September 2009

Shabbat: Parsha Ha'azinu

Shabbat Shalom and welcome to Judeo Talk. The Torah portion for this week is Parsha Ha'azinu, Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52.

This week, we read from the penultimate parsha in the Tanakh, the Five Books of Moses. Ha'azinu is a poem, the second to last poem he ever recited. It is, without a doubt, a piece meant to literally put the fear of God in his people. But we can't look at the verse of Ha'azinu as a stand-alone piece. Indeed, the last thing Moses ever does before he dies in next week's parsha is speak a blessing over the Israelites. Anyone who has spent a decent amount of time studying Torah should know that this order of events is significant. The fear is not the last word, but the blessing.

Rosh Hashanah and the Days of Awe

For those of us who grew up in the Jewish community, the High Holy Days are synonymous with long ritual services at the local synagogue and large meals with friends a family. But really, the days in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are arguably more important than the services themselves. Judaism, as I often try to convey, doesn't happen in the sanctuaries of our temples or the libraries of our scholars. None of the lessons of the Torah mean anything if we do not actively incorporate them into our lives.

Shabbat: Parsha Nitzavim-Vayelech

Shabbat Shalom and welcome to Judeo Talk. The Torah portion for this week is Parsha Nitzavim-Vayelech, Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30.

This week's parsha is fairly brief. All in all, it feels like a sort of narrative capstone for the previous few parshiot, a kind of philosophical breather. On one level it is a review of basic themes and a sort of stepping-back perspective moment. The terms are broad and general, referencing elements of older passages, specifically the blessings and curses as well as some of the fallen cities from biblical history.

Person of the Week: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Jews have long been associated with the practice of law. This only stands to reason considering Judaism's preoccupation with the details of its own religious law. Thousands of years ago, scholars of the Torah began to approach scripture from a decidedly judicial angle, using reference-supported commentaries and a foundation of precedent to elaborate on the vague elements of the written law. At its best, Jewish legal theory has been integral to the process of social justice in a variety of cultures, not the least of which is the United States where the Jewish people have cultivated a reputation as formidable lawyers. One of the greatest contributors to US law and the adjudication of civil rights is Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Shabbat: Parsha Ki Tavo

Shabbat Shalom and welcome to Judeo Talk. The Torah portion for this week is Parsha Ki Tavo, Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8.

Ki Tavo is one of the most well-known parshiot in the rabbinic tradition and certainly one of the most oft-quoted. This is the parsha of Blessings and Curses, a great litany of the ills that will befall those who do wrong and the benefits following those who keep the mitzvot. I have personally heard those passages read and interpreted by several rabbis, yet I've never heard one reading that I feel captures the true essence of what this parsha is trying to say, or for that matter how it goes about saying it.