Tuesday, December 17, 2013
"But Moses said to the Lord ,Please Lord ,I have never been a man of words"either in times past or now "- Exodus 4:10
"When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes he has no choice but to become an outlaw "- Nelson Mandela
In this week's Torah portion we read about the growth and calling of Moses the great liberator of our own people Israel but in my own study I cannot help comparing his life to a world leader that recently left mortality 2 weeks ago that leader being Nelson Mandela .What may you ask does a world leader like Mandela have in Common with Moses the greatest prophet of Israel the parallels will surprise you to name a few :
- Both Moses and Mandela were thrust into positions of royalty despite being born of a lesser noble family in his tribe Mandela after the death of his father was brought into a place second to the heir of his tribe .Moses sent down the nile in a basket was found by an Egyptian princess making him an Egyptian noble.
-Both Moses and Mandela left all they knew to grow in their devotion to their cause.Mandela left fort Hare College and ran away to Johannesburg to become a lawyer .Moses left Egypt and all he had ever known to become the great lawgiver of Israel .
-Both fought against tyranny .Mandela fought against apartheid the South African law restricting Africans from holding certain jobs and living in certain areas .Moses fought against the slavery of the Israelite people .
Despite all of these similarities one important comparison has stood out the most to me both Moses and Mandela were imperfect people just like you and me that done awesome things just by standing up for what they believe in .There are many examples in Judaism just like Nelson Mandela and Moses of Imperfect people doing great things I think behind these examples lies a lesson that if we stand up for the things we believe in no matter how impossible they might seem we will be great have the privilege of having a good name just like these 2 men and benefiting the whole of the human community .So continue to stand up for who you are despite whatever impossibility presents itself you might see yourself standing in front of princes and politicians or become one yourself one day !!!
I leave you with the prayer that is the South African National Anthem Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika
Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw' uphondo lwayo,
Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.
Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho,
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso,
Setjhaba sa, South Afrika — South Afrika
Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
Waar die kranse antwoord gee,
God bless Africa
Let its (Africa's) horn be raised,
Listen also to our prayers,
Lord bless us, we are the family of it (Africa).
Lord bless our nation,
Stop wars and sufferings,
Save it, save our nation,
The nation of South Africa — South Africa.
From the blue of our heavens,
From the depths of our seas,
Over our everlasting mountains,
Where the cliffs give answer,
Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom
In South Africa our land.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
"And the heaven and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
And on the seventh day G-d finished His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made.
And G-d blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it He rested from all His work which G-d in creating had made."-Genesis 2:2-3 JPS
As a Reform Jew most other Jewish movements see our lives as pretty easy without much challenges because we believe each and every jew has the right to decide how they choose to observe Jewish life even if this means reinterpreting a tradition to allow for more equality,Innovating a worship service by using more English than Hebrew and even discarding a mitzvot if one feels it fitting for their Judaism. This belief in the freedom of choice has been for me a challenge for a couple of months now because I've had an issue in how I interpret Shabbat and what it means to me .
To begin with I'm converting to Judaism and last July I officially made the decision to become a Jew and started the conversion process studying with a Rabbi in Chicago my location at the time was a small town in Florida that probably nobody has ever heard of with no real Jewish population at all .My Shabbats were totally spent by myself or with an online Jewish Community if I could make it to a library during a service during this time I tried to observe it as traditional as possible meaning not engaging in any of the 39 melachot or forms of work prohibited on Shabbat a very concise and understandable list of the forms of work prohibited can be found at this link :http://www.akhlah.com/jewish-holidays/shabbat/39-melachot/
The activities I avoided were writing,washing clothes,tying my shoes and etc... I was without work at the time and i found out that these activities were not helping me and in all actuality were promoting laziness YES the traditional observance was promoting laziness in my life .I realized I had to find another way to observe than while reading a book on Jewish History I came across this picture :
Jacob Rils observing erev Shabbat in a coal cellar in the early 19th century this picture helped me to realize that I could observe Shabbat by discarding the Melachot because like Jacob Rils I wanted to work for my livelihood come morning .This worked for a little than I realized I was tired of worshiping alone so I decided to move to Chicago because there are plenty of Jews in Chicago plus there were jobs .
Since moving to Chicago I've had a lot more time to come to an understanding of what Shabbat means to me and how I personally observe it the last few weeks i've studied the theology,History as well as halachah of Shabbat extensively mainly focusing on how Reform Jews in the past have observed it one thing that has really helped me understand it is the CCAR responsum on Shabbat observance which can be found here :
It has helped me to realize that Shabbat is a release from the toils of life a job cannot exactly be a toil .
The Torah to has opened up insights too in regards to how to Understand the day of Rest
1. Shabbat is Universal and not just for Jews
"Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work;
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Since the American Reform movement issued it's Responsa in favor of Patrilineal descent it has put the whole Jewish community into an uproar but is it exactly a break from tradition and is it exactly unkosher ?
To me there are 3 ways of looking at and only one way I actually agree with
1.It is right :
The Responsum itself cites many good examples and can be found at this link : http://ccarnet.org/responsa/carr-61-68/
Of the reasons it cites is during the time of Ezra the children of Jewish Kings and foreign Queens were seen as equal by the community,that marige to non-jews have been happening at least 1804,and that the scolars of the mishnah changed the laws .My own reasons even though this is not the way I'm exactly in favor are the fact that throughout all the Torah an individual's rule and being came from the father all one has to do is pick up the book of first chronicles to see this fact written all over the page .My issue with this ruling is that even though it is very inclusive it sells itself short by stating it was mainly for survival of the movement in lieu of the many intermarriages :"For the reasons cited in the introduction to the Resolution, those stated above and others, we have equated matrilineal and patrilineal descent in the determination of Jewish identity of a child of a mixed marriage."
2.The Traditional Matrilineal way is the only right way .
What is held as the traditional comes from the Talmudic period in Jewish history when Jews were in exile in Babylon the ruling is simply this "to be a Jew, one must be either the child of a Jewish mother or a convert to Judaism"-Kiddushin 3:12.I would be in favor of this but it seems to conflict with a passage in the Torah from Leviticus "After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do; and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do; neither shall ye walk in their statutes"-Lev 18:3
I have this view because in our time both Roman Catholics and Orthodox Catholics base their membership off matrilineal descent which they use mainly based off that Jesus identity came not from his father but his mother.I have nothing to cite on it but as a person that studies myth it hearkens to much to the Greek and Roman god stories where the mother herself transferred power of rule from the father by having the son kill the father.As a person I cannot except this rule it seems the talmudic scholars adopted a pagan practice themselves to be accepted in their time.
3.A Jew is not defined by blood but by actions
This is the way of determining who is a Jew best for me and the opinion I most agree with .throughout the torah it was the noble actions taken that defined if the person was a son or daughter of Abraham take for example Jonah who was told to prophesy to Ninevah but did not he was swallowed up by a big fish and it was through that experience he came to trust in god and convert Ninevah only through his actions do we remember him or Ruth who chose herself to take Israel as her people and d.Everyone is a Jew by Choice and through fulfilling a mitzvah.we find not a bloodline through our patriarchs and matriarchs but examples on how to live our lives today.
So what makes a Jew ?The answer does not rest in the bloodline or the courts of Israel but in the person and the noble example they bring to humanity at least in my eyes .
"I'll tell a tale, tale, tale, tale, yeah
Of Maccabees in Israel-ael-ael-ael, yeah
When the Greeks tried to assail-sail-sail-sail, yeah
But it was all to no avail-vail-vail, vail, yeah, yeah"- 1st verse of "Candlelight" by the Maccabeats
Of Maccabees in Israel-ael-ael-ael, yeah
When the Greeks tried to assail-sail-sail-sail, yeah
But it was all to no avail-vail-vail, vail, yeah, yeah"- 1st verse of "Candlelight" by the Maccabeats
During Hanukkah we recount the faith of the Maccabee Family in bringing the nation of Israel out of worshiping the pagan gods of Greece and re-establishing temple worship of the One God .This Hanukkah I don't want only to celebrate their faith but I want to celebrate all those teachers of humanity who bring me to greater faith in the One Universal God my Rabbis because like the Maccabees through their faith taught the early jews how to be more faithful to the God so do these to me.In speaking of these Rabbis understand I use Rabbi in the most Liberal sense that being simply as a "Teacher" this list is not limited to Jewish individuals but is made up of every person that has taught me through theirs words or actions to be both a better Jew and a better human being living or dead below each individual's picture is a brief bio and a teaching of theirs I value :
Rabbi Howard Berman -Executive Director of the Society for Classical reform Judaism
Rabbi Berman is leading a revival within the Reform Movement to preserve and creatively renewing those Classical aspects of Reform Juaism that have been dismissed as Irrelevant for today like seeing Judaism not as an ethnic group but a religious faith calling humanity to one god and a more ethical society.Rabbi berman gives me my faith.
"The early Reformers believed that Judaism is a powerful, life-transforming personal encounter with God and a unifying, sustaining ideal for a strong and enduring community of faith. They courageously and proudly taught that the Jewish religion, not an ethnic, European imported "Jewishness," but a vigorously modern, deeply spiritual expression of timeless values and beliefs, would flourish here in the free, open, pluralistic and deeply religious society of the United States. They believed that Reform Judaism had a universal message to proclaim and share: a message of faith through reason, compatible and not in conflict with science and modern culture…a broad, humanistic faith, whose definition of salvation was the moral and ethical transformation of society here on earth."- Rabbi Howard Berman,A New Judaism for a New Millennium,Men of Reform Judaism Magaizine,July 30 2009
Rabbi Anat Hoffman -President of Women of the Wall
Anat Hoffman is probably one of the most well known Jews of this century leading the worldwide movement for prayer equality at the Kotel or as most know it as the western wall.In her fight for equality at the wall she has been arrested,spit on and violently attacked.Anat Hoffman inspires me to stand up for what I believe in.
"Change is difficult. Just as we have been demanding that government officials, Rabbis and public opinion change, we need to be willing to change as well. For years we said that a separate section was like being thrown to the back of the bus, but we have a chance now to redesign the whole bus that treats all its passengers equally."-Rabbi Anat Hoffman ,A Letter from Anat ,Women of the Wall Blog http://womenofthewall.org.il/2013/10/letter-from-anat-hoffman/
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner- Movement Rabbi,Movement for Reform Judaism U.K.
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner is the first ever Movement Rabbi for Reform Jews in the U.K. this means she is the public face and chief spokesperson for the Reform movement in the U.K. born into an Orthodox family her father is a former MP.Since taking her position she has been a gentle voice of challenge to the U.K.'s Chief rabbi.Rabbi has given one of the greatest definitions of Reform Judaism I've seenI recount it below :
"Reform Judaism is loving God – however we understand that – by striving for kedushah, for holiness . This means pursuing justice, healing the world in our everyday lives, and the equality for every member of our community, whatever gender, sexual orientation or background.
Our Judaism recognises the centrality both of Jewish tradition and of our own responses. Our Judaism involves living a life of integrity by matching what we say with what we do.
And it means living with knowledge - understanding the origins of our traditions, their history and their development, and in this way appreciating the multiple voices and meanings of our texts. Texts are at the very heart of our Judaism and all Judaism; they represent our people responses to their encounters with God.
Living a life of integrity, living honestly, aligning what we do with what we believe.
For me these are the substantial, nourishing and sustaining elements of our communities, our commitments and content."-Divrei Torah Chagigah 2012 http://news.reformjudaism.org.uk/from-the-movement-rabbi/rabbi-laura-janner-klausner-dvar-torah-for-chagigah-2012.html
Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan- Founder of Reconstructionist Judaism
Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan in creating Reconstructionist Judaism taught me that one can be a jew and hold humanistic beliefs offering up a naturalist concept of God he has offered Jews everywhere a new open-minded theology to fit for today .
"The Past has a vote,but not a Veto"-Judaism as a Civilization
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson- The Lubavitcher Rebbe
This one might surprise some of my friends but the last Rebbeof Chabad Lubavitch does inspire me mainly through his teachings on mysticism he offered up during his lifetime a rational form of Jewish mysticism that was practically forgotten after his death and replaced with a messianism something I think he would not have wanted while he was alive.The Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged all Jews to recognize their value to the world and the rich traditions that are at times neglected.He reminds me through his words not to neglect the richness of Jewish Ritual and the nuggets held within the Jewish life..
"Consider the soul of man: obviously, it is not divisible into 248, 365 or 613 components; nevertheless, the observing eye differentiates between the vitality of the foot and the vitality of the brain, though both are of a single essence-the soul that vitalizes the body. How much more so (to distinguish ad infinitum) is it so regarding the divine reality. Thus, when we say that the shechinah is present in the Holy Temple, this is not to say, G-d forbid, that only that "aspect" of the divine that is called shechinah is there, but to stress that there the divine reality is present in such a way that it "dwells within" and "clothes itself" to the extent that it is observable with our physical eyes, in the fact that "the space of the ark did not take up space," in the ten miracles that regularly occurred in the Holy Temple, and so on."-Letter March-April 1964
Anne Frank- 16 year-old girl and victim of the Holocaust
The young Lady whose diary sells only second to the bible teaches me that despite the trial of life I can learn through my past events is that there will always be a better day if not today .
"“How noble and good everyone could be if, every evening before falling asleep, they were to recall to their minds the events of the whole day and consider exactly what has been good and bad. Then without realizing it, you try to improve yourself at the start of each new day.”-Diary of Anne Frank
Harvey Milk- LGBT Rights Activist and Former City of San Fransisco Supervisor
Harvey Milk along with the Stonewall riots helped create the LGBT Rights movement that we know of today in America .Having a Martyr's death Harvey Milk opened the doors for LGBT people in America by showing that a person can win an election based off their values not just their sexual orientation.
“It takes no compromise to give people their rights...it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.”-Harvey Milk,The Harvey Milk Interviews
Joseph Campbell- Mythogropher
Joseph Campbell made faith more rational to me .I read his "Hero with a Thousand Faces" just as much as I read Torah .He taught me that everyone themselves even God is part of an ongoing narrative cycle .
"The agony of breaking through personal limitations is the agony of spiritual growth. Art, literature, myth and cult, philosophy, and ascetic disciplines are instruments to help the individual past his limiting horizons into spheres of ever-expanding realization. As he crosses threshold after threshold, conquering dragon after dragon, the stature of the divinity that he summons to his highest wish increases, until it subsumes the cosmos. Finally, the mind breaks the bounding sphere of the cosmos to a realization transcending all experiences of form - all symbolizations, all divinities: a realization of the ineluctable void."-The Hero with a Thousand Faces
Karen Armstrong- Religious Scholar
The World's foremost Religious scholar and former Carmelite nun Karen Armstrong is leading a worldwide movement called "The Charter for Compassion" calling all of humanity to foster more compassionate responses to life events .Karen inspires me to be more compassionate and by doing that change my world.
"We can either emphasize those aspects of our traditions, religious or secular, that speak of hatred, exclusion, and suspicion or work with those that stress the interdependence and equality of all human beings. The choice is yours."- 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.-Civil Rights Activist
The greatest civil rights activist in America in his time he championed segregation laws in the Southern United States by emphasizing a nonviolent and religious approach .He had a Dream for a society of equals this dream inspires me.
"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!"-from "I have a dream "speech
Nelson Mandela-Former South African President and Civil rights Activist
This former leader of the Rainbow Nation fought against apartheid laws in South Africa becoming one of their greatest activist.Confined to the Robben Island prison for a stint of his life he formulated the idea of a United South Africa a true rainbow nation.
“I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise.”-Long Walk to Freedom
Stephen Hawking -Award Winning Physicist
Mostly criticized for his Humanist ideals Stephen Hawking has shown me the wonders of life by showing me the joy of scientific study.Opening me more up to my naturalistic view of God.
“Each exists for but a short time, and in that time explore but a small part of the whole universe.”-The Grand Design
Rabbi N'Shema -Myself
A teacher too that I find is myself the Rabbi that comes from my own soul or N'Shema .The lessons I teach myself either through my own journaling because I keep a journal or through my Blog Posts.
"Who do we need to call our Dreams to reality ?sometimes it only takes one person or thing let us just be as quiet and patient as Abram listening for the day when we like Abram shall bring about many generations of good !!!!"-When a dream Becomes Reality October11th Blog post
Rabbi Adonai- The Eternal Source
The Rabbi that matters the most that being God or the Eternal Source of all life .That one that directs me toward Unity and Compassion through Torah and life experience.
"You Shall be Holy as I your God am holy"-Leviticus 19:2
These individuals continue to inspire and teach me and inspire me .I hope their words inspire you because like the Maccabees of old they are individuals faithful to their cause and who have imparted to me faith for tomorrow.