Address: 91 Leinster St, Saint John, NB E2L 1J2

(506) 657-4790

D’Var Torah Lech Lecha

Shabbat Shalom from Bruce Washburn:
This week’s commentary is in reference to what will be my Bar Mitzvah haftarah next October, so I probably should read it.

Service Born From Love
Vered Hollander-Goldfarb

He does not care about us! So seem to cry the exiled population from Jerusalem feeling helpless and abandoned, doubting their own worth, and skeptical that their God has any interest in them: “Why do you say, O Jacob, And speak, O Israel: My way is hidden from the Lord, And my claim is passed over by my God?” says Isaiah (40:27). How can the navi (prophet) bring the people back to believing that an everlasting relationship exists between them and their God?

Sometimes, it is best to take a step back.  The greatness of our previous generations can give us a sense of self-respect.  Some years ago, a rabbi shared an experience he had while working in a school: A particularly troublesome student was sent to him (apparently no one else felt that they managed to get through to this teenager.)  At a loss for ideas, he happened to ask the boy who he is named after.  This was something that no one had asked before, and the child had no idea. “Your homework is to go ask your parents this question,” the rabbi said.  The next day the child came back beaming.  His parents explained that he was named for a grandparent who had been one of the close assistants of an admired rabbi.  They gave him a siddur that his grandfather had used.  From that point there was a marked change in the child’s behavior.  He was the grandson of an important person.  He held his head high and began claiming a spot among his classmates. With time, he became one of the leading students.

In the haftarah God turns to Israel, to Jacob, in a similar manner:

As for you, O Israel, My servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
Seed of Avraham My friend (Isa. 41:8, based on Robert Alter’s translation)

The use of both of Jacob’s names could merely be a poetic device (biblical poetry is often composed in parallels.) But Isaiah’s words are calculated. “Israel” is the name that Jacob receives twice: once after struggling with the angel, and again after he has returned into the land of Canaan and came to pay his pledge at Beth El.  There, some 20 years earlier, he had had a dream of a ladder connecting Heaven and Earth.  There God promised him the land of Israel for the first time.  It is there that Jacob was chosen by God to be the heir who follows Avraham’s path. Jacob was chosen, but Israel is God’s servant.  The choice was God’s.  It was not history taking its course, it was a conscious choice.

But first God turns to the people and addresses Israel as “My servant.”  That is our choice.  Israel made a choice to stay with God, to have a relationship.  Being a servant of God is a title of great honor.  Moshe is called “the servant of the LORD.”  God addresses us first in the title that we earned – “servant” and then reiterates that we were His choice.

Now comes the curious description: “Seed of Avraham My friend” (The root in Hebrew connotes love.) What is the difference between one’s relationship with a servant and one’s relationship with a friend?  One relationship might come from a place of awe, of deep respect, the other from a place of unconditional love. Which is deeper?  Which is more compelling? Why is Avraham the one who is considered to have a relationship of love, rather than servitude, with God?  Which relationship with God do we seek?



Contact info

Address: 91 Leinster St,
Saint John, NB, E2L 1J2
Phone: (506) 657-4790
Mailing Address: P.O. BOX 2041
Saint John, NB,  E2L 3T5

Gathering Times

6:00pm - 7:00pm

09:00am , 09:45am, 10:45am, 11:45am, 12:45pm, 1:45pm