Torah Thoughts for Today
Thursday, January 29, 2004
#15: Moses’ Mystique: Liberator, Prophet, Law Giver & Torah Teacher
Moses’ Mystique: Liberator, Prophet, Law Giver & Torah Teacher

(Related to the weekly Torah portion of Bo (“Go”), read in synagogue. Exodus, Chapter 10, verse 1 – Chapter 13, verse 16. English text and commentary at
Dedicated to my parents.)

There are many phony, false and failed leaders in human history, but Moses is NOT one of them!

Moses’ birth, life, death, and influence are all spectacularly “larger than life”!

According to Judaism Moses was born in the Hebrew year 2368 (as illustrated in “From Adam To Moses” in The Living Torah, page 23) from Creation (that’s 1392 “B.C.E.”-“Before the Common Era”). Moses was put into a little boat on the Nile River by his mother to save him from the death decreed upon all male Hebrew babies. He was found by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised as an Egyptian Prince. According to some Oral Law Teachings he ruled as a King in Ethiopia as well. He married a Midianite woman who is described as being Black- “KUSHITE”, with whom he had two sons.

He is selected by God to be the chosen “DELIVERER” of the Children of Israel. As instructed by God, he performs mind-boggling nature-defying miracles, leads the Children of Israel out of Egypt, breaking Pharaoh’s resistance, and receives the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Torah. He fights many external enemies and subdues internal revolts as he moulds the Children of Israel into a nation.

He is banned from entering the Holy Land of Israel, and dies at the age of 120, in the Hebrew year 2488 on the Hebrew calendar (1272 “B.C.E.”). He goes up Mount Nebo before his death, views the Holy Land and is INSTRUCTED to die. He is “buried” by God and the exact place of his burial is not known to this very day. He is revered by Jews forevermore as their supreme RABBI meaning TEACHER, and by the world at large as the greatest Law Giver that ever lived.

Moses, MOSHEH or MOSHE in Hebrew, is the dominant personality in our Torah portion. From the start of the book of Exodus till the end of Deuteronomy, Moses’ name appears in all the portions, minus one (because at one point he had asked God to “remove” his name from God’s “Book”.) In fact the Torah (which means “Teachings”, “Laws”, or “Instructions”) is also called in Judaism, “THE TORAH OF MOSES” – “TORAT MOSHEH”, also the “CHAMISHAH CHUMSHEI TORAH” –“Five Books of the Torah” (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), in which Moses is a central figure in various ways.

Judaism considers Moses to be the GREATEST OF ALL THE PROPHETS, in fact he is called “THE FATHER OF ALL THE PROPHETS”, because as Maimonides explains, once chosen by God to be His Messenger, Moses was in a state of CONSTANT READINESS TO RECEIVE PROPHECY FROM GOD. Unlike other lesser prophets, Moses did not require any prior preparations to literally SPEAK MOUTH TO MOUTH WITH GOD. Moses and God just went ahead and communicated with each other at will. NO human since then has ever reached that spiritual level:

“God said, ‘Listen carefully to My words. If someone among you experiences divine prophecy, then when I make Myself known to him in a vision, I will speak to him in a dream. This is not true of My servant Moses, who is like a trusted servant throughout My house. With him I speak face to face {mouth to mouth} – ‘PEH EL PEH ADABER BO’, in a vision not containing allegory, so that HE SEES A TRUE PICTURE OF GOD. How can you not be afraid to speak against My servant Moses?’” (Numbers, Chapter 12, vs. 6 – 8).

And the actual LAST three verses of the Torah describe Moses’ unequaled status as God’s supreme prophet and leader: “No other prophet like Moses has arisen in Israel, who KNEW GOD FACE TO FACE – ‘PANIM EL PANIM’. No one else could reproduce the signs and miracles that God let him display in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and all his land, or any of the mighty acts or great sights that Moses displayed before the eyes of all Israel.” (Deuteronomy, Chapter 34, vs. 10 –12). [1]

(Note, the Torah ends with the word “Israel” at it’s closing, as if to say that the climax of humanity is “Israel”.)

These crucial verses and sources are quite clear that the claims of the founders of both Christianity and Islam, or any other false “messiahs” or self-proclaimed “prophets”, CANNOT be accepted at all by Judaism and the Torah ever. In fact according to Judaism, prophecy actually ENDS when the Jewish people are exiled to Babylonia over 2,500 years ago, so it’s manifestly silly to claim that one can “follow-up on” and “overtake” Moses when no such thing is possible either theologically, logically, or historically. Judaism does teach that the ultimate Jewish Messiah will be a prophet as the Jews will be restored to their land and the Temple will also be rebuilt, yet he will NOT be greater than Moses! Since Moses is the ultimate prophet, and he is God’s “SCRIBE” who writes it all down, then that makes the Torah itself in its entirety a BOOK OF PROPHECY as it is written by the Father of All the Prophets – Moses.

A fancy English name calls the laws and teachings of the Torah “Mosaic Law” for the fact that it is presented by Moses. Mosaic Law is actually one of the main pillars of both the Western World where Christianity has been part of its foundation and the Oriental World where Islam has ruled as they too draw many of their teachings from Mosaic Law. A search on Google for “Mosaic Law” at: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=Mosaic+Law&btnG=Google+Search reveals the scope of this type of usage in Christian theology. Jews almost never use the label of “Mosaic Law” to talk about the Torah, yet Christian theologians are obsessed with it whether it be to show how important, relevant, or contradictory it may be to their own “new” religion that wouldn’t have gotten past the “starting gate” had it not been for “Mosaic Law” in the first place. So much for the power of Moses’ teachings over non-Jews even at this very point in time.

The entire faith of Judaism would not exist without Moses’ role in transmitting the Torah’s teachings to the Children of Israel-The Jewish People. (And most certainly, the two huge global religions of Christianity and Islam which claim the allegiance of half of humanity’s six billion people WOULD NOT EXIST AT ALL without the foundation of Mosaic Law first. In fact those two religions really have NOTHING original to say when you compare them to what Moses taught in the first place, but that is another discussion altogether.)

Then there are those “schools of thought” among many Jews who have “REJECTED” the classical traditional time-honored view of Moses by Judaism that says he served only as God’s “mouthpiece” and “typewriter”, ONLY writing down and teaching whatever God instructed him to do, nothing more and nothing less. A seemingly simple, yet at the same time very complex concept!

Why is it that so much misunderstanding is focused on Moses in particular?
What is the “scope” of this misunderstanding?
Are there any reliable “handles” to grab onto that may shed a little light on this most powerful yet mysterious leader?
What do the original sources of Jewish scholarship teach about the nature of “MOSHEH”?

Rabbi Isaac Leeser (Germany and USA, 1806 - 1868), one of the very first authentic rabbis to live in early America, wrote “The Jews and the Mosaic Law” (1834) available online at http://www.jewish-history.com/mosaic/ , although its English usage is old, the logic, methodology, and arguments are very “modern” and “up to date”.
In the chapter called “Who Wrote the Pentateuch” (In classical Greek and Latin, “PENTA” means “five”, and “TEUCH” means “implementation” or “books of”), at http://www.jewish-history.com/mosaic/chapter2.htm [2] he presents a very cogent proof that Moses wrote the Torah entirely by first citing the Torah itself:

Firstly, very simply and clearly the Torah itself says for example: “ God said to Moses, ‘WRITE THESE WORDS DOWN FOR YOURSELF, since it is through these words that I have made a covenant with you and Israel’.” (Exodus, Chapter 34, verse 27.)

Secondly, it is Moses who records the travels of the Children of Israel in the wilderness: “These are the journeys of the Israelites, who had left Egypt in organized groups under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. MOSES RECORDED THEIR STOPS ALONG THE WAY AT GOD’S COMMAND. These were their stops along the way.” (Numbers, Chapter 33, vs. 1 – 2).

Thirdly: “MOSES FINISHED WRITING THE WORDS OF THIS TORAH IN A SCROLL TO THE VERY END. Moses then gave orders to the Levites who carried the ark of God’s covenant, saying, ‘Take this Torah scroll and place it to the side of the ark of God your Lord’s covenant (i.e. next to the Ten Commandments), leaving it there as a witness (evidence against you), I am aware of your rebellious spirit and your stubbornness. Even while I am here alive with you, you are rebelling against God. What will you do after I am dead?…I know that after I die, you will become corrupt and turn away from the path that I have prescribed to you. You will eventually be beset with evil, since you will have done evil in God’s eyes, angering Him with the work of your hands’.” (Deuteronomy, Chapter 31, vs. 24 - 29). [3]

Just as in our times with the growth of skepticism and disillusionment with established religions, “Bible Criticism” that rips the authorship of the Bible to shreds, atheism, Anti-Semitic twisting and mutilations of the real truth about Judaism, the desire by Jews to abandon Judaism and assimilate and become like their gentile neighbors, and plain old down right ignorance, Rabbi Isaac Leeser (1806 – 1868) was already involved in the “arguments” to “prove” that the Torah was in fact written by Moses and presenting the beauty and validity of Judaism. He points to verses in the Torah that are very accurate and precise, attributed to Moses himself.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that: “While still in Richmond (Virginia, USA), Rabbi Leeser began his literary career with a defense of the Jews against an attack which first appeared in the London Quarterly Review and was reprinted in a New York newspaper. His works continued to involve him in polemics. In 1834, he published The Jews and Mosaic Law, a defense of the Revelation of the Pentateuch and of the Jews ‘for their adherence to same.’ The book's twenty-six chapters show wide reading in the contemporary religious literature. Rabbi Leeser was aware that just as he was reading works on religion written by Christians, so too were many other young Jews. What was needed was a polemic arguing for loyalty to the ancestral faith and adherence to its ways.” [4] The man was doing “OUTREACH” a century and a half before it’s “popularization” in our own times!

In the twentieth century, none other than Dr. Sigmund Freud (Vienna-Austria, England 1856 – 1939) the father of modern psychiatry and psychoanalysis, whose parents were originally religious Jews, had a special fascination with Moses and even wrote a book which postulates farfetched theories about Moses and his influence on Judaism. This is what Philip Rosenbloom writes about “Sigmund Freud the Jew” at http://www.jewishmag.com/71mag/freud/freud.htm :
“While in his eighties, Freud turned his psychoanalytic energies towards the Bible. He began by publishing pamphlets dealing with Moses. These were to become the core of his theory of Moses and the Jewish nation. Against the advice and wishes of many of his friends, he published his last book, ‘Moses and Monotheism’ (1937/1939). In this book Freud lays down his ideas of the Bible. First he declares that Moses was actually an Egyptian. During this period, Freud reasons, there was a battle in the Egyptian society between the polytheists and the monotheists. Moses, he reasons, was on the side of monotheism, but the polytheists had the upper hand. During that time, a Semitic tribe was enslaved in Egypt. Moses escaped from Egypt taking this tribe with him only to be killed by them in the desert.”
“This Freud presented as his idea of the Bible. Needless to say, he upset both Jews and Christians with his speculations. Many people have been bothered with the question of why did Freud, a person of such brilliance write a book that was scorned by so many, that caused him and his psychoanalysis to be associated with anti-religious thought? If Freud did not believe in the Biblical story of Moses and the origins of the Jewish nation, why did he try to come up with another story? Why not just announce that he had no belief in religion or in the Biblical accounts.”
“The answer is this: Freud, the psychoanalyst, analyzed the Biblical account of Moses and the Jews as if it were written by men who like all men, try to embellish the account of their lives. Freud dealt with people who covered the true source of their actions with a façade. In order to understand people, Freud had to uncover this external representation that man created to protect his weaknesses. Far from rejecting the validity of the Bible, Freud accepted it, but only as an external manifestation of the inner trauma of the Jewish nation. His interpretation was based on the Bible being written by man, not as we know, dictated by God.” [5]
As so frequently is the case, people who reject the “myths” of the Bible as being perhaps worse than “fairy tales”, then go on to create THEIR OWN HOME-MADE BRANDS of “fairy tales” about the Bible. Ask around and you’ll see that everyone has some sort of theory about what they “think” the Bible said or meant, or of what they know about it, and Moses is most often “target number one” for character assassination and shredding because he is so prominent and central to the entire Torah itself.

Perhaps it would be worthwhile to note at this point a fascinating observation made about the Passover “HAGADAH”, the special Talmudic Text that Jews traditionally recite on Passover Eve as part of the Passover “SEDER”, the special meal at which “MATZAH” is eaten and four cups of wine are drunk in commemoration of the Exodus of the Children of Israel from ancient Egypt. The observation is this: As we know so well from the book of Exodus that Moses played a CENTRAL AND ACTIVE ROLE in the entire saga of the Exodus and his name is mentioned hundreds of times in the wording of the Torah’s text, YET IN THE PASSOVER EVE “HAGADAH” HIS NAME IS OMITTED ! Here is one interpretation:
“As we read through the Hagadah at the Seder we become aware of something quite curious. ‘Moshe Rabbeinu’ (Moses our Teacher) is mentioned but once, and only in passing. This is in stark contrast to the story of the Exodus as it is presented in the Torah. From the very moment that ‘Moshe Rabbeinu’ accepts his being drafted to lead the Jews out of Egypt until their departure, his involvement is total. Again and again ‘Moshe Rabbeinu's’ name is mentioned: when God speaks to him, when he meets with the leaders of the Jewish community, when he speaks to Pharaoh in private and at court and when he triggers the plagues. In fact, when Hashem (God) first spoke to ‘Moshe Rabbeinu’ at the burning bush (Exodus, Chapter 3, verse 4) Hashem told ‘Moshe Rabbeinu’ that his involvement was absolutely necessary. Why, then, is ‘Moshe Rabbeinu’ absent from the Seder?!…”
“This is why ‘Moshe Rabbeinu’ is absent from the Hagadah. The purpose of the Exodus, the purpose of a teacher, of a true Jewish leader, is to make each and every Jew aware of ‘Hashem’ (‘The Name’ of God), not of the teacher and not of the leader. ‘Moshe was very humble, more than any person on the face of the earth’ (Numbers, Chapter 12, verse 3). ‘Moshe and Aharon said [to the people]... We are nothing’ (Exodus, Chapter, 16 vs. 6 - 7).” [6]

Then again, perhaps it’s not such a question after all since Moses is considered to be the most humble man who ever lived! Consider the fact that he liberated the Children of Israel, spoke to God directly and came down with the Ten Commandments, the epicenter of “Mosaic Law”, yet he is also regarded by God as being the most humble person ever!:“MOSES, HOWEVER, WAS VERY HUMBLE, MORE SO THAN ANY MAN ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH.” (Numbers, Chapter 12, verse 3). This humility is perhaps reflected in the name we know him by, which in Hebrew is spelled: “(letter) Mem”; “(letter) Shin”; “(letter) Heh” : “M”-“SH”-“H”. BUT, SPELLED BACKWARDS SPELLS: “H”-“SH”-“M” : “HASHEM” – “THE NAME” (OF GOD). Thus Moses, and “The Name” of God which encapsulates God’s essence, are ONE AND THE SAME in Hebrew at least! So Moses and “The Name” are actually TWO SIDES OF ONE COIN ! In Exodus, Moses is so prominent, yet he is nothing but God’s agent and fulfilling His mission. In the “HAGADAH”, on Passover eve, when the focus is on the Exodus occurring as God does His wonders, it is perfectly understood and KNOWN that it is Moses (who else?) – and Aaron his brother, that filled the shoes and role of HUMAN LEADERSHIP (after all we are supposed come to the “SEDER” prepared with lots of knowledge and background information from years of Torah study about what happened, to make it all so poignant and meaningful.)

Moses is named “MOSHEH” by Pharaoh’s daughter: “…She adopted him as her own son, and named him Moses (‘MOSHE’). ‘I bore (‘MASHE’) him from the water,’ she said.” (Exodus, Chapter 2, verse 10). Here is what Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan says about the name Moshe on this verse: “In Egyptian, MOSHE means a son. Thus… ‘he became a son to her’. The suffix MOSHE is found in the names of the many Pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty, such as KA-MOSHE (‘son of [Ra’s] majesty’), ACH-MOSHE (Ahmose; ‘son of the moon’…) and TOTH-MOSHE (Thutmose; ‘son of Toth’)…The name Moses may come from the Egyptian ‘MO’ (water) and ‘USES’ (drawn from). Some sources state that Moses’ Egyptian name was MONIUS. Other ancient sources claim that Moses’ name was preserved among the Gentiles as the legendary Musaeus, teacher of Orpheus, from whom the MUSES obtained their name.” [7] (Probably there may be some connection between the name “MOSES” and “MUSIC” as derived from the “MUSES”.)

The Medrashim say that Moses had in fact TEN HEBREW NAMES, each laden with supreme insights about who he was, what his essence was all about, and what he meant to the Children of Israel, God, and the Human Race:
1. “YERED”, meaning: (a) He who “BROUGHT DOWN” the Divine Torah to this earth. (b) He who “RESTORED” the Shechina-The Divine Presence that had withdrawn to the Seventh (last) Heaven. (c) It also denotes “RULER”, for Moses had the authority of a king.
2. “AVIGDOR”, derived from the root word “GEDER”- “FENCE”, since Moses was the head of all the sages who instituted “GEDARIM”- “FENCES”, precautionary measures to protect the Torah law from being violated.
3. “CHEVER”, means “JOIN”, because Moses “JOINED the Israelites to God, by means of the Tabernacle he built.
4. “AVI SOCHO”, “FATHER OF VISION”, as Moses was the greatest prophet to “ENVISION”.
5. “YEKUTIEL”, connected to “KAVEH”- “HOPE” and attached to GOD, because Moses taught the Israelites to place their “HOPE” in GOD.
6. “AVI ZANUACH”, “FATHER OF ABANDONING (EVIL)”, connected to “LEHAZNIACH”- “TO ABANDON”, because Moses succeeded more than anyone in causing the Israelites to abandon idol worship.
7. “TOVIYAH”. When he was born, his mother saw that he was all “TOV” – “GOOD”, hence he was the “GOODNESS OF GOD”.
8. “SHEMAYA”, God “LISTENED”-“SHMA” to his prayers.
9. “BEN NETANEL”, “SON OF GOD’S GIVING”, he was the one to whom GOD “GAVE”- “NATAN” the Torah.
10. “LEVI”, “TO ACCOMPANY”, also (A PART OF THE OF TRIBE OF) “LEVI”, because Moses was from the family of the original Levi son of Jacob (Israel). [8]

Each of these unique names brings out a special facet of Moses’ multi-faceted personality, mission and role within Judaism. Above all else the following MUST be stressed, citing the key sources:In the opening of the famous “PIRKEI AVOT” – “ETHICS OF THE FATHERS” of the Oral Law’s Mishnah, the very first Mishnah opens with the statement that not only did Moses receive the Written Torah – “TORAH SHE-BICHTAV”, but he also received the much lengthier Oral Law –“TORAH SHE- BE-AL PEH”, the “explanations” and “applications” of the Written Torah as well:
“MOSHEH KIBBEL TORAH MISINAI UMESARAH LEYEHOSHUAH…” – MOSES RECEIVED THE TORAH AT SINAI AND TRANSMITTED IT TO JOSHUA…”: “The term TORAH includes the Written Law of the Five Books of Moses, and the accompanying Oral Law [as codified mainly in the Talmud and Midrashim and Codes of Law]. The interpretation of the TEXT as Divinely handed down to Moses in its entirety and expounded by successive generations of Sages. Moses received the Torah from God at Sinai in full view of all the people. The Mishnah (of Pirkei Avot here), describes this as ‘FROM SINAI’, meaning from God Who appeared at Mount Sinai. Moses expounded to them during the forty years of their wanderings through the desert, and before he died he ‘transferred’ the tradition to Joshua to ensure its perpetuation.” [9]

Thus what Moses began, continues throughout each and every generation whereby the transmission of the Torah in its entirety becomes the primary responsibility of the RABBIS, who are the TEACHERS. Their ideal and responsibility is to aspire to be like the “Moses” of their own generation responsible for continuing the mission of KEEPING ALIVE the transmission of – “JEWISH CONTINUITY!!! - the CHAIN OF TORAH TRADITION, as it’s called, since each link is vital to the wholeness and connectedness and CONTINUITY of the entire piece going all the way to Mount Sinai. Thus each truly Torah inspired educated and imbued rabbi is actually a “miniature” Moses performing all the functions as implied in ALL the meanings of Moses’ ten-plus significant names!

Many important Jewish sages have actually carried the name MOSHEH and have played key roles, as did their first namesake. The most famous is MOSES MAIMONIDES, known in Hebrew as the “RAMBAM”, an abbreviation for “Rabbi Mosheh Ben Maimon”. He lived in Spain, North Africa and Egypt, (1135-1204). He authored key works of Jewish Law (“Mosaic Law” revisited) and Philosophy, and upon his death it was declared and accepted by all that “FROM MOSES (of Mount Sinai) UNTIL MOSES (Maimonides of Spain), THERE HAS BEEN NONE LIKE (EITHER) MOSES” (meaning none was greater in the interim than either of them.). This was also added to in modern times after the passing of the most famous Talmudic Legal Scholar Rabbi MOSES Feinstein (Russia and USA, 1895-1986) who is considered to be the greatest Halachic-Legal Scholar of the modern age, and whose masterwork is called “IGROT MOSHEH” – “WRITINGS/‘LETTERS’ OF MOSES.”

Principles 6, 7, 8, and 9 all deal with every Jew’s obligation to believe in the AUTHENTICITY OF THE TORAH AS TRANSMITTED THROUGH MOSES’ TRUE PROPHECIES:
6. I believe with perfect faith that all the words of the prophets are true.
[This means that God communicates with mankind, because in order for man to carry out his Divinely ordained mission, he must know what it is. Prophecy is the means by which God communicates His wishes to man.]
7. I believe with perfect faith that the prophecy of Moses is absolutely true. He was the chief of all prophets, both before and after him.
[Moses’ prophecy is unique, it is not only true, but of a quality un-approached by that of any other prophet before or since. It is essential that his prophecy be unrivaled so that no later “prophet” could ever claim that he had received a “New/Torah/Bible” that was “superior” to that of Moses.]
8. I believe with perfect faith that the entire Torah that we now have is that which was given to Moses.
[The entire Torah is God-given. Every word in the Torah was dictated to Moses by God. All the verses of the Torah have equal sanctity. Moreover, the same applies to the Oral Law-Talmud, Midrash and Halachah that explain the Torah. All were given by God to Moses.]
9. I believe with perfect faith that this Torah will not be changed, and that there will never be another given by God.
[The Torah is unchangeable. Since both the Written and Oral Law were God-given, they cannot be “improved” upon in any manner.] [10]

All thirteen “Principles of Faith” are repeated, re-emphasized and poetically summarized in the famous “Yigdal” –“Axalted” hymn sung at the conclusion of many synagogue services. Here are principles 6, 7, 8, and 9 translated, and as they are sung melodiously in Hebrew:
“He (God) granted His flow of prophecy to His treasured splendorous people.” (“Shefa nevu-ato netano, el anshei segulato vetifarto”)
“In Israel none like Moses arose again, a prophet who perceived His vision clearly.” (“Lo kam beYisrael keMosheh od, navi umabit et temunato.”)
“God gave His people a Torah of Truth, by means of His prophet, the most trusted in His household.” (“Torat emet natan le-amo kEl, al yad nevio ne-eman beito.”)
“God will never amend nor exchange His law for any other one, for all eternity.” (“Lo yachalif hakEl velo yamir dato, le-olamim lezulato.”) [11]

Hope you can get to sing this a few times on Shabbat!
Have a wonderful Shabbat and please let me know what you think!

[1] The Living Torah, English Translation, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, pp. 720 - 723; 1044-1047.
[2] The Jews and Mosaic Law, Chapter Two, Rabbi Isaac Leeser, http://www.jewish-history.com/mosaic/chapter2.htm
[3] The Living Torah, Ibid., pp. 662 – 663; 840 – 841; 1022 –1023.
[4] us-israel.org , http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/loc/Leeser.html
[5] Philip Rosenbloom, http://www.jewishmag.com/71mag/freud/freud.htm
[6] Breslov Institute, http://www.breslov.org/dvar/zmanim/pesach2_5759.htm
[7] The Living Torah, Ibid, p. 263.
[8] The Midrash Says, The Book of Sh’mos-Exodus, pp. 15 –16.
[9] Artscroll Siddur, English prayer book, pp. 544 – 545.
[10] Ibid., p. 179.
[11] Ibid., pp.12 –14.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
#14: Levi’s Legacy: The Ultimate Holy Men
Levi’s Legacy: The Ultimate Holy Men

(Related to the Torah portion of VaEra (“Appeared”), read in synagogue. Exodus, Chapter 6, verse 2 – Chapter 9, verse 15. English text and commentary at
Dedicated to my parents.)

Secular society has its superstars (also known as “VIPs”): singers, actors, billionaires, politicians, sports heroes, authors, generals and more! In this week’s Torah portion we see two of its own greatest stars Moses and Pharaoh (one good, one a villain) go head to head to the tune of unheard of miracles and plagues. (Oh yes, I believe there was once a movie about this called the Ten Commandments. On screen it was powerful. On TV it lacks its dramatic effect, but it’s a start…maybe)

There is also another kind of hero, the so-called “SILENT HERO” that is always part of an important drama. In the case of the Exodus, it is AARON , “AHARON” in Hebrew, who fills the shoes of both “second in command” and “spokesman” for his brother Moses, even though Moses is his junior. As the narrative unfolds over time, it will be Aaron who will eventually supercede Moses when God appoints Aaron and his descendants as the PERMANENT PRIESTHOOD, the “KOHANIM”, which in Hebrew means, “THE ONES WHO SERVE (GOD)”. Thus a “KOHEN”, also spelled “COHEN”, “KAHAN”, or “KAGAN”, means “SOMEONE WHO SERVES (GOD)”. “To serve” in Hebrew is “LeChaHen”. They are the designated “SERVERS” to do God’s “SERVICE” in the Temple as well as perform other religious functions such as collect the TITHES and serve as the TEACHERS of the Torah.

The “KOHANIM” – “PRIESTS”, could only be from the DIRECT BIOLOGICAL FAMILY of AARON. Only they could be the ones to undertake and perform ALL the functions within the Temple. It was from them that one was chosen to be the HIGH PRIEST – “KOHEN GADOL”, and he would then have the main job of performing the various functions needed on the Day of Atonement, as described in Leviticus, Chapter 16.

There were lesser duties in the Temple connected to religious life that a related group called the “LEVI-IM” – LEVITES performed and their function was to assist with the duties of their cousins the “KOHANIM” – “PRIESTS”. The Hebrew word “LEVI” or “LEVY” means “TO ACCOMPANY”, or “COME ALONG”, as they were the ones to “accompany” the priests in all their duties. In Hebrew, for example, a funeral is called a “LEVAYA” which literally means an “ACCOMPANIMENT” since it is important to “accompany” the deceased to the grave during the funeral “procession” – “LEVAYA”. Interestingly, there is a teaching in the Zohar (the classic text of Jewish mysticism) that when Leah gave birth to her third son Levi, she knew that Jacob would eventually “ACCOMPANY” or “JOIN” her, and NOT Rachel, in burial in Hebron together for eternity. [1] By the way, a KOHEN, is specifically commanded to keep a distance AWAY from a dead body as it can cause spiritual defilement – “TUMAH”, as instructed in Leviticus, Chapter 21, so they basically cannot attend funerals except when it’s a direct family member as allowed by the Torah.


The question arises, how did this come to be?
Or in current lingo “WHAT OR WHO IS THE BIG KAHUNA???” (“KAHUNA” as coming from “KOHEN”! Wow what a great colloquialism!)
Then again, who needs priests, what’s wrong with just an “egalitarian society” with a secular outlook where there are NO priests?
(“Superstars” yes, but no pesky “priests” or “clergy” is a common attitude, right?)
What’s so special about being a “priest” in any case?
How is it different to a “king”, a “judge”, a “scholar”, or a “rabbi”?
What is it about Levi, a member of Jacob’s Twelve Sons that gives his descendants the honors of performing all subsequent priestly functions till the end of time?
Later on, how and why does Aaron deserve to obtain the duties and blessings of permanent PRIESTHOOD to the exclusion of everyone else?
Where does Moses fit into the scheme of things as he seems to share and move in and out of various leadership functions, as when inducting his brother into the priesthood, yet he is ultimately viewed as a LEVITE and not a KOHEN – why is that?

Is it really true that secular society has no “priests”? Maybe not in a religious sense, but there are many others who fill the void. Let’s look at ourselves in the “here and now” for a moment. The scientific and commercial wizards behind the secular mass media of TV, movies, videos, CDs, DVDs, theater, radio, newspapers, magazines and the Internet generate what is essentially an artificial interest in personalities and events that have almost nothing to do with the realities and needs of our daily lives and existence. The tiniest and silliest acts of the superstars anointed by the mass media are flashed before us with dizzying determination at the whim of the invisible manipulators of the mass media’s managers of mass marketing hypnosis:

It may be a movie about magic or real-life major crime, a staged performance or dumb act, an off-the-cuff remark or “press releases”, deliberate nudity or lewd acts caught on private cameras, press interviews or intimate revelations, genuine scandals or invasions of the superstars’ privacy that we the public will have to know about it if we “stay tuned”, “must see” and “must read”, or “log on” to the medium of the moment in our lives for just a few minutes or hours. These are just the “facts of life” as we live in the ultra modern age.

All the clatter and chatter surrounding us, dangerously drowns out any other sounds and sights that may be attempting to gain our attention. What has actually happened here? A new class of “VIP’s” –“VERY IMPORTANT PEOPLE” surrounds us. Sometimes they are called the “taste-meisters”, “spin-doctors”, “mavens”, “trend-setters” who in fact have been self-appointed and anointed as the de facto and even de jure “PRIESTS” of “High & Low Culture”. Modern “Power-brokers” and “King Makers” rule studios and media “empires” and financial “wizards” have all the modern-day secular “equivalents” of the old-time “kings” and “priests”, just that they worship at different “altars”, to say the least.

Napoleon is reputed to once have said that you cannot destroy the “nobility”. If you kill out one class, then the group below them takes over and so forth. That is what has happened. The religious clergy has been replaced by secular schools of “political correctness” and “social pressures”. The old definitions of Torah and religion-based leadership have been replaced with high flying whoppers like: Media “MOGULS”; Corporate “TITANS”; Business “MASTERMINDS”; Financial “POWERHOUSES”; Theater “LEGENDS”; Movie “GODDESSES”; Pop “IDOLS”; Musical “KINGS”; Beauty “QUEENS”; Culture “HIGH PRIESTS”; Sports “GIANTS”; Advertising “GURUS”; Artistic “ANGELS”; Computer “MASTERMINDS”; Internet “WUNDERKINDS”; Math “GENIUSES”; Political “KINGMAKERS”…all in recognition of, and giving high praise to the secular and materialistic “royalty” and “priesthood” of the modern age.

One of the mysterious powers of Judaism is that it is able to break through the roar of the outside world for its adherents if they only keep their eyes and ears just a little bit open. Ironically, most Jews live among people who themselves know of the Bible’s existence.
The contents, characters, values and morality of the Jewish Torah are well know via the Bible to billions of people.

When entering into the world of Torah (“Bible”, which comes from the Greek word for “BOOK”, as in “BIBLIography”), we are exposed to a whole range of superstars, both heroes and villains, male as well as female that have endured for more than four thousand years. One thousand years from now will anyone know who the greatest movie or sporting heroes of today were? Or will people still be learning from the likes of a Moses and Aaron, and the mistakes and fate of a Pharaoh and his failed pyramids? Think about it! In the United States of America in particular, the motto “In God We Trust” has been on coins and notes starting from the mid 1800s revealing the extent of Biblical beliefs among the people, even though it may be vehemently opposed, with arguments that it breaks the “separation between church and state”.

In contrast, a proclamation on January 15th 1981 marking the change of Presidents, the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson [1902-1994] said:“The first and foremost duty is to strengthen the basis of our very existence. That basis is stated on every dollar bill printed in the U.S.A., and is the foundation upon which this country was born – ‘In God We Trust’…Trust, however, has a meaning which is more profound than mere belief…We should believe that God is not some remote Being, removed and aloof from his creations, but that every detail of our lives can be safely entrusted to God…Separation between religion and state is not, nor ever was, meant to imply antagonism, or even indifference, to religion.” [2]

It is probably some sort of hidden miracle that religion has not been stomped out of America and then the void flooded with the mostly computer-generated and encased contents of the Post- Industrial Information and Leisure Age entirely. Many, many people and Jews have a yearning for words of Torah and do not rest until their hunger and thirst for this most ancient of Divine Information is learned, understood, and then practiced.

Many don’t realize that the Torah is not just a book for a religious belief, but it is also built on deeply complex rules of REASON and LOGIC. Thus the opening scenes of Genesis are not just a “mythical” moralistic tale about the first man and woman’s creation, and their trials and tribulations. What happens to Adam and Eve is also the AXIOMATIC foundation of a complex drama that will follow not just spiritual rules, but also RULES OF LOGIC !

Adam was created as an individual on the sixth day of Creation in order to RULE over the entire world that God had made: “…Fill the land and CONQUER it. DOMINATE the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every beast that walks the land.” (Genesis, Chapter 1, verse 28). Adam was also created to SERVE God, as Jewish thought teaches: “Man was created for the purpose of DELIGHTING in God” (“Lo Nivra HaAdam Ela LehitAneg Bashem”). Adam was also required to use his faculties of human intelligence to JUDGE right from wrong, and to TEACH this to all the creatures of the Earth.

Thus Adam was an Earthly KING, PRIEST, and JUDGE of the World MIRRORING God’s various ROLES ABOVE! These very exalted positions are all FACETS of one WHOLE. Each role was a way for God’s “KEDUSHAH” – “HOLINESS” to be filtered into the world. (Each person has within themselves these functions that they must carry out on several fronts and at various times in the day and in life over-all.)

Adam failed in his mission, when he followed his wife in disobeying God’s command NOT to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and then a historical process is set in motion to re-create that unit which will be able to perform all of Adam’s lost opportunities. Eventually it would be Jacob’s sons, the Children of Israel who strive to be the actualization of the “ADAM”, who once again make the kind of GOVERNMENT, PRIESTHOOD, and JUSTICE SYSTEM based on “KEDUSHAH” – HOLINESS possible.

It was Jacob’s biological firstborn son REUBEN from Leah who actually could have had the chance to combine all three roles within himself. But because of a very puzzling episode where following the death of Rachel he got involved with his father’s private affairs by trying to make sure that Jacob would make his primary residence with Leah by moving Jacob’s bed to Leah’s tent, whereas Jacob moved in with Bilhah, Rachel’s Handmaid (and also one of Jacob’s four wives) instead. This is what causes Jacob to “demote” Reuben who loses any firstborn claims he may have been entitled to. Government and Justice are given over to Joseph and Judah, and the PRIESTHOOD is given to Levi.

Yet many years later, when the Nation of Israel is being formed in Egypt and in the forty years in the wilderness, it is Moses who is then given a chance to combine all three functions yet again into his own personality. Over the course of his lifetime he does indeed fulfill the roles of HIGH PRIEST, KING, JUDGE, and GENERAL. Yet at the end, he is referred to in Judaism as “RABBI” – “MOSHE RABBEINU” – Moses Our TEACHER. According to Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik: “ ‘Moshe Rabbeinu’ did not require his appointment to be sanctioned by the Children of Israel. His inner personality anointed him and sanctioned his roles as HIGH PRIEST, KING, JUDGE, and TEACHER.”[3]

There is a beautiful liturgical poem, called “AMITZ KOACH” – “VIGOROUSLY STRONG ONE” that we recite during the “MUSAF” – “ADDITIONAL” Prayer Service on the holiest day in Judaism, the “YOM KIPPUR” – DAY OF ATONEMENT, reputedly authored by Rabbi Meshullam of Lucca, (Italy, c.950 – 1020, Mainz, Germany), that describes the progression of God’s mandate for the world from the time of creation directly to the times when the Jewish Temple stood in Jerusalem and the appointed priests performed their duties for the Atonement of Israel on Yom Kippur:

An especially evocative high note is reached when we read in the “MACHZOR” – Holiday Prayer Book, written poetically: “The beloved [Abraham] came from across [the river in Ur of the Chaldees] to make You known in the world, the passionate love of his old age [Isaac] he brought up to You as a burnt-offering. Like perfect sheep, the perfect man [Jacob] was chosen, when he longed to dwell in the tents [of Torah study] and was drawn after You; from his loins you drew worthy, beautiful offspring [the Twelve Tribes], each a seed of truth without impurity. To serve You, You desired Levi, Your most devout man, to designate from his stock one sanctified as holy of holies [this was Aaron, whose offspring became the “KOHANIM” within the Tribe of Levi], to bind the head-plate of holiness and don the ‘Urim [V’Tumim’ – ‘Lightings and Perfections’] to sit in glory within [the Temple] for seven days. The steadfast faithful, a week before the Tenth [of Tishrei – the Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement], would segregate the leading Kohen [-Gadol – High Priest], according to the regulation [of the Torah] of the Inauguration service [before the Festival]” [4].

[The GOLDEN HEAD-PLATE was inscribed with “Holy Unto God”, and the “Urim V’Tumim” – “Lightings and Perfections”, which were either on or within the Breast-plate adorned with twelve shining Jewels, and had the Secret Name of God written on Parchment slipped into it and served as a Divine Oracle transmitting Divine Messages: “Aaron will thus carry the names of Israel’s sons on the ‘Decision Breastplate’ - ‘CHOSHEN HAMISHPAT’ over his heart when he comes into the sanctuary. It shall be a constant remembrance before God. Place the ‘Urim and Tumim’ – ‘Lightings and Perfections’ – Divine Names, in the ‘Decision Breastplate’ – ‘CHOSHEN HAMISHPAT’, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he comes before God. Aaron will then carry the Decision-Making device for the Israelites before God.” (Exodus, Chapter 28, vs. 29-30).] [5]

It is during this prayer that even today, traditional congregations bow down on the floor three times as in ancient times because it deals with the “KOHEN GADOL” – “HIGH PRIEST” pronouncing God’s Name as he performed the service. As in ancient times when they heard God’s name they would fall down and prostrate themselves in the Temple courtyards. Only the “KOHEN GADOL” – HIGH PRIEST had the privilege and authority to pronounce God’s Holy Name, the Tetragrammaton.

Here is a wonderful introduction and application of the general subject from the popular lecturer Rabbi Berel Wein http://torah.org/learning/rabbiwein/5761/shemos.html Rabbi Wein is also a US attorney and historian. He writes a weekly column for the Jerusalem Post. He heads the Destiny Foundation http://rabbiwein.com/ :

“Moses and Aharon, the first ‘kohanim’, were the LEADERS of Israel and it is through their hands that the deliverance from Egyptian bondage was achieved. We all know that being a ‘kohen’ or a ‘Levi’ is a matter of Jewish patrilineal (who your father is) descent. But nevertheless, there is a clearer and much more universal definition of being a member of this group that the Torah provides, and that definition includes all of us, in fact, every human being on earth.”

“Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, Moses MAIMONIDES [1135-1204], in his ‘Mishna Torah’ (his masterwork), at the end of ‘Hilchot Shmita V'Yovel’ (Sabbatical and Jubilee laws), states: ‘What differentiated the tribe of Levi...was that they were designated and separated from the others in order to devote themselves to the SERVICE of God, to TEACH God's righteous ways and just statutes to the many...Therefore, they were held apart from worldly ways and mundane tasks; they did not participate in the battles of war; they did not inherit or acquire for themselves land. Rather, they were God's army... and the Blessed One sustained them for it is written ‘I am your share and your inheritance.’ ”

“ ‘And this is true not only for the tribe of Levi exclusively, but for every human being that enters this world's life whose spirit moves one and one understands of one's own knowledge and will that one wishes to be apart and to stand before the Lord and serve and obey Him, to know God and to walk righteously as the Creator intended; to remove from one's neck the yoke of the many schemes that man pursues - such a person is sanctified and is holy of holies. The Lord will be that person's share and inheritance forever and the Lord will provide for this holy person in this physical world as well so that the person will be able to have that which is sufficient for life, as the Lord so provided for the ‘kohanim’ and ‘Leviim’.”

“This most powerful statement contains within it the essence of the Jewish worldview of life and its purpose. Rambam (MAIMONIDES) declares therein: ‘everyone can be a Levi!’ That was the hard lesson of Egyptian bondage - namely, that the way for a Jew to escape the physical bondage of society that otherwise engulfs us is to be a ‘Levi’. It is because of this insight, that Moses and Aharon become the leaders of Israel and the redeemers and role models for all generations of Jews.” [6]

I found an excellent elaboration by Rabbi Moshe Heigh at http://kicc.org/shmos.html dealing with the question of whether MOSES WAS A “KOHEN” OR A LEVI?” and the changes of his status. He uses classical Talmudical reasoning, which is worth following:

“Let us begin with the basics. What is a ‘Levi’, and what is a ‘kohen’? It is undisputed that anyone from the family of Levi son of Jacob is considered a Levi. That includes all descendants of Levi's three sons: Gershon, Kehat, and Merari. Moses and his brother Aharon were obviously ‘Levi'im’ – Levites, since their father was Amram, their grandfather was Kehat, and their great-grandfather was Levi himself. However, anyone who descends from Aharon himself (who is, of course, from the Tribe of Levi) has an additional, exalted status - that of a ‘kohen’ –‘PRIEST’. The distinction between these two groups is well known. ‘Kohanim’ – Priests, have greater privileges and responsibilities when it comes to their service in the ‘Mishkan’ – Tabernacle, and ‘Bait Hamikdash’ – ‘Temple’, plus in other areas of Jewish life. ‘Levi'im’ –Levites also serve in a capacity superior to the regular Israelites, but their rank is not the same as that of the ‘kohanim’. As you see, every ‘kohen’ is a Levi with an added dimension of sanctity –‘KEDUSHAH’.”[7]

Very surprisingly, Moses actually LOST the opportunity to be the one from whom all “KOHANIM” – Priests would descend:

“When informed that he was the LEADER chosen to rescue the Children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, Moses objected to taking on such a massive responsibility. After Moses persisted in his refusal, we are told that God became angry at him (Exodus, Chapter 4, verse 14). ‘Isn't it true that Aharon, your brother THE LEVI - I know that he surely has the ability to speak, and he can eloquently state your case to Pharaoh, so do not worry about taking the Children of Israel out of Egypt!"

“Do you notice the unusual terminology employed by God? In speaking to Moses about his brother, God refers to Aharon as ‘THE LEVI’. What is the significance of this? The Gemara (Talmud) Zevachim p.102 (a) analyzes this declaration in the following manner, and it impacts our discussion in a certain way. The issue is: who was originally supposed to father the kohanim?”

“Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai (a great sage from the Talmud) remarks that there is a punishment stated here. Moses is being told that he was originally SUPPOSED to be the progenitor of all kohanim. From him was supposed to emanate that special family of ‘Levi'im’, those who would enter the inner sanctum of God’s house, the Temple. From him, kohanim were supposed to descend - those who would receive the first ‘aliyah’ (called up) for reading of the Torah, those who would lead ‘bentching’ (Grace after meals), those who would recite ‘Birchat Kohanim’ (Priestly Blessings). But since Moses so adamantly resisted the task of delivering the Children of Israel from their vicious oppressors, the Egyptians, the privilege was moved from Moses to Aharon. How is this derived? It is indicated by God’s choice of words when He communicated with Moses. ‘Aharon your brother, THE LEVI’ means that Aharon your brother was supposed to be ONLY a Levi, and you, Moses, were supposed to father the elite family of kohanim. Now that you have resisted the holy task of redeeming the Jews, Aharon will be the father of the kohanim. You, Moshe, will be a ‘regular’ Levi.” [8]

So Aaron is blessed and is truly naturally endowed with special qualities that allow him to receive the mantle of the permanent priesthood. Interestingly, the Hebrew letters of his name: “A”, “H”, “R”, “N”, also spell “HA-ARON”- “THE ARK”, meaning “The HOLY Ark Of the COVENANT” wherein were kept the Ten Commandments and placed in the Temple’s Holy of Holies. The association is thus that “AHRON” the High Priest is also an embodiment of THE ARK – “HA-ARON”, a beautiful and poignant living metaphor for sublime holiness within a holy man.

There is a famous teaching in the Ethics of the Fathers – “Pirkei Avot” of the Mishna (part of the Talmud) that describes Aaron not as a “KOHEN” – Priest, but as someone who EXCELLS AT HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS:

“HILLEL SAYS: BE AMONG THE DISCIPLES OF AARON, LOVING PEACE AND PURSUING PEACE, LOVING PEOPLE, AND BRINGING THEM CLOSER TO TORAH,” and as the Artscroll commentary mentions, “In Talmudic literature Aaron is described as the great peacemaker who went to any ends to make peace between man and wife and between feuding Jews” [9]

Not only is he good at helping people mend fences amongst each other, he is the ultimate healer of ruptured relationships between the people and God. This is manifested at the horrendous episode when the Children of Israel stooped to worship a Golden Calf, Aaron takes on the literal death-defying job of “crisis management and intervention” trying to hold things off as long as possible and attempting to explain to Moses, and by association to God: “Moses said to Aaron, ‘What did the people do to you that you allowed them to commit such a great sin?’ ‘Do not be angry, my lord,’ replied Aaron, ‘but you must realize that the people have bad tendencies…’ Moses realized that the people had actually been restrained. Aaron had restrained them, doing only a small part of what the outspoken ones had demanded.” (Exodus, Chapter 32, vs. 21 – 25.) [10]

Thus the essential qualities of the great priests is revealed, they have the capacity to still the flames of wrath that may burn against them from Above, and bring about a state of PEACE between God and His people. This is the core purpose of what they did in the Temple when it stood, and what the service of Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement is all about. Tragically, later in history, when the priesthood as well as the other public and religious institutions became corrupt, the ancient Kingdoms of Israel and Judea were destroyed and the people sent into exile to “re-sensitize” and “prepare” them for a Final Redemption where the work of the Priests, Judges and Kings can be re-instituted once again with the building of the Third and last Jewish Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

This is a good moment to examine the origins of LEVI, the son of Leah and Jacob. When LEVI was born Leah said: “ ‘NOW MY HUSBAND WILL BECOME ATTACHED (‘LAVAH’) (or ‘INDEBTED’) TO ME’, SHE SAID, ‘BECAUSE I HAVE GIVEN HIM THREE SONS.’ THEREFORE HE NAMED THE CHILD LEVI.” (Genesis, Chapter 29, verse 34.) [11]

There is a question as to who the “HE” is who named Levi? Some classical commentators say it was Jacob who named him and thereby validated Leah’s words. Others say it was God Himself that named Levi, because his offspring would be “escorted” – (“Levayah” concept) by Priestly gifts, such as tithes, in the future. The Medrashim (Oral Law Teachings) note the name Levi also denotes “LENDING”, (a “HALVA-AH” is a loan, and a “malveh” is lender, a “loveh” is a borrower) because Levi was destined to “LEND” his sons to the service of their Heavenly Father. The RADAK (Rabbi David Kimchi [1160-1235]) explains: “Jacob named him in accordance with Leah’s wish because he rejoiced in the birth of Levi. It may also be that Jacob saw prophetically that Levi’s offspring would be servants of God and teachers of Torah, and as such, would be ATTACHED to God.” [12]

Thus Levi is naturally endowed with extraordinary qualities and the blessings that come with them. But there is a very strong DUALITY to Levi, as he is the root of both Aaron’s peaceful and peace-making nature, and at the same time he is also the root for another FIERY side to the priests. This is manifested in the episode when Dinah, Jacob’s daughter is abducted and raped and Levi joins with Simon in killing the abductors after they had offered to actually circumcise themselves: “On the third day, when the people were in agony (from circumcision), two of Jacob’s sons, Simon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took up their swords. They came to the city without arousing suspicion and killed every male…and took Dinah from Shechem’s house…and plundered the city that had defiled their sister…Jacob said to Simon and Levi, ‘You have gotten me in trouble…’, ‘Should he have been allowed to treat our sister like a prostitute?’ they replied.” (Genesis, Chapter 34, vs. 25-31) [13] For this act, Levi is eventually denied any ownership of land in the Land of Israel and is the only tribe without a tribal portion, as there is a fear they may use it as a territorial base and unite in war against the others. Yet again, in one of the most dramatic scenes in the Torah, Aaron’s grandson publicly assassinates one the princes, Zimri from the tribe of Simon who had succumbed to the lures of Midianite seduction and was flaunting a sexual relationship with a Midianite woman Kozbi, in the presence of Moses and the Israelite community. For this act of “ZEALOTRY” – “KANA-UT” (from the Hebrew for “KINAH”- Jealousy [on behalf of God]) Pinchas is guaranteed that the Priesthood shall surely run through his own family forever!:

“…An Israelite brought forth a Midianite woman …When Pinchas, a son of Elazar and a grandson of Aaron the priest, saw this, he rose up…and took a spear in his hand…and ran them through, [driving the spear] through the Israelite man and the woman’s groin. With that the plague stopped…God spoke to Moses saying, ‘Pinchas a son of Elazar and grandson of Aaron the priest was the one who zealously took up My cause among the Israelites and turned My anger away from them…tell him that I have given him My covenant of peace. This shall imply a covenant of eternal priesthood to him and his descendants after him. It is given to him because he zealously took up God’s cause and made atonement for the Israelites.’” (Numbers, Chapter 25.) [14] Hence there is a well-known dictum in Torah thought: “KOHANIM ZERIZIM HEM” – “THE PRIESTS ARE EXTREMELY QUICK TO ACT” on behalf of Godly Torah causes, and that is why they could be VERY DANGEROUS if they should ever cut loose from these moorings! Ask around, and find out which of your friends is a “COHEN” and you’ll probably see in them “hot-blooded” impulses inclined to take action, to think and act quickly.

According to classical Medrashim, Oral Law Teachings, the mysterious and wrathful PROPHET ELIJAH – “ELIYAHU HANAVI”, is none other than Pinchas.

Elijah is the one in the Book of Kings who challenges the false prophets of Ba’al to prove the power of their idol, and when they fail he destroys them: “Elijah said to them (Israelites), ‘Seize the prophets of Ba’al! Let none of them escape!’ So they seized them. Elijah took them down to the Kishon Brook and slaughtered them there.” (I KINGS, Chapter 18, verse 40). He is famous for his challenge to the Israelites: “Elijah approached all the people and said: ‘How long will you dance between two opinions? If God is the God, follow him! And if the Ba’al is it, go after it!’” (I KINGS, Chapter 18, verse 21).

He disdains this world and attains immortality. He is the only person in the TANACH (The Bible after the Five Books of Moses) that ascends to Heaven in a chariot whilst still alive (probably this is where the Moslems got their un-original idea from about Mohamed doing the same): “ It happened when God took Elijah up to Heaven in a whirlwind…[Elijah] said [I swear] as God lives and by your life that I shall not leave you [his disciple Elisha]…as they were talking and conversing, behold a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated between the two of them, and Elijah ascended to Heaven in the whirlwind. Elisha was watching and shouting, ‘Father! Father! Israel’s chariot and horsemen!’(‘AVI, AVI, RECHEV YISRAEL UFARASHAV’) And then he saw him no more.” (II KINGS, Chapter 2.) Such is the awesome power and privilege of the true Jewish Holy Men such as Elijah the Prophet.

No need at all for the totally silly and voluntarily self-hallucinatory, yet very EXPENSIVE, “Harry Potter”, “Star Wars”, or “Lord of the Rings” and other “animated” human creations and marvels following in the “traditions” of made to order commercially driven myths and fables created in movie studios such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” or the “Wizard of Oz”, with books and movies created by the “priests” of the false modern “Ba’als” of print or celluloid and digital technology. Yet hundreds of millions of people “buy into” these modern-day “false gods” at the same time that they dismiss the reliable beliefs of Judaism! Where is the logic? Where is the meaning? Where will it end?

Judaism’s Elijah is the constant on-going tireless prophet who returns to do miracles according to Judaism, and he is known as the “Angel of the Covenant” –“MALACH HABRIT”, and is actually accorded a chair to “sit on” at every circumcision. Jews also traditionally pour an extra “fifth” cup of wine for Elijah at each Passover Seder-Meal in remembrance and anticipation of Elijah’s arrival as part of God’s promise to redeem the Jewish People from their exile and bondage to alien peoples and cultures (exchanging the gentiles’ idolatrous, adulated, and adulterous, synthetic “superstars” for the Torah’s visions and blessings for true and sincere Holy People).

Thus, Adam-Abraham-Isaac-Jacob (Israel)-Levi-Aaron-Elazar-Pinchas-Elijah are ALWAYS with us in a variety of ways.

During any age, for example, a great scholar may merit the appearance of Elijah to be taught great things in Torah. The great legalist and author of the Code of Jewish Law – “SHULCHAN ARUCH”, Rabbi Joseph Karo [Egypt and Israel, 1488-1575] wrote a book “MAGID MESHARIM” all about how Elijah came to him and taught him sublime Torah. This is called the state of “GILUI ELIYAHU” – “REVELATIONS OF ELIJAH”. Like-wise for great scholars such as the RAMCHAL, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto [Italy and Israel, 1707-1746], and the famous scholar named ELIJAH Ben Shlomo Kramer [Lithuania, 1720-1797] of Vilna, the “VILNA GAON” – “GENIUS’, all pillars of Torah scholarship, as well as many others, all report the fact that they experienced “GILUI ELIYAHU” –“Revelation/s of Elijah”, and that Elijah taught them great wisdom and secrets of Torah emanating from higher levels of Godliness.

Elijah will also be the one to herald and announce the arrival of the Jewish Messiah, and it is about Elijah’s return that the very last words of the Books of the Prophets ends: “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the wicked people and all the evildoers will be like straw; and that coming day will burn them up, says God, Master of Legions, so that it will not leave them a root or branch…Remember the Torah of Moses My servant, which I commanded him at Horeb [Mount Sinai, where the Ten Commandments were given] for all Israel, its decrees and its statutes…Behold, I send you ELIJAH THE PROPHET before the coming of the great and awesome day of God. And he will turn back [to God] the hearts of fathers with their sons and the hearts of sons with their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with utter destruction.” (Malachi, Chapter 3, vs. 19 – 23.) [15]

On a very deep level, Rabbi Mordechai Rosen at http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/d'vrei/archives/pinchas.htm teaches the following from the “Kedushat Halevi”- Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev [Poland and Ukraine, 1740-1810]:

“The Torah tell us that Zimri ben Salu took a Princess from Midian and was intimate with her in front of the Nation. Pinchas was enraged by what he saw and took a sword and killed him. The Talmud tells us that Pinchas was actually Elijah the Prophet –‘Eliyahu Hanavi.’”

“Rabbi Yitzchak Luria [Egypt and Israel, 1534-1572], (the great Kabbalist known as the ‘Ari HaKadosh’ – The Holy ‘ARI’ (his initials, which also mean ‘lion’) explains that Pinchas was a REINCARNATION of CAIN, Adam’s oldest son who had killed his brother ABEL. Now this is hard to understand. That Pinchas - a ‘Tzaddik’- Righteous Person, who felt ‘kinah’- Jealousy for God and acted upon it, is either Elijah in person or reincarnation may make sense. But how and why could he be a reincarnation of Cain? A man who refused to bring the best of his crops as an offering? A man who murdered his brother and tried to hide it - this is the man who is reincarnated as Elijah? How can we explain this?”

“Let's look at Cain, whose sin was murder. Cain was his father's eldest, which made him a Kohen, as in those times the eldest served as the Priests as well. When God told him that the blood of his brother was screaming from the ground, he answered ‘Hashomer Achee Anochi?’ –‘Am I my brother's keeper?’”

“Now let us look at Pinchas and Elijah. Pinchas, a Kohen, took Cain’s sin of murder and turned it into a ‘mitzvah’ – a moral imperative-commandment. This was the first ‘tikun’ –RECTIFICATION , (which is why there is reincarnation at all according to Judaism). The second ‘tikun’ – RECTIFICATION will come at the time of the ‘Geulah’ –Final Redemption (at the End of Time) when Elijah will announce the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Cain said ‘Hashomer Achee Anochi?’ – ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ - we usually read it as a question. But it wasn't - it was a statement – ‘I am my brother's keeper’.”

“Pinchas took responsibility for his brother's actions and obliterated a blight on the Nation. At a ‘brit’- circumcision we have ‘Kiseh Eliyahu’ - a special seat for Eliyahu- Elijah. This is because at a circumcision, we cut a part of the body that is later buried in the ground - to make up for the blood of Abel that called out for justice.”

“Everything happens in stages - a ‘neshama’ –SOUL, could not go from Cain to being ‘Eliyahu Hanavi’- Elijah the Prophet. First he became Pinchas and was ‘metaken’- RECTIFIED the sin of murder by eliminating a truly wicked person such as Zimri the Prince and his partner Kozbi the Princess of Midian. Only then could Cain’s soul progress and become Elijah and be ‘metaken’ - RECTIFY the sin of spilling blood on the ground.” [16]. He achieves this by destroying the wicked prophets of Ba’al in ancient times, and begins the process of utterly destroying the genocidal AMALEKITE-Crusading-Hitlerian-Stalinist-Communist-Fascist-Racist-Holocaust-Intifada-Jihad-Terrorism-Mass murderers of the JEW-HATING ANTI-SEMITES at the End of Days. A big “job” indeed!

Moses too is a fighter and leader of men in battle. His powers are in fact invincible. Pharaoh and the Egyptians found out the hard way. So we see that coming from Levi are both inherent tender tendencies with the ability to sooth and make peace between both people and with God, yet simultaneously he also exudes a “take no hostages” mentality when aroused by atrocities committed against his fellow Children of Israel-The Jewish People. Throughout history, there have been times when the Jewish people were called to war and to defend themselves. When the regular kings failed, it was the Priests, such as the Hasmonean Maccabees at the time of the Greek invasions who instigated revolt and fought with the sword. At other times, as in the long exiles when Jews were wanderers they relied and lived by their peaceful impulses as they worshiped God in peace. The events of the past hundred years have caused the Jews to once again revert to the sword as well as strengthen the holy work of the priests, simultaneously.
Have a great Shabbat and please let me know what you think!
[1] Artscroll, English translation, Genesis Vol. I (b), p.1286
[2] The Rebbe: Changing the Tide of Education, 1982, pp. 234 – 235.
[3] Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik, http://shamash3.shamash.org/listarchives/mj-ravtorah/tzav.97.ravtorah.97
[4] Artscroll Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement Machzor – Prayer book, pp.557-559.
[5] The Living Torah, English translation, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, p.427
[6] Rabbi Berel Wein, http://torah.org/learning/rabbiwein/5761/shemos.html
[7] Rabbi Moshe Heigh, http://kicc.org/shmos.html
[8] Ibid.
[9] Artscroll Siddur – Prayer book, with English translation, pp.546 - 548.
[10] The Living Torah, Ibid., p. 453.
[11] Ibid., p.139.
[12] Artscroll, Ibid., Genesis Vol. I (b), pp.1286 - 1287.
[13] The Living Torah, Ibid., p.165.
[14] Ibid, p.799.
[15] Artscroll Tanach-Bible, Stone Edition, English translation, p.1433.
[16] Rabbi Mordechai Rosen, http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/d'vrei/archives/pinchas.htm
Monday, January 19, 2004
#13: Birth of a Nation: The Power of Female Intuition
Birth of a Nation: The Power of Female Intuition

(Commencing the Book of Exodus. Related to the weekly Torah portion of Shemot- Exodus, Chapter 1 – Chapter 6, verse 1. English text and commentary at
Dedicated to my parents.)

How does a woman know that her judgments about a man she admires or hates are “true” or “false”? She is endowed with what is commonly referred to as “female (feminine), intuition” in which her decision-making is rooted.

According to the stereotypes, men are more rational and action oriented, whereas women are more emotional and moved by feelings. This may or may not be completely valid, but one thing almost everyone agrees on is that women have an internal mechanism that goes way beyond reason and emotion, and it’s given the name “intuition”, and so it is known as “female, or feminine, intuition”, something so unique to females that often when a guy is sure of a hunch, he may be teased or accused of being in touch with his “feminine side” for his display of “female” intuition. The dark side of this however, is when mostly female “psychics” use their over-endowed talents to prey on peoples’ feelings of insecurity and use it for financial gain. This is a sad corruption of a precious, mostly female, gift.

In Genesis’ opening scenes we are presented with the greatest failure of female “insights” ever, when Eve “presumes” to know more about what God wants than what He SPECIFICALLY forbids. God had said do not EAT from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but Eve added, DO NOT TOUCH to His command, (see Genesis, Chapter 3). So when she touched it and nothing happened, she figured it was okay to eat, with deadly curses coming from that action. She had bad “legal advice” that we know, her lawyer was a snake! Was she a “psychic” to read God’s mind and come up with “helpful” advice? Who knows, but this is an area strewn with dangerous devastating spiritual mines that takes a special measure of “MAZEL” – FORTUNE to succeed! Consequences, consequences, consequences! But it subsequently becomes the job of other women to prove that female intuition can be used in positive ways. Sarah implores her husband Abraham to expel Ishmael and Hagar into the desert, Rebecca devises a plot of subterfuge to get Isaac’s blessings for Jacob and outwit Esau, Rachel, in defiance of her father and against the wishes of Jacob, allows her sister Leah to enter her own bridal chamber on her wedding night and switch places with her as Jacob’s wife, and Tamar sneaks out and surreptitiously seduces her father-in-law Judah to have his baby.

In this week’s Torah portion we see dazzling illustrations of the POWER OF FEMININE INTUITION and consequent LEADERSHIP focused on the descriptions and explanations of the actions by the four most important women in Moses’ life. His mother Yocheved, his sister Miriam, his stepmother known as the “Daughter of Pharaoh” and as a reward is renamed “Batya” - “Daughter of (the Jewish) God” as explained in the Oral teachings, and his wife Tzipporah. They all serve as shining examples of the awesome and marvelous consequences that resulted from their influence on and treatment of Moses, starting from before conception, childhood, maturing into manhood, and then becoming the paramount leader and lawgiver of the Children of Israel-The Jewish People.

All of this fits into a wider pattern which we will now see unfold throughout the rest of the Torah (“The Five Books of Moses”) whereby the “narrative” will move from Moses as an individual and then to the subject of the Nation of Israel – “Am Yisrael” as a whole, almost like a camera which swings its focus from the central primary “actors” and then displays scenes of the wider surrounding group, community, or nation. Thus what is true of the personal world, the “microcosm”, of Moses’ family history and life, is also reflected in the “macrocosm”, the nation he leads. Thus the future leader and his flock undergo parallel processes in their origins, growth, formation, and finally the sharing of a united destiny and mission as God’s chosen Leader and becoming a Torah Nation.

The Book of Exodus opens with a new regime taking power in ancient Egypt over 3,300 years ago and because the descendants of Jacob, his literal CHILDREN of Israel (Jacob was renamed Israel), began to experience tremendous growth in numbers, it made the “powers that be” very nervous that the Hebrews (the “Jews”) would “take over” and would even side with the country’s enemies. (See Pharaoh’s arguments in Exodus, Chapter 1). Quirkily the epitome of all Anti-Semitic canards till the present time: That the
Jews are incapable of being loyal to their “host” countries and that they will side with the “enemies of the kingdom/state” seeking its downfall.

Sounds all too familiar, doesn’t it?! But it is EXACTLY what Pharaoh and his “high-level” advisers feared most. The black lies of the 20th century’s “bible of hate” originally written by the Czarist secret police, “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”, also named as “World Conquest Through World Jewish Government” (see the Anti-Semitic pathetic site from “Bible believers” yet, at http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/przion1.htm) that millions of people take as “fact”, completely ignores the JEWISH contributions to civilization, starting with the BIBLE itself! Hitler’s notorious “Mein Kampf” (“My struggle”), which virulently voices views that Jews plotted the destruction of Germany, presaged the bitter Holocaust of 1939-1945 that saw the modern-day enslavement and genocide of more than six million Jews, despite all the contributions of German Jews to its national survival, sciences and culture over the more than 2,000 years that Jews lived in the lands that became known as “Germany”, called “Ashkenaz” in Hebrew (see Genesis, Chapter 10, verse 3), and the Jews as “Ashknazim”.

Similarly, the new Pharaoh of Exodus, forgets about the fact that it was one of the Hebrews, Joseph, who had saved their necks from extinction through starvation just as so many empires throughout history would suddenly submit to “selective national amnesia” and try to eliminate the Jews and in the process shoot themselves in their own “national foot”, unleashing war and genocide that would boomerang and destroy them too! With their Anti-Semitism: Pharaoh destroyed himself and Egypt; The Czar destroyed himself and old Russia; Hitler destroyed himself and his German Reich; Saddam destroyed himself and Iraq; and Arafat self-destructs and ruins his people rather than live in peace with the Jews. So much for the stupidity of Anti-Semitism!

So the Book of Exodus tells us how Pharaoh and his cohorts devise a nefarious plot to first enslave the Hebrews, and then seeing that this didn’t stop the rapid population growth of the afflicted slaves, they devised (no, not exiles, inquisitions, crusades, pogroms, gulags, gas-chambers, suicide-bombers, assimilation, or apostasy, which came later in history) but BABY-KILLING, infanticide, to be surreptitiously carried out by the Hebrew midwives on pain of death, and relying on astrological predictions that a Jewish redeemer was being born and that his “demise” would come about by water, they decreed that all boys, Jewish as well as Egyptian should be drowned in the Nile! Little realizing the genuine ambiguity of the astrologers’ predictions because indeed Moses would suffer his greatest setback when in anger he hit a rock when the children of Israel begged him for water (see Numbers, Chapter 20), and because of his public display of anger he was banned by God from entering the Land of Israel, his own “WATERloo” (a good historical pun, I think!) Ironically, the pride of Egypt’s army, its massed chariots, would be overthrown and drowned in the Red Sea, its own very real “WATERloo” when attacking the Children of Israel as they crossed over during the Exodus, so why couldn’t the astrologers have looked into that disaster-in waiting? So much for astrology’s powers, because it’s always being diluted and fuzzed by ambiguity and equivocation.

It is now, at the very beginning of the Book of Exodus, that the BIRTH/CREATION/RISE of both MOSES and THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL are placed before us as the “preamble” to everything else that follows.

The women in Moses’ life who fight for his right to exist and continue living are IN HARMONY with all the other women of the Children of Israel who defy their Egyptian taskmasters and their frightening laws (whether subtle or brutal) against childbirth, children’s rights to exist, and attempts at destroying family life by subjecting the men to SLAVERY and hoping that the women would thus become “unattached” from their men and removed from the institution of having babies, (does this eerily sound like “modern” contemporary industrial and corporate “culture” too? Maybe it’s time to exit “Corporate ‘Egyptian’ Slavery” even if the stakes are high?! All those “biological clocks” ticking and wasting away, are thundering in the distance!) Why want only the boys drowned? The Torah Oral teachings say that the Egyptians, who were steeped in sexual licentiousness, had plans for the surviving baby girls to place them in their “harems” as sex slaves. It seems this is all related to the “world’s oldest profession” which depends on “trafficking in women”, a modern day international crime that tragically still plagues humanity.

So then in the face of all the pressures against them, what motivated those Hebrew women to “stick with the program” of Creation and Genesis and follow God’s command to be “Fruitful and Multiply”?
Did God have to “come down from heaven” and tell each lady what her role in Moses’ and the Hebrews’ birth should or should not be?
Did God have to tell them how many babies they should have and where and how to have them?
Why do the women in the Torah stand out, albeit briefly, and why are the men, supposedly the “main players” in any action packed situation, COMPLETELY influenced and guided by nothing less than FEMALE “POWER” when the women appear on center stage, as illustrated by the women in Moses’ life?
What is the Torah trying to teach us for eternity, as tools for practical living, and about personal as well as public leadership?

The key to understanding these women, probably all women, is that they DO NOT NEED COMMANDS FROM GOD TO DO THINGS. Classical Judaism teaches that women are endowed with a NATURAL LINK TO, AND UNDERSTANDING OF, WHAT GOD WANTS THEM TO DO AND WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE. That is most probably why in classical Judaism women are “exempt” from many of the positive commandments - “MITZVOT ASEH” that don’t infringe on other serious commandments, that men are obligated to observe.

Take this for a start, such as in “Judaism 101” from the Web: “Women are exempted from all positive commandments (the ‘thou shalts’ as opposed to the ‘thou shalt nots’) that are time-related (that is, commandments that must be performed at a specific time of the day or year), because the woman's duties as wife and mother are so important that they cannot be postponed to fulfill a commandment. After all, a woman cannot be expected to just drop a crying baby when the time comes to perform a commandment.”
“It is this exemption from certain commandments that has led to the greatest misunderstanding of the role of women in Judaism. First, many people make the mistake of thinking that this exemption is a prohibition. On the contrary, although women are not obligated to perform time-based positive commandments, they are generally permitted to observe such commandments if they choose.” [1]

It actually goes far, far deeper than all of this. It’s not just that women are doomed to be “harried housewives” serving their husbands, or “nannies” to their own children, that exempts them from observing positive commandments that men MUST observe. It is connected to something far deeper. The Jewish sages declare that WOMEN HAVE “EXTRA UNDERSTANDING” – “BINA YETEIRAH”. “BINAH” comes from the root “BIN” and from the word “havanah” which is the Hebrew word for “UNDERSTANDING”.

To understand someone or something that goes beyond superficial external “takes” on a situation requires INSIGHT, EMPATHY, and WISDOM which do not come easily or naturally to most people, yet women are somehow enabled to do just that, even much, much, more than that. Very profoundly the word “BINAH” is also directly connected to the Hebrew word for BUILD – “BONEH” since that word is used when God “BUILT”- “VAYIVEN”, Eve from Adam’s ribs (see Genesis, Chapter 2, verse 22). A BUILDING is a “BINYAN” and in Judaism, the institution of marriage is metaphorically referred to as a “BINYAN ADEI AD” – AN ETERNAL BUILDING (HOUSE/HOME/SANCTUARY).

Interestingly, in Hebrew a girl or daughter is a “BAT”. A HOUSE or HOME is known as a “BAYIT”. It is the female “BAT” (DAUGHTER) who is the primary BUILDER of the HOME – “BAYIT”. The People of Israel are also called the HOUSE of Israel – “BEIT”, “BETH” in English, ISRAEL. Thus each female “BAT” (DAUGHTER) is the ACTUAL BUILDER based on UNDERSTANDING (“BINAH”) that builds the total “BETH ISRAEL” – HOUSE OF ISRAEL. It is therefore very beautiful and logical that when Moses’ parents, Amram and Yocheved decide to MARRY the Torah says that it was: “A man of the HOUSE of (“MIBEIT”) Levi went to marry a DAUGHTER – “BAT” of Levi” (Exodus, Chapter 2, verse 1). In Jewish thought, the DYNASTIES of the Children of Israel are even called “BATIM”, also built on the root “BAT” – “DAUGHTER”.

Furthermore it is related to the root word for SON or CHILD which in Hebrew is a “BEN” and “BANIM” are sons. Daughters are called “BANOT” (FEMININE FORM) from the same root. Thus so to speak, with her “BINAH”- INTUITION she chooses her man and their path in life, and she is able to BUILD (as in “VAYIVEN” when God “BUILT” her), a home and nation, by giving birth to SONS – “BANIM” and DAUGHTERS - “BANOT” the building blocks of humanity and actualization of God’s plans to PEOPLE His planet.

This concept is analyzed and explored in different ways in Judaism. For example in “Insights to Nidah p.45 (Talmudic Tractate) THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE AGES OF MALE AND FEMALE PUBERTY (OPINIONS): The Gemara (Talmud) asks, why it is that a girl reaches Halachic (legal) maturity sooner than a boy? The Gemara (Talmud) explains that ‘Binah Yeteirah Nitnah l'Nashim (‘Extra Understanding is Given to Women). The TOSFOT ha'ROSH (a Talmudic commentator from the Middle Ages) explains this to mean that women are given ‘Binah’ (understanding) earlier than men -- i.e., their mental capacity develops at a younger age.” [2]

This is not a question of “superiority” or “inferiority” of women versus men or vice versa. There is debate between contemporary scholars who are wary of creating a “cult of womanhood”. That is not the point of the Torah or Judaism.

God created BOTH men and women, Adam and Eve, male and female in the Divine Image: “God said, ‘Let us make “ADAM” (it’s not specified if its “male” or “female”, just an “ADAM”, meaning “ONE FROM THE EARTH”, an “EARTHLING”) with our image and likeness…’ God thus created man with His image. In the image of God, he created him, MALE AND FEMALE He created THEM (at this point GENDER is introduced!). God blessed THEM. God said to THEM, “BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY (Be Fertile and Become Many). Fill the land and conquer it…’ God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was VERY GOOD. It was evening and it was morning, the sixth day.” (Genesis, Chapter 1, vs. 26 – 31). [3]

In Jewish mysticism God’s greatest UNITY is manifested when both “FEMININE” and “MASCULINE” Divine attributes (“midot”) are solidly combined. This is why Judaism stresses that the UNITY of husband and wife through marriage reflects the Divine unity of two dimensions that we here on Earth call “Female” and “Male” but its true absolute essence is a deeply hidden mystery rooted in and locked away in the vaults of God’s stores of Divine Wisdom. However, what we are doing is FOCUSING on a special trait that Judaism definitively states women have more than men, and that is “BINAH YETEIRAH” – “EXTRA UNDERSTANDING” which is in all probability the SOURCE for understanding the SOURCE, NATURE and FUNCTION of FEMALE INTUITION.

The Oxford dictionary defines “intuit” (from the Latin to “see”, “consider” or “look”) as meaning to “receive KNOWLEDGE by direct perception”; and “intuition” as “immediate apprehension” by the mind, or by sense, without reasoning. There is even “intuitionalism” which is a “doctrine that the perception of TRUTH is by intuition”; and “intuitionism” is a “doctrine that in perception external objects are KNOWN IMMEDIATELY by intuition”, going so far as to even claim that “intuitivism” is a “doctrine that ETHICAL PRINCIPLES are matters of intuition.” [4]

A word search on Google on the Internet of “intuition definition” at http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=intuition+definition+&btnG=Google+Search reveals the vast scope and application of INTUITION.

I came across a fascinating article on “INTUITIVE LEADERSHIP” by an established professor of business from the University of Texas, Brian K. Yeoman at http://www.uth.tmc.edu/ut_general/admin_fin/ss/FPD/publications/intlead.htm) which is worth summarizing:

He points out that: “Intuitive leadership is an amalgam of the three: character, competence, and intuition…Intuitive leadership takes knowledge, character, competence, and wisdom; and demands that we ask the question, ‘Is this the right thing to do?’ That should be our governing question whenever we are dealing with intuition. Remember, intuition is not luck, it's not whimsy. It has a very solid foundation because it's built first upon character and then upon towering competence…If we're going to try to draw out our intuitive self, we need to begin by finding it…”

“…More about men, women, and intuition: Most men think they have no intuition. Worse, they think there's something wrong with it. They treat it like some sort of witchcraft. But, in fact, it isn't that at all. Men have learned to subordinate intuition to rationality in an effort to maintain control…From the earliest encounters, which were largely predominated by the males' superior physical presence…Women had to figure out how to achieve their ends with different means. For millennia, they have very successfully learned to listen to their inner voices. Their inner voice allows them to read body language, for example.”

“Most of us guys say, ‘I never saw that. I never realized it was a problem.’ One of the reasons is that when our inner voice tries to talk to us, we interrupt, ‘Wait a second! Wrong thought, wrong thought!’ And so we ignore it…Another thing women are particularly good at is trusting their senses. Their ability to learn by touching and hearing is so well developed because they've had to adapt to an environment which has generally disregarded their opinions. So, they had to learn to read catch phrases, intonation, stress on a syllable, to figure out what was going on. They can read more in a single conversation with us about our sincerity, commitment, desire, and willingness, than we can believe. We usually don't even know what we've said. But they know what we mean! We sometimes create tremendous problems for ourselves by failing to recognize this...”

“…There are certain males who understand what intuition is and they use it. The film industry is a Mecca for those men. You can't make a good movie if you can't be in touch with your intuition. The director, Sidney Pollack says, ‘Intuitive leadership is free association. It's the ability to be in touch. It's where you get ideas. And it is the ability to trust the ideas once you have them, even though they may break some rules. And it's the competence to trust those ideas once you've identified them. Then, you cannot be afraid to fail’…My last example is something from the past. The Table of the Elements was an act of intuition by a Russian scientist, whose name was deMedvid, and who did his work in Paris. He guessed, in 1820, what all of the elements would be. He had no more idea than the man in the moon what they really were because many of them weren't discovered yet, but he guessed them by listening to his intuition.”

“Remember: It's not what happens to you, but what you make of what happens to you. That's intuitive leadership! What I ask you to do is listen to your intuition. Do the right thing.” [5]

With some reservations, overlooking the attribution of intuition to mere female “weaknesses” or from their position in society, it would be fair to say that the women who guided and aided Moses destiny evinced the capacities enumerated above. Their wise decisions and choices molded and ensured Moses as THE key future leader of his people. Moses, the one whose destiny was so much determined by the key women in his life would be the ONLY person to have the supreme honor and privilege of speaking with God “Mouth to Mouth” – “PEH EL PEH”, (as shown in Exodus, Chapter 33). Perhaps the fact that Moses was the product of such sublime enormously intuitive good women, givers and guiders of Torah life, that he was well prepared for supreme encounters with the ultimate source of life itself, God Himself.

From strictly Judaic sources comes the following, with some DEBATE as to the EXACT definitions of “BINAH YETEIRAH”, some claiming it as a higher “spiritual” level for women, and others maintaining it’s about something more PRACTICAL:
“… ‘Binah yeteirah nitnah lahen’ {Greater ‘understanding’ was given to them, (women)} vs. ‘da'atan qalos’ (“Lighter minds”). Better in some ways, worse in others. Seems obvious to me, what's the ‘she'eilah’ (question) -- why assume spiritual stance is unidimensional? (Micha Berger)”

Response: “Binah yeteirah (Intuition) is a cognitive not spiritual ability, ‘in Male and Female He created them’ (God in Genesis), Mishna, Nidah 5:6 (the Talmud) discusses the age of maturity:
Rebbe's (Judah the Prince, a prominent sage) view is that girls reach maturity at twelve and boys at 13. Rabbi Shimon ben Eliezar says that boys reach maturity at twelve and girls at 13. The Gemara (Talmud) explains Rebbe Shimon is saying that boys develop their practical intelligence through their exposure to the ‘marketplace’.
The explanation for Rebbe's view is that girls have ‘binah yeteirah’ which is ‘intuition’ that depending on different opinions, may mean ‘extra intuition’ or ‘earlier developing intuition” (Tractate Nidah p.45b, in the Talmud).”

“Maharal (Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague [1525-1609]) calls it a ‘seichel elyoni’ or loosely translated, ‘ethereal or non concrete intelligence’. The Maharal (in his work ‘Chidushei Agadot’, Nidah p.45b) says: ‘The explanation is that HaShem (GOD) gave to the woman an ‘ethereal intelligence’ since she is extra prepared for this. To the man He gave intelligence and ‘chochma’ (‘wisdom’) in extra amounts and this is an ‘abstract intelligence’. The Talmud in Bava Metzia (p.59a) says ‘If your wife is short, bend down and listen to her.’ It is established that this refers to matters of the house or according to another interpretation matters of the world. This is so because the woman's wisdom comes from ethereal intelligence, which is more relevant to her than it is to the man.”

“Therefore it says that in matters of heaven that one should not go after the counsel of his wife because wisdom required for such maters is not relevant to her, it being an abstract intelligence. It should be well understand what our Rabbis hint at when they say that HaShem (GOD) gave ‘binah yeteirah’ to the woman. This is drawn from the language ‘vayiven’ (‘He built’) a reference to the verse where HaShem builds (‘vayiven’) the woman from the side of man. She completes the building of the man and from this perspective wisdom is relevant to her. Nevertheless the attribute of the man is that he has abstract intelligence."

“The problem is that people sometimes misunderstand the meaning of ‘binah yeteirah’ and take it effectively to refer to some comprehensive link to truth. Such a practice might be reflective of the trend in the secular world towards religions from the Far East which operate with little literature and focus on meditation and internal wisdom...(Daniel Eidensohn).” [6]

So much for the debates. Let’s focus on the acts of some of the Torah heroines in this week’s portion:Firstly Moses’ mother Yocheved. Her name in Hebrew is a construct of two root words “CHAVOD” which means HONOR and “YO” two letters from God’s own Holy Name. She is a woman who is naturally endowed to give honor to God. She, like her husband were the descendants of LEVI, Jacob’s third son, they were all totally devoted to serving God exclusively. The Levites, consisting of the “KOHEN” and “LEVI” (yes, “Cohen and Levy”) sections, continue to be the Jewish “priestly cast” till today. Much like the Matriarch Sarah, the wife of Abraham, she well very old when Moses was born. The Torah commentators say that she was aware that the Egyptian midwives knew how to perform “partial birth abortions” by crushing the tender skulls of infants as they were trying to emerge from their mothers’ birth canals. Instead, she instituted a policy of faked “early deliveries” to befuddle the murderous cruel inspectors (“Gestapo and KGB”) of Egypt. For this she merited miracles and the biggest one was the way SHE KNEW, by INTUITION, GOD DID NOT HAVE TO TELL HER to have the courage to conceive and bring to full term Moses from her womb, or what to do with baby Moses by placing him into the care of God on the Nile in a little boat, putting her absolute trust in God’s ways.

Indeed, as “fate” – “Divine Providence”, would have it, Pharaoh’s own daughter - “BAT PAROH”, (note how the Torah refers to her as a “BAT”- DAUGHTER) coming down for a dip in the Nile, sees Moses (he had still NOT been named at that point! He was (born) circumcised as well so this was a clue to her that he was a Hebrew baby as the Hebrews practiced circumcision) and she ADOPTS him!

What motivated this woman to go against her own people and all-powerful father the Pharaoh himself? It was her own INTUITION, some voice inside of her was telling her to DEFY and DENY her own father’s decrees and “TAKE THE LAW (Moses would be the lawgiver) INTO HER OWN HANDS (which is what she did, she stretched out her hand)” and SAVED MOSES. In fact SHE names him “MOSHEH” - MOSES, meaning from the water I “DREW HIM” or “HE WHO DRAWS OUT”, he will be endowed with the powers of DRAWING or TAKING OUT PEOPLE FROM BONDAGE. [7]
Moses, “MOSHEH” in Hebrew is written with three letters: “M”, “SH”, “H”. (“mem”; “shin”; “heh”) If the letters are REVERSED they spell “HASHEM” – “THE NAME”, which means “THE NAME” OF GOD!

Did God tell her what to name him? NO! She relied on her OWN INTUITION - “BINAH YETEIRAH” giving him an “Egyptian” name that becomes one of the most “Jewish” in the Torah: MOSHEH!

Moses’ sister Miriam is known in Judaism as MIRIAM THE PROPHETESS – “MIRIAM HANEVIAH” for her NATURAL POWERS OF ACCURATELY PREDICTING AND PROPHESYING THE FUTURE! According to the Oral teachings Miriam was the one who predicted to her parents that Moses would be born, and she was the one who volunteered to keep watch over Moses as he floated down the river. Did God have to tell her to do this? No, she instinctively knew what do and that it was the one and only right thing to do. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch [1808-1888] says in his commentary (on Exodus, Chapter 2, verse 4): “And his sister placed herself afar to obtain knowledge of what would be done to him” that:
“The Word of God (the Torah) simply relates the bare fact for us to understand. What a Jochebed, a Miriam felt at such a moment, every FEELING person can FEEL for themselves. But as far as just affects the facts, the Torah paints for us the finest nuances. AT SUCH A MOMENT ONE’S ACTS ARE ONLY SEMI-CONSCIOUS. One does know what one is doing and one’s own will does function; but at the same time the tragic possibilities of the moment are so overwhelming, THAT ONE IS HALF FOLLOWING THE DIRECTIONS OF SOME HIGHER FORCING POWER. The sister knew that she went and stood waiting there, but she also suddenly stopped there as if placed there by some higher power, a mixture of CONSIDERED AND FORCED ACTION.”[8]

Rabbi Hirsch’s comments really touch the “delicate nerve” of the active pulsating INTUITION – “BINAH YETEIRAH” which for Miriam was always tinged with PROPHECY – “NEVUAH” revealing how much she “knew” what to do, without God having to reveal Himself and give commands.

And finally Tzipporah, daughter of the non-Hebrew Midianite priest Jethro, who according to the Oral Torah Teachings converted to the Torah as evidenced in the Torah portion in Exodus named for him (see Exodus, Chapter 18). One of the great questions in the Torah and in all of Judaism is how did Moses, the greater Lawgiver of the Torah come to marry a woman NOT from the Children of Israel at all? She is considered to be one of the greatest CONVERTS to the TORAH WAY OF LIFE (aka Judaism), and even someone on as a high a status as Miriam was later afflicted with “leprosy” for daring to discuss Moses’ relationship with his wife Tzipporah (according to the sages, that Moses became celibate after coming down from Mount Sinai) which was the subject of: “Miriam and Aaron began speaking against Moses because of the dark-skinned (“KUSHIT”) woman he had married. The woman that Moses had married was indeed dark-skinned.”(Numbers, Chapter 12, vs.1-2). [9] (The Torah never mentions “X-Rated” subjects directly, but refers to them indirectly. This is called the principle of “DIBRAH TORAH BELASHON NEKIYAH” – “THE TORAH SPEAKS IN CLEAN LANGUAGE”, an important key for understanding why the Torah speaks in “round about ways” when it comes to the subjects of sex and sexuality in its domains.)

Perhaps Tzipporah’s name is the main clue that the Torah gives to understand her. Her name means “FEMALE BIRD” in Hebrew: “ Why was she called Tzipporah? Tzipporah means a BIRD, and her name shows that SHE RAN TO MOSES AS QUICKLY AS A BIRD. Another interpretation is that she was called TZIPPORAH because she “GAVE FORTH LIGHT” – “TZAFRA”, just like the morning star.”[10] Thus her INSTINCTIVE and IMMEDIATE attraction to a man of Moses’ caliber came as naturally to her as flight comes to a bird, and as naturally strong bright light comes from a radiant shining star. No need for God to tell her who this man was and what she needed to do!

In perhaps one of the most enigmatic and dramatic episodes in the Torah, in this week’s Torah portion, on his way to confront Pharaoh, Moses is almost killed by God himself for not circumcising one of his newborn sons. There are various interpretations why Moses delayed doing it, but it was TZIPPORAH’S INSTINCTIVE AND INTUITIVE ACTION THAT SAVED MOSES:
“When they were in the place where they spent the night along the way, God confronted Moses and wanted to kill him. Tzipporah took a stone knife and cut of her son’s foreskin, throwing it down at Moses feet. ‘As far as I am concerned, you’re married to blood.., (some translate it as ‘you are my bloody groom’)’. God then spared Moses. ‘You were married to blood because of circumcision,’ she said.” (Exodus, Chapter 4, vs. 24 – 26). [11]
Whatever the deeper meaning is of this extremely puzzling episode, one thing is very clear, GOD DID NOT HAVE TO TELL TZIPPORAH WHAT TO DO!
She probably never even took “lessons” in circumcision before either. She does know from within the pulsating innermost recesses of her being, that she must circumcise her son in order to save her husband, even one as great as Moses, who was under threat of death for not fulfilling God’s will at that very instant in time. There can probably be no better dramatic example of “BINAH YETEIRAH”, that special feminine, female intuition at work in a POSITIVE way with life-savings consequences for Moses and us.

Have a great Shabbat and please let me know what you think!

[1] JUDAISM 101 at http://www.jewfaq.org/women.htm
[2] http://www.mail-archive.com/daf-discuss@shemayisrael.com/msg00199.html ,
Rabbi Mordecai Kornfeld.
[3] The Living Torah, English translation, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, p. 7.
[4] The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English by Oxford University Press
[5] INTUITIVE LEADERSHIP By Brian K. Yeoman. http://www.uth.tmc.edu/ut_general/admin_fin/ss/FPD/publications/intlead.htm. This article appeared in the winter 1996 edition of NAEB Professional Purchaser. It is largely a transcription of a presentation given at the NAEB National Meeting held in April 19-22, 1995 Anaheim, California
[6] http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol10/v10n046.shtml#05 , presented by Daniel Eidensohn
[7] The Medrash Says, Shemot-Exodus, English translation, p. 20.
[8] The Pentateuch, Exodus, Chapter 2, verse 4, translated and explained (in German) by Rabbi S.R. Hirsch, rendered into English by Isaac Levy, p.15.
[9] The Living Torah, Ibid., p.721.
[10] The Tz’enah Ur’enah, Torah Lore and Midrashic Comment, translated by Miriam S. Zakon, Vol. 2, p.326.
[11] The Living Torah, Ibid., p.277.

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