This week’s Parasha, Va’etchanan, begins rather dramatically. Moses discovers that he will not be entering the Land of Israel, which must have been extraordinarily difficult news to bear, after being the leader of the Jewish people for almost 40 years whilst wandering in the desert.
It would be so easy, at this low point, to resort to anger, or bitterness, or despair, especially after working so hard, and for so long, to achieve the monumental goal of bringing one’s people to the Promised Land. In fact, the name of the Parasha translates to “and he pleaded”, describing Moses’ first reaction upon hearing the devastating news.
What international exchange really means for students and the future work force and why everyone should do it.
It took me 2.5 months to really fall in love with Concepcion, Chile. A city of 200,000 people, mostly students, and an average yearly rainfall of over 1,000mm. 3 months in, I started to find things that made me smile every day, like the fairy lights perched on the blackboard of the bakery across the street, or the beautiful colours of painted buildings when I happened to take a wrong turn on my way to the bus, or even the beautiful green parks that speckled the city. I found myself smiling all the time, just for knowing I had a 'home' on the other side of the world, that I had a family here to call my own, that I had friends here and that my Spanish was finally in a place that I could begin to discuss things other than what I was studying or where the library was
Chukat is one of the most important parshiot in the chumash. We receive the decree of the Red Heifer, lose important figureheads and their protections, we face rejection of safe passage and an attack from behind. However, it's deeply moving in the context of the journeys of Moses, Miriam and Aaron. Chukat's message is ultimately one of surrender, and seeks to answer the following question: how do we gain from loss
This week’s Parasha, Shelach, tells the story of the 12 spies being sent out to Israel to report to Moshe what kind of land there is. As you might know 10 of the spies come back with the update that there are inhabitants that will be dangerous for the Jews. However, two of the spies confirm this but say that with G-ds help they would be able to defeat the enemies if needed. The punishment for the people that believed the 10 spies was to wander in the desert for 40 years.
The Torah doesn’t tell us much about Tzipora, Moshe’s wife and even less about her relationship to her in-laws and the greater family. In this week’s parasha though, we hear Moshe’s siblings, Miriam and Aharon referred to Tzipora in the following manner:
“על אודות האישה הכושית אשר לקח”
“A vacation won’t solve the problem, you need a real break” insists a website promoting career-break travel. The site unpacks the word “sabbatical”, interpreting it as the “ancient human need to build periods of rest and rejuvenation into a lifetime”.
Last year the Cape Town Jewish community was rocked by a court case. After ten years of prohibiting women from singing at the community-wide Yom Hashoah commemorative event, the CT Jewish Board of Deputies, the communal body which (supposedly) represents the entire CT Jewish community, was sued on the basis of Gender Discrimination. The court case sparked great debate not only about Kol Isha – the halachic prohibition on men hearing women sing – but also about community and communal representation and how the community should respond to potentially transgressive behaviour.
When I walked past the graves of the fallen soldiers at Mount Herzl a couple months ago it shockingly came into my mind that many soldiers that were killed were younger than I am today; and even born after I was born. Those young people fell for Israel, for defending the Israeli people against terrorism and all of those soldiers exactly knew that death could be a consequence of serving in the IDF.
This week, we will read the double torah portion of Tazria-Metzora in the book of Vayikra (Leviticus). At the same time, we will also welcome the new month of Iyyar, or “blossom”. Thirdly, we find ourselves in the middle of the Omer, which is the 49 day period between our liberation from slavery, celebrated through the holiday of Passover, and our ultimate climactic experience of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, our celebration of Shavuot. The Omer commemorates the ancient daily practice of bringing an Omer (a biblical sheaf of barley) to the Temple as a offering to G-d. During the Omer, it is customary to take on deep introspection and questioning. Thus, Iyyar is seen as a time of release and reception. We are letting go of what holds us back as well as preparing for receiving the new life of springtime...
Yom HaShoah… what shall I say? A lot has been written, a lot has been staged, many movies were filmed. But where exactly are we now? What did these documents do to us or the non-Jewish people surrounding us? What can be said today, and how? For me, it always seemed that words are not sufficient to describe what has happened 70 years ago to my grandparents. Yes, I’m part of the third generation of the Holocaust on both sides.
Check out amazing blogs and op-eds here by Jewish student leaders from all over the world.