Reflections from Rabbi Waxman
The Super Bowl and Purim
Enough with the hype of the Super Bowl! Is this Peyton’s last hurrah? Is Cam Newton the new Tom Brady? Defense versus Offense? How many articles do we need to read about the game? How much airtime must be devoted to Game #50? It is time to play the game and watch the commercials. And then get ready for Purim, for surely it is around the corner. After all, since Mardi Gras is next Tuesday, the 9th, that means because of the Easter/Passover link and the month separation of Purim and Passover that Purim should be closing in on us. Not so fast.
This is one of those years when Easter and Passover are separated. For most churches, Easter will be observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. That makes it Sunday, March 27th. (The Orthodox Churches, however, will observe Easter on May 1st!) But Passover will begin Friday night, April 22n, for this is a leap year. That means that the celebration of Purim is also postponed, deferred to the second Adar, which means that we take out our noise makers on Wednesday night, March 23rd. (You can, however, have a token hamantasch on Purim Katan, which is observed a month earlier, on February 23rd.) The extra month is added 7 times in 19 years to ensure that Passover remains a spring festival, and hence occasionally, as is the case this year, Easter and Passover are out of synch. A further consequence of the intercalculation of the extra month is that in 2016 the fall Jewish holiday cycle won’t begin until October! (Save Sunday night, October 2nd, for our eve of Rosh HaShanah service.) A side benefit of the disjuncture of Easter and Passover is that when Easter candy will be discounted after the holiday, I won’t have to worry about Passover dietary restrictions.
But let us return to the Super Bowl and Purim. There is a tradition associated with the holiday of Purim of creating spoofs based on classic Jewish texts. With that in mind, let me get a head start on that activity and search through the Hebrew Bible for predictions for the forthcoming Super Bowl. The prophet Jeremiah (5:6) declares: “a panther will lie in wait near their towns to tear to pieces any who venture out.”(The Hebrew word, which I translated as “panther,” is Namer, which covers several large cats: tigers, panthers and leopards. Most translations use the word “leopard”: but let us presume the ancient authors had “panthers” in mind.) On the other hand, Isaiah (11:6) foresaw the day when “The wolf will live with the lamb, the panther will lie down with the goat”. A less favorable prophecy for Carolina, though it doesn’t say it will lie down before the bronco.
As for the Broncos, alas Biblical Hebrew only knows from Sus/Susim. Modern Hebrew has the term Sus Me’ulaf L’mechatzah—doesn’t come trippingly off the tongue. So we shall have to settle for searching out suitable equine passages. The prophet Isaiah (2:7) offers the image: “Their land is full of horses. “
There is also the vision of one of the later prophets Habakuk (1:8-9): “Their horses are swifter than panthers, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like an eagle swooping to devour. (9) They all come intent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand.”
That is clear evidence that the Broncos will prevail. But before you put your money on Denver, it is well to remember the passage from Exodus (15:1)) “horse and rider He has hurled into the sea” Not encouraging.
Perhaps we should conclude with Hosea 1:7 “I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but I, the Lord their God, will save them.”
Perhaps a prayer or two will help. Enjoy the game and save some of the joyful spirit for our springtime celebration of Purim.
Chadashot MeYisrael: News From Israel
Israel, Car Technology and Crowd Funding: Together in Jerusalem
OurCrowd, an equity crowd-funding platform, recently held its annual summit in Jerusalem where it featured new technology. 3,000 people were on hand. Among the corporations represented there were Samsung, GE, as well as Honda, which in addition to presenting, was there searching for Israeli technology to make their vehicles completely collision free.
According to Nick Sugimoto, the Senior Prog4rom Director of Honda’s Silicon Valley Lab: “Our presence at this conference is actually Honda’s first entrance to Israel’s technology community. Having come here from Silicon Valley, I can tell that I’m very impressed with the innovative and entrepreneurial culture and spirt of the start-up nation.” Honda, he noted was seeking smart car apps through its Honda Developer Studio.
The Honda team saw VocalZoom’s app, which offers a voice recognition system that uses lasers to detect vocal vibrations to separate words out from background noise. It expects this technology to be available in 2 years, aiding drivers to keep their eyes on the road. Another company, Engie, seeks to automatically diagnose mechanical problems and elicit quotes.
John Medved, OurCrowd CEO, “Israel is particularly well positioned to produce companies relevant to the auto industry given its strengths its strengths in embeddable devices, machine vision, and related algorithm development and cybersecurity. We are proud to be working closely with Honda…”
A Comment on the Weekly Torah Portion
The portion of Mishpatim (Exodus 23:20-24:17) is read this Saturday, February 7th.
24:9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel ascended; (10) and they saw the God of Israel; under His feet there was the likeness of a pavement of sapphire, like the very sky for purity. (11) Yet He did not raise His hand against the leaders of the Israelites; they beheld God, and they ate and drank.
24:10 and they saw the God of Israel. This is the overarching principle that they all saw, but with variations based on their relationship to prophecy. For they were prophets that included the power of speech and understanding but with different capacities of the individual people. There were among them who gathered the fullness of the knowledge and there were among them who had but a share or some shares [of this divine knowledge], and so it was with that congregation that saw the God of Israel, each one according to his power of seeing and comprehension and of his spiritual awakening. And Moses was distinguished from the rest of the congregation as the text says “and Moses alone approached the Lord.” [Exodus 24:2]….and They saw refers back to Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the 70 elders …and this revelation is divided into three levels: the first is that of Moses; the second is that of Aaron; and the third is that of Nadab, Abihu and the 70 elders. However, the fourth level is of the leaders, who are the princes, who did not see, as they did not ascend… (Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam, Payrush Ahl B’raysheet, Sh’mo Rabbi Abraham the son of Moses ben Maimon, that is, the son of Maimonides was born in 1186, when his father was already 51. He was a child prodigy and was known as a great scholar even before his father’s death in 1204. Despite the fact that he was but 18, he became the Nagid, the head of the Egyptian Jewish community—a position that his descendants would continue to hold into the 14th century--, and also court physician, succeeding his father there, as well. He defended his father, and often cited him in his writings. He is deemed responsible for winning the return to rabbinic Judaism of a group of Egyptian Karaites, a dissident sect. Early on, he composed Birkat Avraham and Ma’aseh Nissim as defenses of his father’s legal works. In the wake of the Provencal controversy over his father’s Guide for the Perplexed that surfaced in the 1230’s, Rabbi Abraham penned a lengthy rebuttal, Milchamat Adonai—The Wars of the Lord--, which he addressed to the sages of Provence in 1235. Interestingly, despite his defense of his father’s philosophical writings, Rabbi Abraham had some mystical and pietistic tendencies apparently influenced by Islamic Sufism. His attempts to introduce practices, such as washing the feet before prayer and standing in rows, practices borrowed from Islam, found some support, but also significant opposition from elements in Egyptian Jewry. His commentary on Genesis and Exodus, cited here, was originally written in Arabic, but translated on the basis of a sole surviving manuscript, into Hebrew in the 20th century. He also wrote in Arabic Kitāb Kifāyah al-`Ābidīn, A Comprehensive Guide for the Servants of God, which was an encyclopedic work on Jewish religion. Ma’amar Ahl Divray Chazal, his long essay on the words of the Sages, which includes a discussion of the uses of Greek philosophy, in the main focuses on the non-legal materials of the Rabbis. The volume was often cited in later centuries. A number of his responsa, many of which were originally written in Arabic, have been printed as Sefer Birkat Avraham. He died relatively young, in 1237.)