Rabbi Feingold's D'var Torah

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This week’s parasha is the penultimate reading of the Torah cycle. After next week’s “Ha’azinu,” the last paragraphs of the Torah are left for reading on Simchat Torah, when we finish reading the Torah and start again. In Vayelech, Moses states that the words of this book, Deuteronomy, or perhaps the entire Torah, are to be read only every seven years on the holiday of Sukkot, during the Sabbatical Year. (Deut. 31: 10-12) It is not clear when the custom of Parashat Hashvuah, the weekly cycle of Torah reading, began—some attribute it to Moses, but that clearly contradicts what is written here. Over time, a passage from the prophets (Haftarah) was added to the weekly public reading as well. Special readings were provided on each of the holidays. On Yom Kippur, it became customary to read from Deuteronomy in the morning and from Leviticus in the afternoon. As we move on through our Ten Days of Repentance toward Yom Kippur, let me wish each of you “G’mar Hatima Tovah,” “May you be sealed for good in the Book of Life.”

Deuteronomy 31:1–30

Even though I am not a Facebook , Twitter, or Instagram follower, I am able to appreciate a d’rash (commentary) on this week’s parasha by Rabbi Dr. Analia Bortz, MD. She suggests that Nitzavim presents God’s covenant as “the ultimate social network.” (Text Messages, p. 257-258) God tells the Israelites: “I make this covenant … not with you alone but both with those who are standing here… and with those who are not here with us this day.” (Deut 29:13-14) Social network messages make their way to people who may have no direct connection to the one who sent it originally, but even so, a community of sorts is established, going back to the originator. There is some kind of link, however tangential, between all those in the cyber chain. And so, as Jews, every time we link ourselves to Torah or “like”a Jewish teaching, we create links to other Jews and other texts going back to the Original Text. As we approach the New Year 5776, may each of us find a link to our tradition that connects us ever more closely to our Jewish roots. L’shanah Tovah Tikateyvu.

Deuteronomy 29:9–30:20

This week’s parasha (Torah portion) contains a list of blessings for following the mitzvot (commandments). Receiving a blessing is usually thought of as something that comes to us from God, and this is clearly the meaning found in Ki Tavo. But, in Jewish life, we are also accustomed to reciting blessings—blessing God for the things we enjoy in life. We also have the “Priestly Blessing” that is traditionally recited only by Kohanim, those who are descended from the ancient High Priests. In liberal Judaism, this prayer is often recited by a rabbi at life cycle events. At a concert in Tel Aviv in 2009, Leonard Cohen, whose last name indicates that he is a Kohein, surprised and delighted his audience by offering the blessing to those present, asking for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. To witness that moment, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4imJ7wWB9FU. As we anticipate the start of a new year, let us all find ways invoke blessings in our lives.

Deuteronomy 26:1–29:8

November FOOD OF THE MONTH: Canned Tomatoes 

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