Avraham and Sarah
By Batya Maron
The parents of our nation, Avraham and Sarah create a legacy for all of us that promotes hospitality, righteousness and justice, and dedication to Hashem. Setting off on a journey taking them far from their birthplace, Avraham and Sarah endure many challenges on the road to realising Hashem’s vision for their descendants. In particular, they wait decades before they are able to have a child, all the while remaining faithful to Hashem that He will follow through with His promise to them. When Sarah dies, Avraham enacts the first official land purchase in the land of Canaan, later to be called Eretz Yisrael.
By Daniel Jaffa
Sandwiched between probably the most influential person of all time, Avraham Avinu and Yaakov, who gave his name (Yisrael) to Hashem’s nation, Yitzchak Avinu finds himself in pretty illustrious company. Yitzchak’s manner was unique in this setting, when we think about Yitzchak we don’t encounter the plethora of midrashim that accompany Avraham’s faith, neither is he combative in the same way Yaakov deals with the angel and Esav. Rather Yitzchak spends his entire life in the land of Israel cultivating the ideological fortress established by his father. When we look in more depth at his character, we encounter Yitzchak’s presence. We see him as the potential sacrifice that elevates Avraham’s monotheism and as the giver of the blessings that ensured Yaakov’s victory over Esav. Yitzchak may not be the big Hollywood movie star who does his own stunts but rather is content supporting those around him. He teaches us to play our role and be content out of the spotlight. He teaches us to support those around us and raise them up.
By Amira Waller
Miriam was the first to earn the title of prophetess in the Torah. As the eldest sister of Moshe and Aharon, Miriam was the female member of the triumvirate who led Bnei Yisrael through the trials and tribulations of life in Mizrayim, and then during exodus and through the desert. Miriam is most well-known for leading the unprecedented singing and dancing for women to the tefillah of Az Yashir in celebration of Kriyat Yam Suf. Despite her name, Miriam, representing the bitterness of enslavement, Miriam embodied the antithesis of this sentiment, personifying positivity and encouragement for all women during these hard times. Miriam was a beacon of hope during one of the most challenging times in Jewish history. Miriam’s leadership and positive attitude are inspiring for us all.
By Amelia Hirschfield
Devorah was the fourth judge who ruled over the Jewish people from when they entered Eretz Yisrael. At this time, the Jews were suffering under the cruel general Sisera and were influenced by the corruptive ways of the Cananim living amongst them. She is described in the Tanach as wise, G-d- fearing and widely respected. Under Devorah’s influence, the Jewish people were inspired to return to their traditional practises. Having conquered the peoples’ spiritual oppression, Devorah instructed Barak Ben Avinoam to enact justice against Sisera’s actions. In a turn of events, a Jewish women named Yael, killed Sisera, in accordance with Devorah’s prophecy that a woman would gain victory. Devorah, the only female Shofet of the period, inspired the Jewish people, enabled female leadership and to this day, is brought as the precedent for female leadership in modern Halachik debates.
By Amylee Assness
During each night of Sukkot, it is customary to welcome Ushpizin, the seven supernal guests and founding fathers of the Jewish people into one’s Sukkah. An important experience of Sukkot is leaving the protection of one’s permanent structure, being removed from our homes and residing in the protection of G-d’s existence. Each Ushpizin represents this idea during their life. For example, Yosef, was the oldest son of Jacob and was treated with preferential treatment, causing his brothers to envy him, sell him into slavery and be sent to Egypt. Moreover, the guests also complement the attributes of which we aspire towards and that helps the world reach its ultimate goal. For example, Yosef, welcomed on the sixth day of Sukkot, represents holiness and spiritual foundation. It is believed that when we act in ways that follows the spiritual attributes that each of the seven guests exemplifies, divinity shines onto the world and brings it closer to it’s completion and ultimate goal (Derech Hashem). In light of this, may the motivation and influence of the holy Ushpizin guests help us fulfill the prospective of Sukkot allowing one to enjoy and contribute to ourselves and our greater surroundings.
By Aviya Solomon
Chana was one of the seven women in the Tanach who was given the power of prophecy. She was one of the two wives of Elkanah, a man of the tribe of Levi. Although she was the more beloved wife, she was childless and suffered greatly from her inability to conceive. In a famous episode of prayer, she went down to Shiloh, and prayed silently to Hashem, promising that she would give up her child to serve Hashem in exchange for Him allowing her to bear a son. Eli, the cohen that was present during this episode, thought she was drunk because her lips were moving, yet no sound was heard. This is the main source for the way we conduct prayer in modern times. Some time later, Chana bore a son and named him Shmuel. After a few nurturing years, she went up to Shiloh to give her son over to Eli to serve Hashem. Here, her [prayer is recorded and she states the famous line of:
“אֵין־קָד֥וֹשׁ כַּיהוָ֖ה כִּ֣י אֵ֣ין בִּלְתֶּ֑ךָ וְאֵ֥ין צ֖וּר כֵּאלֹהֵֽינוּ׃”
“There is no holy one like the LORD, Truly, there is none beside You; There is no rock like our God.”
These words of astounding faith illustrate her joy and connection to Hashem regardless of the heart-breaking truth of having to give up her son. These words are especially inspiring when remembered throughout the Chaggim of Tishrei, as we try and strengthen our relationship with Hashem.
By Chloe Bettane
Moshe was raised in a palace, and lived in much comfort, wealth and power. He had it all.
וַיְהִ֣י | בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֗ם וַיִּגְדַּ֤ל משֶׁה֙ וַיֵּצֵ֣א אֶל־אֶחָ֔יו וַיַּ֖רְא בְּסִבְלֹתָ֑ם וַיַּרְא֙ אִ֣ישׁ מִצְרִ֔י מַכֶּ֥ה אִֽישׁ־עִבְרִ֖י מֵֽאֶחָֽיו:
וַיִּ֤פֶן כֹּה֙ וָכֹ֔ה וַיַּ֖רְא כִּ֣י אֵ֣ין אִ֑ישׁ וַיַּךְ֙ אֶת־הַמִּצְרִ֔י וַיִּטְמְנֵ֖הוּ בַּחֽוֹל:
Moses ... went out to his brethren and observed their burdens and he saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man, of his brethren. He turned this way and that and saw there was no man, so he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
If Moshe had it all, as an Egyptian, then why was he defending the Jewish slaves? From this lay the unique qualities that Moshe possessed, making him a leader with exceptional qualities.
Moshe had a great amount of humility, a crucial leadership trait. He was a prince, in the palace of the Egyptian king with tremendous wealth and power. YE he identified with the Jewish people, who were oppressed and in the lowest of classes. Moshe surrendered his ego when he left the palace and went to Am Yisrael. Only someone with true humility, who is not governed by selfish and superficial desires can be a truly successful leader.
Not only was Moshe humble; he showcased true empathy towards he Jewish people. He observed and felt he burden of his people. He felt joy when they felt joy and he felt the pain when they felt pain. Empathy is a strong leadership skill, and Moshe possessed this trait, and listened to Am Yisrael and understood them.
וַיִּ֤פֶן כֹּה֙ וָכֹ֔ה וַיַּ֖רְא כִּ֣י אֵ֣ין אִ֑ישׁ
He turned this way and that way, and he saw that there was no man.
This shows true pragmatism that Moshe possessed, a crucial leadership trait. He took responsibility where no one else was there to do so. An effective leader is someone that sees a crucial job needing to be done and does something about it, without reward or recognition.
Everything you need to know about being a leader is illustrated throughout the life of Moshe. As the most influential leader of all time, we should feel empowered to take on Moshe’s leadership qualities and utilise them to the best of our ability.
By Rachel Hertzman
According to Midrash, during the era of King Yoshiyahu, there were three prophets recorded: Jeremiah in the marketplace, Zephaniah in the shule, and Chulda for the women. Thus, when King Yoshiyahu found Torah scrolls during his mass clean-up of the Beit HaMikdash, he is supposed to have gone to Chulda as she was thought to be more ‘merciful’ as a woman. This idea stems from Talmudic thought as although prophets cannot deviate from their message, their subtlety and tone can vary based on the speaker:
“Thus says the Lord: I am going to bring disaster upon this place and its inhabitants…”
Despite her ominous warning, Chulda also spoke of a comfort for the King, providing the encouragement and hope needed to spur the nation. Following this warning was one of the greatest national teshuva movements in Tanach, which included a nationwide Pesach celebration. Chulda was an influential figure during this revival not only as a sparking factor but also during the process.
By Adam Marks
On the fifth night of Succot, we welcome Miriam and her brother Aaron. Miriam and Aaron are known for their words: Miriam led the women in song at the shore of the sea, and was also severely punished for spreading gossip about her brother Moshe. Aaron was Moshe’s spokesperson, standing up to Pharaoh and helping the Israelites find freedom. So wow do we use our speech - to hurt or to demean others, or to make the world a better place?
As we all know, there are various instances in the Torah whereby the Jews as a nation are punished due to the sin of Lashon Hara. A midrash tells us that the snake slandered G-d to Eve when convincing her to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, thereby kicking us out of the Garden of Eden. Joseph spoke negatively to his father about his brothers, causing them to hate him. This lead to him being sold, ultimately causing the Egyptian exile. And finally, it was the baseless hatred and negative speech of the Jews that led to the destruction of the 2nd Beit Hamikdash.
Speech is powerful. It’s a tool of connection, communication, and expression. You can tell a lot about someone by listening to what they talk about. As the saying goes, small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, and great minds discuss ideas. May we all be inspired to use our speech in order to build genuine connection, understanding, and unity, helping to bring people up, rather than tear them down.
By Julia Jacobson
Whilst Abigail may not be one of the most featured or known biblical characters, a lot can be learnt about education and leadership from her. In short, she was married to Nabal (whose name literally translates to fool, talk about foreshadowing). Nabal refused King David’s orders making him a rebel against the throne and was naturally deserving of an immediate execution (but women are the sensitive ones). What is so fascinating about this story is how she convinced David not to execute her husband, and the hadracha we can learn from this. She went to David at night under the guise of clarifying if she was in niddah. When he responded, “is blood shown at night?” she reminded him of another halacha, “Is capital law tried at night?” *boom mic drop*. When David counteracted that there is no need to try him because of the nature of his crime of rebelling against a king, Abigail reminded him that since his kingship was not yet known to all, he was not authorised to try someone for rebelling against the monarchy. David accepted her words and thanked her from saving him from needless bloodshed, acknowledging that to have murdered Nabal would have been wrong.
Indeed, now more than ever we as a society struggle to converse with those holding opposing opinions. When in these conversations, it is easy to fall into the habit of simply saying your opinion, insulting the other person when they don’t agree, and walking away with neither party having gained anything. Yet Abigail, in a moment where emotions and stakes were high, was able to remember one of the most important rules of hadracha, that a lesson is best learnt when someone comes to the conclusion themselves. She engaged King David in a respectful debate, and through this was able to show him her perspective in a meaningful, and ultimately lifesaving way.
By Eyal Dorfan
The Zohar teaches that for dwelling in the succah, we merit the honour of welcoming the Shechinah and the seven faithful guests who otherwise reside in their faithful abode in Gan Eden. Each day one of these guests leads the others as a guest of honour, with David concluding the visits, leading the group on Hoshanah Rabbah.
During Succot we recite a strange blessing: “The Compassionate One, may He raise for us the fallen sukkah of David”. What exactly is this succah of David? It is a metaphor for the Davidic monarchy. We admire David since he was a man after G-d’s heart. He rectified two seemingly contradictory values. On the one hand he was a king with a sense of exaltedness, but he also demonstrated humility. These two values together form what we know as kingship or “malchut”. Before G-d, he moved with complete humility, before his enemies, he carried himself with fearless assertiveness.
Succot is traditionally the time when we gathered the produce. We might gaze upon our yields and think look how much I have achieved, becoming haughty and subconsciously focusing only on ourselves. We therefore at this very time sit in the succah, a frail and timid structure which reminds us that the only security we have is from the Shechinah, from H-shem himself. The humility and acknowledgment that our security and success is only granted upon us by G-d are values that were embraced and actualised by David Hamelech and should be ideals we strive to achieve. If we embrace his legacy, hopefully the succah of David will rise again swiftly.
By Ari Rev
Queen Esther is the heroine of the Purim story. Taken to the palace of King Achashverosh of Persia, she risked her life to expose Haman’s evil plot to annihilate the Jews in the kings empire. The root of Esther’s name is סתר meaning ‘hidden,’ and this is an exact indication of how she led her life and fulfilled her role in the course of Jewish history. She used her capabilities for a higher purpose – to achieve a greater good for the sake of her people, and not just herself. She began in private, in a hidden, modest, reserved and self-controlled manner in order to accomplish her goal. These are not qualities we typically associate with heroes or leaders. However, Esther remains hidden throughout, but when she is ready to be seen, she portrays herself with holiness and as a person who puts her people before herself.
Esther completely embodies the verse in Tehillim “כל כבודה בת מלך פנימה” “the true honoוr of the princess is within.” The word “פנימה” refers to her internal, spiritual beauty. Through understanding the true meaning of being hidden and modest, Esther revealed a universal and everlasting message to the Jewish people.