“Parsha and Purpose” – Devarim 5780
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“What does the Torah say about #JewishPrivilege”

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“What does the Torah say about #JewishPrivilege”

What is #JewishPrivilege?

Without getting into the online battles involving this loaded phrase, I would like to suggest an additional understanding of #JewishPrivilege, one that is rooted in the essence of Sefer Devarim, the Book of Deuteronomy, that we will begin reading this Shabbat.

Although #JewishPrivilege – is often bound up with our often painful history of persecution, something we are even more attuned to in the days leading up to Tisha b’Av, for me it is not its primary meaning.

Rather, #JewishPrivilege is our responsibility as a people to always strive toward bettering the world, in the face of any challenges.

This message is uniquely expressed by the Book of Devarim, in the very opening verse: “Eileh HaDevarim asher diber Moshe...”. “These are the words that Moshe stated.”

We immediately discover that in contrast to the other books of the Torah, the Talmud relates in Megillah and Bava Batra that Sefer Devarim is ”authored” by Moshe.

This is also highlighted in the mystical work, the Zohar, which calls Devarim “Mishneh Torah”, literally meaning “The Second Torah”, as Moshe plays a more significant role stating it himself.

This concept of Mishneh Torah, alludes to the fact that there are two paradigms of “Godspeak”, or how God communicates with the Jewish People.

The first paradigm of Godspeak dominates the first four books of the Torah, in which the narratives are written in the third person and Moshe is simply the vehicle through which God communicates.

In contrast, the second paradigm of Godspeak, as seen in Devarim, comes from the introduction of human initiative: Moshe writes the text, God edits and approves it, and then Moshe narrates.

What do we learn from this second paradigm? 

That if the covenantal commitment between God and the Jewish People is to continue, then both partners must be meaningfully involved in sustaining the relationship.

This is #JewishPrivilege. It empowers us and obligates us, the guarantors of the future of the Jewish People, to write the next chapters of the Jewish People & Humanity.

#JewishPrivilege is Jewish responsibility.

So the question we MUST ask ourselves is: How do we approach our own “Mishneh Torah” ?  

What are the ideals that illuminate our quill?

What vision softens our hearts and sharpens our minds so that we can work the parchment?

As we begin Sefer Devarim, with this second paradigm of Godspeak, incorporating human initiative, we think of the responsibility that is #JewishPrivilege.

And in doing so, we redouble our focus and efforts on fulfilling our obligation to do everything in our power to meet this challenge and better the world.

Together, we can scribe the destiny of the Jewish People.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Riskin

This week’s parsha commentary has been sponsored  by the Charif family of Sydney, Australia in memory of Hymie Charif (Refael Chaim Yishayahu ben Yitzchak) whose 24th yahrzeit is on 2 Av Shabbat Shalom: Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – There are two important issues which must be studied when approaching this …

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