Three poems in the Torah are ascribed to Moses himself. The first in order of appearance is Shirat Hayam, the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15). The third is V’zot Habracha (Deuteronomy 33), in which Moses blesses the Israelite tribes before they cross the Jordan to go into the land. The second poem, named after its first word, Ha’azinu- Give ear, yields the name of our parasha.
By Rabbi Jonas Jacquelin | After each set of the shofar blowing during the Rosh Hashana service we say “Hayom Harat Olam”: “Today is the Birthday of the Word” or perhaps more precisely “Today is the gestation of the World”.
We approach 5781 after a summer (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) which has been different, to say the least. Few summer camps were operating, most people adjusted their summer travel plans to account for the reality swirling about us, and many of us just stayed close to home.
We are living through a time when people all over the world are calling for reform. People are calling for fair and equal treatment before the law. The headlines talks of oppression. Judaism is no stranger to searching for change. And almost always, the movement for change includes a text from the Bible.
This Torah portion is bookended by conflict and its consequences. And it is a Torah portion sandwiched by difficult texts: on the one hand we have the problematic case of the captive woman and at the other we blot out the memory of Amalek.
For the past nine and half years, I have met weekly with a group dedicated Torah students to explore the parashat hashavua. Our group of dedicated students follow in the footsteps of generations before us who make the study of the weekly portion central to their Judaism. Of course, as a group of progressive Jews, the issue of morality and justice are always on our minds. Does the text offer us ethical guidance? Are there times when the text appears to fail in giving us the moral guidance that we seek?
At the beginning of the pandemic in the United States, procuring food was a challenge. Grocery shelves were bare, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) were overwhelmed, unable to accept new customers, and grocery deliveries were rarely complete. I remember one order I placed back in March: of twenty-seven items, only nine arrived. Maybe because we were home more or because we needed an outlet for our anxiety, cooking and baking became a focus and for a long period yeast was nowhere to be found.
In the pantheon of human body parts, the heel is one of the most maligned. Think about Greek mythology and the story of Achilles, who was dipped completely in the River Styx by his mother Thetis with the exception of one crucial body part in order to attain immortality, leaving him vulnerable to his eventual demise at the hands of Paris.
Parshat Vaetchanan begins: “And I pleaded with the Lord, saying…” This one word, vaetchanan, starts us on a journey of exploration of the power of prayer.
As an (amateur) historian of certain aspects of the Middle East I am frequently concerned and appalled at the widespread ignorance concerning even modern, not just ancient history. Political discussions and articles by two-dimensional journalists and biased punditry and hate-filled slogans work on the basis that whatever exists Now was always there, or that whoever wanted to establish a land in the 20th.