Jun 13

Today we weep – the day after Orlando


The news on Sunday was shocking, confusing, and unspeakably tragic.

What in God’s name is happening in this, our world? Last week Tel Aviv, this Sunday Orlando, and next week …? There is so much pain.

In thousands of places all over the world Jews studied Torah last weekend. We engaged ourselves in those studies, because we have hoped to find a better understanding of how we can make this world a better place. We have engaged ourselves in Tikkun Olam, the reparation of the world, because we know and we see how much more needs to be done to see this world redeemed. Saturday night we spoke about the pain the death of a single person can cause, and how guilty we feel if we couldn’t help. But we accepted that death is part of our lives and that we can find comfort in our Jewish tradition and our surrounding community, if death happens within our closes circles.

But nothing can prepare us for those horrific, brutal and senseless attacks we had to witness in the past few days, months and years. The world, which I love so much, is broken, and the rifts seem to me un-bridgeable. How can we repair the world if a single person has been able to destroy the lives of so many, and to bring so much more hate into this world? How many more people need to study the values of the Torah to outbalance the bestial acts of those monsters?

Many, I know will answer this question with a sense of hopelessness, telling me that there aren’t enough good people in this world to tip the scale to the good. Helplessness tells us to surrender. But in doing so, we allow those monsters to take the victory home, and we give space to the demagogues who trample on the victims to boost themselves and their ideology of hate. The terror acts of the last few days don’t allow us to surrender, to the contrary, the victims of those crimes ask us to not give up hope and to stand up for our values.

We need to be the people of God that actively involve themselves in initiatives to end violence, especially violence against minorities. We need to be committed to the idea that being a Jew means nothing less than intentionally standing up, regardless of differences, when we see lives devalued or dehumanised by hate and ignorance. I believe with all my heart that doing so is a beautiful outworking of the Torah we claim to love and live.

We value all life and the dignity of others because we all bear God’s image. Our faith can never be a reason to turn away from each other, but it should be – it must be – the reason why we approach one another and try to make an impact, even though we don’t understand or approve. Our tradition calls us to nothing less!

Those terror acts call us to break down the walls of our own lethargy and to strengthen those who stand to protect us and our society. Judaism is not a religion of presenting the other cheek if we are attacked. To protect ourselves doesn’t mean to outcast others, it means to be aware that evil things happen and need to be stopped. When the allies started to re-create a civilised society in Germany after 1945 they used the term “fortified democracy” to introduce a system that doesn’t allow radicals to pervert democracy again. The main key is that every individual is responsible to protect this achievement. And so we are called today to protect our world from those radicals, from those haters of life, from those demagogues who try to ignite hate in us.

Today we weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn, tomorrow we stand up to change the world.


Permanentlink zu diesem Beitrag: http://www.simanija.eu/2016/today-we-weep-the-day-after-orlando/

Jul 24

Tischa beAw: Nähe zu Gott – auch ohne Tempel

Tischa beAw – Ein zentrales Heiligtum ist für den Bund mit dem Ewigen nicht nötig. Wir können ihm an jedem Ort der Welt begegnen …

Mein Artikel in der Jüdischen Allgemeinen zum Nachlesen:


2015-07-23 17.41.35

Permanentlink zu diesem Beitrag: http://www.simanija.eu/2015/tischa-beaw-naehe-zu-gott-auch-ohne-tempel/

Jul 24

Parashat Mattot Masei: We cannot feign ignorance to these humanitarian crises.

The obligation to protect human life, stands at the centre of our tradition. Derived from a verse in Leviticus which reads, “Neither shall you stand by the blood of your neighbor,” the classical rabbis developed the overarching principle of pikuach nefesh, which asserts the supreme responsibility of protecting individuals who are in potentially life-threatening situations.

This week’s parashah includes a distinctive Torah instruction which reflects our tradition’s view to protection life and, in particular, of those people in society who are vulnerable. The Israelites are instructed upon entering the land of Canaan to designate arei miklat, cities of refuge, which would function as asylums for the perpetrators of unintentional manslaughter from violent retribution by their victims’ relatives.

As we read the Torah’s instructions we are reminded of the huge number of refugees and displaced persons currently scattered across South Africa and around the globe.

When it comes to dealing with the reality of displaced people, the biblical institution of cities of refuge provide us with a Jewish foundation for pro-action.

In the Talmud, the cities of refuge are discussed in a number of places. In tractate Baba Batra of the Talmud we find a striking teaching within a seemingly mundane legal discussion concerning the proper width of a variety of pathways: “Our Rabbis taught: A private path is of the width of four cubits; a path from one town to another is to have a width of eight cubits; a public road, 16 cubits; the road to the cities of refuge, 32 cubits.”

What is noteworthy about this teaching is that we find that the road to a city of refuge was required to be twice as wide as an ordinary public road. These teachings reflect something remarkable about the rabbinic attitude toward cities of refuge. The emphasis on the great width and sound condition of the roads leading to cities of refuge, illustrates the seriousness, with which the rabbis approached this biblically mandated communal responsibility.

If our tradition displays such concern for people who have themselves committed murder, even if unintentionally, how much more so should we feel compelled to protect these tens of millions of refugees, the bulk of whom are not themselves criminals but rather innocent bystanders driven from their homes as a result of wars and violence.

Living in a time where foreigners are exposed to hate and prosecution, we cannot feign ignorance to these humanitarian crises, regardless of where they may be occurring. And armed with the knowledge of these emergencies, we are faced, as individuals, communities, and as nations, with the choice of whether or not to respond.

There are many things that we can do. We can support the important work of organizations like UNICEF to lower the pain of refuges over the world, we can support Keren b’Kavod in Israel, the progressive Aid organization in Israel, or our local Jewish and Christian organization that are here to help. We can raise awareness in our Jewish communities of the refugee crisis.

As is often noted, the Torah has more to say about the proper treatment of strangers than it does with any other set of laws, including worshipping God or observing festivals.

Today is Mandela Day, and perhaps we all can contribute to the ideas and dreams he envisioned for South Africa, a State where the human dignity of every individual is the highest treasure we have.

Shabbat Shalom

(Source: Rabbi Danny Burkeman)

Permanentlink zu diesem Beitrag: http://www.simanija.eu/2015/parashat-mattot-masei-we-cannot-feign-ignorance-to-these-humanitarian-crises/

Mrz 27

Abuse – do not remain silent (Parashat Tzav)

Shalom BayitThis evening, I am not going to share with you some regular thoughts on our Torah portion of this Shabbat. We will learn more about it tomorrow morning, especially from our Bat Mitzvah Jessica.

What I would like to share with you is a deep impression I have made this week at a seminar that was organized by Shalom Bayit, and I am very thankful that I had the chance to join the seminar.

The topic of the seminar was ABUSE; physical, mental, and sexual abuse. I know, this is not a usual topic for a Friday night sermon, but please bear with me for a moment.

The people on the podium, as well as two survivors shared with us not only facts, numbers and statistics, we can read everywhere; their words lead us into a sea of an emotional abyss, which they had to face personally or as counsellors professionally. They shared with us the brutality of any abuse, and how this affects and changes the life of any victim forever.

Even though we don’t like to hear it, we must hear the following: The abuse of women, men, girls and boys has been happening also in the “Jewish world”, it has been happening in our progressive one, too. We need to hear it, because it happens, and can happen everywhere at any time to everyone.

I don’t want to shock you, but I have to, because we need to be aware of it. Awareness is the first step to change the situation, and to help the victims.

Our Torah portion for this week is mentioning again the Ner Tamid, the eternal light or flame that once was lit in the sanctuary on the altar of the tabernacle and the temple, and has now become a symbol of God’s presence in every synagogue.

Some of you might (hopefully) remember that I talked about the eternal light just some weeks ago, because it was also a topic in Parashat Tetzaveh. On that Shabbat I shared with you the idea that the Ner Tamid is not only this light above the Aron HaKodesh, the Torah Ark, that represents God’s presence in our Synagogue, it is also the divine spark that is imbedded in every human being. This eternal light is nourished by our love and care for another human being. It is the love of a parent, a partner, of a child, of a friend, or even a stranger that feeds this eternal light in us.

But, let’s be reminded that this light is very fragile, it can be easily diminished or even worse, it can be extinguished very easily by abuse. This light needs our joined protection. We all, as individuals, and as part of this community have a high responsibility to keep this light shining, bright and un-touched.

If we learn that one person, only one, is in danger, or even already abused, we need to act immediately. As Rabbi Goldstein said – there is a zero tolerance policy towards abuse.

I have much more in my mind, I would like to share with you – the words of the survivors have impressed me heavily, and I know this is not the right place to share these experiences. But I think we should be having a seminar on this topic in the nearer future in order to give you all more information – first hand.

In the meantime, I would like to make you aware what you can do, if you learn about abuse, or if you need help.

We have pamphlets from Shalom Bayit in the foyer of the synagogue. They help you to understand more what abuse is, how you can recognize it, and how you can help or get help. Please get them.

As I said before, awareness is the first step to help the victims. Abuse happens, and the victims need our help. This synagogue is a safe zone. If you need help, or if you know of someone, who needs help, you will find it here.

Shabbat Shalom


Chevrah Kadisha – 24hour line: 082-499-1010

Life Line: 011-728-1347

CSO Emergency: 086-1-8000-18

POWA 24hour line: 0800-150-150

Hatzolah – 24hour line: 083-222-1818

Permanentlink zu diesem Beitrag: http://www.simanija.eu/2015/abuse-do-not-to-remain-silent-parashat-tzav/

Feb 12

To behold the graciousness of the Eternal

אחת שאלתי מאת־יהוה אותה אבקש שבתי בבית־יהוה כל־ימי חיי לחזות בנעם־יהוה ולבקר בהיכלו׃
One thing I ask from the Eternal, One thing I desire:
That I may dwell in the house of Adonai all the days of my life,
To behold the graciousness of the Eternal,
And to enter His sanctuary.
Psalm 27.4

Rabbi Avidan, Rabbi Margolis, Rabbi Shaked,
Dear congregants and guests,

Please allow me to go back for a moment to our Torah reading from yesterday:

During Jethro’s visit to the Israelites camp, he notices a long line of people waiting to bring their disputes before Moses. Sitting alone from morning until evening, Moses listens to each argument, hears each problem, and states his judgment on each situation brought before him.
Jethro is astounded:
“What is this thing you are doing for the people?” he asks Moses.
“Why do you act alone, while all the people stand about you from morning until evening?”

Noting that Jethro was deeply upset with Moses, Rabbi Fields quotes an ancient sage who suggests that what disturbed Jethro was not Moses appeared overworked – but that Moses had become full of self-importance. Moses, he says, was “behaving like a king, who sits on his throne while all the people stand.”

The Torah is – as I have mentioned several times before – an important guideline for every one of us. One of its goals, to my understanding, is to form a just society. The Torah forms out of a group of slaves a nation of priests, serving God and all humanity. There is a massage for every one of us, as we are all to some degree slaves to something, and we will hopefully become once all these cohanim, priests, the Torah envisions us to be.

And so it doesn’t come as a surprise that the Torah is raising the question of leadership several times. As much as the Torah leads us to a society founded on the ideal of equality and democracy, it does not undermine the need of a strong leadership, as long as it is to the benefit of the people. And that is why Jethro criticizes Moses so harshly right in the beginning of his leadership.

The quote for our induction from the 4th book of Moses, Numbers 27.16 and 17 underlines this idea. This time it is Moses, who asks God at the end of his leadership to appoint a new leader, a good shepherd for the Israelites “who shall go out before them and to come in before them”.

Both instructions of the Torah teach us that leadership has always been a serious responsibility. Caring for the safety of a community and preserving its culture and traditions are complex tasks. Jethro appreciated the need to share the burden, and the interpreters of his advice to Moses – defined for us the qualities of leadership – required by Jewish tradition.” (Fields)

And so I pray to God, as we both, Rabbi Margolis and I, are entering the leadership of this community that we will meet the standards our tradition has set for us, that we will be wise in our leadership like the old Moses, and always sensible to the need of our people, you all, like Jethro.

And let us say Amen.

Source: Fields, Torah Comment

Permanentlink zu diesem Beitrag: http://www.simanija.eu/2015/to-behold-the-graciousness-of-the-eternal/

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