Showing posts from August, 2011

Parashat Chukat

Birmingham Liberal Community Esther Hugenholtz
Parashat Chukkat
Do you remember that game in school where you had to close your eyes and allow yourself fall backwards in the arms of your classmates? This exercise was geared to build trust, one of the most elusive and difficult human emotions.
Why is it so hard to trust? We can be prideful and angry, lazy and greedy. But somehow, these are aspects of ourselves that we can chisel away at to improve. Slowly but surely we can resolve to become better individuals by turning inwards and finding the strength to implement our highest ideals about ourselves. But trusting is hard. In the ocean of trust, no man is an island. We always trust in relation to another. We need each other to trust.
This week’s parashah is all about trust. On the surface, this week’s reading appears to deal with disparate themes: the odd purification rituals involving the ashes of the red heifer, Moses striking the rock, the deaths of Miriam and Aaron, the refusal of…

Parashat Korach

Parashat Korach Esther Hugenholtz Herefortshire Liberal Community
Empowerment, Not Entitlement
When I was about to set off for university, my mother made me some golden promises. ‘It will be the best time of your life’.
A ‘flower child’ of the late 1960’s, university had engendered that promise for her. For her it was a time of empowerment, self-discovery, of a mapping out of her democratic ideals which formed the ethics of my upbringing.
University did fulfil that promise for me also. I became a student activist, read political literature, went on marches, and sought answers to the big questions in life. I was invited to nurture my intellect, encouraged to stand up for my beliefs and, most importantly, to be grateful for the privilege of exercising my basic human rights.
Freedom of speech, assembly and the ballot. All these things are infinitely precious and should be cherished by any civilised society. As it is infinitely precious, our freedom is also quite delicate.
Given this pe…

Parashat Beha'alot'cha

A Taste of Limmud Parashat Beha’alot’cha
The vacation season has arrived and many will hit the road. In days past, it would have been tempting to bicker over a wrong turn or missing a crucial exit. Today we are lucky to have the foolproof technology of a GPS to guide us.
Parashat Beha’alot’cha provides the Children of Israel with their GPS and presents us with a microcosm of the spiritual roadmap that is Torah. We read a seemingly chaotic text which brims with a large number of events. Our weekly reading starts out with instructions for the Menorah, then describes the duties of the Levites, only to follow with offering the second chance of ‘Pesach Sheni’. Then the narrative informs us of the guidance of the ‘Anan’, the Cloud of Glory which rests over the Tabernacle, the spiritual compass of the Israelite community. Further on, it mentions the construction of silver trumpets to organise the community, and Moses’ management crash course instructing him to delegate seventy elders to…