Tag Archives: Moshe

Days of Joy

Terumah sigart by Laya Crust

Parsha- Terumah (Exodus 25:1 – 27:19)

Haftarah-  Kings I,  5:26-6:13

This year the month of Adar began on the evening of February 9, 2016. And, we don’t have one Adar, but 2 months of Adar. Yes- it’s a Jewish leap year, a year when we add another month so that our lunar calendar lines up, more or less, with the solar calendar. It’s an interesting topic and you can read about it at  Months of the Jewish Year – My Jewish Learning  or for a more mind boggling explanation you can go to Leap years , an article from wikipedia.

Terumah might just be a perfect reading for the beginning of Adar. The parsha deals with the instructions Gd gives for building a holy sanctuary. The haftarah parallels this with a description of the work King Solomon instituted for building the Beit haMikdash, the Temple in Jerusalem.

At the beginning of the parsha Gd says, “Tell the Israelite people to bring Me contributions; you shall accept contributions for Me from every person whose heart so moves him.”  (25:2) The gifts Gd is referring to are precious building materials for the sanctuary .

The wording is precise, “אשר ידבנו ולבּו”.  Those with a willing heart” are invited to contribute to the building of this important sanctuary.  The building materials are given with generosity and joy. Resentment won’t taint the sanctuary of prayer and guidance. The idea of giving with generosity and joy rather than giving through coercion or compulsion (like many taxes and levies) fits nicely with the joy of Adar.

Adar is called the month of joy, and so having 2 Adars means we get to celebrate 60 days of joy. What could be better? My friend Esther Gur gave a talk in which she discussed the meaning of “simcha” (joy or happiness) in the month of Adar. My interpretation of what she said is that joy or happiness is not the simplicity of laughing at jokes. It’s not the fleeting pleasure of drinking a good glass of wine; or buying a new book, piece of clothing or electronic device.  “Simcha” is related to fulfillment. When we create something beautiful or do something good- doing it from a place of generosity not from a feeling of duty- we feel “simcha” or heartfelt joy.

In these two months of Adar I hope you give yourself the opportunity to do things you really love and give you great satisfaction. Enjoy and HAPPY ADAR!

Have a Shabbat Shalom


P.S. The painting at the top is based on a ketubah from 1853 Istanbul, Turkey. It shows boats floating on the Bosphorous River. I f you want to enlarge the image at the top or the ketubah below you can click on them.

istanbul ketubah02


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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.


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


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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