Thursday, May 24, 2012

Words of Torah: Debbie Kapp

One of Five N'shei Mitzvah @ Congregation Albert:  On April 21, Parshat Shemini, five extraordinary women were called to the Torah as N'shei Mitzvah.  These five women - Susan Freed, Naomi Findley, Barbara Cohen, Debbie Kapp, and Anne McGoey - had studied and prepared for months to reach this day.

N'shei Mitzvah is an adult celebration of learning.  These five women had chosen to affirm their commitment to their Jewish identity and reaffirm their responsibility for performing the mitzvot of Jewish life.

Abq Jew was pleased to be among the congregants who observed and participated in this simcha, and immediately asked to publish the Divrei Torah of these five special women here.

As the Festival of Shavuot approaches, Abq Jew is honored to publish these words - one Dvar Torah per day - to once again demonstrate that "the Torah is not in Heaven."  The Torah is with and within each of us and all of us!


The Torah Words of Debbie Kapp
Copyright © 2012 Debbie Kapp     Used By Permission     All Rights Reserved

In the second century BCE, as part of a plan to eradicate Judaism, circumcision was outlawed, Sabbath observance was outlawed and reading from the Torah was outlawed. Jews replaced the outlawed weekly Torah portions with selections from the Prophets.  For each week a section from the prophetic writings was selected that would remind the listeners of the proscribed Torah portion.  Reading from the Prophets thus became a tradition that continued. 

This week’s Haftarah portion is from the second book of Samuel.  The Prophet Samuel lived during the time of King David.  Haftarah Sh'mini tells the story of King David’s wish to establish a fixed sanctuary for the Ark of the Covenant.  King David conquers Jerusalem and unifies the Israelites politically and geographically.  King David brings the Ark of the Covenant into the city amidst a triumphant celebratory procession.

An accident occurs when an ox stumbles and the cart carrying the Ark wobbles and starts to tip and the cart's attendant reflexively reaches out to stabilize the Ark.  The attendant dies suddenly apparently in divine retribution for having profaned a sacred object.  King David becomes frightened and has the Ark temporarily stored in the home of a subject.  After 3 months pass, and the respective subject’s household appears graced and protected, King David brings the Ark once again into Jerusalem.  Again there is a magnificent celebratory procession with dancing and music and wine, and cake is distributed to the public.

What parallels are there between the Torah and Haftarah portions?  In both, a tragic death suddenly occurs when something sacred is violated.  In the Torah portion the sons of Aaron die when they unilaterally offer an incense burning.  In both the Torah and Haftarah portions, the individuals who die seem to have acted with good intention; their abrupt demise appears unwarranted.

A second connection between the Torah and Haftarah portions is that each narrates a significant moment in the story of the Ark of the Covenant. The Torah portion describes events during the consecration of the Tabernacle, the portable shrine that housed the Ark during the time of Wandering.  The Haftarah portion describes the Ark’s grand arrival in Jerusalem, marking the end of its travels.

Another parallel is that each portion introduces a dominant attribute of Jewish identity:  in the Torah portion the dietary restrictions, and, in the Haftarah portion, the centrality of Jerusalem.  The attributes are complementary: one is physical and the other spiritual.  The dietary restrictions concern a daily physical need; the centrality of Jerusalem is at the emotional core of Jewish spirituality.

In this week’s Haftarah portion, King David tells the Prophet Nathan that he wants to build a permanent home for the Ark in Jerusalem.  The Eternal informs the Prophet Nathan that King David is not the one destined to construct the Temple; a descendent of the King will construct the Temple.  King David complies with the Eternal's directive.  He can only assemble the materials for the Temple's construction.

King David’s son builds the Temple in Jerusalem.   After the destruction of the Temple the Jewish people go into exile.  Throughout 2,000 years of exile, the persistent yearning for Jerusalem sustains faith and permeates religious practice.  The yearning for Jerusalem is central to the collective Jewish consciousness.  It is continuously reinforced through tradition.   

We refer to Jerusalem as the Torah scroll is removed from the Ark.  When we celebrate Passover we proclaim: "next year in Jerusalem."  And we recall Jerusalem during the wedding ceremony when the glass is broken.

 Some trace the etymology of the name Jerusalem to the Hebrew words that mean "they will see peace."  At present, there is not peace in Jerusalem.  As King David could only prepare for the construction of the Temple and could not witness its realization, perhaps we as well need to prepare purposefully for a Jerusalem of peace so that its realization can be witnessed by our descendants.  As the Community of Israel it is our obligation to work towards repairing a broken world.

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