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Long ago, our rabbis realized that the Torah is very much like a beautiful orchard. From a distance, you may see only a grouping of trees. As you approach, you notice the leaves, the blossoms, and the fruit on the individual trees. When you come even closer, you may see the skin that covers the fruit. If you are persistent and peel back the skin, your reward is a delicious treat. Just like the orchard which at a distance is only a field of trees, concealed there are layers upon layers of wonderful things.
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CATEGORIES: Shabbat Table Talk
What did we do when we were wandering across an ancient desert toward an unknown Homeland? What did we do when we were struggling to discover the deeper dimensions of our freedom and possibility? Predictably, we made a building which could serve as the spiritual focus of a growing community; an edifice from which we were to forge an identity as a religious people. And how did that process begin? Then, as now, it began with a Building Fund.
This parashah initiates the very first Building Fund to allow us to manifest the materials necessary for the construction of the Tabernacle – the Sanctuary – which would travel with us through that ancient terrain.
"Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts from every person whose heart so moves him … And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them." (25:2, 8). An alternative reading is: “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell within them.” Should not the text read, “… that I may dwell within it (i.e. the sanctuary)?”
We begin this New Year with beginning of the second Book of our Torah: Shemot, most often translated Exodus,when in fact it means Names. Besides the names of our ancestors listed in chapter one, the heroines of chapters one and two are five women. Two have their names recorded. Three others do not.
Shifra and Pua are the midwives who refuse to kill male Hebrew newborns for Pharaoh. There are three other women who play heroic roles in these first two chapters whose names are not given: the baby’s mother, the baby’s sister (or near relative) and Pharaoh’s daughter who saves Moses and raises him as her own.
In a book called Names.There is a refusal by our scripture to name these women. Is it because of modesty? Perhaps the idea is that keeping these heroic women anonymous allows for women readers to place their names in the story. In other words, women reading this story can elicit from this story that they have the capability of acting heroic. Perhaps the most plausible reason these women have no names is because they have been forgotten over time? And so, as we begin a New Year, as California enforces a new law for pay equality for those women who have notreceived their due, I tell a story of a woman that time has forgotten.
At the dawn of our people’s history – four thousand years ago – two people set off on a journey. They did not know where their travels would take them. They only knew that they heard a voice, telling them that a great and blessed nation would form as a result of this journey. And, that was enough to set Abraham and Sarah off to leave the place of their birth on a journey that would change the world.
It is interesting that for our children who leave our little Tucson, they tell us opportunities for adventure and success are to be found in great cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco. Some of our children are in London, Seoul and Tokyo. Great cities all!
For our ancestors – Abraham and Sarah – they went to a small place between two great Empires (Mesopotamia and Egypt). It is still a small place –Canaan, now Israel. There they went. There were really no great dramas in their life. They longed for a child and had one. They were caught up in the dramas of the day: famines, local battles, and the destruction of the cities of the plain. But they were not heroic figures by any means. Abraham was not a king or even a prince. He was not a gallant or strong warrior. Rather, throughout their life in Canaan. They lived a rather unspectacular and quiet life.
What could it be that made them worth remembering? What did they do besides have a child, who had a child, who had twelve children who became the twelve tribes of the Jewish people?
Give Bigotry and Racism No Quarter
Published inthe August 14 edition of the ArizonaJewish Post
By RabbiThomas Louchheim
In one month, many of us will gatherin our synagogues, observing the beginning of the New Year. Ten days later wewill fast and be called to look beyond our needsand our yearnings to care for those whose basic needs are not being met. Irealize today that my fulfillment is not found by remaining isolated. True gooddepends on my participation with others in need. The Prophet Isaiah calls usto, “Wash yourselves clean; put your evil doings away from My sight. Cease todo evil. Learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice; aid the wronged.Uphold the rights of the orphan; defend the cause of the widow.” (Isaiah1:16-17)
While writing this article, I reviewed some events of the last severalweeks. On July 27, the national board of the Boy Scouts of America removedrestrictions on openly gay leaders and employees and the Mormon Churchthreatened to abandon their association with the group. On Aug. 3, Inbar Azrak,a 27-year-old Jewish Israeli, was injured after a firebomb was thrown at hercar in the Arab neighborhood of Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem. On July 19,Samuel DuBose, a 43-year-old black man, was killed in his car by a Universityof Cincinnati police officer during a routine traffic stop. On July 30, sixpeople were stabbed at an annual LGBTQ Pride March in Jerusalem by an OrthodoxJewish man, including 16-year-old Shira Banki, who died from her wounds. On July31, in Duma on the West Bank, the Dawabshe home was burned to the ground, anact suspected to have been carried out by Israeli settlers. Saad Dawabshe andhis wife, Riham, managed to escape with their 4-year old, Ahmad, but all threewere severely burned. Eighteen-month-old Ali was already dead. Hebrew graffiti wasscrawled on two walls, reading "revenge" and "long live themessiah." Prime Minister Netanyahu responded, “We are shocked by it, wecondemn it fully, the entire Israeli government and all the citizens of Israel.We decry it as a terrorist crime.”
In just a few short weeks we were again spectators to ongoingracism and bigotry. These are not isolated incidents. Over the past few monthswe have been witness to events in Ferguson and Baltimore, the shooting at theEmanuel AME church in Charleston, the controversy over the Confederatebattleflag in South Carolina and other southern states, Sandra Bland found deadin a Texas jail, and the fires this summer at six predominately AfricanAmerican churches. Isaiah is not accusing usof these outrages, but he is questioning us on whether we have, in any manner, devoted ourselves to justice and provided aid to thewronged. We may not have caused these atrocities; but we do bear responsibilityfor them.
In 1963, Abraham Joshua Heschel attended the “second”conference on religion and race. He said that at the “first” conference onreligion and race, the main participants were Pharaoh and Moses. Heschel observedthat “it was easier for the children of Israel to cross the Red Sea than for aNegro to cross certain university campuses.” He categorized racism as ‘‘universaland evil,’’ and as “man’s gravest threat to man, the maximum of hatred for aminimum of reason, the maximum of cruelty for a minimum of thinking.”Unfortunately neither conference concluded with an end to racism and bigotry.
We cannot dodge these issues or remain quiet. We cannot yieldone inch to bigotry and racism. Our concern for the dignity for anyone who isterrorized, discriminated against, or oppressed is part of our creed as Jews.Anyone who offends another offends the majesty of God. An act of violence byword or deed is an act of desecration.
On my office wall hangs a lithograph. On it is a verse fromthe Torah, lo tuchal l’hitalem, “youwill not remain indifferent,” followed by the words of Rabbi Leo Baeck, "Aspirit is characterized not only by what it does, but no less, by what itpermits, by what it forgives and what it beholds in silence." As we enter our sacred spaces inSeptember, let us not pray for God to make us a better person this year. Let usreaffirm God’s love and commitment to all humankind equally through ourpersonal involvement, mutual reverence and concern for all of those around us. Itis our moral duty to “unlock the fetters of wickedness” (Isaiah 58:6) and to“put evil doings away from [God’s] sight. Cease to do evil; and learn to dogood” (Isaiah 1:16-17). We will thrive individually and as a society only if wereach and accept this divine undertaking.
I would like to continue from David Sadker's comment on last week's commentary. David spoke about how we can grow as an individual if we challenge ourselves with experiences outside of our comfort zone. So, this week I would like to challenge each of us to do just that.
.... who regards not persons nor takes a bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, in giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt(Deuteronomy 10:17-19).
Rashi comments, "How could one possibly associate God with monetary bribes?" Some religiously-minded people believe that doing good works will influence God to overlook wicked deeds. The above verses clearly indicate that this is not true. Good works are to be done for their own sake and not to buy forgiveness for any sins. Providing for the orphan, the widow and the stranger represents the highest form or charity, period!
Love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt -- You are to love the stranger because you were a stranger to someone else (who should have loved you, by the way). So, here is the the teaching that will take you out of your comfort zone (and me too). It might be easy to help out a perfect stranger -- giving food to someone who is hungry, donating gently used clothing and furnishings to the First Rate Second Hand Thrift Shop, and providing a monetary donation to the Food Bank or ICS. That is not too hard to do. Now let's try and reach outside of your comfort zone and do something a bit more difficult. How about reaching out in a loving way to someone who is "estranged" form you!
There are many people in your life with whom you were close and they said something or they did something that hurt your feelings and now you do not speak anymore. Perhaps you did something or said something to a friend and they will have nothing to do with you. Or, finally, you just lost touch with someone over the years.
So...as we approach the day of At-One-Ment Day (Atonement - Yom Kippur, get it?) why not become "one" again and reach out to that person. Let's reword the Torah a bit: "Love the estranged, for you were estranged in the Land of Egypt."
Introduction to Shabbat Table Talk
Pharaoh and Moses
Apologies to Rabbi Lookstein
Ki Yachol Lah - כי יכול לה
Small Role; Big Impact
In Response to the Orlando Shooting
When Tragedy Strikes
HUC-JIR L'DOR VADOR Gala
The Baal Shem Tov and His Sage
Share Your Stories
Appreciating Everyone's Gifts
Women Named and Unnamed, Beginning a New Year
The Journey that Changed Our World
Give Bigotry and Racism No Quarter
Loving the Stranger and the Estranged
Seeing the Good Land
Pinchas Is Not Our Religious Model
The Jewish View on Marriage Equality: The Jewish Response to the Supreme Court Decision
Adaption from Rabbi Karyn Kedar's, Omer: A Counting.
Hod of Malchut, "Humility in Nobility."
Netzach of Malchut, "Endurance in Nobility"
Compassion in Nobility
Behar– The Tender Tongue
Endurance in Bonding
Let Me Be What I Can Be
Rabbi Leonard Beerman - My Rabbi
Shmitah: A Sabbath for A Year Making a Difference for Your Lives
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