Sunday, March 17, 2013

Looking Out From The Eyes Of The Ger

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[*article for Parashas Vayikra]

Parashas Vayikra
History – As Told By The Ger
Rabbi David Katz

Parashas Vayikra opens with an embrace that pulls us directly into the inner chambers of Temple Life, and ultimately is the section of the Torah that is often referred to as The Heart of the Torah, Torat Kohanim, i.e. that which was granted to Abraham from Shem – a revelation of the entire Torah. There are many facets of divine service that take place in the Temple that we had mentioned in the previous Parshiot, mostly pointing to a physical interest, i.e. that which is attractive to the eyes. This week presents an opportunity to take notice of that which is attractive to the ears, namely, that in a largely foreign Temple World, we faintly recognize the “Mincha” – even if it amounts to as much as grasping at straws, simply for the fact that it is in modern vernacular, if not for any other purpose.

Often times in Torah we find words that we recognize when out of context. For example “Kabbalat Shabbat” [service] is sung in Shul to welcome the Shabbos Queen, and the obvious association from the uninitiated will conclude that he is about to enter a mystical state! In actuality, he is accepting the Shabbat, and straightforwardly enough, Kabbalah proper means to accept / receive. One must not however abandon ship when it becomes revealed that the “almost mystical trip into Pardes” was nothing more than another apparent let down on the spiritual front. As one grows in Torah and engages in a proactive pursuit of never losing hope [in these matters], Hashem will provide the necessary means to open one’s eyes to the hidden World that is so painfully revealed before him. The only difficulty is finding the process to develop these obvious revelations into a raging Light that you could have sworn was there, but to much dismay, society has denigrated the Holy into the mundane.

The Torah’s biggest secret perhaps, is that these words like “Kabbalat” [Shabbat], “Torat” [of the Offering], and in our Parsha “Mincah” [Offering] for example, really do merit the apparent Wisdom that they inherently express. The secret is not contained in an external brilliance befitting a Prophet of the Lord, rather quite the opposite – in the childlike labor of “connecting the dots.”

The Ger as we will find out spans and parallels six thousand years of Jewish History, only his topography warrants a unique contour in relation to the Jewish Map. The Ger has a story to tell, and a picture to share; and perhaps it can begin with a question that the Ger would seek to ask: “Mincha (Offering) – is that anything like the Mincha [term] that [most] use in my Shul?” Many will quickly point out that, “No, for the Holy connection you crave is actually far more mundane” i.e. “Mincha” is just a coincidence. Yet to he who dares to connect the dots will be led to the trail of obscurity, only to become saturated within all of time, from the eyes of the Ger, and a perspective of the Temple from the vantage point of the Remnant of Noach. I suppose then all that is left is the proverbial question slightly modified: “Why do we pray Mincha [afternoon prayer] (in) a term that is enigmatically coined from a portion of the Temple Service that seems diametrically opposed [to this highly spiritual nuance that my soul picks up from my disbelief of pure coincidence]? Let’s connect the dots, and look at time, as it was never seen before, except through the heart of the Ger.

Adam was the First Man and was placed in the Garden of Eden by God. That Man sinned, and his progeny would ultimately become Gerim, of which some [Gerim] would become go on to stand at Sinai to receive Divine Instruction, i.e. Torah. This Torah would be “The Story” for all of Mankind, all Gerim past, present, and future, telling about the Creation of Israel and their journey to their Land, while constantly being expressed with undertones of a Divine Plan that would miraculously rectify Adam’s sin; a joint effort by the Children of Israel and the Gerim.

The point of the story that shows the source of schism, takes place between two righteous Men – Abraham and Shem [son of Noach]. Shem was the one who lived in a Torah World, a lone agent, while his family engaged in the World as if it were idolatrous, i.e. not a Jew-ish place. Abraham would then become a breath of fresh air to Shem, as he accepted the Torah, and would go on to illuminate in the World as the World’s first Toshav: A Ger has arrived, and divine schism was now operative.

A very special function took place between Abraham and Shem, in that Abraham became familiar with the Temple Mount, and he would go on to pray to Hashem there, namely in the morning; a tradition was established, not only in prayer, but as this was the future location of the Holy Temple, the Temple Service found its foundation as well.

This prayer exercise was not a one off in Jewish / Ger history, for Isaac and Jacob would each go on to pray there afternoon and evening respectively, and the place would become identified as such until the descent into Egypt. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would go down in history as recorded in the Talmud as having developed prayer [on Temple Mount location] that encompasses morning, afternoon, and evening. Yet the Talmud questions, was prayer really developed by these Men, or was it simply because the Service of the Temple incorporated a similar morning, afternoon, and evening service, and thus the prayer times were simply taken from there. The Talmud answers in secretive terms – both! For the Avot prayed and effectively founded the Temple at the same time, thus it becomes a question of the chicken and the egg, and in this case, the Temple and Prayer were instituted by the Avot, the World’s first Gerim.

It is well established that the three prayer times have become entitled “Shacharit” – a reference to morning [literally], “Mincha” – simply named after the Offering of the Temple that took place at the most convenient times for prayer, and “Maariv”  - the evening prayer, another function in the Temple. Thus we find that Mincha is named after the Temple service directly, and Talmud supports this claim that it is called Mincha as a reminder of Elijah who was answered by God with his personal Mincha.

Thus now we have precedent of Prayer, Temple, and Gerim all coming together, and all stemming from Shem. It is at this point of the story that the dots go viral, and six thousand years come into focus, from the viewpoint of the Ger. Behold.

As we know, the story began with Shem and Abraham, but Shem was perhaps the most intimate with Jacob, for it was Jacob who sat for an extended time in the Tents of Shem, i.e. Houses of Study and Prayer. Fast forward to the episode of Billam [Bamidbar 24:22-3; take notice of the Kenites / Jethro associations from hints and context] and his famous Blessing to Israel that is recited in Shul’s every day by the Jewish People, “ How Goodly are your tents o’ Jacob!” Bilaam has acknowledged that the salvation for Israel in the End of Days [as these were blessings for the End of Days] will be their houses of study and prayer that were created by Shem, and as the Midrash will go on to suggest – were defined and conceived by the Gerim, much like how the entire story began by Shem [and Abraham].

The passage by Billam focuses on Jethro [as hinted at by the Kenites, a reference to Jethro by name and to his descendants the Rechabites, a noble family of Gerim in Gerim/Jewish history] and his merit as a Ger Tzedek upon the likes and similarities of Abraham; both being influenced by Shem and his Yeshiva, whereas Bilaam [who was an idolater] takes on the Terach component [of Abraham] thus making a uniform comparison, of which Shem molded the eventual Jewish People and the Jethro – Rechabites “People’s” [All types of Gerim, converts, etc. coming from Shem].

Jethro is promised [in his merit] to behold offspring who will not only outfit the Holy Temple as scribes and scholars, but that they shall eternally cling to the houses of study and prayer, to the extent that these shall be places of refuge and stronghold, to endure future exile, held in common with the Jewish People. It is clear that as expressions of Gerim [prayer and study halls], there was a craftsmanship employed to mold the halls after the likes of the Temple, as the Gerim took part of what was called “Dat Yisrael” – the [engaging] belief of the Torah of Israel. Thus they focused on the study and prayer halls to serve Hashem in this way, and would fortify themselves in a clear service of God while working closely with the prophets and servants of the Temple. Each Ger was his own minister to the concept of, “Hashem is my Rock and my Metzuda” (peak); to this light Aravnah the Ger Tzedek who sold the Temple Mount to David was called “Minister of Metzuda Zion,” showing the positioning of Gerim in the days of entering the Land from the desert.

The Gerim would serve God in this way [of halls and the Temple; offering their expertise and craft, remnants of Shem] until Exile would finally strike the Land, sending the Ten Tribes out to wander, and Hashem Himself would send of his beloved Gerim to the mysterious Mountains of Darkness, where they would ultimately rendezvous with the ten Lost Tribes, just before a prophetic return to the Land in the End of Days; a fulfillment of Balaam’s Blessing. As the wicked Sancheriv scattered Nations to be lost forever [at least as a cohesive unit, i.e. Amalek] the Gerim would know not of such fate, for they were emboldened by their sacred halls and tradition of service [down to the individual and his heart towards Hashem], and rather than being scattered, were moved from place to place [even if they were not aware of the big picture] on account of the Nations’ hated for Israel [which the Gerim apparently clung onto] until having been deemed acceptable by Hashem for redemption [along with the Ten Tribes].

There is an ancient saying, that in the Time of the End, all of the halls of study and prayer will arrive to the Holy Land, along with the building of the Temple. As the simple meaning cannot be that simple in this context, one can’t help but wonder – is this a reference to the Ger? It is uncanny that the halls of the Jewish People today have a structure, one that was premised on a specific and certain intent. Based on The Midrash explanations, the image of the Temple [that they are obviously in] can be easily recognized in today’s religious strata, as a remnant of the Temple from the viewpoint of the Ger - he who sat in observance in those days, as he does today, serving the Lord with Derech Eretz, and in cooperation with the Jewish People.

We sit today towards the end of six thousand years of Jewish/Ger history that dates back to the days of Shem [and Abraham]. The Ger saw Shem, and gazed backwards into the Garden with Adam [as a rectification, the mission of Israel & Torah], took part in the creation of prayer and laying the Temple’s foundations, they paved a path alongside Israel in their halls [fashioned as the Temple in wisdom] while adjoined with the prophets as eternal scribes, all while setting the tone of the Jewish Exile [being now well equipped with halls and creative wisdom] and riding the spiritual inertia that would reduce NASA to drool amidst the precision of God and his handiwork, as his plan drifted into exile.

All of time can be told from the lens of the Ger, and just as the story was created then, our light at the end of this tunnel is poetically similar to when the Jews and Gerim were launched into a foreign orbit. In 1948 [Abraham’s birthday – a similar parallelism to Mincha?] the Israeli State was created out of thin air, and there were suddenly mass Aliyah to the Land. At that time and onwards to 1967 and beyond, how many Righteous Gentiles would awaken to realize that their hearts would bleed Ger and Toshav. The Temple is due to come from God in some way shape or form, and the halls are slated to return. The End is a success in the merit of Torah study and Prayer, and we are to always visualize Zion as rebuilt in our days.

 Six Thousand years will have gone by in Creation, and all that Hashem holds dear to him, as a tool to connect to him, was personally crafted by His Gerim. The process of return has begun, and soon we will have the Temple, halls, and Jews and Gerim [Toshavim] existing in real time as the blueprint of the Ger would suggest.

To look into the Ger, is to literally see Jewish History told, much like Mercury is the Scribe to the Sun’s journey’s [Talmud Shabbos], both making truly remarkable tales within relativity! To solve ancient riddles to the entire proverbial Why’s” – is to simply remember the Ger, and always never forget, for through his eyes, all of time was captured. Let not the word “Ger” be another unrecognized term in the Torah, for all too often we glance over the Torah’s secrets, as the deepest wells of inspiration are passed off as coincidental anomaly , as is often the case in our Parsha with “Mincha.”

If Mincha can tell a portion of its History with the Ger, producing a viable six thousand year saga of exile and redemption, a working understanding of the Torah no less, imagine then what the rest of Creation has to say about its affiliation with the Ger; for as Parashas Vayikra has already made clear through its allusion - a word to the wise…give ear to the Ger, and connect the dots already! But as Shem and Abraham would have it, before getting wrapped up in the Ger, don’t forget to pray Mincha.


R Bearden said...

Let us pray that no longer will it be the case that "all too often we glance over the Torah’s secrets.."

Anonymous said...

Most excellent Raabi Katz.... Bebe (Shamah Astirah) Tracy

Anonymous said...

I get it, but wonder how Abraham was a Ger, but his Children were both Ger and Israel? Only by HaShem saying no longer are you a Ger your Israel? Is this what actually happened?

David said...

Ohr chaim says it was indeed as such. 400 years of geirus culminating at a slow birth at sinai. Btw just read in gemara that the mincha is specific for the ger.

David said...

Ohr chaim says it was indeed as such. 400 years of geirus culminating at a slow birth at sinai. Btw just read in gemara that the mincha is specific for the ger.

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