Chavarah- Jewish Community Learning

A blog of Jewish study and traditions. Notes from classes: Torah Study with Rabbi Marder, Toledot and Shabbaton as well as other details found of interest.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Teach Your Children

Deuteronomy 32:9-12

In the language and metaphors of the poem Moses recites the key message of teaching your children Torah becomes a focus.

From Chofetz Chaim to Ezekiel to Amos and Jeremiah and, of course, Rashi we reviewed the quotes of the great Jewish philosophers on the topic:

Our children’s inheritance is the Torah. They have the right to know their legacy.

The people Israel were found as ‘grapes in the wilderness’

We are the rejected children of the Canaanites, rescued by God.

And the view that the Exodus never happened was discussed again because the Exodus in not mentioned in this poem.
Why? Because he is speaking to the next generation? Because the Torah was given after the Exodus? Because the meeting at Sinai is more important?

The concept developed further: “ Torah was given to bring order out of chaos “ God surrounded us in the harsh and difficult wilderness. Guarded as the ‘pupil of the eye’. ( and of course there was an interesting side tangent on what this term means - ‘the little man in the eye’ - Arabic term )

We moved forward to discuss the imagery of the EAGLE in Verse 11: While the Eagle is a strong, powerful and a fierce predator, it is gentle and caring of its young. So this is an impressive image of God “I bore you on Eagle’s wings” at Sinai.

As a parent’s desire to ‘fly’ their children through difficulties, but the need for the child to experience those difficult times to learn.

And Ron Kay’s philosophical and appropriate summary: “We give our children Roots and Wings”!

Related Film NOTE: Joshua Then and Now is a 1985 film with Allan Arkin:
Excerpt on You Tube:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

remember - a memorial

The New England Holocaust Memorial is a worthwhile experience.

We went at night which is very eerie because there are these six tall glass towers. As you stand inside the tower there is a ‘pit’ below you with glowing ‘coals’ and steam that comes up to envelop you in each tower of memory. The glass on each tower is imprinted with millions of numbers representing the tattoos on the arms of the victims and quotes that give you a sense of who they were.
If you get to Boston you should go experience “A Beacon of Memory & Hope”

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Learning from History

The poem in Deuteronomy 32:1-9 is a reminder of what came before.

We focus on learning from history and from the ‘elders’.

George Santayana, the Spanish philosopher, was famous for his quote:
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," from Reason in Common Sense, the first volume of his The Life of Reason.

It was pointed out that we can learn much from generations past but we can also learn from the children.

In Pirkei Avot Ben Zoma taught:
"Who is wise? He who learns from every man.

Was it a challenge?

The question was asked if we could list the Prophets in order. Well I don't know how many can ... but I could not - (on my list of things to learn)

here they are for anyone who wants to study that:

- Yehoshua - Joshua
- Shoftim - Judges
- Shmuel A - 1 Samuel
- Shmuel B - 2 Samuel
- Melachim A - 1 Kings
- Melachim B - 2 Kings
- Yisheyah - Isaiah
- Yermiyah - Jeremiah
- Yechezchial - Ezekiel
Treisar - The Minor Prophets
o Hoshea - Hosea
o Yoel - Joel
o Amos - Amos
o Ovadiyah - Obadiah
o Yonah - Jonah
o Michah - Micah
o Nachum - Nahum
o Chabakuk - Habakkuk
o Tzefaniyah - Zephaniah
o Chaggi - Haggai
o Zechariyah - Zechariah
o Malachi - Malachi

Monday, October 08, 2007

God = Good Men = Not so Good?

Final Poem Continued

That is the way it sounds on the surface. But with some digging in the analysis by
Chofetz Chaim who stresses that we have the power ot dominate over our sinful inclinations and Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs who stressed our ‘trust and confidence in God rather than all faith’. And then of course the inputs from the variety of points of view in the class evolved into a discussion of our ability to take the ‘evil inclination’ and direct it toward good and being constructive individuals.

The discussion of ‘good vs evil’ brought the experts out to point out change philosophies and how to discipline our negative attributes! Which also emphasizes the need for us to use our own efforts to choose the right path. Even when Moses points out how we have gone wrong, he still emphasizes how we have the ability to turn that into good.

R. Marder pointed out the position of Mordichai Kaplan () that our belief needs a compass - where God is the force that draws us toward good. And Martin Buber’s opinion that God wants us to be fulfilled more than God wants to be believed in.

And that little fact in this part that is explained–. In verse 6 the Hey is larger in the Torah - some say this is Moses’ signature and that it links to the numerical (by Gematra) analysis of the word. Guess I have to research this a bit more! Why the Hey is larger just before he addresses the people as ‘dull and witless’. Hmmmm? This is confusing.

Moses' Words Shake the World

Words That Shook the World: 100 Years of Unforgettable Speeches and Events: Books: Richard Greene

You can read the introduction to this book

As we read the end of Deuteronomy we need to remember that this is still a ‘public speech’ and has all the elements of a good speech which are analyzed in Richard Greene’s book.

To generate emotion.
‘remember that the word motion is part of emotion’ and this is the only way to get people to react. There must be a balance between detail and emotion.

An important feature using repetition, parallel sounds and triplets.

Structure. Similar to music a good speech will use a central theme with variations and repetition in pattern with a strong ending.

Sincere and Genuine.
The life affirming peak with passion and believability is essential.

While Greene’s book focuses on Theodore Roosevelt, FDR, JFK, King, Einstein and other leaders in modern history, we can see that the same elements that make their speeches great also apply to Moses’ speech!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

God is Just

The Rock! – His deeds are perfect, Yea, all His ways are just. Deut.32:4

I found a web site that has all different translations of the Bible here is this verse

God is just.

It is the key message and the while it is often difficult to see the justice. When the perspective is of the whole from ‘far away’ it is easier to see the justice.

Justice is much different from Fairness. Much is not fair and yet it can be just.

We reviewed a contrast in attitude toward death. When burying the dead we say “Blessed be the True Judge…” to get people to walk away from the grave and go on living.

On the other hand, we read the poem by Edna St Vincent Millay
Dirge without Music

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, --- but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

And then R. Marder read an excerpt from The Spiritual Life of Children
By Robert Coles (pg 273) about Leah a Jewish child who held her faith in God’s justice even in the face of untimely death. She held the image of God as her Rock as described in the 61st Psalm: "Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I"