When I helped guide a young Christian business associate through a spiritual crisis, little did we know that it would result in a life-altering book. The Weight of Gold brings out the Torah’s universal messages for personal growth and social justice, showing that the Torah is indeed the User’s Guide to the human soul. Follow this blog each week for new insights into this ancient text.
One should be prepared at all times to review one’s life and to start all over again in a different place.
– Etty Hillesum
This week’s Torah reading introduces the character of Abraham. Each…
May God bless and keep you always, may your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others and let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young.
– Bob Dylan, “Forever Young”
Let us rise up and be thankful; for if we did not learn a lot, at least we learned a little.
And thus we come to the end of the Torah.
This final portion is not read in the synagogue on the Sabbath, as is done every week. It comes…
Great things are done when men and mountains meet.
– William Blake
This week’s Torah portion is the penultimate in the yearly cycle. Last week, God instructed Moses to write a poem as an eternal reminder of Israel’s obligation to follow, serve, and obey God, and of the consequences for straying from the path. Here is that song in its entirety, full of powerful imagery and frightening portents.
“Be strong and courageous,” Moses charged us on this, the last day of his life. And while the text of this poem is one of blame and condemnation — a call to…
I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness or abilities that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
– William Penn
This week’s Torah reading is very short. In fact, the action from here to the end of the Torah covers only one day — the last day of Moses’ life.
Deuteronomy features Moses exhorting repeatedly, “This is the covenant I establish with you, and not only with…
Remembering to Remember
O taste and see….
– Psalms 34:8
This week’s Torah portion is fundamentally about remembering.
Now, says Moses, “You have seen everything that God did before your eyes in Egypt, to Pharaoh and his servants and to all his land; the great trials that your eyes beheld, the great signs and wonders. But God did not give you a mind to know, or eyes to see, or ears to hear, until this day” (29:1–3). What does this mean?
Remember that the people to whom Moses is speaking are primarily not those who experienced the slavery and redemption…
And it was towards evening and David rose from his couch and strolled about the roof of the royal palace, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful.
– II Samuel, 11:2
This week’s portion has numerous references to marriage and divorce, and to improper sexual relations.
It opens with the case of a woman taken captive in time of war. The Torah describes her as “a woman beautiful of form” (Deut. 21:11), and tells the warrior how to treat this woman if he desires her sexually.
The Hebrew vocabulary resonates on many…
If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is: Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.
– Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
The textual point I want to consider in this week’s Torah portion is the opening clause of the first verse. This verse teaches an important societal and moral principle. But the opening words also reveal greater depth when interpreted according to Jewish textual traditions.
The first verse of this portion opens: “Judges and officers shall you appoint within…
All that glitters is not gold.
– Shakespeare, “Merchant of Venice”
All that is gold does not glitter.
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
The book of Deuteronomy is fundamentally different from the first four books of the Torah, offering a highly selective commentary on what has transpired since the Exodus from Egypt. Moses’ retelling of the last forty years is clearly slanted by his own perspective, and the rabbis understand this book as Moses’ harsh reproof to the Israelites for their behavior: they do not stay constant in their faith in God; they complain constantly, and once…
All things are in the hands of Heaven, save the fear of Heaven.
– Talmud, Tractate Berachot
The readiness is all.
– Shakespeare, “Hamlet”
Words, no less than humans, are communal beings. No less than ourselves, they draw their meaning from their environment, from the context in which they appear. And, similar to the development of human personalities, the meanings of words accrete as they are used again and again, obtaining new layers of significance. One such Hebrew word, eikev, meaning “because” or “owing to,” is the key word in this week’s Torah portion.
As Moses’ career draws to a…
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God; the Lord is One.
– Deuteronomy 6:4
Several times in this portion, the Israelites are exhorted to “hear,” notably, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God; the Lord is One” (Deut. 6:4). Repeated each morning and evening, this is the core declaration of Jewish faith in the existence and essential nature of God, and of Israel’s unique relationship with the One God.
When the Torah exhorts us to “hear” it carries the sense of both “understand” and “obey.” Understanding is the ideal toward which the Torah guides us; it…