Monday, May 2, 2011

Sfira by Rav Hirsch

I was not able to write it. What is 'it'? My srangerz view on the topic of orthopraxy.
Hopefully next week I-H. I’m aware that it will be month after original article was printed in Ami Magazine but you know... Pesach preparation, than Pesach, than aftermath of Pesach.
Instead read, please read this expert from Rav Hirsch's 'Collected Writings'.
It is on topic of Sfira but with much broader implications, as usually when my Master touched the paper with the ink.
Matys Weiser

"There was a need to impress upon the mind of the Israelite who possessed freedom and land the value of the Torah. There was a need proclaim to the State as a whole and to each individual in it: "The land which you own, the fields which bloom for you and the fruits which ripen for you these are not your gods and your goods, these do not constitute you a nation nor are they the objects of your strivings as peoples and individuals. All these have been given to you for the sake of the Torah; for the sake of the Torah you possess them, and without the Torah you would lose them. All this land with its abundance of milk and honey, and all the rich and free national life which flourishes on it, are only a means and have only one object, namely, with this freedom and abundance to develop a communal, collective and individual life such as your God and Master has prescribed for you in the Torah." To impress on our minds and hearts this unconditional value of the Torah and the conditional value of all other possessions this was the purpose of the sfira, of the days and weeks which both, the heads of the community and every individual in Israel, had to count from the first setting of the sickle to the corn up to the festival of the giving of the Law.

I In course of time Israel forgot this counting. It ceased to count up to its Torah and to see in the Torah the principal element in its national existence .It began to look for freedom and independence to its land and soil, to which it had the same right of possession as any other people to its own land. It imagined that it was entitled to count by its land, that it could dispense with the Torah and retain bread and soil, freedom and independence without the Torah, and "Judah's gods became as numerous as his cities."' Then it lost land and soil, freedom and independence, saving nothing but the Torah up to which it count-ed no more in the land itself, and it wandered in strange lands for two thousand years.

The seasons go round, the sun shines and the dew falls, but for the Jew no seeds sprout, no fields bloom, he no more puts the sickle to his own corn. And why? Because he wanted his activities to end with this sickle, and he was not willing to begin from this sickle to count to his Torah. From the time that he deified the sickle he lost the sickle!

And yet we still count! On the injunction of our far-sighted Sages we still count, though without land and fields, not from the day on which we put the sickle to our corn, but from the day on which our ancestors on their own soil once swung the sickle over the newly ripened corn. We count days and weeks to the day of the Torah. Is this counting a mockery, is it just disconsolate mourning? Without land, without fields, deprived for two thousand years of all right to a soil of their own, do we still require the warning not to overrate this right to a soil, this ownership of a land? Do we, too, still require the admonition to value land and soil only as a means for the full performance of the Torah and to regard them as worthless if their possession does not lead to the Torah?

Have we not seen the sons of Israel so dazzled by the mere hope of the "sickle brilliance" as to imagine that the bands of the Torah would fall off along with those of the Galuth? Have we not seen the supposed trumpet-call of freedom shatter the pillars of the Jewish sanctuary? Israel was prepared in the hope of a "shirt" to throw off its "robe." God put us to the test, and we have stood it badly.

Anyone who looked deeper must have told himself even then that the great and unique drama of the Jewish Galuth could not end so pitifully. Judah was sent into the Galuth because it prized land and soil as the bulwark of its freedom and belittled the Torah. The Galuth cannot, therefore, end with the same delusion. We can really be delivered only when the centuries of the Galuth shall have taught us their lesson, which is that when we have assured our freedom and independence and recovered possession of the land which has been waiting for us for thousands of years we must use them purely in the service of God on the altar of the Torah; that with the "sickle" placed again in our hands we must not cease to be Jews, but “when first the sickle is laid to the corn on our own land” we must then really begin to be Jews, to perform our Jewish task in still fuller measure, and with all our powers to strive forward with heightened zeal to the goal of the Torah.
This test, the second act of our Galuth trials, still awaits us.

The first, the trial of suffering, Israel has already brilliantly surmounted. It is just these Sfira days in which Israel during centuries furnished the clearest proofs that it knew how to preserve the Sfira spirit in suffering. It showed in these days how it was able to count as nothing all earthly goods and joys, the whole of earthly life however sweet and dear, if it should for their sake be compelled to let go of its God and His holy word. It showed how at every moment it was prepared to cast away the earth and hasten into the arms of its God. Almost two thousands springs passed in bloody procession over Israel's head in this Sfira season, and when Israel began to count from the old deliverance and the lost sickle to the eternal Torah, there rang trough the dark clouds which enveloped them with ever new terror the repeated and awe-inspiring question of the Almighty to Israel, “Art thou still Mine, Israel?" "Thine in life and death," answered Israel, as it died." 

Rabbi Shimshon Refuel Hirsch or Samson Raphael Hirsch if the first spelling is find objectionable by anyone. 

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