Tisha B’Av – Confronting Destruction | Social Justice: Advocacy for Food Security

Social Justice: Advocacy for Food Security

L-R: Ishai Menuhin, Mazon-Israel; Adv. Becky Keshet, Rabbis for Human Rights
MK Meirav Cohen, Yesh Atid, Dorit Adler, President, Israeli Forum for Sustainable Nutrition

In recent weeks our Social Justice team have been fighting tirelessly to overturn a sudden government decision which stopped food stamps reaching 6,000 families across Israel.

Last week, at a hearing called by MK Meirav Cohen (Yesh Atid) who chairs the Knesset Committee for Caring for Holocaust Survivors, the Government reversed their decision and food stamps will be issued to the families who has been blocked.

We are proud to work shoulder-to-shoulder on the issue of food security with our partners: Mazon – a Jewish Response to Hunger; and the Israeli Forum for Sustainable Nutrition.

Confronting Destruction on Tisha B’Av

Tisha B’Av is a major Jewish fast day, commemorating the destruction of the Temple and other catastrophes which have befallen the Jewish People. This is a day for communal reflection on tragedy, and an opportuntiy to face other injustices and destruction taking place today.This Tisha B’Av, July 27th, we are running a public tour of Palestinian communities which have recently been destroyed, in partnership with Torat Tzedek, Oz VeShalom, the Faithful Left, and All That’s Left. We will be visiting the bedouin village of Ein Samia which was recently abandoned and destroyed following intense settler violence.If you would like to join us, please sign up here or click on the photo below for the Facebook event.

Click on the photo to sign up

How Does a Story Begin? – Not Like You Think

An Introduction to the Book of Deuteronomy
By: Rabbi Talia Avnon Benveniste


How does a story begin?

From the moment that something real collapses and breaks.

Granted, we were taught to think that a story begins with lengthy descriptions about the period or the place where the plot unfolds. We were taught to look for clues or encrypted codes that can suggest the inevitable ending. But that’s incorrect. A story actually begins from the moment that something sharp falls and smashes into pieces. The beginning is never created from a subtle hint. A story begins with shattering reality and its defenses.

We see this idea illustrated in Deuteronomy, the final book of the Torah.
We might expect that the last book of the Torah would continue the story of the Israelites’ amazing desert journey to a new land with new plots that depict battles and struggles, hunger or diseases, places or landscapes, miracles, revelations, curses, or magic. Instead, Deuteronomy is a book about mourning, an ending, and parting from Moses. His death will mark the beginning of a new story.

And when a great bridge that connects two banks bears the daily weight of pedestrians and travelers, who for years have gone back and forth, is stable and resilient against bad winds or storms, no one asks what will happen if the bridge collapses one day. The questions arise only after the bridge falls down. Suddenly, everyone’s interested in the bridge: How will we reach our destination without it? Who will show us the way? Who will connect yesterday and tomorrow for us? Moses was that bridge for the Israelites. He represents a bridge between their lives as an enslaved people in a foreign land and as a free people in their homeland.

Moses knows all too well that leading the Jewish people means carrying a tremendous burden. He was a bridge that didn’t collapse, despite numerous cracks. He also knows that he’s going to die soon, but a critical question remains unanswered: Who will replace him? Who will continue the extraordinary story of a people that lost their home, identity, freedom, and leadership?

No one knows the answers, except Moses, who tells the Israelites: “I cannot bear the burden of you by myself” (Deuteronomy 1:9). His last words are the path to tomorrow for the Jewish people.

Genesis Rabbah describes societies that lack worthy leaders: “A man who was traveling from place to place saw a palace in flames. He said, ‘Is it possible that this palace is without an owner?‘” (39:1).

Today, we’re seeing our own palace in flames. We’re looking for leaders who can carry our weight as a diverse nation that needs a wide, stable bridge. Our Judaism is on fire. Our Jewish state is in flames with fires set by extremists. Bridges we once had to the past are losing their ability to support the weight of Jewish life here and now – bridges between tradition and progress, between communities and worldviews, and between answers and questions are losing their ability to support the heavy weight of Jewish life here and now.

However, as in the Genesis Rabbah commentary, if we ask God who is inside the palace being consumed by flames, God will have an answer: You. Us.
I gave you this land, this Torah, this blessing, and this nation at this time.

As Moses says in Devarim to all of us:
How can I bear unaided the trouble of you, and the burden, and the bickering! Pick from each of your tribes’ representatives who are wise, discerning and experienced, and I will appoint them as your heads” (Deuteronomy 1:12-13).

You are the path,
You are the bridge,
You are the leaders,
You are the future,
You are the promise.
We take wandering through this land upon ourselves.
With loving hands, God gave us the Torah and leadership.

Fires will continue to burn wherever there are thoughts, questions, and new interpretations. Fresh ideas always ignite previous worlds, but love and devotion will forever be in the middle of the fire, at the core of the story, in the place where new beginnings are formed. As long as devotion overtakes the fire, our Torah will continue to exist.

We constantly share in this process. We add our voices to the history of those who salvaged theories and beliefs from the fire. They looked for those beliefs when they were lost, reviving them while passing them from person to person. We sing an amazing prayer to the next generation to carry on.
Rabbi Talia Avnon Benveniste is the head of the Israeli Beit Midrash for Reform Rabbis at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem.

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