Peace Parsha: Chanukah - The light that must be seen; the darkness of neglect

peace_parsha_logo_186x140Rabbi Michael Bernstein is the spiritual leader of Congregation Gesher L’Torah in Alpharetta, Ga. Michael received his ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1999 and is an alumni of the Rabbis Without Borders second cohort.


This week on the Jewish calendar both great darkness and great light intersect as we read in the Torah the story of Joseph being subjected by his brothers to the bottom of a pit, and prepare to once more kindle the lights of Chanukah.  In the Talmud, there are two different teachings by Rabbi Tanhum that are presented one after the other, even though they seem to have little to do with each other.  The first is the law that the Chanukah candles must not be placed so high that a passerby's eyes would not naturally be able to see them.  The second deals with Joseph and the fact that the pit into which he is tossed is described as being "empty and having no water."  It had no water, but, according to this teaching, the pit did have snakes and scorpions!   

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peace_parsha_logo186x140Barbara Green has been a volunteer for Americans for Peace Now for many years. She lives in Washington, DC.


If we look to the Torah for lessons in how we are to live our lives today, we're hard-pressed to find it in Vayeitze.  Rather this is a series of lessons in duplicity, trickery, bad faith between kinsmen, and ultimately the creation of a physical boundary between them which neither is ever again to cross. Laban tricks Jacob, Rachel tricks Laban, Jacob tricks Laban.  In the end the 'heroes-heroines," our ancestors, narrowly escape with their lives and flocks intact.

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Peace Parsha for Sukkot and Simchat Torah: All beginnings are hard

peace_parsha_logo186x140Barbara Green has been a volunteer for Americans for Peace Now for many years.   She lives in Washington, DC.      


"Kol ha-hatchalot kashot," as every Israeli school child learns, means "All beginnings are hard."  We know this to be true in our everyday lives but the Torah gives new meaning to the concept.  

            God  gave us the ultimate new beginning when he created the world, but within 3 short chapters the inhabitants of Paradise were expelled and in the next chapter we have the world's first fratricide. Before long God realizes He made a major mistake when His creation scheme included human beings.  He vows to end the entire enterprise.

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peace parsha feature 1 logoOn Wednesday (Sept. 23) as Jews end their Yom Kippur fast, Muslims will begin the Eid al-Adha holiday. Imam Haytham Younis and Rabbi Alana Suskin met for coffee and then exchanged the following email dialogue about the two holidays’ convergence and the meaning of a shared story that lies at the intersection of both faiths.

Suskin: It is a rare occurrence for Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and Eid al-Adha (the Feast of the Sacrifice) to fall back-to-back, but seems appropriate somehow. Just a week ago, on Rosh Hashanah, we read the Torah portion relating the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son — the Jewish perspective of the same story that underlies Eid al-Adha. For Jews, this is the story of the sacrifice of Isaac at God’s command (stopped, of course, at the last moment, by an angel sent by God).

Younis: Yes. Eid al-Adha similarly commemorates the obedience of Abraham and his son to the command of God in fulfilling the sacrifice, as well as the observance of the pilgrimage to the House of God (the Kaaba) in Mecca, which, we believe, was established by Abraham. According to the Quran, the son involved in the sacrifice however, was Ishmael, not Isaac.

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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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