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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

26/27 Feb :Tetzaveh : Shabbat comes in 5:20 pm, ends 6:24 pm

Parashat Tetzaveh: The Presence of the Divine 

In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Tetzaveh, we are in the midst of the preparations of the mishkan (the portable Temple of the wilderness). The aim of this endeavour is to bring the presence of God into the midst of the people. We turn this week to designing the beautiful, holy clothing of the people who dedicated their lives to serving in the mishkan. 

And it is also the Shabbat immediately after Purim. In an interesting contrast with the Torah portion, the Book of Esther is famous for being the only biblical book that does not mention God even once. God is not an active character in the story, and nobody talks about God. It is as Godless as possible, so to speak. Of course, there’s an assumption that God is present in the background of the story, pulling strings to ensure the survival of the Jewish people – however, the presence of the Divine remains subtle and unmentioned. 

One of my favourite verses in the Book of Esther calls to mind the ritualistic adornments of the priests in the mishkan. This verse occurs in the turning point in the story – the point at which Queen Esther decides to reveal herself as a Jew in an attempt to save her people. The verse states that Esther ‘clothed herself in malkhut’ (Esther 5:1). There appears to be a word missing in this verse – she’s clothing herself in sovereignty, rather than in bigdei-malkhut, in ‘clothing of sovereignty’. Many commentators claim that this is simply a scribal error. However, according to Rabbi anina (Talmud Megillah 5a), the wording of the text is deliberate: in preparation for risking her life to save her people, Esther pulls the divine presence around herself. Esther clothes herself in the sovereignty of God.  

Esther doesn’t have the ritual specificity of the Temple, and she doesn’t even appear to know how to call on God by name. But in this powerful scene, we see Esther decide that she’s not going in there alone. God will be there with her. Here, Esther acts as a model for faith – not that everything will be okay, but that we do not walk to our fate alone.  

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Natasha 

 

 

 

 

 


Shabbat Commentary

19/20 Feb :Terumah : Shabbat comes in 5:07 pm, ends 6:12 pm

Parashat Terumah – Head and Heart  

This Torah portion marks the turn of the Book of Exodus from the narratives of exodus to the building of the mishkan (the portable sanctuary of the wilderness). The portion gets its name from the command (Ex. 25:2): ‘You must bring me terumah.’ Though terumah refers to the gifts that were given by the Children of Israel in order to build the sanctuary, many commentators read terumah as being linked intrinsically to tz’dakah (our obligations to give to those in need). In both cases, we give that which we might rather keep for our own benefit, in order to create a better society.  

Rabbi Alter picks up on the connections between this command to give terumah and the previous statement of the Children of Israel (Ex. 24:7): ‘We will do, and we will hear.’ Rabbi Alter understands that since the people began that statement with ‘we will do’, the Holy One immediately followed with the command for terumah. According to Rabbi Alter: ‘The commandment of tz’dakah requires action without excessive contemplation, without excessive consideration, but rather to “do” and afterwards to “listen”. This is because if one contemplates and considers beforehand, one will never arrive at “we will do”. 

We have a tendency to be a rather cerebral people. We like to study, and to think through multiple scenarios, and to debate. These are all wonderful aspects of the Jewish people. Nonetheless, there are some mitzvot that require acting from the heart, and letting the head catch up later. 

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Natasha 

 

 

 

 

 


Shabbat Commentary

5/6 Feb :Yitro : Shabbat comes in 4:42 pm, ends 5:48 pm

Parashat Yitro – The First Commandment  

In this week’s Torah portion, the Children of Israel receive the Ten Sayings (also known as the ‘Ten Commandments’). Jews and Christians count these ten in a slightly different order, due to a disagreement about how to begin the list. The two lists read as follows (summarised): 

Jewish Understanding Christian Understanding
1 I am Hashem your God. I am Hashem your God; you shall have
no other gods before Me.
2 You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not say God’s name in vain.
3 You shall not say God’s name in vain. Remember and sanctify Shabbat.
4 Remember and sanctify Shabbat. Honour your father and mother.
5 Honour your father and mother. You shall not murder.
6 You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery.
7 You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal.
8 You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness.
9 You shall not bear false witness. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife.
10 You shall not covet. You shall not covet your neighbour’s goods.

 The advantage of the Christian understanding is that the Ten Commandments all read as commandments. The disadvantage is an awkward reading of the ninth and tenth commandments, in which ‘you shall not covet’ must be split into two.  

There has been a conflict in Jewish history over whether to read these ten statements as all being mitzvot, in which case, ‘I am God’ must also be a commandment. Some commentators, such as Abravanel, understand this first statement as being a declaration intended to precede these important commands. Abravanel would approve of the Hebrew terminology ‘Aseret haDibrot’ (‘The Ten Sayings’), because only nine of the sayings are commandments. Maimonides, however, reads ‘I am God’ as a command to belief. This is similar to an age-old question about the Shema: Is ‘you shall love Hashem your God’ a statement about emotion (you shall feel love), or a statement about action (you shall act lovingly, i.e. keep the mitzvot)?  

There is no simple answer, and Jews are still in makhloket (holy disagreement) about this subject today. Whatever the answer may be – whether we are commanded to believe and feel, or only to do – it seems that the Children of Israel understand their obligations as being primarily (if not solely) about observance. ‘We will do, and we will hear,’ they say (Ex. 24:7) – understood to mean that we will do first, and understand later. Whether or not we think that belief is an obligation, we do hope that outward practice will affect our inner lives.  

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Natasha

 


Shabbat Commentary

29/30 Jan :Beshalach : Shabbat comes in 4:29 pm, ends 5:36 pm

Parashat Beshalac – Who Liberated the Israelites? 

This week’s Torah portion begins the long story of the Israelites in the wilderness. The Hebrew slaves are saved from their bondage, walk through the miraculously split sea, and sing and dance over their liberation. It’s a beautiful scene. Then, after liberation has been handed to the Hebrews, the story quickly turned to a problem that will continue through to the end of the Torah: the Israelites don’t know how to be free. 

The change in tone is almost comically severe. At the end of the Song of the Sea, we are given one verse to transition the Israelites from singing to travelling, and then the text turns immediately to the Israelites grumbling about the lack of water to drink. That situation is resolved with a miracle, and the people continue on for one whole verse before they begin complaining about food. Again, a miracle: bread falls from the sky. Some of the people try to take too much manna, to find that they somehow have only the prescribed amount. Some try to save manna for the morning, even though Moses has warned them against it; the leftover manna rots. The people are told not to collect manna on Shabbat, but some go out to gather anyway – but no manna appears.  

The story of the generation of freed slaves is fascinating and frustrating. They have experienced great miracles, and yet they cannot trust that they will survive. Even though the Divine performed miracles in Egypt, they assume that they will die at the Sea of Reeds; even though they passed through the sea on dry shod, they assume that they will die of thirst in the wilderness; even though the Holy One provides water to drink, they assume that they will starve. When bread is provided, they want to take extra, just in case. No matter how great the miracles, the Israelites are not ready to feel safe.  

The difficulty that the Israelites face when encountering freedom tells us that they were not truly freed at the Sea of Reeds. The Divine could perform miracles, could bring the Hebrews from their bondage into the wilderness, but this is only the beginning of the story of liberation. To truly become free people, the Israelites have to learn to free themselves internally. That is the work that needs to be done before reaching the Promised Land.  

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Natasha


Shabbat Commentary

8/9 Jan :Shemot : Shabbat comes in 3:55 pm, ends 5:05 pm

Parashat Sh’mot – Changing the World 

There is an idea, all too prevalent in discussions on the state of the environment, that each of us is powerless to change anything. The beginning of this week’s parashah disagrees. Here, at the beginning of the Exodus narrative – when Pharaoh has enslaved the Israelites and is attempting to oppress the population through infanticide – the Torah portion hones in on several small stories. These are narratives about the women responsible for the survival of one particular infant: Moses. We, the readers, know who Moses will grow up to be, so when we read these small narratives, we know that they are important and world-changing. But that is not what the actions would have looked like to the characters in play.  

First, we encounter the story of the midwives, who disobey orders to slaughter Israelite sons. They cannot save the Israelite children as a whole, but they can find excuses to allow some to live, and so that is what they do. Then, when Pharaoh issues a new command that the sons be thrown into the Nile, we meet Moses’s mother and sister, who hide him until it is no longer possible and then put him in a basket in the river in hopes that he might survive. And then we meet Bat Paroh, the daughter of Pharaoh, who takes the child in as her own – and even agrees to return the infant to his mother to be a wet-nurse.

Together, the women of Egypt – the Hebrew slaves, the midwives, the daughter of the king – manage to save the life of one child. And, unbeknownst to them, that one child grows up to liberate the Israelites from slavery.   

In the beginning of Parashat Sh’mot, the story is moved entirely by small acts of the seemingly powerless. Not one of those acts looks like it will affect the bigger picture. But we know, while we’re reading the story, that they will. How much power we must have, that our small acts of resistance can lead to revolution and redemption.  

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Natasha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So in terms of a punishment for the people of Noah’s time, the flood and the destruction of all living things does seem a bit extreme.  One of my rabbis, Rabbi Brad Artson argues, that is exactly the point the Torah is trying to make.

 

Destruction, even when it comes from the God who is “slow to anger and abounding in kindness” bursts beyond any manageable or fair limitations. Even punishments, originally intended to be measured and reasonable, provoke unanticipated suffering and hardship.

 

Rabbi Paul Arberman.

ZZZZZZ

Abraham Joshua Heschel believed that Adam’s sin was primarily in hiding from God and from himself.  This is not, in Heschel’s eyes, an abstract idea; we all hide from God and from ourselves. Heschel expresses it thus in the third verse of his poem I and Thou:

” Often I glimpse Myself in everyone’s form,

hear My own speech – a distant, quiet voice – in people’s weeping,

as if under millions of masks My face would lie hidden. ”

Heschel is describing a personal experience in which he has hidden from himelf, his essence absorbed within society.  His face is masked, hidden from view, making the idea to “know thyself” impossible.

I’m not sure why we hide from ourselves so well when we are young — or perhaps we just don’t take the time to think through who we are — but I can say definitively, that one of the great joys of getting older is the unmasking — getting to know yourself — what you actually enjoy or don’t enjoy doing.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Shabbat Commentary

1/2 Jan :Vayechi : Shabbat comes in 3:47 pm, ends 4:57 pm

Parashat Vayecḥi: When We Are Ready
In Jewish tradition the Messiah will be a person, a human being, who will usher in the age of peace. The Messiah is supposed to bring us all back to the Holy Land, to establish the Third Temple, and to begin a new age.  I think we’ll notice when world peace has arrived!

In this week’s Torah portion, Jacob also hints at this mysterious future, when he says to his sons (Genesis 49:1): “Come together that I may tell you what is to befall you in days to come.” Our sages understand that Jacob was attempting to reveal prophecies to his sons of the later days of human existence – the coming of the Messiah – but that God stopped him
from doing so.
Our sages give us two different schedules on which the Messiah might work. The first is a set timing for the Messiah’s arrival, which we do not know. The second ‘schedule’ is the idea that the Messiah may come at any point that the People of Israel are ready for him.
Understanding this, it seems that Jacob’s attempt to reveal the Messiah’s arrival would have been the revelation of the deadline, and thus would have assumed that the People of Israel would not usher in the Messianic Age early.

Perhaps the assumption that we will not bring in the Messianic Age would be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, we need to assume that fixing the world is within our power, and that if we prepare ourselves for peace, peace may
someday come.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Natasha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So in terms of a punishment for the people of Noah’s time, the flood and the destruction of all living things does seem a bit extreme.  One of my rabbis, Rabbi Brad Artson argues, that is exactly the point the Torah is trying to make.

 

Destruction, even when it comes from the God who is “slow to anger and abounding in kindness” bursts beyond any manageable or fair limitations. Even punishments, originally intended to be measured and reasonable, provoke unanticipated suffering and hardship.

 

Rabbi Paul Arberman.

ZZZZZZ

Abraham Joshua Heschel believed that Adam’s sin was primarily in hiding from God and from himself.  This is not, in Heschel’s eyes, an abstract idea; we all hide from God and from ourselves. Heschel expresses it thus in the third verse of his poem I and Thou:

” Often I glimpse Myself in everyone’s form,

hear My own speech – a distant, quiet voice – in people’s weeping,

as if under millions of masks My face would lie hidden. ”

Heschel is describing a personal experience in which he has hidden from himelf, his essence absorbed within society.  His face is masked, hidden from view, making the idea to “know thyself” impossible.

I’m not sure why we hide from ourselves so well when we are young — or perhaps we just don’t take the time to think through who we are — but I can say definitively, that one of the great joys of getting older is the unmasking — getting to know yourself — what you actually enjoy or don’t enjoy doing.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Shabbat Commentary

18/19 Dec :Mikeitz : Shabbat comes in 3:37 pm, ends 4:47 pm

Parashat Mikeitz – Joseph and Tamar   

     Last week, our tight narrative of Joseph’s life was interrupted with the story of Tamar. Tamar, Judah’s daughter-in-law, was wronged by her family, and responded through trickery to prove herself in the right. Her trick included disguising herself to interact with her father-in-law, and then using Judah’s seal, cord, and staff to prompt Judah to recognise that he had wronged her. I’ve long thought that the intention of Tamar’s story is to show us how Judah was prompted to develop as a character – how he turns from being a boy willing to sell a brother (Joseph) into slavery into a man who would sell himself into slavery to save a brother (Benjamin). 

    While the story of Judah and Tamar does help us to understand Judah, there are also significant parallels between Tamar and Joseph as characters. Joseph is discussed in feminine terms (e.g. prized for his beauty, given clothing that is described elsewhere in the Bible as being customary for princesses), which is especially clear in midrashic explorations (in which he is described as wearing feminine makeup and attire and being pursued by men). Tamar’s story is of course naturally gendered, as it is about her place as a woman in ancient society, focusing on marriage, fertility, and sexual ownership. This week, we see Joseph – like Tamar, wronged by the family of Israel – disguise himself to interact with his brothers, and trick them using a precious item (in this case, a silver goblet). The culmination of this event, which we will read about next week, is a recognition of how the brothers have wronged Joseph and an ultimate reconciliation.

    Tamar and Joseph, a pair who have apparently never met, have come to represent a character type. They are the members of the family once considered precious (and perhaps even property), and then wronged and discarded. And when left in that powerless position, both characters use disguise and trickery to wield power once again. They use that power to hold a mirror to the family, to force them to face their wrongdoings.

     I’ve always been inclined to see Joseph and Tamar as protagonists in their stories. But perhaps they are also cautionary tales.

 Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Natasha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So in terms of a punishment for the people of Noah’s time, the flood and the destruction of all living things does seem a bit extreme.  One of my rabbis, Rabbi Brad Artson argues, that is exactly the point the Torah is trying to make.

 

Destruction, even when it comes from the God who is “slow to anger and abounding in kindness” bursts beyond any manageable or fair limitations. Even punishments, originally intended to be measured and reasonable, provoke unanticipated suffering and hardship.

 

Rabbi Paul Arberman.

ZZZZZZ

Abraham Joshua Heschel believed that Adam’s sin was primarily in hiding from God and from himself.  This is not, in Heschel’s eyes, an abstract idea; we all hide from God and from ourselves. Heschel expresses it thus in the third verse of his poem I and Thou:

” Often I glimpse Myself in everyone’s form,

hear My own speech – a distant, quiet voice – in people’s weeping,

as if under millions of masks My face would lie hidden. ”

Heschel is describing a personal experience in which he has hidden from himelf, his essence absorbed within society.  His face is masked, hidden from view, making the idea to “know thyself” impossible.

I’m not sure why we hide from ourselves so well when we are young — or perhaps we just don’t take the time to think through who we are — but I can say definitively, that one of the great joys of getting older is the unmasking — getting to know yourself — what you actually enjoy or don’t enjoy doing.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Shabbat Commentary

11/12 Dec :Vayeshev : Shabbat comes in 3:36 pm, ends 4:45 pm

Parashat Vayeshev – Joseph’s Prophetic Dream
This week’s Torah portion opens by describing a ticking time bomb of a family: sons working hard in the field, while a favoured child receives gifts and praise and brings ‘evil reports’ of his brothers back to their parents. Ya’akov (Jacob, the father) is only alerted to a potential problem when Yosef (Joseph, the favourite child) begins to share his dreams with his family – dreams in which the brothers are all bowing down to Yosef. Ya’akov finally turns
his attention to the matter, and even attempts some kind of equalisation between brothers by sending Yosef out to the field, but it is apparent that the hatred runs too deep.

The brothers conspire against Yosef, throw him in a pit, sell him into slavery, and tell their father that the boy died out in the field. Ya’akov is distraught. The brothers keep their secret. Eventually, after a tumultuous journey involving slavery, false accusations, and imprisonment, Yosef will rise to power in Egypt as Pharaoh’s right-hand man.

The Torah, which usually wastes no words and is conservative on details, focuses in on the growth and development of Yosef. He becomes a tzaddik , a righteous man – and a powerful man, too. When the brothers rejoin Yosef’s story, Yosef’s dream becomes reality. His brothers bow down to him.

However, real life is not as glamorous as the dream. Yosef’s brothers
throw themselves at his feet in an attempt to save the youngest, Binyamin, from Yosef. Finally standing in the place of his dream must feel like a cruel, ironic twist.

At the end of this narrative, Yosef learns that while he has been through a whole character arc – in which he has grown and changed and learnt – so have his brothers. The brothers who meet him years later are not the same as the brothers who threw him into a pit.

We are all the main characters of our own stories. We follow our own narratives, our ups and downs, and experience our own character development. It can be easy to forget that everyone else is doing the same.

May we all learn to allow each other room for growth.

Shabbat shalom,                                                                                   

Rabbi Natasha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So in terms of a punishment for the people of Noah’s time, the flood and the destruction of all living things does seem a bit extreme.  One of my rabbis, Rabbi Brad Artson argues, that is exactly the point the Torah is trying to make.

 

Destruction, even when it comes from the God who is “slow to anger and abounding in kindness” bursts beyond any manageable or fair limitations. Even punishments, originally intended to be measured and reasonable, provoke unanticipated suffering and hardship.

 

Rabbi Paul Arberman.

ZZZZZZ

Abraham Joshua Heschel believed that Adam’s sin was primarily in hiding from God and from himself.  This is not, in Heschel’s eyes, an abstract idea; we all hide from God and from ourselves. Heschel expresses it thus in the third verse of his poem I and Thou:

” Often I glimpse Myself in everyone’s form,

hear My own speech – a distant, quiet voice – in people’s weeping,

as if under millions of masks My face would lie hidden. ”

Heschel is describing a personal experience in which he has hidden from himelf, his essence absorbed within society.  His face is masked, hidden from view, making the idea to “know thyself” impossible.

I’m not sure why we hide from ourselves so well when we are young — or perhaps we just don’t take the time to think through who we are — but I can say definitively, that one of the great joys of getting older is the unmasking — getting to know yourself — what you actually enjoy or don’t enjoy doing.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Shabbat Commentary

4/5 Dec :Vayishlach : Shabbat comes in 3:38 pm, ends 4:46 pm

Parashat Vayishlach – Jacob and Job
Decades after Jacob’s betrayal and consequent fleeing, Jacob is on his way to meet his brother Esau again. And on his way, we encounter the strange narrative of Jacob wrestling with an angel.

This moment of Jacob’s journey always brings to my mind the character of Job. Job is a good man whom we see suffering greatly due to a mysterious game of cosmic chess between the Divine and the Satan. After that initial storytelling, the following 35 chapters of the Book of Job describes an endless loop of Job arguing with his friends. Job gets stuck like an awful, despairing, heart-rending broken record. And in the last chapters, God finally turns up in a whirlwind to proclaim that Job has to move on without the answers. Job isn’t going to solve the Problem of Suffering. Job is shaken out of his feedback loop of anguish and, without the answers he was so desperately seeking, moves on with his life.

Where Job was drowning in despair, Jacob is engulfed by fear. He’s about to face his brother, whom he betrayed all those years ago, and he doesn’t know what revenge his brother might have in store. He finds himself alone, behind the messengers, gifts, family, and possessions he has sent ahead of him. And for a night, he gets stuck there. He struggles with some anonymous divinity, even sustains an injury from the wrestling, but nonetheless stays in the feedback loop. And then the angel tells him that it’s daytime, and they cannot
stay here struggling forever. Jacob demands a blessing. The blessing dispels something; the spell is shattered; the cycle has broken. Jacob moves on.
In both cases, the Divine says to the human: you cannot stay here forever. It’s time to move forward, no matter how unsure you are of how to walk in this uncertain world.

It is a strange call to faith. Neither man is offered an answer; Job gets no explanation for his suffering, and the angel does not assure Jacob that he will be safe from his brother. Instead, they are told that they must move forward without certainty.

Shabbat shalom,                                                                                       Rabbi Natasha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So in terms of a punishment for the people of Noah’s time, the flood and the destruction of all living things does seem a bit extreme.  One of my rabbis, Rabbi Brad Artson argues, that is exactly the point the Torah is trying to make.

 

Destruction, even when it comes from the God who is “slow to anger and abounding in kindness” bursts beyond any manageable or fair limitations. Even punishments, originally intended to be measured and reasonable, provoke unanticipated suffering and hardship.

 

Rabbi Paul Arberman.

ZZZZZZ

Abraham Joshua Heschel believed that Adam’s sin was primarily in hiding from God and from himself.  This is not, in Heschel’s eyes, an abstract idea; we all hide from God and from ourselves. Heschel expresses it thus in the third verse of his poem I and Thou:

” Often I glimpse Myself in everyone’s form,

hear My own speech – a distant, quiet voice – in people’s weeping,

as if under millions of masks My face would lie hidden. ”

Heschel is describing a personal experience in which he has hidden from himelf, his essence absorbed within society.  His face is masked, hidden from view, making the idea to “know thyself” impossible.

I’m not sure why we hide from ourselves so well when we are young — or perhaps we just don’t take the time to think through who we are — but I can say definitively, that one of the great joys of getting older is the unmasking — getting to know yourself — what you actually enjoy or don’t enjoy doing.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Shabbat Commentary

27/28 Nov : Vayeitzei : Shabbat comes in 3:43 pm, ends 4:50 pm

Parashat Vayeitzei – God Was in This Place

In Parashat Vayeitzei, we follow Jacob on his journey from his home (which he is forced to flee after dramatically deceiving his brother) to meet his extended family in Ḥaran.

On the way, Jacob stops to sleep in an unnamed place (often understood by commentators to be Moriah, on which the Temple would one day be built) and dreams of a ladder to the Heavens. Upon waking, Jacob proclaims (Gen. 28:16): ‘Surely God was in this place, and I, I did not know.’

Jacob’s wonder at his inability to recognise God’s presence reminds me of one of my very favourite ​midrashim

​(creative rabbinic commentaries). Exodus Rabbah 24:1 recounts the story of the Israelites crossing the split sea from the perspective of two particular Israelite men called Shimon and Reuven:

While their brethren are singing and celebrating, and gazing in awe at the walls of the sea on either side of them, Reuven and Shimon are complaining about the mud. Egypt had mud, they say, and the sea has mud. What’s so special about that? Reuven and Shimon are so busy staring at their shoes in the mud that they somehow manage to miss the miracle of the splitting of the sea entirely.

Much like Jacob, Reuven and Shimon are surrounded by a holy miracle, but are instead focused on looking downward. However, Jacob’s vision of the ladder draws his gaze upwards toward the heavens, to wonder and awe, and to a renewed relationship with the Holy Blessed One. Reuven and Shimon do not appear to be as fortunate. Nobody stops to remind them to look upwards.

May we all remember to look upwards at the miracles around us.

Shabbat shalom,                                                                                       Rabbi Natasha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So in terms of a punishment for the people of Noah’s time, the flood and the destruction of all living things does seem a bit extreme.  One of my rabbis, Rabbi Brad Artson argues, that is exactly the point the Torah is trying to make.

 

Destruction, even when it comes from the God who is “slow to anger and abounding in kindness” bursts beyond any manageable or fair limitations. Even punishments, originally intended to be measured and reasonable, provoke unanticipated suffering and hardship.

 

Rabbi Paul Arberman.

ZZZZZZ

Abraham Joshua Heschel believed that Adam’s sin was primarily in hiding from God and from himself.  This is not, in Heschel’s eyes, an abstract idea; we all hide from God and from ourselves. Heschel expresses it thus in the third verse of his poem I and Thou:

” Often I glimpse Myself in everyone’s form,

hear My own speech – a distant, quiet voice – in people’s weeping,

as if under millions of masks My face would lie hidden. ”

Heschel is describing a personal experience in which he has hidden from himelf, his essence absorbed within society.  His face is masked, hidden from view, making the idea to “know thyself” impossible.

I’m not sure why we hide from ourselves so well when we are young — or perhaps we just don’t take the time to think through who we are — but I can say definitively, that one of the great joys of getting older is the unmasking — getting to know yourself — what you actually enjoy or don’t enjoy doing.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman