D-VAR TORAH: A LOOK AT THE TORAH PORTION OF THE WEEK
Each week we will share different commentaries on the Torah portion and/or the holiday.
Saturday, July 4, 2020
CHUKAT-BALAK, NUMBERS 19:1-25.9
From My Jewish Learning
In this Torah portion, God instructs Moses and Aaron regarding the red heifer. Miriam, who is the sister of Moses and Aaron, dies. Moses hits a rock to bring forth water rather than speaking to it. At the end Chukat, Aaron dies.
In Balak, the king of Moab, asks Balaam to curse the Israelites after he sees them defeat various nations in battle. Balaam’s donkey sees an angel of God and refuses to move any further. Balaam hits the donkey. God speaks through the mouth of the donkey to tell him not to curse the Israelites. Instead of cursing the Israelites, Balaam blesses them.
Saturday, June 27, 2020
KORACH, NUMBERS 16:1-18:32
Now Korach, son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, betook himself, along with Dathan and Abiram sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth–decendants of Reuben–to rise up against Moses, … – Numbers 16:1-2
Saturday, June 20, 2020
SH’LACH L’CHA, NUMBERS 13:1-15:41
In this Torah portion, Moses sends 12 spies to explore the Land of Israel. Ten of them convince the people that it will be too difficult to conquer the land. God responds to their lack of confidence by punishing them with 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. God commands the Israelites to put fringes on the ends of their clothing.
Saturday, June 13, 2020
BEHA’ALOTECHA, NUMBERS 8:1-12:16
In this Torah portion, the Israelites receive instructions regarding Passover. They journey forth from Sinai and complain to God on several occasions, provoking God’s anger. Miriam and Aaron speak against Moses.
Saturday, June 6, 2020
NASO, NUMBERS 4:21-7:89
The Eternal One spoke to Moses: “Take a census of the Gershonites also, by their ancestral house and by their clans.” – Numbers 4:21-22
How Do We Bless Others by Riva Gambert
In addition to passages about taking a census, adultery and becoming a Nazir, Naso also deals with the Priestly Blessing, which is often described as God showing love for us. BUT how do WE show love to others? How do WE bestow blessings on others? In the Torah, love is not expressed through emotion but as a behavior.
In these troubled and unprecedented times, it is important to see that all of us are connected through our membership in humanity. Indeed, the spread of COVID-19 demonstrates this. Each human heart retains the same desire for respect. The same need for empathy.
Recently on Nextdoor, a man in his 30’s shared that he felt safer when, on a walk in his Walnut Creek neighborhood, he brought his 8 year-old daughter along with him. First, I couldn’t understand what he meant. Then he explained that he was African American and holding his daughter’s hand reduced people’s suspicions of him.
In the early 1980s at a Jewish Federation sponsored solidary Shabbat for Ethiopian Jews, most of whom had not yet been brought to Israel, we included a reading whose author I cannot recall. But it is a call for looking at our own behavior—especially important now. With no excuse, and with apologies to the author, I have added a new line, next to the last one.
IF YOU LOOK AT THE STARS AND YAWN
Praise me, says God, and I will know that you love me.
Curse me, says God, and I will know that you love me.
Praise me or curse me
And I will know that you love me.
But if you sit fenced off in your apathy, says God,
If you sit entrenched in: “I don’t give a hang,” says God,
If you look at the stars and yawn,
If you see suffering and you don’t cry out,
If you see suffering and don’t cry out,
If you don’t see the same human heart in others
Then I created you in vain, says God.
Torah Commentary for Shavuot, 2020
Saturday, May 23, 2020
BAMIDBAR, NUMBERS 1:1-4:20
In Hebrew, Bamidbar means “in the wilderness” although the English name is Numbers. In this book of the Torah, the reader journeys along with the Israelites from Mt. Sinai through the physical wilderness before they arrive at the Promised Land. But it is not only an untamed place where they stay for decades, but an untamed emotional state in which they live. There is skepticism about reaching their eventual destination. They are afraid of what is to come of them. They doubt their own vision. Will there be a happy ending to their journey in the wilderness? In this COVID-19 time, we can see a parallel with many of our own emotions.
Saturday, May 16, 2020
BEHAR-BECHUKOTAI, LEVITICUS 25:1-27:34
The Eternal One spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: “Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe a sabbath of the Eternal.”
“In this Torah portion, God describes the laws surrounding resting the land and crops every seven years, as well as the Jubilee year every 50 years. God permits the use of slaves but provides stipulations including the obligation to eventually free your slaves” –MyJewishLearning.com
Saturday, May 9, 2020
EMOR, LEVITICUS 21:1-24:23
This Torah portion gets its name from the word by which God tells Moses to “speak” the “Holiness” laws to the priests. The priests had special duties and special laws were given to them, which set them apart from the rest of the Israelites.
In today’s COVID-9 world, which group of people is being given special status? Think healthcare workers, food providers and emergency responders.
Saturday, May 2, 2020
ACHAREI MOT, LEVITICUS 16:1-18:30
“Acharei Mot, the first of this week’s two parashiyot begins on an unsettling note — a reminder of the death of Aaron’s sons and the suggestion that such tragedies might occur again unless the priests take specified steps to prevent them” — Rabbi Richard Levy
My rules alone shall you observe, and faithfully follow My laws: I the Lord am your God. – Leviticus 18:4
What good are rules if you can bend them?
We need a nanny who is disciplined and stern.
With boys and girls you don’t befriend them.
I fear that Marry Poppins has a lot to learn.
— Sung by George Banks in the musical “Mary Poppins“
Saturday, April 25, 2020
TAZRIA, LEVITICUS 12:1 – 13:59
For many of us, the Torah portions of Tazria and Metzora have never felt so relevant. While in years past there was a great sense of distance from the confusing descriptions of biblical skin afflictions, the quarantine of afflicted Israelites…it feels difficult to escape their prescience during our current global pandemic. (As a matter of fact, there was a recent essay published on thetorah.com exploring all of the parallels between COVID-19 and the treatment of Ancient Near Eastern contagious disease.) As we all struggle with the challenges of social distancing and the uncertainty of the future, I believe that insights into the details of our parshiyot can provide us with points of reflection for our present reality. – Rabbi Rogoff
Saturday, April 18, 2020
SHEMINI (also spelled Sh’mini), LEVITICUS 9:1-11:47
Saturday, April 11, 2020