Thursday, November 14, 2019

I tied one on. :)

Here's the latest trend in kisui rosh (head-coverings), apparently:

"#headbandnation at JTS,"

I copied these comments from Facebook:

Deborah Sacks Mintz Avi Killip someone needs to do a study on the trend of trad egal women wearing headbands
. . .
Liora Halperin What’s the story? Why are you all wearing headbands? 
. . .
Deborah Sacks Mintz Liora Halperin a wide spectrum of reasons...marriage, in lieu of a kippa, some combo of the two, another reason entirely. . .

My hair's too short for a headband, and I've afraid that the elastic would give me a headache, but last night at Rabbi Tucker's lecture at Hadar I did see one of the female Yeshivat Hadar fellows wearing a scarf tied in a similar fashion, so I thought I'd give it a try.

However, I'd have to continue to use a kippah for the weekday Shacharit (Morning Service), because a scarf wouldn't survive having head tefillin strapped under it--it would just fall off.  Been there, tried that.

This scarf won't do--it comes untied and slides off too easily.  I'm trying some longer scarves, which work much better, but having the ends hang down my back to below the waistline does make me feel like a 70-year-old hippy.  :)  Oh, well, better late than never.  :) 

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Saturday, November 09, 2019

"Gam Ki Elech," by Rabbi Josh Warshawsky & Coleen Dieker (video)

Here's a gorgeous song that we heard at last Saturday night's concert--it's the "full" version, with more singers and instumentalists. Enjoy!

No, it's not your imagination--I did post a video of "Gam Ki Elech" before, but that's the Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Ensemble version.

So now you get two videos with the same name (and lyrics) for the price of one.  :)


Sunday, November 03, 2019

Oh my gosh, what a sing-along with Josh (Warshawsky)!

See here.

Last night's concert was billed as "Rabbi Josh Warshawsky and Friends." The friends turned out to be Brian Gelfand (whom we'd met a few years ago when he led an instant-choir session at a Limmud weekend) on keyboards and voice, Coleen Dieker (Rav Josh's long-time music collaborator--they co-wrote Hame'irah) on violin and voice, and singer/songwriter Deborah Sacks Mintz (whom we'd last seen here, here, and here), along with Cantor Elizabeth Stevens, who joined the group for several songs.

The audience was about three-quarters campers (and their parents) from Ramah in the Berkshires.  And the kids, whom Rav Josh called up to join him for two songs, were having a grand time singing along and kibitzing--every time the name Malka came up in a song, there were shouts of glee from the left side of the room, since, apparently, there was a girl named Malka among the campers sitting there. :)

As for this particular grown-up, there were so many audience members not only singing along, but also, like me, singing harmony that I felt as if I were back in the alto row of the choir at my former synagogue.

My husband and I are so glad that we made the long trek to Riverdale to sing along with Rav Josh and Friends.

What fun!


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Kumzits followed by kibitzing: End-of-holidays round-up

First, we went to an Erev Hoshana Rabbah kumzitz/sing-along in the Sukkah at Beloved Brooklyn, with singer/songwriter Deborah Sacks Mintz and percussionist Sam Weisenberg, and had a delightful evening (not to mention an opportunity to make a b'rachah in the sukkah)!

Then, there were shenanigans in shul on Simchat Torah.

In the evening, we were happy, indeed, to see some of our younger members and friends--folks in roughly their thirties--show up to make a minyan for hakafot despite the fact that they had all worked that day.  Since they were enthusiastic singers, I had fun leading them in some new tunes that I've just recently learned from YouTube, namely, Nava Tehila's "Oseh Shalom" and Elana Arian's "Hinei Ma Tov."  I can't remember the last time I had so much fun on Erev Simchat Torah!

In the morning, my husband, with much "assistance" from me, alternated between goofing off and singing just about every song we knew for the psalms and other texts in P'sukei D'Zimrah, including all of Salamone Rossi's "Halleli Nafshi," but only the alto part, 'cause that's the only part I know.  :)

Then my husband started singing the High Holiday tune for the Avot section (first paragraph) of the Amidah, and drove the cantor crazy.  :)

During the Musaf service, I did my usual shtick of spraying water in people's faces when we said "Mashiv ha-ruach u'morid ha-gashem (God makes the wind blow and the rain fall)."

But probably the best part of the morning was putting a smile on the face of one of our congregation's favorite 90-something-year-olds.

A simchah was had by all!


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Getting--and missing--the point: Women's shiurim for women on Simchat Torah

A recent minhag (custom) among some Orthodox Jewish women (encouraged by the OU) is to have women give shiurim (lessons on Jewish religious texts) to other women while the men are doing hakafot, getting aliyot, etc., on Simchat Torah.

This solves the problem that, for women in many, if not most, Orthodox synagogues, the festivities of Simchat Torah are reserved for the men, leaving the women as spectators.  I've been told that some Orthodox women who, due to circumstances, have no man (father, brother, husband, son, etc.) to watch during the Simchat Torah services simply stay home from synagogue.

Whoever came up with the idea of women giving shiurim to other women gets the point--they realize that some woman want something that they can do on Simchat Torah, independent of the men.

That said, I'm not quite sure that this minhag suits the occasion.

Having the women give and listen to shiurim while the men are doing hakafot, having aliyot, and enjoying, perhaps, a nip of scotch is rather like having a teacher reward female students for doing well in their lessons by offering them more lessons, while rewarding male students for doing well in their lessons by letting them go out to the school yard and enjoy themselves.

In other words, the men are enjoying Simchat Torah while the women are, essentially, having something resembling a Tikkun Yom Shavuot.

Where's the simchah for women?

Update, 10:03 AM
We got home so late from a delightful Sukkot sing-along/kumzits with Deborah Sacks Mintz and Sam Weisenberg (and an opportunity to make a b'rachah/blessing in a sukkah) at Beloved Brooklyn that I was too tired to search my e-mail for the link to the Lehrhaus article/d'var Torah "The Inverted Halakhah of Simchat Torah," by Chaim Saiman, which I should have included in this post.  (Thanks to Beloved Brooklyn's co-founder Rabbi Sara Luria for encouraging me to write down and publish this post post-haste, after I told her that I'd been "writing it in my head" all Shabbat.)  This is what I'm talking about:

". . . for all the minhagim developed over the centuries, Torah study was never one of them. Whereas Shavuot commemorates Torah as an idea that is celebrated by scholars engaging in its study, on Simhat Torah the Torah is democratized and treated as a thing—a heftza (in the pre-Brisker sense) that is held, touched, paraded around, danced with, hugged, and kissed, but not learned. The teachings of the Hasidic masters as well as the Vilna Gaon and R. Soloveitchik add that we dance in a circle to emphasize how every participant is equidistant from the spiritual center,[33] and another ma’amar explains that Torah scrolls remain closed to demonstrate that scholars and am ha-aratzim share equally in the Torah. To the extent formalized learning takes place, it is primarily through the very recent minhag of instituting shiurim by and for women designed to recognize women and offer appropriate programing during the holiday’s largely male-centric activities. The net result is that while men are functionally patur [exempt from their obligations?], women are encouraged to learn Torah: an inversion indeed!

In addition to offering a release, Simhat Torah reaffirms the community’s dominant values. The celebrations, whatever their excesses, literally and figuratively revolve around Torah."

Essentially, unless the women also get to dance with a Torah scroll before or after a shiur, the women get the Torah, but not what Chaim Saiman calls the "release."

I, personally, don't feel that a study session is the same thing as a celebration.  That said, if a shiur is the only activity that your synagogue offers you on Simchat Torah, I certainly hope that you'll take advantage of the opportunity.

Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday)!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

In the Diaspora/Galut, scheduling conflicts can create religious conflicts

All of the following incidents happened in real life.

First incident
A parent told their rabbi that their child would not be attending synagogue on Sukkot because it was a school day.  The rabbi was appropriately unhappy.  The parent shrugged off the rabbi's unhappiness, clearly believing that sending a child to school on a Jewish holiday was simply normal and that the rabbi should just get used to it.

Second incident
I heard about the first incident from the parent's mouth, but saw this one with my own eyes.  Once, when we attended Kabbalat Shabbat services, the rabbi was at least honest enough to state, flat out, that it was too early to do Sefirat HaOmer, but that they couldn't imagine not doing the Counting of the Omer, so they did it anyway.  Did any of the congregants do the count after getting home, at the proper time?  Who knows?

Third incident
Sukkot having begun this past Sunday after sundown, a congregation built their sukkah this past Sunday afternoon.  They then ate in the sukkah and made the blessing over the lulav and etrog, despite the fact that it wasn't yet Sukkot, because that's when everyone was there.  The next day, one of the sukkah builders came to our synagogue and flatly refused to make the b'rachah over the lulav and etrog, adamantly insisting that they'd already done so. 

I'm not halachically observant by anyone's definition, both because I'm too much of a skeptic to believe in the binding nature of halachah and because, frankly, it's darned difficult for someone who wasn't raised that way.  That said, I do understand the "slippery slope" argument.  At what point do the religious practices of Jews who are not halachically observant stray so far from Jewish tradition that they become unrecognizable as Jewish?  And what would be an appropriate approach and/or response for those of us who take our Judaism seriously, but not necessarily literally?

These are not rhetorical questions--they come from someone whose congregation couldn't do the Hoshanot ritual yesterday because so many of our members went to work instead of coming to shul that we didn't have a minyan (despite counting women).  I invite responses from any and all serious Jews from any--or no--point along the "observance spectrum."

Monday, October 07, 2019

Rabbinic Poetry in the High Holy Day Liturgy

Ya'aleh Koleinu / "Let Our Voices Rise" (Piyut for Yom Kippur)


Sunday, October 06, 2019

Sing-along in a Sukkah, Sat., Oct. 19, 2019, 8:30 PM

My husband and I are looking forward to participating in this sing-along in a Sukkah!  Note that, since this concert will take place in a sukkah built in the yard of the Beloved Brooklyn house (or in the living room, if the weather is too inclement), the seating is probably limited to about 30 people, so make your reservations soon!  Here's what the Beloved Brooklyn living-room looks like, and what Deborah sounds like in it!  It's too bad that Elana and Chava won't be there, this time, so we'll have to sing our own harmonies  :).

For the curious, here's the website of the song-leader, Deborah Sacks Mintz.


"Thank you for your service. Goodbye," says God

Dr. Ora Horn Prouser, who's teaching my section of the first-year Context class, had something interesting to say about the nature of God's challenge to Avraham Avinu (Abraham Our Father) in ordering him to sacrifice his son Yitzchak (Isaac).  Her theory is that God wanted to know whether Avraham would challenge an unjust order.  If that was the test, Avraham failed.  There are three proofs, as Dr. Prouser pointed out.  The first is that an angel, rather than God, stopped Avraham from sacrificing Yitzchak.  The second is that Avraham's reward for almost sacrificing his son was nothing that God hadn't already promised to Avraham previously.  The third was that God never spoke to Avraham again.  Dr. Prouser sees God as having concluded that Avraham had reached the limit of his ability to develop morally.  Avraham is not punished for this moral limitation, but God doesn't have much to do with him after this incident.

Dr. Prouser pointed out that Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses Our Teacher) is, actually, punished for calling the people rebels and striking the rock while failing to credit God for the water that emerges from the rock--God takes away the privilege of entering the promised land.  Past service is not sufficient--if you fail Me now, you're out.

In similar fashion, said Dr. Prouser, Eliyahu haNavi (Elijah the Prophet) fails to respond to God's revelation in a manner satisfactory to God, so God tells him to cast his mantle of leadership on Elisha, and ends Eliyahu's life on earth.  Again, past service doesn't suffice.

Apparently, God has very high expectations.

What are your thoughts on Akeidat Yitzchak (The Binding of Isaac), which we read on the second day of Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year), or the story of Moshe or Eliyahu?  (Here's an old Akeidah post of mine for a little inspiration, I hope.)

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

“Shir Hama’alot” (2019) by Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Ensemble, featu...


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

“Gam Ki Eilech” (2019) by Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Ensemble


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Lost--& found--in the wilds of Westchester--Hadar Ensemble concert & Selichot

Naturally, since we had to make a 50-yard dash--or, rather, take an eight-block speed-walk--to our rental car as soon as we could get our gear together after making havdalah last night--we were already running late.  Then we messed up the GPS, so it messed us up--it sent us to White Plains instead of New Rochelle.  But we did, eventually, make it to Beth El Synagogue Center.

And this is what we saw and heard.

Shir HaMaalot (music by Joey Weisenberg, with Deborah Sacks Mintz singing lead and Anat Hoffman singing harmony).  Many thanks to Hadar's Rabbi Elie Kaunfer for recording and sharing this video.

You'll have to go to Deborah's Facebook page to see more videos from the concert and a snippet of Avinu Malkeinu (from the Selichot service following the concert)--I'm, apparently, too tech-challenged to figure out how to find workable links to these videos on Facebook.

We got two pleasant surprises at and after the Selichot service.  Neither of us had any idea that one of the local Israeli-folk-dance teachers with whom we dance frequently is a cantor--he was one of the leaders of the Selichot service.  The other surprise was that one of the former cantors of our former synagogue, who was another one of the Selichot leaders, still recognized us even though we probably haven't seen her for about 20 years--what a delight to be greeted with a hug!  She actually grew up in our former synagogue--we've known her since she was a child.

All told, and even though we got there ridiculously late, it was worth the trip to see old friends in new places, enjoy part of a wonderful concert, and participate in a Selichot service with over 200 people instead of probably fewer than 15.  It's hard to feel that one has an actual viable congregation when, practically every other Shabbat (Sabbath) morning, we have to stop the service and wait because we "lose" our minyan every time someone leaves the sanctuary.  So it was a real pleasure to davven ba-rabbim, to pray among a multitude.


Monday, September 16, 2019


Here are some delightful recordings from Nava Tehila:

~ Sham'ah Va-tismach (Psalm 97: 8)  As befits the lyrics (which are all in the feminine in Hebrew), all of the singers of this particular song are women.  (Audio only.)

~  Oseh Shalom (live-performance video).  My husband and I first heard this at a recent Kabbalat Shabbat/Maariv service at my old "kaddish minyan."

~ Halleluyah (audio only)

Want to jazz things up a bit?  Here's a good song from Noah AronsonEileh Chamdah Libi

I like Elana Arian's L'cha Dodi so much that I've borrowed the melody for use as Adon Olam at our shul.

And here's Chava Mirel's Achat Sha'alti, from the special psalm recited at the end of every Shacharit (Morning) and Maariv/Arvit (Evening) Service during the month of Elul.  In this version, she sings in three-part harmony all by herself.  (Would that I had the tech skills to create a split-screen video.)  And here, for people like me who get so distracted by lovely harmonies that we have trouble learning the melody :), is the melody-only version, so that we can learn it.  :)


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Links to two important posts on Halachah and the LGBTQI community

For lighter reading, see my Friday, September 13, 2019 post (complete with photos), Last hurrah of summer 2019.

Note:  I first saw the links below on Facebook.

On Halakha and LGBT (By: Aaron J Koller, YU Professor of Near Eastern Studies),  | September 10, 2019

 "This is the most disturbing part of the “akedah theology” (as Ronit Irshai calls it): it invariably is framed as self-sacrifice, but actually involves the sacrifice of another. I may be called upon to put aside my liberal values, but the person who actually pays the price is the LGBT friend who is not allowed to get married, not wished a mazel tov in the weekly community announcements, not welcomed with their partner into myriad communal frameworks.

. . . 

So, in short: In a clash between humanity and halakha, opt for humanity, and have enough faith in halakha that the problem will be solved. And if somehow the conflict remains intractable, I would rather suffer for being a good person than sacrifice someone else’s life on the altar of my religiosity."

Sep 12 · 9 min read
"While I don’t read many self-help books, there is one that I swear by, “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson. Long story short, the book is a fable about four mice and how they are able or unable to adapt to new circumstances of the cheese in their maze being moved. The lesson — when circumstances in life change the best way forward is to move with the change (the cheese) instead of pretending that nothing has changed.

. . .

Orthodox Shuls, still stuck in 2009, have now fallen behind general society in the United States. Feeling ever more empowered, queer Orthodox Jews now expect to live full lives — coming out young, even in high school (something unimaginable a decade ago), getting married, having children, and living religious lives. And we have done so without the Chesed of Orthodox rabbis. We have been able to find our own spaces, albeit not always Orthodox.

Consequently, an Orthodox rabbi no longer holds the same power when meeting with a queer congregant. The queer millennial/gen-z’er knows that they will not be stuck in this community their whole life. They’re not asking for the rabbi’s approval for their coming out or their wedding, they’re asking for his/her blessing. If they don’t get it they can [happily] go elsewhere. There is already a list of Orthodox rabbis performing gay weddings, and an Orthodox-ordained rabbi (yours truly), and many halakhically conversant queer people. The power dynamic has dramatically shifted.

So now Orthodox rabbis are stuck in their behavioral inhibition as the power slips away. Sympathizing with the gay person no longer cuts it. People want action that speaks to where they are in life now — marriage, recognition, opportunities for leadership as rabbis and community leaders. So rabbis avoid the situation altogether and put the blame on queer people for being too pushy, shocked that we are not happy with the fact we are able to just be gay. i.e., shocked that we are not satisfied with 2009. It was amazing for me to see the contortions some rabbis made in order to blame me for my being denied ordination last Spring, with made up stories about contracts that I had signed and absurd, unconfirmed and frankly inappropriate speculation about my intimate life and living situations. Why couldn’t people just say we don’t believe in an openly gay rabbis? Why couldn't they debate that question? Because they are still in 2009, a different stage of the cheese. And in 2009, that was not a question up for debate.

. . .

So how can we adjust as a community? I would like to offer some suggestions as to how we can move with the cheese.
  1. I do not think rabbis have reckoned with the fact that the cheese has moved and that they no longer hold that power. Rabbis — and rabbinical schools in particular — need to realize that it is 2019, not 2009. Which means not just that the conversation needs to change, but the dynamics need to change. Rabbis need to realize (and I’m saying this as a rabbi as much as a member of gay community) that a conversation with a gay congregant is now a conversation of equals (in some sense). The rabbis do not hold all of the cards anymore. As rabbis have rested on their laurels over the past decade, queer people have been learning and gearing up for battle. Rabbis cannot get insulted or offended that queer people are not satisfied with sympathy alone. If there is something a rabbi cannot do either for Halakhic or political reasons they need to be upfront and realize that they may not be able to have their cake and eat it too. The decision to keep your membership in a rabbinical organization may come at the cost of some queer members of your Shul. But that is a decision you are making.
  2. For a while rabbis were able to sidestep any Halakhic conversation; that is no longer the case. Rabbis can no longer get away with statements that hold no water in Halakhic discourse, such as saying that the Torah prohibits same-sex marriage based on an Aggadic passage that is not codified in the Shulchan Aruch. Many rabbis may not feel trained for this conversation, as rabbinical schools have not prepared them for this. They still do not — when I was in YCT just last year “LGBT issues” were relegated to pastoral counseling class, with no discussion during morning seder, the portion of the day in which we learn Halakha (despite my requests to do so). Rabbis need to study up. If they have not spent time learning Halakhot related to queer people (and for the most part, they haven’t), this is a great time to start. I am happy to connect rabbis with resources in doing this learning.
  3. Conversely, queer people need to use our newfound power to educate our rabbis. Ask rabbis the halakhic questions. When a Halakhic answer is given, ask for sources. When a political answer is given (“this will set back the cause”), ask what the specific political strategy is being employed to accomplish these goals. Ask for a specific date when this issue will be discussed at the next rabbinic convention.
  4. Queer people need to stand up for ourselves, but also be generous. No we do not need to accept discrimination. We do not need to accept marginalization or second-class status — I certainly do not. But the cheese has moved for us too, and we need to recognize the power that we do hold. Because there are a lot of good rabbis out there who have a lot to offer but they are going to need our help.
  5. And most critically, we need to establish healthier power dynamics. No one man or woman should hold the keys to who can come to shul, who can get married, or who can become a rabbi. If we as rabbis find ourselves dictating the terms of the conversation (i.e. find ourselves being behaviorally activated) that is a sign that we are holding too much power and we are begging for another crisis. If we are taking no risks as rabbis, we are just holding on to power that is slipping away.
Because the cheese will move again at some point. And the next time it moves I hope we can all move with it in a way that avoids the hurt and pain that has come with the current change in circumstances."

Friday, September 13, 2019

Last hurrah of summer 2019

Montauk Lighthouse
Shira's Shot, Labor Day 2019

Montauk Lighthouse from the path to the beach

  View from the top
I climbed 136 steps on a circular staircase to see this!

Celebrating Giorgina Reid, Savior of the Montauk Lighthouse

"She came uninvited. She was 60 years old at that time. She was about 4 foot 11. And she said she believed she could save the Montauk Lighthouse from falling into the sea."

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

My public apology to Rabbi Angela Buchdahl

I was thoroughly rebuked by a reader of this blog, and rightly so:  "You can't call out someone without checking first!"

My rebuker was referring to my assumption, seen in this post of mine, that Rabbi Angela Buchdahl had never converted to Judaism.

I told my rebuker the truth, which isn't much of an excuse:  Since the Reform Movement accepts patrilineal descent, it never occurred to me that it would matter to Hebrew Union College (the Reform seminary for rabbis, cantors, and Jewish educators) whether or not a person with a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother actually converted to Judaism before becoming a member of the Reform clergy.  I have since checked, and found that, while HUC will not admit persons to the rabbinical or cantorial programs if they are involved in a serious relationship with a non-Jew, their stipulation regarding Jewish status is a rather vague statement that the person must "identify as Jewish."  (Click here and scroll down to "Do you have an intermarriage policy?" and  "Do I have to be Jewish to be admitted to HUC-JIR?")

That said, had I looked, I could easily have seen for myself that Rabbi Buchdahl chose to convert to Judaism.

I apologize to Rabbi Buchdahl for any embarrassment and/or upset that I may have caused.

This is the month of Elul, when we pay particular attention to trying to improve our behavior.  I commit myself to doing a better job of guarding my tongue--and my keyboard--in the future.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Trying to navigate a changed Jewish landscape (part 2)

You can read part one here.

Once upon a time, when a person entered a synagogue, they could confidently assume that, unless there were a Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebration, or some other simchah (happy occasion), 95-100% of the people in attendance at any religious service were Jews.

That's no longer necessarily the case, especially in a non-Orthodox synagogue or other prayer space.

First, there's the "Who is a Jew" question, non-Orthodox version:  Do you or don't you accept the not-converted child of a non-Jewish mother as a Jew?  (See patrilineal descent.)

Conservative Judaism, like Orthodox Judaism, doesn't accept patrilineal descent, which is not in accordance with halachah (Jewish religious law).  So what's a Conservative Jew like me supposed to think of a person such as Rabbi Angela Buchdahl?  On one hand, she's ordained as both a cantor and a rabbi.  How Jewish can you get?  On the other hand, her mother's a non-Jew.  It's certainly interesting for someone of my background to try to wrap her head around the idea of a rabbi/cantor who's not halachically Jewish.

On a more practical note, what's an appropriate way for a Conservative synagogue to welcome folks who are halachically non-Jewish?  And what do we do about Hebrew School and Bar or Bat Mitzvah for their kids?

There's also the possibility that some of those present aren't Jewish by anyone's definition, meaning that neither of their parents is Jewish and they haven't converted to Judaism.  But though they're not "Members of the Tribe," they may be boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, or spouses of Jews, and/or parents of "half-Jewish" children.

It seems as if every non-Conservative prayer gathering we attend is a mixed gathering.  I'm beginning to have some sympathy for that poor rabbi whom I criticized a while back.  Given the demographics of our neighborhood, what makes us think that our own synagogue won't be forced to make a decision, soon or later, regarding whether to stick to our halachic approach or give it up as a lost cause?

Please read my September 3, 2019 post, My public apology to Rabbi Angela Buchdahl.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Trying to navigate a changed Jewish landscape (part 1)

In the small Jewish community of my childhood, it was simply taken for granted that Jews were Zionists. 

That's no longer necessarily the case.  If my personal experience of recent years is any indication, it's becoming more and more difficult to find Zionist Jews under the age of 45.

Naturally, our 36-year-old son had an explanation. (Be careful what you complain about, and/or to whom you complain).   It's one of many explanations, no doubt, so if you have another one, feel free to post it in the comments.

According to our son, the status of the West Bank would have been settled decades ago if Israel had simply declared the entire West Bank to be part of Israel when they first conquered it, because that approach would have forced the former "owners" to negotiate.  But because Israel itself has always considered the West Bank "disputed territory," the creation or enlargement of "settlements" is viewed as an invasion. 

So here we are, working with anti-Zionist Jews (and plenty of other folks, obviously) to try to close the immigrant internment camps.  What are we supposed to do, not try to close the immigrant internment camps?

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Parshat Ekev, 5779/2019 thoughts

One of the first lessons that we learn from Parshat Ekev is the importance of hakarat ha-tov, expressing gratitude.  (We also learn the traditional list of the crops of the Holy Land.)

ז  כִּי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, מְבִיאֲךָ אֶל-אֶרֶץ טוֹבָה:  אֶרֶץ, נַחֲלֵי מָיִם--עֲיָנֹת וּתְהֹמֹת, יֹצְאִים בַּבִּקְעָה וּבָהָר.
7 For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, springing forth in valleys and hills;
ח  אֶרֶץ חִטָּה וּשְׂעֹרָה, וְגֶפֶן וּתְאֵנָה וְרִמּוֹן; אֶרֶץ-זֵית שֶׁמֶן, וּדְבָשׁ.
8 a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey;
ט  אֶרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר לֹא בְמִסְכֵּנֻת תֹּאכַל-בָּהּ לֶחֶם--לֹא-תֶחְסַר כֹּל, בָּהּ; אֶרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֲבָנֶיהָ בַרְזֶל, וּמֵהֲרָרֶיהָ תַּחְצֹב נְחֹשֶׁת.
9 a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.
י  וְאָכַלְתָּ, וְשָׂבָעְתָּ--וּבֵרַכְתָּ אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, עַל-הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַן-לָךְ.
10 And thou shalt eat and be satisfied, and bless the LORD thy God for the good land which He hath given thee.

Verse 10 is the basis for Birkat HaMazon, Grace After Meals (and is included therein).  We are commanded to express gratitude for our food.

But what happens when we take the gift of food for granted?

Let me quote from a d'var Torah by Rabbi Norman Lamm on Parshat Behar (which I first quoted here):

"in modern times, Judaism became fragmentized. Judaism became a matter of where you prayed, not how you lived; what siddur you used, not how regularly you paid employees or bills; how long was your Shemone Esrei, not how faithfully you worked for your salary; how good a tenor you got as a cantor, not how sincere your davening was; how ferociously you destroyed a competitor or “took in” a customer, not how much of your profits you gave to charity. Our whole sidra of this morning was forgotten, and business life became Godless – or better, became itself an object of worship and blind obedience.
And so Jews rejected the Lord, God of Israel, and accepted Mercury, god of commerce."

What happens when money becomes our god, and we sacrifice everything to make a profit?

יג  וְהָיָה, אִם-שָׁמֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶל-מִצְוֺתַי, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם, הַיּוֹם--לְאַהֲבָה אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, וּלְעָבְדוֹ, בְּכָל-לְבַבְכֶם, וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁכֶם.
13 And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto My commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul,
יד  וְנָתַתִּי מְטַר-אַרְצְכֶם בְּעִתּוֹ, יוֹרֶה וּמַלְקוֹשׁ; וְאָסַפְתָּ דְגָנֶךָ, וְתִירֹשְׁךָ וְיִצְהָרֶךָ.
14 that I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.
טו  וְנָתַתִּי עֵשֶׂב בְּשָׂדְךָ, לִבְהֶמְתֶּךָ; וְאָכַלְתָּ, וְשָׂבָעְתָּ.
15 And I will give grass in thy fields for thy cattle, and thou shalt eat and be satisfied.
טז  הִשָּׁמְרוּ לָכֶם, פֶּן יִפְתֶּה לְבַבְכֶם; וְסַרְתֶּם, וַעֲבַדְתֶּם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים, וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתֶם, לָהֶם.
16 Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;
יז  וְחָרָה אַף-יְהוָה בָּכֶם, וְעָצַר אֶת-הַשָּׁמַיִם וְלֹא-יִהְיֶה מָטָר, וְהָאֲדָמָה, לֹא תִתֵּן אֶת-יְבוּלָהּ; וַאֲבַדְתֶּם מְהֵרָה, מֵעַל הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה, אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה, נֹתֵן לָכֶם.
17 and the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and He shut up the heaven, so that there shall be no rain, and the ground shall not yield her fruit; and ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.

If we put greed above gratitude, we'll soon have nothing left--avarice will destroy our planet.
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