Peace Parsha: How the world is, and how we must be

Rabbi Joshua Gutoff is Director of the MA in Jewish Education program at Gratz College. He has rabbinic ordination and an EdD from the Jewish Theological Seminary.

peace_parsha_logo186x140We turn to the Torah, many of us, for wisdom.   And this week when we turn to the parsha, this is what we find:  a command to the Israelites that, when encountering an enemy town, to enslave all the inhabitants.  Unless they put up a fight, in which case all the adult males are to be slaughtered, and the women and children enslaved.  And that’s outside the Promised Land.  When conquering the Land, none of the indigenous population is to be spared.  (Deut. 20:10-18)


Where we might have been hoping for something that would demonstrate a respect for all human life, even anticipate the Geneva Conventions, we find instead an invitation (or command!) to participate in forced enslavement or genocidal slaughter. 

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Peace Parsha: Tisha B'Av - Kindness, Justice and Righteousness

peace_parsha_logo186x140Rabbi Seth Goldstein has served as the rabbi of Temple Beth Hatfiloh in Olympia, WA since 2003, after graduating from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia. He is a member of the board of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, served as a co-chair of an RRA task force examining issues of Jewish status and identity, is a participant in the Clergy Leadership Program of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and a fellow of CLAL's Rabbis Without Borders.


Tisha B’Av (“the ninth of Av”) is a day of fasting and mourning for the destruction of the ancient Temples in Jerusalem, and is observed this year beginning the evening of July 25. Like Yom Kippur, it is a full day fast (The fast is being observed on the 10th of Av this year because the 9th falls on Shabbat, and thus the fast is postponed.)

The Temple holds an important place in the collective spiritual consciousness of the Jewish people. It is seen as the place where the community was in deep and close connection to God. The destruction of the Temple led to the separation from the land, the dispersion of the community and a need to rebuild the ritual infrastructure of Judaism, so its loss is remembered as a great tragedy. In addition to setting aside this one day to mourn, prayers for the rebuilding of the Temple and Jerusalem punctuate our liturgy.

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Peace Parsha: In Support of a Fearless Israel

Raysh Weiss holds a PhD in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Minnesota and is currently entering her final year of Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She is the founder and director of YentaNet, a pluralistic matchmaking organization, currently serves on the Board of Directors of T'ruah, and is a co-editor of the progressive Jewish blog

peace_parsha_logo186x140With the unrelenting blitzkrieg of violent images flooding the media from the Middle East and beyond, it can be hard not to resort to a sense of fear and hopelessness. Such images, coupled with political leadership built upon collective fear and defensiveness, engender a society that cannot move beyond immediate threats and anxieties. In constantly speaking of security, we all too easily lose sight of other rights, relegating them to a tragically secondary status.

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Peace parsha: Broken open, and not apart

peace_parsha_logo_186x140Rabbi Esther L. Lederman is the associate rabbi of Temple Micah, in Washington, DC.  She travelled to Israel this December. 


Before I left for Israel on a quick trip this past December, I told a colleague, “I am going to have my heart broken.”  It had been six years since I had visited.  Way too long, in my opinion.  So off I went, expecting to return even more depressed about the state of affairs than when I left.  I was wrong. 

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Peace Parsha: If this is so, then why am I?

peace parsha feature 1 logo"The children struggled in her womb, and she said, 'If this is so, then why am I?'" -- Genesis 25:22

We read in this week's Torah portion that even in the womb, Rebecca's children Jacob and Esau quarreled. And their perennial struggle brought her to an existential outcry: if this is so, then why am I? If this is the only possibility for my sons, she seems to be saying, then my motherhood -- even my whole existence -- feels called into question. If fighting is all there is, then what's the point?

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Peace Parsha: Hayyei Sarah - Love and Care across Boundaries

peace_parsha_logo186x140By Rabbi Dr. Marc Gopin 



This portion of Genesis is an end of life saga, but at the same time it is a secret testimony, a message delivered across the ages, as to what it means to perpetuate life on a promised land, how one can make it an eternal life on the land. It is momentous and dramatic, focusing both on the burial of the old generation and the continuity of the next generation, with Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah. None of these changes, however, guarantee any perpetual relationship to the land. The secret to that lies in the nature of their dealings with their neighbors.

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Peace Parsha: What’s in a Name?

peace_parsha_logo186x140By Rabbi Lev Meirowitz Nelson

As we begin the Torah anew, we are reminded once again of the power of names. God calls the light “Day” and the darkness “Night” (Gen. 1:5); God then hands over this divine prerogative to Adam, having him name all the animals and, ultimately, Eve (2:19-23). Two parshiyot later, an angel instructs Hagar what to name her son, she responds by naming God (16:11,13), and God changes Abram and Sarai’s names (17:5,15). Names, clearly, have power.

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Peace Parsha: In Search of an Unbroken Peace

peace_parsha_logo186x140by APN's summer intern Hannah Ehlers

Israel is no stranger to blaring sirens and rockets soaring overhead, crashing violently or intercepted in repeated close calls. Israel also is no stranger to fear—a genuine, existential fear that does not subside even when the rocket fire goes away. Every reasonable person wants peace and knows that violence is not the way to achieve it. But do enough people, Israelis and Palestinians, believe in the possibility of peace to make it happen?  


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Peace Parsha: “By Spirit Alone”: Force Should be the Absolute Last Resort

by APN's Summer Intern, Hannah Ehlers


Not by might and not by power,
but by spirit alone shall we all live in peace.

I can still remember as a young girl sitting on the sun-stained carpet of our synagogue’s makeshift music room and allowing my shy, quiet voice to rise with the voices of the other children surrounding me. Our childish, out-of-tune voices sang of our love of God, the Earth, and one another. Debbie Friedman’s song, “Not by Might, Not by Power” became my Sunday school favorite and, when I was brave enough to speak up, I requested it and shouted “ruach!” as loud as I could at the right time.

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Peace Parsha: For the Love of Israel: Korach and the Settlements

by APN's Summer Intern, Hannah Ehlers


This week’s Torah portion (Korach, Numbers 16:1-18:32) concerns the dangers of complacency and the unfairness of acting at the expense of others, matters relevant to events in Israel today. Korach leads a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. 250 followers join Korach to challenge the leadership of Moses and Aaron, demanding priesthood in addition to the “service of the tabernacle of God” (Numbers 16:9) to which they, as Levites, are already assigned. These actions by Korach and his cohorts, and the lack of opposition by the greater community, ultimately result in immense suffering—the earth swallows Korach and his men and a deadly plague spreads through the Israelite community.

God initially sought to destroy the entire community as punishment for Korach and his followers’ sins. But Moses and Aaron pleaded for fairness: “O God, Source of the spirit of all flesh! When one man sins, will You be wrathful with the whole community?” (Numbers 16:22). God relented and instructed the prophets to tell the Israelites to “depart… from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be swept away in all their sins” (Numbers 16:26). Besides the 250 men with Korach, the rest of the community is largely uninvolved in the conflict between the rebels and the prophets. God views the community’s indifference as betrayal and demands that they act.

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