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Posted November 13, 2019 - 4:59am
Parashat Vayeira (Genesis 18:1-22:24)

Many people are familiar with the children’s song, “Father Abraham.” It begins, “Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you. So, let’s just praise the Lord.” Through repetition and a series of choreographed movements, this song ingrains the concept into a child that Vayeira, this week’s Torah portion, is indeed true. Abraham did become the father of many nations and is affectionately called Avraham Avinu, Our Father Abraham. Paul says that Abraham is “the father of all who believe” (Romans 4:12). We who have put our trust in Yeshua have become the spiritual offspring of Abraham, the father of our faith.

According to our Torah portion, the LORD chose Abraham as the father of many nations for specific reasons:

The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” (Genesis 18:17–19)

Posted November 8, 2019 - 8:40am

Yeshua emphasized this point to his disciples:

If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:46–47)

This is a challenge. How do we pretend to like someone when we really don’t? People today are all about “being real,” even if it’s ugly (very ugly in some cases). People don’t want to put on a mask, because they believe it would hypocritical. Until recently, when someone greets you with the obligatory, “How are you?” the standard response has been, “Fine. Thank you. And you?” Today, we are being bombarded with the concept that so say you are fine when you’re really not is hypocrisy. When someone asks, “How are you?” and you are frustrated, moody, or irritated, we feel that an unfiltered response is more genuine: “I’m in a foul mood and I don’t feel like talking.” As we attempt to engage in a casual greeting, the niceties are forgone and we are slapped in the face with the raw, open wound of the other. It doesn’t feel good, and it is actually contagious. It has the ability to soil the cheerful mood we were in and send us on a downward path towards negativity and depression for the rest of the day.

Should we be so honest with others when we’re in a bad mood? Or should we put on a mask and use a little hypocrisy to our advantage? Let me explain.

Posted November 4, 2019 - 3:07pm
Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

Partnering With God

In Parashat Lech Lecha we begin learning about a character by the name of Abram. As we know, his name will eventually be changed to Abraham, and our knowledge of his life is pivotal to our understanding of God’s plan for humanity. In fact, the entire Scripture hinges around this one person. When we read this week’s portion, Abraham’s courageous faith immediately becomes apparent when we read of him leaving everything behind in order to obey God’s command and move to the land of Canaan. This is the first of several of Abraham’s trials we read about in this small section of Genesis. 

The next trial we learn about is his encounter with Pharaoh and how he attempts to protect his family from the Egyptians. Then we read of the dispute between his nephew Lot’s shepherds and his own, and the trial of dividing the land between his nephew and himself. We also read about his trial of rescuing Lot when he and his household were captured in a by invading armies. The next trial is overcoming the pain of being childless and results in the taking of his wife’s servant Hagar as an additional wife through which his son Ishmael is born. The last trial in this portion is the commandment for Abraham to circumcise himself and all the males of his household. But there is something unique about how this trial is introduced.

Posted October 31, 2019 - 7:28am
Parashat Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32)

Parashat Noach opens with the words, “These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). In this passage, “generations” is the Hebrew word toldot (תדלות). The word toldot is most often used in the Scriptures in relationship to genealogy, since its primary meaning is “descendants” or “offspring.” For instance, toward the end of this week’s parashah we read, “These are the generations of Shem” (Genesis 11:10). Immediately following is a list of Shem’s descendants. The pattern repeats with Terah, the father of Abraham, saying, “Now these are the generations of Terah” (Genesis 11:27), followed by a list of his children. The same goes for the lists of the sons of Ishmael in Genesis 25, etc.

However, in the case of the Bible’s description of Noah (and a few other select individuals), rather than listing his children, his character traits are listed. The Scriptures appear to be emphasizing that, more than his literal offspring—the very ones that would repopulate the world after the flood—Noah’s legacy was to be found in his character. The Scriptures list three “offspring” of Noah: his righteousness, his blamelessness, and his relationship with God. Let’s briefly explore these concepts.

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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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