There is an old joke about a little Jewish boy who comes home from public school proclaiming his newfound knowledge about three gods. Upon hearing the news, his father hollers in indignation, “There are not three gods. There is only one G-d, and we don’t believe in Him!”
During Yom Kippur services, we read about the rituals the High Priest performed in the Temple. After its destruction, the job of preparing for and conducting the Yom Kippur atonement service falls on us. Neither the Torah nor the Talmud instructs us exactly how to approach G-d, but in the Mussaf service on Rosh Hashanah we explicitly ask G-d to treat us “like children” to Him. We approach G-d similarly on Yom Kippur, the culmination of the Ten Days of Repentance.
A group of more than 20 of my family members recently got together in Las Vegas to celebrate the 60th birthday of my dear aunt. While there, I found myself in the poker room at a hotel on the Strip. As I sat, I noticed I completed the “minyan” of 10 adult poker players at our table.
I used to have a class with a very successful venture capitalist. One time, I started our weekly session and instead of opening the Torah to discuss a relevant issue, I asked him if he would fund my new business.
“Many pens have been broken and seas of ink consumed to describe things that never happened.” — Maimonides
Our sun is 400 times bigger than the moon, so in order to bring about an eclipse, the moon has to be placed 400 times closer to Earth.
In an 1898 article for Harper’s Magazine, this is what Mark Twain had to say about the Jews:
Every person will, at some point in his life, take an accounting. He will not only ask whether he achieved his goals, but also if he achieved the right goals.
Was it worth all that effort? Could I have achieved more? If only I had thought it through... You don’t have to be old to ask these questions. The older you are, though, the harder these questions are to face, and the more frequently they rise to your consciousness. The High Holidays train us to think through and face these questions now, as opposed to in the future; to take the pain of “now,” rather than the anguish of “then,” because pain is passing, but the results are permanent.
We read in this week’s parsha, Nitzavim:
“For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not too hard for you, and it is not distant. It is not in heaven, that you should say: ‘Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say: ‘Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?’” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14).
In this week’s parsha, Shoftim, we find the ringing command that reverberates through the ages: “Justice, justice shall you pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). The admonition carries a special meaning for us as Jews. Indeed, the verse repeats the word “justice” twice for emphasis. Moreover, we see from the laws of weights and measures in next week’s parsha how scrupulously we must pursue justice.
This week’s parsha, Va’etchanan, derives its name (translatable as “And I beseeched”) from its opening narrative. G-d had sworn to Moshe at Merivah (Numbers 20:12) that he would lead the Jews into the Land of Israel. After Aaron had died, G-d ordered Moshe to “Ascend … Mount Abarim and see the land … and you [shall die]” (Numbers 27:12-13). This week’s parsha opens with Moshe’s account of his response to this decree.
The first of this week’s two parshiot, Matot, tells the story of Moshe’s final duty, avenging Balaam’s wicked plot to entice the Jews into licentiousness. The story takes some unusual twists, particularly in verses 2 and 5 of chapter 31. Verse 2 says that G-d told Moshe, “Avenge [the treachery to] the Children of Israel [which] the Midianites [perpetrated], and then you shall [pass away].” Moshe duly repeated the command and ordered the Jews to take “G-d’s vengeance” against Midian. Verse 5 records, “From the multitude of Israel were delivered 1,000 for each tribe [12,000 in all to go to war].” The Jews killed Balaam in the process of defeating Midian.
- A Changing of the Guard is Nigh, But Why?
- My Problem
- Clearing The Path to Your Heart
- Principles From the Parsha: Korach’s Confrontation With Moshe
- The Best Things in Life Are Never Free
- Between Man and His Fellow Man: Hospitality
- Principles From the Parsha: Preparing and Cleaning the Menorah
- Principles from the Parsha: The Land Shall Observe Shabbat