Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Haftorah Beam - Ha'azinu (Shabat Shuva)

As this Parsha is read during the 10 Days of Awe (between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur), the usual Haftorah is replaced with the Shabat Shuva reading.

This collection of verses from several prophetic writings examines the concept of repentance, both human and divine.

Hosea 14
2 Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,For you have fallen because of your sin.

as well as

5 I will heal their affliction,Generously will I take them back in love;For My anger has turned away from them.

How do we atone for our wrongdoings, and how do we rediscover the true path?  This passage from Joel echoes the High Holiday rituals:

Joel 2
15 Blow a horn in Zion,
Solemnize a fast,
Proclaim an assembly!
16 Gather the people,
Bid the congregation purify themselves.
Bring together the old,
Gather the babes
And the sucklings at the breast;
Let the bridegroom come out of his chamber,
The bride from her canopied couch.
Through repentance and community, relationship with the divine is restored.

Haftorah Beam - Nitzavim/Vayeilech

Almost done with the cycle!  As in last year, this is a double parsha, but uses the Haftorah for Nitzavim.

Finishing off the month of Elul אלול (acronym for אני לדודי ודודי לי - I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine), this Haftorah elaborates on the theme of marriage as the metaphor for G*d's relationship with Israel in preparation for the High Holidays, often seen as a symbolic wedding (white clothes, ritual immersion, etc).

4 Nevermore shall you be called "Forsaken,"Nor shall your land be called "Desolate";But you shall be called "I delight in her,"And your land "Espoused."For the Lord takes delight in you,And your land shall be espoused.5 As a youth espouses a maiden,Your sons shall espouse you;And as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,So will your God rejoice over you.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Haftorah Beam - Ki Tavo

The Torah portion is all about being aware of the blessings which surround us.  The Haftorah reading, likewise, is about vision:

1 Arise, shine, for your light has dawned;
The Presence of the Lord has shone upon you!
2 Behold! Darkness shall cover the earth,
And thick clouds the peoples;
But upon you the Lord will shine,
And His Presence be seen over you.
3 And nations shall walk by your light,
Kings, by your shining radiance.
4 Raise your eyes and look about:
They have all gathered and come to you.
Your sons shall be brought from afar,
Your daughters like babes on shoulders.
5 As you behold, you will glow;
Your heart will throb and thrill —
For the wealth of the sea shall pass on to you,
The riches of nations shall flow to you.
In just the first 5 verses, I have highlighted 14 words related to vision or light. I am intrigued mostly by the beginning of the 5th verse:

ה  אָז תִּרְאִי וְנָהַרְתְּ, וּפָחַד וְרָחַב לְבָבֵךְ:  כִּי-יֵהָפֵךְ עָלַיִךְ הֲמוֹן יָם, חֵיל גּוֹיִם יָבֹאוּ לָךְ.5 Then thou shalt see and be radiant, and thy heart shall throb and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned unto thee, the wealth of the nations shall come unto thee.

 It is through opening our eyes and truly seeing G*d's world that we ourselves can shine.  The Hebrew word,  נָהַרְתְּ, is etymologically related to the word נהר, "river", suggesting that the radiance is flowing like a mighty river.  The radiance is dynamic, active, and a bit wild, not a static glow.

Furthermore, the heart is enlarged not merely by "throbbing" but through "פָחַד" - fear.  It is through facing -seeing - and overcoming fear ("Darkness shall cover the earth, And thick clouds the peoples"), that our fortunes are turned ("כִּי-יֵהָפֵךְ").

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

So about those Russian kids....

Nearly 2 years ago, Russia abruptly terminated international adoption to the United States, as well as expelled American NGO's working in orphanages.  Many families who were already in process were prevented from completing their adoptions, leaving behind children whom they had already met.   Russia's Children's Ombudsman promised that all these children will be well taken care of domestically, including the numerous children with special needs.

Seems that, ahem, more work needs to be done....


Monday, September 8, 2014

Haftorah Beam - Ki Teitzeh

In comparison with the Torah portion, this Haftorah is simplicity itself:  It is G*d's proclamation of eternal love for the people of Israel, offering full redemption in compensation for the years of rejection. Rabbi Siegel argues that G*d loves us eternally, but requires us to show lovingkindness to one another in order to merit it from Him.  This interpretation was not apparent from the translation, so I looked it up in the original:

ז  בְּרֶגַע קָטֹן, עֲזַבְתִּיךְ; וּבְרַחֲמִים גְּדֹלִים, אֲקַבְּצֵךְ.7 For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great compassion will I gather thee.
ח  בְּשֶׁצֶף קֶצֶף, הִסְתַּרְתִּי פָנַי רֶגַע מִמֵּךְ, וּבְחֶסֶד עוֹלָם, רִחַמְתִּיךְ--אָמַר גֹּאֲלֵךְ, יְהוָה. 8 In a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have compassion on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer. 

Each phrase seems to imply "In one circumstance, I rejected you; and in a different circumstance, I shall redeem you".  But it could also be grammatically understood as referring to the people's demeanor:

In [your] moment of smallness, I left you;And with [your] great mercy, I shall gather you.In [your] frothy fury, I briefly hid My face from you;And with [your] lovingkindness for the world,  I shall condole you.
When we act small, or froth with anger, G*d's presence appears to depart.  And it is when we act with mercy and lovingkindness that we experience G*d's love for us, as well.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Haftorah Beam - Shoftim

This week's Torah portion is famous for the phrase צֶדֶק צֶדֶק תִּרְדֹּף - Justice, justice shalt thou pursue. This phrase, with the repetition of the word Justice, emphasizes that the end does not justify the means -- even in the pursuit of justice, just methods must be observed (c.f. current events in Ferguson MO and elsewhere....)

The Haftorah, from Isaiah 51 and 52, echoes this style, with FOUR separate repetitions:

51:12:אָנֹכִי אָנֹכִי הוּא, מְנַחֶמְכֶם  
I, I am He who comforts you!

הִתְעוֹרְרִי הִתְעוֹרְרִי, קוּמִי יְרוּשָׁלִַם, אֲשֶׁר שָׁתִית מִיַּד יְהוָה, אֶת-כּוֹס חֲמָתוֹ 
Rouse, rouse yourself!
Arise, O Jerusalem,
You who from the Lord's hand
Have drunk the cup of His wrath

עוּרִי עוּרִי לִבְשִׁי עֻזֵּךְ, צִיּוֹן
Awake, awake, O Zion!
Clothe yourself in splendor

And finally, 52:11:
סוּרוּ סוּרוּ צְאוּ מִשָּׁם, טָמֵא אַל-תִּגָּעוּ
Turn, turn away, touch naught unclean
As you depart from there;

Once again, the repetition is significant.

Does the repetition mean the same thing both times?  In Genesis, G*d repeats Abraham's name when he stays his hand from completing the Akedah, in case the first time was not heard.  How often do we need to hear a message more than once before we get it?  And yet, the repetition is not the same.  It is more urgent: a greater need for the speaker, and more "urging" -- insisting, pushing, nagging -- for the listener.

How can we recognize G*d when He repeatedly calls to us?

How can we repeatedly awaken and rouse ourselves in the face of adversity and "clothe ourselves in splendor" instead?

How can we repeatedly turn away from the things which wreak havoc in our lives?

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