Shabbat Zachor: God’s outcry

It is an interesting co-incidence that on this Shabbat we commemorate all the violent and destructive attacks on the Jewish people in the past while we also begin with the reading of the third book of our Torah—Leviticus, Vayikra in Hebrew.

Leviticus is known for its long and detailed descriptions on how and when to bring animal sacrifices (korbanot) to the Eternal, but it has more to offer than the ritual outline of biblical Judaism. Leviticus establishes a firm framework for an ethical and just society. It calls upon each and every one for us to base our acts on righteousness and compassion.

The key word is kadosh, meaning holiness. Holiness is nothing lofty nor unreachable, far from our human realm—on the contrary, it is achievable and is something we can become with our own human abilities.

Judaism has no concept of half gods and that holiness is only a matter of the divine realm; Judaism teaches us that we can create holiness by conscious acts. It is our duty to give space to the divine.

One of the motives in the Esther story we read on Purim, is that God withdrew Godself from this world, and that cruelty could come into this world, because mankind allowed it. A motive we find in any dark moment of history, from Amalek to Auschwitz. Humans allowed cruelty to take over, to tip the scale into the wrong direction.

Vayikra, the first word of Leviticus, can be translated as ”And God called“.  For me, it is God’s outcry to us, to bring light into a darkened world. With its teachings, Leviticus is a call to each and every human being to ensure that the scale is moved back, that holiness gets its space in this world and that—please God—the next generations can live in a world less broken.

May we find strength in the teaching of our tradition and may Esther  serve us as a role model in bringing truth and healing into our  community.

Shabbat Shalom and Purim Sameach — Rabbi Adrian M Schell

 

How can we remember on Shabbat Zachor?

Chaverim,

I have always been intrigued by the commandment ‘you shall blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget it’ (Deuteronomy 25:19). Simultaneously we are told to ‘blot out the remembrance’ and to ‘not forget it’; two instructions which appear to be contradictory. This challenge is further compounded by the fact that the commandment appears in the Torah ensuring we are reminded to blot out and not forget.

Amalek is a recurring feature in our people’s history, assuming a position as the archetypal villain. And on Shabbat Zachor, it is the original story of Amalek that we are remembering. On Shabbat Zachor (as with most of the other special Shabbatot) outside of the special readings for the day there is no special ritual for the service.

Following a tradition my dear colleague, Rabbi Danny Burkeman, started , and which we adopted for Bet David two years ago, we will read also this Shabbat Zachor from our Czech Memorial Torah scroll (saved from Europe after the Shoah) .

This Torah itself symbolises the very fulfilment of the commandment to never forget; it emerged from the horrors of the latest Amalakite persecution, as the Nazis sought the destruction of European Jewry. The survival of this Torah scroll, and its use in a Synagogue for worship and prayer, is evidence of the fulfilment of the commandment to ‘blot out the remembrance of Amalek [the Nazis] from under heaven’. And simultaneously, as we honour the scroll as our Czech Memorial Torah scroll, always remembering its story of survival out of the ashes of destruction, we guarantee that we ‘shall not forget it’.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Adrian M Schell

 

Yom HaShoah: Reinstating the memory and names as a permanent remembrance

When someone we love passes away, we experience deep sorrow and grief. We miss that person’s presence and caring. We miss the support and all that we shared. Jewish mourning rituals and customs are meant to help us cope, to face the loss realistically, and to find comfort. Jewish tradition helps us to understand that “death is not the end” but rather that our loved ones continue to live in our memory and keep influencing the ones left behind.

A fundamental cornerstone of our Jewish tradition is that every Jew should have a proper gravesite, a place that reflects the dignity of the deceased, and which serves as a enduring place to commemorate lost love ones for the bereaved.

One of the heinous crimes during the Shoah was to deny the victims this fundamental right. Not only were they deprived of their names, their dignity and dehumanised during their lifetime, they were refused a funeral. They were murdered, burned and hastily buried anonymously. Their death sought not only to extinguish their lives but their memory, too.

Sadly, we cannot provide the victims of the Shoah with a proper gravesite to undo what the Nazis did to them, but what we can do is to remember them and their lives by coming together. We can bear the legacy of each of them, and reinstate the memory and their names as a permanent remembrance. As a Jewish community we can – together with the society we are living in – create places and occasions for grief and commemoration. We can at least try to restore all that was taken away so brutally from the victims of the Shoah: their dignity, their uniqueness, their individuality, and their divine spark, which is inherent in every human being.

Coming Sunday (23 April) we will have another opportunity to remember them.  For the women, men and children they were, with all the ups and downs, moments shared and missed, and all the divine sparks scattered during their lifetime. Let us be one family for the millions murdered and persecuted in the Shoah, comforting the survivors, and underlining that “death is not the end” but rather that all of them live in our memories.

The memorial service at Westpark Cemetery begins at 10.00 for 10.30.

Thank you

Rabbi Adrian M Schell

(Picture: The Last March‘, bronze sculpture by Natan Yaakov Rapoport, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem)

Torah Reading Shabbat Shemini

Leviticus 9:1-11:47 Reading Lev. 10:1-11:3

Plaut p.709; Hertz p.445

Haftarah II Samuel 6:1-7:17 Plaut p.729; Hertz p.454

In our Torah portion:

* Aaron and his sons follow Moses‘ instructions and offer sacrifices so that God will forgive the people.

* Two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, offer „alien fire“ to God. God punishes these two priests by killing them immediately.

* God forbids Moses, Aaron, and his surviving sons from mourning but commands the rest of the people to do so. Priests are told not to drink alcohol before entering the sacred Tabernacle and are further instructed about making sacrifices.

*Laws are given to distinguish between pure and impure animals, birds, fish, and insects.

Rosh Chodesh Iyar is on Wednesday and Thursday

 

 

Parashat Chayei Sarah: Death is not the end

avrams-tombWhen someone we love passes away, we experience deep sorrow and grief. We miss that person’s presence and caring. We miss the support and all that we shared. Jewish mourning rituals and customs are meant to help us cope, to face the loss realistically, and to find comfort. Jewish tradition helps us to understand that “death is not the end” but rather that our loved ones continue to live in our memory and keep influencing the ones left behind.

In this regard, this week’s Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, provides us with a very important tool. While Chayei Sarah may be translated as “Sarah’s lifetime,” our parashah actually deals with Sarah’s death, how Abraham dealt with it, and how life continued for her family after this big break, just before Yitzchak and Rivka start their own new family.
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Berechtigte Kritik !?

einer meiner leser hat zu meinem letzten artikel kommentiert, dass ich/juden zu wenig selbstkritisch bin/sind. hier meine stellungnahme:
Lieber Gray,
wenn sie sich ein bisschen meine ersten artikel zu der karfreitagsfürbitte durchgelesen haben, betrache ich die entwicklung durch aus in verschiedenen richtungen. ich honoriere vor allem die aus der kirche vorgeschlagenen lösungswege, wie z.b. die nach dem neuen ritus geltende fürbitte eins zu eins in den alten ritus zu übernehmen.
natürlich gibt es in der jüdischen liturgie auch polemiken gegen nicht-jüdische religionsverständnisse. und gerade die reformbewegung ist sich dem bewusst und hat viele traditionelle gebete abgeändert. bestes beispiel ist das gebet „Birkat Minim“ in der amida. auch wenn es sich in der ursprünglichen intention gegen die „abtrünnigen“ aus den eigenen reihen wendet, wurde es gerade durch christliche interpreten als anti-christlich eingestuft. in der reform-liturgie ist es nun dahingehend geändert, dass es der ursprünglichen intention näher kommt und über die wandlung des „bösen“ im menschen zum guten bittet. auch das aleinu gebet hat diese wandlung erfahren.
ich bin mir sicher, dass die katholische liturgie einige gebete aufweist, die sich gegen den nicht-monotheistischen glauben wendet und so finden wir auch diese in der jüdischen liturgie. da die kirchen die gleichen quellen (d.h. die heiligen schriften – vor allem die propheten) verwendet, die auch die basis für unsere liturgie darstellt, sind diese analogien schon von natur aus gegeben.
was mich aber dennoch zu der deutlichen kritik an der katholischen kirche veranlasst, ist die tatsache, dass die fürbitte „neu“ ist. sie ist wider die lehrmeinung, die nach dem zweiten vatikanischen konzil maßgebend war, vom papst selbst verfasst worden. und sie spricht nicht vom generellen wunsch, den eigenen glauben zu verbreiten, sondern spricht explizit nur von uns juden. es tut mir leid, aber ich fühle mich tatsächlich auf den fuss getreten. und im unterschied zu den jahrhunderten davor, schreie ich/schreien wir juden jetzt auf, wenn man uns zu nahe tritt. das gleiche recht hat auch die katholische kirche in umgekehrter richtung.
das gleiche gilt auch für den holocaust-leugner wiliamson. seit monate fährt die kirche zweigleisig. sie kritisiert zwar wiliamson, aber gleichzeitig steht sie weiter in direkten verhandlungen mit der bruderschaft und ist weiterhin bereit auch wiliamson wieder voll aufzunehmen. welches verheerende signal sendet uns da rom?
meine kritik an der aufarbeitung der missbrauchsfälle, die derzeit überall zum vorschein kommen richtet sich im wesentlichen nur an den papst. er schweigt. kirchen sind wie andere religiöse einrichtungen auch, institutionen, die werte vorgeben und besipielhaft vorangehen müssen. viele der missbrauchsfälle sind nur deshalb möglich (und damit meine ich nicht nur innerhalb der kirche, sondern gesamtgesellschaftlich), weil jemand schweigt, weil die hilferufe der opfer nicht gehört werden.
unsere gesellschaft steuert auf das große schweigen zu. lieber man schaut weg, als sich zu äußern. unsere religionen basieren aber eigentlich auf einem anderen konzept. wir sollen zeugnis geben. zeugnis geben verlangt, dass man den mund auf macht und stellung bezieht.
ich gebe zu, meine kritik war zuletzt sehr polemisch und ich akzeptiere die rüge. nicht ganz stehen lassen möchte ich aber, dass ich durchaus kritisch das judentum betrachte. insbesondere, wenn moderne entwicklungen zu einer spaltung des judentums führen, oder wenn eine strömung versucht, einer anderen ihren eigenen willen aufzuzwängen. aber wie so oft, ist selbstkritik schwerer als anders herum und ich freue mich auf kritische anfragen, die mir helfen, missstände zu erkennen.