Junior Congregation this Shabbat, downstairs from 10:30 (ish) to 11:15. There will be healthy snacks, stories and games. Ages 3-8
(3 year old’s should be accompanied by a parent).
From the Rabbi’s Desk -Parashat Vayishlach
Does the Diaspora have any redeeming value in as far as the preservation of Jewish tenets are concerned? There is no doubt that we are living in an enlightened society in the Western world, one which is generally welcoming of the Jew who has contributed immeasurably to the betterment of society. Canada and the United States have been bastions of acceptance of the Jewish people. It is interesting to read in the last edition of the Canadian Jewish News that 20% of Canadians consider Judaism as a faith that has enhanced the fabric of Canadian society.
On the other hand, many have experienced the oppressive nature of Diaspora living in Jewish history, which is replete with innumerable instances of anti-Semitism and hostile actions against Jews and their institutions. The recent manifestations of anti-Zionism, a euphemism for anti-Semitism, by the Far Right and the Far Left depict a commonality of hatred that pervades certain segments of an otherwise tolerant society.
In rabbinic literature, the Diaspora has been seen as a punishment or an opportunity. The Torah and prophetic writings consider the Exile to be a punitive response to the failure of the Jewish community to obey G-d. Interestingly, Rabbi Sampson Raphael Hirsch sees the Exile as a means by which it is possible for the Jewish community to spread the ideas of monotheism and ethical living. Emancipation, an important phenomenon in nineteenth century Germany, can indeed allow Jews to become not only proper citizens but movers and shakers in society. Of course, assimilation is also a by-product of emancipation.
However, even Rabbi Hirsch has to accept the reality that Emancipation is not necessarily the panacea it appears to be. Anti-Semitism is not obliterated. It flourishes in Bismarckâ€™s Germany. Therefore, Rabbi Hirsch refers to the strategy put into place by Jacob, who in this weekâ€™s Torah reading, divides his camp into two sections, hoping to ward off an anticipated attack by his brother, Esau, and his forces. Rabbi Hirschâ€™s words are haunting: Jews may be forced to shed their blood at the Rhine, but will be saved in Slavic countries.
Rabbi Hirsch quotes the Talmudic statement from Massechet Shabbat, that G-d performs an act of Tzedaka, charity or justice, by scattering the Jews across the globe. The understanding of this rabbinic statement, unlike Rabbi Hirschâ€™s interpretation regarding Emancipation, paints a grim picture of Jewish history, in that if G-d forbid, one segment of the Jewish population were to be annihilated, there would be Jews elsewhere who would survive. The Ramban paints a similar description of world Jewish history in his commentary on this weekâ€™s Torah portion.
However, the Diaspora with all of its pitfalls and advantages vis-à-vis the Jewish people eventually comes to an end, and the Messiah appears ushering in a new period of peace for the Jewish people. The metaphor of messianic redemption is couched in the words of the prophet, Obadiah, who speaks of the return and conquest of Mt. Seir, the mountain of Esau, by Jacob. Jacob returns home from the Diaspora. The people of Israel return home as well.
Mishna Berurah – 7:30 Tuesday nights
Continuing this week – Blessings and Prayers
This week’s challenge questions:
1. What’s better: daven with a minyan after Shema time limit, or daven without a minyan beforehand?
2. Are the Torah blessings a Torah requirement or of Rabbinic nature?
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* Wall of Honour/brick: $118