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Posted October 19, 2018 - 9:58am

Changing The Future

Parashat Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

At the beginning of our parashah we learn about the calling of a man named Abram. The LORD would eventually change his name to Abraham, but while he was still called Abram, the Creator of the Universe summoned him out from among his people and into His service. He immediately left a city named Haran and headed toward Canaan, the land God would eventually give to him and his descendants. When he reach Canaan, however, the Torah details Abram’s encampments, naming them individually beginning with Shechem, as it says, “Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh” (Genesis 12:6). Ramban (Nachmanides) takes note of this and asks why the Torah records these encampments. He answers his own question by saying the Torah is teaching us a valuable lesson. It is a principle of the Torah which states, ma’asei avot siman l’banim, “The deeds of the fathers are portents / signs for the children.”

Abraham—the father of the Israelite nation and the father of faith to all who believe—set the pattern for those who would come after him. His actions set in motion this spiritual principle. Everything he did became a blueprint for both his natural children and his spiritual children. We can see this principle being played out in the lives of Abraham’s children and grandchildren. Both Isaac and Jacob often retrace the steps of Abraham and imitate his actions. For instance, when Abraham settles in the land of the Philistines, he tells Abimelech that Sarah is his sister and the king takes her for himself. When Isaac journeys to the same area he repeats this same ruse with Rebecca with the same results.

Posted September 28, 2018 - 7:25am

Imitating God

Parashat Vezot ha'Brachah (Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12)

A fundamental concept within Judaism is that we are to imitate God in certain ways. This concept is known as imitatio Dei, or imitation of the Divine. We can see this pattern in several places in the Scriptures, but one of the most explicit is Leviticus 19:2. It says, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” We imitate Hashem’s holiness, His uniqueness, when we imitate His deeds. 

For example, we read about God clothing Adam and Eve in their nakedness. Just as God clothes the naked, so should we give clothes to those who need them. We see the LORD sending three angels to visit Abraham immediately after his circumcision (Genesis 17–18). Just as God visits the sick, so should his children visit those who are ill. Just as Hashem watches over the orphan, the widow, and the sojourner, we are to do likewise (Deuteronomy 10:18–19). Just as Hashem ceased from His own labors and rested on the Sabbath, we are to do likewise (Exodus 20:10–11). This week’s parashah gives us another insight into how we can imitate God.

When it was time for Moses to take his final retirement, God was compassionate toward Moses. When Moses died, Hashem took the responsibility to bury him:

So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD, and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day. (Deuteronomy 34:5–6)

Posted September 21, 2018 - 6:59am

The Torah And The Resurrection

Parashat Ha'azinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52)

In the days of our Master Yeshua, the Pharisees and the Sadducees debated the certainty of the resurrection. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, whereas the Sadducees rejected this concept. The reason for the debate was that the Torah does not explicitly mention any kind of resurrection. However, passages within the Torah seem to point to a resurrection. A few of these passages are found within the last two Torah portions. Last week we read:

And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. (Deuteronomy 31:16)

The allusion in this passage is not obvious in our English translations. However, it is more pronounced in the Hebrew. In English, we read, “You are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise …” There are two separate thoughts: one regarding the death of Moses and the other about what the Children of Israel will do after his death. In Hebrew, however, we can read the first part of this as a single thought: Shocheiv im avoteicha v’kam, “You will lie down with your fathers and arise.” This alternate reading is put forth by Ibn Ezra and others. It is supported by the fact that the Hebrew word for the phrase, “and arise” (וְקָם), is in the singular and can refer back to Moses. This reading doesn’t supersede the literal reading of the passage, but it is an additional insight we can derive from it.

Another passage that supports the concept of a resurrection is in this week’s reading. Toward the end of the Song of Moses, we read:

Posted September 14, 2018 - 8:30am

Torah For The Nations

Parashat Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30)

Parashat Vayelech is a single chapter merely thirty verses in length. It’s primary focus is the transfer of leadership from Moses to Joshua. Moses commissions Joshua in the site of the entire nation and tells him to be “strong and courageous” as he leads the Children of Israel into the land God has promised to them. He also hands the Torah over to the Levites and instructs them to read the Torah in the presence of all the people during the festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles) at the end of the Shemitah, the seventh year of release. He gives specific instructions for who should hear and learn the Torah during this time:

Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. (Deuteronomy 31:12–13)

We see something curious in these instructions, however. Not only are the native Israelites supposed to hear the Torah being read and taught, but they are also supposed to gather in the sojourner to hear it as well. Even more shocking is that they are to do so “that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law” (v. 12). What does this mean?

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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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