Holy and Profane (Eruvin 40)
Today’s and yesterday’s dapim seem to be (dare I say it? in eruvin?) fairly engaging and interesting. A welcome digression from poles and holes and things that are higher than or lower than other things. Not that there is anything wrong with the technicalities of techumin – but still. It is nice to talk about something else. Also, in what feels like a bit of calendar stalking, the daf talks these days, which happen to be erev rosh hashana, about rosh hashana. More in particular we are engaged in a fair bit of discussion on what is going on with rosh hashana having two days and how these days relate to each other. What I found fascinating is that the rabbis totally assume, without further discussion, that it is within their power to make a day holy or not. Apparently, we on earth (or at least the rabbis) decide when the King of Kings gets to sit on His throne and judge us all. I think that this is characteristic for the way that chazal approach the holy domain. Yes: it is Gd that we serve and yes: we do this in accordance with revealed guidelines and our received tradition, but the way in which we implement it is very much ours. The pasuk “lo bashamayim hi” (it [the Torah] is not in the heavens) which we read last week is not an empty creed – it is the core of Judaism. We on earth make it happen.
I guess the core problem of religion is how we, as humans, approach the Holy, which is by definition not human or even humanly conceivable. The way that the rabbis deal with this problem is fascinating: they ignore it completely. In Judaism we assume the Divine and accept our obligation to live in the face of it. But that’s it – there is nothing more to say about it. So, when we need to know when something as elevated and esoteric as a Heavenly judgment takes place, we delve deep into practical problems – no theology there. We don’t get involved in Gds bookkeeping – we do our own. “Hashamayim shamayim lashem, veha’aretz natan livnei adam” (The heavens are for Gd, and earth is for man – or in other words: Gd is Gd and man is man). To me that is a great way to live religion – a world without the absolute and the infite, a world without Gd, that is, seems to be too lonely to bear. But I find thinking about Gd (as our protestant brethern are wont to do) much too difficult and too exhausting. Out tradition strikes for me exactly the right balance.
Anyway. Let’s see what the new year brings us – daf-wise, health-wise and otherwise. In the meantime, let’s just do our own little things here on earth to make it all worth our while. Wish you a happy, healthy and fulfilling 5781.