This Week’s Torah Portions – Parashat Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20) and Parashat Vayelekh (Deuteronomy 31:1-30)

I discuss the weekly Torah portion with Rabbi Rabbs Mondays at 7:00 pm PST on my live cam and on YouTube. Facebook Fan Page.

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This week we study Parashat Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20) and Parashat Vayelekh (Deuteronomy 31:1-30.

* This is the last show from my hovel! I’m moving out Oct. 2.

* Rabbi Berel Wein writes: “There is a cynical but unfortunately accurate statement rife in the ranks of diplomats that treaties are made to be broken.” This is true in personal life as well. Anyone who tells you, “I will never lie to you” or “I will never betray you” or “I will always be there for you” is unlikely to live up to such lofty obligations. We have to stand on our own two feet in life and not try to rely on binding people to us in such obligations.

In international relations, many people place trust in treaties and the UN. I place trust in a country’s values, history, and predilections.

I remember growing up in the 1980s and the news media was obsessed with whether or not the United States would sign certain arms control treaties with the Soviet Union. I thought the treaties do not matter much, Soviet values do. I know the United States will likely live up to its treaty obligations, but will Russia?

If you go into business with somebody, written agreements may have some value, but I want to know primarily who am I dealing with? What are his values?

* Judaism is much more about conditional love. Judaism and God expect a lot from the Jews and reward and punish accordingly. A yeshiva boy is unlikely to hear of “unconditional love.” I don’t recall a rabbi ever speaking that way. The idea that God will love you the same no matter who you do is not Jewish. It’s Christian.

* There are no easy answers in Torah. It’s all about hard work. There’s no free lunch in the Torah view. There’s no salvation by faith alone.

* Everybody is doing it is not a Torah excuse.

* God suspects that when things are good, the Jews will forget God.

* Deut. 29:18. I often say, “Peace be with me”, even though I walk as my heart sees fit.

The Ramban warns that people should control their desires before they are overcome with lust, because once they give in to curiosity to savor the forbidden, the craving becomes stronger and stronger, until it requires ever newer and more exotic perversions to satisfy it. (Artscroll)

* The Torah is accessible (Deut. 30:11). You don’t need expensive classes from the Kabbalah Centre or the Scientologists to understand.

* Artscroll commentary on Deut. 31:12. Sometimes “ger” means convert and sometimes it means non-Jew.

* Songs are a big deal in Torah. Miriam led one after the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea. And in Deut. 31:19, Moshe writes one that will witness against Israel.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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