(Haftara: Isaiah 49:14-51:3)
(Pirkay Avot Chapter 5)
1. [8:7] “God is bringing you to a good land with brooks of water… going out in the valleys and the hills.” In our literature, the land of Israel represents the ideal state of mind, and its government represents the ideal government—“a light unto the nations” (Yeshayahu 42:6). However, “valleys and hills” seem to represent failures and successes. How can there be failures if we’re talking about an ideal state of mind and an ideal world?
2. [10:16] “Circumcise the foreskin of your heart…” Our texts also talk about the circumcision of the tongue. Our tradition speaks quite naturally about sex and related issues. We, unlike Western culture and religion, do not see sex as “original sin”. On the other hand, we have many restrictions about when sex is permitted and who our sexual partners can be. How can we, at the same time, be so guiltless about sex, and still have so many restrictions?
3. [11:24] “Every place that your feet walk will be yours…” On a spiritual level, this seems to mean that in the ideal mental state, one will feel comfortable wherever one is. On the other hand, we are expected to be sensitive to injustice—to the weak and the poor. Does being comfortable mean that one will be less sensitive to the moral demands of one’s life?
4. [Isaiah 50:1] “…where is your mother’s document of divorce [from Me]…” Our relationship to God can be like a marriage, or like a master-servant relationship, or like friends and so on. What factors define our relationship to God at any particular time—is it us, or is it our situation in life or is it tradition or some other factor?
5. [Pirkay Avot 5:10] “There are 7 qualities in a wise person: …he doesn’t interrupt another’s speech, he answers clearly without confusion, he asks according to the subject and answers properly, he answers in the order of the subjects raised…he admits to the truth”. If a person is not really wise, but has these qualities, does that make the person wiser?
Whoever loves true “wholeness” must remove from his heart every trace of arrogance. Arrogance eliminates the grandeur of the spirit. And when arrogance is gone…it leaves behind an impression of joy and true humility.
–R. Avraham Y. H. Kuk, 1865-1935, Lithuania and Israel.
This study page is dedicated to the memory of Rivkah Rochel bat Ya’akov haLevi and Chaya Kornberg, and Yechiel Eliezer ben Yitzchok Meir and Rochel Laya Kornberg
And this study page is also dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker