Chanuka 2012

Torah learning, says the Ramchal, was created by the Almighty as the antidote to an evil inclination. That means that the many women learning in the name of my daughter Etta,z.l. have a share in combating wrongdoing as well as enjoying and benefiting from their learning.

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Memorial Evening 2013

The Annual Memorial Evening of Learning on the 18th Yahrzeit of Etta Ehrman Kossowsky was held on February 2nd / 23rd Shevat. After the welcome by Esther Ehrman, the learning began with a 'devar Torah' by Michi Kosssowsky. He was followed by the guest speaker, Dr Avigail Rock on 'Mishpatim as Social Justice'. The evening closed with a 'devar Torah' by Eli Ehrman. You can listen to all of this on the audio links.

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Shavuot 2013

The Etta Kossowsky Fund News Update
Shavuot 5773/2013

Dear Friend,

Whereas the Revelation on Mount Sinai was a one-time event, Matan Torah, the Giving of the Law, includes the Oral Law and is ongoing. Every generation has the privilege of learning how the Torah taught by Moshe Rabbeinu applies, by studying the interpretations of scholars throughout Jewish history. Here is how the process was seen in the Midrash 'Seder Eliahu Zutta' of the 10th Century:

'What difference is there between the Written and the Oral Law? To what can this be compared? To a king of flesh and blood who had two servants and loved them both with a perfect love; and he gave them each a measure of wheat and a bundle of flax. The wise servant, what did he do? He took the flax and spun a cloth. Then he took the wheat and made flour. The flour he cleansed and ground and kneaded and baked and set on top of the table. Then he spread the cloth over it and left it so until the king should come. But the foolish servant did nothing at all. After some days, the king returned from a journey and came into his house and said to them 'My sons, bring me what I gave you'. One servant showed the wheaten bread on the table, with the cloth spread over it; and the other servant showed the wheat still in the box with a bundle of flax upon it. Alas for his shame, alas for his disgrace. Now, when the Holy One, blessed be He, gave the Torah to Israel, He gave it only in the form of wheat, for us to extract flour from it, and flax, to extract a garment.' (from A Shavuot Anthology, ed. Philip Goodman. The Jewish Publication Society, 1974, p.65)

The learning in the Etta Kossowsky Study Groups is wide ranging and includes Tenach, Commentaries, Chassidut, Sefer HaChinuch, Gemara and more modern texts. One such text is Rav Desslers's Michtav Me Eliahu. The following is a summary of a few pages from that 20th century work:

Rabbi Dessler asks whether it is fair that we expect to be judged leniently, with mercy, for the sins we commit, simply on the basis of the merit of our Biblical forefathers, Abraham Isaac and Jacob, while other nations are judged rigorously, in accordance with what is just. Rabbi Dessler addresses the entitlement that we call 'Merit of the Forefathers' (zechut avot) and how this relates to our appeal for mercy (rachamim).

The Biblical Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have indeed left us a legacy from which we can benefit greatly, but it surely cannot be an automatic entitlement to mercy. Their good, righteous deeds merited the reward that their behaviour should become values characteristic of the people of Israel. Thus, for example, Abraham's refusal of idol worship became ingrained in us. While we can, deliberately, reject these inherited traits, we then deprive ourselves of the great strengths that have enabled the Jewish people to survive. Zechut avot is that legacy.

Rabbi Dessler now looks again at the help our zechut avot may offer us in the case of sins committed. Imagine, he suggests, a judge who is faced with two criminals, two thieves. They have transgressed in the same way. One, however, comes from a righteous family, was led astray by falling into bad company, regrets the deed, will make good the loss and means not to transgress in the future. The other thief is a hardened criminal. Should the judge pass identical sentences on both? Surely, returning the first thief to his family could ensure that he does not revert to sinning, whereas for the second, the full force of the law is the only deterrent. In other words, mercy is wise in one case and not in the other. In this way, the merit of our forefathers has benefited the character of a person, who has then 'deserved' mercy and this is not the case for someone who has rejected the legacy, the zechut avot.

So much for our taste of Shavuot learning.

As one of the women leading an Etta Kossowsky Study Group put it 'the shiur is a continual blessing, for me and for our community'.

Chag Shavuot sameach
Esther Ehrman