Congregation B'nai Torah
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Torah Portions of the Weeks - From Aish.com
Sept. 22 - Ha'azinu, Deuteronomy 32:1 - 32:51
The Torah portion is a song, a poem taught to the Jewish people by Moshe. It recounts the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people during the 40 years in the desert. Jewish consciousness, until the present generation, was to teach every Jewish child to memorize Ha'azinu. In this manner we internalized the lessons of our history, especially the futility of rebelling against the Almighty. The portion ends with Moshe being told to ascend Mount Nevo to see the Promised Land before he dies and is "gathered to his people". By the way, this is one of the allusions to an afterlife in the Torah. Moshe died alone and no one knows where he is buried. Therefore, "gathered to his people" has a higher meaning!
Sept. 29 Sukkot reading- The Torah portion continues with the infamous story of the Golden Calf. The people wrongly calculated that Moses was late in coming down from Mt. Sinai and the people were already seeking a replacement for him by making the Golden Calf (there is a big lesson in patience for us here). Moses sees them dancing around the calf and expressing anger he breaks the Two Tablets; he then punishes the 3,000 wrongdoers (less than .1% of the 3 million people), pleads to God not to wipe out the people, requests to see the Divine Glory, and receives the second set of Tablets of the Ten Commandments.
Oct. 6 - Beraishis, Genesis 1:1 - 6:8
The Five Books of Moses begin 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. 13 - 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 to the righteous path, 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 and then to ask forgiveness 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).
Oct. 20 - Lech Lecha (Genesis 12-17)
The Almighty commands Avram (later renamed Avraham) to leave Haran and go to "the place that I will show you" (which turned out to be the land of Canaan -- later renamed the Land of Israel). The Almighty then gives Avram an eternal message to the Jewish people and to the nations of the world, "I will bless those who bless you and he who curses you I will curse." Finding a famine, Avram travels to Egypt (once renamed to be part of the United Arab Republic) asking Sarai (later renamed Sarah), to say she is his sister so they won't kill him to marry her (the Egyptians were particular not to commit adultery ... so they would kill the husband instead).Pharaoh evicts Avram from Egypt after attempting to take Sarai for a wife. They settle in Hebron (also known as Kiryat Arba) and his nephew Lot settles in Sodom. Avram rescues Lot -- who was taken captive -- in the Battle of the Four Kings against the Five Kings. Entering into a covenant with the Almighty (all covenants with the Almighty are eternal, never to be abrogated or replaced by new covenants), Avram is told that his descendants will be enslaved for 400 years and that his descendants (via Isaac, "... through Isaac will offspring be considered yours" Gen. 21:8. Isaac, not Ishmael!) will be given the land "from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates."
Sarai, childless, gives her handmaid Hagar to Avram for a wife so that he will have children. Ishmael (the alter zedeh -- the grandfather -- of our Arab cousins) is born. The covenant of brit mila, religious circumcision, is made (read 17:3-8), God changes their names to Avraham and Sarah and tells them that Sarah will give birth to Yitzhak (Isaac). Avraham circumcises all the males of his household.
The Parsha of the Week