Monday, November 1, 2010

Halacha with Compassion: A lesson from our Master

Celebrating the fall feasts, working towards marriage, and just working over time leaves me with very little time for blogging. So my apologies for being so tardy in posting, but you’ll just have to forgive me. For now blogging is low on my priority list, but I really love doing it.
That being said, I would like to bring your attention to a very interesting pasak (verse/passage) in the Talmud that deals with a Halacha of our Master, given to us through a discussion that R’ Eliazer had with Jacob of Kafar Sachinah (who some scholars say is Jacob the lesser).  We find this Pasak in Avodah Zarah 17a the story is as follows:
 “Akiva you have reminded me. 'I was once walking in the upper-market of Sepphoris when I came across one [of the disciples of Jesus the Nazarene] Jacob of Kefar-Sekaniah by name, who said to me: “It is written in your Torah, ‘You shall not bring the hire of a harlot … into the house of the Lord your God.’  May such money be applied to the erection of a retiring place for the High Priest?” (i.e his bathroom) To which I made no reply. Said he to me: “Therefore I was taught [by Jesus the Nazarene], ‘For of the hire of a harlot she has gathered them and unto the hire of a harlot they will return.'  They came from a place of filth; let them go to a place of filth.” Those words pleased me very much, and that is why I was arrested for apostasy; for thereby I transgressed the scriptural words, ‘Remove your way far from her’ — which refers to minut (Heresy)  — ‘and come not near to the door of her house,’  — which refers to the ruling power.”
In this story we find a disciple of Yeshua asking R’ Eliazer a Halachic question regarding the donation of money to the Temple from an impure source (i.e. harlotry). When R’ Eliazer is unable to answer, Jacob gives him the tradition from our master, that it may be used to build the High Priest’s bathroom (“place of sitting”, in Talmudic terminology the bathroom is called Beit Kiss’eh, “house of the chair”).
This Halacha from our Master pleases R’ Eliazer very much.
And it pleases me very much to see our Master’s words recorded and preserved in the pages of the Talmud.  I do believe this saying is authentic for the following reasons:
a.    It follows well with Yeshua’s focus on compassion, and the desire to see all people connect with the Mitzvoth on some level.
b.   By saying that the money could be used for the Temple bathroom, he is upholding the Torah (Deuteronomy 23:18)* and also allowing an otherwise sinner to connect with Hashem on some level. 

We should keep this in the forefront of our minds in our daily lives and we should strive to always uphold the Torah, while still keeping the inner Torah (ethical matters) front and center.

*This passage deals with money coming from a harlot for the sanctuary of the Temple; however, the bathroom is not found in the sanctuary of the Temple. Here Yeshua is upholding the Torah in not allowing her money to be used for the Sanctuary, but also allowing her the opportunity to connect to Hashem.