Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Archive for May 8th, 2009|Daily archive page

Teaching the Maharal of Prague is Wondrous…

In DIvine Presence, Guests, Maharal, Talmud on May 8, 2009 at 1:30 pm

…Nobody, and I mean nobody unpacks, examines, and elucidates like the man who is said to have made the Golem. It is stated in the Talmud that:

Welcoming guests is greater than receiving the Divine presence

This statement follows a Mishnah which determines that one is allowed to move heavy objects on Shabbat for two reasons: Because of guests, and to make room for people to study. One opinion ascertains that receiving guests must be a greater mitzvah than accomodating scholars. How do we know this? The prooftext that is brougt is the Biblical passage where Abraham leaves a visitation from God to greet three strangers. Listen to the Maharal on this passage:

Rising early to study Torah is the way we honor Torah, but when you welcome a guest it is tantamount to honoring God Himself. For when one brings a guest into his home and honors him because he was created in the image of God, then it is considered as if he is honoring the Divine presence Herself which is greater than honoring the Torah, and that is why the statement “Beloved are humans for they are created in the image of God” is mentioned first and only then mentions Israel and the Torah.

So eloquently and succinctly rendered and hundreds of years before Buber’s I and Thou. The Maharal has more to say, and it is worth the effort. Click here.


The Festival of Second Chances, Pesach Sheni falls on Friday, May 8th…

In Pesach Sheni, second chances on May 8, 2009 at 3:04 am

…or more accurately, the 14th of the Jewish month of Iyar. It also happens to be my birthday, and the birthday of my son Shraga Faivel. Pesach Sheni originated because the children of Israel who were far away, or were impure had managed to miss the Pesach sacrificial meal They wanted a second chance, and Moses was counseled by God to give it to them.

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelite people, saying: When any of you or of your posterity who are defiled by a corpse or are on a long journey would offer a passover sacrifice to the LORD, they shall offer it in the second month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, (Numbers Chapter 9)

To remember this second chance, there is a custom to eat Matza on Pesach Sheni, and some communities omit prayers that are considered inappropriate on happy days. But for most of us Pesach Sheni usually passes unnoticed.

I propose that it should be the Jewish holy day of second chances. The day of do overs. Just as God gave those Jews a second chance to fulfill the Pesach sacrifice, so, too, we should give others, and ourselves, a second chance, or at least the benefit of the doubt–a Jewish day of reconciliation.

It was always significant for me that I was given a second chance to raise a son after a ten year gap between he and his older sister and that the second chance was given on Pesach Sheni. Second chances make everyone better!