Devarim
Rabbanit Dena Freundlich Rock

Parshat Ha’azinu = The Torah? Rabbanit Dena (Freundlich) Rock is a core member of the faculty at Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem, where she teaches Talmud and Halakha, and coordinates the midrasha’s Matmidot Scholars Program. Parshat Ha’azinu is unique in that virtually the entire parsha is a song. Even in an actual Sefer Torah, the verses …

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 Parshat Ki Tavo – Maaser and Truma: Declaring our Avodat Hashem Devora Chait-Roth learned at Midreshet Lindenbaum for the year 2015-2016. She is in her second year of a computer science PhD at NYU, and co-directed a women’s summer beit midrash program called Bnot Sinai. The way a person spends their money often tells a …

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Marina Rivline

 Parshat Ki Tetze: “If brethren dwell together…”: Limiting Permitted Prohibitions Originally from France, Marina Rivline was a student in Midreshet Lindenbaum‘s Overseas Program from 2015-2017, officially making aliya in 2016. Marina performed Sherut Leumi in the Israel Police Forces and is currently finishing a degree in Law and International Relations at the Hebrew University. Parashat …

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Sarah Gordon

 Parshat Shoftim: Seeking justice while cultivating compassion Sarah Gordon spent a year post-college learning in the Midreshet Lindenbaum Educator’s Program (2006-2007). She is the Director of Israel Guidance and Experiential Education at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls. Parshat Shoftim concludes with the atonement ritual of the Eglah Arufah, or beheaded calf (Devarim 21: 1-9), …

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Tamar Beer

Parshat Ekev: Reinventing the Covenant – Judgment, Mercy, and Second Chances Tamar Beer studied at Midreshet Lindenbaum  from 2016 -2018. She is currently enrolled at GPATS (Graduate Program for Advanced Talmudic Studies) and Azrieli Graduate School for Education, and directs a summer women’s beit midrash program called Bnot Sinai.   The concept of “shmartem et …

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“Parsha and Purpose” – Devarim 5781 
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“‘Where Are You?’ The Most Important Question of Tisha B’Av

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Parshat Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1 – 3:22)

“‘Where Are You?’ The Most Important Question of Tisha B’Av”

When a loved one dies, God forbid, the intensity of our mourning is seen in its most dramatic form on the day of burial and then gradually diminishes from the first through the seventh day of shiva, through the next 30 days – the shloshim – and in the case of a beloved parent, throughout the year of mourning.

Our communal mourning for the destruction of our holy Temple, on the other hand, progresses in the exact opposite direction.

For three weeks, catalyzed by the fast of the 17 of Tammuz, we refrain from joyous activity. 

Then, during the final nine days of those three weeks, beginning on Rosh Chodesh Av (or, for Sephardic Jews, during the final week preceding the ninth of Av,) we progress to an even more heightened state of mourning. 

Ultimately, the pinnacle of mourning occurs on Tisha B’Av – the saddest day in the Jewish calendar.  

The reason for this opposite pattern is because unlike mourning a family member, it is so hard to sincerely mourn a 2000-year-old tragedy.

It’s true that the loss of our holy Temple led to the loss of our sovereignty and, even more significantly, the loss of our connection to God. 

But still it’s hard to immediately and emotionally connect to it. 

We need time to enter into the necessary mindset. 

The build up from 17 Tammuz to Tisha B’Av gives us the opportunity to think beyond the “what” of this period’s mourning practices and focus on the “why”.

One idea for getting into this “why” comes from the teachings of Rav Joseph Soloveitchik, ztz”l, based on the central text read on Tisha b’Av: Megillat Eicha, the Book of Lamentations.

Rav Soloveitchik teaches that Megillat Eicha also known as the Book of Kinot provides us with prophetic license to ask the ultimate question: “Eicha?!” – how God could this have happened?

How God can you have abandoned us the Jewish people to our enemies?

How God can you have allowed the Temple, Jerusalem and the Land of Israel to become desolate?

We begin Tisha B’Av by reading this book of Eicha, this book of Kinot, which gives us permission to question, and then spend the next 24 hours engaged in seeking the answers.

Rav Soloveitchik explained that when we read the word “Eicha,” we must also read it the first way that it is pronounced in the Bible, when God asks Adam and Chava: “Ayeka”? Where are you? (Genesis 3:9)

Eicha – how did this happen? – and Ayeka – where are you? – are intertwined. Because in order to repair the devastation , we must investigate where we are? 

Where are we in the treatment of other Jews and other human beings?

Where are we in our support of Israel?

Where are we in pursuit of unity?

Do we still not recognize that ultimately it was the judgmental hatred and the disrespect between us that caused famine, torture and the final destruction of the second Temple and all of its ramifications? (Yoma 9b)

Where are we in the process of trying to perfect the world, and help bring about the ultimate redemption?

This approach enables us to also mourn things taking place in our lives and in our generation, which are actually extensions of the tragedies that occurred two millennia ago, making the tragedy more relatable.

In the merit of heartfelt mourning over what we have lost and a resolution to prioritize fixing that which we have broken, may we witness the words of our Sages:

 כל המתאבל על ירושלים זוכה ורואה בשמחתה

Whoever mourns for Jerusalem will merit and see her future joy. (Taanit 30b)

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and then a meaningful and easy fast.

Hannah Abrams

Tisha Bav: Using our eyes as well as our mouth Hannah Abrams studied in Midreshet Lindenbaum 2014-15, and is now learning in the Advanced Halakha Institute, Hilkhata, at Matan. She is also teaching in seminaries in Jerusalem. Megillat Eicha takes us deep into the world of despair. We cry out to Hashem, with a hopeless …

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RSR

This week’s Shabbat Shalom has been sponsored by Blima and Joel Abramson on the occasion of the Yahrzait of Blima’s mother Sara Ester bat Yehoshua Ha’Cohen   Parshat Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1 – 3:22) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel –  The biblical reading of Devarim always falls out on the Sabbath preceding Tisha Be’av, the fast …

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“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.” Deuteronomy 1:1

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. Bava Batra 14b, Megillah 31b

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. Zohar 3:261a

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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