Tsav-Shabbat Hagadol - Weekly Torah Portion
This Shabbat, also knows as Shabbat Hagadol, we read a different Haftarah then usually when reading the portion of Tsav. This time the reading is from the words of the prophet Malachi who argues, “the sons of Jacob, have not come to an end. “From the days of your fathers you have turned away from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you”. Before that he provides some detail, “‘Then I will come near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, those who oppress the wage earner in his wages or the widow or the orphan, and those who turn away the stranger from justice and do not fear Me,’ says the Lord of armies.” His listeners, thinking that they are keeping all the mitzvot meticulously, offering sacrifices and keeping it to the letter, were certainly surprised. They therefore respond, “‘How shall we return? Would anyone define God?” In other words, they simply are astonished and cannot believe that kind of demand from an almighty God.
The answer given by the prophet surprises them, “You define me” – it is the person who makes God what he is. The surprised audience then asks “How do we define you?” and the answer is swift and simple, “In tithes and donations.” Burnt offerings is not what is sought for but rather social justice, honest deeds towards the other, this is what defines God. Wondering about what “define” actually means (some translations of the bible use the word “rob”, instead) I came to the conclusion that it actually makes God to be committed to us when we do good, to bless us in the good that we are doing. These words of Malachi are said just before Passover where we do speak about the Passover offering. Nevertheless, the words of the prophet should echo in our ears that what we really need to do is something else.
There is no doubt that for the Israel Reform Movement this Shabbat HaGadol is of special importance. This was a month of success to our Movement here in Israel. After over fifteen years with the Supreme Court, a final verdict was handed deciding that Reform and Conservative conversions made in Israel shall be recognized by the state. The case was filed by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and led by its exceptional team of lawyers. The congregation of Shoham had a fund-raising drive towards the renovation of a place allocated to it by the municipality. Congratulations to Rabbi Rinat Safania and her congregants for successfully meeting their goals. Another fund-raising was made by Keren BeKavod, led by its director Sharona Yekutiel. Like every year, after achieving its goals, the fund will assist hundreds of families across the country with this season’s needs. It is important to stress that the needs of all of our fund-raising campaigns continue and you are encouraged to participate in both “tithes and donations.”
The accomplishments of the IMPJ are achieved step-by-step, layer-over-layer. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, in the same way they stood on the shoulders of those who preceded them. It is in this way that we grew and extended our reach and ranks. On Tuesday, when the results of yet another elections to the Knesset, we were delighted to learn that for the first time in the history of Israel’s Knesset there will be an MK who is a Reform Rabbi. The person who will cease his term as President and CEO of the Israel Reform Movement, and server the country at the holy of holy, the Knesset, is my Friend, Rabbi and Partner, Rabbi (advocate) Gilad Kariv. The obvious should be emphasized, the Israel Reform Movement is not a partisan organization, however, I have no doubt in my mind that Israel’s Knesset is now blessed that through it gates enters a person of stature, with deep and broad knowledge, and experience gained in the many years he has served as a lay and professional leader of the IMPJ. It is an opportunity to wish him success, as his success shall also be shared by us and by the entire State of Israel. In both the meeting of the IMPJ’s board and its general assembly I recited the blessing of kings of Israel to Rabbi Gilad: "בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁחָלַק מִכְּבוֹדוֹ לִירֵאָיו." as he is worthy of such blessing and as he shall be representing at the Knesset, among others, also our interests.
Shabbat Shalom and wishes for Good Health – wishes for a Happy Passover to you and yours.
Reuven Marko, 26 March 2021, 14 Nisan, 5781