Tag Archives: 3 weeks

Joy Among the Weeds

P1130808art by Laya Crust

Elul and August are interesting, almost “limbo” or liminal months. August heralds the ending of summer, freedom for children, outdoor meals. It is the entry to autumn and responsibility. Elul follows the serious month of Av and is accompanied by the haftarot of consolation. Elul is the precursor to Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur- days of self reflection and repentance.

But what about joy? My lovely cousin Gwen shared the idea of bringing joy to each day of Elul. I found joy among the weeds.

P1130806Rose Hips by Laya Crust

I am lucky enough to live a five minute walk from a beautiful ravine. As I walked there this week I looked around at all the tiny bursts of colour we tend to overlook as we walk.

The first amazing sight was a mullein. It is a weed that has grown to about 2  1/2 meters-  about 8 feet high!


So many lovely flowers- how many can you name?


Walking through the woods seeing  weeds, flowers,  thistles, berries, seed pods and brilliantly coloured leaves was its own holiday. If we look around and notice the nature around us we can leave our worries behind for a few minutes and feel joy. Being outside with these natural things- whether we are downtown or on a trail surrounded by trees and bushes we can feel the sun or rain or breeze and allow ourselves to abandon seriousness for moments of peace of mind.



Go ahead and do it! Bring joy to each day of Elul! Hug a tree, smell a flower, or pick up a pretty leaf.

And let me know if you recognize all the flower/weed photos I took.

Have a wonderful week and a Shabbat Shalom, Laya

P.S. You can find the answers in the “tags”.

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 Isaiah I: 1- 27

Isaiah (prophet)- c.740 – 685 BCE

The Book of Isaiah is used for 18 haftarot through the year- more than any other book.

This haftarah always precedes the fast of Tisha B’Av  (the 9th of Av). It is the last of the “Three Haftarot of Rebuke”. This may have been prophesied around 701 BCE, during the reign of King Sennacherib. Assyria had invaded Judah and had begun the siege of Jerusalem. It is a desolate haftarah where Isaiah recounts how God laments that His children – B’nei Yisrael – have rebelled against Him. They are corrupt, their prayers are empty and their sacrifices are meaningless.

He tells the nation their sins can become white as snow and the land can become fruitful and full again.  God asks Israel to “Learn to do well; Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1: 17)

The haftarah is bleak, expressing God’s disappointment in His people and longing for them to improve. In searching for an image I wanted something that expressed God’s desires for His children.  I thought back to the survivors of the Shoah and how they had to be cared for.

As we know, Jewish immigration to Israel, their ancestral homeland, was severely restricted by the White Paper of 1939. Jewish survivors of the Shoah (Holocaust) had to enter mandate Palestine illegally and if they were caught were sent to D.P.camps. When Israel was declared a state in 1948 there were suddenly thousands of Jewish immigrants in the country needing food, clothing and shelter.

“Ma’abarot” (or temporary camps and cities) were set up to temporarily house survivors and refugees. In the early 1950’s they accommodated 130,000 expelled Iraqi Jews. By the end of 1951 there were over 220,000 people in about 125 different  areas.

The ma’abarot had problems and were not “perfect” solutions, but they were a genuine attempt to take care of the widows, the orphans and the needy when Israel was first established.

 The illustration is inspired by a photograph of a ma’abarah in 1952.


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Jeremiah 2:4– 28; 3:4;  4:1-2

Jeremiah (prophet) c. 655 BCE -.586 BCE.

Haftarat Masei is called “The Second Haftarah of Rebuke” and is read during the “Three Weeks of Mourning. (17th of Tammuz to the 9th of Av).  I will discuss a number of aspects of admonition, Jeremiah the prophet, and parallels between the parsha and the haftarah.

The parsha begins with a description of the route the Israelites took as they were led through the desert by Moses and Aharon. The first 49 psoukim list all the places where they camped.  The next chapter of the parsha (perek 34) delineates the boundaries of the land of Canaan being awarded to B’nei Yisrael. It’s fascinating to see the mapping in the parsha and to read how accurately each encampment and each border is listed.

In the haftarah the prophet Jeremiah reminds B’nei Yisrael “how God led His people “out of the land of Egypt, through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and pits, through a land of drought and of the shadow of death…. And into a land of fruitful fields…” (ch.2: 6,7).  So, I used a map of the route mentioned in both the parsha and the haftarah for this week’s painting. However, reproach is the real message of the haftarah.

Jeremiah was a prophet who lived through a tumultuous time in Jewish history. His life spanned the reign of 5 kings- Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. It was a time of idolatry and war. Jeremiah warned B’nei Yisrael that they were going to be punished for their idol worship, using very direct and damning language. At the end of his life, in 586 BCE, Judah was destroyed and Jerusalem was sacked by Nebuchadnezzar. The majority of Jews were exiled to Babylon. Jeremiah, who never married and was reviled for his messages, escaped to Egypt. He continued his prophecies from Egypt and died there.

In this haftarah he begins by reminding B’nei Israel how God brought them to Canaan. Then Jeremiah describes a litany of B’nei Israel’s sins. At the very end of the haftarah Jeremiah mitigates the message slightly by telling the people that if they return to God “in sincerity, justice and righteousness nations will bless themselves by you and praise themselves by you.”

The haftarah begins with the word “Shim-u”- “Listen” or “Hear” the word of God. The rabbis remind us that these words remind us of “na’asei v’nishma” –we will do and we will hear- the words B’nei Yisrael used at Sinai to affirm their covenant with God. Another word of note in the haftarah is “Eich”- How? “Eich” is used twice in the haftarah asking how Israel can have changed so much, turning to sinning and base behaviour. This reminds us of the word “Eicha”- the name of the book we read on Tisha B’Av.

In the midst of such negativity and sadness the image of the trek through the desert to the Promised Land is one of hope and the realization of God’s commitment to us.

 If you have any comments, please post them. I’d love to hear from you.

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