Created in the image of God

Today, Friday (22 May/28 Iyyar) we celebrate Yom Yerushalayim, one of several Jewish holidays commemorating events of war in the modern State of Israel. This one recalls Israel’s regaining of the Old City of Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967. Despite these modern memorial days, it seems safe to say that we Jews generally don’t think of ourselves as military people. Yet the coming together with our annual reading of the opening portion of the Book of Numbers, beginning with a census of all Israelite men, might give us pause to question our assumption.

Our parasha begins with God’s instruction to Moses to count the people: 
s’u et-rosh kol-adat B’nai Yisrael,”-“take a census of the whole Israelite company”. The commentators notice the way God describes the head count: s’u et rosh, “lift the head.” Nachmanides (a rabbi from the thirteenth century) points out that the phrase can be positive or negative. Joseph uses the same phrase positively back in Genesis when interpreting the dream of the imprisoned cupbearer: “in three days’ time, Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your post.” But Joseph also uses the phrase negatively a few verses later while interpreting the baker’s dream: “in three days’ time, Pharaoh will lift your head from your body and hang you on a pole

Imagine the scene, though, Moses and Aaron lifting each young man’s head, gently touching the chin of each soldier-to-be, looking them in the eye, thus acknowledging the humanity of each one, and recognising the real “risks” of war. Will this young man’s head be lifted up to greatness or fall in battle?

S’u et-rosh, “Lift up the head” of each one, says God to Moses, as if to say, touch them, look them in the eyes, write down their family names, because even though you are counting them, these men are not just numbers.

A wise man once taught that if you look deeply into the eyes of another, you will find there the Presence of God. Would we really be able to send people into battle if we spent the moments before looking deep into the eyes of our soldiers?

As we shall see in the weeks to come, despite its stories of fighting, rebellion and violence, the Book of Numbers also delivers the message that God would rather encourage the people Israel toward a gentler way of being, and to realise that the price we have paid in any war was more than just a soldier. She or he was a human being, created in the image of God.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Adrian M Schell 

(Source: Rabbi Lisa Edwards)

Kfir Brigade Swearing-In Ceremony - (c) IDF 2015
Kfir Brigade Swearing-In Ceremony – (c) IDF 2015

Shavuot 2020 @ Bet David

Together with the learners of our Cheder, we will open the Shavuot Festival with a joyful Service Thursday evening at 18h30. Please join in and support our cheder learners.

Prof. Steven Friedman opens our night of learning with a Shiur about the intention of the Torah: “What the Torah Was Really Meant to Do”. The Shiur will follow the service at 19h30.

At 20h30 we will join the
national night of learning (Tikkun Leil Shavuot) of the SAUPJ (programme see below).

Please note that we use two Zoom sessions on Shavuot evening, the first is for the service and the shiur with Prof. Friedman (http://tiny.cc/BD-Shavuot-1) and the second for the SAUPJ learning night (http://tiny.cc/BD-Shavuot-3). We will also stream all sessions and the service on Facebook and YouTube.

Thursday  28 May
* Erev Shavuot Service (18h30)
and Shiur with Prof Friedman (19h30)

ZOOM http://tiny.cc/BD-Shavuot-1 (M 857 1878 1073 P 478751) 
to follow on Facebook here: http://tiny.cc/BD-Facebook

* SAUPJ Tikkun Leil Shavuot—proudly progressive (20h30)

When WhoWhat
20:40SAUPJ Young AdultsOpening Ma’amad
20:45Brett Kopin, Rabbinic student, Ziegler School, Los Angeles.“Tattooed Torah Movie”: the story of an Animated movie made recently, following a legendary book by Marvell Ginsburg, which is a powerful resource for Holocaust education for children.
21:30Panel:
Rabbi Emma Gottlieb, Temple Israel, CPT.Rabbi Julia Margolis, Beit Luria, JHB.Andrea Kuti, Rabbinic Student, Aleph.
“Kol BaTorah – Isha” – The feminist voice of Torah:Following the prominent Feminist Jewish thinker Judith Plaskow who defines the Feminist revolution in Judaism as Standing again at Sinai, we will hear from panelist their views, in this festival of receiving the Torah, how do they view its feminine aspects and how they bring it about in their professional life.  
22:30Panel: Rabbi Greg Alexander, Temple Israel, CPT.Rabbi Adrian M. Schell, Bet David, JHB, Sofia Zway, Rabbinic student H.U.C, Los Angeles.“Days are coming” – Gaze into the near future for Jewish communities. The panelist will reflect on the transformation we’ve been experiencing, trying to extract lessons we can apply and insights for our conduct. 
23:30 Sofia Zway, Rabbinic Student, H.U.C. Los Angeles.The Book of Ruth – How it is the simple acts of Human grace which make the most difference. Sofi Zwai is a South African, graduate of our movement, studying toward a Rabbinic ordination at the HUC.
23:50Rabbi Sa’ar Shaked, Beit Emanuel, JHB.Concluding Ma’amad

ZOOM http://tiny.cc/BD-Shavuot-3 
to follow on Facebook here: http://tiny.cc/BD-Facebook

Friday 29 May
* Shavuot Morning Service and Yizkor (09h30)

For YouTube click here: http://tiny.cc/BD-YouTube
and To follow on Facebook here: http://tiny.cc/BD-Facebook

For how to use Zoom and our Siddur online, please visit our website: www.betdavid.org.za/online

Waiting for V-Day

(c) UK Ministry of Information Second World War Press Agency Print Collection
(c) Ministry of Information Second World War Press Agency Print Collection

Tomorrow, 8 May, marks the 75 anniversary of so called V-E-Day (Victory in Europe Day), Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces. For Jews all over Europe this day meant a final liberation from state organized terror and murder, but not from the suffering and finding ways to cope with enduring persecution and wounds.

Seventy five years later, there is still no “new normal”, no final stroke, only the reminder to not allow anti-Semitism or any form of baseless hate to rise up again, so that they can’t show their ugly faces and deprive humans from their dignity or even worse take human lives again. The world is still waiting for a V-Day, when we all can celebrate the defeat of anti-Semitism. Until then, 8 May is a memorial day, reminding us to stand against all forms of discrimination and suppression. 

Shabbat Shalom—Rabbi Adrian M Schell

COUNTING THE OMER 2020 / 5780

Our Torah teaches: “Count the days from Pesach during which the grain offering was brought. And on the day after the seventh week is counted, the fiftieth day itself shall be a festival for the new grain offering.” On that fiftieth day, our ancestors camped before Sinai. On Shavuoth, they were ready to become the free people of God’s covenant. Every night, we count these fifty days as fulfillment of the mitzvah from Torah:

Hineni muchan um’zuman l’kaiyeim mitsvat asei shel sefirat ha’omer.
See how ready we are to count the days of the Omer.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָּ אֱלֹ הֵֽינוּ מֵֶֽלֶךְ הָּעוֹלָּם אֲשֶר קִדְשֵָּֽנוּ בְמִצְוֹתָּיו וְצִוֵָּּֽנוּ עַל סְפִירַת הָּ עמֶ ר
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam asher kideshanu bemitsvotav vetsivanu al s’firat ha’omer.
Blessed is the Eternal our God Ruler of the universe who makes us holy by commandments and commands us to count the omer.

Count in the evening of the first night (09 April / 2 night of Pesach): הַיּוֹם יוֹם אחד לָּ עמֶ ר . Ha-yom yom e-chad la-omer. Today is one day of the Omer.

Continue every night until Wednesday 27 May, the night before Shavuoth.

Download the PDF here

Shabbat Hagadol & Pesach 2020

Dear congregants and friends,

http://betdavid.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Bet-David-AdKan-Shabbat-HaGadol-and-Pesach-2020.pdf
Download your AdKan

The first of the three weeks of the national lockdown has nearly finished, and we hope this finds you all well and healthy.

We understand that the circumstances have imposed challenges and hardships on many of you and observing the news nationally and internationally, we believe that we are only at the beginning of a longer journey until we will reach the end of this pandemic. Rabbi Schell has uploaded a series of daily video messages on our YouTube channel, trying to answer some of the questions you might ask yourself in light of this crisis: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfFI7bvb1yKllEMFutUri4A/.

Clayton Donnelly, one of our congregants, who lives in Israel, hosts a webinar on coping with the crisis by regaining one’s strength this coming Sunday (5 April at 11h00). Please see the flyer attached hereto for details.

Pesach is only one week away. Together with our sister congregations in South Africa, we have prepared for you several documents and handouts to prepare and celebrate a meaningful Pesach at home. Please see our website http://betdavid.org.za/pesach-in-johannesburg/ for the service schedule and materials – we will keep the page updated. Please find Rabbi Schell’s guide for Pesach 2020 here and a letter by the SAAPR-Rabbis to all congregants with additional thoughts and ideas for your Pesach here.

The SAAPR (SA Association of Progressive Rabbis) finished the second draft of the new progressive Pesach Haggadah for South Africa. We invite you to open it virtually on your computers and use it for your sederim: https://bit.ly/2wNRDlM . For our Bet David Pesach seder, we will use a shortened version of the Haggadah, Download from here.

Diane, our cheder teacher, has prepared a Chocolate Pesach Seder Haggadah (please send an email to get your copy). If you like to join with your children our ZOOM children’s seder on Sunday, 12 April @ 11h00, please register with Diane (admin2@betdavid.org.za).

Last, but not least, we invite all of you to join us again for our Shabbat services. All our services are being streamed on Youtube and on Facebook. For YouTube click here: http://tiny.cc/BD-YouTube and to follow on Facebook here: http://tiny.cc/BD-Facebook

Friday 03 April
* Kabbalat Shabbat Service (18h00)

Saturday 04 April
* Shabbat morning service (09h30)

 Sunday 05 April
Strengths Based Discussion
Talk with Clayton Donnelly (11h00)
Zoom Chat: http://tiny.cc/rxoamz

Wednesday 08 April
 Erev Pesach Festival Service (18h00)
followed by our Pesach Seder (18h30)
streamed via our Bet David Facebook page
Download our Pesach Haggadah from here

Thursday 09 April
Festival Morning Service streamed (09h30)

Friday 10 April
* Kabbalat Shabbat Service (18h00)

Saturday 11 April
* Shabbat morning service (09h30)

Sunday 12 April 2020
Children’s Pesach Seder via ZOOM (11h00)
Please register with Diane MC admin2@betdavid.org.za 

All Pesach services will be streamed via Facebook only.

Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach

Rabbi Adrian Schell, Bet David Management and Staff