Refining Torah

Refining Torah

Aug 2, 2003 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Devarim

The Torah itself, Heschel explains, is a midrash on revelation. As such, the Torah or literally, “the Teaching” is a text that is dependent on reading and re-reading; on commentary and on super-commentary. With each successive reading, we uncover the many layers of meaning that Torah has to offer. This hermeneutical process traces its roots back to the Torah itself and quite explicitly to this week’s parashah, Parashat Devarim

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The Attributes of a Leader

The Attributes of a Leader

Aug 2, 2003 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Devarim

Much of the Book of Deuteronomy is taken up with Moses’ farewell address to the Israelite nation. He has served his people as their leader in every sphere: military, administrative, judicial and spiritual. Now, he reviews the events of the forty wilderness years, and presents, from his own perspective, a report of how he has led the nation.

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The Moral Lessons of Tish’ah Be’Av

The Moral Lessons of Tish’ah Be’Av

Jul 13, 2002 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Devarim | Eikev | Tishah Be'av

The Shabbat before Tishah b’Av bears the special name of “Shabbat Hazon,” which I would translate as “the Sabbath of Vision.” The name derives from the first word of the haftarah for the day, “the prophecies (hazon) of Isaiah son of Amoz.” However, in the context of the calamities to be recalled on the Ninth of Av, the force of the word is not technical or restricted, but spiritual and expansive.

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Carrying Torah Forward

Carrying Torah Forward

Jul 13, 2002 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Devarim

The prophet Hosea addresses the role of words in the sacred task of returning to God. In poetic brevity, the prophet declares, “Take words with you and return to the Lord” (Hosea 14:3). How appropriate it is that Parashat Devarim, read towards the beginning of the three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av, begins with the Hebrew word devarim, words. Encamped on the other side of the Jordan River in the land of Moab, Moses “undertook to expound this Teaching” (Deuteronomy 1:5). Precisely how does Moses ‘undertake to expound’ the Torah? And how can we understand Moses’ teaching in light of Hosea’s declaration?

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Memory’s Comfort

Memory’s Comfort

Jul 28, 2001 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Devarim | Tishah Be'av

Next week I will commemorate Tishah B’Av at Camp Ramah. Many a summer finds me vacationing in Vermont when the fast day comes. My isolation makes its observance doubly difficult. Judaism requires community. Our religious reserves quickly run dry when we go it alone. The presence of a minyan united by ritual not only generates an atmosphere of sanctity, it also inspires our own participation.

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The Relevance of Tish’ah Be’av

The Relevance of Tish’ah Be’av

Aug 2, 2000 By Joshua Heller | Commentary | Devarim | Tishah Be'av

Next week, Jews around the world will observe Tisha B’av, mourning the destruction of the First and Second Temples and commemorating many other tragedies of Jewish history. The literary centerpiece of the holiday is the book of Lamentations, Eikha, which mourns the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem and the exile of the Jewish people from its land. The book’s refrain is the word “Eikha,” asking the question “How could it be?”–“How could it be that the teeming city lay desolate, that God rejected God’s people?” (Lam 1:1, 2:1, 4:1, 4:2)

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The Power of Tish’ah Be’av

The Power of Tish’ah Be’av

Jul 17, 1999 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Devarim | Tishah Be'av

The Shabbat before Tisha b’Av (the 24-hour fast day on the ninth of Av) bears the name Shabbat Hazon (the Sabbath of Vision). It derives from the first word of the haftara: “The vision [hazon] of Isaiah son of Amoz that he beheld concerning Judah and Jerusalem… (Isaiah 1:1).” In English the translation conveys a note of irony, because the word “vision” tends to connote a depiction of beauty and inspiration, whereas Isaiah is delivering a stern reprimand of the hypocrisy and injustice of Judah in the late eighth century B.C.E. The Hebrew word “hazon”, in contrast, is neutral, stressing the divine source of the vision rather than what is depicted. The prophet is a seer by virtue of his access to an experience of revelation, irrespective of its content.

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Life From the Ashes

Life From the Ashes

Aug 1, 1998 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Devarim | Tishah Be'av

How did Judaism manage to survive the destruction of its central sanctuary? According to the book of Deuteronomy, which we always begin to read on the Shabbat before Tish’ah Be’av, it was to be the only link between heaven and earth. All sacrifices were to be offered there and no place else. The exclusive cult restricted to a single Temple seemed to reinforce the fragile belief in a single, omnipotent God. And even if Solomon’s Temple never fully eradicated the plethora of local altars and sanctuaries, it did claim to be the repository of God’s holy name and the place where God was most readily accessible to human supplication. Yet, unwittingly, the monotheism of Solomon’s court increased the vulnerability of Israelite religion. The destruction of his Temple in 586 BCE could have ruptured the ties between God and Israel. By then the exiled tribes of the Northern Kingdom, crushed by Assyria in 721 BCE, were well on their way to oblivion.

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Devarim

Devarim

Jan 1, 1980

1 These are the words that Moses addressed to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan. — Through the wilderness, in the Arabah near Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Di-zahab, 2 it is eleven days from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea by the Mount Seir route.

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Devarim

Devarim

Jan 1, 1980

1 The prophecies of Isaiah son of Amoz, who prophesied concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

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