The strength to take a risk, and the humility to admit when a risk fails
In one of his discussions of this week’s Torah reading of “Vayikra,” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l (“The Sins of a Leader,” Covenant and Conversation, 5781) pointed out that in referring to sins committed by functionaries – the priests or the judges – or by the people, for which they must bring sacrifices, the word used is “if” (im) – if they should sin. But when referring to sins of the nasi, the political ruler, the word used is “when” (asher). This is the basis for an important talmudic insight. “When a leader of Israel sins and unintentionally commits one of all the commandments of the Lord, which may not be committed, incurring guilt…” (Leviticus 4, 2).
Rabbi Sacks writes: Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai summed it up with a brilliant double entendre on the word “asher”, meaning “when” in the phrase “when a leader sins.” He relates it to the word “ashrei”, which means “happy,” and says: Happy is the generation whose leader is willing to bring a sin offering for their mistakes (Tosefta, Bava Kamma, 7:5).
Rabbi Sacks comments that the unique challenge of political leadership is that it must deal with conflicting interestsContinue reading →
The weak defend themselves with humor. It can be Macaulay Culkin’s character outsmarting the burglars in the movie: “Home Alone,” or the Jews in Yiddish stories about bamboozling the non-Jewish authorities, or the protagonists in many hilarious Czech novels poking fun at the ham-fisted efforts of the Czechs’ German and, later, Russian occupiers to squelch their economy and culture. In whatever setting, we root for the scrappy underdog who turns the oppressors’ stupidity against them. We laugh at the downfall of the cruel and inept. Continue reading →
When do we find the first example of one person forgiving another, in the Torah? Perhaps in this week’s Torah portion, Parashat “Vayechi”. One of the first cases of human forgiveness is when Joseph forgives his brothers. Since “first time” stories often form an archetype, it’s worth dwelling on them. Continue reading →
“With Israeli democracy under assault in the name of Judaism, we – rabbis from across the denominational spectrum – are compelled to speak out.” Read Rabbi Michael Marmur’s new in the Times of Israel can be found HERE
by Avi Dabush (Translated from the original Hebrew)
The use of Judaism and Zionism to slander, trample and harm entire communities: LGBTQ people, secular, Arabs, leftists and anyone who does not align, is a blasphemy. This is a true call for mobilization: those for whom human dignity, human rights, humanity and Judaism are important must get off the fence and join the struggle.
The idea of blasphemy is about how people harm [religion in general] good name of Judaism through what they do. I always think about this, of course when I see defendants who, on a daily basis, do not wear a kippah put one on as they are being arraigned or remanded in court. It should be the opposite. Continue reading →
Right-wing Jewish supremacists must not be allowed to distort Torah teachings and crush foundations for long-term prosperity in this Land we hold dear!
“The attempt by the Jewish supremacist right wing to weaponize Judaism and Zionism in order to attack anyone who refuses to fall into line with their fake patriotism is nothing new. This is a well-known practice of violent and dangerous right-wing forces throughout history.”
Thinking about Karma in the Torah by Michael Zamir
In the transition from East to West, Karma received a utilitarian interpretation of “Do good, receive good”. We have received an incentive that pushes us to do good deeds, and also warns us from less good deeds, because all things come with a price tag. There is a “good” deed and a “bad” deed. There are “good” people and “bad” people. Our desire to catalog everyone as either “good” or “bad” is a trap. In this imaginary separation, we place ourselves, without a doubt, with the “good”, and protect ourselves from the “bad”. This separation, exists in our mind from the beginning of time, but it’s not connected with reality.
Reflections on the urgency of our situation by Rabbi Michael Marmur
“Hope I am Crying Wolf” From Rabbi Marmur’s TOI Blog this week
The new government will strip Israeli democracy of its assets, in the name of tradition and security. It’s going to be ugly, unless we do all we can to stop it!
Within the next few hours or days, negotiations to form a new government in Israel will be concluded. The government was elected by a democratic process, and the results must be respected. That does not mean, however, that they should be welcomed (they shouldn’t), or that we should assume things will work out well (they won’t). It seems most likely that democracy, pluralism, fundamental human rights, and the rule of law will be under relentless attack.
Rabbi Lana Zilberman Soloway shares testemony from a soldier in the IDF as well as her own observations from a visit to the historic city of Hebron in the West Bank where up to 800 soldiers are stationed to protect settlers.
Many things happened to our mother Sarah during her lifetime, but the the greatest impact she had on the Jewish future was in her death.
“Sarah died at Kiryat Arba, that is Hebron, in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her”. (Genesis 233, 2)Continue reading →
Read RHR’s most recent newsletter HERE. Avi Dabush, Executive Director of RHR, writes on living (with his young family) only a few miles from the Gaza border and shares his insights on the long suffering undergone by those on both sides of the conflict. Meanwhile, Rabbi Orit Rozenblit considers on how to be more compassionate and think of those living under devastating circumstances today.
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This essay is the latest in RHR’s series of ‘Kolot: Voices of Hope’ profiles of Israelis and Palestinians furthering the cause of peace and equality and is also presented as part of their END THE EXPULSIONS matching grant campaign from June 1 to June 30. With only one day left in RHR’s campaign, please help them to reach our goal and double the impact of your gift by giving now.
On the 21st of January 2022, Palestinian and Israeli activists gathered together at the West Bank Palestinian village of Burin to plant olive trees. Roughly corresponding with the holiday of Tu B’Shvat, olive tree planting in Palestinian villages as well as participation in the Palestinian olive harvest are longtime Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) traditions. While the activists were working, settlers from the Givat Ronen settlement descended down the hill, threw rocks at them, attacked them with clubs, and torched a car. This attack was carried out in the name of Judaism—or, should we say, in the name of a distorted version of Judaism that, among other things, subscribes to the belief that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews, and the Jews alone.
Education – RHR’s Education program brings Israeli gap year students to Jerusalem to learn about human rights & Judaism on the ground. Credit: RHR