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Posted September 15, 2017 - 11:22am

Circumcise Me Twice

Currently, we are living in a world where the heart of man struggles to submit to the Divine will. Its natural tendency is to challenge the guidelines God has established for the good of man. In the Messianic Age, however, the heart of man will surrender to the will of God. The prophets anticipated this future time and spoke of its implications:

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33)

I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26–27)

One day Hashem will subdue the heart of man and cause us to “walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” This total submission to the will of God is sometimes referred to as circumcision of the heart. This concept isn’t something introduced by the prophets. It’s spoken of in the Torah. There are two places in the Torah that mention this concept of circumcising the heart and they are both found in the book of Deuteronomy. The first is a command for us to circumcise our own hearts:

“Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn” (Deuteronomy 10:16).

The second, however, is a promise of what Hashem will do and it comes right from our Torah portion:

And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deuteronomy 30:6)

Posted September 8, 2017 - 7:30am

The Responsibility of Influence

Parashat Ki Tavo is so named because of its open verse, which says, “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it …” (Deuteronomy 26:1). The words ki tavo mean “when you come.” Thus, this parashah is focused on the responsibility of the Children of Israel when they arrive in the land promised to them by Hashem. The first few paragraphs address bringing the bikkurim, the first fruits of the land to the LORD and the ceremony surrounding this procedure. After this Hashem gives Israel a reminder of their responsibility as a people who are consecrated to the LORD:

This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and rules. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have declared today that the LORD is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice. (Deuteronomy 27:16–17)

Immediately following this, instructions are given to renew the covenant through a ritual which includes dividing up the tribes and set them onto two mountains: the Mount of Blessing (Mount Gerizim) and the Mount of Curses (Mount Ebal). The Levites are to command them from the valley between the two. The ones on Mount Gerizim are to bless the nation and the ones on Mount Ebal are to repeat a series of curses, to which all of the people will affirm, “Amen.” The specific curses that are to be recited are listed in verses 15-26. Two of these, however, are connected in a way that may not be obvious at first. Let’s look at these two curses and find the link between them:

“Cursed be anyone who misleads a blind man on the road.” And all the people shall say, “Amen.” (Deuteronomy 27:18)

Posted September 7, 2017 - 2:09pm

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Posted September 1, 2017 - 6:55am

Restoring The Lost

Parashat Ki Tetze contains a plethora of laws ranging from managing the spoils of war to sexual immorality to fulfilling vows and oaths. Our focus will be on the responsibility of guarding a lost object. At the beginning of chapter 22 we read:

You shall not see your brother's ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him. And you shall do the same with his donkey or with his garment, or with any lost thing of your brother's, which he loses and you find; you may not ignore it. (Deuteronomy 22:1–3)

At first this seems like a simple, straight-forward commandment of the Torah: If you find something that doesn’t belong to you, whether it is a living animal or an inanimate object, either find the owner and give it back or hold onto it until the owner comes looking for it. However, because this passage is brief without any details of how do deal with various possible scenarios, there are many implications, applications, and questions that are left unaddressed. 

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Latest Book Review

The Magerman Edition

Author: Daniel Rose & Jay Goldmintz
Publisher: Koren Publishers
Year: 2014

The Koren Ani Tefilla Siddur is one of the latest in Koren’s growing collection of siddurim (prayer books) geared towards a specific demographic. Koren describes Ani Tefilla as “an engaging and thought-provoking siddur for the inquiring high school student and thoughtful adult.” Koren says that Ani Tefillah has been developed in order “to help the user create their own meaning and connection during the Tefilla [prayer] experience.” The name of the siddur is connected with its objective. Ani Tefilla means “I pray.” 

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