Sivan 5784 Divrei Matir Asurim

Sivan 5784 COMPLETE STRAIGHT TEXT Divrei Matir Asurim (for easier copying to email)

Sivan 5784 COMPLETE FORMATTED Divrei Matir Asurim (formatted for printing or reading on-line)

This Divrei Matir Asurim is part of a continuing experiment in inside/outside communications. This material is available in three formats: straight text for copying into emails; formatted text for copying/printing for postal mail; and on-line in hypertext (with some internet links for those who can access them, below). Please share Divrei Matir Asurim, in whole or part, with interested inside readers.

Inside readers, please send responses to news shared here, additional thoughts on MA operations, or Torah Explorations: through outside MA pen pal, if you have one; through postal mail directly to: Matir Asurim, PO Box 18858. Philadelphia, PA 19119; or by emailing To contact the editor, email ethreporter at gmail.

Jump to Torah ExplorationsGuiding Concepts

Jump to Torah ExplorationsJeremiah’s Trees

Jump to Torah ExplorationsWhat is Torah

Matir Asurim Organizational News

Recent Meeting News

Matir Asurim held a Core Organizing meeting on May 12. Topics included a grant application plus working group reports and administrative planning.

Rise Up Initiative Grant Process:

Nurturing the Soul of Jewish Justice was founded in 2019. The fund “supports and strengthens work that integrates deep Jewish practice, centers the margins, and takes progressive action for social change.”

MA was invited to apply for a grant this year. A small working group responded with the requested “Letter of Interest” and then met with Rise Up staff. All draft materials were shared with outside members as they were created.

Discussion looked ahead, with questions about how to manage if the grant was received:

  • supervising anyone hired through the grant;
  • making financial and progress reports;
  • using resources to build the organization for the long-term.

The group agreed unanimously to go ahead with the grant process.

Administrative Issues:

Three planning items were assigned at the March meeting:

  • a new system for handing off work from one member to another; postponed until June at the May meeting.
  • outside members directory, with phone tree or group, and crisis response process; discussed in May, but no exact plan in place, and MA is still working on how to communicate with inside members.
  • helping new outside members get involved; new plan approved at the June meeting:

1) longer-term members will trade days for reading the general MA email, and responding to any queries;

2) new email addresses will be set up for working groups, so new people can be directed to the right group — penpal, resources, operations, etc. — for their interest.

Team, Working Group, Other News

Operations (Finance, Fundraising, and Communications):The umbrella organization (Social Good) managing MA funds asked for additional information about expenses sent to individuals. The working group is arranging for additional paperwork explaining process involved.

This working group is also preparing to send new (approved in January) “Guiding Concepts” to inside readers for approval — either with the next Resource mailing or in a separate mailing.

Hubs: Seattle hub set up regional penpal work and will do an event in June.

Resources: This working group has experienced some delays in preparing planned “Judaism 101” materials. No mailing date yet.

Individual support: Reported food issues for Passover in two locations. Reported legal issues from several locations. MA is not currently equipped to respond to systemic issues but continues to monitor what we learn and consider how best to support inside members.

Member’s Note: Jewish Left Conflict Support Network. One member shared that this group is concerned with non-carceral approaches to harm and could be a possible partner in MA’s future work.


Post-Meeting UPDATES:

Rise Up application was filed on May 19. Response is expected by June 14.

Email addresses for the working groups were established, posted on website, and are being shared as queries come in regarding these groups. Process for checking in on the “network” email is underway.

Recent Loss to Execution: Jamie Mills, May 30 (Alabama)

Scheduled Executions:

June 11 (Missouri): David R. Hosler

June 26 (Texas): Ramiro Gonzales

June 27 (Oklahoma): Richard Norman Rojem Jr.

Share your prayer concerns, celebrations, and memorials for future editions. Contact info on page 1 (top of document)


Leaving Leviticus

The last portion of the Book of Leviticus is Bechukotai [In my laws] Lev 26:3 – 27:34. It was read on June 1 this year (2024). See the discussion on “All Israel Responsible One for Another,” based on a verse in this portion. Page 7 below.

See also the discussion of “Jeremiah’s Trees,” from the haftarah** for Bechukotai: Jeremiah 16:19-17:14. Page 8 below.

Schedule ofTorah/Haftarah Readings for Numbers/Bamidbar

Hebrew title [English]. Chapters: verse* Haftarah** Civic date. Hebrew date

Bamidbar[ In the Desert]. Num 1:1-4:20 Hosea 2:1-22 June 8. 2 Sivan

Nasso [Take a Census] Numbers 4:21 – 7:89 Judges 13:2-25 June 15. 9 Sivan

Beha’alotkha [When You Raise] 8:1-12:16 Zechariah 2:14-4:7 June 22. 16 Sivan

Shelakh [“Send”] 13:1-15:41 Joshua 2:2-24 June 29. 23 Sivan

Korach (name) 16:1-18:32 1 Sam 11:14-12-22 July 6. 30 Sivan

Chukat [“Law of”] 19:1-22:1 Judges 11:1-33 July 13 . 7 Tamuz

Balak (name) 22:2-25:9 Micah 5:6-6:8 July 20. 14 Tamuz

Pinchas (name) 25:10 – 30:1 1 Kings 18:46-19:21 July 27. 21 Tamuz

Matot [“Tribes”] 30:2-32:42 Jeremiah 1:1-2:3 Aug 3. 28 Tamuz

Masei [“Travels”] 33:1-36:13 Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4 Aug 3. 28 Tamuz

*Dates listed are for the Shabbat on which the portion is read. Where daily services are held, verses from the same portion are read on the Monday and Thursday before that Shabbat. These are listings for a full Torah reading each week, completing the Torah in one year. There is also a custom of splitting the Torah portion into three sections for the public reading; in the “triennial cycle,” the entire Torah cycle is completed each year, but only one-third of each portion is read aloud in any given year: the first year, section one; the next year, second two; the third year, section three.

**The haftarah [plural: haftarot] is a reading from the Prophets linked to each week’s Torah reading. This is a very old tradition, and verses vary a little across communities. These are Ashkenazi listings, based on completing the full Torah in one year, the most common practice in the US and Canada. Sephardic, Yemeni, and some other customs vary from the above. In addition, some communities use alternate readings to match the triennial [three-year] reading cycle, lifting up a theme from the section read that year. A few Jewish communities choose another reading entirely for philosophical reasons.


This section of Divrei Matir Asurim is taken from this website page.

Follow links on the About Matir Asurim page to learn more about the six Guiding Concepts in Jewish thought.


A famous passage in the Book of Jeremiah speaks of two plants:

  • a “bush in the desert that doesn’t sense the coming of good” and
  • a “tree planted by waters…that does not sense the coming of heat.”

These images are offered to illustrate a curse for “the individual who trusts in mortals” and a blessing “for the individual who trusts in God” (Jer 17:6,8). And the images seem pretty unchangeable:

The bush in the desert

The one who turns away from God seems in a terrible, lonely spot, like a “bush in the desert”:

“He shall be like a bush in the desert,
Which does not sense the coming of good:
It is set in the scorched places of the wilderness,
In a barren land without inhabitant”. — Jer 17:6

Image description: scrub bush, alone in the sand. credit: Benmansour Zakaria via

The tree by the waters

The one who trusts God seems to be set for the long-term:

“He shall be like a tree planted by waters,
Sending forth its roots by a stream:
It does not sense the coming of heat,
Its leaves are ever fresh;
It has no care in a year of drought,
It does not cease to yield fruit. “– Jer 17:8

Image description: Tree, with many vibrant leaves, near, flowing rocky creek.
credit: V. Spatz, taken in Deanwood neighborhood of Washington, DC (2017-ish)]

Jeremiah’s separate bush and tree images might suggest that everyone is stuck with their own situation, reaping rewards for choosing God or left to overcome our own desolation for choosing wrongly.

But are we really meant to enjoy or struggle all alone?

Like a lot of the Book of Jeremiah, the ideas in this passage flip between extreme threats and promises. The People are warned to give up on “lies, no-gods, and things that are futile and worthless” (Jer 16:19) — or else. They’re also told there are many resources for people who seek divine guidance, from the “Fount of living waters [m’kor mayim chayyim]” (17:13).

Maybe Jeremiah believed that individuals can somehow turn, on our own, from “futile things” to trusting God. And that, with divine assistance, we can then move — as individuals — from curse to blessing. Or maybe Jeremiah didn’t see individuals as separate from community. In either case, later Jewish tradition leans heavily toward communal experience, collective prayer, and joint responsibility…. See also note above on how the last Torah portion in Leviticus is used to teach that Jews are responsible for each other….

The haftarah passage (Jer 16:19-17:14) concludes with a prayer:

“Heal me, Eternal One, and I will be healed;
save me, and I will be saved. For You are my glory” — Jer. 17:14

This prayer suggests the possibility of change.

The passage doesn’t spell out exactly how change is supposed to happen, just the prayer: “Heal me.”

But it’s important to note that this haftarah is scheduled to be read every year right before the festival of Shavuot.

  • Shavuot celebrates the giving of Torah.
  • Torah is linked to water in Jewish tradition.
  • That Fount of Living Waters is part of the healing work.

We know that “scorched places in the wilderness,” without anyone around, are harsh spots in which to pursue healing. Meanwhile, we know that some people in Jeremiah’s vision have access to water and fruit. But Jeremiah’s language hints at how change might begin:

The bush in the desert

The bush is shakhan — forced to settle

chareirim…m’leichah — scorched and salty places

after yasur — departing from, turning aside — from God.

The bush ends up bamidbar — in the wilderness
— which can also mean “in the words.”

The tree by the waters

The tree is shatul — planted or transplanted

al mayim v’al-yuval — near water and streams

after yivtach — trusting, lying down in front ofGod.

The tree sends out sharashav — its roots — the same term used for plants and words.

The bush seems an accidental location arrived at when someone loses the way. Maybe lost in a mess of words without any sense of purpose or meaning.

The tree, on the other hand, is carefully placed in a spot where it can thrive. It has the opportunity to send out roots and find what is needed.

The festival of Shavuot brings us all together — in spirit, if not in physical gathering — in the giving of Torah. If we share the bits of Torah that we have, we can contribute to something larger. Learn. Make connections. Building together toward a better world.

As a whole, this haftarah suggests that there is abundance, and there is great need. Too many among us are forced to settle in scorched and salty places, where survival is a struggle and words are not enough. Those of us with fewer barriers to places where our roots can find fresh water have to do better at making sure that we ALL (re-)connect with the Fount of living waters.


by Laynie Soloman and Sarit Cantor. From the 2022 (5782) Shavuot Holiday Mailer (Full Shavuot Holiday Mailer)

In Hebrew, all words have three-letter roots. The word Torah comes from the Hebrew root yod (י), reish (ר), yod (י). When we put those letters into combinations with different sounds (vowels), the root takes on a new meaning, but still preserves some aspect of its core. You can think of these different vowels as outfits, helping the root come to life in a new place or context.

The following is a selection of dictionary entries that show the root yod, reish, yod and Torah’s various verbal outfits. The italicized words are definitions. You don’t need to know anything about Hebrew or roots beyond this to explore!

תֹורָה / TORAH noun f. 1) teaching, law; in general- the Jewish law, Religion.2) definition, designation; character, nature.

ירי , יָרָה / YOD RESH HAY, verb. 1) to permeate, penetrate; to shoot forth.2) to throw, shoot.

הֹורָה / HORAH Causative form (i.e., “to cause to ____”) 1) to permeate.
2) to point, aim, shoot, cast. 3) to point out, to direct, teach, instruct, to decide.

Based on these definitions, how would you define Torah?

If we consider these definitions of Torah: to permeate, to point, to shoot forth, the essence of how we understand Torah can be so much more expansive than the scrolls we read from each week. If Torah is that which permeates, it is like our breath, our words, the air that surrounds us and holds us through each moment. If Torah is that which shoots forth, directs us, it is a compass, it is movement connected to internal knowing.