THE GOOD SHABBOS COMMUNITY

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
 

 

Rewards and Punishments 

 

a.k.a. Parashat Bechuqotai (Leviticus 26:3 – 27: 34)

 

If the Israelites proved faithful, God guaranteed them rain and an abundance of food. God also promised them victory in war and peace as a result, as well as protection from wild beasts. In battle, God promised success in spite of any numerical advantages the enemy might have. God promised, too, that the population would increase.

God promised to dwell among his people and never abandon them.

However, if the people broke God’s rules and the covenant, he would punish them according to their actions. There would be physical illness, their enemies would ravage their crops, and they would be defeated in battle and be subservient to their foes.

If such punishment had no effect, God would increase the people’s afflictions sevenfold to pay the people for their arrogance. Their hard work would prove fruitless and their crops would fail.

And if this bred defiance and bitterness in the people, God’s punishment would again increase sevenfold. Wild beasts would ravage their children and their livestock, and the community would dwindle.

If such harsh punishment did not do the trick, God would weigh in with another sevenfold increase in punishment. The people would be put to the sword. Disease would drive the people out of their walled cities and into the clutches of their enemies. There would not be enough food to keep the people alive.

And if these punishments still bred defiance in the people, God promised to reduce them to a state in which they cannibalized their own sons and daughters.

God would lay waste the people’s cities and temples and reject their worship. So dreadful would the devastation be that even Israel’s enemies would be left aghast.

The Jews would then be scattered among the nations of the earth. Only then would the vacated land experience respite from the devastation.

Those Jews surviving in the Diaspora would become nervous wrecks, fleeing even at the sound of rustling leaves. They would lose their identities among the Gentiles and have to face the threat of extinction. During this terrible journey towards oblivion, the people would recognize their defiance of God and their guilt.

If in this downcast condition the people made amends for their guilt, God would remember his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Still, the people would have to make good their debt – for a time – by living among their enemies.

These were the terms laid down by God on Mount Sinai when making his pact with the Israelites.

Then God told Moses that if a person wanted to make a special vow in which he consecrated a person to God, or property such as an animal, a piece of land or a house, then an amount should be paid in silver shekels according to a priest’s evaluation of the consecrated item, or according to a table of evaluation God provided which reflected the ages of the consecrated people.

God also specified a set of rules relating to the redemption of the consecrated item, which usually involved the payment of a penalty of one-fifth the valuation price.

God identified gifts that could not be dedicated through a vow. These included firstborn animals that automatically belonged to God.

If people or property were devoted to God rather than consecrated, then such gifts could not be redeemed – not even to spare the life of a person whose life had been dedicated to God.

These concluded the commandments God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai.

 

Commentary on the 33rd 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: Oh dear, Methuselah! Here God is depicted in very human terms indeed. So much so that he becomes instantly recognizable as an archetypal figure. This is not an infinitely just and merciful God speaking, but a typical Ancient Near Eastern tyrant setting down the terms of a vassal treaty with the people he’d agreed to protect. “If you obey me, I will reward you … cross me, and I will punish you. I am your master and you are my subject people…”

MS: Why should God not use such a form when talking to his people? What better way to get them to understand that they were bound together in a contractual relationship that brooked no avoidance of obligations!

SAS: Well, the simple answer for me is that a God who uses man-made contracts might easily be supposed to be a fictional character created by men. Assuming for a moment that you are right, and God is not man-made, when we look to the heavens, we would surely expect a loftier example of a covenant. The tone of this is that of a local tyrant laying down the law. He sounds cruel and bloodthirsty! It doesn’t sound to me as if the people had much input into this contract, by the way. It sounds pretty “take it or leave it” to me.

MS: Why look at the contract so negatively? The first option, which God obviously prefers, is that the people prove faithful and he is able to give them the wonderful rewards of peace and prosperity that he has in mind.

SAS: It’s natural for a reader to dwell on the negative connotations of the covenant when God himself highlights them. He takes a rhetorical delight in constructing the increasingly harsh repetitions of his vengeance until he reaches the nadir in which the people eat their own children in a desperate descent into barbarity! Why does God not emphasize the positive consequences of obeying the covenant and direct the people’s minds towards these instead?

MS: You are foolish and naïve, my friend! Remember the times! Only a people with a strong and firm ruler could prosper. The people had to know that God had strict rules and that covenants came with serious conditions attached. 

SAS: Serious conditions? I think the word “draconian” might serve us better here. God’s penchant for punishment and humiliation is all too evident. When he talks about even Israel’s enemies being shocked at what might befall the people, he promises a level of “payback” that seems brutal and excessive. He delivers his threats in language that indicates relish at the prospect of teaching the people a serious lesson.

MS: No, he was simply pointing out the terrible consequences of disloyalty. Without God’s protection, they could very well cease to be a people entirely! God was warning them of the world’s dangers, as any good protector should. In the relationship, they were children, and they had to be shown – as children must be shown – just what lay out there if they were disobedient.

SAS: Do we think that children should be in the business of signing contracts that they barely understand? In outlining this compendium of horrible fates and calling it a contract, does God actually show his love and concern for his people?

MS: Yes! Is that so hard for you to understand? The covenant could only go wrong if the people rebelled against God! It all depended on them in the end.

SAS: Did it? The trouble with this covenant is that the human subjects were never likely to come up to scratch according to God’s strict and demanding terms, and his very high expectations. The people were signing up to a treaty that they were never going to be able to fulfill. A tribe of desert nomads can’t meaningfully enter into a contract with a supposedly infinite being. Can’t you see the psychology of this? In our own, fervent imaginations, we are setting ourselves up for failure and a lifetime of punishments. Is this how Jewish guilt got started? We can never live up to God’s expectations of us and he is going to be very, very cross when he finds out.

MS: That is a perverse interpretation of the covenant. There is nothing that suggests that either God or the people had prejudged what would happen in their relationship. This text is purely about the terms of the relationship and the possible consequences.

SAS: On the surface, yes, but look at the weaknesses of the contract. Punishments exist for “defiance” but no legal definition of such defiance is provided. The people are to place themselves at the mercy of an overlord who will do all the interpreting. What’s in it for them?

MS: Well, this is a type of vassal treaty, as you said, not a negotiated settlement. As you point out, it is not a contract between equals. It is a protection treaty. The people understood this, and we understand it today, too.  

SAS: So, the people are actually paying the bully protection money? Is that what it boils down to? You trust this “God” a lot more than I do.

MS: Well, I have every reason to do so. We as a people have lasted a long time, and thrived in his care.

 

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 German Response to the Holocaust 

In 1949 Konrad Adenauer, the first Chanceller of the Federal Republic of Germany, recognized his country’s need to atone for Nazi atrocities. In terms of the Luxembourg Reparations Agreement of 1952, West Germany paid 3 billion DM to Israel and 4.5 million DM to a range of Jewish organizations. Direct compensation was later paid to individual victims of Nazi atrocities.

West Germany and Israel established diplomatic relations in 1965, and the relationship has grown significantly. State visits between the countries take place regularly, and both countries’ cabinets met in Israel in early 2008 to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary.

Agreements have been signed relating to the environment, education and defense, and Chancellor Angela Merkel has affirmed Germany’s support of the Jewish state. She spoke of Germany’s “Holocaust shame” in the Knesset.

Germany is Israel’s largest trading partner in Europe. There is considerable intellectual collaboration, especially in the sciences. Inter-cultural contact is also strong.

Since the 1990s Germany has been a strong proponent of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Germany has also lobbied in recent times for an increased EU role in the Middle East.

Three contemporary German responses to the Holocaust have been identified by Rolf Schutte, Germany’s consul general to the United States. It is a topic, Schutte says, that divides and binds Jews and Germans like no other peoples. He notes that the Jewish community in Germany is the fastest-growing Jewish community in the world and is flourishing.

Among non-Jewish Germans in the first decade of the 21st century, apparently, 5% of the population can be described as radically right-wing or neo-Nazi. This hardcore group denies the accuracy of Holocaust history and produces revisionist versions of events to suit its ideological agenda. Some people of this ilk belittle the Holocaust and express indifference to the mass murder of Jews.

The majority of Germans, some 75%, feel a degree of shame regarding the Holocaust but no personal guilt.

Then there is the remaining 20% of non-Jewish Germans who feel a sense of personal guilt for the Holocaust. This does not imply that their families were connected to Holocaust events – much of this guilt is linked to personal sensitivities and in some cases a strong sense of moral disapproval.

 

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

 

BEN: Look, I’m sorry for saying this out loud, but I don’t think I can ever forgive the Germans for the Holocaust. What makes them think that paying compensation in monetary ways can ever redeem them?

DAD: You need to be careful here, Ben. Who are the Germans? Very few of the present population of Germany were active participating adults in the time of the Holocaust. Are you going to hold the actions of their parents and grandparents against them? For how long?

BEN: Well, what’s our option? To forget? To forgive? I don’t think we should ever forgive the perpetrators or forget what was done to our people.

CHAYA: So, are you going to take this line on all holocausts? Rwandan genocide? The Khmer Rouge? Chechnya? How far back are you prepared to go? Genghis Khan?

BEN: Well, I don’t think we should forgive or forget. A holocaust is an inconceivably terrible thing. And all over the world, there are Holocaust deniers – some deny the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis on Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, other eastern and central Europeans. And if we allow these memories to fade, soon they will simply be stories, and no-one will remember the pain.

DAD: Well, there are holocaust memorials that have been built, like Yad Vashem, which people visit to be reminded of the horror and commemorate the deaths of their people. Maybe that’s what we have to do, remember and move on.

CHAYA: We also have to be rational and consistent. It’s not only Jews who have been kept in camps and allowed to die, or be massacred. We see it today still. Humans have learnt nothing. Sadly, I think the fact that the generations of Germans since World War II have taken collective responsibility for the holocaust of Jewish people has highlighted the slaughter of Jews, and the world at large has focused on this, and not on the mass murder of other people in other places.

BEN: Well, I am a Jewish person, and my first priority is other Jews. It is my responsibility to keep the memory of the Holocaust of Jews alive. I don’t forgive the World who allowed it and I will never forget.

DAD: Humans tend to have most empathy with the group they feel part of. Unfortunately, one of the primary problems with group identification is that we allow ourselves to dehumanize others, and not think of them as human beings like ourselves. We have seen this as one of the root causes of anti-Semitism. As Jews, we need to be very aware that we too could dehumanize others. It’s much easier to perpetrate major injustices on others if we do not think of them as fully human. I think this is one of the major lessons of this and other holocausts.

CHAYA: So, you’re saying that demonizing the people of Germany, for instance, is likely to continue this constant process of fearing, hating and despising what is other than ourselves?

DAD: I think I am saying that. And I think that as Jewish people, we should be very conscious of our propensity to set ourselves apart, because we might be dehumanizing others. And once we see others as less than human, we are in trouble.

 

Sayings 

 

Every Shabbat we read five short sayings that express, with typically Jewish wit and humour, insightful reflections on this life of ours.

 

Here are tonight’s sayings:

·          Don’t rejoice at your enemy’s fall – but don’t rush to pick him up either.

·          One who is full does not believe one who is hungry.

·          From God and a neighbor nothing is hidden.

·         The diamond glitters, but in the final analysis it is a rock.

·         Why do Jewish divorces cost so much? They’re worth it. (Henny Youngman)

 

Celebration of Great Lives 

 

Every Friday night we celebrate the achievements of our Jewish family in contributing to changing the world for the better and having an extraordinary impact on those around them.

 

Rebecca Gratz (1781 – 1869) 

This celebrated philanthropist was descended from a long line of rabbis. She was the first female Jewish college student in the USA, and at the age of 20 she established the Female Association for the Relief of Women and Children in Reduced Circumstances. This organization helped those in strife after the Revolutionary War. In 1815 she helped found the Philadelphia Orphan Asylum and later became its secretary, a position she held for 40 years. She was also a founding member of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society. She was also instrumental in founding the Fuel Society and the Sewing Society. Beautiful and engaging, she is reputed to be the inspiration for the character Rebecca in Sir Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe”.

 

Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902 – 1991) 

A Polish-born American author, Singer was the son of an Hasidic rabbi. He started as a journalist in Warsaw, and was an emerging literary talent by the time he immigrated to the USA in 1935, settling in New York. He became famous in America. There he still wrote and published in Yiddish, editing his works for American audiences. He published 18 novels and a large number of essays and articles, but he is most famous for his short stories. Most of his stories represent the world of East European Jewry. His most famous works include Yentl the Yeshiva Boy, The Magician of Lublin, The Golem, The Family Moskat and The Estate. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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]