Author Archives: Nancy Reuben Greenfield

Nancy Reuben Greenfield

About Nancy Reuben Greenfield

Nancy Reuben Greenfield has written three adaptations of the Torah, including an interactive family version at, and an engaging Jewish immigrant novel, The Golden Medina, available on itunes and Amazon.

Summary: Masei

The following article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!

The sons of Reuben and Gad have promised Moses that they will help the other tribes settle the Promised Land before settling across the River Jordan.

Moses records the journeys of the sons of Israel from when they were led out of Egypt by Moses and Aaron, from the first month of the fifteenth day, on the morning after the Pesach offering when the sons of Israel went out before the eyes of all the Egyptians.  For God had struck them down with the death of the first-born, with judgment upon their gods.  God talks to Moses. “Tell the people that when you cross into the land of Canaan, you shall drive out all people who live there and destroy all their symbols, idols and places of worship. I have given this land to you. If you do not drive out the people who live there then those left behind will become like a thorn in your side.  They will oppress you as enemies in the land in which you dwell and, it will come to pass that what I had intended to do to them, I will do to you.”

God has Moses tell the Children of Israel about the borders of Canaan and the land each tribe shall receive.  Each tribe will give a portion of their possessions, land and animals to the Levites who take care of the Tent of Appointed Meeting with God. God said, “Moses, tell the people that in the promised land of Canaan, you shall make safe cities. These cities of refuge shall be a safe place for people who murder until that person has been judged innocent or guilty. There shall be 6 safe cities, 3 on this side of the Jordan and 3 in Canaan.”

Moses tells the people about God’s specific laws about murder.  “If one murders out of hatred, the murdered shall be put to death. This murderer may only be punished by death if at least two witnesses can verify the murderer. .  No-one may be killed on the words of only a single witness.  If a murderer is to die then do so.  Never accept a bribe to keep the murderer alive.  If a death occurs without hatred or desire to hurt, then the killer will be taken to a safe city.  If the killer leaves the safe city then that killer can be killed. This is the law of justice for all time in your land. God says to not turn the Promised Land into a place of sins and lies and injustice. Keep the promised land pure for God is watching the Children of Israel.”

After the giving of these laws on murder, the land inheritances of Zelophehad’s daughters are clarified.  Since God told Moses that if there are no male inheritors, land inheritance shall pass to the daughters.  The tribal members were concerned about the transference of land when the daughters get married.  Moses answered, “These daughters must marry someone in the family of their father’s tribe so that no inheritance shall pass from one tribe to another.” 

These are some of the laws that the Lord commanded the Israelites, through Moses, on the steps of Moab, at the Jordan near Jericho.

Questions:  1) What is difference between “thou shall not murder” and “thou shall not kill”? 

2) Why is it important to always have two witnesses before judging someone innocent or guilty of a sin? 

3) Do you believe that people who murder out of hatred should be put to death?  Why or why not?

Balak: A Summary of the Parashah

The following article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!

Miriam and Aaron die and Moses and the Israelites must fight against the Edomites, Canaanites, Emorites and Amorites to continue toward God’s Promised land.  Each time God helps the children of Israel win.   Now, Balak, the King of Moab, saw how the Hebrews had won these wars. 

Balak sends messengers to Balaam, and son of Beor, to tell him about the powerful Hebrews,  “Come with us Balaam to curse these Hebrews.  We know that whomever you bless Balaam is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed.”  Balaam answered.  “Spend the night here.  God will speak to me and then I will give you an answer.”  Later God said to Balaam, “Who are these people?”  Balaam answered “Balak has sent messengers to ask me to curse the Hebrews and drive them out.”  God says to Balaam.  “No. Do not go with them! You will not curse the Hebrew people for they are blessed.” Balaam's Donkey

So Balaam told the messengers no.  When Balak heard Balaam’s answer he sent more important messengers to ask Balaam to curse the Hebrews.  But Balaam would not saying, “Even if Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go against God’s word.  And now, stay, and I will find out what else God says.”  This time God tells Balaam, “You may go but do only what I say to do.

In the morning Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the Balak’s officers.  God’s anger flares as Balaam goes so an angel of God stands in the path to stop him. Balaam’s female donkey sees the angel of God standing with a sword in his hand and turns the other way.  Balaam hits the donkey to get her back on the path.  Three times this angel leads the donkey away from the path and three times Balaam hits his donkey in anger. 

Then God opens the mouth of the female donkey and she says to Balaam, “What have I done to you that you hit me three times?”  Balaam answers, “Because you act against me. If I had a sword in my hand I would kill you.” The donkey then says, “Am I not your faithful donkey whom you always ride?  Have I ever done this to you before?” 

When Balaam answers no God suddenly opens his eyes so he could see the angel of God standing in the path with his sword in his hand.  Balaam quickly bowed.  Then the angel of God said “Why did you hit your donkey 3 times?  Maybe she turned from me in fear.  If she had not turned away I would have killed you and let her live.”

Balaam said to the angel of God.  “I have sinned.  I did not know that you stood in the way against me.  If you want me to go back I will.”  But the angel of God says, “Go to Balak but say only what I tell you to say.

Balaam reaches Balak and says “Look. I am here but whatever words God puts into my mouth I will say.  Now build seven altars and stand beside the ascent offering.” And Balak did.

Balaam’s Blessing

Then Balaam goes to speak with God.  When he returns, he says to Balak, “God brought these people out of the land of Egypt.  These people are to be blessed not cursed.”  Balak answered, “You shall not curse them and you shall not bless them.” But Balaam just said, “I told you that whatever God tells me to say I will say.”  Angered Balak brings Balaam to the top of the Field of Seers to show him the mighty Hebrews.  Balaam tells Balak to build offerings to God there and stand next to them. Balak does. 

Then God tells Balaam to say to Balak, “God will not lie nor change the Almighty ruling.  These people whom God brought out of the land of Egypt must be blessed and not cursed.” Balak repeats his demand. “If you will not curse them do not bless them.” Balaam answers, “Didn’t I already tell you? All that God speaks, I will do.”  Balak says back, “Then I will take you to another place where it may be right in the eyes of God to curse them for me.” 
They went to the peak of Peor that looks over the wasteland.  After making altars and sacrifices, Balaam could see that in the eyes of God it was right only to bless Israel.  When he saw the Israelites camping,  the spirit of God came upon him inspiring him to say aloud  “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel.  Like brooks are they turned, like gardens by the river, like cedars beside the waters the waters flow from God’s buckets.  Israel wins against other nations because God brought you out of the land of Egypt to be God’s people.  Those who bless you are blessed and those who curse you are cursed.” 

Balak was furious, “I have asked you to curse my enemies and three times you bless them.  Get away.”  Balaam says, “I must do as God asks me to do. Now, I shall give you one piece of advice.  What the Hebrews will do to your people will be only in the end of days.”  At that Balaam and Balak went their separate ways.

The Hebrews then settle in Shittim and the people began to sin with the daughters of Moab and bow to the Moabite gods.  God was angry at the Israelites and said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people and hang them in the presence of the sun and then My anger will go away from Israel.”  And it was done.  Pinhas, a priest, killed the final Israelite man and Midianite woman. Twenty-four thousand lost their lives.

Questions for Discussion

1)  God sends an angel that the donkey can see immediately.  Balaam only sees this angel of God later. Have you ever be sent an angel from God that you couldn’t see until later?  How do you recognize an angel sent from God? 

2) Can God speak through a donkey? 

3) Has God ever spoken to you through an animal or another human being?  How?

Vayelekh: A Summary of the Parashah

The following article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!

The Israelites are still gathered on the bank of the River Jordan listening to Moses. “I am 120 years old today,” Moses says. “God has told me that I shall not pass over into the Promised Land. Still, God will pass before you. God will destroy the nations so that you can take possession of the land. You shall deal with these nations as you have been instructed. Be steadfast and strong and do not fear these nations or be frightened of them, for God is going with you. God will not let go of you, nor will God forsake you.”

Then Moses called Joshua and said to him before the eyes of all Israel, “Be steadfast and strong, for you are to go with this people to the land that God swore to their fathers to give to them. You shall have them take possession of it, to inherit it. God will be with you. God will not let go of you, nor will God forsake you. Fear nothing and do not be frightened.”

Moses wrote down this Teaching and handed it over to all the elders and to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the Ark of the Covenant of God. Moses commanded them, saying, “At the end of seven years, on the Festival of Huts, when all Israel comes to see itself directly before the Presence of God, you shall read this Teaching in the presence of all Israel.”

God then said to Moses, “Your day of death is approaching. Call Joshua and present yourselves in the Tent of Appointed Meeting so that I may give him his duty.” Moses went with Joshua and they presented themselves in the Tent of Appointed Meeting. And God appeared in the Tent in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood at the entrance of the Tent.

Then God said to Moses, “You are now going to lie down beside your fathers, and then this people will rise and stray and will follow foreign deities and will become unfaithful and forsake Me and break My Covenant. At that time My anger will be stirred up against the people. I will forsake them. I will hide My face from them so that it will fall prey to destruction and many evils and troubles will come upon it. At that time, they will say, ‘Truly, because my God is not in my midst have these evils come upon me.’

“Now, write down this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouth so that this song may become a witness for Me against them. For I know the people’s frame of mind when I have brought them to this promised land.”

Moses wrote down this song on that day and taught it to the Israelites.

And God gave Joshua his duty and said, “Be steadfast and strong! For you are to bring the children of Israel to the land that I have sworn to them, and I will be with you.”

Moses spoke in the ears of the entire assembly of Israel the words of this song until the end.

Questions for Discussion

1) Early in this portion, Moses says that “God will not let go of you, nor will God forsake you.” Have you ever felt forsaken or abandoned by God? Looking back now at that same incident, can you see ways in which God really was present at that moment in your life? How?

2) Moses tells Joshua, the new leader of the Jewish people, to fear nothing and to not be afraid. Are you afraid of anything? What? Why? In what way can God help you with your fears?

3) At the end of this portion, Moses predicts that the children of Israel would become corrupt and worship other gods after he died? Did they? How? God says that when the children of Israel become corrupt and worship other gods that God will become angry and forsake the children of Israel. Do you think God really did become angry and forsake the Jewish people? How? If so, does this contradict God’s earlier statement that God will not forsake God’s people?

V’zot Habrakha: A Summary of the Parashah

The following article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!

Before his death, Moses blesses the Children of Israel, reminding them that God’s teaching is the inheritance for the children of Israel and what unites them. Moses continues with a message for each of the tribes.

Then Moses says to the people, “There is None like Your God. God guides heavens to help you… God is the support everlasting that raises up all things from the depths. God has driven away the enemy from before you.”

Moses went up from the wastelands of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the summit of the high place that lies before Jericho, and God showed him all the land. Then God said to Moses. “This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To your descendants will I give it. I let you see it with your eyes but you will not go there.”

And Moses, the servant of God, died there in the land of Moab, according to the utterance of God. God buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-Peor and no one has known his grave to this day.

Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye had not become dim and his freshness had not departed.

The Children of Israel wept for Moses in the wastelands of Moab for 30 days. When the days of weeping in mourning for Moses were at an end, Joshua, son of Nun, was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands upon him. Then the Children of Israel hearkened to Joshua as God had commanded Moses. And no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom God permitted to know God face to face.

Questions For Discussion

1) What does it mean for Moses to be a servant of God?

2) Are you a servant of God? Why or why not?

3) Is there a way to become a servant of God? How?

4) Why do you think there has never been another prophet like Moses? Do you think that there will ever be another prophet like Moses? Why or why not?

5) Do we need a prophet like Moses today? Why or why not?

Ha’azinu: A Summary of the Parashah

The following article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!

After Moses‘ last speech to the children of Israel, God tells Moses to write down a song to teach to the Israelites. "Put this song in their mouths," God says, "so that the words may become a witness for Me against them. After I bring them to the land that flows with milk and honey, they will eat and be satisfied and become obese. They will turn to other gods and serve them and mock Me and break My covenant. Then when many oppressive evils come upon them, this song will testify against them as witness."

On that day, Moses wrote down the song and taught it to the children of Israel.

"…God of trust and no violence,
Righteous and upright is God.

But the children of God are so persistent in their crookedness,
they are so corrupt.

Ask yourselves, "Is this how you repay God?"
O people withered and in no way wise!
Is God not your Father Who calls you The Almighty’s own?
Did God not form you when God gave you your purpose?

Israel, also known as Jacob, is the lot of God’s inheritance.

…God surrounds him, instructs him, watches over him
as the apple of God’s eye.

Then Israel became overwhelmed with fat
and forsook God Who had made him
and regarded as worthless the Rock of God’s salvation.

They impaired God’s rights with alien gods
Angering God with abominations.
They made offerings to demons, non-gods,
Deities of whom they knew nothing,
New deities whom your fathers never dreaded.

…God saw this and turned away in disdain and said,
ÎI will hide My face from My sons and daughters.

…I could make their memory disappear from among mankind
but the oppressors of the Israelites could misunderstand

They might say, "Our hand is high;
It is not God that caused all this!"

God will judge God’s people
and reveal God’s changed decree concerning God’s servants.

See now that I am indeed "I"
And there is no god beside Me;

I kill and restore life;
I have inflicted wounds, and I will heal
Nothing can be snatched from My hand.

Therefore O nations, make God’s people’s lot a happy one,
For God will avenge the blood of God’s servants
And God will turn back vengeance upon God’s enemies,
And God’s people will atone for God’s world."

On that same day, God spoke to Moses saying, "Go up to this Mountain of Transitions, to Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, facing Jericho, and see the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the sons of Israel as a possession. Die on the mountain and be gathered there to your people, as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people.

"You must die because you trespassed against Me in the midst of the sons of Israel at the waters of contention in Kadesh, in the wilderness of Tzin; because you did not sanctify Me in the midst of the sons of Israel. For only from afar shall you see the Land; you will not come there, not to the land that I am giving to the sons of Israel."

Questions For Discussion

1) What does God mean when God says song will be a "witness" against the people of Israel? Does this song serve as a "witness" to the Jews today? How?

2) Describe the "children of Israel" in this song. Is this how you perceive yourself and your fellow Jews today? In what ways?

3) Describe "God" in this song. Is this how you perceive God today?

Re’eh: A Summary of the Parashah

The following article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!

In his last speech to the Israelites, Moses warns them, "If you follow God’s laws, you will be blessed more than all the peoples of the earth. However, if you worship false idols and ignore the other commandments, then you shall be cursed and perish.

"These are the statutes which you are to carry out. You shall utterly destroy the places where the nations, whose property you are taking over, served other gods. You shall destroy their altars, break up their memorial stones, burn down their sacred trees, cut down the images of their gods, and you shall obliterate their gods from that place.

"Then, from among all your tribes, God will choose a place to give God’s Name habitation. When you search for the manifestation of God’s Presence, you will come to this place that God chooses. It is there that you will bring offerings and donations. There, before God, shall you eat with family and servants and the Levites, who have no portion or inheritance. All will rejoice before God.

"Take care to make offerings only in the place where the Lord chooses. But whenever you desire, you may slaughter and eat meat in any of your settlements, according to the blessing that the Lord God has granted you, but you must not partake of the blood. You shall pour blood out on the ground like water.

"You must not eat your tithes of new grain or wine or oil or the firstlings of your flocks or any of your offerings. These you and your household must consume before the Lord your God in the place that the Lord your God will choose.

"Take heed that you do not follow the lead of the nations who once dwelled in your land. Do not inquire about their gods or how to serve them. For everything that is detested by God, everything God hates, have they done. For they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire for their gods.

"Do not add or subtract from these commandments. If there arises among you a prophet or receiver of dreams, and if he gives you a sign and that sign comes to pass, and if he then says, ‘Let us go after other gods and serve them,’ stop. Do not hearken to that person’s words, because God is testing you with this to know whether you truly love your God with all your heart and all your soul. You shall only follow and fear your God.

"Then the receiver of dreams shall be put to death, for he has uttered untruth concerning God, your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of slavery. Do not listen to anyone, family or friend, who urges you to follow other gods. Rather you, yourself, must bring him to death for leading you away from God.

"You are the sons of God, your God, so do not cut yourselves nor shave your heads in mourning.

"You shall not eat anything abhorrent. You may eat any animal that has true hoofs that are cleft in two and brings up the cud, like sheep, goats and oxen. Those with a cleft hoof, you may not eat, like camel and rabbits. Also the pig, for though it has true hoofs it does not bring up its cud, so it is unclean.

"Of all that live in the water, you may eat anything that has fins and scales. You may eat any clean bird. You may not eat the eagle, the vulture, raven hawks, owls, storks and bats among others. All winged swarming things are unclean for you. You shall not eat anything that has died a natural death–give it to the stranger in your community to eat or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people consecrated to the Lord your God.

"You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk. You shall set aside every year a tenth part of all the yield from your produce. Every third year, you shall have a full tithe on your field and leave it within your settlements. During that time the Levite who has no hereditary portion, and the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow in your settlements shall come and eat their fill, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your enterprises.

"Every seventh year, you shall practice a release. Every kinsman creditor shall release from his hand his debt. The debtor may no longer claim payment because of this release for the sake of God. In the promised land, you shall open up your hand to the needy and lend him what is sufficient for his need, for what he lacks.

"You shall free your Hebrew slave in the seventh year. Do not send him away to freedom empty handed, but provide for him out of your flock and your wine press, that which your God has blessed for you. Remember that you were once a slave in Egypt when God redeemed you. If, however, the slave wants to stay, then he may do so as a bondsman or handmaid.

"Remember to make the offerings of the firstlings and make sacrifices to God with clean animals, those which are neither lame nor blind or blemished. Keep the Pesach offering to God, your God; for that is the eternal reminder of the time when God took you out of slavery to freedom. You shall only eat unleavened bread for seven days in this memory of our God-given exodus. There shall be a Sabbath on the seventh day of this Passover holiday.

"Then, count seven weeks, and you shall come to the Festival of Weeks. Then you shall give a gift of your hand to God, such that God will bless you and you shall rejoice before the Lord. You will rejoice with your family and servants, with the Levites, with stranger, orphan and widow in your midst. You will come in the place that God will choose to give God’s presence.

"Then in the Festival of huts, You shall make huts and celebrate before God for all the produce, all the harvests, in all the work of your hands.

"Three times each year shall all your males appear in the immediate Presence of your God, in the place that God will choose: on the Festival of Matzah, on the Festival of Weeks, and the Festival of Huts. He shall not appear in the immediate Presence of God empty-handed. Every person must give according to the gift of his hand, in accordance with the blessing of God, your God, that God has given you.

Questions For Discussion

1) In everyday life, how do you think God blesses and curses us?

2) Why is what we eat so important that Moses adds it to his last speech before the people?

3) What does it mean that in the promised land God will choose a place to give God’s Name habitation? Is there such a place in your community?

Ekev: A Summary of the Parashah

The following article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!

Moses continues with his speech to the Israelites, "It will come to pass as a result of your hearing these Ten Commandments and carrying them out with care, that God will keep with you this covenant. God will love you and bless you and multiply you. God will bless the fruit of your body, your soil, grain, wine, oil and animals. You will be blessed more than all the peoples."

"But," Moses warns, "you will have to annihilate many people; your eye shall not feel any mercy for them–so that you will not serve their gods–for this is a trap for you. Don’t fear them, for God, your God, is a great and awesome God. God will deliver them up before you and you shall destroy them. The images of their gods shall burn in fire. Do not lust after the silver and the gold that is upon them and take it for yourself, for it is an abomination to God.

"Remember the entire path along which God has led you these 40 years in the wilderness. God let you go hungry, then gave you manna in order to have you know that it is not by bread alone that man can make a life for himself, but that man can live by everything that comes from God. Therefore hold fast upon your heart the knowledge that as a man trains his son, so does God train you."

Moses continues, "And keep the commandments to walk in God’s ways and to fear God. For your God is bringing you into a good land, a land in which you will lack for nothing. When you eat and are satisfied, then bless God for the good land that God has given you.

"Take heed not to forget God by not keeping God’s commandments, for when you may have all you need, your spirit may become haughty and you might forget God, Who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the home of slaves. You might forget the way God gave you manna and water from a rock. You may be tempted to say in spirit, ‘It was my own power and the might of my own hand that has gotten me this wealth.’ Therefore, remember that it is God Who gives you the power to get wealth in order to uphold the covenant."

"It will come to pass," Moses continues, "that if you should nevertheless forget God and walk after other gods, and serve them and bow to them, then I bear witness to you today that you will certainly perish. Like the nations that God will cause to perish before you, so will you perish.

"In the promised land, there will be nations that are greater and mightier than you. Do not say in your heart, when your God thrusts them away from before you, ‘Because of my devotion to duty did God bring me to take possession of the land.’ No, it is because of the wickedness of these nations that God drives them away from before you. God drives them away to fulfill the word that God swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

"For you are a stiff-necked people. Remember how you provoked God and rebelled against God and God wanted to destroy you. Remember when God gave me the two stone tablets, the Tablets of the Covenant, only to find that you had built a golden calf to be your god. I broke those tablets and melted your god in such anger as to turn it into powder and threw it in the river.

"God had me return to the mountain and make new tablets with The Ten Commandments and place them into the ark, to be taken care of by the Levis. It was an ark that was made with great precision and we carried it from place to place throughout the wilderness.

"So now, what does God require of you? Only to fear God, to walk in all God’s ways and to love God and to serve God with all your heart and with all your soul. Keep these commandments for your own good. Behold! It is to your God, that the heavens and the earth belong.

"Therefore, do not stiffen your necks anymore. For your God, is God of gods and Lord of lords. God is the great, mighty and feared God Who does not consider personal standing and accepts no bribe, but upholds the rights of the orphan and widow and stranger. You, too, shall love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

"Therefore, love God, for you saw all that God did for you in the wilderness and before when bringing you out of slavery with miracles.

"So keep these commandments as you enter this promised land–a land that can flow with milk and honey. This is land for which God cares. The eyes of God are always upon it. If you will serve God with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will give rain and the plants will grow and be harvested and you shall eat and be satisfied.

"But do not turn aside and serve other gods and cast yourselves down before them. Then the anger of God will be kindled, and God will hold back rain, and the soil will not yield its produce, and you will quickly vanish from the good land that God is giving you.

"Even then, you must place these words upon your heart and upon your soul, and bind them as a sign upon your hand, and let them be for frontlets between your eyes, and teach them to your sons, and speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk upon the way, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and upon your gates, so that the days of your children may long endure in the promised land. If you keep these commandments, God will put fear of you into all the lands where you set foot.

Questions For Discussion

1) What does it mean that "man can live by everything that comes from God?" Is that still true today? Why or why not?

2) God says that Jews must keep the Ten Commandments for their own good. In today’s world, is it still for our own good to keep the commandments? Why?

3) Do you feel that the Jews have been blessed by God more than other peoples? If so, how? If not, why?

Ki Tavo: A Summary of the Parashah

The following article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life.

Moses continues his last speech before the Israelites, "When you dwell in the promised land, take a selection of the first fruits and bring them to the place God chooses for God’s Name. With a priest you shall make an offering saying, ‘We remember when we were slaves in Egypt. We remember how God brought us to freedom with a strong hand and outstretched arm, with signs and miracles. You, God brought, us to this land flowing with milk and honey. And now I have brought these first fruits that you, God, have given me.’

"You shall cast yourself down before the Presence of God and you shall rejoice in all the good that God has given you and your household. You shall also give portions to the Levite, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow. They shall eat it within your gates and be satisfied. In the third year of giving portions, you shall say in God’s presence that you have followed the commandments for giving regularly to those less fortunate. You shall then ask God to bless the Israelites and the soil.

"On this day God commands you to carry out these laws and social ordinances with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall, today, hearken to God and promise to keep all God’s laws. Today, God said that you shall be a people belonging to God alone. God will place you high above all the nations God has created. You will be a proclamation for God’s Name and for God’s glory. You shall be a holy people to God.

"When you enter the promised land, you shall make an altar with stones to God with the words of this Teaching. You shall make offering there and rejoice before God."

"Pay attention," Moses says, "and hear O Israel, on this day you have become a people to God, your God. Follow all of God’s commandments. The priests shall say to the people upon Mount Gerizim: ‘Cursed is the man who makes a graven or molten image which is an abomination to God.’ And all the people shall raise their voices and say, ‘Amen.’

"’Cursed is he who moves the boundary marker of his neighbor.’ And all the people shall say ‘Amen.’

"’Cursed is he who misleads a blind man, or twists what is rightfully due to an orphan or stranger or widow.’ And all the people shall say ‘Amen.’

"’Cursed is he who commits incest, with parent or step-parent or sibling. Cursed is he who lies with any animal.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

"’Cursed is he who strikes down his neighbor in secret or a takes a bribe to strike down a man in innocent blood. Cursed is he who does not uphold the Teaching to carry them out.’ And all the people shall say: ‘Amen.’

"If you hearken to God and carry out God’s commandments, God will set you above all the nations of the earth. You will be blessed in the city and in the field. Blessed will be the fruit of your body and the fruit of your soil and the fruit of your livestock. Blessed will you be when you come in and when you go out.

"God will deliver your enemies. God will raise you up as a holy nation and you will walk in God’s ways. God will give you rain in its season and bless all the work of your hand. You will lend to many nations but you will not borrow. God will make you a head and not the tail, you will be only above and not below if you hearken to God’s commandments.

"But it shall come to pass that if you will not hearken to the voice of God, nor carry out God’s commandments that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you. Cursed you will be in the city and the field, cursed will be your fruits of your body and soil and livestock. Cursed will you be when you come in and when you go out. God will unleash against you the curse, and you will be restless and feel guilt in everything to which you put your hand, so that you will be destroyed because of your wickedness in forsaking God.

"Since you did not serve God with joy and with gladness of heart, therefore you will serve your enemies whom God will send against you. If you do not fear God’s Name, then God will send to you plagues and sufferings and sicknesses that are evil and enduring. And you will be left only few in number instead of as you were like the stars of the heavens.

"You will be scattered among all the peoples from one end of the earth to another and serve other gods. Among these nations you will find no peace and your heart will be full of trembling and grieving of the soul. You will have terror night and day and no faith in your life. You will be returned to slavery. These are the words of this Covenant at Moab."

Moses called out to Israel, and said, "Before your eyes in the land of Egypt, you have seen all that God did to the Pharaoh, his servants and his land. These great acts of proof you have seen. I led you for forty years in the wilderness and your clothing and shoes did not wear out. You neither ate bread nor drank wine nor strong drink to know that God is Your God. And you came to this place and your enemies were driven away. Therefore keep carefully the words of this Covenant so that you may practice intelligently everything you do."

Questions For Discussion

1) What does it mean that the Jews are "a people belonging to God?" Don’t all people belong to God?

2) If the Israelites choose not to follow God’s laws and walk in God’s ways will the people still belong to God?

3) Do you think God still sends blessings and curses to the Jews? How?

4) How has God blessed and cursed you in your life?

Va’et’hanan: A Summary of the Parsha

The following article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!

Moses looks at the promised land by the banks of the river Jordan, and continues his final speech to the Israelites before he dies. Moses says, "I implored God to let me see this promised land, but God was angry with me because of you. God told me to appoint Joshua as your leader.

"And now, O Israel, hearken to the commandments that I am teaching you so that you may live and possess this promised land. Do not add or subtract anything to that which I am commanding. Your own eyes have sees that everyone that followed Baal Peor was destroyed. Those of you who remained with God are all alive today.

"God’s laws are your wisdom before the eyes of the nations. Nations will say, ‘Who is this great nation? One that has a Deity near and available for the people. One that has righteous decrees and ordinances like this entire Torah.’ Only take heed and guard your soul exceedingly so you do not forget… Make your experiences known to your children and your children’s children.

"Remember the day at Mount Sinai when God spoke to you out of the midst of fire. God commanded you to observe the Ten Commandments and God inscribed them upon two tablets of stone. Take heed that you do not become corrupt and make yourselves an image of God, not in any form, not the likeness of male or female, nor any living thing, not sun nor moon nor stars. Do not allow yourself to be lured into bowing down to idols or serving them. These God allotted to the other peoples.

"When you beget children and grandchildren and have long been in this promised land, you will grow corrupt and do evil in the eyes of God. You will anger God. You shall not long endure in the land but be utterly wiped out. God will scatter you among the nations and you will be left few in number among the nations to which God will lead you. There you will serve man-made gods.

"Then in the distress that will befall you, when all these decrees of fate will have come to you, in the end of days, you will return to God and listen to God’s voice. For God, your God, is a merciful God. God will not turn you adrift nor let you be destroyed. God will not forget the covenant made with your forefathers.

"So ask yourselves has any other god taken a nation from the midst of another nation with demonstrations of power, with signs and miracles, with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, and with great terrors, comparable to all that God did for you in Egypt before your own eyes?

"Therefore know it today and take it to heart repeatedly that in heaven above and on earth below, God alone is God. Keep God’s commandments that I command you today–which will do good to you and your children after you–and so that you may long remain upon the soil that God is giving you for all time.

"This is not a covenant with our ancestors, but with us, each of us that God commands:

‘I am God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

‘You shall not recognize the gods of others in My Presence. Do not make yourself a representation in the form of an image, nor in the form of any other likeness that which is in heaven above or that which is in the water far below the earth. Do not bow down before these idols and do not serve them, for I, your God am a God Who demands exclusive right. I remember the sin of parents for their children and for the third and fourth generations for those who hate Me, and I practice loving-kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and those who keep My commandments.

‘Do not take upon yourself the Name, your God, in vain, for God will not hold guiltless one who takes God’s Name in vain.

‘Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as God has commanded you. Six days you shall serve and do all your creating work and the seventh day is a Sabbath to God. On it you shall not perform any kind of creating work, neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your handmaid, nor our ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates, so that your manservant and your handmaid may rest just like you. And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt when God, your God, brought you out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm; therefore, did God, your God, command you to observe the Sabbath in practice.

‘Honor your father and your mother, as God, your God, has commanded you, so that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you upon the soil that God, your God, is giving you.

‘You shall not murder.

‘You shall not commit adultery.

‘You shall not steal.

‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

‘You shall not covet the wife of your neighbor and you shall not desire our neighbor’s house, his field, his manservant, his handmaid, his ox, his donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.’

"Be careful to do just as God has commanded. Do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in the way that God, has commanded you, so that you may live, and it may go well with you, and you will long remain in the land which flows with milk and honey.

"Hear O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is One. You shall love God, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your resources. These words which I command you today shall be upon your heart and teach them diligently to your children, and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk upon the way; when you lie down, and when you get up. And bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be frontlets between your eyes. And write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates."

"Now," Moses continues, "when you arrive in this land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, take heed that you do not forget God. Fear God. Do not go after other gods from among the gods of the peoples that surround you. For God, Your God, is a God Who demands Respect, lest the anger of God be stirred up against you and God will destroy you from the face of the earth."

"When God gives this land to you," Moses says, "God will deprive many nations of their land before you. God will strike down your enemies. Make no covenant with them, nor ally yourselves with them by marriage, for this will cause your children to deviate from following God. Then your children will serve alien gods kindling God’s anger. God will destroy you. Rather, tear down their altars and burn their images in fire for you are a holy people to God, your God.

"It is you whom God has chosen to be a people belonging exclusively to God, more than all the other peoples that are upon the earth. God did not take delight in you and choose you because you were the most numerous among the peoples, for you are the smallest. It is out of God’s love for you. It is because God kept the oath God swore to your forefathers and brought you out of slavery. God preserves the covenant for those who Love God and who keep God’s commandments. But for those who hate God, God avenges them instantly. Therefore keep the commandments I command you today."

Questions For Discussion

1) This passage includes the Sh’ma and V’ahavta. Do you think that the phrase "these words which I command thee this day" refers to The Ten Commandments or the whole Torah? Why?

2) Why is it so important for the Israelites to follow the Ten Commandments in this promised land? Can the land fulfill its promise if the people do not follow the Ten Commandments?

3) In this passage, a covenant between the Israelites and God is described. What are the terms of this covenant? Does the covenant still apply today? Why or why not?

4) This section includes a prohibition against intermarriage. Do you think that it still applies today?

D’varim: A Summary of the Parsha

The following article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!

In the 40th year, in the 11th month, on the first day of the month. Moses spoke the following to the Israelites:

"Remember God said, ‘I have set this land before you, go in and take possession of the land…’ Now God, your God, has multiplied you and you are now like the stars of heaven in multitude. May God add to you another thousand times as many as you are now, and may God bless you.

"I knew I could not alone carry your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels. So I told you to provide for yourselves wise men of your tribes. You agreed to this system of judges as overseers over the tribes and I charged these judges with specific duties.

"I instructed them saying, ‘Hear disputes between your brethren and judge righteously between every man and his brother and the one who has come from abroad. You shall not show favoritism in judgment. You must hear the small and the great alike. You have no one to fear for the judgment is God’s. When a matter is too difficult for you, you shall bring it to me, and I will hear it.’"

"Then," Moses continued, "we journeyed on through the great and awesome wilderness, coming as far as the Amorite mountain that God, our God, gives us. See, God has set the land before you. Go up, take possession of it, as God, the God of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear and do not be frightened.

"You asked for me to send out spies to investigate the land and so I did, taking twelve men, one from each tribe. They went as far as the Valley of Grapes and brought back good fruits, saying ‘Good is the land that God, our God, is giving us.’ But you did not want to go up to the land and rebelled against the word of God. You incited one another in your tents and said, ‘Because God hates us, God brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites, the hands of giants, in order to destroy us.’

"Then I said to you, ‘Do not be dismayed and do not fear them. God will fight for you just as God did right before your eyes in Egypt.’ In the wilderness, too, you saw that God carried you just as a man carries his son all the way until you came to this place. Yet, in this matter, you had no trust in God, even as God led us through the wilderness with a fire by night and a cloud by day.

"So God became angry with you and swore that no man among this evil generation would see the good land that God promised to your fathers. Only Caleb, son of Yefunneh and Joshua, son of Nun, shall see it because they have acted faithfully towards God. God said it would be your children, whom have no knowledge of good and evil, who shall inherit this land. But you, you shall wander in the wilderness.

"You responded by acknowledging, ‘We have sinned against God so we will go and fight as God commanded us.’ But God said, ‘Do not fight, because I am not in your midst.’ But you went anyway and the Amorites who dwelled upon that mountain came out to meet you, and pursued you as bees do and struck you to the point of crushing you. You returned and wept before God, but God did not listen to your voice. And you remained then in Kadesh.

"We then turned and journeyed into the wilderness again as God had spoken. Each time God instructed us on whether the people of the land would allow us to pass peacefully or whether war would be necessary."

In detail, Moses remembers aloud to the Israelites each of these journeys and battles. "In the battles," Moses reminded the Israelites, "when God delivered the people to us, we conquered the cities and all the inhabitants were killed and the livestock and land and possessions taken as booty. We took many cities, conquered many kingdoms, and took much booty. This conquered land and possessions were then apportioned according to tribes, according to their inheritance.

"Now you are ready, with Joshua as your commander, to enter and possess the land that God gives you. Your eyes have seen everything that God has done to your enemies. So God will do to your enemies in the promised land. So have no fear, for God fights for you when it is time to fight."

Questions For Discussion

1) Why would God want children "who have no knowledge of good and evil" to inherit the promised land? Is ignorance better than knowledge? Is knowledge of good and evil necessary to make good choices? Why or why not?

2) God tells the Israelites when God will fight for them and when God will not fight for them. What does mean to say that God fights for the Israelites? Do you think God still fights for the Jewish people?

3) Can you tell when God is fighting for you and when God is not fighting for you? How?

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