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ENJOYING YOUR JEWISH HERITAGE THROUGH FOOD, FACTS AND FUN - SHABBAT SHALOM

 

 CHALLAH, WINE,  CANDLES , READ A LITTLE, TALK A LITTLE AND SING

TO ACT OR NOT TO ACT BLOG HOME WHY ABOUT US WHO FOR CONTACT WHERE LINKS FOOD FOR SHABBOS SHARING WHAT WE DO EACH SHABBOS SHABBOS LIGHT WEEKLY CONTENT SONGS - THE MUSIC
 

Joseph’s Dreaming

 

a.k.a. Parahsat VaYeshev   

 

Jacob’s son, Joseph, did shepherding with his brothers. When he was seventeen years old, he reported to his father that his brothers were in the habit of conducting themselves badly.

 

Jacob loved his son Joseph best of all his children and made him a coat of many colours. Joseph had a dream in which he saw his brothers bowing down to him, and another in which his whole family symbolically bowed to him. He told his family of his dreams. His brothers were angered and, one day, they waylaid him and threw him into a pit. Later, they sold him to a passing caravan. When they told Jacob that a wild animal had killed Joseph, Jacob was inconsolable.

 

Meanwhile, Joseph was taken to Egypt and sold to the wealthy Potiphar. Joseph flourished and became Potiphar’s chief steward. A problem arose, however, when Potiphar’s wife propositioned Joseph and then accused him of improper advances after he’d spurned her. Potiphar believed his wife’s story, and had Joseph thrown into prison.

Joseph was a model prisoner and was asked to supervise the other prisoners.

 

The butler and baker of Pharaoh’s household one day joined the prison inmates after falling out of favour. Both men dreamed disturbing dreams and Joseph interpreted the dreams for them. He said that the dreams foretold that the baker would be hung on Pharaoh’s orders, but the butler would be restored to his former position. These things came to pass.

 

The chief butler, back in Pharaoh’s service, forgot about the young man who had correctly interpreted his dream.

Commentary on the ninth parsha (portion of the Torah) 

The Torah consists of the five books of Moses, the first part of the Old Testament.

 

To get to grips with this parsha, our Supermaven, Sigmund Albert Spinoza, interviews Methuselah Solomon (an Ancient Elder). Supermaven is a modern philosopher who is trying to understand Judaism and how we got where we are. He will do this every week by investigating the Old Testament.

SAS:  Well, for me there’s no doubt this story is a masterpiece. What I particularly like is that Joseph is a rounded character. 

MS: I beg your pardon?

SAS: Well, he’s the hero of the story and we’re meant to sympathize with him, yet you make it clear that he was a tattletale and a boaster. He crowed and lorded it over his brothers. These aren’t great traits for a famous ancestor or a biblical hero.

MS: That’s part of my point. The story shows that pride comes before a fall. It was Joseph’s arrogance that caused most of his problems. But that didn’t preclude him from receiving divine protection, and blessings later in the story. Joseph was blessed of the Lord and the things he foresaw came to pass exactly as God had shown them in his dreams.

SAS: Let’s talk about those dreams. Firstly, you apparently expect us to believe that the ability to foresee the future in dreams is hereditary. Jacob was a dreamer of note, and his son inherits this amazing ability to see into the future!

MS: Did I say he inherited this ability? No, God bestowed it upon him, just as he sent dreams to Jacob.

SAS: So we are supposed to believe that the future is knowable in advance? That’s absolute nonsense and you know it is. We determine the future as we act and make decisions. The future is unknowable because people create it as they move forward in time.

MS: Yes, but since God is eternal, he knows everything that has taken place and will take place.

SAS: How boring for him. What’s the point, then, I wonder? People are free to act, but God knows exactly what they will do!

MS: Yes, he does.

SAS: Do you really expect anyone to believe that?  How could we possibly be free moral agents asked to obey divine commandments when our future actions are already known? This type of thinking is preposterous. If actions are foreknown, then they must be predetermined. And that makes us nothing less than robots following a script! Such a view destroys the notion that we are moral beings. We don’t really make choices at all. We can’t be held responsible. So God is responsible for the evils that ensue. He knows they are going to happen, and yet he allows them. 

MS: But people choose their actions – God does not choose them.

SAS: Aha! So God is bound to let events unfold exactly as he has foreseen them?

MS: No, you don’t understand – people freely make choices. It’s just that God – being God – knows what those choices will be.

SAS: Yes, but by making God omniscient, you effectively deny he is all-powerful. If God knows everything that will happen, and cannot change it, then he is bound by destiny – destiny embodied in the series of events he can foresee but cannot change.

MS: Um, I’m not sure about that. Why couldn’t he change them?

SAS: Because not even God can do the logically impossible. He cannot interrupt a series of events he knows will take place, and suddenly make them not happen! They are, by definition, events that will happen! So I say, there’s no point in even praying to God, because what must be will be irrespective of our appeals. 

MS: You are speaking in a way I don’t understand.

SAS: The simple truth, my friend, is that if events are foreknown, they are predetermined, and choice simply does not exist. So in what way is your collection of stories a guide to ethical behaviour?

MS: You said my story was a masterpiece, but now you are undermining the main theme of the story. It’s a story about the power of dreams, but you won’t even allow me my main idea – that in dreams God can show the future to one who is blessed.

SAS: My friend, we are all prepared to indulge in a suspension of disbelief when it comes to a good story. But you are never going to get a rational man like me to believe that Joseph was given information, via telepathic implant from a being in the air, that his brothers would bow to him one day, and that Pharaoh would kill his baker but reinstate his butler. Such prescience does not exist in the real world. The world is an open question.

MS: I will never stop believing that God knows everything, past, present and future. And I believe Joseph was a man given a special gift from God.

SAS: You didn’t need to turn Joseph into a mind-magician to establish his credentials as a good man. His resistance to the overtures of Potiphar’s wife is the real miracle of the story. He obeyed the seventh commandment even before God gave it to Moses!

MS: That’s because God gave him foreknowledge of this ethical demand.

SAS:  You never give up, Methuselah, do you?

 

History

 

The Parsha we have just read comes from the five books of Moses, the Torah. The dialogues between Sigmund Albert Spinoza and Methuselah Solomon are about the meaning of the Parsha.

 

What we know about Jewish History, however, is based in fact, and on historical records. 

 

If you’d like to know more about the real history of our extended Jewish family, read on. 

 

The Jews in Spain: From the 14th century till the Inquisition

 

By the beginning of the 14th century in Spain, anti-Semitism was widespread. Fortunately, Pedro I was well disposed towards Jews, but his civil war opponents targeted Jews for robbery and slaughter. When Pedro was finally defeated and beheaded, in 1369, Jewish persecution followed. New laws prevented Jews from serving as financial agents, and separation from Christians was strictly enforced.

 

In 1390, on the death of King John I, a political vacuum developed and lawlessness was rife. Fanatics demanded that Jews either be baptized or killed, and a riot followed in Seville that saw 4000 Jews murdered. Shortly after this, 2000 Jews in Cordoba were slain and the Jewish quarter was burnt to the ground. Massacres followed in Toledo, Valencia, Palma, Barcelona and Lerida. In the 15th century, fear of death led to conversions in several cities. Jews who would not convert were confined to the Jewish quarter and prevented from working in most occupations. More and more restrictions followed, resulting in virtual exclusion from the wider community, and dire humiliation.

 

One source of humiliation was the institution of public debates between Christians and Jews. The first such event had taken place in Paris in 1240 after Pope Gregory IX had banned the Talmud. The debating bug bit Spain, as historian Paul Johnson shows, but it soon became obvious that these events were, in effect, show trials in which Jewish views were attacked and undermined. When the final debate took place in Tortosa in 1413-1414, the audience was loaded with Christian prelates and noblemen and Jews were on the back foot from the start.

Meanwhile, priests moved through the Jewish communities, securing converts while the Jewish leadership was preoccupied with these bogus debates. Conversion was a serious, ongoing temptation. Many Jews who converted found doors opening as a result of their varied skills. The converts (conversos) didn’t flourish for long. Popular feeling rose against them and a number of Jews were killed in Toledo in 1449. Riots broke out in Ciudad Real in 1464, 1467 and 1474. The words of Rabbi Yitzhak Arama, says Johnson, resonated for converts: “You will find no rest among the gentiles, and your life will hang in the balance.”

Reports of crypto-Jews convinced King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that they needed to test the faithfulness and orthodoxy of the conversos, and in 1478 they established the Inquisition in Castille in terms of a papal bull. It soon spread to eight Castilian cities. Then Pope Sixtus IV appointed Tomas de Torquemada Inquisitor General in Aragon, Valencia and Catalonia. From 1480 to 1530 the Spanish Inquisition was in full cry. While the Inquisition tested the faith of professing Christians generally, it focused primarily on Jewish converts and most of the approximately 2000 people executed during this time were Jews.

On 31 March, 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella ordered the expulsion of all practising Jews from Spain. They could either accept baptism by 31 July, or leave. Conservative estimates have it that 40,000 left. Others claim a much larger Jewish exodus to Portugal, Morocco, North Africa, the Ottoman Empire and a number of European cities. From 1531 to 1560, conversos made up only 3% of Inquisitorial defendants. However, that percentage rose and fell as fresh allegations of crypto-Judaism surfaced and subsided. The Spanish Inquisition ended only in 1834.

Jews who left Spain in 1492 continued to speak Ladino. Also known as Judezmo, Dzhudezmo, Spaniolit, Sephardi and Judeo-Spanish, it is a hybrid of Old Castilian and Hebrew. It is still spoken by some Sephardic Jews today and is an abiding part of the legacy of the Jews in Spain.

 

Here follows a discussion on this historical segment by the Father, Chaya and Ben.

 

Three celebrants can read the parts of Ben, Chaya and their father

 

BEN: Well, we Jews didn’t last long in Spain once the Christians targeted us. But it’s still difficult for me to understand what the unrestricted hatred and persecution of the Jews in Spain was about. 

DAD: Sometimes a frenzy overtakes people, particularly if they believe that what they are doing is divinely motivated. 

CHAYA: But what religion urges, or allows, its followers to go out and kill thousands of people? 

DAD: Part of the problem with religion is what people take literally as commandments of their faith, and what they understand metaphorically. So much harm has been done in the name of faith, because people cannot tolerate otherness. 

BEN: They must feel very threatened to feel that they need to eliminate anything that is different. 

CHAYA: I suppose they do. But surely the Inquisition was about more than people feeling threatened? 

DAD: You’re right about that of course. The Inquisition gained a life and a momentum of its own, and was probably more about the power of the Grand Inquisitor than it was about Jews or Christians. 

BEN: That doesn’t help much now, to know that.  

DAD: I think it always helps to know as much as possible about what happened. It is only through understanding our history that we are able to live in the present and prepare for the future. 

CHAYA: What about all those Jews who converted and weren’t killed? There must be thousands of people in Spain today who actually have Jewish antecedents. 

DAD: It’s very likely. Many of the conversos were killed anyway, but many others survived, either as crypto-Jews or as practising Christians. 

BEN: It’s weird to think that a whole lot of Spanish Catholics may in fact be descended from Jews or Muslims. I suppose that eventually your genetic heritage doesn’t mean anything. 

CHAYA: I’m not so sure about that. 

BEN: This is an argument we will continue to have, I think. But where you grow up is very important, isn’t it? 

DAD: Well, the madness that overtook Spain during the Inquisition made sure that all practising Jews, and effectively Judaism, were eliminated from Spain.  Many Jews however bear their Spanish heritage very proudly, despite the wrongs that the Spanish authorities and populace perpetrated on them. 

Sayings 

·        Be sure to send a lazy man for the Angel of Death.

·        With money in your pocket you are wise, you are handsome and you sing well too.

·        Pessimism is a luxury that a Jew can never allow himself (Golda Meir).

·        Where there’s smoke there may be smoked salmon.

·        If it tastes good, it’s probably not kosher.

 

Celebration of Great Lives 

Leon Blum (1872-1950)

Leon Blum was the first socialist Prime Minister of France. A brilliant lawyer, he had social ideas way ahead of his time. He advocated that young girls should have as much freedom as young men and advocated trial marriages. The scandalous Dreyfus Affair of 1894 where Dreyfus, a Jewish French Army officer, was convicted of treason on the basis of evidence which was later proved to be false, outraged him. Blum was brought into active politics on the side of the republican Dreyfusards, and his close association with Jean Jaurès, whom he greatly admired, eventually led to his joining Jaurès' French Socialist Party in 1904. In 1936 he became the Prime Minister and introduced the 40-hour week and paid vacations. In 1940 he was arrested by the Vichy Government and tried but conducted such a brilliant defence that the Germans abandoned the case. He ended up in a concentration camp and was released by the Americans in 1945. After the war Blum returned to politics, and was again briefly Prime Minister in the transitional postwar coalition government. He is regarded as one of the great figures of French and International Socialism and was a supporter of the State of Israel.

 

Donna Gracia Mendes Nasi (1510-1569) 

Donna Gracia maintained a Catholic exterior while secretly practising Judaism. After her husband Francisco Mendes died, she moved to Antwerp where she eventually took over the reins of the Mendes trading empire. She was a hugely successful businesswoman, and used her money and influence to protect crypto-Jews, free hostages and bribe a pope to delay the Portuguese inquisition! After living in Venice, she moved to the Ottoman Empire and lived openly as a Jew. She used her money to build synagogues and sponsor scholars. When, in 1556, the Pope ordered 24 Jews to be burnt at the stake in Portugal, Donna Nasi organised a boycott of the port city of Ancona. Known as the “Esther of her time”, she sponsored yeshivas and hospitals, and helped to develop Jewish settlements in the town of Tiberias (Tverya), Palestine, which she leased from a sultan. One of the synagogues she built in Istanbul is still standing and is named after her (La Senora).

 

Song

We will now sing a traditional song to conclude our Shabbat celebration. You have a copy of the words, so please join in as we sing.

 

The song is sung  

Farewell and an Invitation 

Thank you for joining together to share our Shabbat. May you go out into the new week with renewed strength, confidence and happiness. 

 

We now cordially invite you to join us for some coffee and cake.  

 

 

HOW TO SING THE SONGS
ADON OLAM WORDS
Adon Olam David Solid Gould & The Temple Rockers
ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS
ALLE BRUDER SONG
ALLE BRIDER SONG
AL KOL ELEH WORDS
AL KOL ELEH
BASHANA words
BASHANA SONG
BEI MIR BIST DU SHEYN
BEI MIR BIST DU SCHEYN SONG
BMBDS song
CHIRIBIM WORDS
CHIRIBIM Song
DAYENU WORDS
DAYENU SONG ENGLISH
DAYENU SONG
DONNA DONNA
DONNA DONNA SONG
HALLELUYA
HALELUJA KARAOKE
HATIKVA
HATIKVA SONG
HATIKVA SONG
DAYENU
HATIKVA WORDS
HATIKVA SONG 1
HAVA NAGILA WORDS
HAVA NAGILA SONG
HAVA NAGILA KARAOKE
HAVEINU SHALOM ALEICHEM
HEVENU SHALOM ALEICHEM WORDS
HEVENU SHALOM ALECHEM SONG
HINEH MA TOV WORDS
JERUSALEM THE GOLD WORDS
JERUSALEM THE GOLD KARAOKE IVRIT
JERUSALEM THE GOLD SONG
JERUSALEM THE GOLD JARAOKE
MAYIM MAYIM WORDS
MAYIM MAYIM DANCE
OIF'N PRIPITSCHOK song
OSE SHALOM
OSE SHALOM SONG
PAPI ROS'N
PAPIROS'N SONG
PARTISAN SONG 1
PARTISAN SONG
PARTISAN SONG MUSIC
RABBI ELIMELEKH
RABBI ELIMELEKH SONG
AS DER REBE SINGT
AS DER REBBE SINGT LEONARD COHEN
AS DER REBBE SINGT SONG
RAISINS WITH ALMONDS WORDS
SIMANTOV U MAZELTOV WORDS
SIMAN TOV MUSIC
MAZELTOV CLARINET
TUMBALALAIKA WORDS
TUMBALALAIKA MUSIC
TUMBALALAIKA MUSIC
TZENA TZENA
TZENA TZENA
TZENA TZENA 4
TZENA TZENA The Weavers
TZENA TZENA WORDS
ALLE BRIDER KLEZMATICS
ALLE BRIDER KLEZMATICS
HATIKVA STREISAND
HATIKVA STREISAND
BIM BAM SHABBAT SHALOM FOR KIDS
BIM BAM SHABBAT SHALOM FOR KIDS
YO EN ESTANDO - SEPHARDIC
ELIYAHU SEPHARDIC
SEPHARDIC SONG
SEPHARDIC SONG 3
Sholem Aleichem Susan Allen
Shalom Aleichem Susan Allen
OTHER VERSIONS OF SONGS
DUVID CROCKET WORDS
DUVID CROCKET MICKEY KATZ
MODERN PASSOVER SONGS
This will help you find yourself]