Weekly Torah Commentary — Matot July 17, 2014

MATTOT – Bamidbar/Numbers 30:2 – 32:42

In this week’s Torah reading, the tribes of Gad and Reuben approached Moses, asking that he allow them to remain on the other side of the Jordan where there was sufficient land for them to farm their animals. They had vast numbers of cattle and the area they desired was perfect pasture land.

Moses became angry at their request and replied with a strong rebuke pointing out to them that by not entering the land of Israel they would be abandoning their fellow Israelites in the upcoming conquest.
He solemnly reminds them of the incident of the spies and its terrible consequences. In reply to Moshe’s criticisms, they assured Moses, with his permission, they would build houses for their wives and children and corrals for the animals and then they would gladly join the rest of the nation in conquering the land.

Some have asked, “Isn’t it possible that they intended to do just that all along? And if so, why didn’t they defend themselves at the first sound of Moses’ stinging rebuke?

There is a verse in the book of Proverbs: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6) The commentaries explain that the ‘wounds’ delivered by one’s friend here refer to words of rebuke, of discipline or correction. The rebuke of someone who genuinely cares about his friend is of great benefit because it is aimed at helping him improve himself and one’s friend is inclined to deliver even a very firm correction with love. Our friend actually does us a great service because, if we will receive the correction with humility of heart, he or she is actually helping us to grow spiritually. This is one of the greatest gifts we give each other. When the tribes of Gad and Reuben heard Moses rebuke them, they knew that he was doing so from the purest of motives and only had their best interests in mind. Thus, even though they perhaps could have defended themselves, it was more worthwhile to listen to his words and try to profit from them.

Lest anyone misunderstand, however, we must realize that every rebuke or correction we receive is of great value, now just those who come from a loving friend. It is part of life that at times we all experience a harsh rebuke. The truly spiritual person will hear the words, evaluate them and be willing to examine himself, no matter who delivered the rebuke. Rather than focus on the inept or unkind way in which the accuser spoke to us, the more important issue is to focus on the words that were spoken for, truth be told, even in the most unwelcomed rebuke or correction, there is usually some kernel of truth.
If we are truly committed to growing in spiritual maturity, it behooves us to be humble enough to acknowledge that and respond accordingly.

Another verse in Proverbs admonishes us: “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise for the rest of your days.”Prov. 19:20

Did you notice that we are told here to ‘listen’ to counsel (advice) but to ‘accept’ discipline. Listening implies an element of contemplation and thought – when a person is given advice he should think about it before he acts upon it. In contrast when one is rebuked he should accept it without self-defense and then reflect on it as a means towards spiritual growth. Does this require a healthy dose of Humility? Absolutely! But then, isn’t humility considered one of the greatest of virtues?

It is understandable that most people do not enjoy being rebuked – it is unpleasant to be told that you have a character flaw or that your behavior was unacceptable. However, if we can determine to leave our ego out of the situation, push ourselves past the feelings of embarrassment, we will learn from every experience in life and over time appreciate rebukes and criticisms as powerful tools for our spiritual growth.

In Tune with Torah this week = ask yourself: how do I respond to correction? to criticism? Do I seek to learn from it to become a better person? Or do I get angry or indignant? “He has told you, O man, what the Lord requires of you: to do justice, to love righteousness and to walk humbly before your God.”

Shabbat Shalom

If you enjoy these weekly meditations, please let your friends know about this blog. Thank you!

Weekly Torah Commentary — Kedoshim/Shabbat Pesach Apr. 19, 2014

KEDOSHIM Leviticus 19-20 Exodus 12:21-51

This Shabbat falls during the festival of Passover and therefore, a specially chosen reading is heard in the synagogue service; i.e., the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt. It is found in Exodus 12: 21-51 and I encourage you to read it during your quiet time.

However, for our purposes, I want to look at the Torah portion called Kedoshim which covers the 19th and 20th chapter of Leviticus. The opening words of the reading are an invitation that includes the entire congregation in a unique directive:

And God spoke to Moshe, saying, Speak to all the congregation of the People of Israel, and say to them, ‘You shall be holy; for I, The Eternal and Almighty God, am holy. (Vayikra 19:1-2)

Since the customary “God spoke to Moshe, saying” is expanded with the words ‘speak to the entire congregation’, we can assume that the message about to be shared is of the utmost importance and concerns every child of Israel from the greatest to the least. The words that immediately follow are, “you shall be holy,” yet the Torah does not define holiness, or even tell us precisely what to do to achieve holiness.

Countless definitions of holiness — or what it means to be a holy person — have been offered through the centuries. One thing is absolutely certain: holiness is NOT a matter of perfectly executed external rituals, performed in rote fashion. G-d forbid! Rituals DO have their place as a way of expressing our love towards God – and towards others. Celebrating a family member’s birthday, for example, is a ‘ritual’. Giving your prospective bride an engagement ring is a ‘ritual’.

There’s nothing wrong with ritual correctly applied. There is EVERYTHING wrong with ritual when it is a substitute for personal relationship with the Receiver. In the classic work, THE WAYS OF THE TZADDIKIM, we read, “There is no form of Divine Service higher than serving God out of love.”

Holiness is all about the heart, the soul. Holiness is all about LOVE.

In the Shema, we repeat the commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your resources…” And in another place we are told, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

No one can achieve holiness in a vacuum. The Torah knows nothing of holiness outside of living in community with other people. How do we learn to love all men (‘your neighbor as yourself)? By giving of ourselves.

Perhaps one of the greatest exhortations to a life of holiness is found in a personal letter written by the Ramban (Rabbi Moss ben Nachman, also known as Nachmanides) to his son, Nachman. The Ramban was born is Spain in the year 1195 and was one of Judaism’s greatest Sages. A prolific writer of classic texts on the Torah, at the age of 72, he settled in Israel, in the coastal city of Acco (Acre). We do not know the exact date on which he wrote this letter to his son, but we do know it was sent from Acco to Spain, where his son lived. To this day, these words are studied by thousands of Jews, eager to learn how to live a life of holiness. Here is a portion of the letter.

“…Accustom yourself to speak gently with all people for this will protect you from anger, a most serious character flaw…Once you have distanced yourself from anger, the quality of humility will enter your heart. This sterling quality is the finest of all admirable traits…Through humility, the fear of God will intensify in your heart for you will always be aware of where you’ve come from and where you are destined to go…. When your actions display genuine humility…then the spirit of God’s presence will rest upon you…Let your words be spoken gently….let all men seem greater than you in your eyes. If another is more wise or wealthy than you, you must show him respect. And if he is poorer than you…consider that he may be more righteous than you are. If he sins, it may be through ignorance, while if you sin, it is deliberate for you should know better….In all your words, actions and thoughts — at all times — imagine that you are standing in the presence of the Holy One…”

This isn’t even the entire letter but there is more than enough in these excerpts to give us pause and to nourish our thoughts regarding our personal growth in holiness. The exhortations of the Ramban to his son regarding how he should behave towards others is simply a pattern for developing not only a love for other people, but that holiness which God has called all of us to achieve.

In Tune with Torah this week = As this week is devoted to meditating on the miraculous deliverance from slavery which our ancestors experienced, it behooves us to ponder our own condition. Are we ‘delivered’ from slavery to selfishness, to arrogance, to haughtiness? Or are we growing in our ability to love others as we love ourselves and to love God with all our heart, soul and resources?

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Pesach Sameach (A Joyful Holiday of Passover)

Weekly Torah Commentary — BO January 3, 2014

Exodus 10:1 – 13:16

In this week’s parsha, the subject of children and the duty of parents to educate them is addressed three times. As Jews we believe that to defend a country you need an army, but to defend a civilization you need education. Freedom is lost when it is taken for granted. Unless parents pass on their memories, their values, their experiences and, yes, even their mistakes, to the next generation the children have no foundation to build their own future.

The way the Torah emphasizes the fact that children must ask questions is intriguing. Two of the three passages in our parsha speak of this:

And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.'” (Ex. 12:26-27)

In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Ex. 13:14)

There is another passage later in the Torah that also speaks of question asked by a child:

In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. (Deut. 6:20-21)

The other passage in today’s parsha, the only one that does not mention a question, is:

On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ (Ex. 13:8)

You may recognize these four questions as those asked during the Pesach Seder each year.

Now, many traditional cultures see it as the task of a parent or teacher to instruct, guide or command. The task of the child is to obey. “Children should be seen, not heard,” goes the old English proverb. Socrates, who spent his life teaching people to ask questions, was condemned by the citizens of Athens for corrupting the young.

In Judaism the opposite is the case. It is a religious duty to teach our children to ask questions. That is how they grow.

Judaism posits that a faith based on asking questions, sometimes deep and difficult ones, is a faith that will grow. Consider: “Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justice?” asked Abraham. “”Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people?” asked Moses. “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” asked Jeremiah. The book of Job is largely constructed out of questions, and God’s answer consists of four chapters of yet deeper questions: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? … Can you catch Leviathan with a hook? … Will it make an agreement with you and let you take it as your slave for life?”

Judaism is not a religion of blind obedience. Indeed, did you know that in a religion of 613 commandments, there is no Hebrew word that means “to obey.” Instead of a word meaning “to obey,” the Torah uses the verb Shema, untranslatable into English because it means [1] to listen, [2] to hear, [3] to understand, [4] to internalise, and [5] to respond. Within the very structure of Jewish thought is the concept that our greatest responsibility and privilege is to seek to understand the will of God, not just to obey blindly.

Judaism views intelligence as God’s greatest gift to humanity. According to Rashi the phrase that God made man “in His image, after His likeness,” means that God gave us the ability “to understand and discern.” The very first of our requests in the weekday Amidah is for “knowledge, understanding and discernment.” In fact, to many peoples’ surprise, there is actually a specific blessing prescribed for when a Jew sees a great non-Jewish scholar because unlike the narrow-mindedness of some other religions, Judaism recognizes and acknowledges wisdom in other cultures.

Jews have always placed a very high priority on education and specifically on how parents are to teach their children. The Torah highlights this at the most powerful and poignant juncture in Jewish history – the Exodus – by instructing us tell our children in every generation about our liberation. Encourage your children to ask, question, probe, investigate, analyze, explore. Liberty means freedom of the mind, not just of the body. Those who are confident of their faith need fear no question. It is only those who lack confidence, who have secret and suppressed doubts, who are afraid.

It is essential as well to teach our children that not every question has an immediate answer and to learn to be comfortable with the “unanswered”. But in teaching our children to ask and keep asking, Judaism positions the next generation to progress, to seek, to inquire and to discover. This, some have said, is why there are so many Jewish Nobel Prize winners. It all started at home.

In Tune with Torah this week = are you afraid to ask questions about fundamental issues of life? Purpose this year to become a seeker; one who is not hesitant to ask, to consider opposing views, to see if in fact in many areas, there is truth hidden in the thoughts and wisdom of someone with whom you disagree. It’s a delightful and enlarging experience to be open to knowledge within the framework of your secure relationship with the God of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom

Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayishlach November 15, 2013

Beresheit/Genesis 32:4 – 36:43

Abraham began the Jewish journey, Isaac was willing to be sacrificed, Joseph saved his family in the years of famine, Moses led the people out of Egypt and received the Torah. Joshua took the people into the Promised land, David became its greatest king, Solomon built the Temple, and the prophets through the ages became the voice of God.

So why are we called the House of Jacob, the children of Israel? As we read the life of Jacob in the Torah, in some ways it appears to be less illustrious than the heroes mentioned above. At times he seems gripped by fear and some of his actions raise eyebrows.

Perhaps the easiest way to answer the question we have posed: Why are we called the children of Israel? is to ponder the idea of a journey.

The faith of Judaism is the faith learned and developed through a journey. It begins with the departure of Abraham and Sarah from their “land, birthplace and father’s house”. As a people we are defined by the journey of the Israelites out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses. In fact, that journey is recorded in very specific detail in parsha Massai so that every generation would remember it. Moses warned, “When you have children and grandchildren, and have been established in the land for a long time, you might become decadent” (Deut. 4:25).

Therefore Israel is enjoined to always remember its past, never forget its years of slavery in Egypt, never forget on Sukkot that our ancestors once lived in temporary dwellings, never forget that it does not own the land – it belongs to God – and that we are merely there as God’s “strangers and sojourners” (Lev. 25: 23).

Why? Because to be a Jew means not to be fully at home in the world.

To be a Jew means to live with the understanding that there is a tension between heaven and earth, between creation and revelation, between the world that presently is and the world we are called on to repair; between exile and home.

Since we can describe ourselves as a combination of the dust of the earth and the breath of God, we live with the constant reality of making choices and decisions that will make us grow into our magnficient calling and destiny, or, if we choose wrongly, will cause us to shrivel into petty and self-absorbed creatures obsessed by trivia. Life as a journey means striving each day to be greater than we were the day before, individually and collectively.

If the concept of a journey is a central metaphor of Jewish life, what is it about Jacob’s journey that makes us in every generation the “children of Israel”?

Jacob experienced his most intense encounters with God – they are the most dramatic in the whole book of Genesis – in the midst of his journeys, alone, at night, far from home, fleeing from one danger to the next, from Esau to Laban on the outward journey, from Laban to Esau on his homecoming.

In the midst of the first he has the blazing epiphany of the ladder stretching from earth to heaven, with angels ascending and descending, moving him to say on waking, “God is truly in this place but I did not know it… This must be God’s house and this the gate to heaven” (Gen. 28:16-17). None of the other patriarchs, nor even Moses, has a vision quite like this.

On the second, in our parsha, he has the haunting, enigmatic wrestling match with the man/angel/God, which leaves him limping but permanently transformed – the only person in the Torah to receive from God an entirely new name, Israel, which is interpreted, “one who has wrestled with God and man” or “one who has become a prince [sar] before God.”

Jacob’s meetings with angels are described as “a chance encounter,” as if they took Jacob by surprise, which clearly they did. Jacob’s most spiritual moments are ones he did not plan. He was, as it were, “surprised by God.”

Jacob is someone with whom we can identify. Not everyone can aspire to the loving faith and total trust of an Abraham, or to the seclusion of an Isaac. But Jacob is someone we understand. We can feel his fear, we can understand his pain at the tensions in his family, and sympathize with his deep longing for a life of tranquility and peace.

It’s not just that Jacob is the most human of the patriarchs but rather that at the depths of his despair he is lifted to the greatest heights of spirituality. He is the man who encounters angels. He is the person surprised by God. He is the one who, at the very moments he feels most alone, discovers that he is not alone, that God is with him, that he is accompanied by angels.

Jacob’s message defines Jewish existence. We journey through life, restless, rejected by one country after another with only brief periods of peace in our history. But in our darkest hours, we have found ourselves lifted by a force of faith we did not know we had, surrounded by angels we did not know were there. If we walk in the way of Jacob, we too may find ourselves surprised by God.

In Tune with Torah this week = look back at your life’s journey and note the many times when God was at work though you didn’t realize it til later. Thank Him for your personal journey, confident that He who has cared for you and led you thus far, will not every leave you alone in the future.

Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayetzei November 8, 2013


Bresheit/Genesis 28:10 – 32:3

Jacob, our Patriarch, was a holy man. We don’t usually find holy people overly concerned with their physical well-being. Yet, in this week’s Torah portion, read at first glance, it would appear that Jacob is precisely concerned with his physical needs.

Jacob rested at ‘the place’ (Genesis 28:11) on his way to Charan. Rashi tells us that this place where Jacob rested was the holy mountain of Moriah, the future site of the Temple. While sleeping on holy ground, Jacob is shown a prophetic vision involving heavenly angels, and is told by God:

I am Hashem, God of Abraham, your father, and of Isaac. The ground on which you sleep, I will give to you and to your children. Your offspring will be as the dust of the earth, spreading out to the west, east, north and south. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves through you and your children. Behold, I am with you. I will guard you wherever you go and I will return you to this land. I will not forsake you until I have carried out what I have told you. (Genesis 28:13-15)

One would think that Jacob would be extremely inspired by this vision and sacred location. Therefore, we should find Jacob praying only for something like spiritual help and support as he faces new challenges in going away from Israel to Charan. Physical sustenance should be the last thing on his mind.

Yet in his prayers,  Jacob specifically asks for ‘bread to eat and clothes to wear’ (Genesis 28:22). Why is Jacob thinking about the mundane after such a spiritually transcending experience?

What’s more, why does Jacob feel the need to explain the function of bread and clothes? God would know that bread is ‘to eat’ and clothes are ‘to wear’.

The solution requires us to read the Torah more carefully.

Just as 2 + 2 never equals 5, we cannot accept things that do not make logical sense. It is impossible to understand that Jacob was sincerely interested in his physical well-being just after his amazing prophetic vision. It must be that in the very words that Jacob uses, we can discover a deeper meaning to his prayer.

Let’s read the phrase again. Jacob asks for ‘bread to eat and clothes to wear.’ Why does he define the function of bread and clothes? It must be that he is stating his exact intentions of using these material objects.  Jacob is saying that he only needs bread to eat. He does not need 57 kinds of potato chips or three favorite flavors of ice cream. He does not scan the supermarket aisles for the latest flavor of soda or the newest chocolate invention. He simply wants bread, and only bread, if necessary, to eat. As long as he can eat enough to continue living in order to serve God and achieve his lofty, spiritual goals, he is satisfied.

Neither is Jacob searching for the latest fashions in designer suits. He just wants some clothes to wear so that he can function in the world. Hence, ‘bread to eat’ and ‘clothes to wear’. A simple life unencumbered with a drive for luxuries.

Through this short phrase, Jacob defines his priorities of life. Appreciate food for its function – physical sustenance. Do not make food a priority in your life. Don’t spend your life running after possessions and clothing. Use and appreciate it for what it is, but don’t let it occupy an important place in your mind and in your value system.

We often take basic physical pleasure for granted as we constantly run after new and improved pleasures and luxuries. There is much to enjoy even in the simple things of life.

Most of the time, we hardly stop to even notice the blessing and the pleasurable taste of the food we are eating.  Preoccupied as we are with other things, how often do we actually finish eating our food without having focused on the pleasure God has given us through it? 

Driven as we are in our modern society by media advertising, brand names in fashion can so easily tend to overpower our way of thinking about the clothing we wear.

This week, in what appears to be a very simple prayer, our father Jacob reminds us to be grateful for the simple things.  If we have food to eat, thank God.  If we have clothes to wear, thank God.  If we have a roof over our heads, thank God.

In Tune with Torah this week = let us be quick to give thanks for all the good things in our life rather than spend time longing for what we don’t have at present.

Stop. Eat. Think. Appreciate. Thank God for His blessings. Even the ones we think are small and simple. That is the path of real holiness.

Weekly Torah Commentary — Noah October 4, 2013

The account in this week’s Torah portion is one of the most well known of Bible stories – Noah and the Ark.
There are so many lessons that can be drawn from this text and I’d like to approach it a little differently this year.

What can we learn from God and from Noah this week?

1) Noting that Moses was 80 years old when God called him to bring Israel out of Egypt, and Avraham was 100 years old when Yitzhak was born, my first suggestion to all of us is this:
Stay healthy and fit – when you’re 80, or 100, or 600 (like Noah), God may call on you to do something very important! Seriously, it is never too late to make a difference in this world. Since when has an advanced age ever been a problem in God’s eyes? Think about it!

2) Don’t listen to critics; do what you are called or inclined to do in your service of God. If you have no critics, you’ll likely have no success, either. Theodore Roosevelt’s comment on critics bears repeating here: It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

3) Plan ahead – it wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark. There is a delicate balance between focusing on the present and making today the best day of your life and, on the other hand, planning ahead for efficiency and success in the various arenas of life. The wise man balances both of these aspects of living and learns wisdom.

4) Don’t miss the boat. All of us are offered unique opportunities in life. Sometimes we realize it and take advantage; some times we ‘miss the boat’ and regret it later. This is not limited to considerations about major, life-changing opportunities. How about the every day opportunities we have to do things like show kindness instead of ignoring someone, or hold our tongues rather than speak a word of gossip or criticism of someone else? Daily life is full of opportunities to become a better person. Don’t miss the boat!

5) Speed isn’t always an advantage. There were cheetahs on the Ark, but there were also snails. In our fast paced society, rushing has become so ‘normal’ that thoughtfulness and patience are nearly lost arts; not to mention that when we are overly rushed or in a hurry, we often make mistakes. The cheetah in you needs to slow down a bit and the snail needs to step it up. Impulsiveness and procrastination need to meet in the middle and find wisdom.

6) If it’s a rainy season of life for you right now, remember that no matter how long it rains, eventually the sun will shine again. If you have to start your life over, change careers, move to distant cities and make any other life changes that are difficult and stressful, have a companion by your side. Two are better than one.

7) Finally, remember that we are all in the same boat. The problems may look different, but we all have problems; we all have challenges; we all have issues to work through; we all need to grow in spiritual maturity. Therefore, we all need to develop a spirit of compassion and understanding towards our fellow man.

In Tune with Torah this week = ponder each of these seven thoughts and if you keep a spiritual journal, you may want to write your own thoughts in response to them. The story of Noah’s ark never grows old;
its message is as important to us today as it was in his time.

Shabbat Shalom!

Weekly Torah Commentary — Va’etchanan July 18, 2013

This week’s Torah portion opens with Moshe’s anguished plea to God to be allowed to enter the Holy Land. His request is denied but from the summit of Mt. Nebo he is shown the entire Land.

It was some years ago that I had the privilege of visitng Mt.Nebo which is in present day Jordan. As I stood on its summit in the general area where Moshe had stood, it was an exceptionally clear November day. From the mountaintop I could see vast distances to the north, the south and the west. To say it was overwhelming is a gross understatement. As I stood there, the realization of how important the virtue of obedience is to the heart of God made an impact on my that has never left me. Moshe was denied entrance because earlier he had hit the rock to bring forth water, rather than speak to it, as he had been instructed. Along with that apparently simple act of disobedience, he also succumbed to anger, a trait that is repugnant to Hashem. He was angry with the people, this same Moshe who had repeatedly cried out to God on their behalf. For these reasons he was denied entrance into the Land of Promise. Some have questioned the apparent harshness of this decree but let us not forget: this is Moshe we’re talking about, the man who saw God and lived! The greater the privileges and gifts we receive, the more responsible we are to follow Hashem in everything. As I gazed across the Land from the top of Mt. Nebo, the importance of obedience was never more profound.

That would almost be enough food for mediation this weekend, wouldn’t it? But let’s go on.

“Now, O Israel, listen to the decrees and to the ordinances that I teach you to perform, so that you may live….See, I have taught you decrees and ordinances, as Hashem my God has commanded me, to do so in the midst of the Land which you come to possess it. You shall safeguard them and perform them, for it is your wisdom and discernment in the eyes of the peoples who shall hear all these decrees and shall say, ‘Surely a wise and discerning people is this great nation!'”

Israel is the only nation who received its laws before it received its Land. Other nations conquer territories and form nations by creating laws and statutes to govern themselves. In contrast, Israel became a nation through its Torah, which outlines to the people how they are to live in the Land which Hashem gives them. The Commandments of Torah do not create the nation; they inspire the nation in how to conduct every area of their lives.

The Torah also transcends time and space. It is true that Torah is lived to its fullest within the Land of Israel, but it is also the prescribed way of life for all of Israel that lives outside of the Land. Torah applies in every generation and in every country on earth where Jews are found.

The reality of Jews living in exile is addressed later in this same portion. In chapter 4:29 of Devarim, Moshe foretells that the people will rebel and will be sent out of their Land, but he goes on to say, “From there you shall seek Hashem your God and you will find Him if you seek for Him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things befall you, at the end of days, you will return to Hashem your God and listen to His voice. For Hashem your God is a merciful God, He will not abandon you or destroy you, and He will not forget the covenant which He swore to your forefathers.”

This passage is one of the strongest declarations on the power of repentance in all of the Torah. Repentance is for all time and in all places; it is not conditioned on the presence of a Temple in Jerusalem. The heart of repentance is that the sinner seeks Hashem with all his heart; that he acknowledges the wrong he did and sincerely seeks forgiveness with a determination to do everything in his power to avoid ever repeating his folly.

In Tune with Torah this week = repentance is a gift which enables our reconciliation with God at any moment that we have strayed from His ways and His will. Has there been a gentle knocking at the door of your heart over some issue or other?
This week is the right time to respond to His urgings in your soul.

Shabbat Shalom