Vayeilech

Posted on September 9th, 2018

Deuteronomy 31:1–30  

 

BY SARAH TAUBER, JTS


Be Strong and Resolute, Be Courageous and Strong


In 1974, Bob Dylan (born Robert Zimmerman) released his now famous song "Forever Young." By that time Dylan was a father of four children and according to the lore of "Forever Young," he composed the lyrics as a blessing to his youngest son, Jakob. Despite the title, the song actually centers on Dylan's hopes for the kind of human being his son will grow up to become over time. In particular, he asks (prays?) as follows: “May you always be courageous / Stand upright and be strong.”

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Nitzavim

Posted on September 2nd, 2018

Deuteronomy 29:9–30:20 


BY MYCHAL SPRINGER, JTS


Returning with God


This week’s Torah Portion, Nitzavim, speaks profoundly about teshuvah, the literal and figurative struggle to return to God. When we turn back to God “with all [our] heart and soul,” the parashah tells us, then God “will bring you together again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you” (Deut 30:3). Being scattered is a state of disorientation and disconnection. Teshuvah represents a coming home. There’s an organic connection between the return to the Land of Israel—the land at the center of the Jewish soul, from which we have been banished—and the return that involves changing our ways and opening our hearts to God.

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Ki Tavo

Posted on August 26th, 2018

Deuteronomy 26:1–29:8 


BY ALAN COOPER, ELAINE RAVICH PROFESSOR OF JEWISH STUDIES, JTS


What It Means to Enjoy


At one of our Shabbat afternoon Talmud classes some 50 years ago, after the usual bout of eating, drinking, and singing, the topic under discussion was what it means to “enjoy” Shabbat and Yom Tov (Sabbath and Festivals). We discussed Rabbi Eliezer’s statement that Festival “rejoicing” is obligatory,[1] as well as the two alternative ways he proffers for attaining pleasure: either by eating and drinking or by sitting and studying. Rabbi Joshua interjects that it should be half of one and half of the other (BT Pesahim 68b).

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