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Posted February 15, 2019 - 10:13am
Parashat Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10)

Parashat Tetzaveh is unique from all of the other Torah portions from the beginning of Exodus to the end of Numbers in an unusual way. How so? The name of Moses is curiously missing from the text. In every other portion we hear his name mentioned at least once, if not multiple times. This week, however, the Torah is silent when it comes to actually naming Moses. Why is this the case?

There are several theories as to why this Torah portion does not mention the name of Moses. The predominant theory connects this week’s Torah portion to the major event that happens in our next reading, Parashat Ki Tisa. What is this? The sin of the golden calf. While Moses was still up on Mt. Sinai receiving the Torah from Hashem, the Israelites forced Aaron to make an idol they could worship. The LORD revealed to him what was going on in the camp and told Moses that He was going to destroy the entire nation and start over with him:

I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you. (Exodus 32:9–10)

Moses quickly made his way down the mountain to intervene on behalf of the Children of Israel. He pleaded with the LORD to not destroy them. He went so far as saying that if Hashem blotted them out then his name should be blotted out also:

Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written. (Exodus 32:31–32)

Posted February 8, 2019 - 3:22pm
Parashat Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

This week’s Torah portion begins with a request from Hashem for materials to use in the construction of the Mishkan, the Holy Tabernacle. It continues with detailed instructions for how the Tabernacle and its furnishings should be made. One of these furnishings was central to the Tabernacle. It was the Aron, the Holy Ark, about which Hashem instructed Moses, “You shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you” (Exodus 25:16). He gave Moses specific instructions for making the Ark, saying:

They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. (Exodus 25:10–11)

The Ark was made of three parts. There was an inside box made of pure gold, a middle box made of acacia wood, and an outer box made of pure gold. All three of these came together to make a single unit. It makes sense for the wood to be covered with gold on the outside, but why does it need to be completely encased in gold? Why does the inside of the Ark, something that will almost never been seen by any human being, need to be made of pure gold? On a spiritual level, we can learn a very important lesson from the this.

Our sages tell us that the Ark is a reflection of what a person should be. Just as the ark is the same on the inside as it is on the outside, so must a person also be. Our inward character should not be different than how we present ourselves outwardly. This was the primary criticism Yeshua had against some of the Pharisees of his day:

Posted February 1, 2019 - 11:54am

Parashat Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:18)

Both the Gospels of Matthew and Mark record Yeshua’s encounter with a Gentile woman who had come to him begging that he exorcise a demon from her daughter. With our modern, egalitarian perception of Yeshua we would think that he would immediately have compassion on this unfortunate girl and agree to help. However, the Gospels record for us what may be the Master’s most shocking response to our Western ears. He told the woman, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:26).

What? Did he really say that? Why did Yeshua make this seemingly racist statement against this poor Gentile woman who was begging for his help? How do we deal with this? Some people would like to censor Yeshua’s words, while others would like to claim that some Gentile-phobic Jewish editor slipped that into the text shortly after it was written. This passage is definitely a stumbling block for people considering faith in Yeshua. In a time when we are being told to “unhitch” ourselves from the Jewish Scriptures and the Jewish foundations of our faith this passage can add fuel to the fire.

Is it really reasonable for Gentiles to be called dogs by religious Jews of Yeshua’s day, and even by Yeshua himself? Where does this idea stem from? If we look at this week’s Torah portion we can see its origin. At the end of Exodus 22 we read this:

You shall be consecrated to me. Therefore you shall not eat any flesh that is torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs. (Exodus 22:30[31])

Commenting on this verse, Rashi interprets this to mean that torn flesh may be given to a Gentile. But how does he (and other commentators) come to this conclusion of equating Gentiles with dogs in this passage. The question is easily answered when we turn to Deuteronomy and see almost the exact same language:

Posted January 25, 2019 - 11:57am

A Pentecostal Experience

Parshat Yitro (Exodus 18:1-20:23)

We are all familiar with what took place in Acts 2. After Yeshua’s resurrection he instructed his disciples to remain in Jerusalem so that they would be filled with the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4–8). Here’s the account of how it happened:

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1–4)

Yeshua’s disciples encountered the Spirit of Hashem in a powerful way that not only transformed their lives but also empowered them to boldly proclaim the good news of Yeshua’s coming Kingdom. But what does this event that happened during the lives of the Apostles have to do with our current Torah portion? Parashat Yitro records for us the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, particularly the “Big Ten” of the 613 commandments. It tells us how God revealed Himself to an entire nation at once:

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off.” (Exodus 20:15[18])

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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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