Tag archive for "Exodus"

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Torah portion: The Song of the Sea – The 7th day of Passover: A word on compassion

No Comments 08 April 2015

God condemns the angels for singing out in joy while the Egyptians drowned. Thousands of years later, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel z’l continues to inspire us to seek the equality of ALL people as our people.  In this week’s parasha, Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann reminds us that the only way to truly be with God is through compassion for all humanity.  Continue Reading

General, ICCI, Justice in Israel, Legal Work, Occupied Territories

Passover Thoughts: On Khan El Akhmar, The Abuse of Power and the “Us” In The Promise

No Comments 03 April 2015

On Khan El Akhmar, The Abuse of Power and the “Us” In The Promise


Rabbi Arik W. Ascherman

RHR President and Senior Rabbi

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General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Parasha: A Just People Based on a Moral Present

3 Comments 23 April 2014

In parashat Kdoshim, Rabbi Kobi Weiss warns us of the dangers of using our past and future as a chosen, holy people for justification of an immoral present.  Continue Reading

General, Parasha / E-Letter

Parashat HaShavua: “Don’t you yet realize that Egypt is being destroyed?”

5 Comments 26 March 2014

On the eve of Rosh Chodesh Nissan, Rabbi Yehoyada Amir reminds us that the story of the Exodus from Egypt is also a story of the Egyptian people. Subjected to ten horrific plagues as a result of their obstinacy and the arrogance of their leader,  the suffering of Egypt is legitimate, real and human.  With this in mind, Rabbi Amir poses the challenge of  stopping injustice– even if doing so comes with a price– so that Egypt may be preserved and a new beginning may be marked.

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General, Parasha / E-Letter

Our Pillars of Cloud and Fire

3 Comments 07 January 2014

In her Torah portion for Beshalach, Rabbi Sigal Asher considers the Pillar of Cloud and the Pillar of Fire that famously showed the Israelites their way as they traveled to the Promised Land. Although we are now in the land of Israel, our society is plagued with threats and abuses, all throwing us off our intended path. Rabbi Asher tells us that we, as a society and as individuals,  must reclaim our pillar of smoke and pillar of fire in order to live in a just, equitable and healthy state.


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General, Parasha / E-Letter

The Price of Arrogance

No Comments 02 January 2014

In parashat Bo, Rabbi Ed Rettig explores the arrogance of  Pharaoh when faced with a reminder from Moses that it is Hashem in control, not Pharaoh himself.   Despite Moses’ words, Pharaoh’s deep hunger for power overcomes any humility he has, thus contributing to the unspeakable loss of his firstborn and later, the loss of his army.  Within this story, Rabbi Rettig shows us, is an important lesson on the self-destructive  nature inherent within oppressive and arrogant governments. Unfortunately, it is the people themselves and often the most vulnerable among them who bare the brunt of these bad decisions.


IMAGE: Moses Before Pharaoh, 6th century, Syriac Bible of Paris cc: Wikipedia

By: Rabbi Ed Rettig

Preparation of this dvar Torah gave me an opportunity to re-open a book published by Rabbi Mordecai HaCohen in 1972, titled “Min HaTorah” or “From the Torah.” In it, Rabbi HaCohen gathered some of his own writings, midrashim and commentaries on the Torah. He raises stark questions about the text for which he supplies thought-provoking answers. Two of his insights about this week’s Torah reading seem to me particularly significant.
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General, Justice in Israel, Justice in Israel-Negev Bedouin

The questions we grapple with on Shabbat Zachor

66 Comments 28 February 2012

“I want to connect those successes to the breastplate of the High Priest we read about in this week’s Torah portion and the questions we grapple with on Shabbat Zachor” | Breastplate (of High Priest) cc: wikipedi

Last week we celebrated two important, if partial successes, and I want to connect those successes to the breastplate of the High Priest we read about in this week’s Torah portion and the questions we grapple with on Shabbat Zachor. 

Firstly, The  JNF confirmed statements we have heard in recent weeks that they will not plant in areas in areas where there are legal disputes over land ownership.  This is only a partial success because much Bedouin land in the Negev has already been planted, it is not clear whether this is a general principle or only relates to four specific plots in El-Arakib, we aren’t sure if the commitment not to plant includes not preparing the land for planting, the Israel Lands Authority has made it clear that they still intend to plant, we can’t count on receiving justice in the Israeli court system, and the JNF/KKL has been unwilling to explain a brief but disturbing incident recently which seems to contradict this commitment.  Nevertheless, this is a significant change from their JNF/KKL Chairperson Efi Stenzler’s declaration at a meeting of the directorate this past summer that the planting on the remains of El-Arakib would take place at the end of this rainy season, even if Beer Sheva District Court Judge Nehama Netzer issued a non-binding request not to plant before the court rules on the ownership dispute.  (Unfortunately Judge Netzer recently again confirmed that her request is non binding, and that the State has a right to proceed.)  However, the right wing sees this minor victory as traitorous.

It was so wonderful to hear Ovadia say that he was again sleeping at night, and to celebrate with him on the very day he was to have been evicted

“It was so wonderful to hear Ovadia say that he was again sleeping at night, and to celebrate with him on the very day he was to have been evicted”. Photo: Hamabara

Secondly, Amidar cancelled the eviction of Ovadia and Miriam Ben-Avraham scheduled for this past Monday.  It was so wonderful to hear Ovadia say that he was again sleeping at night, and to celebrate with him on the very day he was to have been evicted.  In the words of The Book of Esther, the day was “Transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy.”  (Esther 9:22) .  Again, this was a partial success.  We have yet to deal with Ovadia and Miriam’s alleged debt, and many more evictions were scheduled this month in Jerusalem alone.   However, as we are taught in the Mishna, “One who saves a single life, it is as if one has saved an entire world.” (Sanhedrin 4)

As I reflect on these two events, I not only think about the importance of making a difference for a single family or saving a single dunam of land.  I also think about the breastplate to be worn by the High Priest, set with 12 stones. In this week’s Torah portion, Moses is commanded to make the breastplate as part of the vestments to be worn by Aaron in the  Miskhan, the portable Tabernacle housing the tablets with the ten commandments,  where Moses will speak with God, and where Aaron and his sons will serve God,  “The stones shall correspond to the names of the sons of Israel: twelve, corresponding to their names. (Exodus 28:21)

I have always thought how wonderful it is that the High Priest serves God with all the tribes of Israel close to his heart.  Yes, Biblical scholars have made careers out of analyzing the blessings and the rebuke for each of the tribes which Jacob and Moses each utter before their deaths, and how they reflect the power struggles between the tribes.  However, in those most sacred moments when the High Priest would go into the inner sanctum of the desert Mishkan or the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem, each tribe had a place, and each was equally important.

In our world, we not only the twelve tribes must be close to our hearts.

The Bedouin of the unrecognized villages and those dependent on public housing are two of our forgotten tribes.  Sometimes these Israeli citizens are demonized and blamed for societies ills, but often they are simply ignored.  Who knows or cares that 30-45,000 Bedouin could be evicted from their homes if the Praver recommendations are adapted by the KnessetHow many people know or care that at least 40,000 people are on waiting lists for public housing and thousands in need are not even deemed eligible to be on the lists, while others dwell in homes in life threatening states of disrepair and hundreds are evicted every year?

In our Holy of Holies, every person counts, from Jerusalem to El-Arakib; from Tel Aviv to the South Hebron Hills.  From Hadera to Silwan; From the Azrieli towers to the fields of Jalud.

When I quote from the Book of Esther, I also reflect on the fact that exactly a year ago my daughter became a Bat Mitzvah on Parashat Zachor and Purim, bringing up for me all the difficulties of celebrating the mass killing of even our enemies, and the challenge presented by the idea that the Jewish people must wipe out the seed of Amalek in every generation.  I have always connected to the idea that we must battle, “Amelekiut,” the characteristics of attacking the weakest and most helpless members of our society and the use of eifah v’eifah (double standards). The Torah tells us that Amalek attacked the weak stragglers (Deut. 25:18). Because the verses from which the sages derive the prohibition against acting eifah v’eifah appears immediately before the mention of Amalek, Rashi teaches that  when we act eifah v’eifah, Amalek attacks. I see “Amalekiut” in how we treated the El-Arakib’s and the Ovadiahs in our society.  However, we know that the massacre by Barukh Goldstein on Purim is but one example of how our texts and our history can lead us to justify lashing out at real or perceived enemies, “Sweeping away the innocent with along with the guilty,” (Genesis 18:23), not to mention the fact that perhaps even the guilty could do teshuvah. We pray in the “Aleinu” prayer every day, we ask God to, “Turn to You all the evildoers of the earth.”

Stay tuned                                                                               

In the days leading up to Purim we will be asking both on our website and facebook how we honor our textual tradition and acknowledge our history of oppression without feeding an “Us against the world” mentality and the exploitation of our legitimate desire for security that justify the Baruch Goldsteins, Jewish exceptionalism and human rights violations.

On this Shabbat Tetzaveh and Zakhor, may we focus on purging the persecution of the weak and discriminatory double standards from our midst, thus rededicating ourselves to the building of a national Tabernacle of justice, and remembering to bring every human being into our “Mikdash Me’at”  the Holy of Holies in our hearts.

Shabbat Shalom,



Peace from the Inside Out

1 Comment 20 February 2012

First come the innermost pieces of furniture: the ark in which the tablets of the covenant will be stored. The Ark of the Covenant Is Not of This World By fireflythegreat cc: flickr

Rabbi Gil Nativ finds in parashat ‘Teruma’ the way to make peace in the world. The month of Adar that begins on Friday, contains joy and a new message.

People usually construct or purchase their home before furnishing it.  But when God instructs Moses how to construct the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary, in this week’s portion, Terumah, it is from the inside out.

First come the innermost pieces of furniture: the ark in which the tablets of the covenant will be stored [Exodus 25:10-22], then the table for the bread of display [23-30], and the menorah [31-40]. Only after does God describe the large tent in which these sacred objects will be placed [26:1-14] and the fence around the court which surrounds the tent [15-30].

The order of instructions, from the inside to the outside, teaches an essential lesson: Peace begins at home. We should first endeavor to live peacefully within our families before we make peace within our communities and then with our neighbors.  And peace in our immediate surroundings should encourage us to work for universal peace.

Peace within the family according to the Jewish tradition

Shalom Bayit, peace within the family, is an essential Jewish value. The rabbis showed the extent of its importance by teaching that God deliberately misquoted Sarah in order to maintain peace between her and Abraham [Talmud, B.M. 87a].

Moreover, it is said that God’s name should be erased in the bitter water trial to restore peace between husband and wife [Talmud Sukka 53b].  The goal of “the second coming” of the prophet Elijah will be to restore peace between parents and children [Mishnah Eduyot 8,7 referring to Malachi 3:23-24 ].

Moving outward, peace within each family may pave the way to peace among our people: We must learn to live together in spite of the many differences between our various parties and denominations. The biblical prohibition lo titgodedu (You must not cut yourselves) [Deut.14:1] is explained by the rabbis to mean, “You shall not form rival groups” [Talmud, Yevamot 13b-14a].

Like the fence that surrounds the perimeter of the Mishkan, the final goal should be peace among all nations, including the people of Israel. The dream of universal peace began with the prophecies of Isaiah [Chapter 2] and Micah [Chapter 4]. “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more,”.

Both prophets believed that international peace will be possible when all nations agree “to go up the mountain of the Lord… so that the God of Jacob will instruct them to walk in his paths…”And yet Micah added, even in those messianic times the nations will be free to worship their own deities – a vision of religious pluralism that seems to go hand in hand with universal peace.

Purim Parade By Flavio@Flickr. cc: flickr

The entire month of Adar reflects the joy of Purim | Purim Parade By [email protected] cc: flickr

The message of joy of Purim

Our Torah portion, Terumah, coincides this year with the beginning of the month of Adar. The entire month of Adar reflects the joy of Purim, and tradition teaches that when the month begins, “joy should be increased” [Talmud, Ta’anit 29a].

In the story of Esther, the Jews wanted to retaliate against Haman’s intention to annihilate our people by annihilating all Haman’s descendants including his 10 sons. The rabbis, though, claimed that Haman’s grandchildren (literally: sons of his sons) studied Torah at Bnai Berak, meaning that the grandchildren of this master anti-Semite not only survived, but even converted to Judaism [Talmud, Gittin 57b, Sanhedrin 96b].

Making peace with long-time enemies is a great art. Greater still is transforming enemies into friends.  It can only be done through a gradual process of building mutual trust and reciprocity.  We Jews, like most other groups, have a long way to go toward peace. The month of Adar is a good time to begin.


In memory of my sister, Shlomit (Nativ) Sela, who passed away on the 28th of Shevat,  5761. Shlomit lived up to her name.  She lived in peace with both herself and those around her.


Limits on Masters and Control: Dvar Torah Parshat ‘Mishpatim’

No Comments 14 February 2012

Lincoln Memorial – interior – statue – 2011  | By dctim1 cc: flickr

Rabbi Mira Raz replaces the Master of Slaves with the real master – he who created us all. She teaches us about Masters and the limits of power from this weeks parsha: ‘Mishpatim’ Continue Reading


Meeting with non-Jews strengthens Judaism

No Comments 07 February 2012

“Only after Moses listens to his father in law and absorbs his feedback and criticism, de-centralization is established, and the People of Israel can make the step that enabled them to grow and come to their constitutive event as a nation – the receiving of the 10 commandments at Mt. Sinai.” cc: flickr by RivaJethroKyrill – Name Jitro/Yitro in Hebrew

Parashat Jethro is the fifth parasha in Exodus. This parasha is full of substance, thought-provoking suggestions, and invites us to review in order to renew and build a nation Continue Reading

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