Tag Archives: ten commandments

Shavuoth and The Book of Ruth

Ezekiel’s Vision by Laya Crust

This week we have a series of interesting readings. It is Shabbat Nasso which would normally be accompanied by the haftarah that introduces Samson. In the haftarah an angel comes to a farmer’s field and tells a childless woman that she and her husband will have a child. The baby boy is to be raised as a nazir- a person who is not to cut his hair or partake of grape products. When invited to join the farmer and his wife for dinner the angel rises to heaven in a fiery flame.

There are two haftarahs for Shavuoth. One is Ezekiel’s vision of beings with four faces appearing in lightning-filled skies. The other haftarah is a section from Habakkuk. He uses amazing imagery to describe Gd’s power over nature.

Ruth Gathering Grain by Laya Crust

On Shavuoth we read the Book of Ruth. It is a story of famine and poverty, loss, love, loyalty, and redemption. There are scenes that hint at the meanings of Shavuoth. Shavuoth is a harvest/ first fruits festival, and the celebration of “Matan Torah”, the giving of Torah. Ruth shows dedication to Gd and Judaism, and the story takes place during the harvest season.

There are allusions to food and agriculture in the stories of Ruth, and Samson’s parents, and of course in the holiday itself. Today we live in a world so far removed from the biblical setting that it’s hard to remember how our ancestors were tied to the land. They ate simply and in the most basic of ways. Ruth was poor. She gleaned from the corners of the fields where those in poverty gleaned. She was offered a meal with Boaz’s workers. At the mealtime there were only three items on the menu: a morsel of bread, vinegar (either sour wine or the brine of pickled vegetables), and roasted or parched grain. (Ruth: 2:14)

Ruth and Boaz by Laya Crust

Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi had returned to Canaan because of a famine in Moab. They had no means of support so Ruth was dependent on charity, the aforementioned grain found in the corners of a field. The simple meal she shared brings to mind the difference in the availability and abundance of food today as compared to biblical times. Bread is easy for us to buy or to make with dried yeast. Our ancestors ate sour dough bread, bread that would have taken a couple of days to go through the rising and then the baking process.

Most of us are very removed from the land and from the difficulties of basic food cultivation. Maybe, during this time of Covid-19 isolation we can eat a little more simply and appreciate what is available to us, even when we think times are a little tough.

Here is a recipe for ricotta cheese that you can make for one of your meals. Add a sourdough flatbread, fresh cucumbers in vinegar and dill, and some toasted grain, and your meal might be like the meals eaten by Ruth, Naomi, and Samson’s parents.

Fresh Ricotta

4 quarts/ litres whole milk

1 1/2 tsp salt

6 Tbsp. lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or white wine vinegar

Line a sieve or colander with 4 layers of cheese cloth. Suspend over a large empty bowl. Bring the milk and salt to a low boil. As soon as it begins to boil take it off the heat. Add the salt vinegar or lemon juice. The milk will separate. Skim off the curds with a slotted spoon and put in the seive or colander. Continue until the milk has completely separated and there is only whey in the pot. Refrigerate.

The whey can be used in muffins, bread dough, or pancakes. It’s full of vitamins!

The paintings of Ruth and Boaz in this post are illustrations I made for a Book of Ruth in 1982. It was commissioned as a gift for a Bat Mitzvah girl. The book includes 18 illustrations and was written by hand. One copy is in Israel and the other is my possession, to be read on Shavuoth.

Enjoy, and have a wonderful holiday, Laya

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Up and Down at Har Sinai

Humanityart by Laya Crust

Ki Tissa-   Exodus (Shemot) 30:11 – 34:35

In this parsha we read about extremes of faith. Moses received the last of Gd’s directives while on Mount Sinai. He came down the mountain to the sound and spectacle of the Israelites praying to a golden calf, an idol.  In disgust and anger Moses destroyed the precious tablets Gd Himself had written. Soon after there was an interaction between Gd and Moses where Moses is almost taken to the heavens in terms of spiritual closeness. The parsha ends with another presentation of the Ten Commandments.

This is a profound narrative. The previous two Torah portions recounted Gd’s directions for building a beautiful “mishkan” (portable sanctuary). The furnishings were to be made of gold and precious wood. Bezalel, the architect, was chosen for the job and given spiritual insight in order to build an amazing sanctuary. The clothing of the Kohanim- the priests- was described in great detail. Obviously Gd was well aware that the Israelite refugees craved  extraordinary beauty to help achieve a level of awe and observance.

But there was a problem. Moses went up Mount Sinai alone and disappeared behind a column of fire and cloud. He disappeared for 40 days and 40 nights. It’s true- the people had been warned that Moses would be away for over a month. But like most people, b’nei Yisrael found it hard to believe that their aged leader survived the dramatic conflagration. So Moses came down to witness singing and dancing around the Golden Calf.

Ki Tissa sig

When Moses disappeared the people decided to create their own beautiful focus of prayer. Gd’s punishment was brutal. Three thousand men were killed for the sin.

Moses was not able to recover from this incident easily. He had devoted his heart and soul to saving b’nei Yisrael from slavery and leading them through  the desert. The demands on him were huge- leading them physically, judging them, and negotiating with Gd on their behalf. He acted as arbitrator time and again between them and Gd when they transgressed certain orders. So Moses, as righteous as he was, asked for more from Gd. He asked to see Gd.

Gd put Moses into the cleft of a rock. According to the text (Ex. 33: 22)  Gd protected Moses from seeing His face with His hand but allowed Moses to see His back. Moses was a transformed man. The experience took him to the greatest spiritual heights. Thereafter rays of light shone from his face.

This section of Torah is fascinating. It leaves us with a number of thoughts to ponder- the burden Moshe carried and the fact that he waited so long to ask Gd for greater closeness and identification. The text presents the heights of receiving the word of Gd on a mountaintop contrasted so quickly by the weakness of His people. This story underlines the fractious yet extraordinary relationship we have with Gd.

The relationship we have with Gd is quite incredible. My husband Les Lightstone mentioned an interesting point. Gd didn’t show Moshe His “face”. He showed Moshe His back. In the same way we cannot see what our future will hold or what Gd may do. We can only see what has happened, look “back ” on it, and learn from our past.

Have a Shabbat Shalom. May it be one of peace, and end of violence, and an appreciation of beauty.

Laya

 

 

 

 

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Kedoshim

Kedoshim sig

Amos 9: 7-15

Amos (prophet) died c.745 BCE. He was a shepherd in Tekoa in Judea where he prophesied from 765 to 750 B.C.E.

We have just finished celebrating the memorable holiday of Pesach- that holiday devoted to remembering how God liberated us from slavery in ancient Egypt. It is fitting that we begin our post-Pesach readings with parshat “Kedoshim”. In “Kedoshim” God first reviews the ten commandments. He continues by telling b’nei Yisrael (the children of Israel) how He will punish them if they stray from the commandments.   The parsha ends with God telling the Israelites that they shall be holy- that God has set them apart from the other nations.

In our haftarah Amos tells the Jews that God treasures and judges all peoples. Amos tells them that the Jews are not the only nations that God has saved or punished. The Cush (Ethiopians), Philistines (Europeans) and Arameans (Asians) are all mentioned as having been saved from their captors. Amos continues by warning the Jews that they will be punished for their sins. Amos’ prophecy ends by foreseeing the time when God will “reestablish the fallen tabernacle of David”. He tells them that the children of Israel will plant vineyards and drink their wine, and the hills will wave with grain. The haftarah ends with the words, “And I will plant them on their soil, nevermore to be uprooted.”

What a wonderful phrase!

The image of the Jew in Israel among the orchards and the waving wheat inspired this haftarah’s image. I chose to model my painting on a photograph of a “chalutz” (pioneer) in the Jezreel Valley. The photograph, taken by Shmuel Joseph Zweig in 1946, is a perfect illustration- proof, even- of God’s promise to us, His people. We are back in Eretz Yisrael, our land, tilling the fields and surrounded by its bounty.

We are blessed to be witness to the realization of Amos’ prophecy. As we said at the seder, “Next year in Jerusalem.” And continuing with this haftarah’s conclusion, “Nevermore to be uprooted from the soil I have given them- said the Lord your God.”

If you click on the image at the top of the page it will enlarge. If you enjoyed this post share it with your friends and colleagues on Facebook, and share it with your students at school and your family around the table.

Have a wonderful Shabbat.

 

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