Parashat Be-Har, May 14th, 2011, 10 Iyar, 5771
Dear Talmidot, Parents and Friends –
1) This week at Midreshet Moriah
2) Alumnae News
2) Faculty Devar Torah – Rav Eitan Mayer
3) Mazel Tovs
4) Mi She-Berach List
This Week at Midreshet
What a time to be in Israel! Last week we all spent Shabbat in Neve Daniel, at our annual Shabbat Yishuvim. Before Shabbat we gathered to hear from one of the 11 original founding families. We ate together Friday night, and were entertained with stories and experiences from Yarden Frankel's aliyah, ND's (Neve Daniel) funniest man! The girls davened and ate lunch with their hosts Shabbat day, and we reconvened at 3:30 for a panel of 3 ND women who spoke about their background, decision to make aliyah and their experience working and raising children in Israel. Avi Levine, from Nefesh B'Nefesh spoke about his role working with this amazing organization that has brought over 22,000 olim to Israel since 2001. We ate seudah shlishit in Fagie's house and sang and sang and sang until Shabbat was over.
Thank you Fagie for catering the 2 meals we ate together! And thank you – and kol HaKavod – to Shoshana Bachrach, Shoshi Weinstein and Rav Ron for their Divrei Torah.
This past Monday was Yom HaZikaron, and we started the day hearing from Tzvi Mark, a graduate of Berman Academy in Silver Spring, MD who was accepted to West Point Military Academy, but after one year decided to leave and join the Israeli Army. Hearing about his experiences and commitment, helped us feel the Hakarat haTov that all Jews have on Yom HaZikaron for all the soldiers who have fought and continue to fight for our right to have a Jewish State. We walked up to Har Herzl and spent a few hours there, visiting and saying tehillim at soldeirs' graves. Those of us who overcame our shyness talked to the families of these fallen soldiers and were inspired by true stories of Israel's heroes from the past 63 years. The day continued with a shiur about mesirut nefesh, followed by the Roi Klein movie.
At 6pm we boarded buses and began to feel the holiday spirit in the air as Yom Ha'atzmaut approached. We joined the Neve Daniel community, once again, for their tekes ma'avar, the ceremony transitioning from Yom HaZikaron to Yom Ha'Atzmaut. We davened the special Tefillah Chagigit at the ND main shul and celebrated at Rav Eitan's house with food and dancing. What a way to bring in the day! The celebration continued until the next morning! The next morning we traveled to Neve Aliza, with a quick stop in Ariel to see first-hand one of Israel's many Tzahal Fairs. At the Berglas home and were welcomed with delicious food and great live music. We danced in the streets, sang, ate, played softball and heard the story of the Berglas' dream to start a Yishuv. They are truly inspiring role models for all of us, and we had a phenomenal day at in their Yishuv! Thanks AGAIN Fagie for the great food!!
Back to school we go – there are many learning projects that need to be finished and classes that need to come to an end, as we enjoy our last 4 weeks here. The student body has taken on a goal of finishing Tanach for our Siyum Banquet. Each girl is signing up to learn 3 perakim of Chumash, 4 Neviim and 5 Ketuvim. Good luck, and let's get learning!! We all want to make the most of the time we have left.
Eighteen girls are busy preparing shiurim for Shavuot. We are so proud of this effort, and each girl is assigned a faculty mentor to help them learn, prepare a source sheet and craft the shiur. We can't wait to learn Torah from our students on Shavuot.
Pictures from our year can be seen at http://midreshetmoriah.com/pictures/
We are asking everyone to please take a moment and say some Tehillim for Midreshet alumna Chaya Meira Mindel bas Chava Goldah, known to all as Meira Bresler Riemer. This is an extremely critical time and every tefillah makes a difference.
Alumnae Reunions with Michal Porath Zibman!
Take a break from studying for finals, and stop in for a quick hello, and some Torat Eretz Yisrael!!!
Shiur and Shmooze with MPZ
Monday May 23rd at 1:15 pm Shimons Pizza, 7124 Main Street
Monday May 23rd at 6:30 pm Stanton Hall, 245 Lexington Room 101
Stay tune for further details on an evening in Washington Heights...
Michal also has some time to meet with former students individually on May 23-24-25.
If you are interested in meeting with her, please email email@example.com
Parshat Be-Har introduces a new kind of “Shabbat” – the “Shabbat of the Land,” which we usually call Shemitah or Shevi’it. This “new” Shabbat has a lot in common with the “old” Shabbat: Both feature prohibitions on work; both open with a command to work for six (days or years) and then rest on the seventh; both are described as being dedicated to, or being for, God: With regard to Shabbat – “A Sabbath, a holy rest, for God tomorrow… Shabbat is the day for the Lord” (Shemot 16:23-25), or “On the seventh day is Shabbat for God, your Lord…” (Shemot 20:9); with regard to Shemitah, “…The Land will rest a Shabbat for God” (VaYikra 25:2), or “A complete ceasing for the Land, a ceasing for God” (25:4). Finally, both, it seems, were delivered to us at Sinai: Our weekly Shabbat is included in the Aseret Ha-Dibrot, while the opening to our parshah notes that Shabbat Ha-Aretz was communicated to Moshe at Har Sinai.
But this new Shabbat is also different in several major ways from the familiar weekly Shabbat. On one hand, it’s far more expansive than the Shabbat we know, lasting for an entire year rather than just one day. In another respect, it’s far more narrow than the Shabbat we know, prohibiting only one kind of creative work – work on the land – rather than all kinds of creative work.
More fundamentally, while the weekly Shabbat commands us to rest, the year-long Shabbat seems to command the Land to rest: “…When you arrive at the Land I am giving to you, the Land shall rest a Sabbath to the Lord.” We are the ones who sow and prune, but in the seventh year, “It shall be a Sabbath for the Land…”. This need for the Land to rest is so powerful that if we interfere with it, we are banished from the Land so that the Land can finally keep its Shabbat! As the Torah continues, “Then [once you have been exiled] the Land will enjoy its Sabbaths, all the days of its emptiness, with you in the land of your enemies; then the Land will rest and enjoy its Sabbaths” (26:34-35).
Indeed, Divrei Ha-Yamim (DH II 36:19-21) reports to us that this is precisely what happened: Since we failed to let the Land observe its Shabbatot, God banished us to Bavel so that the Land could fulfill its obligations without our interference: “They burned the House of God and demolished the walls of Jerusalem… exiled the survivors of the sword to Bavel to be slaves… to fulfill the word of God to Jeremiah – so that the Land could enjoy its Sabbaths; all the days of its emptiness, it rested…”.
Other differences between Shabbat and “Shabbat Ha-Aretz” appear as we continue reading the parshah. While Shabbat does not build toward any kind of climax, instead simply cycling forever in rounds of seven days, Shabbat Ha-Aretz does indeed build toward a climax: Yovel. “You shall count seven ‘weeks’ of years, seven years seven times… You shall sanctify the fiftieth year… it is ‘Yovel’ for you” (Va-Yikra 25:8-10).
Once we have absorbed the basic information about Shabbat Ha-Aretz, we can begin to ask analytical questions: Why is it necessary for us to receive a new Shabbat now – what does this Shabbat provide that the “old” one was missing? Why do Bnei Yisrael receive this mitzvah specifically at this point in their journey? Since our parshah notes that this mitzvah was transmitted to Moshe way back at Har Sinai, why does it appear where it does in the Torah, here at the very end of Va-Yikra? And what could it possibly mean that the Land must observe Shabbat – aren’t mitzvot just for people? (We’ll leave for another time two additional questions: If Shabbat and Shabbat Ha-Aretz are so closely parallel, why does Shemitah build to a Yovel climax, but Shabbat doesn’t build to anything? And why is Yovel “kicked off” with a shofar blast on Yom Kippur, rather than on the more logical day: Rosh Ha-Shanah, the first day of Yovel?)
In order to answer these questions, we must return to the very beginning of our history and examine our relationship with land. Sefer Bereshit tells us (2:7) that we ourselves are actually formed of earth, each of us a combination of a physical body made of earth and a spiritual soul blown into us by God Himself. Man is created as a walking contradiction, a bundle of opposites, and the tension between the two sides of his nature is what makes man so interesting. Neither angel nor beast, he combines traits of each; at every moment, he faces a fork in the road, continually choosing between following the spiritual impulses of his soul and surrendering to the physical desires of his body. He is torn by nature, and this is what makes him so interesting!
God’s first command to us (2:16-17) perfectly exemplifies our conflict: Will we obey God, preferring the spiritual within ourselves, or will we respond to the temptation of the ground, preferring the physical, the earth of which we are made and which produced that mouth-watering fruit? Every subsequent sin is essentially a repetition of this first one, a moment in which we ignore our souls and respond instead to the demands of our earthy side.
Man’s punishment for his sin perfectly fits the crime as it simultaneously helps him avoid repeating it: “The ground is now cursed for you… thorn and thistle shall grow for you… with the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread” (3:17-19). Man has become too friendly with the ground; he cannot resist its temptations. God responds by separating the two partners in crime, planting enmity between man and earth so that man views the earth as his foe and recognizes its efforts to drag him down. It will no longer yield its fruits effortlessly – man will now battle the earth for every mouthful, and the struggle will remind him that the ground is not his friend.
The next generation witnesses the same troubled relationship with the ground, the same partnership in crime. Cain, who becomes a worker of the ground rather than a shepherd of living things like his brother (4:2), shows early signs of affinity for the ground. Indeed, it is “in the field” that he commits murder, and it is the ground which complicitly opens its mouth to swallow the victim’s blood and hide the evidence. God’s response here echoes His response to Adam’s sin: He curses the ground yet more emphatically, declaring that it will yield nothing at all to Cain and that he must never establish any relationship with any particular land, instead wandering forever (4:10-12).
Ten generations pass and the world slides inexorably into corruption, which God expresses to Noah, His only ally, as a corruption not of humanity alone, but of the people and the land as well: “The earth was corrupted before God, and full of evil. God saw the earth, and it was corrupted, for all flesh has corrupted its way on the earth. God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh comes before Me, for the earth is full of evil because of them; I will destroy them along with the earth” (6:11-13). God could have stricken the evil dead with a plague, but chose a flood instead because it was necessary to wipe out not only man, but his accomplice as well: the ground.
But Noah disappoints as well, emerging from the Ark to “become a man of the ground” (9:20), quickly surrendering to drunkenness, transforming himself into an animal and consciously seeking to inebriate his soul.
It is with Avraham that we encounter a new divine plan. God has tried time and again to insulate us from temptation by distancing us from the ground, but all His attempts have failed. The physical simply cannot be denied and muted; it somehow manages to bridge all distances. With Avraham, God inaugurates a new approach. By no accident, Avraham’s very first test is whether he can tear himself away from land: “God said to Avraham, ‘Leave your land…’” (12:1). Once again, the spiritual (God’s command) is pitted against the physical (the draw of the land); in effect, God’s test states, “A man who cannot obey My command and deny the pull of the earth cannot be the founder of my chosen nation.” The very first test places Avraham back in the Garden of Eden, choosing between God’s command and the temptations of the physical.
But this approach alone is doomed to failure. Distancing and denying the physical has always failed before. The new element in God’s approach is the second half of His command: “…And go to the Land I will show you.” “Leave your land,” God says, “and journey not just to a different land, but to an entirely different kind of land.” Journey to a land which is spiritual rather than physical, a land whose very nature will turn you toward God instead of away from Him.
How does Eretz Cana’an become God’s ally instead of His adversary? Sefer Devarim explains how Cana’an is different: “The Land you are inheriting is not like Egypt… where you simply sowed seeds and then dug an irrigation channel with your foot. The Land you are inheriting is a place of mountains and valleys; from the rain of the heavens she drinks water. It is a place God searches out, His eyes upon her from the beginning of the year to the end” (11:10-12). In Cana’an, the land itself turns to God for her salvation and sustenance; without rivers, like Egypt, she depends entirely on God, and so do her people.
Avraham succeeded, under God’s direction, by making land his spiritual ally instead of opposing it as his foe. Sefer Va-Yikra picks up where Avraham left off, teaching us how to make the Land our partner in worshipping God. Although Shabbat Ha-Aretz was delivered to Moshe at Sinai, he kept it to Himself until we were ready to hear it; first we spent a full year at the feet of Har Sinai, learning the mitzvot and practicing infusing holiness into ever-expanding spheres of our lives. Yet the entire desert experience takes place in a physical vacuum, a location where, to the degree possible, there is no land at all. Bnei Yisrael’s daily bread falls directly from God, leaving no room for them to fall into hubris by imagining that their own hard work produced their sustenance.
Now that year comes to an end; having matured spiritually, learned to trust God, look to Him for their needs, and obey His commands, they are ready to face the challenge of land: Can we remain spiritual even as we take possession of our own land, establish our own economy, begin to – as it were – support ourselves? As Sefer Va-Yikra, our year in yeshiva, ends and we begin our quick journey from Sinai to Cana’an (the subject of Sefer Be-Midbar), will we be overwhelmed by the physical world, drowning in physical temptation, pleasure, and distraction, forgetting God?
Shabbat Ha-Aretz is the answer. The Land we are heading for, the Torah informs us, is itself a servant of God, a Jew. The Land itself must keep Shabbat, resting every seven years to recognize God just as we do every seven days; our job is to stay out of the Land’s way, taking care not to interfere with its Shabbatot. We are warned that if we do interfere, planting and harvesting, we will be expelled – one way or another, the Land will have its Shabbatot. We are no longer spiritual people struggling with a secular, physical land; the Land itself has become a spokesman for God, declaring to us every seventh year that it is God’s and not ours. The Land no longer pulls us away from God with its temptations. Instead, it becomes the instrument to keep us focused on God, never letting us forget that we are creatures of God’s world rather than masters of our own world.
May we merit to see the day when Shabbat Ha-Aretz becomes our way of life – when we are able to succeed spiritually not by denying the physical world and pushing it away, but by seeing spirituality and goodness hidden in that very physicality. And may we merit to see the day when Shabbat Ha-Aretz becomes a true reality for all of us, together in Israel, when our people gathers to its Land and makes there its permanent home.
Nomi Spector (06-07) and Michael Plaut on their engagement
Yhi ratzon shetivnu bayit ne'eman bYisrael
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Mi SheBerach List
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Chaya Meira Mindel bas Chava Goldah - Midreshet alumna with cancer
Karen bat Lena - undergoing chemotherapy (5/4/11)
Faiga Leah bas Henya (5/3/11)
Eliezer Baruch Chaim ben Rochel Leah - severe pneumonia/critical (4/14/11)
Chaim ben Chashka (3/3/2011) – diabetes complications
Matityahu Yaakov ben Gittel Rivka (3/5/2011)
Tziporah Feiga Bat Sima Sheindel (2/26/2011)
Shira bat Deena Miriam – premature baby on a ventilator (2/19/2011)
Noa Batya bat Daniella Rut – 7 month old with leukemia (2/5/2011)
Leah Alona Bat Tziporah (2/5/2011)
Leora bat Sarah (2/5/2011)
Frimit bat Devorah (2/5/2011)
Rivah bat Jane (1/29/2011)
Amitai Yaakov ben Bracha - a 16 yr. old just diagnosed with leukemia (1/29/2011)
Dina Eta bat Chaya Tzippora Sheva (1/22/2011)
Aharon Yitzchak ben Deena Yehudis (1/6/2011)
Adi bat Zahavit (twin baby who is sick)
Reut bat Zahavit (twin baby who is sick)
Chaim Yissachar ben Chaya Mushkit (26 year old with 2 children, leukemia)
Shraga Feivel ben Sasha
Ari ben Rivka (young husband with brain tumor)
Inbal bat Nelya
Zacharia Kalman HaCohen ben Yael Margalit
Shai Ben Meital - 4 yr old with brain damage and seizures
Aviva Miriam bat Esther - 9 month old baby with cancer going through chemo
Tzipora Fayga Bat Sima Shaindel- 33 year old mother of 3 with Leukemia(9/19/2010)
Tzvi Ilan ben Gita (8/12/2010)
Chaya Tziporah Sheva bat Faiga (8/12/2010)
Chisha Bayla bat Miriam
Refael ben Nomi- 10 month old baby who has meningitis
Avraham ben Elka (5/21/10)
Rivka Bracha bat Yehudit - mother of 6 with cancer, doing better BH
Rivka Margalit bat Ita - 12 year old girl with a brain tumor (5/27/2010)
Rachel bat Re-ayah - mother of 7 with cancer that has spread
Batya Leah bat Sara - cancer
Noa Chaya bat Nava Yehudit - baby
Yehuda Moshe Yosef ben Miriam
Rayzel bat Rifka
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