Torah: Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3: 22) Haftarah:(Isaiah 1:1-27)
Tish B’Av is the 9th of Av which is the anniversary of the Fall of Jerusalem.
The Torah has the introduction to farewell discourses of Moses. The first discourse is a review of the journey from Sinai to the wilderness of Kadesh. Moses appoints judges to decide justly and who will be impartial in their deliberations. On commenting on the difficult burden of making judgements, the ancient rabbis compared the responsibility of judging to dealing with fire. When one comes too close, one is burnt. If one strays too far from it, one will be cold. The art of making judgements, they concluded, is to find the right distance.
In his presentation to the Israelites, Moses suggested three significant rules for making judgements: “hear out” those with conflicting views; do not show partiality to high or low, Israelite or stranger; fear no one when you are ready to render your decision. Using these guidelines, Torah commentators elaborate on the art of achieving justice in human relationships (Mechilta on Yitro).
The notable Mitzvah was the appointment of judges. When Israel was an autonomous people dwelling in its own land, and all of its religious activities were centered around the Temple, judges were not elected but selected. Those who were commissioned to make appointments were forbidden to show any favoritism whatsoever. The candidates had to meet certain qualifications of the highest level.
The Jewish people made sure the people that ruled and judged had qualities of moral and ethics. They had to follow Talmudic laws and interpret them for the generation of their times. No checking off boxes, no relationships and the candidate had to have knowledge of all tasks they were to handle.
The Haftarah always precedes the ninth of Av, the anniversary of the fall of Jerusalem. Assyria had defeated the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
Isaiah the prophet criticizes the Judean for their weakness and wrongdoings. G-d does not simply want animal sacrifices; but rather, G-d asks of His people that they do justly and act ethically.
Just returning from the Holy Land and visiting Jerusalem is always a spiritual uplifting moment. This was not my first visit, however it was a family only trip. My daughter and my grandson joined me. My daughter’s second trip and my grandson’s first. Meeting with our congregants Nadene and David Barish was heartwarming. They made aliyah and are citizens of Israel. They joined us for dinner twice, traveling from their new home in Bet El to Jerusalem. I also met with one of my colleagues from the grant “Ki Va Moed” ( the Time in Now- transforming better understanding of the Jewish people through education: later we continued with the environment). We caught up on what has happened in the last decade. Even though we keep in contact, it is different to meet in person, especially in the historic Hotel King David in Jerusalem. Yair Lootsteen is now the Chairperson of the Israel Movement for Judaism and a member of the Reform Movement’s Israel Religious Action Committee Steering Committee. We are kindred spirits, continuing working both for our faith and the government.
While we visited Israel, yes Israel reacted to a terrorist threat in Janne. Followed by reactions by radical Hezbollah extremists. Israel has every right to defend their citizens!
While we traveled with our tour group our visits were not near these areas. One must live their lives fully each day. Every country has their issues. This week Israeli President Herzog spoke to our Congress. President Herzog received a warm reception, and he mentioned that people are free to have their opinions of Israel. Yet, Israel and the U.S.A. are family!
There were anti-Semitic and anti – Israel remarks made by some of our Representatives. I wrote and spoke out about this hateful rhetoric! Remember “Never Be Silent!” and “ Never Forget!”
Rabbi Helene Ainbinder