Abraham and the Federal Witness Protection Program

When I taught the Abram stories of Bereishit in High School a few years back, my students and I developed this theory that we called the ‘Federal Witness Protection Program’, which basically highlighted a series of changes that Abram and Sarai undergo:
  • They are forced to relocate

  • Their names are changed

  • Sarai’s lineage is obscured (Chazal and most commentators agree that she is the Yiskah of the end of Noach, but as Sarai, we are never told who her father is)

  • They aren’t told initially where they will be relocated

  • Abraham’s father’s death is recorded prematurely (if you do the math, Terach didn’t die until 2 years before Sarah did), as if to emphasize his irrelevance to Abraham’s story after the relocation

  • Sarai’s barrenness is emphasized – they have no future, as of yet

  • The Torah emphasizes the break that they will undergo – ‘go forth from your land, your birthplace, your father’s house…’, which underscores the complete break with his past

  • The Torah (in the brit bein Ha-betarim) relates to Abraham’s journey from Ur as a ‘salvation’ – “I am God Who rescued you from Ur Kasdim” (and see Ramban at the end of Noach).

  • Eventually, Abram breaks contact with the only relative that accompanies him, his nephew Lot, and he is forced to break, on some level, with both of his older sons
Thus, we see a man who is forced to remain very, very alone. He has jettisoned his past, and his future is never really guaranteed until the very, very end of the story. He is a stranger in several strange lands, never really settling in a single place, again until the very, very end. What are we to make of this description?

There are several striking midrashim that seem to address this theme. One attempts to explain why Abraham was called ‘Ivri’, and suggests an image of the entire world standing on one riverbank, and the lonely Abraham standing on the other side, ‘be-ever ha-nahar’. Rivers, in chazal, will often denote barriers, obstacles few are willing to attempt overcoming. It’s much easier to ‘go with the flow’. Abraham alone on the outer bank suggests that there is an unbridgeable divide between Abraham and the rest of humanity (being God’s chosen can do that to a guy). The moment God chose him, he ceased to be a part of any community of men, any family, any nationality, any history. A brand new story starts at that moment.

The second midrash relates to when God ‘took Abram out’ to look at the stars. Rashi relates a midrash to the effect that Abram must look beyond his ‘stars’ – his fate that had been determined by that combination of factors that the ancient world knew as ‘the stars’ and recognize that he has a brand new identity which has not yet been determined in any way. Abram’s fate was determined, but he is now Abraham, a brand new entity (which identifies him as the progenitor of something brand new) unencumbered by fate. He may begin his own nation with its own new story, which is still being written.

The Prehistory of Abraham

We introduced to Abram at the end of Parashat Noach, but we don’t learn a whole lot about him. There’s a bit of ambiguity as to where Abraham was from (see Ramban and Ibn Ezra ad loc), but it’s clear that he migrated from Lower to Upper Mesopotamia (Ur Kasdim to Aram Naharayim) as a member of his father’s family, having planned to reach Canaan, but not quite making it. We’re given a basic description of Abraham’s lineage and immediate family, or, more precisely, we’re given a description of Terach’s family, of which Abram is a member. Then, all of a sudden, Abram is chosen by God to become a great nation and become the focus of the brachot to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ at the beginning of Lech-Lecha.

The midrashim attempt to fill in the gaps of the Abram story, and there’s a wealth of material describing his activity in Mesopotamia, which serve as a great sugya in themselves. However, they can’t obscure the essential fact that the Torah itself gives us nothing of Abram’s achievements prior to his selection by God. His election is completely out of the blue.
The midrashim then address the most basic and obvious question – why did God choose Abram? The various Midrashic answers, and interpretations of those answers, are a broader topic (and will probably be the subject of another post). However, these Midrashim tend to obscure the jarring fact that the Torah gives us NO REASON for Abram’s selection!! Thus, there is a second question that must arise when studying these sections: why doesn’t the Torah tell us outright why Abram was selected?

The easiest and most intuitive answer to this question is that, for the Torah, the REASON for Abram’s election is of relatively little importance next to the FACT of his election. To put it in a contemporary context, le-havdil, books can and have been written about George W. Bush’s election as President of the USA. Nevertheless, endless discussion of the 2000 elections cannot change the unalterable fact that George W. Bush is President of the United States, for better or worse. Similarly, when addressing God’s choice to enter into a covenant with a man, the realness of that covenant, its over-arching importance to the life of that man and his posterity, the utter transformation of the man who enters that relationship, completely overwhelms considerations of his ‘previous life’, of the process by which he became a ‘candidate’ for this election. Abram’s story, even if it begins when he was three years old, really only begins when God taps him on the shoulder (and remember that until that point it wasn’t Abram’s story, it was Terach’s story).


Midrash Bono

The Gemara in Pesachim (88a) relates how each of our Patriarchs related to God’s Place:

Said Rabbi Elazar: What does Isaiah mean when he says, "And many peoples will go and say, 'Come let us go up to the Mountain of G-d to the HOUSE of the G-d of Jacob!'" ? Why the G-d of Jacob and not the G-d of Abraham and Isaac? The answer is: Not like Abraham, who saw it as a Mountain ("as it is said this day, On the Mountain HaVaYaH is seen" -- Genesis 22:14). And not like Isaac, for whom it was a Field ("And Isaac went out to meditate in the Field" -- Genesis 24:63). But like Jacob, who called it a House: "And he called the name of that place Beth El, the House of G-d" (Genesis 28:19).

The Gemara is describing three fundamentally different ways of relating to and ‘finding’ God: Abraham had to scale a mountain, to go where no man had gone before. Isaac inherited it, it was part of his property, but he still needed to invest in it in order to make it productive. Jacob was able to expect a certain degree of familiarity and comfort, but also structure (this is one potential read of the Gemara).

It was interesting, listening to my CD of U2’s ‘The Joshua Tree’ in the car this morning (I needed a change from S&G), I noticed the following in the lyrics to ‘Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”:

I have climbed the highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you

I have run I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
Only to be with you
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for

Are Bono and the chevre suggesting that those ancient paradigms for approaching God are insufficient? It’s clear that this song has religious overtones (“I believe in the Kingdom Come /Then all the colors will bleed into one /But yes I'm still running. /You broke the bonds /You loosened the chains /You carried the cross /And my shame”), and according to Wikipedia, is about finding spirituality. I doubt, though, that Bono learned this particular Gemara, but it still seems to enrich my understanding of this Gemara. Perhaps there's something universal about 'mountains, fields, and walls' to the language of spirituality. And perhaps Bono does have something to contribute to our spiritual vocabulary.

It's situations like this that can convince one either that goyishe music should be avoided like chazer or that it truly has what to contribute to our religious world. I, for one, believe that Bono can be the spice in R' Ashi's cholent. Either way, it's incredible music.


Feminist Halakhic Dilemmas

I’ve always found it useful to use dilemmas to generate discussion on particular issues. When discussing theory, it’s very easy to stake out an ideological position. When faced with a practical dilemma, though, the complexity of the situation makes ideological positions much harder to maintain, especially when there are clearly a number of values that conflict. The Gemara often uses this method for fleshing out the practical implications of issues. I tried a similar method, with some success, here. So here are some dilemmas related to women’s issues in general, focusing on Simchat Torah. Some of these dilemmas I’ve actually had, and I will note it when it arises.

1) An Orthodox Rabbi is installed at an Orthodox synagogue where the women have a tefillah group/ layn on Simchat Torah / dance with the Torah on ST, or otherwise practice something which, though technically muttar, is not something the Rabbi would a priori approve. Should the Rabbi try to put a stop to it? Should he give an ultimatum of a certain number of years (like Orthodox Rabbis in mechitza-less shuls in the 50s and 60s)? Should he express his disapproval but allow it to continue? Should he keep his mouth shut? Should he quit?

(at UMD, which is a bit different from a normal shul, I kept my mouth shut if the practice was muttar or if I knew there was no chance of stopping it)

2) A group of women approach the Rabbi about using one of the shul’s sifrei Torah to dance with in a discreet location on Simchat Torah. The Rabbi agrees to let them use it. When word gets out, an element within the shul threatens to break-away unless the Rabbi rescinds his decision. What is the Rabbi to do? Kowtow to the threats of that element? Stand firm, come what may?

(I know of a few cases where this happened. One Rabbi – a Ner Israel graduate and well-respected poseik – rescinded his decision, apologizing to the women that he initially had permitted to dance with the Torah. The second Rabbi went ahead with the women’s hakafot, and indeed several families bolted from the shul. In this instance, I happen to agree with the first Rabbi and disagree with the second. Of course, the size and prominence of the competing factions is a major factor, and you can’t please all the people all the time. I’d also add that the first Rabbi is very much not an ideologue, but was responding to his congregants as best he could. The second Rabbi had much more of an agenda.

3) An Israeli woman visiting the United States is asked to participate in a women’s Torah reading for Simchat Torah. She is essentially only observing one day, but is ‘faking it for the cameras’ on the 2nd day, Simchat Torah, as prescribed by the Shulchan Arukh. She asks her Rabbi whether or not she can layn on the 2nd day. Note that a man in that situation should NOT layn for a minyan of 2-day observing men (at least that’s the psak I received). The Rabbi is, in general, opposed to women layning, but that’s not the question at hand. Should he advise her not to participate in general? Should he withdraw from the question, since he can’t agree with the questions presumptions? Should he permit her to layn, specifying that if there’s no minyan present it’s not a real kri’ah anyhow, so the 1-day vs. 2-day issue doesn’t really get of the ground? Should he permit without specifying the reason? (I’m operating under the assumption that there would be no reason to forbid her from layning on the 2nd day specifically, though I’d be interested to hear if someone would advance an argument in favor of making that distinction)

(This actually came up. I asked a shayla from Rav #1 in dilemma #2 and he answered in the following, very tactical way: “A woman doesn’t have the same issues that a man has in layning on a day which for him/her is not Yom Tov”. I relayed that answer back, with greater explanation, even spelling out the implications for women’s kri’ah.

There are some other issues that I faced on campus, both on ST and during the year, that relate to issues of women’s participation in liturgical activity – particularly kaddish and Kiddush. Both great stories, but for another time.

A Video for the Shabbos Table

Well not really, but it's funny.


Simchat Torah and Egalitarianism

One of the central messages of Simchat Torah, if not the central message, is that every Jew has a stake in the Torah. The Gr”a used the verse ‘ve-haya ba-yom ha-hu, hinei Elokeinu zeh’ and the Talmudic drasha of that verse, namely, that in the future all of the righteous will form a circle around God and point toward Him, to explain the idea of hakafot. He explains that hakafot look forward to a time when hierarchies are no longer necessary and we can all participate in a circle, geometrically defined as the set of points in a plane where each point is equidistant from the center. None are closer or further from the center in a circle. Because of this rationale, there are those who insist that during hakafot no person occupies the center of the circle, the space symbolically reserved for God. We demonstrate the everyone’s access to Torah by giving aliyot to everyone, even children. All is symbolic of a time of future redemption, when this vision will come to fruition.
In this sense, Simchat Torah is the Jewish holiday which best lends itself to egalitarian practice. Equal access to Torah is something to be celebrated by all – men, women, and children. The desire by those, especially women, who feel sidelined by the traditional celebration to take a more participatory role can be seen to be very much consistent with the theme of the day. R’ Yehuda Herzl Henkin points to Simchat Torah as an example of where giving aliyot to women might be appropriate even if inappropriate at other times (it stands to reason that if every male already had an aliyah, the issue of kavod ha-tzibbur wouldn’t be of concern, similar to the Mahara”m Mi-Rottenberg’s case of a city entirely of kohanim).
On the other hand, not every Simchat Torah practice is ‘egalitarian’. The honoring of ‘chatanim’ singles out particular worshippers for special celebration. The impulse to extend that singling out to a woman as well actually de-emphasizes the egalitarian nature of the holiday. Abolishing the idea of the chatanim altogether, with all of the pomp and circumstance they have accumulated toward the celebration of a single individual, is probably more consistent with the theme of the day than extending them to include kallot. That’s probably not a realistic option in any community, though.


Book Review – Tzir Kissufim: In the Land of Prayer

[This will be cross-posted on the Lookjed educators' discussion forum; the book is available here; if you order it, please enter 'ADDeRabbi' in the comment section of the order.]

Book Review – Tzir Kissufim: In the Land of Prayer

Edited by Daniel Gutenmacher

Translations by Toby Klein Greenwald

The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 inaugurated a period of unparalleled religious ferment which expressed itself in numerous ways, for better or worse. The Gaza disengagement of 2005, we are starting to see, has similarly inspired a wealth of religious responses, and it remains to be seen what the ultimate effects of it will be. It is safe to assume that the introspection it inspired and the fact that it forced an entire movement – the Religious Zionist movement – to endure the shattering of its dreams will continue to generate creative tension for a very long time.

A particular manifestation of this ferment is the re-invention of an art that had been almost forgotten by the Jews – that of prayer writing. Personal and liturgical compositions are available from every era, but the sheer volume of those written in response to the Hitnatkut qualify as an explosion of prayer-writing. Dozens of Tisha B’av Kinot for the Disengagement have been penned, and several collections of prayers have been published in Hebrew. Daniel Gutenmacher and Toby Klein Greenwald have now made some of these writings available to the English-speaking public in the form of the book Tzir Kissufim: In the Land of Prayer.

The task that the translator and editor set before themselves is a daunting one. Hebrew is the language of Jewish prayer, and the compositions in this collection, though new, are constantly alluding to elements of Hebrew scripture and liturgy. There are terms that have specific meaning within the context of the Israeli experience which are lost in translation. This is in addition to universal challenges of translating poetry, with its ambiguities, double entendres, rhyme, and meter.

I’m sure the translators themselves would agree that these prayers are far less inspiring in English. Therefore, the value of the translation is similar to its value for any translated siddur – to help the reader understand what he’s saying in the original. The translation is up to this task, though it would have greatly benefited from notes which refer to the scriptural and liturgical allusions and explain the poetic devices employed by the writers.

In addition to the translation, the compositions are divided into thematic sections, each section prefaced by an introduction to the theme and a preview of the contents of the section. They also include photography, art, and prose that are linked to the theme being introduced. These introductions are helpful in that they frame the mood of the upcoming prayers, but are sometimes too conspicuous, such as when the introduction to the section is longer than the section itself (Section VII). The topics range from very general (Section III: To Be Enveloped in Divine Light) to specific (Section VIII: Happiness in the Shadow of Pain: Shabbat). The artwork that is interspersed throughout the volume lends another dimension to the feelings that the writers are trying to capture. This visual medium succeeds so well that it makes one wonder why more religious art is not included in siddurim.

The prayers themselves form the centerpiece of the volume. Many of the prayers in the collection deal directly with the Hitnatkut and its aftermath, some more generally with the ‘situation’ in Israel, and a number address universal religious concerns. The writing of Ruchama Shapira consistently alludes to Biblical events (‘Akedah’ – pp.8-13) and verses (‘Bloodshed, Crisis, and Rebirth’ on pp. 24-29 is loaded with Biblical and Rabbinic references), and transposes them onto the very real experience of the Disengagement, in which she was evicted from her home. Ido Levinger’s prayers, on the other hand, tend to address the universal human concerns about faith(104-5), apathy (78-81), and redemption(58-9), though they can easily be read against the backdrop of the events in Israel. These two writers contributed fourteen of the thirty-five prayers in this collection.

In general those writing from direct experience are more gripping than the writing of those whose experience is second hand. The prayers are also at their best when the writers are not straining too hard to be inspirational (or trying to borrow too heavily from Rav Kook’s elevated writing style), but are trying to sincerely chronicle their own conversations with God. Prayerful simplicity, in the tradition of R’ Nachman of Breslov, is the most successful way that these writers convey their raw feelings, without injecting philosophy, politics, or theology. I found the most moving prayer to be the one entitled ‘The Soldier’s Lekha Dodi’ (98-103) penned by a yeshiva student to relive his personal Kabbalat Shabbat while on guard duty, after a particularly difficult week. Toby Klein Greenwald’s ‘Grandmother’s Prayer’(32-3) is another whose simplicity tears at the reader’s heartstrings.

On the whole, the prayers in this collection display a range of literary power and technical quality. For someone in the market for a good poetry collection, there are much better ones out there. The value of this book is in its presentation of contemporary prayers written by living Jews during events that we have all experienced first, second, or third hand. The writers walk amongst us, are us. Thus, as an introduction to the world of Jewish prayer-writing, to help individuals find their voice in prayer, for educators to initiate their students into the world of prayer-composing, with the hopes that they may recover the personal elements of their own prayer and perhaps even compose their own prayers, this slim volume (159 pages) can be a valuable tool.

Notes from the Peanut Gallery

1) Poor Choice of Words
This review was pretty good (Thanks for posting the link, Gil. Maybe you'll link to a review that I'll have up in a few hours.) There's just one line that absolutely must be taken out of that review:
We get a penetrating analysis of the "Rape of Dinah"

2) Takes on Pictures
The following picture inspires Harry to write about the dangers of religious extremism. It inspires me to think about the wonders of cameras that eliminate red-eye:


First Rashi on Chumash: Do We Understand it Correctly?

Everyone knows the first Rashi on Chumash, right? He begins by quoting R’ Yitzchak in a Medrash, asking why the Torah doesn’t begin with the mitzvah of ‘Ha-chodesh ha-zeh lachem’, about 1/3 the way through Shemot?

Rashi goes on to explain that the purpose of the creation story is to establish God’s ownership over the world, in order to justify our occupation of the land of Israel. God gave it to us. It’s God, so he can give it to whomever he wants and take it away from whomever he wants. At the very least, this is how everyone I’ve ever encountered explains this Rashi, and, at first blush, it would seem to be exactly what Rashi is saying.

However, as I once posted before, and I think bears repeating again and again until this becomes the common understanding of this Rashi. The difference can’t be overstated.

Basically, the key misunderstood line is ‘'le-eit asher yashar be-einav'. It’s commonly understood to mean ‘to whomever he pleases’. In that understanding, God’s will is made to be arbitrary, and if he chooses not to give you prime real estate, that’s just tough luck, because He owns the world and can do with it what he pleases.

However, throughout Chumash and the writings of Chaza”l that which is ‘right in God’s eyes’ is not arbitrary at all. It’s about a system of Godly values, enshrined both in halakhic legislation and in supererogatory practice (lifnim mi-shurat ha-din, which is related to the verse ‘ve-asita yashar ve-hatov be-einei Hashem’), by which we, as people, follow in God’s ways. We will not do what is right and good in our own eyes, as is the common negative refrain of Sefer Shoftim, rather, that which is right and good in God’s eyes.

The implication of God’s creation is not that we must respect God’s ownership of it, but that the incomprehensible motives that God had for creating the world can somehow be called ‘Goodness’ or ‘Kindness’ – Olam Chesed Yibaneh – and the challenge of being human is the challenge of continuing the work that God started but left for us to complete (asher bara Elokim la’asot, et al). This challenge began with Adam, but we see now that it began even before; it was built into creation. It continues through the stories of our Patriarchs, though with the difference that whereas through Abraham the challenge was for all of humanity over all of the world, in the wake of multiple failures God chose one family to achieve those goals in one place, and to serve as the catalyst of universal success. Our Partiarchs, especially Abraham, were guided by that set of Godly values and traits – chessed, tzedek, mishpat – before they were enshrined in the Torah’s legislation. The message – that is made clear in the Netziv’s introduction to Bereishit and as AlanLaz brings in the name of the Netivot Shalom, there’s a basic sense of yashrut which undergirds the Torah, which the Torah seeks to develop and refine, and without which the mitzvot are rendered largely worthless (see the Netziv’s sharp intro if you think that’s an exaggeration). This sense of Yashrut, present in creation itself, it the prerequisite for everything that comes after Parashat Ha-Chodesh. Thus, Bereishit is nicknamed Sefer Ha-Yashar. How can we miss that allision in the first Rashi?

It also means that the covenant that develops throughout Chumash – first between God and Adam, then Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. until it’s contracted as the Torah with all of Israel – is present in the very act of Creation. The goal of creation was to be able to enact a covenant with a people, whereby they would live according to that which is Yashar be-eini Hashem, and would reciprocally merit to live in the land which is constantly under God’s scrutiny (einei Hashem Elokecha bah me-reishit ha-shana ad acharit ha-shana), and where living according to the Covenant is part and parcel of living in the land (see, e.g., the entire book of Devarim). And according to this Rashi, it’s built into creation.

A final comment relates to the type of ‘Zionism’ that this Rashi promotes. The more common read lends itself to a Zionism of entitlement – it’s ours, not yours, so get out. The other read is much more about Zionism as a challenge, something that we must constantly be striving to live up to. I suspect that it also offers a fundamentally different way to relate to indigenous populations. When one is fvrced to admit a degree of uncertainty about his own deserved-ness of the land, it becomes much easier to tolerate the presence and claims of others (see also what I wrote here and here).


Come on, Harry

This post by Harry Maryles, and the ensuing comments, really, really bothers me. He writes about a Kallat Torah which apparently took place at HIR this year. He then goes on to rip into this type of innovation. Read it for youself, if you have the stomach.
Here are the issues I have with this kind of reasoning:

1) Simchat Torah is, in Jewish terms, a brand-spanking new holiday. Do you realize that the Mechaber and Remo don't even mention Hakafot? Did you notice that the Mishna Berurah, whose ink, in the grand scheme of things, is barely dry, mentions that there are 'some communities who do 3 hakafot and some who do 7'? Yet you shray chai vekayam about R' Avi Weiss 'twisting' 'millenia old' traditions?

2) Is this really a major issue, Harry? Is the slope really all that slippery? What are you afraid of? BTW - I saw a Kallah Torah at Yakar in Jerusalem 10 years ago. Nothing is innovated in America, don't you know that by now? Sv now that you know this, are you going to draw conclusions and make declarations about the Rosen family and their corner of the orthodox world? or perhaps not since that's not the axe you're looking to grind?

3) In the comments you wrote about this being 'poresh min ha-tzibbur'. I'd like to know if you attended a 2nd-day Chu"l minyan in Eretz Yisrael. If you did, then you can stop criticizing others for being 'poresh' before the magnifying glass is turned back on you.

4) Who made you the judge and jury of what's 'extreme' and what's 'normal'? Are right and left wing defined by your personal comfort zone? And what do you know about the 'practical benefit' of these innovations? Hw d yu knws what his balabatim want?, and whether it's a 'legitimate' critique or mere 'social feminism'? Why must we insist on trying to psychoanalyze anyone who wants to try something muttar but different? Must we always evaluate their motives? Do we apply that standard consistently to anyone, male or female, who is looking for some type of religious expression, bein le-kulah, bein le-chumrah?

5) You may not like the direction of 'Left Wing Modorthodoxy' but there's a big, wide world out there, and most of it is outside your daled amos. For some odd reason, your version of things doesn't resonate with the majority of klal yisrael, and there's been plenty of time to try to work it out. If someone wants to take a different approach, which isn't quite as radical as, say, early chassidus, then watch and listen to see if they've chanced upon something that didn't occur to you.

Name Games

There are a few games that you can play with other people’s names that can be lots of fun. My wife was at the receiving end of this, as her maiden name was very lyrical, almost like ‘Marco Polo’. I had a chavruta who also had such a name.

I recently got an invitation for the KBY dinner which took place on Chol Ha-mo’ed. The alumnus they chose to honor is a fellow named Ofer Unger. That would be a great name for a bookie. Of course, in Hebrew the name doesn’t sound like anything strange. In English, though, it’s like “Hey, what’s the Ofer/Unger on the Mets-Cards Game 6”. It alsv recalls the hilarious takeoff scene from the moie 'Airplane'. It's so much more fun than just snickering at an Israeli named 'Dudu' or the like.

There’s also two versions of the ‘no last name’ game. It starts with a little ditty that can be sung when encountering someone whose last name is also a first name. It is sung to the tune of ‘Frere Jacques’:

Richard Joel

Richard Joel

No last name

No last name

You can call him Richard

You can call him Joel

No last name

No last name

If you can find someone with 3 or more ‘no last names’, it can get really fun. Former Israeli President Yitzchak Ben Zvi is a 3. I’ve encountered a few 4s, but only once have I nailed a 5er:

Ben Zion Meir Chai Uzziel

Ben Zion Meir Chai Uzziel

No last name

No last name

You can call him Ben

You can call him Zion

You can call him Meir

You can call him Chai

You can call him Uzziel

No last name

No last name

See how much fun this can be?

The other version is when you put together a string of ‘no last names’ such that the names in the middle are the prior person’s last name, and the next person’s first name. This can work in Hebrew or English. For example:

Amnon Yitzchak Mordechai Eliyahu Bakshi Doron Sheffer


Malcolm Little Richard Joel Paul Simon Bolivar

Try it. It’s great fun.

Would that Nechama Had a Blog

In the wake of this post, I got an email from veteran educator and LookJed moderator Shalom Berger (who has allowed me to post his comments with full attribution):

Regarding the Yetzer Ha-Ra to teach, I recommend getting hold of "Pirkei Nechama" and reading her letter to Rav Posen (pp. 669-671) where she questions whether she travels the country teaching "le-hagdil Torah U'leha'adira" or because she gets paid, receives compliments, or fights loneliness. She concludes by saying that people are better off not examining too closely why they do things.

Her letters that appear there are a great read - including the one to Nati Helfgot saying that she thinks publishing articles is a waste of time because no one reads them anyway and few people really have anything of value to say. What would she say about blogs?


First off, though I haven’t read this letter, the first part of the summary really describes what I was trying to say. I’d only add that if there potential negative consequences to some of the motivations, there should be safeguards in place to make sure that those consequences are avoided. We need not analyze the motivations of our educators, but we DO need to make sure that negative motivations aren’t made manifest in negative behavior.

Regarding the second issue, I have no idea what Nechama would say about blogs. I’d offer, though, that it’s a medium which facilitates, in general, good exchanges of ideas, interactive learning, and peer review. It’s not as static as an article, yet works in a more rigid forum than an open discussion. It has the interactive advantages of chavruta learning, such as peer review and multiple viewpoints. The discussion remains refreshingly honest – if someone says something stupid, it’s generally pointed out to him (or her, but we go easy on the ‘her’s, right guys?). Access to original texts to be commented upon is becoming more and more commonplace.

Granted, the blog must be modeling some kind of real-life social network in order for it to take flight (and I wonder what social reality my blog parallels? Is it a Kiddush? A Shabbos Table?), but eventually becomes a sui generis community. In that sense, learning takes place here as a socio-religious act, in contrast to the classroom or Beit Midrash, where the social factor is much more subdued (or is it?). That’s also why the same topics tend to be constantly rehashed; it’s not about the passing of information. Rather, it’s about the social act of discussion and debate about topics the community finds meaningful.

Ultimately, though, the proof is in the pudding. If people learn seriously through blogs, then it’s a good medium for Talmud Torah. In my estimation, they do, but as communities or societies, and not as students in a classroom. It’s a very ‘Talmudic’ process, in my estimation. R’ Shalom himself is looking to create a blog for the community of educators. The community definitely exists; will this recreate an existing communal interaction in virtual space in a meaningful way, much as their listserv has already done? Will it enhance that, make it more lively, add voices, or give those voices more of an edge? We’ll see.


Very Random ADD Yontif Post

  • There’s something very disconcerting about driving on the highway to Jerusalem listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s “America”. I’m not counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike. And everyone on this road might be looking for something, but it ain’t ‘America’.
  • That said, other songs on that album – the Concert at Central Park – have renewed resonance, especially ‘The Boxer’, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’, ‘Homeward Bound’, and ‘Slip Slidin’ Away’. The rendition of ‘Bridge’ on that album sends shivers down my spine.
  • Driving toward the old city, we avoided traffic by taking a shortcut through East Jerusalem. This made the wife nervous. Ruchama picked up on this and asked ‘Where are we going?’ I answered, ‘To see our cousins’. She asked, ‘What’s his name?’ ‘Ahmed’. ‘Does he have children?’ ‘Yes. He has lots and lots of children’. Funny kid.
  • There are three Jews in the news lately who I’d have a hard time not taking a crowbar to if I saw them on the street. This one, this one, and this one. The third is less known in the U.S.A., so I’ll summarize his exploits. Apparently, he has 65 unpaid moving violations, and, in a state of intoxication, ran his SUV straight over a small car containing the Deputy Mayor of Tzfat, his wife, and 2 kids. Three are dead. This [insert expletive of choice] should be lynched by the townsfolk of Tzfat. I just found out that I have a close relative who works for a company that services Mondrowitz’s appliances. I have half a mind to dress in their uniform, go in there, and, um, fix the plumbing, i.e., eliminate the risk to the neighborhood kids. The Monsey chicken man is probably the least heinous of the three.
  • The upside of living near a bunch of soldiers (the development across the street is for army lifers) is that the shul runs like a clock. The turnover between Kiddush and the chassanim on Shabbat/Shemini Atzeret/ Simchat Torah was astounding. The down side is that they apparently like to have large dogs. I don’t like large dogs. Especially when they are not curbed by the owners.
  • Simchas Torah is a Diaspora holiday. It was not invented in Israel, where they had one day of Yom Tov but read the Torah in a triennial cycle (like a primitive Daf Yomi of sorts. That’s why everything could be done over 2 days. In Israel today, you get all of the Simchas Torah customs plus geshem and yizkor all on the same day, plus a Kiddush in the middle. Shul was over 6 hours long. Longer than Rosh Hashana.
  • I like the fact that in yizkor, everyone stays in while the victims of the Holocaust and fallen soldiers are commemorated.


New Shul, Old Shul

A new shul opened about a block away from my new home just about a month ago. They were expecting 40 people to show up the first Friday night, and about 120 did. It’s been growing ever since, as word spreads and neighborhood continues to be populated at a rapid pace. I’ve gotten involved somewhat; in addition to becoming a member and helping out when I can, I’ve taken on a few ‘functional’ roles – speaking, leading the davening, etc.
It’s very exciting to be part of something so new.

At the end of my street and through some thicket (there’s a longer path around as well), an ancient Jewish settlement – dating back to possibly the 2nd Century BCE, but at latest the 1st Century CE, including a shul and mikva’ot was discovered while preparing to pave a road in 2001. It is one of two sites that are considered likely locations of the ancient Hasmonean city of Modiin.
The shul has been fenced off by the Antiquities Authority, but the rest of it is open, and I’ve taken to exploring it with friends and family, and even by myself. I first went down the 2nd night of Rosh Hashana and davened Ma’ariv there in the solitude. It was pretty intense. Since, I’ve been back at least 3 times, and am planning on going again today. I went with the proprietor of the Dancing Camel microbrewery, who also organizes an occasional Carlebach minyan, to check it out as a potential venue. That’s be pretty intense, too.
I also went down with my 2 older kids, and occasional commenter ‘Tel Talpiot’ and his kids. We really got a chance to explore, going down the seven steps into the ancient mikvah’s basin, getting a great view of the shul from it’s northern end, finding some potsherds, and exploring the densely-packed town. Alas, we could not find the remains of any popcorn stand near the mikvah.

Ultimately, I’d love to see the site integrated into some type of Jewish cultural center, blending the ancient with the contemporary, where today’s Jews can find God and meaning just as those from millennia ago. I know there are others who share this dream, and I intend to seek them out and make it a reality (so that this doesn’t happen).
It’s very exciting to be part of something so ancient.


Spinning the Monsey Chicken Scandal

The big winner in this whole thing is…. The OU.

This establishment wasn’t under the OU because, basically, OU mashgichim don’t have long enough beards. The thing about the OU is that they’re pro. They’re not like these mamma and tatta chassidishe kashrus organizations that look very frum but can’t possibly have the clout and degree of institutional knowledge that the OU has. I’ve heard, on very good authority, that a bunch of these little hashgacha agencies called up the OU in the wake of the scandal in order to know how to protect themselves from this type of fraud. The fact it’s almost impossible for this to happen to an OU establishment makes them look really good.

It also makes you wonder about the degree of contributory negligence on the part of the community. When one chooses one kashrus organization over another because of some sort of cultural fealty (i.e., it’s under a heimische hashgacha) there seems to be a greater acceptance of responsibility – you’re not relying on others’ judgment, you’re, in a sence, making your own decision.

An expert OU mashgiach once pointed out that it’s possible to be at an establishment 24/7 and not be a temidi, and it’s possible to be somewhere once every few months and be temidi. It’s about knowing what to look for and where to look – auditing the books will yield more information than examining the chickens.

And a final observation: Why do communities get thrown into a tizzy when it turns out they’ve been eating trayf, but don’t seem quite as bothered – on the communal level – when it turns out they’ve been employing a sexual predator in their schools?

Two Minutes with R’ Scheinberg?

I davened at the Kotel this morning (the real one, not the one in my house). While there, I saw R’ Scheinberg being wheeled around there. I was wondering, if I could get over to him and fight through the bachurim, what would I ask him?

There are lots of options: I could have asked him about his quoted position on the Kolko affair – what did he really say/mean? I could have asked him about his father-in-law’s alleged discovery of the keilim of the mikdash, as recorded in ‘All For the Boss’. I could have asked him about a lot of things that he’s been involved in, and that I have lots of questions about, but that won’t get mentioned here.

But I decided that I’d ask him about the Kiddush he made in honor of his not having gotten and hana’ah from hearing of a Yankees World Series victory. I’d have told him about the Yankees debacle against Detroit with a bit of zest, then asked if I’ve caused him any agmas nefesh with the news. If not, then maybe it’s time for another Kiddush. If yes, then I will have rubbed it in a Yankee fan’s face. It’s a win-win.


The Yetzer Hara to Teach Torah

I’ve got a terrible yetzer hara to teach. That one of the reasons I started this blog, after all. I’ve got ideas, and I want to share them. This yetzer can be altruistic, but can also contain elements of hubris, desire for attention, recognition, or adulation, and even a desire to ‘control’ other people. Even if it’s altruistic, there a danger of trying to ‘monopolize’ the Torah, or to blur the lines between Torah and ‘what I think’, or to confuse my necessarily limited view of Torah with ‘what the Torah says’.

There are a number of ways to ‘deal’ with that yetzer and avoid its pitfalls, but I really can’t speak for others when talking about coping strategies. My assessment, and I could be totally off on this (but I don’t think so), is that most people with this yetzer are in denial of its existence. As C.S. Lewis dramatizes in The Screwtape Letters (ADDeRabbi’s pick for ‘Best Mussar Sefer Ever’), the best way to tempt Man is to have him believe he’s not being tempted. I’ll reserve my list of ‘dos and don’ts’ for another time.

There’s a new dilemma that this yetzer has presented, though – getting involved in teaching and speaking here in Modi’in. The ‘established’ presence in town is the B’nei Akiva circles – the Hesder Yeshiva, the Yeshiva High School, the elementary schools, girls high school, and shuls in that orbit. I’m not a card-carrying member of that basic R’ Kook-Mercaz ideology, so fat chance of breaking in to that circle. I can try setting up a different adult educational model, but that seems like something that would require more time, effort, and money than a hobby. Can’t afford that, so I’ll stick with blogging.

So I tried playing the ‘American’ card. There’s a communal ‘leil Hoshana Rabbah’ learning program sponsored by that nexus of institutions I just mentioned. I asked if I’d be able to give a shiur, and got a very cold response. Then I mentioned that there’s nothing in English for the extensive English-speaking population, which includes a number of guests for Yom Tov. And then the doors started opening. One person put me in touch with another, who put me in touch with the organizer, who basically handed me the job of organizing a parallel ‘English’ track.

OK, it’s a tad subversive; but it gets the foot in the door, and doesn’t undermine anyone. Would it be too much to have a female speaker?


Sukkot on Campus: Some Strange Applications of Teshvu Ke-ein Taduru

Last year, we spent all of Sukkot at home in College Park, on campus. I don’t think I’ll ever have a Sukkot like that again. There were several highlight, but one stands out above the rest.
One highlight was helping the local chapter of AEPi build their Sukkah. They built it, then partied in it. Teshvu ke-ein taduru. They were even thinking of having the freshmen pledges make paper chains to decorate it.
For Hoshana Rabbah, I went and cut a ton of aravot that grow alongside the Paint Branch Creek, right outside Comcast Center. It was a lot of fun driving a car full of willow branches smack-dab through campus. There were a lot of knowing looks and nods. Everybody knows about the Jews and their leafy twigs in the fall.

The best was the result of several fortuitous circumstances. Maryland only plays 6 or so home football games each year. They are generally on Saturday afternoon. About every two years, they play a home game on a Thursday night. Last year, they played such a game and it fell out on Chol Ha-Mo’ed Sukkot. That meant that any Jewish student who could get a ticket would be going to the game. Add to this that UMD was going to play #3 Virginia Tech, with potential national championship implications, and that it was going to be nationally televised by ESPN, and you’re talking about a huge party in College Park. Maryland students wore black – to distinguish themselves from the burgundy wearing Tech fans.
So I procured (from my landlord, actually) a parking permit for the main lot, and went as the lot opened with my Sukkah to make sure that we had a choice spot. We built the Sukkah right there in the lot, brought over grills, and floted blue and white helium balloons so that people would know where to find us. We had a massive, kosher tailgate party in that Sukkah (which has since made Aliyah with me). We sold out of food and black Hillel T-shirts. Hundreds of people came through – Nate helped with the grilling, Alan treated me to a Corona he brought (we didn’t serve beer, but couldn’t tell people that they’re not allowed to bring beer into the parking lot), and we were even visited by the only frum Va Tech fans on the planet. It was probably the most fun I had during the years at UMD, and was definitely a one-of-a-kind kiyum of teshvu ke-ein taduru.

I have some more pictures on my facebook page, and a lot more stored on disk.


Midwest Meets Middle East: A Tale of Barter and Harsh Realities

Earlier today, I had a major errand in Alon Shvut, followed by some minor ones in Efrat. I hadn’t eaten and it was approaching noon, so I decided to pick up a couple slices at Pizzeria Efrat. By the way, if I ever open an eatery in Efrat (which I won’t), I’ll call it ‘Uchlah D’Efrat’. Daf Yomi learners will get that joke in another few weeks, after they start Beitzah.

Anyhow, I happened to be wearing a burnt-orange Texas Hillel T-shirt which said ‘Hook ‘em Horns’ in Hebrew characters on the reverse. I picked it up 3.5 years ago when the Rebbetzin and I did a Shabbaton down at UT-Austin.

It also just so happens that the proprieter of Pizzeria Efrat, the legendary Mordechai Goodman, is a Houstonian and a UT alum. He’s also, as is very well known, a football fanatic and founder of the American Touch Football League in Israel, and the UT Longhorns are reigning college football champs. If you’ve ever been to that part of the world, college football is an actual religion there. Just ask Austinian blogger Mirty.

Anyhow, so Mordechai sees my shirt and immediately says, I’ll give you the 2 slices, just give me the shirt. I agreed. He then upped the price – 4 slices and a drink – even though my shirt was already halfway off. At this, I asked for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and 2 slices – forget the other 2 and the drink. Deal. We swapped T-shirts and I took my slices and ice cream. Then we schmoozed about college football for a bit, I told him about my unique tailgate party from last year (which I’ll blog about next week), and we parted company, both very, very happy.

Great story, no?

I called the wife to tell her because she likes hearing these things from me before she reads them on my blog. She mentions that she thinks he’s the same guy who lost a son earlier in the year; an Israeli soldier lost in a parachuting accident.

Goddammit! Why does this ice cream taste so bitter?


Simchat Yom Tov, Rav Soloveitchik, and Oktoberfest

A well-known idea, articulated by R’ Soloveitchik, is that the Simcha of Yom Tov derives from the existential state of being ‘lifnei Hashem’. True joy, for the Rav, is only in the Presence of God. A quick glace at these results from Google gives an idea of just how widespread this idea of simcha has become. A neighbor of mine just came over to borrow my copy of Harerei Kedem, R’ Michel Shurkin’s cliff-notes on the Rav’s teachings about the Jewish Holidays. He is preparing a shiur on the simcha of Yom Tov. On how true simcha is lifnei Hashem. Walk over to any random guy in the RYBS orbit and ask “what’s the definition of simcha according to R’ Soloveitchik?” BAM. Lifnei Hashem.
There are different variations within this idea, depending who you ask. Lifnei Hashem might be the ultimate simcha, the true simcha, the only simcha, or the state which triggers the obligation of simcha.
Here’s the problem: it’s incorrect. It is VERY possible to have plenty of simcha with or without God, and the Torah is full of references to it. Furthermore, the Rav’s idea is not even borne out by a simple reading of the verses he uses for support. In fact, it flies in the face of a central theme of Sefer Devarim. Allow me to explain.
In the context of the 3 festivals, each time the obligation of pilgrimage is mentioned, God is referred to as ‘Adon’ – Master (as in ‘Yes, Massah’), Magnate, Landowner, Balabos. Our obligation to make the pilgrimage is formulated as the obligation of the vassal toward the magnate. Lest we begin to think that the land is actually ours, that we are entitled to it, we are enjoined to visit the true Owner thrice annually, and to bring tribute along.
This theme recurs throughout Devarim, from beginning to end. The Torah is constantly warning and legislating against growing too self-secure and forgetting God in our success. It is in the very formulation of the mitzvot of Shabbat (in the Devarim version of the Decalogue), the laws governing slavery, the obligation to pray after eating (bentching), the gift of the first fruit (bikkurim), and, as mentioned, the obligation to make pilgrimages.
It shows up in the ‘warning’ sections at the beginning of Devarim (‘kochi ve-otzem yadi being the most well-known and characteristic phrase), in the awful tochecha (which I’ll address shortly), and in Ha’azinu (va-yishman Yeshurun va-yiv’at). In the tochecha, the element of simcha appears specifically. In a well-known but oft-misunderstood section, the Torah warns against forgetting God while being in a state of simcha. If we neglect to serve him while we’re happy, we’ll end up serving our enemies from a state of material want. Simcha without God is indeed possible, but heinous and worthy of punishment.
This brings us back to sukkot, which is our time of joy (zman simchateinu). It is the Jewish ingathering festival (Chag Ha-asif), which is naturally a time of intense joy. Many, many cultures celebrate the annual gathering in the autumn. This is the time when everything that was left out in the field to dry or ferment is brought in. Right at the beginning of the winter is when there’s a lot of food available, so it’s time to party. So the Germans have Oktoberfest, the Americans – Thanksgiving, and we Jews, Sukkot. The Torah was concerned that the natural simcha of this time period would deteriorate into a simcha in which God is absent (and I’ll resist the temptation to take potshots at the way in which Simchat Torah is celebrated in many American congregations); thus, the Torah mandates that our simcha be lifnei Hashem.


My, My, My

An observation on how Israelis, sometimes, just don’t get it. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of popular websites that begin with the word ‘My’. There’s myspace, my.yahoo, my.msn, myfavoritestore, and the list goes on.

Well, now I’m in Israel, and since I don’t like waiting in lines at banks and post offices, I’m trying to automate any bill that I can. So I just registered to pay my municipal taxes online. The city of Modiin contracts a separate website to do their online collections. The name of the site is MyBills.co.il .

Now hear this, whichever American-wannabe came up with this inane name for a billing website: There’s nothing exciting or personal about bills. 'My' bills are the same damn bills as 'everyone else’s' bills. What’s wrong with bills.co.il? My ‘Space’ is unique and personalized. Municipal taxes are the great equalizer, like death. Nothing special about yours or mine.

End rant.


Toward a White String

Jeff Woolf laments the fact that religious communities tend to insulate themselves on Yom Kippur, rather than trying to include segments of the population that observe Yom Kippur (which is still the consensus) in an inviting way. He mentions Tzohar, the organization that I work for, specifically our initiative to create welcoming Yom Kippur minyanim. We estimate that we reach about 40,000 to 50,000 people, but that means that there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, who still could use a 'home' for Yom Kippur. I'm not talking about 'kiruv' or dragging people to shul, kicking and screaming. I'm talking about the average Israeli who fasts and doesn't drive a car on Yom Kippur.
In my
own neighborhood in Modiin, I davened at a new minyan (about a month old - the neighborhood is just now starting to fill up) in a local school. This was not one of Tzohar's 'official' venues, but I saw that a bunch of Tzohar's user-friendly machzorim were available. Many of my non-observant neighbors (chiloni by any definition) attended, especially for Kol Nidre and Ne'ilah (Tzohar also publishes a shorter Machzor with just Ma'ariv and Ne'ilah). It was actually very, very nice. During the highlights, the place was packed, there were tons of kids, and I noticed that many of these non-observant 'newcomers' were singing along to the common tunes. I gave my own machzor to a fellow who looked like he could use it; I knew where we were and what to expect, and he looked like he didn't. I shared with someone for the parts I didn't know by heart.
I 'm happy t
o report that I did not see a single car in motion in my 'mixed religious-secular' neighborhood for the duration of Yom Kippur. Rather, the streets were filled with kids on bikes, roller-skates, scooters, and wagons. I thought it was beautiful (a friend was lamenting all the bikes, until I pointed out that there's really no prohibition against riding a bike on Shabbat).
other really nice thing was seeing all of the Sukkot that my neighbors, 'religious' and 'secular', were out building tonight.
All in all,
one of the greatest 'discoveries' I've made sinse arriving in Modi'in is that, contrary to what I've always learned in the religious enclaves, secular Israeli culture is not bankrupt and not devoid of Judaism. There's something very shabbesdik about sitting on a beach with a watermelon that we may be missing out on. I believe that we have something to offer by making out shuls more inviting; but we must be willing to accept certain invitations as well.
ohar is truly doing wonderful work in this regard, not just by generating the opportunities for encounters, but by trying to effect a sea change in the entire relationship between these segments of the population, and beginning with the community Rabbis themselves. They can go as far as their current funding will take them, but to go where they envision going, we're talking about a budget that is simply a different order of magnitude. Hint, hint.
R' Dr. Jeff c
oncludes his post with the following:
I blame myself, and those like me, who have the tools to communicate and teach, but spend their Yamim Nora'im in religious enclaves. Bli Neder, I intend to find a way to do Teshuvah for that. I urge others to do the same.
It's for this very reason that we chose to live in a city where the random, neigborly encounters offer opportunities to 'communicate and teach' - and, I'd add, to learn. As wonderful as Efrat and Gush Etzion are (I use those examples because I know that I have readers there), and they are truly wonderful, they do not provide those opportunities for chance encounters that cosmopolitan cities provide.
Perhaps it's time f
or the Religious Zionist communities to 're-engage' the urban centers (which are not just composed of oligarchs and Ha'aretz reporters) with all of the confidence and strength that it has accumulated over the past 40 years of incubation on the hilltops (see my series on R' Shimon b. Yochai for more perspective on this phenomenon).
Then maybe we'll begin t
o see some white in that string.

A Very Bizarre Yom Kippur Dream

I rarely remember my own dreams, and they’re usually not much to report, but I had one on Yom Kippur night which was truly strange, and I think I know what it means. Here’s what happened.

In restless dreams I woke up to the sounds of marauders breaking in to my home through the roof on Yom Kippur. I run to the bathroom door, from where they would gain entry to the rest of my house, and try to prevent them from doing so. I scream for my wife to get the kids out of harm’s way and to call the police. The marauders are not people. They are a teeming black amorphous something.

My the time the police arrive, I’ve been killed; beaten to an unrecognizable bloody pulp. The police officer looks around and kind of nonchalantly says there’s nothing he can do. It’s clear he knows more, that this was perpetrated by an evil that he will not confront, or even that he has a deal with to let it run its course without trying to stop it.

So what does it mean? Certain aspects art clear. Having just moved into a new home in a new country, there are certain natural anxieties about protecting one’s family from many an unnamed danger. The fact that I’ve yet to padlock the roof access adds a bit to that anxiety.

The rest of it is Yom Kippur imagery, specifically pertaining to the ritual of the se’ir ha-mishtale’ach, the scapegoat. According to Nachmanides, the idea of this ritual is to ‘throw a bone’ to an evil demigod called Azazel. The goat that was sacrificed was thrown from a cliff; the Mishna records that the goat would be utterly destroyed before it was even halfway down the cliff.

It seems that my own anxieties have transposed themselves onto this scapegoat imagery, with myself as the scapegoat. I fear that I have ‘sacrificed’ myself – career, money, peace-of-mind – for the sake of my family. The ‘unnamed evil’ somehow has an unspoken agreement with the powers that be here in Israel. There will always be a few who are chewed up and spit out.

I hope that these fears remain just fears. Maybe my dreams will be more pleasant next Yom Kippur.


One Blogger’s Confessional

On the sins that we committed before You out of apathy
And on the sins that we committed before You out of anger
On the sins that we committed before You by bullying
And on the sins that we committed before You by bashing
On the sins that we committed before You out of condescension
And on the sins that we committed before You out of curiosity
On the sins that we committed before You out of doubt
And on the sins that we committed before You out of dogma
On the sins that we committed before You environmentally
And on the sins that we committed before You emphatically
On the sins that we committed before You out of fantasy
And on the sins that we committed before You out of fear
On the sins that we committed before You out of greed
And on the sins that we committed before You through others’ gullibility
On the sins that we committed before You hungrily
And on the sins that we committed before You hurriedly
On the sins that we committed before You out of ignorance
And on the sins that we committed before You out of inhumanity
On the sins that we committed before You joyously
And on the sins that we committed before You jadedly
On the sins that we committed before You by not acting kindly
And on the sins that we committed before You for the sake of kinship
On the sins that we committed before You out of laziness
And on the sins that we committed before You out of lust
On the sins that we committed before You monetarily
And on the sins that we committed before You by mocking
On the sins that we committed before You through narcissism
And on the sins that we committed before You for the sake of nonsense
On the sins that we committed before You through ostentation
And on the sins that we committed before You through opportunism
On the sins that we committed before You philosophically
And on the sins that we committed before You without patience
On the sins that we committed before You out of quietism
And on the sins that we committed before You through phony quaking
On the sins that we committed before You through ridicule
And on the sins that we committed before You through racism
On the sins that we committed before You stubbornly
And on the sins that we committed before You through speech
On the sins that we committed before You through touch
And on the sins that we committed before You through taste
On the sins that we committed before You unabashedly
And on the sins that we committed before You for the sake of unity
On the sins that we committed before You vicariously
And on the sins that we committed before You viciously
On the sins that we committed before You wastefully
And on the sins that we committed before You willfully
On the sins that we committed before You out of xenophobia
And on the sins that we committed before You that are X-rated
On the sins that we committed before You out of youthful indiscretion
And on the sins that we committed before You by yelling
On the sins that we committed before You out of zeal
And on the sins that we committed before You with zest

For all of these, O Clement God, Grant us Clemency, Forgive us, Excuse us