A Bissel Torah – 05/19/2020

A few weeks ago I mentioned to you that I was going to do a Tikun Leil Shavuot on May 28, from 6-8pm. My plan was to share texts from Abraham Joshua Heschel relating to Revelation and the Torah. Then I received word from the Rabbinical Assembly that there will be a movement-wide Tikun Leil Shavuot, that will go for the whole evening, on the Rabbinical Assembly’s Facebook page. I hope you will join this transmission, as I know I will, starting at 9:00pm. You can see the full schedule here:


For this reason, I will be shortening our meeting time to have our study session from 6-7 pm on May 28. In the meantime, I will be sharing some texts about Revelation and the Torah that Rabbi Dr. Heschel wrote, in advance of that study time together. We are just a few days away from Shavuot. I will start our conversation by sharing with you Heschel’s thoughts on Revelation as found in his book God in Search of Man. The portion on Revelation starts with an interesting thought. Heschel writes:

“We have never been the same since the day on which the voice of God overwhelmed us at Sinai. It is for ever impossible for us to retreat into an age that predates the Sinaitic event. Something unprecedented happened. God revealed God’s name to us, and we are named after God. “All the people of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Eternal” (Deuteronomy 28:10). There are two Hebrew names for Jew: Yehudi, the first three letters of which are the first three letters of the Ineffable Name, and Israel, the end of which, el, means God in Hebrew.”

This insight points out that the process of Revelation, of Standing at Sinai, highlighted the interconnection between God and the people of Israel. As we stood at Sinai, we entered into a covenant that reaches deep into our souls and defines who we are throughout time. This covenant connects us to God in such a powerful way that our Hebrew names reminds us that we must honor the name of God that is imbedded in our name at all times. Today the New York Times brought out an example of how we display the consciousness of the presence of God’s name in our name in our times. On Monday an Israeli settler was convicted of murdering a Palestinian couple, Saad and Riham Dawabsheh, and their young son, Ali, in a racially motivated arson attack in 2015. The attack, which also badly injured the couple’s 5 year-old, Ahmad, was carried on in the West Bank village of Duma, horrifying people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The perpetrator (I am not sharing his name on purpose), who is 25 years old, received a life sentence, which is mandatory in premeditated murder cases in Israel. He was found guilty of murder, attempted murder, arson and conspiracy to commit a racially motivated crime. According to the NYT, the lead prosecutor, Yael Atzmon, welcomed the verdict as indicating that “terrorism is terrorism, regardless of the identity of the perpetrators.”
To carry the name of God in our name means that we must take responsibility for our actions, individually and collectively. As Ms. Atzmon aptly said, it doesn’t matter to what group the perpetrator belongs. To do justice to the name of God that we carry within ourselves we must uphold the value of life and respect for all beings that is the basis of our existence. With this decision, the judicial system in Israel is helping us to uphold with integrity the basic values of our tradition. May we continue to merit our name, ensuring there is justice and respect for all beings around the world.

Tikun Leil Shavuot – Thursday, May 28, 6-7 PM:
Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82969096440?pwd=THdiNmxQSDhZTEpmTDRsZXF1TElTUT09
Meeting ID: 829 6909 6440
Password: 025053

Rabbi Lia Bass

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