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May 16, 2003 - Image 59

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-05-16

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Torah Portion

Fulfilling The Torah's Mitzvot
Limits The Desire To Acquire

coax out additional productivity. As
much as any farmer might want to have
the best of all crops, it was not allowed.
Just as we must stop acquiring every
seven days as we rest on Shabbat, so
were we told to stop trying to better the
land once every seven years.
any of us spend much of
Similarly, every 50th year was to be a
our time acquiring
Jubilee year. Again the people were not
things. Homes, cars, elec-
allowed to work the land. For two entire
tronic devices, exotic
years (the 49th Sabbatical year and the
vacations and clothes are only a few of
50th Jubilee year, it was commanded
the must-haves.
that the land lay fallow. Imagine how
From our earliest years, we are taught
this might have affected the entrepre-
by example and by the media that we ,
neurial farmer of old. Moreover the
must acquire the newest and the best of
Torah adds that during this Jubilee year,
whatever is out there. It is hard to hold
any land must be returned to
back. We even see this drive to
its original owner.
acquire in the habits of young
People could acquire the
land of others for no more than
This behavior is not new.
49 years. Why?
People have wanted what they
The Torah tells us that the
do not have since ancient
acquisition of "stuff" is not the
times. The prohibition against
inalienable right of human
coveting is, after all, one of the
beings. "But the land must not
Ten Commandments.. In the
be sold beyond reclaim, for the
first few chapters of Genesis,
land is Mine; you are but
Adam and Eve are already
resident with Me"
grabbing for the fruit of the
(Verse 23). -
Special to the
tree that is supposed to be
In the succeeding verses, the
beyond their reach. People
Jewish News
Torah outlines some of the
seem to be naturally driven to
details concerning returning "
have more and to be more.
property during the Jubilee year and
One might even make the case that
then adds that Jews sold into slavery for
much of human history is a function of
indebtedness must also be released at this
this need. This lack of complacency can
time. People cannot be exploited indefi-
have an important place in our lives —
nitely, whether they are willing slaves or
but like many other drives, it must be
not. "For they are My servants, whom I
held in check. The desire to improve
freed from the land of Egypt; they may
one's lot should not be allowed to turn
not give themselves over into servitude.
into self-indulgence or worse, self-better-
"You shall not rule over them ruthlessly;
ment at the expense of others.
you shall fear your God." (Verses 42-43)
The Torah knows that simply telling
Ben Zoma teaches us in the fourth
us not to covet is not sufficient. This is a
of the Ethics of the Fathers, "Who
hard commandment to obey. As a result
is rich? One who rejoices in one's por-
several other mitzvot were given to the
tion." This is indeed a very difficult
people of Israel to help balance the need
maxim to carry out. It is so difficult that
to acquire with the commandment to be
when the Torah begins to outline the
satisfied with one's own possessions.
details of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years
These mitzvot are delineated in Chapter
in Verse 1, Moses reminds us that these
25 of Leviticus.
rules concerning "stuff" were given on
The chapter begins by telling us that
Mount Sinai. These mitzvot were not
every seven years, the land deserves its
afterthoughts but part of God's original
Sabbath. For an entire year, known as
communication with Moses and the
the Sabbatical year, the people of Israel
Jewish people. ❑
were not allowed to work the land. They
could eat what the land naturally pro-
duced but they could not cultivate it to

Shabbat Behar:
Leviticus 25:1-26•2;
Jeremiah 32:6-27.


Mitch Parker, Ph.D., is a psychologist
in private practice and an instructor at
the Florence Melton Adult Mini School.

Discuss some of the ways "stuff"
rules our lives and what we can
do to shift this emphasis.

Jewry's Role in
Human Affairs

Broadway and Hollywood may never again see the likes of the gifted
Jewish composers of musicals whose names have blazed from the marquee
and the screen. Some of the earlier greats were Kurt Weill who gave us
The Three Penny Opera and Street Scene, and Richard Rodgers of
Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The Sound of Music and The King and
I fame. Frederick Loewe produced My Fair Lady, Gigi and Camelot with
lyricist Alan Jay Lerner, while Harold Arlen scored magical music for
The Wizard of Oz and A Star is Born.
Others were Jule Styne who sired such masterworks as Gentlemen
Prefer Blondes, Gypsy and Funny Girl, and Frank Loesser whose
endearing Guys and Dolls and Most Happy Fella topped his ten major
productions. Also included are Jerry Bock, the Broadway triple crown and
Pulitzer Prize winner best known for Fiddler on the Roof, as well as
Stephen Sondheim, the lyricist-composer in spirited form with A Little
Night Music and Sweeney Todd. SRO audiences have equally hailed:
(1898-1937) b. Brooklyn, NY The opening bars
of Rhapsody in Blue recall to most jazz and blues
fanciers the genius of the composer who enriched
the standards of popular music here and abroad.
The songs of George Gershwin became much of
the basis of jazz improvisation: a large body of
work during a short lifespan that produced other
instrumental classics like the Concerto in F and
An American in Paris. One of the most talented and significant of all
American composers began studying the piano at age twelve, and within
four years launched his professional career as a Tin Pan Alley song
plugger. Success came soon after when his tune, "Swanee," became a
show-stopper sung by Al Jolson.
Moving on to musical reviews and comedies, Gershwin's fame
grew at scoring La La Lucille in 1919 and George White's Scandals. (1920-
24)--followed by such stage hits as Lady Be Good!, Strike Up the Band,
Funny Face and Of Thee I Sing, a musical satire and first such production
to win a Pulitzer Prize. His interest in larger-scale compositions with
dominant rhythmic and melodic patterns derived from jazz was satisfied
when commissioned by conductor Paul Whiteman to write his Rhapsody.
Creating an American folk opera was yet another goal reached by the
immensely popular Porgy and Bess, Gershwin's last major work before
dying of a brain "tumor two years later. The lyrics of many of his most
celebrated songs were written by his brother, Ira Gershwin (1896-1983).
(1888-1989) b. Mogilyov, Russia The most
prolific songwriter in U.S. history laid a
permanent foundation for popular American song.
Rising from poverty on the sidewalks of New
York, Berlin wrote more than 1,500 songs (lyrics
as well) for thirty stage and seventeen film
productions during better than a half century. The
landmark "Alexander's Ragtime Band" sold more
than two million copies by 1915 and propelled him to fame. "I'm Dreaming
of a White Christmas" and "Easter Parade" enlarged that fame decades
later. And "God Bless America," the patriotic song that singer Kate Smith
urged him to write, became our country's unofficial national anthem,
earning Berlin a special gold medal from President Eisenhower.
The former singing waiter who never learned to read music
composed most of his.works primarily on an upright piano's black keys--
with an outpouring of appealing tunes that helped shape the course of early
American ragtime and jazz. What followed was almost legendary: songs
contributed to several editions of the Ziegfeld Follies reviews; his first full
score for Watch Your Step which introduced dancers Vernon and Irene
Castle (1914); and The Cocoanuts, a 1924 musical comedy featuring the
Marx Brothers. Berlin went on to write stage standards such as This Is the
Army, Easter Parade, Annie Get Your Gun, Call Me Madam and Mr.
His best known movies include Top Hat, Holiday Inn and While
Christmas. Said Jerome Kern: "Berlin has no place in American music.
He is American music."
Saul Stadtmauer
Walter & Lea Field, Founders/Sponsors
Irwin S. Field, Chairperson
Harriet F. Siden, Chairperson
Visit many more notable Jews at our website: www.dorledor.org



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