Torah Study Notes 4-11-15

April 11, 2015
p. 1269
We will do the 8th day of Pesach Torah portion whereas in Israel they are reading Schmeni in Leviticus. On Shabbat we do an additional seven aliahs. What does this portion have to do with Passover? We will see at the end.
15:1 Remission of debts every seventh year for fellow Israelites. Outstanding loans are to be forgiven. What does this mean? The suggestion is that the land will take care of the people and there will be no needy. The purpose of the loan is to build upon what you have. By forgiving you will live in peace and your neighbor will respect your property. AF: Is escaping from debt analogous to escaping from slavery? PG: Not if the borrower is not really needy. Note that there may have been no money as we know it.
15:7 If there is a needy person amongst you… do not be restrained by the impending seventh year. This contradicts verse 4 which implies that there are no needy. This could be the basis for venture capitalism as well as socialism – simultaneously. There is an implied suggestion here that the system as described may not work but should be a goal we aspire to. “Kin” here applies to all of the Israelites. It is like the concept of “ummah” in the Koran. However, Torah teaches that responsibility is not limited to kin – it extends to the stranger albeit in a different way. It is an effort to establish an ideal society of saints or “Chasidim.” See “Capitalism and the Jews” written by professor Jerry Muller at Catholic University.
Many of the world’s top philanthropists are Jews. In an agrarian society many loans are repaid at harvest time. No loans were made with interest. Why the 7th year? Because you need to be reminded of your better nature. Once the society is no longer hermeneutic then there will be changes in the system.
15:12 In the 7th year you shall set your servant free and give him a gift.
15:16 Management of the slave who doesn’t want to leave. Why is there an awl in the ear? The ear is what should be hearing “I am the Lord your God who took you out of Egypt.” Here that freedom is being rejected. A non Israelite would become a slave if captured in war.
15:19 Slaughter of the “firstling” from the flock as a sacrifice. But do not partake of its blood. This is the analogy to Passover where the first born of the Israelites ware saved. AF: God created the defective animals. Why won’t he accept them as a sacrifice? PG: This gets back to the question “Where does evil come from?” Because the world is imperfect – it is something other than God. To the question “Why creation in the first place?” There is no answer.
16:1 Observe the month of Abib and offer a Passover sacrifice to the Eternal, your God. The Passover sacrifice includes the least tasty bread – Matzoth – indicating freedom whereas the sweet dish reminds us of slavery. Here a month is named “Spring.” The vernal equinox. The metonic cycle – the 19 year cycle wherein we add a month – was adopted to assure that Passover would be at the Spring Equinox. That cycle causes the loss of a few minutes every year so that Passover is no longer in the month of Aviv.
See: or for a more eccentric and apocalyptic version of what the metonic cycle reveals.


Rabbi Berkowitz is Coming to Town!

Rabbi Berkowitz doesn’t start as our new Rabbi until July, however she is fast at work making plans to come to Poughkeepsie and beginning to get to better know about Vassar Temple and all of us.

This past week Rabbi came to town to find a place to live. Mission accomplished! She’s happy to have found a great community to make her new home, with a great landlord to boot.

We would like to thank four dedicated Temple families for helping to make Rabbi Berkowitz’s visit a success in other ways! Harry and Sandra Mamis, for their hospitality in putting up Leah while she was here. Thank you to David and Susan Hecht, Melissa and Brianna Erlebacher and Kate, Mark and Anna Metzger for hosting dinners at their homes so that Rabbi could get to know Vassar Temple Officers, the Youth Group, and eleven Bar/Bat Mitzvah childen and their parents.

In addition, Rabbi Golomb gave his successor a tour of his Temple book collection, allowing Rabbi Berkowitz to select books from his office at the temple which she’d like to keep with the temple. They had another opportunity to talk about what it is like to be OUR Rabbi. Were your ears ringing??

Heaven knows we have some sprucing up to do once Rabbi Golomb turns over his office. OY – another Men’s Club project. LOL.

Perla Kaufman welcomes any ideas or suggestions you may have to help with the transition. Please don’t hesitate to contact her. She’s looking forward to letting everyone know about all the ways to get involved as soon as we establish a calendar for the months ahead! Let us make Rabbi Berkowitz feel right at home and in the process, let us create new bonds among us all.
Rabbi Berkowitz playing card game with Youth Group
Rabbi Berkowitz talking with upcoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah children and parents.