The Talmud (BT Gittin 55b-56a) records a fascinating but very relevant debate between the Rabbinic leaders and Rabbi Zechaiah b. Abkulas. It occurred in 66 BCE when Judea was under Roman control. Bar Kamza, a Jew, felt slighted by Judea’s Rabbinic and political leadership and was determined to avenge this insult. He thus informed Emperor Nero that the Jews were not loyal subjects and as proof he proposed that Nero send a calf to be sacrificed as a gift offering in the Temple. Bar Kamza delivered the calf but not before he had made a slight cut on its lip that the Jews regarded as a blemish but not the Romans.
This blog is based on a Dvar Torah that I shared with my Hartman Cohort last Shabbat. It feels even more relevant on this Shabbat just before Tisha B’Av that begins on Saturday evening.
This week’s blog brought to you by Rabbi Shoshanah Conover and Orr Shalom (Temple Sholom Youth Group) Social Action Chair Sydney Baer
In the second of this week’s double Torah Portion, Matot-Masei, we read the recounting of the Israelites’ journey through 42 stations on their trek toward Israel. Many commentators puzzle over why the Torah enumerates each of these stops—some of them preferring to simply dismiss this enumeration as superfluous. Yet, as sixteen year-old Sydney Baer has become part of our family in Israel, joining us in Jerusalem as our babysitter, we have realized the importance of recounting the minor moments in our days that accumulate into one powerful experience. While many of the places recounted in the last parashah in the Book of Numbers are ones of strife, we have taken the time to recount the moments of joy and appreciation in our own journey. We hope you will enjoy reading about some of these moments and what we’ve learned from them.
This week at Hartman, we took our exploration of Justice outside of the classroom and into Israeli society. Some colleagues went to south Tel Aviv to learn more about the issue of African Asylum Seekers. Others focused on the inclusion of the physically and mentally challenged in Israel. I went to the town of Kiryat Gat (Chicago’s sister region through JUF) to find out more about the issues that the Ethiopian Jewish community continues to confront. This seemed especially relevant after the protests of racism by the Ethiopian community in Tel Aviv which coincided with the protests of racism in Baltimore. http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-failed-ethiopian-community-president-says-at-memorial/
My time this summer at the Shalom Hartman Institute as a fellow in the 5th Cohort of the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative has been alive and inspired by the famous phrase by the prophet Micah in this week’s haftarah:
What does Adonai require of you?