mosaicMeet The Rabbiskehila
A warm welcome from Mosaic
Mosaic Liberal
HEMS
Mosaic Reform
Meet The Rabbis
Catch up with our monthly magazine

This Shabbat

Mosaic is a unique Jewish Community - in that we offer at least three weekly and festival services from the Liberal, Masorti and Reform traditions. After our services we get together for joint kiddushim, and offer study sessions before or after some of our services.

Our services include Liberal, Masorti and Reform weekly and Festival services and children and family services such as Torah Tots and Shabbat Shira, and Alternative services such as our Friday night contemplative services, interfaith activities (such as our Shabbat at Wembley Central Mosque), and themed Shabbat services - Rock shabbat, anniversary of VE day, supporting social action projects such as Red Nose Day.

Shabbat Commentary

22/23 Mar : Tzav : Shabbat comes in 6:02 pm,  ends  7:06 pm

According to Parshat Tzav, the priests’ first task of the day was to remove the ashes from the offering sacrificed the previous day. (Leviticus 6:3)   Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch suggests that this is a constant reminder that service of the new day is connected to the service of the previous day.  After all, the ashes from the remains of yesterday’s sacrifice had to be removed before the new sacrifice could be offered.

Another thought:  It is specifically the priest who begins the day by removing the ashes — to illustrate the importance of his remaining involved with the mundane. Too often, those who rise to important lofty positions separate themselves from the people and withdraw from the everyday menial tasks. The Torah, through these laws teaches it shouldn’t be this way.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman

 

 

 


Shabbat Commentary

16/16 Mar : Vayikra : Shabbat comes in 5:50 pm,  ends  6:53 pm

In Parshat Vayikra, we learn of the many sacrifices of animals and grain; these were familiar to all of the people of the ancient world.  Most societies, however, used these sacrifices to propitiate and “feed” their Gods, who would become angry and destructive if they weren’t fed.  God, in contrast, turned sacrifice into communication, with the assistance of the Levitical priests, the Kohanim.

Some offerings were to be made, either daily or upon certain occasions, by the Kohanim on behalf of the entire community; many, however, were brought as needed by members of the community.  Both gratitude and repentance could be expressed through the language of sacrifice.

Rather than an expression of fear, sacrifice became a mode of communication.  That alone was a major step toward knowing God.  Later would come words, prayers — as the prophet Hosea said, prayers are “the sacrifices/bulls of our lips” (Hosea 14:2).

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman

 

 

 


Shabbat Commentary

8/9 Mar : Pekudei : Shabbat comes in 5:38 pm,  ends  6:41 pm

In Parshat Pekudei, Moses provides a detailed account of how the contributions to the Tabernacle were put to use.  A Midrash addresses this as follows:

Why did Moses give them accounts? The Holy One, may His name be blessed, trusted him as it says: “Not so with My servant Moses; he is trusted throughout My household” (Numbers 12:7).  So why did Moses say to the Israelites, come let us discuss the Tabernacle and I will give you accounts?  It is because Moses heard malicious Israelites speaking behind his back (Exodus Rabba (Vilna) 51).

The Midrash explains that the accounts were required due to rumours spread by Israelites, who suspected him of misappropriating funds for his own benefit.  Moses understands this and instead of being insulted, he shows that at times, even leaders must explain themselves; and he lists where all the gifts have gone to use in the Mishkan.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman

 

 

 


Shabbat Commentary

1/2 Mar : Vayakhel : Shabbat comes in 5:25 pm,  ends  6:29 pm

Near the beginning of this week’s reading, we learn that Moses asked the people to donate the materials needed to make the Mishkan.  The men and women responded generously, so much so that the Torah says:   The artisans who were engaged in the tasks of the sanctuary came . . . and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than is needed for the tasks entailed in the work that the Lord has commanded to be done.”  Moses thereupon had this proclamation made throughout the camp – let no man or woman make further effort toward gifts for the sanctuary.

This was the first – and very possibly the last – time in the history of Jewish fundraising that people were told to stop donating.  However, as Moses’ accounting shows, all the donations were used for their intended purpose, with nothing left over for operating expenses or an endowment fund.

According to the Midrash Tanhuma, it took only two days to collect all of the materials needed for the Mishkan.  I imagine there must have been hundreds, even thousands, of people who had things they sincerely wanted to contribute to the project, but they waited – just a little bit.  We never know how much time we have.  We go around assuming we can take care of this or that task tomorrow or next week, and quite often this is fine.  Our Parasha reminds us that sometimes putting it off for even a day or two means you will be too late.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman

 

 

 


Shabbat Commentary

15/16 Feb : Tetzaveh : Shabbat comes in 5:00 pm,  ends  6:05 pm nice Nice clothes reflect respect, professionalism and tradition.   So too, the priests’ clothing of ancient times, and especially that of the Kohen Gadol were important and even played a key role in the priests’ service to Israel and God.

A midrash tells us that “Just as the sacrifices atone for Israel, so too do the priestly vestments:  The Hoshen [breastplate] atones for perversion of justice, as it is written, ‘And they shall make a breastplate of judgment [Ex. 28:15].’  The Ephod [from which the breastplate hung] atones for idol worship, as it is written ‘And there is no ephod or household gods’ [Hosea 3:4; apparently, the idols of a household were often depicted with an ephod].  The robe atones for lashon hara [malicious gossip]; it comes making a sound [from the bells on its hem] and atones for deceitful speech, as it is written, ‘and it [the robe with its bells] will be upon Aharon to serve’ [Ex. 29:35; so that God would ‘hear’ the bells and not strike him down].  The tunic atones for the shedding of blood, as it is written, “And they [Yosef’s brothers] dipped the tunic in the blood [Gen. 37:31; so as to cause Ya’akov to believe Yosef was dead].  The breeches atone for improper sexual relations, as it is written, ‘And you shall make them breeches of linen to cover their nakedness’ [Ex. 29:42].  The headdress atones for arrogance and pride [as it rests upon the priest’s head].  The tzitz [frontlet, engraved with ‘Sacred to the Lord,’ worn on the Kohen Gadol’s forehead] atones for insolence [azei metzah], as it is written, ‘It shall be on Aharon’s forehead [metzah]…. The sash atones for secret thoughts of the heart, because they would fasten it opposite the heart.”

Each garment had a significance that reached beyond the one wearing it, and the materials of which they were made came from the contributions that all of Israel made to the construction of the Mishkan and all of its necessary items.  Thus the Israelites, the “nation of priests” (Ex. 19:6), created their priestly representatives from Aharon and his sons.  With Aharon’s sacred garments, he bore the Israelites upon his shoulders and upon his heart before God.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman

 

 

 


Shabbat Commentary

8/9 Feb : Terumah : Shabbat comes in 4:47 pm,  ends  5:53 pm

In Terumah, God commands the Israelites to build a portable Mishkan, a movable sanctuary for worshipping and dialoguing with God. The instructions for this temporary dwelling place are some of the most descriptive and precise details found in the Torah. The detailed blueprints for this grand structure makes it clear how important a dwelling place for God truly is.

We, as Jews, need a place to connect with God.  The Mishkan was the unique place of the Israelites to serve them as they journeyed to the land of milk and honey. It was also a place for counsel and comfort during wars against foreign nations, until its permanent structure would be housed in Jerusalem.

As Ramban notes, the people need this physical representation of the brith, the covenant, so that the revelation given to Moses at Mount Sinai could continue. God wants the people to be in dialogue and relationship with Him — and this takes place at the Mishkan.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman

 

 

 


Shabbat Commentary

1/2 Feb : Mishpatim : Shabbat comes in 4:35 pm,  ends  5:41 pm

In last week’s Parasha, Yitro, the Torah teaches in the Ten Commandments:  Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God: you shall not do any work — you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or your cattle, or the stranger who is within your settlements. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

Yet this week we read that resting on the Sabbath is not about our well-being, or about our state of holiness, or about God. It is about our responsibility to others.  It says in Parashat Mishpatim:  “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labour, in order that your ox and your donkey may rest, and that your bondsman and the stranger may be refreshed.” You could say that Parshat Mishpatim teaches us that you may not work on Shabbat because your animals and slaves are entitled to a day off.

If Shabbat is just about us, then we might take it or leave it. But if observing Shabbat is about our duty toward others – if it is a social obligation to others – then we are no longer at liberty to choose if they should observe it (have a day off) based upon our own personal convictions or convenience.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman

 

 

 


Shabbat Commentary

18/19 Jan : Beshalach : Shabbat comes in 4:10 pm,  ends  5:19 pm

In Parashat Beshalach, the Israelites leave behind a ruined Egypt and start their journey to the land of their ancestors.  Even now, however, Pharaoh cannot bring himself to let them leave, and so his troops set out in hot pursuit. They catch the Israelites at the Sea of Reeds.  Moshe urges them to “Stand by and witness the deliverance which God will work for you today, for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. God will battle for you; you hold your peace!” (Ex. 14:13-14)

So were the Israelites really just passive watchers of all these events? The Sages didn’t like this idea; they saw the need for the people to take active steps to participate in their own redemption. Thus, in the Mekhilta, a midrash on Exodus, they inquire why the verse (Ex. 14:29) says that “the Israelites marched through the sea on dry ground” – it should be one or the other! “Rather, from here you learn that the sea did not split for them until they went into it up to their faces, and after that it became dry for them,” so that they first went “through the sea “and then “on dry ground.”   God created circumstances for the Israelite salvation — but the Israelites had to take the initiative as well.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman

 

 

 


Shabbat Commentary

11/12 Jan : Bo : Shabbat comes in 3:59 pm,  ends  5:09 pm

Parshat Bo has in a sense three signs or symbols that frame the Parsha.

We open the Parsha with God explaining that he gives the plagues as a sign to Pharaoh.   The next verse explains the purpose of the signs – “otot”:  The signs were done so that we and the Egyptians would know that our God was the true God.

In the middle of the Parsha there is a second sign:  God asks us to put blood on our doorposts – perhaps a forerunner of the mitzvah of putting up a mezuzah.   But we read that: we are to dip hyssop in blood and paint the doorposts of our houses so that God should know which houses to skip in macat habechorot – why is this verse strange?  He seemed to have no problem being able to distinguish between Israelite and Egyptian during all other plagues. What now could possibly cause Hashem to need the assistance of a visual sign to distinguish his nation from the Egyptians? Perhaps the solution lies in a closer reading of the text.    The verse states that the blood shall be a sign “for you.” The Mechilta (a Midrashic interpretation of the Bible) states that the sign is for you (the Jews), not for Me (God), and not for others.This suggests that, in fact, God did not need this sign in order to be able to skip over the Jewish homes when smiting the Egyptian firstborn. He ordered the Israelites to perform this act for their own benefit.   So that they would be reminded who they are.

Similarly, the Parsha ends with a final sign — once again, for us:   God says:   “It shall be a sign upon your arm, and for tefillin between your eyes, for with a strong hand, God removed us from Egypt.”

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman

 

 

 


Shabbat Commentary

4/5 Jan : Vaera : Shabbat comes in 3:50 pm,  ends  5:00 pm

In this week’s portion, God tells Moshe to tell the children of Israel that he will soon take them out of Egypt. In the words of the Torah, “I will bring you out from under the burden of the Egyptians and I will deliver you from their bondage and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm…and I will take you to me for a people. (Exodus 6:6,7)

Here, the Torah mentions four words related to the Exodus from Egypt. I will bring you out (vehotzeiti), I will deliver you (vehitzalti), I will redeem you (vega’alti), and I will take you (velakahti). In fact, the four cups of wine used at the Seder table are meant to symbolize these four words of redemption. Wine is the symbol of joy and hence reflects these words which describe the joyous exodus from Egypt.

Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin notes that the Hebrew term for words often used by the rabbis is leshonot, which literally means languages. For the Netziv, the terms in this portion denote the language of redemption rather than words of redemption. This implies that each term relates to a stage in the redemption process. The stages indicate that redemption, whether personal or national is a process that is gradual.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman