Beshalach 2

I red once a poem called:

" Autobiography in Five Short Chapters " :

Chapter 1: 

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost… I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

 

Chapter 2: 

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in this same place. But it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

 

Chapter 3: 

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in… It’s a habit… But, my eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

 

Chapter 4: 

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

 

Chapter 5: 

I walk down another street.

That is probably how life is like for many of us. It certainly was for me. 

We set off, confident that we know where we are going, only to find that it is rarely that simple. 

 

We fall into holes. We make mistakes. Then we make them again. 

Eventually we avoid them, but by then we may have the growing suspicion that we took the wrong turning to begin with. 

If we are lucky, we find another road.

Let us look at the opening of this week’s parsha:

When Pharaoh let the people leave, G-d did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearby, for G-d said, 

“Lest the people change their minds when they encounter war and return to Egypt.”  

So G-d brought the people by a roundabout route by way of the desert to the Red Sea … (Ex. 13:17-18).

This is actually quite a difficult text to understand. In and of itself it makes eminent sense. 

G-d did not want the people immediately to face battle with the seven nations in the land of Canaan since, as newly liberated slaves, 

they were psychologically unprepared for war.


Three facts, though, still need to be reckoned with. 

First, the Torah itself says that God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (Ex. 14:4), leading him to pursue the Israelites with a force of six hundred chariots. 

This was demoralizing the Israelites that they cried,

“Were there not there are enough graves in Egypt that you had to bring us out here to die in the desert? …

 It would have been better to be slaves in Egypt than to die in the desert” (Ex. 14:11-12).

                                              - Why did G-d cause Pharaoh to pursue the Israelites if He did not want them to think of going back? 

He should surely have made the first stage of their journey as undemanding as possible.

Second, the people did face war long before they came anywhere near the land of Canaan. 

They did so almost immediately after crossing the Red Sea, when they were attacked by the Amalekites (Ex. 17:8). 

The strange fact is that when they had to fight a battle on their own, without any miraculous intervention from G-d, 

they expressed no fear. Inspired by Moses’ upraised arms, they fought and won (Ex. 17:10-13).

Third, the roundabout route failed to prevent the people’s response to the report of the spies. 

Terrified by their account of the strength of the native population and the well-fortified nature of their cities, they said,

“Let us appoint a (new) leader and return to Egypt” (Num. 14:4).

It seems, therefore, that the circuitous route by which G-d led the Israelites was 

not to prevent their wanting to return, but rather, 

to prevent their being able to return. 

Leading them miraculously through the Red Sea, It made retreat impossible. 

Whatever their doubts and fears, the Israelites had no real choice. 

They had to continue onward, even if in the end it took forty years and a new generation to reach their destination.

What this meant was that almost from the dawn of their history as a nation, Jews were forced to learn that lasting achievement takes time

You can never get there by the shortest road. 

When you try to take a shortcut, you find yourself, like the poet, falling into a hole

The Talmud tells the story of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hanania who asked a young man sitting at a crossroad, 

“Which is the way to the town?” 

The young man pointed to one of the paths and said,

“This way is short but long. The other way is long but short.” 

Yehoshua ben Hanania set out on the first path, quickly arrived at the town, but found his way blocked by gardens and orchards. 

He then returned to the young man and said, “Didn’t you tell me that this path was short?” “I did,” said the young man, “but I also warned you that it was long.”

Better to take the long road that eventually gets you to your destination than the short one that doesn’t even though it looks as if it does.


Today’s world is full of books, videos and programmes promising a fast-track to almost anything.

The life-changing idea symbolized by the route G-d led the Israelites on when they left Egypt is that there are no fast tracks. 

The long way is short; the short way is long. 

The harder it gets, the stronger you become.


Shabbat Shalom,

Beshalach

What is the connection between Tu B’Shevat and the Exodus from Egypt?

Each year parashat Beshalach, which recounts the Israelites crossing the Sea of Reeds, coincides with Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish New Year for trees and produce.  

While on the surface there are no obvious associations between the holiday and the parashah

various Jewish commentaries help us reveal the true essence of what this week in the Jewish calendar is really about.

The Exodus from Egypt, 

• the Song of the Sea, 

• manna from heaven, as well as 

• the victorious battle over Amalek 

are all retold in Beshalach.  

On this Shabbat, Shabbat Shirah (Shabbat of Song), 

we experience new sights and sounds just as our ancestors did upon the shores of the sea as they opened their eyes and ears to freedom.

Exodus 14, verse 22, states: 

“And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry land.”  

How can it be possible that the Israelites went into the 

“midst of the sea,” 

yet at the same time, 

walked on dry land?  

According to the Book of Legends, “the sea was not split for them until they stepped into it, indeed until the waters reached up to their very noses.  

Only then did the passage become dry land.”  

In other words, G-d did not allow for the great miracle to occur until the Children of Israel first took the initiative to actively participate in their own redemption to work in partnership with G-d, rather than to passively wait in fear.

The Book of Legends relates another story, this one from Midrash Mechilta of Rabbi Ishmael.  

In it, Moses is standing and uttering lengthy prayers to G-d.  

In response, G-d exclaims, 

“My beloved are on the verge of drowning in the sea, and you spin out lengthy prayers before Me?!”  

In other words, G-d says, 

“Moses!  What’s wrong with you?  You and the rest of the Israelites are in danger and you actually think that standing there praying is really going to solve your problem?”  

Moses then asks G-d what else there is to do and G-d replies, 

“Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.”  

We learn from the midrash that there are times when human action is more necessary than mere praise or petition.

By juxtaposing the Israelite’s courageous action preceding the crossing of the sea with the high-spirited praise given at the opposite shore, the biblical narrative reminds us of the balance necessary for our partnership with G-d.  The Israelites take time to pray and rejoice in song only after they collaborate with God by taking the first step in their redemption from slavery, thereby securing a more promising future for them and for the generations to come.

Tu Bishvat falling during the week of Shabbat Shirah only strengthens the concept of our partnership with God.  According to the book Trees, Earth, and Torah: A Tu Bishvat Anthology, the great agricultural revolution empowered human society to grow and produce, therefore making one of G-d’s powers more manifest in human hands–that is, we are given the power and responsibility to continue life on earth and secure our environment for the future.

Reminding us that the great responsibility of action is a necessary element in reinforcing our covenantal partnership with G-d, a midrash of Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakkai comes to mind:

“ If you had a tree in your hand and were told that the Messiah had come, first plant the tree, then go out to greet the Messiah. ”  (Midrash Avot Derabbi Natan 8,31)

Bo

Moses is addressing the Israelites just days before their release. 

They have been exiles for 210 years. 

After an initial period of affluence and ease, they have been 

• oppressed, 

• enslaved, and 

• their male children killed in an act of slow genocide. 

Now, after signs and wonders and a series of plagues that have brought the greatest empire of the ancient world to its knees, 

they are about to go free.

Yet Moses does not talk about 

• freedom, or 

• the land flowing with milk 

and honey, or 

• the journey they will have to undertake through the desert. 

Instead, three times, he turns to the distant future, when the journey is complete and the people, free at last,  

are in their own land. 

And what he talks about is not 

• the land itself, or 

• the society they will have to build or 

• even the demands and responsibilities of freedom.

( That, of course, is a primary theme of the book of Deuteronomy. )

Instead, he talks about 

education

specifically about 

the duty of parents to their children. 

He speaks about the questions children may ask,

He tells the Israelites to do what Jews 

have done from then to now. 

• Tell your children the story. 

Do it in the maximally effective way. 

• Re-enact the drama of exile and exodus, slavery and freedom. 

• Get your children to ask questions. 

• Make sure that you tell the story as your own, not as some dry account of history. ( not His Story, but My Story, Our Story )

• Say that the way you live and the ceremonies you observe are 

“because of what G-d did for me” 

not my ancestors but me

• Make it personal, and make it live.

 

He says this not once but 3 times:

 “It shall be that when you come to the land which G-d will give you as He said, and you observe this ceremony, and your children say to you, 

‘What does this service mean to you?’ 

you shall say, 

‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and spared our homes.’” ( Ex. 12:25-27 ).

 

“On that day you shall tell your child, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt’” (Ex. 13:8).

 

“In the future, when your child asks you, ‘What is this?’ you shall tell him, ‘With a mighty hand, the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the land of slavery.’” (Ex. 13:14).

 

Why was this the most important thing he could do in this intense moment of redemption? 

Because 

• Freedom is the work of a nation, 

• Nations need identity, 

• Identity needs memory, and 

• memory is encoded in the stories we tell. 

 

- Without Story , 

there is no memory, and 

 

- Without memory, 

we have no identity. 

 

The most powerful link between the generations is 

• the record of those who came before us

• a story that becomes ours, and 

• that we hand on as an heritage to those who will come after us. 

We are the story 

• we tell ourselves 

• about ourselves, and 

identity begins in the story parents tell their children.


That Story provides us the answer to the three fundamental questions every individual must ask at some stage in their lives: 

• Who am I? 

• Why am I here? 

• How then shall I live? T

 

There are many answers to these questions, but the Jewish ones are: 

I am a member of the people whom G-d rescued from slavery to freedom. 

I am here to build a society that honours the freedom of others, not just my own. And,

I must live in conscious knowledge that freedom is the gift of G-d, honoured by keeping His covenant of law and love.

What the secular West now worships is not the universal but the individual: the self, the “Me,” the “I.”

Today’s hyper-individualism will not last. 

We cannot live without 

• identities, 

• families, 

• communities and 

• collective responsibility. 

 

Which means we cannot live without the stories that connect us to

a past, a future and a larger group whose history and destiny we share. 

The biblical insight still stands.

The greatest gift we can give our children is a story – a real story, not a fantasy, one that connects them to us and to a rich heritage of high ideals. 


With the hindsight of thirty-three centuries we can see how right Moses was. 

A story told across the generations is the gift of an identity, and when you know who you are and why

you can navigate the wilderness of time with courage and confidence. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Shemot

As we enter the new year of 2018, it is natural to look back and review what happened in 2017.

In fact, to a large extent, this has become bread and butter for the media. 

On any news outlet you can find 

- a 2017-year in review article or a top ten list, or 

- multiple top ten lists. 

And indeed

-  it is incredible to think about how our world has changed over the past year,

- Its incredible to think about the all the tensions that have boiled this year,

- Its incredible to think of the increased danger we face from terrorism as 

- Isis has continued to wage war against the West. 

- The Syrian refugees. 

- The US Israel relationship.

To look back over the year is truly difficult to deal with. 

- To think about how the society has changed. 

- To think about the gains and the threats.. 

While its true the course of the world is changing, and that as a nation we are in a very different place then we were

to a large extent the story isn’t more about 

- the individuals than the collective. 

- The people and personalities more than the nations and societies. 

For example, 

- we can think about Syria as a country or we can think about Bashar al Assad. 

- We can think about the Presidential race or 

- we can think about Trump, Hillary and Bush. We can think about the US Israel relationship or we can think about Trump and Netanyahu.

The name of this weeks parsha is Shemos. Which means names. 

And as a means of introducing the parsha and the book, the Torah riterates the names of the family of Yaakov. 

Rueven Shimon, Levi etc. 

The difference between the book of Bereishit and the Book of Shemot is

a transition from the Avot, the patriarchs to the Am, the nation

In other words, the book of Berieshit, which deals primarily with Avrham Yitzchak and Yaakov is the story of the founding fathers of Judaism.

Its who they are what they believed what they stood for and how they made it their duty to form a nation. 

The Book of Shmeos is very different.

 This book is about the Nation of Israel. Its about the People who entered into a covenant with G-d through Torah as a People. It is about the nation, not the founding fathers.

This transition, which occurs in the opening moments of this weeks parsha, is made by recalling and numerating the Shemot, the names of the individuals who helped fashion this great nation. 

And that out of these men with their diverse characteristic, varied strengths and qualities the Jewish people is born. And therefore the torah reminds us that while we are now about to learn about the nation of Israel, it is really at its heart about the people of Israel. That ultimately the story of the Jews is the sum total of the contributions of individual people. 

There was a very prominent Rav by the name of RavNosson Tzvi Finkel, the great Builder of Torah in 20th century, a man who suffered with Parkinson’s disease, 

and nevertheless ran the largest Yeshiva in the world. 

- He has almost 10,000 students, 

- delivered weekly high-level Talmud lectures and 

- traveled the world raising tens of millions of dollars to maintain and grow the institution. 

But it was well known that this person, who carried this incredible burden on his shaky shoulders, would always make time for any person that wanted to spend time with him and learn with him. 

And he not only took time of his busy schedule to learn with a student but even asked the student what time was good for him.

Hearing this, R’Yosef’s 7 yr old son Eliyahu looked up to his father and announced that he wanted to learn with the Rosh Yeshiva too. Eliyahu had seen Rabbi Finkel in person once before and now wanted to learn with him. 

R'Yosef felt that it wasn’t proper to ask the Rosh Yeshiva to learn with a 7 year old but the little boy was insistent.

Finally R'Yosef told his son that if he would write a letter he would deliver it to Rav Nosson Tzvi. 

The next morning ELiyahu, the 7 years old boy awoke early and scrawled a letter to Rav Nosson TZvi before going to school. 

" Lichvod HaRosh Yeshuva, 

Ani Rotzeh Lilmod Chumash Vayeira im HaRish Yeshuva Todah ELiyahu, ben Kimat 7

Talmud Torah Torat Chayim Yerushalyimm. "

R Yosef brought the letter to the Rosh Yeshiva who write back on the letter and a  few weeks later they learned chumash together.

Litte LEiyahu came with his father to the Rosh Yeshiva with his papers form school and the Rosh Yeshiva sat next to him and listened to him review the pesukim and translation that he has leaned. 

The following sukkos, Eliyahu once again had the chance to learn with Rab Nosson TZv.

On his way out the Rosh Yeshiva waived goodbye to ELiyahu. 

Little ELiyahuu will always remember his special, even short lived relationship with Rabbi Finkel the Rosh Yeshiva of the largest yeshiva in the world who made time to learn with anyone and everyone together with all his kollel students.

What Rabbi Finkel realized was that the Jewish people is made up of individuals

- That the next link in the chain starts right here and right now. 

- That one day G-d willing little Eliyahu can also grow up t be a great person in the Jewish people, and that each person as an individual must be invested in.

The foundation of the Jewish people is the names of the individuals with different strengths. They are what forms the nation of Israel. This is a very empowering concept. 

So many of us, when we look around at the State of the Jewish world, the national community. The local community, see things that can be improved or we would want different. 

The lesson of our parsha is 

- that we are only as strong as the indivduals who are striving to make those differences.

Because remember, 

at the end of the day, 

at the end of the year, when we llook back upon all what was done, where we have been and where we are going, and when we review the articles, 

we must realize that as much as we are talking about society or a country or a nation we are talking about people,

people who are setting the trajectory of the year, individuals who are making history.

 

Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420

Miketz 2

I spoke last Shabbat about 

the world to come 

and Jacob would certainly have His place...

 

It is written in the parades of this week:

 

" At the end of 2 full years, Pharaoh dreamed " ( Genesis 41:1 ).

 

The Gemara speaks of Choni HaMa'agel, a Jewish scholar of the 1st century BC, prior to the age of the Tannaim, who for a long time was troubled over a verse, 

 

" A song of ascents. When the L-RD will return the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers " ( psalms 126:1 ).

 

How could a person sleep and dream for so many years?

 

At the same time, however, the Gemara states that Choni HaMa'agel slept for 70 years, and when he arose, he recognized nothing from the past.

 

He then completely understood the expression:

 

" We will be like dreamers ". ( Taanith 23a ).

 

We see all kinds of people in our tiny world, for as the Sages have said:

 

"The mind of each is different from that of the other, just as the face of each is different from that of the other" ( Berachot 58a ).

 

Which is the plain truth.

 

Everyone has a different opinion about each subject,

( especially we Jews )

 

And reality shows that when Reuben says one thing, Shimon absolutely 

has to say something else.

 

Everyone has a different way of expressing his views on the World and everything it contains.

 

Yet, we as Jews, believers, and Children of believers, must see the World with an open mind and thereby realize how to conduct ourselves materially, and above all, spiritually!

 

If we observe everything that surrounds us, be it even for a moment, we will notice something odd:

 

• People have no spare time!

• They are always in a rush and constantly running in different directions, 

• With little time on their hands 

and 

• Fearful that they will lack something.

 

What’s the reason behind all this?

 

In general it has to do with earning a living, with people on the run to feed their families.

They hurry to arrive at work, and all their thoughts are geared with money,

how to earn more of it!

 

A Torah Giant from a previous generation was once walking on the street when he saw a Jew running somewhere.

 

The Tzaddik asked him:

" My Dear Jew, where are you running so quickly ? "

 

The man replied :

" I am going to the next town because I need some money ! "

 

The Tzaddik then smiled and said to  him:

" How to you know that you are running to a place where you will find money?

Maybe it will be found in the opposite direction, and you are running your back on it? "

 

My Dear Friends,

We find ourselves in a time that corresponds exactly to this story.

Everyone is running around without stop, and without satisfaction either!

 

" I have no time, I have no money! "

At least, that is what people tell themselves. However, if we were to stop someone and ask for a small favour, he would immediately respond:

" what will I get out of it? Will I be able to make some money from it? 

• Why such a reaction ?

• Why is it so difficult to help others without being financially compensated?

Pharaoh’s dream, shows us just how true it is .Pharaoh had 2 dreams, which were really one and the same.

In the first, he saw 7 lean cows swallowing up 7 fat cows.

In the second, he saw 7 faded and dried up eats of grain swallowing up 7 healthy and lush ears of grain, yet no one could tell what had happened.

This is the situation today:

•People swallow each other up alive,

• they are not inclined to help others when it comes to money.

However, if we were to think about it, we would understand that the world as a Director and that material things are ephemeral.

After he arose, Pharaoh called Joseph  and asked him to interpret his dreams.

What did Joseph tell him?

" the dream of Pharaoh is one. What G-d is about to do, He has told Pharaoh " ( Genesis 41:25 ).

Joseph continued his explanation by saying:

" 7 years are coming of great plenty...and 7 years of famine will arise after them, and                                 all the years of plenty in the Land of Egypt will be forgotten " ( vv. 29-30 ).

The essential thing Joseph told Pharaoh, was to name leaders throughout the land of Egypt. They would be responsible to prepare, during the 7 years of abundance, for the 7 years of famine.

 

In other words, if preparation are not made for the years of famine, all the good years will be forgotten!

 

This is a lesson for each of us in our daily lives. People spend all their time trying to save their silver and gold, keeping their wealth close to their heart, but not helping others in need.

 

They must realise that they will not be protected indefinitely.

A coin is round, it rolls, it is here today and elsewhere tomorrow!

Today it may be with Reuben, but tomorrow it maybe with Shimon.

 

Money has been entrusted to us by the Master of the world, but only on condition that we do something useful with it, namely to perform mitzvot and good deeds. 

If we act otherwise, the trustee will come and reclaim his goods, giving it to someone who may act in a better way.

We see this in Pharaoh’s dream. People may swallow each other up, yet we will not be able to tell that they consumed anything. 

Furthermore, they claim that they had only the best intentions in doing so. 

However Hashem knows and understand what is hidden in the heart, as well as what resides in the minds of each person. 

This is why everyone must prepare himself during the good years, in anticipation of the years that may not be so good.                                       People must use their money to practice mitzvot, in order that they may have some left in more difficult times.

This is what the verse is saying:        “At the end of two full years, Pharaoh dreamed.” 

When a person comes to the end of his days in this world, he is liable to see that everything was but a dream and that he really did nothing in life, nothing good with his money. 

We must therefore be very careful in this world in order to arrive intact and meritorious for 

the day of judgment in the World to Come.

 

Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420

Mikketz

know that Jews have won a disproportionate number of Nobel Prizes.

 

But the mostWe  striking disproportion is in the field of economics. 

 

The first Nobel Prize in economics was awarded in 1969.  

 

The most recent winner, in 2017, was Richard Thaler. 

 

In total there have been 79 laureates, of whom 29 were Jews; 

 

that is, over 36 per cent.

 

 

After reading the parasha of this week, parashat MIKETZ

 

I believe that a reasonable case could be made that, 

 

Joseph was the first economist.

 

It began with Joseph who, in this week’s parsha, became the world’s first economist. 

 

Interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, 

 

he develops a theory of trade cycles, 

 

seven fat years followed by seven 

 

lean years,

 

a cycle that still seems approximately to hold. 

 

Joseph also intuited that when a head 

 

of state dreams about cows and ears 

 

of corn, he is probably unconsciously 

 

thinking about macro-economics. 

 

The disturbing nature of the dreams 

 

suggested that G-d was sending an 

 

advance warning of a “black swan,” a 

 

rare phenomenon for which 

 

conventional economics is 

 

unprepared.

 

So, having diagnosed the problem, 

 

he immediately proceeds to a solution: 

 

use the good years to build up 

 

resources for the lean times, 

 

a sound instance of long-term 

 

economic planning.

 

To my mind, 

 

the most decisive single factor, 

 

the great break of Judaism from the 

 

ancient world of 

 

magic, mystery and myth,  

 

was the de-consecration of nature 

 

that followed from the fact that 

 

G-d created nature by an act of will, 

 

and by making us in His image, 

 

gave us too 

 

the creative power of will. 

 

That meant that for Jews, 

 

holiness lies not in the way the world is but in the way it ought to be. 

 

Poverty, disease, famine, injustice, 

 

and the exploitation of the powerless 

 

by the powerful,

 

are not the will of G-d.

 

 

They may be part of human nature, 

 

but we have the power to rise above 

 

nature. 

 

G-d wants us not to accept but to 

 

heal, to cure, to prevent. 

 

So Jews have tended to become, out 

 

of all proportion to their numbers, 

 

• Lawyers fighting injustice, 

 

• doctors fighting disease, 

 

• teachers fighting ignorance, 

 

• economists fighting poverty and 

 

• agricultural technologists finding

new ways to grow food in environments where it has never grown before.

(especially in modern Israel) 

 

 

All of this is brilliantly portrayed in this week’s parsha. 

 

First Joseph diagnoses the problem. 

 

There will be a famine lasting seven years. 

 

It is what he does next that is world

changing. 

 

He sees this not as a fate to be endured but as a problem to be solved. 

 

Then, without fuss, he solves it, saving a whole region from death by starvation.

 

What can be changed need not be endured. 

 

Human suffering is not a fate to be borne, but a challenge to be overcome. 

 

This is Joseph’s life-changing idea. 

 

What can be healed is not holy. G-d does not want us to accept poverty and pain but to cure them.

 

Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420

Shabbat Channukah

I was once asked, why is it that religious Jewish Families, the divorce fate is less than 10%.

 

What is the secret of the Jewish marriage?

 

So I told them, that the secret of a Jewish marriage can be found in the mitzwah of the commandment of Chanukah.

 

What has Chanukah to do with a Jewish marriage?

 

Chanukah is unique in that the mitzwah of lighting the candles of Chanukah, is not a mitzwah on individuals, but it is a mitzwah at the House!

 

The Guemara says NER ISH OUBEITO.

 

That the mitzwah is to light a candle in your house for the Family

 

While most mitzwot are individuals, 

 

- Men put Tefilin, it is an individual mitzwah

- a woman prays, it is an individual mitzwah

 

Why is it that Chanukkah is a mitzwah at the House?

 

To understand this, we have to understand what is the concept of NER, lthe concept of lighting a candle!

 

So we have a NER for Shabbat, and the lighting of la candle on Shabbat is suppose to be on the occasion of 

 

SHALOM BAYIT, to having tranquility and happiness in the House.

 

Also, the lighting of the candles on Chanukah teaches us to have tranquility and to have happiness in the House.

 

What is special about lighting a candle?

 

A candle has 

the wick which is physical

and a flame which is spiritual.

 

The combination of spiritual and physical together

 

that is a way of creating TRUE happiness.

 

When you have balance the husband and the Wife,

balance each other with their own characteristics,

How many do they work together 

and tranquillity, 

That’s gives the special atmosphere which creates a feeling of unity and gives everybody in the house a great happiness!

 

We have a custom in our Family:

We call it SHEMESH

 

What is SHEMESH, 

the sun, light!

 

It is also stands for:

SICHA means a discussion 

MISCHPACHTI means Family 

SHAVOUA means week

 

Every Saturday night after Shabbat, we meet all the Family together and we would discuss different things we all are interested in, 

This Shemesh, this light, which is over the Family gives the members of the Family that unity.

 

The person that represents this idea, is Aaron Hakohen who is the Priest in the Beith Hamikdash, He was the one who run after Happiness, making feel people united, feel together.

 

And he is the one who lit the candle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420

Vayischlach

When I was younger, 

I was struggling with Faith,

How to be in Faith,

Find a blind Faith!

 

I loved music and I Looked at 2 great musicians Mozart and Beethoven. 

 

Which one was I????

Which one are You???

 

The impression one gets about 

 

Mozart is that, from him, music 

 

flowed. 

 

There is something effortless and 

 

effervescent about his compositions. 

 

He wrote at speed. 

 

He carried the worries of the world 

 

lightly.

 

 

Beethoven, for whom it sometimes 

 

took years for an idea to crystallise 

 

into its final form, 

 

with countless drafts and revisions,

 

This was a man who could be angry 

 

with himself and with the world, 

 

for whom creativity was a struggle 

 

And full of conflict until its final 

 

majestic resolution. 

 

And jus latest compositions were the 

 

creation of one who has finally found 

 

peace after a life of wrestling with his 

 

own angels and demons.

 

 

I am not trying to give music lesson, 

 

but all of this is, for me, a way of 

 

coming to understand Jacob, 

 

the man who became Israel, 

 

our father in faith.

 

Jacob is not the most obvious choice 

 

of religious hero. 

 

He does not appear, 

 

at least on the surface of the biblical 

 

text , 

 

as a man with Abraham’s courage or kindness, 

 

Isaac’s faithfulness and self-restraint, 

 

Moses’ vigour and passion, 

 

David’s politics and poetry, 

 

or Isaiah’s lyricism and hope.

 

 

He was a man surrounded by conflict: 

 

• with his brother Esau, 

 

• his father-in-law Laban, 

 

• his wives, Leah and Rachel, 

 

and his children, 

 

whose sibling rivalry eventually 

 

brought the whole family into exile in 

 

Egypt. 

 

His life seems to have been a field of tensions.

 

 

Then there were his transactions: 

 

• the way he purchased Esau’s birthright, 

 

• took his blessing, 

 

and eventually 

 

• got the best out of his father-in-law 

Laban. 

 

In each case he seems to have won, 

 

but then his situation deteriorates. 

 

• He deceived his blind Father and this forced him to leave home and this left him traumatised with fear at the 

prospect of meeting Esau again. 

 

• He suffered at the hand of Laban. 

 

• His life as portrayed in the Torah 

 

seems to be a constant series of 

 

escapes from one trouble to the next.

 

So who and what was Jacob?

 

To this there are two radically 

 

different answers. 

 

- There is the Jacob of midrash 

 

• who spent his years as a young man 

 

studying in the bet midrash , 

 

• who looked like Abraham

 

and 

 

• whose arms were like pillars of 

 

marble.

 

• His motives were always pure. 

 

 

Jacob is called an

 

                     ish tam

 

which conveys the sense of 

 

• simplicity, 

• integrity and 

• single-mindedness. 

 

The plain sense of the oracle 

 

Rebekah received before the twins 

 

were born was that 

 

“the elder will serve the younger.” 

 

She knew Jacob was 

 

the son destined to prevail. 

 

 

The other Jacob, though, is the 

 

one we read in the plain sense of the text. 

 

The obvious question is: 

 

why did the Torah choose to portray

the third of the patriarchs in this way? 

 

The Torah is highly selective in the details it chooses to relate.

 

Why not paint Jacob in more attractive colours?

 

It seems to me that the Torah is 

 

delivering, 

 

here as elsewhere

 

an extraordinary message: 

 

that if we can truly relate to 

 

G-d as G-d, 

 

in His full superiority ,

 

then we can relate to humans as 

 

humans in all our ability in doing errors.

 

The man who, more than any other, 

 

has the tendency to make mistakes or 

 

be wrong,  is Jacob.

 

And perhaps that is the point. 

 

Jacob was a Beethoven, not a Mozart. 

 

His life was a series of struggles. 

 

Nothing came easily to him. 

 

He is the patriarchs, and was a man 

 

who chose to be chosen. 

 

• Abraham was called by G- d. 

 

• Isaac was chosen before his birth. 

 

• Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, 

 

Isaiah, Jeremiah: 

 

these were all singled out by G- d for 

 

their mission. 

 

Not so Jacob. 

 

• It was he who bought the birthright 

 

and took the blessing, 

 

• he who chose to carry Abraham’s 

 

destiny into the future.

 

• Not until he was running away from 

 

home did G-d  appear to him. 

 

• Not until years later, alone, at

 

night, terrified at the prospect of 

 

meeting Esau, did G- d or an angel 

 

wrestle with him. 

 

• He alone was given, by G-d or the 

 

angel, a completely new name,

 

a completely new identity: “Israel.” 

 

And, despite the fact that he was told 

 

“Your name shall no more be called 

 

Jacob,” 

 

the Torah continues to call him Jacob, 

 

suggesting that his struggle was 

 

lifelong as, often, is ours.

 

If I would have to choose a 

 

soundtrack for the Jacob I have come 

 

to know, it would be Beethoven’s

 

Hammerklavier Sonata 

 

or his Grosse Fugue, music of such 

 

big tension.

 

This is how  Beethoven went through 

 

his struggles and  eventually reached 

 

serenity, 

 

and it was through Jacob’s extended 

 

wrestling-match with destiny that he 

 

eventually achieved what neither 

 

Abraham nor Isaac accomplished: 

 

all his children stayed within the faith. 

 

According to the pain is the reward,”

 

said the sages . 

 

That is Jacob.

 

G-d does not reach out only to saints. 

 

He reaches out to all of us. 

 

That is why He gave us 

 

Abraham for those who love, 

 

Isaac for those who fear, 

 

and Jacob/Israel for those who struggle.

 

if you find yourself struggling with faith, you are in the company of Jacob-who-became-Israel, the father-in-faith of us all.

 

Shabbat shalom,

 

Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420

Vayetse

PARSHAT VAYETZE

There are a whole host of events which take place in this week’s parsha. 

• Jacob runs away to his uncle in Haran, 

• encounters angels and G-d in a dream, 

• falls in love with Rachel, 

• works for 20 years for his uncle, 

• marries Rachel and Leah, 

• has 9 children, 

• and grows his sheep flocks by the hundreds before returning to the land of Canaan. 

All in one week’s parsha!

The parsha begins with the famous story of Jacob’s dream. 

The Torah describes the sequence of events as follows:

Jacob leaves his hometown of Beersheba and journeys to Charan. 

On the way, he encounters “the place” and sleeps there, 

dreaming of a ladder connecting heaven and earth, 

with angels climbing and descending on it.

G‑d appears and promises that the land upon which he lies will be given to his descendants. 

In the morning, 

Jacob raises the stone on which he laid his head as an altar and monument, 

pledging that it will be made the house of G‑d. 

The Hebrew word for angel is “Mal-ach”, 

which means messenger

When we picture angels in our minds, we usually have in mind an image of all white flying beings with lovely wings. 

• Some of us associate angels with “heaven”, 

• Some of us are reminded of the idea of a guardian angel.

In the Jewish tradition, angels appear as bearers of good and bad news, 

and are at times are disguised as humans. 

At the beginning of the parsha, Jacob is headed toward Charan. 

He is at the lowest point in his life, when he is penniless, running away from his brother, and homeless. 

And then he has an encounter with G-d. 

In Jacob’s dream, 

angels are going both up and down a ladder, 

whose top reaches to the heavens. 

Jacob is relieved when he sees that G-d is there for him, and he will be protected by guardian angels.

But why must the angels go both up and down? 

Wouldn’t a set of angels rising up be a more powerful symbol of G-d’s protection?  

One answer given is that the movement of the angels both up and down the ladder is meant to be a lesson about life

Even as he receives the blessing of a lifetime,

(that G-d will bless Jacob with many descendants and inherit a great land,) 

Jacob still needs to recognize that there will both 

“ups and downs” 

along the way. 

He had already experienced the bitter disappointments in his relationships with his parents and his brother,

and he was about to face further disappointment along the way. 

But the angels are teaching Jacob that on his path to becoming a leader, 

there are always hardships and challenges.  

Having G-d’s divine blessing doesn’t insulate you from challenges, 

and being a leader means,

you must be able to cope with challenges.

In the end, the ups and downs of the angels accurately predict Jacob’s future. 

But it is after all of these challenges, which include marrying 2 wives, 

12 children, 

as well as the predictable jealousies and unexpected battles along the way, 

that Jacob is ready to become a leader and return to Canaan. 

And when he does return from his trip to Charan at the end of the parsha, 

Jacob meets the same angels once again. 

20 years have passed, 

and Jacob has grown up. 

The verse pointedly says that on his return, 

Jacob is going “ledarko”,

on his way. 

This implies that he is taking more than a geographical trip, he is now a man on a mission. 

• With all of the ups and downs, 

• with all of the challenges he has faced, 

Jacob now understands that he must remain resolute, 

both in success and in failure. 

Jacob is now able to find his own way, 

equipped with a greater knowledge of his mission from G-d, 

a greater belief in G-d, 

and with knowing that there will always be angels accompanying him along the way.

Shabbat Shalom

 

Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420

Toldot

SHABBAT SHALOM!

Today I would like to talk about a 

topic I’m knowledgeable about.  

“ Brothers “

TOLDOT,  is the story of Jacob 

and Esau, 

two twin brothers who didn’t act 

very brotherly.  

When I was reading the portion, 

one overall question came to mind.  

It seems the Torah was asking this 

question, as well.  

Why do brothers fight?

The Torah tells us why Jacob and 

Esau were fighting.  

One reason is that the parents had 

a favorite.  

Rebecca favored Jacob

the pale, 

skinny, wise child who preferred 

the company of his books.   

Isaac favored Esau, 

the eldest, hairy, strong, impulsive

hunter.  

The parents showed their 

favoritism openly which fueled the 

jealousy between the boys.  

Jacob was jealous of Esau getting 

the birthright.  

So Jacob took advantage of Esau 

when Esau was hungry and traded 

a bowl of stew for Esau’s 

birthright.  

It wasn’t a fair trade and Jacob 

knew it.

Sibling jealousy can start at a very 

young age.   

Jacob was born holding the heel

of his brother, almost as if he were 

saying 

“oh, no, you don’t, the birthright is 

mine.”  

Jacob stole Esau’s birthright and 

his father’s blessing by 

impersonating Esau.  

In a fit of rage, Esau swore to kill 

Jacob.  

To save himself , Jacob ran away. 

The brothers were separated for 21 years.

twenty-one Yom Kippurs to reflect 

on what they did.  

Eventually, Esau, the hunter, and 

Jacob, the shepherd, made peace.

 

The Rabbis thought that the 

favoritism shown by Jacob’s and 

Esau’s parents was one of the 

main causes of the jealousy and 

hatred between the brothers.  

The Midrash tells us that

Rebecca

favoured Jacob because G-D had 

told her that the younger son was

to be the leader. 

So, why did Isaac favor Esau?  

Genesis Rabbah suggests that 

Isaac never recovered from when 

his father, Abraham, tried 

unsuccessfully to offer him as a 

sacrifice on Mt. Moriah.  

He became fearful for all his life 

and leaned on people who 

displayed strength, such as Esau.

I agree that parental favouritism 

causes jealously.  

Esau perceives that Jacob stole 

the blessing with his mother’s 

help.  

The strength of his anger leads 

him to want to kill Jacob.

It’s natural to want to hurt your 

brother when he makes you angry, 

especially someone like Esau with

 his quick temper and physical 

nature.  

It’s in the nature of brothers to 

fight, 

whether physically or 

by insulting, attacking with words

 each other.  

Why do we fight?  

We fight to get what we want.  

To be better than our sibling.  

But, as we grow, 

we come together more.  

We start to actually like each other.

So how did these warring brothers 

come together?  

They had 21 years of separation to 

consider over their offenses and 

regrets.  

That’s a long time.  

Esau had time to realize that it 

wasn’t entirely Jacob’s fault. 

Jacob, Esau and their parents all 

had a role in creating the discord.  

Esau realized that he should not 

have traded his birthright for food 

as he wasn’t going to die of 

hunger.  

When he was a child, 

he let his stomach do the thinking 

for him.  

During this period of separation, 

Esau matured.  

He became a true adult by being 

less impulsive and more reflective. 

As an adult, 

• He had an army to command.  

• He had to be responsible for 

rations, water supply and military 

strategy.   

• He couldn’t afford to think only of himself.  

Jacob also had regrets.  

He knew that he had taken 

advantage of Esau by trading food 

for a birthright and then tricking 

his father.  

• He wished he had resisted his 

mother who had insisted that he 

steal the blessing.  

• He had not stood up for himself.  

• Instead, he had let someone 

else, namely his mother, make 

decisions for him.  

21 years later, 

Jacob realised that he had been 

very selfish.  

As an adult, 

• he too had responsibilities 

• a family to look after and 

livestock to tend.  

Once he had become the parent,  

he could reflect on what he liked 

and didn’t like about his parents 

actions and his own. 

These realizations would help in 

our own lives.  

If we thought about how our

actions affect others every time 

we took advantage of someone or 

pressured someone into doing 

something, 

or acted out of duress, 

then we wouldn’t fight as much.   

 

Eventually, Jacob and Esau made 

peace just like most brothers.  

Sometimes, 

I want to hurt my brother, too, 

but it takes me less than 21 years 

to get over my anger.   

My 21 years is more like 21 

minutes or 21 seconds.  

That’s the time it takes me and my 

brother to make peace

• to think about what we did, 

• could have done, 

• should have done, 

and then to come back together.  

Then the whole process of 

fight, 

regret, 

repent repeats itself.  

As we get older, the process 

repeats less and less. 

Our parents have encouraged us 

to think about our actions 

and to use words not fists. 

We learn to put up with each other 

and to forgive, 

even when it’s not Yom Kippur.  

Brothers are family.  

The closest family you can be.

 

Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420

Chayey Sarah

A while back, a newspaper, 

 interviewed a prominent member 

of a Jewish community on his 

92nd birthday. 

The interviewer said:

 “Most people, when they reach

their 92nd birthday, 

start thinking about slowing down.

 You seem to be speeding up. 

Why is that?”

The Birthday “ Boy “ answered:

 “When you get to 92, 

you start seeing the door begin to close,

and I have so much to do before 

the door closes that the older I get, 

the harder I have to work.”

 

Something like that is the 

impression we get of Abraham in 

this week’s parsha. 

Sarah, 

his constant companion 

throughout their journeys, 

has died. 

He is 137 years old. 

We see him mourn Sarah’s death, 

and then he moves into action.

 

He engages in an elaborate 

negotiation to buy a plot of land in 

which to bury her. 

And it is not a simple task. 

Abraham makes it clear that he is 

determined to buy land. 

In the event, 

he pays a highly inflated price 

(400 silver shekels) to do so.

The purchase of the cave of 

Machpelah is a highly significant 

event, 

because it is recorded in great 

detail and highly legal terminology, 

not just here, 

but three times subsequently in 

Genesis,

Something significant is being 

hinted at here, 

otherwise why mention, 

each time, 

exactly where the field is 

and who Abraham bought it from?

 

Immediately after the story of land 

purchase, we read:

“Abraham was old, well advanced

in years, and God had blessed

Abraham with everything.” 

Again this sounds like the end of a 

life!

However, here it continues.

Abraham launches into a new 

initiative, 

this time to find a suitable wife for 

his son Isaac, 

who by now is at least 37 years 

old. 

Abraham leaves nothing to 

chance. 

He wants Isaac to have a wife who 

will share his faith and way of life. 

 

As with the purchase of the field, 

here too, 

the course of events is described 

in more detail than almost 

anywhere else in the Torah. 

Every exchange is recorded. 

The contrast with the story of

the binding of Isaac could not be

greater. 

 

There, 

almost everything 

-       Abraham’s thoughts, 

-       Isaac’s feelings  

is left unsaid

Here, everything is said. 

-       What are we learning out of this?

-       What is so significant in the way 

all is recalled?

The explanation is simple and 

unexpected. 

Throughout the story of Abraham 

and Sarah, 

G-d had promised them two 

things: 

children and a land. 

• The promise of the Land is 

repeated no less than 7 times. 

• The promise of children occurs 

4 times. 

Abraham’s descendants will be 

“a great nation,” 

as many as 

“the dust of the earth,” 

and 

“the stars in the sky”; 

he will be the father not of one 

nation but of many.

 

Despite this, 

when Sarah dies, 

Abraham has not a single inch of 

the land that he can call his own, 

and has only one child who will 

continue the covenant, Isaac, 

currently unmarried. 

Neither promise has been

fulfilled.

 

The extraordinary detail of the two 

main stories in Chayei Sarah

- the purchase of land 

and 

- the finding of a wife for Isaac. 

What did the Torah us to learn of this extraordinary passage?

G-d promises, but we have to act. 

• G-d promised Abraham the land, 

-       but he had to buy the first field. 

• G-d promised Abraham many 

descendants, 

-       but Abraham had to ensure that 

his son was married, 

and to a woman who would share 

the life of the covenant, so that 

Abraham would have, as we say today, 

“Jewish grandchildren.”

Despite all the promises, G-d

does not and will not do it alone. 

-       G-d creates the space for human freedom, 

-       G-d He gives us responsibility, 

-       G-d saved Noah from the flood, 

but Noah had to make the ark. 

-       G-d gave the land of Israel to the people of Israel , 

but they had to fight the battles. 

-       G-d gives us the strength to act, 

but we have to do the deed. 

What changes the world, 

What fulfils our destiny, 

is not what G-d does for us but

what we do for G-d.  

Vayera

Our Torah portion concludes with the story of the Binding of Isaac, the `Aqedah

It is the story we read on Rosh Ha-Shanah and is a foundational story of our tradition. 

It abounds in difficulties and challenges. 

We have examined various aspects of this story many times,

A repeatedly question posed by readers of this story is: 

Why didn’t Abraham argue with G-d about G-d’s demand that he sacrifice his son? 

This question is reinforced by an earlier story in our Torah portion, 

Abraham’s argument with G-d on behalf of the evil inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrhe. 

* If Abraham was not afraid to argue with G-d in that case, why didn’t he do so here? 

* If he was willing to argue to save the evil people of Sodom, why wasn’t he willing to argue to save his own innocent son?


These are powerful questions that have generated many responses over time. 

I wish to suggest just one possible approach. 

The approach is based on the following premise: 

I believe we must strive to remember that, even if we may not find G-d’s Presence palpable or even believable, 

the Torah’s story is about a person, 

Abraham, 

who is totally immersed in a real relationship with a real G-d. 

Abraham has had multiple encounters with G-d, including his audacious argument about Sodom.

Consequently the experience of the Aqedah does not only exist in tension with the earlier encounter between Abraham and G-d, 

it also follows and is based on that encounter. 

Because Abraham is in a real relationship with G-d he can learn more about G-d as the relationship continues. 

Their argument about Sodom was initiated by G-d, in a moment of great and intimate trust. 

Abraham stood up to G-d in that discussion. 

But Abraham also learned something about G-d in doing so. 

He learned that G-d was willing to listen 

and 

that G-d was not some kind of divine automaton, 

issuing commands without any concern for the complexities of human tendency of doing mistakes and shortcomings. 

After engaging in such a deep exchange with G-d, 

Abraham was able to gain a deeper sense of trust and faith in his Divine Partner.

It is in the context of that faith remaining in Abraham's mind, 

that he was willing to accept that G-d’s command to offer Isaac on the mountaintop could not have been an arbitrary decision on God’s part. 

Abraham could allow himself to believe that this decision must have been painful for G-d as well as for himself, 

and that if G-d called for it, 

nonetheless, 

then G-d could be trusted to have sufficient reason for it.

I am aware that this approach raises eyebrows among many of us. 

This is no accident. 

This troubling story is meant to put the question of faith front and center before us

Modernity has put G-d in the interrogation seat

If, in the Torah, G-d is pictured as putting Abraham to the test, 

in modern times,

it is G-d Who is constantly being put to the test. 

We demand that G-d explain every action or lack of action that we would expect of Him.

But we might ask ourselves whether we would do the same with any other partner with whom we have a relationship. 

Would we expect the relationship to continue to be sustained were we to constantly demand that our partner’s every wish or act be defended and justified?

There are two contexts in which such a tense situation of constant challenging and questioning might exist. 

One is in the relationship between parents and their children during the children’s years of adolescence. 

Every parent knows how exhausting and trying that period can be. 

Parents hope that the phase will be outgrown. 

Then the relationship can move on to another, more mature stage. 

The other context is when a relationship is disintegrating, as during a divorce. 

Then everything, including simple acts that were part of a shared life for years, can become contentious and subject to recriminations.

Where are we in our relationship with G-d? 

Is our relationship growing and deepening, 

is it at the adolescent phase, or are we estranged? 

That, will condition how we read this story.

 

Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420

Bereshit

The context is one of the best 

 

known stories of the bible. 

 

Together in the Garden of Eden, 

 

surrounded by the rich panoply of 

 

creation, 

 

the first human couple have 

 

everything they could possibly 

 

want!

 

except one thing, 

 

a tree from which they are 

 

forbidden to eat. 

 

Needless to say, 

 

that is the one thing they want. 

 

“Stolen waters taste sweet,” 

 

says the Book of Proverbs. 

 

They eat,

 

Their eyes are opened,

 

They lose their innocence,

 

For the first time they feel shame. 

 

When they hear 

 

“the voice of G-d” they try to hide, 

 

but they discover that G-d is 

 

someone from whom we cannot 

 

hide. 

 

G-d asks them what they 

 

have done. 

 

Adam blames his wife. 

 

She blames the serpent. 

 

The result is: paradise lost.

 

 

The episode is rich in its 

implications, 

but I want us to study one of its 

strangest features. 

 

The woman has been told that:

“with pain she will give birth to

children.” 

Next, Adam is informed that he will 

face a life of painful labor. 

There,

then follows a sequence of 

three verses which seem to have 

no connection with one another. 

Indeed, statements that does not 

correctly follow from the meaning 

of the previous statements.

 

“By the sweat of your brow,” 

G-d says to Adam, 

“you will eat your food until you

return to the ground, 

since from it you were taken; 

for dust you are and to dust you

will return.” 

Adam named his wife Eve, 

because she would become the 

mother of all life. 

The Lord G-d made garments of 

skin for Adam and his wife and 

clothed them.

 

The problems are obvious. 

• Adam has just blamed his wife 

for leading him into sin. 

• He has also been condemned to 

mortality. 

• Why, 

at just this point, 

does he turn to her and give her a 

new name? 

And 

• Why, 

immediately afterward, 

as they are about to be exiled from 

Eden, 

does G-d perform an act of 

kindness to the couple,

giving dignity to the very symbol 

of their sin, the clothes with which 

they hide their shame? 

The mood seems to have changed 

for no reason. 

The bitter resentment of the 

previous verses suddenly 

dissolves, 

and instead, 

between Adam and his wife, 

and between G-d and the couple 

there is a new tenderness. 

Rashi is so perplexed that he 

suggests that the middle verse is 

out of chronological sequence. 

It is the end, 

not of the story of the sin of eating

the forbidden fruit, 

but of the earlier scene in which

Adam gave names to the animals 

and while doing so found 

“no suitable companion.” 

As we will see, 

that is not the only way of 

interpreting it.

Stranger still is the interpretation

given by the first century sage 

Rabbi Meir to the phrase 

“garments of skin,” 

" bigdei ‘or "

Rabbi Meir reads the ayin of the 

second word as an aleph, 

" bigdei or "

and this interprets the phrase as 

“garments of light.” 

This is an almost mystical 

suggestion and a deeply intriguing 

one. 

Why not, 

when they were in paradise, 

but as they were leaving it

were the couple bathed with 

divine radiance, clothed in 

“garments of light”?

 

Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah said, 

“It is impossible for there to be a

session in the house of study

without some new

interpretation.” 

In that spirit let us see whether we 

can find new meaning in this 

passage.

When he heard the words, 

“dust you are and to dust you

will return,” 

for the first time Adam became 

conscious of his mortality. 

The Torah is silent on what Adam’s 

thoughts were in the wake of this

discovery, but we can reconstruct 

them. 

Until then, death had not entered 

his consciousness, 

but now it did. 

What, if we are mortal, will live on? 

It was then that Adam 

remembered G-d’s words to the 

woman. 

She would give birth to children 

in pain, to be sure, but she would 

bring new life into the world.

Suddenly Adam knew that even 

though we die, 

if we are privileged to have 

children, 

something of us will live on: 

• our genes, 

• our influence, 

• our example, 

• our ideals. 

That is our immortality

This was an idea that eventually 

shaped the character of the whole 

of Judaism in contradistinction to 

most other cultures in ancient and 

modern times. Judaism defeats 

mortality by engraving our ideals 

on the hearts of our children, 

and they on theirs, 

and so on to the end of time. 

 

Once Adam became aware of his 

mortality, he understood that 

without Eve, he could not have 

children,

and children were his share in 

eternity,

and their physical being, 

their “nakedness,” 

was not simply a source of shame. 

There is a spiritual dimension to 

the physical relationship 

between 

husband and wife. 

The principle of divine creativity 

itself, namely that 

love creates life. 

 

That is when he turned to her and 

for the first time saw her as a 

person and gave her a personal 

name, 

Chavah, 

Eve, 

meaning, “she who gives life.” 

 

Previously Adam had not given her

a name at all. 

He called her ishah, “woman,” 

he himself had not had a proper 

name until now either. 

He is simply called ha-adam, 

“the man” 

a word that appears 21 times 

[3×7] 

Not until he gives on the woman a 

proper name does he acquire one

 himself, Adam.

With the appearance of proper 

names, the concept of person is 

born. 

The concepts of “name”

and “person” are intimately linked. 

G-d makes every human being in 

the same image, his image, and 

they are all different.”

 

The moment when Adam turned to 

his wife and gave her a proper 

name, 

Chavah, 

was a turning point in the history 

of civilization. 

It was then that G-d robed the 

couple in garments of light.

 

Now we understand that 

extraordinary sequence of three 

verses. 

Discovering his mortality, 

Adam knew that he could only live 

on through his children, 

born through an act of love. 

That was when he realised that 

immortality cannot be achieved by 

one alone, 

but only by the union of two. 

That is the profound message of 

the first three chapters of 

Bereishith, 

a story about 

language, 

relationships 

and what it is to be a person. 

Judaism is the story of how the 

love we feel for another person 

leads to the love of G-d, and robes

 us in garments of light.

 

 

Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420

Neila

Humanity – that’s us,

 

We have done some terrible things in the past year.  

 

• There has been war in many places in the world. 

 

• There have been violent attacks on individuals at home and abroad.  

 

• Big lies have broken trust in business.   

 

Its true,

 

We confessed it all together 

 

when we said many times today 

 

“al chet shechetanu l’fanecha” 

 

the sin we committed against You.  

• We confessed on behalf of all of us that we hurt others, 

• We hate without cause, 

• We defraud and lie.

What must G-d think of us at the end of this day of horror 

surely very great anger, 

 

But then humanity, 

has done some wonderful things 

over this past year.  

 

Take medicine as an example, 

just since this time last year we 

have become better at healing 

our bodies.  

 

We may pray to G-d for healing 

with all of our doubt and concern 

as to what that prayer may mean 

but we are surely very effective 

partners in the effort.

 

But there is an aspect of healing that has made no advances this year.   

 

It is a kind of healing that starts 

afresh from a clean sheet every 

year.  

 

That is:

 

refuat hanefesh

healing for the soul.

 

Healing for the soul makes no advances because it cannot be done by others for us.  

 

In healing for the soul G-d and the religious life is a help for certain.  

 

Healing for the soul is work that we each have to do for ourselves.

 

Why is this?  

It’s because the hurts and blockages which make us feel that our soul is broken are very ‘sticky.’  

 

They are ways of behaving that we do over and over again even if we know that they get us nowhere.  

 

A few pages into our Neilah service tonight 

we will speak about sins, 

meaning bad behaviours, 

which are 

 

“our familiar and unwelcome companions, fastened, fixed to our souls.”     

 

We can’t seem to stop doing them even if we use this day well 

 

if Yom Kippur does make us take the time to question our soul damaging behaviours.

 

Towards the very end of the volume of the Talmud (Yoma 86b) 

on Yom Kippur the Rabbis ask the question 

should you keep confessing the same thing Yom Kippur after Yom Kippur?  

 

Doesn’t it just become insincere?  

 

Rav Huna answers the question yes – you must – because 

“Once a person has committed a sin once and twice, 

it is permitted to him.” 

‘Permitted’? 

How could you say that?, 

asked the Rabbis and students around him.

 

“It’s not really permitted. 

Rather, it appears to him as if it were permitted.”  

So you have to return each Yom Kippur to consider even the same behaviours as you considered last year.

 

In this closing hour,

 

• as the Gates of Mercy close 

 

• as the opportunity to take the peace and undisturbed spiritual space of Yom Kippur to change ourselves continues for just one more hour- take control.  

 

• Let us earn a place in the world to come, 

 

• Let us go in our mind to those ways of behaving which hurt our soul to do.  

 

• Those ways of interacting with others which we fall into and say, it’s just our nature.  

 

• Those for which we put the responsibility on others, who irritate us, 

who ‘ought to’ put up with how we are.  

 

• Take responsibility for them ourselves.  

 

• Pray that we will have the strength to change these behaviours 

 

• Let us ask G-d’s help to heal our soul.

 

Rabbi Akivah ends the section of 

Yom Kippur saying 

at the end of this day 

“feel happy all of Israel.  

Feel happy.   

Today cleans you.”

 

Done right it is a healing for the soul.

 

Rabbi Akivah says 

“feel clean after today”.  

G-d has today washed us,

so to speak

in the Mikveh of Israel

put pure water on us!

 

Let us use that cleanness as we leave today to cleanse that of us which we confess year after year, to address our repeated bad behaviours, 

to fix those part of you which we must take responsibility 

for if we are this year to heal our soul.  

What does G-d think of us at the end of this day?  

Not that we are mired in horror rather that we have boundless potential if we will only take responsibility to grab it.

 

Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420

Sukkot 3

SUKKOT SHABBAT CHOL HAMOED

Sukkot is really 

a very strange 

and wonderful holiday

all at the same time. 

In contrast to the solemnity and 

spirituality of Yom Kippur, 

Sukkot is joyful, 

a very different spiritual pursuit. 

Sukkot is very physical

with shaking the etrog and lulav

 

In fact, the mitzvah of the 

Sukkah itself is one of the only 

mitzvot that you can do with 

your whole body,

just placing your body in a 

Sukkah is a mitzvah.  

But why do we have the mitzvah 

of the Sukkah? 

The simple meaning is that it 

commemorates the dwelling of 

our ancestors in Sukkot when 

they left Egypt. 

But what is so significant about 

commemorating camping?

 

After all, 

it seems from the Torah that the 

Jews lived mostly in tents in 

their journey from Egypt to the 

Promised Land. 

Bilam the heathen prophet  

blessed the Jews: 

Ma tovu oholecha Yaakov, 

“How goodly are your tents O

Jacob” (Num. 24:5); 

tents—not huts. 

The deeper meaning, is that 

Sukkot are more than huts. 

It’s a state of being. 

Sukkot are about stopping dead 

in our tracks

i.e. build and sit in a Sukkah and 

take time out to appreciate what 

just happened to you. 

To emphasize this point with a 

passage from the Torah that 

most people do not pay 

attention to. 

It tell us that Sukkot happens to 

be the name of the 1st place 

where our ancestors camped out 

following their exodus from 

Egypt (Ex. 13:20). 

Perhaps there they built Sukkot 

so that they could absorb what 

just happened to them in their 

miraculous escape from the

tyranny of Egypt. 

 

And so we move into Sukkot 

after Yom Kippur to take time out 

to absorb the changes and 

promises we made on the High 

Holy Days.

 

What’s the message here?

 

• How much time do we take to sit back and appreciate what we have received, compared to how much time we invest in pushing onward? 

  

• How much more do we expect of our partners, compared to how much we consciously appreciate what they have done for us already? 

 

• Or how much they mean to us, as it is? 

 

The moment our ancestors were 

liberated from Ramses, 

• They no doubt became entirely 

focused on the journey ahead. 

• They no doubt asked, “ what’s 

nexton the agenda?” 

rather than 

stay a few moments with the 

enormous gift of having been 

liberated from slavery. 

• They were therefore instructed 

to construct Sukkot and to 

camp-out in these flimsy, 

temporary huts, and take 

in what they had just received. 

Judaism refers to this as 

hakaret  hatov, “

recognition of the good.” 

This is what Sukkot is really 

about: 

taking time to recognise

the gifts in our lives, 

whether it be

our health, 

our wealth, 

our partners, 

our children and so on. 

 

It’s the time to be grateful for 

being given another year and to 

then stop and take stock and 

appreciate life’s gifts. 

Can we not acknowledge our life 

gifts in a house or a tent ?

Why a sukkah? 

Because it’s temporary, 

built anew every time

just as our gratitude 

and 

appreciation should be fresh 

every time 

and not just the same-old, 

same-old refrains.

There is a  beautiful story called, 

“The Curse of Blessings,” 

It’s a story that can be life-changing if you can absorb its message:

 

There is an Officer of the Law, 

recent graduate,

proud as you can imagine, 

in his beautiful uniform.

He wore a sword with a gold and 

ivory handle. 

He was as pompous as arrogant as could be 

One day he was walking in an 

alley. 

He ventured into the darkness, 

and there,  in the distance, saw a man in rags. 

“Come forward,” 

he commanded. 

“Come forward now!” 

But the man in rags did not come forward. “

I am an Officer of the Law, and I command you, come forward!”

          

The man in rags did not move and spoke, 

“I don’t know what I’m going to 

do with you.”

“Do with me?” 

the Officer of the Law mocked. 

“Do with me? 

You don’t do with me! 

I do with you! 

I am an Officer of the Law, 

and I command you to come 

forward.”

 

“Now I know what to do with 

you,” 

the man in rags said, 

and 

as he spoke, 

he drew his sword. 

“Now I know what to do.” 

Without further word he moved 

to attack.

The Officer of the Law drew his 

own sword in defense. 

“Stop that!” 

he ordered. 

“Put your sword down right 

now!” 

But the man in rags did not stop. 

The Officer of the Law had to fight back.

“Stop!” 

he said again.

The Officer of the Law was forced to retreat.

When it seemed the man in rags would win, the Officer of the Law just intended  to protect himself, however killed the man in rags. 

“I didn’t mean that,” 

the Officer of the Law said. “

I didn’t mean to hurt you. 

Why didn’t you stop when I 

ordered you to? 

Why did you attack me?”

 

The man in rags waved the 

words away. 

“I am leaving you,” he said, “

and as I do, I put upon you the 

Curse of Blessings.”

“What do you mean?” 

asked the Officer of the Law, 

now quite confused.

 

“The Curse of Blessings.

 

Every day you must say a new 

blessing, 

one you have never said before. 

On the day you do not say a new blessing, 

on that day you will die.”

 

The man in rags closed his eyes.

 The Officer of the Law looked

 about for help. 

There was none to be found. 

When he turned back, 

the man in rags had 

disappeared. 

He was gone.

 

” It was a dream,” 

the Officer of the Law thought. 

“Only a dream. I imagined it.”

 

The time was late in the 

afternoon. 

The sun was setting. 

As much as the Officer of the 

Law tried to ignore his 

experience, he could not. 

The Jewish day ends with the 

sunset. 

The Officer of the Law felt his 

body growing cold and knew 

from the chill that his life was 

leaving him. 

In a panic, 

he uttered these words of 

blessing: 

“You are blessed, Lrd our Gd, 

ruler of the universe, 

who has created such a 

beautiful sunset.” 

At once warmth and life flowed 

back into him. 

He realised, with both shock 

and relief, 

the curse had been for real.

          

The next morning, 

He woke with words of blessing. 

“You are blessed that You 

allowed me to wake up this 

morning.” 

His life felt secure the entire 

day. 

The next morning he blessed his 

ability to rise from his bed

the following day that he could 

tie his shoes.

 

Day after day he found abilities he 

could bless. 

• That he could go to the bathroom, 

• that he had teeth to brush, 

• that each finger of his hands still 

worked, 

• that he had toes on his feet and hair on his head. 

• He blessed his clothes, every 

garment. 

• He blessed his house, 

the roof 

the floor, 

his furniture, 

every table and chair.

At last he ran out of things to 

bless, 

so he began to bless relationships. 

• He blessed his family and 

friends, 

fellow workers, 

and those who worked for him. 

• He blessed the mailman and the 

clerks. 

He was surprised to find they 

appreciated the blessings. 

His words had power. 

They drew family and friends 

closer to him. 

Word went out that the Officer of 

the Law 

was a source of blessing. 

 

Years passed, decades passed!

The Officer of the Law found new 

sources of blessing. 

• He blessed 

city councils and 

university buildings, 

scientistes and their discoveries. 

 

He passed the age of 100. 

Most of his friends were long 

gone. 

As he approached the age of 120,

he considered that his life was 

long enough. 

Even Moses had not lived longer. 

On his birthday he made a 

conscious decision not to say any 

new Blessing and allow his life to 

come to an end. 

 

As the sun was setting, 

a chill progressed inward from his 

extremities. 

He did not resist it. 

In the twilight a figure appeared,

the man in rags. 

“You!” the Officer of the Law 

exclaimed. 

“I have thought about you every 

day for a hundred years! 

I never meant to harm you. 

Please, forgive me.”

 

“You don’t understand,” 

said the man in rags. 

“You don’t know who I am, do 

you? 

I am the angel who was sent 100 

years ago to harvest your soul, but 

when I looked at you, so pompous 

and proud, 

there was nothing there to harvest. 

An empty uniform was all I saw. 

So I put upon you 

the Curse of Blessings, 

and now look wat you’ve 

become!”

          

Overwhelmed, 

the Officer of the Law said, 

“You are blessed, my Gd, ruler of 

the universe, that You have kept 

me alive and sustained me so I 

could attain this moment.”

 

 “Now look what you've done!” 

the man in rags said in frustration. 

“A new blessing!”

 

Life flowed back into the Officer of the Law, 

and he and the man in rags 

looked to each other, 

neither of them knowing quite 

what to do.

My friends, 

like the Officer of the Law 

was forced to recite blessing after 

blessing

A lifetime of blessings

Sukkot commands us to recite 

blessing after blessing

over the Sukkah, 

the etrog, 

the lulav, 

the myrtle 

and the willow. 

Just like the Officer of the Law 

could not stop saying blessings

even when his life was ending

So too may we absorb the gift of 

another year and the message of 

Sukkot, 

which is, 

to not stop saying blessings when 

Sukkot is over. 

Amen!

 

Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420

Sukot 2

Why is it so hard to teach our people that 

this holiday, 

Succoth, 

is called 

zman simchatenu, 

the season of our rejoicing? 

Why except for the party after a bar or bat 

mitzvah, do so many Jews see so little in 

being Jewish?

One Sunday morning, many years ago, as 

parents came to pick up their kids from 

the Hebrew school the following 

conversation was overheard.

"How was class?" 

A father asked his son. 

The child began to cry ,

"I hate Hebrew school. 

It's boring and stupid, the teachers are 

mean and the kids aren't nice. 

I don't want to go anymore."

The father stopped, turned to the kid and 

said:

"Listen, when I was your age I went to 

Hebrew school and I hated it. 

It was boring, the teachers were mean,  

the kids weren’t nice, but they made me

go, and now, you're going to go to!"  

 

What a tragedy. 

What a catastrophe. 

To have raised a generation of children 

who associate Judaism with coercion, 

boredom, and emptiness.

When my parents’ generation 

described the painful condition of the 

Jewish people, they would shake their 

heads and say:

"Shver tsu zein a yid” 

 it's hard to be a Jew.

For anything to be authentically Jewish,

so many seem to feel it must be hard, 

painful, difficult!

There was this Jewish person who was 

invited to address a community 

commission researching outreach to 

converts. 

After her statement, a prominent 

community leader questioned her,

"You say that you keep a kosher home. 

Don't you find that very difficult these 

days?"  

No," she replied, 

"with new labeling of packages, it’s 

actually getting 

easier.

Well certainly, you find it very expensive."

"No, not really, you just shop wisely."

"Well, doesn't it severely restrict what you 

can eat?"

Catching his direction, she explained pointedly,

"Kashrut brings to my kitchen and to my

home a level of sanctity and godliness

that is precious to me and to my family."

"Well, obviously," the chairman said to the

 questioner, "you don't keep kosher!"

Shver tsu Zein a Yid! 

It's hard to be a Jew!

If it doesn't hurt, it's not really Jewish.

Someone came to a Rabbi and said about 

the sermon he had given in synagogue 

that Shabbat morning,

" Rabbi, I enjoyed your talk so much, 

I had such a good time, 

I forgot I was in Shul ."

"Once Jews accepted Judaism as a

privilege, now they regard it as a

burden."

This is a twisted, tortured, form of 

Judaism.

After all, if Judaism is only a painful 

burden who needs it? 

Some kids can tell you everything about 

the holocaust, but can’t name all the 

Jewish festivals.

You know the line, 

“Jewish history is they tried to kill us, they 

failed, let’s eat!” 

It is truly time that we recover Jewish joy. 

This holiday of Sukkot, 

which as I said before, 

the tradition calls 

zman simchatenu, our season of joy,

is really a good place to begin.

It is a mitzvah, 

a divine imperative to know Jewish joy.

It is a sin to have twisted Judaism into a 

dry joyless, 

morbid, burden.

We must learn to say to children and grandchildren in the most unequivocal of terms,

"I do Judaism because it brings my life 

purpose, direction and depth. I do 

Judaism because it makes me happy".

As the Torah reading for Shmini Atzeret 

says, (Deuteronomy 16:14),

"You shall rejoice in your festival, with 

your son and daughter.....You shall have 

nothing but joy.

Don’t worry, be happy!”

One day, still being a kid, I saw the biggest smile on my father's face when a little kid came up to him and whispered in his ear 

Rabbi, I feel very sorry for my 

Neighbours."

"You feel sorry for your neighbors? Why?"

 he asked him. 

"Look what we get to do today, Rabbi," 

he declared.

"We get to eat in the Sukkah , sing the 

prayers and march with the Lulav and 

Etrog. 

We're together as a family and with all our 

friends. 

Rabbi for us today is Yontif, but for them 

it's just Thursday!"

If we could just get a lot more Jewish 

children to feel that joy, we’d be in really 

good shape. 

 

Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420

Sukkot 1

The power of Sukkot is that it 

takes us back to the most 

elemental roots of our being.

 

• You don’t need to live in a palace 

to be surrounded by clouds of 

glory. 

• You don’t need to be rich to buy 

yourself the same leaves and fruit 

that a billionaire uses in 

worshipping G-d. 

 

Living in the sukkah and inviting 

guests to your meal, 

you discover 

such is the premise of 

Ushpizin

the mystical guests

that the people who have come to 

visit you are none other than 

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and 

their wives. 

 

What makes a hut more beautiful 

than a home is that when it comes 

to Sukkot there is no difference 

between 

• the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. 

• We are all strangers on earth, 

temporary residents in G-d’s 

almost eternal universe. 

 

And 

 

• whether or not we are capable of pleasure, 

• whether or not we have found 

happiness, nonetheless we can all 

feel joy.

 

Sukkot is the time we ask the most 

profound question of what makes 

a life worth living. 

 

Having prayed on Rosh Hashanah 

and Yom Kippur to be written in 

the Book of Life, 

Kohelet forces us to remember 

how brief life actually is, 

and how vulnerable. 

 

“Teach us to number our days that

we may get a heart of wisdom.” 

What matters is not 

how long we live, 

but 

how intensely we feel that life is a 

gift we repay by giving to others. 

 

Joy, the overwhelming theme of 

the festival, 

is what we feel when we know that 

it is a privilege simply to be alive,

 

Most majestically of all, Sukkot is 

the festival of insecurity

such as is it going to rain 

 

Indeed, 

while in the Sukkah,....

It is the candid acknowledgment 

that there is no life without risk, 

yet we can face the future without 

fear when we know we are not 

alone. 

 

G-d is with us, 

• in the rain that brings blessings 

to the earth, 

• in the love that brought the universe and us into being, 

and 

• in the resilience of spirit that 

allowed a small and vulnerable 

people to outlive the greatest 

empires the world has ever known.

 

Sukkot reminds us that 

G- d’s glory was present in the 

small, portable Tabernacle Moses 

and the Israelites built in the 

desert even more emphatically 

than in Solomon’s Temple with all 

its grandeur. 

A Temple can be destroyed. 

But a sukkah, broken, 

can be rebuilt tomorrow.

 

Security is not something we can 

achieve physically 

but it is something we can acquire 

mentally, 

psychologically,

spiritually. 

All it needs is the courage and 

willingness to sit under the 

shadow of G-d’s sheltering wings.

I wish you all a Chag Sameach and 

ahead.

continued blessings for the year 

 

Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420

Haazinu

Parashat Ha’azinu is a beautiful poem, 

a final effort, by a soon-to-die 

Moshe, to stir the Jewish people

to a commitment to their

covenant with G-d. 

The parsha, which speaks of 

both 

• the Jewish past and future,

   and 

• our relationship with G-d and his mitzvot (commandments), 

begins like this: 

“Listen, oh heavens and I will speak, and hear, oh earth, what I say”.

The obvious question is why does Moshe seem to address the heaven and earth !?

We thought he was meant to be talking to the Jewish people?

Rashi, in his commentary, referencing the Midrash, explains:  

heaven and earth are eternal. 

Unlike Moshe, 

who is about to die, 

they will be here forever. 

Therefore, 

if the Jewish people ultimately, 

In the future, 

sin, 

and break the covenant, 

and then try to somehow argue 

out of being punished, 

the heaven and earth will be there to testify against them

and to affirm that they did, 

in fact, 

accept the Torah, 

agree to enter into a covenant with God, 

and have failed to live according to its laws and ethics. 

In addition, Rashi explains, 

if and when the Jewish people do the right thing, 

and keep the laws, 

then the heaven and earth will 

not only stand in witness for their

 sake, 

but they will reward them as well,

 with rain, 

good weather, 

and bountiful crops. 

If, on the other hand, 

they break the covenant, 

the same heaven and earth will first testify against them, 

and then punish them, with drought and famine.

One is tempted, of course, to understand this imagery as being metaphorical. 

After all, the heaven and earth have 

no free will

no cognition

Nor the capacity of making a choice,

and they will not really testify 

for or against 

the Jewish people, 

or decide to reward or punish them.

If we think about it for a moment, 

however, 

we soon realize that Moshe’s 

addressing the heaven and earth, 

and making them the guardians, as it were, 

of the fate of the Jewish people,

is no metaphor.

We now stand at the precipice, 

the very edge, of doing irreversible damage 

to our climate, 

our ecosystem, 

our heavens and earth. 

This past year saw remarkable excesses of heat, drought, wildfires, storms and flooding, all over the globe. 

Severe and dangerous climate change is already a reality. 

The seas, which are rising, 

are being reduced of the life of many species 

which once in large number, 

grouped together,

were in motion  in their depths, and played such a large role in feeding us. 

The heavens and earth are doing their job

testifying to our 

• greed, 

• selfishness, 

   and 

• stupidity.  

The heavens and earth are, 

in their rapidly increasing dysfunction, 

reminding us 

eloquently and forcefully 

• what is right and what is wrong, 

• what is good and what is evil, 

and quite naturally, showing us 

how we have chosen 

• evil over good, 

• death over life; 

and they are punishing us for it. 

In just a few weeks we will be finishing the yearly cycle of the Torah portions and   begin again at Bereshit / Genesis. 

There we will read that G-d commanded Adam and Eve to “conquer”, 

to take charge of the world He had just created, and the deeper meaning was :

we are the earth’s guardians: 

Conquer, 

taking charge

means

taking care. 

That is our role here on earth.

Taking charge means taking care. That is our role here on earth.

 

As we begin a new year, 

and approach the end of the Torah cycle and the start of a new one, 

we must understand and come to terms with the role 

of the heavens and earth

in rewarding and punishing our actions. 

• This is not a metaphor, 

• and not metaphysics. 

• This is real, this is literal. 

Our selfish, thoughtless greed,

 expressed in dozens of ways daily, 

is destroying the world. 

This is the most basic, 

ultimate message for us here,

as the Torah comes to a close 

and Moshe reaches the end of his life. 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420

Parshas Nitzavim-Vayelech: The Power to Choose

As we are at the eve of Rosh

Hashana, I was thinking that I

will be speaking a lot during the

holidays, I would keep it short

tonight!

 

Parshas Nitzavim-Vayelech: The Power to Choose

 

We all have the freedom to choose how to act. 

 

• We can choose to do good 

things or not good things. 

 

• We can say things to make 

others smile or to make them cry. 

 

• We can use our hands to hit or to hug. The choice is up to us.

 

This is why G-d doesn’t punish 

and reward us straightaway for 

the things we do. 

 

If He did, we would in effect have 

no choice. 

 

Imagine, if you were immediately struck down with lightening for breaking Shabbat, would you break it? 

 

Of course not! 

 

G-d wants us to choose to do 

the things He asks.

 

But isn’t He asking a bit much of us? 

 

After all, 613 commandments 

sure sounds like a lot.

 

And some of them, 

like keeping Shabbat, are pretty 

demanding. 

 

But remember,

 

nobody has to keep all of them

because not all of them apply to 

us. 

 

• Some mitzvot apply only to kings 

or priests. 

 

• Some apply only to women and 

some only to men. 

 

There is no person on the planet 

to whom all of them apply. 

 

So perhaps keeping the Torah is 

not as hard as it seems.

 

The fact is that G-d created us. 

 

• He knows what we are capable of. 

 

• He knows our limitations. 

 

On the other hand, 

there is a mitzvah not to speak 

gossip because we have mouths 

and we can choose what to use 

them for, 

even if it is hard!

 

In this week’s parsha, 

Moses reminds us that the Torah 

“is not beyond you nor is it

remote from you.

It is not in heaven… 

It is not across the sea…. 

Rather, it is very close to you, in

your mouth, 

in your heart, 

that you may do it.”

This coming week, as we sit in 

the synagogue on Rosh 

Hashanah this is something we 

must keep in mind. 

 

We can keep the mitzvot, 

if only we try. 

 

We have to stop thinking that 

things are too big or too much. 

 

We are part of a story that began 

long before we were born and will 

continue long after we are no 

longer here, 

and the question for all of us is: 

will we continue the story? 

The hopes of a hundred 

generations of our ancestors rest 

on our willingness to do so. 

Deep in our collective memory 

the words of Moses continue to 

resonate. 

“It is not with you alone that I 

am making this sworn covenant, but with … 

whoever is not here with us today.” 

 

We are part of that story. 

 

• We can live it. 

• We can abandon it. 

 

But it is a choice we cannot avoid 

and it has immense 

consequences. 

The future of the covenant rests 

with us.

 

Shabbat Shalom!

 

 

Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420

Ki Tavo

Happiness, 

 

said Aristotle, 

 

is the ultimate goal at which all humans aim.

 

But, 

 

in Judaism it is not necessarily so. 

 

Happiness is a high value. 

 

 

the closest Hebrew word to happiness is,

 

Ashrei

 

And it is the first word of the book of Psalms. 

 

We say the prayer known as Ashrei 3 times each day. 

 

But Ashrei,

 

is not the central value of the Torah. 

 

We need to serve G-d with joy!

 

 

the Torah uses the words:

 

happy and happiness about 30 times, 

 

while joy and rejoice appear over 300 times.

 

• Happiness is a feeling, 

but joy is not. 

 

• Happiness is fleeting, 

but joy is everlasting.  

 

• Happiness depends on circumstances or other people, 

but joy is a gift from God. 

 

• Happiness is worldly, but joy is divine.

 

 

Joy plays a key role in two contexts in this week’s parasha. 

 

One has to do with the bringing of first-fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem. 

 

“Then you will rejoice in all the good things that the Lord your G-d has given you and your family, along with the Levites and the stranger in your midst” (26:11)."

 

The other context is quite different and astonishing. 

 

It occurs in the context of the curses. 

 

The curses in Deuteronomy end in loss of hope.

 

The curses in Deuteronomy are stimulated simply:

 

“because you did not serve the Lord your G-d with joy and gladness of heart out of the abundance of all things” (28:47).

 

Within the Torah portion of 

Ki Tavo 

there is a list of blessings and then curses that may fall upon one depending on her or his actions. 

According to the Torah these are given out by G-d. 

When you look at them more closely,

you will notice that the curses are given by our actions toward others, 

while the blessings are given by the things we create.

We typically think of curses as things that happen to us by an outside force, 

but the Torah suggests that curses are things we bring upon ourselves as a result of the harmful things we do to others. 

"Cursed be the one 

• who insults his father or mother . . . 

• who removes his neighbors' landmark . . . 

• who subverts the rights of the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow . . ." 

(Deuteronomy 27:17-19). 

Being cursed is what happens 

• to our place in the family, 

• to our standing in the community, 

• to our reputation.

On the other hand, 

we often think of blessings as things that are given to us. 

But in fact, 

blessings are based upon that which we produce ourselves. 

• "Blessed shall you be in the city and . . . in the country. . . . 

• Blessed shall be the issue of your womb, the produce of your soil . . . your basket and your kneading bowl" 

(Deuteronomy 28:3-5). 

The things we ourselves create in this world 

produce the blessings we receive in life. 

And when we are no longer here, the blessings are those things we leave as a legacy. 

"May her memory be a blessing," 

is what we say at a funeral or when we recite the Mourner's Kaddish.

Life can be filled with blessings and curses that come to us in many ways. 

The Torah portion is simply reminding us 

• that the ways we act, 

• the choices we make, 

• and the ways we treat others 

do matter a lot in determining which we will experience.

 

Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420