CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 6

Voices of Torah
Tishah B'Av

D'varim

(Amy Scheinerman)

(Stephen Wylen)

For the early Hasidim, our world mirrors
the cosmic realm. The Tabernacle, and
after it the Temple, were not only the
nexus between heaven and earth, but
even more reflected the structure of
the cosmos. The 18th-century Hasidic
master Ze'ev Wolf of Zhytomir extends
the parallelism to include the human
body as a reflection of the Temple,
drawing a line from our souls to God
that goes directly through the Temple,
and specifically through the Holy of
Holies that is our heart.

These are the words that Moses spoke to all the Israelites across the Jordan. (Deuteronomy 1:1)

In Or ha-Meir he writes: 'The Sages
taught (B'rachot 4:5): Align your heart
toward the Holy of Holies [during
prayer].' Their intent was to teach us that
a person's form and its limbs correspond
to the structure of the Tabernacle and
the number of its holy vessels. It follows
that you must put your middot in order
and build yourself up as a complete
structure from head to toe, in order to
align yourself with the Temple. Then
doing something repugnant will not even
occur to you because you have become
mindful of the great sanctity of the Holy
of Holies. No impure forces may come
into that space. Even the high priest
entered it only once a year to perform
the service. This is how you sanctify your
heart, which corresponds to the Holy
of Holies. Your heart is a mishkan, a
dwelling place for holiness."
For Ze'ev Wolf, the health of our souls
has cosmic significance that goes
beyond our person lives. For liberal Jews
struggling with the meaning of Tishah
B'Av, this might be a helpful teaching.

Abraham ibn Ezra says: "You will understand 'across the Jordan' if you understand the secret of the final
twelve verses in the Torah [which describe the death of Moses] and certain other verses such as 'the
Canaanites were then in the land' (Genesis 12:6). And if you understand this you will know the truth."
It is commonly believed that before the Enlightenment all Jews believed that God gave the entire Torah to
Moses on Mount Sinai, as Orthodox Judaism today affirms. This is not the case. Every Jew of even moderate
education had a Mikraot Gedolot on the shelf that included the "Big Three" commentators: Rashi, Ibn Ezra,
and Ramban. If they studied the parashah with commentaries, they learned Ibn Ezra, who taught that the
Torah was given over a period of time. The secret of "across the Jordan" is that these are instructions to
get to the place where the author of Moses's final speeches was: Jerusalem, not Mount Sinai. These words
could only have been written after the time when King David conquered Jerusalem and made it the capital
of his kingdom. Torah l'Moshe mi-Sinai was a common belief; it was not a required belief. One could argue
over how many centuries it took to write the Torah, but the essential difference is between a static Torah and
a dynamic Torah. Ibn Ezra taught that the Torah is dynamic, evolving. We Reform Jews, then, are just as
"traditional" as Orthodox Jews in our belief about the origins of Torah. Not only that, but we know the truth.
Yes, religion is not just all about how you feel; it is also about affirming that which we know to be true on the
basis of firm evidence.

Va-et'chanan-Shabbat Nachamu
(Louis Rieser)
The destruction of the Temple launched our communal journey into exile. Isaiah's response is to repeat the
term "Nachamu, nachamu." I understand this doubling of the word to signify multiple responses individuals
may have of exile.
On erev Parashat Nachamu 2015 I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. This week is the anniversary of that
diagnosis-nachamu, nachamu. In advance of my anniversary I contemplated some meanings of nachamu.
My goal was not to clarify a precise term, but contrasting points of view. It is crucial to remember that exile
exists in many forms: political, social, psychological, emotional, and more. For me exile stems from illness, as
Paul Cowan z"l so brilliantly and honestly described in his article "In the Land of the Sick" (Village Voice, May
17, 1988).
One understanding of nachamu could point to the loss of the "normal" state of being and the grief that loss
precipitates. We often maintain the belief that an unfortunate episode will one day be resolved and life will
return to normal: "Renew our days as of old."
Upon hearing my diagnosis, the first words my wife Connie and I uttered were that our lives will never be
the same, a common response of those who are "members of the club." The future is irreversibly changed,
and it is difficult to fathom our future reality. I do not expect the old normal to return; this is an alternate
understanding of nachamu. It is disturbing, but real.
Our work puts us in touch with those who experience many forms of exile: political, social, psychological,
emotional, and illness. On this Shabbat Nachamu and throughout the year, how can you guide yourself and
your congregants to an appropriate response of their experience of exile?

6



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016

CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 1
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 2
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 3
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 4
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 5
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 6
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 7
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 8
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 9
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 10
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 11
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 12
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 13
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 14
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 15
CCAR Newsletter Sept - Oct 2016 - 16
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