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Archive for the ‘Dvar Torah’ Category

Second take on Parasha Nitzavim/Vayelech

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 7, 2007

Torah Portion, Nitzavim Deuteronomy 29:9 – 30:20

My first focal point:
Chapter 30:1-6

1. And it will be, when all these things come upon you the blessing and the curse which I have set before you that you will consider in your heart, among all the nations where the Lord your God has banished you, 2. and you will return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, and you will listen to His voice according to all that I am commanding you this day you and your children, 3. then, the Lord, your God, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from all the nations, where the Lord, your God, had dispersed you. 4. Even if your exiles are at the end of the heavens, the Lord, your God, will gather you from there, and He will take you from there. 5. And the Lord, your God, will bring you to the land which your forefathers possessed, and you [too] will take possession of it, and He will do good to you, and He will make you more numerous than your forefathers. 6. And the Lord, your God, will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, [so that you may] love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, for the sake of your life.

And Hashem your G-d will return your captives: Rashi: It should have said “v’haishiv (meaning: will cause to return) your captives” Our Rabbis learned from this that the Holy Spirit, so to speak, dwells with Israel in their distress in exile and when they are redeemed, He writes redemption for Himself! – that He will return (from exile) with them. Another interpretation (of the use of “v’shav” – He will return): It can be said that the day of the Ingathering of the Diaspora is great and very difficult. It is as if He Himself will have to take the hand of each individual from his place (and bring him back from exile). As it says (Isaiah 27:12) “And you will be gathered one by one, you Children of Israel” And even by the other nations we find similarly (Jeremiah 48:47) “And I have retuned (Hebrew: “v’shavti”) the captives of Moav”.

It is very interesting to note that v. 3 implies that G-d Himself goes with Israel into exile, and is the One who brings them back as well – it is even more interesting to note that v.1 takes for granted that the pendulum of blessings and curses will indeed happen, and that this in itself will cause Israel to return, it leads the thoughts to ponder if this cause and effect back and forth is not something that is intended, and if read on a global individual scale it also implies that in fact, G-d cannot be found without trial and error? That we have to encounter both the blessings and the curses in order to be able to make a healthy choice? In that case v. 3 makes even more sense – in order to be found, G-d has to be right there, so He can return with us? We have to need Him in order for Him to be found? That would explain why G-d needs redemption as well – it’s a two way street. We need G-d, or we can’t keep going with the Program, but G-d has to be redeemed within us, to be of any use to us – so when we finally find what is our understanding of G-d, what has happened is G-d’s redemption and we are, together with G-d ready to return to sanity… I like that idea, the idea of us having to explore spirituality and ridding ourselves of false images of G-d and unearth within us OUR individual understanding of G-d and redeem G-d before trusting and turning our lives over to Him.

My second Focal Point:

Haftarah Isaiah 56:1-8

1 Thus said the Lord:
Observe what is right and do what is just;
For soon My salvation shall come,
And my deliverance be revealed.

2 Happy is the man who does this,
The man who holds fast to it:
Who keeps the sabbath and does not profane it,
And stays his hand from doing any evil.

3 Let not the foreigner say,
Who has attached himself to the Lord,
“The Lord will keep me apart from His people”;
And let not the eunuch say,
“I am a withered tree.”

4.For thus said the Lord:
“As for the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths,
Who have chosen what I desire
And hold fast to My covenant —

5 I will give them, in My House
And within My walls,
A monument and a name
Better than sons or daughters.
I will give them an everlasting name
Which shall not perish.

6 As for the foreigners
Who attach themselves to the Lord,
To minister to Him,
And to love the name of the Lord,
To be His servants —
All who keep the sabbath and do not profane it,
And who hold fast to My covenant —

7 I will bring them to My sacred mount
And let them rejoice in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
Shall be welcome on My altar;
For My House shall be called
A house of prayer for all peoples.”

8 Thus declares the Lord God,
Who gathers the dispersed of Israel:
“I will gather still more to those already gathered.”

I love this passage, because it speaks in very simple terms about the simplicity of how G-d regards both His Torah and the human condition. No-one is excluded, and the demands are very simple – not necessarily easy, but simple:

1 Thus said the Lord:
Observe what is right and do what is just;
For soon My salvation shall come,
And my deliverance be revealed.

2 Happy is the man who does this,
The man who holds fast to it:
Who keeps the sabbath and does not profane it,
And stays his hand from doing any evil.

This is echoed in Micah 6:6-8:

6. With what shall I come before the Lord, bow before the Most High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? 7. Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with myriad streams of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8. He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord demands of you; but to do justice, to love loving-kindness, and to walk discreetly with your God.

That’s it. Nothing we cannot do. In fact this is what the 12 Steps lead to – a close relationship with G-d, where it really doesn’t matter where we come from or what is our prior experience – what matters is that we walk with G-d one day at a time, and in the end we will all be ok. Really, we will all be ok.

Posted in Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30, Dvar Torah, Haftarah, Isaiah 55:6 - 56:8, Parasha Nitzavim, Parasha Nitzavim-Vayelech, Torah | 4 Comments »

And you shall live in terror? – Parasha Ki Tavo

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on July 8, 2007

Because these ideas have been on my mind – I am bumping this Dvar Torah up to visibility.

“And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over the Jordan unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaster them with plaster. And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over; that thou mayest go in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the LORD, the God of thy fathers, hath promised thee.” (Devarim/Deu 27:2-3)

I’d like to connect this Parsha to what I wrote on Parasha Shoftim about Israel’s responsibility and obligation to Live by Torah’s Ethical Imperative in respect to the Stranger.

When Moshe is about to die, and he instructs the People one last time about what they are to do when they have entered the Land that G-d has given them: First they are to offer thanks to G-d for the Land, for the Covenant and for personal privileges and accountability, but before they do that they are to make sure that the Covenant and the Laws of that Covenant are visible to all who come to dwell there – and then the consequences of adhering or not adhering to the Laws of that Covenant is to be read out loud – as a consecration of the Land. It is as if G-d wants to make sure that His Torah is thoroughly imprinted, not just in the People, but in the very Land. Violating Torah means Violating the Land, because Torah is imprinted on the Land.

While each Jew is certainly personally responsible for obeying Torah, and are asked to affirm this in Devarim/Deu 26:2-10, this Parasha clearly speaks about the ENTIRE people as a Collective – and not just the People, but the stranger as well – Devarim/Deu 26:11. If they fail to observe the statutes of Torah, horrible things will happen to them.

This is where Judaism gets its idea of Reward and Punishment from. The first time Torah speaks of Reward for obedience is in Shemot/Exo 20:12 – “Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the L-RD thy G-d giveth thee.” The implication of a Punishment if disobeyed is also there. Violating Torah means Violating the Land.

People don’t want to hear about the consequences of disobeying Torah – they would much rather hear about the Blessings enumerated in the chapter following the Curses – yet the Curses (Deu 27:15-26; Deu 28:16-19) come before the Blessings (Deu 28:3-6) thus somehow spelling out that we should be aware more of the negative consequences of our actions, rather than what we can gain from acting right.

In Deu 28:66, G-d admonishes in a manner that connects to the present situation in Israel:

The life you face shall be precarious; you shall be in terror, night and day, with no assurance of survival.” (Deu 28:66)

Over and over Israel is warned that forgetting the Stranger, the Widow and the Orphan will put her in the dog-house with G-d. Over and over, also in this Parasha, is she admonished that wrong-doing has its price. So why does she insist on wronging the Stranger? Why does the Modern State of Israel keep forgetting the Holy Charge given to her in ancient times? Deu 1:16 (2), Deu 10:18-19 (2), Deu 14:29, Deu 24:17, Deu 24:19-21 (3), Deu 26:11-13 (3), Deu 27:19, Deu 31:11-12 (2) – to treat the Stranger equal to the Home-born?

This makes me think that the consequences of not caring for those, also those not Jewish, that need it or to wrong ANY human being, is the terror wrought on Israel today. Deu 27:19 is tied to Deu 16:20 by the word JUSTICE – the promise of life and prosperity for the pursuit of Justice is echoed in Deut 28:66, in a manner that almost makes my skin crawl. How can she not see this, and what will it take for her to wake?

Posted in Deuteronomium 27:2-3, Dvar Torah, Holy Charge, Israel, Judaism, Justice, Modern State of Israel, Parasha Shoftim, Reward and Punishment, Torah, Weekly Parasha | 1 Comment »

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