Noah’s Ark – A Global Lockdown, Reflections from Our Advisory Board Member Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs

October 28, 2020

Every Day during the Corona crisis our Advisory Board Member Chief Rabbi Jacobs (NL) writes a diary, on request of the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam,  which is published on the website of the NIW, the only Jewish Dutch Magazine. Rabbi Jacobs is the head of Inter Governmental Relationships at the Rabbinical Centre of Europe. We will be regularly publishing a selection of his informative, sometimes light hearted, but always wise pieces.
This week in the Torah Portion we cover the story of Noah. Here, the Rabbi offers his unique and refreshing take on the portion. For our Dutch readers you can follow the diary every day at NIW home page: https://niw.nl and then: scroll down.
Noah’s Ark – A Global Lockdown
At 8:10 am, its Shabbat and suddenly the power went out. That is always difficult, but especially on Shabbat because I cannot call a breakdown service (even if the phone would still work).
Water for coffee and tea in the Shabbat kettle was nicely turned on Friday evening before the start of Shabbat, the meal for Shabbat afternoon was simmering in the slow cooker… lighting, freezer and refrigerator, heating ….. Nothing worked anymore.
I went to the electrical box to see if the earth switch was to blame. But even if this had been the case, there was still little I could have done: Shabbat! And then my Reformatorisch Dagblad newspaper popped through the mailbox.
I immediately opened the door and reported my electrical problem to the delivery person.
They immediately understood the problem. “I’ll check what’s going on, because you can’t do that because of Shabbat!” He immediately went into the electrical box, could not find anything out of the ordinary and then went to see if there were also problems elsewhere in the neighborhood.
Five minutes later he was back and told me the whole neighbourhood had no power. At that moment the light came on again. How happy I was with my Reformatorisch Dagblad, which not only brings the newspaper, but also the light!
And so I went with confidence to the synagogue where the beginning of Bereshit was read, including: Then God said, “Let there be light” and there was light! For a moment I felt that the self-evident is not always so self-evident!
Next Shabbat: the story of Noah. Before the outbreak of the flood, Noah was instructed by G-d to go into the Ark. And when it was dry outside he had to leave that Ark again.
Why, the question is asked, should he be ordered to leave the Ark? It was dry anyway! The answer contains an important life lesson. In the Ark there was an atmosphere of real Shalom, similar to the period after the arrival of the Moshiach, so he did not consider leaving the Ark. Why go into the world with all its worries and misery?
But G-d clearly pointed out that isolation from society is wrong. In that world with all its trials, we have the task to serve Him by making a contribution to the society surrounding us, even if closing off would be more pleasant for us personally. So, no Jewish monasteries!
But before the flood began, Noah was instructed to just enter the Ark and shut himself off from that world. Without wanting to compare corona with the Flood, there are times when we, you and I, have to be right in the middle of the world to be ready for others. But there are also periods when we are temporarily not allowed to go outside, social distance. How long do we have to stay in? We do not know.
But just as Noah did not protest and stayed in the Ark when he was required to do so, so too we must stay in, even if we find it difficult. It is too dangerous outside. We should not play with health. This coming Shabbat this will be emphasized extra in all shuls in the world. Noah Had to Enter the Ark: The First Global Lockdown!

Additional Articles

Words for Pesach by the Chairman of EJA, Rabbi Margolin

The pandemic has upended so much of our daily lives, including the most sacred: our holy days.
Millions of Jews around the world will be celebrating Pesach this evening in ways that up until a few weeks ago was unimaginable, without family around them, without the bustling celebration around the table. It will of course be hard for all of us.
Of course, the irony of celebrating our holiday of freedom whilst we are in confinement due to a plague – the coronavirus, will not be lost on us.
And yet, even amongst this adversity, we are being given the opportunity to celebrate Pesach in a unique way, loaded with significance that can, in fact, bring us closer to the story of our exodus from Egypt. How?
Let us be honest, how many of us really appreciate what freedom means? In our modern lives the vast majority of us are free to come and go as we please. This pandemic has given us a flavour of what it is like to lose freedoms that we take for granted, and in the process brings us closer to our ancestors, who lost theirs under Pharaoh. It brings the holiday alive.
Truly both nights will be different from all the others, they remind us to truly appreciate the everyday blessings that the almighty bestows on us everyday, our families, our jobs, our friends.
I wish you, and your families a Pesach Sameach, and G-d willing next year in Jerusalem!

Stunning religious practice in Europe

If the European Union wants to welcome Jews and Muslims, it needs to make their legitimate religious practices welcome as well.
Last week, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the EU’s highest court, dealt a serious blow to ritual Jewish and Muslim methods of animal slaughter. The court upheld a Belgian law that requires that animals must be stunned before they are killed. Neither Jewish nor Muslim law allows for stunning in the slaughter process.
Proponents of the CJEU ruling and supporters of the Belgian law assert that the stun-first approach is more humane. Critics argue that properly executed slaughter is less painful and less traumatic for the animals. Either way, the ruling is a serious setback for religious freedom in Europe. And it isn’t clear whether the ruling would also prohibit the importation of slaughtered meat that has not observed the stun-first requirement.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, urged reconsideration. “Europe needs to reflect on the type of continent it wants to be. If values like freedom of religion and true diversity are integral, then the current system of law does not reflect that and needs to be urgently reviewed,” he said.
According to the CJEU, its ruling actually protects religious practices and doesn’t prohibit any religious observance. It argued that the ruling permitted religious practices since it “allow[s] a fair balance to be struck between the importance attached to animal welfare and the freedom of Jewish and Muslim believers to manifest their religion.”
That superficial analysis by the CJEU is remarkably naive and misinformed, since it improperly assumes that religious slaughter can be performed on a stunned animal. It cannot. And, besides, Jews and Muslims don’t want to “manifest” their religion — they want the freedom to practice their religions.
Two distinct elements in European society are promoting the ban on ritual slaughter. Opponents on the left are concerned about animal welfare, and see ritual slaughter as inhumane. Opponents on the far right are ultranationalists, who see Jewish and Muslim practices as alien imports to Christian Europe. Strange bedfellows, indeed. But through their issue alliance, opposition to ritual slaughter has taken on a life of its own, without regard to the sensibilities of Jews and Muslims.
According to Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the head of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association, had Belgium’s parliament “engaged properly with Jewish community officials before banning the practice, some satisfactory solutions could have been found, as has been the case in the Netherlands and elsewhere, because the method of slaughter is not crueler or [more] painful to animals than other methods.” But no such effort was made.
Not every Jew in Europe eats kosher meat. But the availability of kosher food is one of the markers of a thriving Jewish life. In a pluralistic society, every effort must be made to enable such religious observances. If the European Union wants to welcome Jews and Muslims, it needs to make their legitimate religious practices welcome as well.
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EJA chairman of the Committee for combatting antisemitism on Croatian tv

EJA chairman of the Committee for combatting antisemitism Chief Rabbi Jacobs was on Croatian prime time tv setting out the state of antisemitism in europe today .

EUROPEAN JEWISH ASSOCIATION IN EUROPE-WIDE CAMPAIGN TO HOUSE JEWISH REFUGEES FROM UKRAINE

“The history of the Jewish people is one of displacement, either because of pogrom or war. We are only too aware of what it means to be forced to up-and-leave at a moment’s notice. In almost every one of our communities you will hear such stories,” stated EJA Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin.

As war in Ukraine enters a second week, Europe is witnessing a huge influx of refugees fleeing Ukraine towards the West. Naturally many Ukrainian Jews are included in this surge to safety.

Brussels-based European Jewish Association (EJA), an umbrella group representing hundreds of communities across the continent, has launched a Europe-wide campaign to temporarily provide homes, food and clothing to hundreds of Jewish families whose lives have been torn-apart and up-ended by the conflict in Ukraine.

The appeal has gone out to Jewish communities from Lisbon to Lublin, Bucharest to Bordeaux and everywhere in between.

Speaking after launching the campaign, EJA Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin said, “The history of the Jewish people is one of displacement, either because of pogrom or war. We are only too aware of what it means to be forced to up-and-leave at a moment’s notice. In almost every one of our communities you will hear such stories. From generations ago from Spain or Galicia, from the war, to emigrating to Israel. I say this because we are especially attuned to these catastrophes. And because we are so attuned, we are pre-programmed to help our Jewish neighbours, just as we always have.’’

He added, “I have faith that this campaign will deliver. Since the war started Jews from all over Europe have been getting in touch with us to see what can be done to help their Ukrainian Jewish brothers and sisters in need. We are providing them with the vehicle to do just that, by offering shelter, food and clothing to those who left in a hurry, often with nothing but the clothes on their backs.”

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