Tag Archives: Parashah

#TieBlog #Vayetze #Jacob’s Ladder

20 Nov
Jacob's Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder

In Parashat Vayetze, Jacob dreams of a ladder with angels ascending and descending between heaven and earth. They next morning, Jacob awakes and says, “God was in this place, and I did not even know it.” Herein lies a subtle but clear message that while other faith traditions view heavenly bliss as the ultimate religious achievement, for Judaism, the ultimate religious expression is bringing a bit of heaven onto earth.

Advertisements

#TieBlog #Ki-Tetze

4 Sep
"When you go out to war..." (Deut. 21:10)

“When you go out to war…” (Deut. 21:10)

This week’s Torah portion, Ki-Tetze, begins and ends with accounts of war. The midrash interprets the various laws of the opening section (Deuteronomy 21: 10-21) as a narrative thread underscoring the ravages of war. A soldier in the heat of battle covets a female prisoner and, under the power of lust, marries her (vv. 10-14); in the end, he will lose feelings of affection for her and for the children he fathers with her (15-17), and those children will grow up disrespectful (vv. 18-21) of their parents.

The very end of the portion (25: 17-19) recounts the Amelekites’ surprise attack on the Israelites in which they preyed upon the most vulnerable. We have the paradoxical instructions both to “Remember!” and to “blot out the memory of Amalek.” Rashi notes that immediately prior to this section we have the commandment to keep fair weights and measures. He says that the juxtaposition of these texts shows that when we are lax in business ethics, we open ourselves up to communal disaster in which the weakest members of the community will pay the steepest price. Indeed, all of the laws in Ki-Tetze underscore what Rabbi Harold Kushner calls “the irreducible dignity and worth of a human being.” Without this societal norm, we are vulnerable to the scourge of war.

#TieBlog #Nitzavim

29 Aug
"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 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 in response and says, “My children have defeated me.” The Torah is meant to be studied and reinterpreted in each generation.

28 Jun

image

Pinchas is the Torah’s “Dark Knight.” He is a vigilante who takes the law into his own hands. When the Israelites were seduced into a mass orgy by the Moabites, God and Moses are incensed. Pinchas is too and pushes the envelope by stabbing to death a prominent Israelite man and Moabite woman who are copulating in public. Parashat Pinchas begins with God rewarding Pinchas, grandson of Aaron the High Priest, with a Brit Shalom, a Covenant of Peace. The rabbis struggle to justify this reward when Pinchas acted outside of any legal jurisdiction to take such action. In the Jerusalem Talmud the rabbis go so far as to say that Pinchas should have been excommunicated were it not for God’s own intervention. Batman is a similarly complex figure who stands for justice but operates outside the established legal system. A Batman tie, therefore, seems apt this week.

#TieBlog #Korach

6 Jun

imageimage

Korach is grumpy about something. This Levite is jealous of the power and prestige of his cousins Moses and Aaron and stages a rebellion. With an assist from God, the rebellion fails miserably, and Korach and his comrades are swallowed by the earth. A few years ago during a family trip to Disney World, in one of the shops I found this tie featuring Grumpy from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It occurred to me that I coukd wear it for Parashat Korach whose namesake is the grumpiest person in the Torah. To be fair, Grumpy the Dwarf is not a sinister character; his name reflects more his disposition than his character. Still, one gets the sense Korach was an unhappy–and most especially grumpy person. Shabbat Shalom–and be happy!

#TieBlog Go #Bulls!

5 May

Bulls

Ok, so it’s not exactly a tie connected to a Torah portion. I’m just showing some native Chicago pride in light of the Bulls advancing in the playoffs. Then again, I may recycle this tie when we read in the Torah about the Red Heifer.