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By Rabbi Uri Themal
"Akavya Ben Mahalal'el said: Reflect upon three things and you won't have cause to sin. Know where you came from and where you are going, and before whom you will render account and reckoning (Avot: 3:1)". During the journey in the wilderness, the nation had not yet understood the wisdom of these words.
Instead, they display selective memory when they once again complain about the food in the desert: "We remember the fish, which we ate in Egypt gratis, the marrows and water melons and hay and onions and garlic." (Numbers 11:5).
Really! Is this all they can remember from Egypt? They don't remember the slavery, no forced labor, no beatings by Egyptian supervisors, no cruel decrees and most importantly, the lack of construction material that they had to prepare themselves for the construction of Pharaoh's luxury cities. So, if they did not give them material for their buildings- would they give them good food? And Luzzatto adds: "Gratis really? For Egypt had to sustain Israel so that they could do their work, and were feeding them things that were very cheap there, such as fish, marrow ... and we find in Hieroglyphs on one Pyramid of Egypt where it sais that the king who established it had to dole out 1600 garlic and onions to support the workers; It is further written that the Egyptians did not eat fish which explains why they gave it to Israel".
But here their distorted memory is wrong and dangerous: It presents a skewed picture of their past lives that prevents them from understanding their present situation. For example, to be grateful for what they have: Freedom, Torah, food the manna, which is not the best, but sustains them, human and divine leadership that leads them to their national target, the establishment of an independent state. Thus their complaint is also a revolt against this leadership. Moses also sees it that way when he pleads to God: "Not alone can I carry this entire nation; it is too hard for me. So if this is what you are doing to me, kill me please, if you like me, so that I do not see my misfortune." (ibid 14-15)
The solution is the appointment of seventy elders from among those already helping Moses, upon whom will also now rest the power of prophecy. So something good came of it.Parashat Nasso
However, all this does not explain what happened here and the result was severe and disastrous. The generation of the desert had lost their moral compass. They could not see things as they were and thus were incapable of making the right decisions.
Therefore this generation had to die in the desert. Instead of entering Israel directly they had to journey for forty years, until a new generation, which was born free, would fulfill the purpose of the exodus from Egypt, namely, to establish an independent Jewish state in the land of their ancestors.
What does it mean today? This will be discussed on Friday night at 18:00 in our Synagogue, Compiegne Square. Everyone is welcome.
Rabbi Uri Themal
By Esti Maman
In this Portion we are told mainly of the arrangements for the Levitical families, and all the tribes around the Tabernacle and the worship therein.
This Portion contains an ancient literary gem, which is used to this day, as the blessing of a father to his children and the Cohen in the synagogue. It is the priestly blessing, the blessing that Aaron and his sons are instructed in this Portion to bless the children of Israel:
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and deal graciously with you.
The Lord bestow his favor upon you and grant you peace.
The structure of the blessing (in Hebrew) is three words in the first row, five in the second and seven in the third, whilst the middle words from each line, when joined, form the sentence: The Lord's face to you, and that is the essence of the blessing. Each line describes two things which God does: Bless and keep, make and deal, bestow and grant. The two actions are complementary, each row in a slightly different way. The meaning of the first line is clear: May God bless you and protect you from any trouble and distress. The second line is obscure. What does it mean, make his face shine upon you? Does the conventional meaning be nice to you, explain face? Is God like a friend one meets along the way, though he has neither form nor face? And elsewhere in the Torah, anyone who sees his face is expected to die! This may be interpreted as not his face, but his innermost expression, the divine light, the light of hope, love and grace, the divine essence, illuminating you and endowing you with all the spiritual good things possible. In the third row, again, there is the bestowing you with the divine essence, planting it inside you, and, that is what will give you peace, wholeness with yourself. Leviticus and the beginning of Deuteronomy contain exhaustive descriptions of all the ceremonial duties of the priests, but here, the blessing they give is personal, spiritual, and, how symbolic is it that this is the only role left for the priests to the present day.
On Friday, at 18:00, we meet for "Kabbalat Shabbat" service in our synagogue, Compiegne Square, Rabin Street for prayer and song. Each and every one is welcome!
Esti MamanParashat Bamidbar
By Yael Bdolach
The book of Numbers opens with many introductions and preparations for the continuing journey. The Portion opens with the instruction of the children of Israel to be counted, followed by setting up camp. First, the individual person is counted, then the family, the tribe, the banner and finally accompanying camps and priests.
This division is important not only when the camp rests, but rather during the journey when, by the nature of things, disorder and chaos rule. The Torah considers it necessary to maintain and keep the camps in order, the order in which they travel and the division of labor, "every one to his service and to his burden" (Numbers 4:19; 49).
Parshat Bamidbar engages also in other matters, but I will focus on the sentences describing the command structure and look at them by browsing through the Midrashim of"Bamidbar Raba".
Chapter one verse fifty-two states "the children of Israel shall encamp troop by troop, everyone with his division and each under his flag" and Midrash Raba explains: "With great affection did the Holy one blessed be he love them, because he made their banners like those of the ministering Angels, to be recognizable. And where does it come from that this is love for Israel? Because Solomon says (Song-of-songs 2:4) He brought me to the banqueting house and his banner over me was love. Said Rabbi Abahu: To what can this be compared? To the rich man, who had a treasure trove full of wine and when he went to inspect it found all of it to be vinegar, but when he was about to leave, he found one barrel of good wine; so he said: This barrel represents for me the entire treasure. Thus God had created seventy nations, but in none did he take pleasure except in Israel, as it stated, he brought me to the banqueting house.
Another thing: And his banner over me was love God said: Nations have banners but I love none better than Jacob's banner.
And with love I shall conclude and I will expand here and there on this Portion. Our "Kabbalat Shabbat" Service starts on Friday at 18:00 in our Synagogue, Rabin Street near Compiegne Square. All are welcome.
Shabbat Shalom Yael crystal
By Yael Bdolach
In the books of Genesis and Exodus, in which we were engrossed from the end of Simchat Torah until last week, we met the stories of our ancestors - their pronouncements, their choices and qualities that captivated us and we were also introduced to the wonders of the miracles of Egypt and the wandering in the desert. With the beginning of Leviticus, the encounter with our weekly Torah-Portions changes shape and begins a part of the Pentateuch which deals extensively with the matter of sacrifices, defilement and purity as well as other subjects of holiness and the Temple. Synagogue preachers are now looking for interesting topics that are indirectly related to the weekly Portion, so as not to bore the listeners to sleep. Leviticus topics, matters of purity and impurity, as they are expressed in Leviticus are very far removed from us, the people of the twenty-first century, liberals (with or without quotes). Maybe they can be understood as the lifestyle of earlier civilizations like opening a window to understanding the beliefs of our ancestors or as distant mystical rituals.
How did our sages explain this sharp transition? In Midrash Raba we read about the transition from Exodus, which is full of details about the construction of the Sanctuary and its vessels, to Leviticus with its details of sacrifices ritual purity and impurity:
"Moses took them out of Egypt, split for them the sea, brought them Manna, raised for them a well, attracted for them the quails, surrounded them with clouds of glory and made them the Sanctuary. Then he said: From here on in, what more is there for me to do? So he sat down. Then God said to him: By your life, you have a task much bigger than all you've done - to teach my children about purity and impurity and to alert them to the correct way to offer my sacrifices ..." meaning, Moses thought that with the establishment of the Sanctuary and its implements, his central role was over and he could relax
and here comes God and informs him: Your work is not over, you cannot rest. Now, that the sanctuary is ready, all the boring and tedious little details begin: Sacrifices, purity and impurity.
Maimonides feels compelled to justify the existence of sacrificial practices and he says: A person can't move from something he is used to, to something completely different. Therefore, God commanded the children of Israel to worship him the same way pagans worshipped their gods (i.e. by offering sacrifices in a special place with special priests), however, he demanded, that all worship be directed to him and not to any other idolatry.
Yeshayahu Leibowitz explains this great transition from Exodus to Leviticus thus:
Everything that happens in the Sanctuary between the individual and God and the activities involved therein depend on the will of the person. The great events that took place in Exodus (the exodus, the crossing of the Red Sea and the giving of the Torah), as well as the miracles that accompanied them, do not necessarily lead to faith in God. The actual relationship of people with God does not depend on miracles, but rather the decisions and choices they make. In the period of the desert and in the days when there were temples one could speak about the physical and easier access to the Sanctuary or temple as a way of expressing the choice to be close to God; even today it should be our choice "to enter" into the temple. We can enter and move closer to recognize and know God, and we can decide to stay outside of the Sanctuary, decide not to understand, not to make an effort, not to draw near.
We will continue to delve deeper into this Portion at our "Kabbalat Shabbat" service on Friday, at 18:00 in our Sanctuary, Compiegne Square, Kiryat Tivon.
All are welcome.
Shabbat Shalom - Yael Bdolach
By Esti Maman
The center of the Portion relates the sin of the Golden Calf. The Children of Israel, who only a short time ago pledged to worship a single, abstract God alone, and not to make any statue or idle, wait in vain for Moses to descend from the mountain. They turn to Aaron and beg him "rise up and make us a God who will go before us."
This reveals a concept not of divinity creating man - on the contrary -man seeking his path creates a God for himself. Aaron creates the calf from golden jewelry that people contribute and says "Tomorrow is a holiday."
Many researchers see hints in the Bible which indicate that the worship of the Golden Calf as a symbol of the God of Israel, was a common and legitimate ritual, existing at various times, parallel to the Temple service in Jerusalem. We are told about Jeroboam, king of Israel during period of the split kingdom, that he had built golden calves in Beth-El and Dan. The story of the Golden Calf and its presentation as a terrible sin stems from the politically motivated struggles against this Jerusalem based ritual.
Our sages blame the creation of the golden calf on the "mixed multitude ", those of different other nationalities who, according to them, joined the Israelites when they were leaving Egypt. The phrase "mixed multitude" appears only once in the Bible, in the context of the exodus from Egypt. The interpretation of this phrase by our sages and their attempt to dump all kinds of sins on those who are not the original descendents of Israel, is very jarring to me, there being a hint here of arrogance and racism.
The Golden Calf became a symbol of materialism and pursuit of wealth. However, also the creation of the Tabernacle, described in great detail in the Torah, with figures of cherubim and all sorts of ornaments made of gold and precious stones, is the worship of resources and materialism. It seems that the individual needs this ritual and every generation has its Golden Calf!
On Friday night we gather for Sabbath song, prayer and sermon in our Synagogue, Rabin Street 47.
All are welcome!
Esti Maman.Parashat Tetzaveh
By Michal Gavrieli
This Portion, the eighth in the book of Exodus, is the second of four Portions dealing with the precise provisions for the construction of the Tabernacle. At the beginning of the Portion Moses is commanded to take oil for the purpose of lighting the Menorah each and every day. The first half of the Portion deals with the commandments for the preparation of the priestly garments for Aaron and his sons the priests. The vestments of the high priest consist of the breastplate, Ephod, head-plate, robe, tunic, turban, sash and pants. Ordinary priests had only four garments: Tunic, sash, headdress and pants.
The other half of the Portion deals with the command to offer the ram of perfection at the dedication of the Tabernacle. Then follow the commandments for the daily sacrifice and the preparation of the golden altar for the burning of incense. The final verses also point to Yom Kippur which is to include a special ceremony performed only once a year.Parashat Mishpatim
One of the most intriguing things in this Portion which stimulate the imagination are the Urim and Tumim, placed in the folded pocket behind the golden plate with the 12 stones on the breastplate of gold. How did they work? How did they respond to questions? The Bible itself does not give us a clear answer, and perhaps this is why legends surround them whereby the high priest used to ask questions and the breastplate would reply through letters on the stones being lit. But Scripture tells us that it is the Urim and Tumim that answer the question and not the breastplate. Rashi explains that these were parchments on which the Tetragrammaton was written and would answer questions by illumination. A different interpretation suggests that they were designed for a raffle, which determined if the person was lying and then he was "cursed" or spoke the truth and was "innocent". An example is found in the story of Saul's war against the Philistines, when he made the people swear that they whould fast that day. Jonathan, his son, did not know about the oath and ate honey in field. When Saul asks God whether he should go to the Philistines' camp he does not get an answer and, looking for the culprit, asks to "determine innocence" and thus Jonathan was caught. It seems that here use was made of the Urim and Tumim to get an answer.
More about the Portion and about the connection between Purim and the Temple at our "Kabbalat Shabbat" service on Friday at 18.00 in our Synagogue, Rabin St. 47. Everyone is invited.
By Eviatar Guzner
Our Portion contains a collection of various types of laws: The laws of slavery, laws belonging to the criminal field and various civil laws. This collection of laws was named in research as "Book of the Covenant," due to the covenant which is struck between God and the people of Israel.
The slavery laws in this Portion contain different regulations that aim to defend slaves: A Hebrew slave works six years, and is released in the seventh year. His wife is freed with him, unless she was given to the slave as his wife by his master. An eternal slave can only be the one who so chooses there must be no coercion into eternal slavery. Whilst a female slave, sold by her father, does not get freed like the male slaves, her master must take care of all her needs: Livelihood, finances and even sexual needs. If he can not afford it or is not interested, he must let her go free.
At first glance, these might look like primitive laws, because that's how we perceive now a pro-slavery society. However, a cursory glimpse of the surrounding nations will reveal that this is not so. Ancient Near Eastern laws which we find in various documents, determine the rights of the master, but not those of the slave. The Torah alone is exclusive in protecting the slave and therein lies its uniqueness.
We can therefore say that, although these laws may be interpreted askance in our contemporary society, for biblical times they were advanced and innovative.
Come to our "Kabbalat Shabbat" service in our Synagogue, Rabin Street 47 on Friday, at 18:00 and we will continue to discuss these things.
By Rabbi Uri Themal
The people of Israel have a new administration! No, not because of the elections which ended ten days ago, but because of the visit by a foreign leader to the Israelite encampment in the Sinai desert, about seven weeks after the Exodus.
This is Jethro, a Midianite priest, Moses' father in law, coming to bring his daughter Zipporah, Moses' wife and grandchildren Gershom and Eliezer, to the leader of the freed slaves to reunite his family. They have a cordial relationship and Moses even allows Jethro to accompany him in his daily work. Moses works hard: From morning to night he looks after the people as governor and judge.
Moses was exhausted.
Jethro understands that this can not continue. "And Moses' father in law said to him: 'It is not a good thing you are doing. You will surely become worn out - you as well as this people with you for this is too hard for you, you cannot do it alone' (Ex.18:17-18).
Then he advised him: "Do instruct them about the laws and the teachings and make known to them the way they should go and the deeds which they should do. And you select from the entire people men of courage who fear God, men of truth who despise avarice and appoint them leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties and leaders of tens. And they shall judge the people at all times; they shall bring every major matter to you and every minor matter they shall judge; this will be easier for you and they shall share the burden with you (ibid. 20-22).
Three revolutionary things are being said here:
Power sharing: Not a single ruler, even when he is motivated by love (e.g. benevolent dictator), but a shared responsibility for the benefit of the people and the separation of roles.
Prevention of corruption: Those in leadership positions must be moral and aim solely to serve the people beyond self-interest.
Educated public: The more the nation will learn to conduct itself, namely to understand commandments, laws and statutes, the easier it will be to manage its daily affairs. So they should be taught and be enabled to learn.
At the time these things were not at all obvious (even today they are not always!).
The Midianite priest (some say he converted after seeing God's wonders relating to the Exodus from Egypt) gave the people, and through them to humanity, the basis of a democratic administration system. God gave them, and through them to the world, the moral constitution: In a one - time ceremony, at a dramatic event, he gave them the Torah.
The entire nation was there: Men, women and children as they heard the Ten Commandments (Incidentally, according to the Midrash women received equally to men as is written: God called to him from the mountain saying, thus shall you say to the house of Jacob and instruct the children of Israel (ibid 19:3 House of Jacob are the women). Knowledge belongs to all, not only to individuals in leadership positions. As citizens, everyone must know the law and act accordingly. It follows, the responsibility is laid on everyone to develop and promote a common culture to establish a successful nation, in the words of our Portion, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
The Revelation at Sinai was a unique event which affected the development of human civilization forever. We all have the privilege to identify with history again, every time we read Jethro's advice, the Revelation at Sinai and the giving of the Torah like on this Shabbat.
More about the Portion and the importance of it's message will be discussed at our "Kabbalat Shabbat" service, Friday at 18:00, in our Synagogue, Rabin Street 47. All are welcome.
Rabbi Uri Themal
By Esti Maman
The Portion begins thus:
Now when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was nearer; for God said, "the people may have a change of heart when they see war, and return to Egypt." So God led the people round-about, by way of the Sea of Reeds.As the Portion continues, we are told about the beginning of the trials and tribulations of the people of Israel in the wilderness: Pharaoh's army is pursuing them, they lack fresh drinking water, they are short of food, the Amalek tribes attack them and each time the people of Israel have a problem they cry, complain and long for the comfortable life in Egypt. Time and again the Lord and Moses rescue them from the agony of life in the desert.
Why, then, did the Lord and Moses not lead them on the shortest way to the land of Israel, a few days along the coast?
The verse quoted above gives a simple explanation: God feared that, if the people of Israel would have had to deal with the Philistines at the entrance to the Land of Israel, they would have been quick to turn back and return to Egypt by the shortest and simplest way. So he leads them around, complicates their way, so that even if they encounter difficulties (hunger, thirst, war with Amalek), they do not know how to go back to Egypt.
Generations of commentators have added to this simplistic explanation: The purpose of the Exodus from Egypt was not only to get to the Land of Israel, but to teach the nation of slaves the Torah of Israel. And the way to learn it cannot be fast, it can only happen by difficult experiences, only that way will the people internalise the meaning of the law and the statute, assimilate its values and be willing to fight for teir rights. Thus, the forty year long struggle for survival in the wilderness prepared the nation and trained it for the struggle of conquering the Land and keeping the Law of Moses.
In the centre of the Portion is the Song of the Sea. This is the wonderful song that Moses and Miriam sang after crossing the Sea of Reeds. Therefore, we also read this week the Song of Deborah from the book of Judges.
So let's hope that those among us who see themselves as continuing in the tradition of Israel will read this week the songs of these great women and realize that women must not be silenced, but, to the contrary, they should listen to their song, just as our forefathers listened to Miriam and Deborah.
On Friday evening we will gather in our Synagogue in Rabin Street 47, at 18:00 to welcome the Sabbath with song, prayer and sermons... "Kabbalat Shabbat" is open to all those interested. We will also conduct a Tu Bishvat Seder. See the advertisement in the newspaper
By Yael Bdolach
Our Portion deals with the continuation of the Egyptian plagues, their ending and the beginning of the Exodus. We watch from the sidelines as readers and know, that the exit is not delayed due to Pharaoh's unwillingness to let the people go, but because God had hardened his heart. Why? "So that I might show these, my signs, within him", meaning that God wants to establish the knowledge of him within Pharaoh and his servants. So we might ask: Only in the heart of Pharaoh? Perhaps also in the heart of the people whom he is about to redeem, standing there marveling and wondering what meaning this has for them?
Israel, too, must learn from the plagues!
The first plague-locusts: Arrive, cover the sky and consume everything green in their path. What lesson does this hold for Israel? Maybe an understanding of temporality and transience in their lives? What there is might not be there tomorrow. On the one hand, the good, as slavery can be temporary, and, on the other, the bad, as what you have now can disappear as quickly as the bug devours a leaf, thus developing an insight that we should be happy with what we have and be grateful for it. And perhaps, looking at locust swarms there is a lesson about the power of a cohesive team setting itself a goal and working towards it until it is achieved? A great lesson for a disparate people of crumbling slaves.
The next plague, darkness about which it is told that it was so thick, that it was palpable, whilst at the same time the dwellings of Israel had light; however, it was not seen by the Egyptians who continued to grope their way in the dark. Was darkness personal and subjective and not objective and General? God in his wisdom imposed on the Egyptians darkness which symbolizes loss of direction and while they grope through fear and helplessness that can only be understood by one who experienced a sudden power-cut, he leaves light in the dwellings of the Israelites for them to see the fumbling of Egyptians in darkness as a symbol and image for loss of direction; because when you are a slave, your way is clear and dictated by the oppressor it is actually freedom which can cause blindness, loss of way and there is nothing better than watching from the sidelines someone groping through the dark to understand how much you will need the light to guide you on your way to freedom.
And the last one, the slaying of the firstborn, what is the lesson here for the people of Israel? I have often wondered, because I perceive God as merciful and gracious, slow to anger and benevolent; so what can be learned from such a terrible blow, inhumane, so cruel? Maybe, on the hard and so determined road there is a lesson about accepting responsibility for your actions and bearing the consequences. Pharaoh made a decision and bears the consequences; there is a lesson here for the slave who has not yet experienced independent decision-making and understanding that, further on, as an independent person, one has to bear the consequences of any decision.
We shall continue to discuss the Portion at our "Kabbalat Shabbat" service on Friday, at 18.00 in our Synagogue, Rabin Street 47.
By Aharon Zohar
This Portion opens with the purpose of the story of the dialogue between God and the people of Israel. To begin with, God presents himself to us. This is followed by the setting of the objective of the operation and renewal of the old obligation signed in blood with the ancestors four centuries ago. And now, the Nation is introduced to us. That is, the Portion devotes 14 verses to the reading of the names of all those with whom the renewed commitment is signed now.
This contract appears as if it was drawn up by a lawyer. Given that side A and side B are in contact with each other and want to achieve the following things, then they have to do this and that ...
Although the people of Israel know their God from stories of their ancestors around the campfire, they do not personally know him and his abilities. But they do know Pharaoh and his power. They do not want to follow a mysterious entity. So God has a double task. He needs to show the people of Israel his power and give Pharaoh a good beating. Pharaoh is a god in Egypt and, therefore, for the first two plagues Moses is commanded to ambush Pharaoh near the water. The Midrash explains that Pharaoh's divinity did not allow him to be seen using a latrine. So he used to sneak secretly to the Nile to relieve himself, an opportunity for Moses to confront him (Shemot Raba 9:7). From now on the struggle is about "who is stronger" and is conducted in escalating stages throughout the ten plagues. Moses is supposed to be made the God of Pharaoh, according to Exodus, 7:1, meaning, the Hebrew God is so strong that even his prophet Moses is stronger than Pharaoh, the god of Egypt.
I will talk about this at our "Kabbalat Shabbat" service on Friday at 18:00 in our Synagogue, 47 Rabin Street, Tivon. All are welcome.
Aharon ZoharParashat Shmot
By Gavriel Shavit
The Portion of Shmot is written as a narrative. It begins with the list of the children of Israel who went down to Egypt and ends with Moses' complaint to God following the failure of his first encounter with Pharaoh.
It appears to me that the most significant topic in this Portion is God's revelation to Moses. There are many interpretations of this description, but I would like to refer to one of them from the book of Dr. Sigmund Freud. Freud, described as one of the "100 people who changed the face of humanity." His fame is in the realm of Psychoanalysis and the Interpretation of Dreams and not in Jewish thought. He lived from 1856 to 1939 in Vienna and received his medical doctorate at the age of 25. In 1938, when Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany, he moved to England where he died a year later from cancer. It was there his words on the subject were published. I don't want to express my thoughts here, but to tell about some of Freud's ideas.
A: Moses was an Egyptian. In ancient Egyptian, the word "Mas" means son. Freud does not accept the premise of the linguistic expertise of Pharaoh's daughter that "from the river did I draw him."
B: He regards Moses as the founder of Jewish monotheism (oneness of God). (Abraham - as written in the Bible - knows God and imagines him, but there is not even a hint in Scripture of his recognition of the oneness of God. That contention appears in the literature of legend.)
C. The idea of a single God arose in ancient Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaton. This pharaoh ruled Egypt for 17 years. According to historian Webster He died 1358 years BCE. (About 30 years before the birth of Moses). Akhenaton's teachings met with resistance and two generations after him, in the days of Tutankhamen, Egypt returned to its previous idolatry.
D: Moses, the Egyptian, continues to develop the monotheistic concept. He finds in the Israelites appropriate customers for his perception and gives them the word of God which represents a system of moral and lifestyle laws, accepted in Judaism as well as Christianity and Islam. My remarks are based on an article by Dr. P. Galpaz - Feller from the Schechter Institute. More about the Portion can be heard and considered at our "Kabbalat Shabbat" service, on Friday at 18:00 in our Synagogue, Rabin Street 47.
By Rabbi Corrie Zeidler
Vayechi is the last Portion of the book of Genesis, and on Saturday morning we will say together "hazak, hazak ve'nithazak"(may we be very strong and be strengthened)" which we say when concluding the reading of a book in the Torah. In the Portion we read a lot of blessings, some of which serve us to this day. Famous among them are:
"The angel who redeems me from all evil, bless the boys; may they carry on my name and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac and may they grow into a multitude on earth," the prayer we say before going to sleep between the shma and hamapil blessings.
"May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh," which parents say when blessing their sons after lighting the candles on Friday night.
But I want to focus on a short and seemingly marginal story at the end of the Portion: "When Joseph's brothers saw that their father had died, they said:' What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrong that we did him'. So they sent this message to Joseph: 'Before his death your father left this instruction: Thus shall you say to Joseph: Forgive, I urge you, the offense and guilt of your brothers who treated you so harshly. Therefore, please forgive the offense of the servants of the God of your father.' And Joseph wept when they spoke to him "(Genesis 50: 15-17).
From what we know by reading the Bible, Jacob did not know until his death that his sons had sold Joseph, otherwise he would have surely said something about it in his last words to the boys. And from Joseph's weeping at the end of the quote, we can guess, that Joseph understood, that this was not the will of his father, but the fear of his brother which spoke from their throats, as Luzzatto says: "And Joseph wept- he realized that his brothers sent the messengers and put words in their mouths and it wasn't Jacob who ordered all this, because, if he had wanted to order this, he would have told him whilst still alive. Therefore he cried when he saw his brother's plight, fearing for their lives and having to come up with ruses to escape his wrath."
The question that arises is why the brothers "had lied" and fabricated the words of their father's will. Should they not have accepted the punishment they deserved if they thought they had done wrong, instead of lying? Is it right to change the truth for the sake of peace? It is written in Genesis Raba: "Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel says: Great is peace, that even the tribes spoke fabricated words to achieve peace between Joseph and themselves, as it is written, "So they sent this message to Joseph saying: Your father left this instruction etc. where did he instruct? We did not find that he instructed." The value of peace, the value of life (the brothers feared that Joseph might kill them as punishment for their actions), is a value bigger than the truth; therefore the sages saw the action of the tribes as permissible.
The public is invited to welcome the Shabbat at 18:00 in our Synagogue, Rabin Street 47 and hear more about this Portion.
Rabbi Corrie Zeidler
By Esti maman
This Portion tells the ongoing adventures of Joseph and his brothers to the "happy end" when the family unites to dwell together in the land of Goshen. The Portion opens with Judah's long and touching speech, by which he pleads before Joseph, (of course, he still doesn't know that this is Joseph, their brother) not to prevent Benjamin from returning with them to their father in Canaan, because of his alleged guilt of stealing Joseph's silver cup. Judah offers himself to remain as slave to Joseph in Egypt, instead of his younger brother Benjamin. Judah's dramatic words reveal all the feelings of pain, guilt and sorrow which he carries in his heart ever since that terrible event, when he and his brothers sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites and stained his gown with blood, to cause their father to believe that Joseph was eaten by a wild animal. Judah, who is now old, father of sons and grandchildren, saw the terrible suffering they caused their father, when they made him believe that his beloved son of his beloved wife is gone, dead in his youth, killed in a cruel way. All the years since then, Judah lived with this terrible lie they told their father and the terrible act they did to their brother and he is tormented by it very much. Indeed, it was Judah at the time who suggested the sale of Joseph to the Ishmaelites, thereby preventing his murder by his brothers, but still, his conscience is bothering him. And so, after many years, when this time his little brother Benjamin is in danger and may not be able to return to their father Jacob, Judah mobilizes all his strengths and is even prepared to sacrifice himself to prevent damage to his brother and their old father.
At the time, jealousy of their brother Joseph caused his brothers to make a shocking mistake. Everybody makes countless mistakes in their life, but the feeling of jealousy is one of the most negative emotions, which may cause such errors. The trick is to know how to recognise mistakes, learn from them, and, most difficult, try to make amends fix them. Judah shows his greatness here, as a courageous man, who recognizes his mistake and is willing to accept the price, in order not to repeat it and hurt his brother and their father again.
In the Torah we find fascinating human stories that teach us about our human nature which has not changed at all since then.
On Friday night at 18:00 we meet at our "Kabbalat Shabbat" service, in our Synagogue, Rabin Street 47 in Kiryat Tivon for singing, prayer, and more on the weekly Torah portion. Everyone is welcome!