Jewfem Blog

The Rabin Assassination and the Binding of Isaac: A powerful sermon by HUC Rabbinical Student Osnat Elder

To commemorate the  22nd anniversary of the Rabin assassination which falls this week, I am posting here a sermon by HUC rabbinical student Osnat Elder, a powerful and poetic call to action for Jewish educators and thinkers, which she delivered this week to the rabbinical school. Translation into English is mine. Original Hebrew posted at the bottom.  And this dark matter was imprinted with stains of light And they did not make a sound, and not even a whisper passed through them And they are like the oil of myrrh, flowing and sprinkling from the rubbish.  -- Dahlia Ravikovitch And at midnight, a heavy silence fell on the square, like the heavens before a storm, like a partition without a partner. The square that lost its name on that long and awful night, that held thousands of candles flickering sparks of broken hope, and as they extinguished, the left behind a smooth and colorful platform of melted wax. Weeks later they were still being kindled with dedication, love, and the knowledge that only they would be able to prevent the next earthquake – even though they did not prevent the first one. This was the time of the still mourning, as if the cover of words that preceded it was already gone, and new words for processing the trauma had not yet been found. It was the knowledge that the still, small voice is the voice of compassion and the voice of sanity and the voice of culture and language. But noises, they have their own energy, and it wasn’t long before the voices of hate and violence and incitement were heard once again. And twenty years after the first earthquake (noise, ra’ash), Shira Banki was murdered.  The Torah portion Vayera is also quaking (ro’esh). The quake (noise) from the complicated relationship between Abraham and Sara, in its deafening silence, as if she is accustomed to being taken to the chambers of foreign kings who do what they please with her. And her striking absence while her son, her only son, the one she loved, becomes a victim of the blind belief of the king of belief, Abraham.  Another quake is the strange fatherhood of Lot towards his daughters. The way he sacrifices their innocence, their essence, their very beings, in order to welcome strangers, in order to soothe with the angry mob outside his house. There are those who say that his daughters returned him an eye for an eye, so to speak, that when he was lying drunk and naked in the cave outside of Sodom, they raped him night after night in order to generate his offspring.  There is nothing sicker and more perverted than their actions, since as soon as the boundaries were blurred, so too were lost the distinctions between right and wrong, between permitted and forbidden, between the personal and the political – and as soon as everything was permitted to everyone, their actions could be justified within the text, too. Only their mother, who...

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Mother-son learning in memory of Rabin, I mean Rachel

I spent the anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination at a mother-son learning event at my son’s yeshivah. Well, it wasn’t officially a Rabin memorial event; it was more like the not-Rabin event. It was advertised as an evening to commemorate the yahrtzeit of Rachel — the matriarch, not the poet.Yes, she’s been dead a long time, much longer than Rabin, and for most of those three millennia or so since her demise, her yahrtzeit has gone unnoticed. But seeing as it coincides with the Rabin thing, religious educational institutions in Israel have suddenly rediscovered her, finding in her a wonderful way to assemble the masses without having to make a statement one way or the other about their position on Rabin, Yigal Amir, or the intersection of politics and religion in Israel. When my son texted that he actually wanted me to come to this event (he knows about my poor attendance record at these kinds of things), I was actually quite excited. Not so much about memorializing Rachel, but about the fact that my son wanted to be seen in public with me. That’s a coup in the world of parenting teens. Actually, the truth is that I love learning Torah with my children, and was really happy that he considered this a welcome opportunity to study some Jewish sources together. Plus, I should be supportive of the fact that the school recognized mothers at all, celebrating our minds and not just our baking skills. That’s a good thing, and he was right that we should go. But the fact that it was on Rabin’s Memorial Day was not really part of the discussion. Read more: Mother and Son by Stephen Armstrong. Go to for more info.

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