V’zot ha-Bracha 5781-82

September 21, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of September 19th, 2021

Deut. 33:21 

For there is the portion of the revered chieftain [מְחֹקֵ֖ק סָפ֑וּן],

Where the heads of the people come [וַיֵּתֵא֙ רָ֣אשֵׁי עָ֔ם].

What is the meaning of these mysterious lines from the blessing of Gad?

Did the end of line 1 and the beginning of line 2 get switched around?

And … what are we trying to find out when we ask these questions?

This week’s handout: 54 V’zot ha-Bracha 5781-82

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Ha’azinu 5781-82

September 14, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of September 12th, 2021

Deut. 32:1    Give ear, O heavens, let me speak;

Let the earth hear the words I utter!

But … why?  Scholar Mark Leuchter asks: Why is the Song of Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy?

This week’s handout: 53 Ha’azinu 5781-82

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Vayelech 5781-82

September 7, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of September 5th, 2021

Deut. 31:1    Moses went and spoke these things to all Israel. 2  He said to them:

I am now one hundred and twenty years old, I can no longer be active. Moreover, the Lord has said to me, “You shall not go across yonder Jordan.” 3 The Lord your God Himself will cross over before you [ה֣וּא ׀ עֹבֵ֣ר לְפָנֶ֗יךָ]; and He Himself will wipe out those nations from your path and you shall dispossess them.—Joshua is the one who shall cross before you [הוּ֚א עֹבֵ֣ר לְפָנֶ֔יךָ], as the Lord has spoken.— 4 The Lord will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, kings

Who exactly is “crossing over” Before the Israelites?  Is Joshua going with the Israelites, or leading them?  And … who is “he” in v.23?

This week’s handout: 52 Vayelech 5781-82

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Nitzavim 5781

August 31, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of August 29th, 2021

Deut. 29:9

You stand this day, all of you, before the Lord your God—your tribal heads, your elders and your officials [רָאשֵׁיכֶ֣ם שִׁבְטֵיכֶ֗ם זִקְנֵיכֶם֙ וְשֹׁ֣טְרֵיכֶ֔ם], all the men of Israel.

Who are the “tribal heads” and how can “your heads and your tribes” mean that — or does it?

This week’s handout:  51 Nitzavim 5781

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Ki Tavo 5781

August 24, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of August 22nd, 2021

Deut. 28:36    The Lord will drive you, and the king you have set over you, to a nation unknown to you or your fathers, where you shall serve other gods, of wood and stone. 37 You shall be a consternation, a proverb, and a byword [לְשַׁמָּ֔ה לְמָשָׁ֖ל וְלִשְׁנִינָ֑ה] among all the peoples to which the Lord will drive you.

What is a “byword”?  Therein lies a tale — a cautionary tale.

This week’s handout: 50 Ki Tavo 5781

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Ki Tetze 5781

August 17, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of August 15th, 2021

Deut. 25:5   When brothers dwell together and one of them dies and leaves no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married to a stranger, outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall unite with her: he shall take her as his wife and perform the levir’s duty.

What exactly is a “levir’s” duty?  Someone in the book of Ruth (who shall remain nameless) is about to find out.

This week’s handout: 49 Ki Tetze 5781

Click here to read more about Ruth 4.

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Shoftim 5781

August 10, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of August 8th, 2021

Deut. 18:9   When you enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of those nations. 10 Let no one be found among you who consigns his son or daughter to the fire, or who is an augur [קֹסֵ֣ם קְסָמִ֔ים], a soothsayer, a diviner, a sorcerer, 11 one who casts spells, or one who consults ghosts or familiar spirits, or one who inquires of the dead.

 

Do you believe in magic?  It seems like Deuteronomy does.  Are the people who are dowsing for water today acting against the Bible? + Special Bonus! Was Balaam a magician … or not?

 

This week’s handout: 48 Shoftim 5781

Click here to read about the people who are dowsing for water today.

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Re’eh 5781

August 3, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of August 1st, 2021

Deut. 12:4   Do not worship the Lord your God in like manner, 5 but look only to the site that the Lord your God will choose [מָּק֞וֹם אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַ֨רהַ] amidst all your tribes as His habitation, to establish His name there.

Where the site that the Lord your God will choose?  When will He choose it and when will the other sites be destroyed in this way?

According to 2 Kings 21-23, it did not happen until half a millennium later, when a king in Jerusalem read this passage and — perhaps, argues Frederick Greenspahn — misunderstood it.

This week’s handout: 47 Re’eh 5781

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Ekev 5781

July 27, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of July 25th, 2021

Deut. 10:12   And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God demand of you? Only this: to revere the Lord your God, to walk only in His paths, to love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, 13 keeping the Lord’s commandments and laws, which I enjoin upon you today, for your good.

Why does this verse resemble Micah 6:8 — and what does that verse mean by הצנע לכת ‘walking humbly’?  Not everyone agrees that humility is what Micah is calling for.  The NJPS translation of Mic 6:9, plus some poetic parallelism, will give us a clue.

This week’s handout: 46 Ekev 5781

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Va-etchanan 5781

July 20, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of July 18th, 2021

Deut. 5:23/26    For what mortal ever heard the voice of the living God [אֱלֹהִ֨ים חַיִּ֜ים] speak out of the fire, as we did, and lived?

What does the living God mean?  Why is living plural?  And exactly which verse are we talking about anyway?  All that and more on Torah Talk this week.

This week’s handout: 45 Va-etchanan 5781

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