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Memorial Evening 2013

5773/2013 Memorial Evening
marking the 18th Yahrzeit of Etta Ehrman Kossowsky z.l.

This year, the storms that had raged all week stopped just in time for us. The hall was full of family and friends who came to this Evening of Learning that marked the 18th Yahrzeit of Etta Ehrman Kossowsky. Etta's mother welcomed everyone, stressing the importance of Torah learning of every kind in and of itself and as an antidote to harm. She mentioned the miracle of some wonderful donations that allowed the learning to continue. Summaries of the annual accounts were available.

Michi Kossowsky opened the learning. He spoke about the historical significance of any given generation and our awareness of that significance. Did the generation of Ezra and of Nehemiah realise the impact that their generation was to have? Do we appreciate our place in history? Michi looked somewhat pessimistically at the future; he wondered whether our Jewish leaders would be able to provide the inspiration necessary to meet the current historical challenges.

Welcome by Esther Ehrman and 'Devar Torah' by Michi Kosssowsky

 

Our guest speaker, Dr Avigail Rock, took as her title 'Mishpatim as Social Justice'. Basing herself on the Commentary of Professor Umberto Cassuto, Avigail placed the laws in Parshat Mishpatim in the context of contemporary cultures. She showed how these specific laws were chosen to underline the radical difference between them and comparable laws on the same issues in surrounding nations, as can be seen by looking at the Hammurabi Code. Thus, for instance, the Hammurabi Code, like the Torah, addresses the institution of slavery. In the Hammurabi Code, the slave is a chattel for life, while the Torah limits the service of the Hebrew slave to six years; whereas the Hebrew slave who wishes to stay beyond that period has his ear pierced, the slave of the Hammurabi Code has his ear cut off if he seeks to leave. Another example are the laws concerning a debtor's pledge. The Torah states that if the pledge is something vital to the debtor, such as clothing, it must be returned when the person needs it; nor may one take anything that the debtor requires to make a living. As contrasted with this, a debtor's daughter can be taken as pledge in the Hammurabi Code. The issues may be the same in both sets of laws; clearly the teachings of the Torah constituted a revolution in the concern for social justice.

Dr Avigail Rock on 'Mishpatim as Social Justice'

 

Eli Ehrman's 'devar Torah' looked at our obligation to make choices, choices that affect the future of society. Eli took as his model Abraham, who famously argued with the Lord's decision to destroy Sodom, 'Shall the Judge over all the earth not mete out justice? (Genesis, ch.). Abraham's choice was not between good and evil, as when G-d shows us what is good and we can choose to accept it or not. Abraham's choice was between two possibilities: not rooting out the evil of Sodom or risking the injustice of destroying the righteous there along with the evil. Abraham wanted to choose the former. The Lord also gives this kind of choice to humanity. We might wish to replace Descartes' 'I think therefore I am' by 'I choose therefore I am'.

'Devar Torah' by Eli Ehrman

 

As every year, the evening concluded with time for people to meet and talk over refreshments.