Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Scotch and the Angel of Death

On Friday evening, February the 17th, after a long and filling Shabbat dinner, several dozen students clamored up the stairway in the Long Beach JCC to hear words of wisdom from the great Rav Shmuel. With a bottle of scotch, a beer, and a smile, Rav Shmuel began to teach about the Parashah from a few weeks ago. The sages teach "Ein kemach, ein Torah" -- "Without flour there is no Torah, no learning", and I'm sure that Sierra Nevada suffices for flour, right? We passed around copies of the Torah reading and commentary and followed along as the Rabbi slowly annunciated each sentence. Often, he would stop and discuss Rashy's (Rabbi Shlomo bar Yitzchak) commentary of the nuances of the text. Rashy is quite a bad ass when it comes to clarifying ambiguity and finding middleground between aparent contradiction.

The highlight of the learning is a contradiction that revolves around how the 10th plague will come about. G!d tells Moses that G!d G!d'self will bring death upon all the first-born Egyptian males, and Rashy acknowleges this. Later, Moses tells the Israelites that G!d's agent, the Angel of Death (Malach Ha'mavet/s) will bring death upon the first-born sons of Egypt, which Rashy also acknowledges. So the question is raised, how can Rashy believe that it is G!d and the Angel of Death at the SAME DAMN TIME??? Quite a puzzler indeed *raises eyebrow and cleans out pipe in leather chair with smoking jacket*

Sighting Hassidic commentary, Rav Shmuel explained the contradiction, which made excellent sense in the moment. But then again, that moment was 12:30am, and several students were dozing in the leather reclining conference room chairs. And then it happened ... my stomach was grumbling, a good sign of being a growing Jewish boy, err, man. Apparently, that filling Shabbat dinner had not held me deep into the night. Luckily to my rescue, some of the staff students brought in trays of egg rolls and other oriental things to nosh. It's funny how when you least expect it, Chinese food sneaks up on you. Traditional Jewish food rides again!!!

Anyway, Rav Shmuel then went on to discuss why the Israelites were commanded to eat MATZAH, yes, that flatbread of oppression, the contributor of constipation. It was extremely curious becuase they were supposed to eat it on the NIGHT BEFORE they left Egypt and they were especially supposed to eat it fast. All of this is gone from my memory, because by the time Rav Shmuel had finished the explanation, the scotch was gone.

Rav Shmuel concluded the lesson, and most of the students left. But a few students remained to talk to the Rabbi. We implored him to continue teaching us from his vast and ever wonderous wisdom, but he insisted that he couldn't teach without more scotch. And then the miraculous happened, more scotch arrived. So Rav Shmuel taught deep into the night, till at least 3 or 4. But around 2:30am I was exhausted and decided that I could learn more if I was awake the next day, so off to bed I went.

Thank you Rav Shmuel for a great shiur. If anyone remembers what the answers were, please remind me.

Note to Self: Less Kemach, more Torah, 'cause the more Kemach, the more Asprin :)


Blogger G-D SQUAD said...

Wow, Netmessiah, I'm so glad you remembered all that. Great post. I was way into Rav Shmuel's shiur, but I was def "fading fast" as they say, and didn't hold onto too many of the details. How can we get him to come to Santa Cruz?

Wed Feb 22, 11:29:00 AM 2006  
Blogger netmessiah said...

someone, maybe flip, sugguested we collect pocket change, and maybe buy the time moshiach comes we can flyy him out here to taech

Wed Feb 22, 06:28:00 PM 2006  

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