Parsha Thoughts: Rabbi Jay Kelman

V'zot Habracha: From G-d to Man

When writing a book, a good author will introduce the major themes of the book in the opening chapters, develop these and other secondary themes throughout the story, and conclude with a recap highlighting the major themes of the book. 

The 31 verses that comprise the creation story tell us little about the origins of life on this planet. They do, however, tell us something much more important; all human beings contain within them the image of G-d. 

Ki-Tavo: Speak Up

One of the key aspects of our being created in the Divine image is the gift of speech. As the world was created with ten Divine utterances (Avot 5:1), our tzelem elokim, divine image, allows us to create, or G-d forbid, destroy, many little “human” worlds through our speech. Yet strangely—perhaps brilliantly is a more apt description—there is very little a Jew must actually say. 

Shoftim: Nothing to Fear

The basic duty of every government is to provide security and protect its citizens from both internal criminal activity and external enemies. Parshat Shoftim, which contains the mitzvah to appoint a king, thus also contains the mitzvot of appointing a police force and the laws relating to a Jewish army. Our inability to have a Jewish army for close to two thousand years served to highlight our national degradation. During the battles for Jewish emancipation in the 18th and 19th centuries, Jews fought hard for the right to join the armies of their host countries.

Re'eh: Conflicting Emotions

It is difficult to feel two contradictory emotions at the same time. Conflicting, if not contradictory, emotions such as joy and sadness, love and hate, fear and comfort, do not easily co-exist. As human beings constantly struggle with conflicting emotions, Judaism, wanting to give each its proper time for expression, separates differing emotions into separate days.  

Eikev: A Long Journey

"According to the days that you spent exploring the land, forty days, a year for a day, you shall carry your sin and you will know My actions" (Bamidbar 14:34). The sin of rejecting the land of Israel was not easily forgiven and forty days would turn into forty long years, enough time for an entire generation to die. This is well known and seemingly indisputable. 

VaEtchanan: Learning to Read

Our Torah encompasses all aspects of life: it regulates our existence from the day we are born until the day we die, and from the moment we awake until we retire at night. It is only after one has accepted the binding nature of the Law that one may begin to question the whys of the Law. While clearly some laws are more important than others, our attitude towards them all must be one of absolute obedience. "Be as meticulous in the light mitzvoth as in the heavy ones" (Avot 2:1).

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