Introduction to AJWS' Rabbinical Student Delegation Service Learning

 

Exodus 3:2-4

Translation Original
An angel of Adonai appeared to [Moses] in a blazing fire out of a bush. He gazed, and there was a bush all aflame, yet the bush was not consumed. Moses said, “I must turn aside to look at this marvelous sight, why doesn’t the bush burn up?” When Adonai saw that he had turned aside to look, God called to him out of the bush: “Moses! Moses! He answered, “Here I am.” [JPS translation] וַיֵּרָא מַלְאַךְ ה' אֵלָיו בְּלַבַּת אֵשׁ מִתּוֹךְ הַסְּנֶה וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה הַסְּנֶה בֹּעֵר בָּאֵשׁ וְהַסְּנֶה אֵינֶנּוּ אֻכָּל: וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה--אָסֻרָה-נָּא וְאֶרְאֶה, אֶת-הַמַּרְאֶה הַגָּדֹל הַזֶּה: מַדּוּעַ, לֹא-יִבְעַר הַסְּנֶה. וַיַּרְא יְהוָה, כִּי סָר לִרְאוֹת; וַיִּקְרָא אֵלָיו אֱלֹהִים מִתּוֹךְ הַסְּנֶה, וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה מֹשֶׁה--וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּנִי.

Suggested Discussion Questions

1.What is the significance of ‘turning aside’ for Moses? For God? For us?
2. In your own life, what processes do you go through in order to sensitize yourself to perceive realities of the world around you?


Ramban, Exodus 3:2-4

Translation Original
Our sages intended to say that from the beginning, [both the angel] Michael and the Divine presence (K’vod haShechinah) appeared to him, but Moses didn’t see the Divine presence because he hadn’t prepared his heart for prophecy. When he inclined his heart and turned to see, the appearance of the Divine was revealed to him and God called to him from the midst of the bush. נתכוונו לומר שמתחלה נראה אליו מיכאל ושם כבוד השכינה, והוא לא ראה הכבוד כי לא הכין דעתו לנבואה, וכאשר כיון לבו וסר לראות נתגלה אליו מראה השכינה ויקרא אליו אלהים מתוך הסנה.

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. In Ramban’s reading of Exodus 3:2, the presence of God was there from the beginning, but Moses couldn’t see it because he hadn’t “prepared his heart for prophecy”. What do you imagine Moses did to prepare his heart to see the burning bush?


BabylonianTalmud, Baba Metzia 71a

Translation Original
R. Joseph learnt: "If you lend money to any of my people that are poor with you" [this teaches, if the choice lies between] a Jew and a non-Jew, a Jew has preference; the poor or the rich the poor takes precedence; your poor [i.e. your relatives] and the [general] poor of your town, your poor come first; the poor of your city and the poor of another town the poor of your own town have prior rights. [Soncino translation] דתני רב יוסף (שמות כ"ב) אם כסף תלוה את עמי את העני עמך, עמי ונכרי - עמי קודם, עני ועשיר - עני קודם, ענייך ועניי עירך - ענייך קודמין, עניי עירך ועניי עיר אחרת - עניי עירך קודמין.

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. What causes us to attend to the needs of some over the needs of others?
2. How do both acknowledge that we prioritize our giving and at the same time work to end all hardship?


BabylonianTalmud, Gittin 61a

Translation Original
Our Rabbis taught: We sustain the non-Jewish poor with the Jewish poor, visit the non-Jewish sick with the Jewish sick, and bury the non-Jewish dead with the Jewish dead, for the sake of peace. [AJWS translation] ת"ר: מפרנסים עניי נכרים עם עניי ישראל, ומבקרין חולי נכרים עם חולי ישראל, וקוברין מתי נכרים עם מתי ישראל, מפני דרכי שלום.

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. What does the "for the sake of peace" mean? Can we talk about peace as positive, not as self-serving?
2. How do we reconcile this text with the common tendency to care for our own first?


BabylonianTalmud, Baba Batra 10a

Translation Original
R. Meir used to say: The critic [of Judaism] may bring against you the argument, ‘If your God loves the poor, why does God not support them?’ If so, answer him, ‘So that through them we may be saved from the punishment of Gehinnom [Hell].’ [Hartman translation] היה רבי מאיר אומר, יש לו לבעל הדין להשיבך ולומר לך: אם אלהיכם אוהב עניים הוא, מפני מה אינו מפרנסן? אמור לו: כדי שניצול אנו בהן מדינה של גיהנם.

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. In what way do acts of justice help us?
2. What would our relationships with others be like if we expected God to provide for anyone who needed help?
3. From whose perspective is R. Meir speaking? Is it fair to assume that some will suffer so that others may save them? How does this affect our understanding of suffering?


Babylonian Talmud, Baba Batra 10a - 3

Translation Original
He [Rabbi Yehuda] used to say: Ten strong things were created in the world - A mountain is strong, but iron cuts through it. Iron is strong, but fire can make it bubble. Fire is strong, but water puts it out. Water is strong, but clouds contain it. Clouds are strong, but the wind can scatter them. Breath is strong, but the body holds it in. The body is strong, but fear breaks it. Fear is strong, but wine dissipates it effects. Wine is strong, but sleep overcomes its power. Death is stronger than all of them. But Tzedakah saves from death, as it is written, “And Tzedakah saves from death.” (Proverbs 10:2) [Translation by Danny Siegel] הוא היה אומר, עשרה דברים קשים נבראו בעולם: הר קשה - ברזל מחתכו, ברזל קשה - אור מפעפעו, אור קשה - מים מכבין אותו, מים קשים - עבים סובלים אותן, עבים קשים - רוח מפזרתן, רוח קשה - גוף סובלו, גוף קשה - פחד שוברו, פחד קשה - יין מפיגו, יין קשה - שינה מפכחתו, ומיתה קשה מכולם - [וצדקה מצלת מן המיתה], דכתיב: +משלי י'+ וצדקה תציל ממות.

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. How do we measure strength?
2. How does tzedakah save from death?