Posts Tagged ‘ Torah: Input ’

Confronting Evil

2017.04.24
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(From a friend, for Yom Hashoah/Holocaust Remembrance Day.)

April 15, 1965
יוסף דוב סולוביצ’יק
JOSEPH SOLOVEITCHIK

Dear Dr. Vogel:

I received your letter. Of course, you may quote me.

The gist of my discourse was that Judaism did not approach the problem of evil under the speculative – metaphysical aspect. For such an inquiry would be a futile undertaking. As long as the human mind is unable to embrace creation in its entirety and to gain an insight into the very essence and purposiveness of being as such it would not succeed in its attempt to resolve the dilemma of evil. Read more »

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Torah Study: Going, Going, Ain’t Gone Yet

2011.11.04
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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

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Torah Study: Rewrite

2011.09.23
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Among its other directives, Torah contains the seeds of its own begetting — each of us is instructed to write a Torah scroll for ourselves. In that spirit, I would paraphrase one of this week’s verses to say “Torah is not in heaven, for you to say, ‘Who will ascend and get it for us?’ It is not over the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea and get it for us?’ No, the matter is very near to you — two blocks south of Sonoma Plaza and hang a left on most Saturdays — to do it.”

That would, of course, include tomorrow. We’ll leave the light on for you.

Be well, happy autumn, and Shabbat shalom!

Neal & Ann’s Torah Study
Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011, 10 am-noonish (RSVP)
Torah Portion: Netzavim-Vayeilech (Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30)
Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10-63:9

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The Best Quote Ever About Torah (And Stories In General)

2011.09.04
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“What does that song mean?” I asked Ernie once about a particular song.

He thought for a bit and then replied that if I wanted to know what the words meant, he’d be glad to translate them for me. But if I was asking what the song meant, that was different. A song, he explained, carries much more meaning than just its words. For him, for example, a large part of a song’s meaning is about who first taught it to him — a relative? an elder? a friend? What instructions were given with that teaching? Can it be sung in the daytime or only at night? Can it be sung only at one particular season? Is it a public song or private? Can women sing it or only men? Is it spiritual or ‘just for fun?’ Are there dietary or behavioral restrictions placed upon the singer as he prepares to perform? Each time a song is sung, he went on to explain, it accumulates further meaning — from the people he is singing it with, the audience he is singing it to, the circumstances under which it is sung. If a song is brought out at a funeral, for example, the funeral lends a weight and history to the song that is felt each time it is subsequently sung. Even my own curiosity about the song, he smiled, adds to its meaning.

– Malcolm Margolin, The Ohlone Way
(And yes, I excerpted this Friday, but it’s quite too good not to share in full.)

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Torah Study: Books Within Books

2011.09.02
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IN THE OHLONE WAY, AUTHOR Malcolm Margolin relates the following story-about-stories asking one of his Native American sources about a particular tribal song:

“He thought for a bit and then replied that if I wanted to know what the words meant, he’d be glad to translate them for me. But if I was asking what the song meant, that was different. A song, he explained, carries much more meaning than just its words. Read more »

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O G?D, DEAREST AND WISEST One, Maker of mercies and miracles, Describer in line and form, please: Save us from those sincere souls who know what You really meant.

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Torah Study: Worshipful Wordplay

2011.08.19
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THERE ONCE WAS A RABBI who was so lost in his studies that when the congregation called on him to deliver a sermon for that week’s Torah portion he didn’t know which one it was. Undaunted, he stepped to the bimah and said:

“A sermon should be true, from the heart, and based on the weekly Torah portion. I do not know which portion is this week’s reading from our holy Torah. This is true, I am sorry from my heart, but it is all that I can say about the portion. Amen.”

This week’s portion is Eikev. It means “heel” and “because.” So “because” we’ve all had a tough week, you are cordially invited to help “heel” yourself by studying Torah with us tomorrow morning. This is true, it is from my heart, and I hope to say more about it when I see you.

Shabbat shalom,

Neal.

Neal & Ann’s Torah Study
Saturday, August 20, 2011, 10 am-noonish (RSVP)
Torah Portion: Eikev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25)
Haftarah: Isaiah 49:14-51:3

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Torah Study: Deutero Is The Best Nomy

2011.08.05
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THIS WEEK BEGINS THE TALE of Moses, and his five-week testimonial to the nascent nation of Israel.

Unlike the Torah’s first four books, tradition ascribes Deuteronomy strictly to Moses’ hand. Like the second creation story in Genesis, the Moses-eye view of the Egyptian Experience and Sinai Event differs somewhat from the first account in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers: most famously, in the wording of the Fourth Commandment and the “guard/remember Shabbat” dichotomy. I like to think that’s deliberate, to encourage us to think instead of blindly obey. It’s certainly part of a pattern.
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“Judaism As Art”

2011.07.14
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or, There and Back Again Without Leaving

(BECAUSE OF WORDPRESS, I’M REPUBLISHING this 2002 piece — it works better as a “post” than as a “page” — and although my kippa-wearing has become a bit less pronounced of late it still reflects my approach to finding a place in Judaism. If you’re not hot for apologetics or manifesti, you have my permission to read something else.)

Despite that I’ve worn a yarmulke most of the time since 2000, I don’t define myself as Orthodox. Or Reform. Or, for that matter, as Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal or otherwise adjectivally Jewish.

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OUR WEEKLY TORAH STUDY SHIFTS this week, as I am honored and privileged to lead Shabbat services tomorrow morning (Sat., 7/9/11) at Sonoma’s Congregation Shir Shalom. We will begin by looking at one of the Book of Numbers’ most action-packed portions: the tale of Bilaam the Evil Wizard. (Just typing “Evil Wizard” is a...

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Torah Study: Naso, Nazir, and the Quest For What’s Had

2011.06.03
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Neal & Ann’s Torah Study
Saturday, June 4, 2011, 10 am-noonish (RSVP)
Torah Portion: Naso (Deuteronomy 4:21-7:89)
Haftarah: Judges 13:2-25

WHAT DO A SPA, MEDITATION, prayer, music and this week’s Torah portion have in common?

One answer: They all describe ways of getting closer to God.

Among other topics (e.g., gifts, jealousy and leadership) our portion tells us about the “nazir:” a man or woman who wants to dedicate themselves more intensely to God. There are many reasons to feel distant from God, hence many reasons for wanting to draw near, but the nazir’s outward response is uniform: no haircuts, wine, or grape juice or grapes (even raisins!) for the duration of the nazirship. That duration ends when the nazir brings a sacrifice to the Temple — but since there’s currently no Temple, nazirship is an unobtainable ideal.

Parenthetically, of course, each one of us is already as close to God as we can possibly be. The trick of mystics and other self-actualizers is simply to notice it.

May your Shabbat be filled with unexpected and pleasant connections!

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Torah Study: Judaeo Habilis

2011.05.20
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Neal& Ann’s Torah Study
Saturday, May 21, 2011 10 am-noonish (RSVP)
Torah Portion: Bechukotai (Deuteronomy 26:3-27:34[end])
Haftarah: Jeremiah 16:19-17:14

LET’S BE HONEST: THIS WEEK’S Torah portion is not a favorite of many, containing as it does a long string of violent curses brought down on the hearts and homes of those who reject Torah.

It’s grim stuff, even for the rabbis who ordained that this part be read quickly and quietly. And it makes us uncomfortable on several levels: the specificity, the cruelty, the seemingly primitive tit-for-tat which embodies, for many of us, the worst aspects of religion. It’s tempting to ignore, delete, or gloss over this bit of text and read only the “good parts” (whatever that may be to each of us). Read more »

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