Shabbat 08/06/11(aka Derech Eretz )The JEWISH SPIRITUAL RENEWAL class list is hosted by Shamash: The Jewish Network a service of Hebrew College/YeshivaShalom my dear Chaverim, Talmidim, v' Rabbanim, friends, students and fellow rabbis: An oneg, joy-filled, Shabbat, Sabbath, this coming weekend... and Shavuah Tov to you for a good and peaceful week. For those who are observing the "nine days'' from the first of Av (August 1, 2011) to the ninth of Av, aka Tisha B'Av, (August 9, 2011), may you have an easy fast and a Menachem Av , a comforted and consoling Av.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 at Rabbi Arthur Segal: RABBI ARTHUR SEGAL:WHEN WE GET USED TO TRANSGRESS, IT BECOMES PERMISSIBLE TO US or http://rabbiarthursegal.blogspot.com/2011/07/rabbi-arthur-segalwhen-we-get-used-to.htmlFrom here you will find links to preceding classes in this series. So, together we continue:TALMUD BAVLITRACTATE DEREKERETZ ZUTA(aka Derech Eretz)Today we will continue with CHAPTER 3 of Talmud Bavli Tractate Derek Eretz Zuta Verse 3:4
''The commencement of making vows is the door to foolishness. Frivolity with women is the beginning of adultery. If you have guaranteed a loan for someone, remember that it must be paid by yourself. If you have borrowed money, know that you have borrowed it to be repaid in time. If you have loaned money to somebody, be prepared to have difficulty in collecting it. Remember the time you have to repay, and settle your accounts.''
''The commencement of making vows is the door to foolishness.'' If any of us have every been called as a witness in a jury, we are taught to 'affirm' but not 'swear,' [i.e. vow], to tell the truth. The reason is that it is virtually impossible as humans to keep vows 100 percent. In the case of truth, we only can related what we saw or heard or remember. It may be true to us, but it doesn't mean its the actual Emet, Truth.
When we promise to do something, we always add, if it is God's will. We vow to pick someone up tomorrow at 3 PM, and God forbid, find ourselves with a flat tire or worse.
So vowing becomes foolish as it implies we are in full control of the world about us. We are not, and never will be.
The situation of General Yiftach and his daughter, is one of the most troubling stories in the TaNaK, from Judges 11. Yiftach makes a vow to sacrifice the first thing that comes out of his house if he is victorious in his battle against the Ammonites. He is victorious, and when he comes home, his daughter, who is his only child, runs out dancing with timbrels to greet him. It is she whom he must sacrifice. He does not retract his vow, and the implication at the end of the story is that he sacrificed her, after she spent two months in the hills mourning her virginity with her friends.
The Talmudic rabbis called Yiftach "as great as Samuel," in his leadership. All Yiftach had to do was go to Pinchas ,the high priest, and have his vow annulled through the vehicle of "hatarat nederim" (undoing of
vows). The Midrash says that Pinchas was waiting for Yiftach to come to him. Yiftach, the chief political and military leader, was waiting for Pinchas to come to him. Each was trying to protect his honor. In doing so, the life of Yiftach's beloved daughter
Both Yiftach and Pinchas were punished by God for this. Yiftach died from a disease where his limbs fell off one-by-one. He was buried in "the cities of Gilead," a limb here and a limb there. Pinchas no longer could
receive the Ruach ha Kodesh (the Holy Spirit).
So we are that it is foolish to make vows.
''Frivolity with women is the beginning of adultery.'' This can be true, just as flirting with men, can lead to adultery. We lives in an age where our divorce rate and adultery rate is high. But divorce and adultery existed plentifully in Biblical and Talmudic times. We have a whole Tractate of Talmud devoted to it (Tractate Sotah), and the first real case Tractate Sanhedrin (Courts) discusses is the case of a suspected adulteress.
Judaism teaches us boundaries. In fact the whole of Rabbinic Judaism via the Talmud us to build a fence around Torah. All of us have an active Yetzer ha Ra, an inclination to do 'not so good.' Our Yetzer Tov, our good inclination, speaks to us in a ''still small voice.'' We have to be silent and meditate to hear it. But our Yetzer ha Ra yells at us to ''come out and play.''
When we are frivolous , self-
indulgently carefree, our ego is primed to be stoked. The water cooler giggle, the quick touch, and winking eye, can all lead us to that bondage of self, where our common sense goes out the window, and our hormones go into overdrive. Our ego, our self, our yetzer ha ra, takes over, and well, you know the rest.
It best not to get started.
''If you have guaranteed a loan for someone, remember that it must be paid by yourself. '' Benjamin Franklin taught ''neither a borrower nor a lender, be.'' But Jews have a Torah commandment to lend, and without interest, to a person in true need.
But Derek Eretz is teaching us human nature and what to expect when we loan, so that when the loan isn't paid back, we do not have resentments and ill will.
If we co-sign or guarantee someone's loan, expect that they will default and that we are going to have to pay it. If that doesn't occur, great. But if it does, let it come as no surprise to us, and let us not become angry. In other words, don't co-sign a loan, that we do not have the full funds from which to pay it, and with money that won't be missed.
''If you have borrowed money, know that you have borrowed it to be repaid in time. '' Conversely, if we have borrowed money, only do so knowing that we must pay it back, and on time. Do not think, as many did with balloon mortgages, "Oh, when the balloon comes due, I will be promoted by then, and my home will have appreciated in value.'' If we borrow, we need to have a concrete plan in place to be able to pay it back. ''One who borrows,'' the Talmud teaches, ''and does not pay back, is a thief.'' [Bavli Tractates Bava Batra 88a and Bava Metzia 78a.]
''If you have loaned money to somebody, be prepared to have difficulty in collecting it.'' Only loan what we can afford to loose and/or have the time to go chase someone to get repayment. Every time I have lent money, it is to people who have told me they had no money for medicine, or food, or for their kids. I lent, and in my head, I knew it was a gift. The Talmud tells us that when we lend, the borrower will develop a resentment to the lender. It ruins friendships. Hence since we live in an age of banks, and credit cards, and credit unions, it is better to listen to Franklin's advice.
''Remember the time you have to repay, and settle your accounts.'' Again, while it seems redundant, Derek Eretz, our proper behavior, is to repay our loans and to repay them on time. There is a deeper meaning to this part of the verse. The Hebrew word for accounts in Chesbonim. A chesbon is an accounting, an inventory, or even the word for the 'bill' in a restaurant. It is also used in the phrase, Chesbon ha Nefesh , an inventory of our soul, of our character defects, of those we have a grudge against, of our fears. We only have a certain amount of time before our defects of character cause us as well as others harm. Settle them. Do the mussar steps of transformation and clear our accounts, our Chesbon.Next week, Baruch ha Shem, we will continue and complete chapter three of Derek Eretz Zuta .We discuss the aspects of this verse of the foolishness of vowing, keeping boundaries, the yetzer ha ra, lending and borrowing, and dealing with our character defects discovered in our chesbon ha nefesh,throughout the majority of chapters in The Handbook to Jewish Spiritual Renewal: A Path of Transformation for the Modern Jew as well as in most chapters of A Spiritual and Ethical Compendium to the Torah and Talmud .What are your ideas about lending to or borrowing from friends? How has learning to keep boundaries keep you from falling into a pit of troubles? 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 and complete Derek Eretz Zuta, Chapter Three. Thank you for joining me.For those who want a d'var Torah on Parasha Devarim, the first section of the last of the five books of Torah, (Deuteronomy), from A Spiritual and Ethical Compendium to the Torah and Talmudhtml#Compendium2 please click on: Rabbi Arthur Segal: RABBI ARTHUR SEGAL: CHUMASH CANDESCENCE: PARASHA DEVARIM :DEUTERONOMY 1:01-3:22 or http://rabbiarthursegal.blogspot.com/2008/02/rabbi-arthur-segal-chumash-candescence_6110.htmlShalom:Rabbi Arthur Segal www.jewishspiritualrenewal.org
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Rabbi Arthur Segal’s love of people, humanity, and Judaism has him sharing with others “The Wisdom of the Ages” that has been passed on to him. His writings for modern Jews offer Spiritual, Ethical, and eco-Judaic lessons in plain English and with relevance to contemporary lifestyles. He is the author of countless articles, editorials, letters, and blog posts, and he has recently published two books: