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Milk and honey

It’s Not All About Us: Redemption, Revelation, and the Land of Israel

Being human means dangling simultaneously between two core realities. At one and the same time, on one hand you matter a great deal – it’s all about us! -- and on the other hand, you’re not the only thing that matters.... This dialectic is especially emphasized in Parashat Eikev, in Deuteronomy, chapters 8-11, as the Israelites approach a climactic moment in human history. Will redemption and Revelation really allow for the possibility of creating an ideal society?

D'var Torah By: 
What It Means To Be a Mensch
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Shoshana Nyer

"And now, O Israel, what does the Eternal your God demand of you? Only this: to revere the Eternal your God, to walk only in divine paths, to love and to serve the Eternal your God with all your heart and soul, keeping the Eternal’s commandments and laws, which I enjoin upon you today, for your good” (Deut. 10:12-13). ... In remarking on Deut. 10:13 in Parashat Eikev, many commentators, including Rashi and Nachmanides, point out that God is not asking for reverence and love, or for us to follow the divine path for God’s sake, but rather for our own. It is for our good. It is not something God needs, but something we need.

The Evolving Role of the Tallit

When I was speaking with a 95-year-old congregant this week, she shared with me the uncomfortable feeling of having her synagogue change around her. “We used to be properly Reform. Now, when I come, I see people wearing a tallit..... " For her, seeing fellow congregants wearing a tallit feels like a betrayal of the Reform principles she holds dear.... The commandment to wear tzitzitthe fringes on the corners of the tallit, comes from this parashah

D'var Torah By: 
A Practice That Helps Us Find the Right Path
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Jill L. Maderer

Whoredom. Our text chooses an intense and potentially problematic symbol to illustrate deviation from the right path!... I am interested in the way Rabbi Grushcow links two very different situations in the portion that use the term (zenut, "whoredom"). The first circumstance — scouting the Land — is a rare event. Whereas the second circumstance — the ritual of the fringes that remind us to observe the mitzvot — is an everyday occurrence.

Not by Bread Alone: Strange Food from the Sky

Parashat Eikev gives us the familiar phrase, “man does not by bread alone.” Does it mean that spiritual sustenance is more important than bread? Or was it meant to teach ancient Israelites to trust in God and not stores of food? It all depends on the context.

D'var Torah By: 
The Opportunity to Enjoy What We Have
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Marc Katz

Parashat Eikev tells us that manna was created to test the Israelites by hardships (Deuteronomy 8:16). What were the hardships? Was the manna too scarce to fully satisfy a person’s hunger? Or was the uncertainty of whether the manna would fall the next day the main hardship for the Israelites? Was the manna ugly or unpleasant to eat? Ancient Sages debate this question.

Hope in the Darkness of Fear

In this week’s Torah portion, Sh’lach L’cha, 12 scouts are sent into the Promised Land to bring back a report to the former slaves in the wilderness. Ten of them report that the Land flows with milk and honey, but it will be difficult to conquer. Two spies present a different point of view, projecting an energizing sense of hope over a paralyzing sense of fear.

D'var Torah By: 
The Positive Aspects of Fear
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Joshua Herman

The story of the spies in this week’s Torah portion, Sh’lach L’cha, does reveal that most of the spies were guided by their fear in their assessment of the Land. Yes, fear is a powerful emotion. But sometimes our Torah tells us that fear can be a positive emotion as well.

If Then, You Really Listen and Heed My Commandments

"V'haya im shamoa — If then, you listen, yes, you really heed My commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving the Eternal your God and serving [God] with all your heart and soul, I will grant the rain for your land in its season. . . . " 

This section of our Torah portion is known as V'haya im Shamoa, and is included in the daily and Shabbat morning service in traditional prayer books right after the Shema and V'ahavta prayers. Reform siddurim omit it, perhaps it because it feels a bit simplistic. The message seems to contradict our understanding of nature and weather: if you obey God's commandments nature will be good to you, but if you stray and serve other gods the Eternal will punish you through acts of nature.

D'var Torah By: 
Have Your Fill, Yet Remain Hungry
Davar Acher By: 
Amy Ross

Rabbi Firestone offers a beautiful understanding of V'haya im shamoa, "If we truly listen . . . " If we do God's will, follow God's commandments, nature will be good to us. As our modern understanding of weather contradicts this theology, Firestone suggests we read the text as a call to sustain and protect nature.

Protection seems all at once an easy and a daunting task. The course is clear — reduce, reuse, recycle, carpool, minimize your carbon footprint — yet changing our lifestyles proves far more difficult. Why do we struggle so with the tasks essential to the survival of our world, our children, our way of life?

What Happens When We Just See What We Want to See?

On July 2, 2014, the prestigious science journal Nature retracted two heralded papers in the field of stem cell research, papers it had published only a few months earlier. The articles described a revolutionary process called STAP, where biologists subjected mature adult cells to physical stresses and transformed them into stem cells. Yet, in the editorial announcing the papers' retraction, Nature's editors reported that the "data that were an essential part of the authors' claims had been misrepresented" and that the authors' work was marred by "sloppiness" and "selection bias" ("Editorial: STAP retracted," Nature, vol. 511, no. 7507, July 2, 2014). All told, as the journalist Dana Goodyear has written, "a far-reaching and sensational conjecture" was "defeated by flaws that were at best irreparable and at worst unconscionable" ("The Stress Test," The New Yorker, February 29, 2016, pp. 46-57).

D'var Torah By: 
Facing the Complex Realities of Controlling a Land
Davar Acher By: 
Michael G. Holzman

I can accept Rabbi Skloot's argument, citing Shimon Bar Yochai, that the scouts led a biased journey from the start, but I question the nature of that bias. Rather than a predisposition against the Land itself, I see a bias against the entire idea of possessing the Land.

Getting What We Deserve

A baby boy born with a defective heart has multiple surgeries before his first birthday and will suffer from physical and cognitive impairments for as long as he lives. 

D'var Torah By: 
Open to the Present: A Response to Life’s Surprise
Davar Acher By: 
Greg Wolfe

Rabbi Korotkin deftly explores the challenges of how we might understand, today, the system of rewards and punishments that are laid out so matter-of-factly in this week's Torah portion, Eikev

Spiritual Authenticity

I think it's fair to say that just about everybody knows that the Israelites were condemned to wander in the wilderness for forty years, a biblical generation.

D'var Torah By: 
Unfamiliar Territory
Davar Acher By: 
Ariana Silverman

At an intergenerational leadership conference, we were split into small groups and asked to articulate a vision for the Jewish future.

All You Need Is Love?

"All the world needs is love." We hear that refrain in our music, in our theologies, in conversations prosaic and profound.

D'var Torah By: 
Eikev: Divine Reward and Punishment
Davar Acher By: 
Jessica Kessler Marshall

Rabbi Milgrom's d'var Torah explores our conditional brit, covenant, with the Eternal. We read, "If, then, you obey the commandments . . .

Lemmings Be Gone!

Recently, I sat with one of my congregants, a beautiful, smart, and funny 12-year-old girl who told me about the social challenges she is having in school.

D'var Torah By: 
“Yes! A Hill!”
Davar Acher By: 
Barry M. Lutz

The daughter of friends became a championship cross-country runner in high school. This was a great surprise to all of us as she had never been a runner before.

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