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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

16/17 Feb: Shabbat Terumah comes in 5:02 pm, goes out 6:06 pm

In Terumah, G-d commands the Israelites to build a portable Mishkan, a movable sanctuary for worshipping and dialoguing with G-d. 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 G-d truly is.

We, as Jews, need a place to connect with G-d.  The Mishkan was a unique place of the Israelites, to serve them as they journeyed to the land of milk and honey, and to be 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 brit, the covenant, so that the revelation given to Moses at Mount Sinai could continue. G-d 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

9/310 Feb: Shabbat Shekalim (Mishpatim) comes in 4:49 pm, goes out 5:54 pm

Sometimes we hope for someone else not to succeed. We wish for someone that has wronged us to fail. These are human impulses.  However, Parashat Mishpatim challenges this natural instinct and forces us to check our hopes of the other’s demise at the door.

In Shemot 23:4-5 we read, “When you encounter your enemy’s ox or mule wandering, you must take it back to him. When you see the mule of your enemy lying under its burden and would refrain from raising it, you must nevertheless raise it with him”.  The verses tell us that we must in fact go out of our way to help our enemy!  One possibility is that it is really about helping the animal who should not be treated as our enemy — even though the owner is.   The second possibility is that these laws are meant to push us outside of our comfort zone to interact with the enemy that we would not do without this commandment.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman.


Shabbat Commentary

2/3 Feb: Shabbat Yitro  comes in 4:36 pm, goes out 5:43 pm

A Midrash on Parshat Yitro states that G-d caused Israel to hear the Ten Commandments, since they are the core of the Torah and essence of the mitzvot.  They end with the commandment ‘Do not covet,’ since all of them depend on [this commandment].  This hints that anyone who fulfils the commandment, it is as if they fulfil the entire Torah.   They do not need other G-ds.  They do not need other’s property.   They are not greedy about material wealth.

“Do not covet” is not a little addendum tacked on to the end of the Ten Commandments, but one of the central messages of Divine revelation.  Finding spiritual satisfaction in the service of G-d is an important means of weaning oneself from a life of physicality.  The commands “Love G-d with all your heart’” and “Do not covet” thus offer an alternative to a high consumption, unsustainable future.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman.


Shabbat Commentary

26/27 Jan: Shabbat Beshalach  comes in 4:24 pm, goes out 5:31 pm

Parashat Beshallach focuses on G-d’s redemption of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the splitting and crossing of the Red (or more properly Reed) Sea, and the destruction of Pharaoh’s army.   But only a handful of verses, and a few days later, the Israelites are already complaining about the water, the food, and wishing they could return to Egypt.

The encounter between an enslaved people, who were not used to thinking even as far ahead as tomorrow, and a G-d whose outlook is infinity was full of difficulties.  Miracles, like meat, are marvellous at the moment at which they occur, but their flavour soon vanishes into fading memory as new problems arise.  It requires real work for miracles to become satisfying over the longer term.  Developing satisfaction with and appreciation of a free existence in relationship with G-d will be the real miracle of the Israelites’ forty-year journey.

 

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman.


Shabbat Commentary

19/20 Jan: Shabbat Bo  comes in 4:12 pm, goes out 5:20pm

“And that you may tell in the hearing of your children and your childrens’ children how I toyed with Egypt, and My signs that I placed among them, and you will know that I am the Lord” (Exodus 10:2); “And you shall tell your child on that day, saying ‘For this the Lord did for me when I went out of Egypt'” (13:8).

In his commentary, “Panim Yafot” on verse 10:2, R. Pinchas b. Zvi Hirsch Halevi Horowitz (1730-1805) makes a surprising statement: “According to the simple meaning, the primary purpose of the miracles was for the telling from generation to generation because all of the miracles were for the telling.

And this is what is meant by ‘In every generation one is bound to regard themselves as though they personally had gone forth from Egypt’ (Mishna Pesachim 10:5)”. In other words, hardening Pharaoh’s heart and the plagues were not intended primarily for the immediate purpose of just freeing the Israelites (the Exodus), but rather they were intended to serve the future objective that Israel recall them. G-d knew how this would influence us forever.

Written by

Rabbi Paul Arberman.


Shabbat Commentary

12/13 Jan: Shabbat Vaera  comes in 4:01 pm, goes out 5:10pm

Abarbanel (Portugal/Italy d. 1508) organized the plagues and divided them into three groups, and each triad has a purpose: The first (dam, tz’fardea, kinnim) shows G-d’s existence, the second (arov, dever, sh’hin) highlight’s G-d’s providence, and third (barad, arbeh, hoshekh) proves G-d’s ability to change the course of nature. Each of these purposes shows G-d’s power in a different way.

But why did G-d have to send the plagues at all? G-d states, “I could have stretched out My hand and stricken you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been obliterated from the earth. Nevertheless I have spared you for this purpose: in order to show you My power and in order that My fame may resound throughout the world” (Shemot 9:15-16).

According to this view, G-d could have completely destroyed Pharaoh and all of Mitzrayim but chose to inflict suffering instead. The Israelites could have been freed with an ark and a Parashat Noah-like annihilation. Yet during this formative shaping of the Israelite community, it was important to create a space for publicizing G-d’s power over the G-ds of the Mitzrim. In this vein, Rashi (France, d. 1105) explains on Shemot 7:19, G-d smote the Nile and turned it to blood to show that G-d’s power is stronger than the G-d that the Mitzrim worshipped.

While it may seem like G-d is more interested in demonstrating G-d’s power than correcting behaviour — I think there is a middle ground. G-d won’t stand for immoral behaviour and uses the demonstration of power as a means of correcting behaviour. G-d must show G-d’s presence so people will act morally.

Written by

Rabbi Paul Arberman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shabbat Commentary

5/6 Jan: Shabbat Shemot  comes in 3:50 pm, goes out 5:01pm

“Joseph died, and all his brothers, and all that generation” (Ex. 1:6). And “A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Ex. 1:7). That was all it took to transform the honoured guests into enemy strangers.

The Sages, who, after all, specialised in remembering, found this rather sudden turnaround surprising. How could something as significant as national salvation simply be forgotten, seemingly within a generation or so? They offered some surprisingly modern explanations for the Egyptians’ behaviour. Midrash Rabbah (Shemot) notes that the Sages Rav and Shmuel disagreed about the verse’s meaning – one of them [Shmuel] said that “A new king arose” meant just that – now Egypt had a new Pharaoh, and with the new administration came new policies (something we get rather a lot of in modern times, for better or worse). The other argued that the Torah would have said that the old Pharaoh died if it had meant only that a new Pharaoh was now in office. Rather, he believed, the same Pharaoh had simply changed his mind.

Yosef’s story is the longest narrative about a single individual in the Torah. In his life – and death – he left many lessons about how people treat each other and the damage we can do to each other. He also left many lessons about redemption, about rising above one’s circumstances and bringing good out of them — even pointing out to the very brothers who threw him into the pit and sold him into slavery that, by doing so, they had managed to provide the key to their own salvation from famine and their preservation as a people. Perhaps one of the reasons we are still here while the ancient Egyptians are gone is that we, unlike them, remember Yosef.

Written by

Rabbi Paul Arberman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shabbat Commentary

22/23 Dec: Shabbat Vayigash  comes in 3:39 pm, goes out 4:49 pm

Josef and his family are now united in Egypt. Josef asks Pharaoh that his family be allowed to settle in Goshen. Malbim (Ukraine 19th c.) comments that Josef uses a verb (lagur) which means “to sojourn,” or to stay temporarily. When Pharaoh replies, he uses the verb leshev, which means, in this context, “to settle permanently.” Josef seems reluctant to impose on Pharaoh’s hospitality, while Pharaoh (despite the famine in Egypt itself) seems more than happy to have the rest of Josef’s family.

Throughout the whole encounter, Josef, the one who would seem to be the most secure, really is the most ill at ease, trying to paper over his family’s size and its “unacceptable” occupation. He shows himself unwilling to trust either his family or his adopted sovereign to know how to relate to each other. Unlike his successors, this particular Pharaoh has gone out of his way to provide for his people and to welcome those in need, and in doing so, he offers Josef and his family a lesson in honest dealing.

Written by

Rabbi Paul Arberman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shabbat Commentary

15/16 Dec: Shabbat Chanukah  comes in 3:36 pm, goes out 4:46 pm

The theme of G-d’s intervention in history marks both the holiday of Chanukah and this week’s Parashah. Joseph is rescued from prison and becomes the second most powerful man in Egypt. He is able to rescue his brothers, the same brothers who sold him into slavery. A series of natural historical events separates and then reunites the brothers. Yet Joseph in next week’s portion will say to his brothers, “So it was not you who sent me here, but G-d.” (Genesis 45:8) G-d is at work behind the scenes.

One way to look at miracles is as natural events; yet it becomes a miracle when a person of faith looks at the event and sees the hand of G-d. A miracle is an event that points towards a greater reality, a consciousness beyond the physical or material world.

It is possible to go through life without ever seeing a miracle. As the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism taught, “The world is full of wonders and miracles; but we take our hands, and cover our eyes, and see nothing.” What Chanukah tries to do is teach us to uncover our eyes, look out at the world, and see the hand of G-d. On Chanukah may we learn to look out at the world and declare, “A great miracle happened here.”

Written by

Rabbi Paul Arberman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shabbat Commentary

8/9 Dec: Shabbat Vayeshev  comes in 3:37 pm, goes out 4:46 pm

The Torah gives a substantial prologue to Joseph: We are told about his age, his pursuits, his relationship with his brothers and his father, as well as about his favoured status. The characteristic that emerges from the many details, however, is less than flattering: Joseph is terribly immature.

Although almost an adult, he seems to spend much of his time prattling about his brothers’ perceived misdeeds. Oblivious to the sensitivities of his siblings, he delights in reminding them of his special rank as his father’s favourite. In his dreams, Joseph betrays his ambitions and his egocentrism. He believes himself to be superior to his brothers and to deserve their adulation.

Thus far, we have been introduced to a young man saturated with hubris, self-admiration and overbearing confidence. The recurring phrases in Yosef’s descriptions are all possessive: ‘my dream,’ ‘my sheaf,’ and ‘me.’ His brothers, on the other hand, are consistently described as ‘hating him,’ ‘jealous,’ and ‘full of enmity.’ It is a great beginning to a story about how our important ancestor went through trials and tribulation to become a mature and moral individual.

Written by

Rabbi Paul Arberman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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