Shabbat Shalom Dear Readers Parshat Behalotecha 5774

June 6, 2014
12 tribes

12 tribes

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This week, parshat Behalotecha will be ushered in Brooklyn  at 8:05 PM with candle lighting, which is 18 minutes before sunset. In New York City, candle lighting will be at 8:07 PM.  On the Chabad.org web site, you can look up the  time Shabbat begins in your city. You can also look up the time Shabbat ends (after nightfall )on Saturday night. There are also worthwhile articles that can be printed out Aish.com.

Chabad.org has an article by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks about the difference between power and influence. In his explanation, kings, with their power of life and death, embodied power. Prophets, he explained, embodied influence. Sacks notes that “To paraphrase Kierkegaard: when a king dies, his power ends. When a prophet dies, his influence begins.”

As a parent and as a child, I have noted the transition from childhood, where direct orders and “pulling rank” are sometimes necessary, to adulthood, where doing what a parent thinks is wise is a matter of earned respect for their wisdom and experience.  Power can be wielded by raising the voice. Influence is more likely to involve raising the eyebrows.

Aish.com noted that the Rolling Stones, bucking political fashion, performed in Israel. This was noted in an article that enumerated five bits of wisdom from the rolling Stones.

      Aish also has an article about the rise of the extreme right parties in recent European parliamentary elections. There are indeed racist and anti Jewish parties that are gaining influence in Europe.

There are also legitimate grievances that are mostly championed on the political right, such as a growing disenchantment with the Euro and the European Union. Crime, illegal immigration and the erosion of traditional values and national identity are issues that are addressed on the right of the political spectrum. the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) firmly rejects racism, yet has proudly taken its place on the right of the political spectrum. In Belgium, the Vlaams Belang, a right-wing political party, has picked up Jewish support. The moderate political parties in Belgium seem to be quite timid about attacks on Jews. The Vlaams Belang, a Flemish nationalist party has, by contrast been quite outspoken. Despite the alarm sounded in the Aish.com article, it would be a mistake to throw unconditional Jewish support to left-wing political parties. It should be noted that opposition to kosher slaughter, to ritual circumcision and demonisation of the State of Israel all are causes that have support on the left as well.

What I most enjoy about this week’s parsha is the allusions to the Jews encamping in the desert with their respective tribes. The idea that unity does not equal homogeneity is an important one. Unity does not mean being alike. It means being yourself, and contributing your abilities to the common good. It also means respecting the contributions of others. In the days when we had tribes, Yissachar was scholarly and Zevulun was more oriented towards business. Yehuda was the tribe of royalty and Levi gave rise to the priesthood. Anyone who can visualise a doctor calling a plumber or an accountant calling a lawyer can reflect upon such interactions and recognise our interdependence on a practical level.

Part of preparing for the gathering in of the exiles will involve recognising our interdependency, and being grateful for our diversity as a source of strength.

One feature of this week’s parsha is “Pesach Sheni”, a one day holiday known as the second Passover. During the time when Jews still brought sacrifices, it was a second chance to bring the Passover offering. Today, we eat a bit of Passover matzo and reflect upon the holiday, which remains as a commemoration of second chances.

In this holiday, some of the Jews complained about the manna (mon) despite the fact that it could assume almost any taste one might want. In the complaints recorded in this week’s parsha,  some of the Jews (most of them the mixed multitude) actually wanted to go back to Egypt. It is easy to see in our own lives and in this parsha that attitude towards what one has matters almost more than what one has. Additionally, liberation demands growth, It is a challenge as much as it is a release from limitations.

May the ingathering of exiles begin speedily, and may this be the last sabbath of our exile and the first of our return to the Holy Land.

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