Thoughts on Judaism

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Rashi on Becoming Frei

The Baraitha states: He “went out” of Moses’ court guilty. He had come to pitch his tent within the camp of the tribe of Dan. So he said to him, “What right do you have to be here?” he said, “I am of the descendants of Dan”. They said to him, “each man ... according to ... his father’s household". He entered Moses’ court, and came out guilty. Then, he arose and blasphemed. — [Vayikra Rabbah 32:3]

According to Rashi, this was the son of the Egyptian that Moshe killed.   Rashis says in Shemot that "Moses looked this way and that and he saw that there was no man" means that he looked into the man's future and saw no one descending from him of value.  Yet, here we have the son he bore to Shlomit bat Divri while raping her according to Midrash there.  In the Rashi in Vayikra, Rashi calls her a prostitute, in that she greeted every man (Shlomit, from the greeting Shalom and Divri from the fact that she spoke to every man).

So this man converted to Judaism, and he had the potential to be someone special, though Moshe saw through prophecy that he would fail and Moshe had a part in it himself.  But what position was he put in?  His mother was from Dan and his father was Egyptian.  Through no fault of his own, he was an outcast, due to the circumstance of his birth, which neither his mother nor he had chosen.  He wanted to join the Israelite camp, but they stood on yichus and his mother's low status.  Instead of finding reasons to m'karev him, they found reasons to ostracize him.  Had he left Dan, no tribe would take him, grounding themselves in the same argument.  Where was he supposed to go?

This is not to say that the Danite or Moshe was wrong.  They were absolutely correct about halacha.  However, they missed the point about kiruv and they caused a man to commit blasphemy through it.  When someone commits this sin, all around must tear their clothes in mourning, similar to a death or a sefer Torah being destroyed.  It is a sadness on everyone, not just the one who commits the sin.  

What lesson must we take?  Many Jewish youngsters find themselves in the position where they do not belong.  Orthodox Judaism presents a face to them and expects them to conform, saying "look how many tribes there are. You can choose."  But if all of those tribes do not allow him to stay, if each leader looks at him and says "he has issues, not my problem," then we send them to the court with nothing left to do, and he has nothing left to do but curse us and leave.  Even Shlomit and her son from a forced relationship with a captor deserve better leadership.  Our own children certainly do.


  • That story always bothered me as well. So many of us are children of an interfaith marriage (halachically Jewish, but with no yichus because our fathers were not Jewish). Where do we belong.

    By Blogger AztecQueen2000, at 11:24 AM  

  • The sad thing is that, in our times, everything about yichus rests on presumption, and the claims of people who lived centuries ago. There is no basis to say that celebrity Rav X has any "better" yichus than simple Jew Y.

    There was a saying in yeshiva. That the zeroes that follow a one make the one a greater number. But the zeroes are still zeroes. So too is yichus. The one gets his strength from the zeroes that follow him, not those that precede him (or her).

    By Anonymous rebeljew, at 5:25 AM  

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