Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Chayei Sarah 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

 

Negotiating Our Future

Posted on November 23, 2016

This week we read the Torah portion of Chayei Sarah, which marks a transition in our Genesis narrative from the tales of Abraham and Sarah, our first Jewish father and mother, towards the next generation, which will feature Isaac and Rebecca.  But first we begin with an ending.  

At the start of the portion we are told of the length of Sarah’s life, and almost by accident learn of Sarah’s death.  “The life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years,” the sedrah begins, and the famous Midrash on it tells us that Sarah was just as beautiful at the age of 100 as she was at 20, and that she was just as free of sin at 20 as she had been at 7.  It is a fine encomium for a significant figure who has now passed from the scene.

Chayei Sarah is a portion filled with negotiations that will have great influence on the future of the fledgling religion some day to be known as Judaism.  The first extended section of Chayei Sarah is actually dedicated to arranging for Sarah’s funeral. Abraham purchases the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron, the first piece of real estate owned by our people in what will eventually be known as the land of Israel.  That cave becomes the burial place not only for Sarah but for most of the patriarchs and matriarchs: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah eventually all find their final resting place in Hebron.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Chayei Sarah 5777

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Vayera 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

 

I Argue Therefore I Am—Jewish

Posted on November 16, 2016

What do you think is the essential Jewish characteristic?  Is it the ability to survive, as we have been doing for 3800 years, since the days of Abraham and Sarah?  Is it the enjoyment of food, without which no event seems truly Jewish?  Is it our profound and ancient commitment to learning that is our most unique quality?

Or is it the willingness to argue that makes us truly Jewish?

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Vayera 5777

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Lech Lecha 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

 

Leaving What We Have Known

Posted on November 11, 2016

This week we read the Torah portion of Lech Lecha, which includes God’s great commandment to Abram, lech lecha meartzecha umimoladetcha umibeit avicha—leave, go from your country and your homeland and the house of your father, to a land that I will show you.  It is the beginning of monotheism, the belief in one God.  It is the beginning of Judaism.  And it will prove to be the beginning of our connection to the land of Israel as well.  It is a dramatic and powerful moment. 

The fascinating thing about Lech Lecha is not that God commands Abram—soon to be renamed Abraham—to leave everything he has known.  After all, if he is to create a new religion and remake belief in our world he will need to leave polytheism and a pagan society that doesn’t recognize the concept of supreme justice and divine power, a corrupt, dishonest, and ethically failed civilization. 

If you want to live a life of goodness and blessing, sometimes you need to leave home to do it.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Lech Lecha 5777

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Noach 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

 

Be Moderately Good

Posted on November 3, 2016

It’s an old story, and we know it well: God sees that wickedness and corruption have spread throughout the world, and that human beings are acting in ways that should have been predictable to an all-knowing deity—lying, cheating, stealing, committing adultery, smearing political opponents, the usual.  In response, God decides to destroy the world in a great flood, rain falling for 40 days and nights, the whole of humanity drowned in the deluge.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Noach 5777

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk on Breisheet 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

 

I Think Therefore I Create

Posted on October 27, 2016

This coming Shabbat, we read the spectacular Torah portion of Breisheet, Genesis, the beginning of all things.  

It begins with those still amazing words, Breisheet Barah Elohim, “At the beginning of God’s creating,” or, “In the beginning God created...”  Simple, lucid, and clear, all creation emanating from one point and place, a divine force or intelligence or energy starting the great process of existence and eventually of life.  A singularity.  A poem to the holy unity of all being.  We all come from the same source.

And yet, the text of Genesis is deliberately ambiguous to encourage exploration and debate, the essential tools we human beings have for learning truth and discerning meaning.  Questions abound: why God at all?  As the great Jewish poet Paul Celan wrote, “No one kneads us again out of earth and clay.  No one summons our dust… Blessed art Thou, No One.”  I would argue with Celan that such a wonder as creation did not come into being purely by accident.  But there is room for argument, which is good, and perhaps God-given as well, and very Jewish.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk on Breisheet 5777

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