My Chanicha Patrizia

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.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Adrian M Schell

(Source: Josh Gottesman/Gidi Grinstein)

 

Today we weep  – the day after Orlando

Today we weep – the day after Orlando

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The news on Sunday was shocking, confusing, and unspeakably tragic.

What in God’s name is happening in this, our world? Last week Tel Aviv, this Sunday Orlando, and next week …? There is so much pain.

In thousands of places all over the world Jews studied Torah last weekend. We engaged ourselves in those studies, because we have hoped to find a better understanding of how we can make this world a better place. We have engaged ourselves in Tikkun Olam, the reparation of the world, because we know and we see how much more needs to be done to see this world redeemed. Saturday night we spoke about the pain the death of a single person can cause, and how guilty we feel if we couldn’t help. But we accepted that death is part of our lives and that we can find comfort in our Jewish tradition and our surrounding community, if death happens within our closes circles.

But nothing can prepare us for those horrific, brutal and senseless attacks we had to witness in the past few days, months and years. The world, which I love so much, is broken, and the rifts seem to me un-bridgeable. How can we repair the world if a single person has been able to destroy the lives of so many, and to bring so much more hate into this world? How many more people need to study the values of the Torah to outbalance the bestial acts of those monsters?

Many, I know will answer this question with a sense of hopelessness, telling me that there aren’t enough good people in this world to tip the scale to the good. Helplessness tells us to surrender. But in doing so, we allow those monsters to take the victory home, and we give space to the demagogues who trample on the victims to boost themselves and their ideology of hate. The terror acts of the last few days don’t allow us to surrender, to the contrary, the victims of those crimes ask us to not give up hope and to stand up for our values.

We need to be the people of God that actively involve themselves in initiatives to end violence, especially violence against minorities. We need to be committed to the idea that being a Jew means nothing less than intentionally standing up, regardless of differences, when we see lives devalued or dehumanised by hate and ignorance. I believe with all my heart that doing so is a beautiful outworking of the Torah we claim to love and live.

We value all life and the dignity of others because we all bear God’s image. Our faith can never be a reason to turn away from each other, but it should be – it must be – the reason why we approach one another and try to make an impact, even though we don’t understand or approve. Our tradition calls us to nothing less!

Those terror acts call us to break down the walls of our own lethargy and to strengthen those who stand to protect us and our society. Judaism is not a religion of presenting the other cheek if we are attacked. To protect ourselves doesn’t mean to outcast others, it means to be aware that evil things happen and need to be stopped. When the allies started to re-create a civilised society in Germany after 1945 they used the term “fortified democracy” to introduce a system that doesn’t allow radicals to pervert democracy again. The main key is that every individual is responsible to protect this achievement. And so we are called today to protect our world from those radicals, from those haters of life, from those demagogues who try to ignite hate in us.

Today we weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn, tomorrow we stand up to change the world.

 

Abuse – do not remain silent (Parashat Tzav)

Shalom BayitThis evening, I am not going to share with you some regular thoughts on our Torah portion of this Shabbat. We will learn more about it tomorrow morning, especially from our Bat Mitzvah Jessica.

What I would like to share with you is a deep impression I have made this week at a seminar that was organized by Shalom Bayit, and I am very thankful that I had the chance to join the seminar.

The topic of the seminar was ABUSE; physical, mental, and sexual abuse. I know, this is not a usual topic for a Friday night sermon, but please bear with me for a moment.

The people on the podium, as well as two survivors shared with us not only facts, numbers and statistics, we can read everywhere; their words lead us into a sea of an emotional abyss, which they had to face personally or as counsellors professionally. They shared with us the brutality of any abuse, and how this affects and changes the life of any victim forever.

Even though we don’t like to hear it, we must hear the following: The abuse of women, men, girls and boys has been happening also in the “Jewish world”, it has been happening in our progressive one, too. We need to hear it, because it happens, and can happen everywhere at any time to everyone.

I don’t want to shock you, but I have to, because we need to be aware of it. Awareness is the first step to change the situation, and to help the victims.

Our Torah portion for this week is mentioning again the Ner Tamid, the eternal light or flame that once was lit in the sanctuary on the altar of the tabernacle and the temple, and has now become a symbol of God’s presence in every synagogue.

Some of you might (hopefully) remember that I talked about the eternal light just some weeks ago, because it was also a topic in Parashat Tetzaveh. On that Shabbat I shared with you the idea that the Ner Tamid is not only this light above the Aron HaKodesh, the Torah Ark, that represents God’s presence in our Synagogue, it is also the divine spark that is imbedded in every human being. This eternal light is nourished by our love and care for another human being. It is the love of a parent, a partner, of a child, of a friend, or even a stranger that feeds this eternal light in us.

But, let’s be reminded that this light is very fragile, it can be easily diminished or even worse, it can be extinguished very easily by abuse. This light needs our joined protection. We all, as individuals, and as part of this community have a high responsibility to keep this light shining, bright and un-touched.

If we learn that one person, only one, is in danger, or even already abused, we need to act immediately. As Rabbi Goldstein said – there is a zero tolerance policy towards abuse.

I have much more in my mind, I would like to share with you – the words of the survivors have impressed me heavily, and I know this is not the right place to share these experiences. But I think we should be having a seminar on this topic in the nearer future in order to give you all more information – first hand.

In the meantime, I would like to make you aware what you can do, if you learn about abuse, or if you need help.

We have pamphlets from Shalom Bayit in the foyer of the synagogue. They help you to understand more what abuse is, how you can recognize it, and how you can help or get help. Please get them.

As I said before, awareness is the first step to help the victims. Abuse happens, and the victims need our help. This synagogue is a safe zone. If you need help, or if you know of someone, who needs help, you will find it here.

Shabbat Shalom

WHERE TO TURN FOR HELP:

Chevrah Kadisha – 24hour line: 082-499-1010

Life Line: 011-728-1347

CSO Emergency: 086-1-8000-18

POWA 24hour line: 0800-150-150

Hatzolah – 24hour line: 083-222-1818

To behold the graciousness of the Eternal

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אחת שאלתי מאת־יהוה אותה אבקש שבתי בבית־יהוה כל־ימי חיי לחזות בנעם־יהוה ולבקר בהיכלו׃
One thing I ask from the Eternal, One thing I desire:
That I may dwell in the house of Adonai all the days of my life,
To behold the graciousness of the Eternal,
And to enter His sanctuary.
Psalm 27.4

Rabbi Avidan, Rabbi Margolis, Rabbi Shaked,
Dear congregants and guests,

Please allow me to go back for a moment to our Torah reading from yesterday:

During Jethro’s visit to the Israelites camp, he notices a long line of people waiting to bring their disputes before Moses. Sitting alone from morning until evening, Moses listens to each argument, hears each problem, and states his judgment on each situation brought before him.
Jethro is astounded:
“What is this thing you are doing for the people?” he asks Moses.
“Why do you act alone, while all the people stand about you from morning until evening?”

Noting that Jethro was deeply upset with Moses, Rabbi Fields quotes an ancient sage who suggests that what disturbed Jethro was not Moses appeared overworked – but that Moses had become full of self-importance. Moses, he says, was “behaving like a king, who sits on his throne while all the people stand.”

The Torah is – as I have mentioned several times before – an important guideline for every one of us. One of its goals, to my understanding, is to form a just society. The Torah forms out of a group of slaves a nation of priests, serving God and all humanity. There is a massage for every one of us, as we are all to some degree slaves to something, and we will hopefully become once all these cohanim, priests, the Torah envisions us to be.

And so it doesn’t come as a surprise that the Torah is raising the question of leadership several times. As much as the Torah leads us to a society founded on the ideal of equality and democracy, it does not undermine the need of a strong leadership, as long as it is to the benefit of the people. And that is why Jethro criticizes Moses so harshly right in the beginning of his leadership.

The quote for our induction from the 4th book of Moses, Numbers 27.16 and 17 underlines this idea. This time it is Moses, who asks God at the end of his leadership to appoint a new leader, a good shepherd for the Israelites “who shall go out before them and to come in before them”.

Both instructions of the Torah teach us that leadership has always been a serious responsibility. Caring for the safety of a community and preserving its culture and traditions are complex tasks. Jethro appreciated the need to share the burden, and the interpreters of his advice to Moses – defined for us the qualities of leadership – required by Jewish tradition.” (Fields)

And so I pray to God, as we both, Rabbi Margolis and I, are entering the leadership of this community that we will meet the standards our tradition has set for us, that we will be wise in our leadership like the old Moses, and always sensible to the need of our people, you all, like Jethro.

And let us say Amen.

Source: Fields, Torah Comment

Parashat Va’etchanan

Dieses Mal nur eine kleine Zusammenfassung und ein paar Fragen am Ende. Vielleicht hat ja der eine, oder die andere von Euch mal Lust, die Fragen im Kommentar zu beantworten.

Parashat Va’etchanan (Dtn 3.23-7.11) – Haftara: Isaiah 40:1 – 40:26
Dieser Schabbat wird nicht nach der Parashat, sondern nach der Haftara „Nachamu“ benannt. Es ist der erste Schabbat (von sieben) des Trostes zwischen Tischa B’Av und Rosch HaSchana.
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