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The Rabbi's Column

Parashat Shelah lekha
Shabbat Mevarekhim Hahodesh
June 16-17, 2017    -   23Sivan 5777

Triennial (Numbers 13:1-14:7): Etz Hayim p. 816 Hertz p. 605
Haftarah (Joshua 2:1-2:24): Etz Hayim, p. 836; Hertz p. 620

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. 

It Happened On the Night of Tisha B'Av - Some Literary Archeology
 By Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb,  CY Faculty and Coordinator, Torah Sparks

It Happened On the Night of Tisha B'Av - Some Literary Archeology
 By Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb,  CY Faculty and Coordinator, Torah Sparks

The Mishna (2nd century) in Ta'anit 4:6 tells that the sin of the spies took place on Tisha B'Av.  The Talmud (Ta'anit 29a) makes the calendrical connection, using verses.  The discussion ends as follows:
 
And it is written, "And the congregation raised its voice, and wept; and the people wept that night (Num. 14:1)." Rabbah said in the name of R. Joḥanan: That night was the night of the ninth of Av. The Holy One said to them: "You have wept without cause, therefore I will set [this day] aside for weeping throughout the generations to come."
 
The ominous tone is expanded upon in the rabbinic Midrash Tanḥuma (5th century), which shows the identity of dates (9th Av) of the story of the spies and the destruction of a temple not to be built for several centuries.  The Midrash (Tanḥuma Parashat Shlaḥ, 12) begins the same as the Talmud statement quoted above, and goes on:
 
And at that moment it was decreed that the Temple will be destroyed and [the people of] Israel will be exiled to among the nations.  For so it says: "He raised His hand concerning them that He would fell them in the desert and fell their offspring among the nations and scatter them through the lands (Psalm 106:26-27)."  A "raising of the hand" for a "raising of the voice."
 
Reading carefully, we realize that Midrash Tanḥuma developed ideas already embryonic in the Tanaḥ.  The poet in Psalms 106:24 summarizes the sins to be punished as quoted in verses 26-27 above: "They scorned the desired land/ they did not believe His word."  Understanding that the sins were scorning the land and of lack of faith in the Lord was not new; that can be seen already in our parashah (14:3, 11). The ḥidush (new insight) of the Psalmist comes in the 'consequences': the sin was so grave that it effected generations to come with a decree of a future exile from the land.
 
God's oath to carry out the decree is indicated by a "raised hand," much like the gesture commonly used today when an oath is taken.  The image first appears in Shmot 6 and is recalled in our story (Num 14:30), where God tells Moshe that He will save the Israelite people from Egypt and "bring you to the land which I raised My hand to give to Abraham, ... and I shall give it to you... (Ex. 6:8)."  An examination of the instances of this oath imagery reveals that it is almost exclusively related to the Land of Israel.  In Ezekiel 20 it is used seven times.  It indicates God's determination to bring the Jewish people into the land or to exile them from the land if they reject Him or His laws (cf. Ezek. 20:15,23).
 
The message of Midrash Tanḥuma is embedded in Biblical text a millennium before the rabbinic Midrash was recorded. By the [late?] biblical period (Ps 106 and Ez 20), possibly as a reaction to the destruction of Jerusalem, the notion of the sin of the spies as a watershed point in Jewish history had been established.  The rejection of the land and the Lord before entering the land became viewed, in retrospect, as creating a looming decree that we would be thrown out of the land that we had refused to enter. Not only would one generation fall in the desert, but future generations would exiled from the land, as marked by Tisha B'Av, and fall among the nations.

 
 
A  Vort Parashat Shelah lekha
by Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, CY Faculty


God instructs Moshe to "send a leader [nasi], just one [ish echad ish echad] from each ancestral tribe."  The Degel Macheneh Ephriam (R' Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudilkov, grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, Poland, 1748-1800) said the word Nasi contains the letters of both yesh - he has, and ein - he doesn't.  Leaders who claim they "have" usually don't; and those who are modest usually do.  R' Mordechai HaKohen (Al HaTorah, Israel early 20th C) says God stressed "just one" because when delegations are formed for trips abroad, there is no shortage of volunteers willing to go and "represent" us.










Table Talk

By Vered Hollander-Goldfarb, CY Faculty
Moshe sends a delegation (often referred to as 'the spies') to tour the land of Israel prior to entering it.  Their report causes a panic at the end of which the people get 40 years in the desert, and only the next generation will enter the land. In the second part there are several Mitzvot that might have some connection to what happened.

1) The people that were sent as part of the delegation to tour the land of Israel are listed by name (13:1-16).  What was their position among the people?  Why do you think that their names are given?

2) What information does Moshe ask the 'spies' to find answers to (13:17-20)? Why would this information be important to the people?  Why do you think that he asks them to bring back fruit from the land?

3) The people react by refusing to go the land, which is perceived as an act of lack of faith (14:2-4, 11-20).  What arguments does Moshe use to try to dissuade God from killing the nation?  Pay attention to 14:17-18; where have you heard this before? (Check Shmot 34:6-7, and the siddur.) When God agrees to forgive, what is included in that forgiveness? 

4) Following the episode of the 'spies' the Torah gives instructions pertaining to the Mishkan/Temple sacrifices (15:1-16).  This section has an interesting opening line which is not found in the instructions in Vayikra (v.2).  What is different here?  Why do you think that Mitzvot with such an opening were given at this point?

5) We close with the Mitzvah of Tzitzit.  Seeing the fringes should help us remember and do the Mitzvot, rather than follow 'our hearts [=mind] and our eyes' (15:39).  We are aware of the influence of sight on our minds, but the Torah reverses the order (first the mind then the eyes). What do you think that the Torah is telling us?

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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