Gary's Commentary


Shema/V'Ahavtah


Some of you realize that my portion contains parts of the best known prayers of Judaism, the Shema and V'Ahavtah. I was accused of being lazy in my choice of this portion but my real reason was efficiency, not laziness. This was a great opportunity to delve in detail into the most important prayers of our people. Earlier in the service you heard the Ahava Raba (Great Love). In this prayer we are told of G-d's great and enduring love for us. In the Shema and v'a ahvata we are instructed to love G-d. When you love someone and they don't love you, it's not complete love. The Vahavta is our completion.
 

How we show this love for G-d will always puzzled me. Can we love G-d if we have trouble believing in him? Can we love G-d when horrible things happen and we believe G-d should have stopped it? Well G-d provided a world full of opportunities in which to show aour love to G-d. I truly belive of the words of the prophets when they tell us of G-d's disdain for ritual that is not backed by righteous behaviour, defending the weak, helping the poor, and helping make peace. This is the best way to show our love for G-d in this world aand this world is all we are allowed to know now.

Nachamu

The next portion we will read from is in the Book of Isaiah. We now find the Jews, not in the Valley near Bet Peor but in in Babylon ready to come back from exile. We read this passage on this day to provide comfort because the past week we read and remember the story from the Book of Lamentations. The book of Lamentations is a description of the seige of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. It was a horrible time right before our exile to Babylon. If you read the book, you will see that the first letter in each chapter begins a letter form the alfabet from Alep to tav. Like saddness from A - Z. It includes scenes of starvation so severe that parents are eating their children. When that Babylonins destroyed our Holy temple it was on the 9th day of the month of Av. If that wasn't an unlucky date for this reason, these other events happened in that date also
 

  • Destruction of 2nd Temple by Romans
  • The start of the 1st Crusade
  • Spanish expulsion
  • English expulsion

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    It is no wonder we have always approached this date with fear. But Jews have also followed that sad day by today, The Sabbath of Comfort (or Shabbat Nachamu). Our next passage is not a story of sadness but one of great redemption. We are reminded again of G-d's unending love and in the portion you will hear that not only are the Jew's free to leave, but that the Isaiah envisions a great highway to bring it's bride, the Jewish people, back from exile.
     

    This portion is a highway builders prayer (probably not an environmentalist's though) It is also speacial to me because I discovered afer it was chosen that this was my Fathers very portion he read when he was thirteen in a little shul in Baltimore.



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