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Dvar Torah

Season of Change

Season of Change

The official start to Autumn is Monday, September 23 but our “season of change” has already begun. This Saturday night Ashkenazic Jews begin the solemn practice of reciting Selichot and Sephardic Jews have been saying Selichot since the beginning of Chodesh Elul. Despite this difference in custom, all agree these Selichot are said until the conclusion of Yom Kippur. This is our time to look inward and resolve to make real change.

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One for All and All for One

Sefer Devarim introduces us to many mitzvot not previously mentioned in any of the books of the Chumash. The command to appoint judges and create a broad legal system, to appoint a king, laws of marriage and, when necessary, how to properly terminate a marriage, are but a few examples. Some commands mentioned in this portion, however, are repeats but with a significant change in language. One such example is the command to return lost objects. Here the Torah switches from the word “your enemy” used earlier in Parshat Mishpatim, to “your brother.” The switch in language from “your enemy” to “your brother,” regarding the mitzvah to return lost objects is significant. Entering the land of Israel brought with it a new responsibility of ביו אדם לחבירו, “between a man and his fellow.” This added dimension to mitzvot created the nation. Judaism was not just to be millions of individuals all doing the same things. Rather, Judaism now embraced a national commitment to a new way of life. This new concept of “brotherhood” not only accounts for the many new social commands found in Sefer Devarim and our parasha, but we must also now provide for the wellbeing of each individual in the framework of nationhood.

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Judaism’s Unique Challenge

You shall be wholehearted with the Eternal your God,” is a verse from this week’s Torah portion, parshat Shofim. This charge is tucked away in the middle of this week’s reading. Easily overlooked, since it is only five Hebrew words, this short verse packs a punch and sheds great light on the Torah’s entire philosophy of life.

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Which Came First?

To the age-old question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” our Talmud offers an answer on page 26a of tractate Rosh Hashanah. Now which came first, the Written Torah or the Oral Torah? This week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, offers some guidance.

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Subtle But True

Subtle But True

An important philosophical debate with practical implications for daily prayer arises from a verse in this week’s Torah portion, Eikev. This debate is recorded in the tractate of Talmud, Yoma, 69b (the tractate is named for Yom Kippur, “The Day.”) In this debate we find none other than the prophets Jeremiah and Daniel arguing with the other rabbis of the “Great Assembly.” This distinct title was given to that Sanhedrin (Supreme Court) of 120 prophets and scholars on high that included Mordecai, Ezra, and Nechemiah. Their debate centered on whether or not to include two words in the daily prayer. What were the words and why the debate?

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