I am very pleased that this week we are launching the WUJS Parashat Ha'Shavua weekly blog. Every week a different we will share with you a new Dvar Torah written by Jewish students for Jewish students. When I was elected Chairperson of WUJS, I was clear that I felt a healthy Jewish student organisation is one that is driven by Jewish values and creating Jewish programming. This new weekly blog is here for you, to learn and grow in your Jewish journey. Everyone is welcome to submit a piece whether they’ve written 100 Divrei Torah before or this will be their first one. I am pleased to be kicking off this new initiative with the first edition, I hope you enjoy!
Some of you will know but at times certain letters in a Torah scroll are written differently from how they usually are. One such example of this is in the first word of this week’s Torah portion where the alef in “Vayikra” is written smaller than all the other letters. When the Torah does something like this, there is always an important meaning behind it and we must turn to our Rabbis to gain some insight into why.
Rabbi Yaakov ben Rabbeinu Asher, also known as the Ba'al Haturim quotes a midrash which explains why the alef at the end of the word 'vayirka' is small. He said that it is because Moshe (Moses) wanted the word to read 'vayikar' which means “that Hashem chanced upon Moshe”; as opposed to 'vayikra,' which tells of Hashem's Love for Moshe. According to this Rabbi, the use of the small alef was a way of compromising.
Now that's a very nice idea and shows Moshe's enduring humility, but it does leave us with an interesting question… The Torah has previously used the word “vayikra” on other occasions and in the book of Shemot (Exodus), Chapter 33, Verse 11 we learn that Hashem spoke with Moshe ‘face to face as someone speaking to their friend.’ So if it’s made clear here how close Hashem was with Moshe, why did Moshe want to specifically rub out the alef out of this ‘vayikra’ but leave the Shemot 33 verse (and others) as they were?
An answer suggested is that there is a difference between this 'vayikra' and previous ones. Prior to this instance, Hashem spoke to Moshe as the leader of the Children of Israel, for, after all, someone had to be the leader - and Hashem wanted to communicate with his people via someone. Now though, in this week’s parasha, we have just built the tabernacle and we have been told that Hashem's Presence rests within ALL of the People of Israel. The fact that He still calls out to Moshe solely shows us Hashem's love for Moshe, and so this is the 'vayikra' that Moshe wanted to cover up by erasing the alef.
Every time I here stories about the humility of Moshe it makes me think about how important this quality is in good student leaders. When our peers elect us into roles, we are not “in charge”, we are merely custodians. Our students are the real bosses and we must always make sure to remember that. The moment we start to run programs for our own benefit rather than the benefit of our members we will start to lose people.
Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant
There are certain words native to the Jewish tongue ubiquitously. Shabbat. Shalom. Shoah.
Last Sunday, I trekked to the Park Juan Carlos I, an hour-long metro ride outside of Madrid located off of the same metro line I have taken almost weekly to the airport. Staring into my reflection across from me in the window filled with blackness from the underground, my mind wandered back in time to my recent trip to Germany, Ukraine, and Poland.
International Women's day is about highlighting the issues that still plague us, whether they be discrimination, violence or ingrained attitudes that are so hard to change. There's a reason that International Women's day always falls out so close to Purim. Well, it's lucky at the very least.
“More than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.”
These are the words written by one of the greatest early Zionist leaders, Asher Ginsberg, known better by his pen name - Ahad Ha’am. He wrote this at a very different time for the Jewish people, compared to today, when our ancestors in Europe clung to their traditions and mitzvot to keep them unified in a world filled with persecution and turmoil. To the diverse group of Jewish UCT students that attended the trip to Israel it seems, that in 2016, a new paradigm has emerged. As we walked past Ahad Ha’ams towering grave in the historic Trumpeldor cemetery in central Tel Aviv you can’t help but think that today we are privileged to not only have Shabbat as a unifying factor for the Jewish people but also to say that 70 years after the creation of the State more than the Jews now keep Israel, it is Israel that is keeping the Jews.
THE ON-GOING ABANDONMENT OF JEWISH STUDENTS
A student activist’s lament: when will the community realize that we are the answer?
YOSEF I. ABRAMOWITZ
This post was originally published on www.peoplehood.org and has been republished here with the permission of the author, Yosef, who served as WUJS Chair 1987-1989
This post was originally published on Yediot: The Bnei Akiva UK Blog and has been republished here with the permission of the author.
For those of you who aren’t in as many ortho-fem facebook groups as me, and maybe haven’t seen what has happened this week, the RCA (the main accreditation body for Modern Orthodox Rabbis in North America, and a body that has strong links with Yeshiva University) issued a statement reiterating their opposition to women becoming members of the ‘Orthodox Rabbinate’.
Now I don’t mean to get too biblical, but it’s been said that the Egyptians didn’t really like the Jews because we were different. We dressed differently; we ate differently, and argued a bit too much. And, eventually, they enslaved us because of it. Yet this problem has continued throughout our history: we are seen as different, inferior, morally wrong or just a bit irritating. And this perception, sometimes true, often false and manipulated, has had murderous and genocidal repercussions.
Earlier this week we published this piece on intermarriage by senior AUJS activist, Ashleigh Werner. At WUJS we recognise that there are a plurality of views on Judaism and one of the roles of the student blogs section of our website is to provide a platform for diverse voices within our community to share their thoughts, musings and big ideas. The piece following is a response to Ashleigh's article by a committee member of Glasgow Jewish Society, Marcell Horvarth.
My life is plagued by questions... What are you doing? Who are you with? When will you be back? When are you going to finish your uni work? When are you going to be training? What are you eating? When am I seeing you? (From my mother as I just moved out of home)
Check out amazing blogs and op-eds here by Jewish student leaders from all over the world.