Field Reports, Occupied Territories

RHR ensures Palestinian farmers safely plough their lands

No Comments 23 March 2017

Photos yesterday of Rabbis for Human Rights field staff assisting Palestinian farmers from the village of Far’ata as they plow their fields. Many of the lands owned by the village are near the illegal outpost of Havat Gilad. Weeks ago, farmers from the same village reported an attack by extremists as soldiers stood by.

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Field Reports, Occupied Territories, Press Releases

Army orders Palestinian to stop agricultural work after extremist attack

No Comments 22 March 2017

Breaking: Army orders Palestinian farmers from Burin to abandon their coordinated ploughing due to attacks on them by extremist settlers 

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General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Parasha: Between our aspirations and our realities

No Comments 22 March 2017

In honoring Shabbat, many of us help to build “sanctuaries in time.” In her commentary below, Rabbi Miri Gold helps us understand how we can also contribute to building sanctuaries of justice and righteousness in our every day, earthly reality.  Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: “Consider too that this nation is your people”

No Comments 15 March 2017

When Moses goes up to Mount Sinai, the Israelite people are left alone to their own devices. As their spiritual leader, how does Moses respond when they make a grave mistake? In her Dvar Torah to Parashat Ki Tissa, Rabbi Gail Diamond shows us what this important episode teaches about the nature of true leadership.


Moses on Mount Sinai by Jean Leon Gerome. public domain

By Rabbi Gail Diamond

This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tissa, describes perhaps the greatest sin of the Jewish people. Shortly after receiving the ten commandments, including the commandment not to worship other gods, the people build the Golden Calf and declare, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 32:4).

Moses is busy speaking with God on Mount Sinai.  The people’s great sin is brought on by Moses’ absence. As they say to Aaron, “Come make us a god who shall go before us, for that man Moses, who brought us from the land of Egypt – we do not know what has happened to him” (Exodus 32:1). As Moses experiences transcendence for forty days on Mount Sinai, the people are experiencing a spiritual absence, resulting in a breakdown of their faith in Hashem.

When God sees what has happened, God immediately tells Moses to get down off the mountain, “Hurry down, for your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, have acted basely” (Exodus 32:7).

But Moses does not “go down” – instead he begins to plead on behalf of the people.  Moses implores God to forgive the people and according to verse 14, “The Lord renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon His people.” Only then does Moses descend and take charge.

When Moses descends and the revelry and idolatry do not stop, Moses calls the Levites, who slaughter 3,000 people. After this Moses tells the people to re-dedicate themselves and offers to go back up the mountain to plead for God’s forgiveness.

As the dialogue between Moses and God develops, Moses attempts to win back a connection between the people and God. In chapter 33, Moses seeks to get a clearer understanding of how God plans to continue leading the people on their journey:

“Now if I have truly gained Your favor, pray let me know Your ways, that I make know you and continue in Your favor. Consider, too that this nation is Your people” (Exodus 33:13).

God’s response is not clear: And He said, “I will go in the lead and will (literally: My face will go and I will) lighten your burden”  (Exodus 33:14).

According to one Talmudic midrash, the term “my face” refers to God’s anger.  The Midrash interprets the verse non-literally:

Berachot 7a: And Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Yosei: From where is it derived that one must not placate a person in his anger? As it is written, “My face will go, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Moses: Wait until My face of wrath will pass and I will grant your request.

In God’s response in verse 14, whether we understand it as “I will go in the lead” or “My face of wrath will pass,” God responds to Moses but does not mention the people.  Moses had explicitly included the people in his request: “Consider too that this nation is your people” (Exodus 33:13).

Thus God’s response to Moses in verse 14 is insufficient. Moses again requests more “Unless you go in the lead, do not make us leave this place. For how shall it be known that Your people have gained Your favor unless You go with us…” (Exodus 33:15-16).

As Ibn Ezra explains these verses (in his commentary to Exodus 33:21):

I will lighten your burden.  The meaning of “your” – for with you only will I go, and I will not dwell amidst the children of Israel.  Therefore Moses answered, “Unless you go in the lead” with the nation that he mentioned above, “consider too that this nation is your people.” “Do not make us leave this place” in plural, and the faithful witness to this interpretation is “For how shall it be known that Your people have gained your favor unless You go with us.”

Moses left the people and went to the mountain to commune with God. In his absence, they sinned greatly. Upon learning of the sin, Moses did not go down the mountain as God ordered.  He stayed and implored God until God renounced the intended punishment.  Then Moses continued to dialogue with God to resolve the breach, to repair the damage between God and the people and to bring God into the midst of the people to guide them.

Two lessons stand out from these crucial moments in our spiritual history: 1. Spiritual leaders cannot be absent – even for important moments of holiness – and expect those they lead to fare alone.  2. A true spiritual leader never gives up on the people they lead, but constantly works to bring them closer to God and God closer to them.

Even when the Israelites (and Moses’s own brother!) went as far as to commit a great sin, Moses did not desert his role as their leader. At times when those we would lead seem to be behaving at their worst, we must continue to see the best in others, to work on their behalf, and to encourage those around us to live up to their best selves.  True human rights work is based on a positive view of humanity – something that Moses never lost sight of, even in his most challenging moments. 

RabbiGailDiamondRabbi Gail Diamond is a member of Rabbis for Human Rights

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Justice in Israel

MobilEye Deal: No allocation of wealth to where it is most needed

No Comments 14 March 2017

It was recently announced that United States technology giant Intel will buy the Israeli driverless-technology company Mobileye for $15.3 billion, marking the largest acquisition ever of an Israeli high-tech company. The purchase will result in a massive gain of capital, possibly more than one billion, for the Israeli government via taxes. For years, the Israeli government has taken the stance that crucial initiatives for Israelis living in poverty are neglected due to a lack of finances. It is therefore disheartening to see that even in this instance, where a massive unexpected financial opportunity has arisen from this deal, the benefits will not be felt by those living in poverty. Once again, we see Israel’s poor and vulnerable neglected, despite a real chance to truly invest in their – and thus all of society’s – well being. Continue Reading

Justice in Israel

Important recent successes by the Forum for Public Housing

2 Comments 13 March 2017

Over the last year, the Forum for Public Housing, a coalition of organizations of which Rabbis for Human Rights is actively involved, made a number of important successes. Continue Reading

Field Reports, Occupied Territories

Palestinians report attack by soldiers as they worked on a road in Area B

No Comments 12 March 2017

The soldiers withdrew after Rabbis for Human Rights’ field worker contacted the DCO (local authorities of the Israeli army in charge of contact with the PA). The soldiers apparently denied any use of riot control measures against the Palestinians, but our documentation shows clouds of tear gas on the scene as well as shells of tear gas canisters.  Continue Reading

Occupied Territories

International Women’s Day: Supporting the right to an education for Bedouin girls

No Comments 08 March 2017

As we observe International Women’s Day today, Rabbis for Human Rights highlights the struggle to save the beloved ecological school at Khan al Akhmar, serving approximately 150 Jahalin Bedouin children living on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The school, currently slated for demolition due to Israel’s unjust planning policy, is the only viable formal educational option for the girls of the Khan al Akhmar community, and its destruction would signify a tremendous loss for the Jahalin women. Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

Purim Sameach: The social side of Purim

No Comments 08 March 2017

Purim is a fun holiday for children and adults alike. But, as revealed by Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, the holiday also has a more serious side, demanding that in addition to the fun, we also raise up the  most disadvantaged around us.  Continue Reading

Field Reports, Occupied Territories

Palestinian farmers report attack by Israeli extremists as soldiers stand by

No Comments 06 March 2017

Palestinian farmers from the Area C village of Far’ata reported that a short while ago (March 6 2017), they were attacked by Israelis coming from the direction of the Havat Gilad outpost as they plowed their land in coordination with the army. Soldiers were present but reportedly did not intervene or attempt to stop the attackers. Continue Reading

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