Chaverim-an odd circumstance in that I received this week requests to repeat two previous musings for this double parasha. So here, for your amusement and edification, my musings from 5761 and 5762.
Incongruities. You gotta love 'em!
Twice in Kedoshim we are reminded to not become involved with ghosts, or any kind of divination. And the stern warnings against following the practices o others, or worshipping idols or other G''ds is emphasized repeatedly here and elsewhere in Torah. Yet in Acharei Mot we have this crazy goat "l'azazel" business. The folks at "Torah Tots" jokingly call it a sort of "X-File" - a great mystery of the Torah. And if we go back a bit, there's always good ol' Umim and Thumim! (Say, why didn't they just use the Urim & Thumim to decide which goat was for G''d and which was for Azazel?)
Well, incongruities often get me thinking. Two sides of my brain argue. One saying these are incongruous and one arguing that there are no incongruities whatsoever-that the idea that things are incongruous is a human-imposed layer of thinking upon the Torah.
Well, I, too, used to find myself very troubled by these seeming incongruities. Slowly, though a process of discovery that involves both knowledge of Judaism and of human physical science, I have come to realize that there aren't really incongruities at all. The Torah is simply in line with the physical properties of the Universe-and of course, it should be, since the same entity created both! and what brought me to this understanding? It was no other than dear old Schrödinger's cat.
For the non-physics-minded among you, Erwin Schrödinger, a physics professor, demonstrated a primary principle of the understanding (at that time) of quantum mechanics. Schrödinger postulated that observation interacts with quantum reality-that is, it is the observation of an uncertain event that causes the event to resolve into a definitive form. A cat is placed in a box, together with a radioactive atom. If the atom decays, and the geiger-counter detects an alpha particle, the hammer hits a flask of prussic acid (HCN), killing the cat. Before the observer opens the box, the cat's fate is tied to the wave function of the atom, which is itself in a superposition of decayed and undecayed states. Thus, said Schrödinger, the cat must itself be in a superposition of dead and alive states before the observer opens the box, "observes" the cat, and "collapses" its wave function.
Don't worry if you don't get it. The point is that matter or things (or situations in the Torah) can be in more than one state until they actually interact with an observer.
That is, the mitzvot of Torah, the lessons of Torah, the words of Torah don't resolve themselves into a definitive concept until someone interacts with them. And each interaction, just as with Schrödinger's cat, can be random and different.
Finally coming to this understanding of the Universe and Torah, I see now the futility and foolishness of pursuing apparent incongruities in the Torah. There aren't any until we read it. And for some, the act of reading will make an incongruity, and for others not. so it's not what's in the Torah...it's what we do!
And doesn't that put a whole different spin (forgive the physics pun) on "naaseh v'nishma," "we will do and then we will listen."
Is this a liberal or traditional interpretation of Judaism and Torah? I say it's both..and remains so...until you encounter it and make it one or the other.
So don't let anyone tell you Torah and science don't mix well. The more we "discover" about our universe from a scientific standpoint, the more we come to realize that the Torah describes it perfectly already.
Recognize the power you have to alter the course of the universe (and if that's not free will, I don't know what is!) Until you open that cover or unroll that scroll, what's inside can be many things at once. But once you encounter and start reading, you collapse wave fronts all over the place and turn uncertain words into a concrete interpretation. Just remember your concrete interpretation may not be the same one that some else creates when they have the same encounter.
Every once in a while I like to wander back to the main path from the various byways I tend to wander down as I walk the path of Torah. So this week, I'd like to muse on three little words that one sage considers the great teaching of our Torah. Words that have been spoken about many times, by many commentators. An idea that has been examined from seemingly every conceivable angle.
I am speaking, of course, of Leviticus 19:18 - v'ahavata l'reiakha kamokha. Love your neighbor as yourself.
A seemingly simple idea, yet one, as scholar Richard Elliot Friedman points out in his commentary, that stands out as unique among all the rest of the Torah, which is otherwise so focused, he says, on distinctions between things, and yet here instructs us to observe an equivalency in regard to relationships between human beings.
There is no doubt that each of us is unique-in many ways. And thus we are clearly distinctive. Yet we are, each of us, b'tzelem Elokim, in the image of G''d. And we create new life through the merger of body and soul, through an act in which distinctions are often lost.
When, I wonder, are we separate and distinct in G''d's eyes, and when are we all of a kind? And how does that affect our relationship to G''d? Is G''d more receptive to us when we are distinct and single, or when we are simply a part of a great whole?
Does the Torah make such an important point about making distinctions in part to teach us that our greatest gift and our greatest ambition is to be distinct yet not distinct at one and the same time? Do we recognize this gift and use it to its fullest potential?
Am I to love my neighbor as I love myself because my neighbor is like me, unlike me, or because my neighbor is both at the same time? I submit that the latter may hold an important key. I think of the situation in Israel. Palestinian and Israeli- so alike and yet so different. How do we bring them (and ourselves) past the perverse corruption of v'ahavta l'reiakha kamokha, which is hate your neighbor as your neighbor hates you? Or worse, the even more perverse hate your neighbor as you hate yourself.
Understanding that we are different yet all the same seems one way to bring greater peace between neighbors. But this simplistic formula seems to fail time and time again. Is that so perhaps because we fail to truly internalize this concept? Is it so because we have a hard time loving our neighbor when we think they hate us?
I've no quick or easy answers to these questions, but I am glad I have raised them for myself and for you. That's how I show my love for my neighbor-by engaging them in the same search for meaning as I engage in. If we could all but work together, yet at the same time draw upon the differences and uniquenesses we have, we might have a chance at finding some answers we all could live with. Ken y'hi ratson. May this be G''d's will. Ken y'hi ratsoneinu. May this be our will.
©2001, 2002 and 2006 by Adrian A. Durlester
Mot-Kedoshim 5764-Whither Zion?
Akharei Mot 5765-The Ways of Egypt and Canaan (revised)
Acharei Mot 5763--Immoral Relativisms?
Acharei Mot 5760-The Ways of Egypt & Canaan
Kedoshim 5763 - Oil and Water
Kedoshim 5760 & 5765 - Torah for Dummies
Email Me A Comment!