Rabbi Feingold's D'var Torah


The name of this week’s parasha, Shofetim, means judges or magistrates.  Much of the parasha is about judicial matters, including a description of what seems to be the first High Court in ancient Israel. In Deut. 17:8-9 we learn that cases that are too “baffling” for lower level judges are to be taken “to the place that God will have chosen” (that is, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem) and presented to the priests and magistrates there.  This is the first mention of what later became the Sanhedrin of 71 judges that functioned like the Supreme Court of ancient Israel.  This court ruled on religious and civil matters, appointed the high priests and kings, and authorized decisions to go to war.  It even created law and in that way, functioned as a legislative body as well.

In this week’s parasha (Torah portion), Moses reviews the incident of the Golden Calf with the generation waiting to enter the Land of Israel.  He notes that he “gripped two tablets and flung them away with both...hands, smashing them before your eyes.”  (Deut9:17) Commenting on the word “smashing them” (Va’ashabreim) in Hebrew,  the Etz Hayim Torah commentary notes that, in ancient Mesopotamian culture, smashing tablets symbolized the annulment of a contract written thereon.  So, Moses’ smashing moment may have had a legal implication, in addition to rage.  (Etz Hayim p. 1045) In many cultures, the signing of a contract also involved smashing pottery, sometimes in a fire.  Some think that this is why a glass is broken at a Jewish wedding:  the ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) has just been signed.  No one knows for sure the origin of this custom, but we all know that one shouts “Mazal Tov” after the glass is shattered!  Thank you all for your good wishes of Mazal Tov as I take next week to prepare for the breaking of the glass and much more at Abby and Zak’s wedding!

This week’s parasha contains the Sh’ma, the best-known Hebrew text in the Jewish world, our eloquent and yet so simple statement of faith. (Deut 6: 4)  But what exactly do we mean when we say “Adonai Echad,”  “God is One?”  This is widely open to interpretation.  I find it fascinating that even Baruch Spinoza, the 17th century philosopher and pantheist (one who believes that God and the Universe are one), who was excommunicated from his Jewish community in Amsterdam for his heresies, tried to explain its meaning.  He wrote:  “No one will dispute that this doctrine is absolutely necessary for complete devotion, admiration and love toward God.”  (Theologic-Political Treatise, 14)  Did Spinoza then love the Universe with such devotion?  Maybe some of us can relate to this way of thinking. Today Spinoza’s ideas are accepted in the anthology of Jewish God ideas in the liberal Jewish world and perhaps beyond.

MAY FOOD OF THE MONTH:Canned or Dried Beans

June   Powdered Milk 


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Thursday, May 25, CUSH Annual Celebration Banquet

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