A ‘light’ for Israel

Adrian KleinerDear friends,

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.
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Ki Tavo – An eternal flame

KiTavo, our Parasha for this week starts with the words:

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.

Shabbat Shalom

Mattot: The other is a human being as well

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. Mehr lesen

Bittgebet in Zeiten des Krieges

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)