Found 12 Search results

  1. The Dynamics of Oppression

    Rabbi Michael Hattin

    Suffering the Canaanites to maintain their cultural presence in the land constituted an invitation to intermarry with them, for they were the dominant culture.  Intermarriage, in turn, necessarily led to an adoption by the Israelites of the easier way of life – idolatry. 

    Otniel, the first judge, represents the final link with the generation of Yehoshua and the elders that succeeded him.  Additionally, as a champion of the settlement of the land who personally battled the Canaanites and prevailed, Otniel recalls another dimension of Yehoshua's inspired leadership. Though he is a tribal leader - as opposed to Yehoshua - he is presented as a national savior as are many of the other judges in the Book of Shoftim. 

  2. Ezra’s Journey

    Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky

    By many measures, Ezra’s journey is a resounding success. With God’s help, he earns the support of the king and hee convinces Jewish leaders to accompany him. His fast and prayer are apparently effective, and his group arrives safely in Jerusalem. After carefully appointing the priests as stewards of the gold, silver, and other materials, those items are delivered safely and precisely accounted for in the Temple.

    Despite his successes, though, Ezra confronts significant challenges along the way. The Levites at first are a no-show. Later on in our chapter, Ezra notes that he was required to pray for safety on his trip because he was embarrassed to ask the king for protection. Almost immediately after arriving, Ezra learns that intermarriage is rampant among the Jews

    Ultimately, the fact that Ezra was compelled to face a series of challenges extending him beyond his scholarly expertise serves to highlight the extent of his self-sacrifice. It is his willingness to abandon the comforts of his diaspora home to teach Torah to a far-flung, ignorant community – in short, his shelichut – that is the mark of his heroism.

  3. Intermarriage During Shivat Tzion

    Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky

    The books of Ezra and Nehemya put a new emphasis on the sin of intermarriage, including seemingly harsh responses. The leaders of Shivat Tzion seem to present the sin somewhat differently than earlier Biblical works.

    According to the Torah, exogamy is prohibited so as not to lead one’s children toward idolatry. In contrast, the leaders of Shivat Tzion seem to speak with a different point of emphasis, introducing new terminology implying that the sin is not so much about the concern for idolatry or otherwise sinful lifestyle, but runs counter to the holiness of the Jew, an act of betrayal.

    For arguably the first time in history, during the period of Ezra and Nehemya, the temptation of idolatry no longer looms large. Therefore, whereas Devarim and Melakhim tended to stress the lure of paganism, Ezra, Nehemya and Malakhi, no longer confronting this threat, emphasized the inherently objectionable nature of the proscription.

    What does emerge with clarity from Ezra-Nehemya is that there are times, especially when the Jewish community faces an existential challenge, when an unyielding approach is necessary. Although many might take offense to such a “heavy-handed” response, sometimes proper leadership demands an approach that closely follows the firm stand taken by Ezra and Nehemya.

  4. Separating From Foreign Wives

    Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky

    Ezra’s response to the news of intermarriage is at once severe and passive. His actions seem conflicted. The success of the initiative is similarly mixed. At first glance, it appears to be a remarkable triumph. Upon closer examination, however, the people’s commitment appears lukewarm.  The fact that Nehemya was repeatedly required to confront the sin implies that Ezra had failed to truly solve the problem.

    Ezra was a different type of leader than Nehemya. Whereas Nehemya was a forceful political personality deeply grounded in Torah values, Ezra was first and foremost a brilliant, dedicated scholar. Ezra was not, in essence, a man of action. Only when prodded does Ezra rise to the occasion and move mountains to profoundly shape his community.

    The parallels to the Revelation at Sinai teach despite the fact that the community has sinned, repentance creates the possibility of renewed covenantal commitment. Shivat Tzion represents a time of renewed commitment to our relationship with God.

  5. The Great Prayer and Confession

    Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky

    After reading the Torah and celebrating Sukkot in spectacular fashion, the people remain behind, mourning and fasting for their sins. Those who had intermarried separate from their foreign spouses, and the community recites confession. The Levites proceed to offer a whirlwind tour of Biblical history, Notwithstanding the Jews’ unfaithful behavior, God remains compassionate and continues to provide.

    Perhaps the most conspicuous aspect of the prayer of the Levites is the extent to which they draw upon earlier scriptural sources. The ideal is to anchor our prayers, as our actions, in those of the outstanding scholars of the current and previous generations. The prayer exemplifies the key role played by religious commitment born of deep understanding. As the curtain closes on the prophetic period, a new emphasis on the Torah tradition rises to the fore.

    It was the leadership of the Shivat Tzion community that helped to renew the community’s commitment to Mosaic law as the touchstone for Jewish life and Jewish learning. Above all, this is the legacy of Ezra-Nechemia.

    Our invocation of Nechemia during our daily prayers hints to the larger idea that the miracles of the exodus are not isolated events, but are but one piece of the compassion with which God graced His people throughout the course of history.

  6. The Oath

    Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky

    Nechemia chapter 10, perhaps the climax of the nation’s renewed commitment to Torah, summarizes the binding oath accepted by the community.

    In many instances, the oath seems to supersede the obligations that are set forth explicitly in the Torah. The commentators struggle with a fundamental question: to what extent was the oath a renewed commitment to the ancient laws of the Torah, albeit with some novel interpretations, and to what extent are these new, proto-Rabbinic laws? As we have seen, it is most likely that our chapter presents a mix of the two views. On any view, our chapter – and, indeed, the entire period of Shivat Tzion – exemplifies a careful balance between commitment to tradition and an understanding that specific commandments require additional emphasis or even innovation at particular moments in history.

  7. The End of Nehemya

    Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky

    Chapter 11 reports that a tenth of the Jewish population of Judea was selected by lottery to live in Jerusalem, with an eye toward ensuring the city’s ongoing security. The Jerusalem lottery was a random, rather than Divine, mechanism for determining who was to live in the holy city, consistent with the tenor of desacralization running throughout the period of Shivat Tzion.

    The celebratory dedication of Jerusalem’s walls closely resembles the celebration in the third chapter of Ezra. Buried among the many similarities, however, is a basic difference. In Nehemya, the joy is unmitigated. In Ezra it is muted by the sobbing of those who had witnessed the First Temple’s grandeur. Thus, Nehemya is to be viewed as having brought Ezra’s work to a point of greater completion.

    Nehemya’s final chapter neatly summarizes many of his major concerns throughout his tenure in Judea, and it brings his story full circle. The differences between the events of Nehemya chapter 1 and chapter 13 neatly capture the enormity of the governor’s achievements. At the book’s opening, there is an existential crisis. The walls of Jerusalem are burnt to the ground, and the community’s survival is far from assured. By the end, the wall has been completed and the community’s safety secured. Nehemya has turned his attention to matters of ethics, the Temple, and religious practice. However, for all his accomplishments and efforts, Nehemya concludes his sefer with his work incomplete. The battle for the hearts and minds of the people was destined to continue in Sefer Malakhi, a work written some years following Ezra and Nehemya’s careers.

  8. Harsher Criticism

    Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky

    Echoing the covenant of peace forged with Pinhas, and especially Moshe’s blessings before his death, in this passage Malakhi castigates the priests for their shortcomings not in regard to their role in the sacrificial service, but as Torah teachers. In contrast to a previous era, in which the Levites observed the covenant and feared the Almighty, they have now “turned out of the way of that course.”

    The emphasis on the priests’ lapses as halakhic decisors, although to a degree rooted in earlier Biblical passages, sounds strikingly post-prophetic. All this betokens a clear transition in leadership from priest as primarily focused on the Temple service to one also centered on Torah education.

    In light of the centrality of the familial metaphor, it may be that the dialogue between God and the nation is the perfect organizing principle. Constructed as a series of tense exchanges between quarrelling but loving spouses, the discussion motif offers a realistic snapshot of a marital relationship and is therefore particularly apt.

  9. The Month of Kislev and the Second Beit HaMikdash

    Rabbi Jonathan Snowbell

  10. A Retrospective

    Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky

    Conflicting proofs exist as to whether the books of Ezra and Nehemya are one book or two. The preponderance of evidence inclines toward the position that they are a unified work. The differences noted center on Ezra and Nehemya’s distinct leadership styles, one religious and the other political - two contrasting modes of leadership that are crucial in the post prophetic era.

    While similarities to the rest of Tanakh are abound in the books of Shivat Tzion, still, there are significant departures from the rest of Tanakh.

    The omnipresent temptation of idolatry has been overtaken by the allure of intermarriage.

    The post-prophetic period will feature uncharted territory for a Jewish community that had been led by monarchs and prophets for as long as they could remember. As opposed to the prophets’ black-and-white, explicit directives, the Shivat Tzion community must learn to embrace ambiguity.

    The contemporary messages of the works of Shivat Tzion include:

    • There are multiple legitimate models of Jewish leadership.
    • At times leadership demands clinging to core principles, even if at great risk.
    • Redemption, in Shivat Tzion as today, is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Shivat Tzion interweaves idealism and realism. We must celebrate partial victories, even as the work remains dauntingly incomplete.
    • National rituals and shared memory are keys to Jewish survival.
    • Education is the key that unlocks Jewish commitment and continuity.
    • Politics are unpleasant, but are necessary and not inherently evil.
    • No matter the challenges, we remain God’s beloved. 

  11. Ezra- Nehemiah's Revolutionary Strategies Towards Jewish Continuity

    Yael Leibowitz | 55 minutes

    This class will look at the creative ways in which the leaders of the Shivat Zion movement faced the unprecedented challenges of their times, and the relevance of their ingenuity for today. 

  12. From Bnei Yaakov to Ezra – Tanakh’s views of Intermarriage

    Dr. Adina Sternberg

    תאריך פרסום: 2023 | |

    The lecture deals with the question of intermarriage throughout the Tanach - from the question of who the sons of Jacob married to the heated argument of the times of Ezra.