Monday, August 16, 2004

Re-eh: Permission to enjoy (later disputed?)

This parsha/weekly Torah reading tells us that we should rejoice upon bringing a sacrifice to the Bet haMikdash/Holy Temple and eating it, and that we have permission to eat and enjoy meat even when we can’t bring it to the Bet haMikdash to sacrifice it. It also tells us to rejoice in our festival of Sukkot. Biblical Judaism doesn’t have a problem with permissible pleasure.

How did we get from there to “all this world is a narrow bridge, and the essential is not to be afraid at all?” (I hope that’s a reasonably correct translation of “Kol ha-olam kulo gesher tzar m’od, v’ha-ikar lo l’fached klal.”) Granted that centuries of prosecution may have had something to do with that, but I think the problem may have begun before the prosecution.

The local Jewish paper recently printed a commentary expressing appreciation for the bit of balance that the rabbis put into our lives by instituting the semi-mourning periods of Sefirat haOmer (Sefirah) in the spring and the “Drei Vachen”/”Three Weeks” (leading up to and including Tisha B’Av) in the summer. Personally, I have a completely different theory.

Based on absolutely no research whatsoever, but strictly on a hunch and on what little I know about West Asian and European pagan religions, I have a strong suspicion that the prohibition against almost all weddings during Sefirah had less to do with mourning for the victims of a supposed plague among Torah students and more to do with preventing us from participating in spring fertility rituals. And I find it hard to believe that the rabbis didn't put a damper on our fun and games right smack in the middle of summer for a similar reason. Sometimes I think the rabbanim/rabbis had, and have, less faith in our ability to behave ourselves that the Torah did.


Blogger Soferet said...

I agree with 100% & applaude you for being the voice who finally said this out loud.
Shavu'ah tov,

Sun May 22, 04:35:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Wow, guess those archives are worth keeping. Welcome to my blog!

It is, indeed, a source of no small concern to me that so many sources of pleasure seem to have been declared off limits by the rabbis. Is it a sin to enjoy the springtime? And why must we refrain from swimming during the hottest part of the year?

Have you heard the latest? Apparently, the rabbis in England have declared strawberries treif, and are considering requiring much much stringent inspection of onions, because of tiny insects. This, along with the the prohibition against drinking unfiltered water in New York City...(See another old post of mine, which I believe I called "Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink--Rabbis declare New York City water treif...") Need I say more?

Wed May 25, 11:18:00 PM 2005  

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