General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: The miracle we really need

No Comments 22 June 2017

In his Dvar Torah to Parashat Korach, Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom warns us of the immorality of collective punishment, and reminds us of our responsibility to pursue peace in a time when war and terrible suffering seem to be lurking just around the corner.  Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: The blind ones who see

2 Comments 15 June 2017

In his commentary to Parashat Shelach, Rabbi Dov (Dubi) Hayoun explores the concept of sight and seeing. Why is it so important that we always “see” one another?  Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: A mindset of war

No Comments 07 June 2017

In his dvar Torah to Parashat BeHaalotekha, Rabbi Michael Graetz illustrates the differences between a leader striving to educate versus a leader who seeks only the use of force. What sort of actions may we see in a society where the only mindset is one of force and war?

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Parasha / E-Letter

Davar Torah For Parashat Naso – The Meaning of Peace in the Priestly Blessing

No Comments 01 June 2017

In the picture: Birkat Kohanim, from Wikipedia

This week’s parasha which is loaded with verses about the tabernacle and its dedication, in addition to the details of Sota (“the suspected wife” ritual) and the laws of the Nezir, also contains a very familiar and beautiful blessing : the priestly blessing. This is its wording:

“May G-d bless you and guard you.
May G-d shine His countenance upon you and be gracious to you.
May G-d turn His countenance toward you and grant you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26)

In the first verse of the blessing there are three words, in the second – five, in the third – seven. This is noted by many scholars and Biblical commentators, and there are those who also point to the gradual development in the realm of the letters (15, 20, 25 in that order). Does this formal phenomenon stand on its own, or perhaps it also expresses graduality of development of the content of the blessing as well?

Many commentators indeed also perceive development in the content: As an example we can bring the interpretation of Rabbi Ovadia of Sforno:

“’May G-d bless you’ with wealth and property, since ‘if there is no flour there is no Torah’; ‘And guard you’ from the thieves; ‘And shine..’ He will open your eyes to the light of His countenance to see the wonders of His Torah and works; after you achieve your needs through His blessing ‘May G-d turn His countenance toward you’ for eternal life…’and grant you peace,’ the serenity of peace that is eternity without the strife of punishment, as is appropriate for all who are at one with the eternal life.”

There is a well-known rabbinic saying about peace “there is no implement that carries blessing other than Peace (from the chapter “On Peace”) and similarly in Genesis Rabbah: Great is peace as it was given to Pinhas since the world is not ruled other than in peace, and the Torah is all of it peace, as it is said (Proverbs 3): “Its ways are ways of pleasantness, all its pathways are peace.” And when a person should come from his journey we ask after his well-being (“peace”). And so in the morning we greet others with “Peace”, and from the day before yesterday also then we ask after their well-being (peace). The Shema Yisrael (prayer) we end in the word “peace” “Let His tabernacle of Peace be spread above His people, The prayer (the Amida) concludes with “peace,” and the Priestly blessing concludes with “peace.” Rabbi Simon the son of Halifta says, “There is no vessel that carries blessing other than peace, as it is said (Psalms, 29) “G-d gives His people courage, G-d gives His people peace” (Genesis Rabbah, Parashat Pinchas, 21).

But here in this interpretation by Sforno, peace is not a vessel that is the source of blessing but rather it is the result of blessing. That is to say: as against the saying that sees in peace a basis for all that is good, Sforno understands peace as something achieved by a person when he is blessed economically. This approach reminds me of the words of those who claim that if we achieve “economic peace” we will eventually also reach a political peace between the nations here.

There is apparently a contradiction between these two approaches regarding the meaning of peace. They are expressed in the real world of action since there are those who believe that the material is the basis for all that is good in the world from which both material and spiritual peace will grow as, as against those who believe that the peace that is internal, within human beings, between one person and another, between peoples is the basis for all blessings both material and spiritual. I tend more towards this second position.

How do we resolve this apparent contradiction? One way is to argue that we are speaking of two different aspects of peace – one is basic and daily – even though it does also have a spiritual aspect – as against the second which is utopian-metaphysical, in the sense of a vision of the future to come.

Perhaps it is possible to claim that in fact there is no contradiction here since these two interpretations are intertwined. In my experience, “peace” that does not come from within is a fragile, passing thing, and sometimes not real at all. To resolve a conflict without real reconciliation is not possible over time, only after an awareness and recognition of the pain of the other, their rights and needs. This is true for both parties to every conflict and in any process of reconciliation, including that between a person and themselves, between couples, between different social groups, and between the individual and G-d.

In any case it is possible to perceive both these understandings of peace mentioned above in interpreting the priestly blessing: both the simple internal peace (though that too is difficult to achieve) that a person needs in the day to day of practical material life in this world but also beyond that,. The more profound blessing of peace as envisaged by our prophets from Moses on is a broader concept than that presented by Sforno.

In our work in RHR we strive to achieve peace between different social groups in Israeli society and between our people and other peoples, particularly the Palestinians, but it is not possible to do so without the element of personal inner peace.

Let it be the Divine Will that we be blessed with both kinds of peace.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: Come a little closer

No Comments 22 May 2017

In this time when both Jerusalem Day and Shavuot are upon us, Rabbi Noa Mazor explores in her dvar Torah to Parashat Bamidbar who is included in our gatherings, who is left out— separated by borders or by laws — and who is invited in. 

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Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: But tenants of the Lord

No Comments 16 May 2017

To whom does the land belong to? Is living here a natural right of practicing a specific religion or belonging to a group, or must it be earned through merit? In his dvar Torah to Parashat Behar-Bechukotai, rabbinical student Raanan Mallek questions the nature of ownership of the Holy Land, and explores how  such can be a force of unity and justice. 

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Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Parasha: Ensuring a Fine Harvest

No Comments 10 May 2017

In his dvar Torah to Parashat Emor, Rabbi Uri Ayalon discusses the importance of the caring for the weak and vulnerable – not just for their sake, but also for our own.

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Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: How (Much) Do We Want To Live? Questions We Ask Now More Than Ever

2 Comments 03 May 2017

Our tradition teaches us to love our neighbours as ourselves. In his commentary this week to Parashat Acharey Mot-Kedoshim, Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom wonders if we can take on the full implications of such a deceptively simple commandment. Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: In the spirit of the Torah

No Comments 25 April 2017

As Jews, it is customary to circumcise a newborn male baby. In Rabbi Rodman’s dvar Torah to Parashat Tazria-Metzora, we learn how the significance of circumcision can be applied to all of  us, female and male, seeking to live a life of justice true to the spirit of the Torah. Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: On Religious Innovations

No Comments 20 April 2017

In his commentary to Parashat Shemini, Rabbi Mordechai Goldberg examines what motivates us to action.  We must always check ourselves to ensure our motivations come from a place of honesty. Continue Reading

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