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The portions for Behar/Be-hukkotai in the FJMC Sefer Haftarah scroll, the travelling haftarah scroll that visits a different synagogue each week and contains all of the haftarot, were sponsored by the North Surburban Synagogue, Highland Park, IL (Behar), Beth Judea, Long Grove, IL (Behar) and Northwest Suburban Jewish Congregation, Morton Grove, IL (Be-hukkotai).


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May 18, 2012 / 26 Iyar, 5772
Parashat Behar/Be-hukkotai

Jeremiah 16:19-17-14

This week's Haftarah is taken from the prophet Jeremiah and is made up of a series of sayings by the prophet sometime in the late 7th to early 6th century B.C.E. This Haftarah is paired with the conclusion the book of Leviticus and emphasizes reward for having faith in God and punishment for those who fail to follow God's ways. To quote Jeremiah: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man...(but) Blessed is one who trusts in Adonai.. (17:5-8)."

Many of us who read through this text will struggle with the seemingly simplistic notion embodied in this verse. If we believe in God and follow God's teachings everything will be ok, but if not we will suffer. For many of us, our experience of the world simply doesn't work that way. There are many people of faith who seem to suffer and many people with little to no faith who live quite comfortably in our world.

Given this challenge, how are we to understand a text that appears clear on the surface but challenges our daily reality? One clue can be found in a commentary by the Malbim, Rabbi Meir Laib ben Yehiel Michal, (1809-1879) on the word "Blessed" that is used in this verse. The Malbim writes: Blessed is one (asher lo l'vad, who is not alone), who trusts in God....

Perhaps the Malbim is suggesting that faith in God is not simply about reward and punishment in a literal sense. When we say that we will be blessed if we trust in God and cursed if we trust in man alone, we are saying that we feel blessed because God's presence can help us discover a deeper sense of meaning as we go through our daily lives. We feel blessed because with God's presence in our lives, we can never be "alone."

Embracing God's presence in our life and in our world is not the same as having blind faith. Our relationship with God can, and most likely will, be filled with struggle. That is why we as a people, are called Yisrael (God wrestlers). But if we are open to engaging in this struggle, and working to discover God's presence in our lives and in our world, we may indeed come to realize that we are not alone as we come to find a deeper sense of blessing, meaning, and purpose in our lives.

Ironically, trust in people is also critical to this endeavor. It is true that Jeremiah says that those who trust in man are cursed. But look more closely: Cursed is one who trusts in man, who makes mere flesh his strength and turns his thoughts from the Lord (17:5-6). For Jeremiah, trust in one another alone is problematic. But if we can let God into our human interactions, exploring how we might act as God's partner to bring God's presence into one another's lives- we will surely be blessed.

As you read this week's Haftarah, ask yourself: How does God bring blessing into my life? How might I, as God's partner, bring blessing into the life of my fellow human beings?

This week's Haftarah commentary was written by Rabbi Aaron Schonbrun of Congregation Torat-El in Oakhurst, NJ.

NEW! We welcome online comments on The Unraveller at Mentschen.org.


New Publications

Leadership - Innovation - Community
Understanding the Haftarot:
An Everyperson's Guide

In this stimulating and unusual book Rabbi Charles Simon, Executive Director of FJMC, provides the reader with the context to understand how the haftarot were organized, why they might have been selected and suggests reasons for finding meaning and value.
You can purchase it a number of ways.
 
Intermarriage: Concepts & Strategies for Families and Synagogue Leaders
If family members and community leaders wish to become engaged in the process of Keruv they often need to ask, "Does Keruv have an ideology and theology? And if so what is it?" Then they need to learn how to respond to intermarriage from the perspective of both gender and religion. This publication reflects the most current thinking about intermarriage to date and attempts to provide family members and community leaders with the needed understanding to effectively work with intermarrieds or potential intermarrieds.
You can purchase it a number of ways:
It's time for Build-A-Pair
The best way to teach about tefillin!

HeneniThe "Build a Pair" Program is a comprehensive and fun learning program to introduce 5th, 6th or 7th graders to the joy and mitzvah of Tefillin in Jewish life. Multiple components interplay to explore the religious significance, the construction of, and the practice of "laying" Tefillin. A comprehensive education program with videos helps the religious school teach students the meaning of Tefillin in Jewish life and practice. Students practice writing their Hebrew/Jewish names and the SHEMA (first line) to insert into pre-made wooden Tefillin boxes. Students decorate the boxes in any creative way they wish, allowing for personal expression. Students either compete or cooperate in writing a "wRAP" song to sing at a Big Event. The Big Event can be the World Wide Wrap (WWW), sponsored by the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs (FJMC), held annually on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. The WWW program is designed to introduce and re-introduce Jewish men [and women] to the significance of "laying" Tefillin. The "Build a Pair" student program attracts the parents to see their children in their model Tefillin sing the "wRap" songs, allowing two generations (or more!) to join in the mitzvah together, and to let the students' sing their "wRAP" song for an appreciative audience.

World Wide Wrap is Sunday, February 3, 2013
The Bar Mitzvah Wrap!

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