Shabbat Shoftim

Candles 29th at 7:13
Havdalah 30th at 8:06 pm

The Torah insists that a just society should have a system of judges and policemen. Judges establish the law and policemen enforce it. It then goes on to asset that the criteria for both should be that they are committed to justice and do not take bribes or give preference to the rich and powerful over the poor and weak.

This was written thousands of years ago and yet the sad fact is that it is very, very rare even in modern enlightened states that this is the case.

In the USA judges are often elected and to gain re-election they become indebted to donors and people who might help them get re-elected. We have seen how a Brooklyn DA was so indebted to some ultra Orthodox communities that he refused to pursue some scandalous cases of child abuse amongst those communities. And that was the tip of the iceberg. Politicians become so indebted to their donors they often vote against what they believe in to keep campaign promises. Ambassadors are appointed very often simply because of how much they helped a President get elected.

The same goes for policemen. We see all the time how politicians intervene, influence police policies, appointments and practices. Police themselves are often bribed and guided not by fairness but by interests and power. This cannot be just or fair and it is not. America may well be better than most other countries but it is still far from following the principles the Torah laid out so long ago.

And we too in our communities put too much emphasis on wealthy and powerful members and not enough on those less fortunate or the poor, the needy and the disadvantaged. That is not what the Torah asks or demands of us.


Shabbat Eykev

Candles Friday 15th at 7:34
Havadalah 16th at 8:30pm

This week we read this phrase from the Torah. “And you shall eat and be satisfied and you should bless, thank, your God for the good land He has given you.” It sounds obvious enough and from this we derive the principle in Judaism of the beraha, the blessing, the obligation to appreciate and to give thanks.

“Sure“ you might say “that’s obvious and I do it all the time.” But do we? I suggest we do not. I cannot tell you how many times I see people sit down to eat in kosher restaurants, at festive occasions or simply having a snack. They tuck into their food without a second thought and certainly without blessing God beforehand or afterwards. Without thinking where the food came from or about our good fortune. How many people do not have enough food or water for sustenance.

People often say that the laws of Kashrut are complicated, burdensome and unnecessary. But the fact is we need these laws and customs to remind us every day, every time we eat, to think before we eat and to appreciate how fortunate we are to be able to eat and drink as much as we like and often more than is necessary.

People often say they can be good or spiritual without having to keep the laws and rules. But the sad human fact is that without the obligation most of us either forget or can’t be bothered. We take it all for granted.