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

 

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The Priests Learn Power Dressing  

 

a.k.a. Parshat Tetzaveh 

   

God told Moses to get the people to bring him pure, beaten olive oil so that a lamp could burn continuously in the sanctuary. Aaron and his sons would tend the lamp from evening until morning. Aaron and his sons were designated priests of the tabernacle, for which task Aaron was to be given holy garments to wear. The garments would be decorated with gold, blue, purple and red features, and fine, twined linen. The garments were made up of a breastplate, an ephod (an apron), a robe, a checkered coat, a turban and a girdle. The ephod was to have two shoulder pieces on which were set two onyx stones, each containing the names of six tribes of Israel engraved in gold.

In the sanctuary, Aaron would wear a Breastplate of Judgment. Four rows of precious stones would adorn it, and represent the tribes of Israel. Aaron’s robe would be blue and would be decorated with golden bells and pomegranates. Aaron’s entry into and exit from the sanctuary would be signalled by the sounds of bells. This would protect him from death!

 On his forehead Aaron would wear a golden head-plate bearing the words, “Holy to the Lord”. This would enable him to bear the guilt of others when they made their sacred offerings. He would thus facilitate their forgiveness.

Aaron’s sons would gain status and dignity by wearing tunics, sashes and turbans of fine linen. Aaron and his sons were to be consecrated in a ceremony involving the offering of a young bull and two rams, and matzah bread and cakes. They would bathe, dress in their holy garb and Aaron would be anointed with oil. Aaron and his sons had to hold the bull while it was slaughtered and daub the corners of the altar with its blood. Parts of the bull would be burnt at the altar and other parts would be burnt in a fire outside the camp. This was to be an offering for sin. The blood of a slaughtered ram was to be put on the robes of Aaron and his sons as well as on specific ears, thumbs and toes. The newly consecrated priests would also take parts of the ram and pieces of matzah and wave these in what was termed a “wave offering”. Another ram was to be cooked and eaten by Aaron and his sons. The altar was to be consecrated over a seven-day period.

God told Moses he would meet with the people of Israel at the Tent of Appointed Meetings at times of His choosing. God would live in the midst of the people and they would experience His presence. Finally, the people were to make an altar upon which they would burn incense. Precise specifications for its construction were given. Incense had to be burnt upon it every morning and evening. Once a year, Aaron had to make atonement for sins upon the altar. This atonement would be considered a most holy rite.

 

Commentary on the 20th 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.

 

MS: You again! It’s really not a convenient time!

SAS: Why? Oh I see – you’re about to sacrifice a poor, defenceless animal. I certainly don’t want to see that happen, so perhaps I’ll come back later.

MS: You eat meat, so don’t be self-righteous! At least I am prepared to look in the eye the animals I kill and eat. You get others to do it for you, and you pretend it doesn’t happen – the meat miraculously appears on your plate.

SAS: I concede you have a point there. But the idea of putting animal blood on the altar and on priests’ robes seems barbaric to me, let alone unclean. Are we a bunch of blood worshippers or death worshippers?

MS: Of course not! We are a religion born in tough, primitive conditions and we have for aeons lived in the blood-and-guts realm of real life. Our rituals, our tabernacle, our sacrifices and our lives are not sweetly sanitized and cosseted from everyday realities, of which animal slaughter is an unavoidable part.

SAS: But what’s the point of the daubing?

MS: Can’t you read? It’s to sanctify the priests and the altar. The lifeblood of the animal is a symbol of the lifeblood of all things, and especially the lifeblood of our holy, consecrated community. These are acts of ritual sanctification sealed in the blood of the sacrificial creature.

SAS: I don’t see the point in any kind of religious consecration and I certainly don’t like the idea of blood sacrifices in a religious context. Some religions, as you will know, have included human sacrifices in their rituals, which we have never done. The idea that the blood of a human, even an innocent one, can atone for the sins of others is a barbaric notion as I’m sure you’ll agree.  

MS:  Of course I do! The one true God would never accept a human sacrifice, given that He made man in his own image.

SAS: Well, there is a religion called Christianity, which has as its cornerstone the idea that one man died for the sins of all mankind. He was the one and only human sacrifice. Christians have entirely done away with any kind of blood sacrifice as a result.

MS: Well, we would never accept any kind of human sacrifice. We value human life too highly.

SAS: Now it’s you who are getting sanctimonious. Your God is quite happy to command our people to kill people of other tribes. If that’s not human sacrifice, what is it?

MS: It’s called war.

SAS: I see. Now this lighting of the holy lamp, the menorah – what’s that all about?

MS: The menorah is symbolic of the Torah, our perennial source of divine wisdom. The lighting of the menorah comes first in this passage because it is a holy duty set apart from all others. The requirement that the olive oil be pure and beaten shows that it was hand-pressed oil and so required effort and dedication to produce. This is symbolic of our devotion to Torah.

SAS: I like the idea of a lamp as a beacon of hope and solidarity for a people. I don’t see much value in its claimed signification of the Torah. Your book is a great literary treasure, no doubt, but the lamp should surely stand for more important things, like reason, knowledge, truthfulness and the common bond uniting all Jews.

MS: But the Torah is the font of all our wisdom and truth.

SAS: No, it is merely a symbol of our cultic past in all its checkered imperfection.

MS: Well there we disagree and most fundamentally too.

SAS: Well, here’s another point of challenge. I think that God’s stipulations about the ornamental garb of Aaron’s sons, the Kohanim, are excessive and vainly so. Twined linen, onyx stones, gold engravings, bells and pomegranates? Again, your God is showing his aesthetic taste and the picture is a bizarre one. All this ostentation stamps him as a very picky God. And he’s obviously someone who craves all the trappings of ritual adornment for his unceasing adoration.

MS: Serving God is no small thing. How would you want the priests to appear before Him? In their underwear? Aaron, and to a lesser extent the other Kohanim, had to be dressed in a way that indicated to the people that God was to be worshipped in a precise, elaborate and utterly respectful way. The holy garments also established the authority of the priests before the people.

SAS: Ah yes, of course that was the real reason for the pomp and ceremony. It was to establish their religious mystique and their sacerdotal power so that nobody would challenge their power or their priestly bona fides. All authority has to have a uniform, and the more gilded the better. This was all about securing their role within the community for time immemorial. And tell me, does this mean that there is a caste structure among Jews? Not all Jews are equal when it comes to religious practices and responsibilities? Well, it’s worked well enough.

MS: Of course it has. So does everything God plans. Now can you help me hold these hind legs steady while I get this ram ready for the slaughter?

SAS: I’ve just remembered there’s an urgent article I have to write. I’ll see you again shortly.

MS: No hurry. I have plenty here to keep me busy.

 

 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.

 

Dreyfus and French anti-Semitism and Herzl and Zionism 

 

Anti-Semitism in France in the 1890s led to the infamous Dreyfus Affair. Captain Alfred Dreyfus, an artillery officer, was one of several Jewish officers in the French army. He was a graduate of both the Ecole Polytechnique and the Ecole Superieure de Guerre, and had a promising career ahead of him. However, in October 1894, he was arrested and charged with passing military secrets to the Germany embassy in Paris.

The charges were based on a note found in a wastepaper basket by a cleaning lady working at the German embassy. The list identified French secret documents that could be provided to the Germans; it included information relating to new artillery technology. Dreyfus was identified as the likely traitor on circumstantial evidence that was weak and misconstrued. It was later discovered that the note had been written by a French officer, Major Count Walsin-Esterhazy.

Dreyfus’s court martial trial was hastily convened because the French high command feared a backlash from anti-Semitic journalists if it didn’t proceed quickly against the prime suspect. Evidence was lacking and proper procedures were not followed. Dreyfus was found guilty of espionage and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island, off the coast of French Guiana. He was subjected to the supreme indignity of being publicly degraded, with his rank insignia stripped off and his sword broken. Dreyfus shouted out his innocence.

The case against Dreyfus unravelled over the next few years amidst outcry at the injustice perpetrated. In January 1898 the famous French writer Emile Zola brought the matter into the public sphere when he penned his open letter – accompanied by the headline “J’accuse!” – to the French President. The letter appeared in the first edition of the newspaper L’Aurore (The Dawn) and caused so much fuss that Zola was convicted of libel and had to flee to England until the winds of opinion shifted – which they did.

Pressure from the so-called Dreyfusards led to the case being reopened in June 1899. A court overturned Dreyfus’s conviction and ordered a new court martial. This second court martial again found Dreyfus guilty, this time with extenuating circumstances, and he was sentenced to 10 years in jail. However, French President Emile Loubet pardoned him. At last, on 12 July 1906, he was exonerated and he was allowed to recommence his career in the military. He was given the rank of Major and was made a knight of the Legion d’Honneur. Dreyfus served as a Lieutenant-Colonel in the artillery during World War 1.

The Dreyfus affair had a major impact upon Theodor Herzl, an Austro-Hungarian Jewish journalist. Herzl covered the Dreyfus trial for his newspaper and saw for himself the vitriolic temper of mass anti-Semitic rallies in Paris. Herzl decided that it was futile to combat anti-Semitism. He believed, instead, that Jewish interests would best be served by the establishment of a Jewish state.

The Dreyfus Affair played a significant role in galvanizing the ambition of Zionists, most notably that of Herzl, their leader and founder.

 

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

 

BEN: And French people are still desecrating Jewish graves today. That country has a shocking record of anti-Semitism!

DAD: Don’t overstate the case, Ben. Things were actually a lot worse for Jews in many other countries at the time of the Dreyfus Affair, and don’t forget that there were a number of Jewish career officers in the French army at the time. Yes, there were strong anti-Jewish factions inside and outside the army – there was an Anti-Semitic League of France and a Patriots League that promoted a France unified under the banner of Catholicism. However, the forces of sanity prevailed and in 1905 the Law on the Separation of the Church and State laid the basis for modern secularist France. There was widespread anti-militarism and anti-clericalism in the wake of the Dreyfus outrage. 

CHAYA: Let’s not forget the earlier influence of the French Revolution and the Code Napoleon. There was a constitutional template in place to secure the rights of all French citizens. Anti-Semitism might have been rife within powerful quarters of the country but these factions did not prevail. The desecration of Jewish graves today is the work of a small minority of ignorant, ideologically enslaved people.

BEN: Don’t understate anti-Semitism in France. Remember that the Vichy Regime that helped Hitler rule France was comprised of many anti-Dreyfusards of the old school. These people didn’t go away. Today, their children, grandchildren and other supporters are still there, working quietly to reassert their right-wing agendas and stigmatise Jews whenever possible.

DAD: You have evidence for this? No, let’s not get carried away, Ben. No one doubts that anti-Semitism exists in France, as it does all over Europe, but it’s unfair to say that France is especially culpable.

BEN: Is it? I have been reading that attacks against Jews in France have escalated quite dramatically recently, and that much of the ill-feeling stems from North African immigrants.  Many of them are poverty-stricken and they are angry with the French state as well as the Jews, whom they see as wealthy and well-entrenched in society.

CHAYA: That’s interesting, if what you say is accurate. It means that there is a second front for French anti-Semitism – not your old-style conservatives wanting a purified, Catholic France, but disaffiliated immigrants loyal to their former countries and to Islam. The irony is that one group is fiercely patriotic about France and the other group isn’t. Yet both view the Jews as a common enemy. Here we are, caught in the middle of a Christian-Muslim wave of hatred again.

DAD: I still suspect you’re over-egging the case, Ben, although I’m going to do some more reading about anti-Semitism in France. One thing I want to say, though, is that it’s extremely ironic how the anti-Semitists indirectly inspired the founding of Zionism and the establishment of the state of Israel.

CHAYA:  You mean anti-Semitism revealed by the Dreyfus Affair motivated Herzl and this led to Zionism?

DAD: Not quite in those simple terms, but – yes – it’s surely true that anti-Jewish forces did a lot to motivate Jews to protect and advance their interests.

BEN: I agree. That’s how life works. No one motivates one as much as one’s opponents.

DAD: Ah, so the stronger our enemies, the stronger we become?

CHAYA:  Spare me this sophistry! You’ll soon be arguing that the tougher our enemies, the better Jews we’ll be, Ben.

DAD: Let’s hope we all live to see a world in which neither our friends nor our enemies pay us undue attention. That, for me, would mean we’d arrived in the Land of Milk and Honey.

 

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:

 

·        Some scholars study so much that they don’t leave themselves time to think.

·        If you can’t give money, at least give a sympathetic sigh

·        Oedipus, shmedipus! As long as he loves his mother.

·        A big blow from a stranger hurts less than a small blow from a friend.

·        To a wedding you walk; to a divorce you run.

 

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.

 

Steinem, Gloria (1934 - 

This American journalist and feminist gained prominence as a spokeswoman for women’s rights through her articles, lectures, and television appearances. She helped found the National Women’s Political Caucus (1971), the Women’s Action Alliance (1971), and the Coalition of Labor Union Women (1974). She was also the founding editor (1972) of Ms., a feminist magazine, remaining actively involved until its closing (1987) and becoming a consulting editor upon its revival (1990). Her books include Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983), a biography of Marilyn Monroe (1986), Revolution from Within (1992), and the essay collection Moving beyond Words (1993). 

Ernst Chain (1906 – 1979)

This famous biochemist was born in Berlin where he later studied and worked on the optical specificity of esterases in enzymes. He went to England in 1933 and from 1935 to 1939 he worked on snake venoms, tumour metabolism, the mechanism of lysozyme action and the invention and development of methods for biochemical microanalysis. In 1939 he began a systematic study of antibacterial substances produced by micro-organisms. This led to his best known work which involved the reinvestigation of penicillin (which had been described by Sir Alexander Fleming nine years earlier). Working together with Fleming and Howard Florey, he wrote about the discovery of its chemotherapeutic action. He then turned his attention to the industrial development of penicillin All three received the Nobel Prize in 1945 for their efforts. Later he worked on the isolation and elucidation of the chemical structure of penicillin and other natural antibiotics. Chain authored or co-authored many scientific papers and contributed to important monographs on penicillin and antibiotics. Penicillin is considered to be one of the greatest weapons against infection ever discovered.

 

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 coming 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]