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You are partial!

Thursday, 31 December, 2015 - 7:58 am

You are partial! I am partial! We are all partial!  Why? No one is impartial. People are different and come from their own viewpoints  Everyone favors one side in a dispute above the other. People often make judgments about me and my family because we try to be observant Jews in Harford County.  They may have opinions, of one kind or another, about Jews or about observant Jews and put us in some category without even having met us.

Anyone who has studied Talmud has heard of Rav and Shmuel, two Talmudic sages.  Rav was the Rabbi in Sura and was the author (or editor) of the Aleinu prayer.  Shmuel was the Rabbi in Nehardea and was known to be quick to honor anyone he had learned from or to immediately admit fault when he was wrong.

In the many debates between these two Sages, we rule (conclude) that the law agrees with Rav in laws relating to what may or may not be done.  However, we rule like Shmuel in monetary matters and laws about interpersonal relationships.

The reason for this is that both Rav and Shmuel were partial, having their own perspectives in how to interpret the Torah.  Of course, both of them followed the "Torah's rules of derivation." But each had a different approach.  Rav's passion was in religious law and his partiality led him to interpret the law from that prism.  Shmuel, on the other hand, had his own focus, which made him particularly suitable to rule on interpersonal relationships.

When they learned the verse in this week's Torah portion: "Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph," (Exodus 1:8) - both Rav and Shmuel could not understand the words "who knew not Joseph."  Joseph was the viceroy of Egypt, and he was known far and wide.  They also knew that this king was no friend of the Jews, as the Torah continues to relate how he enslaved them with backbreaking labor.

Shmuel, whose worldview is from the perspective of interpersonal relationships, says that the new king was the same Pharaoh who Jacob had blessed.  Yet he was new only in his decrees and style of governance.  Pharaoh was lacking in basic gratitude to the family of Joseph who had saved him and his country, and he was not a mensch.

Rav, on the other hand, says that the Pharaoh was literally a new king and his egregious sin was against G-d.  How could someone enslave people who had never accepted him as their ruler? Rav saw Pharaoh as a tyrant - that kind of injustice.

Each one interpreted this verse in Torah based on their own particular and partial view.  Feel free to join us Wednesdays at 7:30pm for our open parsha discussion and you will see how others like you interpret, debate and discuss the Torah portion.

Have a good Shabbos,

    Rabbi Kushi Schusterman


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