5/10/2012

Shabbat Emor

Begins May 11th at 7.40 and ends May 12 at 8.40 pm

My weekly classes at the JCC (Amsterdam and West 75) start up again on Monday 14th at 1.30 pm and Wednesday mornings 10-11 am. They are both studies and discussion on Torah, making sense and relevance of the text of the Bible. No background necessary. Everyone welcome.

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There is a very sad episode at the end of this week’s Torah reading. It concerns the son of an Israelite, Jewish woman and an Egyptian man. One theory is that he was an Egyptian taskmaster who raped a Jewish woman. The other version is that it was an example of how an enslaved woman can often try to marry or seduce her way out of poverty and oppression. There were examples in the Second World War of Jewish women living with Nazis in the hope of surviving or escaping.

Here in this episode, only the mother’s name is mentioned: Shlomit Bat Divri. It literally translates “Hello, the chatterbox.” In other words her own looseness and overfamiliarity brought her fate upon herself. We are often the authors of our own misfortune.

But what of her son? He was now fatherless, brought up by a single mother who was not held in high esteem. It is not surprising that he felt alienated. And although he was Jewish through his mother, he had no tribe to belong to, because tribes were decided paternally. We are naturally inclined to feel sorry for him. But on the other hand he turned into an aggressive, rebel who attacked the fundamental values of Israelite society by rejecting God.

The lesson is that we may have excuses for why things are tough but the answer is not to blame ones parents or fate or society. The answer is to get on with building one’s own life. We can all find excuses but in the end it is up to us to make a life regardless of what difficulties we face.