Exploring Babylon Chapter 21
Several updates below. In addition to the many other things he left us, Max Ticktin z”l (1920-2016) left behind a lot of books, and his family kindly offered them to interested community members. Some of the volumes I inherited this way are from a Tanakh that was re-bound, as a gift for Max early in his rabbinical career, with pages opposite the text for his own notes.*
Some of Max’s notes are straightforward translation or links to related verses. Some are literary, some theological. Occasionally, his chuckle is obvious. Sometimes the notes are just opaque, to me anyway. Whatever the content, I consider it a great privilege and pleasure to have Max’s scribblings accompany me in my studies. (See also The Hebrew Bible (Greenspan).)
Some Notes and Questions
Here, pertinent to this week of Behar-Bechukotai, are some annotations for Jeremiah Chapter 17 (Haftarah for Bechukotai is Jer 16:19-17:14).
I am hoping someone with more background and/or better skill at reading Hebrew script can decipher this comment:
UPDATE 5/11: sources tell me my rendering of the Hebrew “שכר ועונש” is correctly spelled and can be transliterated “sachar va’onesh” and translated as “reward and punishment.”**.
And maybe some experts at English handwriting can fill in what I’m missing here:
19ff — dialogue of Jeremiah and God on God’s [??] the transformation of people!
Note: based on other passages, that lonely lowercase “a” = “and,” and the lowercase “t” = “the.”
UPDATE 5/13: A member of the Fabrangen community suggest that the word I couldn’t read may be “inclination.” Another points out that “the letter ‘C’ with a bar over it is often an abbreviation for ‘with’ in the form ‘cum’.” So, then we’d have something like: “dialogue of Jeremiah and God on God’s inclination with the transformation of people!”
Babylon and Transformation
Not sure exactly what this haftarah, with or without Max’s commentary, adds to #ExploringBabylon. But I am very interested in two images for God, both found in Jer 17:13 —
- “mikveh yisrael [מִקְוֵה יִשְׂרָאֵל]” or “hope of Israel” and
- “mekor mayim chayyim [מְקוֹר מַיִם-חַיִּים],” or “fountain of living waters”
and how these are related to “the transformation of people!”
More to come, maybe. Meanwhile, please let me know your ideas about how to read the above comments.
* I recall Max mentioning this gift and how much it meant to him several times, and I expected that regulars at Fabrangen and Jewish Study Center activities would share similar recollections. But I have not heard from others who remember him saying this….which makes it all the more interesting that it turns out I know family members of the rabbi who gave Max these books.
ADDITION 5/11 (not exactly “Update”): It’s not the most common of conversation topics, but somehow, long before Max died, Rabbi Danny Zemel of Temple Micah (DC) mentioned to me that his grandfather had once related, with great fondness, giving the special, re-bound copy of the Tanakh. Rabbi Zemel’s grandfather, Rabbi Solomon Goldman (1893-1953), served Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago from 1929-1953, where he and young Max connected.
Long after that brief conversation, while exploring the books the Ticktins were giving away, I happened upon two volumes that resembled the ones Max and Rabbi Zemel had both described. I was so excited, I had to double-check that the family meant to part with them. I was reassured and gratefully added them to my pile.
When I emailed a picture of the fly leaf to Rabbi Zemel, he recognized his grandfather’s writing. So I was delighted to be able to share one of the volumes with Rabbi Goldman’s family.
On occasion, I marvel at the odds of that book making it back “home,” in a sense. The Jewish world is sometimes small, but Reform and havurah circles — like Temple Micah and Fabrangen — don’t interact all that much; my participation in both communities is unusual. So, I am tempted to call it “bashert [fate, destiny].” But then I see Max rolling his eyes at me and explain it instead as follows.
Max had an uncanny ability to connect deeply, and very specifically, with so many people: Everyone who passed through that Ticktin library after Max’s passing surely found a special treasure that seemed destined just for them. In addition, although I never knew him, Rabbi Goldman had a large impact on Judaism far beyond his own, influential congregation — and clearly he made an impression on Max who, however accidentally, impressed on me, as Rabbi Goldman did on a young Danny Zemel, that these books embody an enduring connection between lifelong students of bible.
** “A Song of Reward and Punishment”? Didn’t Leonard Cohen write that? Maybe Sarah Rindner’s recent piece on “The Lehrhaus” — which links Leonard Cohen and this week’s Torah portion — put the idea in my mind. But I can somehow hear him singing it, even though I’m pretty sure there’s no such song in his opus. In any case, establishing that the words on the page say something like, “A Song of Reward and Punishment,” is only prelude to understanding the passage from Jeremiah and its context….
UPDATE 5/13: Here’s my homage to Leonard Cohen and the prophet Jeremiah.