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History and personal experience

The Torah portion of Ki Tavo begins with the mitzvah of the presentation of the first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem. As we all know, the holiday of the first fruits is Shavuoth, and so, we are surprised by two facts: The first is that when the person presenting the basket of fruit makes his declarations, he refers to the the bondage in and the Exodus from Egypt, rather than the giving of the Torah. The second is that the text of the declaration was used by the Rabbis to carry out the mitzvah of the Haggadah, to tell the story of our slavery and liberation. In fact, what characterizes this text is the fact that a Jew declares in the first person (higgadti) that he came to the land that the Lord promised to our forefathers. Thus, instead of telling the story of the bondage in Egypt and how we were freed as though it concerns only the past, we tell it in the present. When choosing between narrating history using the Book of Exodus and this declaration – just four verses long – the Rabbis decided to use a text to which a Jew could bring his entire experience. A person going to the field to gather the first fruits runs the risk of believing that the products of the earth are only due to his or her work, and not to the constant care of the Almighty. Even the story of the Exodus from Egypt could be viewed as an exclusively human endeavor. Instead, the liberation from Egypt took place thanks to the presence and properties of nature: by bringing the first fruits, we recognize that all the fruits of the earth belong to the Lord and were given to us only in keeping. Personal insight into the exodus from Egypt, awareness of what it means for us today, and recognition that we were liberated with the help of G-d is needed as the basis for a text so fundamental and formative as the Haggadah of Pesach.

Rav Scialom Bahbout

Scritto da Redazione, Pubblicato in Notizie

Tags: Comunità Ebraica Jewish Community Rav Scialom Bahbout Torah Venezia Venice


Saving the heart

With the end of the month of Elul comes the completion of the sixth year of the seven-year cycle, and the beginning of the year of shemitah. Aside from the prohibition against working the land of Israel for the entire seventh year, the Torah establishes the forgiveness of loans contracted during the six preceding years, if they have not yet been returned. The purpose of this law is to help those poor who have failed to honor their commitments but also to redress social balance. Anyone who was able to give a loan to others who had fallen into poverty must also find the strength to definitively relinquish the money for the needy. However, knowing the human heart, not always generous, the Torah says: “Beware of having a base thought in your heart that leads you to say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and you become tightfisted towards your brother and give him nothing, so that he cries to the Lord against you, and it will be considered a sin for you "(Deut. 15,9). The ideal is one thing, but reality quite another. Hillel – the rabbi ready to find more realistic interpretation of a rule, and realizing that in fact what the Torah feared actually occurred and that with the approach of the seventh year people no longer lent money – revived an ancient rule that makes it possible to circumvent this commandment. After the destruction of the Temple, shemitah had become a norm whose application was no longer dictated by the Torah, but only by a decision of the rabbis. After the sixth year, the collection of loans is thus permitted if the lender makes a declaration before the judges transferring the debt to the Court. And thus the prosbol was born. The prohibition could be avoided with this declaration, while "keeping alive" the original provision. Now this seems like a ploy by Hillel to prevent the application of the rule. In reality, by effectively allowing the loan, Hillel achieves two objectives:

• the needy will still have access to loans and repaying it nor not will depend only on the conscience of the borrower

• by annulling a mitzvah established by the rabbis (continuing shemitah even after the destruction of the Temple), the mitzvah of helping the needy established by the Torah is put into practice By doing so, Hillel saved the heart of the people, forever.

Scialom Bahbout

Scritto da Redazione, Pubblicato in Notizie

Tags: Comunità Ebraica Ghetto di Venezia Giornata della cultura ebraica Jewish Community Venezia Venice

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