Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Death of Compromise – The Fast of Gedalia – replay

the fast of gedalia

Due to popular demand, we are pleased to post a re-play of a podcast published in October 2016…. It is “dated” only by reference to the passing of Shimon Peres, but otherwise (unfortunately) foresees a day when messianic zealots will try to bring down the State of Israel.

Source Sheet Below:


The Messiah will come only in an age which is either totally pure or totally guilty and corrupt.

  אין בן-דוד בא אלא בדור שכולו זכאי או כולו חייבסנהדרין צח,א



The Messianic Idea in Judaism by Gershom Scholem 1971 pp 10 -17.

Apocalyptic Jewish Messianism

The elements of the catastrophic and the visions of doom are present in peculiar fashion in the Messianic vision. On the one hand, they are applied to the transition or destruction in which the Messianic redemption is born—hence the ascription of the Jewish concept of “birth pangs of the Messiah”  חבלו של משיח to this period. But, on the other hand, it is also applied to the terrors of the Last Judgment which in many of these descriptions concludes the Messianic period instead of accompanying its beginnings….

This catastrophic character of the redemption, which is essential to the apocalyptic conception, is pictured in all of these texts and traditions in glaring images. It finds manifold expression: in world wars and revolutions, in epidemics, famine, and economic catastrophe; but to an equal degree in apostasy and the desecration of God’s name,…

The pages of the Talmud tractate Sanhedrin which deal with the Messianic age are full of most extravagant formulations of this kind. They drive toward the point that the Messiah will come only in an age which is either totally pure or totally guilty and corrupt.

Little wonder that in one such context the Talmud cites the bald statement of three famous teachers the third and fourth centuries: “May he come, but I do not want to see him.” Sanhedrin 98b.

Attempts to eliminate apocalypticism completely from the realm of rabbinic Judaism have not been lacking since the Middle Ages…

this denial of apocalypticism set out to suppress exceedingly vital elements in the realm of Judaism, elements filled with historical dynamism even if they combined destructive with constructive forces.

Apocalyptic thinking always contains the elements of dread and consolation intertwined. The dread and peril of the End form an element of shock and of the shocking which induces extravagance. The terrors of the real historical experiences of the Jewish people are joined with images drawn from the heritage of myth or mythical fantasy. This is expressed with particular forcefulness in the concept of the birth pangs of the Messiah which in this case means the Messianic age. The paradoxical nature of this conception exists in the fact that the redemption which is born here is in no causal sense a result of previous history. It is precisely the lack of transition between history and the redemption which is always stressed by the prophets and apocalyptists. The Bible and the apocalyptic writers know of no progress in history leading to the redemption. The redemption is not the product of immanent developments such as we find it in modern Western reinterpretations of Messianism since the Enlightenment where, secularized as the belief in progress, Messianism still displayed unbroken and immense vigor. It is rather transcendence breaking in upon history, an intrusion in which history itself perishes, transformed in its ruin because it is struck by a beam of light shining into it from an outside source. The constructions of history in which the apocalyptists (as opposed to the prophets of the Bible) revel have nothing to do with modern conceptions of development or progress, and if there is anything which, in the view of directed to what history will bring forth, but to that which will arise in its ruin, free at last and undisguised.



Appeasement in a political context is a diplomatic policy of making political or material concessions to an enemy power in order to avoid conflict.[1]

The term is most often applied to the foreign policy of the British Prime Ministers Ramsay MacdonaldStanley Baldwinand Neville Chamberlain towards Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy[2] between 1935 and 1939.

Their policies have been the subject of intense debate for more than seventy years among academics, politicians and diplomats. The historians’ assessments have ranged from condemnation for allowing Adolf Hitler‘s Germany to grow too strong, to the judgment that they had no alternative and acted in their country’s best interests. At the time, these concessions were widely seen as positive, and the Munich Pact concluded on 30 September 1938 among Germany, Britain, France, and Italy prompted Chamberlain to announce that he had secured “peace for our time.”[3]

The setting is Jerusalem, approximately in the year 70 C.E.; the city is in the grip of a terrible famine, and it is surrounded by powerful Roman legions, under the command of Vespasian.

“Abba Sikra, the head of the ‘Biryonim,’ the extremist Jewish militants, was the brother-in-law of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai. Ben Zakkai sent a message to Abba Sikra, ‘Come to me in secret.’ The latter came. Rabban Yochanan spoke, ‘How long are you going to continue to destroy the world by famine?’ He answered, ‘What can I do? The situation is out of my control. If I say anything opposing the ideas of my “comrades,” they will kill me.’ ”

“Rabban Yochanan told his brother-in-law to devise a plan which would be most likely to enable ben Zakkai to leave the city, to negotiate with the Romans, and bypass the tight guard of the Biryoni troops. Abba Sikra proposed that Rabban Yochanan pretend to be seriously ill, then have the word spread that he was on his death-bed and, finally, that he had died. His students would then pretend to carry his coffin for burial outside the city.”

“With his students Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua acting as pall-bearers, the coffin approached the Biryoni-manned guard-post just within the wall of Yerushalayim. The guards wanted to plunge their swords into the coffin to make sure that they were not being tricked, but the students said, ‘The Romans will say that they’re stabbing their leader!’ The guards then wanted to push the coffin hard, to see if anyone inside would cry out. Again, the students quick-wittedly told them that if they did that, the hated Romans would say, ‘The Jews are pushing the body of their leader!’ The Biryoni guard opened the gate and reluctantly let the small burial party through.”

Meeting with Vespasian

“When the Jewish party reached the Roman camp, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai emerged from the coffin and greeted the general, ‘Peace be unto you, O King! Peace be unto you, O King!’ To which Vespasian responded, ‘You have incurred the death penalty twice. First, you have called me King, and I am not the King! Second, if I am indeed the King, why have you not come out to me earlier, to how me the proper respect?!’ ”

“Ben Zakkai answered, ‘I knew you had to be a king, because our prophets have foretold that the Temple will fall only into the hands of a king. And the reason I haven’t come out to you until now is that we are plagued by violent extremists within the city, who would not let me come out!’ ”

“Vespasian responded, ‘If there were a snake curled around a barrel of honey, would you not break the barrel (that is, set fire to the walls of the city) in order to get rid of the snake?’ ”

“Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai was not able to respond to this. (At this point, Rabbi Yosef, and some say Rabbi Akiva, comment that sometimes ‘G-d makes the wise foolish;’ for Ben Zakkai should have responded that he had hoped to defeat the militants without having to destroy the walls of the city, and then to make peace with the Romans.)”

“At this point, an Imperial messenger arrived from Rome, and announced, ‘Arise! For the Emperor has died and the Senators have decided to make Vespasian, General of the Legions of Rome, the new Emperor!’ ”

“Vespasian, in the act of rising, had put one boot on, but was unable to get the second one on, nor was he able, at this point, to take the first one off. Rabban Yochanan, witnessing the new Emperor’s discomfiture, told him not to be concerned, because the source of the problem was that he had just received wonderful news, and the natural response of the body, under those circumstances, is to swell. The cure would be to have someone whom Vespasian disliked come before him, which would induce the opposite reaction in the body, to shrink back, so his foot would be restored to its normal size. (It is interesting to note that the presence of the Jewish leader was not having the effect of someone distasteful to the new Emperor; apparently, Vespasian had developed some grudging respect for the Jewish scholar.)”

“Vespasian said to Rabban Yochanan, ‘I will leave now, to return to Rome. But I will dispatch someone to take my place. Before I go, ben Zakkai, you may make a request, which I will grant you.’ ”

“Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai responded with this historic three-fold request:

1) that the Romans guarantee the safety of the scholars of Yavneh, where the new Sanhedrin (Jewish Supreme Court) would be located

2) that the Romans guarantee the survival of the family of Rabban Gamliel, a descendant of the House of David

3) that the Romans allow their physicians to restore the health of Rabbi Tzaddok, who had fasted for forty years to pray for the safety of the City and the Temple (apparently, Rabban Yochanan felt that the presence of Rabbi Tzaddok would be necessary to guarantee the maintenance of the Jewish spirit in the face of the overwhelming catastrophe about to befall the nation)”

“(Here again, Rabbi Yosef, and some say Rabbi Akiva, comment that sometimes ‘G-d makes the wise foolish;’ for Ben Zakkai should have requested the preservation of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, and that the Jewish People should be given a “second chance” to prove their loyalty to Rome.)”

“But the Talmud, in defense of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, explains his thinking; namely, that events had gone too far for such a request to be honored. In order, therefore, to preserve the Torah, for that is the ‘reason for being’ of the Jewish People, it would have to be located somewhere else, ‘temporarily,’ if that was G-d’s will.”

And that was the beginning of the 2,000 year dislocation of the Jewish People and the Torah, from their Land, although there never was a time that the Land was totally empty of its Jewish sons and daughters.


מקור חז”לי נוסף המביא את אגדה זו הוא החיבור אבות דרבי נתן,[8] הקדום לתלמוד הבבלי, שגם בו מופיע הסיפור על כך שהקנאים אינם מוכנים לפשרות, שרבי יוחנן מתחזה למת ותלמידיו מוציאים אותו מירושלים, שם הוא פוגש את המצביא, מודיע לו על קיסרותו על סמך אותו פסוק שבבבלי, ומבקש ממנו את יבנה, לאחר שהקיסר נותן לו רשות לבקש. בגרסה זו מופיעים כמה הבדלים. אספסיאנוס מתואר באופן חיובי יותר, כמי שלא רוצה להחריב את ירושלים, ומבקש בקשה קטנה כדי להשלים. הנתק בין הקיצוניים לרבי יוחנן גדול יותר, מכיוון שלפי המסופר בבבלי, אחיינו ראש הביריונים מסייע לרבי יוחנן לצאת מירושלים, ולפי המסופר באבות דרבי נתן “רבי יוחנן מדבר לקנאים והם לא שומעים לו והוא יוצא מעצמו”. באבות דרבי נתן אספסיאנוס מלכתחילה מתייחס לרבי יוחנן יפה, מכיוון שמרגליו הודיעו לו שרבי יוחנן תמך בשלום איתו, בעוד שבבבלי המצביא מקבל אותו בכתף קרה, מוכיח אותו ומתווכח איתו. הבדל נוסף הוא שבעוד שבבבלי מיד בתחילת הפגישה רבי יוחנן מודיע לו על קיסרותו, באדר”נ ההודעה היא רק בסוף הפגישה. וגם בקשת רבי יוחנן באדר”נ קצת שונה: “איני מבקש ממך אלא יבנה, שאלך ואשנה בה לתלמידי ואקבע בה תפילה ואעשה בה כל מצוות האמורות בתורה.” בקשה זו, כפי שניתן לראות, אינה מתייחסת כלל לשושלת רבן גמליאל (אם כי רבי יוחנן בעצמו הוא חלק ממנה), ואף אולי אינה מתייחסת ליבנה כאל מרכז קיים, כי חכמיה לא מוזכרים כלל. בנוסף, בבבלי קיימת ביקורת על רבי יוחנן על כך שלא ביקש מהקיסר את ירושלים עצמה, בעוד שבאדר”נ אין כלל ביקורת. גדליה אלון בעקבות מדרש איכה רבה, שם מסופר כי בעת הבקשה היה רבי יוחנן כלוא בגופנא. ובעקבותיוסף בן מתתיהו היו בגופנא וביבנה ריכוזים של אסירים יהודים (מעין מחנות מעצר שלאחר המרד), משער כי בקשתו של רבי יוחנן הייתה להיות מועבר ליבנה, היות ששם היו כלואים תלמידים וחכמים. אפשרות נוספת היא שההעברה ליבנה לא הייתה תוצאה של בקשה, אך הקמת בית הדין שם נבעה פשוט מנוכחותו של רבי יוחנן. לעומת גדליה אלון שסובר שאין אזכור נוסף לכך שביבנה התקיים מרכז רוחני לפני חורבן בית המקדש. שטיינזלץ בפירושו בתלמוד שם, מתאר כי יש מקורות שונים שדווקא מאמתים את כך שיבנה כבר הייתה מרכז רוחני.


The Fast of Gedalia

After the destruction of the First temple, Gedalia was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon as governor of Yehud province.  This province was the last refuge for Jews to remain in Judaea.  It’s formation was the only thing that stood in the way of making the destruction of the Second Jewish Commonwealth utterly complete. On hearing of the appointment, the Jews that had taken refuge in surrounding countries returned to Judah. But the zealots were incensed since only total destruction could bring the rupture and necessary disruption to force God’s hand and bring the ultimate redemption.

Ishmael, and the ten men who were with him, murdered Gedaliah, together with most of the Jews who had joined him and many Babylonians whom Nebuchadnezzar had left with Gedaliah (Jeremiah 41:2-3). The remaining Jews feared the vengeance of Nebuchadnezzar (in view of the fact that his chosen ruler, Gedaliah, had been killed by a Jew) and fled to Egypt. Although the dates are not clear from the Bible, this probably happened about four to five years and three months after the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple in 586 BCE. (see)

The day that was chosen to assassinate Gedaliah was the Jewish New Year and by tradition a fast of Gedaliah is held on the day after Rosh Hashanah.


Closing song: “Lo Alecha” by an early 70’s Jewish group called Kol B’Seder made up of Jeff Klepper and Dan Freelander and available on iTunes Jewish Music for the Masses: Jeff Klepper Live In Concert

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What will the goyim say?

parshat nitzavim-vayeilech – deuteronomy 29

Join Geoffrey Stern and Rabbi Adam Mintz recorded on Cubhouse. One of the arguments that you hear for not supporting the current demonstrations in Israel is that they are supported or funded by foreign players or that criticizing the Government of Israel will provide fodder to the enemies of Israel. And so …. we examine a deep-seeded reflex of the Ancient Israelites and their heirs to focus on foreign opinion and blame foreign intervention to vindicate their shortcomings.

Sefaria Source Sheet:


Welcome to Madlik.  My name is Geoffrey Stern and at Madlik we light a spark or shed some light on a Jewish Text or Tradition.  Along with Rabbi Adam Mintz we host Madlik Disruptive Torah on clubhouse every Thursday and share it as the Madlik podcast on your favorite platform. This week’s parsha is parshat nitzavim-vayeilech. One of the arguments that you hear for not supporting the current demonstrations in Israel is that they are supported or funded by foreign players or …. that criticizing the Government of Israel will provide fodder to our enemies. And so …. we examine a deep-seeded reflex of the Ancient Israelites and their heirs to focus on foreign opinion and blame foreign intervention to vindicate their shortcomings. So join us for “What will the goyim say?”



Sefaria Source Sheet:

Listen to last year’s episode: Steal This Book

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Read it till the end..

parshat ki tavo – deuterononomy 26

Join Geoffrey Stern and Rabbi Adam Mintz recorded on Clubhouse. We re-read the chapter regarding the Declaration of the First Fruits which starts as a very exclusive ritual and develops over time into the most inclusive of all Jewish rituals.

Sefaria Source Sheet:


Welcome to Madlik.  My name is Geoffrey Stern and at Madlik we light a spark or shed some light on a Jewish Text or Tradition.  Along with Rabbi Adam Mintz we host Madlik Disruptive Torah on clubhouse every Thursday and share it as the Madlik podcast on your favorite platform. This week’s parsha is Ki Tavo. We re-visit Bikkurim; the offering of the First Fruits to the priest. We explore the development of this parsha from its ancient beginnings where it excluded everyone besides a male landowner through Rabbinic literature up until the present where it is used to accommodate converts and gender differences.  So join us for “Read it till the end!


Rabbi Welcome back from your sojourn in Connecticut. I understand you had a great time. But I have discovered that this might be the third podcast that I’m focused on Bikkurim so I must have the first fruits on my head. And I’ll, I’ll let out a secret because it will come out during the podcast that the parsha, literally the parsha. The section of the Torah that is designated by the Masoretic text as a section, actually plays a critical role in the Passover Haggadah, and maybe that’s at the bottom of my absolute, infatuation with it. But here we are, I think if you look back at some other podcasts, we’ve talked about it before, we’re going to do it from a new angle, we’re going to look at it through history, how it developed and where it came, as I said in the intro, it gets up to today to even conversions and we obviously have on our podcast, one of the preeminent experts on conversion. So Rabbi, welcome back to be Bikkurim one more time,

Adam Mintz  02:15

can wait this is a good topic, fantastic.

Geoffrey Stern  02:19

So we’re in Deuteronomy a 26. And as we’re used to; Deuteronomy is all about coming into the land. It says, When you enter the land that your God is giving you as a heritage, and you possess it and settle in it, you shall take some of every first fruit of the soil, which you harvest from the land that your God is giving you, put it in a basket, and go to the place where your God will choose to establish the divine name, you shall go to the priest in charge in that time בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֑ם and say to him, I acknowledge this day, הִגַּ֤דְתִּי הַיּוֹם֙ before God, that I have entered the land that God swore to our fathers to assign to us לַאֲבֹתֵ֖ינוּ לָ֥תֶת לָֽנוּ , the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down in front of the alter of your God. You shall then recite as follows וְעָנִ֨יתָ וְאָמַרְתָּ֜ before your god, my father was a fugitive Aramean.  it sounds a little bit like the Haggadah אֲרַמִּי֙ אֹבֵ֣ד אָבִ֔י . And he went down to Egypt with meager numbers, and sojourned there. But there he became a great and populous nation, the Egyptians dealt harshly with us, וַיְעַנּ֑וּנוּ and oppressed and imposed heavy labor upon us and we cried to a God וַנִּצְעַ֕ק אֶל־ה , the God of our ancestors. And God heard our plea. וַיִּשְׁמַ֤ע ה’ אֶת־קֹלֵ֔נוּ  and saw our plight וַיַּ֧רְא אֶת־עׇנְיֵ֛נוּ   and oppression. He freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand בְּיָ֤ד חֲזָקָה֙ and an outstretched arm וּבִזְרֹ֣עַ נְטוּיָ֔ה and awesome powered וּבְמֹרָ֖א גָּדֹ֑ל  and signs and portents, וּבְאֹת֖וֹת וּבְמֹפְתִֽים The reason I have been translating word for word is for those of you who have read the Haggadah, the main portion of the Haggadah, which is called Magid actually spends time on each of those raises that I have said in Hebrew, and that is the core of the Seder the Haggadah, the Magid section, but then it goes on. And then you bring us to this place, giving us this land flowing with milk and honey. Wherefore I now bring the first fruits of the soil which you God have given me, you shall leave it the basket before your God and bow low before your God. And you shall enjoy together with the family of the Levite and the stranger in your midst, all the bounty that your God has bestowed upon you, and your household. End of parsha. We always talk about parshat hashavua, but for those of you who have been following our understanding of the Masoretic text, whether it’s the Aleppo Codex, or it’s the codex that recently got for sale in Sotheby’s, there are parshiot; there are sections in the Masoretic text. And what we just read was a complete section called be Bikkurim. Now in Exodus 23: 19, it says it much quicker, it says the choice first fruits of your soil, you shall bring to the house of your God, and then it goes on, and you shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk. So it’s a much more flippant reference to what in Devarim, in Deuteronomy is a really a recitation of what some people believe, I’d love to know, your impression of this rabbi, is one of the oldest preserved ritual recitations that we have preserved in the Torah. This Bikkurim.

Adam Mintz  06:59

There’s no question that’s right. I was actually going to comment on two words at the beginning of the recitation, וְעָנִ֨יתָ וְאָמַרְתָּ֜  now the word the Anita, the word “ana” means to respond. But it doesn’t make sense in that context here. And you shall respond, and you shall say, it sounds like that there was some kind of responsive, you know, calling Like, how did the people know the words, it’s like the Cohen would stand there, and he would recite the words and people would respond back. It was like responsive readings that you have in shul on Rosh Hashannah. So if you can just imagine what that scene was, like, people didn’t even know this text, and people were responding to someone who was calling out this text, it really must have been very, very dramatic.

Geoffrey Stern  07:55

So you know, again, one of the answers to the question that is haunting me of how this paragraph, this ritual that is associated with Shavuot, not Passover, ended up being the core of the Haggadah, some of the answers are, that it was something as you say, that was this responsive dialogue that in a sense, almost became memorialized that people kind of remembered. But again, you started by saying it has this word for v’Anita answering and that kind of resonates with what happens in the Haggadah, when we ask questions, and then it says, and so you shall answer. And of course, the other word that reminds us of the Haggadah. It says, in English, I acknowledge this day before you God, but in the Hebrew it says הִגַּ֤דְתִּי הַיּוֹם֙ Haggadah. So there is a lot here that references and resonates with a another very core ritual in Judaism. So we have almost, we really have nothing from the services of Yom Kippur and Rash Hashannah but here we have in this Bikkurim, something that really is an ancient anchor to both smooth oat a giving the first fruits and in an ironic way to on to the Haggadah, and you’ve got to believe it’s because it had so much power, because it had so much purchase power amongst our people. You’ve got to believe that…  that we’re studying a very powerful and important core Parsha.

Adam Mintz  09:54

Yeah, there’s no question. That’s right. And I think you’re right, the Anita vi Marita, this was this I mean, the term we use today is this was a ritual. And rituals are they weren’t that many rituals in the Torah, you know, you have the sense that receiving the Torah kind of had that ritual sense of standing there listening to God. But here, it’s a human ritual. Here, it’s the people reciting this text. It’s very, very powerful. I agree with you.

Geoffrey Stern  10:19

I mean, we have Mah Tovu, and we have the priestly blessing. But there isn’t that much like

Adam Mintz  10:26

I want to tell you, those two things, we use them as ritual, but they’re not actually rituals in the Torah, the torah doesn’t say that they need to be recited.

Geoffrey Stern  10:38

Perfect, I get it. So a lot of the next portion of what we’re going to discuss was inspired by one of my go-to favorite web pages I invite you to look at the source sheet, but also every week to go there because it’s a wonderful marriage of Academia, scholarship and marrying it to the Parsha of the week. And this particular article is called Bikkurim, how the rabbi’s made a mitzvah for male landowners more inclusive, and it’s by Rabbi Yosef Blach from Yeshivat Hakotel. And I would always consider your Shiva tech hotel to be one of these Zionist nationalistic institutions. But as you can see from the title, he’s talking about inclusivity. So we are listening. So what he does is he goes through the rabbinic texts, and what he tries to do is trace how the texts that we just read started as being part of a tradition that was very exclusive, and through history, and rabbinical interpretation became very inclusive. So he starts by quoting the Sifrei Bamidbar. And it starts by saying, The Lord said to Aaron, “in their land, you will not inherit and you will not have a person in their midst”. So he’s talking to the tribe of Levi. I am your person in your inheritance in the midst of the children of Israel. Why is all of this stated because it is written to thee shall the land be proportioned, I would think that everybody is included Cohanim, Leviim, Israelites, proselytes women, bondsmen tumtum, those of uncertain sexes, and I mean, we’re talking about gender identity here in the Midrash. And it says, and therefore the Lord said to Aaron, in their land, you will not inherit. So this excludes the Kohanim. But in the midst of the children of Israel, the Levites shall not inherit. This excludes the Levites. By the names of the tribes of their fathers, they shall inherit this excludes bondsman, and proselytes and gerim. And finally, it says, A man according to his numbers, shall have inheritance given this excludes. I don’t know why the translation does not include women. But obviously it says a man, it excludes women, and it excludes those with questionable sexual identity. So according to the Sifrei Bamidbar, which our Rabbi Bloch begins with the starting point is that everybody except a Jewish male landowner, is excluded from all of these things, including you would expect this ability to come in front of the Cohen with the first fruits. Then he goes to the filter the rabbi Ishmael L. And it gets there into the first of the fruits in your land. So quoting this concept is focus on your land to exclude from the mitzvah of bikkurim, tenant farmers renters, thieves and extortionists. So now we’re starting to get a list of the other, of the outsiders of the people who are not the landowners, which the Lord swore to your fathers to exclude gerim, proselytes and avadim, servants, which the Lord your God gives to you singular to exclude women, tumtum and hermaphrodite. So again, we have this focus on what we just read as a very just kind of open story of giving thanks to God as being very exclusive. What Rabbi Bloch says is, but the rabbis start to parse. So the rabbis asked, Does this imply that they’re excluded from reading the Bikkurim declaration or from bringing the fruit? It is therefore written in Exodus? Shall you bring in any event? What is the difference between the former and the later, the former bring and read the later bring and do not read. So according to this Rabbi Yosef Blach, we’re already seeing a nuance in the tradition, where the original tradition would have implied that either you’re in or you’re out. As my friend Michael Posnik has a beautiful song about now we’re talking about? Well, there are certain people that can both say the recitation, in today’s lingo, it would be make the bracha and then there were other people who can just go through the actions. So it’s fascinating rabbi, if you follow if you read this article from Rabbi Bloch, that he uses this text of Bikkurim as a study in the evolution of who can say thank you, who can bring the first fruits. It’s kind of a fascinating insight into how Torah develops, don’t you think?

Adam Mintz  16:32

Very, very interesting. I mean, yes. I mean, and this is classic rabbinics, because this stuff is not really in the text. But the rabbi saw the text as having a life of its own. And if the Torah says something, you know, what doesn’t it say? What is it coming to include? What is it coming to exclude, so it’s kind of classic Rabbinics here, which is fascinating.

Geoffrey Stern  16:56

Now, if you recall, when we reviewed, Jeffrey Fox’s for Maharat’s Teshuvah on lesbian relationships. One of the complaints of many religious lesbian women in Judaism is that they are almost a footnote that they’re not really mentioned. And I think you really do have to give credit to the rabbis. So far, we have quoted two old ancient rabbinic texts. One is the Sifrei and the other is the mechilta D’Rabbi Yishmael, and both of them even though they’re excluding. And you know, we can’t say that in an understatement. But they go to the trouble of talking about and an Androgynous and hermaphrodite. . And it’s almost as though they are recognizing people who have questions about gender identity. I think you have to give them a little bit of credit, don’t you think?

Adam Mintz  17:52

Yeah, that is interesting. I didn’t think of that. That’s very, very interesting. Yes, you do have to give them credit.

Geoffrey Stern  17:57

So it goes on, and then in Mishnah in Bikkurim and now we’re talking about a much older text. In in 1: 4 It says, These bring the Bikkurim but do not read the declaration, the convert, since he cannot say “which the Lord has sworn to our fathers to give us.” However, if his mother was an Israelite, then he brings Bikkurim and recites. And then it goes on to say that forget about be Kareem. When you pray in general, when a convert prays privately, he says, God of our fathers of Israel, but when he is in the synagogue, he should say, the God of your fathers, but if his mother was an Israelite, he says, The God of our fathers. So first and foremost, before we get into the weeds, it’s fascinating that this beautiful ritual of giving the first fruits is bringing up all of these distinctions of who gets to bring the first foods and brings us right to the core of the matter of who is a Jew who is a belonger. Who is one

Adam Mintz  19:20

who is part of the community,

Geoffrey Stern  19:22

yeah, part of the community. And as we shall see much later, there are discussions being held today about what decides whether you are a Jew is it you solely if you have a Jewish mother, or what happens if you have a Jewish father, and here already we are getting and we shall see they quote, these questions of what you can say in terms of when you say this Shmona Esrai… Elohenu v’elohei avoteinu, my parents, my father, what can you say if you opt into Judaism, it’s kind of interesting that it all happens with Bikkurim. But maybe that’s why it has so much power. I don’t know, do you find it kind of interesting.

Adam Mintz  20:11

It is interesting. And I think it related to the point you made at the beginning, that this is one of the only rituals that we have in the Torah. You know, it’s so interesting that you, you, you made that point about sensitivity to those people who are marginalized. And that is, whenever you have a ritual, even if you talk about shuls, it’s always a question who’s included? Who’s excluded? Are women included? Are women excluded? Are gays and lesbian included? Are they excluded? Whenever you have a ritual, you’re always going to have the question of who’s included and who’s excluded. Right? The truth of matter is in America, you have the same thing voting, right? The fact that the Blacks were excluded from voting, that’s a ritual and they were excluded.

Geoffrey Stern  20:53

Yeah, I mean, you know, unfortunately, so much of defining who we are, depends on defining who we’re not. That’s a sad commentary. But it is a true commentary. So this rabbi, Yosef Bloch uses the text that I’ve just bought that start to pause that start to split hairs, and just talk about, well, who is entitled to say this? What happens if your mother was an Israelite? I mean, it’s kind of interesting. When it says if your mother was an Israelite, here, we’re talking about a ritual formula that talks about my forefathers were and now we’re kind of getting into what will what happens if your mother is an Israelite meaning to say that your father was not? It almost is an open-ended question. What happens if your father was an Israelite and your mother was not, but what he sees is that the rabbis are starting to open, open the gates open the definition, open the exclusion and make the exclusion more inclusive. And he writes this distinction between bringing the Bikkurim and offering a recitation is not in the text. The Rabbi’s are thus forced to artificially graft this distinction onto a verse that implicitly assumes that Levites women and slaves didn’t bring Bikkurim at all, because it’s so focused on being a landowner. And in that society, I assume a landowner was a Jewish Israelite male. Why do the rabbi’s take this approach asks Bloch. In other words, why do they assume that everyone and not just as Israelite males brings Bikkurim. He goes sociological, anthropological, he says biblical society was largely agrarian in which native Israelites owned farms and grew crops, Levites and non-Israelites did not own farms, and thus, would have been largely excluded from the practice of Bikkurim for practical reasons. rabbinical society, however, was heavily mercantile and city based, the average Jew including Levites, priests, and even sometimes, unmarried women, such as widows may have owned a house, but not a farm. This shift in meaning of the word ger was also responsible for the rabbinic interpretation. You know, Rabbi, we always have the discussion ger, in the Bible, we know means a stranger.

Adam Mintz  23:32


Geoffrey Stern  23:32

But in rabbinical tradition, it became to mean a convert,

Adam Mintz  23:37

But that’s not what it means in the Torah, right

Geoffrey Stern  23:37

It doesn’t. But it’s what the Buddha rabbinic texts started to perceive it to mean, as they moved into exile, and life was different. Wherever as the Temple has been destroyed, and no actual Mitzvah of the Quran was performed. The rabbis did not need to adjust any actual practice or Custom. Instead, they were free to re-envision Bikkurim in a way that made more sense for this society. So I find his whole approach to be fascinating. And then he goes on in the Jerusalem Talmud. It has a whole different aspect and reference to this. It says in Bikkurim 1: 4, it was stated in the name of Rebbi, Yehuda, the proselyte himself brings and makes the declaration. So unlike what we read a second ago where the proselyte can bring the B cream, but he can’t say “my father was a slave” or “my father was a descendant of Jacob” is clear. What is the reason? He says For I made you the father of the multitude of Gentiles. He goes back to Genesis that talks about Abraham and Sarah as being the mother and the father of a multitude of nations in the past you were the father of Aram. From now onwards you will be the father of all Gentiles. Rabbi Joshua Ben Levi said practice follows Rabbi Yehuda and we with the prayers to be recited by gerim him since the Bavli does not take up the problem. It agrees that they can say, Elohenu v’elohei avoteinu. So here. Again, though you saw me uses our text of B Kareem. As a point of departure to bring going right back. We’re in devotion. But many times we’re pointing back to Genesis again and again, Abraham who was the father of all nations. So again, it’s this lovely, this evolution that takes this thing that was exclusive, and makes it so profoundly inclusive. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Adam Mintz  25:59

That’s absolutely fascinating. And you know that that’s the power of how you mold these things, and how they evolve over time.

Geoffrey Stern  26:09

And of course, our friend Maimonides, these quotes, Ovadia, the Convert who your wife, Sharon, when she talked about the Sassoon codex.

Adam Mintz  26:18

That’s funny. That’s correct. Yeah.

Geoffrey Stern  26:20

So he quoted this context. And so really, what this does is, it’s a fascinating study in Bikkurim. And as I said, I got the devar Torah from Rabbi Riskin in this week, from Ohr Torah. And Rabbi Riskin is very involved in making it easy for especially Russian Jews who came to Israel, many of them whose mothers may not have been 100% Jewish, fought in the IDF. And he is involved in making it easier for them to be accepted within Judaism, not necessarily having to go through all the hoops of conversion, because it’s more of a coming home ritual than a conversion. And he begins by saying, the Jew begins his declaration with the words, my father was a wandering Aramean. Meaning to say that patrilineal descent is important, that’s where he brings this to be. And he brings it up until Teshuvot were written in 2012. About zera Yisrael, that we are all people in the largest sense of the word. And so I think, at the end of the day, what infatuates me with Bikkurim is a very simple Mishnah in Pesachim, that says that you should talk to every child according to their intelligence, according to their sophistication, according to their sense of nuance. And you should begin with the Jewish people’s disgrace, and conclude with their glory. And you should start by reading our parsha in Deuteronomy, an Aramean tried to destroy my father or my father was lost are an end, go till the end, go till the end, where it says that you should give these fruits and they should be for the Levite. And they should be for the stranger, I think, ultimately, Rabbi, that what Bikkurim became was a case study in how through the evolution of rabbinic interpretation, and living and experience, we have learned to be open and accepting. And the idea that you have to read it till the end means both that you have to reader it till the end of the Pasha, which talks about the stranger, but also read it till the end, watch it, as it flows through Jewish history. And this ritual of Bikkurim. That was supposed to be only for Shavuot and you could do it until Sukkot afterwards, you had to do it without a bracha ultimately landed in Passover. And I think that ultimately, what is Passover, if not a meal, where we say “everyone who is hungry, come and join us”. So I don’t know, I look at the scholarly study that is in the that talks about over time and over history, this ritual became larger. And I also look at my own personal proclivity to question why is it the core of the Passover Seder, and I think it all has to do with the same thing that we’re taking the ancient that many times is very small, and we make it large. And that to me is the greatest speaker him the greatest new fruit and the greatest offering.

Adam Mintz  30:14

That’s fantastic. What a great what a great topic we talked about coming to the end of the year. And you know, the parsha… the parsha is rich with so many interesting things. And you know, today it was rich, not only with Bikkurim but actually analyzing the way the rabbi’s address these kinds of issues. And I think that’s so, so fascinating. So thank you so much, Geoffrey, and we should everybody should have a Shabbat Shalom, a wonderful holiday weekend. And we look forward to studying Nitzavim and Vayelech next week with you Shabbat Shalom to everybody.

Geoffrey Stern  30:50

Shabbat shalom. Can’t wait to see you next week. Well, the best Lauren,

Loren Davis  30:55

this is a sophomoric question. In my second year of studying; going through it through the Torah, my understanding was that Bikkurim was not a topic until the Jews, the Israelites entered Israel. It was a fulfillment of the promise to our forefathers that there would be a homeland for the Jews. And when they got there, this became something that surfaced as a ritual. We’ve seen sacrifices, non-meat sacrifices, and we’ve talked about giving portions of the field to the needy. And I guess my question is, how different is Bikkurim than what we’ve already seen in other books of the Torah.

Geoffrey Stern  31:51

So it’s not altogether clear that it’s a sacrifice, you bring this basket in front of God. And at the end, it says וְשָׂמַחְתָּ֣ בְכׇל־הַטּ֗וֹב אֲשֶׁ֧ר נָֽתַן־לְךָ֛ ה’ אֱלֹקֶ֖יךָ וּלְבֵיתֶ֑ךָ אַתָּה֙ וְהַלֵּוִ֔י וְהַגֵּ֖ר אֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּקִרְבֶּֽךָ׃ . You shall rejoice with your family, and the Levite and the stranger and all the bounty that God has bestowed upon you. I mean, this is as close to our Thanksgiving as you can get. So it’s not even clearer if it is a sacrifice, although it does say, not only when we get into the land, but when we get to אֶל־הַמָּק֔וֹם אֲשֶׁ֤ר יִבְחַר֙  to that place. So it was temple oriented, it certainly was land oriented. But I think the point of this rabbi Bloch, who I quoted, was that once we llost the land and the Temple, this kind of became something that gave the rabbi’s license to, to to do what they wanted to do. And it was clear that they wanted to do was to enlarge the tent and open the tent. And that I thought was kind of fascinating. But you know, to address your question, this seems to be different. And you know, you have in the Torah many kind of independent traditions and threads, and Bikkurim is isolated on its own. I mean, I think in that in that verse in Exodus, where it mentions it almost trivially along with not seething a goat in its mother’s milk, you get a sense that it was independent of the whole priestly cult and the there’s a certain purity about it of bringing a basket of fruits and going to the Cohen. I didn’t get into the verses that go focus on why it says the Cohen “at that time”. And in the well the text say You know, it’s the Cohen that was there that week. It’s the Cohen that is available at your time, even if it turns out that he may be isn’t a pure Cohen. There’s something I think isolated about the Bikkurimritual that gives it a sense of purity and you don’t have to really look at it within the context of the whole temple or tabernacle cult, if that answers your question. Anyway, Michael, how are you today?

Michael Posnik  34:33

Baruch Hashem Geoffrey so nice to hear your voice and thank you for the plug about the song. I thought that was very nice. But I was struck by this inclusion know this Rabbi into all kinds of Jews. Both sis-Jews and non-sis Jews and hermaphrodites and all of that and so I looked up some of the Bikkurim to see whether those trees were when monoecious or Monocots or Dicots. And because the fruits themselves have to be representative of something as well. So just for information’s sake pomegranates are both genders figs can be either/or grapes are Dicots cultivated raisins are hermaphroditic, but wild raisins are Dicots, and olives are monoecious; monocots. So, it just struck me that the basket of fruit is really representative of all the people as well.

Geoffrey Stern  35:54

I love the focus on the basket I had overlooked at completely, but that’s what a basket is, isn’t it? It collects all the fruits together, and they all have to get along.

Michael Posnik  36:08

So thank you for tonight, and may we all be included in every basket that’s being offered?

Geoffrey Stern  36:16

Let us always be thankful. And I think the other part of this is that it almost makes being thankful, as a zechut (privilege) as something that you have to be Zoceh to. And I think you have to earn it. And so on the one hand, there’s something about that, that is repugnant to me because I think that the the beauty of Giving thanks is that any human being any person any being should be able to show gratitude. But on the other hand, what I love about it is that it raises gratitude to such a high level as something that is aspirational, that you have to aspire to be able to give gratitude. And I think that at the end of the day, anything that can put gratitude on an on a pedestal is good for me. And again, to quote your wonderful song are you in or are you out? I think that in in terms of giving gratitude and providing Bikkurim, If we learned anything tonight, it’s anyone who is hungry, let them let them be grateful. And I think that’s ultimately what the rabbi’s did with this Bikkurim and that’s the ultimate transition and that’s at my Seder. I even though it’s kind of a technical thing, that you start with g’nut, you start with despair and humility, and you end with shvach… glory, the ultimate shvach, the ultimate praise is not who you’ve become, but who you can include and who you can share the bounty with. And I think that’s the ultimate message of Bikkurim. It’s the message of the liberation from Egypt. It’s the message of being a wandering Aramean and it’s our history and it’s what we should all aspire to. Great to have you along the road. Michael love to hear your voice. Shabbat Shalom to everybody. Look forward to seeing you all next week for Madlik disruptive Torah.

Sefaria Source Sheet:

Listen to last year’s podcast: First Fruits – First Prayers

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

God – hanging here from these gallows

parshat ki teitzei – deuteronomy 21

Join Geoffrey Stern and Rabbi Adam Mintz recorded on Clubhouse. The Biblical prohibition against leaving a human being unburied overnight; no matter how unworthy the deceased may be, has both practical and profound lessons …. which we shall explore

Sefaria Source Sheet:


Welcome to Madlik.  My name is Geoffrey Stern and at Madlik we light a spark or shed some light on a Jewish Text or Tradition.  Along with Rabbi Adam Mintz we host Madlik Disruptive Torah on clubhouse every Thursday and share it as the Madlik podcast on your favorite platform. Deuteronomy has laws not mentioned elsewhere in the Torah and in this week’s parsha Ki Teitzei we are instructed not to leave a human being unburied overnight; no matter how despicable the deceased may be.  This simple law impacted Jewish and Muslim burial rites and profound lessons for all three Abrahamic religions.  So join us for God – hanging here from these gallows.



Sefaria Source Sheet:

Listen to last year’s episode: Remember to Forget

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Courting Justice

parshat shoftim – deuteronomy 16

Join Geoffrey Stern and Rabbi Adam Mintz recorded on Clubhouse. As the State of Israel is polarized by the role and authority of the Supreme Court we read the Biblical injunction to provide Judges. We study the primary sources and the writings of Orthodox Supreme Court Justice Menachem Elon and we wonder ….. why both sides are claiming the mantle of Democracy but no one in the Jewish State is discussing Judaism!

Sefaria Source Sheet:


Welcome to Madlik.  My name is Geoffrey Stern and at Madlik we light a spark or shed some light on a Jewish Text or Tradition.  Along with Rabbi Adam Mintz we host Madlik Disruptive Torah on clubhouse every Thursday and share it as the Madlik podcast on your favorite platform. This week’s parsha is Shoftim. As the State of Israel is polarized by the role and authority of the Supreme Court we read the Biblical injunction to provide Judges and pursue Justice. We will study the primary sources and we wonder ….. why both sides are claiming the mantle of Democracy but no one in the Jewish State is discussing Judaism! So join us for Courting Justice.


Well, welcome back, Rabbi. We’re doing it early today because you are off to the west coast. The Traveling Rabbi lives up to his name. How are you today? I’m great. How are you? Hope everybody hear how they had a good week. And we’re looking forward to talking about justice, Shoftim v’Shotrim. So you know, a week or two ago, if you recall, I quoted a Facebook post from my friend, Joe Schwartz. And he was commenting that not many signs amongst the demonstrators had Jewish references. There was a lot of references to DE-MO-KRAT_-EE-AH, and things like that, but not that much that is Jewish. So I’m kind of turning the tables on that observation because I’ve heard it a lot. And I’d like to say that those who you’d really expect to have Jewish references the Right who are made up of the Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox)  and are made up of religious Zionists, they’re basically claiming that they have the right to do it because they won an election and that’s how democracy works. They too, do not reference Judaism. So I think it’s about time we have Parshat Shoftim, which as I said in the introduction, is all about appointing judges and doing justice that we go to the sources and find some answers and also ask some questions like, Why is no one discussing Parshat Shoftim? And our Torah and its sense of what we need in a Supreme Court. Why is this whole Jewish state acting as if they were a bunch of Greeks in Athens? Can you believe it, Rabbi? No, it’s your 100% Right, and let’s, let’s let’s dive right into it. So we’re in Deuteronomy 16: 18. And it says, You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes in all the settlements. So right here it says שֹׁפְטִ֣ים וְשֹֽׁטְרִ֗ים תִּֽתֶּן־לְךָ֙ בְּכׇל־שְׁעָרֶ֔יךָ . This is a positive commandment, just as every Jewish community is defined by a mikvah by a beit knesset, a house of study, a Gemach (Free-Loan Society) , it is also determined and defined by a Bet Din; by starting a court by having someone to adjudicate, so it contains both the positive commandment and the fact that it is such an integral part of Jewish life, that it has to be in every settlement wherever you are. And then it says in 19, you shall not judge unfairly, you shall show no partiality. You shall not take bribes for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just so rather than focus on what the justices are supposed to do, what legal codes they’re supposed to reference, the argument here is make sure that they are fair, that they see things with equanimity. And then it says the most powerful phrase one of the most powerful phrases in the whole torah, justice, justice, shall you pursue צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף  Terdoff is almost it is, is it’s as close to something that is a absolute flaming passion, a Rodeph is someone who’s chasing somebody. That’s how you have to chase justice. And that’s been ingrained in the DNA of the Jewish people, that you may thrive and occupy the land that your God is giving you. And again to it is in this general sense of Deuteronomy, that this is a contingency. Based on this, you will be able to remain in the land in those three verses rabbi, it really says it all, doesn’t it? It sure does. These are arguably the most powerful verses of the entire Torah. And okay, let’s go and of course the word you know, you talk about the word Terdoff and you know the passion in the word terdof. What about the fact that the word Tzedek is repeated twice? They said that you’ll never have that in the Torah. Right? But here says it twice. Okay, so I looked at a lot of sources, I just want to give the kind of the general view, the Tor Choshen Mispat (Choshen Mishpat (“Breastplate of Judgment,” a reference to Exodus 28:15) is the last of four sections of the Shulchan Orach. It discusses financial disputes, damages, courts, and witnesses.) This is the codification of Jewish laws. And he quotes a less common על ג’ דברים העולם קיים  on three things the world rests. And his version is it is על הדין ועל האמת ועל השלום  on judgment, on truth and on peace. And basically he says that the world was a created, but it is sustained. Because there are judges that judge between people. And that is why the world continues. For if it were not for the law, the more powerful would conquer. And he also said, because if you recall, it says Peace, one should pray for the peace of the government? בשלומה של מלכות . So I would hazard to guess that when I would ask people, why are we not discussing the parsha when it comes to due to judicial reform? My guess is a lot of people would say, well, the Supreme Court isn’t really a Bet Din. A Bet Din has to be a religious institution. The Supreme Court is part of the State of Israel. It’s part of alien law. It doesn’t really confer on Jewish biblical law and all that. So it’s a tool that we have to play with. And I will argue that in all of the verses that we are discussing the emphasis not on the code of law that these judges follow. Because what they’re doing is they’re creating peace there. They’re almost you could almost say in many contracts today, rather than go to the law of New York, it says we will agree to mediation, we’re really looking at creating judges who have the utmost integrity, that will provide mediation and make Shalom, and that the fact that it says בשלומה של מלכות  when it’s referring to the land of Israel, again, it always assumed there was a government  מלכות . And it always assumed that if you don’t have judges that can help guide people and do the right thing, then you cannot have a sustainable society. But to me, we’re not talking about a bet din in your local shtetl, we’re talking about judicial courts that enable people to resolve their conflicts and legal questions. Am I right? I think you’re 100%. Right. I mean, I think that’s an important distinction to be made. So right, if you get to the commentaries and some of the stuff, they already say, for instance, the Kli Yakar when it says our judges and offices, is that you have to have authority to appoint judges, that they shall appoint them, and that the judges shall no show no favoritism. This is the meaning of the phrase appoint for yourself as if to say over yourself, it follows a fitori a Kal V’Chomer, that the judges should judge all the people justly. It’s kind of like love your neighbor at yourself, you should appoint a judge as though that judge was going to judge you. But again, the key emphasis and all of this has nothing to do with the legal codes that these judges are going to refer to. It has to do with the integrity of the judges. It has to do with the integrity of the process of appointing judges in Leviticus 24: 22 It says you shall have one standard for stranger and citizen or like, for I am your god מִשְׁפַּ֤ט אֶחָד֙ יִהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֔ם . Again, it’s not referring to any particular code of law. It’s talking about fairness amongst all your citizens. It’s so obvious to me and I’m not I’m not westernizing and I don’t think I’m projecting on to to the verses No, I mean, that that is an interesting verse מִשְׁפַּ֤ט אֶחָד֙ יִהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֔ם כַּגֵּ֥ר כָּאֶזְרָ֖ח יִהְיֶ֑ה , you know  I think the Torah read 26 times tells you that you have to be nice to the Ger, to the stranger, you know, we use the word gear as convert, as we know but that’s not what the Torah means by Ger. Ger means that you know the person who’s kind of marginal to society who’s not really part of society and the Torah here says מִשְׁפַּ֤ט אֶחָד֙ יִהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֔ם כַּגֵּ֥ר כָּאֶזְרָ֖ח יִהְיֶ֑ה  means that you have to treat the person on the margins, the way you treat the citizen. That’s a very striking verse. And again, It’s not part of the current discussion. But here’s the kicker that’s not part of the current discussion. In Exodus 23: 2 it says, You shall neither side with a multitude to do wrong. לֹֽא־תִהְיֶ֥ה אַחֲרֵֽי־רַבִּ֖ים לְרָעֹ֑ת , it says don’t go after the many to do bad. Again, I’m not saying that this is what it appears to be on face value, meaning to say that it’s saying particularly that even if you have a democratically elected government, they can’t override certain standards that you have to drill down to and we’re going to discuss hopefully, we’ll have time to look at the Supreme Court Justice Menachem Elon that I mentioned, but at least it should be part of the discussion. Why would you have the elected government today which is not only the most radical but the most religious and all it refers to us we won we won the popular vote and not refer or even address לֹֽא־תִהְיֶ֥ה אַחֲרֵֽי־רַבִּ֖ים לְרָעֹ֑ת . To me it’s total hypocrisy and more to say it’s missing a moment we could be having an amazing learning moment a learning discussion for all of us to determine what is a democratic Jewish state and we’re not. I think that’s right, it’s by the way, לֹֽא־תִהְיֶ֥ה אַחֲרֵֽי־רַבִּ֖ים לְרָעֹ֑ת , don’t follow the majority the mighty when it comes to doing wrong, that’s a very, very interesting verse, because usually we follow the majority. But don’t let the majority sway us to do bad. There’s an ultimate morality and ultimate right that you have to do. Even if you are in the minority. It’s also an amazing verse. So that that’s going to take us to the Supreme Court Justice that I want to dedicate a little bit of time to today. So his name was Menachem Elon. And he I actually know him because on my bookcase, I have a two volume set called Mishpat Ha’Ivri Jewish law. He was a totally not only committed Orthodox Jew, but an absolutely erudite Orthodox, Jew… he had Smicha (Rabbinic ordination). And he was on the Supreme Court. And he wrote a fascinating article, which I have quoted extensively in the notes. And he really addresses the issue of what exactly is a Jewish democratic state with regard to law and the Supreme Court. So he talks about the principle of the majority rule. And he actually says that the verse that we just described, is interpreted and probably affects more a case of a court case, maybe even a capital court case, where you can’t just have a simple majority, where there is a question of you might be doing the wrong thing. So he says that the question of majority rule is not found in the teachings of the Talmudic sages. He says the connection for democracy arose with the rise of the Kehillah in the 10th century. And he explains that prior to that they were kings later, there was the Nasi there was the Reish Galuta (Exilarch) in Babylonia. It wasn’t till the 10th century and the Emancipation that Jewish communities like other closely knit communities, were given permission to set up their own corts and basically to adjudicate themselves. The halakhic authorities of the time debated the question of majority rule in community affairs, one great scholar Rabbeinu Tam held that the majority could not bind the minority. This was in fact the view accepted by European corporate law in the Middle Ages. So here you have Menachem Elon, who not only knows Jewish law to the level of the Rabbeinu Tam and the Tosephot and all that, but he also knew a European law. He says, However, the view of most halachic authorities was that the biblical command to follow the majority also applied to public affairs. And this view prevailed. And then he goes on to give some tax some cases, he gives one of taxes. But the quote that the the teshuvot,  the responsa to literature brings is, in fact, brought from the Talmud, and it says, Does the fact that they are the majority give them a license to be robbers. Now the case in the Talmud has to do more with what we would call eminent domain, which is they’re building a road and it’s going through someone’s field, and it’s in the good of the majority, but maybe there’s an alternative way that could solve the problem of going through this person’s property. And it comes up with this rule. Just because you have a majority need, the doesn’t give you permissions to license us to be robbers. And based on that Talmudic dictum in the 10th century, they began to build a law of the majority definitely has power, the power of the kehillah. But you have to recognize the rights of the individual. And what Menachem Elon is doing is what he did for the 10 odd years that he was on the Supreme Court, which is when a question came up, that had to be addressed, he addressed it not only from common law, but he went back to our sources and saw how we addressed it as well. He didn’t bifurcate and I think we need more of that. And he absolutely is a scholar that we need more scholars such as him, don’t you agree?  

Adam Mintz  16:03 I mean, it’s so interesting, you say that, because Mishpat Ivir is a code-word for an approach to the legal system in Israel, which says that the legal system in Israel determines law, not just based on secular rules, but also on religious rules. So he actually created a movement called mishpat Ivri.

Geoffrey Stern  16:28 I think that’s amazing. But in my reading of him, he didn’t refer and I think he says this a little bit later, when you say Jewish law, all of a sudden, everybody says, Okay, so now you’re going to start bringing in rules of kashrut and now you’re going to start bringing in rules of forbidden relationships. When he thought of Jewish law, he thought of 2,000 years of creative (civil) legislation and peer published policy statements, he was referring to our law, the law that we developed over 2,000 years, it didn’t all walk around with a keepa on it, it just meant that it was the law that was developed by the Jewish people over time. And I think that can be lost a little bit, because everybody, and I’m sure there are those that argue against Mishpat HaIvri for a bunch of reasons. But the reason that it is quote unquote, a Jewish law, I think is it can be Miss Miss directing, because it really is the law corpus that the Jews developed over time, that we should not just ditch but we can benefit from because it came from a community dedicated to justice, justice shall pursue.   Adam Mintz  17:55 Right. Good. I mean, I think that point you thank you very much. That point is an important point. Menachem Elon you see, the intersection between Israeli law and Jewish law is an intersection of Israeli law as part of the law that Jews have developed over the centuries. I think maybe we want to say it that way.   Geoffrey Stern  18:19 So this is how he says it. He says, An examination of the creative devices of Jewish law in developing the existing law to respond to the needs of the time and the social climate is indeed enlightening. Such adjustments were accomplished in various ways interpretation of existing sources, reliance on basic legal principle. He quotes a beautiful verse in the Torah, which is דְּרָכֶ֥יהָ דַרְכֵי־נֹ֑עַם וְֽכׇל־נְתִ֖יבוֹתֶ֣יהָ שָׁלֽוֹם , that the Torah’s ways are pleasant, her paths are peaceful meaning to say that’s not descriptive, its prescriptive. And that our Torah commands us to make laws that benefit all of the citizens. He says reliance on custom minhag and legislation, as well as turning to Aggadah and legal philosophy. This last method was especially instrumental in solving many difficult legal problems. So when he says Mishpat HaIvri; Jewish law, and he is really looking at the widest scope of Jewish law, I mean, it’s amazing as I was just about finished making the notes, I came across a Tablet magazine article that literally came out two days ago. And it talks about an argument that Menachem Elon had with the more famous Barak and it was over a simple law. It had to do with a lot of whether the government would pay for a car for to drive a handicapped person. And it says only if the The person who would drive the car was not only a relative but lived in the same house. And the article shows that Elon comes back and says that is unreasonable. He uses the unreasonable clause. And he says, because what happens if the relative doesn’t live in the house, maybe he lives somewhere else. And he quotes a verse from the Midrash, that talks about Sodom, where they made beds that people couldn’t fit into. And the point of the Tablet article was that literally in that minority opinion, Elon was, was demonstrating what he writes about here, that we have to bring up the richness of Jewish law and lore. We have to go to our midrashic sources, we also have to do what is right and fair, it just really, you know, I think what I’m trying to argue for today is not for one justice, as opposed to another, certainly Menachem elon believed in some issues that we should not have an activist court. And that’s a whole other discussion. But what I am arguing for years, why, for God’s sake, aren’t we having this discussion? And why aren’t we discussing it in the terms that we are discussing in this week’s parsha? And that takes advantage of the richness of our Jewish jurisprudence and learning for 2,000 years?   Adam Mintz  21:33 Yeah, I mean, that that point is a very important point, and it comes up especially in this week’s parsha because Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof what’s the place of Tzedek Tirdof in the conversations that we have today? I think that’s kind of in one sentence. That’s a question we have to ask.   Geoffrey Stern  21:50 Yeah. I mean, as you as you raised, it’s definitely emphatic, you know, it’s like, stop, stop. But the commentaries, you know, clearly there were many that say it means justice with justice. You know, it’s not enough to do the right thing. You have to do it in the right way. But I am going to quote what Menahem Elon writes about Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof. In the article that I quote, I mean, he really it could be in the galley of the commentary to our parsha. He says, The double mention of the word justice in the biblical verse Tzedek Tzedek you shall pursue was interpreted in the Talmud as follows. one mention of justice refers to a decision based on the law, the other to compromise. The Talmud continues with an example. But before he gets there, if you recall, Rabbi, when we did our episode on Tisha B’av, we quoted one of the rabbis who said that the temple was destroyed, because they didn’t go Lifnim M’shurat Hadin, because they left to the letter of the law. He quotes a similar authority that says that the temple was destroyed, because Tzedek by itself, Justice doing what the Halacha says is not enough, you also have to have this element of, of compromise. And what he does is he brings also a story that we have quoted before, of the two, the two camels of the two boats, I’ll get to, in a few minutes, why we quoted it, and in what context, but if you have basically two camels going in opposite directions, in a very narrow road, one has to give right of way to the other, it’s called compromise. And so, in this particular situation, the Talmud gives us some direction, it says, If one is carrying a load and the other is that the one without the load should give way, but the point that monogamy alone is making is that it is literally this level of compromise that is necessary for law and you might not find this compromise and this is gets back to what I was saying before, written in a particular place in the Torah. But when we say Jewish law, baked into it is this need for compromise. He quotes the Nitziv and the netziv. These are very traditional commentaries. If the law cannot bring about peace, there must be compromised. That is what taught in Tractate Sanhedrin. Justice justice shall you pursue. The verse refers to a situation where a compromise is imposed and is impossible to decide the case on the basis of law. Under the law, both may proceed and both will perish, or one of them will overcome the other and be saved at the other’s expense. But this is not a judgment of peace. This is why there is a mandate not to apply strict law, but to force a compromise. Law that does not bring about peace is not proper and desirable law for the very definition and essence of law is to produce judgment that resolves a dispute peacefully. mishpat Shalom pursuit of justice in such a case requires the compulsion of a peaceful result by way of compromise, since the result of insisting on legal rights is strife and contentiousness between the parties a peaceful compromise is compelled. This is an excellent example of the application of law and justice in a way that brings peace. And the Netziv goes ahead then and references that the temple was destroyed, because these suggestions of compromise were not followed. And he finishes by saying, whenever my eyes observe a dispute among the Jewish communities, a fire burns within me accordingly, I cannot be silent until I have spoken on the subject. So number one, what is happening in Israel is not new. That’s the good news. The other good news is that if we look back into Jewish texts, there are guidelines for forcing compromise. And maybe the signs of those who are against the legal reform, who are mostly secular should start bringing up Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof and should start quoting the Netziv, to bring the other side who seems to have forgotten all of their Jewish learning back to the table to discuss these texts. It’s, it’s, it’s really amazing, isn’t it?   Adam Mintz  26:38 It really is amazing. And it is interesting that this really hasn’t been brought up. This isn’t the issue. You know, on either side, they’re not going back to these texts, and Menachem Elon, it’s so interesting that you found this article, because Menachem Elon doesn’t seem to be a factor, really in Israel right now. You don’t see Menachem Elon right? in Haaretz, you don’t see they don’t quote Menachem Elon as someone who needs to be someone to be considered. That’s also interesting, that whole approach that whole idea of Mishpat HaIvri doesn’t seem to have the same power that it once had.

Sefaria Source Sheet:

Courting Justice | Sefaria

Parshat Shoftim – As the State of Israel is polarized by the role and authority of the Supreme Court, we read the Biblical injunction to provide Judges. We study the primary sources and the writings of Orthodox Supreme Court Justice Menachem Elon and wonder why both sides are making claim to Democracy but no one in the Jewish State is discussing Judaism.

Listen to last year’s episode: Restore Our judges

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Next Year in Yavneh

parshat re’eh – deuteronomy 11 – 16

Join Geoffrey Stern and Rabbi Adam Mintz recorded on Clubhouse. Only Deuteronomy stipulates (20+ times) centralized worship in what ultimately became a capital in Jerusalem. The Samaritans accept this approach but substitute Mt. Gerizim for Jerusalem. The Essenes reject Jerusalem and its corrupt priests and power brokers for a new spiritual Jerusalem in the desert and the Rabbis ….. choose Yavneh and it’s scholars… and we discuss.

Sefaria Source Sheet:


Welcome to Madlik.  My name is Geoffrey Stern and at Madlik we light a spark or shed some light on a Jewish Text or Tradition.  Along with Rabbi Adam Mintz we host Madlik Disruptive Torah on clubhouse every Thursday and share it as the Madlik podcast on your favorite platform. This week’s parsha is Re’eh.  Deuteronomy, and only Deuteronomy stipulates … over 20 times, centralized worship in what ultimately became Jerusalem. The Samaritans accepted this centralized approach but substitute Mt. Gerizim for Jerusalem. The Essenes rejected Jerusalem and its corrupt priests and power-brokers and moved to the desert to achieve spiritual purity. Finally the Rabbis ….. chose Yavneh and it’s scholars… So join us as we declare: Next Year in Yavneh.



Sefaria Source Sheet:

Next Year in Yavneh | Sefaria

Parshat Re’eh – Only Deuteronomy stipulates centralized worship in what ultimately became a capital in Jerusalem. The Samaritans accept this approach but replace Jerusalem with Mt. Gerizim. The Essenes reject Jerusalem and its corrupt priests and power brokers for a New spiritual Jerusalem in the desert and the Rabbis choose Yavneh and it’s scholars…

Listen to last year’s podcast: A time that never was

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Jewish Homeland or Homeland for the Jews?

parshat eikev, deuteronomy 8 – 10

Join Geoffrey Stern and Rabbi Adam Mintz recorded on Clubhouse. Moses links the rights the Israelites have to occupy their homeland with the radically contingent nature of those rights. We marvel at how Jews in Modern-Day Israel and in the West see Israel so differenlty and have such selective hearing.

Sefaria Source Sheet:

Jewish Homeland or Homeland for the Jews? | Sefaria

Parshat Eikev – Moses links the rights the Israelites have to conquer and occupy their homeland with the radically conditional and contingent nature of those rights. We marvel at how Jews in Modern Day Israel and in the West have such selective hearing.


Welcome to Madlik.  My name is Geoffrey Stern and at Madlik we light a spark or shed some light on a Jewish Text or Tradition.  Along with Rabbi Adam Mintz we host Madlik Disruptive Torah on clubhouse every Thursday and share it as the Madlik podcast on your favorite platform. This week’s parsha is Ekev. Moses links the rights the Israelites have to occupy their homeland with the radically contingent nature of those rights. We marvel at how when asked what is the most important concept in the Torah, Israelis almost always answer ‘am segulah’ … a Chosen People, or the like and the Americans almost always answer ‘tikkun olam’ or the like. So, join us as we attempt to unravel this riddle: A Jewish Homeland or a Homeland for the Jews?


Great to have you Rabbi, You are in the holy city of Jerusalem and I am in Long Island and we just finished catching up as to what’s happening on the streets literally, of Israel and Jerusalem in particular, the demonstrations are still going on. And we Jews are still struggling with what it means to be a Jew what it means to have a homeland. So about two, three weeks ago, I saw a thread in Facebook from a young Jewish scholar who I love dearly. I invited on to the podcast but he’s doing a seminar tonight. His name is Joe Schwartz. He has a law degree he has smicha. He made aliyah to Israel, and he works for the Jewish Agency. And he out of the blue wrote the following post he wrote: It seems to me that if you ask Jewish Israelis how, on one leg, they understand the basic message of Torah, the overwhelming majority would answer: That God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people. (This would surely not be the Haredi response, of course, though I think it would be the Hiloni view, even if they think the Torah is irrelevant.) This is a reading of Torah under the influence of what Chaim Gans calls “propriety Zionism,” which Gans believes represents the Israeli-in-the-street.  That Torah might stand for a different proposition — that it could stand for concern for the most vulnerable, or religious tolerance, or freedom of conscience — seems almost completely foreign to Israeli discourse. It’s for this reason, for example, that at the weekly protests one barely sees any signs quoting any Jewish text. “We are faithful to the Declaration of Independence” is a common slogan — since in the popular understanding it is that document, and not Torah, that guarantees liberal civil rights. Torah doesn’t have an ethical character of any relevance to the protests.  This may be obvious, but in the American Jewish setting — even among most traditional Jews — I think the assumptions are quite different. Even as conservatives rail against “tikkun olam Judaism” and complain that liberal Jews read Torah as no more or less than the platform of the Democratic Party, they generally assume that Torah is a source of ethical values and has a liberal character that is relevant to a just political order. So it’s really striking to me how illiberal the prevailing understanding of Torah is in Israel, and how little liberals look to it as a source of authority.    The way I’m seeing it now is that the way we read Scripture is largely shaped by the larger ideological context in which we find ourselves. Americans are broadly liberal in their ideological commitments; and so Torah becomes in that context a liberal document. Israelis are largely “proprietary Zionists.” And so Torah becomes read in that light here. I don’t want to be fatalistic about that. I would hope that Torah itself could exert some pressure on the larger ideological commitments of the society. But I don’t know how that counter-ideological reading of Torah emerges in the first place, and what factors will account for its gaining ground. I think it is undeniable that Torah’s “core message” is that the Jews are entrusted with upholding a high ethical standard; for as long as we do, we are permitted to live in the land; when we do not, we are expelled from the land. The land is therefore not ours, not even conditionally. It is God’s, to dispose of how He sees fit. And yet, it is exceedingly rare for me to meet *anyone* in Israel who shares that basic understanding of Torah. Religious Zionists seem to simply ignore the conditionality of our tenancy.  And he had one comment. Shoshana Cohen who wrote: As I’ve probably shared, I’ve ask this question point blank (what is the most important verse or concept in the Torah) to groups of young Israelis and groups of young Americans. The Israelis almost always answer ‘am segulah’ or the like and the Americans almost always answer ‘tikkun olam’ or the like.  So, Rabbi, I was reading this week’s parsha. And I felt that it actually combines so many of these thoughts, it talks about the fact that we are privileged to have the land of Israel. And in the same breath, it talks about how contingent that is. It talks about both ethical and religious requirements that we have, that I really thought it was a case study, maybe not how to answer the question, but certainly to have the discussion about these two kinds of conflicting views of Torah. But first, let me ask you, do you do you experience the same type of I wouldn’t call it polarization but polarity in the way, Israelis, whether religious or not religious, or Americans, same….  view, the Torah and its message.   Adam Mintz  06:29 It’s such a great topic you bring up, I will go so far as to say that if I were to go now, after our clubhouse and go on a walk on Emek Rafai’im Street and say to an Israeli, what is Tikkun Olam? I mean, they would look at me like, what are you talking about? Like, what does Tikkun Olam mean? It’s a Hebrew phrase, but it’s only a phrase used by Americans. They don’t talk that way. Obviously, part of the reason is, because Israel is Israel, it’s a Jewish state. So they don’t think in terms of tikkun olam. They want to make sure that their state is solid, they’re not worried about saving the world, we have a different attitude.   Geoffrey Stern  07:10 On the most personal level, I remember my grandfather in-law would be sitting in the afternoon reading TANACH without a kippah. And I remember once I had the privilege of meeting, you know, people like Moshe Dayan, who was extremely knowledgeable in the Torah, and many times they saw the Torah, almost as a tour guide of the land, they could walk the length and width of Israel, and point out where biblical battles happened, where miracles happened. I’m not making a highly charged ideological statement. I’m just seeing it as a fact, very few Americans would look at the Bible as a travelogue. So, we are looking at two different Bibles, if you will. And I think Joe Schwartz really raises a fascinating, fascinating question. But I think we all can look at the Torah itself, and see how it weighs in. And I think our parsha, or I should say, Moses’ sermon today, in Parshat, Eikev really tries to thread that needle, and have exactly the right ,I think, emphasis on all of these different variations. I mean, even the title of the podcast is Jewish homeland, or homeland for the Jews. And at one level, you could say Jewish homeland is like it’s a homeland that is spiritual, that is driven by Jewish values. And homeland for the Jews is more like a refuge, an Er Miklat.. But the alternative reading that is Jewish homeland is this land that was given to the Jewish people as an am Segulah. It’s ours. It’s based on theology and Torah, and homeland for the Jews is a more secular approach, where it’s just for us to live in. Even the way we read those two sides of the equation. Is polarized. So let’s just jump in. It’s Deuteronomy 8: 1 and it says You shall faithfully observe all the Instruction that I enjoin upon you today, that you may thrive and increase and be able to possess the land that ה’ promised on oath to your fathers.  Now the English says possess the land. And I in the introduction even referred to occupying the land, which is a heavily loaded political way of referring to it and I’ll get to that later because I think I have a leg to stand on. But possess the land is probably a bad translation of the Hebrew וִֽירִשְׁתֶּ֣ם אֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ  because Yirashtem comes from the word inherit, and that literally means that you have a claim to this land as opposed to possess the land, which could mean Germanic tribes are coming into Brittany and, and putting up their flag. So even in the translation, it’s kind of loaded, it goes on, therefore keep the commandments so you get the therefore already. There’s no question. This is not a possession that comes without strings attached. Therefore keep the commandments of your God. Walk in God’s ways and show reverence for your God is bringing you into a good land a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill, a land of wheat and barley of vine figs and pomegranates a land of olive trees and Honey, I’ve said this before, it’s almost like a travelogue. It’s a commercial for this amazing land. For people who clearly did not know anything about it. A land where you may eat food without stint where you will lack nothing a land whose rocks so iron, and from whose hills you can mine copper, when you have eaten, your fill give thanks to your God for the good land given to you. So here we have וְאָכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָ֑עְתָּ וּבֵֽרַכְתָּ֙ אֶת־ה. Here’s a string attached, you have to say Birkat HaMazon, you have to thank God before you eat, and after you eat, take care, lest you forget your God and fail to keep the divine commandments rules and laws that I enjoin upon you today. So we already have this tension between something that is a Yirusha, an entitlement, I think would be the best way to translate that. And then these requirements, these obligations that you have. Striking, isn’t it?   Adam Mintz  12:05 It really is striking. That first speech in this week’s parsha is one of my favorite speeches in the entire Torah.   Geoffrey Stern  12:13 Now we get into the warning part of it. Beware lest your heart grow haughty and you forget your God who freed you from the land of Egypt, the house of bondage, who fed you in the wilderness with Manna which your ancestors had never known in order to test you by hardships, only to benefit you in the end. And you say to yourselves, my own power and the might of my own hand have won this wealth for me. כֹּחִי֙ וְעֹ֣צֶם יָדִ֔י עָ֥שָׂה לִ֖י אֶת־הַחַ֥יִל הַזֶּֽה . So on the one hand, it starts by almost talking like a Jewish mama, who’s saying just remember all the socks that I darned for you and the food that I cooked for you. And but then it has a warning, don’t ever say it is because of me. Now, typically, that would be almost a taunt against the secular Israeli general who thinks that it’s because of his ingenuity that he won the battle. But I think we will see that it’s just as much against the righteous Jew who says because of his righteousness, he is entitled to this. Do you think that there’s both those messages there?   Adam Mintz  13:31 Yeah, there’s no question. There’s both those messages. They’re, they’re interesting about the you know, the righteousness. What it’s basically telling you is that there are two reasons that people fail in life. One is a you know, an obsession with materialism. The other is thinking that we’re more righteous than the next person. Those are very different things aren’t they?   Geoffrey Stern  13:55 Absolutely, you know, I saw one quote, It was by putting into the mouth of a Palestinian, whose town was destroyed in the 50s by the Israelis. You know that there’s this joke that we always say that the synagogue or the God that secular Israelis don’t believe in is Orthodox, this Palestinian said that the soldiers are taking our land based on a God, they don’t believe it. So, it gets back to what Joe Schwartz was saying, which is even the most secular Israeli if you ask them what the takeaway message of the Bible they don’t believe in, they would say that this land is our land. So, let’s continue. Remember that it is your God who gives you the power to get wealth in fulfillment of the covenant made on oath with your fathers as is still the case. If you do forget your God and follow other gods to serve them or bow down to them. I want you this day that you shall certainly perish like the nations that God will cause to perish before you, so shall you perish because you did not heed your God. So, I want to parse this a little bit, it would have been enough to say, if you don’t follow my commandments and keep my rules, you will lose this land. But it goes a little bit further. And it says you will lose this land, just like the people who you are attacking today who have been blessed with a generation or five or 10 on this land are losing it today. It really is focused on the conditionality of living in this much disputed land. Or maybe you could make the argument on anywhere on Earth. Only by the grace of God. are you the current owner? I think it’s coming through clearly from the verses themselves.   Adam Mintz  15:59 I think that’s right. That’s why this is such a striking speech because it says it so clearly right, so explicitly,   Geoffrey Stern  16:06 and we’re going to see this is a strong Midrash. But I am going to make the argument that it’s not based on the Midrash it’s based on these pesukim.   Adam Mintz  16:15 It’s based on the verses themselves, right?   Geoffrey Stern  16:18 It really is. Hear O’ Israel. You’re about to cross the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and more populous than you great cities with walls sky high. People great and tall. The Anakites of whom you have knowledge for you have heard who can stand. Know this day, that none other than your God is crossing at your head a devouring fire subduing it. And when your God has thrust them from your path say not to yourselves, God has enabled us to possess this land because of our virtues. So here’s the I said it was intimated before when it said כֹּחִי֙ וְעֹ֣צֶם יָדִ֔י  . But here it says it, as we say, in the Yeshiva, B’Ferush. God has enabled us to possess this land because of our virtues. No, it is rather because of the wickedness of those nations that Hashem does possess them before you. It is not because of your virtues and your rectitude that you will be able to possess their country, but it’s because of their wickedness that your God is dispossessing these nations before you and in order to fulfill the oath that God made to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, know then that it is not for any virtue of yours, that your God is giving you this good land to possess, you are a stiff-necked people remember, never forget how you provoked your god to anger in the wilderness from the day that you left the land of Egypt until you reach this place. You have continued defiant towards God, מַמְרִ֥ים הֱיִיתֶ֖ם עִם־ה . So really, it is a very humbling remark. But more importantly, it has claws on it. Moses is making the case that your connection to this land is very tenuous. And be very careful when you state your claims, and base those claims based on your righteousness. It’s fascinating,   Adam Mintz  18:25 It really is fascinating. It might be that this is the only time in the Torah itself, where the Torah actually warns against. Right self righteous, right. That’s something that were familiar with, but you don’t see it in the Torah.   Geoffrey Stern  18:40 I love that point. Because normally, we would say, you know, holier than thou, and we would quote from (Wisdom Literature) Mishlei proverbs or Psalms (or Ecclesiastes אַל־תְּהִ֤י צַדִּיק֙ הַרְבֵּ֔ה וְאַל־תִּתְחַכַּ֖ם יוֹתֵ֑ר לָ֖מָּה תִּשּׁוֹמֵֽם: (קהלת פרק ז פסוק טז).) But this is right here. And I want to go back to Deuteronomy 6, because I don’t want to pass up the nuance of what I was saying before when I quoted the verses, and it said that these are high walled cities and stuff like that. This is really not a bunch of immigrants (settlers) coming in and staking a claim to the (wild) west, the Great West, going out and putting down their mark and saying, I am going to build up this barren land. You know, there’s the saying, that the Zionists said That “Israel was a land without a people for people without land”. And of course, that was not true because there were people living in Palestine when they came. Listen to what it says in Deuteronomy 6: 10. When your God brings you into the land that was sworn to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to be assigned to you. It says לָ֣תֶת לָ֑ךְ  great and flourishing cities that you did not build houses full of all good things that you did not fill here. own systems that you did not hue, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant and you will eat your fill. So I don’t want to get into an argument about colonialism and attacking another country we’re talking 2000 years ago, you know, wake up, that’s how things we’re, the argument that’s being made here is much stronger than that. It is an argument that saying, You are literally getting to take over somebody else’s creativity, buildings, urbanity all of that stuff. And with that comes not only a great responsibility, but there should come also a great level of humility. I mean, it really just comes through the verses, it would have been very easy to say you’re coming to a land without a people. But it’s not saying that.   Adam Mintz  20:53 It’s not saying that I love this, I think this is just absolutely fantastic. Again, for all the reasons that you say. Now, I think the important point about this go back to my self-righteousness point, is of course the fact that God is not making this speech. This speech is being made by Moshe and Moshe can say that, you know, you can’t be self righteous, that’s okay for Moshe to say, God saying it is a little tricky, because God probably wants people to be as righteous as they can be. I don’t want to hear God telling me not to be self righteous, I need another person to tell me not to be self righteous.   Geoffrey Stern  21:35 So now we get to Deuteronomy 10: 12. And this is the end of today’s sermon from Moses. And it says, And now Israel, what does your god demand of you? Only this to revere your God to work only in divine paths to love and to serve your God with all your heart and soul? keeping God’s commandments and laws which I enjoin upon you today for your good. Mark the heavens to their uttermost reaches. Because they belong to your God, the earth and all that is on it.  הֵ֚ן לַה’ אֱלֹקֶ֔יךָ הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וּשְׁמֵ֣י הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם הָאָ֖רֶץ וְכׇל־אֲשֶׁר־בָּֽהּ . This is critical. God is almost saying, I created the world. And I get to decide who lives where and how long they live (there). Yet it was to your ancestors that I was drawn out of love for them, so that you their lineal descendants were chosen from among all peoples as it is now the case cut away therefore the thickening about your hearts and stiffen your necks no more for your God is God supreme and Lord supreme god. כִּ֚י ה’ אֱלֹֽקֵיכֶ֔ם ה֚וּא אֱלֹקֵ֣י הָֽאֱלֹקִ֔ים . So it’s really making the case that this radical contingency, this radical nature of your ability to be promised and to live in this land is being given to you by the Creator of all things. And that is, I think, a key point. And then it goes on to finish and this is the end and the punch line. And it’s the tikkun olam part of this speech. And it says as follows. That God is beyond the men who sit atop the social hierarchies of rank and gender, the great the mighty and the awesome God who shows no favorite and takes no bribe, but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow and befriends the stranger providing food and clothing. You too must befriend the stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You must revere Hashem only your God said you worship to God shall you hold fast. And by God’s name, shall you swear. I mean this I’ve said this in past podcasts. This is like the parting message. The end of a book of Micha, which is what this guy demand of you will need to walk humbly with your God. This is the punch line. And this is why I said it has it all. It ends up with this stranger with the tikkun olam with the liberalism. Rabbi, before we get to the famous, the first Rashi in all of Humash, it really is a truly a beautiful sermon, is it not?   Adam Mintz  24:35 It’s an absolutely beautiful sermon. You know, there was no speaker like Moshe, you put you Geoffrey had a great met Midrash, two weeks ago, and the Midrash it was a Tanchumah I think. It said that Ela Devarim.. The book begins. “These are the words” and Moshe when he was chosen by God, he doesn’t want to take the position Should because he’s a stutter. And the phrase he uses is Lo Ish Devaraim Anochi, the same word Devarim the man who couldn’t speak gives the most beautiful sermon of all times. Isn’t that ironic? Moshe Rabbeinu. When I said it in shul I use that Midrash in Shul, I said in Shul and my wife didn’t like it. But I’ll tell you what I said, I’ll say what my wife didn’t like. What I said was that it’s sad that Moshe only found his voice when it was too late when he was already punished. And that, you know, and therefore, he wasn’t going to enter the land. And my wife said that wasn’t fair that Moshe Rabbeinu found his voice and we’re still studying that voice in Devarim, you know in 2023. That’s valuable. I shouldn’t look at it as being sad. I should appreciate it for what it was. So I accept my wife’s comment.   Geoffrey Stern  25:53 Maybe Moshe’s Rebetzin didn’t critique his sermons as much as yours and, and that’s why you had to wait so long, but I love it. I love it. So here’s, here’s where I want to finish. The literally the first Rashi on the whole Humash has actually become kind of controversial, and it’s on the catchword. In the beginning. Rabbi Isaac said, quotes Rashi. The Torah which is the law book of Israel should have commenced with the verse in Exodus, which is the first commandment this month shall be unto you the first of months. What is the reason then that it commences with the account of creation. Because of the thought expressed in the text in Psalms, he declared to his people the strength of his works, he gave an account of the work of creation, in order that he might give them the heritage of nations. Here is a verse in Psalms that connects creating the world with giving to his favorite nation, a land. For should the people of the world, say to Israel, you are robbers because you took by force to land of the seven nations of Canaan, Israel may reply to them, all the earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He, He created it and gave it to whom he pleased, when he will, he gave it to them. And when he willed, He took it from them and gave it to us. And in the source notes, which are attached to today’s clubhouse, and will be attached to the podcast. I have a YouTube video of a great but very controversial scholar in Israel, named Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who was the brother of Nechama Leibowitz. And he is talking, oh, in the 60s, maybe early 70s to a bunch of B’nai Akiva, (settler) yeshiva students, and they are literally arguing with him about this Rashi. They are saying it says it was promised to the people and Yeshayahu Leibowitz says No!, you’re Misreading it, it says it was taken away from them and given to you which means that it can be taken away from you and given to the next person. And what he quotes is Ezekiel. And he quotes this verse by heart, Ezekiel 33, (24) O mortal, those who live in these ruins in the land of Israel argue, “Abraham was but one man, yet he was granted possession of the land. We are many; surely, the land has been given as a possession to us.”  (25) Therefore say to them: Thus said the Sovereign GOD: You eat with the blood, you raise your eyes to your fetishes, and you shed blood—yet you expect to possess the land!  (26) You men have relied on your sword, you have committed abominations, you have defiled one another’s wives—yet you expect to possess the land!  So Leibowitz’s main argument. And in the notes, you can see a picture of a demonstrator that I took. He’s a secular demonstrator. He is wearing a picture of Yeshayahu Leibowitz with a big black kippah on his head. And it says underneath Emarti Lachem “I told you so” and Yeshayahu Leibowitz felt that the possession the occupation of the Palestinian lands after the 67 War was a cancer and it would spread to all facets of Jewish life. The point that he made though, was really I believe that it goes back to our parsha as much as to any verse in Psalms in our parsha in the fifth book of the Bible, you already has this connection that we read Mark the heavens, Deuteronomy 10: 14. God created the world, he can give it, and he can take it. And we are there only by the grace of God. And we have to make sure that we live by a high standard. And I just think that in this one compact sermon from Moses, we really have the harmonization we have both the dialectic and possibly the resolution, that both are equally important that you have to understand that you were given this land, that it came from Abraham and Isaac that it is a Urusha. But unlike other inheritances, it is contingent, and you can be disowned at a moment’s notice. It’s all there isn’t the rabbi?   Adam Mintz  31:00 It’s all there. And that’s such a great story about Yeshayahu Leibowitz. And it’s also you know, the fact that Yeshayahu Leibowitz said I told you, so and you know, that’s an interesting way to end. So, thank you so much, Geoffrey, as always, this topic is really timely. I feel it in Jerusalem, I’ll be thinking about it and Sharon and I will talk about it over Shabbat. Shabbat shalom, enjoy Easthampton. Next week, we’ll be back in our regular location. Shabbat shalom, everybody.   Geoffrey Stern  31:28 Loren, you’ve been patiently waiting with a muted mic, I’d love to coax you to turn your mic on and say hello. Before we pack up our bags, how are you Loren?   Loren Davis  31:41 Hi, Geoffrey, nice to hear it was a wonderful presentation today. This is kind of an answering parsha for me in terms of trying to evaluate the meaning of what the Israelis say is the guidebook for our religion and our identity as Jews.  Having lived in Israel for a year. There’s a big difference between living in Israel and existing there and living in the diaspora. I think that the if then conditions that are mentioned in this parsha are interpreted in the diaspora, maybe they’re interpreted with a bit more of a theocracy in terms of their meaning and their impact. But in Israel, after my opinion is that the Israelites fulfilled a lot of the preconditions that had been established for them in the Torah, or as the modern Israelites call it their guidebook before they ever got into Canaan. And when they got into that land, it became an issue of survival. And if they didn’t survive, if they didn’t treat each other, and their lands in a manner that were consistent with the ability to flourish and to grow, then they wouldn’t exist. And I think that’s the way they look at it today. I think their ethic, I think there, their preface of living with ethical standards, and maybe even survival standards, you know, you get into so much imagery, it mentions water, it mentions a number of befriending strangers, we were strangers at one point. So, they identified a lot of the things that they had to do before they got there to create and to flourish in the land of Canaan and they’ve done it and I think if they stopped doing those things, if they turn the ethical nature of how they have what’s going on right now, if the if they turn it on themselves, turn it into themselves, I think that’s when they become threatened. And I’m not so sure it’s an if then edict from God, or maybe and if then reality of where they’re living and how they’re living in the State of Israel.   Geoffrey Stern  34:19 Yeah, I love your contemporizing it totally. I mean, you know, I think it’s very easy to fall into the rut and talk about losing our land and catastrophe. And I would I would rather talk about it in terms of losing our mojo losing the spirit that was used to create this land. It is a land as stated elsewhere in the Bible that can eat up its inhabitants. There was no question when something happens in Israel, it gets to the front page a lot quicker than elsewhere I mean, they are living out 1,000s of years of history and destiny. But I think what comes across clearly in our parsha, it has both the sense of you are not occupying a land. And I use that word because that’s what the word that Yeshayahu Leibowitz uses. In other words, once you accept the premise, that God who created the world gives it to this one and gives it to that one, aren’t we all occupants? Aren’t we all tenants? And, you know, to say that we are liberating the land or that we are, it’s there to it has the word Yerusha, which is inheritance, but it’s full of other nuances. That I think what it does more than give us answers necessarily, is it shows that all of the questions can be written in the same sentence can be written in the same parsha can be written in the same Torah. And that Dare us, Dare us to answer just tikkun olam or to answer this, this name, this land has a special place for this nation. There’s only one country in the world that the Jews call a homeland. So, I just think it’s it’s a fascinating document to read, given the conversations that are going on, and the issues that you raised that are part of the contemporary conversation.   Loren Davis  36:42 I think that the tikkun Olam discussion, maybe is, as you suggested, more of a concept, outside of Israel than it is within Israel, at least it says that’s the way it’s identified. I think that the issue probably is defined similarly. But I think the motivation and the context is a little different in in Israel than it is in the diaspora. But that’s just a an opinion. I think this is a beautifully written parsha. And it offers a lot of answers.   Geoffrey Stern  37:18 Well, thanks so much. Thank you, Loren. Thank you, Matt. Thank you Friday for joining us. We’ll see you all next week’s Shabbat Shalom and thank you so much for being part of the journey.

Sefaria Source Sheet:

Jewish Homeland or Homeland for the Jews? | Sefaria

Parshat Eikev – Moses links the rights the Israelites have to conquer and occupy their homeland with the radically conditional and contingent nature of those rights. We marvel at how Jews in Modern Day Israel and in the West have such selective hearing.

Listen to last year’s episode: Attitude is Everything

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tisha B’av Came Early This Year

Tisha B’av 2023 / 5783

Join Geoffrey Stern and Rabbi Adam Mintz on Thursday July 27th at 12:30pm Eastern on Clubhouse. In this past week, the week of Tisha B’av, Israel has been subjected to nationwide protests, potentially catastrophic strikes, deep division and a total lack of political leadership …. not seen in its 75 years of existence. We’ve seen this movie …. twice before… so we learn and we mourn.

Sefaria Source Sheet:

Listen to a previous Tisha B’av episode: The Tisha B’av Syndrome

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Eleven Days from Horeb

parshat devarim, deuteronomy 1

Join Geoffrey Stern and Rabbi Adam Mintz recorded on Clubhouse. Moses tries to (re)formulate the message of the Torah for a new generation which did not know the Exodus. The founders of the State of Israel chose not to write a constitution and we wonder if and how the ideals of those who established the State of Israel can guide a new generation.

Sefaria Source Sheet:

Eleven Days from Horeb | Sefaria

Parshat Devarim – Moses tries to formulate the message of the Torah for a new generation which did not know the Exodus and we wonder if and how the ideals of those who established the State of Israel can guide a new generation.


Welcome to Madlik.  My name is Geoffrey Stern and at Madlik we light a spark or shed some light on a Jewish Text or Tradition.  Along with Rabbi Adam Mintz we host Madlik Disruptive Torah on clubhouse every Thursday and share it as the Madlik podcast on your favorite platform. This week’s parsha is Devarim. This week we also heard Israel’s President address the congress and describe the shared vision of the two nation’s Founding Fathers and how those visions are being challenged. The Book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ attempt to re-introduce the vision of the Exodus to a new generation. So listen carefully to this week’s episode: Eleven Days from Horeb.



Sefaria Source Sheet:

Eleven Days from Horeb | Sefaria

Parshat Devarim – Moses tries to formulate the message of the Torah for a new generation which did not know the Exodus and we wonder if and how the ideals of those who established the State of Israel can guide a new generation.

Listen to last year’s episode: A Second Torah

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

no promises

matot-masei, numbers 30

Join Geoffrey Stern and Rabbi Adam Mintz recorded on Clubhouse. In all honesty, we really can’t promise to light a spark or shed some light on this week’s parsha but we will, bli neder, review the laws of making and annulling vows and in so doing explore the ambiguous relationship that Judaism has with keeping one’s word.

Sefaria Source Sheet:


Welcome to Madlik.  My name is Geoffrey Stern and at Madlik we light a spark or shed some light on a Jewish Text or Tradition.  Along with Rabbi Adam Mintz we host Madlik Disruptive Torah on clubhouse every Thursday and share it as the Madlik podcast on your favorite platform. This week’s parsha is matot-masei and it talks about the power of our words. So in all honesty, I really can’t promise that we’ll light a spark or shed some light on this week’s parsha but we will, bli neder, review the laws of making and annulling vows and in so doing explore the ambiguous relationship that Judaism has with keeping one’s word. So join us for “No Promises”



Sefaria Source Sheet:

Listen to last year’s episode: The United States of Israel

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized