I think it’s time I gave up my disdain for “the wave,” that strange bit of choreography we do at the ballpark, as we rise in unison, throw our hands into the air and mimic a wave moving from one side of the stadium to the other. I always hated it. It seemed so silly […]
This week we continue to stand on the shores of the Jordan river reviewing the rules and laws. As part of the review, Moses reminds us of the blessings and curses that await us.
Struggling as we are with fires and floods, heat waves and other devastating natural disasters all around the world, these words from the Haftarah for Parashat Ki Tezei caught my attention this year.
A few years ago, my family went to see the Fortingall Yew in Scotland. It is reputed to be the oldest tree in Britain, 2,000 to 3,000 years old. We felt a sense of awe thinking about all the things that had happened since the tree had been planted and how the world had changed. Although the oldest tree in Britain, in other parts of the world, such ancient trees are not as unusual.
These days, private pools have been a gift during the pandemic era. But the increasing individuation in society that backyard swimming pools represent has not necessarily helped our community as a whole.
The Israelites are tenacious. That is a double-edged sword. On one hand they spend a great deal of time wandering the desert complaining and rebelling, pushing the limits and challenging authority. On the other hand, there is this sense that if their energy could just be properly focused Israel will experience the greatness promised to them as descendants of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel.
Every time my teen son leaves the house, my final words to him are always, “Be careful!” This is what my parents always said to me (and still do!). This is what their parents always said to them. I guess it’s already a family tradition.
Our Torah portion this week (דברים) may have the most innocuous name of any – it can be translated as “words” or “things”. The root ד.ב.ר. appears through the Tanach and if you read from the Torah as a Bar or Bat Mitzvah you may recall a verse beginning וידבר ה’ אל … or something similar, indicating God actually speaking. Jewish tradition has a strong oral component, not only in the form of Biblical and halachic commentary (think Mishna and Gemara) but even within the texts themselves.
The power of biblical stories rests in their power to challenge us. Their goal is not to confirm our beliefs and opinions, but present us with situations that force us to consider issues of righteousness, justice, security, peace, and love in the morally murky world of human experience. Sometimes the stories are uplifting. Sometimes the stories are horrific. But they are always stories in which the heroes need to make decisions that bring good to some and evil to others.
“May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd”’ (Numbers 27:15-17). Our chapter presents the request of Moshe after he was instructed to take a glimpse of the Promised Land and should “be gathered to his nation”.