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Posted August 10, 2018 - 6:58am

Erasing The Name

As we have seen many times previously, the Torah has many levels of understanding as well as application. This week’s portion is no exception. Toward the beginning of our reading we learn of the LORD’s command to the Israelites to obliterate the idols and the high places of the Canaanites when they enter the land given to their ancestors:

These are the statutes and rules that you shall be careful to do in the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way. (Deuteronomy 12:1–4)

Without an understanding that these commandments are for a specific time, a specific place, and a specific people, there are some who may think these instructions equally apply to those of us today living in the United States or other lands in the Diaspora. In their zeal against false gods, they may use these instructions to justify violent and destructive behavior against other religious depictions or practices. However, since these commandments do not have universal application but are relevant only a specific time, place, and people, how can we find any application for us today?

Posted August 3, 2018 - 6:55am

The Second Coming of Torah

Sometimes we wonder why things happen the way they do. Why do things have to go terribly wrong before they can be made right? Why do things have to break before we tend to them the way we should have in the first place? In this week’s parashah we are reminded of this very fact. As Moses is recounting to the Israelites the various events leading up to their present situation, he recalls the story of the original giving of the Asaret Had’varim, the Ten Sayings (also known as the Ten Commandments):

At that time the LORD said to me, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to me on the mountain and make an ark of wood. And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets that you broke, and you shall put them in the ark.” So I made an ark of acacia wood, and cut two tablets of stone like the first, and went up the mountain with the two tablets in my hand. And he wrote on the tablets, in the same writing as before, the Ten Commandments that the LORD had spoken to you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. And the LORD gave them to me. Then I turned and came down from the mountain and put the tablets in the ark that I had made. And there they are, as the LORD commanded me. (Deuteronomy 10:1–5)

Posted July 27, 2018 - 7:14am

Shining The Light Of Torah

When most people think of “the Law of Moses,” they don’t get warm fuzzies. But God’s people shouldn’t be most people. According to this week’s Torah portion, God’s people should be the exception to the rule, and should have a connection with the Torah deep within our hearts. Through Moses, God told the Children of Israel that when they took His commandments seriously and lived them out, the nations would recognize this and praise God:

See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today? (Deuteronomy 4:5–8)

Yeshua alludes to this in the Sermon on the Mount when he commissioned his disciples (past, presence, and future) to live a life that exemplifies a Torah-centric life:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14–16)

Posted July 20, 2018 - 9:24am

Can Justice Truly Be Blind?

The book of Devarim (Deuteronomy) is often called Mishneh Torah, or the “second law,” due to it’s repetition of many of the things already expressed within the first four books of Torah. However, it does not merely recount the same events and dialogues, but adds detail and clarification to the previous events. When recalling the appointment of judges Moses gives a detail not found previously in the Torah:

You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God's. (Deuteronomy 1:17)

Yes, there are several instances prior to this that address the issue of being impartial in judgment, such as Leviticus 19:15, “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.” But until now we haven’t been exposed to this specific language. What are “the small and the great”? Are they small and great cases, or small and great people? The Torah does not specify, so it is left up to interpretation. Both Rashi and Targum Onkelos understand it to mean small and great people. Judges are not to show favoritism among litigants.

Judging with impartiality is crucial to a fair and legitimate system of justice. Even the popular image of Lady Justice, the personification of justice, bears a blindfold in many instances to represent this basic requirement expected of those in seats of judgment. Yeshua taught, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).

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Latest Book Review

The Magerman Edition

Author: Daniel Rose & Jay Goldmintz
Publisher: Koren Publishers
Year: 2014

The Koren Ani Tefilla Siddur is one of the latest in Koren’s growing collection of siddurim (prayer books) geared towards a specific demographic. Koren describes Ani Tefilla as “an engaging and thought-provoking siddur for the inquiring high school student and thoughtful adult.” Koren says that Ani Tefillah has been developed in order “to help the user create their own meaning and connection during the Tefilla [prayer] experience.” The name of the siddur is connected with its objective. Ani Tefilla means “I pray.” 

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