Archive | September, 2015

#TieBlog #Nitzavim

11 Sep

Rabbi Ed Bernstein

"It is not in heaven"  (Deuteronomy 30:12) “It is not in heaven” (Deuteronomy 30:12)

While human beings have acquired the ability to launch rockets and people into space and explore the heavens, Deuteronomy in Parashat Nitzavim tells us that Torah–the totality of our received tradition from God–is “lo bashamayim hi,” “it is not in heaven” (Deuteronomy 30:12). This phrase has been understood that the Torah is not an esoteric document. It is meant for human beings in this world to explore, interpret and reinterpret. This verse plays a central role in one of the most famous passages in the Talmud, Bava Metzia 59b, in which Rabbi Eliezer is in a dispute with Rabbi Joshua and the majority of sages. Rabbi Eliezer performs miracles and even has a divine voice from the heavens call out that the law is in accordance with him. Rabbi Joshua, however, says “Lo bashamayim hi,” “[The Torah] is not in heaven.” God laughs…

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#TieBlog #Ki-Tavo

4 Sep

Rabbi Ed Bernstein

A cornucopia of fruit, reminiscent of the Bikkurim/first fruits A cornucopia of fruit, reminiscent of the Bikkurim/first fruits

Parashat Ki-Tavo opens with the passage describing the Bikkurim/First fruits offering. The Talmud describes this offering as the centerpiece of Shavuot, the second of the major festivals. One can picture a humble farmer bringing precious first fruits to the Temple for this thanksgiving offering. The Torah provides a specific liturgical text to be said upon presenting this gift to the kohen/priest. The text notes the humble origins of the Israelites, their plight in Egypt as slaves, their miraculous freedom and their return to the Land of Israel. While this text was originally associated with this ritual on Shavuot, after the destruction of the Temple and the end of sacrifices, the rabbis re-appropriated this text as a central passage in the Passover Seder. The cornucopia of fruit on this week’s tie represents the gift of first fruits.

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