Tuesday, March 21, 2023

An Appeal to President Vladimir Putin to Try to Chill Out by Rabbi  Shalom C. Spira

 President Vladimir Putin has hijacked the democratic machinery of the Russian government, invaded Ukraine and suspended the nuclear arms control pact with the United States, as reported at <https://hamodia.com/2023/02/21/putin-suspends-start-nuclear-pact/>As such, it seems as though we are faced with a development where "the Holy One, Blessed Be He, will arrange for a king with difficult decrees like Haman, and the Jewish People will repent and be improved" (Sanhedrin 97b).

      To that effect, I suggested earlier this year at <http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2023/01/a-reiterated-plea-to-russia-to-stop.html> that praying in a synagogue with a formidable partition is an effective way to send a message to President Putin to pursue peace. Interestingly, an allusion to this thesis can be gleaned from the sobering tractate currently being studied in the Daf Yomi. The Gemara, Nazir 4b, relates how Shimon ha-Tzaddik was consulted by a gentleman became seized by his evil inclination when he saw his reflection in the water, the remedy for which was for the latter to become a nazirite. Remarkably, the seemingly innocuous experience of the gentleman beholding his own face was enough to disturb his spiritual harmony. How much more so, then, is it reasonable to assume that if a gentleman would see a lady's face (which is biblically prohibited pursuant to Deut. 23:10 as elucidated by the Gemara, Avodah Zarah 20a-b), he would certainly be unable to pray, such that a properly constructed synagogue partition ought to protect worshippers from such a misadventure.
      Indeed, a prayer service that follows this standard has recently been publicized at  <https://www.yiddishvideos.com/post/hachnosas-sefer-torah-%D7%94%D7%9B%D7%A0%D7%A1%D7%AA-%D7%A1%D7%A4%D7%A8-%D7%AA%D7%95%D7%A8%D7%94-%D7%91%D7%A7%D7%94%D7%99%D7%9C%D7%AA-%D7%A4%D7%A0%D7%99-%D7%9E%D7%A0%D7%97%D7%9D-%D7%91%D7%A8%D7%90%D7%A9%D7%95%D7%AA-%D7%A8%D7%90%D7%A9-%D7%94%D7%99%D7%A9%D7%99%D7%91%D7%94-%D7%9E%D7%92%D7%95%D7%A8-%D7%9E%D7%A8%D7%9F-%D7%94%D7%92%D7%A8-%D7%A9-%D7%90%D7%9C%D7%AA%D7%A8-%D7%A9>. It is the inauguration of a Torah scroll on the eve of Shavu'ot, consistent with Sfat Emet's opinion that this is the preferred timing for such an event. [See R. Yisrael David Harfenes, Teshuvot Mekadesh Yisrael (Shavu'ot), no. 55, final paragraph, available online at <https://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=59547&st=&pgnum=341>.] Especially well choreographed is the song la'asot nachat ru'ach at 28:35 into the recording, with the flute audibly playing solo in the background, inspirationally reminiscent of the Rejoicing of the Water Drawing [as per the Mishnah, Sukkah 50a, that the event was named for the flute featured prominently in its orchestra], the latter event representing a halakhic source for the obligation to construct a separate ladies' gallery in the synagogue [dutifully obeyed on this videotape].  
      The Gemara, Yoma 69a, relates how Shimon ha-Tzaddik interceded with Alexander the Great to refrain from destroying the Temple by the former greeting the latter while attired in the special robe of the High Priest. Apparently, his unique vestments impressed upon the emperor that the Temple service should inspire a global superpower to refrain from violence. While we do not have a High Priest or Temple anymore [until the messianic era], we do have a Torah scroll, which is "the reliable witness to all humanity" (Rambam, Hilkhot Sefer Torah 10:11; Shulchan Arukh Yoreh De'ah 282:1). Hence, President Putin should watch this video – filled with Jews taking care not to trample one another while dancing with the Torah scroll  and be inspired to reach a peaceful resolution to his conflict with Ukraine. [And see the Gemara, Megillah 11a, which elucidates Leviticus 26:44 as a guarantee that the Jewish People will survive all the global superpowers of history, whether it be Haman, Alexander or any future regime.] 

Rabbi Spira works as the Editor of Manuscripts and Grants at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research [a Pavillion of the Jewish General Hospital] in Montreal, Canada.             

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