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      Torah Portions of the Weeks - From Aish.com


 Sept. 30 - Yom Kippur - Acharei Mos includes the Yom Kippur service where the Cohen Gadol cast lots to designate two goats -- one to be sacrificed, the other to be driven to a place called Azazel -- after the Cohen Gadol (the High Priest) confessed the sins of the people upon its head. Today it is a phrase in the vernacular in Israel in the heat of an argument to instruct another person to "go to Azazel." I don't believe the intent, however, is to look for the goat....

The goat sent to Azazel carried away the sins of the Jewish people. This, I surmise, is the source of the concept of using a scapegoat. One thing you can truly give credit to the Jewish people -- when we use a scapegoat, at least we use a real goat!

Oct. 7- Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot: Exodus, Ki Sisa 33:12-34:26

Moshe pleads to the Almighty to "make known to me Your ways." The Almighty commands Moshe to carve two stone tablets to replace the Tablets that Moshe destroyed bearing the 10 Commandments. Moshe carves them and ascends Mt. Sinai. The Almighty descends in a cloud and reveals to Moshe the 13 Attributes of Divine Mercy which are constantly repeated in the Yom Kippur prayers. Moshe asks the Almighty to "forgive our transgressions and make us Your Heritage". The Almighty responds that He shall seal a covenant with us. The Almighty then warns the Jewish people against idol worship (idolatry is believing that anything other than the Almighty has power). The reading ends with the Almighty commanding us to keep the Festivals -- Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot.

Oct. 14 - Beraishis, Genesis 1:1 - 6:8

The Five Books of Moses begins with the Six Days of Creation, the Shabbat, the story of the Garden of Eden -- the first transgression, consequences and expulsion; Cain & Abel, the ten generations to Noah, the Almighty sees the wickedness of man in that generation and decrees to "blot out man" (i.e. the flood).

One of the most profound verses in the whole Torah is "And God created man in His own Image." Since God does not have a physical being, this means that we are endowed with free-will, morality, reason and the ability to emulate God Who bestows kindness. Also, if we really appreciate that we are created in the image of God, we realize that we have intrinsic worth. Therefore, there is no need to be depressed wondering if you have intrinsic worth!

Oct. 21 -Noah, Genesis 6:9 - 11:32

The story of one righteous man in an evil generation. The Almighty commands Noah to build the ark on a hill far from the water. He built it over a period of 120 years. People deride Noah and ask him, "Why are you building a boat on a hill?" Noah explains that there will be a flood if people do not correct their ways. We see from this the patience of the Almighty for people to correct their ways and the genius of arousing people's curiosity so that they will ask a question and, hopefully, hear the answer.

The generation does not do Teshuva, returning from their evil ways, and God brings a flood for 40 days. They leave the ark 365 days later when the earth has once again become habitable. The Almighty makes a covenant and makes the rainbow the sign of the covenant that He will never destroy all of life again by water (hence, James Baldwin's book, The Fire Next Time). When one sees a rainbow it is an omen to do Teshuva -- to recognize the mistakes you are making in life, regret them, correct them/make restitution, and ask for forgiveness from anyone you have wronged as well as from the Almighty.

Noah plants a vineyard, gets drunk and then occurs the mysterious incident in the tent after which Noah curses his grandson Canaan. The Torah portion concludes with the story of the Tower of Babel and then a genealogy from Noah's son, Shem, to Abram (Abraham).


The Parsha of the Week