Rabbi Lazer Brody: Hashem Loves Me

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Re'eh 5771 - Covenant & Conversation - Thoughts on the weekly parsha from Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks

Listen to these stories. Behind them lies an extraordinary insight into the nature of Jewish ethics:

Story 1. Rabbi Abba used to bind money in his scarf, sling it on his back, and place it at the disposal of the poor. [Ketubot 67b]

Story 2. Mar Ukba had a poor man in his neighbourhood into whose door socket he used to throw four coins every day. Once the poor man thought, "I will go and see who does me this kindness." That day Mar Ukba stayed late at the house of study and his wife was coming home with him. As soon as the poor man saw them moving the door [to leave the coins] he ran out after them, but they fled from him and hid. Why did they do this? Because it was taught: One should throw himself into a fiery furnace rather than publicly put his neighbour to shame. [Ketubot 67b]

Story 3. When Rabbi Jonah saw a man of good family who had lost his money and was ashamed to accept charity, he would go and say to him, "I have heard that an inheritance has come your way in a city across the sea. So here is an article of some value. Sell it and use the proceeds. When you are more affluent, you will repay me." As soon as the man took it, Rabbi Jonah would say, "It's yours is a gift." [Vayikra Rabbah 34:1]

These stories all have to do with the mitzvah of tzedakah whose source is in this week's parsha:

If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need . . . Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. [Deut. 15: 7-8, 10-11]

What we have here is a unique and still remarkable programme for the elimination of poverty.

Shlomo Katz and Rabbi Lazer Brody: Tov Lehodot

Spiritual brothers Shlomo Katz and Rabbi Lazer Brody sing about how good it is to thank Hashem, the opening words of Psalm 92, in an evening of song and inspiration in Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Israel's protection

the different ways that Israel is protected both physical and spiritual

Pics from my fiancee's trip, Song, V'havienu by Dani Kunstler

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ekev 5771 - Covenant & Conversation - Thoughts on the weekly parsha from Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks

What is the real challenge of maintaining a free society? In parshat Ekev, Moses springs his great surprise. Here are his words:

Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God . . . Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery . . . You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." . . . . If you ever forget the Lord your God . . . I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. (Deut. 8: 11-19)

You thought, Moses says to the new generation, that the forty years of wandering in the wilderness were the real challenge, and that once you conquer and settle the land, your problems will be over. The truth is, that it is then that the real challenge will begin. It will be precisely when all your physical needs are met -- when you have land and sovereignty and rich harvests and safe homes -- that your spiritual trial will begin.

The real challenge is not poverty but affluence, not insecurity but security, not slavery but freedom. Moses, for the first time in history, is hinting at a law of history. Many centuries later it was articulated by the great 14th century Islamic thinker, Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), by the Italian political philosopher Giambattista Vico (1668-1744), and most recently by the Harvard historian Niall Ferguson. Moses is giving an account of the decline and fall of civilizations.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ancient Shivta, Negev Desert

Since the vastness of the desert teaches us our insignificance, it is consequently conducive to humility. But, even something so simple and humble as a Bedouin flute - a reed with six holes - can play sweet music when used properly.
In the video, Rabbi Lazer is wearing a Bedouin "kaffiyeh" - this is not making any political statement - it's just good protection from the blazing sun and searing winds of the desert.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Va'etchanan 5771 - Covenant & Conversation - Thoughts on the weekly parsha from the Chief Rabbi

It is one of the great stories of all time, and Moses foresaw it three thousand years before it happened. Here he is speaking in this week's parsha:

See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people" . . . What other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? (Deut. 4: 5-8)

Moses believed that there would come a time when the idea of a nation founded on a covenant with God would inspire other nations with its vision of a society based not on a hierarchy of power but on the equal dignity of all under the sovereignty and in the image of God; and on the rule of justice and compassion. "The nations" would appreciate the wisdom of the Torah and its "righteous decrees and laws". It happened. As I have argued many times, we see this most clearly in the political culture and language of the United States.

To this day American politics is based on the biblical idea of covenant. American presidents almost always invoke this idea in their Inaugural Addresses in language that owes its cadences and concepts to the book of Devarim. So, for instance, in 1985 Ronald Reagan spoke of America as "one people under God, dedicated to the dream of freedom that He has placed in the human heart, called upon now to pass that dream on to a waiting and hopeful world."

In his Inaugural in 1989, George Bush prayed: "There is but one just use of power, and it is to serve people. Help us to remember it, Lord. Amen." In 1997 Bill Clinton said: "The promise we sought in a new land we will find again in a land of new promise."

George W Bush in 2001 said, "We are guided by a power larger than ourselves who creates us equal in His image." In 2005 he declared, "From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Devarim 5771 - Covenant & Conversation - Thoughts on the weekly parsha from Chief Rabbi Lord

Why does the book of Devarim have the structure it does: a mix of history, law, recollection and anticipation?

The sages knew that Devarim had a clear structure. Elsewhere in the Torah some rabbis used the principle of semikhut haparshiyot -- that we can learn something from the fact that passage Y occurs immediately after passage X. Others however did not, because there is a rule, ein mukdam umu'achar baTorah, meaning, the Torah does not always follow a strict chronological sequence. So we cannot always attach significance to the fact that the passages are in the order they are. However, everyone agrees that there is precise order and structure in the book of Devarim (Berakhot 21b). But what is the order?

Second: the sages originally called Devarim Mishneh Torah, a "second law". Hence the Latin name Deuteronomy, which means, the second law. But in what sense is Devarim a second law? Some of the laws Moses states in the book have appeared before, others have not. Is it a repetition of the laws Moses received at Sinai and the Tent of Meeting? Is it something new? What exactly is the meaning of Mishneh Torah?

Third: what is the book doing here? It represents the speeches Moses delivered in the last month of his life to the generation who would cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land. Why is it included in the Torah at all? If the Torah is a history book, then we should proceed directly from the end of Bamidbar, the arrival of the Israelites at the banks of the river Jordan, to the book of Joshua, when they crossed the river and began their conquest of the land. If the Torah is a book of law, then Devarim should just be a collection of laws without all the historical reminiscence and prophecy it contains.

What kind of book is Devarim and what is its significance to the Torah as a whole.