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Aleph Beta Reacts
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My name is David Block, I work on content and curriculum development here at Aleph Beta, and joining me today is Tamar Katz. Tamar is actually the Head of Marketing.
Tamar Katz: Hey David.
David Block: Hey, how are you doing?
Tamar Katz: I'm good. I feel like such a celebrity right now.
David Block: Well this is a pretty awesome and famous podcast, so thanks for joining.
Tamar Katz: Well I'm honored.
David Block: It's a pleasure. We're really excited. We've actually just begun a new Sefer - a new Book, and that is the Book of Vayikra - Leviticus. What's kind of difficult about Vayikra is that it always seems to be - at least to me - the most un-relatable of all the books, it deals with tons of laws of sacrifices and service. That's kind of what I think really makes this year's Vayikra video so remarkable, is how relatable it becomes.
So if you can start us off, what did you take away from the video?
Tamar Katz: Yes. So for me, I think that usually when we get up to the part of the year when we're talking about Vayikra, it's a little bit less of an incentive to maybe go to Shul, or actually learn the Parsha that week. Simply because the stories through Genesis and Exodus, they're a lot more exciting, there's a lot more going on. We have characters that we're following, we have climactic moments, we have miracles. Then it kind of just plateaus and we get to Vayikra or Leviticus, and it's just archaic, a little barbaric even. So what I liked about this video a lot is that Rabbi Fohrman really gives how we can relate to the sacrifices today.
David Block: So let's just jump right in. What do they actually mean to you? What did you take out of the sacrifices? How do you relate to them in terms of relationship with G-d?
Tamar Katz: So I thought what was really cool that Rabbi Fohrman did there was he took the three different types of sacrifices and we have respect, love and awe and those are the foundation for a relationship with G-d. I really liked that he took animal sacrifices and put so much emotion behind them so that people would really see how their sin is not just like a thing that I did and so now I feel bad and now I'm going to apologize to G-d with an animal. Because most people can't relate to that concept. The offerings are not simply a nice gesture, but they're actually atoning for the transgression, you need to restore the balance that I set off by doing this transgression. Or, as Rabbi Fohrman puts it, resetting those boundary lines that I've crossed.
David Block: You know it's interesting. A few years ago in our Rosh Hashanah course, Rabbi Fohrman spoke about this concept of throwing a balance off in a relationship. It was really just interesting to think about how sins kind of throw off that balance - exactly as you're saying. It actually put into perspective of the value of the words I'm sorry and thank you. Sometimes in a relationship when someone violates the other it creates that imbalance so sometimes an apology is exactly what restores it. I think it's true positively also, when you give a gift to someone, when you do a kindness for someone, that also kind of throws the relationship off balance. Someone is now above as it were, or someone is below. The way that you restore that sometimes is just showing gratitude, is saying thank you.
I think it's really cool how these sacrifices - yeah, I think you're right, they really seem to restore that balance that was kind of offset. The way they do it, as you said, isn't just random. We transgress a line with G-d and we kind of try to restore that by giving something of us to G-d. That's kind of how we reconcile it.
Tamar Katz: Yeah, an example that this makes me think of is Tzara'at, when you get leprosy. When someone gets leprosy in the Bible it's because they've spoken badly about somebody else. So the punishment is they have to reside outside of the camps. It's not just oh you're bad and we're putting you in a timeout, but it's you couldn't function within society, you were wrong to your fellow man. So now in order to restore that balance, to fix that, you need to be placed outside of the camps because right now you're not functioning with everybody on pleasant, social playing field.
So I think that that's kind of what this reminded me of, is that it's like every action has an equal and opposite reaction - that's how I think about giving offerings after transgressing certain boundary lines.
David Block: That's a really cool way of looking at it.
If we can actually go back on something that you touched on before. You said that you really liked how Rabbi Fohrman spoke about relationships as being on different levels. Now Rabbi Fohrman is talking about it as if there are different levels of relationship, that love is even greater than respect, and awe - at least in our relationship with G-d - is even greater than love. But I think it actually brings us back to something Rabbi Fohrman said in The Ten Commandments course. That's that it's not just that there are different levels of relationships, it's that each one builds on the next one. So you can't get to awe unless you have love, and you can't get to love before you have respect.
That's kind of a really cool lesson, that before you could even begin to give of yourself and to really love someone else, you have to really respect them. You have to respect who they are, what they do, what they stand for. Only once you have that can you kind of begin to throw yourself into that relationship in a more loving way.
Tamar Katz: Yeah, I think that's really true. The only thing that I'm kind of left wondering is, do we think awe applies to human relationships? I know that awe is a word that we generally associate with G-d, and now maybe we're saying in order to have a human relationship you have to first respect someone, and then love someone. But do you think that we get to that point - or should we want to get to a point of awe?
David Block: It's a great question. I actually thought that thinking about our relationship with G-d in terms of awe is also not so natural.
Tamar Katz: Right.
David Block: I mean, I know it's in the Torah and G-d speaks about it a lot, but we're very into - at least today I think we relate more to the loving relationship with G-d. So what really is awe? I think that if we think of awe as like fear then that's probably not what we're going for in our relationship with people and it's probably not what we're going for in our relationship with G-d either. Is it total humility such that we really just put ourselves down and realize that we're nothing in the eyes of G-d? Or is it something a little bit more subtle?
Tamar Katz: So actually in the video, if I'm remembering correctly, Rabbi Fohrman talks about the concept of if something is awe inspiring for you when you get closer to it, when you understand it, does it become less or more? So he gives an example of let's say you have an atom and you're viewing it on its own or through a telescope. The more in-depth you go the more awe inspiring, more wow inducing it becomes. So I feel like it makes awe kind of something you want to attain. If you view awe as fear then you don't want to necessarily get there, right? I'm cool staying in love because then me and G-d we get each other, we're boys, we…
Tamar Katz: But that people can mistake that. Obviously respect comes first and then you get to love, but if awe is the next step, that's kind of scary. So I think that if we view it as the more awe we have for someone, I think it's just more just understanding their greatness and it's kind of a cycle almost. The more you recognize G-d greatness, the more you'll want to respect Him and the more you'll love Him. I think that it's not necessarily one, two, three, like walking up a step. But to me it kind of seems like it goes round and round and round, because each level feeds into the other level.
David Block: That's a really cool idea, that when you understand the complexity of someone you realize their greatness more and I guess you're more in awe of them. I guess that really does apply to our relationships. When you realize the complexity of people and they're not just these stories that we hear of or the things that they say, but they're actually filled of - just like we are - full of everyone, human - of emotions, and stories and experiences. When you realize that complexity, it really leads to this realization of greatness. I think it's a really cool idea.
I also wonder if when you realize where you came from, so we're appreciative to our parents for bringing us into the world, and then we're appreciative to our grandparents et cetera, et cetera. Then it goes - really goes back to G-d and we realize that everything comes from that source. Well it's kind of hard not be in awe.
But I think the same thing applies to human relationships in that whenever we have expressions of gratitude, we realize also that listen, we can't really be on our own. We won't be as successful, we won't be as great as we can be if we're on our own. So when we start to appreciate what other people give us, then I think that also might lead to awe. It's not awe that will keep us away from other people, it can actually be awe that brings us closer to people.
Tamar Katz: Yeah, I think that's a really cool concept, of thinking back to your grandparents and your ancestors, and then eventually back to G-d. Because that's one of those things where it's like the more you know, it's humbling but also so inspiring and empowering. Because it's the whole thing like the whole world is created for me and that's both scary but also like wow, I really matter. But I do think that to be in awe of G-d is also to recognize, wow G-d chose me, I have such a responsibility and that's scary. But as Uncle Ben says, with great power comes great responsibility.
David Block: Nice.
David Block: All right, Tamar, this has been fun.
Tamar Katz: Yes, thank you so much David.
David Block: All right, thank you so much for listening. We look forward to hanging out with you again very soon in our next Aleph Beta Reacts video. In the meantime please let us know what you think, if you'd like us to continue doing these videos and share how you reacted to these videos. We look forward to seeing you soon.
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