«Jewish Observer»
July 2002
5762 Av

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"It is not for you to completely improve the world creation
but you should not stay aside of this process."

Rabbi Tarfun, treatise "Avot", 2:16

As our elderly say, the improvement of the world ("tikum olam") is impossible without knowing the Torah, which we have already lost. The article by V.Nakhmanovich in the "Jewish Observer" about the lost Torah aroused many interesting and suggestive views from many readers. I also want to say some words about it.

First of all, I would like to say a few words about the justifiability of the secular Jewish art, literature in particular.

Aron Tseitin (1898-1973), whom I. Bashevis-Zinger called in his Nobel-prize lecture an outstanding Jewish writer and philosopher, wrote that there couldn't be any poetic creativity without " ruakh akodesh", that is without sanctity. It is a remarkable feature of the great Jewish literature because it is full of the spirit of sanctity, starting from the works of Mendel Moikher-Shorim, I.L. Perets, Sholom-Aleikhem, Bergelson and many other writers.

It is owing to the spirit of " ruakh akodesh" in the works of Jewish writers Chachkis (Argon) and Bashevis that they were awarded the Nobel Prize.

The motivation to a creative activity is a gift given by God. Thus, the real art in all its forms is impossible without God's enlightenment. Let us remember the construction of the temporary Temple. Many skilful hands of men and women, "wise hearts" (Khakhamim lev) were penetrated by "God's spirit, wisdom, understanding, knowledge and different arts..."(Exodus 30-31: 3-4).

That is why there are many genetically talented craftsmen, artists, sculptors, thinkers and writers among Jews. In addition, being free in their choice, the Jews widely used their creative fantasy and made wonderful specimen of inspired art. During the period of wild assimilation the Jewish creativity lacked sanctity. In that period the Jews didn't read Torah and didn't put on the tfillin.

If V. Nakhmanovich cares for the lost Torah, A.Tseitlina thought about "how to return a Jew his lost tfillin". Why, and what is tfillin?

Tfillin are two small leather cubic containers with leather straps made from hides of kosher animals. One container is fixed to the biceps of the left hand, opposite the heart; the second container is placed onto the middle of the forehead, above the eyes.

There are four excerpts from the Torah inside the containers. They are written on the parchment and make up the tfillin commandment. This commandment is found in Exodus (13; 16) and in Deuteronomy (6:4-9). Here are the words from the Book of Exodus: "Let it be the sign on your hand and between your eyes that God's strong hand took us from Egypt".

So, tfillin are one of Torah's signs. It is complicated by its outward form and demands that all its parts be properly made. Kabbala says that tfillin are used to communicate with God, if properly manufactured. Tfillin are very important in the Jewish ritual dogma. Beside holidays, say, Saturday, they should be put on every day. If one does not manage to put them on for morning praying, he can do it during the day at any time but before the sunset.

As to S.Averbuch's article "I need everyone, I care for everyone", it is rather interesting by its leitmotiv in the light of several excursions through TaNaKha's pages about the unity of the people at all levels - between those on the top and those who are below.

Let's remember Easter Agada where four types of pupils are mentioned. They are asking about the essence of Pesakh holiday. One of them does not know about it at all. However, they are all pupils. They all should be taught and brought up as they are all equal before Agada.

Let's remember a praying ritual over Lulav. At first, Sukkot Lulav looks like a bunch of so called "arba minim", that is four kinds of herbs symbolizing four types of Jews by the level of their piety. They are all different but they are tied in one bunch.

Let's remember a chapter from the Book of Exodus about the ritual of smoking aromatic herbs in the Temple. Among herbs is "khelbna" - a spice with an unpleasant smell. According to Rashi, a famous commentator of the Torah, khelbna reminds us that we should involve also sinful Jews in our prayers and fasting. They are our people, too. They also need to read the Torah and put on tfillin in proper time...


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