Archive for Setembre de 2017

Leadership has always been a great topic for discussion, especially with reference to the Torah.

Moses has always been seen as the major prophet and leader within the Torah. He gives this advice to Joshua as a parting word, if you like. Of course, if you look at Moses’ leadership style throughout the Torah, this advice doesn’t really reflect his character.

He tells Joshua; “Do not be afraid or feel insecure before them”. Wasn’t it Moses who kept telling God that he didn’t think he was the right candidate for the job, when God told him to approach Pharaoh and instruct him to let the Children of Israel go.

There were also other instances throughout the Torah, where Moses has difficulty living out his own advise, and we notice that many of the occasions where he doesn’t have confidence in himself appear toward the beginning of his leadership term.

Throughout the years, Moses learns to overcome his leadership weaknesses. When he strikes the rock, is that not a show of confidence? We could argue that it wasn’t a wise move to make, in light of the instruction he was given, but in contrast to the Moses in Egypt, this Moses had definitely gained in confidence.

So, perhaps Moses’s advice to Joshua is a reflection on what he had learned throughout his own leadership term.

If we bear that in mind, and we take another look at Moses’ advice to Joshua, where he says; “Al tira’u v’al tir’atzu mip’neihem, ki Adonai Elohecha hu ha-holeich imach, lo yar’p’cha v’lo ya’azveka – Do not be afraid or feel insecure before them, for Adonai, your God, is the One who is going with you, and God will not fail or forsake you”.

We see that Moses’ earlier leadership days reflect exactly the opposite of his advice. Yet, he learns through the years, and possibly he feels that this is good advice for Joshua to start from.

Moses’ act of completing the writing of a Torah (also shows the necessity for completion of tasks. While we could argue for days on end about how Moses completed the writing of a Torah, when some of the events, such as next week’s parasha had not yet occurred, that doesn’t seem to be the lesson the Torah is trying to teach us.

The lesson here adds to the section I mentioned earlier about Moses’ leadership skills, and how they had taken a 180 degree turn from where they were when he first became a leader, way back near the beginning of the Torah.

In completing the writing of a Torah, Moses shows that he has completed the cycle of a leader. Perhaps we could equate this act with a great leader who writes down their memoirs, for future generations to read and learn from.

The difference here, is that God instructs Moses to write the Torah. Possibly, it’s God’s way of giving Moses a big send-off, like his eternal superannuation fund.

A way for us to remember Moses and the events of the Torah, recollected by Moses.


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Themes in this week’s Torah section include: the importance of gratitude and the importance of celebrating the fruits of our labour. These are also relevant to our preparation for the High Holiday period.

Moses instructs the people that when they enter the Land of Israel and cultivate the land they are to bring the first-ripened fruits to the Temple as a sign of gratitude.

The word for gratitude in Hebrew is “hodaya” (“todah” means thank you). This word shares the same root as the word Jew, “Yehudi”. The Sages connect these words and teach that a fundamental aspect to being a Jew is cultivating a sense of gratitude and hence, there are many prayers and rituals within Judaism that connect us with sentiments of thanksgiving. In fact the first prayer of the morning, the very first words a Jew is encouraged to say each morning are: “model ani” (“Modah ani” for a woman), meaning “I am grateful”.

We also know that studies in psychology show that feelings of gratitude and practices In our lives that help us remember what we are grateful for, lead to greater levels of wellbeing.

So, instilling routines in our lives to remind us of things we are grateful for can be helpful making our lives and the lives of those around us more harmonious. We can learn from the ancient tradition of bringing the first-ripened fruits to Jerusalem as an act of gratitude and consider how it might be relevant to us today.

Firstly, we can make time regularly to consider the fruits of our labor, to celebrate them and to give thanks for them. So often we can achieve something and quickly go on to the next thing, not making time to fully recognize the success, and also not making time to give thanks.

A second aspect is that making time to give thanks reminds us that we are not alone. Every achievement we have is a composite of many factors – luck, help from others, hard work and more.

During this month of Elul, it is a fitting time to reflect on what we are grateful for in our lives and also to consider what we have been working towards over the year and what fruits have come from it. It is a time to celebrate what we have achieved and to thank others for the help they have given. We can also make time to consider how we can make giving thanks a regular part of our lives. What routines will we put in place for the year to come so our levels of wellbeing can be even better.

Wishing you a Shabbat shalom and a Shabbat of gratitude.

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The true test of someone’s character is not when things are going smoothly, as fundamentally, those situations do not test our character. It is when times are challenging that our moral integrity truly presents itself. How that person reacts to adversity is really the litmus test. In this week’s parasha, Ki Teitzei, we have a host of laws that delineate the expectations for how the Israelites are expected to act in relationship among themselves, towards other nations and all of God’s creatures. They are the foundational guide to how we are to build a healthy, holy and just society.

Having these laws is an extremely powerful guide, yet what I find most telling are the laws that pertain to times of war. War is a time that can potentially lead to the unshackling of our human restraints. Where violence is involved, our base instincts are in danger of taking over and extreme acts of brutality are possible. These laws are reminding us, that even in those circumstances, we are not to allow ourselves to lose control. We are taught to know that “All is fair in love and war” is simply not true. Specifically, in this week’s parasha, we are reminded not to take advantage of the weak or the captured. This is embodied in the law about allowing a captive woman to mourn for her parents a full 30 days. Only once that period has concluded, according to the rabbis, may the soldier marry her, but only if she consents. It has been the way of war for a vast portion of human history, that the conquered were enslaved or even forcibly married. Our tradition forces us to restrain ourselves in a time when that would be exceedingly difficult and in the process doing away with a barbaric tradition, compelling us to have compassion on the weak. If we can achieve that in a moment of war, then how much the more so in peace, it should be no challenge.

This is further reinforced by the injunction at the end of the parasha, to destroy the nation of Amalek. The reason given is that Amalek attacked the weakest members of Israel. By abusing the weak, their true character was revealed. The test of our morality is how we treat the weak or the most vulnerable in our society. Those who abuse and take advantage of the weak are the lowest of the low.

I pray this week that we always keep in mind those who may be less fortunate than ourselves and in challenging moments, we always remain true to our tradition and keep our hands open to assist those who are in need. Further, I pray that while we may be facing many threats, we always remember who we are and govern ourselves accordingly.

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