From the Desk - Rachel and the Cave of Machpelah
Shalom Friends! I hope you are having a good week and coping with the snow! Reflecting on the Beth Ora Vision Over the last few months, we have mentioned a number of times that Beth Ora has been going back to basics in defining what we are setting out to achieve and how we think we can get there. There have been many stimulating and productive discussions with the executive, board and Sisterhood and more discussions planned with the professional staff and the religious committee. We are also planning meetings to discuss the educational programming at Beth Ora as well as ways in which we can engage young adults in our community. This is an exciting process because it allows us to appreciate the meaning of what we do at Beth Ora and the way in which everybody's efforts contribute to creating something very special. Over the last few weeks in synagogue, we have reflected on the importance of Beth Ora as a community centre. During this period, we have come together to celebrate the worldwide Shabbat Project, shown honour to the veterans of our community and expressed appreciation for our community volunteers. We also showed our solidarity with Jews around the world and, in particular, with the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre. Our faith places great value on community and we are proud that Beth Ora is a place where everyone is welcomed and valued. We know that people will be there for us when we need them, sharing our celebrations, comforting us when we are bereaved, visiting us when we are ill and helping us when we are in trouble. An important area of community support is being there for members who have been bereaved. I highly recommend reading this article which can guide us to better support our friends and community members during difficult times. Coming Up at Beth Ora As we move into the Winter and the snowbirds say goodbye, we keep up our full and exciting programs at Beth Ora. On Shabbat, December 1st, we present our own Beth Ora court case! On that Shabbat, we read about the way in which Joseph is taken to Egypt. But who was responsible for this terrible turn of events? Was it Joseph's brothers? Or was it someone else entirely? At our Shabbat service, two of our members, Michael Grodinsky and Devorah Leibu, will be debating exactly that question. And you, my dear congregants, are the jury. At the end of the service, you will get to vote on whether or not the brother's were responsible for what happened to Joseph! The following Shabbat, we are delighted to present our annual Chanukah dinner! To book your place at this wonderful event, please RSVP by November 29th at 10:00 AM. Wishing you a WARM Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What's the Deal with... Rachel not Being Buried in the Cave of Machpelah? Steven Davidovics asked me why all the patriarchs and matriarchs are buried in the Cave of Machpelah, but not Rachel. Jacob's wife Leah is buried in Machpelah so why not Rachel? When Rachel was buried, the family was, at most, only a day's journey from Canaan. Would it have been so difficult to bring her there to be buried in the Cave of Machpelah? So, what's the deal? In preparing this answer, I benefited from an article written by Rabbanit Shira Smiles. Rashi's answer to this question is as follows:
"Joseph," Jacob says, "Understand that it was not my choice to bury Rachel there, but rather the choice of the Blessed Holy One Himself. There will come a time when my children will be driven into exile. At that time, they will stop by your mother's grave, their mother's grave, and pray for her to intercede on their behalf, and she and they will be comforted. Therefore, it was necessary that I bury her there."
The Ramban gives a different answer. He posits that Jacob could not bury Rachel in the Cave of Machpelah because the Torah would later forbid a man from marrying two sisters while they both lived. Although this was not yet the law, Jacob felt it would be shameful to bring both sisters to the eternal rest with him in the presence of his father and grandfather who had kept all the Torah, including this law, during their lifetimes. Based on the teachings of Rabbi Moshe Wolfson, Rabbanit Smiles explains that Leah represents the strong, victorious side of Jacob: the side that, though hidden, will never be destroyed and will always emerge victorious. She symbolizes the Jewish spark in every Jewish soul that will never be extinguished. Leah is buried in the hidden catacombs of Hebron, just as the Jewish spark is often buried deep within the Jewish soul.