These Sermon Sparks are for your use. Feel free to download, to comment, and to send us your own sermon sparks you’d like to share.
- Ki Tissa
- Achrei Mot
- Pesach doubt
- Pesach – 5th cup
- Behaalotcha (Moses’ leadership)
Spark: The Modern State of Israel is the best opportunity we’ve had in 2000 years to fulfill the Torah’s call to create a just and ethical society. Right now, there are many exciting groups in Israel that are trying to do just that.
The Torah, as articulated in Parashat Kedoshim, envisions a just, ethical society. The State of Israel, in its declaration of independence, declared that: “The State of Israel will… be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel. There is a deep connection between these prophetic values and the work that is currently happening in Israel.
Key Texts and Modern Connection
Leviticus 19:14 – “Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the LORD.”
The “Nalaga’at” Center creates workplaces for the deaf, blind and deaf-blind, and allows its employees to make a living while expressing themselves artistically. The “Nalaga’at” Center is a place where deaf, blind, deaf-blind, hearing and seeing people, work together and share the belief that through an active stand and a constant search for new means of communication – they can and must change reality. “Nalaga’at” brings deaf, blind and deaf-blind people together with hearing and seeing people from Israel and throughout the world on a cultural and artistic basis, through a unique experience. http://www.nalagaat.org.il
Leviticus 19:15 – “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”
Government of Israel and Supreme Court:
The purpose of the Code of Ethics for Judges of the Supreme Court of the State of Israel is to guide the conduct of the judges of Israel along their path, and to serve them as an aid, by which they can be assisted and from which they can learn. The code includes rules of various types: fundamental rules which stem from the judge’s status, and express fundamental values, which are the basis for judicature; rules regarding the act of adjudication itself; rules regarding the personal conduct of judges; and specific norms dealing with practical issues that arise in daily life
Leviticus 19:13 – “Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.”
Bema’aglei Tzedek‘s Tav Chevrati is a seal of approval granted free of charge to restaurants and other businesses that respect the legally-mandated rights of their employees and are accessible to people with disabilities. This initiative encourages Israeli consumers to selectively patronize those businesses which have been awarded the Tav Chevrati, with the ultimate goal to encourage exponentially more businesses to uphold ethical and equitable business practices, while teaching consumers that they have the power to impact society. http://www.mtzedek.org.il/english/default_en.asp
Leviticus 19:9-10 – “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God.”
Leket Israel, Israel’s National Food Bank, works hard to address the problem of nutritional insecurity in the country. Leket Israel:
- Rescues over 110 tons of food a week that would otherwise be destroyed from hundreds of food producers.
- Coordinates the largest food purchasing cooperative for non-profit organizations in the country.
- Provides professional guidance to non-profit organizations in nutrition and food safety.
- Supplies over 5,000 volunteer prepared sandwiches a day to school children from dysfunctional homes in 24 cities.
Leviticus 19:33-34 – “ The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”
The Hotline for Migrant Workers, established in 1998, is a non-partisan, not for profit organization, dedicated to (a) promoting the rights of undocumented migrant workers and refugees and (b) eliminating trafficking in persons in Israel. We aim to build a more just, equitable and democratic society where the human rights of all those residing within its borders are paramount civic and political values. http://www.hotline.org.il/english/index.htm
Spark: Sometimes we need to destroy our old conceptions/models of Israel to discover new treasure.
Framing: Sometimes we need to destroy our old conceptions and frames in order to find treasures buried inside. What appears to be a loss of a structure, a model, solidity, can actually be a blessing.
Key Texts: Leviticus, 14:34, Rashi
לד כִּי תָבֹאוּ אֶל-אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן לָכֶם לַאֲחֻזָּה; וְנָתַתִּי נֶגַע צָרַעַת, בְּבֵית אֶרֶץ אֲחֻזַּתְכֶם.לה וּבָא אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ הַבַּיִת, וְהִגִּיד לַכֹּהֵן לֵאמֹר: כְּנֶגַע, נִרְאָה לִי בַּבָּיִת.
34 When ye are come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of tzaraat in a house of the land of your possession; 35 then he that owneth the house shall come and tell the priest, saying: ‘There seemeth to me to be as it were a plague in the house.’
Rashi: [the tzaraat] is a means of conveying of good news! For the Amorites hid treasures of gold in the walls of their houses all 40 years that Israel was in the desert, and because of the plague the owner would tear it down and would find the treasure.
Modern Application to Israel
Israel challenges us. When we engage in it, we often do so from the comfort of walls that we inhabit. Our intellectual and emotional walls shape our understanding of the situation, letting in certain ideas and feelings while blocking out others. But what treasures are we denying ourselves by putting up these walls? What would happen if we tore them down, even for a moment? What might we discover about Israel? About ourselves?
What are the walls we have as a community around Israel?
Are they walls that shut out the voices of a younger generation?
Are they walls that block out a religious inspiration for Israel?
Are they walls that block the voices of those who disagree with us?
Spark: Acknowledging and accepting the fact the leaders will disappoint us is the first step towards improving them. To Full Post
Spark: The ideal contribution a Jew can make to Israel is a “free will offering” that reflects his or her personal strengths, talents, and passions.
Key Text, Exodus 25:1-9 and Kli Yakar
א וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר.
ב דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִקְחוּ-לִי תְּרוּמָה: מֵאֵת כָּל-אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִדְּבֶנּוּ לִבּוֹ, תִּקְחוּ אֶת-תְּרוּמָתִי.
1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:
2 ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering; of every man whose heart makes him willing you shall take My offering.
The 17th century commentator, Kli Yakar (Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz), writing from Prague asks the following question:
Why does it say “that they take for me an offering? It should say: they give me an offering!” The Kli Yakar answers that when we give from our hearts, in ways that are meaningful to us, we are really receiving.
In order to forge a lasting and deep connection to the State of Israel, individuals must give in ways that are personally meaningful to them. There are many ways to connect beyond just writing a check. There are opportunities to volunteer in areas of specialty and passion, from frisbee to arts to environmental bike rides. By giving to Israel, in a way that is fitting for you, you will ultimately receive more.
Modern Day Connection
Hazon Bike Ride – Hazon is getting people on bikes, getting people to think differently about transportation and cycling, nationally and in Israel. Its outdoor programs raise money for cutting-edge Jewish environmental projects in the United States and Israel. They also support Hazon’s community building projects and year-round programming.
Ultimate Peace – A group the channeled their passion for Ultimate Frisbee to build bridges of friendship, understanding and fun for youth from different social and cultural backgrounds across Israel and the West Bank.
Yad Lakashish – At Yad LaKashish: Lifeline for the Old, the elderly are viewed as human beings with a potential for artistic creativity that is just waiting to be revealed. Our solution is an artistic community that encourages the elderly in their process of self-discovery and engages them in creative activity in order to develop their new found skills. In line with the principle of the medieval Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides that the highest level of charity is to help people help themselves, the elderly artisans receive specific financial benefits in return for their work.
Spark: Wisdom and understanding are the Jewish people’s ultimate sources of strength and identity. When we think about strengthening Israel, we should think about how to strengthen its sources of wisdom. We can do this in two ways: striving to improve education for all of its citizens, as well as improving our own Israel education and awareness.
Framing: National Symbols
Think about the symbols of other nations and what they represent:
America – The Bald eagle. Power. Vision. Freedom
Soviet Russia – Hammer and sickle. Industry. Labor.
China – The red of revolution, the power of the yellow stars.
What is Israel’s national symbol? The Menorah. What kind of a symbol is a lamp??
And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: ‘Speak unto Aaron, and say unto him: When thou lightest the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the candlestick.’ And Aaron did so: he lighted the lamps thereof so as to give light in front of the candlestick, as the LORD commanded Moses.
Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, commonly known as the Netziv observes that the Menorah symbolizes all forms of wisdom shining together. For the Netziv, in Ha’emek Hadavar, each of the 7 lights represents the 7 different areas of wisdom of the Oral Torah required to understand the Written Torah. Without one of these lights, we cannot access complete wisdom.
In other texts, the Menorah, represents wisdom and the source of Jewish possibility.
Zecharia – Chapter 4.
1 And the angel that spoke with me returned, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep. 2 And he said unto me: ‘What seest thou?’ And I said: ‘I have seen, and behold a candlestick all of gold… ‘What are these, my lord?’ 5 Then the angel that spoke with me answered and said unto me: ‘Knowest thou not what these are?’ And I said: ‘No, my lord…’ 6 Then he answered and spoke unto me, saying: ‘This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying: Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, says the LORD of hosts.
In the Talmud as well, we find many statements about the importance of study:
אאין העולם מתקיים אלא בשל הבל פיהן של תינוקות של בית רבן שבת קי”ט:ב –
“The very world rests on the breath of a child in the schoolhouse.” (Babylonian Talmud: Shabbat, 119b)
“And Rabbi Tarfon and the Elders were already gathered in the upper chamber of Nitza’s house in Lod, when the following question was raised before them: What is greater, study or action? Rabbi Tarfon answered, saying: Action is greater. Rabbi Akiva answered, saying: Study is greater. All of them answered, saying: Study is greater, because study leads to action.” (Kiddushin 40b)
The Menorah was chosen as a symbol for the Jewish State because it represents wisdom and study. Wisdom and study are at the heart of Jewish potential and the source of our strength. In order to support Israel, we must pursue knowledge and wisdom about it. Here are some examples of places to do that:
Makōm – sophisticated Israel education.
Makōm, is a ‘next-practice’ endeavor, forming and driving experimental community networks that meet the call of re-imagining the place of Israel in Jewish life. MAKOM works to empower Jewish educators, rabbis, arts and community leaders to develop deep, sophisticated and honest Israel programming. Our team, based in Israel and New York, is made up of experts in travel, education, arts, and religion.
Eretz Acheret is an Israeli NGO comprised of people from different sectors of society with a broad range of backgrounds and personal beliefs. The goal of this website is to provide Israeli and Diaspora Jews with a platform for open discourse and dialogue on all facets of the Israel-Diaspora relationship, as well as the opportunity to express their identity through the written word.