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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.”

Breisheet (Genesis 1:1-6:8)

After the creation of the universe and all things on the earth, God created humanity as His crowning achievement. Once the first man was created, He didn’t just set him loose to fend for himself. He specifically placed him in a literal paradise called Gan Eden (The Garden of Eden). The Torah gives us a basic description of this place, saying, “And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:8–9).

Vezot HaBrachah (Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12)

The final Torah reading before we roll the Torah back to the beginning takes its name from the opening line, Vezot ha’brachah, which means “This is the blessing.” It contains the concluding words of Moses before his death. In his final breath, he blesses the Children of Israel with various blessings that can be difficult to fully understand. At the beginning of the chapter, however, Moses gives a vivid description of God as a groom coming out to meet Israel, His bride, at Sinai. There is a portion of this passage that can help us understand a responsibility we have as God’s children. The chapter begins by describing God coming out to meet Israel at Sinai. Right after this, we read, “Thus the LORD became king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people were gathered, all the tribes of Israel together” (Deuteronomy 33:5). What does this mean?

Parashat Ha'zinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52)
Nitzavim | Deuteronomy 29:9[10]-30:20

In Parashat Shoftim we discussed the idea that many people consider the Torah to be impossible to keep. Our current Torah portion reinforces the fact that God gave the Torah to His people because He believes they are capable of living it out. Where do we see this? First, God gives the Children of Israel a choice to live by His commandments and receive blessings or to disobey His commandments and receive curses (Deuteronomy 30:1–10). Unfortunately, many people superimpose the character of a cruel, earthly father onto our loving, Heavenly Father. How absurd would it be if our Heavenly Father told us to do things He knew were impossible. This sounds more like the perniciousness of the Greek pantheon or even the abuse found in the Nazi war camps than the loving God of Israel. Only a cruel god would punish a people for setting a standard that was impossible to keep and then curse people for not keeping it.

Parshat Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)

At one point every spring, after the sun has set, we sit down together with our family and guests in order to commemorate our redemption with the Passover seder. We recall the exodus from Egypt and remember God’s great hand of deliverance. We do this by using a book called the Haggadah. It guides us through our Passover experience, telling us what to say and what to do. One of the passages we recite from the Haggadah is found in our current Torah portion:



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