First, a word about the haftarah. A few weeks ago, instead of reading the third Haftarah of Consolation, my shul read the one for Rosh Chodesh Elul. To get all 7 Haftarot of Consolation read before Rosh Hashanah, tomorrow we will read #3 #5 (Isaiah 54:1-10) and then the one we missed, #3 (Isaiah 54:11 – 55:5).
In last week’s reading, the Israelites were commanded to pursue justice. This week, we read 72 laws (Maimonides’ count) that are supposed to help them do that. The laws concern:
- Family and sexual relationships: captive war brides, the rights of the first-born of a less-favored wife (if there are two or more wives, you can be certain one will be less favored), what to do with (to) an irredeemably rebellious son, questioning the virginity of one’s bride, seduction versus rape, remarrying the wife you divorced (don’t), marrying your father’s former wife (don’t), exemption from military service for newlyweds, being punished (i.e., by a court) for the sins of your children or parents;
- Care of those on the fringes (poor, widows, fatherless) and consideration of the community: lost property, helping your neighbor with his fallen ox, runaway slaves (don’t return them), kidnapping, the rights of the stranger, taking advantage of a widow’s poverty, leaving a forgotten sheaf in the field; building a parapet for your roof to prevent falls, military camp hygiene;
- Fair business practices: loan interest, sampling grapes and grain in another’s field, prompt payment of wages, loans, interest, taking something necessary to one’s livelihood (like a handmill) in pawn, abuse of needy laborers; and
- Practices of head-scratching origin and/or related more directly to pleasing the Lord: treatment of the corpse after an execution (bury it that day), crossdressing (don’t), taking a mother bird with her nestlings (don’t), cult prostitutes, forbidden pairs (two types of seed sown in a vineyard, an ox yoked with an ass for plowing, cloth made of wool and linen), fringes on a four-cornered garment (tzitzit), prompt fulfillment of vows to the Lord; and men who cannot marry Israelite women (having specified genital damage, born of adultery or incest, Moabites, Ammonites) or can after 3 generations (Edomites).
These laws are both positive (“you will”) and negative (”you won’t”) commands (mitzvot). Laws are promulgated to shape behavior in both a general and specific sense. But these laws imply more. In one Midrash, these mitzvot are like a band of angels that elevate mundane activities to the level of Divine service, adding grace to human life. In another, humans are struggling, trying not to drown in a stormy sea of passions, and the mitzvot are lifelines to help them withstand their own lusts. (See Nehama Leibowitz, Studies in Devarim, pp. 209-11). It’s not just obedience, but obedience directed toward a spiritual end.
Law School Quotes
Professor Kingsfield You teach yourselves the law, but I train your minds. You come in here with a skull full of mush, and, if you survive, you leave thinking like a lawyer.
One of the things I was taught in law school is that I’d never be able to think the same again – that being a lawyer is something that’s part of who I am as an individual now. Anita Hill
I thought I would, you know, go to college, get to law school, finish, and then get a job and work as a lawyer, but that proved to be not a good fit for me. Demetri Martin (comedian)
Lost & Found
Says one humorist: “Life is unfair. I lost my car keys at a ball game and never found them. I lost my sunglasses at the beach and never found them. I lost my socks in the washing machine and never found them. I lost three pounds on a diet — I found them and five more.”
Lawyers Will Say Anything To Get Your Business…
WAR BRIDES (excerpts)
First came love. Then came marriage. Then came life in a strange new land, and farewell to everything familiar. Most GI war brides wouldn’t have traded it for the world.
by Brenda J. Wilt
Between the years 1942 and 1952, about one million American soldiers married foreign women from 50 different countries.
Some American civilians decried the trend. There were those who defended the soldiers’ right to marry whomever they wished, but others–especially single American women–were distressed at the idea of all those US troops bringing home foreign brides.
The liberated people of continental Europe saw them as nothing short of heroes. Friendship with the Americans was not only accepted but encouraged, although parents did have concerns about their daughters marrying the ingratiating foreigners.
Annette Berman was a 20-year-old university student in September 1944 when she met her future husband, Arthur Berman, outside a Paris synagogue. Just 15 years old when the war started in Europe, Annette had spent two years in hiding with her Jewish family during the German occupation of France and then had worked with the French Resistance.
Annette’s first impression of American soldiers was, “They were so handsome, clean, and had lovely teeth, but they didn’t speak French.” It was Annette’s knowledge of English that precipitated her encounter with Arthur. “He was trying to have a conversation with my father, but my father didn’t speak English,” she says. “I did, so I approached my father and asked if I could help.”
That was the first of many encounters. “Arthur was stationed outside of Paris and had leave every Saturday for two months,” Annette recalls. Then Arthur’s unit moved east to participate in the Battle of the Bulge. When he finally returned to Paris, he proposed. Shortly thereafter, Arthur’s mother died and he returned home on leave. While he was in Pennsylvania, the war ended in Europe and he was discharged. Annette traveled to the United States as his fiancée, and the first thing she said to him when he met her at her plane in New York was, “My mother made me promise that I would get married right away.” Five days later, they took their vows in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Annette was treated kindly by everyone she met. “I was amazed at how friendly they were,” Annette says. The hardest part, she continues, was getting used to calling people by their first names, particularly if they were her elders.
Annette was able to get a job teaching French, which she did for more than two decades. She says one of the best things about marrying Arthur and coming to America was that she was able to help her parents. “I sent them food,” she says. “It took a long time for France to recover.”
Brenda Wilt has been an associate editor for Pennsylvania Township News and an assistant editor of Civil War Times. Elfrieda Berthiaume Shukert’s and Barbara Smith Scibetta’s book War Brides of World War II (Presidio Press, 1988) provided her with valuable background for this article, which originally appeared in the August 2005 issue of America in WWII. Order a copy of this issue now.