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Friday, August 12, 2016

Like Days of Old: Tisha B'Av 5776

The book of Lamentations has a penultimate verse (which we also read after the ultimate one) of returning to God and renewing our days like kedem [קדם]. Often this is taken to mean like days of the past. But which days? Was there some ideal time we should be aiming for and what is it?
איכה פרק ה
Lamentations Chapter 5
(21) Return us, Hashem, to You, and we will surely return; renew our days like kedem.
(כא) הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ יְקֹוָק אֵלֶיךָ ונשוב וְנָשׁוּבָה חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם:
(22) For if You have surely rejected us and been enough angry with us.
(כב) כִּי אִם מָאֹס מְאַסְתָּנוּ קָצַפְתָּ עָלֵינוּ עַד מְאֹד:

One approach is to say that there were characters of our past who were at a better time.  The midrash Lamentations Rabbah tries to connect kedem to other verses with the same word to figure out what time period “kedem” means. The first suggestion is the first person who is put kedem to the Garden of Eden. The second uses another verse from the last chapter of Malakhi which parallels two periods in time: olam and kadmoniyot (same root as kedem). It then finds connections for each of these through Tanakh. Sometimes the references seem to come straight from verses (to understand the reference to Noah, see the verse before in Isaiah), but in only one case is the reference given a reason: before the time of idolatry.
איכה רבה (וילנא) פרשה ה
Lamentations Rabbah (Vilna Edition), Parashah 5
חדש ימינו כקדם, כאדם הראשון כמד"א (בראשית ג') ויגרש את האדם וישכן מקדם לגן עדן,
Renew our days like kedem. Like Adam, as you would quote, “Then He exiled Adam and put him east [kedem] of the Garden of Eden.”
ד"א חדש ימינו כקדם כמד"א "וערבה לה' מנחת יהודה וירושלים כימי עולם וכשנים קדמוניות," (מלאכי ג:ד).  כימי עולם זה משה דכתיב "ויזכור ימי עולם משה עמו," (ישעיה סג:יא). וכשנים קדמוניות כשנות שלמה,
Another interpretation: “Renew our days like kedem. Like that which you would quote, “Then the grain offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to Hashem like the days of olam and like years of kadmoniyot,” (Malakhi 3:4). “Like days of olam,” this is Moses, as is written, “Then His nation recalled the days of olam of Moses,” (Isaiah 63:11). “And like years of kedem,” like the years of Solomon.
רבי אומר כימי עולם כימי נח שנא' "כי מי נח זאת לי," (ישעיהו נד:ח). וכשנים קדמוניות כשנות הבל שלא היתה עבודת כוכבים עדיין בעולם.
Rebbi says, “Like the days of olam,” like the days of Noah. As is said, “For this is to Me like the waters of Noah,” (Isaiah 54:8). “And like years of kadomniyot,” like the years of Abel where there was still not yet idolatry in the world.

איכה רבה (בובר) פרשה ה
Lamentations Rabbah (Buber edition), Parashah 5
ד"א חדש ימינו כקדם. כאבות הראשונים, המד"א ומראש הררי קדם (דברים לג:טו).
Another interpretation: “Renew our days like kedem.” Like the original forefathers. This is what you quote, “From the original mountains of kedem,” (Deuteronomy 33:15).

Another approach is that of Moshe Alshekh who comments on the audaciousness of the first half of the verse. Why do we ask God to return us. We should return first! He says we remind God of a time in our past when He returned us and ask Him to once again act in the same way.
אלשיך איכה פרק ה
Alshekh, Lamentations Chapter 5
Moshe Alshekh, 16th Century Israel
ואל תחשיבנו למקשים לשאול, כי לא די שתסייענו כי אם שגם תתחיל אתה. אמנם ה' אם הטבה זו לא היית עושה מעולם החרשנו, אך הלא למוד אתה ה' לעשותו, כי הלא מקדם עשית כן במצרים. כי הנה עודם עובדי עבודה זרה, ואמר להם הוא יתברך (שמות יב כא) משכו ידיכם מן העבודה זרה וקחו לכם איש שה וכו'...
Do not consider us stubborn to ask, for it is not sufficient for You to aid us, but You should also act first. However, Hashem, if this goodness You had never performed, we would be silent. But You taught us, Hashem, to do it. For in the past [kedem] you did as such in Egypt. For they were still idolaters and the Blessed One said to them, “Draw you hand,” away from idolatry, “And for yourselves,” each man, “a sheep.”
כי הלא חדש ימינו עתה כקדם, שהוא כאשר עשית מקדם במצרים, שקודם שנתחיל לשוב התחלת אתה, עשה גם עתה:
For renew our days like old [kedem]. That is like You did long ago in Egpyt, for before we began to return You began; do so now as well.


הכתב והקבלה במדבר פרשת פינחס פרק כח
Yaakov Zvi Mecklenberg take the approach by comparing renewing our days to the use of חדש, the root for “new” as the word for the months and in its use to describe the new month sacrifices. He seems to see kedem as going back to a new start when things were fresh. It is that ideal many of us have when we mess up of, if only we could go back to the beginning.

HaK’tav v’HaKabbalah, Numbers Chapter 28
Yaakov Zvi Mecklenberg, 18th Century Prussia
בחדשי השנה - אבל הוא מענין חדש ימינו כקדם, שהוא הפך הישן בשיבת הדבר להיות כבתחלת הויתו (נייא),
In the months [new things] of the year - but it is among the idea of, “renew our days like kedem.” That He turns over the old with a returning of the the matter to be like its incipient existence.
והמכוון שעולת התמידין שנלקחו ממעות התרומה הנגבית בשנה זו אין מקריבין אותן בשנה של אחרי' כי בכל שנה ושנה צריכים להקריב התמידין ממעות התרומה החדשה כבימי המדבר בר"ח ניסן, כמשרז"ל בו ביום הוקם המשכן בו ביום נתרמה התרומה החדשה.
And what is intended is that the daily sacrifices which are taken from the money of donations which are collected in this year, do not offer them in a different year. For in each and every year we a required to sacrifice the daily offerings from the money of new donations like in the days of the desert on the new month of Nissan. For the says said that on that day that the tabernacle was erected the new donation was collected.

In what I see as a similar approach, the Chatam Sofer also sees renewing our days like kedem as getting a restart, although he pinpoints a particular time in history we would like to restart from. He bases it off the Talmudic piece below in Niddah which notices contradictions between God’s love and anger for his people. The last case is about Jerusalem in particular, which the Talmud tells us had a changed relationship with God once Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh. This is often seen as the downfall of a united, God worshipping Israel. The Chatam Sofer seems to go further and see it as the beginning of our becoming like every other nation. [I know this piece has difficult things to say about intermarriage and God’s relationship with other nations, but for the moment, if the reader can suspend that to find the other meanings in this piece].
תלמוד בבלי מסכת נדה דף ע עמוד ב
Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Niddah, 70b
שלשה דברי אגדה: כתוב אחד אומר "כי לא אחפוץ במות המת," (יחזקאל יח:לב) וכתוב אחד אומר "כי חפץ ה' להמיתם"(שמואל א ב:כה)! כאן - בעושין תשובה, כאן - בשאין עושין תשובה.
Three homilies: one verse says, “For I do not desire the death of the dead,” (Ezekiel 18:32) and another verse says, “And Hashem desired to kill them.” (1 Samuel 2:25). Here is when they repent, here is when they do not repent.
כתוב אחד אומר "כי לא ישא פנים ולא יקח שוחד" (דברים י:יז). וכתוב אחד אומר "ישא ה' פניו אליך" (במדבר סיני כו:ו), כאן - קודם גזר דין, כאן - לאחר גזר דין.
One verse says, “For He does not show favor nor take a bribe,” (Deuteronomy 10:17) and another verse says, “May God show favor towards you,” (Numbers 26:6). Here is before the verdict, here is after the verdict.
כתוב אחד אומר "כי בחר ה' בציון." (תהילים קלב:יג) וכתוב אחד אומר "כי על אפי ועל חמתי היתה העיר הזאת למן היום אשר בנו אותה עד היום הזה" (ירמיהו לב:לא)! כאן - קודם שנשא שלמה את בת פרעה, כאן - לאחר שנשא שלמה את בת פרעה.
One verse says, “For Hashem chose Zion,” (Psalms 132:13) and another verse says, “For this city aroused My anger and my wrath from the day they built it until this day,” (Jeremiah 32:31). Here is before Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh, and here is after Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh.

חתם סופר מסכת נדה דף ע עמוד ב
Chatam Sofer, Tractate Niddah, 70b
Moses Sofer, 18th and 19th Century Hungary
One verse says, “For Hashem chose Zion, etc.” It seems that it is obvious to them that in the beginning Hashem chose Zion, but in the end, since the wives of Solomon built a private altar to their king and the disgustingness of the children of Amon, the city aroused His anger and wrath.
כתוב א' אומר כי בחר ה' בציון כו' יראה דזה הוא פשוט להם דבתחלה בחר ה' בציון ולבסוף כי בנו נשי שלמה במה למלכם ושיקוץ בני עמון הית
ה העיר על אפו וחמתו
And all of this is a good read of “from the day that they built it.” For still they were engaged in building it [the Temple] many years in order to build every desire of Solomon. Therefore one needs to also say about that which we taught, “Here it is after he married the daughter of Pharaoh.”
וכל זה מיקרי שפיר מיום אשר בנו אותה דעדיין עסקו בבנינה כמה שנים לבנות כל חשק שלמה דכן צ"ל נמי בהא דמשני כאן אחר שנשא בת פרעה.
However, according to what was recounted above: that before the verdict there is no anger or wrath, for about this it is stated that Hashem will remove His face of displeasure and send His [chance of] awakening on them. If so, how can one say that it aroused his anger and wrath from the day they built it? Where was the blessing of Hashem lifting His countenance? Therefore it cleverly explained them after he married the daughter of Pharaoh, meaning, since he sinned with foreign women, they were judged like foreigners, that He does not remove His face of anger at all, even before judgement, as the Tosafot explained about the question of the ministering angels.
אלא דלפי הנ"ל דקודם גז"ד אין כאן חרון אף וכעס דעל זה נאמר ישא ה' פניו של זעם וישלח התעוררותו עליהם א"כ איך יאמר שהיה על אפו וחמתו מיום בנו אותה ואיה ברכת ישא ה' פניו. ולכן התחכם לתרץ להם אחר שנשא בת פרעה פי' מפני שחטא בנשים נכריות נידונו כנכרים שאינו נושא פנים של זעם כלל אפי' קודם גז"ד כמ"ש תוס' בשאלת מלאכי השרת.
Further, for her to be the daughter of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, he sinned against not returning to Egypt. And here the Holy One, blessed be He showed this openly to all of the nations: the difference between Israel and Egypt. For there it says, “Then He hardened the heart of Pharaoh.” And the opposite with Israel, for they did not desire to listen to Moses from the “difficult labor,” for it was difficult for them to separate from the idolatry [lit. foreign labor]. But the Holy One, blessed be He sent them His help from Holiness to return to Him, as is explained to us several times, with God’s help, in my commentary on the Torah.  
וביותר להיותה בת פרעה מלך מצרים וחטא בלא תשוב מצרים ושם הראה הקב"ה זאת גלוי לכל העמים החילוק שבין ישראל למצרים דשם נאמר ויחזק לב פרעה וההפך בישראל גם כי לא אבו שמוע למשה מעבודה קשה שהיה להם קשה לפרוש מע"ז והקב"ה שלח להם עזרתו מקודש לשוב אליו כמבואר אצלינו כמה פעמים בביאורי על התורה בעזה"י.
Therefore, when Israel sinned and returned to Egypt and a chariot was brought to Solomon from Egypt, and he married the daughter of their king, he was judged like the other nations of the world that His anger and wrath was upon them before the verdict without any lifting of their faces. And this is that they destroyed our land.  
ע"כ כשעברו ישראל ושבו מצרימה ותעלה מרכבה לשלמה ממצרים וגו' ונשא בת מלכם נדונו כאו"ה שיהיה זעמו וכעסו עליהם קודם גז"ד מבלי נשוא פניהם וזאת היא שהחריבו ארצינו.
And when will we return to the days of our ancient past? In the future to come, as it says, “Then I will cast on you pure waters.” Meaning that He will send His wake up call from holiness to return us to Him. And this is, “Return us, Hashem to you, and we will surely return,” by means of that wake up call. “Renew our days like kedem,” like it was before Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh.
ואימתי נשוב לימי עלומינו לעתיד לבוא דכתיב וזרקתי עליכם מים טהורים שהכוונה שהוא ישלח התעוררותו מקודש להשיבנו אליו וזהו השיבנו ה' אליך ונשובה ע"י התעוררת דילך חדש ימינו כקדם כמו שהיה קודם שנשא שלמה בת פרעה:

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