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Torah Commentary / Parshot

Parsha related articles

Families Reunited

Celebrating Purim With The Jews Of Manipur
I celebrated Purim with the Bnei Menashe in Mumbai in 2010

I recently reflected upon all the current news about the "lost" tribes of Israel around the world suddenly being found. It seemed to me to have become a world-wide development - villages and groups in Africa, Asia and even South America, discovering Jewish descent or coming out of obscurity to show their practise and commitment to Judaism over centuries and even millenia. I saw it as an amazing example of the attraction, longevity and power of our Jewish tradition, and even perhaps a demonstrable example of "klal Yisrael"; the ongoing embrace of our world-wide "family of Israel". In light of growing anti-semitism in recent years, and particularly over the last year, I saw the desire to reconnect with our Jewish family and a yearning to have the freedom and ability to live a dedicated Jewish life, as a sign of hope for the coming secular year of 2013:

Why We Really Weep At The Western Wall

My Bat Mitzvah girl, Emily Wolfson, wrongfully detained at the Kotel for wearing a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl)
My Bat Mitzvah girl, Emily Wolfson, being wrongfully detained for wearing a tallit at the Kotel

Just as the new Chief Rabbi was announced in the UK, and just as he gave positive sounding comments about repairing the often damaging stand-off between the Orthodox movement he represents and the modern egalitarian Reform and Liberal traditions, many were shocked and disgusted to hear that two eighteen year old girls from the UK were arrested at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem for the supposed "crime" of wearing a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl). The reality is that no such crime exists either in Israeli law or in Jewish religious law - the law concerning a tallit is that men are obligated to wear one, but for women, it is an optional commandment; they may choose to wear or not wear one as they personally feel is appropriate for them.

Jacob Dared To Dream

PARASHAT VAYEITZE 5773

So there I was, standing in a very long queue waiting to enter Sadler's Wells to attend this past week's performance of the Batsheva ensemble dance company. The queue was a result of the enhanced security needed for this particular performance of an Israeli dance troupe coming in the wake of renewed conflict between Israel and Gaza. It always seems to bring out any and every anti-Israeli protest group. In this case, I believe I saw a good variety of signs accusing Israel of all manner of human rights abuse, genocide, ethnic cleansing. Just for good measure, I think I even saw a token one accusing it of women's rights abuses. It seems that now that a good momentum is established, and any type of accusation is acceptable, it also becomes routine and therefore acceptable to say just about anything heinous and untrue about the state of Israel without fear of the repercussions of any one calling you on the gross distortion, inaccuracy and outright lie of the accusation that you are making. Among those I read just this past week are that “.....approximately 750,000 non-Jews.... were ethnically cleansed in 1947-9 in order to ensure a Jewish majority in the new Jewish state.” That, “This group is dispersed around the world, mostly in refugee camps in the territories occupied in 1967 and the neighbouring states. Israel has persistently denied them their internationally recognized legal right to return.” By the way, this supposedly “true” statement was made by an Israeli teaching law in the U.K., as if by having those credentials it makes the unfounded claims he is making more legitimate. As we all know, terms like “ethnic cleansing” are highly evocative, and now, it seems, completely accepted when it comes to speaking about Israeli relations with Palestinians. Any one without a background in law will probably not have the tools to understand that there is no “internationally recognized legal right to return” in the case he is speaking about. In fact, most people do not understand the legal notion and definition of a right to return at all. But if it is claimed by a law professor, particularly one who claims to be Israeli, then I suppose it magically becomes a true statement.

Judaism Was Founded By Abraham, Not Noah, A Man Who Sat Idly By

PARASHAT NOACH 5773

This week, the world has been mesmerized by the story of Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old girl who was targeted and shot by the Taliban for publicly criticizing them and their educational policies regarding girls. As you probably know by now, she was airlifted from Pakistan to the U.K. for treatment of her wounds. Although the crime would normally have surely killed her, it seems that she has miraculously been making a good recovery in hospital and may even have a chance of full recovery at some time in the future. True to form, the Taliban is very angry about this incident. Not because they almost murdered an innocent teenage girl, but because they feel they have been unfairly treated in the press. Although it seems clear that she was shot for advocating for girls' education, the Taliban proclaim that they quite rightly targeted her for being a “spy of the west” and that they were correctly interpreting Sharia law which they say permits “killing of a child if that child is propagating against Islam.” I won't even begin to bore you with the number of blogs and media postings I read that did not exactly justify the shooting, but seemed to find a kind of moral equivalence, or at least a sort of justification for the actions of the Taliban by explaining their extremism as some kind of legitimate response to the phenomenon of U.S. drones in Pakistan. As you can see from their own response to the attempted murder, they don't make that moral equivalence themselves, so I don't see why so many people in this country are so eager to make it for them.

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