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Archive for the ‘Weekly Parasha’ Category

Parasha Vayetze – Daily Care or Grand Designs?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on November 20, 2007


Torah Portion: Genesis 28:10 – 32:3 Haftarah for Ashkenazim: Hosea 12:13 – 14:10 Haftarah for Sephardim: Hosea 11:7 – 12:12

Ya’akov… Last year I would have written about how horrible Ya’akov is as a character – a cheat, a fraud, a sorcerer, liar, coward, thief a great manipulator in general and someone who uses G-d for his own ends. I would have been right. But describing him as an honorable sceptic, an agnostic, and a true believer would be just as right. Ya’akov in his basic make-up is extremely human.

“If G-d does this… I will acknowledge…” Bereshit 28:20-21

Ya’akov starts his adult life with a session of bargaining with G-d.

He is running for his life – from his enraged brother whom he, just few days earlier, has cheated out of his birth-right (enthusiastically assisted by his mother) – towards the homelands of his mother, uncle and grandfather. On the way there, according to the Sages, (Sanhedrin 95b) he is surprised by an early sunset and decides to go to sleep. Dream. Ladder. Angels. G-d making a speech. Grand Designs and Spiritual Experiences.

“Surely the Lord is present in this place, and I did not know it!” Shaken, he said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven.” Bereshit 28:16-17

Interestingly enough, Ya’akov’s exclamation isn’t specific about WHAT G-d he is speaking of. He is clearly aware that “G-d” is present there. This, however doesn’t convince him. To Ya’akov grand visions, dreams and spiritual incidents are not sufficient “proof” or reasons to accept G-d’s presence in one’s life. A far more prosaic G-d is what he will put his trust in. A G-d who keeps him fed, clothed and safe is what Ya’akov is looking for. He knows that spiritual experiences cannot do that. Although he acknowledges that G-d can be and is present in visions, dreams and grand spiritual events, what he will trust in is not visions, dreams and spiritual incidents, but a G-d who will take care of him on a daily basis.

“If God remains with me, if He protects me on this journey that I am making, and gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return safe to my father’s house — the Lord shall be my God.” Bereshit 28:20-21

Here’s the bargaining point, the matter which is more important to Ya’akov than the dream he just had – daily divine action as opposed to occasional divine revelation. He accepts the latter, but is seeking the former.

This point ask a question of us. Ya’akov, in all his complex humanity, asks US which is more important to us: Daily Divine action or Occasional Divine Revelation? What do we seek? Signs and Symbols or the Fatherly love and care expressed through having our daily needs met?

If we look closely at the story of Ya’akov we see that he gets his grand designs and spiritual experiences as a side dish to a main course of daily care. In fact when he finally accepts the G-d of his fathers as his own, he is not only fed, clothed and safe – he is fat, rich beyond belief and living safely in the midst of his large family.

A funny thing about Ya’akov is that while G-d is running on idle in the background, just making sure that events follow the plan approximately, Ya’akov is very much the maker of his own fate. He gets what he wants and needs through his own hard work, ingenuity and humility, backed by an unspecified trust that his bargain with G-d will pay off in the end. He doesn’t get fat, rich and safe by sitting on his backside waiting for grand visions, signs. He gets there through hard work and trusting a G-d he is not at all sure is his.

He puts in the legwork and lets G-d do His bit – the daily care.

Amen

Posted in Bereshit 28:10 - 32:3, Parasha Vayetze, Torah, Weekly Parasha, Weekly Parsha | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Parasha Bereshit – The Setting Up of Chava

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on October 2, 2007


 kopia-av-phoenix.jpg

Parasha: Genesis 1:1 – 6:8 Haftarah:Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10 – Sefardim reads: Isaiah 42:5 – 42:21

Focal Point Bereshit 2:15-17; 3:1-3

And the L-RD G-d took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the L-RD G-d commanded the man, saying: ‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’ […]Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman: ‘Yea, hath God said: Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’ And the woman said unto the serpent: ‘Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said: Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.’

I have always found the traditional (Xian) interpretation of this story fishy to say the least. It seems that Chava was set up here. First of all – she wasn’t present when the command not to eat of the Tree was given – in fact she didn’t even exist yet! Secondly G-d didn’t command her – He commanded Adam, who creates the first “gereizah” and adds “…neither shall you touch it…” when he passes the command on.

Chava really didn’t stand a chance. She probably has already tried touching before the snake creeps up and talks to her, and nothing happened, which is as it should be, since G-d never said “…neither shall you touch it…”, so how can she trust that the “eat and die” part is true – her only source of this is Adam – if the “no touching” just proved to be a lie? It turns out that it isn’t bollocks – but who is responsible and in what way?

Chava has traditionally been made to bear the guilt alone – both Jewish and Xian Traditions have in some way or other based a misogynist world view in this singular idea, that it was all Chava’s fault.

Tradition has made Adam an innocent victim of Chava’s “female viles”, and that according to the Story is simply not an accurate image. It turns out he played a very crucial role in this domestic drama. He sets himself up as the authority of the Law, and causes his wife to have reason to distrust what G-d has actually said, adding to G-d’s command in a manner that makes clarity of Torah difficult to reach.

Chava on the other hand does try the limits of what she perceives to be the Law – that it wasn’t the Law doesn’t change the fact that she tested it. She feeds her own doubt by not turning to G-d and ask for a clarification when part of what she thinks is the Law turns out to be untrue, instead she assumes that all she has heard is untrue, and throws out the baby with the bathwater.

Both are equally culpable according to the recorded events, and in the eyes of G-d they certainly are.

What’s in this Story for us?

Don’t mess up Torah – if it’s clear and understandable – don’t try and make it “clearer”, chances are you’ll just make a mess that causes someone else to stumble. Don’t make additions to Torah, It works fine as It is.

Check the facts for yourself, don’t trust Authorities blindly, just because you love them or they seem sensible. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater – yes, some things you hear may be nothing but bullocks, but that doesn’t mean everything similar is bullocks too.

Amen

This article, including artworks and photos in this Blog is Copyright © Henric C. Jensen aka Shadow Bear/Silly Old Bear and are NOT public domain – unless otherwise specified.

Posted in Parasha Bereshit, Torah, Weekly Parasha | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Parasha Bereshit – In The Beginning – Bereshit 1:1-6:8

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on October 1, 2007


creation.jpg

Parasha: Genesis 1:1 – 6:8 Haftarah:Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10 – Sefardim reads: Isaiah 42:5 – 42:21

Focal Points: 1:1-5 – Creation that continues

1 When God began to create heaven and earth —

Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’arets.

2 the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water —

Veha’arets hayetah tohu vavohu vechoshech al-peney tehom veruach Elohim merachefet al-peney hamayim.

3 God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

Vayomer Elohim yehi-or vayehi-or.

4 God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.

Vayar Elohim et-ha’or ki-tov vayavdel Elohim beyn ha’or uveyn hachoshech.

5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, a first day.

Vayikra Elohim la-or yom velachoshech kara laylah vayehi-erev vayehi-voker yom echad.

—-

“In the beginning of G-d’s creating…” that’s what the very first line of Torah says. Literally. This to us indicate two things:

Creation is an ongoing process and G-d didn’t create out of nothing.

G-d creates out of that which is already in existence. This is good news to us – this means that G-d can use whatever chaos and deformity we are at the moment to make something great out of, and that we don’t have to despair at being slow to learn or taking our time to “get it” – G-d’s creative work is an on-going process, so we don’t have to worry about a timetable.

“…with darkness over the surface…”

G-d starts out His creating in darkness and then He decides to make a counterpart to Darkness – Light.

This is important for us – because for most of us life up till now has been much on the Dark Side, we too started out in darkness. We need Light to counterpoint the Darkness of our unmanageable lives. So G-d creates Light, makes distinct lines between Light and Darkness to separate them from each other.

Notice that He doesn’t remove Darkness, He makes a special room for it – “Night”. Now, if He is G-d, then why on earth didn’t He just get rid of Darkness and go completely with Light? Perhaps because without each other Light and Darkness would be meaningless. Creation needs both to function, and so do we.

Darkness in our lives works much like Night in nature – it provides dew, moisture that feeds/waters nature, inspires it to grow. If nature never experienced Night/Darkness, it would very quickly be scourged to dry dust by the Light/Day. That same way we need to soak up “moisture” from Darkness in our lives in order to grow during the times of light. We too would be scourged to dry dust if all we ever experienced was light.

And G-d saw that it was good…

On the other hand – the Light that explodes onto the scenery in v.3 is a Light that leaves no shadows. To that Light we are totally transparent. That is good, because it means that G-d knows exactly what He has to work with, so that in the end we become exactly what we are supposed to be – not what we might have been if the Light had been just any other light.

So the to-and-fro between Light and Darkness has another function – every now and then we need to be completely transparent in order to find the areas in ourselves that needs working on. At those times, Darkness is the Sweet Shadow in which we can rest between turns at digging in ourselves.

Whether we are in Light or Darkness – we are exactly where we are supposed to be, in the middle of G-d’s Continued Creating

Shabbat Shalom!

This article, including artworks and photos in this Blog is Copyright © Henric C. Jensen aka Shadow Bear/Silly Old Bear and are NOT public domain – unless otherwise specified.

 

Posted in Parasha Bereshit, Torah, Weekly Parasha | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Sukkot – Dwelling in Trust

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 26, 2007


Torah Portion: Leviticus 22:26 – 23:44 & Numbers 29:12 – 29:16 Haftarah Zechariah 14:1-21

Focal point: Vayikra/Lev 23:34

“Say to the Israelite people: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month there shall be the Feast of Booths to the Lord, [to last] seven days.”

“Sukkot reminds us that ultimate security is found not within the walls of our home but in the presence of God and one another. Indeed, there is a midrash that says that sukkot are not buildings at all but the glory of God. This holiday helps us understand that sometimes the walls we build to protect us serve instead to divide us, cut us off, lock us in.

The walls of our sukkot may make us vulnerable, but they make us available, too, to receive the kindness and the support of one another, to hear when another calls out in need, to poke our heads in to see whether anybody is up for a chat and a cup of coffee. In contrast, our walls of concrete and steel can enslave us in our own solitude and loneliness. Sukkot reminds us that freedom is enjoyed best not when we are hidden away behind our locked doors but rather when we are able to open our homes and our hearts to one another.” From Kolel

This ties in very nicely with what I quoted from Alcoholics Anonymous when I wrote about G-d, Promises and The Days of Awe:

That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that G-d is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.” (Alcoholics Anonymous p83-84)

On Yom Kippur we had a close encounter of the third degree with G-d during which we looked at who we are, what we have been and how to go on, and now on Sukkot we are asked to trust that G-d is going with us into the New Year, just like He went with the People during the forty years of wanderings in the desert. In fact we are to physically build that trust as we build the sukkah, and dwell in it for seven days, eat in there and invite our friends into our sukkah to share with us. And we are to visit others’ sukkot and share with them.

The sukkah is a fragile building, but as it is made of tree branches it is also resilient. It gives some protection from view, but that’s it. Trust is the same, it does give protection – inner protection – because when we trust, G-d, ourselves and others we build strength and wholeness, we learn to deal with the past, let go of it and move on with our Program trusting that G-d will care for us like He took care of our ancestors.

In one of our Bed Time Prayers we say: “Spread over us Your Sukkah of peace, direct us with Your good counsel, and save us for Your own Name’s sake.”

There are many versions of this line – some have say “wings” others say “presence” – but I like this version best, because it indicates something tangible, a structure, and since it’s G-d’s it’s constant, it’s always there for us, to take shelter in and learn more about what trust and wholeness is.

Amen

Posted in Sukkot, Torah, Weekly Parasha | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Nitzavim-Vayelech – Teshuvah – A New Beginning

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 4, 2007


Torah Portion: Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:9 31:30 Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10 – 63:9 Isaiah 55:6 – 56:8

I have decided to try an weave two of my most precious life-lines together – Torah and the 12 Step Program of Recovery – there really is no better place to start that challenge than on the second Last Shabbat before Roshashana and Yom Kippur.

So this weeks Dvar Torah is dedicated to my friends in Recovery – you all know just who you are 🙂

Focal Point Devarim/Deuteronomy 30:6-14

Then the L-rd your G-d will open up your heart and the hearts of your offspring to love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul, in order that you may live. The Lord your G-d will inflict all those curses upon the enemies and foes who persecuted you. You, however, will again heed the L-rd and obey all His commandments that I enjoin upon you this day. And the L-rd your G-d will grant you abounding prosperity in all your undertakings, in the issue of your womb, the offspring of your cattle, and the produce of your soil. For the L-rd will again delight in your well-being, as He did in that of your fathers, since you will be heeding the L-rd your G-d and keeping His commandments and laws that are recorded in this book of the Teaching — once you return to the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul.

Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it. impart it to us, that we may observe it?”

  1. We admitted we were powerless over [insert your drug, process of choice here], that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of G-d as we understand G-d.

Did you know that in the original “order” of the 12 Steps [which were actually 6], steps 1, 2 and 3 were baked into one?

Why was that? Because realizing that we are powerless and that our lives have become unmanageable can be very overwhelming, and more often than not there are behaviors we need to stop right away if we are to save our very lives, so we need to move from powerless and unmanageable without anywhere to go, to powerless and unmanageable with not only hope of a place to go, but to a place where we can actually be restored to some resemblance of sanity – and that my friends happens in step 3.

See, step 1 won’t tell you anything but that your are powerless and unmanageable, step 2 will only tell you that sanity is possible – but neither of them will actually provide sanity so being confronted with steps 1 and 2 is rather harsh – that’s why, originally, people were asked to take the 3 first steps as one, because step 3 will restore sanity on a daily basis, because step 3 is where we give up trying to control ourselves and the world around us and let G-d (as we understand G-d)take control of us one day at a time.

“But I don’t believe G-d loves me, that He cares about me or that He even exists!”.

One of my sponsors once told me that it doesn’t matter what I believe – it matters what I do. So my beliefs is immaterial, because if I tell G-d every morning that I turn my life over to Him (whoever or what ever He is) He will do the work as long as I do my footwork – go to meetings and check in with my sponsor. Did I believe it would work? No. But I did it because it was my last way out of a life that had brought me to the abyss where I was seriously staring suicide in the eyes. I was in so much pain that I would probably have done acrobatics if my sponsor had told me it would work.

But the simple wisdoms “Act as if” and “Fake it till you make it!” is actually in Torah: “And he took the Book of the Covenant and read it within the hearing of the people, and they said, “All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear.” (Shemot/Exodus 24:7)

Children learn through mimicking what adults do – they do before they understand what they are doing. Torah tells us that, in regards to a functional life (because that is what living according to Torah leads to) this is the attitude we need to take – learning/understanding through doing what we need to learn/understand.

So, I can work Step 3 even if I don’t believe it, just because I need to, and eventually it will be something I believe, something I do with faith and hope and trust that G-d as I understand Him, is restoring me to sanity on day at a time.

So how is this all connected to Torah and being Jewish?

Well, for one working step 1 is a natural part of the Jewish Path – every year, with the start of Elul, Jews all over the World begin a process of self-reflection, self- examination that will eventually lead them to identification of areas in their lives where they are out of control and need to do Teshuvah (return to Torah and G-d). Hope is also built into the Jewish Path – that G-d will restore that which was broken and bring sanity, because when the Gate closes on Yom Kippur all of Israel has been forgiven and a new beginning is declared.

“In all their troubles He was troubled, And the angel of His Presence delivered them. In His love and pity He Himself redeemed them, Raised them, and exalted them All the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9)

Step 3 is just a natural sequel to all of this in Judaism – Teshuvah – Forgiveness – Renewed Observance. All in the manner that fit each of us and our recovery.

Here’s a Jewish Prayer that fit perfectly to say at the end of any 12 Step Meeting:

Adon Olam

The Lord of the Universe who reigned
before anything was created.
When all was made by his will
He was acknowledged as King.

And when all shall end
He still all alone shall reign.
He was, He is,
and He shall be in glory.

And He is one, and there’s no other,
to compare or join Him.
Without beginning, without end
and to Him belongs dominion and power.

And He is my G-d, my living G-d.
to Him I flee in time of grief,
and He is my miracle and my refuge,
who answers the day I shall call.

To Him I commit my spirit,
in the time of sleep and awakening,
even if my spirit leaves,
G-d is with me, I shall not fear.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in Torah, Weekly Parasha | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Nitzavim-Vayelech – Teshuvah – A New Beginning

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 4, 2007


Torah Portion: Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:9 31:30 Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10 – 63:9 Isaiah 55:6 – 56:8

I have decided to try an weave two of my most precious life-lines together – Torah and the 12 Step Program of Recovery – there really is no better place to start that challenge than on the second Last Shabbat before Roshashana and Yom Kippur.

So this weeks Dvar Torah is dedicated to my friends in Recovery – you all know just who you are 🙂

Focal Point Devarim/Deuteronomy 30:6-14

Then the L-rd your G-d will open up your heart and the hearts of your offspring to love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul, in order that you may live. The Lord your G-d will inflict all those curses upon the enemies and foes who persecuted you. You, however, will again heed the L-rd and obey all His commandments that I enjoin upon you this day. And the L-rd your G-d will grant you abounding prosperity in all your undertakings, in the issue of your womb, the offspring of your cattle, and the produce of your soil. For the L-rd will again delight in your well-being, as He did in that of your fathers, since you will be heeding the L-rd your G-d and keeping His commandments and laws that are recorded in this book of the Teaching — once you return to the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul.

Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it. impart it to us, that we may observe it?”

  1. We admitted we were powerless over [insert your drug, process of choice here], that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of G-d as we understand G-d.

Did you know that in the original “order” of the 12 Steps [which were actually 6], steps 1, 2 and 3 were baked into one?

Why was that? Because realizing that we are powerless and that our lives have become unmanageable can be very overwhelming, and more often than not there are behaviors we need to stop right away if we are to save our very lives, so we need to move from powerless and unmanageable without anywhere to go, to powerless and unmanageable with not only hope of a place to go, but to a place where we can actually be restored to some resemblance of sanity – and that my friends happens in step 3.

See, step 1 won’t tell you anything but that your are powerless and unmanageable, step 2 will only tell you that sanity is possible – but neither of them will actually provide sanity so being confronted with steps 1 and 2 is rather harsh – that’s why, originally, people were asked to take the 3 first steps as one, because step 3 will restore sanity on a daily basis, because step 3 is where we give up trying to control ourselves and the world around us and let G-d (as we understand G-d)take control of us one day at a time.

“But I don’t believe G-d loves me, that He cares about me or that He even exists!”.

One of my sponsors once told me that it doesn’t matter what I believe – it matters what I do. So my beliefs is immaterial, because if I tell G-d every morning that I turn my life over to Him (whoever or what ever He is) He will do the work as long as I do my footwork – go to meetings and check in with my sponsor. Did I believe it would work? No. But I did it because it was my last way out of a life that had brought me to the abyss where I was seriously staring suicide in the eyes. I was in so much pain that I would probably have done acrobatics if my sponsor had told me it would work.

But the simple wisdoms “Act as if” and “Fake it till you make it!” is actually in Torah: “And he took the Book of the Covenant and read it within the hearing of the people, and they said, “All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear.” (Shemot/Exodus 24:7)

Children learn through mimicking what adults do – they do before they understand what they are doing. Torah tells us that, in regards to a functional life (because that is what living according to Torah leads to) this is the attitude we need to take – learning/understanding through doing what we need to learn/understand.

So, I can work Step 3 even if I don’t believe it, just because I need to, and eventually it will be something I believe, something I do with faith and hope and trust that G-d as I understand Him, is restoring me to sanity on day at a time.

So how is this all connected to Torah and being Jewish?

Well, for one working step 1 is a natural part of the Jewish Path – every year, with the start of Elul, Jews all over the World begin a process of self-reflection, self- examination that will eventually lead them to identification of areas in their lives where they are out of control and need to do Teshuvah (return to Torah and G-d). Hope is also built into the Jewish Path – that G-d will restore that which was broken and bring sanity, because when the Gate closes on Yom Kippur all of Israel has been forgiven and a new beginning is declared.

“In all their troubles He was troubled, And the angel of His Presence delivered them. In His love and pity He Himself redeemed them, Raised them, and exalted them All the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9)

Step 3 is just a natural sequel to all of this in Judaism – Teshuvah – Forgiveness – Renewed Observance. All in the manner that fit each of us and our recovery.

Here’s a Jewish Prayer that fit perfectly to say at the end of any 12 Step Meeting:

Adon Olam

The Lord of the Universe who reigned
before anything was created.
When all was made by his will
He was acknowledged as King.

And when all shall end
He still all alone shall reign.
He was, He is,
and He shall be in glory.

And He is one, and there’s no other,
to compare or join Him.
Without beginning, without end
and to Him belongs dominion and power.

And He is my G-d, my living G-d.
to Him I flee in time of grief,
and He is my miracle and my refuge,
who answers the day I shall call.

To Him I commit my spirit,
in the time of sleep and awakening,
even if my spirit leaves,
G-d is with me, I shall not fear.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in 12 Step Program, Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30, Faith, Haftarah, Hope, Isaiah 55:6 - 56:8, Isaiah 61:10 - 63:9 Isaiah 55:6 - 56:8, Parasha Nitzavim-Vayelech, Recovery, Seeking G-d, Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Teshuvah, Torah, Weekly Parasha | Leave a Comment »

The Lost and Found of Torah

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 23, 2007


Parashat Ki Teitzei – Torah Portion: Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19 Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1 – 54:10

Focal Point: Devarim 22:1-3

1 If you see your fellow’s ox or sheep gone astray, do not ignore it; you must take it back to your fellow. 2 If your fellow does not live near you or you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home and it shall remain with you until your fellow claims it; then you shall give it back to him. 3 You shall do the same with his ass; you shall do the same with his garment; and so too shall you do with anything that your fellow loses and you find: you must not remain indifferent.

My friend Yael commented on another Blog Entry:

“But, the ones who lose what was always a part of their identity sometimes have a pretty rough time moving on with life. I wouldn’t be bragging about doing that to anyone.[…]In my interactions with people I always try to encourage Christians to live by the teachings of Jesus the best they can; if they are Jewish to live by the teachings of Torah as best they can; whatever religion they are, use it to be a truly good person.”

If we connect those two statements it becomes clear that Faith is something you can lose. What to do if you find a fellow’s lost Faith by the way-side? You keep it for him until he can come and claim it, and then you give it back to him! Ok, I admit, I am stretching the text here, but I still think the thought has merits 🙂 After all, we can ask forgiveness on account of those who cannot, will not or do not know that forgiveness is possible – we do it every year on Yom Kippur, so why not hold on to my fellow human’s lost Faith?

After all it’s something he lost, he probably misses it, and even if he doesn’t miss it, doesn’t know he needs it or doesn’t want it, what’s the harm? Will it cost me anything to hold his lost faith in trust until he can claim it for himself? No. On the contrary, it will help me grow a person?

So how do I return someone’s lost Faith to them? One thing’s for certain, unless they are actively looking for it, there’s no way it will be fruitful to try and dump it on them like a sack of potatoes, that’s just mean, pushy and arrogant.

Faith’s little Sister is Hope. Hope incites Faith.

What is hope? “…the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible…”

Most of the time hope is kindled by the simple act of being present for someone who is in any kind of need. By simply being human, compassionate, honest and attentive towards another I can show that the out-look of life is not at all that bleak. I cannot be sure that this will succeed, but for the sake of the commandment to return anything lost back to the one who lost it, I have to try. Like I stand with The People on Yom Kippur and ask forgiveness on account of those who cannot do it for themselves, so I can hold Faith in trust for those who cannot do it for themselves.

We have a Tradition that teaches us that Mitzvot can be performed in honor of others. So why not hold Faith, perform Mitzvot for the sake of those who cannot do it for themselves, whatever the reason. So when you get up in the morning, instead of berating those you think are lax in their Observance, put on your Tallit and Tefillin for the sake of those who cannot, put an extra coin in your Tzedakah box, do an extra run through the Weekly Parasha when you study and Hold Faith for them who have lost it, until they can claim it for themselves.

Shabbat Shalom!

This article, including artworks and photos are © Henric C. Jensen aka Shadow Bear/Silly Old Bear and are NOT public domain.

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Weekly Parasha: Shoftim, Devarim 16:18-21:9

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 17, 2007


Weekly Parasha (Torah Reading) Shoftim Devarim 16:18-21:9Haftarah Isaiah 51:12 – 52:12

Focal Point Devarim 17:14-20

14. When you come to the land the Lord, your God, is giving you, and you possess it and live therein, and you say, “I will set a king over myself, like all the nations around me,”
15. you shall set a king over you, one whom the Lord, your God, chooses; from among your brothers, you shall set a king over yourself; you shall not appoint a foreigner over yourself, one who is not your brother.
16. Only, he may not acquire many horses for himself, so that he will not bring the people back to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, for the Lord said to you, “You shall not return that way any more.”
17. And he shall not take many wives for himself, and his heart must not turn away, and he shall not acquire much silver and gold for himself.
18. And it will be, when he sits upon his royal throne, that he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah on a scroll from [that Torah which is] before the Levitic kohanim.
19. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord, his God, to keep all the words of this Torah and these statutes, to perform them,
20.
so that his heart will not be haughty over his brothers, and so that he will not turn away from the commandment, either to the right or to the left, in order that he may prolong [his] days in his kingdom, he and his sons, among Israel.

This text is about Leadership – the Leadership of Israel, and what G-d expects of it. Earlier in this Parasha we find Dev 16:20 “Justice, justice shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” which clearly envisions what is the basis for the existence of the inheritance. Justice.

To get a king is not formulated as a command – it’s a prediction – there will come a time when the People of Israel will say I will set a king over myself, like all the nations around me…” when the People will want what the rest of the world wants, and that is a rejection of G-d.

1 Samuel 8:7 And the LORD said unto Samuel: ‘Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not be king over them.

The People is supposed to be ruled by G-d, through Elders/Judges who expound on Torah and apply it to every day life. That’s the IDEAL.

In reality it is quite different. G-d takes into account that the People will want a King, and then states what this King is to be like. Those statements are commands:

He may not be a foreigner, he may not acquire means to bring the People back into slavery, he may not have many wives or hoard riches, and above all, he must write a Torah scroll and read it every day of his life, so he can keep it.

I have been scourging the State of Israel in my Divrei Torot lately, and I suppose this isn’t going to be any different.

Civil Government is not ideal for the People of Israel – in fact it’s supposed to be governed by G-d and Torah, not by elected officials. Elected Officials will always pose a risk and a possibility for corruption, but G-d has made provision for this eventuality in Torah. Commands that very clearly stipulates under what conditions those elected officials are to rule. Above all they need to keep Torah. They need to be so well acquainted with Torah that they have in fact written an entire scroll for themselves, so that they can keep it with them at all times.

I doubt the current Leaders of Israel have done that, or are anywhere near such close proximity of Torah. In fact, one only has to look at the recent additions to the Legislation of the State of Israel to realize that they are in fact very far from what G-d states is the obligation of a Just Leadership:

A Racist Jewish State

On a more local level – how do we exercise Leadership? Do we accept Community Leaders that do not know Torah, that discriminate against converts, bnai teshuvah, that honor the rich and the “powerful” for aliyah? How about Leaders that accept and encourage prejudice and violence against those that do not belong to their specific Community? Does your community hide rabbis that abuse their position to violate children sexually, beat their wives. Are your Leaders on the forefront when it comes to safe-guarding civil and human rights in Society?

If they are – congratulations! If they are not, you need to do something about it.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Second Take on Parasha Re’eh Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 9, 2007


Focal Points: 12:8-10 and 13:1-8

8. You shall not do as all the things that we do here this day, every man [doing] what he deems fit. 9. For you have not yet come to the resting place or to the inheritance, which the Lord, your God, is giving you. 10. And you shall cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord, your God, is giving you as an inheritance, and He will give you rest from all your enemies surrounding you, and you will dwell securely.

I commented on a friend’s Blog the other day about an allegorical “time-line” within Torah and Tanakh.

“Perhaps this is another part of the “growing up” thing? If one reads the Tanakh as an allegory of Human Life reality – we are conceived (Creation), we are born (Expulsion from Gan Eden) we learn the elementaries of Human Life and build our first relationships – that to our parents and family as well as a fundamental relationship to G-d (The Patriarchs) we go to school and learn the intermediaries of Human Life along with the difficult adolescent years of rebellion and acquiring new values and “graduate” to the next part of life – responsibility over a home of our own (The Exodus and Conquering) in which we then expected to grow further, and part of this is realizing that although Mom and Dad are still there for us, they won’t come running just because we skin a knee or want them to be there ASAP – they need to be considerate of their own lives and we need to learn detachment as well as how to function without constant supervision (The Prophets and Writings).”

A Child’s life is in a way a time for trial and error – because it’s still learning – The time in the Desert was a time when The People was still learning, still doing it as “he deems fit” and what it seems on an individual level, for the sake of personal gratification perhaps, at the very least, to hear Mom or Dad, say “Well done!” or “You can do better than that!” or “Your Grounded!” Moshe was definitely Grounded big time! – The entire older generation was Grounded 🙂 It is clear that The People had been doing things quite differently during their travels on the Sinai Peninsula – not just in regards to the Mishkan (Tabernacle), but basically on a little of all issues… And now, that they are about to cross over into The Land – G-d tells them that this cannot be IN The Land. Uhuh, Sir, gotta shape up! Gotta get those rule down pat, Yessir!

To continue the allegory – the Child eventually grows up into a young adult, leaves Mom and Dad behind and have to fend for him/herself, in a new home, new apartment, that is all his/her own and that living will be based on what he/she was taught up till that point.

“Now, why on earth should I keep kosher – the Gentiles have been eating pork and shrimp and mixing milk and meat for millennia, and they are still around, so what’s big deal, any way? You don’t see them wearing weird pieces of clothes with strings on them, or cover their heads, or wrap leather straps around their heads and arms, and they sure don’t pray three times a day, they can have sex whenever they please and work on Saturdays to their hearts content, so why shouldn’t I be able to do just that?”

Because those are not the Tradition, Mitzvot and Torah of your forefathers. Those are the ways of those who did not hear the Torah on Har Sinai, who did not say: “All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear.” (Shemot 24:7)

 

“1. Everything I command you that you shall be careful to do it. You shall neither add to it, nor subtract from it. 2. If there will arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of a dream, and he gives you a sign or a wonder,3. and the sign or the wonder of which he spoke to you happens, [and he] says, “Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us worship them,” 4. you shall not heed the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream; for the Lord, your God, is testing you, to know whether you really love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul. 5. You shall follow the Lord, your God, fear Him, keep His commandments, heed His voice, worship Him, and cleave to Him. 6. And that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death; because he spoke falsehood about the Lord, your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and Who redeemed you from the house of bondage, to lead you astray from the way in which the Lord, your God, commanded you to go; so shall you clear away the evil from your midst. 7. If your brother, the son of your mother, tempts you in secret or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your embrace, or your friend, who is as your own soul saying, “Let us go and worship other gods, which neither you, nor your forefathers have known.”8. Of the gods of the peoples around you, [whether] near to you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth;”

They say that practice makes perfect, and in the 12 Step Programs they say “Fake it, till you make it” Torah says that if we DO, we will eventually understand “hear”.

Pretty simple, right? So if we have a G-d – which we do, somehow anyway, then keeping in touch with the Traditions, the Mitzvot, Torah, we will get closer to G-d. How do we keep in touch with Tradition, Mitzvot and Torah? By DOING THEM.

“It’s arguable that within mainstream Judaism, direct experience of God isn’t the point — and it certainly isn’t a prerequisite for Jewish practice. We do what we do because it is the Jewish path. Whether or not we feel confident that actual access to God is the endpoint, we follow the mitzvot anyway. Belief arises through action. If we waited until we felt called to act Jewishly, we might never get there — but if we act Jewishly even absent that “call,” we can bring the call into being for ourselves.

For many Jews today, though, that answer may serve as a distancing factor that keeps us from engagement with the tradition in the first place. Our culture privileges direct experience; it makes sense that in this area of our lives, we feel a particular longing for something we can access in our hearts. We want God to be at the center of our practice. We want our practice of mitzvot to follow from a preexisting closeness to God, not the other way around. We want, as this week’s Torah portion suggests, to be in relationship with a God Who we already know.”

For each time I put on my tzitzit, my tefillin, say my Prayers, eat kosher, and celebrate Shabbat, I bring myself closer to G-d. No matter what else my circumstances are, at least I will be right before G-d. To me it cannot get any better than that.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Second Take on Re’eh – Devarim 11:26-16:17

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 9, 2007


Focal Points: 12:8-10 and 13:1-8

8. You shall not do as all the things that we do here this day, every man [doing] what he deems fit. 9. For you have not yet come to the resting place or to the inheritance, which the Lord, your God, is giving you. 10. And you shall cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord, your God, is giving you as an inheritance, and He will give you rest from all your enemies surrounding you, and you will dwell securely.

I commented on a friend’s Blog the other day about an allegorical “time-line” within Torah and Tanakh.

“Perhaps this is another part of the “growing up” thing? If one reads the Tanakh as an allegory of Human Life reality – we are conceived (Creation), we are born (Expulsion from Gan Eden) we learn the elementaries of Human Life and build our first relationships – that to our parents and family as well as a fundamental relationship to G-d (The Patriarchs) we go to school and learn the intermediaries of Human Life along with the difficult adolescent years of rebellion and acquiring new values and “graduate” to the next part of life – responsibility over a home of our own (The Exodus and Conquering) in which we then expected to grow further, and part of this is realizing that although Mom and Dad are still there for us, they won’t come running just because we skin a knee or want them to be there ASAP – they need to be considerate of their own lives and we need to learn detachment as well as how to function without constant supervision (The Prophets and Writings).”

A Child’s life is in a way a time for trial and error – because it’s still learning – The time in the Desert was a time when The People was still learning, still doing it as “he deems fit” and what it seems on an individual level, for the sake of personal gratification perhaps, at the very least, to hear Mom or Dad, say “Well done!” or “You can do better than that!” or “Your Grounded!” Moshe was definitely Grounded big time! – The entire older generation was Grounded 🙂 It is clear that The People had been doing things quite differently during their travels on the Sinai Peninsula – not just in regards to the Mishkan (Tabernacle), but basically on a little of all issues… And now, that they are about to cross over into The Land – G-d tells them that this cannot be IN The Land. Uhuh, Sir, gotta shape up! Gotta get those rule down pat, Yessir!

To continue the allegory – the Child eventually grows up into a young adult, leaves Mom and Dad behind and have to fend for him/herself, in a new home, new apartment, that is all his/her own and that living will be based on what he/she was taught up till that point.

“Now, why on earth should I keep kosher – the Gentiles have been eating pork and shrimp and mixing milk and meat for millennia, and they are still around, so what’s big deal, any way? You don’t see them wearing weird pieces of clothes with strings on them, or cover their heads, or wrap leather straps around their heads and arms, and they sure don’t pray three times a day, they can have sex whenever they please and work on Saturdays to their hearts content, so why shouldn’t I be able to do just that?”

Because those are not the Tradition, Mitzvot and Torah of your forefathers. Those are the ways of those who did not hear the Torah on Har Sinai, who did not say: “All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear.” (Shemot 24:7)

“1. Everything I command you that you shall be careful to do it. You shall neither add to it, nor subtract from it. 2. If there will arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of a dream, and he gives you a sign or a wonder,3. and the sign or the wonder of which he spoke to you happens, [and he] says, “Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us worship them,” 4. you shall not heed the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream; for the Lord, your God, is testing you, to know whether you really love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul. 5. You shall follow the Lord, your God, fear Him, keep His commandments, heed His voice, worship Him, and cleave to Him. 6. And that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death; because he spoke falsehood about the Lord, your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and Who redeemed you from the house of bondage, to lead you astray from the way in which the Lord, your God, commanded you to go; so shall you clear away the evil from your midst. 7. If your brother, the son of your mother, tempts you in secret or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your embrace, or your friend, who is as your own soul saying, “Let us go and worship other gods, which neither you, nor your forefathers have known.”8. Of the gods of the peoples around you, [whether] near to you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth;”

They say that practice makes perfect, and in the 12 Step Programs they say “Fake it, till you make it” Torah says that if we DO, we will eventually understand “hear”.

Pretty simple, right? So if we have a G-d – which we do, somehow anyway, then keeping in touch with the Traditions, the Mitzvot, Torah, we will get closer to G-d. How do we keep in touch with Tradition, Mitzvot and Torah? By DOING THEM.

“It’s arguable that within mainstream Judaism, direct experience of God isn’t the point — and it certainly isn’t a prerequisite for Jewish practice. We do what we do because it is the Jewish path. Whether or not we feel confident that actual access to God is the endpoint, we follow the mitzvot anyway. Belief arises through action. If we waited until we felt called to act Jewishly, we might never get there — but if we act Jewishly even absent that “call,” we can bring the call into being for ourselves.

For many Jews today, though, that answer may serve as a distancing factor that keeps us from engagement with the tradition in the first place. Our culture privileges direct experience; it makes sense that in this area of our lives, we feel a particular longing for something we can access in our hearts. We want God to be at the center of our practice. We want our practice of mitzvot to follow from a preexisting closeness to God, not the other way around. We want, as this week’s Torah portion suggests, to be in relationship with a God Who we already know.”

For each time I put on my tzitzit, my tefillin, say my Prayers, eat kosher, and celebrate Shabbat, I bring myself closer to G-d. No matter what else my circumstances are, at least I will be right before G-d. To me it cannot get any better than that.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17, Parasha Re'eh, Shabbat, Torah, Weekly Parasha | Leave a Comment »

 
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