Haftara

I did it!! I finally decided about my Haftarah portion! As you may or may not know, I could not decide what verses I would do . So the other day, I finally picked out some verses. They are: Isaiah 51: 17-23. Here is the link: http://www.blueletterbible.org/bible.cfm?b=Isa&c=51#s=730022

By the way, thank you all for commenting.

I had noticed, reading the English translation, that the point of view (?) went from 2nd person to 3rd person to 2nd person again.  what Rabbi Shaffer noticed was that it went from 2nd person singular to 3rd person to 2nd person plural. I think this is because Isaiah goes from talking to the personification of Israel to talking to the people about the personification of Israel  to talking to the people (about themselves). The reason he talk first to the personification of Israel is that the people of Israel know that they  have experienced it firsthand and maybe he kind of wants to console the personification of Israel but at the same time he knows it is not only his job and so tells the people of Israel to pity her. And, kind of, by extension, themselves. So he then tells the people how terrible it is going, and then says: “G-d will save you if you return to him.” So this is how Isaiah is getting people to return to G-d. I guess, like the order of when what gets said before battle, in this case G-d gets to say that the ends justify the means. And in this case, no one is saying “hey wait… Why would You do that, isn’t that kind of unfair?” So here’s a lesson: We are Yisrael, the people who struggle with G-d. As reform Jews, we are obligated to make our own choices about laws. And that is much of why I am a Reform Jew, I like that freedom. But also sometimes the ends justify the means.  And sometimes there are two contradictory right answers. Isn’t that kind of hard? But hey, you can’t have good consequences without hard choices.

(This is one of those times where I go off on a tangent more interesting than the thing I was talking about earlier.)

By me, with help from G-d. And Isaiah, I guess.

Kings

ki taveh el ha’aretz asher Adonai eloheha notein lach virishtah v’yashavta bah vamarta asima alai melech k’chol-hagoyim asher s’vivotai som tasim aleha melech asher yivchar Adonai eloheha bo mikerev acheha tasim aleha melech lo tuchal lateit alecha nochrei asher lo acheha hu.

“If, after you have entered the land that the Eternal your G-d has assigned to you, and taken possession of it and settled in it, you decide, “I will set a king over me as do all the nations about me,” you shall be free to set a king over yourself, one chosen by the Eternal your G-d. Be sure to set as king over yourself one of your own people; you must not set a foreigner over you, one who is not your kin.”

First of all, Moses is looking ahead again. He knows that the Israelites  are terrible at ruling themselves and when left to their own devices for six weeks start making idols and generally not following the rules. So he knows that eventually, they will need a king. (Smart guy, Moses… 🙂 ) He then thinks, “Hmmm… if we don’t start setting rules they will bring in a Baal-worshiping Canaanite and then they will all start worshiping Baal. So, what are some criteria for a king…”

Here is what Moses comes up with. The king:

  • Must be an Israelite
  • Must be chosen by G-d
  • Can’t have a zillion horses
  • Can’t “send people back to Egypt to add to his horses,” though I don’t know whether that means “No mercenaries in trade for horses” like the book says, or “Nobody can go to trade for horses. Period.”
  • Can’t have many wives (How much is many? I don’t know, as it was custom for everyone to have at least a few…)
  • Can’t have too much money
  • Must be faithful and learned and non-haughty

A lot of this ensures that the king is not too wealthy. While it is important that there doesn’t end up being a huge wealth divide between the king and the people, it rather alarms me that there is only one criteria  that has to do with what kind of a person you are. I think that above the importance of being native is the importance of being kind and wise. What if there is a king who meets all of the requirements but still manages to be a tyrant? Why would we be so concerned about the king’s wealth and parentage if he has many wives because he loves them all, many horses because he, um, likes horses (?), and money because he inherited it and is not yet done spending it or because he is saving in case of financial trouble? Sometimes Moses forgets that sometimes the best criteria are intangible. Then again, maybe he forgets that not everyone hits the rock when you give them a chance. I think that these criteria should be added:

  • Must be fair to his/her subjects
  • Must care about what is best for the subjects, not just him
  • Must be able to act, not just think

Do you have any criteria to add? Don’t be shy, PLEASE comment. I haven’t had a comment in AGES!

By me, with help from G-d.

Is it unfair?

Rabbi Shaffer and I were sitting in her office the other day, and she brought up an interesting point. The priest says “Don’t be afraid, we will defeat our enemies for G-d is on our side.” Then (s)he says “If you are afraid, go home.” We thought this might be a little bit cheating, because the army has just had a pep talk and are thinking something like “We are mighty!!!” Later, they may be more scared and likely to leave. So, is Moses/G-d/the priest cheating? I’ll leave that up to you. Comment with your answer!

Mistakes

Today, I put the cover on the Torah backwards.  Now you my be thinking: “Hahaha nyah nyah,” In which case you are probably being quite nasty and should knock it off. But what I want you to think about is the fact that we all make mistakes. And we are usually quite nasty when it isn’t us who goofed up this time, or if it isn’t us having bad luck. I could go on and on about the nastiness of the kids in my grade, and anyone who wants this particular tangent can make a comment asking for it. But even G-d makes mistakes. Remember the story of Noah? How about when G-d thinks: I will take these people out of Egypt and into Israel… Oops! they aren’t ready. And in the grand scheme of of things, even G-d can fix his mistakes. But sometimes, mistakes aren’t fixable, and you can’t go up to the ark and turn around the Torah cover and pretend like it never happened. I can’t produce another Playmobil grappling hook to replace the one I broke. (For which I am still very sorry.) And that is just a thing we’ll have to work around. So the problem with mistakes is that people are bad at figuring out which ones are and aren’t fixable. I often find myself looking for a pencil, pen, piece of paper, or other thing, when my time would be better spent getting another thing to replace it. I also freak out about the most easy things to fix. (Just ask my 6th grade reading teacher about the time[s] I burst into tears over my lunchbox. Or my parents. Or my art teacher about that time I lost my recommendations for the NJHS application. Or my typing teacher about when I lost a test that I got signed. Though that was justified, as I got a weeks worth of “Didn’t turn in homework” highlights. But I digress.) Well, Shabbat Shalom!

By: Me, with help from G-d.

Memorial day

Image

I wonder why Moses, when he says “these people should go back,” does not say “Is there anyone who has a family and children? Let him go back to his home, lest he die in battle and they become incomplete for his loss.” I am not saying that a family without a father is incomplete, but from what I have heard, the loss of a family member hurts more than I can know (please G-d) or describe. I’m fortunate enough not to have lost a beloved family member, so I don’t know how to describe that loss. A vineyard can’t feel loss, nor can a house. But a spouse, children or parents are those who lose a war. A part of a quote from a Magic the Gathering card (Knowledge can come from anywhere) says “I count eight graves. Too many to call this a victory.” Ah, for the good old (old, old, old, old, old, old, old, old, etc.) days, when you could lose less than 8 soldiers in a war. But nobody really wins in war. Land, people, and the economy all suffer. Of all of these, only the economy really recovers. The land will always hold those graves, and the dead will not return from war.

For those who died to protect our country, Zikronam Liv’racha.

By me, with help from G-d.

Are you STILL here? Yaylaich V’yachshov L’veito Already!

Translation: “Then the officials shall address the troops as follows:’Is there anyone who has built a new house but has not dedicated it? Let him go back to his home, lest he die in battle and another man dedicate it. Is there anyone who has planted a vineyard but has never harvested it? Let him go back to his home, lest he die in battle and another man harvest it. Is there anyone who who has payed the bride price for a wife, but has not married her? Let him go back to is home, lest he die in battle and another man marry her.’ … ‘Is there anyone afraid and disheartened? Let him go back to his home, lest the courage of his comrades flag like his.'”

He, he, he. 🙂 That’s the feeling I get when reading. ‘And the priests shall say to the people: ‘Get the heck out of here if you can find any reason to! Why are you still here? Leave! Leave! Leave!’ And then G-d shall magically make everyone else chicken out and the few of us left shall defeat our enemies.’

On the other hand, the people with a reason to should go.

Also, in every book I’ve ever read, the one who isn’t scared at all before battle is crazy. So if you say “If you’re scared, leave,” people leave, whereas if you say “It’s OK to be scared. Our enemies must be more scared,  for they know we have G-d on our side.” people stay because there are understanding people there and they gain courage.

And now I have it stuck in my head.

*Yaylai-ai-aich v’yachsho-ov l’veito, pen-yamut ba-milchama-ah, v’esh ache-e-er…* Darn… I just got it out…

By me, with help from G-d

About my synagogue and why I am doing this.

Yeah… I’m not very good at explaining why I’m doing this. But I have to make this entry. And so here I am. So I guess I should explain how stuff works at my synagogue, CBI.
So when you become a Bat Mitzvah at CBI, you have to do a whole bunch of things that everyone else is doing. And everyone has done. For, like, ever. I’m not sure you get to be Bat Mitzvah if you don’t do them right. And so everyone does them. It’s Tradition. So I think I have to talk about them. We have to go to a bunch of services, which is fun. (For me.) You get to know the people and how they lead services. Rabbi Pincus has this habit of doing Every. Single. Prayer. In the Siddur, including the ones nobody else knows. But he often does my favorite tune to Yismichu. (Link to sound probably forthcoming.) Rabbi Shaffer does all the camp tunes. Cantor likes Nigunim (am I spelling that right?) and she has a trained voice so she holds out the last note of a song for AGES and AGES and AGES (circa about 45 seconds, but still…). And she has a drum. It’s a very nice little African drum that she uses to accompany herself. She keeps it behind the curtain in the Secret Rabbi Room. And Rabbi Fuchs, our Rabbi Emeritus, (which is a phrase I copied from a Shabbat Bulletin without knowing what it means) asks easy trivia and then throws candy at us. (Think “What book of the Torah do we find the Mi Chamocha in???” “Exodus” *large bar of kosher Israeli chocolate gets thrown at me* *OM NOM NOM!!!!*) So now you know my Rabbis. Another thing you have to do is: Get a tutor, learn the service, learn your Parsha, learn the trope marks, and write a speech. And then, you have to lead services. And you have to do a Mitzvah Project. My classmates are currently ending World Hunger and Cancer and Poverty and Homelessness and all the things that are so wrong with the world that they need capital letters. I’m here, blogging. HAHAHA I WIN. NOT! This is harder than it looks. And maybe I’ll even get you interested in Torah. I hope. So, how did I pick preparations for war as my part of Shof’tim…?
I was given Shof’tim. My Birthday is in July, but the Rabbis will be on vacation during July, so my Bat Mitzvah is in late August. And then, since we only get to do 3 or 4 Aliyot at CBI, I had to pick between Cities of Refuge, Unknown Murderers, and Preparations for War. I picked preparations for war, and the rest, I hope, will be history.
By: Me, with help from G-d