Friday, January 20, 2006


The Eternal Burning Bush
Rabbi Gustavo Surazski
I would like to share with you two events I took part in a few years ago.

Five years ago we celebrated the entering of a new "Sefer Torah" in my synagogue in Buenos Aires. The Torah was written in the United States and send by air to Argentina. I went to the airport to pick it up and take it home with me until the day of celebration.

The custom secretaries looked at the "odd book" and asked me what it was. I explained to them the basics as to what it was about, and they determined that it was to fall under the category of antiques. They said: "Just like an old Swiss watch from the 18th century, Mr. Surazski. That will be 2% tax charge".

That was a great deal of money, but not the important point. It was a matter of jewish pride. Is it possible that our Torah would be categorized as an antiquity? I wanted to explain to her about the "Eternal Burning Bush" as written in our portion this week. I wanted to explain to her that the sound of the Shofar, when the Torah was handed down to us, can still be heard. But I was sure she wouldn't understand.

The second event took place five years ago. My wife and I were on our honeymoon in New York. We were looking for a synagogue near our hotel to pray in on Shabbat. I asked a near by Kosher Chinese restaurant owner where I could find one in the neighborhood. The owner, a young orthodox man, asked me if I wanted to pray in a Conservative, Reform or an Orthodox synagogue (I thought it sounded funny to have been given so many options, but realized a restaurant owner was used to producing a menu). Then he said that there was a very nice one that wasn't far. "And there is another one that is very old right next door, BUT don't go there". He continued to say: "It looks like a museum, many tourists visit and not all are jewish. It might very well be that if you went there you would be the only one with a Siddur".

And I think, if we let ourselves think of a Torah as an antiquity or of a synagogue as a museum that we are signing our own death certificate as a people. If we think that the only reason to celebrate a Brit, a Bar-Mitzvah or a Chuppah is because it will make our father or grandfather happy, our end is near...

When our Torah tells us of G-ds revelation to Moses by the "Eternal Burning Bush" it is not a description to a situation. It represents the challenge that stood before us then, and remains standing before us now. Not to let our Torah be categorized as an antiquity, like a Swiss watch. Not to let us be considered as passive strangers in our synagogues. Not to turn our back to tradition and leave it to others to watch over it.

The "Eternal Burning Bush" does not only refer to the refers to us. It is a calling out to the "Children of Israel" of all generations to be active players of our tradition and not passive bystanders...

The "Eternal Burning Bush" it is not just a cliché, it's a mission.

Friday, January 13, 2006


Aryeh King of Israel

Rabbi Gustavo Surazski

For the past week we have been praying for the recovery of the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, and concerned for his well-being. The man who acquired questionable fame a few years ago based on his military achievements, has today become one of the most admired leaders that Israel has known since the inception of the State. And an explanation for the change in public opinion might be found in this week's portion.

"Like a lion's whelp, O Judah," is written in the Torah (Genesis 49, 9). "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet" his father blesses him. Two questions arise from this blessing given to Judah...

Firstly: Why did God choose Judah to rule? (The house of David and the Messiah descended from him.) Why not his first-born, Reuben? Or Joseph (who had at least gained some experience under the King of Egypt)?

Secondly: Why was Judah compared to a lion (Aryeh)?

As to Judah as a choice, we can see at the beginning of the portion "Vayigash" how he tried to free his brother Benjamin from captivity under Joseph. We have already stated last week that according to the Midrash he was ready for both conflict and reconciliation. He was prepared to be a pacifist and also a fighter. He was prepared to be a man of compromise and also a military leader.

As to the second question, here is a wonderful parable from the book "Doresh Tov Le-Amo":

...The animals sought a king and turned to the tiger, saying: "The tiger's strength is in his loins and he is cruel, and all the animals will fear him". The fox replied, "The tiger may be the most terrifying of all the animals, but sometimes the king also needs a measure of mercy and compassion...for if he always rules by cruelty, what will become of us?" The animals said: "If that is the case, we will appoint the lamb as king, for there is none more merciful and forgiving as he." The fox replied: "The lamb may excel in the measure of his compassion, but a king also needs courage and thus there is no better to choose as our king than the lion, who knows how to spare when he is not hungry and to show his strength in times of war...".

We expect exactly the same qualities in a political leader. To understand that there is "a time for war" and also "a time for peace", and most importantly of all, when necessary, to know how to show uncompromising courage as well as the compromise of heroes.