Meine besondere andere Liebe (Ansprache zu Kol Nidrej 5778 im Wiener Stadttempel)

September 30, 2017

Der Stadttempel während des Kantorenkonzertes im Herbst 2016. Von Jom Kippur kann ich ja selbstverständlich (und hoffentlich) keine Bilder zeigen.

Austrian-German_Swiss_flags-tinyLiebe Freunde,

Toll, dass Ihr da seid, dass wir zahlreich zu Kol Nidrej und Ma‘ariw erscheinen. Ich betrachte es als einen der Höhepunkte des Jahres, dass wir in wenigen Minuten alle zusammen das Schema Jissraël sprechen werden. Jascher Koach!

Heute Abend möchte ich über eine große Liebe von mir sprechen. Nein, ich meine nicht von meiner Frau, die ich sehr tief liebe und der ich dauerhaft Dankbarkeit schulde, nein, ich möchte von einer anderen großen Liebe sprechen, und ich verspreche, dass meine Frau mir das verzeihen wird.

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Plumbing the Depths of Aggaddic Exegesis

August 20, 2012

English320px-Talmud_setOne of the texts many, many thousands upon thousands of Jews studied recently, upon the beginning of a new cycle of Daf haYomi is the exegesis on the name of one of King David’s sons:

וא”ר יוחנן לא כלאב שמו אלא דניאל שמו ולמה נקרא שמו כלאב שהיה מכלים פני מפיבשת בהלכה

R. Jochanan said: His name [of King David’s second son] was not Kileav but Daniel. Why then was he called Kileav? Because he humiliated [maklim] Mephibosheth [David’s nemesis, presented here as David’s mentor, “av”] in the Halachah.

Ostensibly, all Rabbi Jochanan does, is to make sense out of a seeming contradiction in Scripture. In II Samuel 3:3, David’s second son is called Kileav, while in the parallel accound in I Chronicles 3:1, he is called Daniel. So one name – Daniel – is his real name, while the other – Kileav – is his biblical nickname, indicating, through midrashic exegesis some essential character trait (someone who defended David against his nemesis’ and erstwhile mentor’s accusations). However, I have long found this understanding too feeble. Is that all Rabbi Jochanan bases himself on? Is that all he wants to say? Is this midrashic exegesis totally independent from the plain understanding of the Scripture? Read the rest of this entry »

Did the Talmud Suggest G”d Has a Head? Learning to Interpret Rabbinic Legend

August 17, 2012

English320px-Talmud_setAdam Kirsch, writing in Tablet Magazine, mentions his astonishment, as he took up the daily regiment of Daf haYomi (a folio from the Babylonian Talmud every day), upon discovering some of the stranger Aggadot (rabbinic exploration of a non-legal nature, particularly legends, metaphors and exegisis). Thus, astounded at the Talmud teaching that G”d, too, has tefillin, he writes:

… the question nags: How exactly can God wear tefillin? Can we imagine God with an arm and a forehead? The rabbis apparently could, quite literally…

While noting that later commentaries dealt with his questions, Kirsch is still convinced that the Talmud tolerated or even championed views that are nowadays theologically problematic.

While Kirsch brushes upon a separate issue, on which a lot has been written, namely, whether there could exist a view in the Talmud which becomes halakhically obsolete (for example, Rabbi Hillel’s view that the Messiah had already come in the days of Kind Hezekiah), he mostly stumbles upon the nature of the entire genre of Aggaddah/Aggaddeta. So let’s ask his question the other way around. Did the Talmud really suggest that G”d puts on tefillin, and that He consequently has an arm and a head to wrap those around? Read the rest of this entry »