Sidrahs

Re’eh

By Dr Diana Lipton, August 27, 2008

"If there appears among you a prophet or a dream-diviner and he gives you a sign or a portent, saying, ‘Let us follow and worship another god', whom you have not experienced - even if the sign or the portent that he named comes true, do not heed the words of that prophet or dream-diviner. For the Lord, your God is testing you to see whether you love the Lord, your God with all your heart and soul" Deuteronomy 13:2-4

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Ekev

By Jonny Solomon, August 18, 2008

"Him shall you serve, and to Him shall you cleave" Deuteronomy 10:20
"To walk in all his ways, and to cleave to Him" Deuteronomy 11:22

On two occasions in Parashat Ekev, the Torah demands that we cleave to God, yet in neither case does it define how this may be achieved. Given that the Torah describes God as "a consuming fire" (Deuteronomy 4:24), how can we cleave to Him?

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Va’etchanan

By Rabbi Daniel Glass, August 12, 2008

"And you should love the Lord, your God with all your heart" Deuteronomy 6:5

Cupid's arrow sails rapidly through the air and strikes the unsuspecting heart. Without warning, you are in love.

If love - and feeling in general - is something that happens to me, something that emanates, seemingly randomly, from an external source, if I either feel something or I don't, then how can the famous second line of the Shema command me to "love"? What am I being asked to do - to decide to love?

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Devarim

By Maureen Kendler, August 4, 2008

"These are the words that Moses spoke" Deuteronomy 1:1

Words, words, words, as Hamlet might have said when reading this sidrah and indeed the whole of the Book of Devarim (Deuteronomy). And delivering them all is the singular speechmaker, the eloquent, passionate wordmeister, Moses.

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Massei

By Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz, July 28, 2008

"These are the journeys of the children of Israel who left the land of Egypt"
Numbers 33:1

How odd, the commentator Malbim points out, that the Israelites' destination, the land of Israel, is not mentioned at all. Surely the intention of the Exodus was to take the Jewish people to the holy land and inhabit it? Why then is this not stated in the verse above?

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Mattot

By Dr Diana Lipton, July 21, 2008

"The Reubenites and the Gadites owned cattle in very great numbers"
Numbers 32:1

In this week's parashah, the Gadites and the Reubenites ask to stay on the "wrong side" of the Jordan to accommodate their many cattle (Numbers 32:5). According to Numbers Rabbah 22.8, these cattle were seized from the Midianites (Numbers 31:9). The Torah itself does not report this, but describes in detail how the Midianite booty was meticulously turned over to Moses for proper distribution. So what justifies the claim in Numbers Rabbah?

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Pinchas

By Johnny Solomon, July 14, 2008

“Moses brought their case before God ”
Numbers 27:5

When Moses was petitioned by the five daughters of Zelophehad to give them a portion in the land of Israel, one would have expected him to respond with ease. Surely this was not the most complex question he had encountered?!

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Balak

By Rabbi Daniel Glass, July 11, 2008

“What have I done to you that you struck me this three times?
Numbers 22:28

Children have a sense of wonder at the ordinary. Why the wind blows, what thunder actually is, the way the spores of a dandelion fly.

Great artists and scientists often possess the rare ability to retain this child-like wonder. Van Gogh could look at a flower as if he had never seen a flower before. Einstein wondered what it would look like if you could travel on a beam of light.

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Chukkat

By Maureen Kendler, July 4, 2008

“And Jephthah vowed a vow to the Lord”
Judges 11:30

One of the Bible’s most tragic incidents is recounted in this week’s haftarah. Jephthah, a judge, makes a vow promising God that if He surrenders the Ammonite enemy into his hands, whatever comes out of his house to welcome him on his return shall be sacrificed to Him as a burnt-offering.

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Korach

By Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz, June 27, 2008

“Moses became distressed and said to the Lord, ‘Do not accept their offerings. No donkey of any one of them did I take, nor did I harm any one of them’”
Numbers 16:15

The great leader Moses is faced with rebellion. It is clear that he is disturbed, but why does he find it important to emphasise that he took “no donkey”? It seems he was not the only leader who makes this claim.

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