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


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EXODUS — 30:15 atonement

No duty [other than tzedakah] is more important, and none ushers in salvation more speedily [B.B. 9a; Sukk. 49b; Ket. 67b]. "As long as the Temple stood", declared Rabbi Eleazar, "a man would donate his shekel and receive atonement for his soul [this verse]. Now, however, in the absence of a Temple, it all depends on the giving of Tsedakah; if he gives, all is well, if not, hostile forces will come and deprive him of his wealth by force" [B.B. 9a; Abot d'R'Nathan iv; Hosea vi.6]. To ignore giving help to any deserving cause is regarded by Rabbi Joshua b. Karcha [Ket. 68b] equivalent to idol worship; for it brands the man as "possessed" by his possessions, a worshiper of the "Golden Calf".

EXODUS — 30:19 wash

The custom of washing the hands before a meal most likely dates from the first century C.E. (Chulin 106a). The washing of one's fingers after a meal was instituted in the third century (Chulin 105a). One must also wash his hands upon rising in the morning (Berachot 15a, 3rd cent.) Occasions for washing were added in the Middle Ages. These include, along others, the rinsing of one's mouth in the morning, the washing of one's hands after the use of a lavatory, upon leaving a bathhouse, after the trimming of one's nails, the removal of shoes, the touching of one's feet or the private parts of the body, etc. (Orach Chaim 4:17-18). Hygienic reasons no doubt were an important factor in the establishment of the sanitary laws. However, the Judaic concept of man as a creature made in the image of G-d added a socioreligious mystique to the subject of cleanliness. A dirty body is in contempt of the divine image. This view is reflected in a talmudic statement: "One must wash his face, hands, and feet daily in his maker's honor" (Shabbat 50b). A clean body, according to Rashi, is a testimonial of honor to G-d, who made it in his image (ibid.). Nachmanides offers the same rationale for the religious custom of washing the hands before a meal. Handling food with clean hands is a gesture of respect for G-d, of whose bounty we are partaking (Nachmanides Exodus 30:19).

EXODUS — 30:35 perfumer

The word Rokeach occurs in the Bible [this verse] where it is translated "perfumer", and this prompted [Rabbi Judah He'hasid of Regensburg (d. 1200); author of "Book of the Pious"] to try and impart to the daily life of the Jew the fragrance of religion. His object has well been described thus: "Just as the holy anointing-oil scented the lowliest vessels of the sanctuary, so the goodly direction of the Rokeah sought to sweeten and glorify the humblest life." To him, as to the French philosopher Amiel, religion without mysticism was like a rose without perfume. Though he advocated the most meticulous observance of Jewish ritual, he always emphasized the finer aspects of our moral standards.

EXODUS — 31:13 keep

[Regarding the decision of Mattathias and his followers to defend themselves on Shabbat; see First Book of Maccabees] While Mattathias and his followers apparently sought no biblical sanction for their decision to violate the Sabbath, later generations did seek such sanction. Was it possible to assume that so important a matter as permitting the violation of the Sabbath in even a doubtful situation should not somehow be at least indicated in the Torah? The Mekhilta [Mekhilta d'Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai, on Ki Tisa 31:13. Also in Mekhilta d'Rabbi Yishmael] relates that "Rabbi Yishmael, Rabbi Akiba, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, and others were once walking together when the question was asked, Whence do we derive the right to violate the Sabbath in order to save human life?" Note that the question is not whether it is or is not permissible to violate the Sabbath in such a situation. The right is assumed. The discussion is devoted merely to finding Biblical warrant for what was obviously the universal practice. Rabbi Yishamel, Rabbi Elazar, and Rabbi Akiba all offer biblical laws upon which, by the principle of kal vahomer, they base their biblical validation of the practice. Rabbi Yose Hagalili bases it upon the apparently superfluous akh [this verse], which is taken to imply that there are occasions when you may violate the Sabbath, and those are presumably when life is in danger. Rabbi Simeon ben Menasya bases it up on the word lakhem "to you" (ibid. v. 14) taking it to indicate that "the Sabbath mesurah--is placed in your charge-and not you in the charge of the Sabbath." Rabbi Nathan validates the practice by interpreting the statement "The children of Israel shall observe the Sabbath" (ibid. v. 16) to imply "you violate one Sabbath on his (that is, the endangered person's) account, so that he may then observe many Sabbaths."

EXODUS — 31:14 keep

The first mention of the concept of holiness in the Torah is related to the concept of time, the Shabbat. Genesis 2:3. Thus, very early in the Torah, Judaism establishes and demonstrates that holiness in time is very significant in Judaism and is holier than another concept, the holiness of place. Most other religions do have a concept of holiness of place, as does Judaism, which designates many physical areas as holy Mishnah, Keilim 1:6-9, the land of Israel, the City of Jerusalem, and the area of the Holy Temple. And yet, time is holier than all of these. That is why the holiest Jewish place, the Temple or Tabernacle, could not be constructed on the Sabbath [this verse], based on the juxtaposition of Shabbat laws in the middle of laws about the Tabernacle's construction and its mention again later on Exodus 35:1-3, as well as their connection and a reference in one verse Leviticus 19:32 to both types of holiness. This demonstrates the superiority of holy time to holy place in Judaism. Why is this so? What makes holiness of time a "higher" holiness then holiness of space? Holiness of place is limited to a specific area. Once a person leaves that holy area, it no longer engulfs the person. The holiness of time, like the Shabbat and Festivals, is all around an individual, and he or she cannot escape it. That is, holiness of time totally envelops an individual. In addition, holiness of time is a more spiritual concept than holiness of place. Time is less tangible than place and cannot be seen (only the effects of time can be seen). Therefore, time is closer to the unseen spirituality of G-d than any physical hallowed site. There is a further advantage of holy time for the Jew. While different places separate Jews all over the earth, the holiness of time, such as on Shabbat, unites and unifies the entire Jewish people on the planet, as all Jews, though unseen to each other, are able to celebrate Shabbat together (for most of the day), despite all other separations.

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