Bar-Ilan University's Parashat Hashavua Study Center
Parashat Ahare-Mot 5763/April 26, 2003
Lectures on the weekly Torah reading by the faculty
of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel.
A project of the Faculty of Jewish Studies,
Paul and Helene Shulman Basic Jewish Studies Center,
and the Office of the Campus Rabbi. Published on the Internet
under the sponsorship of Bar-Ilan University's
International Center for Jewish Identity.
Prepared for Internet
Publication by the Computer Center Staff at Bar-Ilan University.
Inquiries and comments to:
Dr. Isaac Gottlieb, Department of Bible,
Parashat Ahare-Mot 5763/April 26, 2003
Festivals and Freedoms
Dr. Meir Seidler
Helena and Paul Schulmann Center of Basic Jewish Studies
The holiday schedule in our parasha is of prime importance in
establishing the spiritual identity of the Jewish people. Leon Feuchtwanger, a
German-Jewish writer at the beginning of the twentieth century, noted that after
the destruction of the second Temple in 70 CE, Judaism re-grouped around a
"temporal temple", a Temple of Time. No longer finding a safe haven
in space, Judaism adopted a haven in time which was impossible to
Anyone raised on the Jewish festivals recognizes their
centrality to the entire experience of religion: the special atmosphere of each
and every holiday, the preparations, the sense of expectation, etc. Many
thinkers based their entire philosophy of Judaism on them. Rabbi S.R. Hirsch
(1808-1888) often seeks the basic messages of our religion in the festivals; so
too the philosopher Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929) used the cycle of holidays to
establish his triangle of ideas in his The Star of
Redemption-creation, revelation, redemption.
Rabbi Joseph Zvi Carlebach (1883-1942) was the last of the
Orthodox rabbis in Germany, who served as Chief Rabbi in Hamburg until he was
murdered by the Nazis together with his wife and three of his
His writings are practically
unknown because they were originally published as pieces in the popular press in
the 30s and were never collected as a book.
many of these articles, he treats themes from the holidays.
I would like to offer the English reader (he wrote in German)
a summary of his ideas about the period between Passover and Shavuot, the period
of the Omer. At this time, the wheat, which is the food of human
ripens. For Rabbi Carlebach, this is
symbolic of the development the Israelite human being undergoes, or is meant to
undergo, between the two holidays. Meant to undergo, because the holidays do not
"perform their magic" automatically. This is how he put it in an
article about the month of Elul as preparation for the High Holidays:
The rule that "according to the pain, the reward"
is well understood for all human endeavor, save for one: religion. Here, and
only here, many expect that profound religious feeling and experience will drop
into their lap because they were good enough to show up in the synagogue on Yom
The worship of G-d, called in Hebrew avodat Hashem
-literally, work. So too, becoming a free
individual, the theme of the process between Pesah and Shavuot, requires that we
probe into the meaning of this freedom. Carlebach does this by looking at the
nature of these two holidays. They present a paradox-freedom is both the
starting point with the Exodus on Passover and the finishing point on Shavuot.
Finishing point, because our sublime goal on Shavuot is to receive the Torah.
The words of the commandments were inscribed on the tablets (Ex.32:16), about
which the Rabbis say, "Do not read harut
(inscribed) but rather
, freedom." 
seven-week period of the Omer, we stride toward the freedom written into the
Here Carlebach takes on the view that the law is not freedom
but enslavement. The sources for this antinomian view, he explains, are to be
found in Christianity, and this view spread in Western Europe especially during
the Enlightenment. At that time it also became the credo of the Reform movement
For two thousand years we have known that community which
opposes "empty formalism" and "the barren law". It is
now 150 years that this group found adherents in our community as well. This is
Jewish sophistry at its best. It presents current-day Man, a wretched creature
of the current fads, as the measure of all things. This view of the law does not
recognize absolutes, demands on Man that have the power to raise him up above
the happenstance of circumstance and make him a personality. It panders to
weakness in the name of a 'more vital' spirituality. In its opinion,
the youth hankers after true spirituality and is turned off by fossilized
customs. What is this comparable to? To someone who wants to do body-building
without any effort-on the lounge-chair, if
According to R. Carlebach, only the rigorous demands of
Halakha inscribed on the tablets of stone are able to fashion the human soul.
For this task, one needs not only quality activities, but also
To counter the infinite seductions of the temporal, we need
ongoing counter-measures that can oppose the lure of the physical world which
threaten to swamp the individual with endless
The gate to human freedom was opened with the Exodus on
Passover and remains open to every Jew. But this is only the opportunity to
begin his struggle. Passover and the Exodus represent freedom from slavery, a
necessary but insufficient condition; the next step is to adopt the Torah way of
life, which frees the individual spirit from the shackles of the physical and
temporal drives, thus allowing him to achieve his
That is why the freedom of Passover is a "hurried"
), for it is only freedom from,
not yet freedom
. The ultimate freedom comes on the holiday of Mattan Torah
when the laws that liberate the Jew were given to Israel: "Do not read
", said the Rabbis, "read
The "walks of
) or paths to be taken are to be found in the law.
With this R. Carlebach overthrows Kantian reasoning, which scoffs at the
heteronomous law, that not given by human initiative. On the contrary, only a
G-d given law can render human potential actual, to make man reach his highest
capabilities, and thereby set him free.
B.S. Jacobsohn, "Joseph
Carlebach", in: Leo Jung, Guardians of our Heritage
, (1724-1953), New
York 1958, pp. 649-659.
His articles were none the
weaker for it; see his „Der gute volkstümliche Shiur", in:
74, Gola und Gëula 5, 1934, p. 4.
See TB Brakhot 40a,
Eruvin 52a; Avot 6,
Deutsche israelitische Zeitung
. Die Laubhütte 51(6), 1934, p.
Freiheitsruf an die Jugend", in: Der Israelit
69(14), 1928, p.