Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Haftorah Beam - Hukkat

Hah!  I get a free pass this week -- go ahead and read the regular Haftorah for this Parshah, but it's Rosh Hodesh again!  Happy Tammuz!

Haftorah Beam - Korach

Both the Torah portion and the Haftorah are concerned with the relationship of the people of Israel to government/authority figures.  In both stories, there is a legitimate leader (Moses/Samuel).  In both cases, the people seek an alternate leader (Korach/king) with a reasonable-sounding pretext. In both cases, the legitimate leader establishes his reputation for virtue.

There, however, the two stories diverge.  In the Torah, the rebels are punished, dramatically and violently.  They are literally swallowed up by the earth, and a plague spreads among their supporters. In the Haftorah, the prophet Samuel grants their request and annoints Saul as the new king.  Only then does he warn them:

13 "Well, the Lord has set a king over you! Here is the king that you have chosen, that you have asked for.
14 "If you will revere the Lord, worship Him, and obey Him, and will not flout the Lord's command, if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, [well and good]. 15 But if you do not obey the Lord and you flout the Lord's command, the hand of the Lord will strike you as it did your fathers.
16 "Now stand by and see the marvelous thing that the Lord will do before your eyes. 17 It is the season of the wheat harvest. I will pray to the Lord and He will send thunder and rain; then you will take thought and realize what a wicked thing you did in the sight of the Lord when you asked for a king."
18 Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and the people stood in awe of the Lord and of Samuel. 19 The people all said to Samuel, "Intercede for your servants with the Lord your God that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins the wickedness of asking for a king." 20 But Samuel said to the people, "Have no fear. You have, indeed, done all those wicked things. Do not, however, turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 Do not turn away to follow worthless things, which can neither profit nor save but are worthless. 22 For the sake of His great name, the Lord will never abandon His people, seeing that the Lord undertook to make you His people.
Submitting to a king was a risky move, spiritually speaking.  Previously, G*d alone was seen as King.  Will the people's allegiance now be divided?  Will they turn away from the commandments?  The prophet reassures the people that as long as they maintain their virtue they will be all right.  As history later showed, they were not able to maintain it more than a couple of generations before becoming corrupted.

Which strategy was better?  How is this applicable today?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Haftorah Beam - Shlakh L'kha

Both the Torah and Haftorah readings for this week deal with "spies" -- reconnaissance missions into the land of Israel.  In the Torah, Moses sends out the 12 spies in order to learn more about the land promised to the Hebrews by G*d.  The result is internal discord between the 2 optimists and the 10 pessimists, resulting in 40 additional years of wandering in the wilderness.

In the Haftorah, only 2 spies are sent, in preparation for the military campaign on Jericho.  This time, there is no dithering.  They know their purpose, and not only do they successfully complete their mission, but they make an ally in the person of Rahab the prostitute.
23 Then the two men came down again from the hills and crossed over. They came to Joshua son of Nun and reported to him all that had happened to them. 24 They said to Joshua, "The Lord has delivered the whole land into our power; in fact, all the inhabitants of the land are quaking before us."
Where the division among Moses's spies left the Hebrews "quaking" in fear of the Canaanites, the steadfastness of purpose exhibited by Joshua's spies struck fear in those very same Canaanites.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Haftorah Beam - Ba'Ha'alot'kha

This Parsha - literally meaning "as you raise up" - is about redemption.  The Torah reading appears fraught with strife, but is ultimately concerned with the resolution of conflict, Moses reconciling with the people, and the people turning back towards G*d.  The Haftorah is more explicitly about the reconciliation: Joshua (representing the people) starts out in a state of defilement, which is divinely removed from him so that he can take on the tasks of High Priest.  It is here that we find such immortal gems such as:

ב  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-הַשָּׂטָן, יִגְעַר יְהוָה בְּךָ הַשָּׂטָן, וְיִגְעַר יְהוָה בְּךָ, הַבֹּחֵר בִּירוּשָׁלִָם; הֲלוֹא זֶה אוּד, מֻצָּל מֵאֵשׁ.2 And the LORD said unto Satan: 'The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan, yea, the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee; is not this man a brand plucked out of the fire?'

ו  וַיַּעַן וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלַי, לֵאמֹר, זֶה דְּבַר-יְהוָה, אֶל-זְרֻבָּבֶל לֵאמֹר:  לֹא בְחַיִל, וְלֹא בְכֹחַ--כִּי אִם-בְּרוּחִי, אָמַר יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת.6 Then he answered and spoke unto me, saying: 'This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying: Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.

This is the essence of redemption: we are but a glowing ember, rescued from the flames by the strength of spirit alone.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Haftorah Beam - Nasso

OK, back to work!

The Torah portion for Nasso includes the laws of the Nazir, and the Haftorah recounts the story of one of the most famous Nazirim, Samson.

Most of the text pertains to the preparations undertaken by Samson's parents, from the announcement by the angel to the mother-to-be:
"You are barren and have borne no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Now be careful not to drink wine or other intoxicant, or to eat anything unclean. 5 For you are going to conceive and bear a son; let no razor touch his head, for the boy is to be a nazirite to God from the womb on. He shall be the first to deliver Israel from the Philistines."

She repeats this announcement to her husband, who disbelieves her, and entreats G*d to send the messenger again.  The angel reappears, and repeats the same instructions.  When the angel refuses a reward for these news, the man becomes suspicious:
 17 So Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, "What is your name? We should like to honor you when your words come true." 18 The angel said to him, "You must not ask for my name; it is unknowable!"

Manoah and his wife proceed to offer a sacrifice to G*d, which is consumed (accepted).  Even then, Manoah fears the implications, only to be reassured by his wife:
22 And Manoah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, for we have seen a divine being." 23 But his wife said to him, "Had the Lord meant to take our lives, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and meal offering from us, nor let us see all these things; and He would not have made such an announcement to us."

And she, in fact, has the last word:
24 The woman bore a son, and she named him Samson. The boy grew up, and the Lord blessed him.
This mother, who is never named, understood what was going on at each stage. It would have been so easy to get frustrated with Manoah and his insistence on second-guessing her.  But she did not do that.  She patiently supported him in seeking additional information from the angel, and reassured him without belittling his concerns.  She was truly an Eshet Chayil.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Another year older

I had my birthday this past weekend.  A time of reflection, but also a time of action.  Action that took my attention away from blogging.  Am I being cryptic? A bit.  But I also have some Haftorah Beam to catch up with......
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