So begins this week’s Torah reading. And what a reading it is. If there was ever a “Zionist” Torah reading it’s this one. And each year, we are reminded that G-d chose Abraham out of all the people of the earth, and made him the father of our nation and the recipient of G-d’s promises for the Jewish people.
This week, we read the story of Noah and the flood. “And these are the descendants of Noah, Noah was a righteous man, innocent he was in his generations.” (Genesis 6:9) Many commentators have questioned the use of the word generations – why the plural and why the addition of the word at all?
We begin the cycle again. Last weekend we celebrated Simchat Torah and read the final chapters of Deuteronomy with special ceremony. We then proceeded to read the first chapter of Genesis, as a way of saying that the Torah never ends, but every ending includes with it a new beginning.
This week we read the Song of Moses, one of Moses’ final speeches to the Children of Israel before his death. The only other words Moses speaks to the nation after this are the words of blessing in Deuteronomy Chapter 33
Thousands gathered at the Western Wall, the closest we could get to where the Temple once stood, and the President of Israel, then Chaim Herzog, read aloud from the Torah. It was indeed an awesome experience.
This week is the holiday of Succot, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the middle of Sukkot falls on Shabbat, so once again the regular Torah reading is suspended and a special portion for the holiday is read instead.
This week’s portion includes Moses’ last speech to the nation before the final poem that is Chapter 32 and the blessings in Chapter 33. Chapter 30 is often referred to as the “Return” chapter, including, as it does, references to both a physical and spiritual return to God and the Land of Israel. But a close examination of the verses in this chapter reveals a confusing sequence of events.
There is a common joke among Jews that summarizes all of our Jewish holidays in one sentence: They tried to kill us, G-d saved us, let’s eat. It doesn’t quite apply to every holiday, but certainly Passover, Purim and Hanukkah fit the bill. And the statement certainly tells us a great deal about Jewish culture.
This weeks Torah portion includes the largest number of commandments of any other weekly portion. Beginning with Chapter 21 verse 10 and proceeding through Chapter 25, verse after verse is filled with situations and the rules of practice that are applicable.
These verses set forth guidelines to be followed by the kings of Israel, to ensure their righteousness and the absence of corruption in their kingdoms. Although, we no longer have kings, our political leaders would do well to follow these rules.