RABBI ARTHUR SEGAL: JEWISH SPIRITUAL RENEWAL: DEREK ERETZ: GREAT IS PEACEJewish Spiritual Renewal:Derek Eretz Zuta + Rabbah:Shabbat 5/19/12(aka Derech Eretz, Derekh Eretz )Shalom my dear Chaverim, Talmidim, v' Rabbanim, friends, students and fellow rabbis:An oneg, joy-filled, Shabbat this coming weekend to all.We continue with our exploration into the Talmudic Tractates of Derek Eretz Zuta and Rabbah. (aka Derech Eretz Zuta, aka Derech Eretz Rabbah. As was mentioned, zuta is Aramaic for 'small', and rabbah is 'large').Remember that Derek Eretz is not about Jewish ritual. It is about how we are to treat one another and what traits of character, middot, we are to try to develop. The lessons are universal and ecumenical. The development of character traits and Jewish spiritual renewal transformation is called Mussar.For those new to the class Baruch ha Ba! Welcome!You can access last week's class atFrom here you will find links to preceding classes in this series. So, together we continue:TALMUD BAVLITRACTATEDEREk ERETZ ZUTA(aka Derech Eretz, Derekh Eretz)Today we will begin the last chapter of Talmud Bavli Tractate Derek Eretz Zuta, Chapter Ten verses 10:1-2.
10:1: R. Joshua b. Levi said: Great is peace, for it is as the leaven to dough. If the Holy One had not given peace to the world, sword and beast would devour up the whole world, as it is written [Lev. xxvi. 6]: "And I will give peace in the land."
10:2: It is written [Eccl. i. 4]: "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh, but the earth endureth for ever." King Solomon meant to say thus: Although one generation passes away and another one comes, one kingdom disappears and another one appears; and although evil decrees one after another are enacted against Israel, still they endure forever. The Lord does not abandon them, and they are never abandoned. They are never annihilated, neither do they decrease, as it is written [Mal. iii. 6]: "For I the Lord have not changed: and ye sons of Jacob, ye have not ceased to be" (i.e., as I have never changed and will never change, so ye sons of Jacob have never ceased and will never cease to be). But [Deut. iv. 4]: "Ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God are alive, every one of you, this day."The rabbis were so impressed with this chapter, so co-joined with is message, that some wanted to make this chapter a tractate of Talmud by itself. [ Rabbi Leopold Zunz, aka Reb Yom Tov, b. 1794]. It is rarely called by its numeric name, Ten, but by "The Chapter on Peace.''While much of my writings on Jewish Spiritual Renewal have to do with gaining inner peace, shalom, becoming integrated and whole, shlema, this chapter as with all of Derek Eretz Zuta teaches us about having peace with others.One rabbi is quoted much in this chapter. He is Rabbi Joshua ben Levi.Rabbi Joshua ben Levi is the hero of nearly all the paradise legends in the Talmud. He often met Elijah before the gates of paradise (Talmud Bavli Tractate Sanhedrin 98a) and he obtained permission from the angel of death to visit paradise before his death and to inspect his assigned place. He reported the result of his investigation to Rabban Gamaliel (Seder ha-Dorot). The original accounts are in the Zohar, which contains all the elements in fragmentary documents (Zohar Beresheit, 38a-39b, 41a, and Zohar Lecha 81a, b). One of these accounts is credited to Enoch. Midrash Konen is probably the first compilation and elaboration of these fragments.Rabbi Joshua ben Levi was a favorite hero in legend. He was often made to be the companion of Elijah in the latter's wanderings on earth. (Midrash Pesikta 36a.) He also had legendary dealings with the Angel of Death. ( Talmud Bavli Berachot 51a.) While yet alive, he was permitted to visit paradise and the nether world, and he sent a description of what he saw there to Rabban Gamaliel through the submissive Angel of Death. (Derek Eretz Zuta 1:6.) Many of the legends relating to Joshua have been collected in separate small works entitled "Ma'aseh de-Rabbi Yehoshua' ben Levi" and "Masseket Gan Eden we-Gehinnom."So what was the merit of Rabbi Joshua ben Levi to deserve being allowed to see Paradise while alive, as stated in Derek Eretz Zuta 1:6? His rulings always had to do with chesed, loving- kindness, and peace. At a time when many rabbis wanted to curse Jews who were belonging to the sect of Rabbi Yeshua ben Yosef, (now called Christians), he taught of getting along with them in peace. His comment of Jewish pluralism about how the righteous of all nations, religions, have a share in the world to come, contrasted with other religions 'admission process' to heaven, was pure love and peacefulness.So let us see what Rabbi Joshua wishes to teach us: 10:1: R. Joshua b. Levi said: Great is peace, for it is as the leaven to dough. If the Holy One had not given peace to the world, sword and beast would devour up the whole world, as it is written [Lev. xxvi. 6]: "And I will give peace in the land."Without leaven added to dough, we can not make bread. Bread is our sustenance. It is not by happenstance that synonyms for income are both bread and dough. Without peace with others, we cannot effectively live. When we are not at peace with others, we are torn up inside, as if a wild beast or soldiers with swords were inside of us, devouring our very souls.When we thank God for ''making bread from the earth, (the land),'' if peace doesn't reign in the land, one literally cannot plant crops to make grain to make bread. This is why "Great is Peace'' is such an important basic aspect of Judaism.
Let us continue with: 10:2: It is written [Eccl. i. 4]: "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh, but the earth endureth for ever." King Solomon meant to say thus: Although one generation passes away and another one comes, one kingdom disappears and another one appears; and although evil decrees one after another are enacted against Israel, still they endure forever. The Lord does not abandon them, and they are never abandoned. They are never annihilated, neither do they decrease, as it is written [Mal. iii. 6]: "For I the Lord have not changed: and ye sons of Jacob, ye have not ceased to be" (i.e., as I have never changed and will never change, so ye sons of Jacob have never ceased and will never cease to be). But [Deut. iv. 4]: "Ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God are alive, every one of you, this day."
While this verse does not mention the word peace at all it is meant as a balm to the Jewish people during rough times to help bring about hope and inner peace.
It is letting us know that Am Israel, the people of Israel survive. All of us eventually die, some of us die too soon as martyrs. But a new generation always arises.
The idea of one kingdom disappearing and another kingdom appearing can be looked at two ways. Israel was a small tribe under our Patriarchs, and we lost that freedom in Egypt. We sprouted a new nation under Moses and Joshua and continued such until the end of Solomon's kingship.
The we had two Jewish states side by side, Israel and Judea. Eventually Israel perished and Judea went into Babylonian captivity. Some returned to establish a Jewish community in Judea under Persian control, while others stayed in their Jewish community in the Persian empire.
We lived under Greek rule and regained our statehood in the Maccabee's war. Soon we were under Roman rule, with a small period of independence under Bar Kochba. Eventually we lost our homeland and lived under rules of host nations. Some of these host nations were kind at times, other times brutal, and still other times even fatal to us.
But the Jews live on the verse and history tells us.
The other way to read the verse is that other kingdoms come and kingdoms go but Jews still live. Canaanites, Philistines, Pharaoh's Egyptians, Moabites, Midianites, Amaleks, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Alexandrian Greeks, Imperial Romans, Constantinians, Ottomans, even the Third Reich (may their named be blotted out), aren't flying flags at the UN, but Israel is.
Evil decrees get levied against the Jewish people yet we survive. Pharaoh tired to kill our first born males, the Persian Haman tried to wipe out all the Jews, Greeks tried to keep us from study, as did the Romans who also banned semikah-rabbinic ordination, we were banned, persecuted, rounded into ghettos, expelled, and even killed, in almost every country we settled. Yet those evil decrees could not destroy us.
''Ootzoo etza v'toofar ,dabroo davar v'lo yakoom, key imanu El. Form your plot, it shall fail. Lay your plan, it shall not prevail, for God is with us. [Is. 8:10].
The verse ends with Talmudic Judaism's, not Hebraism's, fundamental believe that those who have died will be bodily resurrected during Messianic times. Hence Judaism's population never decreases, but can only increase.
We discuss the middah, character trait, of living in shalom, throughout the majority of chapters in ''The Handbook to Jewish Spiritual Renewal: A Path of Transformation for the Modern Jew''
(http://www.jewishspiritualrenewal.net/ ) as well as in most chapters of ''A Spiritual and Ethical Compendium to the Torah and Talmud''What are your ideas about living in peace? How has learning Talmud's Derek Eretz helped you in your interpersonal relationships? How has understanding the spiritual and ethical teachings of Judaism helped you live a more joyous life?Next class, Baruch ha Shem, we will continue with Chapter Ten. Thank you for joining me.For those who want a d'var Torah on Parashot Behar and Bechukotai from '''A Spiritual and Ethical Compendium to the Torah and Talmud'' please click on http://rabbiarthursegal.blogspot.com/2011/05/rabbi-arthur-segal-jewish-spiritual_4258.html and http://rabbiarthursegal.blogspot.com/2011/05/rabbi-arthur-segal-jewish-spiritual_3679.html .Amazon.com: The Path and Wisdom for Living at Peace with Others, A Modern Commentary on Talmud Tractates Derek Eretz Zuta and R
Rabbi Arthur Segal_
Jewish Spiritual Renewal
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