Which comes first: the doing or the understanding?
That’s the issue posed by Exodus 24:7, the Israelites’ reply to Moses’ reading of the record of the Covenant, or Ten Commandments (which we learned about in last week’s portion): “All that YHVH has spoken, we will do and we will hear/understand (kol asher dibber YHVH na’aseh v’nishma).”
Taken at face value, this seems counterintuitive. How can we do something we don’t understand? But Rabbi Harold Kushner, writing in Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary, says “There are many things in life that we cannot appreciate before we have lived them and come to appreciate their value. We must do them first (na’aseh) and only afterward realize why (nishma).”
Meditation. Trying new experiences or cuisines. Even raising children. All of these things and more can only be understood in the doing, over time. The actual and full understanding comes afterward.
May we each merit to understand what we do, even if we’re not (at first) sure why.
I DON’T USUALLY GET POLITICAL. But this is no time for silence.
I did not vote for the current President. I find him arrogant, cruel and stupid. His policies, appointments, and disdainful comments about our institutions and values are fascistic and frightening to me.
Fortunately, some people are fighting back:
1. WTF Just Happened Today? Stay informed with this daily update of things bad (and good) related to the reigning regime.
2. Indivisible: A Practical Guide: A strategy (and tactics) for organizing the Resistance. (Takeaway: Be like the Tea Party, only progressive.)
3. Bend the Arc | A Jewish Partnership for Justice: A small but doughty band of Jews and allies who have Seen This Before.
4 Find your Senator / Find your Representative: This is where some of the real power lies. Make your voice heard in the Senate and House. Daily. (According to Indivisible, phone calls and office visits are the best way to do that.)
5. https://twitter.com/RoguePOTUSStaff (you’ll need a Twitter account): Dispatches purporting to be from a rogue official on the President’s staff. Enlightening if true.
And remember: take care of yourself and don’t pass along rumors!
(Sent today via email.)
To whom it may concern,
As a KCBS listener for more than 20 years (and a former radio reporter/announcer at KSRO in Santa Rosa), I’m writing to comment on your (apparently) new policy of having hosts and commentators banter between segments.
In short: Please stop.
I understand the desire to “humanize” newscasts, but frankly, it’s grating on the ear and borderline unprofessional. It also has me talking back to the radio (“WHO CARES??? GIVE ME NEWS!”) on an hourly basis. I tune in for news and weather (and occasionally traffic), not banter.
So please rethink your policy. You would make at least one listener VERY happy.
Thank you, and be well,
Neal Ross Attinson
PS: Other than the above complaint, I think you are doing a fine job presenting the news in a straightforward, no-spin manner. I particularly like the in-depth stories at the bottom of the hour. And StarDate (sp?) is awesome, too. I try to never miss one. Keep up the good work!
(NOTE: This is an expansion and detailing of an earlier article. Enjoy.)
PUT ME IN THE CAMP of those who view the Torah as a largely fictional work.
That said, I do tend to think that some of it actually happened. For example, there’s a passage in Genesis which describes Abraham the Patriarch as leading a commando raid on a group of people who kidnapped his nephew, where he is said to have taken 318 men with him. I don’t think anyone would invent such a specific figure; thus, for this (and other reasons) I do believe Abraham existed, and the tribal elders, and Moses (or someone Moses-like), and Joshua, and a few other people scattered here and there through the text.
I also believe the Sinai event happened. But not for the reasons you’d think.
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WORF: These are our stories. They tell us who we are.
BA’EL: …Are they true?
WORF: I have studied them all of my life, and find new truths in them every time.
– “Birthright,” Star Trek: The Next Generation
Here’s a radical thought: does the story of the Exodus and its miracles — including this week’s splitting of the Sea of Reeds — need to be true in order to be meaningful?
Biblical literalists, who take the Torah to be G?d’s word, see the text as the ultimate truth and the miracles as G?d’s handiwork. Modern critics see the Torah as a unique document compiled from numerous sources, and explain the miracles in terms of natural events. But both may be missing the point.
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Slate-thin clouds cover
shoulders that lately knew sun.
Make up your mind, God.
“WHAT CAN I DO, RIGHT now, to better myself?”
AS SOUND IS SLOWLY-VIBRATING light, ambition is slowly-vibrating desperation.
OUR TORAH PORTION THIS WEEK begins with God’s famous exhortation to Abram, “Lech Lecha — Go for yourself from your land … I will bless you and make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”
What does that mean, to be a blessing? Rashi says it’s an investment in Abraham of God’s power to bless, to pass along the Divine influence for growth and attainment. According to the Etz Chayim chumash, it means “to serve as the exemplar by which a blessing is invoked.” Rabbi Samson Hirsch, however, sees it as a commandment: to receive the divine rewards, one must live so as to be a blessing to the world.
Perhaps it also means to live in such a way as see the Divine in every moment — to bear witness, however unlikely it may seem, to the action of God as context for our lives (to paraphrase R’ Jack Gabriel). To be a blessing is to sanctify everything within reach — and to learn to extend that reach by joining hands with others. After all, we can’t do it alone!
Neal & Ann’s Torah Study
Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011: 10 am-noonish (RSVP)
Torah Portion: Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)
Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27-41:16
Scary loud gusts brush
From the trees’ green-flowing hair
Stray twigs and branches.
TAKE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS, STAR A grumpy Chicagoan, people the landscape with characters and places from the world’s literature and you have Silverlock — a fable of the human spirit no less great or more complex a story than a man discovering the world of letters and how it changes him. I have read it twice now, once from the depths of a great spiritual crisis, and the effect is almost electric. Half the fun is spotting the references; another half is author John Myers Myers’ love of language; a third half is how it makes you feel. Silverlock may or may not change your life, but it will certainly change your view of storytelling — and isn’t that sometimes the same thing?
If I had cared to live, I would have died.
A storm had come up. While not sick, I found my bunk the most comfortable place, leaving it only to take my meals. Dozing after supper, I learned of disaster when a wave bashed in the door of my deck cabin. The backwash sluiced me out of it and stranded me by a stowage locker.
WHEN IN DOUBT, SHOOT FROM the heart.
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