Third Part | The Haftarot of Yamim Nora'im
The Haftarot of Yamim Nora'im
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המופע התקיים בתאריך
6.10.19
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20:00
The Haftarot of Yamim Nora'im
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תמלול אירוע Third Part | The Haftarot of Yamim Nora'im שהתקיים בתאריך 06/10/2019

with Rabbanit Shani Taragin
Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize, we have a slight delay, we’ll start in a few moments, we’re sorry.

Welcome to Beit Avichai, before we start, please turn off your mobile phones.
Gmar Hatima Tova, it is wonderful to be here for the third in the series, as we start in Sefer Yona, first and foremost, we’ll learn the entire book. To hear and internalize the messages of the book, a little bit of a background, every time we learn a story in the Torah, we should appreciate it in its context, whether it’s the period, etc. The title also should be reverberating in our minds and hearts during the reading – flight and fighting. The psychologist Kanon realized, that a reaction within the body makes us able to deal with a danger – an attack. An acute stress response, relates to a physiological reaction to anything that’s terrifying, it can be a mental as a well as a physical threat, or idea. To fight or flight, to run to a safe place, a domain. This is Yona’s tension – should he fight or should he flee? This relates to choices, the choices or our ancestors, the physiological and psychological response relates to should we fight or flight. Not only Yona’s response – but what is his fear, what is he trying to flee from, and why are we going to read about his danger. Perhaps we are facing a similar danger. We’ll be able to appreciate how we can face the greatest day of awe, Yom Hakipurim. Hazal teach us that even though Yona was written by Yona, it was not edited until the second Temple. It is not that the Knesset Gdola men wrote it – they edited it. Why it is part of the Thirteen, prophets that range from Hoshea, 10th century BCE, to Malachi, 7th century BCE. Different messages, styles, periods, still they were canonized together, because Hazal feared they would not be kept or respect. A prospect of canonization, with other prophets. Still, Hazal tell us Yona is different. By the time of the Tanaim, he would be part of the Haftara, it would not be part of the speeches of prophecy, placed in some context, it would be more of a story, a prophecy through the genre of narrative, it is encumbent that we should understand the story. So first who is this prophet, we open up the book and God immediately enjoins him to deliver the prophecy, meant for the people of Ninveh, we find a reference to Yona ben Amitai, in Kings II, we hear of a king who wiped out Ahab. The second Yerovam, he is going to further the division between the Judean and Isrealite monarchies, to ally himself with other nations like Aram, against Ashur. Don’t worry you’re going to expand, succeed. The aramites and Assirians are fighting against each other. He could do it without worrying about his enemies to the East. He tells him, despite the fact that he is terrible, tell him he is going to expand, he does, becomes haughty, although there is another prophet, Amos. Yona’s reaction would be visceral, look what happens when I deliver positive prophecies to bad people, only negative results. Yerovam became only more haughty, led the people into idolatry. Are you going to allow for Tshuva? This is why Hazal teaches us – when God sends him to deliver a potentially positive prophecy to Ninveh, he says not again. Last time the Assyrians came in. Ninveh are Assyrians, why should I allow them to gain an advantage over the people of Israel. He has a premonition that the Ninvehians will repent, and we didn’t – we don’t know how to turn to God? The ideas and messages going to be only more propounded. Yerovam expands his borders at the time. This prophecy he is commanded to deliver, it must be after the establishment of Ninveh, between 745-732. Shalmanazer conquers northern Israel at the time. Ninveh will fall a hundred years thereafter, through the wars of the Chaldeans against the Assyrians. Yona is bothered not only by the rise of the Assyrians. Yona this time is going to be very adamant not only in fleeing but in fighting with God. What is his point. The book begins thus. Hashem tells Yona, get up, go to Ninveh. Evrything in the book is very big, giant, a giant storm, a giant city, a giant fish. Everything is superlative. Big wind. Everything seems to be so big, we wonder whether the story is even realistic. There is a Machloket, exegetical – are we to understand the story literally? Was Yona really swallowed, not devoured, was the Tshuva of the city real, he has this beanstalk, Kikayon. The same God who answered Yona will answer us – so we hope it really happened. Still, the rational Maimonedes explains, that even if you see a prophecy, it is not always meant to be taken literally. R. Kaspi explains, that in this whole story, the whole first part, can be in real life, but it can also happen in Yona’s mind. It could be that Yona saw himself, envisioned the prophecy with him for example, in the stomach of the fish, but it was in his mind. The Ramban explains, that prophecies and their words can be all in the prophet’s mind, and he can invent a story around it, while experiencing it mentally. Does it really make a difference? The message is the same. Still, how am I to picture Yona? Is he frail in the belly of the fish, or is he coming to explain something to us through his prophecy to Ninveh. God asks him to go to the ‘Big City’ of Ninveh. We can see in the pages you have before you a flag of ancient Ninveh, it looks like a house with a fish. It was on the Euphrates, it was viewed as a port city with fish, that was its major commerce. A city, a house of fish. He tries to escape this house, and God will send him to a fish that will become his house. He is supposed to go north and then to the East, God tells him – the people are iniquitous, I am supposed to reform them, he gathers. Yona seems to be obeying – God says get up, but Yona escapes to Tarshish, not just passive resistance, or fleeing, but fighting with God. Fleeing and fighting. The prophecy causes him anxiety. He is frustrated with delivering positive messages to negative people. He is also Ben Amitai, son of truth. To deliver a message of hope to people who constitute an evil city, he says – that’s not true. Yona equates justice with Din, this is truth. He runs to the area of Jaffa, Tarshish, runs from the face of God. What does this mean? We know in these days we ask the face of God, and God is everywhere, an omniscient presence. He is running from a presence of God, from appearing before God, from delivering an accounting of himself before God, in other words, facing God means – you have to face yourself. This is the recurring theme in Yom HaKipurim, we are represented by the high priest, who is ‘before god,’ before the face of God, we are before God as a calibration of how we face ourselves. Yona runs from himself, the mission God has imparted on him, his Tafkid, his mission in life. Yona is the perfect name for this prophet. Yona – the dove, the harbinger, the olive branch is a sign of peace, Yona knows how to deliver messages, to return home, but also – to run away. God says get up, he goes down. God casts a big storm. The boat looked about to break. All the sailors cry to their respective gods, they defenestrate all the various utensils on the ship, Yona is still in his fight and flight, simultaneously, from God. He goes down as far as he can, he lies down and sleeps a deep sleep. He is going the opposite direction, he says – this undermines everything I know about our relationship. The captain says – why are you sleeping, get up, cry out. He representes the voices that remind us of our trajectory, the course of life that is God echoing in our ears. Voices reminding us – get up, cry, maybe your god will answer and we will not be lost. Yona is not answering, he is undermining his essence as a prophet, who is meant to speak, influence his surroundings. The sailors say – our belief system is that it’s all been fated by the stars, let’s see what the lots are trying to teach us, what the gods want. The numerous lotteries, always Yona gets the shorter straw. The sailors say – there must be something fated about your country or nationality, the gods don’t find favor in you. How many words the prophet is going to select in order to leave an impression on these men? Fourteen words. I am a Hebrew, etc. He tries to tell them, it’s all wrong, it’s not about lots, I am a monotheist, if one makes an action, you should fear god if you fail to appease god. I can sin on the dry land and still be punished on the sea, God is the god of land and sea. Don’t you see, you use fourteen words and change these sailors around. Their mindset has been upset by Yona. They realize it might very well be, that there might be some phenomena that aren’t fated, but brought about by men. Yona told then what he did wrong. They’re asking him – what did you do! You say you believe and fear a god, why would you do an action if you are aware of the consequent punishment. Now what are we supposed to do? The waters are still stormy. Yona tell them – throw me into the sea, you are a medium through which I will be punished. He says – this is a suicide attempt, I did something wrong, I deserve to die, but still – so do the people of Ninveh, this is an expression of Din, divine truth. I know it’s because of me, but the sailors refuse to be the intermediaries, they say – they turn to God, and say – if phenomena result from our actions, don’t make us spill his blood, maybe you don’t want him to die. They recognize something Yona does not recognize. If men determine how God responds, they are empowered, but God chooses how to respond. They say – maybe you don’t want him dead, it will be innocent blood. They say – you will do as you will, God. Yona says that the actions of men determine even how God will respond. The sailors recognize – now, God pulls the strings, man evokes a response, but God responds. Now they feel free to throw him overboard, God will do what he wants. They throw him and the sea becomes calm. But actually he is saved. The sailors are full of fear, they sacrifice to God. God now brings a great fish to swallow Yona, and he is there for three days and three nights. We are usually not presented with duration in prophecy, or even in the Torah itself. A certain Pasuk can relate years, etc. Most durations are three days and three nights – Abraham going from Beer-Sheva. We know it does not take this long. Similarly, Yakov fleeing from Asav, the worshipping in the desert, before Pharao pursues us, before Daniel appears before Nebuhadnezer, etc. We don’t know if it’s literal three days, they represent a time of mental deliberation, and perhaps the greatest evidence is here. There is no light, no light to watch to see the passage of the days. When he’s first in the fish he is thinking – yes, I’m supposed to die, God should punish those who go against his will. After a few hours he wonders – maybe God wants me to live, but this will undermine God, if they repent, not only will they continue to do evil, but their evil will have a terrible effect on Am Israel. After three days and nights, in the ‘days of the fish,’ he prays – first he says, I called. Not going up as God told him, but down. He knows now – I will call. God, I figured it out, you really did hear my voice, you interact with men, not only through justice but through mercy. I was cast out, but I continued looking at your face. I will go back to Beit Hamikdash. When he received his Nevuah, must be in a happy state, he seems manic-depressive. He says – I want to go back to the Temple. But he says – we can be anywhere, and see ourselves in the Holy Temple, anywhere. He says – I know why you wanted me. May this prayer, a song of praise, God acts with mercy, he is keeping me alive, to afford me an opportunity, he learns from the pagan sailors that recognize that God can do whatever he wants. His mercy and kindness is also truth, not just justice. The fish regurgitates him. God no says – call out, no questions asked. Sure enough, we hear that Ninveh is a city it takes you three days to walk through, larger than Manhattan, three days – the time for mental deliberation, he goes, not sure of it. But still after this time he gives the shortest prophecy, he selects his words carefully – in forty days the city is overturned. Forty days, as in Sinai, a metamorphosis the great flood, they knew about that in Mesopotamia, to be turned upside down, also in Sodom and Gemorrah, a tale they knew also. As with the sailors, they believe him. Everyone changes their dress to sackcloth. The king also rises, removes his robe, you have to muzzle up yourselves and your animals, no one can eat. Even they have to wear a sackcloth. The Talmud brings a controversy, is this sincere Teshuva, who knows – they are wondering themselves. Whoever can return, return – and maybe this will help. Indeed, it works, God saw that they changed their ways. This message in itself, concerns Yom Hakipurim. Teshuva is all about showing ourselves and thereby showing God that we want to change, it’s about those devices we put in place so that we will be effective in change. The conviction that we can change. The small habitual behavior through which we can change. They changed their clothing, a start. Still, they said they removed their stolen objects, but did not close their Swiss bank accounts. Even if it’s superficial, it works. In Minha time, we also read this. We are wondering, after a long day – is this really working? All these sins, by telling you I regret them, you will trust me I can change this? The answer is yes. Yona sees God not exacting punishment, as his anger is being assuaged, the more His anger is assuaged, Yona’s is going to be aggravated. He says – I take it all back, before I appreciated all your kindness towards me, but here he says – this is my world, our actions determine what happens in this world – why are you changing your response? Fulfilling my destiny means that you are not fulfilling your image I have of God – you are not a God of justice, but only of mercy. He says – now God, I would prefer to die, it’s better than living in this world with a God who is not a God of truth, because he doesn’t exact punishment. God says – really, is this anger good for you? You want to stay with this perception? He leaves the city, he finishes his mental deliberation, leaving “mikedem” the city, a word referencing the departure from paradise. Yona is sure – God will see this is only an ephemeral repentance, meanwhile I will control my environment, build myself a Sukah, and wait. Still, just as with the fish, God provides a Kikayon, a tree, similar to a eucalyptus, a tree which will overgrow him, to show him that God himself controls the world, and that it is good. But still, there is a worm in the tree, and it is eating the roots, and the tree dries out. The worm is better than Yona, it knows its role. Yona is exposed to the sun and is about to die. Now he says – before I couldn’t tolerate the inconsistency
Between judgement and mercy, now – I die for lack of mercy. God does not always act according to Justice, pure and simple. Yona says – I am so angry, I want to die. God says – you’re upset because the tree doesn’t seem to be doing what it should be, but you did not create it, it is ephemeral. You appreciate trees but not human life. You understand the Kikayon has a mission, you feel sorry for it, and I will not feel sorry for Ninveh, there are twelve thousand men, animals who also wore the sackcloth. God tells Yona – you don’t understand what it means to live up to one’s potential. Yes, the Ninveites don’t know right from left, but they have also animals, these deserve to live, they have their function. And the people of Ninveh leave according to their lives, what they are. Yona is fleeing from who he is. He says – truth and mercy goes hand in hand, but no – God determines. The mission is executing your role. Get up and call, we each have this calling, we each have this in the vernacular. Sometimes the captain reminds us, sometimes the king of Ninveh knows how to call. If there is another scene – Yona, the sailors, the captain, and a big fish. All we have to do, is change the customs, from the sailor hats, to a crown to the king. The fish’s costume is changed to the Kikayon. Who is the one who is stubborn? None other than Yona, who teaches us, what it means to sing a song, be a harbinger. We have a story from the later works of the Tanach, each books draws allusion to previous books. Whether it’s allusions from Yoel, to Aliyahu, with the calf, god punishing and not punishing it, seems not consistent with Din. I would like to finish with an allusion that brings us back to Esther, even though allusions are more profound, we see the later work, appreciate the allusions to the earlier work. I would like to undergo a little bit of reversal. Esther expresses this also – should ibe thinking of Esther at the eve of Yom Kipur. The name of Purim, which ultimately began as a daily or a month-long holiday, after the name of the Pur, the lottery, what Haman believed to be fated by the stars, that the Jewish people should be utterly annihilated. They called it Purim – it’s not just about the Pur of Purim, but also Kipurim, the word used in the Torah, it’s Kipurim, we don’t hear about Purim yet. But later – we see there’s Purim, a reference perhaps to Kapara. We ascend to heights through ascetic practices, we try to atone for any sins of physicality, in Purim we do the opposite. We indulge or over-indulge. Even the pleasures of the day are sanctified, on Kipur, we sanctify ourselves through oppression, in Kipur through pleasure. Kipurim is shabat-shabaton, kodesh kodashim, Purim – maybe it’s even greater, if we can appreciate sanctification through physicality. As in Kipurim there is a Sair Laazazel, in Purim – Mishte Haman. In Purim we feast, as before Kipur. These are the two holidays that will never be nullified. These are the two that have so many similarities between them. Perhaps we can appreciate in Yona some traits we didn’t appreciate, after reading Esther. They are in Shoshan, not in Jerusalem. Here too, you have to go to the king’s inner chamber through the women’s quarters – does it remind you of another place? Also, going to the innermost chamber without the allowance of the king, they die –reminds you of another place? Only the priest can go. Haman only enters the outer court. There really is there, we see a model, a harem, then the inner chamber of the king. These are the terminologies we find in the Mikdash – the Ezrat Cohanim, Ezrat Nashim, then Israel. The area he calls the inner court – from there we go to outside of the Temple, these are the terminologies used. What’s that? The outer courtyard. Also in Chapter 40 – it’s the outer courtyard. In Esther, the book wants us to picture Esther nearing the holy of holies. Also – in the belly of the fish, the Temple represents standing before God, no matter where you are, the most intimate and intensive relation to God. You need to realize yourself, you need to learn not to flee from it. Just like in Beit Hamikdash, there is the sacrificial work outside. Esther is going to be the one on the Inside, the priest who will serve in the Kodesh Kodashim, we find there aren’t many times that fate is employed. In the work of Yom Hakipurim, we hear of a lot that the priest is going to be performed before the people. One of them is the Sair La-azazel. A lottery for the distribution of land, etc., and then others –the lots of Yona, that fall on him consistently, and the pur in Purim. The Goral reminds us of the Sair Lahashem, the other Sair La-azazel. Will the Jewish people be annihilated like the goat for Azazel, or will we survive for another year with God. Here too, a fast of three days is recommended to the people, like the people of Ninveh, will this enable us to survive? Whether it’s the lot of Haman, as opposed to lots before God. Haman is also standing before God, there may be some kind of pre-determined fate, but the stories of the Torah tell us, that God provides us the power to stand before it. As such, let’s see how Esther is built off the story of Yona. She too is going to run to Tarshisha from before God. Yona says –I don’t want to deliver positive message to those who don’t deserve it. The fates are trying to give him a message, the captain tells him – get up, call out to the people of Ninveh, fulfill your mission. It will be much better, just kill me off. The sailors fear this, and then – the people of Ninveh, they say – we can change our ways, we can do this, change our behavior, albeit superficially, through baby steps of continual change. Yonah prays three days and three nights. He can also stand before God, which does not mean he believes the fish is going to spew him out in the Temple courtroom, but he can see a reflection of the Yonah he wants to be, can be. God says – I’m not just giving the people of Ninveh. They fast, put on their sackcloth, they are showing they are changing their ways – I will allow them to return, they can be so much more. Yonah knows god is not going to destroy them. Esther is built on the same escape from God. Mordechai knows the people deserve destruction. But he is doing the exact same thing. He goes to Esther, look – I can change, look, Esther, you can do it too. After the Jews were already engaged in mourning, as in Yonah. Esther wonders –what’s going on, why are you changing your minister clothing? The queen says –don’t change your designer wardrobe, but Mordechai doesn’t accept it – you have to live up to your destiny. But she says – I have not been called, he hasn’t called me for thirty days. Mordechai says – didn’t you learn nothing from Yonah? Don’t escape, don’t flee, don’t fight against what you’re supposed to do. God has this plan, he’s not going to destroy the Jewish people. I’m worried about your destiny, I’m not going to see you flee, if you flee, you flee for good, and your parents’ legacy will be lost. I’m your captain, I’m the one telling you – get up and call, maybe this is your destiny. Esther says o.k., I’ll do what I’m supposed to do, but give me the three days of mental deliberation, allow me to reach that state of conviction on my own, and then –just like Yona she stands before the Holy Hall, she says in the King’s Court, before God. She appears like the priest, before the high king. She is not there, as in Kipur, she is rather before the King of Shushan, but one is always standing up and undergoing a state of introspection, before God, who am I? Face to face with God. You see my face because I am seeking your face. When we ask God – look and tell us our mission. Esther stands at the entrance. The king says wow, he lifts up the scepter, he says – you know who you are, come in. I’ll give you anything you want. Once you come to me, show me you are living up to who you are supposed to live up to, I’ll open up to you. She says – I want to spend time with you, and Haman, I see what it means to enter the inner court, I see I will always be deliberating between Haman and the king. Now that you understand to stand in front of me, what do you want? Once we realize what it means to stand, before what God intended for us, what our destiny truly is, we want another year – please God give us another year, more time, give us more time to realize what we’re supposed to do, to save the people we’re supposed to save. When Mordechai comes out, Haman is full of rage. Yona wishes to be the sacrificial lamb – he tries to foil god’s plan. He says – I don’t want to live in this world of incongruity. But God says –I will save all those before the face of God. This relates particularly to Esther, who recognizes what it means to stand there, etc. The fleeing and the fighting. I am going to do something, to feast, indulge, and the fasting. The truth is we’re supposed to do both before God, both are means of salvation, to say we got the message. Though we are supposed to impress ourselves, if you feast on the ninth. We should feast on the ninth, because we should feast on the tenth, it’s a day like Purim –we can elevate the physical, but we don’t. Although Kipur is not a Yom Tov, but still, a day not of joy, but of Mikra Kodesh, the joy will be borrowed from the 9th day. The Ta-Anit, when we feast the day before, we feast on the 9th, we know that like Esther and Yona we are going to stand before God. When we recognize what we are supposed to do. We can go 25 hours without eating a sandwich, we are standing before God, we are confident on the 9th, we can already be happy with that, we know we have 25 hours of standing before God, when we ask ourselves who are we supposed to be. We read this right before the day closes, before we go back, all the preparations for the holiday, we recognize we have these few hours, when we can return to our destiny. Rambam says – first do as the sailors and the people of Ninveh, cry, fast, then – change your name. What does he mean? Not that god won’t know who you are, it’s not only a quicker repentance method – it means – the Shani who spoke Lashon HaRa yesterday is not the real Shani. Now I have an opportunity when I stand before God. I just have to surrender to it, to recognize that that’s a part of what I’m supposed to be doing. To know the easiest path of Tshuva. If man returns to himself. Don’t flee, it’s a shame – go and be the harbinger, inspire, go back to the Temple, the Belly, Ninveh, the source, go to the root of it all, figure yourselves out, now we are three days before Yom Hakipurim, now we anticipate standing before God, to walk upwards in purity. Returning to oneself in returning to one’s destiny. Fishman’s beautiful poem, Yona, you say you flee from God – but you flee only from yourself. Where can man flee? Expansive land, isles, no refuge there. Suffering seer, to flee from God? Forget about Tarshish, the vices. Love, suffer, prophesy. After hearing this story, after we remember that the sailors, his foils, the people of Ninveh, after we see that God tells us how to be the best we we can be, it’s our task to prophesy, to be ourselves, wherever we see god. Gmar Hatima Tova.


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with Rabbanit Shani Taragin
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