Shabbat Shalom and G'mar Hatima Tova (May we all be sealed for good this year),
SHABBAT SHUVA -- PARSHAT HA'AZINU
Deuteronomy 32:1-52 (we read the entire portion every year, regardless of the Triennial system year)
HAFTARAH: Hosea 14:2-10; Joel 2:15-27
THIS SHABBAT, KNOWN ON THE CALENDAR AS "SHABBAT SHUVAH," IS NAMED AFTER THE
FIRST WORD OF THE HAFTARAH.
Parashat Ha'azinu is the shortest parasha in the Torah. It consists of only one chapter of just fifty-two lines. The first 47 lines are a song that Moses sings at the threshold of the Promised Land, within hearing distance of all the people of Israel. Ha'azinu hashamayim, he begins. "Give ear, O heavens, let me speak; let the earth hear the words I utter!" (Deuteronomy 32:1).
Moses praises God, saying that all God's deeds are perfect and all God's ways are just. God created and sustained the people, caring for them in the desert and feeding them. If they forget God, God will make them suffer. If they return to God, God will be merciful and protect them. Moses tells the people "Take to heart all the words with which I have warned you this day. Enjoin
them upon your children, that they may observe faithfully all the terms of this Teaching. For this is not a trifling thing for you: it is your very life..." (Deuteronomy 32:46-47). In the concluding five lines, God speaks to Moses, telling him to climb Mount Nebo and view the Promised Land from there, for he will die on that mountain.This week's Haftarah portion is taken from the prophets Hosea and Joel. It
was selected not for its relevance to the Torah portion, but rather for its relevance to the Ten Days of Repentance. It focuses on the theme of repentance which permeates the High Holy Days liturgy.
All of us are concerned at the week's events in Israel; concerned and more than likely confused. In matters like these, the question always seems to be "Who's to blame?" That's a fruitless exercise. I've received several emails just today, all with the same forwarded message about the New York Times' culpability in identifying a bloodied Jewish victim of the fighting as an Arab. The matter is deplorable, and in fact it was the AP that was at fault, not the Times, but the matter is a needless distraction. We know that there have been victims on both sides. There's plenty of blame to go around. What matters is ending the cycle of violence, and then returning the task of peacemaking, if the opportunity still presents itself. I've found the statements made by Israeli officials, including the one forwarded to you earlier this week, to be refreshingly human, conciliatory and forward looking, while not disregarding the security needs of soldiers and settlers in the line of fire.
This is not a time for anger, but of great sadness and heshbon ha-nefesh (soul searching) as befits the season. Avraham Burg's op-ed in the Times yesterday is a good place to begin, "I Was For peace, Now What?" What follows is a first-hand account of the situation in the Galilee, where Israeli Arabs rioted this week, in perhaps the most disturbing development of all for Israeli Jews. You can hear the anguish in his words. It behooves us to read them:
I have not spoken to other colleagues, but can only give my perspective, from my hilltop in the Galilee, where I sat on my balcony last night watching the JNF forests across the wadi burning, hearing the rhythmic chanting of the demonstrating young men of the village of Shaab. I have a few disconnected comments:
1. Having spent the past 5 years showing off the Galilee as a model of civilized coexistence "despite everything", this is very sad, and worrying about the future. On the other hand, one cannot judge historical events while they are taking place. My secretary, and our chef's assistant, both Moslem Arabs from Galilean villages, have arrived at work with no problem and "can't understand what all the fuss is about." My assumption is that there is certainly a change going on in the consciousness of the Arabs here,
but that when the current crisis settles, we will be able to deal with this change in the context of a return to everyday coexistence.
2. While I am no expert, I would suggest that the Israeli Arabs have been caught in a double marginalization: they are expected to distance themselves from the struggle of their "brothers" in the territories and to be loyal citizens - but this government like its predecessor has made it abundantly clear that they are not really seen as equal citizens. On the other hand, by being "good citizens" of Israel they are perceived as betraying their Palestinian identity. We have essentially told them that they may not be
Palestinians, but we don't really think they are Israelis either. So what is left for them to be? What would you do if you were in their place? What would I do? Well, actually, I am pretty sure I would not throw stones and set fires, and I can't understand how anyone thinks that is useful or right. Same as I felt about Los Angeles and Detroit.
3. Regarding the territories I am even less of an expert. It does seem clear that Arik Sharon, hard as it is for me to say this, was probably not responsible for this outbreak of violence. It does seem to have been planned, and had begun before his infamous (and in my leftist opinion, stupid and unnecessary) visit to the Holy of Holies. It seems to me that given the situation "on the ground," as long as we continue to occupy the areas that we occupy, and must defend the settlements that we must defend, then we have no choice but to shoot back when fired upon. And there is no question (I think) that we have been fired upon, not just by children with stones. And in this situation, in the end, our superior fire power will inflict major casualties on the Palestinians. So their violence has trapped us into being more violent; clever - just like Indian non-violence trapped the British. Can't really just walk away; can't just blow them away; we'll just have to squirm in this trap until we can negotiate a way out of it.
4. Is it my Reform background? Am I the only one who finds a smidgen of idolatry in the cult of the Western Wall, Temple Mount, Jerusalem the eternal and undivided?
We need to discuss this situation in greater detail, and we will at services this Shabbat morning.
Friday night: Candle lighting at 6:10. Tot Shabbat at 7:15, with Nurit. Our main Kabbalat Shabbat service will be at 8:00 PM, and we're back in the chapel for the season. Please disregard the time listed in the Advocate this week -- it always takes them a few weeks to get it right.
In the morning we've got monthly birthday blessings and regular children's services. We've got no Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, namings ufrufs or major holidays this Shabbat. Just a nice, quiet time to come together. Join us!
1) ...to bring your filled food bags for Yom Kippur (if you didn't get a bag - don't despair, use one of your own). We're also looking for people to unload the food on Tuesday at Person to Person.
2) ...that early bird deadline for Saturday Night Live at Temple Beth El is October 11. Help welcome our new members at this fun evening.
3) ...to order your lulav sets from the Hazzan by Tuesday and to sign up in the school office to join us on our first annual Sukkah-hop a week from Sunday (whether or not you have a Sukkah of your own)
4)... to invite non-affiliated friends to come to a Beginner's Service on Yom Kippur day at 3, after which they can remain her for Mincha, Yizkor and Ne'eila.
5) ... to stay until the end of the Musaf service on Yom Kippur, when we'll be featuring the poetry of Yehuda Amichai in the moving Eileh Ezkera (Martyrology) section.
6) ...to bring all children born since last Yom Kippur to the pulpit for a special blessing just before the final shofar blast on Yom Kippur
7) ... for all kids to take part in our spectacular Havdalah glow-stick parade, also at the end of Yom Kippur's final (Neilah) service. During Ne'ilah we'll also continue our new custom of inviting congregants to come up to the opened ark for personal, private prayer.
8)...to fast. Check out a fine explanation at Jewish Family.com to see what that entails: It's at
It's a great site to bookmark, BTW, and to explore for more information on the holidays.
9)...And speaking of Yom Kippur, please remember that it is disrespectful to enter or leave the sanctuary while the ark is open (and to insult ushers just trying to do their jobs). We also are obligated to love our neighbors as ourselves -- that means to respect our neighbors' property and dignity. And we are still quite saddened that a few of our teens treated our own property -- their own temple -- with such disrespect last week. Finally, the orange stickers on the pews indicate that those seats are available to sit in.
GAIL TRELL HONORED
Our own "Woman of the Year", Gail G. Trell will be honored by United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Connecticut Valley Region, at their meeting on November 5. Let' s really show our support for Gail by planning to attend that meeting. For more information, please call Roberta Aronovitch our Executive Director.
One final "Kappara." If there is anything that I have done to offend you over the past year, please forgive my misdeed.