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Congregation Brothers of Israel

L'dor Vador—From Generation to Generation since 1883
לדור ודור

 

Chaired by Dr. Ellier Russ with the assistance of the Rabbi, this committee coordinates programs and classes to engage members in lifelong learning. Events include our yearly Scholar in Residence program, Talmud Study, Mah Nishtanah: What’s Different About Today’s Judaism, The Observant Life Book Series and more. Guest speakers, online webinars and Shabbat morning discussions additionally provide congregants with opportunities to expand their knowledge of Judaism and living a Jewish life.

TALMUD

 In fulfilling the following commandments one enjoys the yield in this world while the principal remains for a eternity, honoring father and mother, performing deeds of loving kindness, punctually attending the house of study morning and evening, showing hospitality to strangers, visiting the sick, helping the needy bride, attending dead, praying .with devotion, and making peace between individuals. And the merit of Torah study is equal to all of these. Talmud Shabbat 12 e

TORAH SPARKS
Re'eh 5780
August 15 , 2020 |  25 AV 5780

Annual | ( Deuteronomy 11:26 - 16:17) Etz Hayyim, p.1061
Triennial | (Deuteronomy 11:26 -12:28) Etz Hayyim, p.1085
Haftarah  | Isaiah - 54:11 -55:5) Etz Hayyim, p. 1061

 

D'var Torah: Finding and Following, Your North
Rabbi Rami Schwartzer, Founder of the Den Collective in Washington, DC 

Finding, and Following, Your North Stick with it. Stay the course.Much of the ink of Torah has dried over the directive of loyalty to God and Torah. The Torah has already directed us to be careful not to follow the lustful urges of our hearts and eyes (Num. 15:39), or the practices and ways of other nations (Lev. 18:3). This week we are reminded over an entire chapter to follow God and Torah, but the nature of this command differs subtly from what we have seen before.

Parashat Re'eh presents a Moshe in particular anxiety over the upcoming transition of leadership. Having already advised the people not to turn away towards the idolatry of outsiders or the idolatrous inclinations of our inner urges he now warns about danger of a more insidious kind: good advice from a reputable or trusted source: "When a prophet or dream-diviner pops up in your midst and gives you a sign or strong evidence...[or] when your sibling - your mother's own child - or your son or daughter, your own loving partner or your closest friend tempts you in secret, saying 'come, let us show devotion to other Gods'"... (Deut. 13:2, 7). Turn away, wipe out their very presence from your life. Cancel them.

This chapter is so deeply concerned with neutralizing distractions that Moshe offers six different actions in quick succession as a remedy to this sort of interference: "Follow only Adonai your God, and revere God; observe God's commandments, and heedGod's orders; worship God, and cleave to God" (Deut. 13:5-6). These verbs together convey a sense of urgency, a need to act when temptation is greatest. They culminate in a word more unique to this moment: t'dabb'kun, "stick to God." Or in Onkelos's Aramaic, tit'kar'vun: "keep God close [in mind]." Moshe is not worried that we will, in the absence of his steadfast leadership, make the immoral decision to take on the practices of our enemies. He knows we want to do what is right. His concern is not that we will choose the wrong path out of callousness, but that we will forget our path out of spiritual myopia.

The image of Ulysses resonates here: the hero, fundamentally committed to returning home to Ithaca, knew of the Sirens' power to entice travelers from their course. So he tied himself up and ordered his closest shipmates not to untie him no matter how much he pleads. Parashat Re'eh is Moshe's plea that Israel tie themselves to the mast of Torah. It is our guidance for how to weather the storm of influence that constantly pulls us from our dreams. 

This is no doubt what the Hassidic master R' Yaakov Yosef of Polonne had in mind when he reinterpreted the parashah's opening verse. He knew it was unnecessary for Moshe to remind Israel not to choose the curse. When God says "I have put before you blessing and curse" (Deut. 11:26), curse is simply the word used for "forgetting your way." It is called a curse because it is the opposite of a blessing, which is what happens when you remember your values (Toledot Yaakov Yosef, Re'eh 45). 

From the youngest to the oldest, never is there an age when we are unencumbered by the burden of discernment: which school, which job, which house; leap or stay where you are. This is all the more real for us in a continuously historic epoch in which inconstancy is our only constant. How do we maintain our focus in the midst of the noise around us? How do we make sure we are on the right path when there are so many doors opening loudly everywhere we turn? Don't mistake the answer's simplicity for ease of execution. Walk your path, revere it, observe, heed, and act. Then stick to it, keep your goals close, and don't let even your most trusted voices lead you astray. 

D'Var Haftarah: God's Promise of Hope   

The nation stood at a moment of great trepidation and insecurity. The Babylonians had exiled most of its citizens. Those remaining in Judea were disheartened, their homeland devastated. The people were desperate for hope. God's message, in the latter part of the book of Isaiah, was meant to meet this religious challenge. His message was dramatic. It raised the ante of God's promises to a new level, providing people with the requisite hope to meet the demands which faced them in order to rebuild the nation.

This is the message which God, metaphorically, offered free of charge: "Ho, all who are thirsty, come for water, even if you have no money; come buy food and eat; buy food without money, wine and milk without cost." (55:1) The implications of this message were spelled out a few lines later. In the past, God had made a covenant with the nation through its king. David, king of Israel, was guaranteed his royal line in perpetuity. This promise gave the Davidic line its strength to continue to lead the nation. (See 2 Sam. 7:16) Isaiah, in his message, changed the focus of this covenant: "Incline your ear and come to Me; Hearken and you shall be revived, and I shall make with you an everlasting covenant, the enduring loyalty promised to David." (55:3) The strength of the Davidic covenant was transferred from the monarchy to the entire nation, in lieu of the fall of the monarchy at Babylonian hands. (Psalm 89 reflects the religious angst caused by this event. See, in particular verse 39-46)

The transfer of God's political covenant from the monarchy to the people as a whole represented a radical move toward the democratization of God's promise. The people as a whole now served as God's medium for carrying out His mission in the world. This change coincided with similar changes in the religious realm. (See Isaiah ch. 56) (Prof. Shalom Paul, Isaiah 40-66, Mikra L'Yisrael, pp. 393-395.

What are we to make of these radical changes? The theological changes represented here illustrate certain reevaluations necessitated by the destruction of the First Temple and decimation of Judean national life caused by the seventy years of Babylonian exile. Since the monarchy no loner existed, the people took over the role of the monarchy as the harbingers of God's will. They, therefore, needed God's encouragement to carry forward His mission. This transformation ultimately distinguished Judaism from other religions. It planted the seed that transformed Judaism into a religion where all of its members are players, where every individual bears responsibility and is an active participant in carrying out God's will.

Connecting Heaven and Earth

Vav – a special letter
You probably know that there is a correspondence between Hebrew letters and numbers. Number 6 corresponds to the letter “vav”. “Vav” is shaped like a hook holding two things together (ו); normally, “Vav” is translated as “and”. This letter is also referred to as “vav of connection” therefore, “the Sixth Day”—Yom HaShishi (Yom Vav)—connects the spiritual and physical; heaven and earth, six days of Creation and Shabbat. 

The day of connection
We can see a wonderful confirmation in today’s Jewish life. Anyone who has experienced Shabbat in Israel knows that Friday, Yom Shishi, is a really special day of the week, since it is the beginning of Shabbat. As such, it connects and holds together the six days of the week and the most important day of the Jewish week, Shabbat (Saturday). 

Discover the nuances of the Bible
The importance of this day is clearly emphasized in Judaism: the day we celebrate as the Jewish New Year, is not actually the anniversary of Creation, it is the anniversary of the sixth day of Creation—Yom Hashishi. According to Jewish understanding, Creation became meaningful when man was created: the Sixth Day connected heaven and earth, and God was proclaimed King! Enroll in our live online Biblical Hebrew course and Hebrew will reveal the nuances of the Scripture!  

RE'EH 5780: 
Re'eh  (Deuteronomy 11:26 - 16: 17)
August 9, 2020 
|  by 

When is the Truth the Biggest Lie?

GOOD MORNING! Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul will be August 31st and September 1st. This means that there is one month and counting to Rosh Hashanah (Sunday evening, September 29th). Many people might ask, "So, what?" or might think, "Thanks for the reminder to buy a brisket!" However, the answer to "So, what?" is that we have one month to prepare for Rosh Hashanah … and Yom Kippur.

Why would one want to prepare for Rosh Hashanah? Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Judgment when the Almighty decides "Life or death, sickness or health, poverty, or wealth." Does it make sense to prepare for a day of judgment? You bet! However, for many it has the same emotional impact as their cardiologist telling them that they need to lose weight to avoid heart attacks and strokes ... a wonderful idea between meals!

There is a tremendous benefit to living in South Florida. It's a hurricane zone. Around May you get the annual predictions -- 7 to 12 tropical storms, 3 to 6 hurricanes, 0 to 2 major hurricanes. They actually have ways of measuring, correlating, and predicting the number and size of storms. At the beginning of the season we start buying bottled water and batteries to prepare. We put a new battery in the weather radio which broadcasts the position and strength of the storms. We even have a chart where we mark off the present location of storms out there in the Caribbean.

Why is living in a hurricane zone a benefit? It teaches you a very important lesson: Be real with life! Usually, the weather bureau (N.O.A.A. -- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) gives a week's heads up. You know that in 7 days a Category 3 or 4 or 5 hurricane will hit. You generally know for sure whether it will hit land, you just don't know whether for sure it will hit YOU until perhaps a day or a few hours before landfall.

What happens during that week? The hardware store sells out all of its plywood (used for covering windows) and batteries. They have to make special shipments from neighboring states! The grocery store shelves are cleared out or seriously diminished of canned goods and water. People are scrambling to buy generators to provide electricity needed to keep the lights on, fans going, and the refrigerator and freezer working. There is a mad dash for last minute preparations because the STORM IS COMING!

What's the difference between a hurricane and Rosh Hashanah? The hurricane MAY hit your area; Rosh Hashanah DEFINITELY will touch you!

So, if one believes in a God who has set a standard for behavior and observance in the Torah and who will judge us, does it make sense to make some preparations? It would be reasonable to think so.

How can one prepare for the Day of Judgment? Here are:

 

10 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO
PREPARE FOR ROSH HASHANAH

 
  1. Take a spiritual accounting. Each day take at least 5 minutes to review your last year -- a) your behavior with family, friends, associates, and people you've interacted with b) your level of mitzvah observance.
  2. Attend a class or classes at a synagogue, Aish center, or a yeshiva on how to prepare. Read articles on aish.com and listen to world-class speakers on aishaudio.com, or at Rabbizweig.com.
  3. Study the Machzor (Rosh Hashanah prayer book) to know the order of the service and the meaning of the words and prayers. You can buy a copy of The Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur Survival Kit, by Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf (possibly available at your local Jewish bookstore or at Amazon.com).
  4. Make sure that you have given enough tzedakah (charity) and have paid your pledges (one is supposed to give 10% of his net income). It says in the Machzor that three things break an evil decree - Teshuva (repentance), Tefilla (prayer) and Tzedakah (charity). Why not maximize your chance for a good decree?
  5. Think of (at least) one person you have wronged or feel badly towards -- and correct the situation.
  6. Make a list of your goals for yourself and your family - what you want to work towards and pray for.
  7. Limit your pleasures -- the amount of television, movies, music, food -- do something different so that you take this preparation time seriously.
  8. Do an extra act of kindness -- who needs your help? To whom can you make a difference?
  9. Read a book on character development -- anything written by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin would be great!
  10. Ask a friend to tell you what you need to improve. A real friend will tell you ... but in a nice way!

 

Torah Portion of the Week

Re'eh,  Deuteronomy 11:26 - 16: 17

This week is a jam-packed portion. It begins with a choice: "I set before you a blessing and a curse. The blessing: if you obey the commandments of God...; the curse if you do not ... and you follow other gods."

The portion continues with rules and laws for the land of Israel, primarily oriented towards staying away from idol worship and the other religions in the land. In verses 13:1-12 you will find the section that caused a missionary's face to blanch and silenced him from continuing to proselytize a renowned rabbi.

One of the indications of the existence and necessity of the Oral Torah -- an explanation and clarification (later redacted as the Talmud) of the written Torah (The Five Books of Moses) -- comes from verse 12:21, "You will slaughter animals ... according to the manner I (God) have prescribed." Nowhere in the Torah are we instructed in the manner of shechita, ritual slaughter. One might conclude that there was a very sloppy editor. Or -- one might conclude that there are additional teachings (the Oral Law/Talmud) clarifying and amplifying the written Word.

The source of the Chosen People concept is brought this week: "You are a nation consecrated to God your Lord. God has chosen you from all nations on the face of the earth to be His own special nation ... (Deut. 14:1-2)." We are chosen for responsibility, not privilege -- to act morally and to be a "light unto the nations."

The portion then gives instructions regarding: permitted and forbidden foods, the Second Tithe, remissions of loans every 7 years, treatment of those in need (to be warm-hearted and open-handed), a Jewish bondsman, the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot).

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah uses some mighty strong language this week that really needs some understanding:

"See I am placing before you this day a blessing and a curse. The blessing, if you will listen to the commandments of the Almighty which I am commanding you this day. And the curse, if you do not listen to the Almighty's commandments."

On top of this, the Sforno, a renowned 15th century Italian commentator, adds "There is no middle way. If a person follows the Torah, his life will be a blessed life. If a person fails to live by the commandments, he will live a cursed life."

This seems to be a rather extreme statement. However, if we understand that life is either purposeful and meaningful or not, then we can understand that a life of meaning is a blessed life. And a life without meaning is a life devoid of satisfaction and imbued with a sense that nothing makes a difference when life is over anyway (and what could be a greater curse than that?).

Understanding that there is a God Who created the world, sustains it and supervises it -- gives life intrinsic meaning. One can always create a sense of meaning in a diversion -- acquiring wealth, following baseball or even in something as noble as helping others. However, unless there is a God and there are absolute responsibilities and values, then there is no inherent meaning to life. It gnaws at one's psyche.

A person needs to have purpose in life, to know that life is meaningful. To be aware of the Creator and to fulfill His will enables a person to experience the greatest of blessings in this world. Each day will be an exciting adventure full of the joy of doing the Almighty's will. The choice is yours to make. Choose life!

* * *

Quote of the Week
 Best friend is not a label - it's a promise.

On-Line Learning


Rabbi Gaber lead several Adult Education programs using ZOOM Web conferencing technology.  "You don’t have to leave the warmth and comfort of your home to have a discussion on confronting Antisemitism and Hate or the Human Genome or to discuss how to bring Judaism into the 21st century. I will be leading an online class.  You will not  only be able to hear me and see me, you will also see your friends in the same virtual classroom. There was an interesting line up of  webinars this past winter. Our final CBOI Online learning program this season has a dedicated link: https://zoom.us/j/7686776767.     All you need do is enter this link into your favorite browser and follow the instructions.  If you get stuck, please let me know and I will help you get on line."  

*Don't worry, if you can't make the discussion at the appointed time, you'll still be able to learn about each topic:
See the CBOI On-line Learning page in Learn Navigation bar to see all the previous  On Line Zoom Learning sessions.

TALMUD CLASS IS HELD MOST WEDNESDAYS FROM 11:00 AM - NOON

FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE THE NEXT FEW WEEKS OF TALMUD STUDY WILL BE ON ZOOM - see IMPORTANT INFORMATION on the website home page

Thu, August 13 2020 23 Av 5780