Posted on September 17th, 2018

Deuteronomy 32:1–52

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks 

Moses the Man

That very day the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel for a possession. And die on the mountain which you go up, and be gathered to your people …For you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.”

With these words there draws to a close the life of the greatest hero the Jewish people has ever known: Moses, the leader, the liberator, the lawgiver, the man who brought a group of slaves to freedom, turned a fractious collection of individuals into a nation, and so transformed them that they became the people of eternity.

Read & Listen. 


Posted on September 10th, 2018

Deuteronomy 31:1–30 

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks 

Torah as Song

Moses’ long and tempestuous career is about to end. With words of blessing and encouragement he hands on the mantle of leadership to his successor Joshua, saying, “I am a hundred and twenty years old today. I may no longer go out and come in, since the Lord has said to me, you will not cross this Jordan.” (31:2). As Rashi notes, he says, “I may not” not “I cannot.” He is still in full bodily vigour, “his eye undimmed and his natural energy unabated.” But he has reached the end of his personal road. The time had come for another age, a new generation, and a different kind of leader.

Read & Listen.


Posted on September 3rd, 2018

Deuteronomy 29:9–30:20 

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks 

Not In Heaven

When I was a student at university in the late 1960s – the era of student protests, psychedelic drugs, and the Beatles meditating with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – a story went the rounds. An American Jewish woman in her sixties travelled to north India to see a celebrated guru. There were huge crowds waiting to see the holy man, but she pushed through, saying that she needed to see him urgently. Eventually, after weaving through the swaying throng, she entered the tent and stood in the presence of the master himself. What she said that day has entered the realm of legend. She said, “Marvin, listen to your mother. Enough already. Come home.”

Read & Listen.

Ki Tavo

Posted on August 27th, 2018

Deuteronomy 26:1–29:8 

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks 

The Blessing and the Curse

The sedra of Ki Tavo contains one of the most terrifying passages in the Hebrew Bible, rivalled only by the parallel text in Vayikra/Leviticus 26. Both are known to tradition as tokhachah, “reprimand” or “rebuke.” Essentially they are warnings of the terrible fate that will overtake Jews if they neglect or abandon their covenant with G-d. Reading them in the context of our time, after the Holocaust, they sound like terrible prefigurations of what in fact occurred. If much of Deuteronomy is a prophetic vision or dream, the tokhachah is the nightmare. Here is its conclusion:

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Ki Teitzei

Posted on August 20th, 2018

Deuteronomy 21:10–25:19 

Rabbi Bernie Fox for OU

Sending Away the Mother Bird

“And it will be that on the day that he wills his property to his sons, he may not give preference to the son of his beloved wife over the firstborn son of his unloved wife.” (Devarim 21:16)

This pasuk discusses the rights of a firstborn son. This son inherits a double portion of his father’s property. In other words, when the father’s estate is divided, the firstborn son receives a portion that is double the value of the portions received by the other sons. A simple illustration will clarify this law. A man dies. Four sons survive him. His estate is divided into five portions. The firstborn son receives two of the portions – two fifths of the estate. Each of the other sons receives one fifth of the estate.

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