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Torah Sparks

August 18, 2001 - 5761

Prepared by Rabbi Randall J. Konigsburg
Temple Sinai, Hollywood, FL

Edited by Rabbi David L. Blumenfeld, PhD
Department of Services to Affiliated Congregations

Annual Cycle: Deut. 11:26-16:17; Hertz Chumash, p. 799
Triennial Cycle III: Deut. 15:1-16:17; Hertz Chumash, p. 811
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:11-55:5; Hertz Chumash, p. 818 plus
First/last verses of Machar Chodesh Haftarah - I Samuel 20:18, 42. p. 948, 950

(11:26-32) Israel is given a choice: "See, this day I set before you blessing and curse," and warned to obey God's commandments. A covenant ritual is established to be performed at Mounts Gerizim and Ebal.

(12:1-19) The beginning of the Deuteronomic Code. The Israelites must destroy all pagan shrines and centralize worship "at the place that the Lord shall choose."

(12:20-28) Permission is given to eat meat without offering it as a sacrifice first, a necessary provision once all sacrificial worship is centralized in one place. Eating blood, however, is still prohibited everywhere.

(12:29-13:19) An additional warning against following Canaanite practices; laws concerning the false prophet, the person who entices others to worship false gods, and the traitorous city.

(14:1-21) A review of the laws of kashrut, including the signs of kashrut in animals, fish, and fowl, and the prohibitions of eating an animal that has died a natural death, a "torn" animal, and of eating milk and meat together.

(14:22-29) Laws concerning the second tithe.

(15:1-11) Laws concerning the shemittah, or Sabbatical year. Laws concerning tzedakah and help for the poor.

(15:12-18) Laws concerning the Hebrew slave.

(15:19-23) Laws concerning the first-born of animals, which were dedicated to God.

(16:1-17) The celebration of the three Pilgrimage Festivals: Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot.

Theme 1: Friends and Enemies

You shall not eat anything leavened with it; for seven days thereafter you shall eat unleavened bread, bread of distress - for you departed from the land of Egypt hurriedly - so that you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt as long as you live. (Deut. 16:3)

  1. (It is noteworthy how a touch of pity occasionally comes over the Rabbis in regard to the enemies of Israel and their destruction. One may get this touch even after a passage full of human satisfaction in the destruction of Israel's enemies and oppressors in the Messianic age. In relation to the Feast of Tabernacles, rejoicing is mentioned three times,... but concerning Passover, rejoicing is not mentioned at all. Why? Two explanations are given, of which the first is that at Passover it is not yet known whether the harvest will be good or bad. The second explanation is), because at Passover the Egyptians died. And so you find that during Tabernacles we read the "Hallel" psalms all the seven days, but on Passover we read them only on the first day and in the evening, even as Samuel was wont to quote, (Proverbs 24:17) "When thine enemy falls, do not rejoice". (Pesikta Kahana 189a with note by C. Montefiore and H. Lowe; "The Rabbinic Anthology"; p. 465 extract 1313)
  2. If we compare this mitzvah (remembering the Exodus) with that of remembering the actions of Amalek, we find that each has one stringency and one leniency lacking in the other. The Sages (Talmud, Berachot 12b) required us to mention the Exodus twice daily, once by day and once by night, while the mitzvah of remembering Amalek is performed only once a year, on the Shabbat before Purim. This reading must be done from a Sefer Torah, while anything that reminds us of the miracles associated with the Exodus suffices to fulfill the other mitzvah. These differences may be explained as follows. The purpose of remembering the Exodus is to strengthen our faith in Hashem's might, and this can be accomplished by anything that recalls the miracles associated with that event to us. Therefore a Sefer Torah is not specifically required. The purpose of remembering Amalek, however, is to teach us that anyone who does not have the protection of Torah can sink to the level of Amalek, a lesson which requires studying Torah... (Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, "Derash Moshe", p. 301-302)

Discussion Sparks:

Here we have some reasons as to why remembrance is important. Why is the Exodus mentioned so often in the Bible? Why does Judaism have us remember the Exodus so especially? Why do we have to remember Amalek so especially?

We all have important moments in our lives. Think of a pivotal moment in your life? Is it worthy of sharing the memory of that moment with others? If you wanted to convey some teaching of that memory to your children - how would you go about it? Why should it be important to them? What are the pivotal Jewish moments in your life? Will you or have you taught your children about them?

Theme 2: Oh Joy Supreme!

You shall hold a festival of the Lord your G-d seven days, in the place that the Lord will choose; for the Lord your G-d will bless all your crops and all your undertakings, and you shall have nothing but joy. (Deut. 16:15)

  1. Although the (Hebrew) word "completely" is generally used to imply a limitation, here it adds the last night of the Festival to the realm of rejoicing (Sukkah, 48a). Chatam Sofer explains that on the first day of Sukkot there are three Mitzvot: 1. the Four Species. 2. the Sukkah and 3. the rejoicing on the Festival. However, on the eighth day of the Festival only the joy of the holiday is left. Hence the work "completely suggests a limitation even while adding an extra day to the Festival. (Elie Munk; "The Call Of The Torah p. 170-171)
  2. People had so much fun at the Sukkot water and fire celebrations that their rejoicing seems to have approached the pagan style of merrymaking...Those participating in the celebration often went beyond the limits in revelry and drink, and the festival often became a tumultuous, wild bacchanalia. The more serious-minded amongst the Jews protested against this character of the festival. Thus, the sexes were separated and a women's gallery was eventually constructed in the Temple.  It is clear from the original style of separation that the purpose was not to exclude women, for the women were up front! (Judith Antonelli; "Image of God", p. 476)

Discussion Sparks:

In Judaism we take "joy" seriously! Why does fun sometimes get out of hand? When does fun stop being fun? How do we limit joy without stifling it? Compare Sukkot with a college homecoming celebration; or Purim to the riots in a city that wins a sports championship game? How does Jewish ritual prevent joy from becoming destructive? Did the separation of sexes help resolve this problem? Is this why today they remain separated in Orthodox synagogues?

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