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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Are you drinking diluted Judaism?

Daf Yomi Yevamos 80

After losing their entire families in the Holocaust, my grandparents decided to move as far away from Judaism and Jewish life that they could imagine.   They moved from Czechoslovakia to Australia and settled in the Blue Mountains, a couple of hours outside Sydney, far away from any Jewish community.  My father grew up with precious little Judaism but he always knew that he was Jewish and as he grew older, his heart yearned to learn more.

When he was eighteen, he moved to Queanbeyan, just outside Australia’s capital, for his first teaching position.  Canberra had a tiny Jewish Community Centre and he decided to check it out.  There he met a wonderful family, the Hasofers, who brought him into their home and taught him about his heritage.  He embraced his Judaism and today, he is proudly surrounded by children and grandchildren who are all committed Jews, thanks to his and mother’s valiant efforts to instill true Judaism in their children.

The Mishnah states: Rabbi Joshua taught, “I heard that a sterile man may perform chalitzah (levirate marriage annulment) and we likewise must do chalitzah for his widow; and that a sterile man may not perform chalitzah nor must we do chalitzah for his widow.  I can’t explain this discrepancy.”
Rabbi Akiva responded, “Let me explain.  One who became sterile may perform chalitzah and we must do chalitzah for his widow, since he had a period when he was suitable for marriage.  But one who was cut off from the sun cannot perform chalitzah nor must we do chalitzah for his widow, since he never had a period of suitability.”

The Gemara asks: What does “cut off from the sun” mean?
Rabbi Isaac bar Joseph quoted Rabbi Yochanan: Any man who never saw even one moment in a kosher state.  Rashi explains that he was sterile from birth.
The Gemara inquires: What is the cause of this condition of sterility from birth?
The Gemara answers: His mother baked bread at noon and drank diluted beer.   Rashi explains that the cause is the combination of the intense heat of the oven and the midday heat. 

Sadly, today most of our brothers and sisters are spiritually sterile from birth.  They have never seen a moment in a kosher state, due to two factors.  Firstly, we live in an age of intense heat.  The pressures of secularism and paganism are so strong and near impossible to withstand.   Secondly, even the Judaism that they have consumed has been diluted.   Diluted Judaism is not healthy at the best of times, but it doesn’t stand a chance in an age of intense heat.  And so it’s no wonder that our brethren are dropping like flies from the Jewish people, may G-d have mercy. 

My father was one of the lucky ones.  Sometimes it’s better to have no Judaism at all than a watered-down version.  When you are given the diluted story, you believe that you have tasted Judaism when in fact you’re just drinking the cheap knock-off brand.   Once you’ve drunk Johnnie Walker Blue, there’s no going back to Red.  And it’s no wonder that those who have only tasted the generic store brands aren’t big fans of whisky at all.  They’ve never savoured the good stuff!

If your Judaism isn’t thrilling to you, it’s time to come back to the table with a completely open mind and palate.  Chances are you’ve never truly tasted Judaism in its pure, pristine state.  Open your heart and mind to the undiluted wine and your soul will be elated.  May you merit to taste and enjoy pure undiluted Judaism and have the strength to withstand the heat of our times so that you may be blessed with a spiritually uplifting and invigorating life! 

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