Monday, May 26, 2008

The Reform Movement's "Man Problem"

Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny, a member of the clergy at Temple Israel in Michigan, recently retold the following story as an introduction to her commentary on the Torah portion on Parshat Kedoshim.
Last week, Rabbi Marla Hornsten told me just about the best story I have ever heard. It is simple in its language and short in length, but it contains such a powerful statement that I cannot stop thinking about it.
Perhaps the greatest part of this story is that it came from her son Benji.
Rabbi Hornsten's family had come in to town for a visit from Seattle and her parents were happily playing with their grandchildren, 4-year-old Benji and 2-year-old Danny. Her dad asked Benji, "Are you going to be a doctor like your daddy?" Benji replied, "I don't know." Then grandpa asked, "Are you going to be a rabbi like your mommy?" To which Benji replied, "I can't be a rabbi; I'm not a girl!"
Wow! Would this statement have been made even 10 years ago? Benji's world view is so vastly different than mine was when I was his age, and we are technically only one generation apart. Growing up, I did not have a female rabbinical role model, but I didn't ever consider that there might be a barrier to fulfilling my dream of becoming a rabbi.
For Benji, women rabbis are not only the norm, they are the standard! Though he knows our male colleagues, to this perceptive 4-year-old, his mom is the icon of what a rabbi is; and so to him, mainly women are rabbis, with a few men sprinkled here and there.
While Rabbi Kaluzny insists that this story dramatizes the great success of the Reform movement, to me it's a clear demonstration of its greatest failure that no one really talks about because they're not allowed to: the feminization of liberal Judaism.

This past week, an article from the JTA entitled "Reform Try Separating Sexes in Effort to Lure Men Back" highlighted the growing disenchantment of men with the reform movement. Basically, men aren't interested in coming to synagogue anymore. Can there really be any wonder why? The article states:

Some are calling women's increased participation in Jewish life the "feminization" of Judaism. But they say it quietly, fearing a backlash. That backlash comes fast. One woman asked Barden testily after his address to the symposium what he meant by saying "a form of censorship has taken over the movement."

And in order to combat that disillusionment, the movement is trying to create mens-only programs that will be interesting and meaningful for men. Is that really what Jennifer Kaluzny had in mind when she touted the incredible gains that the movement has made in the past thirty years?
Most interesting to me is the number of times the article notes the obvious similarities between this "men-only" minyan, and Orthodoxy, and the great emphasis that Reform Judaism is placing on the fact that this is NOT Orthodox. But at the same time, they can't seem to come to grips with the fact that men want no part of an unsegregated service. They don't find it meaningful, spiritual or appealing. So they've stopped coming.
In essence, the men are voting with their feet, articulating a truth that Orthodoxy has been espousing for centuries: men and women are different. They have different needs and very different roles. Moreover, the notion that they must be pigeon-holed into the same roles both personally and religiously has alienated the men.
But there's another important point as well. By robbing the men of a safe and inviting religious space and driving men out of the shul, the Reform movement is creating an entire generation of men alienated not only from the shul, but from Judaism in general. After all, if the synagogue is the point of entry for religious life (and it is), then without men entering at the point, they're bereft of meaningful spirituality.
An April article in the World Jewish Digest entitled "The Missing Piece" describes the squeeze religiously motivated liberal Jewish women find themselves in when searching for a Jewish mate.
Perhaps most painful, especially for those in the Reform and Conservative movements, is that Jewish men are increasingly alienated from synagogue and communal life - and some hold active antipathy toward Jewish women. A monograph to be released this spring by Dr. Sylvia Barack Fishman, a professor of Contemporary Jewish Life at Brandeis University, and Daniel Parmer, a Brandeis University graduate student who works with her, shows for the first time that as women have become more active in Jewish ritual life and culture, men have increasingly disappeared, rejecting both the trappings of communal affiliation and Jewish women. Seen in this light, the "singles crisis" is not an isolated problem, but rather a symptom of a more radical one: a pervasive identity crisis that profoundly affects Jewish men.
As long as the liberal movements insist on digging in their heels and forcing an equality on men without considering the consequences, the "man problem" will only get worse.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Table Talk - Bamidbar

The Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman, had a deal with community leaders of his city. They agreed not to bother asking him to come to community meetings unless they were considering a new community decree.
Once the communal council wished to enact a decree that the community charity fund would not support the poor from other cities, and would encourage local residents not to accept guests from other cities (to collect money, of course), in order to increase support for the local poor and the needy institutions in Vilna. (Sounds familiar, doesn't it?) So they called a meeting, and of course invited the Gaon to attend.
When he got to the meeting, the Gaon looked at the council and said, "I thought we agreed that you wouldn't call me to meetings unless you were considering a new city ordnance!"
The men answered, "But we are considering a new law!" The wondered what the Vilna Gaon was talking about. The Gaon flashed an angry look at them and said, "Oy you leaders! This law you want to enact is a very old law already established by the Four Lands!"
Still the leaders wondered what he meant, asking the rabbi, "To the best of our knowledge, there is no record of any such law in the record books of any of the Four Lands." (The Council of Four Lands (Va'ad Arba' Aratzot) in Lublin, Poland was the central body of Jewish authority in Poland from 1580 to 1764.)
The Vilna Gaon responded angrily: "I didn't mean the Four Lands of our time. When I said 'four lands', I was referring to the four lands during the time of our forefathers, Sodom, Gemorrah, Admah and Tzovoyim. These were the first localities to enact this vile piece of legislation, to prevent poor visitors to their cities from the outside."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Our Message to the Shul at the YIOP Dinner

Wow! Thank you all for being here, to share this very special, emotional and meaningful night together with us.
We see this not as an end, but as a siyyum; You see, every time one finishes a major piece of Torah study, he or she makes a siyyum. But a siyyum isn’t an end. It’s rather a marker, a point of reference, between one leg of a journey and the next. This dinner isn’t the end. Rather, it the conclusion of one chapter of our lives and the beginning of another.
Every Siyyum begins with the הדרן – May we return to you. And that’s truly how we feel here tonight. Even though this dinner – and this honor – marks the end of our tenure as Rabbi and Rebbetzin, nonetheless we don’t feel as if we’re leaving. We’re just ending one phase of our relationship with each other that will continue over time.
דעתן עלך ודעתך עלן – Our minds are on you – and your minds are on us – what better way to describe the special relationship that we have with each other? לא נתנשי מינך – we will never forget you, ולא תתנשי מינן – and we know that you will never forget us. Even though we’re leaving Oak Park, we cannot ever forget the special friendships that we have forged during the seven years that we spent here, and we are confident that our efforts and energies will be remembered here as well.
יהי רצון...שתהא תורתך אמנותנו בעולם הזה ותהא עמנו לעולם הבא –
Here we describe not just our wishes when we complete a siyyum, but also what motivated us to enter into a rabbinic career as well. What attracted us to the rabbinate – and what we will most miss, is the idea that everything that we do; every class and program, every phone call, every container of soup, every chavrusa and meeting; every hospital visit and shiva call – even every social program and lunch meeting – is infused with spirituality.
Then we go into a litany of names; the family of רב פפא – חנינא בר פפא, רמי בר פפא, נחמן בר פפא – the ten sons of Rav Pappa. Why do we list these ten children of Rav Pappa during a siyyum?

Rena: Don’t get any ideas.

No, we mention Rav Pappa’s sons because whenever he made a siyyum, he would invite his sons and share his joy and accomplishments with his family; and, when he shared those values with his sons, they also grew to become great Torah scholars as well. But to my mind, Rav Pappa’s sons also remind us of the value of family. First and foremost, our immediate family. Even though they’re young, our children never chose a rabbinic life. They were born into it. And they’ve often had to share their father and mother with others, when it was hard to do so. They didn’t always want another babysitter. And sometimes, even though they didn’t have a choice, they understood, and waited for us to finish yet another conversation after davening, and shared their family events and occasions with all of you.

Rena: Simcha, Bezalel, Leah, and Petachya, we thank you and we love you.

We also give great thanks to our parents who are here with us tonight. It’s never easy having your children live so far away, and we know that next year will be even more difficult. But our parents have never given us anything but support, encouragement and pride. They have set shining examples for us to follow. My father was a man dedicated to knowledge and study of Torah. He was a man of great intellect and intelligence, and while he died when I was young, his passion for learning and teaching is forever imprinted in my mind. My mother taught me what it means to teach others, and to be dedicated to your students.

Rena: My parents have always led lives dedicated to community, to chesed, and to personal growth. I have fond memories of night-time meetings at our home, for one cause or another. My mother has served as AMIT chapter president, PTA president of 2 schools, and coordinator of the shul’s Mishloach Manot. My father’s quiet leadership gives Rabbis and principals the ability to take him into their confidence.

For their support, love, devotion and dedication we thank them, and only hope that we can repay them by following in their footsteps and raising our children with their vision and values.
But family, especially in this shul, is a much broader concept. We have shared so much: joy and sadness, celebration and mourning. My greatest joy comes when I see a father with his child davening together on a Shabbos morning, or a father or mother learning with their child at Mibreishit, dancing together at Simchat Torah,

Rena: or Presenting at Parshapalooza.

I miss the members of our shul who are no longer with us, from the oldest to the youngest. We had the privilege of knowing people so many years beyond yours; to appreciate their warmth and wisdom and charm; to know people outside our immediate age group, and be better people for it.
I appreciate the support of those members who constantly give their time and energy to ensure the day-to-day operation of the shul, particularly the shul presidents during my tenure: Eddie Katz, Rabbi Judah Isaacs, Dr. Steve Lorch and David Barth
Rena: and Ezrat Nashim Presidents Lynne Schreiber and Margery Klausner --
– and the many people who give of themselves day-in and day-out, to run the office, check the lights, pay the bills, run the minyanim, coordinate an incredible dinner, raise funds, run programs, lead our youth, and the scores of other tasks – big and small - that make this shul run.
But there are so many smaller families within this family: any daily minyan man understands the camaraderie, the friendship that grows when you daven together each and every day, and enjoy a really good cup of coffee (with or without the booze), and a story or a joke.
There’s the family of the Beit Midrash, which gathers each Monday night to learn, either with a chavrusa, in a shiur for men and women together

Rena: Or for women only.

And the family that developed at the Tuesday parshah shiur, and the Wednesday morning Parshah shiur – both very different groups of women, yet somehow we have been able to forge a sense of closeness and familiarity that always allows me not only to teach, but to learn from m as well. My Thursday lunch and learn at Cohen, Lerner and Rabinowitz – always a great lunch, with great conversation and great learning, and the special bond of our Thursday night shiur. In addition, we formed other groups as well:

Rena: Yoga on Wednesdays, or a Taharat Hamishpachah study group, and the monthly book group. Ezrat Nashim’s Board, and the many important committees – especially the Chesed committee

And the Living Room Limud group, and the Saturday night learning group, and the men of the Man’s Seder. Each of these smaller groups created cohesive bonds, with its own dynamic and energy. But together, these groups form a much larger family; a shul of warmth and caring that really is special and unique, and does not exist in many other places.
הערב נא ה' אלקינו את דברי תורתך בפינו: We pray that Hashem makes the words of His Torah sweet in our mouths. As you all know, Torah learning has been a mission of mine here at YIOP, and I give thanks for the many subjects and topics I have had the privilege of studying together with you. Together we’ve learned Parshat Hashavua, four sedarim of Mishnah,

Rena: the teaching of Nechama Leibowitz, Taharat Hamishpachah, Tehillim, Women and Tefillah, Women in Tanach – are you sensing that there’s a theme here? You’re wrong. Don’t forget the 13 principles of the Rambam.

Almost three books of Navi, parts of gemara Kiddushin, Sanhedrin, and the first half of Brachos, אם הבנים שמחה, אורות, and many writings of Rav Soloveitchik. We have learned about the chagim, about fatherhood, about Judging Others; about the Halachos of Shabbos and Kashrus. The list goes on and on. And we thank you for sharing so much Torah with us, as we learned and laughed and grew as Jews and parents and people.
The siyyum concludes first with thanks, and then with a prayer. First, we give thanks: מודים אנחנו לפניך ה' – we give thanks to God, that He has given us the great privilege to serve this close-knit, incredible community
שאנו משכימין – that we get up and go to shul early.

Rena: early?

OK – five minutes late.
שאנו עמלנו -- That we immersed ourselves in our community; you welcomed us with open arms, and gave us the sense of עמלות – of depth and intimacy, but with a sense of passion, dedication and hard work. We exerted energy on behalf of this community: to defend the values of Israel; of Torah, of Orthodoxy; To promote the sanctity of the things we hold dear; to uphold the values of kashrus and the honor of the Torah;

Rena: and the right to have a kosher Dunkin Donuts.

אנו רצים– I like to run; if you’ve been to the JCC you know that;

Rena: I don’t run.

Let us conclude with the prayer at the end of each Siyyum: יהי רצון לפניך ה' –
May it be Your will Hashem our God, that just as You have helped us serve the Young Israel of Oak Park, so may You help us serve כלל ישראל, to begin new projects and promote the values of Judaism in the future; to learn and to teach, to safeguard and to perform, and to fulfill all the words of Your Torah’s teachings with love.
May the merit of all our parents, mentors, teachers and friends stand with us and our children, that the Torah shall not depart from our mouths nor the mouths of our children, and our children’s children forever. May there be fulfilled for us the verse, “When you walk, the Torah will guide you. And when you lie down, it will watch over you. And when you wake up, it will converse with you.”
ה' עז לעמו יתן ה' יברך את עמו בשלום – Hashem will give strength to His people; Hashem will bless you, us – the people of Israel – בשלום – with peace.
Thank you so much.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Table Talk – Bechukotai 5768 - A Danger of Chumrah

When is being machmir (stringent) not ideal? According to the Ohr Hachayyim, stringency is not appropriate when the chumrah (stringency) comes without Torah learning and knowledge.
I once knew a couple in Connecticut distant from a Torah way of life. Yet, despite the fact that they observed neither Shabbat nor kashrut nor many of the other “major” mitzvot, when their son was born, they decided not to cut his hair until he reached the age of three. When I questioned the boy’s mother about the practice, she expressed her opinion about the value of the practice as part of his religious development. I always got the feeling that she considered this minhag as an important religious practice, which in some way absolved her of the need to delve deeper into other mitzvos that the Torah actually obligated her to do.
Commenting on the connection between the first and second phrases of the parshah which state, אם בחקותי תלכו – “if you walk in my statutes”, ואת מצותי תשמרו – “and you guard my commandments”, ועשיתם אותם – “and you do them”. Why the apparent repetition? What’s the difference between walking in statutes and performing commandments?
Ohr Hachayim answers these questions based upon the advice of Rabban Gamliel found in Pirkei Avot which states that an Am Ha’aretz should not be a Chassid, meaning that someone unschooled in the intricacies of Jewish law should not try to be an overly righteous person, “to perform stringencies and maintain boundaries like the practices of the righteous.” This is because a person might, in his desire to be more strict, actually violate principles of the Torah. For this reason the Torah tells us, אם בחקותי תלכו – “if you walk in my statutes,” meaning that you delve and immerse yourself in knowledge of Torah, only then, ואת מצותי תשמרו – “and you guard my commandments” by observing chumrot that strengthen and heighten one’s observance of Torah.
I think that there’s a different danger in adhering to chumrot not required by the Torah. Sometimes people – like my friends from Connecticut - pick chumrot in an area that appeals to them in an effort to avoid – or at least emotionally absolve themselves from observing halachot they want to avoid. The value of chumrah (stringency) in Jewish law – and there is great value in maintaining stringency – comes only when that strictness stems from a deep knowledge of the halachah and a desire to use greater observance to come closer to God.
Question for discussion: Can you think of another way that one’s Chumrah might unintentionally lead him or her to violate the Torah?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Table Talk for Behar 5768 - Supermorality and Slavery

Over lunch at the Yeshiva University Yarchei Kallah I attended this week in Memphis, I found myself in a discussion about the nature of ethics imposed by the Torah. One of the participants in the discussion quoted an article he read suggesting that while the Torah transmits moral imperatives, it sets not a ceiling for moral behavior, but a floor. This means that while the Torah might permit a behavior, we have grown in our humanity to consider that behavior immoral.

The greatest example of this idea is slavery. Torah law permits slavery, both of Jews and of non-Jews. Yet, my friend suggested that although slavery is not forbidden, humanity has progressed to the point that it realizes the inherent immorality of slavery, and we now seek to abolish it in all forms.

While I agreed with his argument regarding the violent capture of non-Jewish slaves (known as eved kena’ani – Canaanite slaves), I disagreed regarding the notion of Jewish slaves. How does a Jew become a slave? He either sells himself to repay a debt or the court sells him to pay for a stolen or damaged item. While we call him a slave, the Torah treats him more like a worker, telling us לֹא-תִרְדֶּה בוֹ, בְּפָרֶךְ; וְיָרֵאתָ, מֵאֱלֹהֶיךָ – “you shall not rule over him with rigor, and you shall fear God.” Rashi explains that while his “owner” can demand that his slave work, the slave is not there simply for his personal pleasure and enjoyment. For this reason, the owner cannot give him unneeded busywork simply for his own pleasure. Often, the “master” must first care for the needs of his slaves before he can care for his own.

By creating the model of Jewish slavery then, the Torah establishes a system for individuals who have failed in society in the classical sense; a safety-net that allows them to function productively within society. Contrast the Torah’s punishment of a thief – slavery – with that of modern society, which throws that same thief in prison as a punishment, yet takes no other steps to ensure that the thief doesn’t return to a life of crime. By not making the thief sell himself to repay his debt, we might be making him happier in the short term, but in the long run I’m not so sure.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Table Talk for Emor 5768

In honor of Yom Ha'atzmaut, I would like to share with you a thought sent to me by my good friend Rabbi Dov Lipman of Beit Shemesh:
The great Hassidic Rebbe of Sadigora, Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Friedman of blessed memory lived in Vienna. When the Nazis took over Vienna they sought to humiliate the Jews by forcing the great sage to sweep the streets of the city to the taunts and laughter of Austrian onlookers.
The German soldiers handed the Rebbe a broom, but while he swept, he recited a silent prayer: "Master of the Universe, may I yet merit to sweep the streets of the Land of Israel."
The Nazis then gave him a large flag and forced him to hoist it over a tall building. This time the rebbe intoned, "Master of the Universe, may I yet merit to raise the flag of Israel over a high place in the Land of Israel."
After surviving the war, the Rebbe was determined to fulfill his vision. And so, each year, on Independence Day, he would rise early, take a broom in hand, and proceed to sweep the streets of Tel Aviv in honor of God's answer to his prayer. And then the elderly rabbi would ascend to the top of Tel Aviv's Great Synagogue, and raise a large Israeli flag proudly for all to see.
The next time you find yourself either questioning the significance of the State of Israel on the one side of the spectrum or saddened by the lowly state of the country you love and its leadership on the other - think back to the Rebbe of Sadigora, with a broom in one hand, a flag in the other, and a heart full of gratitude to God for the miracle that is the modern State of Israel.
(adapted from article by Michael Freund)

Friday, May 2, 2008

United We Stand - YIOP Bulletin for May 2008

Two men are sitting in a park in Munich, reading newspapers. One is reading the Yiddish newspaper, and the other is reading Der Sturmer (the Nazi paper).The first one looks at the second one's paper and asks, "Why are you reading that trash? Can't you see how biased and anti-Semitic it is?"

The other one answered, "Look at what you're reading. Nothing ever in there but bad news. I already know how bad things are. I don't need to read about it. So I pick up the Sturmer, and what do I see? The Jews have all the money. The Jews own all the factories. The Jews are in control of the entertainment industry. The Jews can dictate the actions of governments. The Jews are the most powerful people in the world... I read all that, and I feel so much better!

As I approach the final months of my time as rabbi of YIOP and the shul finds itself in the throes of a rabbinic search, I find myself worried about the future – not just my own, but of our shul. While I might be leaving, I have invested my heart and soul into what I believe is a crucial institution in our community. But the future holds great danger for our shul that I feel must be discussed and addressed if YIOP can continue to grow and prosper.

The great challenge of any representative organization – any school, shul, club or group – is to grow large enough to be able to offer the services that people need, without being so large that it no longer reflects the values of its members.

Halachah embedded in our tradition the notion that no man is an island. I cannot begin to approach God on my own with the same power, quality and intensity that I can in a community. Without the company of others there is no kaddish, no kedushah, no Torah reading – none of the elements so critical to connecting with God. In establishing these rules, our Rabbis ensured that we understand and appreciate the power of the community to further our personal and spiritual growth.

Today we live in an era of specialization. Instead of reading a newspaper written for everyone, I only read the news I want to read on the internet. I only watch the news that agrees with my point of view. We live in a time of individuality, where the only important question is “what’s good for me?” “What’s in it for me?” “What’s most comfortable for me?” While it might be uncomfortable to share experiences with people unlike ourselves, it’s through those very encounters that we grow and develop.

In the Jewish world, the specialization has become known as shtiebelization. On every block a shtiebel pops up in a home or basement, meeting the needs of a small but specific group. It’s either a group of friends, or a group that likes davening in a specific way. For whatever the reason – even the proximity of the shtiebel to their couch – the shtiebel works for the small group it serves. And when Shabbos ends, so does the allegiance to the shteibel, until next Shabbos.

Even larger shuls have gotten into the act. In many major cities, large shuls have become conglomerates housing numerous smaller shuls and minyanim, from hashkamah early Shabbos morning to the main minyan to the teen minyan to the “young married” to even late minyanim. This way, every group is happy, but remains under the umbrella of the larger shul.

I dare say that if we had a large enough membership, YIOP would move in this direction. I would love to have a hashkamah minyan at YIOP, and we even tried to get one started, but we could never get enough people to ensure a minyan on a regular basis. We tried coordinating a teen minyan for several years, but could never create a critical mass of teens willing to exert the effort and energy necessary to keep the minyan going. We’re simply not large enough to be a classic “large shul.”

On the other hand, we are large enough to encompass a diverse community of members both demographically and religiously. Our members span from the very young to the very not-so-young; from the non-religious, who have no real Judaic background, to members who learn with a chavursa and daven in a minyan each and every day. And each of these memberships asks: what’s in it for me? Is this the shul that I want to be a member of? How do we serve each subgroup when the group is not large enough to become an independent entity within the shul?

We can’t. While our shul might be centrally located, it’s equally far both from Huntington Woods and Southfield. Other than the members who live in the Jewish apartments, every single member of our shul passes at least one – and sometimes many other shuls on their way to YIOP. Unless we learn that we have more to gain from strengthening each-other and remaining united than we do pursuing our own needs, YIOP’s future seems bleak indeed.

We must therefore focus on the positive aspects that our shul brings to the community. We are the only shul in Oak Park that holds an appeal for two different yeshivas during the year. We invite speakers from across the Orthodox spectrum; we take part in Modern Orthodox symposiums and Yarchei Kallahs at the kollel. And we do all this while being true to ourselves, celebrating Yom Haatzmaut and taking pride in our support of the State of Israel. Our shul has a full-time rabbi who promotes the interests of its membership throughout the community, through teaching, speaking, writing and advocacy, as well as broader communal involvement. What shtiebel can make that claim?

And finally, our shul is large enough that anyone – really anyone looking for a spiritual home to help him or her grow – can find a place. And this place is not only comfortable; it’s warm, nurturing, genuinely caring and devoted to its members. We would never have that feel if we had four minyanim. We would never know each other well enough to create the sense of family that we have developed over so long.

So the next time something happens in the shul that upsets you: whether someone wants the shul to take a position more right-wing than you’re comfortable with; or perhaps there’s an event or a class that you don’t think is really appropriate for our community, instead of asking yourself, “Is this really my shul? Is this a shul where I want to belong”, try and look at it another way: I am proud to belong to a shul that represents a diverse and unique group of members.

After all, isn’t that what Klal Yisrael is really all about?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Table Talk - Kedoshim 5768

I saw an interesting question on a wonderful brand-new website publicizing the well-known parshat hashavua pages (gilyonot) of Nechama Leibowitz. (As an aside, for many, many years, Nechama Leibowitz published a weekly sheet on the parshah, which she would distribute to her students and whoever else wanted one, and then, if you sent it back to her, she would grade them. Based upon these weekly sheets she produced her well-known series, “Studies in the Weekly Parshah.” But I digress.

Many of us are familiar with the well-known prohibition, ולפני עור לא תתן מכשול – “and do not put a stumbling block before the blind man” (Vayikra 19:14).

Here are translations of two different explanations of this prohibition:

Rashi (on the passuk): “Before the man blind about a matter, do not give him inappropriate advice. Do not tell him, “Sell your field and buy a donkey”, and you circumvent him and take it from him. (By the way, it’s not clear to me whether Rashi means that you take the field or the donkey, but I think it means that you give him the advice because you want the field for yourself.)

Rambam (Book of Commandments, Negative commandment 299): “Anyone who stumbles a man blind in a matter and gives him inappropriate advice, or he strengthens the hand of the sinner about which he is blind and does not see the truth due to the desires of his heart, this person violates a negative commandment.

Nechama asked the following great question: According to these two interpretations, who is the blind man? What type of blindness does the Torah refer to? What behavior does this verse prohibit?

Discuss this question around the Shabbos table. For further discussion, can you come up with a different understanding of the passuk or find still another interpretation? As a bonus question, what sin do we confess during viduy on Yom Kippur that relates to this issue?