbat Shuvah
Hosea 14:2-10; Micah 7:18-20; Joel 2:15-27

Hosea 14:2-10

Return (Shuvah), O Israel,
to the Eternal, your God,
for you are stumbling in sin!
Use your words to return, asking Him to forgive all sin
and accept your spoken intention for good.
Thus shall we compensate for bulls
with the offering of our lips.

We shall no more rely
upon ties with Assyria
or the horses we ride;
no more shall we call
the work of our hands
our God;
rather our God is the One
in whom the orphan finds mercy.

I will heal them and love them freely,
abstain from any anger towards them;
I shall be as the dew to Israel:
he shall blossom as the lily
and strike roots as the Lebanon,
his branches shall spread out,
his beauty shall be as the olive tree,
his fragrance like Lebanon,
and those whom he protects
shall, likewise, blossom like the vine.

Ephraim:
I no more need idols!
I:
Yes, your fruit comes from Me!

Whoever is wise
will understand these words,
for the ways of the Eternal are straight:
the righteous walk in them securely
while transgressors stumble against them.

Micah 7:18-20

What god is like You,
bearing iniquity and passing over transgression
of the remnant of His heritage,
not holding on to His anger forever,
as He favors lovingkindness!

May He turn to treat us with mercy
by suppressing our iniquities;
cast all of their sins
into the depths of the sea!
Act truly to Jacob, kindly to Abraham,
as You promised our fathers
from ancient days.

Joel 2:15-27

Sound a Shofar in Zion!
Consecrate the Fast Day!
Declare a Convocation!

Gather all of the people,
young and old,
even those who are nursing,
the bridegroom and the bride!

Let the Priests weep
between the Porch and the Altar:
Treat Your people, O Eternal, with mercy,
let not the nations rule over them
and reproach them
by asking
where is their God?

The Eternal is impassioned for His Land,
and He has compassion for His People.
He promises to deliver to them
corn, wine and oil,
to satisfy them
and not make of them
a reproach to the nations.

I shall remove the northern one
far from you,
to a desolate land,
its face to the eastern sea
and its back to the western sea,
its stench equal to its deeds.

Fear not, O Land, but rejoice,
for the Eternal does great things!

Fear not, O beasts of the field,
for the wilderness is verdant,
and its trees bear fruit!

Be glad, O children of Zion,
in the Eternal your God,
for He causes the rains to come down
in accordance with their right pattern,
bringing fullness to
threshing-floor and vat!

I shall repay you the years
that the locust consumed,
My great army of worms and pests!

You shall eat and be satisfied,
and you shall praise the name
of the Eternal your God,
who has acted wondrously with you!

You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
I, the Eternal your God,
of which there is no other,
and My People shall never be ashamed!

FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH

Deuteronomy Rabbah 10:1

“Give ear, O heavens, and I shall speak;
pay heed, O earth, to the words of my mouth!”
(32:1)

The Rabbis teach: If you wish to prevent harm to your ears or any of your other organs, incline your ear to the Torah and you will obtain life!  Whence?  The prophet taught: “Incline your ear and come to Me; be attentive and your spirit shall live!” (Isaiah 55:3)

Said Rabbi Chaninah ben Pappa: Whoever removes his ear from hearing Torah—his prayer is rejected, as was said: “If one turns away his ear from listening to Torah, his prayer also is an abomination!” (Proverbs 28:9)

Rabbi Levi likened the ear to a pomander: Garments are placed in the pomander and benefit from the scent of burning spices under them.  Similarly, all 248 organs of a person owe their life to the ear, as was said: “Incline your ear and come to Me, be attentive and your spirit shall live!” (Isaiah 55:3)

In addition, the Holy One, blessed be He, is saying: If you incline your ear to the Torah, then when you start to deliver words of Torah, everyone will listen to you and hear your words just as you inclined your ear to hear words of Torah.  Whence do you learn this?  From Moses our Rabbi, who inclined his ear to the Torah, and therefore, whenever he sought to deliver words of Torah, inhabitants both on high and below became quiet and listened to his words.  This we know from what we read in the Sedra: “Give ear, O heavens, and I shall speak….”

Deuteronomy Rabbah 10:4

“Give ear, O heavens, and I shall speak;
pay heed, O earth, to the words of my mouth!”
(32:1)

Said Rabbi Samuel bar Nachman:  Moses was of the earth, but he became great in heaven.  Whence?  “He was there with the Eternal forty days and forty nights!” (Exodus 34:28)  He therefore reasoned:  If I appeal to heaven, the earth will be upset; and if I appeal to earth, heaven will be upset.  So his solution was:  I shall appeal to both of them, to heaven and to earth, as was said, “Give ear, O heavens…pay heed, O earth…!”

Said Rabbi Tanchuma:  Why to both heaven and earth?  Because the Holy One, blessed be He, will not redeem Israel except by the agencies of both, for thus is written: “Shout aloud, O heavens, for the Eternal will act; sing out, O depths of the earth!” (Isaiah 44:23)

Another interpretation:  Why to both heaven and earth?  Because both were involved in the giving of Torah, as was said, “From the heavens He caused you to hear His voice, instruct you; and on earth He caused you to see His great fire, from which you heard His words!” (Deuteronomy 4:36)

Another interpretation:  Because the provision of manna and quails was worked through both of them.  Whence?  “I shall cause bread (manna) to rain down to you from the heavens!” (Exodus 16:4) and “In the evening quail came up (from the earth) and covered the camp!” (Ibid. 13)

Another interpretation:  Because the Holy One, blessed be He, likened Israel to both heaven and earth.  He said to Abraham, “Look up to the heavens, and count the stars, if you could…thus shall be your seed!” (Genesis 15:5) and He said to Jacob in his dream, “Your seed shall be (as numerous) as the dust of the earth!” (Genesis 28:14)

Rabbi Chanina taught:  This may be likened to one who dies after entrusting a valuable possession to his friend.  The son and heir of the deceased shows honor to the man with whom his father entrusted the possession and to the man’s wife as well.  He was asked: Why do you show honor to both of them, to the man and his wife?  He answered them:  I now own something valuable that is with them, but it is not clear to me exactly which of them is holding it, the man or his wife.  I just want to be sure that wherever the object is, it is kept safe.

So was Moses asked the same question when he said, “Give ear, O heavens…pay heed, O earth…”:  Why are you commanding both heaven and earth?  His answer:  I will in the future die, but I do not know to which of these my soul is going, whether to heaven or to earth.  Whence?  “Who knows if a man’s spirit rises upwards or, as a beast’s spirit, goes down to the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 4:21)  Therefore I command both of them, just to be sure that wherever my soul rests, it is kept safe!

The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him:  By your life, no created thing will have dominion over your soul.  Where will it rest?  Under My throne of glory in heaven!  For thus said Abigail: “The soul of my lord will be bound up in the bond of life with the Eternal your God!” (I Samuel 25:29)

Numbers Rabbah 2:6

“The Children of Israel, His people,
whom He found in the desert,…”
(32:10a)

In the desert?
Did He not find us
in Egypt?!

He means to emphasize the find in the sense of a gift: The Holy One, blessed be He, found Israel at first to be refreshing, as the prophet said, “I found Israel to be like grapes in the desert; I saw your fathers like the first fig to ripen on the tree!” (Hosea 9:10)

“…in a wasted, howling wilderness;”
(Ibid.)

Such was the world before Israel went out from Egypt and received the Torah.  The world, then without Torah, was a wilderness!  But once they came out of Egypt and received the Torah, then:

“He surrounded him,
He attended him,
He guarded him,
like the pupil of His eye.”
(Ibid. 10b)

“He surrounded him” in that He surrounded Israel in the wilderness with Clouds of Glory (cf. Sifre Numbers Beha’alot’cha 25 and 48).

“He attended him” in the sense of teaching: He taught them words of Torah in the wilderness (cf. Talmud Sanhedrin 56b on Exodus 15:25; Exodus 19:1-23:19 et al.)

“He guarded him”: Happy are the ears who heard through these words how much He loved them (by “surrounding” them), how much He assured their observance (by “teaching them words of Torah”), and how closely He guarded them as if they were “the pupil of His eye,” as if they were His own eyes!

For not only did their ears hear but their eyes saw how He surrounded them, how He attended them, and how He guarded them, when He said to Moses, “Let them make for Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them (Exodus 25:8).  It was if He were leaving the Heavenly hosts (cf. Psalms 80:15 et al.) to dwell among Israel below, as was said, “I shall bring out My hosts, My people, the Children of Israel, from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 7:4)!  He made this apparent when He charged Moses: “Let the hosts of the Children of Israel encamp, each man by his division, each man by his banner” (Numbers 1:52)!

Talmud Kiddushin 36a

“They are a generation of perverseness,
children with no faithfulness.”
(32:20)

It is taught: Rabbi Meir says, Even when Israel fails to do God’s will, they are still called His children!

Yerushalmi Peah 1:1

“Apply your heart to all of the words
that I attest to you this day,
which you shall command to your children to keep,
in order to carry out all of the words of this Torah.
For it is not a vain thing from you,
but it is your life,
and by this thing you will have many days upon the Land…”
(32:46-47)

Rabbi Mana taught:  “For it is not a vain thing from you”—meaning that if it were a vain thing, then it would be “from you!”  Why?  Because you would not be laboring in the Torah.  To teach you that any matter for which the members of the Beth Din truly devote themselves, even at the risk of death, will be sustained as truth in the end.

When is it “your life?”  When you labor in it!

SHABBAT SHALOM!

L’SHANAH TOVAH TIKATEVU V’TECHATEMU!


Yom Kippur Readings

  FROM THE TORAH

YOM KIPPUR MORNING
Leviticus 16:1-34

After the death of Aaron’s two sons (cf. 10:1 ff.), when they drew near before the Eternal, the Eternal charges Moses to warn Aaron his brother that he may not enter the inner side of the Dividing Curtain (Parochet) of the Sanctuary, before the Propitiatory (Kapporet), which is over the Ark and over which the Eternal may be seen in a thick cloud, unless he brings a bull of the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, lest he die.  Moreover, he must first bathe his body in water and then be dressed with a sacred linen tunic, linen breeches directly against his skin, a linen sash, and a linen turban.  He shall also take from the congregation of the Children of Israel two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering.

Aaron shall offer his bull of sin offering to seek atonement for himself and for his household, and he should position the two male goats before the Eternal at the Entrance of the Tent of Meeting, casting lots concerning them: one for the Eternal and one for Azazel.  He shall offer up as a sin offering the goat for which the lot came up for the Eternal.  The other goat, for which the lot came up for Azazel, shall be left standing alive before the Eternal for seeking atonement, and shall ultimately be sent for Azazel into the wilderness.

In the meantime, Aaron should slaughter his bull of sin offering and bring a panful of glowing coals from upon the Altar, from before the Eternal, and two handfuls of finely-ground aromatic incense, to the inner side of the Dividing Curtain.  He shall put the incense upon the fire before the Eternal, creating an incense cloud to obscure the Propitiatory which is over the Testimony (Edut), so that he does not die.  He shall sprinkle some of the blood of the bull with his finger over the Propitiatory on the east side, and on the front of the Propitiatory he shall sprinkle some of the blood seven times with his finger.  Then he shall slaughter the people’s male goat of sin offering and bring its blood inside of the Dividing Curtain.  As he did with the blood of the bull, he shall sprinkle some of the blood of the people’s male goat of sin offering both over the Propitiatory and in front of it.

Thus shall he seek atonement for the Sanctuary from the impurities and iniquities of the Children of Israel, with respect to all of their sins, and thus shall he do for the Tent of Meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their impurities.  Let no man be in the Tent of Meeting when he enters to seek atonement in the Sanctuary, until he leaves.  He shall seek atonement for himself, for his household, and for all the community of Israel.  Then he shall go out to the Altar, which is before the Eternal, and seek atonement for it, applying some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat to each of the horns of the Altar.  He shall also sprinkle upon it some of the blood with his finger seven times.  Thus shall he purify it and sanctify it from the impurities of the Children of Israel.

Then Aaron shall bring forward the living goat and place both of his hands upon its head, confessing over it all of the iniquities and transgressions of the Children of Israel.  Bearing upon it all of Israel’s sins, the goat is conducted into the wilderness by a specially-designated man, to a place from which there is no return.

Aaron shall then come to the Tent of Meeting, remove the linen garments and leave them there.  He shall bathe his body in water in a holy place, put on his garments, and go out and offer his burnt offering and the people’s burnt offering, seeking atonement for himself and for the  people.  He shall cause the fat of the sin offering to smoke upon the Altar.  The conductor of the goat for Azazel shall wash his garments and bathe his body in water.  He may thereafter enter the camp.

The bull of sin offering and the goat of sin offering, the blood of which was brought to seek atonement in the Sanctuary, shall be removed to outside of the camp.  Their hides, their flesh and their dung shall be burned in fire.  The burner shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water.  He may thereafter enter the camp.

This shall be an everlasting statute for you.  On the Tenth Day of the Seventh Month you shall afflict yourselves and not do any work, both the native and the alien who sojourns with you, for on That Day atonement shall be made for you to purify you; from all of your sins before the Eternal shall you be pure.  It is a Sabbath of Complete Rest for you, and you shall afflict yourselves as an everlasting statute.    The anointed Priest who succeeds his father and puts on the sacred vestments of linen shall seek atonement for the Most Holy Sanctuary, for the Tent of Meeting, for the Altar, and for the Priests and for all of the people of the community, as an everlasting statute, to seek atonement of the Children of Israel from all of their sins, one time in the year.

Moses does as the Eternal has commanded him.

MAFTIR
Numbers 29:7-11

On the Tenth Day of the Seventh Month there shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls; do not perform any work.  Offer a burnt offering to the Eternal: one bull of the herd, one ram, and seven year-old lambs.  You shall see that they are unblemished.  Their meal offering shall be of fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of a measure for the bull, two-tenths of a measure for the ram, and one-tenth of a measure for each of the seven lambs.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering, besides the sin offering of atonement and the regular burnt offering and its meal offering and their libations.

YOM KIPPUR AFTERNOON
Leviticus 18:1-30

The Eternal charges Moses to warn the Children of Israel:  Do not follow the practice of the land of Egypt in which you dwelled, and do not follow the practice of the land of Canaan to which I am bringing you.  Follow My laws, not theirs.  “I am the Eternal your God.”  Observe My statutes and ordinances, “by which a person may live” (18:5).

Do not have an intimate encounter with any of your blood relatives.  These include:

Your father, that is to say, your mother or your father’s wife;

Your sister, whether your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether born in the household or outside;

Your granddaughter, whether the daughter of your son or the daughter of your daughter;

The daughter of your father’s wife, born in the household of your father, as she is your sister;

Your father’s sister, as she is your father’s flesh;

Your mother’s sister, as she is your mother’s flesh;

Your father’s brother, that is to say, his wife, as she is your aunt;

Your daughter-in-law, as she is your son’s wife; and

Your brother’s wife, as she is your brother’s intimate.

Do not have an intimate encounter with a woman and with her daughter, nor may you take in an intimate encounter the daughter of her son or the daughter of her daughter, as they are blood relatives and it would be incest.

Do not take your wife’s sister as a second wife to be intimate with her in your wife’s lifetime.

Do not approach a woman for intimacy during the period of her impurity.

Do not have intercourse with the wife of another and become impure through her.

Do not offer up your offspring to Molech so that you do not profane the name of your God; I am the Eternal.

Do not lie with a male in the manner of lying with a woman; it is an abomination.

Do not lie with any animal to become impure through it, and let no woman lie down before it; it is unnatural.

Do not subject yourselves to impurity by engaging in any of these practices as did the nations that I am expelling from before you.  When the Land is defiled, I visit its sin upon it, and the Land disgorges its inhabitants.  This is the consequence of the abominations performed by your predecessors in the Land.  So observe My statutes and My ordinances, both native and alien who sojourn among you.  Let the Land not disgorge you as it did your predecessors.  Whoever violate these laws will be cut off from the midst of their people.  I am the Eternal, your God.

FROM THE PROPHETS

Haftarah for Yom Kippur Morning
Isaiah 57:14-58:14

He shall say:

Make way!
Remove any obstacle
from the way of My people!

For thus shall say
the High and Lifted Up,
Who Inhabits Eternity,
Whose Name is Holy:
I dwell in the High and Holy
with one who is crushed
and humble of spirit,
to enliven his heart.
I shall not be angry forever,
My spirit shall envelop
the souls I have created.

For the sin of his venality,
in blind rage I struck him down,
as his heart went against me.
But now, having seen his ways,
I shall heal him
and provide comfort
for him and his mourners.
“Peace, peace, to far and near,”
says the Eternal,
Creator of the fruit of the lips,
and his Healer!
“But for the wicked
there is no peace,”
says my God,
for they, like the sea,
rage and stir up dirt.

Cry out as loudly as you can,
raise your voice like a shofar,
to tell My people
their sin—
even though they seek Me daily
to know righteous laws,
as if they, as a nation,
were doers of righteousness.
“Why do we fast,
yet You do not see?”
“Well, on the day of your fast,
you are taskmasters to your laborers,
you fast for conflict and strife,
you strike with the wicked fist,
you do not fast today
so as to make your voice heard on high!”

Is this the fast that I have ordained?
One only of self-affliction?
Of bowing the head like a bulrush?
Of laying out sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast?
Is that what pleases the Eternal?

No, this is the fast that I have chosen:
To unlock the fetters of wickedness!
To undo the bands of the yoke!
To let the oppressed go free!
Is it not to apportion your bread to the hungry?
To provide a house for the homeless?
To clothe the naked and not hide from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth as the morning,
and your healing shall quickly sprout;
your righteousness shall walk before you,
and the glory of the Eternal
shall follow as your protection.
Then you shall call,
and the Eternal shall answer.

The Eternal shall guide you continually
and satisfy you in drought;
you shall be like a verdant garden,
like an unfailing spring.
You shall be the source
of those who rebuild the ancient ruins,
you shall be called:
rebuilder of the broken wall,
restorer of paths of habitation.

If you refrain from your business
on the Sabbath,
and call it instead a pleasure,
if you remove yourself
from your usual pursuits,
and are careful not to talk about them,
then you shall be a delight to the Eternal,
and I will cause you to ride
over the high places of the earth
and feed you the portion of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the Eternal has spoken.

Haftarah for Yom Kippur Afternoon
Jonah 1:1-4:11; Micah 7:18-20

Jonah

1

When the Eternal’s word comes to Jonah, son of Amittai, to go to the great city of Nineveh and declare that their evil has come up before Him, Jonah flees from the Eternal.  He goes down to Jaffa, where he buys passage on a ship to Tarshish.  But the Eternal causes a great storm at sea which threatens to destroy the ship.  In fear the sailors cry out to their gods and lighten the ship’s load by throwing some of the cargo overboard, while Jonah descends to the depths of the ship and falls asleep.

The ship’s master finds Jonah and demands that he, too, cry out to his god to help them survive.  In the meantime, the men on the ship cast lots to determine who is the cause of their crisis, and the lot falls upon Jonah.  So they ask Jonah, whom they believe is the cause:  What is your occupation?  Whence do you come?  What is your country?  What people do you belong to?  He answers them:  I am a Hebrew.  I fear the Eternal, God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.  The men are very frightened.  Since he had told them that he was fleeing from the Eternal, they ask him what he had done.

As the sea grows more and more stormy, they ask him, “What shall we do to you so that the sea becomes calm?”  “Throw me into the sea,” he tells them, “and the sea will become calm for you, for I know that this great storm has come upon you because of me.”  The men row to bring the ship to a safe harbor, but without success, so they cry out to the Eternal, “We beseech You, O Eternal, do not let us perish because of this man, and do not hold us guilty for an innocent life, for You are the Eternal: as You have wished, You have done.”  With that, they pick up Jonah and throw him into the sea, and the sea ceases to rage.  The men fear the Eternal greatly and offer sacrifices and vows to the Eternal.

2

The Eternal causes a great fish to swallow Jonah.  Jonah is in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.  From there he prays to the Eternal, his God:

From my affliction
I cry out to the Eternal,
from the belly of She’ol,
and He answers me.

You have cast me
into the heart of the sea;
waters surround me,
all of Your breakers and waves!

Yet I declare:
Although I was cast out from before You,
I shall again cast eyes upon Your holy temple!

The waters threaten my very life,
the deep surrounds me,
my head is enwrapped with reeds.
To the bottoms of mountains I have descended,
the earth would imprison me forever.
Yet You would save me from destruction,
O Eternal, my God!

When my life faints away,
I remember the Eternal,
my prayer comes to You,
into Your holy temple.

Those who worship vain idols
forsake their share of lovingkindness;
as for me, I sacrifice to You in thanksgiving
and shall fulfill all that I have vowed,
for salvation is from the Eternal.

The Eternal orders the fish to vomit Jonah back upon the land.

3

When the Eternal’s word comes to Jonah a second time, to deliver to Nineveh His proclamation, Jonah goes to Nineveh in accordance with the word of the Eternal.  Nineveh was a large city, a journey of three days.  When Jonah enters the city and proceeds as far as one day’s journey, he proclaims: In forty days Nineveh will be overthrown!

The people of Nineveh believe in God and declare a fast.  They wear sackcloth, all ranks of society, including the king, who arises from his throne, removes his robe, covers himself with sackcloth, and sits upon ashes.  He and his court order both man and beast, herd and flock, to taste nothing, to neither eat nor drink water, but to be covered with sackcloth, to call urgently to God, and for each person to depart from his evil way and from the violence that is in their hands.  Who knows but that God will reconsider and abandon His anger so that we shall not perish!  When God sees what they have undertaken and that they have repented of their evil way, He reconsiders the punishment that he intended for them, and does not impose it.

4

Jonah is exceedingly disappointed.  He is angry.  In prayer to the Eternal, he complains:  Before, when I was in my own country, I fled to Tarshish because I knew that You are a gracious and merciful God, patient, abounding in lovingkindness, and open to repentance.  So now, O Eternal, take my life, as it is better for me to die than to live.  The Eternal questions him: Is your anger justified? 

Jonah goes out of the city to sit on the east side of the city, where he makes for himself a sukkah.  He sits under it in its shade, waiting to see what might happen to the city.  In the meantime, the Eternal God makes a gourd come up over Jonah to be a shade over his head, protecting him from discomfort, and Jonah is very happy for the gourd.  But then God makes a worm come up the next morning: it attacks the gourd, and the gourd withers.  When the sun rises, God stirs up a harsh east wind.  As the sun beats down on Jonah’s head, he feels faint and ready to die, and so he says: It is better for me to die than to live!  God asks Jonah: Is your feeling about the gourd justified?  Yes, says Jonah, so much so that I could die.

The Eternal responds:  Now you can understand how I feel about Nineveh.  You felt deeply about the gourd, which you did not plant or raise, one night it was here and the next night it was gone.  Should I not therefore care about Nineveh, a great city of more than 120,000 people who are not culpable, not to mention the animals!

Micah 7:18-20

What god is like You,
bearing iniquity and passing over transgression
of the remnant of His heritage,
not holding on to His anger forever,
as He favors lovingkindness?

May He turn to treat us with mercy
by suppressing our iniquities:
Cast all of their sins
into the depths of the sea!
Act truly to Jacob, kindly to Abraham,
as You promised our fathers
from ancient days.

FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH

Sifra Acharey Mot Chapter 8

“On the Tenth Day of the Seventh Month
you shall afflict yourselves and not do any work…
for on That Day atonement shall be made for you
to purify you;
from all of your sins before the Eternal
shall you be pure.
It is a Sabbath of Complete Rest for you,
and you shall afflict yourselves….”
(Leviticus 16:29-31)

“For on That Day atonement shall be made for you…” would appear to refer to the atonement effected by means of the aforementioned goat sacrifices (cf. Leviticus 16:15ff).  But what if there are no sacrifices, no goats (as now)?  Without the Temple, how can we derive that “That Dayitself provides atonement?  The words “For on That Day atonement shall be made” provide the Talmud, “Oral Teaching!”  (Malbim: The Hebrew words underlying “For on That Day” may be read as “For by means of That Day,” thus providing a reason for the redundant, “you shall afflict yourselves.”  Self-affliction depends not solely on the goat sacrifices but also on the opportunity afforded by the occurrence of the Tenth Day.  In other words: You shall afflict yourselves on the Tenth Day with the sacrifices, for by means of That Day atonement shall be made for you!  Torah Temimah: The Oral Teaching is “For by means of That Day itself shall atonement be made for you,” and not by means of the order of the day described above, viz., the sacrifices!)

For transgressions between a person and God, Yom Kippur provides atonement; for transgressions between a person and another person, Yom Kippur provides atonement only after he seeks forgiveness from his fellow (cf. Mishnah Yoma 8:9; Orach Chayim 606).  Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah provided the Midrash for this law based upon the verse, “From all of your sins before the Eternal shall you be pure.”  (Malbim: The words of the verse are not in their expected order, which would be, “Atonement shall be made for you before the Eternal, to purify you from all of your sins.”  Instead we have: “Atonement shall be made for you to purify you; from all of your sins before the Eternal—sins between you and God, but not necessarily between you and another person—shall you be pure!”)

Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 24:5

“On the Tenth Day of the Seventh Month
you shall afflict yourselves
for on That Day atonement shall be made for you.”
(Leviticus 16:29-30)

“For thus shall say the High and Lifted Up…:
I dwell in the High and Holy
with one who is crushed and humble of spirit,
to enliven his heart.”
(Deuteronomy 57:15)

From my affliction
I cry out to the Eternal,
from the belly of She’ol,
and He answers me.”
(Jonah 2:3)

Said Rabbi Abba bar Yudan:  What God declared unfit in animals for sacrifice, he declared fit in man.  In animals He disqualified the blind or the fractured or the maimed or the ulcerated (cf. Leviticus 22:22), but in man He declared fit the broken and crushed heart: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit…” (Psalms 51:19).

Said Rabbi Alexandri:  If a common man uses a broken vessel, it is an embarrassment for him; but the Holy One is different, He uses only broken vessels: “The Eternal is near to the brokenhearted…” (Psalms 34:19), He is “the Healer of broken hearts…” (Psalms 147:3), “A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise!” (Psalms 51:19)

Ecclesiastes Rabbah 9:6

Pious Abba Tachna was approaching his town on Erev Shabbat shortly before it became dark.  He was carrying on his shoulder a heavy bundle, filled with necessities for his family, when he came upon an unfortunate person covered with boils and lying upon the road.  “Reb,” the poor man bid him, “please do me the favor of carrying me into the town, as I am too weak and too much in pain to walk there on my own.”

Pious Abba Tachna knew that in order to fulfill this helpless man’s request he would have to put down his heavy bundle and leave it there until, hopefully, he could return and retrieve it.  “If I leave my bundle here,” he thought, “and it is stolen, what will my family then have for their sustenance?  But if I leave the poor man here, what would become of my soul?”  What did he do?  He allowed his good impulse to rule over the bad impulse, and he carried the poor man into the town.

Then he returned and was relieved to find that his bundle had not been stolen.  So he restored it upon his shoulder and entered the town while Erev Shabbat was waning.  At his appearance, carrying a bundle, when day was blending into Sabbath evening, his fellow townspeople were astonished, exclaiming in wonder, “Is this the pious Abba Tachna?”  He also began to doubt himself, fearing that others would think that he was profaning the Sabbath.

But at that moment, the Holy One, blessed be He, caused the sun to shine, as the prophet foretold: “For you who revere My name shall the sun of righteousness shine with healing in her wings!” (Malachi 3:20)

“Then shall your light break forth as the morning,
and your healing shall quickly sprout;
your righteousness shall walk before you,
and the glory of the Eternal
shall follow as your protection.
Then you shall call,
and the Eternal shall answer.”
(Isaiah 58:8-9a)

Talmud Ketubot 67b

“Repentance, Prayer, and Charity
remove the decreed punishment.”
(Unetaneh Tokef in Musaf for Days of Awe)

“If one of you should be impoverished…,
do not harden your heart…,
but open your hand to him…
and provide him what he needs,
whatever is lacking to him.”
(Deuteronomy 15:7-8)

Our Rabbis taught:  “Whatever he needs” means that you are commanded to sustain him, but you are not commanded to make him wealthy.  What then is the meaning of “whatever is lacking to him?”  If he is used to riding a horse with a runner before him, now when he lacks them, provide them.

 “It is a high degree of tzedakah
when the recipient does not know who is the giver,
even when the giver knows who is the recipient.
Such giving follows the greatest of the Sages,
who would visit discretely the doors of the poor
and anonymously leave them money.”
(Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 249:8)

A poor man lived near Mar Ukba.  Every day, on his walk home from the house of study, Mar Ukba would pass by the door of the poor man and leave him four zuzim in a safe and secret place.  The recipient did not know who was the giver, but he was curious.  So one day he determined to go out and watch for his benefactor, so that he could see for himself who was providing him this benefit.

As it turned out, on that very day, Mar Ukba was delayed at the house of study, so that his wife came out to look for him.  She found him there, and they began their walk home together.  When they were seen heading for the poor man’s door, the poor man was alerted and started out to find them.  But Mar Ukba and his wife quickly eluded him and ran into a furnace that had recently been scraped out.

Why did they run into a furnace?  Said Mar Zutra bar Tuviah said Rav:—or according to others, Said Rav Huna bar Bizna said Rabbi Shimon Chasida:—or according to others, Said Rabbi Yochanan in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai:  It would be better for one to throw oneself into a white-hot furnace than to cause the face of another to turn white from embarrassment!

Whence was this teaching derived?  From the example of Tamar (Genesis 38), who was impregnated by her father-in-law Judah when she was disguised as a prostitute and then falsely accused by him of criminal harlotry.  She had proof that Judah was the father but refrained from exposing him publicly.  She sent the evidence to him privately and waited until he acknowledged that she was innocent.  Rashi: She would have allowed herself to be executed by burning (ibid. 38:24) had he not acknowledged her innocence!  In the words of Judah, “She is more innocent than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son” (ibid. 38:26) in accordance with the rule of Levirate marriage (cf. Deuteronomy 25:5ff.).  (Instead she conceived by Shelah’s father!)

Back to Mar Ukba and his wife:  While they were in the raked-out furnace, Mar Ukba’s feet were singed.  “Lift up your feet,” said his wife, “and place them upon mine.”  He was shocked and could not understand why his wife’s feet were not singed in the still-hot furnace.  She explained: “I spend my time at home, where my tzedakah is direct.”  Rashi: “The poor come to me, and I give them bread, meat and salt, which they can consume immediately.  But you give coins to the poor, which they have to go to the trouble of negotiating in order to put together a meal.  That is why my merit is greater!”

Regarding our Rabbis’ teaching, “If he is used to riding a horse with a runner before him, now when he lacks them, provide them,” it is said about Hillel the Elder that he procured a horse and a runner for an impoverished man who came from a wealthy family.  One day, when the runner was not available, Hillel himself ran before him.

“Make way!
Remove any obstacle
from the way of My people!”
(Isaiah 57:14)

Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 24:7

“Good and direct is the Eternal;
therefore, He instructs sinners in the way.”
(Psalms 25:8)

It was asked of Wisdom: What should be the fate of the sinner?  Wisdom answered: “Let evil pursue the sinners!” (Proverbs 13:21)  It was asked of Prophecy: What should be the fate of the sinner?  Prophecy answered: “The soul that sins, it shall die!” (Ezekiel 18:4)  It was asked of the Torah: What should be the fate of the sinner?  The Torah answered: Let him bring a guilt offering, that it may atone for him (cf. Leviticus 5:6; 16:1ff.)!  They asked the Holy One, blessed be He: What should be the fate of the sinner?  He answered:  Let him engage in repentance, and it will atone for him!  This is what was meant by, “Good and direct is the Eternal…!”

Said Rabbi Pinchas:  Why is He good?  Because He is direct.  Why is He direct?  Because He is good.  “Therefore, He instructs sinners in the way”: He instructs sinners in the way that they should engage in repentance.

Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 25:4

Rabbi Alexandri taught a lesson regarding two men who presented petitions to the king.  One petitioned in his own name, but it was granted in the name of his ancestor.  The other petitioned in the name of his ancestor, and it was granted in his own name.

King Hezekiah presented his petition in his own name, “I beg of You, Eternal One, remember now how I have walked before You in truth and with a perfect heart, and how I have done that which is good in Your sight…” (II Kings 20:3), but it was granted in the name of his ancestor, “I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will save you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for My sake and for the sake of David, My servant!” (II Kings 20:6)

Moses presented his petition in the name of his ancestor, “Turn away from Your fierce anger, and repent of the punishment against Your people; remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel, Your servants, whom You promised…” (Exodus 32:12-13), and it was granted in his name, “The Eternal answered: ‘I forgive in accordance with your word!’” (Numbers 14:20)

Pesikta Rabbati 45

Two views of atonement:

“Happy is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.”
(Psalms 32:1)

“Happy is the one to whom the Eternal
does not impute iniquity
and in whose spirit there is no guile!”
(Psalms 32:2)

Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish taught: Consider the wife whom her husband suspects of adultery (sotah).  She drinks the bitter waters and survives the ordeal, to be found pure (cf. Numbers 5:28)!

Happy is the one
whose transgression
is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.”
(Psalms 32:1)

But someone might say:
Happier is the woman who did not need to drink them at all!

Similarly, when David said, “Happy is the one…whose sin is covered” (Psalms 32:1), the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him:

Happier is the one
to whom the Eternal
does not impute iniquity
(in the first place!).
(Psalms 32:2)

Who are those whose transgressions the Holy One, blessed be He, forgives?  They are Israel, who come with pure spirit on the Day of Atonement and specify their sins and their transgressions, which the Holy One, blessed be He, then forgives.  So the wise man teaches: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will be treated with mercy!” (Proverbs 28:13)

Deuteronomy Rabbah 2:36

Our Rabbis teach:  When Moses ascended to the Height, he heard the ministering angels saying to the Holy One, blessed be He, “Blessed is His majestic, glorious Name for ever and ever!” and he brought it down to Israel (who recite it quietly after the first verse of the Shema).  So why does Israel not say it aloud?  Said Rabbi Yosi:  To what may this be likened?  To one who stole a precious gem from the palace of the king and gave it to his wife.  But he cautioned her: Do not wear it in public, only in the house!  Fittingly, there is the exception of Yom Kippur, when Israel is as pure as the ministering angels and can therefore “wear” the words in public, as if belonging to them: “Blessed is His majestic, glorious Name for ever and ever!”

G’MAR CHATIMAH TOVAH!

Copyright © 2020 Eric H. Hoffman

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