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Posted September 30, 2016 - 8:47am

This week’s Torah portion is a continuation of Moses’ adjuration to the Children of Israel to faithfully obey the instructions the LORD has given them in the form of the commandments. The Children of Israel are about to renew their covenant with the LORD before entering into the Promised Land. In the midst of this, Moses tells them:

The hidden [things] belong to the LORD our God, but the [things that are] revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this Torah. (Deuteronomy 29:28 [29])

Most commentators understand this passage to be speaking about various types of sins. The “hidden” are the types of sins in a person’s life that were done unwittingly, and have not been revealed to him yet. According to this interpretation, a person is not responsible for those sins. They are the LORD’s responsibility, as the Psalmist states, “Who can discern his errors? Cleanse me from hidden faults” (Psalm 19:13). Obvious sins—“revealed” ones—however, we are personally responsible for. We will be held accountable for these sins.

However, I would like to suggest an alternate interpretation. What are the hidden and the revealed? What if they are the responsibilities of the two beings that support and sustain the world: the responsibility of God and the responsibility of man? Maybe we should think of the hidden things as the under workings of Creation, the hidden components of physical existence. As we know, these are entirely in the hands of Hashem. We have no control over them. But the revealed things are something entirely different. These are the things that place the world’s existence into our own hands. According to Simeon the Righteous, there are three components of our responsibility to insure against the collapse of the world:

Posted September 29, 2016 - 7:27am

Rabbi Elazar said … Know before whom you toil; and know that your employer can be relied upon to pay you the wage of your labor. (m.Avot 2:19)

Before Whom you Toil

Life can sometimes take its toll on human beings. We often get caught up in the rat race of trying to stay afloat and miss out on life itself. There are so many distractions throughout our day that it is easy to lose site of what’s important. Sometimes the tug of social media pulls us away from our responsibilities and stifles our productivity. These distractions can easily steal our time, leaving us to wonder “What happened to my day?”

But what if your employer—or your client, for those of us who are self-employed—were watching over your shoulder throughout your work day? Would these distractions be as tempting as when you were left unattended? This is how we need to understand our mishnah. Rabbi Elazar tells us that we need to recognize before whom we are laboring. Although we may not see Him with our physical eyes, we should always be attentive to the fact of His presence. This is not only true for our occupational responsibilities, but should also be true for when we study Torah and labor for the Kingdom. These should all be as free from distraction and as productive as possible since the King of Kings is before us overseeing our labors.

Posted September 27, 2016 - 7:11am

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. (Matthew 13:10–13)

Why did Yeshua teach in parables? Why didn’t he just use plain language to explain what he wanted to say? Why did he have to use so many stories that seem so cryptic and puzzling? Did he want his listeners to understand his message, or was he masking his teachings with layers of coded symbolism that he only explained to his closest disciples? Was he hiding secret truths from the masses as the Gnostics believed? For example, the Gnostic work called the Apocryphon of John opens with the claim to be “The teaching of the savior, and the revelation of the mysteries and the things hidden in silence, even these things which he taught John, his disciple.” Did Yeshua teach Gnosticism?

Posted September 23, 2016 - 9:38am

Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. (Deuteronomy 28:6)

When the Torah says things in an unusual way, it’s usually to teach us an important lesson. Normally, when we think of a person’s comings and goings, it is from the perspective of first leaving a place and then returning to it. The Torah, however, has a different frame of reference. A person first enters and then departs. Rabbi Yochanan interprets this to mean that our coming in and going out are the points by which we enter and depart from this world:

“Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out” — that thine exit from the world shall be as thine entry therein: just as thou enterest it without sin, so mayest thou leave it without! (b.Bava Metzia 107a)

The point at which man comes into this world is his birth; his going out is his death. The thing we call life is that short span between these two points. We are merely sojourners during the course of our life here in this world.

Rabbi Yochanan connects these two points of entrance and departure with the common theme of blessing. He says that just as a person enters this world without sin, a person is truly blessed if he is also able to leave this world without sin. But how do we do this? Is it even possible? Evidently, Paul thought it was. His hope was to deliver his disciples into the hands of Yeshua “pure and blameless”:

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9–11)


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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