The musings of a previously unemployed Jewish Freemason. I write about the job search, about Judaism, and about Freemasonry.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Eikev: Thy Corn, And Thy Wine, And Thine Oil

Yes, this is the Torah portion that the name of this blog comes from, and yes, I've blogged about this Torah portion before. The second paragraph of the Shema prayer comes from this Torah portion.

Moses tells the Children of Israel: "And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul." [Deuteronomy 10:12]. The Hebrew word for fear being used here is yirah, which sometimes is translated as awe. Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi describes this feeling as the same feeling you have when you are in a room, presumably alone, when suddenly you realize that someone else is in the room with you. There are other words in Hebrew for being in fear of your life, and this is a very different feeling, the sudden awareness that God is right there with you.

In the Babylonian Talmud, Rabbi Hanina said that "everything is in the hand of Heaven except the fear of Heaven", [Berachot, 33b] because of the above quote. He asked, "Is the fear of Heaven such a little thing?" Rabbi Hanina quoted Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (considered to be the legendary author of the Zohar) as saying that "The Holy One, blessed be He, has in His treasury nought except a store of the fear of Heaven, as it says, The fear of the Lord is His treasure?"

But Rabbi Hanina replied, "Yes, for Moses, it was a small thing. To illustrate by a parable, if a man is asked for a big article and he has it, it seems like a small article to him; if he is asked for a small article and he does not possess it, it seems like a big article to him."

Later, in the passage quoted in the second paragraph of the Shema prayer, Moses says, "And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, that I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil." [Deuteronomy 11: 13-14].

Later in the same passage in the Talmud, Rabbi Ishmael reasoned that because God commands the Israelites to gather their corn, their wine, and their oil, that Jews should not eschew occupations by becoming ascetic. [Berachot, 35b]. Even though God commands the Jews to study Torah, they must live in the world and work to sustain themselves as well as studying Torah. This was disputed by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who was an ascetic. But, the Talmud notes: "Many have followed the advice of Ishmael, and it has worked well; others have followed R. Simeon b. Yohai and it has not been successful."

The Jewish religion is a householder religion. The religious Jew does not have the option of shutting out the world and devoting himself exclusively to religious devotions. Even some today among the ultra-Orthodox live on welfare and study Torah without working, this was against the majority opinion in the Talmud.

The spirituality within Freemasonry is also a spiritual path for men who have careers and live in the world. We have our occupations and we volunteer in Freemasonry after our work duties are completed. Among Masons, corn is a symbol of what we work for that sustains our bodies and nourishes us. Wine is a symbol of what we work for that gladdens the heart and brings joy. Oil is a symbol of what we work for that illuminates the spirit and brings us closer to God. To the Mason, these are the wages of a Fellow Craft. It takes a certain level of understanding in Masonry to be able to yield these rewards, and it takes labor in the Masonic quarries to produce results. We have to work for this, and have ever since Adam outgrew the immediate gratification of the Garden of Eden.

No comments:

Post a Comment