Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement
Have a wonderful and meaningful Shavout--I hope the articles below add to that meaning. There will be many places to learn on Shavout. Some of the other sites do a reporting on places better than I, so check their sites. The goal is to get close to G-d.
Love Yehuda Lave
How Shavuot and its parallel facets of meaning represent the intertwining of God's omnipotence with man's free will.
The Jewish holidays have many facets of meaning that run parallel to each other. Historically, Passover celebrates the formation of the Jewish people, Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah, and Sukkot celebrates the journey of the Jewish people through the desert on the way to the Land of Israel.
The Torah also allocates a specific point in the agricultural cycle for each holiday. Passover is the sprouting of the grain, Shavuot is the cutting of the crop, and Sukkot is the gathering in of the crop.
There are also names of various mitzvot (commandments) associated with each holiday. Passover is the festival of matzot, Sukkot is the festival of dwelling in the sukkah huts, and Shavuot is the festival of bringing an offering of our first fruits (bikkurim) to God.
The various parallels of Passover and Sukkot are not difficult to match up. Passover is the naissance of the Jewish people, and as such it is the blossoming of the crop. Sukkot is the destiny of the Jewish nation marching towards the Land of Israel, their final destination. As such it parallels the final ingathering of the grain to its 'home', i.e. the silo.
But the parallels of Shavuot don't seem to match up. How does the agricultural midpoint of "cutting the grain" correspond to the giving of the Torah? Where's the parallel? And what unique quality exists in the act of "cutting the grain" that makes it a suitable metaphor for Shavuot?
To understand the unique quality of this moment in the agricultural cycle, we must touch on the theological issue of God's omnipotence and man's free will.
Judaism demands from us both a very strong sense of personal accountability and at the same time an acknowledgment of God's totality. We are enjoined to do good as if it all depended on us, yet we pray to God with a sense of utter human frailty. We must push ourselves to the utmost, but never lose sight of the omnipotent God.
If man were to live with only a sense of God's omnipotence, he would shirk his duties, adopting a fatalistic attitude of "what's the point of it all", and accomplish naught. If on the other hand he were to only see his own endowed capabilities, he could become arrogant and selfish. What usually happens is that we end up tilting emotionally towards one perspective or the other, depending on the particular circumstances.
This paradox is one of the great theological issues, namely free will vs. Divine omniscience. Which ever way we choose to answer this intellectually, on the practical level we live with both understandings as being true, each utilized in its proper application.
This division of duties -– of assuming the mantle of responsibility while simultaneously believing everything is from God -- expresses itself most blatantly during the agricultural growth cycle. From when the seed is first planted until it is cut, it is God who is solely involved in its development. The act of "cutting the grain" then begins man's role in processing it: threshing, winnowing, sifting, grinding etc. He is the one whose action converts it into edible food.
At that critical junction of putting the scythe to the stalk, the grain moves from the domain of God's providence into the realm of human responsibility and capability.
A similar bridge between two domains expresses itself at the moment of the giving of the Torah. Before the Torah was brought down from the heavens, the world was the mirror of God, who was the sole Creator and Master. It has been pointed out that the number of generations from the beginning of the world until the giving of the Torah is 26, which is the numerical value of God's ineffable name, connoting that all those generations lived only as an expression of God's benevolence. They did not have a clear mission which would define them as self-deserving of existence.
However, once the Torah was given to the Jewish people, man is charged with a mission. He is responsible for the keeping of the Torah and enacting its moral code. It is up to him to build or destroy the world.
Even at Creation there is a hint of man's role to come. The sixth day of creation is written in a way that hints at the sixth day of Sivan when the Torah will be given. The rabbis teach us that God's creation of the world was conditional on man's future acceptance of the Torah. It may have all been God's doing, but it depended on man as its raison d'etre.
This intertwining of God and man is true with regard to all moral accomplishments, but most strongly brought home by Torah study itself. Nothing is closer to a person's sense of self than his faculties of reason and comprehension. Yet when we study Torah we need to be fully aware of the two truths, simultaneously. We cannot be said to be studying God's word unless we are firmly convinced and believe that the ideas we struggle to understand are God's Divine wisdom. Yet, if we do not fully comprehend them with our own mind and understand it with our words and our mind, we have also not fulfilled our obligation for Torah study. If Gods words have not genuinely become our own words, we have yet to receive the Torah.
This, then, is the magnificent holiday of Shavuot. It is the day that God passes the Torah to man, so to speak, and man becomes the bearer of responsibility for the world. The world rises or falls on the weight of man's accomplishments, instead of the sheer benevolence of the Almighty. This is why the cutting of the crop is chosen as the precise moment to mark Shavuot. We are holding in one hand the stalk of God's bounty, and in the other hand the scythe of human endeavor.
Furthermore, God has given us the opportunity to be a part of His wisdom so that the same idea belongs to both God and man, at one and the same time.
How appropriate that this is the holiday we would bring the first fruits to God when we had the Temple. While the fruit is still growing, it is obvious to all that it was in God's hands; there is no need to demonstrate our awareness at this point that our bounty is a gift from the Almighty. If we were to wait much longer after the harvest, we would likely have gotten used to the notion that it is 'ours' and thanking God would be belated and perfunctory.
It is at the precise moment of laying a scythe to the crop –- at "the cutting of the grain" -- that we stand at the nexus of these two forces and are able to correctly convey our gratitude. We recognize man's responsibility and God's benevolence at one and the same time and genuinely acknowledge that even that which is the fruit of man's labor is ultimately God's.
Let us then celebrate the night of study on Shavuot in the spirit that it was given. We will study Torah with the imperative that only we have the ability to know right from wrong, and if we will not set the world right no one else can. And let us study the words of the Torah with the appropriate humility that all our intellectual struggles are there but to understand a sliver of God's infinite wisdom.
Resources for Shavuot on Sunday by Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz
It is our great pleasure to introduce you to Sandra Lilienthal, our new Education Director here at the Global Day of Jewish Learning. You may already recognize her from teaching as part of ON AIR, and from her contributions to the Global Day curriculum.
Shavuot is the sixth of Sivan, this Saturday night and Sunday. There is an ancient tradition to stay up all night learning Torah Shavuot night, and Jerusalemites of all religious affiliations have re-adopted the tradition in recent years. Not only do shuls and yeshivot host learning all night, but so do community centers, pubs, and tech co-working spaces. It is amazing to experience a holiday that calls EVERYONE to find their own sort of connection to the Hebrew bible.
Almost every synagogue in the city has some sort of programming. If you don't see yours on the list below, consult it directly.
Shavuot Shavuos: The Mountain of Many Names ~ Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein
We are all probably familiar with the name of the site of the greatest mass revelation of G-d's existence—Mount Sinai. However, throughout the Bible that place is variously mentioned under other names. These names include "Mountain of G-d", "Mount Bashan", "Mount Gavnunim" (Psalms 68:16), "Mount Hemed" (Psalms 68:17), and "Mount Horeb" )Exodus 33:6). Various Midrashic sources offer different interpretations of how all of these terms refer to one mountain and in the following paragraphs we will explore some of those ideas and how they relate to the holiday of Shavuot.
The mountain is called Har ha-Elokim, "Mountain of God," because that is where the Jewish people accepted upon themselves the Godhood of the Creator. Additionally, of all the potential mountains on which God may have revealed His glory, Mount Sinai was the most fitting because it had never been previously worshipped by idolaters, while other mountains were, in fact, deified by such people. Moreover, the term Elokim ("Almighty") as opposed to the Tetragrammaton implies G-d's trait of judgement, an allusion to the fact that on Mount Sinai, He assumed the role of a "judge" in revealing to the Jewish People all the civil laws of the Torah (i.e. from Exodus 21 and onwards).
Mount Sinai is called Mount Bashan because the name Bashan is a portmanteau of the phrase ba sham ("He came there"), as the commentaries point out that the constants n and m are so similar that they are sometimes interchangeable. This phrase speaking about His "arrival" refers to G-d's arrival at the mountain in anticipation of giving the Torah. Alternatively, the word Bashan is an abbreviation of the word bi-shinav ("with his teeth") and alludes to the fact that everything which the Jewish people enjoy "with their teeth" (i.e. all material success, typified by agricultural fecundity) is in the merit of their adherence to the Torah.
The name Mount Gavnunim is related to the Hebrew word giben (Leviticus 21:20) which is a blemish that disqualifies a Kohen from service in the Temple (in specific, it refers to abnormally long eyebrows). This is similar to Mount Sinai whose cleanness from idolatry "disqualified" all the other mountains by contrast, rendering them unfit for the giving of the Torah. Alternatively, the Midrash explains that the homiletic similarity between the name Gavnunim and the Hebrew word gevinah (cheese) recalls the fact that at the Sinaitic Revelation, all Jews who suffered any ailment or handicap were miraculously healed. Just as cheese is made by separating the most pristine curds of milk from any impurities (i.e. whey), so were the Jewish people at Mount Sinai in their purest state and nobody had any physical blemishes. Interestingly, some explain that the custom to eat dairy foods on Shavuot is related to Mount Sinai's alternate name and its comparison to cheese.
Mount Hemed (HarChemed in Hebrew) is another name for Mount Sinai because G-d desired (chemdah) to dwell His presence upon that mountain in specific. It is also called Mount Horeb (HarChorev in Hebrew) in allusion to the word cherev ("sword") and refers to the fact that the Sanhedrin received its right to implement capital punishment from the Torah received at Sinai. Of course, the mountain's most popular name is Mount Sinai. This alludes to the fact that from that place comes "hatred" (sinah). Opposition to the Jewish people (i.e. "anti-Semitism") stems from a deep hatred and resistance to the Torah and its values. That antinomian attitude began as opposition to the Jews' cosmic role assumed at Mount Sinai.
Finally, some versions of the Midrash say that Mount Moriah is another name for Mount Sinai. The Zohar famously explains that Mount Moriah is called so because of the abundance of sweet-smelling Myrrh that is there. This is somewhat problematic because Mount Moriah is understood to be the place upon which the Holy Temple was built—in Jerusalem, not in the Sinai desert! Indeed, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi (1075–1141), the famous poet and author of TheKuzari, writes in his song Yom Shabbaton, "He spoke through His holiness on the Mountain of Myrrh/You shall remember and guard the Seventh Day". By writing that the commandments to observe the Sabbath were given on the Mountain of Myrrh, he also implies that Mount Moriah is the same as Mount Sinai. The simplest way of resolving this issue is that there are two different mountains which are both named Moriah. However, some of the most prominent Ashkenazi Kabbalists such as Rabbi Berachiah Baruch Shapiro (d. 1663) and Rabbi Naftali Katz (1649–1718) explain that Moriah and Sinai are actually the same mountain, and when G-d gave the Torah in the Sinai Wilderness, He uprooted the mountain from its regular place in Jerusalem and brought it to the wilderness, only to return it afterwards.
ISRAELI COLON CANCER RESEARCH COULD DOUBLE PATIENTS' LIFE EXPECTANCY
Israeli Prof. Dan Aderka's research settled a decade-long controversy surrounding the medicinal regimen for Colorectal Cancer patients.BY ALON EINHORN
Research conducted by Prof. Dan Aderka from Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer found that various combinations of biological medicine and chemotherapy, depending on the type of tumor, affect the life expectancy of Colorectal Cancer (CRC) patients, according to an Israel Hayom report.
Colorectal Cancer is also known as bowel cancer and colon cancer.
The study resolves a decade-long controversy over the treatment of a third (35%) of metastatic CRC patients, patients whose tumor contains receptors of EGFR (Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor).
The controversy in question surrounded the difference between medicinal regimens for CRC used with the chemotherapy treatment. The main difference had been whether to use Avastin first and then Erbitux, or the other way around. Earlier research conducted showed conflicting results for each approach.
Aderka conducted his research at the Oncology wing at Sheba along with fellow associates from abroad. The research had also been published at The Lancet Oncology, among the world's oldest, most prestigious and best known general medical journals, according to the Population Media Center.
Prof. Aderka's research settled the argument and showed that the different use of medicines directly affects the life expectancy for CRC patients.
The research conducted on patients with an incurable tumor, classified the patients into four different groups according to their type of tumor.
In one of the focus groups, the use of Avastin along with chemotherapy increased the patients' life expectancy by an average of 21 months, whereas the use of Erbitox, applied with the same chemotherapy treatment, increased the life expectancy by an average of 40 months.
A research group with a different type of CRC tumor showed that the use of Avastin increased the life expectancy of those patients by an average of 22 months, whereas consummation of Erbitox only increased their life expectancy by an average of 11 months.
"The different results obtained with the same biological material for the same type of tumor stemmed from the simultaneous combination of various chemotherapy drugs: in one study, the chemotherapy worked together with the biological drugs against the tumor, while in the other the chemical stimulated the secretion of substances that neutralized biological activity, which reduced its effectiveness," Aderka told Israel Hayom.
"For years, we did not know how to maximize the potential of the drugs, and we did not care with which of the two biological drugs we started the treatment. We thought that applying one treatment was suitable for all patients," Aderka explained. "If the right combination of drugs was applied, the patient's life expectancy would be extended. Whereas if another combination had been used – his life expectancy would not be extended. In one case, we even observed that a combination of a biological drug and chemotherapy in one of the tumor types reduces the effectiveness of the biological drug and not the other way around, as we have thought for years."
Aderka is the head of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Service at Sheba and a chief specialist in the field of digestive system oncology. He is the member of the Israeli Association of Clinical Oncology and Radiotherapy (ISCORT), the American Society of Oncology (ASCO) and the European Oncology Society (ESMO).
Gorgeous Mama Tiger and Cubs Take a Drink
Slaughter, bris milah bans put European Jews on defensive
A dark shadow hung over the biannual convention of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) which took place in Antwerp, Belgium over the weekend. Rabbis from across Europe, as well as senior Israeli rabbis, gathered for the 31st time to discuss and debate the pressing issues facing European Jewry.
But this year, Flanders, the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium, banned kosher slaughter, joining five European countries where slaughter is already banned. Proposals to ban non-medical circumcision are also being examined in several countries, and European Jews beholden to Jewish law (halacha) are feeling increasingly under attack, all while anti-Semitism is already pulling out the rug from under their feet.
"We must recognize the harsh statement by European society toward us," the conference's president Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt told Ynet. "They are telling us that if you Jews want to remain here among us, you must stop being Jewish... The concern over Muslim immigration brought about the bans on circumcision and kosher slaughter. They do it so that Muslims will leave Europe, but on the way, they forgot that it harms Jews as well."
During a discussion about the issue, British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, German parliamentarian Marcos Grobel — who deals with matters concerning freedom of religion — and Katharina Von Schneider, the European Coordinator on combating anti-Semitism, were present.
The latter argued that the controversial laws are not anti-Semitic: "They make Jews' lives harder but it is clear to all that freedom of religion is very important to us," she said. "These laws were not written to remove the Jews from Europe; Europe without its Jews will be an entirely different continent. On the other hand, we have a constitution and the law was approved by 28 nations and like any other law, the moment it is passed, kosher slaughter becomes illegal, unless the country in which it takes place authorizes it," Von Schnurbein said.
Rabbi Goldschmidt does not agree with Von Schnurbein, asserting that the issue has little to do with animal slaughter itself and more to do with controlling religion. "Our job is to advance the religion and not defend it in places where they think that Google is God," he said. [YNET]
Natan Sharansky turned to me last night. We talked as he was making his way to Pardes Chana, for the funeral of Hillel Butman, who passed away at the age of 87. "Hillel was the first, before the rest of us", he told me. "Already in 1966, a year before the Six Day War, he founded the Zionist Youth Movement of Leningrad. Who thought about Zionism back then, before 1967? It was very rare. He established an underground organization, taught Hebrew and literature and Judaism, established secret 'Ulpanim' in which the young people met, and he tried to scream to the world the cry of the Jews of Russia, who wanted to go home, to Israel. Dozens of people, and then hundreds of people, and then thousands of people got carried away by this movement. Later, he was one of the organizers of 'Operation Wedding', the valiant attempt to hijack a plane and go out to freedom. Later on, I sat in the prison cell adjacent to his. We used to talk through the toilet bowl. He taught me how to be a prisoner and he used to pass notes to me, clandestinely. I remember that one of his daughters was born when he was in prison, and her name was Geula (redemption), expressing his hope for redemption. When he was released from prison together with his cell-mate, Prisoner of Zion Rabbi Yosef Mendelevitch, they handed me the scepter (the leadership role) in a certain sense, but in fact, if to think big - Butman handed the scepter to our entire generation, and then to Yulie Edelstein's generation, and to the whole glorious movement of Russian Jewry. The first spark of the silent Jewry, even before the Six Day War - was him. I think that we are not familiar enough with figures like him, and tonight, when he passed away, it is important for me that people should know about him.