October 14, 2015 · 5:48 pm
art by Laya Crust
Parshat Noah October 2015, 5776
This is a very difficult time in many parts of the world, but the horrors in Israel touch me very closely. I am an ardent Zionist and a Jew. I have children and grandchildren who live in Israel, including in Jerusalem. I have many friends and relatives there. I just came back from that miraculous country but while I was there 4 people were viciously murdered by Palestinian terrorists. Since then more murders have occurred. My first thoughts in the morning and my last thoughts at night are of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin z”l (may they be remembered as a blessing) who were murdered only because they were Jewish and lived in Israel. That’s the only reason! I think of their 4 children who will grow up without their wonderful parents. And I can’t understand it.
Last week in synagogue we read the story of the creation of the world and humanity. We also read about the first murder. Cain, jealous of Abel, killed him. God said, “The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground….the ground which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand… “
“The voice of your brother’s blood…” Such powerful words.
After God gave mankind free choice murder occurred, even at the very beginning. It’s impossible to understand.
There is an interesting animated movie going on in the Middle East. Syria, Iraq, Islamic State,Afghanistan, Lebanon, Sudan and Yemen are like balls of flame, burning in war and hatred. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt and Iraq are brimming with unrest and dictatorship. And in the middle of it all Israel, a jewel of green land and democracy, stands on its own against the surrounding chaos, refusing to get sucked in.
Yet, there are these terrible, tragic losses of life.
This week we read the story of Noah in the Bible. Sick of humanity’s cruelty God destroyed the world by flooding it. The rainbow we see after a rainfall is the symbol of God’s oath that the world will never be entirely destroyed again.
Many of us sit in our chairs praying for peace in Israel and the rest of the world. We can’t understand God’s allowing the violence to continue or the terrorism raging in Israel’s streets or the loss of the young, exceptional parents of 6 children. We can only do what Israelis are doing in Israel- live good lives, do acts of kindness, and don’t allow hatred to rule our minds and actions.
With prayers for peace, health and beauty,
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Tagged as Abel, art, art history, Bereishit, bible, Bible stories, biblical art, blood, Bnei Yisrael, Cain, Cain and Abel, creative judaism, dvar Torah, faith, genesis, Henkin, hope, Israel, Israelite, Jewish Art, Jewish education, Jews, Judaism, Lord, murder, Naama and Eitam Henkin, Noah, rainbow, terrorism, torah art, Torah story
November 5, 2014 · 5:16 pm
Kings II, ch. 4: 1-37
Elisha- (prophet) c. 720 BCE
In this Haftarah Elisha the prophet saves a woman from the ruin of debt by miraculously providing her with enough oil to pay her creditors. A second story in the parsha concerns a woman from Shunem who builds and furnishes a room for Elisha to stay in when he travels through the town. In gratitude Elisha blesses the woman and her husband with a child who will be born in the coming year. A few years later the son dies. The Shunammite woman confronts Elisha asking him why he had given them a child only to have him taken away so cruelly. Elisha brings the boy back to life. (This is possibly the first description of mouth to mouth resuscitation in history).
In the parsha illustration we see the room on the roof with the furnishings described in verse 10. There are also 3 pots of oil, alluding to Elisha’s aid to the widow in the previous story.
The over arching theme of this week’s readings is one of faith. For instance, Sarah is expected to believe- have faith- in three strangers. They tell her that she will become pregnant and raise a child. Sarah is a 90 year old childless woman! Can you imagine running around after a toddler in his terrible twos when you are 92 years old? Changing his diapers? I can’t- but I digress. The point is that she and her husband Abraham are expected to believe what Gd communicates to them.
Faith is indeed a theme in these stories but there’s another strong idea. That is one of motherhood and the relationship of a loving mother to her children. Each of the women we read about- Sarah, Hagar, Lot’s wife , Lot’s daughters, the widow and the Shunemite woman are, or become, mothers. They are faced with difficult situations and their over riding thought is how best to protect their children. Even in the case of Lot’s daughters they want to be sure to create a new generation of children.
As often happens in TaNach (the Jewish Bible) women are major figures in a narrative but they aren’t given names. They are the unidentified thinkers and planners. At times angels or messengers communicate with the wives, not with their husbands. Gd told Avraham to listen to Sarah’s counsel. The widow whom Elisha helped had to make sure her sons weren’t sold into servitude. The Shunemite woman – not her husband- created a place for Elisha the itinerant prophet to stay.
So- when you read text, read carefully. There are many incidents that are glossed over. Some are about nameless women, but those women were leaders in their own right.
Research Alert: I am gathering information about exceptional Jewish women throughout history. If you have ideas or insights about outstanding female Jewish leaders please send them on to me. I’m especially looking for the names of women who lived in North Africa (Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Ethiopia etc.) the Far East, and South America. I’m also interested in women from before the common era through to the 13th and 14th Centuries.
Have a wonderful Shabbat. May we hear news of peace and tranquility throughout the world.
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Tagged as Abraham, Bereishit, bible, bible study, biblical art, Bnei Yisrael, dvar Torah, Elisha, God, Haftarah, Hagar, Israel, Jewish education, Land of Israel, Lord, parsha, prophet, Sarah, Shabbat, Shunemmite, Torah study, Yisrael
October 22, 2014 · 5:25 pm
Isaiah 54- 55:5
Isaiah (prophet) c. 740 – 681 BCE
Just last week we were at synagogue singing the prayers for rain- “Tefillat haGeshem”. Israel wants the rain for the trees and plants that will blossom in (our) winter and spring. And wouldn’t you know it, here in Toronto the heavens opened that afternoon and again at night and it poured. I heard that it rained in Israel too.
Rain, like everything else, has to come at the right time in the right amount. We know that sometimes there are floods in one part of the world while there are famine and forest fires due to drought in another.
In this parsha we read about the sinning that occurred in the world. Gd was upset by humanity’s excessive evil and caused a flood to wipe out most of humanity and most of the animal world. After 40 days and 40 nights the rain abated and the world as it was known ended. Noah and his family had to start anew. Gd decided never to destroy humanity again. The sign of this resolution and covenant was- and continues to be- a rainbow.
Last week when I went for a walk in the afternoon rain I saw a beautiful sight. There was a rainbow set in the east sky against steel grey clouds. The unexpected contrast was gorgeous.
The rainbow is a magical thing. It is perfect semicircle in the sky made up of every conceivable colour. Gd has created an image of perfection to remind Himself that although Gd can achieve perfection we mortals can’t. As such we can’t be expected to behave perfectly. Our duty is to try to do the best we can.
In this season, this new year of 5775, those of us lucky enough to live in a country with true autumn can enjoy the colours of the rainbow around us.
The High Holy Days, also called the “Days of Awe” are behind us. The first readings of the Torah are about new beginnings, explorations and lessons. We prayed for rain but we want the right amount- not enough rain to flood the land and destroy life. It’s a prayer for good things in moderation and a reminder for us to appreciate the goodness and beauty that is around us in the world.
So as you go through the week notice the beauty around you whether it is beauty in changing colours, in the people around you or in the grace of day to day living.
Have a good week and a Shabbat Shalom,
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Tagged as art, Bereishit, bible, biblical art, Bnei Yisrael, Book of Isaiah, colours, dvar Torah, Haftorah, Isaiah, Israel, Jewish Art, Jewish education, Jews, Land of Israel, Lord, Noah, Parasha, rainbow flood autumn, Rosh Hashanah, torah, Torah study, Yisrael