CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013 - 6

(Continued from page 5)

VOICES OF TORAH

Tazria/M’tzora
(Louis Rieser)
Adonai s’fatai tiftach... God, open my lips
(Psalm 51:15). We customarily use these
words to open the Amidah, to pray that we
might find the right words to express the
yearnings of our heart. Prayer at its best is
hard work, as we who try to mentor others
in that skill well know. In reality, all speech
is difficult.
Words, the basic building blocks of
Creation, are always powerful. The Me’or
Eynaim (Rabbi Menahem Nahum Twersky
of Chernobyl, 1730-1797), commenting on
this parashah, notes that God creates the
world through words for the sake of human
beings (ok, he says Jews, but I choose to
broaden his understanding). God takes
great joy in every human being, so when
you or I speak words of lashon hara, even
true words, we spoil God’s joy. God, as it
were, becomes sad and afflictions follow.
This clarifies the teaching in Tosefta Peah
1:2, “These are the evil things that one
collects interest on in this world while
the principal remains.... and lashon hara
is equivalent to them all.” Words, the
tools of creation, are equally the tools
of destruction. As the Me’or Eynaim
says: “When God speaks, the Divine will
is revealed” and when God is silenced
because we have misused words, we
can no longer know that will. We are left
rudderless.
The Me’or Eynaim, based on Sefer haYetzira, identifies words with the God’s
power and majesty and then turns back
to us. Words give you Divine power, so
beware. It is always a good idea to pause
before you speak and to ask: Adonai s’fatai
tiftach…God, guide me as I open my lips.

Acharei Mot
(Stephen Wylen)
After the death of the two sons of Aaron, who came close to the Presence of God [lifnei
Adonai] and died… (Leviticus 16:1)
Rabbi Tanhuma said: This shows that Nadav and Avihu prided themselves and gazed
directly upon the Shechinah, and as Rabbi Yehoshua of Siknin said in the name of Rabbi
Levi, Moses averted his eyes and avoided gazing directly upon the Shechinah, and
thereby he merited that Moses’ own face shone with a halo and everyone stood back
from him in reverence, while Nadav and Avihu failed to benefit from the Divine Presence
and they died “in the presence of God” when they offered strange fire.
Rabbi Jonathan said: And did they die in the actual presence of God? [Literally? Can
anyone actually be in the presence of God?] Rather, the Torah tells us that when the
children of a tzaddik die in the lifetime of the tzaddik, God cannot turn the Divine gaze
away from this great sorrow. God never ceases to “see” this tragic turn of events. That is
the presence of God. (From Tanhumah Defus, Ahare Mot 6)
We learn from Rabbi Jonathan how to interpret and preach the Torah. God does not
zap us with tragic loss as a punishment for sins that we must search out in order to
validate our sorrows. Rather, when we grieve a tragic loss, God is always with us, grieving
alongside of us. God is not an avenger, but a fellow mourner. God’s sorrowing eye is
always upon us.

Emor
(Janice Garfunkel)
We are outraged that disabled kohanim were excluded from bringing sacrifices (Leviticus,
chapter 17). But before we get too high and mighty, let’s look at our own attitudes
towards those who are different.
Yes, we all know we need to replace steps with ramps and we can recount moving
stories of seriously disabled children celebrating bar/bat mitzvah. But do even mildly
disabled kids, kids with annoying behavior problems, for example caused by Asperger’s,
or ADHD, or no known reason, feel not merely “tolerated” and permitted to participate,
but embraced? Loved? Supported? Do their parents feel judged for their children’s
misbehaviors? Do you really, truly, want those children in your sanctuary? I recently was
told by a mother that her difficult children had their most negative encounters in, of all
places, shul. How sad. I think it is hardest for rabbis and Jewish community leaders to
stand up for these children when we happen to be the parent of one; it hits too close to
home and we can be accused of defending our own child rather than promoting a moral
principle.
At our summer camps and in our religious schools, how much time do we devote to
teaching our campers, teachers, and counselors how to make sure every child feels
embraced, wanted, supported? How do we react to odd or unusual behaviors? Would a
parent in your community consider your shul a place to come for support for themselves
and their “different” children, or do they need to go to non-Jewish places to find that?
Has our community’s emphasis on success, on “young Jewish leaders,” delivered the
message that the only people we value are the best and the brightest, and if you aren’t
destined for our idea of “successful,” well, our Young Adults program isn’t really for you?

6



CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013

CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013 - 1
CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013 - 2
CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013 - 3
CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013 - 4
CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013 - 5
CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013 - 6
CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013 - 7
CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013 - 8
CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013 - 9
CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013 - 10
CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013 - 11
CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013 - 12
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