Memorial Evening 2014

5774/2014 Memorial Evening
marking the 19th Yahrzeit of Etta Ehrman Kossowsky z.l.

Amazingly, yet again, a hall full of friends and family came to mark the 19th Yahrzeit of Etta Yonit bat moreinu haRav Zvi Ehrman with an evening of Torah learning.


Welcome by Esther Ehrman

Esther Ehrman, Etta's mother, opening the evening, stressed the blessing of Torah learning, since it offered us the opening to our precious relationship with the Divine, especially as Jews. This theme, somewhat unexpectedly, turned out to be the focus of much of the evening's learning.


'Devar Torah' by Michi Kosssowsky

Michi Kossowsky, in the opening Devar Torah, spoke about the nature of this relationship. He noted that Moses was really the first personage to engage in an ongoing dialogue with G-d. We, who cannot have that privilege, struggle to understand The Creator. To know that He exists is not sufficient. To follow derekh HaShem requires an understanding of a perfection that exists in its own category i.e. beyond our range; and this becomes even more difficult when we realise that the defining eheye asher eheye, that G-d offers us, implies changing, becoming, - how are we able to relate to that? G-d chooses how we are to perceive Him, which creates a new problem. Throughout our history, the Almighty helps us, punishes us; we endure famines and enjoy times of peace; we know a Holocaust and return to the Land of Israel. Referring to an article by Rabbbi Cardozo, Michi suggested that, perhaps, G-d wants us to relate to Him as we do to those around us, with real love or hate and not see Him as the transcendent, abstract Being, yet always appreciating that we cannot understand.


'Is G-d on Facebook' by our Guest Speaker, Gila Weinberg

We were delighted to have Gila Weinberg as our Guest Speaker. A great friend of Etta z.l., Gila had inspired us on two previous occasions with her scholarly and original talks. Gila's topic was 'Is G-d on Facebook?- The Religious Significance of making Private Life Public'. The Media revolution of recent decades has affected us all; it has affected our privacy, it has given us a kind of celebrity status, where every detail of a life is of interest to others and, as a result of making the details public, those details are now on record, for good. In a lively inter-active presentation, Gila showed and evaluated a religious parallel to these three facts.. A Midrash Rabba text related how the behaviour of Reuven, Aaron and Boaz in the Bible might have been better, had they known that their deeds would be on record; Reuven would have made greater efforts to save Joseph, Aaron would have gone to meet Moses with greater pomp, Boaz would have offered Ruth the best fare. Knowing that we are on record probably makes us show our best side, makes us aware of who we are/wish to be. Is this ethically positive, or not? We accept that our deeds are 'written in a 'book'. What book? What book is it that is open to G-d? One answer is that G-d reads the book of our deeds, and our deeds are written on our selves. Our aim must be: to live our lives, aware of that recording, being the people we want G-d to read.


'Devar Torah' by Eli Ehrman

Next, Eli thanked the Guest Speaker and stressed, as Gila had demonstrated, that these Memorial Evemings did more than simply remember Etta in our learning. All of the talks take Etta's personality into account, so that who Etta was affects who we are, now.

In his Devar Torah, Eli looked at the extent of the Jewish religion's contribution to ethics All religions try to teach what is right and wrong. There may well be the voice of G-d behind even the distortions of idol worship. Ancient cultures knew morality – Elimelech had a moral sense before his contact with Abraham. We have a sense that what G-d revealed to us is right and we offer the 'objective' element of direct revelation that lends a vital certainty to Jewish teaching. We did not 'invent' morality, as many believed in the 19th century; we believe that we received it from G-d; we also believe that we have an important role in publicising it. Our problem is extrapolating from our teaching to address modern, ambiguous ethical situations. Biblical stories do not set out to teach morality – why did Jacob lie? Nor do all 'mitzvot' relate to ethics. Eli suggested that the stories were designed so that, when we take the mitzvot into account as well, we can look for the key to Torah morality. Discussion becomes vital, enabling us to breathe life into fats. Our 'dialogue' with Etta,z.l. does just that.


Although the hour was late, people stayed to chat, exchanging views and news.