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The Rabbi's Column

Sukkot & Shabbat Hol Hamo'ed
October 5-7, 2017     -   15-17 Tishrei 5778

Torah ( Leviticus 22:26-23:44; Numbers 29:12-16);
 Etz Hayim p. 723 and 934; Hertz p. 518 and  p. 697
Haftarah day 1 ( Zekharyah 14:1-21): Etz Hayim, p. 1252; Hertz p. 972
Haftarah day 2 (1 Kings 8:2-21): Etz Hayim, p. 1256; Hertz p. 977

Torah Shabbat (Exodus 33:12-34:26; Numbers 29:17-22);
 
Etz Hayim p. 538 and 935; Hertz p. 362 and p. 697
Haftarah (Ezekiel 38:18-39:16); Etz Hayim, p. 1259; Hertz p. 979

Welcome to the new weekly "Torah Sparks" direct from the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem!
Each week we will be sending out a wonderful combination of Divrei Torah from CY faculty and alumni, great ideas for Shabbat table conversations and links to our weekly Haftarah commentary and our "Daf Shevui" - a chance to learn a page of Talmud every week with a master Talmud teacher. We have just begun our year of learning here in Jerusalem. The CY's beautiful Beit Midrash is full of students seeking to explore and develop their relationships with Jewish text, prayer and community. Torah Sparks gives you a taste of the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem every week. 

Dvar Torah -- Sukkot

 
By Rabbi Andy Shapiro Katz, Director of North American Engagement, Conservative Yeshiva

The Torah portion for Sukkot, Leviticus 23, enumerates all of the holy days, from Shabbat through the seven Yamim Tovim (plural of Yom Tov), calling all of them moadim (6 times) and mikra'e kodesh (11 times). But in truth, Shabbat shouldn't be in this list.

In the whole Torah, this is the only place where Shabbat is called a mo'ed or mikra kodesh, which makes sense because, as scholars have shown, mo'ed means a yearly "fixed time" related to the lunar calendar, and mikra kodesh means a sacred proclamation/ convocation. In ancient times, a Yom Tov was only set when the Sanhedrin declared the start of the new month, but Shabbat happens automatically every seven days independent of the lunar cycle. It is isn't declared, and involves no large-scale  gatherings!

If we look closely we can see how the text itself sets Shabbat apart. First, the line that introduces the holy days repeats, once before discussing Shabbat (23:2) and once again right after (22:4).

Second, for Shabbat it says, "Do not perform any melakha (labor)," but for each Yom Tov (expect Yom Kippur), it says instead, "Do not perform any melekhet avoda (occupational labor)." On Shabbat all creative work is prohibited, but on Yom Tov, work like cooking, lighting a fire, or carrying are permitted if needed for the holiday!

All of this helps illuminate the difference between the holiness of Shabbat vs. that of Yom Tov. Shabbat holiness is entirely divine. Nothing in the natural world signals that it is Shabbat. If you were lost in the wilderness and didn't know what day was Shabbat, the Talmud (Shabbat 69b) teaches that you just start a new seven-day cycle. Shabbat commemorates no mythical-historical event in human history. It originates with creation and is special because it is the day that God rested; we had nothing to do with it. Its presence in the 10 commandments further signals that Shabbat is a fundamental truth and our job is just to remember it and keep it.

Yom Tov holiness, however, is a human-divine partnership. Responding to the natural world's signals - the end of the rainy season, the ripening of grain, the appearance of the new moon - we fix the times and declare each Yom Tov. These days commemorate mythical-historical events, meetings of God and human beings that took place at a specific place and time: Passover - redemption from Egypt, Shavuot - revelation at Sinai, Sukkot - protection in the wilderness, Yom Kippur - forgiveness of Israel after the golden calf. For that reason, the Torah commands specific human commemorative actions: the paschal sacrifice and matzah eating, the first fruits, shofar blowing, and booth-building and 4-species waving.

The Torah portion for Shabbat Chol-HaMoed takes our understanding of the  human-divine partnership of Yom Tov even deeper, through its juxtaposition of a well-known story and some additional laws of Yom Tov.

The first half of the Torah portion is about MOSHE'S DESIRE TO SEE GOD. Moshe requests to see God's glory and God responds that one cannot see GOD'S FACE and live. So Moshe hides in the cleft of a rock as God passes by and sees God's back as the 13 attributes of divine mercy are revealed.

The second half of the Torah portion is about GOD'S DESIRE TO SEE US. Three time per year the Torah instructs us to appear before God in holy convocation - literally to appear before GOD'S FACE (34:23-24). So even though WE cannot see GOD'S FACE, through our collective holy activity on Yom Tov WE CAN BE SEEN BY A GOD WHO, ON THAT DAY, FACES US.

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!



Dvar Haftarah
By Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein, Conservative Yeshiva Faculty


Next to Shma Yisrael, the words Yitgadal v'yitkadash - "Glorious and exalted" of the Kaddish prayer probably can be counted as the most well-known phrase in the Jewish liturgy. People, however, are less familiar with its origin and significance.

These words make their debut in an eschatological vision (a vision of the end of times) found in this week's haftarah reading in which Ezekiel prophesies the demise of a demonic nation named Magog, led by a man called Gog, who will gather nations together to attack the nation of Israel. God will defeat Magog auspiciously, bringing about universal recognition of God's greatness: "Thus will I (God) manifest My greatness and My holiness (v'hitgadalti v'hitkadashti) and make Myself known among in the sight of many nations. And they shall know that I am the Lord." (38:23)

A clue to the significance of these words for the Jewish religious mindset may be found in a midrash which links these words with a very famous verse from the Torah:

You shall be holy for I the Lord your God am holy" (Leviticus 19:2)...It was taught (in a baraita): Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai said: When is the name of the Holy One Blessed be He, glorified in the world? When He exacts justice upon the wicked. And there are many verses [to support this position]: [Among them] 'Thus will I (God) manifest My greatness and My holiness (v'hitgadalti v'hitkadashti) and make Myself known among in the sight of many nations. And they shall know that I am the Lord.' (adapted from Vayikra Rabbah 24:1, Margoliot ed. pp. 549-50) 

Is it hard to see the connection between Israel's holiness and God's meting out Divine justice in the world? Rabbi Hanoch Wolf Einhorn (Maharzu, 18th century Lithuania) has a very interesting take on this question:

Can there be any comparison between the holiness of flesh and blood and God's holiness? Rather, since God is holy, we are made of holy material. Therefore, God is sanctified, as it were, in the acts of righteousness that Israel performs.

In some sense, by avoiding the context of the verse from our haftarah, Einhorn has confronted it full force. There may be a time and place where a show of God's power against one's enemies exalts His name. On a normative basis, though, we are the arbiters of sanctifying God's name in the way we act. In how we live our lives, we are agents of God's will and in every single act we perform, the potential is there for "Yitgadal v'yitkadash."


Table Talk

By Vered Hollander-Goldfarb, CY Faculty

First Days and Shabbat of Sukkot

On the chag (holiday), as well as on Shabbat that falls during the chag we read Torah sections that are related to the chagim. If you think that you have seen these readings before, you are right.

Vayikra (Leviticus) 22:26-23:44 (Reading for First Days)

1) In 22:26-33 we are given basic sacrificial rules regarding all animals. Why do you think that this was placed as part of the reading for the chag?

2) 32-36 discusses the chag of Sukkot. When should it be observed? How many of its days are holy? What may you not do on those days? What happens on the 8th day?

3) What mitzvah of Sukkot (other than sitting in the sukkah) has its source in 23:40? What do we understand this to mean today? For how many days was it done, initially? (It was changed to the full week by the rabbis after the destruction of the Second Temple.)

Shemot (Exodus) 33:12-34:26 (Reading for Shabbat Sukkot)

4) This section is part of the 'recovery process' after the Golden Calf. What does Moshe ask God for in 33:13? Why do you think that Moshe feels that he needs this to continue doing his job?

5) The section ends with the listing of 3 chagim (34:18-23). What should the people do during all of these 3 chagim? What kind of atmosphere do you think that this added to the chag?



By Rabbi Gouze:
Hilary Clinton quoted the expression, “It takes a village to raise a child” and made it famous. Well, it also takes a community in order to make sure that a synagogue runs smoothly. It does not matter how small or large a synagogue is—without volunteers and individuals who are committed to doing the planning, governance and implementation of programming, a synagogue would not be able to function.

Temple Shaare Tefilah has been blessed over the years with a number of dedicated individuals who have contributed their talents, skills, time and energy to ensuring that the work gets done. They are the backbone of the synagogue and it is due to their efforts that the synagogue has been able to flourish and negotiate the different challenges that have faced the congregation. If I were to list everyone, I would end up basically naming everybody who is a member because, at one time or another, everyone has pitched in to help, be it cooking for a Shabbat dinner, shopping for supplies, calling people for a shiva minyan, doing the mitzvah of participating in a shiva minyan, etc.

However, there are a number of people who need to be mentioned by name because they have gone over and beyond with their service to the synagogue and with the number of years that they have dedicated to the congregation. The first group of people are some of the officers of the board, namely Bev Kramer, Stu Zorn and Edith Weiner. I am sure that when they first agreed to serve, that they were not expecting their terms to be life terms but as a result of a confluence of their skill set and other individuals not being available, they have willingly and graciously served as officers for over fifteen years. And they still approach their jobs with the same commitment and sense of responsibility as when they were new to the position.

I would also like to publicly thank and commend Ken Turkewitz for his years of service, not just as President but for being the ritual chair for so many years when other individuals needed to step down for a number of reasons. Ken was always there to take over and make sure that services ran smoothly, whether they were the more relaxed and relatively easy Shaharit services or the more complex logistics of the High Holy Day services. His charts and excel sheets provided the necessary structure that helped to make the services so successful and organized. And I cannot talk about High Holy Days without mentioning Len Solomon who had the arduous task of seat assignments.

and then physically labeling the seats so that people did not feel lost when they came into services. Such a small aspect but yet, so important in helping to create a welcoming atmosphere! I also want to thank Jodie Diamand and Nina Mintzer for their logistical support for the Sisterhood Lunch & Learn, of which there were over 120 sessions over the last decade. Nina initiated it and Jodie, seeing a vacuum, just naturally stepped up to the plate when she realized that it was needed. She is also the one to chauffeur other members, who don’t have transportation, to synagogue events and services.

Marvin Wolfert, besides being the President a number of years ago, agreed to take on a leadership role that was crucial in planning the Educational Weekend that was so successful last year. But even more importantly, he has spent hours meeting with the strategic planning committee and with the committee at Temple Beth Abraham. Without his calm and patient leadership, Temple Shaare Tefilah would be facing a more uncertain and tenuous future.

Lastly, I want to publicly thank Carol Turkewitz for her tireless leadership. She is a true inspiration and role model. Her positive attitude, her optimism, her ‘can-do’ attitude has been the foundation upon which our congregation has flourished; her skills and attitude has helped us to successfully negotiate the rocky terrain of the last several years. Her energy and commitment to the synagogue is amazing and there are no words to adequately express my gratitude and deep respect for her. Temple Shaare Tefilah owes her a deep debt of gratitude because I firmly know that without her leadership, guidance and wisdom, the synagogue would not have been in the position to be able to move forward toward an equally-balanced merger.

So, thank you to all of you, for coming to services, for helping to cook, to participating in committees, to giving of your time and yourselves to the synagogue. You are what the synagogue is all about and will continue to be what it is about.

 May you always go from strength to strength.

Shalom,
Rabbi Andrea M. Gouze

Reaching out to intermarried families

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