Welcome to Torah Thoughts from the Adas Israel the Jewish Congregation of Mason City Iowa. Each week we offer up some bits of information and learning regarding the week's Torah Portion. This week we begin a new book of the Torah Devarim (Deuteronomy) 1:1 - 3:22. "Devarim" means "words" as in, "These are the words...."
So, if we know this book as Devarim where in the world did Deuteronomy come from? Great question. Deuteronomy (from the Greek meaning "Second Law" -- from deuteros "second" + nomos "law". Why? Well, perhaps because Moses repeats many of the laws of the Torah to prepare the Jewish people for entering and living in the Land of Israel. In other words (see what we did there?) it is time for a review.
In this section of the Torah Moses is reviewing for the Jewish people all of the places they have gone, and the laws they have received. Moses also knows that he is about to die and what better time to grab the attention of the people he has led.
Rebuke with Caution
In Devarim 1:11 Moses says, "The Almighty, the G-d of your fathers, should add (to the number of your people) -- similar to you -- a thousand fold".
Moses, as he was rebuking the people did not want them to feel depressed and alone and feel as if they were failures. So he tells them he does not consider them evil but that their goodness should be rewarded a thousand fold.
What lesson can we learn from this? We have, it should be pointed out learned this lesson in business, if we were paying attention. If we need to admonish someone, then the goal is for them to change. To do that, the person must feel good about himself and feel that you value him/her.
Therefore, 1) don't condemn the person 2) find something positive to praise 3) gently show the person the negative results of his behavior 4) set out the benefits to him for changing his actions.
Anyone can make a person feel awful; it takes a real artisan to build someone up.
Tish B' Av
On Saturday night we will usher in the saddest day of the Jewish Calendar. Tish B' Av the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. It is a fast day, a day we study, sit on the floor and mourn not only the destruction of the Holy Temple...but also the many calamities that we have encountered on this day.
Consider if you will that on the 9th of Av these tragedies:
- The incident of the spies slandering the land of Israel with the subsequent decree to wander the desert for 40 years.
- The destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem by Nevuchadnetzar, King of Babylon, in 423 BCE.
- The destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE.
- The fall of Betar and the end of the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans 65 years later, 135 CE.
- Pope Urban II declared the First Crusade. Tens of thousands of Jews were killed, and many Jewish communities obliterated.
- The Jews of England were expelled in 1290.
- The Jews of Spain were expelled in 1492
- World War One broke out on Tisha B'Av in 1914 when Russia declared war on Germany. German resentment of the Treaty of Versailles set the stage for World War II and the Holocaust.
- On Tisha B'Av, deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto.
So other than a fast day and reading how should we spend our time? How about reflecting on who and what we are and on our relationship with each other and with G-d? In Hebrew this is called Teshuva or returning to the path of being good. Doing Teshuva is a four-step process:
1) We must recognize what we have done wrong and regret it 2) We must stop doing the transgression and correct whatever damage that we can, including asking forgiveness from those whom we have hurt -- and making restitution, if due 3) We must accept upon ourselves not to do it again 4) We must verbally ask the Almighty to forgive us.
When we all engage in this action we also pray that this is the final Tish B' Av we will have to observe. Why? Because as the rabbis tell us, When the Messiah comes there will no longer be a reason to mourn.
May we pray like our life depends on it.
Shabbat services are on Friday evening 20 July at 7:15PM and our Midrash (Bible Study) will take place on Shabbat (Saturday) at 10AM all at the Synagogue.
See you in Shul!