Thursday, February 16, 2012

Of God's Betrothal to the Jewish People

Picture provided by Alon Anava
My notes from a lecture by Rabbi Yitschak Ginsburg:


Three times in the whole Torah we are warned not to mix meat with milk, eg, "...Do not cook the calf in the milk of its mother." (Ex.23:19).

Each action alone is permissible (eating meat or drinking milk), yet together they become stringently proscribed.

How do two pluses, taken together, become a big minus?

You can mix two things that resemble each other. Only dissimilar objects taken together are forbidden.

In the heavenly arena, God can make peace between two opposites, Gavriel, the Angel of Fire, with Michoel, the Angel of Water. But down here in our realm, opposites taken together can only do damage, spiritually and physically.

There are 4 ways to look at this.

One way is to have two permissible things you want, and of these, you must make a choice.

The other way is to have two things to choose from that you want to reject, and must choose the lesser of the two "evils".

Another way is to have two objects, each with what attracts and with what repels at the same time. And of these two objects that contain a plus and a minus, you must choose.

A 4th way is to have objects contain more than one thing you like and more than one thing you dislike, and of these collectives you must make a choice.

The latter condition resembles that which exists in finding a mate. Each individual you have interest in has plusses and minusses, and, in narrowing the field down to one, its up to the person to decide which set to make the final commitment with.

Whomever the choice, making that choice is akin to cutting a covenant with that person, just as cutting the male child during circumcision "cuts" a permanent covenant with God. That choice implies the covenant remains faithfully with that mate, with that one person alone. In that commitment, one "circumcises" oneself by choosing the one to always be with.

When God (the "groom") married the Jewish people ("the bride"), we read, in last week's portion, "And you will be to Me special from all the nations, because to Me belongs the whole world." (Ex.19:5). But why do we need the extra phrase, "because to Me belongs the whole world"? Is not enough said by, "And you will be to Me special from all the nations"?

Because God is saying to the Jewish people, "Don't think only you were available for me as a bride to marry. No. Because 'to Me belongs the whole world', so I could have picked another nation instead."

Had the Jews been a perfect people with no faults among them, there would have been no significance to the choice God made, just as it is insignificant were one to choose a perfect groom or perfect bride.

But God "cut a covenant" with the Jewish people. This committed act based on free choice therefore takes on heavy significance. The Jewish people had plusses and minusses and, of all the nations that similarly had them, God picked the Jews.

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