Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Vessels of conversation

After concluding prayers at the YHSTC Minyan this morning an interesting discussion began to brew. I was still in the middle of my personal devotions, so I missed the the beginning, but I'm happy (I won't vouch for anyone else) to report that I nevertheless contributed a new understanding to the issue under consideration. I will now try to recreate the conversation for your edification.

RMF: Who was learning in the Beis Medrash that Yehuda set up for the children of Israel before they were enslaved in Egypt?
TRS: The Levites. Instead of helping their brethren who were slaving away, they stayed inside and learned Torah, much like the Chareidim of today who refuse to serve in the army or get normal jobs.
RM: What were they learning? The Torah had yet to be given.
TRS: Sefer Yetzirah, written by Adam, the first man.
RM: Really? The whole day?
TRS: What else did they have to learn? And anyway, what's wrong with learning it the whole day? It's a big book.
RM: I've tried learning the Sefer Yetzirah, and believe you me, if you learn it for more than an hour, you go crazy.
TRS: Exactly. And now we understand why the Egyptians put the Jews to work. They weren't trying to enslave them, they were just trying to help all these insane people do something productive. The same thing is done in our times too: in prisons, homes for the blind, and I'm sure in mental asylums also. The Jews were just ungrateful.

In the interests of full disclosure, I am forced to say that in truth I assume that the Jews just learned the Torah. If Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could keep the Mitzvos without having been at Mount Sinai (unless there was some really weird time warp shtuff going on there), then why couldn't they learn Torah all day also? Sure, they probably learned Sefer Yetzirah also sometimes, but that was just for fun.

A bit later another question was asked, and I had to give the standard answer, since I couldn't think of a funny one. Why did the Jews have to eat milk after the giving of the Torah? Why couldn't they Shecht some cows and beef out? The answer is that their keilim, their vessels, were not Kosher. Why not? Because they had been used for non-Kosher meat. Why was the meat not-Kosher? Because the people who slaughtered it weren't Jewish. Why were they not Jewish? Because the Torah had not been given. Put it this way: If you went back in time to visit Moses before the giving of the Torah, you wouldn't eat in his house.

I now have a question for all of you, my faithful readers. The Rebbe asks the following question in a Sicha: Why does the Siman in Shulchan Oruch dealing with the laws of Shavuos not have its own heading? Why does it come under the laws of Pesach? The Alter Rebbe even finishes off his treatment of these laws by proclaiming, "This concludes the laws of Pesach". As far as I recall, the Rebbe begins by saying that we can't answer that the reason is because there are very few laws, because other subjects with an equally small number of laws do get their own section. The real answer is that Pesach and Shavuos are intrinsically connected. How? That's what I don't recall. My real problem is that I can't remember where the Sicha is, and I'd surely appreciate if anyone has any information that can lead to its arrest.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mister R. Shliach,

You have shed light on a question which has bothered me for many years: what were the Levites doing in Egypt. Moreover, your humorous description of the Egyptians' actions brought a chuckle to my lips. Most of all I liked your unique and inimitable way of relating the kashrus issues that were part and parcel with the acceptance of the Torah. The question of eating in Moses house before the Sinaitic Reveleation is reminiscent of the many other paradoxes inherent in backward time travel, which tease our understanding of causality. I.e. what makes an animal kosher and what makes one thing precede another. Yours as always, Leo d. Toot

Nemo said...

From my shaky memory of the Rebbe's Torah:

1. Shavuous is inherently connected to Pesach because it is set 50 days FROM PESACH and doesn't have it's own date mentioned in the Torah.

2. What Shmini Atzeres is to Sukkos (two distinctly separate holidays, right), Shavuos is to Pesach: it is the culmination of the holiday.

e said...

I remember reading "The Medrash Says" that the Israelites had the Book of Genesis to study. I later tried finding it, but could not. Maybe I just imagined that I saw it.

Anonymous said...

Shavuot and Shmini atzeret are both called "atzeret," milashon klita. They both allow us to be kolet (absorb, or something like that) the spiritual light of the preceding holiday.

Just like a guy said...

good thoughts all...now if only someone had a source...oh well, you can't always have what you want when you want it

Anonymous said...


(wink wink)

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. R. Shliach:

There is an IMPOSTER in the ranks. The first of these comments is NOT written by the original Leo de Toot. While the comment is interesting, this is a clear case of misrepresentation and deceit. Hopefully your correspondent will realize the evils of wrongful attribution and in future write under their own identity. Disgustedly yours, LdT.

Anonymous said...

To the real LdT

I just could not resist the temptation to imitate your inimitable style. I was also wondering if TRS himself would catch on. I hope you aren't insulted or offended by my unauthorized usage of your pseudonym.

The Imposter

Anonymous said...

Dear "Imposter" - the fact that you have a sense of humor goes a long way to redeeming you. I have to admit that you almost, but not quite, captured the unique de Toot style. Almost all is forgiven, The Real de Toot.

Just like a guy said...

Well, I'm glad to see that everyone's made up now. Check back later for a new post about cheese.