Tag Archives: milk and honey

V’Etchanan- Consolation and Renewal


My summer office

In the summer I’m fortunate to be able to sit outside and do my writing and editing in the backyard. The morning as I looked around at my garden I thought about how lucky I am to have the good weather and sunshine. Then I thought about how lucky I am to have a garden. The more I thought, the harder it became- I thought about the fires in Greece and North America where gardens disappear in a moment. And the fires in Southern Israel set by terrorists who send incendiary balloons into yards, playgrounds, and fields. And I thought about the people in war torn Syria (among other countries) whose homes and lives have been bombed to pieces.

These thoughts came to me as we leave the sadness of Tisha B’Av and enter the Weeks of Consolation because the world is not healed.

This week we read the parsha and haftarah of V’Etchanan.

V’Etchanan- Maximum Impact by Laya Crust

This painting shows a flaming Mount Sinai heralding the giving of the 10 Commandments. The images around it illustrate different elements of our faith. The parsha carries with it some of the most important words of Torah which are the foundations of our faith.  In this parsha we are privileged to read, once again, the 10 commandments and we are also given the “Sh’ma Yisrael”. We are told about the Land of Milk and Honey. We even read the question presented by the first of the four sons at our Pesach seder (Deuteronomy ch. 6 v. 20). We read about Moshe speaking to the children of Israel as they are about to enter the land of Canaan. He warns the children of Israel not to forget God’s laws.

V’Etchanan- Measuring the Skies with a Span,   by Laya Crust

This haftarah is the first Haftarah of  Consolation. Isaiah said that God created the heaven and the earth. God “measured the water in the hollow of His hand and measured the skies with a span…”

We are reminded that God created the world- that no man could do it and no man could even measure it. The parsha reminds us of the laws, the ethics, and the miracles God has given us. Moshe also reminds us, the Jews and Israelites, that He will protect us and our land if we safeguard His gifts to us. Those gifts are the Ten Commandments and accompanying laws.

As I sit in my beautiful garden in peaceful Toronto I am aware of the tragedies in the world. I can only believe that God is protecting Israel and safeguarding it from its multiple enemies. By living ethically, by respecting others and respecting all lives, we help to safeguard Israel too.

So, here we are beginning the Seven Weeks of Consolation, reading the words of Isaiah. He is still trying to guide a wayward group. Hopefully we will be able to live in a peaceful land flowing with Milk and Honey. Hopefully the unity and mutual support will prevail.

All the best and Shabbat Shalom, Laya

 

 

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V’Etchanan

 

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 Isaiah 49: 1-26

Isaiah (prophet)- c. 740 – 681 BCE

This summer of 2014 or 5774 of the Jewish calendar has been a difficult one.  We have just observed the Three Weeks of Mourning culminating with the fast of Tisha B’Av, and we are entering the Seven Weeks of Consolation.

The Torah portion, V’Etchanan, was described by my good friend Rabbi Michael Skobac as being like the ultimate full box of Crayons. Not only do you get all the colours, you get gold and silver too. This parsha carries with it some of the mo st important words of Torah which are the foundations of our faith. The painting on the top of the page shows the giving of the 10 Commandments with images around it describing different elements of our faith. It was created for my son Max on the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah.

We read about Moshe speaking to the children of Israel as they are about to enter the land of Canaan. He warns the children of Israel not to forget Gd’s laws. In this parsha we are privileged to read, once again, the 10 commandments and we are also given the “Sh’ma Yisrael”. We are told about the Land of Milk and Honey. We even read the question presented by the first of the four sons at our Pesach seder (Deuteronomy ch. 6 v. 20). So, as Rabbi Skobac said, it is the crayon box including the gold and the silver.

V'Etchanan

The image on this Haftarah page is one of Moses looking at the land of Canaan- which he has been forbidden to enter. It was a tragic moment. Moshe had dedicated his life to leading the children of Israel to the Promised Land, but he was not allowed to enter. The one consolation- if it was a consolation-was that Gd allowed Moses to see the land of Canaan. Gd said, “Go up to the top of the Pisgah and lift your eyes westward, northward, eastward and southward, and look with your eyes…”  3:27.  Moshe saw its greatness and its beauty from a vast perspective that no-one else would ever see. Maybe it was a gift that Moshe did not see the struggles and the sins of b’nei Yisrael once they had entered the Promised Land.

So, here we are beginning the Seven Weeks of Consolation, reading the words of Isaiah. He is still trying to guide a wayward group. And in Israel people are trying to put back the pieces of their lives after a month of war and lives lost.

Hopefully we will be able to live in a peaceful land flowing with Milk and Honey. Hopefully the unity and mutual support we saw in the last few weeks will continue.

All the best and Shabbat Shalom, Laya

 

 

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The Seven Species

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A number of years ago I created a mosaic for the Naiberg Family who now reside in Israel. They asked me to design a piece of art that would fit into a niche in their dining room.

 

I used the Seven Species as my inspiration, and designed a tree to be crafted as a mosaic. Learning how to cut glass I cut the tiles, using 17 different colours. I designed the mosaic, cut thousands of tiny glass tiles, assembled the composition, and it was installed in their Israeli home.

 

Last week the “Seven Species” were mentioned in the Torah reading of Eikev. As a departure from the regular haftarah blog I decided to write about parshat Eikev and the Seven Species.

 

“Eikev” is a beautiful introduction to the children of Israel describing land of Canaan, the land of milk and honey. Moshe reassures the people that God is with them. They must remember that the bounty of the land is a gift from God, and they should not be afraid of the large and powerful enemies they will encounter. God will protect them. (Remember the haftarah painting from last week? It showed a Little Russian “David” fighting against a huge Czarist “Goliath”- an example of God protecting His people.)  

 

After reminding Bnei Yisrael of their sins while in the desert Moshe describes the abundance of the land.  He says that if Bnei Yisrael keeps the commandments God will give them every place the sole of their foot treads and no enemy will be able to stand against them.

 

In the parsha  it says, “The Lord your God brings you into a good land- a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, springing forth in valleys and hills. A land of wheat and barley and grapes and fig trees, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey.” (Deuteronomy ch. 7: 7,8) Moshe goes on to say that there will be bread and the land will produce iron and brass.  But he warns them. He says, “Beware lest you forget the Lord your God, in not keeping His commandments.”   (ch. 7:11)

 

God knows how easy it is, when living in a land of plenty, to forget God. The first generation will remember the difficulties and discomfort of the desert and be grateful for the new abundance but the memory will be hard to sustain. After working the land, harvesting the crops, eating the bread and honey and fruits; digging, smelting and crafting the brass and iron- it will be easy for someone, especially in later generations, to take credit for the bounty of the land and for his or her success. It makes sense that when we work hard we feel satisfaction for what we have achieved. And we forget that the land, the weather, and the results are God’s gifts to us.

 

In reference to this parsha Nechama Leibowitz said it is easy to overlook the hidden miracles. Success is a hidden miracle. The Ramban (Nachmanides) said- No man has a portion in the Torah of Moses until he regards all that befalls him as a miracle.

 

Both Nechama Leibowitz and the Ramban reminded us, in different ways, of what Moses was telling Bnei Yisrael . And what Moses told Bnei Yisrael holds true for us today. We can read the words and put it in the past tense for the nation that was entering Canaan for the first time, or put it in the present tense for the Jews who live in Israel today.

 

The Land of Israel is a gift from God. Bnei Yisrael is a tiny nation- much smaller than the nations surrounding it. If we do what we are commanded to do we will inhabit the land, we will keep the land, the rains will fall and the crops will grow. But we are not to forget that it all comes from God.

 

The giving of Tzedakah (charity) – 10% of our income- makes sense. It is a way we are reminded that our bounty is not because we are so smart or we work so hard. Our success is a hidden miracle from God. The money isn’t ours. It is ours to share.

 

In ch. 10:12, 13 Moshe asks the nation, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? But to fear the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to love Him and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. To keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you this day for your good.”

 

The parsha ends with the last paragraphs of the Shema – one of the key prayers in our liturgy. It reminds us of the richness of the land, the richness of nature, and tells us to remember God always- to teach our children and to remember these lessons of gratefulness throughout our day, every day.

 

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