Memorial Evening 2009

5769/2009 Memorial Evening
marking the 14th Yahrzeit of Etta Ehrman Kossowsky z.l.

Wind and rain and thunder did not keep Etta’s friends away and a highly interesting Evening of Torah Learning was shared by over forty-five people. They came to remember Etta, they came to learn.


Devar Torah by Michi Kossowsky


Dr Rachel Adelman: Elijah, the Wandering Jew


Eli Ehrman: The Divine Gardener


Michi Kossowsky opened the proceedings with a devar Torah on the Meraglim, the spies and their very negative report on the land that the Children of Israel were about to enter. How could these men, who had witnessed the Divine protection, entertain such doubts? Did they fear a future without Divine protection? Did they worry that they would still need that help to conquer the land? Michi likened our generation to that of the Meraglim. We, too, have questions about the Land that we are re-entering, its challenges and level of spirituality. We should, Michi suggested, take on board the message of Caleb, -alo, na’alei, let us go up now. Etta, a passionate Zionist, would have agreed.

The guest speaker was Dr Rachel Adelman. Her topic was ‘Elijah, the Wandering Jew’. Dr Adelman took us on a fascinating journey, showing how the figure of Elijah was transformed from the judgemental zealot of the Tenach to the harbinger of the Redemption, the figure we welcome at the Seder and at every Brit Mila. Was Elijah the figure in a non-Jewish source, cursed to wander the earth, as was Cain? In the Book of Kings G-d rebukes Elijah, jealous for G-d, for his judgemental stand and sends him to Damascus to appoint a prophet to replace him. Elijah is rejected, fired by G-d, says the Midrash. Pirkei de R.Eliezer identifies Elijah with Pinchas, who is also ‘jealous’ on behalf of G-d and kills the sexual sinners in the camp. Pinchas is rewarded by G-d with the ‘brit shalom.’, a covenant of peace and with the Priesthood. He will ultimately bring peace between parents and children and witness our Repentance that needs to precede the Redemption. In the Midrash, Elijah is identified as the ‘malach ha brit’, G-d’s Covenant Messenger, and brit is identified with brit mila, circumcision. He returns to bear witness to the Covenant being kept by the people of Israel. Elijah is then identified with the Jewish people and they are certainly not the accursed wanderers, since there is Zion, a G-d given homeland, a homeland very dear to Etta, as we know.

Eli Ehrman held the audience with an original suggestion that we should change our view of G-d as the Great Engineer and Designer to one of a Divine Cosmic Gardener. The cosmic Gardener creates and guides in response to a course of events determined by the laws of nature (that He created and respects). Eli explained the Divine guidance by showing how random events can be ‘guided’. His basic example was one where one thousand coins can be flipped and a desirable outcome can be achieved by excluding at each throw those coins that were already ‘positive’. The engineer would expect no surprises. The Gardener would. G-d shows us His goals in the Torah, but again and again ‘responds’ to our actions and prayers to change the course of history. Eli saw the death of his sister Etta, not as part of a plan, but due to the fact of illnesses that we are not yet sufficiently skilled to overcome. You can read Eli's article on this subject here: The Divine Gardener

The evening ended, as always, with refreshments, when people could discuss the ideas presented and speak about Etta,z.l.