Reflections from Rabbi Waxman

 Machshavot HaRav:
Reflections from Rabbi Waxman
A Black-Tie Seder?
Last week, speaking at the CHAI Institute lecture, Professor Burt Visotzky suggested that given the antecedents of the Seder, which he found in the Greek Symposium, and which he termed a literary cocktail party, that the Seder should be a black-tie affair. He admitted that he has done that exactly once in his many years conducting a Seder; nevertheless, his suggestion, regardless if one adopts it for this year’s Seder or saves it for some future Seder, does point us in the direction of taking the evening ever more seriously.
The ancient symposium, which featured wine and intellectual conversation, sprinkled with quotations—obviously not from the Bible, but often from Homer--, clearly has its parallels in the Seder and its text, which is filled with citations from the Bible. But—and my classmate adduced additional influences, as well--, it is clear that the Seder has an important difference from those ancient literary wine-fests, most significantly in that they involve not only adult males; they involve young and old, male and female. And so a Seder needs to engage everyone, not just a limited coterie of intellectual males. Indeed, the Torah itself already establishes the need for transmission at the time of Passover, when just before describing the 10th plague it declares: “And when your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this rite?’ you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, because he passed over houses of the Israelites in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but saved our houses.’” (Exodus 12:26-27)
It is a major challenge to engage everyone, particularly in our electronic age with short attention spans—unless of course you have video-gamers in your midst, who have incredible sitzfleisch--. Every year I encounter new supplemental materials created for the Seder: some have discussion questions; others have child-friendly songs—“The Frog Song” comes to mind--; and yet others offer additional readings—the Cup of Miriam material is one such example--. And of course there are now visual stimuli, such as the bags filled with plagues, or Midrash Manicures, which offer 10 Plagues Nail Decals. Add to this the wealth of Haggadot, many with sidebar comments and/or supplementary readings, and one can fashion a Seder that goes all night. (Not recommended.) The Seder becomes an opportunity to re-engage with an ancient tradition while reciting familiar words, all the while bonding with family and friends.
So, in the week plus remaining, set aside a little time to plan out the Seder; not only what will be served—though, that, too, is important--, but what new elements can be brought this year along with the old and familiar. For the Waxmans singing “The Ballad of the 4 Sons” is de rigueur, complete with the remembered typo of the old mimeographed version that graced our table long ago and declared that the father’s “grief and anger grew.” As for the new: I’m working on it—a new haggadah or two and a couple of insights from Professor Visotzky will be the starting point.
This year I think we shall pass on the tuxedo; but perhaps next year we shall invite friends to a black-tie Seder. Something to chew on, aside from matzah.
Shabbat shalom.

Chadashot MeYisrael:  News From Israel

Technology Meets the Hypodermic Needle
We all hate shots. We don’t think about the possibility that the shot we get is not the right dose. We presume the person who administers it has drawn the right amount of medication. The reality is that everyday accidents do occur, that there is human error. Add to that the complications when radioactive dyes and drugs are to be injected and you have the background for what RescueDose, an Israeli company, has crated.
It was founded to address the dangers that exist by creating a new process for delivering liquid medication by minimizing human contact and thereby making the process safer both for the patients and for the medical professionals. It has a created a robotic dispensing system, which is already being used at the Nuclear Research Center in Soreq, which manufactures and distributes radiopharmaceuticals in Israel. Technicians place vials of the drugs into the unit and key in how much of each component is needed for a dosage and the system automatically calculates the specified amounts for each syringe.
RescueDose is partnering with the American based ec2 Software Solutions to integrate its robotics with ec2’s BioDose medical software. The goal is to produce a system that automates the entire nuclear medication dispensing process.
Although there are other robotic devices in the market, what makes RescueDose’s system unique is its portability.
Meanwhile, the Soreq center is helping RescueDosee in evaluating the functioning of the system and helping the company to fine-tune the product. Ultimately, the same technology can be integrated into general pharmaceutical dispensing operations, to avoid mistakes, because the system has an optical system. As Gilad Einy, the CEO noted: “If the syringe is not in place properly, or if the dilution isn’t correct, our vision-control system sees it and alerts the technician to make the appropriate correction.”
Looking down the road, Einy hopes to move into the area of pediatric medicine to return to one of the inspirations for the creation of the system. His cofounder, Dr. Tal Or, who heads the ER at a hospital in Poriya, originally hoped to design a better system for medicating children during trauma care, but they began instead by addressing the risks involved in using radioactive substances.

Payrush LaParshahah:
 A Comment on the Weekly Torah Portion
The portion of Tzav (Leviticus 7:11—38) is read this Shabbat. It is also Shabbat HaGadol, which does not have a special maftir, but does have a special haftorah, taken from the book of Malachi, which speaks of coming of “Yom HaGadol V’Hanorah, the great and terrible day of the Lord,” linked to Elijah (3:23).
7:11 This is the ritual of the sacrifice of well-being that one may offer to the Lord. (12) if he offers it for thanksgiving [Todah], he shall offer together the sacrifice of thanksgiving [Todah] unleavened cakes with oil mixed in, unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of choice flour with oil mixed in, well soaked.
7:12 he shall offer together the sacrifice of thanksgiving This is the sacrifice over which one makes confession. [The Hebrew term for the sacrifice is TODAH, Tav Vav Daled Hey; and the word for to make confession is MITVADEH, Mem, Tav Vav, Daled Hey.], However, it does not have the status of the Chattat [sin-offering][or of Asham [guilt offering] but of the Shelamim [well-being or peace offering], which is eaten in the course of a day and night. The difference between [on the one hand] the Chattat and the Asham is that they are offered for a specific sin, whereas [in the case of] the Todah a person brings it for all of his sins whenever he wishes to confess and to return to the good path. And there are those who say that a person brings it when a miracle has occurred for him and hence it is called TODAH, [the thanks-offering {In modern Hebrew “Todah” is how one says “thank you.}], For he gives thanks to the Name for the miracle that he has experienced. (Radak in Otzar Rishonim: Vayikrah. Rabbi David Kimhi, or K/Qimchi, is known by his acronym Radak. Born circa1160 in Narbonne, in Provence, his father Joseph was a Bible commentator, as was his brother Moses, who raised him, after his father’s death. Kimchi wrote commentaries on the Prophets—and his commentary is the other major commentary printed alongside Rashi’s in standard Hebrew Bibles with commentary [the Mikraot Gedolot format], but also on Genesis, Psalms and Chronicles. Portions of comments on other sections of the Torah have been culled from his philological works. Additionally, following in the footsteps of his father and brother, he was also a grammarian and two of his works, Michlol [The Totality] and Sefer HaShorashim [The Book of Roots], which was a lexicon, were highly regarded and were used by later Christian Hebraists. Influenced by Ibn Ezra and Maimonides—the latter was an older contemporary born some 2 decades earlier--, he delved into philosophy and the sciences and was involved in the controversies in southern France revolving around the philosophical works of Maimonides. He also engaged in public debates with Christian scholars, having attacked Christological interpretations of the Biblical text in his commentaries. He died in 1235.)