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Aleph Beta Reacts
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Tamar Katz: Hi everybody.
David Block: Thank you so much for joining us.
Tamar Katz: My pleasure.
David Block: So this week we're discussing Parshat Acharei Mot Kedoshim. Rabbi Fohrman points out that there are three sets of laws that really don't seem all that connected but appear one right after the other. So the first one was about how having thoughts about doing a certain sacrifice in the wrong way while you're bringing the sacrifice, how that can invalidate the entire offering. The second category of laws was how you should give of your field to the poor. The last category was really how you should respect others in terms of not lying to them, not stealing. The question Rabbi Fohrman asked was how do these three categories relate to one another?
So Rabbi Fohrman used the paradigm that he introduced a few weeks ago on Parshat Vayikra, in which he explained that each one of the different sacrifices represents a different aspect in our relationship with G-d. So plugging it into this week the laws about the poor are about how you should give of your own wealth and that which belongs to you, you should share it with others. The laws about respecting others, about not lying et cetera, is not to violate other people - what's theirs. Then the third one is really about what's joint and when someone brings a sacrifice it's meant to be an indication of some sort of covenant, of some sort of peace offering between the two parties. So when you're thinking about the wrong things at the time so it kind of invalidates the covenant.
If that wasn't clear, go check out the video from this week, if you haven't yet seen it, and then rejoin us here.
So without further ado, I know that was a long introduction, but let's - let me just turn it over like we generally do to our guest, to Tamar, and ask, so what did the video mean to you? What did you take out of it?
Tamar Katz: So when I first started watching it I was like, okay, I heard this all before, like we're in Vayikra, I get it, there's a lot of sacrifices. I was a little bit disappointed at first because I saw the same three categories, we have three types of Korbanot and we should learn from them. But in this week it's kind of a mixed bag. We have two laws that seem to be talking about relationships with man and then one law that talks about a relationship with G-d. The fact that we have this repeated notion of sacrifices equals ways that we can relate to other people, it really drives home the point to me that all of these laws are really just about relationships, and how we can use the Torah in our daily lives in a real way.
David Block: I love that idea. I think what we are pointing out is that it's not just sacrifices, right? It's that almost everything we do, everything the Torah mandates, everything that seems to be a chore is really somehow a way to build up our relationships. Every law it's really important to not just do it but to actually understand how this is an expression of a relationship. Whether it's giving of myself to someone else or to G-d. Whether it's making sure I'm not violating someone else - whether it's G-d or other people, or whether it's some sort of sharing, building a relationship together. But I feel like that's a cool paradigm because our lives are full of so many different Halachot, so many different Jewish laws, and it's very easy to get caught up in the minutiae of the laws and not appreciate really what the whole point of them are, which is that relationship building.
Tamar Katz: Right, and because so much of the Torah is laws, people like to focus on the stories - I know, myself I like to focus on the stories too, and we try to gloss over Vayikra, and we just hold our breath and wait till it's over because it's just laws after laws that seem hard to relate to. So it's cool when you look at it in terms of no these aren't just laws and rituals that are just kind of in the sky, but they're in some tangible way telling you how you should connect either with man or with G-d and how you can live your life in a meaningful way through these laws.
David Block: Right, they're kind of building - it's through the laws that you actually build up a…
Tamar Katz: Right.
David Block: …morality and respect.
Tamar Katz: It's not so easy to see and sometimes you really, really have to work hard to see it. Because most people don't think about - most people would hear the law that Rabbi Fohrman mentions in this video of if you didn't have thought at one point or if you were thinking about the wrong thing, and you'd be like, huh? Like, I did it, just give me credit for it. But maybe there's something deeper there, maybe it's not just about credit but maybe it's that it's all about your intention. The fact that that's the most important thing is really something to be proud of. Not to say, oh G-d is so nit-picky, G-d is so annoying, how could He say that our whole Korban or our whole sacrifice is invalidated if we didn't have the proper intention? Really that's something that's kind of inspiring, that maybe works in the reverse. Maybe if I had good intention it's more important [than 4:30] if I a little bit mess up the technical details.
I don't know, maybe that's risky to say?
David Block: No, it's a really cool point. It actually reminds me of the very first Perek of Yeshayahu, of Isaiah. Since I read it the first time it's really resonated with me. Basically Isaiah stands up to the people and says, wow you guys are so great that you bring all of your sacrifices, and you do so - it seems like - mindlessly. But do you think that's what G-d is looking for? That G-d just wants you to do all of the things, check them off your list? G-d doesn't need your animals, He has plenty of animals. Don't do things just because you feel like, oh you need to, you need to check if off your list, there's got to be meaning there, there's got to be thoughtfulness, you got to understand how this relates to your relationship with G-d.
So I think that's exactly what you're saying, that we have all of these commands and the real essence of them seems to be the feeling and the thought and how it builds a relationship. Yes, the way - the action part is really how that manifests, but it's kind of worthless unless you have the thought.
Tamar Katz: I think sometimes the challenge is that the more laws we take upon ourselves, the more things we say, okay I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that, and you're going to add to that list, sometimes it takes away from the meaning of each individual one. If you think about somebody who is not necessarily so affiliated but they have that one command that they're strong on, you know, I do this one thing, and I'm like all for it. So that's so amazing and that's so beautiful and sometimes I think the challenge is when we want to add on to that. If we say, okay great, I mastered one area of Judaism, I mastered one law, and so how am I going to add another law but keep that same fervor for both of those laws?
Like I remember when my brother put on Tefillin for the first time and everybody is saying to him, oh the intention that you have this first time, you should keep that same intention for every single day that you're going to put on your Tefillin. So the older men were like, okay, like that's a classic line, but I had never heard it, and I'm like, that's so beautiful. And people might get desensitized to these kinds of things but really that is a beautiful message, that with the same freshness and newness that you begin a new practice that you want to take into your life, to try to keep that intention throughout. Because once that intention has gone it's just a hollow act.
David Block: Yeah, it's a great point. Also, as you were saying that it reminded me of recently before Purim and before Passover so there's a law to give charity for those who can't necessarily afford to celebrate and to commemorate really what the holidays are about in the same way that we can. So we give to charity. So there are a lot of laws saying, oh what's the minimum you can give in order to be able to fulfill your obligation? That always kind of bothered me, because is that really what the point is, just check it off your list? That's what happens, we do it mindlessly, we're like, oh this is something I have to do. Just like as you were saying, after a few days Tefillin, it's just something I have to do and it loses all of its value.
But I think the point is really when you start to realize what it's about that hey, when I'm putting my Tefillin it's about X, when I'm giving charity it's about social justice, or everything that goes on in helping others and feeling connected with them. Then those small questions of, oh how much do I have to give in order - those become very much secondary. It's really about what's going on with the Mitzvah itself.
Tamar Katz: Right, it's like realize that the value is actually built in from the start, it's not just a separate by-product but it's in essence of that practice.
David Block: Awesome. This has been a lot of fun, thank you so much for joining.
Tamar Katz: Thanks David.
David Block: We will definitely do this again. Thanks so much to all of you for listening to this edition of Aleph Beta Reacts, we hope you enjoyed it, and as always, please leave your own thoughts and comments right underneath this audio. We hope to hang out with you very soon on our next edition of Aleph Beta Reacts.
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