Parashat Noach • Genesis 6:9−11:32

Noah walked with God. The crafter of the ark, the savior of animals and humanity from the flood, the hero of our Torah portion is introduced with these words. While traditional commentators have sought to qualify this endorsement of his character (Abraham, as someone who argued with God to save human lives, was said to walk before God, perhaps not needing God’s assistance), perhaps more humility is called for. After all, Noah was said to be the most righteous of his generation!

This debate, how good is a person, plays out in every generation. In the messiness of human existence, some people are truly bad, others forces for good, and most of us just trying to do the best we can in any given situation. May we all strive, in the words of Micah, to do justice and to love righteousness so that we, too, may walk with God. 

Rabbi Aaron C. Meyer


B'reishit • Genesis 1:1−6:8

And so it begins, again. On Friday Night we will unfurl a Torah scroll, read the final verses of Deuteronomy and then start right in with the opening words of Genesis: another beginning, as we return to “the” beginning B’reishit. As we emerge from the thickly laden holy days into the new year, we come back to the text; the words remain the same, yet the eyes we bring to them are inevitably changed from year to year. A fresh read of the Torah might reveal newfound meaning, might call into question previous understandings, might unfurl new voices buried deep within the ancient stories.

B’reishit is a densely packed narrative, containing the mysterious accounts of creation of both light and dark, with an unflinchingly raw introduction of the same tendencies of the human impulse. Mere verses after our primordial birth we read about the first transgression, and then the next, each followed by transformation; as if the very act of creation set off other wheels of creation within itself. These sacred stories do not shy away from the myriad tendencies that exist within humanity, they ask us what we are to make of them, and how we are to weave them into our ever-evolving senses of self.

Rabbi Callie B. Schulman


Challenge 2.0 - From Me to We (Episode 1)

The Treacy Levine Center is dedicated to promoting understanding, bridging divides, and building relationships amongst people across religious, cultural, ethnic, and social lines through educational and experiential activities. It is resurrecting a program that used to broadcast in the early 1960’s on KOMO TV called Challenge. Watch Episode 1:


Rabbi Daniel Weiner on KUOW

Bill Radke of KUOW talks with Rabbi Daniel Weiner about how to confront the recent flare-up of antisemitism in America.

http://kuow.org/post/seattle-rabbi-we-cant-let-marginalized-outsiders-skew-our-sense-reality

 


A Special Rabcast from Rabbi Daniel Weiner

In response to the recent, tragic massacre in Las Vegas, Rabbi Weiner wants to share a special Rabcast from a few years ago, with a more timely introduction.  As you’ll note, it is painful that we confront the same horrors in the same season from year to year.  “When will they ever learn…?”


Parashat Nitzvaim-Vayeilech • Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20, 31:1-30

During my first year of rabbinical school in Israel the jewelry of a particular silversmith was popular amongst my classmates. The artisan would take any verse of Hebrew scripture and engrave it upon hammered silver jewelry. Both aesthetically pleasing and spiritually inspiring, you can imagine why these necklaces were popular amongst young rabbinic, cantorial and education students. These charms became a wearable credo and a reminder to the wearer of whatever message they bore. One of my classmates had the shortest quote I had seen on a large silver circular charm, it read, “lo bashamayim hi,” three words from this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Nitsavim, which translate to, “it is not in the heavens.”

Not being as familiar with Nitzavim as my friend, I asked her to describe what the words meant to her. She went on to explain that they appear near the end of Deuteronomy, after Moses has spent considerable time reminding the Israelites of all that they have seen, and all that they have agreed to do in their covenant with God. These words appear in a moment where Moses reassures the Israelites that the work of understanding and implementing the terms of the covenant is not beyond them. As his exit approaches, Moses reminds the Israelites that the work of being in holy relationship with the Divine is not beyond them, nor is it beyond us. I love these three words, because they so simply encapsulate Judaism’s understanding of how humanity can indeed access the Divine – and that which is greater-than-us. We need no intermediary, just an openness to give, to receive and to be changed. I, for one, will be holding onto these three words of reminder as we head in to the ritual-and-prayer-dense High Holy Days.

Rabbi Callie B. Schulman


Parashat Ki Tavo • Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8

The month of Elul offers us the opportunity to prepare in earnest for the High Holy Days to come. Just as a soccer player would never enter the pitch without stretching nor would an actress step on stage without ample preparations, so too must we prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to come. I am always sorry to disappoint, but if you plop down in your seat on Rosh Hashanah and expect to be wowed without putting in the necessary personal preparation, we will do just that!

Jewish tradition is to blow the shofar each non-Shabbat morning to begin the process of waking our souls. In the words of Maimonides: “Awake, you sleepers from your sleep. Arouse you slumberers from your slumber and ponder your deeds; remember your Creator and return to God in repentance. Do not be like those who miss the truth in pursuit of shadows and waste their years seeking vanity. Look well to your souls and consider your deeds; turn away from your wrong ways and improper thoughts.” Whether we hear the shofar blow each morning or undertake these preparations in another way, may we enter this High Holy Day season ready to do the difficult spiritual work to come.


Rabbi Aaron C. Meyer

Parashat Ki Teitzei • Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19

Watch The Best of Rabcast for Rabbi Daniel Weiner’s interpretation of this week’s Torah portion.

 


Parashat Shoftim • Deuteronomy 16:18–21:9

Watch The Best of Rabcast for Rabbi Weiner’s interpretation of this week’s parashah.


Parashat R'eih • Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17

“Take care not to offer your burnt offerings in any place you like but only in the place that God will choose.” This cautionary commandment in Parashat Re’eh, Deuteronomy 12:13-14, carries significance well beyond its simple meaning. Scholars posit this text was actually written AFTER Jerusalem had become the center of early Jewish life rather than while the Israelites were wandering in the desert. “In the place that God will choose” thus becomes a euphemism for the ancient Temple already well known to the people. For the author to have used the place name “Jerusalem,” a city the ancient Israelites couldn’t have known about, would destroy the guise of writing during the time of the Exodus and is intentionally avoided. Careful writing, however, can be unmasked through careful reading.

This, ultimately, is our job as inheritors of a sacred tradition. A close reading between the lines reveals something about the authors intentions, thinking, and situation that a casual glance might miss. Turn it and turn it again, for everything is in it. These same skills serve the contemporary Jewish people well as we examine modern-day texts and statements and attempt to ascertain their true meanings. May we continue to draw closer to God through inquisitive reading and study and may we never allow the wool to be pulled over our eyes through unquestioning acceptance of simple statements.

Rabbi Aaron C. Meyer