CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 8

(Continued from page 7) Voices

of Torah

Mas'ei
(Michael Boyden)
Parshat Mas'ei not only brings us to the end of
the Book of Numbers, but leads us, in effect,
to the conclusion of a journey that began early
in the Book of Exodus. Just as we read then,
The Israelites journeyed from Raamses to
Sukkot (Exodus 12:37), so now we read, These
were the journeys of the Israelites (Numbers
33:1).
Our parashah mentions no fewer than fortytwo stations on their passage from Egypt to
the Promised Land. The list of place names
initially makes for boring reading. In a world

in which we travel much, we tend to note the
hour of departure and arrival but have little time
for the journey. On a long flight, we count the
hours and minutes until it will end. However,
names and places are important, for they are
what make up life's journey.

endings. We make a great fanfare when a child
is born and gather together with our family and
friends for funerals, but what really counts is
what takes place on the way. It is not only what
has been and what will be, but more especially
what is.

We read this parashah at a time of beginnings
and endings, at the very time of year that we
mark the three weeks that culminated in the
destruction of the First and Second Temples
and the beginning of our exile as a people.

Rabbi Sholom Schwadron wrote,"Each
generation in which the Temple is not built is
as though it was destroyed in their lifetime and
can be perceived as delaying the redemption."
Our lives and our personal journeys are what
count.

In our own lives, we also mark beginnings and

D'varim
(Amy Scheinerman)
Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl
(1730-1797), writing about Moses's speech on
the steppes of Moab, draws a direct line from
Israel's wilderness wanders to our personal life
journeys. "The Torah was given to Israel only
after seven weeks of wandering through the
Sea of Reeds and....through various deserts
until they came to Mount Sinai. All this was
in order to cut off the outer shells [k'lipot
chitzoniot], the superficialities that formed a
curtain dividing them from the Written Torah....
By traveling through those deserts...as well
as by witnessing the miracles...faith in the
Blessed One became rooted in their hearts....
This is the case today as well. The challenges
we have regarding Torah are there because of
our klippot.... Now that the collective shells

have been defeated and set aside, it is up to
every person who studies Torah to defeat his/
her own inner harsh places, so that we not be
separated from the faces of Torah..." (M'or
Einayim).

"revaluation," which "consists in disengaging
from the traditional content those elements
which answer permanent postulates of human
nature, and in integrating them into our own
ideology" (The Meaning of God, 1937, p. 6).

Mordecai Kaplan drew a distinction between
"transvaluation" and "revaluation." The former
"consists in ascribing meanings to the traditional
content of a religion or social heritage, which
could neither have been contemplated nor
implied by the authors of that content." Kaplan
speaks of the ongoing interpretive process
whereby "the teachers and sages of a later
period did not hesitate to read their own
beliefs and aspirations into the writings...of
an earlier period." Kaplan termed his method

M'or Einayim seems to circle around
Kaplan's concepts both clockwise and
counterclockwise: He certainly sees himself as
within the uninterrupted chain of interpretive
tradition. And while we might see his
interpretation as discontinuous with all that
came before, the very fact that he doesn't
suggests that Kaplan's "revaluation"-however
conscious his interpretative method-is indeed
"transvaluation."

understand our ancient disaster.

frightened me. And when I touched my nose, I
had no sensation of my nose but my finger felt
something swollen and hot" (Lifton).

Tishah B'Av
(Louis Rieser)
In the '70s I observed Tishah B'Av at the
Kotel and saw people for whom the korban
possessed a palpable immediacy. They wailed
and beat their breasts as if the destruction had
just occurred. I could not experience the loss
in any emotional sense.
In the '80s, following the lead of friends, I
blended Tishah B'Av with the observance of
Hiroshima/Nagasaki Day. The words of the
survivors, recorded by Robert Jay Lifton in
Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima, eerily
echo those of Lamentations. These modern
words provided me an analogy by which to

One example: He has worn away my flesh and
skin; he broke my bones. He besieged and
encircled me with bitterness and travail. He has
placed me in darkness like the eternally dead
(Ecclesiastes 3:4-6). "I had the sensation that
my whole body had been split...But I didn't
know what had happened, and everything
seemed strange.... I asked my friend whether
anything had happened to my face.... She
cried out to me and said that I too had been
burned and should go home.... I touched my
face and the skin stuck to my finger. That

8

I wish I could feel the destruction of the
Temple, the place where God caused The
Name to dwell, deep in my kishkes. But it
is not my experience, and Eichah does not
lead me to that understanding. The atomic
catastrophe, which still threatens our world,
affords me a brief glimpse into the dimensions
of that earlier destruction. By analogy I can
begin to feel our 2,000-year-old loss. It will
have to suffice.



CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014

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CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 2
CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 3
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