[Avodah] "Yes, directly, Moses speaks to me" (by R/Dr Hillel Goldberg)

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Fri Nov 22 09:11:20 PST 2019

R Hillel Goldberg wrote The Fire Within, which inspired me to explore
Mussar. (And is long out of print.) Dr Hillel Goldberg's PhD thesis
became the book, "Israel Salanter, text, structure, idea: the ethics
and theology of an early psychologist of the unconscious".

Since, RHG inhereted leadership of the Intermountain Jewish News,
published in Denver. He once again inspire me week's opinion colum again
inspired me, so I'm including it in full. If you like your arti


PS: I noticed that K'tav doesn't list that book title with what I think
    of as "title caps", and I see RHG didn't do so with the article's
    title either. If someone could explain the rules of these things to
    me, off list, I would appreciate it.

Bcc: Dr Alan Morinis, R/Dr Hillel Goldberg
     (Since I didn't take the time to reach out to get permission to
     share their addresses. Assume I will forward them any replies.)

Yes, directly, Moses speaks to me
[Rabbi Dr] Hillel Goldberg
Nov 21, 2019
Columns, Opinion, View from Denver

More venerable than the Kaddish, older than the Haggadah, earlier than
Chanukah and Purim.

A sense of Jewish history connects a Jew to his roots. It can also cloud
those roots.

Here is what I mean. If we ask, why be Jewish, Jewish history is one
answer. There are many variations on the answer, but each one draws a
Jew back in time, fostering a feeling of identity with Judaism or the
Jewish people. Even so, these answers rarely take us back far enough.
Consider the following reasons for connecting to Jewish history:

I want to keep my own family customs alive.

I do not want the Holocaust to be the end of the Jewish people.

I know my passion for social justice comes from Jews always being the

I relish research into my own genealogy. The more I learn about my past,
the more I feel connected to it and proud of it, whether I am an Ashkenazi
from Eastern Europe or a Sephardi from Spain, Greece or Iraq.

I get the chills when I see Israel reborn.

I sit in a philosophy class and feel special pride when Maimonides is
held up as a major philosopher.

I study about Rabbi Akiva, Rashi and the mystics in Safed, and I know
I am connected to an eternal people.

In the long arc of Jewish history, all of these examples are relatively
recent. They are kind of like touring Independence Hall in Philadelphia
and feeling connected to the American Revolution more than 240 years ago,
but then thinking of standing before the Western Wall, some 2,000 years
old. As in, 240 years, big deal!

I do not mean to discount my feelings of awe and gratitude upon visiting
Independence Hall. But compared to Jewish memory, 240 years is a blink.

The thing is, we may say the same even for the 2,000 year-old Western
Wall, the most powerful, emotional site in Judaism. My sense of Jewish
history may cloud just how far back my roots actually stretch. Just as
we may skip over the Holocaust and Maimonides and our personal genealogy
to reach back so much further to the Western Wall, we may skip back
further still.

Take, for example, the one topic that occupies the entire, 2,711
folio-page Babylonian Talmud more than any other: "carrying," the
prohibition of transferring objects from one domain to another, or of
carrying objects within a public domain, on the Sabbath.

For those who do not observe this prohibition, I appeal to your
intellectual curiosity. Where did this come from? It originates neither
with Maimonides nor in the Talmud. It is not from the ancient Holy
Temples nor even from the Prophets of Israel (save one). We stretch
back not to the Holocaust 75 years ago, not to Maimonides 800 years ago,
not to the Western Wall 2,000 years ago, not even to the Prophet Isaiah,
some 2,800 years ago.

Our roots go all the way back to the first Prophet, Moses, in the Sinai
desert after the Exodus.

We recall the generation of the desert, of the liberated Hebrew slaves
from Egypt, not just in a ritual (the seder), not just as Jewish history,
and not just as abstractions ("the beginnings of the Jewish people" or
"the inception of the Jewish-Divine covenantal relationship"). No, we
recall Moses in the desert for something very specific that was done then
and sustained throughout the generations, down to this very next Shabbos.

When the Tabernacle was under construction in the desert, as G-d had
commanded in the Book of Exodus, our ancestors volunteered the raw
materials, the fibers, precious metals and animal skins out of which
the Tabernacle was made.

One fine day, on a Shabbos, Moses told the entire encampments of the
Israelites: Bring no more! Why? Because on Shabbos one is not to transfer
from one domain to another; specifically, from the private domain (the
Israelites' homes, their tents) to the public domain, the Levite camp,
where Moses was stationed and the Tabernacle was to be constructed
(Shabbat 96b).

Think of this. On the very next Shabbos that I welcome this year -- me,
you, here, right now -- if I refrain from carrying an object out of my
home, I am under the spiritual canopy of Moses himself, of my people at
its very inception. I am a direct link to the Israelite sojourn in the
Sinai desert and to one of the first Words embraced in practice after
the revelation at Mount Sinai.

I am not just connected to my roots.

I am living them.

Copyright (C) 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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