Pesachim 55-56 Honoring a wicked father

In the previous post, we quoted how the Gemara applied the passuk  “ועמך כולם צדיקים”  (and your nation are all righteous) to 2 different communities with opposite halachik practices, so long as they both grounded in halachically sound considerations.

This passuk is also applied at an individual level (Sanhedrin 90a) where the Mishna brings it to prove that “כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא”  (“all of Israel have a share in the world to come.”)

Yet unfortunately, neither the passuk nor the words of the Mishna are without qualifications.

The very same Mishna lists a variety of sins for which one can lose one’s portion in עולם הבא .

And on Daf 56 in our Masechta, we are told how King Chizkiyahu dragged the bones of his wicked father King Achaz on a cheap  bed made of ropes, and how the sages agreed with his actions.

The Mishna at the bottom of daf 55b tells us about 6 unusual practices of the people of Jericho, 3 of which the sages protested, and 3 of which they did not.

The Gemara opens with a Beraisa that records 6 things done by King Chizkiyahu, 3 of which the sages approved, and 3 of which they did not approve.

At face value, the only connection that stands out is the numbers of questionable practices performed and the equal split between the things that Chazal reacted negatively to and those that they were either silent  (in the case of the people of Jericho) or complementary about (in the case of Chizkiyahu.)

At a deeper level, it is possible that there many connections, and I would like to suggest one.

One of the practices of the people Jericho that Chazal did not protest was “כורכין את שמע”  (literally tying up the Shema.)

The Gemara brings various views as to what this means.  Rabbi Yehuda opines that they did not make any break between the first passuk of Shema and the first paragraph to say “ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד”  as we are accustomed to do.

The Gemara proceeds to discuss the reason that we say this verse, and notes that it was the response Yaakov gave to his sons when they all confirmed their loyalty to the faith by saying the words of the Shema in front of him.

Yaakov was afraid that like his father Yitchak and Grandfather Avraham before him, not all his progeny would follow in his path, and when he was reassured by his sons that they would do so, this famous line was his response.

Unlike Yaakov, Chizkiyahu’s grandfather, the righteous king Yotam, did not have the same fortune, and his son and successor, Achaz, become one of the most wicked kings in our history (Melachim II/ 16.)

It is a sign of the greatness of King Chizkiyahu that he was able to rise above the evil legacy of his father and rebuild a Torah society (Melachim II/18), but he too shared the misfortune of his grandfather, and his own son, Menashe, become the most wicked king we ever had (Melachim II/21.)

Perhaps the people of Jericho felt that saying the passuk “ברוך שם”  was insensitive to those who despite their righteousness, did not share the same fortune as Yaakov when it came to all their offspring, and in the tragic cases of King Yotham and King Chizkiyahu, their very heirs.

Although Chazal did not agree with them and chose to focus on the ideal experience that our last forefather, Yaakov had, they did not wish to protest given the good intentions of the people of Jericho and their strong argument.

Back to the halachik subject at hand, Chizkiyahu was praised for degrading his late wicked father by dragging him on a bed made of ropes, which seems to indicate that the mitzva of honoring one’s father does not apply to a wicked man like Achaz.

Before jumping to any conclusions however, we need to examine the nature of and reasons for this action of Chizkiyahu.

Rashi offers two explanations:

  1. Rather than afford him the normal honors given to a king or wealthy person, he was given a poor mans treatment as an atonement for his terrible sins.
  2. This was done for the sake of Kiddush Hashem to show how a wicked man like that was disgraced and encourage other wicked people to mend their evil ways.

According to the first explanation, the actions of Chizkiyahu were for the benefit of his wicked father and helped him achieve atonement.  As such, it is possible that this was not a case of the mitzva of כבוד אב ואם    not applying to a wicked father, but rather of it being the best thing for his honor in the long term, similar perhaps to giving one’s father a curative injection.

According to the second explanation, this was not done for the long-term benefit of Achaz’s soul, but rather for the sake of the Mitzva of Kiddush Hashem.

Here again, there is no need to conclude that the mitzva of honoring parents does not apply at all to a wicked parent, but rather that the mitzva of Kiddush Hashem simply takes priority. It could well be that in a private setting, Chizkiyahu might have still shown honor to his father, and that a wicked person who did not have the same public status and power that King Achaz has, would still be entitled to a degree of כבוד.

Another difference between the two explanations in Rashi could possibly relate to the nature of Chizkiyahu’s actions:

According to the first explanation, Chizkiyahu did not necessarily degrade his father, but simply withheld honor from him.

According to the second explanation, however, Chizkiyahu intended to degrade him as a message to other wicked people, and Rashi highlights this by use of the word “שיתגנה”.

Whereas the second explanation seems to indicate that actively degrading one’s wicked father is permitted, the first merely indicates that withholding honor is acceptable.

We should also note that either way we learn this, Achaz was no longer alive at the time, and although there is a mitzva to honor parents after death as well (Kiddushin 31b) , it would be pushing things to attempt to prove anything from this case regarding honoring a wicked parent who is still alive.

Further, defining someone as wicked is a complex task, which most people are not even qualified to do, and comparing anyone to a totally wicked king like Achaz who not only sinned in the most awful ways but corrupted his people in those same ways is most of the time completely off the mark.

There are other important sugyas that are relevant to this topic (see for example Sanhedrin 85b and compare with Yevamos 22b), which ultimately lead to a significant halachik debate on this matter  (see Y.D. 240/18), but as is our way in these posts, we shall focus for now on what we can get from this daf and look forward to carrying on the discussion as the relevant sugyos come up!

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

 

Pesachim 12-13 Being above suspicion and avoiding conflicts of interest

On Daf 12b, the Gemara quotes a Mishna which records a dispute between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehuda regarding the last time one is permitted to eat chametz on erev Pesach.

Rabbi Meir holds that one may eat chametz until the end of the fifth hour of the day and must burn in at the beginning of the sixth hour.

Rabbi Yehuda, however, holds that one may only eat chametz until the end of the fourth hour, may keep it in one’s possession till the end of the fifth hour, and burns it in the beginning of the sixth hour.

It should be noted that the prohibition of eating and owning chametz on a biblical level only applies from midday, and that these are rabbinical “fences” designed to avoid missing the biblical deadline.

The Gemara in 13b notes that Rav Nachman ruled like Rabbi Yehuda, and later claims that Rebbe’s own ruling supported his conclusion.

It tells how someone had deposited a leather sack (see Rashi) filled with chametz with יוחנן חקוקאה  and it was bitten open by a mouse.

It was erev pesach, and the chametz was leaking out and getting lost, and he wanted to sell it to recover whatever money he could for the owner while doing so was still allowed.

Rebbe kept telling him to wait, in case the owner came and wanted to eat it, until the beginning of the fifth hour when he told him to go to the market and sell it on his behalf.

The Gemara assumes that Rebbe meant for him to sell it to non-Jews, thus implying that he agreed with Rabbi Yehuda that eating chametz during this time is already forbidden for Jews.

After all, if he meant for him to sell it to Jews and agreed with Rabbi Meir that Jews were still permitted to eat chametz during this time, he should have rather given Yochanan the option to buy it himself first and eat it during this time, rather than requiring him to make the effort to go to the market to sell it!

The Gemara refutes this suggestion, explaining that Rebbe might indeed agree with Rabbi Meir and have intended for Yochanan to sell it to Jews on behalf of the owner.

However, Rebbe did not want him to buy it himself, due to concerns for חשד (arousing suspicion.)

As Yochanan had a vested interest in fixing the price lower than the going rate in order to buy it himself, Rebbe held that it was wrong to buy it, even for the same price as others would agree to, in order not to arouse suspicion that he had indeed done so.

To back this reasoning up, it brings a Beraisa that discussed someone who collects copper coins for charity and currently has no poor people to give them to.  Due to the concern that they might go rusty, he needs to exchange them for silver coins with someone else, but he may NOT exchange them for his own silver coins, in order not to arouse suspicion that he gave himself a favorable rate.

 This would be going against the apparently biblical directive of “והייתם נקיים מה’ ומישראל ”  – “you shall be clean from Hashem and the Jewish people (Bamidbar 32/22.)

The same applies to someone who works in a soup kitchen and has excess food: He needs to sell it to someone else, but may not buy it himself from the charity, to avoid suspicion that he might give himself a better price!

This idea can be found in an explicit Mishna (Shekalim 3/2,) which tells us that the person who puts donations given to the Temple in the 3 boxes used for storing them may not wear a garment that is folded over, shoes, an amulet, or even Tefillin, in order not to arouse suspicion that he stole from them and hid the money in one of the above items (see Rambam there.)

The idea that someone would be so brazen as to un-sow Tefillin and hide stolen money in them might seem extreme , but there have indeed been cases in modern times where “religious” Jews have been caught smuggling diamonds and other things in their Tefillin, making this Mishna even more chilling  (Rav Mordechai Kamenetzky (https://torah.org/torah-portion/drasha-5757-shoftim/) tells how when consulted about this phenomena, his saintly grandfather Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky זצ”ל  compared such behavior to someone who approaches enemy lines with a white flag as if to surrender, and throws a grenade, violating a sacred symbol of peaceful intent so that others no longer trust it.)

We saw earlier in the daf cycle (Shabbos 23a) that a person is required to leave פאה (the corner of the field left for the poor) at the end of his field, for 4 different reasons, one of them being to avoid חשד  (suspicion) that he might not have left anything at all.

Similarly, The Gemara (Bava Basra 8b) rules that it is forbidden for someone who is collecting money for charity to put  money that he finds in the street, or that someone gives him in repayment of a loan, in his own wallet, so that people should not think that it is charity money that he is taking for himself.

Rather, he should put it in the charity box, and transfer it to his own wallet once home. The people collecting money are also supposed to go in pairs for the same reason (Bava Basra 8b.)

We should note that unlike the practise in many corrupt areas of making traffic police work in pairs to make it more risky to accept bribes, the concern here is not even that they would steal the money but simply that they might be suspected of doing so- such is the ethical standard expected of  a Jew.

The directive to “be clean” does not only apply to monetary matters, but also to arousing suspicion of other types of improper behavior.

For example, one of the reasons that it is forbidden to enter a חורבה  (ruin ) is to avoid suspicion that one might be meeting a prostitute there (Brachos 3a and Rashi there.)

A Jew is required to not avoid corruption, but to avoid any suspicion of corrupt behave, and to always be AND appear squeaky clean.

There is a related concept called מראית עיין, where Chazal forbade  or required certain actions to avoid “looking bad.”

Whether this is an extension of the concern of חשד or an independent concept requires some analysis, which I hope to be able to do at a later opportunity.

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Eruvin 59    Authoritative Translation and the “private city”



 
The wealth of modern-day translations and study-aids has made the study of our sacred texts accessible to so many people who without them, would simply be unable to study them, and for this, their merit is tremendous.
Yet there is also a downside to this, in that people who study Torah from their youth and would normally learn the original Hebrew and Aramaic naturally from the original context of their study, now tend to use these works as crutches rather than learning the necessary linguistic skills themselves from classical sources.
As so much of the original meaning is lost in translation, and one translation might give a completely different view of a word or phrase than another, this often biases the learner in favor of the translators subjective interpretation of the text, rather than training him to study the text objectively on its own merits.
At its extreme, this results in the loss of the  independent analytical skills essential for in-depth Torah study and for reaching legitimate halachik conclusions, effectively starting a chain reaction which has the ability to paralyze the entire traditional system of Torah study and halachik ruling.
Yet how is a generation whose spoken language is neither Aramaic nor biblical or Mishnaic Hebrew expected to even get started without the use of such tools?
It is clear that there is always going to be a tradeoff between exposure to unbiased original texts and the clarity provided by modern “translation-commentaries” and what is right for one, is not necessarily right for the other, but it is clear that the earlier back one can go for translations, the more legitimate one’s starting point will be.
The earliest and most authoritative “dictionary” of Talmudic language is the “Aruch”, written by Rabbeinu Nosson of Rome, an early Rishon who slightly preceded Rashi, and whose translations are used by him and other Rishonim in their commentaries.
As such, this is the first place us “uneducated” moderners should turn when faced with words that we do not understand, something our great teacher haGaon Rav Mendel Blachman שליט”א  has drummed into us (of course an authoritative Hebrew dictionary will be needed once we have the correct hebrew word and using later scholarly dictionaries such as that of Rabbi Marcus Jastrow זצ”ל  are still far preferable than jumping to the translation-commentaries of today, certainly for in-depth study if time does not allow it for the daf yomi!)
It is this approach that I would like to illustrate in today’s post, using the main topic of the daf as a case study.
Today’s daf discussed the fascinating case of an עיר של יחיד ונעשית של רבים – a private city that became public.
We have seen many times that when it comes to defining a domain as either private or public as far as the laws of Shabbos are concerned, there are several factors involved:
1.      Whether it is surrounded by halachically valid מחיצות  (partitions) or not
2.      Whether it is used/frequented by the public or not.
3.      The size or width  of the domain and its similarity to the דגלי מדבר
 
The actual ownership of the domain, although important on a rabbinic level, seems to be less of a factor regarding its biblical status, and when the above factors are combined, we are faced with 3 main categories of domain, at a biblical level:
1.      רשות הרבים – a public domain needs to be unfenced, be used/frequented by the public and have a minimum width of 16 amos.
2.      רשות היחיד- a private domain needs to be enclosed by halachically valid partitions on at least 3 sides (2 according to Rabbi Yehuda) and be a minimum of 4 by 4 tefachim.
3.      A כרמלית  – this is domain which lacks the partitions required to make it a private domain but lacks the public usage/frequency required to make it a public domain. On a biblical level, this is essentially a מקום פטור  (exempt domain)- on a rabbinical level , it is treated with the stringencies of both the above domains, and only very limited types of domains too small or high to fit into the other categories are still regarded as a מקום פטור  (exempt domain.)
In the case of our Mishna, a city starts out as a “private city” ,undergoes a metamorphosis which results in it being a “public city” ,and the Mishna rules that the entire city may be included in an eruv.
In contrast, if a city starts out as a “public city” and becomes a “private city”, certain restrictions of a public city still apply to it and one needs to leave a small part of it outside the eruv.
It is not immediately clear from the Mishna what the properties of the private city and public city mentioned are, and what exactly changed to make the city take on the opposite status.
After all, if a “private city” is a pure רשות היחיד  , why should it need an eruv at all, and if  a public city is a pure רשות הרבים  , then how does an eruv help anymore than it does in a regular רשות הרבים  which according to most opinions cannot be “privatized” by a regular eruv?
It is thus not surprising that the Gemara asks immediately what the phrase עיר של יחיד  is referring to and Rav Yehuda suggests that a prime example of such a construct is the “דאיסקרת דריש גלותא” .
In this case, The editor’s note on the side inform us that the ערוך ‘s version of the text has the word “דסקרתא”, and this is also the version in Rabbeinu Chananel on the daf,an invaluable clue that allows us to look up the word in his ערוך  itself.
Examining the words ourselves, we see that “דסקרתא”  is made up of “דס”  and “קרתא” ( city) , and immediately can guess that this is some sort of city belonging to the exilarch, the powerful political head of the Jewish communities of Babylonia.
The Aruch translates it simply as “עיר של ריש גלותא”- the city of the exilarch
In other words, the city is
i.                    Owned and/or controlled  by one individual (“של”)
ii.                  That one individual is a powerful public figure with government supported authority over property rights  ( -“ריש גלותא” see Sanhedrin 5a re נטילת רשות)
 
     We note that there is no inherent assumption that this city is surrounded by walls or partitions as is the case with a halachik רשות היחיד.
It follows that whatever changed to make it into a “עיר של רבים ”  must involve one or more of the above factors, and while the Gemara proceeds to reject this definition and accept a different one, we have now at least set the stage for beginning to understand what the issues at play are!
 These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Shabbos 102 The evasive מכה בפטיש (hammer-blow)

Shabbos 102 The evasive מכה בפטיש (hammer-blow)

One of the most difficult categories of forbidden work on Shabbos must be the melacha of מכה בפטיש, literally “striking with a hammer.”

After all, when a hammer is used constructively, it will usually be used as part of other forbidden categories of work, such a building, and when it used to destroy things with no positive intention, it will usually be מקלקל (a destructive action,) which is only rabbinically prohibited .

Yet this is indeed list in the Mishna (Shabbos 73a) as one of the 39 categories of work forbidden on shabbos, and it is essential to understand what it is.

The Mishna on our daf lists this melacho as one of those which has no minimum quantity required for liability.

Rashi gives both a general rule and an example of this melacha.

He gives the example of the hammer blow given to a stone by those who hew stones, after it has been cut out of the rock but not completely detached .

The stone is then hit with a hammer which causes it to detach and fall from the rock surface.

This is the final stage in the act of hewing a stone, and Rashi then tells us the general rule that the final stage of any melacha makes up the melacha of מכה בפטיש . He told us this rule back on daf 73a as well.

In truth though, numerous difficulties can be raised with both the rule and the example.

Firstly, as Tosfos points out, a forbidden category of melacha needs to involve an action performed in the work of the mishkan, and no quarry work was involved in that at all ( there were no stones in the mishkan, and constructing an altar from hewn stone was actually forbidden- note also how the Aron, Menorah, and Shulchan were all made of one single piece of beaten gold, and NOT of anything that had been cut into parts and then joined together !)

Secondly, if מכה בפטיש is the final stage of any מלאכה, surely it is already included in that מלאכה itself , and why should it get its own category? Does that mean that any melacha done from start to finish would incur two punishments , one for that particularly מלאכה , and one for completing it ? If so, one would expect that to be discussed .

However, this definition of מכה בפטיש does not originate with Rashi, but actually goes back to the Talmud itself (Shabbos 75b) where Rabbah and Rabbi Zeira both tell us that anything that involves completing a מלאכה is מכה בפטיש.

Tosfos appropriately does not disagree with the rule cited by Rashi, but chooses rather an example that did take place in the work of the mishkan , namely the final hammer blow given to strenghen the vessels of the mishkan once they were ready .

Does this melacha perhaps apply to the final act in a creative process even if that process does not involve a forbidden melacha ?

If so , where do we see such an example – after all, if it is a creative act of work that wasn’t in the mishkan, it will usually be included in the toladot of that melacha .

The key might lie in a Yerushalmi often quoted by our teacher, haGaon haRav Osher Weiss שליט”א ( various teshuvos on electricity in מנחת אשר חלק 1 וחלק 3 for example )

The Yerushalmi (Shabbos perek 7/ halocha 2) accounts that Rabbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish spent 3 and a half years studying the matter of 39 melachos.

They found 39 Tolados ( derivatives) of each melacha.

Whatever melacha they were able to fit into one of those, they included in one of those .

Those that they could not include in one of those were included in מכה בפטיש .

It seems clear from this Yerushalmi that there exists NO melacha that is not forbidden on shabbos.

Every possible melacha, however it is defined, either falls under one of the 39 categories, their derivatives , or the מלאכה of מכה בפטיש.

Rav Weiss himself suggests the relatively radical idea that for this reason, any activation of an electric circuit fits under the prohibition of מכה בפטיש .

Although the Bavli gave a different definition, namely גמר מלאכה, and the rule is that one does not follow the Yerushalmi when it contradicts the Bavli, he contends that it is possible that the Bavli did not mean to exclude these “left out” melachot from מכה בפטיש but simply to also include the completion of any melacha .

However, as he himself is fully aware, many poskim before him rejected this possibility, and were most likely fully aware of this Yerushalmi.

Far from me with my barely existent understanding of the subject to argue, but those who do not follow this view regarding electricity have all these Poskim to rely on ( of course, electricity remains forbidden for numerous possible other reasons given, but there could be many נ”מ)

Perhaps what the Yerushalmi really means is that COMPLETING any melacha, even one that doesn’t fit into the forbidden categories, is still forbidden because of מכה בפטיש .

However it follows from this classification that unlike other melachot, some of which one could transgress just by doing some or most thereof ( even if one is sometimes exempt due to “בעשותה” ) , one would have to actually complete the goal of these “left out” melachot in order to transgress.

If one learns this way, there is no disagreement between the bavli and the Yerushalmi at all- מכה בפטיש indeed includes all “left all” melachos , but only the completion of them.

In fact, it is also stated in the same halacha on the Yerushalmi that גמר מלאכה is מכה בפטיש,

Admittedly, this might not be the simplest reading of the Yerushalmi, but it allows for a simpler reading of the Bavli and also avoids the need to say that the Bavli and Yerushalmi have such a basic difference in understanding the melacha, one that the Rishonim do not seem to mention at all ( though see the Rambam , for example in Pirush haMishnayos to perek 7 which Rav Osher suggests as a support for his words .)

Of course , we would now have to test all the examples given in the gemara of this melacha, as well as those on our daf that Rav and Shmuel argue about, before we can really see if this thesis can stand its ground .

We would also need to define exactly what מלאכה is , and what kind of גמר מלאכה is meant by the Gemara- is it the completion of any melacha, just the completion of a כלי, or just the completion of a מלאכה not already included in the 39.

Lots of work to do, but its late …

Shabbos 91 and Parshas Behaaloscha Racism, Self-Defense, and Prison Reform

Today’s daf contains an unusually high amount of different Talmudic principles, all of which can be the subject of post after post on their own.

Among them we see again the concept of אחשביה, the idea that something (or quantity) generally not appreciated as significant by a society in general and thus not subject to the penalty for transferring on shabbos, can become significant when someone sets it aside for a useful purpose.

Besides, for being a recurring theme in our masechta regarding shabbos, we have also seen this in a recent post regarding inedible chametz on Pesach, which can become forbidden when someone chooses to eat it.

We also see the principle of בטל דעתו אצל בני אדם, ( a person’s view is nullified by the view of others), which in our case, shows that the converse DOES NOT apply- even if someone does not regard something as significant, if the majority of people do regard it as such, it is also considered significant.

And towards the end of the daf, we encounter a famous legal rule of קים ליה בדרבה מיניה (a person who does one action subject to multiple punishments, is only subject to the greater of the two.)

It is very tempting with our high, often justified, but often exaggerated, regard for the modern, western justice system, to chas veshalom view the Torah approach to justice as archaic, and even cruel chalila.

While there are certainly many aspects of it, that at least on the face of it, do create philosophical and ethical challenges for us , there are So many concepts, that even on the simple face of it, should be so easy for modern society to learn from.

Punishment is supposed to be constructive, fit the crime, and not over burden society.

On the one hand, self-defense, and defense of one’s property, is a legitimate reaction, and one of the main sugyas of the idea of קים ליה בדרבה מיניה, is the sugya in Sanhedrin (72a), where one is permitted to kill a robber breaking into one’s house, when the assumption is that the thief is coming to kill.

This is so much so, that the thief is exempt from monetary claims caused by his damage during the crime, seeing as he was subject at the time to a possible death penalty!

Yet, the rule is also very clear that this (as well as the general rule of a pursuer) is an absolutely last resort- If there is any way to save oneself by wounding the attacker, one is required to do so, and if one fails to, one is guilty of murder )Sanhedrin 74a.)

In a world where so many people are treated as second class citizens, the rule of אחשביה could teach us on an ideological level, that we are able to elevate these people and restore their dignity simply by starting with ourselves and being the one’s to appreciate them.

At the same time, we can never be guilty of being the ones to treat people with less dignity than the norms of the society in which we live.

In our parsha, Miriam is guilty of gossip against her brother, Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest prophet of all time.

The passuk tells us that this gossip, had something to do with the Cushite (Ethiopian black) wife that Moshe had taken.

There are many varied explanations in Chazal and the Rishonim as to the precise nature of the gossip (some of which might have more appeal than others to our personal views on racial matters) , and of course, there are multiple facets to everything in Torah.

However, we have one iron-clad rule that Chazal themselves taught us (earlier in our masechta) : אין המקרא יוצא פשוטו (a verse does not depart from its simple meaning.)

This golden rule is usually taken to mean that the various midrashim, even those that seem to contradict the simple reading of the passuk, come to supplement and add additional messages to the simple meaning of the text, NOT to replace it, and although there is much to discuss about this idea in its own right, I will take it as a given for the purposes of this post at least. (for further reading, see the various explanations in Rashi, Ibn Ezra, the Targumim, and in particular, the Sifsei Chachomim on the two explanations in Rashi, on this episode.)

Although it is always hard to understand how great people can do terrible things, whatever the precise nature of this gossip was, the terrible punishment makes it clear that it was indeed a terrible mistake.

I would like to suggest what to me, at least in the context of our time (and the timeless Torah speaks to ALL of us, in ALL times), is the most obvious simple meaning of the text.

In the biblical society, like in today’s so called liberal western world, the illness of racism was a scourge, that even otherwise great, and good people, were affected by.

Moshe Rabbeinu’s marriage to a black woman, was frowned on so much in that society, that even his own great and righteous sister couldn’t handle it.

And what happened- she become ill with an affliction which makes the skin go snow-white!

In Judaism, diversity in creation is actually celebrated, and even has its own bracha, משנה הבריות, (one who diversifies his creations), one that is actually made on rare animals like elephants (depending on time and place), as well as unbelievably, black people, who were very rarely seen in Talmudic Israel and Babylon (Brachos 58b.)

Perhaps the simple lesson from Miriam is that if one doesn’t appreciate that “black is beautiful”, one can land up as a leprous outcast, as white as white can be!

Shabbat Shalom ,and may we see the end of the terrible scourge of racism and the appreciation of every person created in the Image of Hashem.