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    Sabbaths & sanctuaries – K’doshim

    April 26th, 2015

    KedoshimK’doshim says, “Keep my Sabbaths and respect My sanctuary” (Lev. 19:30). Targum Onkelos adds two words for the sake of greater clarity: “Keep My Sabbath days” (which shows, says Sforno, that the phrase includes festivals) and “respect My sacred House” (which Rashi and others say includes all the Temple precincts).

    Both innovations are important: the festivals must be observed with Sabbath-like dedication, and not only in the Temple itself but in its surrounds people must behave reverently.

    Another possibility is that the original verse is an example of Biblical parallelism in which the two halves of the passage say the same thing in different words, and thus “respect My sanctuary” refers to the Sabbath. Shabbat is the epitome of holiness. Being holy people, which is what the Torah commands at the beginning of K’doshim, means investing time’s peaks with sacredness.

    The other verses in the portion speak of ethical relationships, further illustrating the concept of holiness. Being holy means attaching sanctity to every place, every moment, every thought and every situation.


    Hard to be a shopkeeper – K’doshim

    April 26th, 2015

    scale justicA shochet once came to Rabbi Yisrael Salanter and said, “I want to change my job. It’s too hard to be a shochet – too great a responsibility. Imagine, if I do something wrong the community will be eating t’refah!”

    Rabbi Salanter asked, “So what job are you planning to move to?” “I think I’ll open a shop,” came the answer.

    “Not a good idea at all,” replied Rabbi Salanter. “You’re worried about the responsibility of being a shochet? It’s even harder to be a shopkeeper! Parashat K’doshim is full of commandments for shopkeepers – ‘Do not steal’, ‘Do not defraud’, ‘Do not deal falsely’, ‘Do not exploit others’, ‘Do not have false weights and measures’… running a business is so demanding, and God expects so much of you!”


    Slandering your own people – K’doshim

    April 26th, 2015

    gossip whisper talk lashon hara slanderA verse in K’doshim tell us, “Do not spread gossip among your people” (Lev. 19:16).

    Taken literally, it means, “Don’t be a gossip-mongerer amongst the members of your community” – important advice at any time. But the Baal Shem Tov read the words differently. According to him, the verse is a warning against spreading nasty comments about the people of Israel.

    What a pertinent interpretation for our own time! The Baal Shem was saying, if you can’t speak positively about your own people, don’t speak at all. Enough, too many, outsiders already say malicious things about Jews and Israel. Jews don’t have to join their band-wagon.

    Isaac Deutscher wrote a book called “The Non-Jewish Jew”. The non-Jewish Jew of today is the person who maligns Israel and other Jews, who thinks it’s smart, clever, pleasant to join our enemies. As a rule they go to other countries to do it, and all they achieve is bringing themselves into disrepute and making things worse for those who are doing their level best to support Jews, Judaism and the Jewish State.


    Equal rights – Ask the Rabbi

    April 26th, 2015

    Q. In the eyes of God, do we all have equal rights?

    Equal RightsA. Some countries have a Bill of Rights that spells out people’s entitlements. But many of us claim all sorts of extras – not just free medicine, free education and free handouts, but special status, influence and regard. In some cases there is an actual right which was won after a long struggle; in others there is a broad consensus, such as that nations are entitled to self-determination; in others the “rights” are wishful thinking.

    The question of equal rights raises the deeper question of equal status. Are we all equally important in the eyes of God, i.e. in a philosophical sense?

    The answer has nothing to do with our size (“I’m bigger than you, therefore I’m worth more”), with our colour (“I’m white, therefore I’m superior”), with our voice (“I can shout louder, therefore I matter more”), with our heredity (“My father was a great man, therefore I’m special”). Nor does it depend on how much we have in the bank, how many cars we have, how much social standing or political influence we possess.

    A person’s status is intrinsic to their personness. The Tosefta (Sanhedrin chapter 8) says that Adam was created alone so that no-one could claim that they had a better measure of natural endowment. Psalm 145 teaches that God’s mercies extend over all His creatures. The Tanchuma to Deut. 29:9 says that no-one is better just because they’re male, female, young, old, of high rank or lowly. The prophets say, “Has not one Father created us all?” (Mal. 2:10).

    Yes, I know that this is not always how it works in a diverse and often defective world, but the equality of all human beings in the eyes of God remains the ideal.


    ANZAC Centenary Prayer

    April 22nd, 2015

    ANZAC imageAlmighty Creator of Mankind:

    We turn to You on this centenary anniversary of the historic events at Gallipoli –

    In admiration for the courage and determination of the men of Australia and New Zealand who tackled a Mission Impossible in April 1915;

    In humble homage to the brave souls who lost their lives in the campaign:

    They who grew not old, but their families never ceased to mourn them;

    In recognition that this was the testing moment

    That brought this country solidarity and maturity;

    In the prayer that world war may never again engulf human beings and nations.

    In the midst of memory and pride

    May we never forget that war is horror,

    And peaceful striving for life, health and happiness

    Is the greatest blessing You can grant.

    May the nations of the Middle East and all the peoples of the globe

    Find the way to respect each other and live in harmony;

    May Australia and New Zealand serve this ideal in the counsels of the nations

    And help to achieve a world in which

    Every human being shall sit under their own vine and fig tree

    And none shall make them afraid.

    May this be Your will, and let us say Amen.