Waste in Jewish Law - something a bit different


Waste in Jewish Law - something a bit different

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   now I'm not saying that every thing in the Talmud is smooth, but some things are down right strange!

   for instance, do you know what it says about the saying of the Shma Yisroel? It says that who ever wants to accept upon himself the yoke of Heaven, (meaning saying Shma Yisroel) should first go to the toilet, and then wash his hands, put on Tephilin, and say the Shma Yisroel and then the Standing prayer, (the Shmona Esrai) and that is the complete acceptance of the Yoke of Heaven.

   now I must admit to you that I am not the most knowledgeable person in the areas of Jewish law. I can understand that putting on Tephilin, saying the Shma Yisroel and the Standing prayer are a very important part of the Jewish spiritual life. It makes sense. These are soul type things. These aren't things that we would do if we were not requested to do it by the big "G". But, you tell me, going to the toilet, not to say that it isn't important, for sure it is, but, to make it part and parcel of our religious obligations does seem strange. To put it in the same category as Tephilin, the Shma Yisroel, and the Standing Prayer seems to me rather ludicrous.

   what would think if you went to a distinguished Rabbi and asked him to give you a list of pointers on how to be more of a spiritual person. If he told you that it's important to go to the "pot," I think you would agree that something is smelly. (Pardon the pun)

   yet, we find it mentioned in none other than the Talmud; the book that contains the wisdom of the ancient Jewish wise men. What could they have been thinking about to come up with this? Didn't their mothers train them in proper personal hygiene?

   maybe the answer is this:

   there are two aspects of being a holy Jew. One is the coming close to G-d. That is an active process that requires us to do things that connect us to Him. That is what Tephilin, Shma Yisroel, and the Standing Prayer are all about. We reach out for Him.

   the second aspect is the purification process by which we cleanse ourselves from the defilement brought on to us from the world. This comes in two types, one is the physical and one is the mental.

   the mental defilement is brought about from our involvement in the vile thoughts which abound in the world. We purify ourselves by engaging our mind in the thoughts of the prayers.

   the other aspect is the physical defilement, which is brought about through the physical indulgent in food and drink. How can we purify ourselves from this? That could well be the message that the Talmud wants to convey to us. First, engage is sanctifying your bodies before you try to be holy. Not by abstinence, but by taking what is needed by the body, and then removing the elements that are foul and not needed. These are the waste products.

   after their removal, we must wash the exterior of the body. This makes sense. First remove from the inside those objectionable things, then afterwards, purify the outside, the exterior, to make it acceptable to entering into the service of G-d.

   so maybe the words of the sages are not so strange after all. Perhaps, they just require a bit of contemplation to bring out the wisdom hidden within.




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