Torah Portion: Ha’azinu (Hear) Devarim (Deuteronomy) 32
HafTorah: II Sam. 22:1-51
Tonight we read what is generally called, “The Song of Moses,” which G-d gave him for the people. Remember he delivers this his almost final words to these people whom he has led for forty years through the wilderness. He, according to verse 32:48, gives this song to Israel on the very same day that he dies. He is not to enter the Land. That dream which has been his goal for all these years, G-d said would not happen. Do we hear any anger or harsh words towards G-d who told him he can’t cross over the Jordan? No, instead look at verses 3 and 4 of chapter 32. He calls G-d just, righteous, great and a G-d of truth in which is no injustice. What can we learn from his words? There are times in our lives when we feel G-d has left us or has been unjust in His dealings with us. How can we be able to see G-d as Moses saw Him? Moses had reached a place where he could see that G-d only had his best in mind. The challenges and trials of life that G-d had allowed, Moses understood were to mature him in his faith. They were for good. This is the place that must be our goal. Only by passing through troubled waters can we grow. G-d does not hate us. He has not forsaken us. In our lives His desire is for us to grow, no longer only able to drink milk but to eat meat at His table. This takes effort on our part. It takes perseverance to come to this place where Moses stood.
Torah Portion: Nitzavin (Standing) & Vayelech Devarim (Deuteronomy) 29-31
HafTorah: Isaiah 61:10-63:9
Tonight we read a double portion of Torah, Nitzavim – or Stand, and Vayelech or When You Go. These are always read the two weeks before Yom Ha Truah, which in traditional Judaism begins the ten day period of repentance and soul searching leading up to Yom Kippur. It is fitting that they both speak of repentance and our need to allow the light of G-d to be turned on our lives, that we can grasp who we really are before Him as apposed to who we thing we are. I am sure we all can benefit from such a time. We have all experienced the feeling of being alone spiritually, as if G-d has abandoned us.
Torah Portion: Ki Tavo (When You Come) Devarim (Deuteronomy) 26-29
HafTorah: Isaiah 60:1-22
Tonight we study the Torah section Ki Tavo or, “when you come in.” In this section we read the blessings and curses that Moses lays out before the people before their entry into the Land. The blessings, if they follow the ways of G-d, curses if they do not. We also read of the Appointed Time of First Fruits known as what? It is called Shavuot or Pentecost and is the festival following Passover. Each farmer was called to bring the first fruits of his crop to the Temple in Jerusalem and present them as a tithe to the L-rd, to thank Him for settling them in the Land and fulfilling the promise to their ancestors. In the New Testament we see this time mentioned specifically in Acts 2, where we can see the people that came to the L-rd as the first fruits of the Messiah.
Torah Portion: Ki Tetze (When You Go Out) Devarim (Deuteronomy) 21-25
HafTorah: Isaiah 54:1-10
What would you say the over-riding theme of this Torah portion is? It is our responsibility to reach outside ourselves. Do we see this carried on in the New Testament? Look at Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31. In both segments of the Bible we see this over arching theme of helping others and doing the right thing for our fellowman. In this Torah portion we see this worked out in each chapter, whether it is in the respect of women, helping out when a man’s donkey has fallen, respect for a mother bird on a nest, interest not charged, or leaving food in your field for the poor. Over and over again we see G-d’s call for us to be involved with people. In the New Testament Matthew 5:42 talks about lending or giving to people in need and of course Matthew 25:35-40 speaks of how we are specifically called to minister to the Jewish people. Luke 3:10-11 talks about sharing with the poor. James 2:14-17 and James 1:17 says it is the very definition of religion.
Torah Portion: Shoftim (Judges) Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16:18-21:9
HafTorah: Isaiah 51:12-53:12
Tonight we read the first Torah portion of the Hebrew month of Elul. This month is devoted to repentance and soul searching. We take the time to look at ourselves and our relationship with G-d. We set our spiritual life in order. Interestingly Elul can be looked at as an acronym for, “Ani le-dodi vadodi li.” Which in English is, I am my beloved and my beloved is mine. This month can be an opportunity to renew our romance with G-d.
Torah Portion: Re’eh (See) Devarim (Deuteronomy) 11:26-16:17
HafTorah: Isaiah 54:11-55:5
This week we read a Torah section whose main theme is the future Temple and singular place of worship for Jewish people. As you go through this section you will see time and again the distinctiveness of this place of worship. We see it in the food laws, in that only kosher animals can be brought for sacrifice. We see that only Passover, Shavout and Sukkot are mentioned among the holidays. These are the three holidays where Israel, as a people, were called to come to Jerusalem to celebrate together. We also see it in the setting up of Jerusalem as different from the customs of the local inhabitants, who had a multitude of places to worship. All of this points to the fact that the people of G-d were to be different from those around them.
Torah Portion: Ekev (Because/Heed) Devarim (Deuteronomy) 7:12-11:25
HafTorah: Isaiah 49:14-51:3
Tonight we read the Torah portion Ekev. This is an interesting word to be used in that its literal meaning is heel. If you remember the Patriarch Jacob, his name comes from this word because he held on to Esau’s heel at birth. He was tenacious and would not let go, a quality that we see later in his life when he struggles with the angel at the brook. Maybe this gives us insight into what Moses is telling us in this Torah portion. I feel G-d is telling us to not give up but to hold on to those things of G-d. We need to make an effort in maintaining our relationship with Him. I think you will see this through out this section.
Torah Portion: Va’etchanan (I Pleaded) Devarim (Deuteronomy) 3:23-7:11
HafTorah: Isaiah 40:1-26
Since we did not meet last week, I would like to say a few words about the last book of Torah. Deuteronomy comes from the Greek word meaning repetition of the Law. Remember, all the people to whom Moses was speaking had been children or were born during the 40 years in the desert. Here they hear the story again. They hear the commandments for themselves. Moses knows his death is close at hand so he sets about to give his last sermon to these who will be the ones to inherit the land He wants them to be well prepared to take their inheritance. They had grown up as free men and women, not as their parents, slaves to Pharaoh.
Torah Portion: Masa’ei (Stages) B’midbar (Numbers) 33:1-36:13
HafTorah: Jeremiah 2:4-28
In this Torah section that finishes the book of B’Midbar or Numbers it begins with a recount of the journeys of Israel from their exit from Egypt until their arrival to the border of their inheritance. It covers the setting up of the cities of refuge and the division of the land.
I want us to cover a few issues in these verses as well as look at the HafTorah in Jeremiah 2:4-28. Although we have spoken of the subject of journey’s before let me take a moment to refresh each of us. Here we see Moses setting out the journeys of Israel as they went out of Egypt. Really the first journey was the only one that went out of Egypt so why does Moses say it this way? Each of us has come out of Egypt but it takes awhile to get Egypt out of us. It also takes a life time for us to reach the spiritual maturity that G-d desires of us. Paul alludes to this in the New Testament in Acts 20:23-24. Our lives are a series of journeys, each has a purpose – to mature us, to bring us closer to our inheritance. I expect each of us are in or will be in such a journey. They are for our good and not our harm. I encourage you. G-d loves you and by allowing challenges into our lives He desires for us to grow in Him.
Torah Portion: Matot (Tribes) B’midbar (Numbers) 30:2-32:42
HafTorah: Jeremiah 1:1-2:3
Tonight we read the Torah section Matot. In it we read about the vows that a person takes and how or if they can be annulled. We talked about this once and the importance of guarding our lips from words spoken in anger, or haste such as, “I will never…” Those fit the pattern of a vow and are very serious and should not be spoken lightly.