See it again, my sermon from last Shabbat on why Progressive/Reform Judaism is AUTHENTIC Judaism.
One of the most haunting and alarming verses in the Torah comes at the beginning of this week’s portion of Sh’mot: “A new king arose in Egypt who did not know Joseph”(Ex 1:8). The Torah imagines that despite Joseph’s insight and intelligence which saved Egypt from ruin, Egypt forgot that story so completely, that the new Pharaoh didn’t know, understand or value Joseph’s contribution to Egyptian prominence. Not only that, but his lack of knowledge led to the oppressive treatment and subsequent enslavement of the Jewish people
The verse is disturbing because it exemplifies how a nation’s selective memory can lead down a destructive path for citizens and strangers alike. As much as the Hebrew slaves were oppressed, the Egyptian people were also impacted adversely by their leader’s decisions and the ten plagues brought by God that afflicted every Egyptian.
The text explains that the Egyptians took their cue from Pharaoh. The Egyptians did not need much convincing to set up taskmasters and inflict hardship on the Hebrews. We know of course how the story ends, since we retell it every year at the Passover Seder – we were saved by the strong hand and the outstretched arm.
Reflecting on the past year 2017, I have been anticipating this text. I have thought about it when I read about the uptick in hate crimes; I have felt it in the double standards regarding politics towards Israel; and it has reverberated in my mind witnessing the rise of right wing and populist politicians all over the world. It’s been hard to think of little else.
It is no small comfort to me that in the subsequent verses we read in our Torah portion we meet Shifra and Puah, the midwives who defy Pharaoh’s edict to kill all the newborn Hebrew boys. Acting out of their faith in God and in their awareness of what is just, they strategically denied Pharaoh’s orders. The Talmud (Sotah 11b) points out that the Torah doesn’t just tell of their disobedience, but says, “they let them (the boys) live” (Exod. 1:17). The rabbis ask why the text needed to add that point, since presumably by their disobedience, the children were spared. They answer that the end of the verse teaches that not only did they not kill the boys, but they actively aided them to live, by giving them food and water (BT Sotah). The rabbis imagines that Shifra and Puah actually became God’s partners in creation, as they granted life to the Hebrew children (Shemot Rabba 1:19).
As enigmatic as these rewards may be, they make perfect symbolic sense. The seeds of Tikkun Olam were planted with the midwives’ strategic defiance against injustice, as their actions were about preserving life, and anticipating a future where all people would be free to dwell in safety.
As we anticipate the new Year, let the story of the midwives serve to remind each of us that we have the ability to speak and act against any and all injustice. Let us not allow “collective forgetting”. Each of us can be a midwife who helps to birth the future and bear the hardships on the road to justice and freedom, never giving up, always with the greater good in mind.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbat and a happy (secular) New Year
Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source Rabbi Yael Ridberg)
This Shabbat we learn of two cities and two lessons. Each of these cities offers us a value and a cautionary note. We relearn these values and we recall their accompanying cautionary notes.
The first city is from the Torah portion. It is Hebron. In this week’s Torah portion Sarah dies at the age of 127 years. Abraham mourns her and seeks to buy a burial plot. He purchases the Cave of Machpeleh from Ephron, the Hittite. We learn that Abraham pays more than the asking price and thus Hebron becomes the first Jewish place. From this city we are reminded that the land, the land of Israel, is more than a sentimental note, it is holy to us. It is made holy by Sarah’s death, by Abraham’s purchase, and God’s promise.
Here is where it all started. Our faith began in Hebron, located in the modern day West Bank. Thus it is not just any land that the Palestinians claim. It is our people’s as well. When it comes time to make peace (may that day be very soon) it will not be as simple as withdrawing from Gush Katif in Gaza. And if you recall this recent history, remember that it wasn’t simple or easy at all. In Hebron we still feel Jewish history and its reverberations. There one can sense Abraham’s and Sarah’s presence.
Still our cautionary note is that the land is no more holy than any people; no place is worth more than human life and preserving Jewish democracy. Even a place as holy as Hebron, with its many Jewish resonances, is worth “sacrificing” for the sake of furthering security for Israel and saving lives.
The second city is Berlin. We think of it because of our commemoration of “Kristallnacht” this week. On November 9, 1938 in Germany and Austria, and in particular in Berlin, the Nazis perpetrated this “night of broken glass”. There are many dates to which we can point and date the beginning of the Holocaust. This date would be one. On this day the Nazis destroyed and burned synagogues and Jewish books. And on this day the world stood by. Kristallnacht was reported but little, if anything was done. The Nazis were allowed to destroy Jewish lives and homes with impunity.
We are reminded that even the most cultured of places can become evil. The place that gave the world Max Liebermann, Alexander von Humboldt and Rahel Varnhagen also gave rise to the past century’s most unparalleled evil.
Lest we be naïve, we must proclaim that anti-Semitism still exists. We hear its venom coming from Iran. It exists in Europe, in the United States, and even in South Africa. There are tinges of it emanating from BDS. This is a movement that is all about anger and not about peace and empowerment of the Palestinian people. Standing in front of Jewish owned places and calling for boycott of exactly those stores and companies follows only one pattern, the Nazi terror of the Third Reich. From the memory of Jewish Berlin we are cautioned: stay vigilant. Never be so quick to dismiss racism and anti -Semitism. It can arise anywhere and everywhere. It can be found in any city.
For us Jews, history is relevant, it is part of our identity. Those two cities are only two examples for how history has shaped us as a people, as a faith, as human beings.
Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source: Rabbi Steven Moskowitz )
“Then the Eternal said to me: You have been skirting this hill country long enough; now turn north. And charge the people as follows: You will be passing through the territory of your kinsmen, the descendants of Esau, who live in Se-ir. Although they will be afraid of you, be very careful not to start a fight with them. For I will not give you of their land so much as a foot can tread on; I have given the hill country of Se-ir as a possession to Esau. What food you eat you shall obtain from them for money; even the water you drink you shall procure from them for money. Indeed, the Eternal your God has blessed you in all your undertakings.”
The news and pictures coming from Israel these days left many from us shocked. Again, violence and hate has risen and is challenging our dreams and hopes for Israel. Looking for an answer for my own questions, I found this short D’var Torah on our Torah Portion for this week written by my colleague Rabbi Fred Greene which I’d like to share with you:
“Those of us who are committed to a secure, prosperous Israel ache each day that the conflict with the Palestinians persists. Despite the anger we might feel toward the Palestinians, Deuteronomy 2:2–7 reminds us that God did indeed promise land to other nations in the region beside Israel. The Bible reminds us that despite our feelings, we must live according to our ethical and religious precepts.
While we stand in solidarity with Israel, we must resist the temptation to demonize the Palestinian people en masse because of the sins of their leaders and the terrorists who live among them. Reform Judaism has always maintained that the Palestinians are entitled to coexist side by side with Israel and has also challenged the efficacy of settlements in the West Bank.
Our focal passage illustrates God’s desire for integrity and peace among peoples. Israel was given a land to build and to make holy, but it is only to be considered so when God’s presence lies therein. Rabbi Jonathan Magonet argues, “It is God’s presence that ensures the holiness of the land, not any special nature of the land itself. Indeed, God cannot be present in the land, so to speak, when it is polluted by the actions of the nations that preceded Israel—or by those of Israel itself.” (“Covenant and Holiness: Help or Hindrance in Seeking a Reform Theology of the State of Israel” in Journal of Reform Zionism, vol. 1)
This parashah reminds us that no matter what the original boundaries of Eretz Yisrael were (and there were variations), Israel needed—needs—to be righteous and just; and her neighbours, despite their conflicts with Israel, were—are—entitled to their own land.
The beauty and challenge of Reform Zionism is to continue to build Eretz Yisrael–not necessarily its roads and highways as in yesteryear but its promise for peace and its democracy—in partnership with Israel’s citizens. It is our understanding of k’dushah that drives us to implement our conviction of hope for the City of Peace, Y’rushalayim.”
May this Shabbat may bring peace to Israel and its neighbours
Rabbi Adrian M Schell
(Painting: “The Children of Israel Crossing the Jordan” by Benjamin West, 1800)
Torah Reading for Shabbat Chazon/Devarim
Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22; Reading Deuteronomy1:1-25 ;
Plaut p.1161; Hertz p.736
Haftarah Isaiah 1:1-1:27; (Plaut 1180; Hertz p.750)
Tisha b’Av begins this coming Monday evening and ends on Tuesday evening (31.7. to 1.8.2017)
In our Torah portion:
* Moses begins his final words of instruction to the Children of Israel, focusing first on recounting their physical journey.
* Moses reviews the people’s reactions to the negative reports of the spies and the appointment of Joshua to succeed him.
* Moses recounts that all of the Israelite warriors who left Egypt died, as God had intended, and the people continued their wanderings and defeated their enemies.
* Moses reiterates that the Land of Israel was allocated to the Israelite tribes.
Our Parashat Matot Masei, which brings the Children of Israel to the plains of Moab on the border of the Land of Israel, deals with the nexus between two of the founding stories of Judaism. The story of peoplehood frames the Jewish People as a family and a tribe bound together by a shared history and destiny in mutual responsibility. The story of nationhood views the People of Israel as a community that is associated with a specific land, Zion, from which it was exiled and to which it ever seeks to return.
In the second half of our Torah portion, the tribes are informed of the borders of their future dwelling, while the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Menashe chose to remain beyond those borders; on the east of the Jordan river. Thus, we see that even before the Jews entered the land, life beyond Israel’s borders was already a reality accepted and validated by the Torah. However, such a “proto-diaspora,” was not freed from its own obligations to the rest of the Tribes of Israel.
Indeed, in the first half, Moses challenges the two and half tribes: “Shall your brothers go to war while you dwell here?” (Numbers 32:6). However, the tribes assure Moses that they will join their sisters and brothers to conquer the Land of Kana’an, only returning when all of the people are settled.
Thus, the roots of Diaspora Judaism are long and deep; so too are the expectations of the Jewish People from Jews beyond Israel’s borders to contribute to the unity and wellbeing of the people within the Land of Israel, while Israel itself is the beating heart for all, keeping all Jews connected—close by or far away. This obligation has taken many forms in different times and contexts over centuries. This is highlighted in this very moment while we discuss the egalitarian extension of the Western Wall Plaza and the conversion bill.
On the one hand, multiple missions of solidarity especially from the Progressive Diaspora Communities, millions of Rand, Euros and Dollars of financial assistance and broad mobilisation on social media have all embodied our commitment to Israel. On the other hand the on-going diminishing and out-casting of the non-orthodox communities in Israel have left severe marks on our Jewish souls.
Progressive Jews in South Africa, and all over the world have continually shown their unbroken solidarity with Israel. The security and well-being of our sisters and brothers in Israel are without a question part of our “DNA“, and no group or organisation in Israel or outside of Israel has the right to challenge or even cut this bond we have.
Patrizia (in the picture right) is one of my former chanichot at Netzer. She visited Israel for the first time when we had an exchange programme with Noar Telem (Netzer Israel) in 2014. Last year she made Aliyah after her Netzer-Shnat year, and today she serves as a lone soldier in the IDF. I could not be prouder of her, because she lives the values and ideals we teach in Netzer and the Progressive movement. And it is for her and all other Progressive Jews that we stand and fight for a more pluralistic Jewish Israel. Patrizia, as any other Jew, deserves a Jewish home and place that reflects their, our, values and traditions, too. Moses, in our Torah reading, challenges the diaspora to stand on the side of Israel. Today, we challenge Israel to stand on our side.
Rabbi Adrian M Schell
(Source: Josh Gottesman/Gidi Grinstein)
Tischa beAw – Ein zentrales Heiligtum ist für den Bund mit dem Ewigen nicht nötig. Wir können ihm an jedem Ort der Welt begegnen …
Mein Artikel in der Jüdischen Allgemeinen zum Nachlesen:
The news that overwhelms us in the media about the terrorist attacks in Israel saddens me in a myriad of ways. It is hard to withhold my tears over the dead in Jerusalem, and like my fellow Jews across the world, I mourn for the victims of the latest attacks across the whole country.
Less than a year ago I lived in Israel for a while, and walked through the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem daily. I felt safe, and had the feeling that we finally could see a glimpse of a new era for Israel – a place where Jews can live in safety, secure with their neighbours of all creeds. And now? Once again, our friends in Israel are filled with fear when they go out in public. Once again, words have become deadly weapons, as those around us use them to call for violence. Holy sites, places that should actually be filled with peace and security, have become places of grief and terror.
KiTavo, our Parasha for this week starts with the words:
VE HAJA, KI TAVO ET HA’ARETZ ASHER ADONAI ELOHEICHA NOTEN LECHA –
When you enter the land that the Eternal, Your God is giving you.
What follows are instructions to the Israelites regarding what they have to do, after they have entered the Promised Land. This is not the only time in the Torah, that some commandments are strongly linked to “the land”. Remember that all the Mitzwot, dealing with the Sabbatical Year for agriculture are commandments linked to the land.
According to the traditional interpretation of the Halachah, these Mitzwot are still bound to the land of Israel, or more precisely, only within the border of the biblical land of Israel and Judah. This means, that our friends on the progressive Jewish Kibbutz Lotan in the South of Israel are not obliged to follow the regulations of the Sabbatical Year. The Arava and Negev Desert don’t belong to ancient Israel.
Reading the bible very literally, one could argue these commandments are not relevant to us in South Africa. We are neither going to enter the land of Israel, nor are we living there already. One may even be tempted to say that even a lot of Israelis are not really observing the laws that are presented in our Torah portion.
But, I wouldn’t be raising this topic, if I agreed with this point of view. There is another way of looking at it, that – in my opinion – makes more sense. I would argue and say that Mitzwot, connected exclusively to “the land”, bear an absolute relevance for us all, even though we are not living in the land of Israel.
The laws we find in our Torah portion, and in other places as well, are loaded with ethical values that are vital to every society. These include the sharing of a tenth of our harvest or income with the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and the appreciation of the land, and our natural recourses, by keeping the idea of a sabbatical year. I truly believe that the intention of the Torah by telling us this is – as mentioned in Verse 26.18 of our parashah – to create a “Holy Nation”, a nation that is struggling for a better world in the path, God has designated for us.
Actually, I think that all these Mitzwot, which on a superficial level are connected to the land, have a broader, and deeper meaning – that of connecting us to each other and the Eternal through the ethics they represent.
Therefore, the connection of the Mitzwot with “the land” can be understood as being of great help and greater importance. The land of Israel may be seen metaphorically as an eternal flame, reminding us not to forget to thank the Eternal for what we have achieved, and that every one of us has had a moment, a time in their lives where they are brought out of a “very personal” Mitzrayim. Every one of us overcomes challenges in life. It could be leaving home, entering into a partnership, discovering one has a serious illness. The list is endless. Israel, in this sense, is a symbol of the well-being of the Jewish people because it reflects our relationship with God.
I would like to very briefly raise another point relating to the issue of “the land”. I can understand that a lot of people are troubled by the politics, and realities connected to the modern State of Israel. I, too, am very often troubled, and I would consider this to be a normal reaction. We need to be concerned, but I think our Torah portion also teaches us, that we, as Jews living outside of the land of Israel, are in a relationship with Israel. Like the other Mitzwot I referred to, Israel has a relevance for us all.
I believe, Israel reflects our eternal relationship with God. If we think, that things in the State of Israel are not going well, then our relationship with God also needs some improvements. Guided by shared values – like gender equality in public spaces, the “western wall” as a place of worship for all Jewish streams, and a human treatment of all people, irrespective of their background, – we should seek to find ways, in which we can change the current situation. Israel is too important for us as Jews to be left alone and on its own. Ignoring it, or even boycotting it, won’t change anything. After all, Israel is our Jewish homeland.
As progressive Jews, we have a responsibility for Israel in the same way as every other Jew has – whether they are living in Israel or not. In our Torah portion Moses repeats that the land of Israel is part of our heritage. Not only OUR heritage today, but the heritage of EVERY generation of Jews. Those who have gone before us, our generation today, and for the generations that will come after us. I think, it is worth taking on this responsibility.
In war, truth is the first casualty. (Aeschylus)
Reading our parashah Mattot ((Numbers 30:2–32:42)) while seeing the pictures from Israel and Gaza in the news is difficult for me. During the last weeks it has become harder and harder for me to read all the feeds on Facebook and to watch the news. I feel my heart bleeding because of all the people who are suffering, and I get the impression that no one is paying respect to the fact that the victims are human beings. The victims are just becoming objects in a propaganda war. German journalists (and I guess the same is true for the whole world) love to show pictures of bleeding children, dead bodies, or even only parts of it. The propaganda machine is presenting them like objects in an exhibition, trying to sell us a truth. Continue reading
Bittgebet in Zeiten des Krieges von Rabbiner Yehoram Mazor
Gott, der Du unsere Väter Avraham, Itzchak und Jaakov und unsere Mütter Sara, Rivka, Rachel und Lea gesegnet hast, segne auch die Soldaten der israelischen Verteidigungsarmee und die Vielzahl der Menschen, die sich schützend vor unser Volk stellen. Schütze sie und befreie sie aus aller Bedrängnis und Not, segne all ihr tun, und erhöre ihre und unsere Gebete und erlöse sie.
O, Herr der Welt, sende doch Deinen Segen Deinem Volk, den Müttern und Vätern, die sich sorgen, den Einwohnern Israels, die in ihren Häusern ausharren und den Kindern, die von ihren Spielen fliehen müssen und schaffe Geborgenheit für die Kleinsten unter ihnen, die in Schutzräumen Zuflucht finden mussten. Bitte, erinnere Dich Deines Volkes, in Deiner Gnade. Kümmere Dich um uns, in Deiner Huld. In Deinem Erbarmen komm uns eilend entgegen, denn wir vertrauen auf Dich.
Gott allen Erbarmens, gieße Deine Gnade über Dein Volk aus und erinnere Dich Deines Bundes mit Avraham Avinu, Deinem Herzensfreund. Breite Deinen Frieden aus über den Nachkommen Ischmaels, Sohn der Hagar, und über den Kindern Itzchaks, Sohn der Sara und errichte unter ihnen und uns, was die Propheten schauten: „denn die Saat des Friedens wird aufgehen, der Weinstock, wird seine Frucht hervorbringen, all dies will ich ihnen zum Erbe geben … und ihr werdet ein Segen sein. Fürchtet Euch nicht“ (gemäß Sacharija 8.12-13). Und darauf lasst uns AMEN sagen.
תחנון לימות מלחמה / הרב יהורם מזור
אֱלֹהֵינוּ, שֶׁבֵּרַךְ אֶת אֲבוֹתֵינוּ אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקֹב וְאִמּוֹתֵינוּ שָׂרָה רִבְקָה רָחֵל וְלֵאָה, בָּרֵךְ אֶת חַיָּלֵי צְבָא הַהֲגַנָּה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל וֹּשְאַר מְגִנֵּי עַמֵּנוּ הָעוֹמְדִים עַל מִשְׁמַרְתָּם. שָׁמְרֵם וְהַצִּילֵם מִכָּל צָרָה וְצוּקָה וְתֵּן בְּרָכָה בְּכָל מַעֲשֵׂה יְדֵיהֶם, שְׁמַע תְּפִלָּתָם וּתְפִלָּתֵנוּ וְהוֹשִׁיעֵם.
שְׁלַח נָא בִרְכָתְךָ עַל עַמְּךָ, אֲדוֹן עוֹלָמִים, לְאִמָּהוֹת דּוֹאֲגוֹת וּלְאָבוֹת דּוֹאֲבִים, לָאֶזְרָחִים הַגּוֹלִים מִבָּתֵּיהֶם וְלַיְּלָדִים הַשּׁוֹבְתִים מִמִּשְֹחָקָם. עֲשֵׂה בְּרַחֲמֶיךָ לְמַעַן תִּינוֹקוֹת שֶׁל בֵּית רַבָּן הַיּוֹשְׁבִים בַּמִּקְלָטִים. אָנָּא זָכְרֵנוּ בִּרְצוֹנֶך, פָּקְדֵנוּ בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ, יְקַדְּמוּנוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ כִּי בְךָ בָּטָחְנוּ.
אָנָּא, אֵל רַחֲמָן, יֶהֱמוּ נָא רַחֲמֶיךָ עָלֵינוּ, זְכֹר אֶת בְּרִיתְךָ עִם אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ יְדִידְךָ וּפְרֹשׂ סֻכַּת שְׁלוֹמֶךָ עַל זֶרַע יִשְׁמָעֵאל בֶּן הָגָר וְעַל בְּנֵי יִצְחָק בֶּן שָׂרָה, וִיקֻיַּם בָּהֶם וּבָנוּ הַכָּתוּב: כִּי זֶרַע הַשָּׁלוֹם הַגֶּפֶן תִּתֵּן פִּרְיָהּ וְהָאָרֶץ תִּתֵּן אֶת יְבוּלָהּ וְהַשָּׁמַיִם יִתְּנוּ טַלָּם וְהִנְחַלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם אֶת כָּל אֵלֶּה…וִהְיִיתֶם בְּרָכָה אַל תִּירָאוּ. (עפ”י זכריה ח’) וְנֹאמַר אָמֵן.
PDF-Version: Gebet Krieg in Israel von Yehoram Mazor
Übersetzung Rabbiner Adrian Michael Schell, Berlin/Hameln
Quelle und weitere Studientexte und Gebete:
Israel Movement for Reform & Progressive Judaism (IMPJ)