All posts by Jeremy

Bo

Joseph started life in Egypt as a slave and died there a free man. His grandchildren and those of his brothers and sister started life as free citizens and were later enslaved. What sort of man was the Pharaoh who enslaved them? Did he have no knowledge of his history, or did he choose to ignore it? Did he not know that a Hebrew has saved Egypt from starvation and been honoured above all men by his ancestor, or did he not care?

What sort of man was a yet later Pharaoh who attempted mass infanticide?  And finally what sort of man took apparent sadistic pleasure in increasing the severity of the Israelites’ bondage and who allowed his own people to suffer ever more abominable plagues rather than allow the Israelites the freedom to worship God? Imagine those plagues: the river turned into blood, swarming frogs, even in your bed, lice driving you mad with their bites, flies buzzing like thunder over fields, houses and palaces, to be followed by disease attacking all the animals, and then by hail destroying crops and livestock. It is hard to imagine how any ruler could allow one disaster after another to bring his own people and his country to ruin. Yet this is what Pharaoh did, and there is worse to come. For Va-eira has only recounted seven plagues, but there are still three more not yet unleashed, the last so terrible that, while it mirrors dimly the attempted killing of all Israel’s male children, it still sends a shudder through our hearts. This plague and the two before it will appear in Bo, as will the Exodus itself and the first laws given to a nation beginning its long, long journey to freedom.

Remember and discover new insights this Saturday at 10.30. Adam Feldman of the euphonious voice will be leading us out of Egypt.

Making Aliyah

The first two weeks by recently departed Kehillat Kernow member Joanne Gore

As I start to write I am taken back exactly one week and was at the airport with my parents, first in line at the emerging queue to check-in. Packing a 3-bedroom house into 3 suitcases was a challenge and I knew I was way over the 60 kg weight allowance allocated so had a strategy: Plan A – cry, Plan B – unpack!  Turns out Plan A wasn’t needed and Plan B was only required as the 34 kg of one case exceeded the legal limit, so Plan B was put into place and a few items removed to get it to 32 kg.

Some may know that security to board a plane to Israel is tight and there are regular questions: “Did you pack your bags yourself?” (Yes) and “Did anyone give you anything to carry for them?” (No).  To which the guy gestured towards the folks then said “Not even your parents?” (No, I’m being selfish and it’s all for me!).  A quick tearful goodbye and I was off…

It had been drilled into me that upon arrival in Tel Aviv under no circumstances was I to go through passport control without being met for paperwork to be done. If nobody was waiting (highly likely) there was a phone at the side of the passport control area that I should use to ask for people to come get me.  As I was walking along the last corridor I could see a man with a name placard and was hoping to see my name on it when it came into vision – hooray, I had been met!  And then after being processed and going through passport control to get my bags and a taxi I had the loveliest of surprises, Tracy (cousin), Michael (cousin’s husband) and their middle daughter had come to the airport to meet me (with banners, in case you haven’t seen the picture).

People had been advising that everything is done really slowly and has to be done in a certain order. Take a book to read whilst you’re waiting…  Well, fortunately I haven’t experienced that.  Michael had organised people at the bank that I would be coming in (Tuesday) and with lots of congratulations and welcomes I opened a bank account.  A week later I have a credit card, ATM PIN and chequebook!

Tuesday afternoon Tracy and I went into Tel Aviv to take some things to the apartment I’ve rented for the next few months, and to meet my flatmate (Annie).  That afternoon we went for a walk along the beach and saw a beautiful sunset.  We then walked via the Ulpan where I enrolled to learn Hebrew, the class starting 15-Dec was full so they put me on the next one starting 17-Jan, which was already half-full.  On Wednesday Annie kindly accompanied me to the Ministry office where there was no queue and I was seen immediately, paperwork processed, and off for a leisurely lunch before catching the bus to visit Adina and her family in Ariel.

Thursday was busy too – back to the bank to pick up the credit card, this meant I could set up a mobile phone contract, which I did on our drive to spend the weekend in Eilat (downside I was phone-less until the drive home on Saturday night).  Shopping in Eilat doesn’t have tax, with the holiday discounts I did well, unfortunately only on essentials, such as towels, linens, pillows, but I got a “Dream” card and now have 100 shekels to spend in January – woohoo!

Fantastic time in Eilat, shopping, walking in the canyon and descending down the washed-away ladder ie lots of crunching and jumping; also walked to and from the beach too.  I got a welcome to my Israeli family and a very scrummy birthday cake too.

Then Sunday, Day 7, I took a 3 year-old girl for a walk to the shops to buy eggs, interesting as I don’t speak Hebrew and she doesn’t speak English – she was all smiles when asked if she had fun!  Then I met Tracy’s middle daughter’s boyfriend who had come to pick her up before coming back for a big family dinner – they came back engaged (lucky I brought my party shoes and frock).  And if that wasn’t enough celebrations Tracy & Michael and each of their children brought gifts to help me settle into life in Israel: a cactus and a potato peeler signifying that Israeli’s may be prickly on the outside but once you get under the skin they are good; a photo frame for pictures of me and new friends that I’m about to make; pepper spray because it’s legal here; a hot water bottle as that’s one of the items that was in the discarded 2kg; and a bottle of Carmel wine (owl series) to go in the bottle holder that was a birthday gift.

So, all in all, I don’t think I could have asked for a better start here in Israel.  I have moved most of my things to Tel Aviv now and will stay in the apartment for the near future – I forgot to mention that Michael’s sister has a friend who works at the school and got me bumped up to the class starting tomorrow!

Shemot

Believe it or not, the last parsha, Va-y’chi, marked the end of Bereshit, and what an immensity and intimacy we have witnessed. Genesis starts on the most macro of levels, with the creation of the world, of light and of life; it moves through the epic destruction of the flood and of the scattering of nations after the hubristic attempt to reach the heavens and, then, focusses on the most micro of levels: a tiny family. For weeks and weeks, we have been absorbed in the most human of tales, of the great-hearted Abraham and his determined wife Sarah, of the far-seeing Rebecca and the meditative Isaac, of the heart-rending suffering of Hagar and Ishmael, of the intense drama of Jacob and Esau and then of Jacob’s sons. Va’y’chi brings a sort of closure with the death of Jacob, happy to be reunited with his lost, favourite son, his blessings for all his sons and Joseph’s confirmation of his forgiveness of his older brothers. The family reach a period of peace and understanding, all of them wiser and better. Why, however, when Jacob blesses Joseph’s sons, Ephrahim and Manasseh, does he put the younger before the elder? Is this another example of the apparent reversing of the accepted hierarchy, or is there another subtler message contained here? Whatever is going on, it does not retract from the general atmosphere of a family being somehow complete and at peace with itself.

We are about to embark on Shemot, Names, or Exodus and, in so doing, we move from the story of a family to that of a nation. This is both a huge development, the transformation of Israel, the single individual, into the children of Israel, and eventually into the people of Israel, and a disjuncture. Genesis ends with a family accepted and honoured by the Egyptian Pharaoh and his subjects, one of the sons of this family the second most important person in the land. Exodus begins with a people who have no power and yet who are feared, and who are therefore persecuted. Does it sound familiar to us now? Things certainly don’t look good, but there is hope, there is always hope.

To be in on the beginning of the story of Moses and the beginning of a people, of a faith and of a social experiment which are still alive and developing, come along this Saturday at 10.30. Pat Lipert of the sagacious voice will be leading the service.

Vayiggash

We left Joseph at the end of Vayeshev in prison, forgotten by the Pharaoh’s chief wine steward, whose own release had been revealed by Jospeh’s interpretation of his dream. Joseph’s fate is about to change, however, once Pharaoh is himself troubled by two parallel dreams. It is with these dreams, and Joseph’s interpretation of them, that the parsha of Mikkeitz begins. What is perhaps more interesting than Joseph’s reading of the dreams is the strategic thinking he displays immediately after he has interpreted them, for he advises Pharaoh on what he should do to avert the human catastrophe which seven years of famine will bring if not prepared for. No wonder Pharaoh appoints him viceroy. Thus Joseph’s early precocity, so irritating to his brothers when he was a boy, matures into wise and effective state management. Even more interesting is how his brothers re-enter the story, particularly Judah. When last they had seen Joseph, they had been ready to kill him, until they settled for the less heinous, but still awful, crime of selling him into slavery. Years later, they clearly feel guilty for what they did and they are determined not to allow their youngest brother Benjamin, Rachel’s only other child, to suffer a similar fate, at least not without them all sharing it. Their fierce jealousy and resentment of years before has evaporated, as they have become more generous and ready to shoulder joint responsibility. The stage is prepared, but for what?

For Judah – a man who has already learnt to recognise righteousness in others (see the story of Tamar in Yayeshev) and who has made himself personally responsible to his father for Benjamin’s safe return from Egypt – is about to step forward and… Well if you want to know what Judah is about to step forward to do, you should come along on Saturday at 10.30. Harvey of the melodious voice will be leading and guiding us.

Vayeshev

We left Jacob, and his now large family, at the end of Vayetze, having made just made his peace with his father-in-law Laban and now ready to return to his father in Canaan. The beginning of the next parsha, Vayishlach, finds him fearful of meeting his brother Esau. After all, Jacob bought his birthright for a bowl of lentil soup and later cheated him out of his blessing. Who would not be fearful in such a case? Jacob is a wise strategist, however, and he plans his meeting with Esau in such a way as to reduce the chance of violence and to minimize its effect, should it occur. He divides his camp into two and sends a succession of tributes or peace offerings ahead.

The night before the meeting, Jacob wrestles with an angel, and thus Israel is born. The child who grabbed his brother’s heel becomes the man who struggles with God, and so we, the children of Israel, have been doing ever since. As Jacob is transformed, so is his relation with his brother. It turns out that he had nothing to fear from Esau, who greets him with great kindness, embraces and kisses him and weeps. This is a wonderful moment. The one who carries forward within himself the Covenant is reconciled with the brother he so sorely deceived years before and who now shows great generosity. Surely, Esau has earned God’s blessing too.

Jacob’s return is followed by the terrible episode of Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter (as far as we know). After the local Hivite chief Chamor, his son Shechem and all the men of the city have allowed themselves to be circumcised, is it right for Simeon and Levi to slay them because of the rape of their sister? Later Isaac dies and is buried by his sons Esau and Jacob, just as Abraham was buried by Isaac and Ishmael years before. The parsha ends with a genealogy of Esau and Edom, interesting if only because it is there.

This week, it is Vayeshev that we will be reading from, another momentous parsha, in which Joseph will make his appearance and in which yet another example of sibling rivalry will begin to play out. Let’s face it, Joseph could be seen as somewhat of a pain in the elbow by any band of brothers, though not enough to merit being butchered or sold into slavery. We will see him in Egypt, trusted by his master and betrayed by his mistress and flung into prison. Vayetze contains more, though, than Joseph’s misfortunes. It also tells the fascinating story of Judah and Tamar and of how a man can learn the meaning of righteousness and  justice from the seemingly immoral behaviour of a daughter-in-law.

Enough already. For more come to the service this Saturday at 10.30. Liz Berg will be leading us and we will surely learn much more.