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Showing posts from June, 2016

Our God Makes Demands of Us (Orlando Shooting/Murder of Jo Cox)

Parashat Beha’alotcha 2016 / Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz  Our God makes demands of us. 
Our God makes demands of us. 
As modern Jews, we may be unaccustomed and even uncomfortable with the above statement. We relish in a world of autonomy, even permissiveness, and we associate Divine demands with another world entirely—one of unbridled zealotry and narrow-minded fanaticism. 
Yet it is true, our God makes demands of us. 
Our God demands our relentless pursuit of justice. ‘Tzedek tzedek tirdoff’—‘justice, justice you shall pursue’ (Deut. 16:20). Our God demands abiding love. ‘V’ahavta le’arecha kamocha’—‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Lev. 19:18). Our God demands lives guided by wise lovingkindness—‘torat chesed al leshonah’—‘the law of kindness shall be upon her tongue.’ (Prov. 31:26) Our God demands our unwavering commitment to peace. ‘Sur me’rah v’aseh tov, bakesh shalom v’rad’fehu’—‘Turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it’ (Psalm 34:15). 
These demands take on a…

Legacy and Destiny

Parashat Bamidbar 2016 Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
Legacy and Destiny
There are two Midrashim that discuss the circumstances under which the Torah was given at Shavuot. Each story places a radically different emphasis. Listen to them both and tell me what stands out for you.
Midrash #1: The Torah was given to the people of Israel in the ownerless desert. For if it were given in the Land of Israel, the residents of the Land of Israel would say, “It is ours”; and if it were given in some other place, the residents of that place would say, “It is ours.” Therefore it was given in the wilderness, so that anyone who wishes to acquire it may acquire it.Mechilta d’Rashbi
And:
Midrash #2: Rabbi Meir said: When the Jews stood before Sinai to receive the Torah, God said to them: "I swear, I will not give you the Torah unless you provide worthy guarantors who will assure that you will observe its laws."The Jews responded, "Master of the world, our forefathers will be our guarantors!""…