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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3

Jerusalem

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GENESIS — 2:3 blessed

G-d made many wondrous things during the seven days of creation, but none so precious as the Sabbath.  Of all the precious moments that dot the Jewish temporal landscape, none is a rich as the Seventh Day.  Of far greater significance than the duration of creation is the fact that it was crowned by the Sabbath [this verse], bringing rest and refreshment to the toiling world.  The concept of a day of rest, sanctified by the divine example, is one of the greatest spiritual and social contributions to civilization made by the religion of Israel.  BOTEACH 157
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GENESIS — 2:3 holy

To be sure, there are some beautiful synagogues and there were, of course, great Temples in Jerusalem, the first destroyed by the Babylonians, the second by the Romans.  Indeed, Israel itself, as space consecrated by G-d as a holy land, is central to the Jewish religion.  But for the majority of Jewish history, the Jews have not been on their land and have not had a Temple.  Rather, the Jewish religion thrives on cathedrals in time rather than cathedrals of space.  The very first act of consecration recorded in the Bible is when G-d hallowed the Sabbath day. In fact, the first time the word holy is used in the Bible is in connection with the Sabbath day: [this verse].  Similarly, the first commandment (mitzvah) given to the Jewish people upon their emergence from Egypt was the sanctification of the new moon and the new lunar month.  The were to witness the monthly rebirth of the moon and consecrate the time as Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the new Jewish month.  Taking this idea further, in other religions space consecrates times.  A geographic location is first chosen for a cathedral or shrine, and only later do actions undertaken within it, such as prayer or acts of confession, become sacred.  In Judaism, the reverse is true.  Special moments and supernatural events that have come to pass in a certain place lend that location its solemnity and sanctity. In other words, time sanctifies space.  BOTEACH 154
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GENESIS — 2:3 rested

G-d made many wondrous things during the seven days of creation, but none so precious as the Sabbath. Of all the precious moments that dot the Jewish temporal landscape, none is as rich as the Seventh Day. Of far greater significance than the duration of creation is the fact that it was crowned by the Sabbath [this verse], bringing rest and refreshment to the toiling world. The concept of a day of rest, sanctified by the divine example, is one of the greatest spiritual and social contributions to civilization made by the religion of Israel. The creative pause, devoted to spiritual renewal and family, was utterly unknown in the ancient world. In fact, the Jews suffered ridicule on account of their day of rest from some of Rome’s most prolific literary figures, including Seneca, Juvenal, and Tacitus.  … The holy Sabbath is the goal of the week. Yet, our business-oriented world treats rest as enabling further exertion of labor. … Many make the mistake of believing that the Sabbath was given by G-d to man to reinvigorate himself so that he might be more productive in the coming six days.  … in Judaism the six days of work are all a preparation for the one glorious day of rest. … When man works hard to store up some treasure, it affords him a meaningful day of relaxation in which, unencumbered by material concerns, he can focus on the purpose of his creation, the direction of his life. BOTEACH 157-8
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GENESIS — 2:15 tend

It is clear that Judaism, with its mystical orientation and insistence that G-d is found in all things, is profoundly concerned with the environment, ecology, and all living things. Several times in the creation story in Genesis we read that “G-d saw that it was good.” Central to Jewish thought is the idea that man, as the jewel of creation, was placed by G-d as custodian over the garden of creation.  G-d’s commandment to Adam and Eve when He placed them in the Garden of Eden was to protect the garden [this verse]. Man therefore is held accountable for the state of the world.  BOTEACH 370
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GENESIS — 2:16 tree

The Jewish laws of kashrut were established to wean man away from violence and to learn to abhor the sight of blood.  The Jew must be taught to detest death, abhor blood, and recoil from unnecessarily hurting any of G-d’s creatures.  Love for sadistic pleasures must be utterly uprooted from the human heart.  G-d is the Creator of life, and man is its guardian and protector. Adam and Eve were commanded never to take the life of any animal, but to subsist on vegetation alone [this verse]. A quandary arose after the flood, which decimated all living creatures, including plants and animals.  Prior to that, the Almighty had never given man permission to consume animal flesh.  Had G-d not permitted Noah and his family to partake of animals, they would have perished.  Moreover, since Noah had exerted strenuous efforts to save the animals as well as himself and his family, he was entitled to partake of their flesh in order to survive.  G-d allowed Noah’s descendants to eat meat as well, and since then there has been an acceptance of the human need to consume meat as a source of nutrition and sustenance.  BOTEACH 301
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GENESIS — 2:16 trees

The Jewish laws of kashrut were established to wean man away from violence and to learn to abhor the sign of blood. The Jew must be taught to detest death, abhor blood, and recoil from unnecessarily hurting any of G-d’s creatures Love for sadistic pleasures must be utterly uprooted from the human heart. G-d is the Creator of life, and man is its guardian and protector. Adam and Eve were commanded never to take the life of any animal, but to subsist on vegetation alone: From all the trees of the Garden you may eat” [this verse].  A quandary arose after the flood, which decimated all living creatures, including plants and animals.  Prior to that, the Almighty had never given man permission to consume animal flesh. Had G-d not permitted Noah and his family to partake of the animals, they would have perished. Moreover, since Noah had exerted strenuous efforts to save the animals as well as himself and his family, he was entitled to partake of their flesh in order to survive. G-d allowed Noah’s descendants to eat meat as well, and since then there has been an acceptance of the human need to consume meat as a source of nutrition and sustenance.  The problem that arose was how to allow man to take animal life for food, while simultaneously suppressing his love for violence? Furthermore, how could man partake of the flesh on the animal without becoming one himself? The Almighty therefore gave the laws of kashrut, whose purpose was to regulate how man could take animal life, which animals he could slaughter, how he could put them to death, and which parts of the animal could then be consumed. Simultaneously with granting man the right to devour animals flesh, G-d insisted that he take life only in the most humane possible way, and even then never consume the animal’s blood. Furthermore, man was permitted to partake only of nonaggressive, non-predatory and servile animals like goats, cattle, and sheep. As the ancient Rabbis point out, all the permitted animals are herbivorous and therefore nearer he vegetable world. They spend a great deal of time in the process of digesting their food and show an almost plantlike passivity.  The same applies to fowl. The only fowl allowed to the Jew are birds that survive on berries, worms, or bark, never scavengers or flesh eaters. The rules of kashrut are based on the belief that meat eating is different from eating vegetables and requires a great deal of sensitivity to animals. Man must be weaned off the callous indifference to taking life – any life.  Rabbi Joseph Albo, the great Spanish mystic, wrote that Adam and Eve and their progeny were originally forbidden to eat meat because of the cruelty involved in killing animals. In fifteenth-century Spain, Don Isaac Abravenel, one of the greatest biblical exegetes, endorsed the call for vegetarianism and taught that when the Messiah comes, everyone would return to this ideal state. Contrary to the view that the main rationale for kashrut is hygiene, the fact that the law of kashrut rule out all beasts of prey shows a different impetus.  Animals that have split hooves cannot be predators, for the split hoof makes them slow moving and awkward. … What the Torah was doing in limiting the Jews to these passive vegetarian animals was first, weaning them away from love of violence by causing them to slaughter animals humanely, and second, ensuring that they do not consume anything that would encourage their innate predatory treat by forbidding them to eat any omnivorous animals.  The founder of Christiany was insistent that “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out the mouth that defiles” (Matthew 15:11). Judaism rejects this belief, stressing that man can indeed by defiled by absorbing the wrong foods. Parents try to govern their children’s television intake, convinced that violence and sex can have an adverse effect on the minds of their young.  If this is true of mental material, why should physical sustenance be any different? The undeniable fact is that if you eat poison it can kill you. Judaism simply expands on this by applying it also to spiritual poison. BOTEACH 301-03
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GENESIS — 2:17 day

The sin of justifying human suffering … betrays a fundamental ignorance of Jewish theology.  Judaism sees death, illness, and suffering as aberrations in creation that were brought about through the sin of Adam in Eden. When G-d created the first man and woman, he placed them in His garden and told them that they were permitted to eat from all the trees of the Garden, with the exception of one: the tree of knowledge of good and evil. [Genesis 2:16 and this verse … “for on the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.”] The verse is puzzling. Adam and Eve did indeed eat from the tree of knowledge, yet they did not die on that day. In fact, Adam lived on for more than nine hundred years! How to account for this discrepancy? Judaism and Christianity deal with this difficulty in startlingly different ways.  According to traditional Christianity, the meaning of G-d’s warning that sin would bring immediate death was the Adam and Eve would die a spiritual death.  Thus, as soon as man committed the “original” sin, his soul died and he was damned. Christianity traditionally recognizes a body-soul dualism whereby people are viewed, not as integrated beings, but as possessors of an eternal soul and an ephemeral body, which is the vessel designed to accommodate the needs of the immortal soul. Only the soul can be restored in heaven through an affirmation of belief in Christ. According to the Jewish interpretation, the meaning of the verse was that on the day Adam defied G-d’s command and ate of the tree of knowledge, he would be condemned to death; he would lose his immortality.  As G-d’s direct handiwork, whom He had created in His direct image, man was never meant to experience death. Like his Father in heaven, mean was meant to live eternally. As long as Adam remained attached to the infinite source of life, he was eternal like his Creator. By sinning against G-d, Adam and Eve severed themselves from the infinite source of life and immediately they began to decay and die. Through his transgression, Adam brought death and destruction into the world. He might live many more years, but one day he would succumb to death, just as every apple when detached from a tree succumbs to decay. The implications of this rabbinical exegesis on this crucial passage of Genesis are profound. There was never meant to be a place for life to include suffering or pain. The Garden of Eden, previously this earth, was perfect. By detaching himself from G-d and worshipping his own sensual lusts, man became vulnerable and has been suffering for it ever since. This rabbinic teaching also declares that suffering has no meaning. It was never part of the original plan, it has no purpose. … To hasten the arrival of the promised world of the future, man must today drown the world’s imperfections in endless deeds of lovingkindness … man’s mission was never to make peace with suffering and death, but to abolish them from the face of the earth for all eternity by joining G-d as a junior partner in creation. … The atheist doctor who struggles to cure AIDS is infinitely more in tune with the Jewish response to suffering than the minister of religion who tells his flock that suffering is part of the divine plan.  The sinning businessman who may have never stepped into synagogue but makes a loan to a colleague to save him from bankruptcy is more in tune with the Jewish response to suffering than the Rabbi who seeks to give a rationalization for why children die of leukemia.  … Our energy must be dedicated, not to explaining hurt and pain, but to combating them and to healing wounds. BOTEACH 200-203
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GENESIS — 2:17 die

According to traditional Christianity, the meaning of G-d’s warning that sin would bring immediate death was that Adam and Eve would die a spiritual death.  Thus, as soon as man committed the “original” sin, his soul died and he was damned.  Christianity traditionally recognizes a body-soul dualism whereby people are viewed, not as integrated beings, but as possessors of an eternal soul and an ephemeral body, which is the vessel designed to accommodate the needs of the immoral soul.  Only the soul can be restored in heaven through an affirmation of belief in Christ.  According to the Jewish interpretation, the meaning of the verse was that on the day Adam defied G-d’s command and ate of the tree of knowledge, he would be condemned to death; he would lose his immortality.  As G-d direct handiwork, whom He had created in His direct image, man was never meant to experience death.  Like his Father in heaven, man was meant to live eternally.  As long as Adam remained attached to the infinite source of life, he was eternal like his Creator.  By sinning against G-d, Adam and Eve severed themselves from the infinite source of life and immediately they began to decay and die.  Though his transgression, Adam brought death and destruction into the world.  He might live many more years, but one day he would succumb to death, just as every apple when detached from a tree succumbs to decay.  BOTEACH 202
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GENESIS — 18:19 chosen

Are Jews guilty of arrogant pretensions to racial or at least spiritual superiority? Is this the reason that Jews have historically been so insular? Do they really believe themselves to be closer to G-d than all other nations? The answer is an emphatic no. Chosenness implies greater responsibility, with penalties as well as rewards; “You only have I singled out of all the families of the earth; therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities.” The choice of the children of Israel as G-d’s people was not because of their power or merit. Nor was it designed to isolate them from the other nations of the world. To say that the concept of chosenness is arrogant behavior on the part of the Jews is a gross misrepresentation. On the contrary, it is a humbling device. The Jews were not merely chosen as G-d’s special people, as if the Almighty was playing favorites.   They were chosen for a mission. And that mission was to spread the knowledge of the Creator and His expectations of man to all nations. … The bible never uses the word chosen in relation to the Jews as an adjective, but rather as a verb, thereby conveying the idea that they were chosen for a purpose.  G-d has no favorite nations. Consider, “No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice: so that the Lord may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” [this verse] Amos 3:2.   BOTEACH 277
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GENESIS — 18:19 singled

The Bible never uses the word chosen in relation to the Jews as an adjective, but rather as a verb [note: literally, y’da’tiv – “I have known him” – AJL], thereby conveying the idea that they were chosen for a purpose.   G-d has no favorite nations.   Consider, “No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice;… Or again, “Happy is the nation whose G-d is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage” Psalm 33:12. The verse makes it clear that the Jews are chosen as G-d’s witnesses to other nations to make Him known.  BOTEACH 277-8
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