Rabbi Howard Finkelstein

Chazan Yair Subar

President Howard Nadler
Parashat Ekev 

Mincha & Kabbalat Shabbat: 7:00 pm

Candle Lighting: 7:57 pm

Shabbat Ends: 9:03 pm

Sefer Torah Sponsor:  Anonymous

Shabbat in the Park will be at Charing Park this Shabbat from 3:30 – 5:00 pm. The walking Group will meet at 4:00 pm.

From the Rabbi’s Desk – Parashat Ekev:  

Can a Jew accept a blessing from a non-Jew, and can the Jew answer “amen” to that blessing?  Based on a  unique reading of the phrase that appears in this week’s Torah reading, ‘you shall be blessed above all peoples, the Talmud Yerushalmi in Berachot  in the name of Rabbi Tanchum translates this phrase to read, ‘you shall be blessed from all the nations. ‘In other words, the Jew can indeed receive blessings from non-Jews who invoke the name of G-d in that blessing. As to whether one may answer, “amen”, the Mishna Berurah in siman 205, Orach Chaim, cites sources that technically one can indeed respond accordingly, although it is not necessary to do so.

On reading the Yerushalmi and its commentaries, one draws the conclusions that if there were concerns at one time that the non-Jew was really blessing the Jew with idolatrous intentions, that fear is no longer in existence today. When the non-Jew says the word, “God”, he or she is referring to the Creator.

This discussion has bearing in modern society today, especially in North America, where there are many philo-semites among the non-Jewish population.  While, obviously, one has to be suspect of missionary groups and evangelicals who wish to convert us, one has to be discerning enough to distinguish these people from those who sincerely wish to bless us as a people.  I think of Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg, the chief orthodox rabbi in San Antonio, Texas, who has a very strong relationship with John Hagee, a well known church leader nationally who is a very outspoken supporter of the state of Israel.  On a more local basis, Ottawa born Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein has been instrumental in arranging for huge financial support for Israel and Jews in general through his organization. While there are ‘supporters’ who are primarily interested in Restoration Theology which is to the detriment of the Jews, one cannot ignore or show lack of appreciation to those who sincerely wish to bless us.

We are living in precarious times with Israel treated as a pariah state in many circles. Anti-Semites couch their rhetoric in the language of anti-Zionism, claiming that they are not against the Jews but only oppose the existence of the Jewish state.  The presence of the Neturei Karta at these anti-Zionist (read, anti-Semitic) rallies is sickening and a perversion of the sentence cited at the beginning of this essay welcoming non-Jewish blessings. We welcome those who bless us, for they too will be blessed. But we reject those who purport to bless us when their motivations are nefarious.

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Rabbi Howard Finkelstein rabbihoward.finkelstein@gmail.com
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