As presented by Kent State Junior, Kendall Lewis at Welcome Back Shabbat, August 29, 2014.
Shabbat Shalom, my name is Kendall Lewis. I am a fashion design major and an art history minor student.
This week’s parsha, Shoftim –which means judges- is about rules, rulers, regulations and justice: basically a constitution. Moses address the Israelites to appoint judges, mind the words of the prophets, define a king, mind the laws of war, and deal with unsolved murders and people seeking refuge of manslaughter, obviously, it’s a lot to take in. Reviewing the parsha I could see a lot of parallels within our country’s democratic system- democratic being the key word. It’s quite amazing that even in the time of Moses that in governmental affairs, justice is pivotal to a well-governed society.
This summer I got the opportunity to study abroad in Italy. There, I visited the city of Siena, which is known for a horse race called the Palio (which is uber crazy fun to watch) and their city’s history of government. In the central palazzo there is a fresco (a painting) that is called the Allegory of Good and Bad Government. The fresco shows Siena in two scenes: one, which is the effect of good government on the city and one, which is the effect of bad government on the city. In the good government scene it is clear that the town is in a peaceful state showing symbolism of justice and community. The good government leads to the notion of the liberal arts and sciences, which, in turn, makes a good society. The bad government scene is totally the opposite. It shows self-interest before community that leads to an unjust government, and, in turn, a foul society.
Since I am into art history, when I read this parsha I thought of the fresco in Siena because it relates perfectly and visually to the topics in the parsha (since you can’t see the fresco I advise you all to look it up, it’s pretty sweet). In the beginning of the parsha it states that the Israelites appoint officials and judges from their tribes to govern with justice and impartiality, which are crucial foundations for a democratic society even today. For example, the portion talks about there must be a testimony of two or more witnesses for a person to be found guilty- again this is justice. Also, the parsha talks about setting aside cites for refuges of “accidental manslaughter”- this states impartiality.
In conclusion, this week’s Torah portion offers a type of constitution that promotes justice: Justice in its rulers, laws, and Torah. In the Torah, justice comes from divine decree, in out society it comes from our constitution by the people. Either way, just as the fresco depicted, a healthy society needs justice, whether it is for civil rights, human rights, animal rights, victims of racial prejudice, homophobia, ageism, sexism, etc. Also, justice was important in biblical times and is still apart of Judaism these many, many years later. Thank you and good Shabbos.
4 Elul, 5774
Kendall Shmuel de Perrier Lewis is a returning fashion design major and also an art history minor student. He has worked at the Kent State University Museum for three years as a student assistant, helping with exhibitions and management of the museum's collection. He hopes to study abroad again and revist Israel in the near future.
As presented by Kent State Junior, Sophia Witt at Shalom Kent State, August 22, 2014.
Shabbat Shalom! My name is Sophia Witt, and I am an engagement fellow here at Hillel at Kent State. This is my junior year as a performance major.
This weeks Torah portion is from Deuteronomy, Re’eh. In this portion, Moses speaks of God blessing and cursing us. What does this mean to us? Many things. Here at Hillel, we are accepting of everyone, Jews, Non-Jews, Religious and Non-religious people. Regardless of what you believe in, or don’t believe in, we ALL have set backs in life, which seem like a struggle, but at other times we find ourselves blessed.
I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Israel on Birthright with Hillel. However, going into Israel, I felt very unprepared as a “Jew.” What does being Jewish even mean? I felt cursed…Why didn’t I belong, and what did G-d even mean to me? Being in Israel, however changed me. I felt spiritually awakened and finally felt like G-d spoke to me. I have acquired a passion to do for Israel. By definition, “Israel” means to struggle or challenge power and above forces. It was OK for me to question myself, and even G-d. It is okay to not “feel” Jewish enough – it means you are doing Judaism right! Being Jewish doesn’t mean you are religious, it means you are wanted, and belong. In Israel, an IDF soldier told me that Israel is my HOME. I belonged there. It took me to be away from home for me to realize that “HOME” is not a house. It is belonging. I by definition am Jewish, regardless of how I feel. G-d has rewarded me with guidance and assurance of this. I encourage all of you to “Israel” and challenge yourself. Whether you believe in G-d, or you believe in Culture alone, the ups and downs of life are all obstacles. How you handle them builds character and shows chutzpah. Thank you, and Shabbat Shalom!
Sophia Witt is a Junior Global Communications major with a minor in Jewish Studies. She is an engagement fellow of Hillel at Kent State University, and is a volunteer with the Jewish Federation of Greater Cleveland. She is part of several organizations on campus including, Hillel, Achoti, Ahavat Israel, SALSA, and Republicans on Campus. Sophia looks forward to this academic school year, and hopes to help get students involved in Kent and Hillel life!
To participate in an upcoming service or give the weekly D'var Torah, contact Rabbi Lee.