Monday, June 29, 2009

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Jew?

How many of you ever considered the possibility that a classic piece of children's dogrel was actually inspired by the Tanakh? Hopefully the the title of this post has led you in the direction of the following poem:
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't very fuzzy - was he?

Today I finished מלכים ב' פרק ב, which discusses the transfer of prophetic power from Eliyahu to Elisha. It also contains the account of Elisha visiting Bet-El. Elisha ran into some ne'er-do-well lads and taught them a thing or two about respecting your elders.

23. And he went up from there to Bethel, and he was going up on the road and some little boys came out of the city and jeered him, and said to him, "Go away, baldy; go away, baldy!"

24. And he turned around and saw them, and he cursed them in the name of God. And two she-bears came out of the forest and tore apart forty-two boys of them.

Now first of all, Rashi assures us that Elisha "saw" that no good would come from these children. So we can be reassured that the slaughtered children do not pose any ethical dilemmas.

But more importantly - could there be a link between Elisha's gleaming pate and the ursine assassins? Maybe one of the bears was also a little less than hirsute. Could this bear have been an ancestor of the famous Fuzzy Wuzzy coming to defend Elisha's honor? I believe that further research into parhsanut and Midrashim is required!

PS - Did anyone else notice that number of slain children is exactly the same as the answer to life, the universe and everything?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rambo HaKohen?

Parshat Ki Tetze (דברים כ) describes the halakhah of the כהן משוח למלחמה, the kohen who is anointed and appointed for war. This morning on the מסילת ישרים train minyan - I witnessed a modern day of כהן משוח למלחמה. A new breed of battle priest who is poised to lead Israel into the 21st Century and beyond. A religious leader who knows that you have to be cruel to be kind in the right measure. That's right, I am talking about a gun-toting kohen. But that's not all, this is a fully armed kohen who is blessing the Jewish people at the same time!

All kidding aside - it certainly caused me to pause and think, when I saw this 20 year old kohen trying to decide what he should do with his rifle as he got ready for Birkat Kohanim. Ultimately he laid the rifle at his feet and then raised his hands to bless the minyan. It is all part of my Religious Zionist dream: to daven shacharit on the train, and to have birkat kohanim by an armed soldier. I think Ben Gurion and the Netziv (or any other Zionist gadol) would have been proud.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Planes, Trains and Minyanim

I am not sure if I have informed my little ד' אמות of the blogosphere of one of the hidden wonders of living in Israel - the daily Beit Shemesh train minyan which is called מסילת ישרים. It is wonderful to have a productive commute in the morning, we have a sefer Torah for Mondays and Thursdays and usually we even have birkat Kohanim. However, I am not such a big fan of davening Minchah on the train. At Shacharit we have enough people in the minyan that we take up an entire train car, and we do not disturb the other commuters. At Minchah, we daven in the space in between the two cars which I find to be less comfortable. Fortunately for me, there is a Minchah minyan at work and I do not lose out if I decide to avoid Minchah on the train.

Yesterday there was a bit of excitement and academia in action during Minchah on the train. Some of the men in the minyan refused to daven in the usual area for Minchah because there were some young women in tank tops sitting there. I suddenly realized that this was a real living example of Prof. Chaim Soloveithchik's article about Orthodoxy and חומרות. For years Minchah has taken place between the train cars. Come rain, shine or tank tops, Minchah always happened in the same place. I wondered, would this new attitude towards davening Minchah on the train forever change tefillah commuting that I have come to know and love? Fortunately, the חומרה did not hold and today Minchah returned to its regular location on the train.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Shevet Achim Gam Yachad?

David HaMelech wrote in
Tehilim 133:1,

שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת, לְדָוִד:הִנֵּה מַה-טּוֹב, וּמַה-נָּעִים שֶׁבֶת אַחִים גַּם-יָחַד
How pleasant and nice it is for brothers to live together.

This is a very famous pasuk that celebrates the concept of unity among the Jewish people. Yet I am forced to ask myself, "How often has this pasuk actually been realized?" My experience of the Jewish world, is that not enough Jews are making an effort to live together. This painful fact of life was reinforced for me in מלכים א פרק ט''ו which is the account of King Assa.

Now any of you out there in the hinterlands of the blogoshpere who have learned Sefer Melachim, know that a good king can be hard to find. So you can imagine my joy to read in pasuk 11 that Assa was an upright king, "ויעש הישר בעיני יקוק." However, I was then dismayed to read in pesukim 15-24 that King Assa took all of the money in Yehudah and gave it to Ben-Hadad the king of Aram (aka Syria) to attack Basha the king of Israel.

Where is the, "שבת אחים גם יחד"!? I understand the King Assa was losing a war to the idolotrous King Basha - but there must be a better answer than bankrupting the kingdom to hire Ben-Hadad. I was actually almost in tears as I read these pesukim thinking about how this money was wasted because of a futile war. I hope that we can all learn from the mistakes of the past and avoid repeating them.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Kings and Taxes

Unfortunately my busy life is conspiring against my blog and I am having trouble finishing (or is that starting?) my next post on the comparison between Rambam and Chazal. Fortunately for my faithful readers, I came across a nugget in the Tanakh today that is must be shared.
My daughter is in the process of learning Neviim Rishonim for her Bat Mitzvah, so I decided that I should try and keep up with her. Unfortunately for me, she has already finished Melachim Aleph, so I am playing catch-up. Today when I was learning Perek 12, I came across a pasuk that has a very modern feel.

"And king Rehoboam sent Adoram who was in charge of the tax, and all of Israel pelted him with stones, and he died, and king Rehoboam exerted himself to
get up into his chariot to flee to Jerusalem." Melachim Aleph 12:18
I think that many people today also would have the urge to physically harm the tax collectors if they came around.