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                                                 Michael Rothberg

LOS ANGELES --- On Thursday, March 14, at 4 p.m., UCLA will host Michael Rothberg at the UCLA Faculty Center. Rothberg will discuss “Unexpected Itineraries: Holocaust Testimony beyond Borders.”

The event is hosted by The Annual 1939 Society Lecture in Holocaust Studies. This talk will discuss the trajectories of three women who survived the Holocaust and went on to bear witness to their experiences in various media: from oral and written testimonies to film and music.

Charlotte Delbo, Marceline Loridan-Ivens, and Esther Bejarano came from different backgrounds and led very different lives, but they all followed “unexpected itineraries” that took them across borders and put them in touch with some of the burning social and political issues of the postwar world. In considering these women’s acts of witness, this account will emphasize the creativity and resilience that characterize their lives after Auschwitz.

Moderator of this event is Sarah Abrevaya Stein. The event is sponsored by the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and
cosponsored by the UCLA Department of Germanic Languages, UCLA Department of History, and UCLA Department of English

Pre-registration required. To RSVP, please email or call (310) 267-5327.
(Editorial Correction)


LOS ANGELES – Mark Leuchter (Temple University) undertakes an exploration on How Moses Became a Levite on Tuesday, March 5, 12 p.m., UCLA 314 Royce Hall.

The Temple University professor will join Bible and Its Interpreters Seminar Series in this undertaking. The Bible presents Moses as Israel's prophet par excellence and among the most prominent members of the Israelite tribe of Levi. But how does this picture of Moses square with actual history? How did the memory of an early Transjordanian holy man become part of a priestly tradition in ancient Israel? Answering these (and other) questions requires rethinking not only the biblical sources but how warfare, economics, and politics led to different corners of Israelite society "claiming" Moses for themselves...including the Levites.  

Moderator is William Schniedewind. Sponsored by the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies. Cosponsored by the UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages  & Cultures, UCLA Center for the Study of Religion, UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies

Pre-registration is required. To RSVP please email or call (310) 267-5327.




Q. In the remarkable array of laws in this parashah, the odd man out deals with the food we eat (Ex. 22:30).  In this statement of kashrut, like other such instances in the Torah, the text uses the language of sanctity: “You shall be holy people to Me”.

Two questions – what are food laws doing in a code of civil and criminal law, and why all of a sudden a reference to holiness?

The answer to the first question is that in Judaism there is no line of demarcation between one type of law and another. Eating is part of life and so are justice and honesty; relating properly to human beings is part of religion and so is relating to the Creator.

The second question requires us to look at the purpose of the Torah way of life. Unlike some other systems, it does not simply seek to make us civilised; it wants us to be holy. It is not just interested in good order and government; it wants us to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). Being civilised is already an achievement: being holy gives a higher motivation for obedience – answerability to God. It also ensures that we see the sacred in every person, place, moment and challenge.

Maybe that is why the portion begins (Ex. 21:2) with the rules relating to servants.  Hard on the heels of the Exodus which brought us from slavery to freedom we learn that servants are also made in the image of God, a concept that was lacking when we were slaves in Egypt, part of a civilisation that oppressed others because it was civilised but not holy.


Mishpatim doesn’t come where it does in the Book of Exodus just by chance. It follows the Ten Commandments which lay down the basic rules of human dignity.  Not long before this, there is a series of chapters about the era of Egyptian bondage, describing the experiences of the Children of Israel when Egypt tried to deny them their human rights as Children of the Creator.

The enslavement showed the spirit of the Israelite people, who had decided spontaneously that no taskmaster was going to turn them into unthinking clones of a callous regime. Having lived through that period, Israel was ready for its protest against human debasement to be turned into a universal code, much of which can be regarded as an unapologetic Jewish response to the teaching of Aristotle that in the nature of things the world was divided into those who were meant to be masters and those who were meant to be slaves.

The Torah says that even those who thought they were masters were answerable to a higher Master, and even those who thought they were slaves were only bondmen, who, deprived economically, sold themselves for a set period and were thereafter entitled to their freedom.

The Talmud championed the rights of the bondmen, saying that they had to be treated like their masters – “If you eat white bread they must not be given black, if you drink wine they must not be given water, and if you sleep on a feather bed they must not lie down on straw”. When a bondman’s time of release arrived he had to be loaded with farewell gifts.  In 19th century America Rabbi Morris Raphall aroused great controversy when he argued that the Bible endorsed slavery, whilst actually the Biblical type of slavery was not the abject chattel-like existence of the American colored slaves.

In a sense “slavery” was entirely the wrong word to use to describe the Biblical bondman.

*More Next Week's Edition*

Dr. Raymond Apple, Jerusalem, Israel


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