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April 22nd, 2005


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05:24 am - half of the cleanup tasks

Haggadah class X
"If He had brought us to Mt. Sinai but not given us the Torah, Diyanu"
What's the conversation around diyanu where we say effectively, f we didn't have certain things, it would be okay. It's a very challenging concept.
They say in Chassidus, that you shouldn't stop in the middle of Diyanu. Go straight through it. Don't talk about it until it's complete. Don’t break it up.
Our discussion focuses on the picked the most complicated paragraph of the Diyanu, Mt. Sinai. Some of these other ones go heart of Judaism, for example, if we don't get the Torah, we aren't Jews. Period.
But Mt. Sinai? It’s a mountain. Why do we care about being in front of Mt. Sinai if we don't get the Torah? Why would we ever say about Mt. Sinai, “that’s good enough for me?” It's pretty unspectacular. That next line is "given Torah without the land of Israel." It’s also problematic, but slightly less so. Can you imagine being Jewish for 2,000 years without the Torah?
There's a Midrash (in Midrash Rabba) about why G-d waited 49 days between the Exodus and giving the Torah. "the King's son recovers from the illness. They say to him, "Let him go to school," and the King says, let them relax for 2 or 3 months and regain his strength and splendor, then he'll go back to school....and so with G-d...let them relax for two or three months with the manna, the well, and the quail, and afterwards..."
Similarly, Midrash Tanchuma (different author) brings slightly different language "We will wait until his spirit returns to him...So too, when Israel left...there were those amoung them blemished by bondage."
The difference between a physical and a spiritual healing is highlighted by the difference of opinions in these Midrashim.
The Abarbanel Haggadah brings a generally accepted interperation, it doesn't mean we could have done without the Torah, it says, he didn't have to speak the 10 commandments personally, if they'd been said by Moses, it would have been fine. Considering the spiritual attainments of the Jewish people at that time, the Torah being given by Moses would have been apppropriate, but Hashem wanted to give His people even more than they were worthy of. The majority of commentaries follow this.
Another idea, derived from Rabbi Akiva is that we didn't have to receive the entire Torah, G-d could have given us a subset of commands such as the laws of Noah.
We currently function at about 50 Mitzvot (positive commandments). Maybe G-d could have made a religion that functioned on those 50.
The diyanu was added during the Goanim period (900-1000 years ago), based on a Midrash of R. Akiva where he said, "We're blessed to have this...that...etc.), and the RAMBAM doesn't include it in his Haggdah since it's not from Talmud, although his son in one of his letters, said that he did say it at his Seder.
The Gemorah says in Eruvin from the verse in Kohelet "Who teaches us through animals of the land and makes us wise through birds of the sky" It goes through a set of moral lessons learned from animals, "like a mule to crouches when urinated" (modesty in personal care), through the birds of the sky, "like a rooster which first appeases it's mate than has relations with it." (does not force itself on its partner),
We would have had basic standards of behaviours by watching the animals and behaving in ways that embodied ethics as illustrated by the animal kingdom. The Talmud goes through a few more examples, such as committed life partnerships from the dove; or modesty from the cat, the cat goes and hides its business. Ants do not commit theft. etc.
In principle, the basis of ethics is not derived from religion, but rather it is encoded into the fabric of the universe and manifests itself in nature.
If we didn't have the Torah, we could have created a way of life by simply believing in G-d (loving, fearing, and believing), and following the moral laws of the universe.
This is exactly what the responsibility of the non-Jew is, for example, so clearly it's enough to build a good life on.
The only difference between the Jews and non-Jews is the Torah, and the action of G-d's choosing.
The first law in Joseph Cairo is "Be as powerful as the lion" wake up the morning with exuberance, don't be lazy. Be energized. Look forward to the next day with an urge to conquer.
In Talmud Nedarim it proposes that a characteristic of shame restricts people from sinning.
Anyone who is bashful to does not readily sin. And it goes on to say, that if someone doesn't not have the characteristic of shame, it is known that his father did not stand at Mt. Sinai.
Anyone who stood out Mt. Sinai and experienced revealed G-dliness, was touched for all life, through the generation. It redefined us as humble people. It gave us a sense that there was something beyond us that if we strived for it, we could be better people.
In Talmud chapter Sotah we learn that a person should learn to love lowliness from the sensibility of the creator. G-d choose a mountain that was humble, not the tallest mountain, it's a small mountain. And when He first communicated with Moses, he also used a lowly humble plant, a thornbush, rather than a tall, strong tree.
This furthers the idea that a moral and humble life, without the full splendor of Torah might have been enough.
The relationship that G-d has with the world is based on the nature of universe: to be a good person and to learn good morality.
In Deut. Parshat V'etchannan Chapter 5: 21 "And you said, 'Behold Hashem our G-d has shown us his glory and his greatness and we heard his voice from amidst the fire; this day we saw that Hashem will speak to a person."
This shows that there was something even before G-d spoke to the Jews, that they saw his glory and his greatness even before they heard his voice. The Jewish people were connecting to G-d.
Talmud in Shabbos "we will do and we will listen," which was a huge compliment; because they were willing to do whatever he asked, even without hearing it. And it says that sixty myriads of ministering angels came to each Jews and tied two crowns on them, one for doing and one for listening, but when they sinned with the golden calf one hundred and twenty myriads of angels removed the crowns.
In the Rosh Hashana musaf it says, "You revealed yourself in a cloud of glory to speak with them" there's a revelation of G-d, which leads up to the speaking. (Atah Niglayta)
That revelation before the speaking could have been enough to give us the fundamental relationship with G-d and bind us as a nation.
R. Levi Yitzkah Barditchev says our sages teach that Abraham fulfilled the entire Torah before it was given. He had refined himself to the point where he could grasp the Mitzvot even before G-d commanded them. Similarly, at Mt. Sinai the people were cleansed and on the same level as Adam in the Garden of Eden.
Abraham didn't do the Mitzvot, per say, but he grasped them on a deep level and had an insight that allowed him to touch the inner core of the Mitzvot. At Mt. Sinai the Jews attained that level, but there's no way to translate that spiritual insight to the physical level. They can see the spirituality in the actions, such as lighting a candle on Friday night, but they can't translate it into the physical world. The only one who can take a spiritual truth and define it in a physical world is G-d. Abraham sat around and had spiritual insights, meditated and prayed to G-d, and that was sufficient for him. At Mt. Sinai we had that same revelation and we saw the spiritual truths, and the G-d gave us physical mitzvot which is how G-d descends into creation and the physical world. So the Jews rose up to see the spiritual world, but they had no ability to translate that the feeling into action. G-d comes out of the clouds on the mountain to give us a physical element that allows us to connect through actions.
If He would have brought us to Mt. Sinai and left us with that spiritual truth, that would have been okay, but G-d chose a different path that gave us Torah and the physicality.
The two Midrashim at the beginning focus on the revelation of spiritual truth and physical truth.
Midrash Rabba speaks about giving satisfying physical needs prior to giving of the Torah. G-d provides for the physical needs and shows that there is a relationship on the physical level and that they can cleave on a
physical level.
The other Midrash talks about the spiritual elevation that provides a connection to G-d without doing a thing, simply by understanding and experiencing the Torah and mitzvot on a strictly spiritual level.
For the Jew, they must have both; the spiritual elements and the physical elements.
The Rebbe (MMS) explained that the Jews came before Mt. Sinai "as one man with one heart". This attitude of oneness and love for one's fellow Jew is "the entire Torah"
In principle, you can envision a religion that the only uniqueness is that people are united. Don't talk about ritualistically bonding people, it's the unity of the souls that bond people and the you brought us to Mt. Sinai and simply allowed us to bond as one soul, that would have been enough to carry us as a people.
The love that we need to have for each other needs to be based on the love that is shared by our unified souls.
That is why Mt. Sinai would have been enough.
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