General, Parasha / E-Letter

WEEKLY PARASHA: Speaking about the Future

No Comments 01 September 2015

At this season of teshuva, Rabbi Gail Diamond examines the explanations of Radak and Ibn Ezra that serve to remind us that it is up to us to create the world that Isaiah promised. 

The Haftarah for Parshat “Ki Tavo” is Isaiah 60:1-22.  Near the end it contains the well-known verse:

And your people, all of them righteous, shall possess the land for all time; they are the shoot that I planted, my handiwork in which I glory.

(Isaiah 60:21)

As we seek to understand this verse, it is important to keep in mind that Isaiah is speaking about a future, messianic time, a time when, “Your sun shall set no more, your moon no more withdraw; For the Lord shall be a light to you forever, and your days of mourning shall be ended. (verse 20)”   Sun and moon, and thus seasons and time, will no longer be as they have been – the world will be of a wholly different order.

Some beautiful explanations of verse 21 can help us consider the deeds to which we should aspire.  On the words, “נצר מטעי – the shoot that I planted”, Radak comments,

That it will be seen by their actions that I am the one who planted them

Radak’s point is that the actions of the returning people will be so pure and good that it will be clear that they have returned to the land because of G-d’s intention that they be there.  This notion of the way in which our deeds bring honor to G-d is found in the traditional notions of Kiddush Hashem and Hillul Hashem.  We can be “G-d’s planting” only when we act in righteous ways.  Radak moves the focus of our thinking about the verse – we are no longer passively planted.  Rather we will only be considered G-d’s plantings when our actions are godly.

Ibn Ezra makes a similar point on the words “מעשי ידי להתפאר – my handiwork in which I glory”:

As a person who is happy with his deeds when they are correct

Children as an example

We can think here of children as an example – when our children behave or excel, we tend to feel good, and when they misbehave, we tend to feel badly.  G-d is glorified, or happy, when it seems correct to have made us, that is, when we are righteous.  And we can infer from this explanation that the Holy One will be glorified by us only when our deeds are correct, metukanim.  While the verse speaks of us as the works of G-d’s hands, the explanation of Ibn Ezra, written for us not G-d, reminds us that we need to examine and evaluate our own works and deeds, to be sure that we are living our lives in ways that glorify G-d.

At this season of teshuva, the explanations of Radak and Ibn Ezra serve to remind us that it is up to us to create the world that Isaiah promised.  We will be a righteous people pleasing to G-d only through our deeds.  May all our deeds be such that they bring glory to G-d. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Gail Diamond is a member of RHR


Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: Changing directions for a better tomorrow

No Comments 20 August 2015

The Jewish month of Elul has begun, and with it comes the call for introspection. In this week’s Torah commentary by Rabbi Miri Gold on Parashat Shoftim, we see that it is never too late to pursue justice and surely, this is what we must do as a nation – not just for the good of our own people, but for the good of all.  Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: Calling on light to overcome moral darkness

No Comments 13 August 2015

After a recent string of hate crimes and murders apparently committed by religious Jewish extremists, the leader of an right-wing NGO made an outrageous call for the burning of churches, justified by a ruling made by Maimonides. In his commentary on Parashat Re’eh, Rabbi Moshe Yehudai shows us that the majority of Halacha following Jews reject these immoral and dangerous beliefs. Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: A Safer, Nicer world

1 Comment 05 August 2015

This last week has been extraordinarily  painful, with the murder of two and injuries to many by seemingly Jewish radicals. In her reading of the sometimes contradictory Parashat Ekev, Rabbi Naama Kelman gently urges Israeli society to step carefully, but indeed, to step forward in a way that is worthy of this Land of Israel. Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Torah portion: On comfort and hope

No Comments 28 July 2015

Synagogues echo with the words of Isaiah from the summer until the chaggim (High Holidays). Why? Isaiah, Rabbi Ron Kronosh shows us,  is a prophet not only of peace, but of comfort and hope, and his message carries with it a powerful vision of the “Third Jewish Commonwealth” – a society built on ethics, equality and justice.

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Justice in Israel-Negev Bedouin, Occupied Territories, Parasha / E-Letter

Between destruction and hope: Rabbi Ascherman’s 5775 Tisha b’Av journey

No Comments 27 July 2015

Tisha b’Av is a fast day in Judaism commemorating many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people – most notably the loss of the First and Second Temples. It is a tragic day and one spent in mourning by Jews throughout the world.

This Tisha b’Av Rabbi Ascherman, president and senior rabbi of RHR, choose to mourn  amidst the threatened demolitions of both Susya and the Israeli-Bedouin village of Umm al Hiran,  the ruins of the village Atir, and the on-going destruction of Al Arakib. Following is a short narrative of his journey followed by photos.  To read about why Rabbi Ascherman choose to commemorate this important Jewish holiday in this way, please read here. 

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General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: Three prophecies on the language of “how”

No Comments 21 July 2015

In her commentary of Parashat Devarim, Rabbi Mira Raz reminds us of how the seemingly small choices we all make have the power to transform not only ourselves, but the whole world.  Continue Reading

General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: Jeremiah’s Anguished Cry, and its Lesson

No Comments 15 July 2015

What happens to a people when they “lose their fear” of the Lord? In his Torah commentary on Parashat Matot-Masei, Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann examines the wretched task of Jeremiah, who begs his people to repent for their sins,  and prays that modern Israel not be forced to repeat history. 

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Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: Who are we to back away from peace-making?

No Comments 08 July 2015

The truth is, sometimes the Torah, like the world,  is violent; sometimes there are alarming episodes that we most certainly do not condone or wish to emulate. In this week’s reading, we see Phinehas – a zealot whose fanaticism drives him to carry out the extrajudicial  murder of a couple considered sinners. Yet despite the blood on his hands, he is rewarded with an eternal covenant of peace. In his commentary,  Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom teaches us that if Phinehas can be a peace-maker, then surely there must be hope for our often-too-violent world.  Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Torah portion: How Fair are your tents, O Jacob!

No Comments 01 July 2015

The non-Israelite prophet Balaam is sent by his king to curse the nation of Israel. Despite his attempts to complete his mission, he finds himself  moved by the vision of the peaceful Israelite camp and his commitment to speak his own truth, and instead gives the people of Israel a blessing.  In this week’s reading of Parashat Balak, Rabbi Miri Gold seeks to reclaim the serenity, brotherhood,  and intimacy which Balaam marvelled at when he observed the Israelite people. Continue Reading

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