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June 29, 2019
Numbers 13:1 - 15:41Premium
Optimism vs. Pessimism
Shelach - How Can We Relate To Such a Vengeful God?
In this week's parsha, we see the ultimate undoing of the people of Israel - the sin of the spies. When spies are sent to the land of Israel to scout the land, they come back with a negative report, and the people despair, leading to God's wrath, and the death of the entire generation over the course of the next 40 years. What was so bad about the sin, and more importantly, how can we connect to such an angry, vengeful God?
Torah can be applied to so many areas of life: our relationships with family, being a good co-worker or friend, and learning to appreciate the gifts from God we encounter every day. What’s more inspiring than starting your day with Torah?
At Aleph Beta, we believe that the Torah is a guidebook that offers profound insight into how we should live our lives. Moreover, we recognize that Jewish tradition has always encouraged the rights of the readers, in all generations, to look at the Torah and decide what they think the text means themselves. That includes you; you are the author of your own quest through the Torah. This inspired us to create a fun, stimulating series of premium Parsha guides to offer you a relevant path through the Torah sources. You may have come across many divrei Torah, but these Parsha guides have another objective in mind. If you get wrapped up in a stimulating discussion and never make it to page 2, we would consider that a success.
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We begin the Book of Bereishit with the amazing creation of the world. Reading Genesis takes us on a journey through the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, where we witness the birth of the future 12 tribes of Israel. We read about sibling rivalry, deceit, betrayal and love affairs – all provoking questions that apply to our lives today.
In the Book of Shemot, the Israelites are enslaved by the Egyptians, but then they are led out of Egypt – through Moses, God’s plagues, and then the spitting of the sea. We follow the Israelites to freedom, until we reach Mount Sinai, where the Israelites are given the 10 commandments and more. We’re also taught our first Biblical laws, and given instructions about the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.
The Book of Vayikra is an important book for commandments and laws. When we read Leviticus, we study the intricate and various laws related to the important Jewish holidays, the Temple, kedusha, and other holy and spiritual matters.
Before entering the Promised Land, the Israelites spend 40 years wandering the desert. And that’s exactly what happens in the Book of Bamidbar. Through their experiences, we learn about the power of leadership and growth; we see what it takes for Moses to help the nation to spiritually prepare for the Land of Israel.
In the final book of the Torah, Devarim, we listen to Moses's farewell speech to the Jewish people. He reminds them of the blessings that await them in the Promised Land if they follow God's word and gives them strength to embrace this new stage in their nationhood. We follow Moses as he reflects on a Promised Land he we would never see.
Aleph Beta’s mission is to create relevant Jewish learning, to help people achieve answers that are meaningful and satisfying for their everyday life. Our Torah videos and guides help you look at some of life’s biggest questions, by taking you on a deep journey through the text of the Torah. We believe Torah study should be evidence-based, intellectually stimulating, and emotionally gripping.
Through animated Torah Videos and a multisensory experience, Aleph Beta helps bring Torah to life. The introspective content appeals to sophisticated audiences, but the animated style works to engage even young or beginner audiences. Our students should decide for themselves what they believe is compelling, and in this way, we strive to keep our Torah study honest and compelling.
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“Torah” can take on different meanings, depending on the context. Generally, Torah refers to the first books of the Bible, known as the Five Books of Moses or Pentateuch – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy – and often encompasses rabbinic commentaries as well (perushim).
In Rabbinic literature, Torah is often used to refer to both the Five Books ( תורה שבכתב; "Torah that is written") and Oral Torah (תורה שבעל פה, "Torah that is spoken"). The word Torah translates to “instruction,” and in its broadest sense, some people may even use it to refer to the full Tanakh or the whole body of Jewish teachings and law.
The Torah makes up the first section of the Tanach – the Hebrew Bible, or what Christianity refers to as the Old Testament. Tanach is an acronym referring to its three parts: Torah, Nevi’im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings).
The words of the Torah are traditionally handwritten in Hebrew by a scribe (sofer) on a parchment scroll. These scrolls are read from in synagogue services, broken up into separate Torah portions to spread the readings over the course of a year. Public Torah readings are at the heart of Jewish communal life.
An aliyah, עליה, is the honor of being called to read a blessing over a segment of the Torah. In synagogue, members from the congregation are chosen to go up to the bimah (podium) and recite two blessings (one before the reading, and one after) to thank God for the Torah.
Haftarah portions – or Haftoroh in Ashkenazic, or “Concluding Portion” – are selections from the books of Nevi’im (Prophets) of the Hebrew Bible. They are also publicly read – rather, sung or chanted – in synagogue services, following the Torah reading each Sabbath, holidays and fast days. There is usually a thematic link to the weekly Parsha.
The Five Books of Moses are divided into 54 portions (Parshiyot), linked to a specific week in a leap year. In non-leap years, with fewer weeks, some shorter Torah portion readings are combined into one week. Each weekly Torah portion takes its name from the first word or distinctive phrase of the passage.
The Torah is divided into portions of two to six chapters each week, with added corresponding readings from the Prophets (Haftarah portions). The Torah reading cycle starts after the Feast of Tabernacles, with Genesis 1:1, and finishes with the last verses of Deuteronomy around 12 months later. Jewish communities celebrate the annual completion of the Torah reading with a holiday known as Simchat Torah or “Rejoicing in the Law.”
After God saved the Israelites from captivity and restored the Jewish nation, Ezra the scribe wanted to ensure their people would not fall off the wagon again, as we read about in the Book of Nehemia, so he created a system to ensure we would read the text of the Torah each week at synagogue. Thousands of years later, Jewish communities all around the world still study the same portion of the Torah in unity.
Jewish communities read the relevant Torah portion aloud in synagogues on Sabbaths, as part of the prayer service. The first section of the Torah portion is also read on Mondays and Thursday mornings, an origin that stems from older days, when rural people would go to town to visit the market on those days.
On Saturday afternoons, Mondays, and Thursdays, the start of the next week’s portion is read. Special Torah portion readings are also associated with Jewish holidays, Rosh Chodesh and fast days. A Torah reading generally refers to the whole service, including the grand removing and replacing of the scrolls in the Torah Ark.