Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Ekev 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

How Should We Live?

Posted on August 10, 2017

As a people, we Jews are good at many things: at kvetching, of course; at lashon hara, gossip, telling people things we shouldn’t; at eating.  Perhaps most importantly, we Jews are good at asking questions.

In fact, the greatest of all Jewish questions was asked in this week’s Torah portion of Ekev, the third sedrah in the Book of Deuteronomy.  It reads: 

V’atah, Yisrael, mah Adonai sho’eil mei’imach?, “And now, Israel, what does God ask of you?”

The passage in Ekev then answers this great question, “That you have awe of the Lord your God, and walk in all of God’s ways and love God, and serve the Lord your God will all your heart and all your soul.”

This big question—what does God ask of you?—and Ekev’s answer begin a series of statements in Jewish tradition, attempts to distill from our large moral storehouse just what the essence, the ikar of Jewish ethics really is.  What is it that God wants?  What is the true standard we need to uphold to be considered morally good?

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Ekev 5777

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Va'etchanan 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

Listen = Love

Posted on August 3, 2017

You are all familiar with the most important text in this week’s Torah portion of Va’etchanan.  It might be the very first Hebrew words you ever learned: Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad – Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.  Most commentary on the Shema focuses on the word Echad, One, the core idea of our belief in one God, monotheism itself.  But for me the most interesting word in the Shema is not the word Echad, “one”; no, the most interesting word in that seminal sentence is the very first word, Shema.

What does Shema mean?  Essentially, it means “listen” – or, since it is in the Tzivui, the command form of Hebrew, it means “Listen up!  Pay attention!  Hear what is about to be said.”   So why was it necessary to order the Israelite people to listen? 

Well, of course, if everyone was always listening we would never have to command that.  No one insists that people pay attention when they already are doing so. 

This is a verbal effort to grab the wandering focus of the Israelites and get them to hear what is about to be said.  Listen!  Pay attention!  This is important!  And with the Jewish people that is never an unnecessary summons.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Va'etchanan 5777

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Balak 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

Blessings from Curses

Posted on July 6, 2017

This week we read the Torah portion of Balak in the Book of Numbers, which includes some of the best words an outsider ever delivered about our people.   In the portion, one of just two in the entire Torah named after a non-Jew, 40 years of wandering have passed and the Israelites have finally arrived on the borders of the land of Canaan.  They are about to move in and they seem unstoppable to their opponents.  Balak, King of Moab, comes up with a novel plan: he will hire Balaam, a pagan sorcerer, to curse the Israelites, which will destroy their chances of defeating his own army and entering his land.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Balak 5777

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Chukat 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

The Price of Holiness, and Healing

Posted on June 29, 2017

This week in the book of Numbers we read the odd, ritualistic Torah portion of Chukat, the rites of the red heifer.  In order to achieve true ritual purity ancient Jews were required to find a completely unblemished young red female cow, slaughter it, burn it to ashes, and mix the ashes with water to create a liquid of purification in which to wash away ritual impurity. 

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Chukat 5777

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Korach 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

Bald Truths: How Rebellion Teaches Us Leadership 

Posted on June 22, 2017

Korach chronicles the greatest rebellion in the entire Torah, the palace revolt of the Levite named Korach and his 400 followers against the divinely ordained leadership of his fellow Levites, Moses and Aaron.  As so often seems to be the case, we Jews are our own worst enemies.  The result of this insurrection is disastrous, at least for the rebels.  The earth opens and Korach and all of his misguided followers are swallowed up, never to be heard from again.  

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Korach 5777

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