The Four Children of Parashat Vayera

When talking about this week’s Torah portion, one often finds oneself discussing the question which shouts from the pages of the Torah – “what could possess a parent to sacrifice their child”? Those who are familiar with the portion will assume that this would be in relation to the famous story of the binding of Itzhak, but on closer inspection, this week’s Torah portion actually talks of four children whose parents seemed willing to sacrifice them for some greater good.

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When God Says ‘Get Going’ | Parashat Lech Lecha

The Torah portion this week is called Lech lecha, which, loosely translated, means get going! God commands Abram to leave his birthplace and go to a new land that God will show him. In the first three verses of this portion, (Genesis 12:1-3) the word bracha, meaning blessing, appears five times.

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On Floods, Fear and the Promise of Hope | Parashat Noach

I write this davar Torah about Noah and the Flood surrounded by a healthy dose of irony. Currently my local community and my state of South Carolina await the forthcoming chaos that Hurricane Florence will bring to our region. This is the third Hurricane in two years in which many like myself have had to endure  by evacuating from our homes, waiting for the Flood to end and anticipating the aftermath of the Hurricane’s damage to our property and our community’s spirit.

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Beresheet: Pray, Act, Do

Beresheet begins our Torah-reading cycle anew. Once again, we turn the scroll over and read our people’s origin story; a mythological history that speaks to the wonder our ancestors saw when they looked at the ever-changing world around them. This parshah tells the story of how God created the world, and everything in it, through the power of God’s speech. The Torah then tells the early stories of humanity; of Adam and Eve, Cain and his brother Abel, and introduces us to Noah, whose actions will help renew Creation in next week’s reading.

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The Purpose of Jewish Existence, Why Enter the Land | Parashat Ki Tavo

Ki Tavo – When you enter. When? May we ask Why?

In this portion we find the people of Israel told what to do when they finally enter the land of Israel after wandering in the desert for forty years.

After they settle in they are told to make another entrance, into the field or orchard and choose the first fruits and bring them to Jerusalem.

And yet another entrance is demanded of the people of Israel in this portion, entering into the covenant. An elaborate ceremony is described to be done immediately after crossing the Jordan river into the land of Israel.

How do we enter Israel? How do we leave Israel for many of us who do not live in Israel on a day to day basis? How do we live in Israel? How do we love Israel?

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How to Make Peace in Hebrew? | Parashat Ki Teitzei

Recently, I listened to a song ‘Asiti’ (‘I Made / I Did’) of Israeli performer Jimbo J. The opening line of the song was ‘What does it mean ‘I served’? I did the army!’. This song showed how strong is the influence of English language on Hebrew. In Hebrew we find a long list of not-used verbs, replaced by a pair of “do/make” and an appropriate noun. So many Israelis do the army (and don’t serve in it), do the Jerusalem marathon (and don’t run it) etc.

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On June 27 2018, the Supreme Court in the UK ruled that heterosexual couples may not be discriminated against concerning civil partnerships, which were originally established by the UK government for same-sex couples. Ever since the UK’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act of 2013, heterosexual couples have been calling for equality, too. Following that Supreme Court ruling, the hope is that the 2004 Civil Partnership Act will be extended to heterosexual couples. So: equal marriage, equal civil partnership: equal justice.

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Parashat Re’eh

Re’eh means to see.  Everything which you need to SEE in life, a recipe for life as a Jew is written in Re’eh. Can a blind person see? Can a deaf person hear?  What is the meaning of seeing? If you were sent to a desert island and had a few pages of “Re’eh” with you,  that would be enough to guide you in a Jewish way of life.

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Not Adding nor Taking Away, but Assuring its Continual Relevance | Parashat Vaétchanan

This week’s parashah, Va’etchanan, continues Moses’ first address to the people of Israel as they are encamped on the east side of the Jordan River, preparing to enter the Promised Land. This portion contains the repetition of the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:6-18) and the first paragraph of the Sh’ma (6:4-9), but it also includes many other significant teachings that deserve our attention.

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D’varim, Tisha B’Av and Jewish Resilience

or longer than I have been alive, the State of Israel has existed. The borders have changed over the years, but I have never known a world where Israel did not exist. Orthodox liturgies pray for the coming of the Davidic Messiah, the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the re-establishment of the sacrificial cult. Among non-orthodox Jews, even if our liturgy contains references to “moshiach ben David” the call to rebuild and re-establish ancient sacrificial rites is often deemed as little more than symbolic. So, what does Tisha B’Av mean to post-enlightenment Jews who may not believe in a personal messiah, have never known a world without Israel, who do not see themselves returning to animal sacrifices?

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Parashat Mattot-Mase’ei

For the last number of years, the summer edition of our synagogue magazine has focused on the Jewish travel experiences of our members. As well as boasting as a member, Cathy Winston, the travel editor for the British Jewish Chronicle, congregants wrote about Crete and Corfu, Dubrovnik and Copenhagen and the Judah Hyam synagogue in New Delhi. Numbers 33, the opening chapter of the sidrah, Mase’ei reads like a travel itinerary, the stages of the Israelites wanderings in the wilderness.

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Pinchas, Leader by Birthright | Parashat Pinchas

Step by step, the Torah introduces us to a new generation of leaders of Israel. Often, when we speak of new leadership, we use to project great hopes: that the new one will be correct, ethical, that he/she will leads us to a time of justice, prosperity and optimism. But not always the new is […]

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