Sunday, December 29, 2013

125th Yahrzeit of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch זצ״ל

Knessioh (Gathering)

Commemorating the 125th Yahrzeit of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch and celebrating the completion of the communal learning of Rav Hirsch's commentary Chumash and Tehillim.

Sunday Dec. 29, 2013, 6:30 PM
93 Bennett Ave.
Manhattan, off 186th St.
Accessible by A Train, 181th St. Station
Free parking at PS 48, 4360 Broadway, off 186th St.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Linked Post from Treasures of Ashkenaz: Obsolete Relic, or Vital, Living Legacy?

Linked Post from Treasures of Ashkenaz: Obsolete Relic, or Vital, Living Legacy? 

"Obsolete Relic, or Vital, Living Legacy? —————- דרך הלימוד של הרב ברייער ז”ל בימינו (Rav Breuer’s 

Derech Halimud In Our Time – continuation)

It was gratifying to see the interest in Rav Breuer’s derech halimud, which was described as “The Way of Old Ashkenaz”,  in the wake of the previous post. ב”ה.

Brisker Derech vs. Old Ashkenaz Way

In the discussion of Rav Breuer’s derech that we referenced, the words Brisk, and Brisker derech, did not appear. However, there was nevertheless a significant response in an online forum to it that came to my attention, which, if I understand it correctly, believes that Rav Breuer’s old Ashkenaz derech has been overtaken and superceded by the way of Rav Chaim of Brisk.

Is that true? If so, to what degree? Is such a development desirable? Are the two ways necessarily always at odds?"

read more

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Rav Nachman Bullman and TIDE

linked post from by Toby Katz, his daughter

"I have not written here in a long time, for various reasons. But tonight, in my father’s honor, my heart urges me to talk about some of the beliefs that my father held most dear. My father believed passionately in Torah Im Derech Eretz (TIDE), the very ancient Torah understanding that was given more modern and eloquent expression in the 19th century writings of Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch. TIDE refers to Torah together with civilization or Torah together with secular pursuits or Torah together with courtesy and humanity. It is hard to define exactly in a short essay but let me talk about one aspect of TIDE.

We who believe in TIDE believe that one of the reasons that Hashem scattered us among the nations, in addition to the obvious fact that this is a punishment for our sins (foretold in the Torah), is that we are meant to be an ohr lagoyim, a Light to the Nations. We are also a blessing to the nations, also foretold in multiple places in the Torah. It was we Jews who introduced monotheism and morality to the world and we have indeed blessed the nations among whom we live in ways too numerous even to begin to detail.

Now, there is another school of thought within Orthodoxy which rejects TIDE and which holds that we have no responsibility towards the nations, other than to be basically law-abiding citizens, and that we should have as little to do with them as possible.

In Poland and Russia over the last few centuries, the goyim were mostly drunken, ignorant peasants who regularly slaughtered and robbed Jews. The Jews in those countries were so far above the goyim in every respect that it is no wonder they developed a contempt for the peasants around them. In addition, there was a fundamental lawlessness, with laws purposely designed to destroy Jewish lives and livelihoods and with authorities turning a blind eye to pogroms and depredations conducted by the gentiles against Jews. In such societies, it was inevitable that Jews would learn to live by their wits and would find every possible way around, under, and despite the laws (which were an anti-Semitic farce), simply to survive.

Unfortunately, when the Russian and Polish (and Ukrainian and Romanian, etc) Jews came to America, many transplanted here an attitude of contempt and disdain towards the non-Jews around them, along with an attitude that one has to work the system in any way possible in order to survive.

By contrast, 19th century Germany, where Hirsch lived and wrote, was a highly civilized country in which Jews had gone a long way towards legal and political emancipation and in which most of the surrounding goyim were educated and refined people. Of course we know how that played out, and thus we internalized another lesson: as long as we live as a small minority in foreign lands, we always have to watch our backs.

Nevertheless, there are many righteous gentiles and we owe them our friendship and gratitude. And when we live in such a malchus shel chessed as America is—such a benevolent country—we owe the gentiles around us a great deal. It behooves us to bring blessing to them and not curses, chas vesholom, to the best of our ability. This is the more true because this is a country in which we have the legal right to vote, to speak and to write, to make our voices heard."

Read more:
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Friday, December 20, 2013

Cemetery Map

The graves of Rabbis Breuer and Schwab and their wives can be found in the West Ridgelawn Cemetery in Clifton, NJ off Dwasline Road. Heading South on Dwasline, turn right at the cemetery entrance.

(Photos from Google in accordance with use policy)

Graves are in Horeb section near corner of Akiba and Temple. See circle on right of diagram.

Austritt in the 21st Century

George Frankel writes that some look at TIDE as an emergency measure and Austritt as permanent, while in reality the reverse is true. He wrote as follows:
        Horoas sho’oh means that the Torah has an ideal that is temporarily put aside because conditions are less than ideal.  Now Torah im Derech Eretz is based on an ideal, namely that Japhet should dwell in the tents of Shem.  HaShem wants there to be traffic between the world of Torah and the world of art, literature, music and science.  Indeed the Torah sees the two worlds ultimately conjoined, as the pinnacle of perfection.  Those who say that Torah im Derech Eretz is not applicable today because culture is debased, society is debased, etc., etc., are really only giving excuses why the Torah im Derech Eretz ideal should be deferred.
Austritt however is not based on an ideal.  There certainly is no ideal that there should be division and strife among Jews.  It is only because some Jews have supposedly fallen away from the ideal that we can even begin to countenance a state of Austritt between groups of Jews.
If Jewish man were in an ideal state, there would be no occasion for Austritt.  If universal man were in an ideal state, there would be no excuse to put off the pursuit of Torah im Derech Eretz any longer.
Therefore Torah im Derech Eretz is the ideal, Austritt the expedient.

This may be correct for the philosopher as he sits in his arm chair. However, we are not in a philosopher's study. We are in the deepest darkest of exiles, where the philosophical must reconcile with the practical.

Rav Breuer argued that TIDE and Austritt go together, two sides of the same coin. I explain R' Breuer as follows: Once you open yourself to the outside world, you become vulnerable to its negative influence. Problematic groups even within Orthodoxy presumably all ready have allowed that negative influence to shape its core. Therefore, you need to avoid the problematic groups even with Orthodoxy because they have led the way in institutionalizing the bad of the outside world. They have given it a Jewish look and make it harder to weed out. Accordingly, even though R' Hirsch's Austritt was focused on a radical and antagonistic reform, Austritt in our times may apply with regard to Orthodox groups with problematic aspects. We can talk to them, work with them in certain circumstances, certainly daven for them and love them but may have to distance ourselves in many respects. Certainly, we should respectfully criticize the parts we object to so that our view is known. R' Breuer's approach makes sense to me.

Take for example the Modern Orthodox world and feminism. It has infiltrated to the core over there and it pushes up against halahka at every turn. It's hard enough to fight feminism as it occurs in the world at large. But when one watches talmidei chachamim embrace it, then who is strong enough to continue to push it away?

TIDE and Austritt are two sides of the same coin. You cannot have one without the other. If you are going to engage the secular world in these impossible times, then you have to maintain some kind of distance from the groups that have allowed it to damage the mesorah. Haredim can sooner mix with the problematic sects within Modern Orthodoxy than TIDE people can because Haredim in general divorce themselves from secular society. The TIDE person has to be even more stringent with them.

However, you can say the same with regard to the Haredi world. They have their own problems such as, in my view, a continuing exaggeration in some groups of the supremacy of Limud Torah and a de-emphasis on the importance of mitzvos and a failure to teach young men a trade. The whole Haredi world isn't like that but much of it is. So we have just knocked out a lot of people. This is why the Austritt has to be largely symbolic or just mental because a hard-core Austritt is a little difficult when you don't even have an IRG of 100 families and Hirsch or R' Breuer at the helm in a self-contained community.

Again, this blog has two main purposes. 1) To gather up a chevrah of TIDE people. 2) To share tricks for applying TIDE today. This is not an academic forum for pronouncing Hirsch's name or the word Gemeinde correctly. It's not the place where utmost in our minds is an analysis of his influence on contemporary Jewry. You are free to pose your analysis but mostly we leave that to the academics. Here we try to live TIDE in our times (and most Jewish Studies professors are not TIDE. They are Modern Orthodox Torah u'Maddah.) How do we practice Austritt in these end of days when most of the Orthodox world contradicts core parts of our philosophy? And yet we need all the groups. The truth is so splintered today that one needs to pick up pieces of it from each group.

One thing I do is order my books appropriately in my house. Hirsch is on top along with the classic sefarim. The photos of the German Orthodox are more prominent on my walls. I speak often about TIDE principles and even cite Eastern European scholars or Rishonim that echo them (the Nitziv on Or L'ogyim, Rabbeinu Yona on having compassion for all people, the Rambam on looking into the bria to gain ahavas Hashem). This is a kind of mini-Austritt. I always wear a blue jacket sometimes with a handkerchief in the pocket so that I'm a little different than MO and a little different than the Haredim. And with that base, I can interact with all the other groups. What are your tricks?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

TIDE in the Hirsch Chumash: Benefiting from Proper Culture

"Culture starts the work of educating the generations of mankind and the Torah completes it; for the Torah is the most finished education of Man. The fig-leaf and apron, those first gifts which Man possessed on his way to education, were the first appurtenances of culture, and culture in the service of morality is the first stage of Man’s return to God. For us Jews, derech eretz and Torah are one. The most perfect gentleman the most perfect Jew, to the Jewish teaching, are identical. But in the general education of mankind culture comes earlier….Therefore Jews, too, are to attach themselves to, and love all good and true culture and by the ways and manner of their behavior and demeanour appear as educated people and show that being Jew is only a higher state of being a man."

Rav Hirsch, Genesis 3:24, Judaica Press

Monday, December 16, 2013

More Delight in Washington Heights

Several weeks ago I wrote about my first visit to Washington Heights. I was nervous to go. I had been reading Hirsch intensely for about a year. What would happen if I had a bad experience in Washington Heights. What if the people were rude to me? Even though I would love to be able to live as a pure philosopher, fact is that I need a community, need chaverim, need some faces to look at. And if a Torah Im Eretz community didn't have derech eretz, what would that do to my faith in the philosophy?

As I said in my post, they were the furthest thing from rude. Never had I received such a nice reception in a synagogue before. The first man greeted me on my way up the stairs. This continued throughout my visit and even as I left. I won't go through the details again. They are in my post.

I went another time for a class and a man approached me to see if I needed assistance after I just stepped into the aisle in search of a tissue. He helped me find one. People otherwise nodded hello, said hello. It was very dignified. I felt like I mattered, like I was not invisible, which is not always how I feel in assorted gatherings in these times.

Then I went to this year's Chanukah celebration at the day school. Again, people were just wonderful. The lady at the admissions was very polite and helpful. I have been to many events where the lady at the admissions desk was snarly. Not at Breuer's. There is such a humility to the people over there. One lady helped me find a place to put my books. Another woman offered some help with one of the children's projects. It's all done so nicely. They really have derech eretz over there.

So this Saturday night, I went to a malave malke at 90 Bennet Ave. Let me say first of all that I really like how the Breuer's community keeps the beis kenneses a beis kenneses and doesn't have events in there, particularly where there's food. So the event was held across the street.

I walked in the room and was immediately met by the woman who organized it. She gave me a big hello and helped me to find a seat with her son, who was a terrific guy and real follower of Hirsch. He was my host for the whole evening. He introduced me to people and by the way all sorts of people came over to him. They were all very dignified and friendly. Nobody just talked to him because they knew him and ignored me - that sort of thing.

Maybe I seem a bit oversensitive with a desperate need for attention. It really isn't like that. I normally don't need a 1,000 people coming over to me. But when a person is checking out a community, it's another matter. You have to make visitors feel welcome and they did.

Somehow word got out that a follower of Hirsch had come into town just to be part of a Breuer's event and a few more people came over, including the synagogue president. I can't tell you how satisfying it is to be in a room of people who love the Torah of R' Hirsch as much as I do. It's like that first time a KAJ when I saw that wall full of Hirsch siddurim. Usually I go to shul with my very worn Hirsch siddur in hand while everyone else uses something else, mostly some version of Artscroll. It gets tiring holding up an ideology by oneself. You know that feeling, when you get back from a trip to Toledo, Ohio or some such place and feel like you can let down your guard as you step into your frum town again. Or when you come back from a trip overseas and hear the customs guy speaking English. It's such a relief.

Another thing about KAJ events is that the tables are done really nicely. There's a serving fork and napkin and it's all laid out elegantly. The food comes from waiters in stages. Very dignified. I had the same experience at KAJ Monsey last week, where again I was treated very well.

So the food was really good and then came the music. The KAJ choir! In the flesh for the first time. I have heard all about them and seen their videos. I sang choir in college so I have a special interest in this. And they were wonderful. Great harmonies. It all had a classical feeling to it even though the songs were Jewish. Some Jewish singing groups bring in too much secular pop material for my tastes. This wasn't like that.

And for me this kind of music is religious. It inspires me.

My host took me over to meet Mrs. Bechhofer. I have to tell you that I was actually starstruck, which isn't something that would happen to me if I met a movie star or anybody like that. I couldn't believe it, Rav Breuer's daughter and Rav Hirsch's great-granddaughter. Wow. I felt like they were standing in front of me. In a way they were because she too was very personable and respectful and helpful and with it, really with it.

Such a great night. I thank the rabbano shel olam and recommend that all you Hirschians out there in the blogsphere come out to KAJ or KAJ Monsey because Torah Im Derech Eretz is still alive in actual communities despite the rumors otherwise.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


"Forty years ago on a summer morning, we children were taken for a walk along the den", the green belt which surrounded the old town of Frankfort-an-Main. We were not far from the "Schoene Aussicht", close to the bank of the River Main where Samson Raphael Hirsch lived, when my brother, my senior by two years. took hold of my arm and whispered: "The Rabbi". We stopped. Accompanied by one of his grand-daughters. Samson Raphael Hirsch, stooping slightly, but with firm steps, passed by. He raised his hat to the two small boys who stared at him with curiosity. His dark eyes were lit up by a kindly smile on beholding two members of the third generation of his community. I have never forgotten the friendly gesture of the Rabbi whose venerable figure had become part of my life at a very early stage."


Monday, December 9, 2013

TIDE in the Hirsch Chumash: Secular Studies

"If we understand these sentences of the תייכ aright, then the sentence which stands at their head: forewarns one not to take the following sentences to mean that one is completely to ignore and remain in ignorance of all knowledge and science which has been gained and nurtured by non-Jewish sources or which have no direct bearing on the knowledge to be gained by the study of the Torah. Inasmuch as what is commanded is: עשם עיקר ואל תעשם טפלה, the permission to occupy oneself also with other spheres of knowledge is assumed. Only, the knowledge of the Torah and the understanding we derive from it is to be our principle concern and to be regarded as having been given to us as the absolute and firmly established Truth. Only as accessory knowledge and in as far as they serve to truly help the study of the Torah and are subordinated as the טפל to the עיקר, are they to be studied. But the Torah and all its teachings must always remain that which we have received from Above and must be the yardstick by which we measure all the results obtained by other spheres of learning. Only that which is in accordance with the Truths of the Torah can remain true for us. All that we accept intellectually as well as all our actions must always be considered from the point of view of the Torah and be within the lines of the doctrines it teaches, so that we only accept and adopt  that which is in accordance with them, and do not adulterate the knowledge we draw our of the Torah with ideas which have developed form other and strange premises."

R' Hirsch, Chumash, Leviticus, 18:5, trans. Isaac Levy, Judaica Press.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Washington Heights Jews Caught In A Growth Bind

Linked article

Washington Heights Jews Caught Growth Bind

by Rivka Oppenheim

"Young couples and families are flooding into Washington Heights, drawn by affordable rents, convenient commutes and a vibrant Jewish community. And they are changing the look and feel of what used to be referred to as Frankfurt on the Hudson for its concentration of German Jews."

continue reading

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

World Chorus: Nagano 1998 Opening Ceremony - Beethoven Ode to Joy

World chorus of Beethoven Symphony N°9 (Ode to Joy) at the closing moments of the Nagano 1998 Winter Games opening ceremony

Click to watch

Monday, December 2, 2013

How Does TIDE Differ From Other Derachim and What Do We Do About It?

God gave the Torah at Har Sinai and in the Midbar. This much we believe. It tells us our purpose in life and what to do with our lives. But it's a big book and hard to understand completely. It contains commandments, many types of them. We do our best to understand them and to pursue them. This much we know for sure.

Within that, different schools of thought have developed. In a way, they are all throwaway. We are Jews. We try to keep the Torah. The different paths are all means to that end. That's why we need to love people from all camps and not get too worked up about our particular camp or else we are missing the whole point.

If you are Haredi, wonderful. Be a good Haredi Jew. If you are Modern, wonderful. Be a good MO Jew. If you are TIDE, wonderful. Be a good TIDE Jew. But be a Jew first and last. You want to fight with people. Fight with people. But make up. Be friends in the end.

The different derachim differ of course and they overlap. Take Rabbi Miller. His philosophy is not TIDE because he advocates staying away from gentile society as much as possible. He'll tell you to go to work but only to earn money and to perfect your middos. Dealing with a difficult boss refines the character he'll say. TIDE will say going to work allows you to contribute to your host society as well. It allows you to be part of humanity. Rabbi Miller doesn't mention those points. He might acknowledge them. He might scoff at them. I don't know. But his approach might work well for a guy from Brooklyn. That in the end, is who Rabbi Miller is speaking to. It won't work well for a guy from the Midwest who comes quite frankly from a much more civilized place than Brooklyn, which is a tough place. So one derech for the Brooklyn guy. One derech for the guy from Illinois where strangers say hello to each other on the street. It's all Torah. Different paths for people in different situations. On this blog, when R' Miller offers a TIDE thought we share it. Same with Rav Kook. He was huge Zionist of course. TIDE is suspicious of that philosophy. A religious Zionist might tell you that you must move to Eretz Israel. TIDE believes you can practice Judaism wherever you are. (R' Soloveitchik concurs). But when R' Kook shares a TIDE thought we share it on this blog. He was a tzadick and a great scholar. We don't have to deliver only the Torah of R' Hirsch here even though his derech was TIDE through and through. 

R' Hirsch is our master guide. If he argues with another gadol, I go with him. But if they agree, why not cite that other gadol who may explain an idea well even though they disagree elsewhere?

Haredism and TIDE overlap. Hareidsm and MO overlap.  TIDE likely overlaps with those two more than they overlap with each other. Whatever. 

They all come from the same source so like brothers and sisters they will resemble their parents. 

The musician Bruce Springsteen once said about music rock n' roll music that you have to approach it like it's the most serious thing in the world and at the same time remember that it's only rock n'roll.

Same here. We take our derech seriously. And then we remember that it's throwaway. It's a means. It's not the end. 

This is very hard for Orthodox Jews to do. If ever I met a group of people that take themselves too seriously, this is the group! And who, by their recognition of a supreme being and of eternity should take themselves less seriously? Maybe we aren't thinking enough about that supreme being.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Light Unto the Nations

Assorted sources showing that Light Unto the Nations applies before Moshiach

(bold lettering added here for emphasis)

R' Hirsch, Psalm LXXXIX

"This 'teaching ode' also looks with confidence to deliverance from the anguish of the Exile, but from a point of view different from the one expressed in Psalm 88. While Psalm 88 tells us to trust in eventual redemption because of Israel's survival throughout the troubles of Exile, Psalm 89 teaches us to have faith because of the Divine promises linked with the election of David and his descendants.

"Verse 3 contains the thought that the universal salvation which God in His mercy has appointed for Israel and mankind in general indeed still lies in the future. It must be remembered, however, that the building of this future goes on ceaselessly even now, and that every event that Heaven decrees to happen on earth is nothing but a manifestation of God's faithfulness, which guides and trains us for this goal of ultimate salvation. Side by side that salvation, and closely linked with it, there is the promise pertaining to David, to the fulfillment of which the whole course of history is dedicated (Verse 4,5).

"This faith is founded upon the unlimited omnipotence of God in nature and history (Verses 6-14), upon the right and order which the basis of all of God's reign, and upon the loving-kindness and truth which are the goals of His Providence (Verse 15). From this (see Verses 16-19) the Psalm proceeds to the ideal state of salvation which is certain to come to every human society and also to Israel in particular, once it accepts and adopts as its own this recognition of God's will and sovereignty, and once it subordinates every aspect of its life, both individual and communal to God's guidance.

"God has chosen David, and his descendants, who do not forfeit this mission despite temporary straying, to be His co-workers in behalf of the goal of salvation that is dependent upon the spiritual and moral ennoblement of men and nations (Verses 20-38). At the present time, contrary to the expectations fostered by God's promises, the kingdom and sanctuary of David lie in ruins (Verses 39-46). But only one glance at the depths of impermanence and vanity into which mankind would sink were it bereft of the spirit of David, will suffice to assure us that God will surely come forth again and complete the work which He had begun with Israel and David. (Verses 47-50). For Israel is still in the service of God (see Verses 51-53) and bears within its bosom the future of all the nations, so that Israel's troubles are simply the birthpangs of the dawn of the morning that is to come to all mankind. Israel's enemies are the foes of the kingdom, and their very abuses are the footsteps of the coming Messiah."


R' Hirsch, Collected Writings, Vol. VII, p. 269
“It was a Jew with his lyre, David with his harp, who from the very beginning perceived himself as participating in a historic mission to all the world, sounding his harp in order to stir all the nations to recognize God and to worship Him with devotion (II Samuel 22, 50; Psalms 57, 10; 108, 4).


R’ Avidgor Miller, Behold A People, p. 285
“Yet despite the perfect legitimacy of this marriage, it earned the censure of G--d: "When Shlomoh took the daughter of Pharaoh, Gabriel came down and set a stick into the sea, upon which mud collected; and upon that was built the great city of Rome" (Shabbos 56 B). But this censure was not for the act, for it did not prevent Shlomoh from attaining the highest perfection in his career: the two visitations from G-d. Had the subsequent developments continued according to Shlomoh's plan, the union with the daughter of Pharaoh could have achieved the greatest results for the honor of G-d; for this wise monarch planned to induce the nations to cast away their idols and to accept the true G-d. In this, Egypt would have shown the way, just as had been the Case at the Exodus when a great number of their choicest families had joined Israel. There were good reasons to expect success, for Shlomoh had gained great admiration among the nations; and his policy of marriage unions with many monarchs was part of a grand plan which would have succeeded, had not the weakness of old ege (like his father's) prevented him.”

(R' Miller explains on one of his tapes that Shlomo married these princesses in order to influence their fathers to abandon idol worship).


The following sources and explanations are by R' J Dovid Bleich, Tikun Olam, Jewish Obligations, Tikun Olam, The Orthodox Forum

Netziv, Introduction to Shemos
He explains that the book of Shemos complements the book of Bereishis which declares Israel to be the tachlis of creation. Israel does not achieve this goal "until Israel excited from Egypt and achieved their purpose that they be fit to be an illumination unto the nations to cause them to arrive at knowledge of the Lord of the Universe."

(They are fit for this illumination after Har Sinai. The matter does not wait unto Moshiach)

Netziv Ex. 12:51
"And it came to pass the selfsame day that God brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt al tzivotam." The Netziv translates al tzivotam to mean "for service of" which is "to be an illumination unto the nations to cause them to arrive a knowledge of the Lord of the universe." They were fit for this purpose only after bris milah and the Exodus.

(He does not say they were fit only after Moshiach)

Malbim, Isaiah 2:2-3
"Come ye, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob and he will teach us His ways (derakoav) and we will walk in his paths (orhotav). The Malbim defines "ways" as major roads and paths as secondary roads. He says the Jews will teach the nations the "roots and principles" of divine service and in the end of days the gentiles will seek greater edification and learn the byways. 

(This suggests active teaching in the millennium before Moshiach).


Rav Kook on “Light unto the nations” Now or After Moshiach Mikeitz: Joseph and Judah

"The strife among Jacob's sons centered on two conflicting viewpoints vis a vis the sanctity of the Jewish people. Judah felt that we need to act according to the current reality and that, given the present situation, the Jewish people need to maintain a separate existence from other nations in order to safeguard their unique heritage. Joseph, on the other hand, believed that we should focus on the final goal. We need to take into account the hidden potential of the future era, when "nations will walk by your light"  (Isaiah 60:3). Thus, according to Joseph, even nowadays we are responsible for the spiritual elevation of all peoples. So which outlook is correct - Judah's pragmatic nationalism or Joseph's visionary universalism?

"The Present versus the Future

"The dispute between Judah and Joseph is in fact a reflection of a fundamental split in the world. The rift between the present reality and the future potential is rooted in the very foundations of the universe. On the second day of Creation, God formed the rakia, the firmament separating the waters below from the waters above (Gen. 1:7; see Chagigah 15a). This separation signifies a rupture between the present (as represented by the "lower waters" of this world) and the future (the "higher waters" of the heavens). The inability to reveal the future potential in the present is a fundamental defect of our world; unlike the other days of Creation, the Torah does not describe the second day, when this breach occurred, as being "good."

"Joseph and the Letter Hey

"According to the Midrash (Sotah 36b), the angel Gabriel taught Joseph seventy languages. Gabriel also added the Hebrew letter hey from God's Name to Joseph's name, calling him "Yehosef" (Ps. 81:6). What is the significance of this extra letter?

"The Sages wrote that God created this world with the letter hey, and the World to Come with the letter yud (Breishit Rabbah 12:9). In Joseph's view, each nation is measured according to its future spiritual potential, according to how it will fit in the final plan of kiddush ha-Shem, the sanctification of God's Name and revelation of His rule in the world. The particular role of each nation is indicated by its unique language. Without the letter hey, however, Joseph could not properly grasp the language of each nation, i.e., he could not ascertain the nature of their role in the future world. With the addition of the letter hey to his name - the letter used to create this world - Joseph gained the ability to understand the universe as it exists now. Joseph was then able to comprehend the languages of all peoples and assess their spiritual potential.

"Joseph was able to discern the world's potential for kiddush ha-Shem with the help of a single letter. He used the hey, a letter which is closed from three sides, as this future potential is currently almost completely hidden. Judah, on the other hand, looked at the world's spiritual state as it is revealed now.

"Joseph, who sanctified God's Name in private, merited one letter of God's Name. Judah, who sanctified God's Name in public, merited that his entire name was called after God's Name" (Sotah 36b).

"Two Types of Tzaddikim

"According to the Zohar, Benjamin complemented his brother Joseph. "Rachel gave birth to two tzaddikim, Joseph and Benjamin. Joseph was a 'higher tzaddik,' while his brother Benjamin was a 'lower tzaddik'"  (Vayeitzei 153b). What are these two types of saintly tzaddikim?

"The "higher tzaddik" is a conduit for the shefa (the Divine influence), drawing it down from above, while the "lower tzaddik" passes the shefa to the physical world below. Benjamin's role, as the "lower tzaddik," was to imbue our world with holiness. His whole life, Benjamin was concerned that the Temple should be built in the portion of Eretz Yisrael that his tribe would inherit. Why was that so vital to Benjamin?

"The Temple is "a house of prayer for all peoples," allowing all to share in its holiness. "Had the nations known how important the Temple was for them, they would have surrounded it with forts in order to guard over it" (Tanhuma Bamidbar 3). The Temple has a fundamental role in Joseph's universal outlook.

"The Monarchy and the Temple

"The dialectic between Judah and Joseph finds expression in two institutions: the monarchy and the Temple. The monarchy, whose role was to protect the national sanctity of the Jewish people, was established in Judah's inheritance, in Hebron and Jerusalem. The Temple, whose role was to elevate all of humanity, was built on Benjamin's land. Yet the Temple was partially located on a strip of land that extends from Judah's portion into Benjamin's portion. This strip represents the synthesis of Judah and Joseph, the integration of the national and universal viewpoints.

"Mikeitz, the name of the Torah reading, means "at the end." The Midrash Tanchuma explains that God established an end for all things. Just as Joseph's imprisonment ended in Mikeitz, so too, the conflict between Judah and Joseph will be resolved after a constructive period of development and change. The fundamental dissonance in the world will be repaired, and the rift between the present and the potential, between the lower and higher waters of creation, will be healed."

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Shemuot HaRe'iyah 10, Mikeitz 5690 (1929) Posted with permission. adapted by Chanan Morrison