V'Zot HaBracha 5767
V'Zot HaBracha (Deuteronomy 33-34 )
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GOOD MORNING! Have you heard about the dyslexic agnostic insomniac? He stays up all night wondering whether or not there is a dog.
This week I would like to speak about God. Try an interesting experiment - ask a person if he believes in God. My experience is that a few people will say "No" or "I am not sure" while most people will say "Yes." Now comes the interesting part - ask the people who believe in God, "What is your definition of God? What do mean when you say that you believe in God?"
Many, if not most people, will be baffled and shocked by the question for they never gave it much thought and just settled for the "warm fuzzies" of the emotion that they believe in God. (It is perhaps the fault of our Jewish educational systems that don't talk about God or perhaps that about half of all Jews in America are not affiliated with anything Jewish and have never had the opportunity to ask the question of someone who has studied and understands Torah and Torah philosophy.) They may have no answer or a muddled answer of meaningless platitudes. What does believing in God mean and what does it imply?
The enemy of the Jewish people is ignorance. One can't love what he does not know. One's Jewish self-label or affiliation should not be a shield to deflect questions or to "explain" what one DOESN'T do. It is incumbent upon each and every one of us to learn the Torah and to know it; it is sad day for the Jewish people that the rabbi is now the "professional Jew" who is the keeper and dispenser of all of the answers. It shows how far away we are from our source.
So, I share with you some knowledge from the source, the Torah, about the meaning of God and the implication of believing in God to us as Jews - as elucidated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, of blessed memory, from his book Shabbat - Day of Eternity:
"... How do we, as Jews, define God? We find the answer in the very first verse of the Torah. Is says, 'In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth.' Here we have a definition of God. God is the Creator of all things. He is the One who brought all things into existence....
"Some people think that God created the world and then forgot about it... that His existence has no bearing on their lives. When God introduced Himself in the Ten Commandments, He said, 'I am the Lord your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage' (Exodus 20:2). God was telling us that He is involved in the affairs of man and has a profound interest in what we do....
"For the Jew, belief in God is more than a mere creed or catechism. It is the basis of all meaning in life, for if the world does not have a creator, then what possible meaning can there be in existence! Man becomes nothing more than a complex physiochemical process, no more important than an ant or a grain of sand. Morality becomes a matter of convenience, or 'might makes right.' It is the belief in God that gives life purpose and meaning. It is also what gives us a standard of right and wrong. If we know that God created the world, and did so for a purpose, then we also realize that everything that furthers this purpose is 'good,' and everything that runs counter to this purpose is 'evil.' "
If you are interested in learning more about the Almighty - you would probably enjoy Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's If You Were God and The Infinite Light. If you wonder if there really is a God, then you would find Permission to Believe, which presents classical categories of evidence for the existence of God by Lawrence Kelleman, a fascinating read ( these books are available at your local Jewish bookstore, at http://www.judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242).
For more on "Belief in God" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
This Shabbat is Shemini Atzeret, the concluding Yom Tov of the Sukkot holiday. We read Deuteronomy 14:22 -16:17 which includes the topics of: tithing crops, remission of loans during the Shemitah year, to be warm-hearted and open handed to the destitute, Jewish bondsman, Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot, going to Jerusalem for Shelosh Regalim, the three pilgrimage festivals - Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot - with offering to celebrate the festivals.
Sunday, October 15th, is Simchat Torah. We read V'Zot HaBracha to complete the Book of Deuteronomy and thus the whole Torah. This Torah portion begins with the blessing of Moshe, right before he dies, for the Jewish people and each tribe. Then Moshe ascends Mt. Nebo, where the Almighty shows him all of the land the Jewish people are about to inherit. He dies, is buried in the valley in an unknown spot, and the Jewish people mourn for 30 days. The Torah then concludes with the words, "Never again has there arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Almighty had known face to face ..." and then we start again the yearly cycle of reading the Torah with the reading of Bereishis, Genesis!
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states regarding helping the poor:
"You shall surely open your hand unto him and shall surely lend him sufficient for his need which he lacks." (Deut 15:8)
What are the details of this mitzvah, commandment?
We are told that we must give charity to a poor person. What if the person doesn't want to take it? Rashi, the great commentator, tells us to then give the person the money as a present or a loan.
It is a positive commandment to give charity to the needy with happiness and a good heart. The mitzvah of giving tzedakah (charity) does not only apply to giving aid to the poor. To aid a wealthy person when he needs assistance is also a fulfillment of the mitzvah of tzedakah. Furthermore, whenever you give pleasure to others, whether it be through money, food, or comforting words, you fulfill this mitzvah. The Rambam (Moshe Maimonedes) writes that he never saw or heard of a city in which there lived ten Jews that did not have a charity fund (Hilchos Matnos Aniyim 9:3).
The word the Sages used for charity is tzedakah, which literally means "righteousness" or "justice." This term illuminates the Torah's concept of charity. It is not merely a charitable act to give to the poor; it is the obligation of every single person to do the right thing, the just thing.
If you would like to help feed the poor of Jerusalem, you may contribute
They investigate truly needy families and distribute coupons good only for food. I contribute through them.
CANDLE LIGHTING - October 13
(or Go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)
Guatemala 5:22 - Hong Kong 5:42 - Honolulu 5:50
J'Burg 5:55 - London 5:54 - Los Angeles 6:04
Melbourne 6:17 - Mexico City 6:57 - Miami 6:39
Moscow - 5:05 - New York 6:02 - Singapore 6:36
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
The greatest happiness you can have is
knowing that you do not necessarily
-- William Saroyan
In Loving Memory of my Mother
Anita Zaslow (Chana bas Yoel)
on her fourth yahrzeit
-- Ed Zaslow