Rabbi David Fohrman
Founder and Lead Scholar
Ever find Selichot inaccessible? Join Rabbi Fohrman and the Aleph Beta Scholars for this pre-Selichot discussion and enter Selichot truly prepared to connect.
This video is a recording of a live event, held September 12, 2020.
Beth: Hi there all. Welcome to Aleph Beta's webinar on Selichot. We are excited to welcome you here tonight. Thanks for joining us. I'm Beth Lesch and I'm lucky to be one of the scholars that works here on Rabbi Fohrman's team. I've been at Aleph Beta for about four years. In fact, today is my four-year work anniversary so happy work anniversary to you, Beth. I see some thumbs up, so thanks for the smiles.
I just want to give you a short layout about what to expect for this evening and a little bit of an introduction and then we'll dive in. So here tonight, right now, 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time, 9:00 p.m. in Nashville, where I am is myself, my colleague, Daniel Loewenstein who's another scholar on the team. Rivky Stern who's our executive producer behind the scenes who's going to be manning the chat. You might notice that by default you're muted. That's because we do want to be able to keep to our schedule of making sure I can present the material, Daniel can present. You know, we'll be running on time for when Rabbi Fohrman turns in, in an-hour-and-a-half from now, then get everyone who needs to off to Selichot at their synagogues or in Zoom rooms on time.
However, we expect and hope that you'll be able to interact. So if you've got questions, if you've got comments for us or for your fellow participants the chat is active for you and Rivky's going to be the one manning that and responding and raising up questions that are appropriate for us. That's the first thing.
Can we just give a very short introduction about Selichot in general? I think what I really want to say here, and the entire reason that we decided to go ahead and schedule this webinar is because this is a beautiful time of year and Selichot are really hard. There are parts of them who are really hard to connect to. It's Hebrew poetry. It's hard to understand the meaning of it. You might have the inkling that each verse is packed with meaning, there are all these references passing you by, but as for the average person's experience of it, you know, I think we're tired, trying to say a bunch of words really quickly and I think the best case scenario is you're sort of trying to focus your mind on the big picture.
You're muttering, you're muttering really quickly and then you're thinking to yourself okay, the Days of Awe are coming, I'm talking to God, God please forgive me and forgive anyone else in the world who needs Your forgiveness. But the words aren't really doing it for you. You know the words may as well be Greek.
I mean, just to underline this, I'll invite you to indulge in this thought experiment. You know, imagine that you would go into your synagogue the night before Selichot and you would take a pair of scissors and cut and paste a paragraph from here and a verse from here and mix it all up, would anyone in the synagogue notice the next day that anything wasn't right? That's a thought experiment.
Shmuel is raising his hand. Shmuel, are you saying that you would notice or are you saying the thought experiment? I think he's saying I would notice.
Yeah, but I think the vast majority of people unfortunately wouldn't. You sort of have to ask yourself, like is it supposed to be God, please forgive us yadi, yadi, yada or is there meaning in these Selichot? Is there meaning that we can derive from the words? Is each composition a coherent whole expressing a singular idea that we can wrap our minds around that can give us a sense of intentionality when we say it? So I hope you'll walk away from our program today with a sense of all of that.
Daniel, will you take it away? You'll give over your first piece to us, I'll come in for piece number two and then everyone's waiting for Rabbi Fohrman to join us for piece number three. So go ahead, Daniel. I'm going to unmute you. (Irrelevant - 00:04:09 - 00:04:18.)
Daniel: All right. Thanks so much, Beth. Do you hear me?
Beth: You're live.
Daniel: Awesome. Thanks so much and thank you everyone for coming.
When I was thinking about what to prepare for this event tonight, I thought why don't I start at the beginning. The first element of Selichot that we say, which begins with this verse, "lecha God hatzedakah v'lanu boshet hapanim," which means God, You are the One Who possesses righteousness and we are the ones who possess shamefacedness. That's the section that begins the Selichot every day. So it's not just relevant for tonight, but for the entire period.
It's a funny sort of section. I mean, it's not like the rest of the Selichot afterwards. There's this big, big block of verses with some added tweets here and there, but it's basically essentially just a huge block of verses. The structure breaks down essentially in the following way. It begins with God, we come before You broken, empty, nothing to say in our defense, leaning on Your mercy, hoping not to come away empty handed. That's sort of the beginning and then the next section -- this is a very, very long section where we declare God's greatness in across multiple verses and we encourage everyone to come and worship God.
At the end it sort of cycles back to the beginning. Again, we come before You with nothing and we just sort of beg God please act for Your sake, l'ma'an shimecha, l'ma'anecha, chusah al amalach. You know, please have mercy on the things that You created. Do these things for Your sake, for Your name. That's the ending that sort of leads into the rest of Selichot.
On any note, the structure it makes sense. You know, we're trying to repair a relationship with God. So the middle, that section about talking about how great God is and how important it is to worship Him, it can be taken as an indication that we're invested in a relationship. We care about God. We believe in God's greatness. The beginning and the end are sort of our pitch. You know, God, You're so merciful and You have a stake in what's going to happen here. You know, Your name is tied to this thing.
So it kind of makes sense on its own as an introduction, but I wanted to dig a little deeper. Beth, I'm hoping that you can go along for the ride with me here and we can look at it together.
Beth: I'm here to dig with you.
Daniel: Great. And so what I decided to do to try to get a little deeper is actually just to start with that first verse of "Lecha God hatzedakah v'lanu boshet hapanim." Which is, again, it means, You are God are the One Who possesses the righteousness and we are the ones who possess the shamefacedness. That verse comes from the Book of Daniel; Chapter 9 in the Book of Daniel.
I'm actually going to share my screen now. (Irrelevant - 00:07:43 - 00:07:51.) Sorry guys, but if any of you have the Book of Daniel in your own homes, do you want to open that up, it's fine.
Beth: Go for it now.
Daniel: Okay. Here we go. All right. I hope everyone can see my screen. Beth, you could see it?
Beth: I can't see it. Is it possible to make it a little bigger? Can you zoom in a little bit?
Daniel: Here you go.
Beth: That's great.
Daniel: All right. So the context of this section of the Book of Daniel is that Daniel is sort of looking through the Book of Jeremiah, looking at the prophecies of Jeremiah. He starts to get a little bit nervous because one of the prophecies of Jeremiah is that there will be a timeline, a clock, a point at which the exile is supposed to be done and the Israelites are supposed to be returned, restored to Israel. It's a 70-year window. He's sort of running through numbers and seeing that things aren't adding up and he starts to get very nervous.
So you see in Verse 2, "B'shnat achat l'malcho ani Daniel binoti basefarim," so I Daniel, was looking through the books, "mispar hashanim asher hayah d'var God el Yirmiyah Hanavi," when I was looking at the number of years that God had spoken to Jeremiah the Prophet, "l'malo'ot l'charvot Yerushalayim shivim shanah," to restore the destruction of Jerusalem after 70 years and he freaks out a little bit. Then he decides he's going to launch into this great prayer for mercy and forgiveness which actually a lot of it is very related to a lot of the prayers of the tachanunim, the supplications that we have in our daily service and also in Selichot.
He starts off and he says, in Verse 4, "Va'etpallelah laGod Elokai va'et'vadeh va'omrah ana God ha'Keil hagadol v'hanora shomer habrit v'hachessed l'ohavav u'l'shomrei mitzvotav." So I pray to God and I confess and I said please, God, ha'Keil hagadol v'hanora, the Power Who is great and Who is awesome.
So as I was looking through this chapter that was the first place I sort of stopped and wondered. Beth, I'm guessing that you know why.
Beth: Well, that sounds familiar to me. I mean that sounds like -- I was going to say that's a quote from the introduction to Shemoneh Esrei, but it's probably the other way around.
Daniel: Right. Well, so they're both actually a reference to a verse in Deuteronomy, which you see over here, which is that Moses refers to God as ha'Keil hagadol hagibor v'hanora.
Daniel: That God is the God Who is great and mighty and awesome. That word mighty is conspicuously missing. In other words, the verse in Daniel seems to be riffing off of that line there, but mighty is missing.
Beth: Right. Does he not think that God is mighty? What's that about?
Daniel: So that, you know, that was the first little tickling of the spidey sense that something is probably going on there, but at this point obviously I have no idea what to make of it. That was sort of the first thing that I noticed.
He goes on, in his appeal to God, and he says that we've sinned. We haven't listened to Your servants, the prophets. Then in Verse 7 we get to the quote from Selichot, "Lecha God hatzedakah v'lanu boshet hapanim." That's over here. You, God possess the righteousness and we possess the shamefacedness. He continues in a similar vein. We, again, in Verse 8, we possess the shamefacedness, God possesses the rachamim and the Selichot, He possesses the mercy and the forgiveness.
Then we get to Verse 11 and this is the second time that my radar sort of flashed. As he's confessing the sin, he says, "V'chol Yisrael avru et Toratecha," all of Israel violated Your Torah, "v'sor," and strayed, "l'vilti sh'mo'a b'kolecha," and they didn't listen to You and what happened, "vatitach aleinu ha'alah v'hash'vu'ah," and that brought down upon us the alah and the sh'vu'ah, the curse and the oath, "asher ketuvah b'Torat Moshe eved ha'Elokim," that is written in the Book of Moses, "ki chatanu lo."
Beth, is that doing anything for you?
Beth: So this language of the curse and the oath is setting off bells for me, but I can't remember where it comes from.
Daniel: Yeah, so I actually -- it was really bothering me also and I couldn't think of where it was from. Then I actually asked a friend of mine who reads the Torah at my synagogue and credit to him -- his name is David Lasker -- he got it in 10 minutes. It's actually of all things a reference to the story of the sotah, of the straying wife or the suspected wife -- I don't know how people generally translate that -- in the Book of Numbers.
The way that story unfolds is that if there's a woman who acts in a suspicious manner and her husband is worried about what's going on and he approaches a priest to get the matter sorted out. So there's this water that she drinks and if she in fact was guilty of infidelity then this sort of weird bodily thing happens to her and it's bad. The way the verse describes it is when the priest is administering this procedure v'hishbi'a -- over here -- "v'hishbi'a haKohen et ha'ishah b'shvu'at ha'alah," so the priest makes her swear with this curse swear, "v'amar haKohen la'ishah yitein God otach l'alah v'lishvu'ah," God should make you into a curse and into an oath, "bitoch ameich," within your nation, "b'teit God et y'reicheich nofelet v'et bit'neich tzavah," when your body sort of collapses, you know, as you're found guilty.
Which not to get too deeply into sotah which is an interesting and possibly a head scratching topic in and of itself, but that line of l'alah v'lishvu'ah, that God will make you into a curse and an oath.
Beth: So I have to tell you, when I read the first part of the verse, I thought I knew what this was about. In other words, the location of a shvu'at ha'alah I thought it meant okay, so the woman is taking an oath of cursing. She's taking an oath, you know, I promise this and if it doesn't go through then I'm accepting a curse upon me. I'm totally puzzled as to what it means for the woman if found guilty to become -- an alah, a curse I understand, but an oath? Why is she going to become an oath? There are people -- are subsequent sotahs going to somehow swear by her? That part is a question mark for me.
Daniel: So I think the way the verse is generally understood is that her reputation will become something that people use in curses and in oaths. The person will say that, you know, God should bless you and make sure that you're never like so-and-so. Or, someone says I take an oath and if I violate the oath then what should happen to me should be like so-and-so. She'll be the standard by which people use for their curses or blessings in their oaths.
Beth: In a sense she's becoming cursed and her name is becoming cursed, too.
Daniel: Right. So yeah. Another thing that sort of felt interesting, but why is it showing up here?
Beth: Right. We've got a data point that points to Deuteronomy, a data point that points to the Book of Numbers, what's going on?
Daniel: Right. Okay. But then we're about to hit the motherload which I think is going to crack the case wide open. So Verse 11 is the transition point at which Daniel is switching from saying that we sinned to saying and then punishments came down upon us. So Verse 12, that God kept all of the things that He said was going to happen that He promised in the past to different leaders. Then, Verse 13 also there's these things that happened, "Ka'asher katuv b'Torat Moshe," the things that were written in Moses' Book, the Torah, "eit kol hara'ah hazot ba'ah aleinu," all these bad things happen to us, "v'lo chilinu et p'nei God Elokeinu lashuv mei'avoneinu u'l'haskil ba'amitecha," and we didn't entreat the face of God, our God to return from our sins and to ponder Your truth.
So Beth, is there anything there that's tickling your spiked sense?
Beth: "V'lo chilinu et p'nei God Elokeinu lashuv mei'avoneinu u'l'haskil ba'amitecha." No, I'm drawing a blank. What are you thinking about Daniel?
Daniel: So if you change the word chilinu to vayichal. Vayichal et p'nei God Elokim.
Beth: Oh, interesting.
Daniel: Is that --
Beth: So I'm thinking the sin of the golden calf.
Daniel: That's right and just for the spoiler effect here you could see some of the comparisons that are going on here, but yeah, the word chilinu, we do not entreat is the same word as vayichal, and he entreated. Which is a reference -- over here, you see in Exodus 32, in the story of the golden calf. That after it comes out that the sin happened so Moses turns to God and he says, "vayichal God p'nei God Elokav," which lines up exactly with the language here, and he says, "lamah God yeichareh ap'cha b'amecha," why should Your wrath burn against Your people and later on, "v'shuv meicharon apecha," return from the wrath that You have to Your people.
In Verse 16, then Daniel also says, "God k'chol tzidkotecha," according to all of Your righteousness, "yashav na ap'cha," may Your wrath be turned back. The same words as Moses.
Daniel: And also Moses says, asher eino -- why God is Your wrath burning, "b'amecha asher hotzeita mei'eretz Mitzrayim," Your people Who You took out of the land of Egypt. Here, v'atah in Verse 15, "V'atah God Elokeinu asher hotzeita et am'cha mei'eretz Mitzrayim."
Beth: That's very cool.
Daniel: Right. "B'yad chazakah," also b'yad chazakah right over there.
Beth: Oh, wow.
Daniel: Yeah, so there seems to be a lot of parallels here going on.
Beth: Okay. I'm totally bought in. I see the parallels, but now I don't know what to do with all the data points. It seems like they're all over the place. Is there a way to tie this all together, Daniel?
Daniel: So, yes. What I'm thinking is -- so it seems like Daniel is trying to pray off of the prayer that Moses offered at the golden calf, at this moment here, when he's worried that redemption is not going to come as promised and he's confused about what's going on with the prophecy of Jeremiah. What I think specifically he's doing is he's actually riffing off of a particular argument in Moses' making. I think that when you look at that everything sort of fits together.
Beth: Okay. And does that have to do with the land of Egypt?
Daniel: It does.
Beth: Okay. All right. I'll stay tuned.
Daniel: Are you there? No, no, no, go ahead.
Beth: Well, no, it seems a little bit random when Moses says it and it seems a little bit random when Daniel says it and if both of them say it? Meaning, you know, it's enough that the prophet and the leader of the people is standing up and saying please forgive the people, God. Please, don't destroy them. What is the fact that -- okay, so one of the historical milestones in your relationship -- in the relationship between the Children of Israel and God was that He took them out of Egypt. So why does that become a defining, almost kind of rational here, in their defense?
The fact that it appears in both makes me think that it holds the key somehow.
Daniel: So I think -- I mean, there isn't a great mystery about what Moses' argument is in Exodus. Right? If you just look at Exodus, Verse 12, "Lamah yomru Mitzrayim leimor b'ra'ah hotzi'am haharog otam beharim u'l'chlotam mei'al p'nei ha'adamah." Why are You setting things up in a way that essentially You're going to get a bad reputation. Egypt is going to say oh, yeah, you know, God, He did all these terrible things to us, but He couldn't fulfill His end of the deal and actually bring them to their Promised Land. So he just decided to kill them somewhere else. Which is, you know, and Moses is saying what's going to happen to Your name if You let that happen?
Beth: Right. God, You went ahead, you used miracles to redeem this people from Egypt and such a thing had never been done before and now, You kind of made a theme for Yourself and now, all eyes are on You and if You want to defend Your name as a righteous God You'd better treat them rightly.
Daniel: Right. And if you look at the way Daniel spins that argument back in Verse 15, "asher hotzeita et amcha mei'eretz Mitzrayim b'yad chazakah vata'as l'cha sheim kayom hazeh." You've made it for yourself, right?
He actually emphasizes that particular argument throughout the rest of his prayer, in Verse 17.
Daniel: Listen to, "Shema Elokeinu el tefillat av'd'cha," listen to my prayer, "l'ma'an God," for Your sake. You know, Verse 18, redeem the city, "ha'ir asher nikra shimcha alehah," the City of Jerusalem has Your name called upon it, so redeem it for Your sake because of that. Then, again, in Verse 19, "l'ma'ancha Elokai ki shimcha nikra al ir'cha v'al amecha," Your name is called upon the city, Your name is called upon the people and that is the reason that You should act.
Once we see that (inaudible 00:23:09) playing his reputation game then you sort of see how he even set it up beforehand, the things that we noticed beforehand that we're sort of curious.
Beth: Scroll back up fast. Remind me.
Daniel: Right. So he says he refers to God as ha'Keil hagadol v'hanora, sort of leaving out the gibor, leaving out calling Him mighty because right now Your people are spread everywhere and there's nothing doing with them. So he's also sort of saying like Your might is missing right now. Right? That piece of Your name that was written in Deuteronomy.
Beth: Back then when this people You've redeemed them, they were on the verge of entering the Promised Land, okay, so You're mighty, but now, in the wake of Jeremiah's prophecy are You mighty anymore? Yeah, yeah. And God, if what You're worried about is Your name then that becomes a concern.
Daniel: Right and I think possibly the same is going on with that reference to sotah because the entire point of curse and oath there is saying that you, the here the sotah will become a woman with the horrible reputation associated with you that everyone will use as a curse and as an oath.
Beth: Yeah, yeah.
Beth: Yeah, I hear.
Daniel: "Vatitach aleinu ha'alah v'hash'vu'ah," and what is descended upon us is the curse and the oath that are associated with bad reputation.
Beth: Very interesting, Daniel. And sort of in the same way that Moses assumed that that was what God cared about and then spoke to His interests, Daniel's picking up, taking Moses' cue and addressing God in the same way.
Daniel: Right. So I think that's the crux of the prayers here. Beth, there's a big, big problem or a big, big difference between what Moses is doing and what Daniel's doing. I mean, you know, there are any number of differences. So we don't have to play the what-is-Daniel-thinking game. This Daniel, not that Daniel.
Beth: But it's such a fun game. It's such a fun game. Okay. Do you --
Daniel: Do you want to try to guess?
Beth: No, no, no. Give us a little more guidance. What are you thinking about?
Daniel: Well, okay. So when Moses made his case to God, to say God, why destroy Your reputation. You know, You have facilitated this great name for Yourself. You've taken down the mightiest nation in the entire world. What's going to happen if You destroy this people, right? So nothing had happened yet. Everything was still okay and God was on the verge of acting and doing something that was devastating. There would be mutually a sure destruction in a certain sense.
Obviously, not literally. You know, God is nothing -- but destruction of the Israelite nation and destruction of God's reputation. Moses says let's figure out a way around this where we could get forgiveness and renew our relationship in a meaningful way and Your name can be spared.
Beth: Okay. Whereas in Daniel the timeline is different. Remind me of the context again.
Daniel: Daniel is living as a courtier under Darius. Right? During the exile awaiting the prophecy of redemption.
Beth: So we're talking post-consequence. I mean, God hasn't destroyed the people altogether, but He has allowed a foreign captor to come in and exile them.
Daniel: Right. So on the surface it would seem like -- yeah.
Beth: Well, it just sort of feels like there's Moses has some leverage that Daniel doesn't have, but yet is somehow attempting to grasp.
Daniel: Right, exactly. To the extent that the argument makes sense for Moses' leverage like what's the leverage here?
Beth: Right. In other words, the damage is done. God Your chosen people, the world is watching, but You've done the deed and You've dispersed them so to what extent does it help to recoup the strength of Your name by -- or what is there to do now? What is there to do now?
Daniel: Right. It's like the -- you know, God sent all these prophets warning about this destruction and the Israelite nation sort of called the bluff and then the exile happened. I know here, Daniel is clinging to this prophecy, but what leverage does he have?
I think that it actually shows up in a number of interesting ways in terms of the tone of both stories also. Because, you know, if you read through the story of Moses' entreating to God in the aftermath of the golden calf there's almost like this aggressive tone to it. That Moses famously says, if You don't forgive Your people then just erase me from Your book. God tries to say look I'll send an angel out in front of you and I'll take you to the Promised Land and I'll back up from the nation that I'll just give you what I promised.
Then Moses fights Him for it and says no, we want You in the nation even though God warns him like you don't understand. This is a hard-heartened people. They're stubborn. Five minutes in their camp and they'll all get destroyed. Moses pushes and pushes and pushes.
The tone in Daniel is so much more of a tone of contriteness and apology. I think that also sort of fits in terms of the difference in the leverage that there is in the situations that they're in.
Beth: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that resonates. That definitely resonates. But at the same time there is somewhat of an audacity in both. Meaning, one of the most aggressive things that you see with Moses is just using that line of argument of God, what are people going to say aren't You worried about Your Name it's a very unexpected -- I don't want to call it a power grab, but meaning the way you would expect someone to speak to God would be to say please, God, I'm trying to invoke Your mercy. We're not deserving, but please have mercy upon us. However, instead Moses is almost saying like God, You've put Yourself in a corner. Right? It's You against Yourself.
Daniel: Right. So Daniel seems to be using the same argument and even the same audacity of the argument, but in a way that's much more deferential. I think that, you know, this question -- I don't know that I have an answer as much as I have an appreciation for what he's trying to do. In other words he's saying, like you said, the Jewish people, as spread out as they are and as post-consequence as they are, they're not done, right? They're still there and the cord hasn't been severed. Not only are they not done but they still have this reputation attached to God, to the Israelite God who made a name for Himself in all the ways He did throughout history.
I guess the novelty of what Daniel's argument is, is that there's still a way for God to enhance His own reputation even in this post-consequence world, because as long as that link between Israel and God is alive in the collective knowledge of the world, then if God does something to bring back the glory and restore the nationhood of that people, He's doing Himself a service also.
So the leverage isn't as potent and it isn't as obvious, but you know He's clawing out a way to make that relevance. I think that's a tremendous service to everyone since then because I think, you know, without that switch in perspective we all could have a similar question about invoking the 13 attributes of mercy and channeling the story of Moses. Well, of course Moses was able to do what he did because he was living in a pre-consequence world. So God had -- the relationship wasn't in pieces yet and people were still invested in it. People were still invested in it in a more active way, I shouldn't say not invested at all.
Yeah, so I think that this take on Moses's argument in a post-exile post-consequence world is actually a tremendous contribution to our ability to connect to God, to ask for mercy and to make relevant that prayer of Moses nowadays.
Beth: You know, I'm thinking that when people talk today -- you're reminding me of the sort of rhetoric that often comes around the Jewish people's return in the 20th century to the Land of Israel and the way that the narrative has become this is a sign, this is proof that God really has maintained His -- has been shomer es habris v'hachessed with the chosen people because this miracle occurred that can't be explained, you know, via natural historical occurrences that a people that was in exile for 2,000 years should be able to return to its land and resurrect its language, yada yada yada.
That becomes the narrative as opposed to, but what do you make of the fact that He exiled you, right? Would He really have exiled you if you were His chosen people? The answer is yes, maybe, like that's built into the covenant too. At the very least what gets remembered at the end of the story is, you know, God can bring about the return and in bringing back that return end up clearing His name at the end of the day.
Daniel: Right. Yeah and that question that you threw in there that people don't like to talk about it, you know people have spoken about that and have dealt with it throughout Jewish history and it's been a major sore point and I think that this is a powerful note in that story. So I think that, you know, if we look at this novel take on entreating God about what His reputation means and see that that's actually the leadoff to Selichot, it definitely gives I think probably a way to appreciate the recitation of the 13 attributes in Selichot a little bit more of a relatable contemporary meaning to it.
Also I think that it's a way to connect to that tone that we see in the beginning and end of this initial section of l'cha God ha'tzedakah where we emphasize how we come with nothing and what can we say to defend ourselves, but then that appeal at the very end of "l'ma'ancha God Elokeinu v'lo lanu," right? "L'ma'an sh'mecha chusa al amach." All these references, they're really all centered on this notion that Daniel develops I think in this section and I just found that to be kind of eye-opening.
Beth: That's very cool, Daniel. It strikes me as -- it's a little bit subversive, actually, as a read because very often when you read, you know, how does it begin? "L'cha ha'tzedakah v'lanu bosheh es hapanim." It's like okay, God, we are nothing. We've got nothing, so we don't have any ground to stand on to ask for Your forgiveness. We're not deserving of this at all, but we kind of do have an ace in our pocket because there's a reason You should forgive us and it has nothing to do with our righteousness because righteousness is all Yours.
But what about Your name? We care about it and You care about it too. Not for its own sake; for noble reasons, but Daniel cared about it too or Daniel knew that You cared about it. Can we follow in his lead and play that spade and that's a very -- I think it's a very fun reading.
Daniel: Okay. So that's my contribution to this evening as the lead.
Beth: Wonderful. Okay Daniel, thanks so much for sharing. I have to ask, did you choose that piece because the book is named after you?
Daniel: I didn't even know that that's the verse I would be looking at until I saw the whole thing in the Selichot.
Beth: Okay. All right everyone, turn in your Tanach to Sefer Beth. We're going to -- just kidding. Okay, turn in your Selichot books. We're going to be studying -- I'm going to be leading a session on what for many people is the most famous selichah that we're going to be reciting tonight which is usually referred to as "lishmo'ah el harina v'el hatefillah."
I didn't choose this one because it's named after me, but it is named after my daughter because I have a daughter named Rina and this was a fun opportunity to dive a little bit into the meaning of Rina. Here's what I want to start with before we even move into the text of the selichah itself. Daniel, I'm going to put you on the spot here and the less good an answer you give the better, okay? So don't feel too nervous.
You've been saying this selichah every year for many years now, presumably. Can you confidently tell me what it's about and how -- what's the idea that it's about and how is it distinct from all of the other Selichot that we say throughout the season? Do you have a clear sense of that in your head?
Beth: Okay. That's a problem, right? This is -- go ahead.
Daniel: No, I was going to say that I think probably as I'm saying it I recreate the meaning, you know, year to year and that sticks with me --
Beth: Right you recreate the meaning or it's like, God please forgive me yada yada yada, right? I'm not saying that we're -- again, this goes back to my introduction. I'm not saying that for lack of understanding the words that we go into Selichot without kavanah, (intent). You know, a lot of people really are able to get themselves -- the songs are beautiful and you're with the community and there's a lot of power and you're like yes, okay, the Days of Awe are coming, God please forgive me, but again you know, are the words doing anything for you? Are the words getting you there? Is there meaning in the words that you're picking up on or is it passing you by?
So if Daniel, a scholar at Aleph Beta doesn't have a clear answer to that question then we've got a problem. I want to tackle that problem. I want to try to walk away with a coherent sense of what "Lishmo'a el harina v'el hatefillah" means. How it's distinct from other Selichot and I'm going to follow in the methodology that Daniel just modeled for you all.
Our first clue comes from the words, comes from that refrain that we say at the end of every verse and you know -- let me just say -- someone just asked what page number is it. Let me share a source sheet. I'm going to go ahead and share my screen so that everyone can go ahead and look at the text. I'm not going to tell you what -- different versions of the Selichot. I think for tonight my pamphlet says it's Number Four. In some nusachot (versions) it's Number Three.
Here is the selichah itself and the next thing I'm going to do is I'm going to do is I'm going to -- Rivky, can you post a link to the Sefaria of this Selichot Nusach Ashkenaz Lita first day six b'motzei menuchah so that everyone if they want to scroll through it at their own pace instead of being at the mercy of my scrolling that they can go ahead and do that.
Okay. Our first clue, like I said, comes from these words because these words "lishmo'a el harinah v'el hatefillah" they are not just nice words, although they are nice words, they are a quote. They are a quote from the Tanach. They're not just God please forgive me, yada yada yada. They come from the book of Melachim, from the Book of Kings. I'm indebted to a great little shiur (lesson) that I happened upon from Rabbi Moshe Taragin from the Gush who turned me on to this citation although I ended up taking things in a very different direction.
The question is why is the author of this selichah quoting Kings? Now you might say, and Daniel didn't play this game, but I'll just speak it out for any of the cynics in the room, the cynics who are like, I don't know. Why did he quote from Kings? Because that's the way they wrote religious poetry in those days, you know? It's just -- they spoke in verses. It's a kind of wordplay. If you can say something but say it through a Biblical verse, it's like that's triple points for the author of a selichah. It's a flexing of the literary muscle.
Daniel: But then, if you did that then I would say back to you, okay, but there had to have been something that was a little bit more on point. This is listen to the song there. It doesn't feel like a very songy kind of thing.
Beth: It doesn't feel like a songy kind of thing. Okay, great. That's a great start. So this seems oddly specific, right? So what is the author going for here? What is he trying to invoke? What does he assume you know about the meaning of that quote and the context of that quote that in his mind is setting the tone for the whole selichah and that he assumes is setting the tone for you as well?
I think that if we go ahead and we study not just that verse but the whole chapter from the Book of I Kings Chapter Eight, that it's going to add depth. It's going to add meaning to our recitation of this selichah and really to the whole service. Really to be even more ambitious, to the season that's upon us.
So here we go. We're going to go ahead and open up our screens to I Kings Chapter Eight. Rivky, I'll let you post the link if people want to scroll at their own pace. Here it is. Here's the game plan. We're going to read the chapter. We're going to try to understand it. We're going to spend, I don't know, 15, 20 minutes getting really deep into it. So much so that you might start to wonder wait, hold on a second, I thought this was a Selichot webinar, not a lesson on I Kings. Be patient. Rest assured we are going to come back to it. We are at the end going to see how it relates to the selichah and we're going to tie it all together, okay?
So I Kings Chapter Eight. Let me just give you a little bit of context before we dive in. We're talking about King Solomon and we're talking about the dedication of the Temple. So it's the first Beis Hamikdash (Holy Temple), there's never been a Temple before. All we've had is a mishkan, is a tabernacle, nothing permanent, and Solomon and his builders have spent seven years building this incredible structure and now they're going to bring the very first sacrifices.
The entire people is standing there. The kohanim (priests) come and they come and they carry in the aron, the holy ark. Inside of that are the tablets of the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses years and years before Solomon's day. The priests place it inside the kodesh hakedoshim, inside the Holy of Holies.
Then what happens is in verse 10, "Vayehi b'tzeis hakohanim min hakodesh v'he'anan malei es beis God. V'lo yachlu hakohanim la'amod l'shareis mipnei he'anan ki malei ch'vod God es beis God." So what's going on there? When the priests came out of the Holy of Holies, a cloud filled the house of the Lord. So much so that the priests couldn't even -- they weren't able to stand there. So they had to leave because the glory of the Lord is filling the entire house.
I want you to take note of that and put it on the shelf because it's going to become relevant later. Around there is when King Solomon begins to ease into his grand speech. The grand speech is the heart of this perek (chapter). He's going to say lot of things. One of the things that he's going to say is "lishmo'a el harinah v'el hatefillah," is our refrain.
I think in order to understand why our author is quoting it, we have to really understand this whole speech. The speech is long. It goes on for about 50 verses. So here's my plan for how we're going to tackle it.
Daniel: I want to hear this.
Beth: Yeah, I want everyone to take about five minutes. Scan through the 50 verses. Move quickly. Eyeball the English, eyeball the Hebrew, whatever works for you. Try to get the big picture, and as you're doing that, I want you to ask yourself two big questions. One question is, what is this speech about? If I had to give it -- Rabbi Fohrman often says if I had to give it a title, what's the title of the speech?
Number Two, is there a structure here? You know, are there distinct parts to the speech or is it all one big mishmash? If there are distinct parts, what would be the title of each of the sections? What's it all about? Okay, that's my task for you. I'm going to -- I don't see my chat. Does everyone -- hold on, let me unshare for a moment and make sure that everyone -- that it's in the chat. Rivky, can you unmute yourself and assure us that people who want the link have it so they can read themselves? Ask to unmute.
Rivky: Yes, the chat is -- the link's in the chat. It's the Machon Mamrei link right above there.
Beth: Great, okay. Thank you, Rivky. So once people click on that link starting at Verse 12 and then going all the way until Verse 61. So go ahead, I'll give you five minutes and then we'll come back together. That includes you, Daniel.
(Pause in class 00:46:26-00:53:11)
Okay, so we're going to chime in and first I want to take a moment to look and see what people are writing. I see that Michael pointed out that many of the verses start with "v'ata tishma hashamayim," God please hear us now from the heavens, or the heaven should hear us now please, and that sounds like a central theme. I think you're absolutely right that we're going to come back to that. It's all about God listening to us from above, so to speak.
Adina summarizes it really nicely. Solomon is praying that although God is on high, the Temple should be the place where Klal Yisrael can communicate with Him for all things, including reconciling after sinning. I think you're right and actually we're going to find that this chapter is the source for the halacha that when we pray we orient ourselves towards the Temple. You know what I mean? We don't normally think of it as -- those of us who live outside of Israel often don't think of it as an orientation towards the Temple, it's an orientation towards the land of Israel, but anyone who's in Israel knows that what you're really doing is trying to align yourself to the Holy of Holies so that's where that comes from, Solomon's idea.
The idea Shmuel says that God hears our prayers and please even war -- I'm not sure what that means.
Daniel: Probably even in war.
Beth: Okay, good. Thanks, right. Even when you're taken as a captive to a foreign land, God still hears you then and accepts our teshuvah (repentance). Tamara says that people are praying to God. God is listening and hearing those prayers. God's rescuing them. Those are some major headlines and riffing off of Daniel's piece, it's either the people getting rescued, right? People getting rescued is either about their plea or it's a plea about God's name and greatness.
Daniel also prayed facing Jerusalem. That's right that Daniel also did pray facing Jerusalem but I think this is the first time that Solomon says okay, henceforth this is going to be a practice that I'm asking the entire people to engage in. Not just the idea of a solitary individual creating a precedent and unto for my name is repeated often.
Okay, so this is great. Thank you to everyone for diving in with me. I'm glad we all got to see the verses firsthand so that we're all on the same page to be able to talk about them. So here is my take on this speech. I think you can divide it into two parts. Interestingly, I think the turning point between the two parts, sort of the transition between those two parts, is our refrain. I think the turning point are those words "lishmo'a el harinah v'el hatefillah."
Daniel: I just want to say you kind of cheated a little bit there.
Beth: How did I cheat? Tell me.
Daniel: Because you asked everyone to come up with a title for the whole thing and then you said you were going to divide it into two.
Beth: Oh. I tried to clarify. I said tell me what the title for the whole thing is. Tell me if there's a structure. Tell me if there's different parts to it and if there are different parts, what are the titles for the different parts. That's what a lot of people gave me. Okay? So what is Part One about? Here's what I think it's about.
So you start reading these verses in Part One and I think at first, you know, Solomon is recounting this story. He's saying God, You made all of these promises to my father about how I would become king and about how one day I would be able to build this great temple for You and God, I can't believe it but You really did it. Every promise that You made, everything You said would happen, You actually brought it to fruition. I'm so grateful. There is no God like You who keeps His promises like this.
Then in Verse 27, which I think is really the sharpest verse in this part of the speech, Solomon says something very interesting. He says "ki ha'umnam yeisheiv Elokim al ha'aretz hinei hashamayim u'sh'mei hashamayim lo y'chal'k'lucha af ki habayit hazeh asher baniti." In other words, God, there's this one promise that You made and I kind of can't believe that You kept it. I'm in awe. How could it be that You are actually somehow dwelling here? Causing Your presence to rest here? Here, in our imperfect fractured world, in this Temple that I built with my own mortal hands!
You know, the heavens can't even hold You, God, and somehow You said You would be here. You said You would come to rest here -- You said I would become king, I would build the Temple and You said Your presence would come to rest here and it really has. That's absolutely astounding and I can't get over it. I can't get over it. God, You've really brought Your presence to rest in this Temple. I think that's what all of Part One is leading up to. God, I am in awe that You actually fulfilled Your promise and that Your presence is resting here in the Temple.
Then this I will argue to you starting in Verse 28, is when the speech begins to change gears, and we're going to begin our segue into Part Two of the speech, okay? It's going to be a little subtle at first so bear with me. So Verse 28, "U'fanisa el tefillas avd'cha v'el t'chinaso Hashem Elokai lishmo'a el harinah v'el hatefillah asher avd'cha mispallel lifanecha hayom." God, You have turned or please turn -- probably You have turned to the prayer of Your servant, to his, to my supplication. You are listening, or please listen to the rinah (song) and to the tefillah (prayer) that I'm going to pray to You today. Then he goes on to describe what is that song, what is that prayer.
Please God, may Your eyes be open towards this house day and night, towards this place, this Temple, this place that you said my name is going to be there and please listen to the prayer that I and future people will pray directed towards this place. Please listen to it. So it's all seeming very repetitive, you know, I get it. You're here, pray to the Temple, God listen to us, but stick with me. Read until the end of Verse 30. Listen to the prayer of my own prayer, Israel's prayer, when people pray towards this place, "v'shamata," You're going to hear it. "V'salachta," and You're going to forgive.
So when I read that it's sort of like, You're going to forgive? Salachta? Like it would have made much more sense to me to just delete that last word in the verse. Why are we talking about forgiveness here? You know?
Daniel: Except if you delete that last word you'd actually probably have to delete the next --
Beth: You have to delete Part Two of the speech. You have to delete the next 30 verses because that's a little subtle. That's just one word at the end of the verse, but then look at the rest of the speech. What follows for the next 30 verses is a long list in very explicit terms of hypothetical sins. What if a person does this that he shouldn't do? What if a person does this that he shouldn't do? What if he does this that he shouldn't do? Well, here's what he should do. He should orient himself towards the Temple. He should direct his prayers to God and he should ask for forgiveness and God, You will forgive him.
There's even a cool part of the script over here, Verse 47 when he kind of gives an example of what that script of asking for repentance might look like. The words are going to sound very familiar to us this time of year. He says "leimor," what should the person who sins say? You should say "chatanu v'he'evinu rashanu." So it sounds like it's taken right from the vidui (confessional prayer). Obviously the vidui is taken right from here, but this may very well be the first example of explicit vidui in Tanach.
Clearly, like you were saying, Daniel, the first part of this speech is God, I can't believe it. You are actually present here in the Temple. The whole second part of this speech is God, we want to be able to approach You for forgiveness. So I think you have to ask the question, how do the two parts of this speech fit together? What's the glue that holds them together? What is the segue here?
You kind of also have to ask like why is Solomon so focused on forgiveness? Did he do something wrong that now that there's a Temple he's so eager to be forgiven for it? Did the people do something wrong immediately right before this that they're so eager to be forgiven for? Like there's nothing like that in the prior chapters of Kings, so what's going on here?
Here is how I tie them together. Part One: Solomon was saying it's amazing. God, You're the creator of the world. You are so distant. You are so other-wordly. You reside beyond the heavens. The heavens can't even contain You. Yet somehow You've done the impossible. You have entered our world and inhabited it. Your presence is dwelling here. God, You're really here, and if You're really here then there is an amazing implication of that I think, and I think that Solomon thinks.
What is that implication? What is the implication of God being here?
Daniel: Do you want me to take a stab?
Beth: No, no, yeah, please jump in.
Daniel: No, I mean just the first place that my head goes -- I'm sorry to kill your flow. The first place that my head goes when you talk about this is actually something we spoke about in the first part, which is God actually saying -- when God says to Moses during the whole eigel hazahav (Golden Calf) aftermath when God says like look, don't ask me to be in you because if I'm in you and then you guys sin, I'm going to destroy you.
So it's better for you if I'm, like, distant a little bit and not actually dwelling amongst you. So once here God is saying, well actually I'm going to dwell amongst you, and Solomon is saying great, now we've got to figure out what to do when things go wrong. I'm not sure that's where you were going but that's where my mind went.
Beth: Solomon was saying and suddenly I feel very exposed. If Tou're here then it means that You can judge me. There's something scary about it. Daniel, I think that that's true. I also think that it's half of the picture and it's a certain kind of tone. It's the yirah (fear) part of the picture. It's the fear part of the picture. I think there's an ahavah, a love part of the picture and I want to give over the love part. I think if we're being honest the love strands and the fear strands are both to be found in the selichah at the end of the day. Thank you for putting that on the table and hold tight.
Daniel: When you frame it like that, I feel like the tone of this chapter also feels more like a tone of love than fear anyway. Nice counter.
Beth: If God is present -- we'll just talk about Solomon's day. If God is present there, in that courtyard, He pays attention to what's going on in the world. He listens to us. He hears what we say when we pray. If that's the case, if there is a possibility for real encounter between God and man, if there's a possibility for real interface between the Creator and the created, then that opens up an amazing possibility. That's the possibility that we can actually attain forgiveness, right?
If we do wrong, we don't just have to stay sinners forever. We can have a conversation. We can acknowledge that we've done wrong. We can decide to change. Then, having done that, we can come before God and confess and repent and say chatanu, v'he'evinu, rashanu. God will hear what we're saying and will see our change of heart and can forgive us and can wipe our slate clean and we can move past it. We can change course. We can change ourselves. We can change our destinies.
I think this sort of feels, theologically, kind of obvious to us. Like, of course, there's forgiveness. I think it's because we are so used to this conception of God, but if you think about other religions, how other religions understand the relationship between God and man, you realize how radical this is.
If you think about the deists. Our God is not the God of the deists, who creates the world and then steps back and isn't involved at all. I think that is the connection between Part A, God being present in the world and Part B, forgiveness. Our God is present and our God has the potential to forgive.
There is something either frightening about God's presence, that inspires me to say, oh, my gosh, but I have such a dirty slate. Now that God can see that slate because He's here and He's peering into my book; I need to wipe it clean. Or, oh, my gosh. My slate can be wiped clean. Someone can look at my book; I can repent and then we can move past this. That's incredible, you know.
I think, probably, for any the truth is for anyone who's ever stood before God and confessed anything, both feelings are probably there. Okay.
So with all of that in mind, let's come back to the Selichah, which we haven't looked at very much at all and try to tackle that original question. Why was the author of the Selichah invoking this story? Okay.
In my argument to you that I've been making, if that this story, Chapter 8 of Kings I, is a story about a time when God came to dwell in the world. How man realized that God's nearness was an opportunity to attain forgiveness. God is here; we can talk to Him. We can reach Him. Ergo, He can help us to change.
The peak of that, really is this verse, which is Verse 28. Going back to Verse 27; God, I can't believe it, You're actually here. Since You're actually here, I want You, please, to listen to our rinah and our tefillah. What is that rinah and tefillah, as Solomon defines it? Rinah and tefillah is the kind of desperate/fearful/joyful plea for repentance and forgiveness, that emerges from you, that bubbles up when you realize that God is near and can hear you.
So why would the author of the Selichah want to reference that? For all of the obvious reasons. But not to be glib about it, you know, in what sense is the author of the Selichah saying, that now, tonight, when we get up to recite Selichos, that God is somehow near? And that therefore, it should both galvanize us, too and we should see it as an opportunity to appeal to God and take advantage of His offer to forgive us. In what sense is God near?
Let me think about how I want to phrase this. Okay. Here's how I want to phrase it. You know, the question in what sense is God near when we recite the Selichah? Because it made sense to say that God was near back in Solomon's day because you could see it with your eyes. The cloud of God's glory, whatever that meant, filled the Temple and the priests had to run and back away because they couldn't stay there because it was so potent. It was visible somehow with their eyes, whatever that means, the anthropomorphisms aside and there's a lot of tricky theological stuff here, but still that seems to be the main thrust of it.
We don't recite Selichos in the Temple, we recite Selichos in the synagogue. In what sense is God near; more near than usual in the synagogue?
So this is interesting. I want to share with you. I've got a source sheet here. The Talmud in Berachos looks at Solomon's speech. In particular, at the locution of, "el harinah v'el hatefillah," and it's struck by it. The implicit question that the Talmud asks is why rinah and tefillah? Why not just tefillah? Why are there two things? Why is Solomon saying, God, listen to our rinah and our tefillah?
I'm sort of hesitant to translate rinah because it could mean joyful song, which is what I had in mind when I named my daughter Rinah. There are also times when the word rinah is used when it means a cry and not a joyful cry at all.
Daniel: Like in Lamentations, when it says, "Kumi roni balailah."
Beth: Exactly. I think, at the end of the day, the common thread is that rinah is an emotionfilled, powerful, potent crying expression before God. It's something more than that and this is what the Talmud is going to pick up.
The answer seems to be that tefillah is something that you can probably do alone. Plenty of people are mitpalel alone, but rinah, this kind of joyful song or crying out, that really happens in community. That really happens in a kehillah. Where there is rinah, our prayers are most fully heard by God.
So in Solomon's day, the greatest rinah was this moment at the dedication of the Temple. You've got the entire people assembled. So you see it inside, you know, this idea, "ein tefillaso shel adam nishma'as ela b'beis haknesses," that somehow, in a place where there is this kind of communal, joyful or emotionfilled crying out, that is where God is going to most attuned to the prayer that accompanies it.
So great, but what about in a place where there is no Temple, so there is a synagogue. In our day, rinah can be found in the synagogue. Selichos, really are all about rinah. If you just think about the Selichos service that a lot of us are going to be attending tonight, in person and on Zoom, it is a passionate, emotional, intentional communal crying out to God. You know, the service, particularly the first one, that happens on Saturday night, it's dramatic. It's filled with song and power. It's very different from the tone of a silent Shemoneh Esrei.
Where a community gathers to address God with that kind of drama, God makes His presence somehow more manifest and opens Himself up to hear both the song and also the prayers.
I think what the author of the Selichah is trying to tap into is, you know, it's not every day that we have the opportunity to come together with our communities for this kind of moving, soulful recitation of prayers. When we're all really on the same page and inspired and in the zone, prayerwise. There is a power in that. I think the author of the Selichah is inspired by that power and is also inviting us to tap into it.
There are places where it is easier to find God, where it's easier to tap into God. Seek Him in those places. Harness their power.
I will say as a caveat. I feel that I have to address this. This whole idea that God is more present, so to speak, in certain places, honestly, I do not know what that means theologically. Personally, I tend this won't come as any surprise to you, Daniel. I tend to relate to the idea more psychologically. There're places where it's easier for us to tap into God.
So if I'm on the top of a mountain at a nature hike; if I am in the midst of moving songfilled prayer, it's easier to tap into God. If I'm at the supermarket and I'm having trouble with the selfcheckout and I keep pressing the button and now the cashier has to come over and help me and unlock it with the key, it's less easy to tap into God.
Is God somehow more there in one case than the other? Is that what Solomon is saying? I'm going to file this in the, I think it's above my pay grade for now category. Maybe we can talk about it for another time. But at the very least, for sure, I think there is this powerful idea that we can reach God more easily in certain places and one of those places is the synagogue, especially on Selichos night.
So for those of you, who after this webinar, are going to be attending an inperson, socially distanced Selichos service, great. I hope I've given you something to think about.
What about those of you who aren't? What about those of you who are going to do Selichos in the synagogue Zoom room? Those of you who are going to be doing it by yourself? What is left for you to ruminate on? Is there anything left?
Daniel: You've really boxed yourself into a corner there.
Beth: No, not yet. Okay. We've talked about God being present in space. In the Temple, in the synagogue, not at the Kroger. There's another dimension in which we speak about God being present. That is the seventh dimension. I'm just kidding because I saw you nodding and I wanted to throw you off.
The fourth dimension; the dimension of time. God is also present in time. We talk about it on the Sabbath. God is somehow more present on the Sabbath. We talk about it during this time of the year. So take a look at what Maimonides says in his Mishneh Torah about this time of the year.
He says, "af al pi she'hateshuvah v'hatze'akah yafah la'olam." It's true, to pray before God, to repent, you could do that anytime of the year. It's a beautiful thing to do anytime of the year. But, "b'asarah ha'yamim she'bein Rosh Hashanah v'Yom Hakippurim hi yafah b'yoser u'miskabeles hi mi'yad." To do it not quite today, we'll get to that, but to do it during the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, that's even better and your supplication is immediately accepted.
Maimonides brings a proof text for this. He's relating to Isaiah. "Dirshu God b'himatz'o," seek God where He can be found or when He can be found. In a time or the places when He can be found.
If you take a look at how our Selichos if I may return to the text of our Selichos begins. "B'motzaei menuchah kidamnucha techilah." The rest day has just ended. So it's Saturday night and the way that I read this is, "B'motzaei menuchah," the rest day has just ended, now the work begins. The rest is over and now the work begins. What's the work? What's going to happen? "Kidamnucha techilah," we are approaching you early, God.
The way that I read this is, yeah, traditionally the holy time that Maimonides and others speak about, the time when God is somehow more present in time, is during the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. But, God, we want this whole Holy High Days season to get started just a few days early. You know, this period of God being found, God, we want that to start tonight. We want that to start a little bit earlier. Can we move it up a little bit? We're hungry for that now, we want to start getting ready.
You know, Daniel, it reminds me I think it's kind of like the opposite of Shemini Atzeres, actually. A little bit the opposite, a little bit the same.
I think one of the most beautiful Midrashim. So Shemini Atzeres, the Torah tells us all about the full holiday of Sukkos. You've got seven days of Sukkos and then, randomly not randomly then, unexpectedly, there's an eighth day and it's a different holiday and it's called Shemini Atzeres. There's a discussion about what that means. The Shemini part we know, that means eight, but what is atzeres?
There're different ideas about it, but Rashi tells us it means, "atzarti eschem etzli." It's as if God is saying I'm keeping you back one more day with Me. It's similar to the case of the king who invited his children to a banquet for a certain number of days. When the time arrived for them to go back to their homes, he said, children, I beg of you, stay one more day with me. It's so hard to part with you.
I think, you know, that's adding on time to Sukkos. God, please stay with us in the Sukkah a little bit longer. Or rather coming from God; children, please stay with Me in the Sukkah a little bit longer. I think, what we're about to start tonight, which is the beginning of this amazing season is, God, please let it start a little bit earlier. Please come and dwell with us just a little bit earlier.
Daniel: That reminds me, Beth, of there's the song, "Kol mekadesh shevi'i," that's often sung on Friday night.
Beth: I'm trying so hard not to sing it right now. Go on.
Daniel: One of the lines of the song is praising, "ha'meacharim latzes min ha'Shabbos u'memaharim lavo." Those who delay in leaving the Sabbath and those who hasten to start it. (Inaudible 01:20:15) at both ends.
I remember, just as a cute aside, my brotherinlaw once pointed it out, it's so strange. Why does it start talking about who delay in leaving and then talk about who start early and (inaudible 01:20:28) the opposite order? I said, well, maybe that's how it rhymes. He got (inaudible 01:20:34) for that.
Yeah, but that sentiment when there's a moment in time and it's precious, then you do what you can to make sure it lasts longer on either end.
Your inference, textually, is strong, about that line of, "kidamnucha techilah." On the one hand, I guess you could read that as, we are beginning the Selichos at the very earliest moment. We're starting exactly at 12:45 or whatever time it is instead of waiting a little bit later, but also just in the larger sense, the auspicious time to pray is in a few days and kidamnucha, we're being memaharim lavo.
Beth: Right. We don't want to wait. We don't to wait for a few days longer. Latecomers take note. That is the one time that it's actually a mitzvah to be late, to draw out Shabbos, to make havdalah on Tuesday. That's the one time you can mitzvah credit for it.
Yechiel is telling us in the chat; he had the same question as you this last Shabbos. So, baruch shekivanta.
I want to fly through these verses, just so that you can see the way in which these ideas are indeed coming alive in the Selichah. So you know, again, we're starting the day early. "Hat oznecha mimarom," bend Your ear to hear us from on high. God, You are up there in the marom, in the high place. The heavens can't contain You and yet, just like you did in Solomon's day, we want You to somehow bring Your ear down so that You are hearing us crying out to You as we are during the sacred time or from the sacred place. Because You are the one who hears our rinah and our tefillah.
The third stanza; "Derosh na dorshecha b'darsham panecha," seek, please, those who seek You as they seek Your face. This sounds suspiciously like that Isiah verse that Maimonides quotes, this idea of, "Dirshu God b'himatz'o," seek God. How do you seek God? You seek Him best when He can be found. So go ahead. We're seeking You now and please come to seek us in exchange.
Come to answer them, "mishmei me'onecha." Again, You are all the way up there, but please come down to hear us. Really, the entire Selichah is all about, you know, we are ready, God, for that conduit between our world and Your world to go live. We are ready for the circuit to be turned on so that we can start to connect, despite the unimaginable gap that separates us.
Again, the fourth stanza talks about, but You're coming and we're trembling before You. That's what I was relating to earlier, Daniel. Like a lot of this is about love, but some of it is about fear too. You know, God, if You can be found during this time of the year or in this place, then there's something really scary about that. Because it means that You're paying attention and we can be judged. There's tremendous hope in that, but there is also fear in that. So please, God, wipe away all of our sin.
"Yotzer atah l'chol yetzir notzar, konanta mei'az teref l'chaltzam mi'meitzar." So, God, before You created the world, You created a cure to release us from trouble. So that's an allusion to a Talmud that says, God, before You even created the world You created repentance. Before there is even a possibility for man to sin, there was an opportunity for repentance. Again, that's what this whole what Solomon's speech is about and what this whole Selichah is about. Please, turn towards everyone suffering. Please, pay attention to their supplication.
The second to last stanza; "Peneih na el ha'tela'os." I wonder if that's a ref on the way that Solomon begins his the key verse which is, "u'fanisa el tefillas avdecha." It's a little bit of an unusual locution. Turn to their prayers, turn around and face it and please attend to it with favor.
The bottom line, this I think the author of the Selichah is saying, this is the time and this is the place when God is close; tap into that. Enjoy the season, harness the fear that it inspires, harness the love that it inspires. Because before you know it, we're going to be in the days of Shemini Atzeres, the days of please, I can't believe it's almost over. Please just stay with Me a little while longer.
If you're anything like me, the High Holy Days comes on all of a sudden. Actually, I'll be very, very candid for a moment. An Aleph Beta user wrote to me and said, so Ellul started. What are you doing to prepare? It must be such an elevated, amazing time for you. Tell me about some of the practices that you engage in.
I was like, I have to be honest with you. I wish I could say that I'm on air this whole month. What are the practical changes in my life? I don't know. My husband is going to prayers in the morning and I know that they're saying the extra chapter of Psalms during this time of the year. I saw WhatsApp pictures of the Rabbi blowing the shofar.
Before I had kids, I would take time and do a lot of reflections and try to get ready for Rosh Hashanah and write forgiveness letters to people. Now, I'm just trying to stay afloat with my amazing job and my amazing family.
So I said to this user I was like I wish I could say I was doing lots of prep. I have to give a shiur for Selichos webinar that we're doing for Aleph Beta and once I open up the Selichah and I start reading it, then it'll be undeniable and then I'll start getting into the spirit. Then, all of sudden, it will fly from there.
So it worked for me. For those of you who haven't been preparing for the Selichos webinar to give it, but are going to just be hopping on tonight, then I hope that tonight is a beautiful inauguration of the season for you and that we've given you something to think about.
Daniel, I'm going to invite everyone to take a short break, in case people want to go to the bathroom, get some water and Rabbi Fohrman is going to join us in twothree minutes. Is there anything you want to add before I do?
Daniel: I don't think so. I mean, I think for me, just like practically for saying Selichos, what was very, very powerful and helpful was the point that you highlighted or the end about that recurring theme about the God in His exalted heavens and us down here and that connection. Framing that connection with this story here, you know, "lishmo'a el harinah v'el hatefillah," of Solomon's incredulity about that happening also.
It gives a very specific kind of intentionality you have when you say that. I think it would be probably very helpful for me tonight.
Beth: I appreciate that. What I am literally imagining and I'll invite everyone in to my imagery is it's like there is like a fiber cable that runs between our world and above the heavens; "shmei marom." During most of the year, there aren't that many messages going back and forth through it. Or it's not live in the way that it ought to be. Then, all of a sudden, it's like everyone the world over is going to assemble in their synagogues tonight and they're going to open up their little pamphlet and they're going to say, "kidamnucha techilah," and it's like the thing is going to light up.
All of sudden, it's then, probably they'll be broadband issues and there'll be delays and we're just getting none of that. That's what I'm imagining in my mind. Okay.
We're going to invite everyone, like I said. Take a fiveminute break. Come back at 10:37 Nashville time, X:37 wherever you are and Rabbi Fohrman will be here to talk about what he's going to talk about.
(Break from 01:29:11 to 01:35:31)
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. Hi, everybody. How are you? This is Rabbi David Fohrman and welcome from the West Coast; Palo Alto, as it were. Three hours behind the East Coast, eight hours behind England and about 10 hours behind Israel. Nice seeing you. For many of you, this will be close to when you're saying Selichot. Out here, it's just after Shabbat. For some of you farther east, I hate to think about the time of the morning it is for you. So, if you're there, thanks for hanging out with us.
So I'm going to be kind of the "closing act" here this evening and taking you through
something. Here's what I'd like to share with you. I even have Daniel here. Daniel, are you there?
Daniel: I'm here.
Rabbi Fohrman: All right. Hi, Daniel. He is kind of my interlocuter. Daniel, I'd like to take us through the following thing. I stumbled across something earlier this week. Really, one might say, quite by chance or, one might say, quite by Fortuitous Providence, as it were.
I stumbled across something which I think is deeply relevant to Selichot. I want to share it with you. I'll tell you a little bit about the story of how I stumbled across it, maybe, in a second. Maybe, let me begin by introducing it with a couple of quick thoughts.
Out here in Palo Alto, one of the things that Rabbi Feldman, the rabbi of the small, little shul here, has mentioned in his little, three-minute talks after davening is something that I'll share with you which I found, kind of, interesting.
If you think of the structure of the Selichot service, the way Selichot is actually put together, it actually resembles a tefillah. It's as if you're davening Mincha. Right? You've got Ashrei. You've got a Kaddish. You have the idea that you have a centerpiece of this all and you have a Tachanun afterwards. In place of Shemoneh Esrei, you've got Selichot. Seemingly, in place of Kedushah, in place of the centerpiece of the Shemoneh Esrei, you have the Thirteen Attributes of Compassion, which we keep on coming back to as a refrain in the Selichot.
The same way that you're supposed to have a minyan and, if you don't, you don't actually say Kedushah, so, too, in Selichot to really say the Thirteen Attributes, you're supposed to have a minyan. It really seems to be structured as if Selichot are a kind of Shemoneh Esrei and the Thirteen Attributes are a kind of Kedushah.
Daniel: The Selichot -- as a fun bit of trivia -- are the only prayer where we say the Kaddish Tiskabbeil other than an actual Shemoneh Esrei service. The special Kaddish where we ask for our prayers to be answered.
Rabbi Fohrman: Yeah. So I guess the question is, what accounts for that strange quality of the Thirteen Attributes that they are Shemoneh Esrei-like and not Shemoneh Esrei-like? They are Thirteen Attributes-like.
Daniel, if you, kind of, think about it a little bit, it makes a little bit of sense. Because the way the Thirteen Attributes actually are "handed down" in Shemot, after the story of the Golden Calf, they appear in the context of tefillah.
There's that famous Chazal that the rabbis say that it was, so to speak, that God showed Moses how to pray. It was as if God, Himself, wrapped Himself in a tallit and said, here's what you do. Whenever you find yourselves in times of trouble, you can say these Attributes and you'll always be answered.
I want to delve into that a little bit with you tonight. It seems like the Thirteen Attributes, from the beginning, have a prayer-like quality. They also have a Kedushah-like quality in the sense that Kedushah suggests extreme holiness. If you think about that moment, in Exodus 33 and 34, in the aftermath of the Golden Calf, when the Thirteen Attributes are revealed, it's that moment of, sort of, intense closeness between Moses and God.
Everything is falling apart around him. There's the Golden Calf. There's this terrible crisis in God's relationship with the Jewish people, but God's relationship with Moses seems strong. It's in that moment that Moses says these mystical words, "hareini na kevodecha," show me Your glory. Moses has that very intimate revelation with God, where God shows him something of his -- whatever he can glimpse of His essence. So the notion that it's Kedushah-like, I think, perhaps, emerges from there.
Daniel: Yeah. That is really a powerful point. Right? That (inaudible 01:41:11) so of intense closeness between Moses and God. That's not exactly what we were expecting God to reveal, how to ask for forgiveness. It feels like you're already in a really good place and you're going to learn how to go higher. Not how to redeem yourself from the bottom. If you're at the bottom, you expect to be close. It's a funny juxtaposition.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. I hear you.
So here's what I stumbled across. When we think of the Thirteen Attributes, we think that they just come out of nowhere. Right? At this moment, in Exodus 33-34, God shows Himself to Moses and reveals these Thirteen Attributes.
I came across something which suggests that the Thirteen Attributes evolved, that there's actually an evolution of the Thirteen Attributes. There's a precursor to the Thirteen Attributes earlier in the Torah, and I want to explore what that is. By way of doing so, let me just throw in one other question about the context for the Thirteen Attributes in the story of the Golden Calf.
The story of the Golden Calf is, of course, a story in which Israel is very nearly destroyed. If you were God and you were going to talk about why you wanted to destroy the people, what was bad about them that made you want to destroy them. Daniel? Will you put on your "God hat" for a moment? What's wrong with the Jews that I would want to destroy them in the aftermath of the Golden Calf? I am your CNN interviewer. I'm interviewing God.
God, what's up? Why are you so upset?
Daniel: They betrayed Me at the pinnacle of our relationship.
Rabbi Fohrman: Yeah, they betrayed you. So what's interesting is you actually go back into the text. You look at actually the story where God tells Moses that He wants to destroy them and tells Moses why He wants to destroy them. He doesn't say that. He doesn't say what Daniel said, that they betrayed me and it's really terrible.
What He actually says is the following. Let me see if I can find it here. What He says is, the people are -- "ra'iti et ha'am hazeh vehinei am keshei oref hu." Right? I've seen the people and they are a stiff-necked nation. Therefore, "ve'atah hannichah li veyichar appi vahem va'achalleim." Leave me alone and I'm going to destroy them.
The justification for destroying them, the reason for destroying them, seems to be that they're a stiff-necked people. They're a stubborn nation. Strange thing to say. Nothing about betrayal. Nothing, even, about idolatry. It's that they are a stiff-necked nation. All right, so they have a stiff neck. So they're a little stubborn.
It's almost as if God is missing the point. Lest you think that God is, in fact, missing the point or that this was a one-time thing that, in the heat of the moment, somehow, the Torah doesn't exactly get it right, later on, God's going to come back to this and again, is going to harp on this notion of them being a stiff-necked nation.
Later on, a chapter later, God says to Moses, I can't come within the people because "rega' echad e'eleh vekirb'cha vechiliticha." I'll come into them for one moment and I'll destroy them, and, there too, God says, because they're a stiff-necked nation, because they're a stiff-necked people. "Ki...am keshei oref hu." Because they are stiff-necked.
What's this issue of being a stiff-necked people? Moses, by the way, sort of -- I don't know if it's takes the bait, but carries the point with him and, at the very end, Moses will say, we need You to come with us because we're a stiff-necked nation. What's this whole "stiff-necked nation" business and how is it that we understand that?
This is something I think I got a little bit more of an insight into this week through this, kind of, fortuitous occurrence. So the fortuitous occurrence was actually -- Daniel, you and I have been talking about this a little bit. Here at Aleph Beta, one of the things we do a lot of is intertextual analysis, how one parashah sheds light on another parashah, how two parashiot in the Torah that seem connected in words, language, ideas, shed light on one another.
One of the things that we'd always, sort of, wondered -- we did this mostly by hand. Mostly just with our own brains and stuff. One of the great questions is always, how much of this could a computer assist you in? That was one of the great questions. Could you have a computer find intertextual patterns between things?
I was chatting with a fellow in London, Phillip Allman (ph). Who suggested I look at the tool -- perhaps some of you are familiar with it -- ALHATORAH, created by Hillel Novetsky. I had a passing familiarity with ALHATORAH, but I got on a Zoom-call with Hillel Novetsky and Hillel, kind of, showed me one of the things that he does. They actually have a very rough algorithm that tries to do this, that tries to find almost intertextual patterns. Not quite, but between different chapters. I, kind of, took it on a test run.
Now, it certainly doesn't replaced a human. It can't tell you the meaning of things. It finds a lot of false positives. It's like a COVID test. There's a lot of false negatives. (Laughs.) A lot of false positives. You can't trust it very much, but it can point you in interesting directions.
So Daniel and the rest of you, I was playing around with it with Hillel and I just took a chapter out of nowhere. The chapter I took was Exodus, Chapter 3, which is the story of the Burning Bush. I used this tool to say, what other chapters in the Torah are most similar to Chapter 3? That's what his algorithm will do.
It pointed to a number of chapters. It ranks them in the order of similarity to Chapter 3 of Exodus. The second highest ranking was Joshua, Chapter 5, which is something which I happened to have noticed on my own and I have a whole talk on that, actually, connections between Joshua, Chapter 5 and the story of the Burning Bush. I won't get into that now. That was very interesting. But the computer found it, so good for the computer, right?
So that was the second most similar chapter to Exodus 3, but what was the most similar chapter to Exodus 3? Turns out, it's Exodus 33. It's actually this story that I've just been talking to you about, the story of the aftermath of the Golden Calf. It's actually the leadup to the story of the Revelation of the Thirteen Attributes.
I, kind of, put them side-by-side and looked at them. Lo and behold, I'll be darned if the computer hadn't actually stumbled upon something. There it was. You could actually see it. There were a lot of false positives. There were a lot of false negatives. A lot of things the computer found weren't really interesting, but there were some things that really seemed to be corner pieces that suggested, yeah, there was some sort of interesting comparison there.
I started thinking about it. Hm, that's interesting. What would Exodus 33 have to do with Exodus 3? What would the story of the aftermath of the Golden Calf have to do with the story of the Burning Bush?
I can throw this out to you guys, if you have any thoughts about this. What does Exodus 33 have to do -- the runup to the Revelation of the Thirteen Attributes. What does that have to do with the story of the Burning Bush?
Well, think about setting. Where do they both take place? Both of these actually took place on the same mountain. We know where the Burning Bush took place. It took place on a mountain the Torah identifies as Har Ha'Elokim Chorevah. It's actually Chorev, where it takes place. Where does the revelation of the aftermath of the Golden Calf take place? It also takes place at Chorev.
What's interesting about this, and I was chatting about this with another one of our scholar's, Ami, is he points out that even this mountain has a synonym, Sinai. Now, what's interesting is that in the interim, between the Golden Calf, on the one hand, and the story of the Revelation and the 13 Attributes, there is of course the revelation of Sinai. Interestingly enough, at Sinai, the mountain is not known as Chorev, the mountain is known as Sinai. The only two times it's known as Chorev is actually at the Burning Bush, and now, in the run up to the 13 Attributes. These two kinds of Chorev moments that the mountain is known by, and there's these two revelation moments.
So I kind of began to explore this, and with asking, what's the meaning of this? Is there any particular what can we glean from the similarities between these if they aren't random? They don't seem to be random. It struck me that there are a number of things we can glean, but one of them, I think, is this notion, as I was talking about before, that perhaps the 13 Attributes don't just come out of nowhere, but they evolve. They actually evolve, I believe, out of the story of the Burning Bush.
The Burning Bush is one of the antecedents of the 13 Attributes. Which kind of blew my mind. That there's something at the Burning Bush which is actually a precursor to the 13 Attributes. It kind of gives you a little bit of a binocular vision of what the 13 Attributes are, understanding that somehow, they came from the Burning Bush.
So, if we can, let me take you on a little bit of journey through some of the connections between these stories and what it is that I found.
Daniel: Rabbi Fohrman, before we dive in, just so you know. In the comments, we see that Beth and also Karen, point out that there's also a running theme of the stubbornness. In Moses' stubbornness with God, both here and also at the Burning Bush.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. Elaborate on that, Daniel. Now, that's true because Daniel that's actually interesting. I hadn't thought of that. So in other words, you're eluding to the point that Moses, of course, is a stubborn person at the Burning Bush. He is the guy who just doesn't want to go. Right? God gives him the patience to do it. Interestingly, God puts up, to some extent, with Moses' stubbornness. Even though He doesn't call him k'sheh oref, but he certainly is stubborn and God doesn't seem to have the patience for it in the story of the Golden Calf.
Yeah, that is kind of interesting. Okay. So I kind of put these things together in a little PowerPoint here. I'm going to actually try something which I've never really tried with you guys before, which is, try to actually share a Google PowerPoint presentation within Zoom. So we're going to see if this actually works here. So let me get this on my screen and see if I can share it with you.
Okay. So can you guys sort of see this? Let me see if I can present this here. Okay. Daniel, are you with me? Can you see this?
Daniel: Yeah. We're good.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. Excellent. All right. So here's a little bit of the aftermath of the Golden Calf. Let's just kind of read these words.
"Vayedaber God el Moshe lech aleh mizeh," go up from here, "atah v'ha'am asher ha'alita mei'Eretz Mitzrayim el ha'aretz asher nishbati l'Avraham l'Yitzchak ul'Yaakov." Go up from this, leave Chorev, leave this whole mess and the aftermath of the Calf. I want you to go up to the land that I promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob saying, "l'zaracha etnenah. V'shalachti lefanecha malach," and I'm going to send before you a malach, an angel. "V'geirashti et haCanani haEmori v'haChiti v'haPerizi haChivi v'haYevusi." I'm going to dispel from the land all of the indigenous inhabitants. The Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, et cetera. The malach is going to bring you, the angel is going to bring you, "el eretz zavat chalav udevash," to the land flowing with milk and honey, "ki lo e'eleh bekirbecha," but I, personally, will not go up within you. "Ki am k'sheh oref atah," because you are a stiffnecked people. "Pen achelcha baderech," lest I consume you by the way.
So what I found in that discussion with Hillel Novetsky is that over here, in this little section of three verses, you've got four phrases here that all hark back to the Story of the Golden Calf. If we ask where have we heard these four highlighted elements before? They actually appear at the other revelation, at Chorev. They appear in the story of the Golden Calf, right over here.
If you take a look, you can see there's this all four elements are there and they're there towards the beginning of the Gold Calf story, where God says, here's what you should tell to the people; tell them the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob came to take them out of the land and to take them to the "el eretz zavat chalav udevash."
What's interesting is that there's actually a fifth element also. The fifth element is right over here in light blue. It's the word, "aleh". That word also appears in the story of the Burning Bush. What's fascinating about it is that it appears in a way that is a kind of contrast to how it appears here. Let me actually take you back one slide over here.
Look at the contrast, Daniel, and take a look at how the word aleh appears in the aftermath of the Calf and how it appears the first time. You'll see the stark difference between them. Look over here, here's the first time in the story of the Burning Bush. God says, tell the people of Israel, "pakod pakadeti etchem v'et he'asu lachem b'Mitzrayim." I've redeemed you, "v'omar," and I say to Myself, "a'aleh etchem me'oni Mitzrayim," I shall take them out of the servitude of Mitzrayim and bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey.
Now, look how the same word appears here in the aftermath of the Golden Calf. God says to Moses, "lech aleh mizeh," you go up from here, you and the nation, that you took up out of the land of Egypt to bring them to the land of milk and honey. Right? You go and do that, "ki lo e'eleh bekirbecha," because I will not go up among them because they're a stiffnecked people. Then you'll see yeah, go ahead.
Daniel: I was going to say, also if you look in Verse 20 of the story of the Burning Bush you find the word bekirbo, as a reference to all the terrible plagues that God will unleash upon the Egyptians and the idea in Verse 3 in story of the aftermath of the Golden Calf, God is saying, I will not go into the kerev. We sort of also, the implication, that because if I do, similar things that happened with Egypt will happen to you because if I go there then you know
Rabbi Fohrman: Yeah. Daniel, is absolutely correct. Which in fact is really the very next thing here in my slide, just to get through that. Hold onto that point for just 30 seconds, Daniel.
Just thinking about the a'aleh, the poignancy of that is that think about the first time. When God said, I'm going to go. Tell them that I'm going to go and bring them into the land. Think about before, God says, I've seen their suffering and I'm going to go and bring them to the land. It's this great moment of empathy, of how I've seen this. Obviously, God's got many messengers, he could send an angel to do this, but back at the Burning Bush He doesn't want to do that. Why? Because, no. I see your suffering. I see your pain. I want to personally be involved. I want to make this happen. Somehow, in the aftermath of the Golden Calf, that's getting lost.
In other words, what God is saying is, if you put these two things side by side, if you understand how does Exodus 33 connect to Exodus 3? They connect in the following ways.
Both speak of a promise. A promise that God made long ago to the forefathers. I'm going to take your children to the land. I'm going to drive out the people and they'll conquer the land. Now, the realization of that promise was threatened in the aftermath of the Golden Calf. God was thinking of destroying the people. At a certain point God says, the promise is no longer threatened. You convinced me not to destroy the people. Reinstating the promise of the Burning Bush. Hence the connections between Exodus 33 and the Burning Bush. Yet there's a contrast between them.
Daniel: Right. It's going to be different because the original promise was a much closer relationship in the way that that would unfold. I've gone halfway to getting us back to where we used to be, where I'll make good on a promise, but I'll do it I'll send a messenger, it'll be distant; it'll be taken care of. It'll almost be like, something that will have someone handle, as opposed to something I'll be invested in myself.
Rabbi Fohrman: Exactly. In other words, one can think of it this way, that in terms of all the externals, all the external aspects of what was promised at the Burning Bush are still going to be there. The people are going to survive; they're going to get to the land; they're going to conquer the inhabitants, but the internals are going to change. Which is the warmth of the relationship between God and the Jewish People. Whether God's going to be personally and intimately involved in this process or whether an angel is going to do it instead, and I'll have My people handle it, so to speak, as you were saying, Daniel. That's the change.
Interestingly, one issue then is how are the people going to react to that? Daniel, let me ask you. If you're the people, this is a very close call. You literally could have been wiped out in a lightning bolt after the Golden Calf and Moses has negotiated your salvation. You're not going to die. Not only are you not going to die, you're not going to wander endlessly in the desert. You're actually going to go to the land. You're actually going to conquer the land. The only thing is that you're not going to go in with God. Let's get an angel to do it, without God.
So if we were playing Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, or Deal or No Deal, or I forget which gameshow this is, and I asked you, okay, Daniel, Deal or No Deal? What would you say? Deal or No Deal?
Daniel: Right. It sounds great. Not only what you said, but also, it's going to be a great land, right? You could very easily imagine and the truth is, Rabbi Fohrman, I spoke a little bit about this section of text in my presentation, so I know the surprise you're going to be revealing in a minute. You almost expect it to be a little bit like of a relief. Right? Because God says, the reason I'm not going to come into the people is because I'm going to destroy them if they mess up and I'm with them.
So we get the land, and if we sin, then there's going to be fireballs raining down from the sky. So it definitely sounds like deal.
Rabbi Fohrman: Yeah. It definitely sounds like a deal. So, of course, the very next words are, "va'yishma ha'am et hadavar hara hazeh vayit'abalu." To me, this is the high point of the second half of the Book of Exodus. That the people considered this a bad deal. I mean, that's an amazing thing. I would have taken the deal. That's a great deal. I've got everything I want. God, thank you very much. Happy to take Your angel, just come and show me the way. You can just drop me off at the front door of the Land of Canaan. I think I got it from there. Thank you very much, God, and we're totally good, but the people are like, no, that's a bad deal and they mourn the fact that God is not going to be with them. They've got everything they want. They just don't have the internals.
I believe, I actually did a course years ago, which you can see on Aleph Beta, Shattered Tablets and the Calf of Gold, which was a study in this. In which I argue that there's the first time I actually came across chiasms and I saw that there's this very lengthy chiasm in the second half of the Book of Exodus and almost as if the entire second half of the Book of Exodus is one huge chiasm, with 250 elements and there's one verse at the centre of it.
It turns out that the verse at the centre of it is this verse, "va'yishma ha'am et hadavar hara hazeh vayit'abalu," when the people mourn. The people mourning is the turning point of the second half of the Book of Exodus. From this moment on, the internal relationship between them and God begins to rehabilitate itself. God takes note of this and it's, hmm, that's interesting that the people think that's a bad thing. Okay. I'm not going to immediately promise to change anything, but that's interesting. Kind of like, let's see where this goes. This begins to be a turning point.
Let's just go back to this presentation. I think you're absolutely right. Daniel's point is right over here, which is that the tragedy, right now in the story of the aftermath of the Golden Calf, is that God says, I can't come inside of the people. If I were to come inside the people it would be devastating. In fact, what did I do the last time to cause the plagues? If you think about going back to the Burning Bush, you have in the story of the Burning Bush, "v'shalachti et yadi v'hikeiti et Mitzrayim." Look at the blue right over here. "B'kol nifle'otai asher e'eseh b'kirbo." God came inside the Egyptians and destroyed them. God says, at this time, My presence could come, My very presence. Last time around it was something I did that destroyed the Egyptians, but now it might be My very presence itself which would destroy the people and that would be a terrible thing.
Daniel, here's one last connection between the stories which really knocked my socks off. It's this word right over here. Isn't that interesting? It's the Burning Bush itself. What it says about the Burning Bush, that the Burning Bush was burning and it wouldn't be consumed, "v'hasneh einenu ukal." It was a bush that would not be consumed. That word also shows up in the aftermath of the Golden Calf. When God says, "lo e'eleh b'kirbecha," I will not go up among them, "ki am k'sheh oref hu," because they are a stiffnecked people, "pen achelcha ba'derech," lest I consume them on the way.
Beth: That's so cool.
Rabbi Fohrman: Isn't that cool? So Beth, or Daniel, what do you make of that? That's like, oh, my gosh, that's the Burning Bush word. There was a bush that would not be consumed and the tragedy here, as God says, I might consume them. What in the world does the Burning Bush have to do with the possibility that God might consume them? So that wasn't a rhetorical question. What do you guys say?
Daniel: Well, I mean, the first thing that jumps out at me is that if the image of the bush on fire was supposed to be, somehow, analogist to the idea of God in the midst of the people. The "s'neh einenu ukal," means that God can be with the people and the people don't get consumed. Now, God is saying, we've now reached a place where that's no longer true and the hope is to get back to that. That's just based on how things are lining up.
Rabbi Fohrman: That might be a possibility.
Daniel: I don't have any evidence that that's what the metaphor means.
Rabbi Fohrman: So this is something which we've talked about before. If you didn't know this connection and you were just looking at the Burning Bush, and you had said, okay, Burning Bush what's the simplest way of understanding the metaphor? That is one way of understanding the metaphor, but there probably is a simpler way of understanding the metaphor and go back to the words right before the Burning Bush. The words right before the Burning Bush are, the people were enslaved and the old king died and the new king and they let out their sighs and their sighs went up to heaven. The very next thing that happens is God shows Himself and there's this Burning Bush. The bush is on fire, but the bush isn't consumed and the flames are leaping up to heaven.
What are the flames? What's the bush?
Daniel: Right. It feels like the flames would be the people who were suffering and the smoke would be their prayers going up to God.
Rabbi Fohrman: Yeah. What would the bush itself be?
Daniel: It would be the people.
Rabbi Fohrman: That which the bush the bush is on fire because the people are experiencing terrible agony, and yet, they're not being destroyed. In other words, for 400 years this has been going on. Right? This is a civilization ending event. They should have been destroyed. It's like a bush, it should be all over. Right? But they're not being destroyed, which makes it all the worse for them in a way, because even though, yes, they have immortality, but they have immortality normally, when you go through a civilization ending event it's all over in threeandahalfyears. So mercifully it comes to an end. What if you endured a civilization ending event which didn't end you, but didn't get any better? It would just go on and on and on. The people are a Burning Bush. That seems to be what evokes God's compassion, almost, at this moment. Look at the tremendous pain that this nation is in. They're burning, but they're not consumed.
Now, look at the tragedy of this moment. "Lo e'eleh b'kirbecha," I cannot go among them because if I were to do that, "pen achelcha ba'derech," lest I would destroy them on the way. The tragedy is this terrible moment where you have a people that would have managed to withstand all sorts of external threats in the form of Egypt, in the form of slavery, that there's nothing external which could destroy them. Why? Because God Himself was guaranteeing their mortality. So they were going to be a Burning Bush that would not be destroyed, and yet God says, the little bush might not be able to withstand Me.
What if I turned on them? What if My presence were to become a threat to them? The little bush would finally burn. "Pen achelcha ba'derech," lest I destroy them. It would be the one thing which they wouldn't be able to withstand every external enemy, but the one thing they couldn't withstand is the one thing they wanted most of all, which is God Himself to be in their midst. They couldn't because they would be an "am k'sheh oref." Because they are an "am k'sheh oref," this would be the bush that would burn. Right? Fascinating kind of notion.
Daniel: It reminds me of the story of Balak and Balaam, where he tries to curse them to no avail and then the next thing he does is just tries to get them to sin. That results in the plague.
Rabbi Fohrman: One second. Explain to me. Go ahead.
Daniel: After he tries to curse them, he tries an external method of ruining the relationship with God. God's not interested and doesn't let it happen. When they send out the Midianite women, as an alternate effort, so it's getting Israel to sin. So the external threat doesn't word, but internally, when they ruin the relationship, that makes us vulnerable.
Rabbi Fohrman: So let me try to bring this to a conclusion for you by showing you we can think of it as having seen a section of the aftermath of the Burning of the bush. We've seen how that mirrors the story of the Burning Bush, in a kind of tragic way.
I want to show you a few verses later, in Chapter 33, how there's one more section in Chapter 33 which also seems to powerfully evoke a moment of the Burning Bush, and I think provides an interesting kind of resolution to the issues which we've been talking about. This is the moment of the revelation of Moses asking for a revelation from God, leading up to the 13 Attributes of Compassion. Moses says over here, as you see on the screen, "va'yomer hareini na et k'vodecha," show me Your glory.
Now, if you think about the words, "hareini na et," those words do evoke something back at the Burning Bush, right over here. Moses, looking at the Burning Bush, says, "asurah na v'er'eh et hamar'eh hagadol hazeh," let me please just take a look at this incredible thing. It's kind of remarkable that "hareini na," "v'er'eh na", it's almost as if the looking at the bush is similar to what Moses wants from God now. Almost as if Moses is saying, could we please go back to something at the bush? As if that's what he's saying at the Golden Calf. It was like, I'd like to take you back to something.
Almost as if, what I'm asking for is an original because remember, Moses has already experienced revelation that's very close to God. It happened at Sinai and it happened the first time at the Burning Bush. It's almost like Moses is saying, I saw something amazing at the bush. Now, remember what he saw at the bush. He saw a bush that was burning, that wasn't consumed. This issue, which God says, if I go up within them, I might consume the bush now.
Moses says, let's go back to that bush thing. "Va'yomer hareini na et k'vodecha." Look at this. Back at the Burning Bush, Moses had said, "asurah na v'er'eh et hamar'eh hagadol hazeh," let me turn and look at the "mar'eh hagadol hazeh," at this great thing. Later on, "hasiroti et kapi v'ra'i'ta et achorai u'panai lo yeira'u." "Hasiroti et kapi," God says, that I can't show you exactly who I am, but I'm going to put you in this special place and then I'm going to remove My hand. The language there is very evocative. There's more evocative language, right? The makom. God said back at the Burning Bush, "al tikrav halom shal ne'alecha mei'al raglecha ki hamakom asher atah omed alav," the place that you're standing, is "admat kodesh." Here, too, "hinei makom iti," there's a very special place in Exodus 33 I'd like to place you in.
Then, of course, the notion of calling out. God calling out to Moses. "Vayikra eilav Elokim mitoch has'neh," He called out to Moses from the bush, and later on, "vekar'ati b'shem God lefanecha," God calls out in His own name. Here's something that struck me as interesting, as I was looking at this. Is that right after God calls out, "vayikra eilav Elokim mitoch has'neh," He calls out Moses' name. He calls out Moses' name twice. Moses, Moses, "va'yomer hineini." Moses, Moses.
Now let's look at what happens after God says, "vekar'ati b'shem God lefanecha," I'm going to call out in God's name. What does it say? "V'chanoti et asher achon v'richamti et asher a'rachem." Daniel, how would that remind you of Moses, Moses? "V'chanoti et asher achon v'richamti et asher a'rachem."
Beth: I'm with Daniel, Rabbi Fohrman, I thought you were going to focus on God, God.
Rabbi Fohrman: I'm going to focus on that too.
Beth: Okay. We'll get there.
Rabbi Fohrman: Let's look at that. Right over here, "vayikra," later on when He actually does is, so God calls out, vayikra. What does He do? He calls out, God, God. Right? His own name twice. Just like Moses' name's twice. What do all these three things have in common?
Daniel: Well, they're all doublings.
Rabbi Fohrman: They're all doublings. Good. That's the first thing they have in common. Moses, Moses, double name. God, God, double name. "V'chanoti et asher achon v'richamti et asher a'rachem," double, double.
Okay. Now let me ask you something else. What else do these things have in common besides doubles? Moses, Moses. God, God. "V'chanoti et asher achon v'richamti et asher a'rachem." Chanoti from the language of chen. Let me ask you this. Where did Moses get his name from?
Daniel: "Ki min hamayim meshitihu?"
Rabbi Fohrman: Who gave him that name?
Daniel: Pharaoh's daughter.
Rabbi Fohrman: Pharaoh's daughter gave him that name. What's similar about the moment that Pharaoh's daughter giving him that name, and "v'chanoti et asher achon v'richamti et asher a'rachem?" I will give grace to those I will choose to give grace to. I will have compassion to those I will give compassion to. Moses, in that moment, was the beneficiary of incredible compassion. From a royal daughter, which is the least place you would ever think about it. His name signifies, in a way, that compassion. That her willingness to take a child, that by rights she should have killed, and instead she was compassionate to.
That's almost the moment of the aftermath of the Golden Calf. There's a nation that really should die, but instead there's this question, will there be compassion? Here's this and somehow, "v'chanoti et asher achon v'richamti et asher a'rachem." There's this possibility of compassion. Even God's name, God, God, is the name we, by tradition, associate different quality with various names of God. The middah, the quality, associated with God is the quality of compassion. This double quality of compassion.
Here you have this notion of Moses' name. Staying with that notion of Moses' name, for just a minute, if you keep that in the back of your mind for a moment. Take a look at this in the Burning Bush. This struck me just Friday, as just really remarkable. Speaking of these doubles, there's a double seeing too. Watch this, back at the Burning Bush. Moses, the angel of God shows himself in fire at the bush. What does Moses do? "Vayar," he sees. He sees this bush that's burning. Then he says, "asura na v'er'eh," let me go and see.
Now, if I was a little bit cynical, I'd say, Moses I don't get it. In the last verse you already saw. What do you mean, let me go and see? You saw already, so what do you mean, see? So, Daniel, if I was interviewing you and you were Moses, what would you say in way of explanation for your second seeing?
Daniel: I did a double take. I had to go investigate because what I saw didn't make sense at first blush.
Rabbi Fohrman: Exactly. What I saw didn't make sense at first blush. I was compelled by it. So compelled, that I had to look, I couldn't take my eyes off it. I'm transfixed. Yes, I saw, but I need to keep on seeing. I need to look further. This is Moses at the Burning Bush. He's transfixed by the Burning Bush.
Now, we have to ask ourself. Why, Moses, are you so transfixed by the Burning Bush? So one possibility is, well, Moses is a scientist. He can't get over how remarkable it is that there's this bush here that doesn't burn. That's possible, but there's another possibility too. Why would Moses be so transfixed by the Burning Bush? Now, all Moses sees is a Burning Bush. He's not aware of the metaphor, but imagine that the reason why there's a Burning Bush is for the reasons we suggested. The Burning Bush is metaphorically representative of Israel. Representative of someone who is suffering terribly and who isn't being consumed.
If you saw that, would you be compelled by that? If Moses saw something like that, would he be compelled by that? Think about everything you know about Moses before he sees the Burning Bush. Think of the stories we hear about Moses. What does he do in those stories? He's responsive to people who are suffering. Here he comes along, a symbol of ultimate suffering, of someone who really by right should have been destroyed but isn't. It's burning, burning and not being destroyed and he can't take his eyes off of this.
Turns out, that the doubleseeing of Moses gets mirrored by the doubleseeing of God, just a few verses later. Listen to the very first words that God says to Moses when God introduces Himself at the Burning Bush. Moses hides his face and God says, "ra'oh ra'iti et ani ami asher b'Mitzrayim," I have seen, yes seen, the suffering of My people in Egypt. I have heard their cries, "yada'ti et machovav," I understand their pain and I'm going to go down to save them from Egypt and to bring them up to the land. I have seen, yes seen, their suffering.
I wonder if, in a way, what these two, ra'oh ra'iti, and v'yar and v'er'eh, if the doubleseeing's are connected in the stories. I wonder if what God saw and what Moses saw, in a way, was the same. Moses saw a Burning Bush. The metaphor is that the bush was Israel and Egypt's oppression was the flames. God says to Moses, in effect, hey, Moses, we've got a lot in common you and Me. I may be an extraterrestrial being, you might be a human, but we both are transfixed by the same things. You can't take your eyes off that bush. You feel compelled to watch it, to see it, even though you've already seen. You're My kind of guy because I too can't take My eyes off something that's burning. Something that's burning and isn't destroyed. Except what's burning is a people and the flames are the pain and their suffering. I can't take My eyes off that either. You're My kind of guy. The kind of guy that is transfixed by a Burning Bush.
That's what God said He essentially is. This is who God is. I've seen the suffering in My people, and their pain. I'm moved to do something about it, and you, you're going to help Me. So in other words, it wasn't just idle triviality that made you stare and stare at the bush. You were staring at it because something inside of you intuit its meaning. You saw there was someone suffering, who wouldn't die and you were moved by their plight.
So where did Moses get that empathy from? I actually think it goes all the way back to his mother. He learned it from his mom. Fascinatingly, in the story of the daughter of Pharaoh fetching him, look at the language. The first thing that happens is, "vatered bat Pharaoh lirchotz al ha'ye'or," the daughter of Pharaoh goes down to wash herself, "v'na'arotehah holchot al yad ha'ye'or," she goes down with her maidservant. "V'tei'reh et hateivah b'toch hasuf," she sees this little box, this little boat, this little raft in the side of the reeds. "Va'tishlach et amatah v'tikache'hah," she sends her maidservant. "Va'tiftach va'tirei'hu et hayeled," and she opens and she sees the child. There's a double seeing there, right? She can't take her eyes off the little box. She sees but wants to see deeper. She opens it and behold there's this child crying. If you were the daughter of Pharaoh, when you see that child crying, what's BurningBushlike about that child?
Daniel: Again, something should be dead.
Rabbi Fohrman: Should be dead. For the daughter of Pharaoh, why should that child be dead?
Daniel: Because all of the Hebrew boys were supposed to be thrown into the Nile.
Rabbi Fohrman: All the other children are drowned. Here's this one child surrounded by water. Water instead of flames, the very opposite of flames, but just as the flames would destroy, so would the water destroy. Yet, he was crying and still alive and not destroyed somehow. That vision, of the child that should be destroyed but isn't, is that which evokes compassion.
Somehow, that's where it all comes from. She's moved to save him and he becomes Moses. Moses, in his own life, has this affinity for people that should be destroyed but aren't and he comes to their aid. Then God says, you're My kind of guy. I too have this affinity for things that should be destroyed but aren't.
Daniel: So I think I see where you're headed now.
Rabbi Fohrman: Yeah.
Daniel: Because Moses once again finds himself, in the aftermath of the Golden Calf, for a completely different set of circumstances, faced with a people that should be dead.
Rabbi Fohrman: That's right. He says to God, you know, God, let's go back to the Burning Bush. Remember what you liked about me? Remember what we had in common? A people that should be destroyed but aren't. Look at these people. They should be destroyed, but they're still alive and they aren't. Doesn't that evoke your compassion? Tell me who You really are. You told me about Your name back at the Burning Bush. You revealed a name, "Ehkeh asher Ehkeh," the name that I would always be with them in their times of suffering. I would always be with them in their times of suffering and now here's this tragedy.
You're not sure if You can be with them because You're worried that that too would bring suffering. That that would end them. But who are You really? You're the God who feels compassion for those who should be destroyed but somehow you aren't destroying. So there's this contradiction. So what are You going to do? But this is who You essentially are.
If you think about this I just want to end with this notion of what "am k'sheh oref," really is. Why that is the issue? For some reason, that sounds like this bush could withstand anything, but the one thing ironically, they couldn't withstand is God's own presence, in light of them being an "am k'sheh oref." Why?
So who is God? Who is the daughter of Pharaoh to Moses? She was his adoptive mother. Who is God to the people? Their adoptive parent. If you think about parenting, one thing a parent is going to do is always be there for their kid in their time of trouble. That's what a parent gets paid to do, right? My child's suffering? I don't care what external harm is coming over the child, I'm always going to be there to defend my child. That's what God says at the Burning Bush, I'll always be there for them. I will. I will always be there for them.
What Moses now says to God and yet at the Burning Bush there's one thing that can threaten them. What's the one thing that can threaten them? "Am k'sheh oref." We often translate "am k'sheh oref," as stubbornness, but it doesn't really mean stubbornness. What does it really mean? What does it literally mean?
Daniel: It mean hardnecked.
Rabbi Fohrman: Hardnecked. The oref is a part of the neck. Which part of the neck?
Daniel: The back of the neck.
Rabbi Fohrman: The back of the neck. Why harden the back of the neck? I want to suggest that the metaphor of an "am k'sheh oref," is that if you would imagine a conversation between people. Imagine a moment in which a child has disappointed a parent and they're trying to have a conversation about it. What's the worst thing a child could do at that moment?
Daniel: Turn around and walk away.
Rabbi Fohrman: Turn around and walk away. The parent says, no, I want to have this conversation. I really want to talk with you. What's the worst thing a child could do?
Daniel: Just ignore it. Show the parent
Rabbi Fohrman: Keep on walking. Like a hard neck. A stiff neck. Just keep on going. Literally, I'm putting my fingers in my ears. I don't care what you say. It doesn't matter what I say. I keep on walking. I give you the silent treatment. That is the only thing that could possibly destroy a relationship between children and their parent. That is what God sees at the Burning Bush. It's not even that they worshiped idolatry. There's even a way to come back from that. It's that you worshiped idolatry and you're walking away and it just doesn't matter and I can't bring you back. "Ra'iti et ha'am hazeh v'hinei am k'sheh oref hu." That's the reason why there's no hope. That's the only thing that could threaten a relationship at that time.
What Moses, in essence, is saying to God is, God, guess what? You've got a people that's k'sheh oref. This is the ultimate test of parenting. What are you going to do with the people who is an am k'sheh oref? The people have, in this one moment, they've turned around, they've heard You say that You don't want to be with them and they see that as a bad thing, and they feel terrible about that. But they do have this quality about them.
They are an am k'sheh oref. It might happen again in the future. They could rebel against you. They could walk away and not even have that conversation. They do have that quality. What are You going to do? In essence, what God is saying is, let's go back to what we talked about at the bush. Who were You? What made You so compassionate to them? You said You would always be with them. You saw people that would have been destroyed. So find in yourself that compassion. Compassion is the deepest thing you have. It wins over everything. If they're threatened and they should've been destroyed and they're not been destroyed, and they're crying out to You, there's no way as a parent you can take your eyes off of that.
Who are you really? God says, the same way that you are a Moses, Moses, that's who you are, I am God, God. That becomes the beginning of the Yud Gimmel Middot Harachamim, the 13 Attributes.
The very end of it, after the 13 Attributes, the moment that God reveals that essence of Him, that compassion, Moses says something which strikes me as terrible poignant. He says, going forward, I have one last request. The request is let me see if I can find it in the text. "Im na matzati chein b'einecha God yeilech na God b'kirbeinu." If I have found favour in Your eyes, please walk within us, "ki am k'sheh oref hu."
Daniel: "Ki am k'sheh oref hu."
Rabbi Fohrman: Because we are an am k'sheh oref. "V'salachta l'avoneinu u'lechatoteinu," and forgive our sins, "unchaltanu," and see us as Your legacy. The greatest fear of a child is that I'm not good enough to be your legacy. I talked about this in one of our previous videos. In my pocketknife video of the 13 Attributes. The feeling that what if I fail my parent. What if I couldn't be their legacy. What if I wasn't good enough to carry on their name.
It's fascinating what Moses says to God here. God says, I need you to do the following thing. I need you to do the one thing you think you can't do. What do you think you can't do? You think you can't walk with us because it's too dangerous. That's actually the one thing I need you to do. I need you to walk with us. Nothing's worth anything if You don't walk with us. We don't want to go to the land if we don't go to the land with You. We need You to walk with us.
Do you know why we need You to walk with us? "Ki am k'sheh oref hu." That's the reason we need you to walk with us. It's the worst thing he should say. He should be trying to sweep that under the rug. He should not be talking about that. Why is he mentioning that here? "Ki am k'sheh oref hu," that's the whole reason God wanted to destroy them.
Moses says, in order for this relationship to work, You need to look at us, Your children. You need to look at our faults directly in the eye. You need to see us, warts and all, for who we are. We do have this quality. We can be rebellious in that way. We can't have you sweep that under the rug and say I love you until the next time. We need You to see this flaw of ours and to look at it and to say, I can handle that and I'm going to walk with you despite that. Not only despite that, and we still can be Your legacy, "unchaltanu," and you can be our legacy. God says, yes. Even that I will do, "hinei anochi koret brit," here is a new covenant. A covenant based upon that reality.
That is the way that the story of the Golden Calf ultimately gets rehabilitated.
Daniel: Rabbi Fohrman, I want to thank you. You should finish your thought, but Beth is going to take over as your interlocuter because I am actually going to run to my own Selichot minyan now.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay, guys. Well, I'll let everybody go to their Selichot. Selichot are starting about now. I just wanted to give you these thoughts about how I think the 13 Attributes develop. They go all the way back to the daughter of Pharaoh, a gentile woman. Seems to be the model for the compassion, that God someone who takes it upon herself to be a parent to someone who is from a very different world than she. Becomes a model for Moses and even a model that God Himself models Himself after it and says to Pharaoh, in effect, I will redeem my people. Do you know who will be the touchstone for it all? Your daughter.
Your daughter is going to be the paragon that I Myself will emulate, in taking a child out of a different species of being and making them My own. Being compassionate to them and being moved by their plight when they should have died. Being with them and being touched by that compassion and not being able to take your eyes off of them. That will be that which saves them, not just from you, the Burning Bush, but from their own crimes themselves and saves them not, just from external enemies, but even from the possibility of an inability to live with God later on. That kind of compassion that she had, becomes a touchstone and a wellspring of life for the people in their relationship with God. Which ultimately, brings them back, even from the darkest of places, the Golden Calf itself.
So I want to leave you those thoughts. You can say the 13 Attributes. I don't think they come out of the air. This is where it comes from and I think each one of you can take something else out of that as you yourselves go into Selichot. I'll leave that up to you and your imagination, but I want to put that there for you.
I wish you guys a very good Selichot season and a very good Yamim Nora'im.
Beth: Wonderful. Rabbi Fohrman, thank you so much. That was beautiful and thanks to everyone who either stayed up late tonight or woke up early tonight to do this preSelichot, to inaugurate the season with us.
If you can, I want to ask that you take 30 seconds and click on the link that I'm posting in the chat just so you can throw some feedback our way about how this session was for you. I want to wish everyone a warm Shanah Tovah greeting from all of us here at Aleph Beta. Take care, folks.
Rabbi Fohrman: Thanks for staying up last in all parts of the world and being with us. It was really a pleasure having you here and I wish you the best. Please do take a moment to click on that link that Beth just sent out. Fill out that form. We'd love to hear from you. Send us notes here and comments; firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us messages. Send us stuff. We love hearing from you guys. Have a good night and a good Selichot to you.
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