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The Rabbi's Column

Parashat Ekev
August 11-12, 2017    -   20 Av 5777

Triennial (Deuteronomy 7:12-9:3): Etz Hayim p. 1005 Hertz p. 755
Haftarah (Isaiah 49:14-51:3): Etz Hayim, p. 1032; Hertz p. 776

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. 

A Zero-Sum Conflict?

 
By Rabbi Joel Levy, Rosh Yeshiva, the Conservative Yeshiva, Jerusalem

What does the prophet Zechariah have against "Shema Yisrael"?
 
In game theory a zero-sum game is one in which each participant's gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participants. A person cutting up a cake who takes a larger slice thereby reduces the amount of cake available for others.
 
I imagine we are all only too familiar in these difficult times with video clips of confrontations connected to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The current crisis on the mountain blew up after the killing of two Israeli Druze policemen on 14th July, since when at least five Palestinians have been killed in clashes and three Israeli civilians have been stabbed to death. Israel's moves after July 14th to ensure security on the mountain were perceived by many Palestinians as a threat to the status quo. Changes in the status quo are normally viewed by both sides as zero-sum, in other words that one side will gain at the other's expense, and are therefore resisted vigorously. The mountain is a permanent flashpoint for violence since victory for one side is perceived as defeat for the other.
 
The opening chapter of Parshat Ekev, Deuteronomy chapter 7, reads the fight for ancient Cana'an as a zero-sum conflict too: 14 You shall be blessed above all peoples... 15 And the LORD will take away from you all sickness... but will lay them upon all them that hate you. 16 And you shall consume all the peoples that the Lord your God shall deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them; neither shall you serve their gods; for that will be a snare to you. 
 
How can we Jews and Muslims immunise ourselves culturally from too simple a reading of our zero-sum texts; including this week's parasha with its repeated motifs of dispossession, violence and supremacy? Here in Israel there is a devastating correlation between religious commitment and zero-sum primitive-particularist thinking. The more observant you are as a Jew or Muslim the greater your chances of being opposed to a meaningful accommodation with the other side. Zero-sum primitive-particularist Jews and Muslims are divided by language, history and religion but united by a common vision of their own domination, uniqueness and ultimate victory. Both sides bask in religion-fuelled fantasies of zero-sum cultural supremacy.
 
The prophet Isaiah had a very different fantasy about our sacred mountain. In Isaiah chapter 2 he dreamt of a time when the mountain that is currently the source of so much fury and grief would eventually become the source of international justice, peace and prosperity: 2 And it shall come to pass in the end of days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. 3 And many peoples shall go and say: 'Come you, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 And He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
 
I pray for the day when sophisticated non-zero-sum Muslims will welcome their sophisticated non-zero-sum Jewish brothers and sisters onto our shared Holy Mountain to pray together to our co-Creator for and in peace and tranquillity, and when the idolatry of zero-sum primitive-particularism will have passed away from the world.




A  Vort Parashat Ekev
by Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, CY Faculty

Moses warns the people lest material success in the land of Israel cause them to forget the Lord and say to themselves 'I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy' (Deut 8:17).  R' Moshe of Kozhnitz (Hasidic rabbi, Poland, died 1828) said: when people are poor, down and out, they blame God, bad luck, anybody or anything but themselves.  But when they do well and become rich, they take the credit themselves rather than acknowledge the source of all wealth and the fact that they have been blessed.  The verse, he noted, speaks in the singular, but kal v'ḥomer, all the more so, it applies to the plural - to communities and even countries. A wise warning too often ignored.





Table Talk
By Vered Hollander-Goldfarb, CY Faculty
Moshe continues his review of the national history, intertwined with telling the people about the many qualities of the land that they are about to inherit and warning of what could go wrong if they leave God and the Mitzvot.

1) 7:12-15 discusses a reciprocal relationship between the people and God. What will each side do?  How will a positive response from God look? What does it tell us about what people need? This reciprocity appears again in 11:13-15 (yes, it is the second part of Shema).  How do the 2 differ? 
 
2) Moshe describes the anticipated difficulties in conquering the land, and God's help in the matter (9:1-6).  Why do you think that Moshe stresses the great effort that will be needed to take over the land? How might the people [mis]understand God's help? Why is God allowing us to conquer the land (2 reasons)?   
 
3) In recalling the event of the golden calf (9:7-29) Moshe stresses God's anger, which he had to deal with.  He does not mention how the calf came about, as it is told in Shmot 32:1-6. Why do you think that he skipped that part of the story?
 
4) After Moshe has broken the first set of tablets that contained the covenant with God, he was told to make another set of tablets, and a wooden container/ark (10:1-5). What is to be kept in the container? What do you think is the significance of creating a place to keep the tablets?
 
5) 11:10-12 contains a comparison of the agricultural reality in Israel and Egypt. How is irrigation done in each land?  Which do you think is preferable? Why?  How does it affect the relationship with God?


Shabbat Shalom,
Vered



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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