Posts Tagged 'Shmini'

One Dance: Multiple Intellengence

Shemini, this week’s Torah portion, starts on the eighth day, following the seven days of their inauguration of the Tabernacle. Connected to this theme we see in the Haftarah the image of King David dancing and whirled with all his might as they brought the Ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the City of David to inaugurate its new location. While he was rejoicing his wife Michal was disgusted by what she perceived to be David’s completely demeaning to the office of the King.

There we read:

David went home to greet his household. And Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “Didn’t the king of Israel do himself honor today — exposing himself today in the sight of the slavegirls of his subjects, as one of the riffraff might expose himself!” David answered Michal, “It was before the Lord who chose me instead of your father and all his family and appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel! I will dance before the Lord and dishonor myself even more, and be low in my own esteem; but among the slavegirls that you speak of I will be honored.” ( II Samuel  6:20-22)
Michal was discussed with David and claims that he embarrassed himself. In return David lashed out at her rubbing her father’s down fall in her face. At the core of their disagreement is a discussion as to what is the proper conduct.
I cannot stop thinking that Michal and David’s dispute was rooted in their having dramatically different ways of experiencing the world. Did Michal and David have different Intelligences? First proposed by Howard Gardner  in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, he wrote that there are different modalities that people take in the world. Over time Gardner’s list of  different modalities grew to include:
  1. Musical-rhythmic and harmonic
  2. Visual-spatial
  3. Verbal-linguistic
  4. Logical-mathematical
  5. Bodily-kinesthetic
  6. Interpersonal
  7. Intrapersonal
  8. Naturalistic 
  9. Existential 
Is it possible to imagine that David had Musical-rhythmic and harmonic and Bodily-kinesthetic intelligences while Michal had Interpersonal intelligence? Why is so hard for us to empathize with people with different intelligences?
Realizing this I thought if we better understood the different modalities we might get along better. Maybe if Michal and David understood this they could not have had this fight. Check out this new resource called How we Learn and Make Meaning  that I developed on understanding the Multiple Intelligences with some Jewish context.
Advertisements

Listening To Survivors: Shemini and Yom HaShoa

Just about a week ago we celebrated our salvation at the division of the Red Sea with the concluding days of Passover. There we were witness to God’s miracles and the death of other people’s children. Our response was to sing songs. The Gemara says:

The Egyptians were drowning in the sea. At the same time, the angels wanted to sing before God, and the Lord, God, said to them: ‘My creations are drowning and you are singing before me?’ (Sanhedrin 37)

Here we see God silencing the angels for their callous behavior. The death of the Egyptians seems to be a moment for silence, or at the least not a time for singing. By implication this Gemara is teaching us a lesson of compassion. If this is true for our enemy, we can only imagine the appropriate response for  the death of a friend or a loved one.

As a parent the voice of God admonishing the angels stings. It is hard to imagine how I would respond upon hearing the death of one of my children, let alone two of them. In Shemini, this week’s Torah portion, we read of Aaron’s response to hearing the death of two of his sons. There we read:

Then Moses said to Aaron: ‘This is it that the Lord spoke, saying: Through them that are close to Me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ And Aaron was silent. (Leviticus 10:3)

I could imagine many responses, but not one of them is silence. What can we learn from Aaron’s deafening silence?

With Yom HaShoa being commemorated this past week, I am shocked as to the tremendous amount of literature still being written about the Holocaust. All of these years later, we cannot even imagine slowing down on that topic. I am not saying we should silence, forget, or deny history for a moment the atrocities of the Holocaust. The opposite is true. There is a certain urgency now more than ever to tell those stories. Sadly we are in the waning years of having survivors in our community. We need them to share their stories before they are gone.

While we need to hear their stories about how they survived near death, it is even more important to learn how they lived. My friend Rav Josh Feigelson recently pointed out:

The 2013 Pew Research Center survey of American Jews found that 73 percent of respondents said that “remembering the Holocaust” was “essential to being Jewish,” the highest item on a list that included “leading an ethical/moral life,” “caring about Israel,” “observing Jewish law,” and “eating traditional Jewish foods,” among others.

If we are blessed to hear their stories we need to hear their whole story. As Rav Josh pointed out we, “unwittingly brought about a Jewish self-image in which Auschwitz is not just on par with Sinai, but comes to displace it.”  We need humility and inner fortitude to hear the faint voice of Sinai. It takes a moment to learn how Jews have died, it takes a lifetime to learn how we should live.

In conclusion I want to point out the difference between what we want and what they the survivors need. We want them to talk, but do they want to talk? Aaron was silent at the death of his children. Surely we are humbled by the presence of survivors. We are here to listen to anything they want to tell us.  We need to need to  give them that time and space to speak, even if they like Aaron want to be quiet.

Holy Evolution

A little girl asked her mother, “Where did human kind come from?’ The mother answered, ‘God made Adam and Eve and they had children and so the story goes. From them came the human race.” Two days later the girl asked her father the same question. The father answered, “Many years ago there were apes from which the human race evolved.” The confused girl returned to her mother and said, “Mom how is it possible that you told me the human race was created by God, and Dad said they evolved from apes?” The mother answered, “Well, dear, it is very simple.I told you about my side of the family and your father told you about his.”
This joke is funny for the very reason that it is important to give some thought to how we talk about the origin of our species to our children. Are we like Adam and Eve in that we too were created in the image of God? Are we arrested that we falling away from the greatness of Adam and Eve? Or alternatively is our origin the lowly ape? Are we progressing away from apes and our ancestors? Does either have an impact on how we treat our elders or ourselves? As a Modern Orthodox Jew I do not feel that I need to apologize for either my conviction in science or the Torah, both are true. But having a complex understanding of the world does not make it easier as a parent . I understand this issue is often framed as a zero sum, one is right or the other.  What will I tell my children about the narratives as to the origin of the human race? Or even more importantly, what values are communicated in the story ?
I was thinking about these questions when reading the transition from the end of Shmini, last week’s Torah portion, and the start of Tazria, this week’s Torah portion. At the end of Shmini we read all of the laws of Kashrut, what animals we can and cannot eat. At the start of Tazria we read:
Speak to the children of Israel, saying: If a woman be delivered, and bear a man-child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of the impurity of her sickness shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. ( Leviticus 12:2-3)
On this Rashi quotes Midrash:
Rabbi Simlai said, ” Just as the fashioning of man came after all cattle, beast , and fowl  in the Torah’s account of the Myth of Creation so is the case with God’s law explaining [this] after the law of cattle, beast, and fowl.” (Vayikra Rabbah 14:1)

Might this narrative give us what we are looking for? A combination of divine dignity of all people coming down from Adam and Eve without the feeling that we are falling away from greatness. Might we actually couple the idea of human progress of evolution with the idea that we are but animals? We have a holy responsibility as the top of the evolutionary chain.

Listening for Silence

Just a few days ago we celebrated our salvation at the division of the Red Sea with the concluding days of Passover. There we were witness to God’s miracles and the death of other people’s children. Our response was to sing a song. The Gemara says:

The Egyptians were drowning in the sea. At the same time, the angels wanted to sing before God, and the Lord, God, said to them: ‘My creations are drowning and you are singing before me?’ (Sanhedrin 37)

Here we see God silencing the angels for their callous behavior. By implication this Gemara is teaching us a lesson in compassion. There seems to be moments for silence, or at the least not singing. If this is true for our enemy, we can only imagine the response for a friend of a loved one.

As a parent it is hard to imagine how I would respond upon hearing the death of one of my children, let alone two of them. In Shemini, this week’s Torah portion, we read of Aaron’s response to hearing the death of two of his sons. There we read:

Then Moses said to Aaron: ‘This is it that the Lord spoke, saying: Through them that are close to Me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ And Aaron was silent. (Leviticus 10:3)

I could imagine many responses, but not one of them is silence. What can we learn from Aaron’s deafening silence?

With Yom HaShoa being commemorated this past week, I am shocked as to the tremendous amount of literature still being written about the Holocaust. All of these years later, we cannot even imagine slowing down on that topic. I am not saying we should forget or deny history for a moment. The opposite is true. There is a certain urgency now more than ever to tell the story. We are in the waning years of keeping the holy company of survivors in our community. We need them to share their stories before they are gone. The only things I wanted ask is what do they the survivors want? We want them to talk, but do they want to talk? Aaron was silent at the death of his children. Surely we are humbled by their presence. We are here to listen to anything the survivors want to tell us. We need to need to  give them that time and space, even if they like Aaron want to be quiet. We can try to drown our sorrows, but never our memories.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,463 other followers

Archive By Topic

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: