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The Exodus changed the Jewish people. The giving of the Torah changed everything.



(JTA) — With the conclusion of Passover last month, we now find ourselves in the period of the Jewish calendar known as the Omer, the 49-day span between the Exodus from Egypt marked on Passover and the giving of the Torah celebrated on Shavuot, which begins this year on Thursday evening, May 25. Jewish tradition considers these two holidays inextricably linked, the seven weeks between them seen as an incremental process of purification from the defilement of slavery to a state in which the Israelites were able to receive the Torah. In this sense, Passover and Shavuot are bookends, each representing a stage in the process of freedom.

But what if Passover and Shavuot are actually opposites — not compatible but in tension with one another? This is what Rabbi Shimon Gershon Rosenberg, known as Rav Shagar, argues in his homily “In the Name of the Father.” Rav Shagar was a student of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook and a widely read spiritual leader in the religious Zionist movement focusing on postmodernism and traditional Judaism. He died in 2007 at the age of 57.

Shagar’s essay is built on the work of French philosopher Alain Badiou, and specifically his notion of the “event” — an occurrence so unprecedented and revolutionary it changes everything. Shagar wants to contrast the event that is the giving of the Torah with the mere “enlightenment” (he’arah) of Passover. The enlightenment that is the Exodus might be extraordinary. It might even be miraculous. But it is not unique. Nothing new came into the world with the Exodus; it merely rearranged what already existed.

Revelation, however, is an event. The giving of the Torah introduces something that has never before existed, and thus shakes the very foundations of existence.

For Shagar, the event of revelation introduces the universal into the particular. Passover is about the particular — the formation of ethnos, or the Jewish family. This is why the Passover seder is framed around the relationship between parent and child. Shavuot is categorically different — it is not about the experience of a particular people emerging from slavery but about the encounter of that people with the divine.

As I understand Shagar, he is suggesting that revelation changes everything. But while Badiou suggested that the event changes everything by destroying what came before, Shagar suggests that what existed before the event is not destroyed, but transformed by it. Put another way, Passover can survive Shavuot. But for that to happen, Passover must incorporate the universal into the particularity of the Jewish story of freedom from slavery. For Shagar, failing to do that would be a failure of the Jewish covenant with God. If all Jews bring to the word is that they are a distinct people, they have introduced nothing new.

In some ways, this is the perennial challenge of Judaism: how to incorporate the universal nature of God’s revelation at Sinai within the particularity of the Jewish story. Judaism, according to Shagar, must embrace the universality of the event by absorbing it into the past. But the past will always be reluctant to comply. The familial home where the story of the Exodus is annually retold is comforting. The event of revelation is discomfiting. It rips the familial from its roots and demands more than retelling the story of a people. It demands moving beyond the ethnos.

This is only possible with the introduction of something that is totally new. This may be what the Midrash meant when it taught that the ultimate purpose of Sinai is not the giving of the Torah, but the subsequent giving of a “new Torah.” That is how the sages understand the prophetic view of redemption.

Thus, Shavuot is not (only) the culmination of Passover, but (also) its subversion. The danger (or perhaps hazard) of Passover is remaining mired in the ethnosin the familial comfort of the Exodus, without the event in which God enters the world and introduces that which is utterly new. This is the moment where everything changes irrevocably, where the tradition is both introduced and overcome: That is matan Torah — the giving of the Torah.

A version of this essay appeared in My Jewish Learning’s Recharge Shabbat newsletter. Subscribe here.

The post The Exodus changed the Jewish people. The giving of the Torah changed everything. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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