When people begin to learn Torah together, they argue, neither seeing what the other is trying to say. But by the time they are done, they will come to love each other, to appreciate what the other is saying. This is read midrashically into a verse. The verse begins with “the wars of the Lord.” But the end of the verse quotes some difficult words “vahav besufah.” “Vahav” the rabbis read as related to “ahavah,” “love.” “Besufah” they change to “besofah” which means “at the end. So there is war in the beginning but love at the end.
This baraita plays on another word in the Shema, reading it as if it says that God gave Israel a perfect drug (or as Huey Lewis would say, a new drug). The baraita reflects on the strange fact that although we Judaism considers humanity as created in the image of God, we also have evil desires. God created us with these desires, but also with their antidote, Torah. Through Torah study, one can conquer the evil urge.
I do not believe that this source is saying that those who study Torah will have no sexual urges—rabbis do not seem to believe this at all. Rather, study of Torah, of how one is to act in the world, reflecting on what it means to be human, all of this should, indeed must, lead to an inner transformation that allows us to have control over our lives. The baraita reads the famous verse from Genesis, stated to Adam after he ate the fruit of the tree (and the subject of one of my favorite books, East of Eden). Sin crouches at the door, but with proper reflection on Torah, humans can learn to act in a decent, moral way.
Today’s sugya continues to discuss the evil inclination.
These three statements talk about how difficult the Evil Inclination is and that the only remedy is the help of God. The Talmud will continue to the video.
Torah is like fire and water, overcoming the hard rock or iron of the Evil Inclination.
The Talmud now goes on to discuss the next responsibility a father has for his children—to marry them off. As we shall see, this plays out a little differently for sons than it does for daughters. Still, it seems that in this case, the rabbis think that a father has equal responsibility vis a vis both male and female children.
A father can find a wife for his son, and, the Talmud seems to assume, force his son to marry the woman. But a father cannot really force another man to marry his daughter. But what he can do is provide her with a good-sized dowry, clothes and help make her attractive so that men will want to marry her. In the ancient world, where decisions on marriage were made by parents for practical reasons, there is no doubt that this was a primary consideration in choosing a spouse.
This notion of how parents marry off their children may be somewhat antiquated, but I still think that this is what parents essentially do. They try to provide their children with education and other opportunities so that they will be able to go out into the world, choose for themselves a spouse and start their own families. As someone who has two children who (hopefully) in the next ten years will be in the marriage market, I can testify that I do think about this a lot. What can I do to help my children be most prepared for starting their lives in the real world, including finding partners with whom to build their lives.
Kohelet compares a wife with a livelihood. Whether wife is meant to be taken literally or figuratively, the verse can be read as mandating that a father teach his child a means through which to earn a living.
Teach your children to swim—their life may depend on it.
According to R. Judah, a father must teach his son a real craft—i.e. how to make things.
According to the other opinion in the mishnah, as long as he teaches him a way to make money, he has fulfilled his obligation.
The mishnah rules that “obligations of the father on the son” are incumbent on both the father and mother. The question is—what is the meaning of this phrase?
Any mitzvah that a child must do for a parent is incumbent upon both the daughter and the son.
There is a grammatical tension in Leviticus 19:3. The verse opens with “a man” which implies that only men are obligated to fear their parents. But the plural verb implies that both men and women are. The rabbis resolve this by saying that all children are obligated to fear their parents (below the Talmud will explain what this entails). But women, who in talmudic times moved to their husband’s house) are not mentioned in the outset of the verse because they do not always have the ability to fulfill this mitzvah. However, when/if they are divorced or widowed, they revert to a full obligation to honor their parents.
The Torah three times uses the same language to refer to parents as it does to God, because as we shall see parents and God are partners in creating the child.
There is one law that refers to parents that cannot refer to God—striking. It is impossible to strike God physically.
Rabbi [Yehudah Hanasi] picks up on the different order between mother and father in the verse about fear and the verse about honor. He explains that in each case the Torah speaks against a person’s inclination. Children are inclined to honor their mothers and fear their fathers (I know, it’s definitely sexist, but I wonder if this is still often true. It is in our family). Therefore the Torah teaches them to honor their fathers and fear their mothers. Both parents are due an equal portion of fear and honor.
This week’s daf continues to deal with honoring one’s parents.
This one hits home hard. Definitely written by a parent well-versed in eliciting guilt.