This week at the square, was something quite unusual; we had a minyan and a half, but the Kiddush/shmuzing room was suspiciously left empty, at least until the Rabbi’s drasha which signaled a new phase in the morning’s services. Perhaps this was due to an absence of some of our veteran shmuzers, creating a void of experience and expertise which the shul room exploited expertly and consequently no reserves were needed to complete parts of prayer requiring a minyan.
There were more guests this week than usual, Yaniv, originally from France but currently in Bratislav/Pozsany who is in Budapest for the Wedding of Tzivia ne Perlaki of Budapest and Mendel Meyers of Bratislava. Other guests were Feivel of “Feivel goes West” fame, a student in the Ziegler Yeshiva currently studying in Israel and Sydney, though not from Australia were the guest scholars who were escorted by Anna and (Bogi?) from Budapest.
It was an emotional service being that Michael Miller and Mihaella of C.E.U. was here, and I was sure to bid them farewell, since who knows how long they are still here.
The drasha was dedicated to Lag Ba’omer, although unfortunately without bonfires and clothes burnings, We were informed that 24 000 students of Rabbi Akiva died in consequence to not giving adequate respect to each other. One of Rabbi Akiva’s most important teachings was “love your fellow man as yourself, this is a major principle of Judaism”. These 24 000 were Rabbi Akiva’s students, how then could they ignore one of their teachers most cherished teachings?
Among the suggested answers:
Kornel, “after they died Rabbi Akiva realized how important loving your fellow as yourself is and began teaching it only after the students died”.
Michael Miller – “maybe they didn’t respect or love themselves – hence, they fulfilled love your fellow as yourself, yet at the same time not respect each other.”
Moshy Hurwitz – “when you repeat something too often we stop listening”.
The guests suggested that Rabbi Akiva taught the principle properly but the students failed to internalize it – it remained a major principle of the Torah but not of their actual lives.
Finally on after some prodding for a Chassidic answer, the Rabbi proffered two solutions based on Hassidic Rebbe’s:
1. The Shem Mishmuel from the Rebbe of Sochetchov. Respect is the result of appreciating areas where ones fellow man is greater than oneself. Since G-d created us as individuals, we naturally all have something that our fellow man does not, and it is this uniqueness that demands from others respect.
However, as mentioned last week, loving ones fellow as oneself is a result of seeing ourselves as parts of one collective whole. We are in essence one body, with different people representing different parts, each part distinct, yet each contributes something to the whole.
Being that it is all part of one whole, each part need not show respect to another, since in essence they are part of the same thing. Just like the hand does not show respect to the head, nor the head to the hand, so we need not respect each other.
This was where they erred, since although true, we are part of one whole, yet at the same time we are all individuals, and as individuals we need to respect each other.
So in a sense, according to the Shem Mishmuel, their error was precisely because of the love for each other, that they viewed themselves as all part of a whole, and in so doing failed to appreciate each component as unique and independent as well.
2. The Rebbe of Lubavitch offers an alternative explanation also attributing their mistake as a byproduct of their love for each other.
Rabbi Akiva had another message for his students, and perhaps no less significant. Religious life should, according to Rabbi Akiva be imbued with “mesiras nefesh” complete self sacrifice and devotion where one does not consider personal hardship or other such obstacles to get in the way of fulfilling ones obligations.
Consequently when one sees a fellow man, in trouble or in need of help, as a result of loving ones’ fellow man, one would stop at nothing in helping him. Don’t forget that helping one spiritually is also an act of love for ones fellow man, and consequently if one finds ones fellow man in error as to how to perform a religious ritual, we would be doing him a favor by helping him.
Try to imagine a Breslover and a Chabadnik among Rabbi Akiva’s students. The Breslover sees that the Chabadnik is not clapping throughout his prayers etc., and he would like to help. He confronts the Chabadnik, out of love of course, and tells him that he should be clapping – to chase away negativity. The Chabadnik also loves the Breslaver of course and would like to help. So he tells the Breslaver that clapping is a disturbance to the prayer and should be avoided like the plague that eventually killed them all.
In normal circumstances this is where it would end, but since they were selfless not letting obstacles prevent them they persisted and persisted and persisted and WALLA – 24 000 dead.
Message, help yes, love yes, but remember other people have brains too, they also have their opinions and even if they differ from yours we have to respect their decisions.
Kiddush was homely and after the guests spoke. One of the memorable points, mentioned by Sydney was that too often we focus on Chilul Hashem – on negative P.R. that we often give ourselves when we don’t act appropriately, but fail to appreciate Kiddush hashem, the good P.R. that we do when we get it right. ”Something we do right at Teleki is creating kidush hashem and we had a great experience so far in Budapest and at Teleki ter” said Sydney and although this is not the exact wording, perhaps not even an accurate retelling of her message, it is a good one nonetheless and better from a guest than myself.
Finally before after eating blessings, Zelig posed a question on the last section of the Parsha. The passage speaks about a quarrel between a son of an Israelite woman and an Israelite man. Rashi informs us that his son converted to Judaism. Among other perplexities of that passage is the problem as to why the need to convert?
Among the answers to the question was;
Maternal lineage began only after the Torah was given, therefore since he was born before the Torah was given, he needed conversion. An alternative explanation is that he did not really convert he just turned his life around from living a life as an Egyptian to that of a Jew.
Whichever solution we prefer, Good Shabbos until next week.