Prophet Pearls #1 – Bereshit (Isaiah 42:5-43:10)

Prophet Pearls Bereshit (Isaiah 42:5-43:10)This week Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Bereshit covering Isaiah 42:5-43:10. After a quick tutorial on the origin of the Haftarah, we learn that the Prophets aren't the golden oldies; their writings are as relevant as ever and more current than our news feeds. Gordon and Johnson explore the original context in which this portion was written, followed by the context in 168 BCE when this passage was first read aloud in the synagogue, and finally the context in September 2014 when Netanyahu spoke the holy words of Isaiah to the United Nations. In addition to parsing key words from the portion, Gordon and Johnson answer the following: What service did the Jews provide to the ancient Roman Empire? And since the Creator refers to himself in so many wonderful ways, would he really name himself, “Lord”? In closing, Gordon and Johnson remind us that while God’s one and only name may have been lost for generations, he did not lose ours—he calls every one of his covenant people by name. Continue reading

Torah Pearls #1 – Bereshit (Genesis 1:1-6:8)

Torah Pearls Bereshit, Genesis 1:1-6:8, aleph tav, alpha, appointed times, creation, et, hovered, omega, parashah, parshah, parshas, parshat hashavua, Satan, secret meaning, serpent, snake, Spirit, Torah Pearls, Torah Portion, verse, versesThis episode of The Original Torah Pearls is on the Torah portion of Bereshit (Genesis 1:1-6:8). The inaugural Torah Pearl kicks off with a “Portion101” and then, game on. Gap theory, hyper-literalism, parallelism, something from nothing or something from something? Old earth or young earth? Cosmic battle or crafty animal just doing his thing? What hovered . . . an angel, wind, the “Holy Spirit”? Interpretations abound, but to Gordon, sometimes an “et” is just an “et.” What was hot-wired into the sun and moon on the fourth day? Despite chapter manipulations by an Archbishop of Canterbury what climaxes the creation story—mankind or Shabbat? Moving away from theories and interpretations, Johnson shares his own take on the creation story—where the original language speaks to him in such a way that he sees and feels the darkness flee and the light be. Continue reading

Hebrew Voices #1 – Where Prophets Tread

Where Prophets Tread, baptism of Jesus, Jordan river, yeshua, east bank, west bank, elisha, elijah, haftarah, hebrew voices, israelites, cross over, john the baptist, joshua 1:1-18, naaman dip, nehemia gordon, Prophet Pearls, river jordan, Vezot ha’Bracha, yardenRecorded on the west bank of the Jordan River during sand storm, the inaugural episode of Hebrew Voices features Gordon’s broad insight into the scriptural, geographical and cultural contexts for this special place in Biblical history. Joining Gordon to share his unique perspectives is Anthony Garcia—who believes Yeshua was the Messiah, yet doesn’t consider himself a Christian. Gordon and Garcia discuss the world-changing events that occurred at this exact location through the millennia: the Israelites crossing over “into the land”; Elijah and Elisha parting its waters; and the baptism of Yeshua by John the Baptist. Continue reading

Torah Pearls #54 – Vezot Haberachah (Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12)

Torah Pearls Vezot Haberachah, Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12, Benjamin, blessing, twelve tribes, burning bush, Moses, Deuteronomy, Eretz Yisrael, Har Nevo, Israel, Jordan, Karaism, Karaites, Leningrad Codex, Martin Luther King, Mount Nebo, Mt. Horeb, Mt. Nebo, Mt. Sinai, myriads of holy ones, nehemia gordon, parashah, Parsha, parshas, parshat, priestly benediction, Priestly Blessing, Promised Land, pseudepigrapha, replacement theology, Thummin and Urim, Torah Pearls, Torah Portion, Transjordan, Vezot Haberachah, YisraelThis episode of The Original Torah Pearls is on the Torah portion of Vezot Haberachah (Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12). The trio connects viscerally with this emotional portion that begins with Moses’ farewell blessings to the 12 Tribes and ends with his death. The poetic, the strange, the rare and the wonderful are all here—clarified by Hebrew linguistics, geography, margin notes and a tense you probably didn’t learn in grammar class—the prophetic past. Add to the mix: Thummim and Urim, MLK’s final speech, a little pseudepigrapha, and you’ve barely scratched the surface. This final Torah Pearl ends fittingly with the bestowal of the majestic Priestly blessing and a joyful blast from the shofar. Continue reading

My U-Haul Sukkot

Gordon Family U-Haul Sukkah 1976.One of my earliest childhood memories was Sukkot of 1976, when I was 3.5 years old. I remember sitting in the family Sukkah, looking up through the branches that formed the roof, at the clouds as they whisked across the sky. We lived in a 17-story condominium and there was no obvious place to build a Sukkah. My father (of blessed memory), an Orthodox rabbi, asked permission to build a Sukkah in his designated parking space. When his request was turned down by the condominium board, my mother came up with the idea of building our Sukkah on the back of a U-Haul trailer. Continue reading

Sukkot (Feast of Booths) & Shemini Atzeret (Eighth Day of Assembly)

Sukkot, Feast of Booths, Chag Ha-Sukkot, Tabernacles, Sukkah, Booth, 4 species, Lev 23:40, Rabbinical tradition, waved, festival, Torah, celebrate, seven days, 15th, 21st, Seventh Hebrew month, holiday, Feast of Tabernacles, work is forbidden, first day, Pilgrimage Festivals, Jewish male, Jerusalem, laws, Talmud, Levitcus 23:40, fruit of a splendorous tree, splendorous fruit tree, date branches, branch of a thick tree, willows of the creek, Tanakh, Biblical, Nehemiah, Yehovah, Moses, Children of Israel, Seventh month, olive branches, oil tree branches, myrtle branches, House of God, Water Gate, Ephraim Gate, Karaites, Rabbis, Etrog, citron, olive tree, olive oil, Israelite, Arvei Nahal, Wadis, Israel, Babylon, Shemini Atzeret, 8th day, Rabbinic, simhat Torah, Celebration of the Torah, Rabbanites, God's lawOn Chag Ha-Sukkot, Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) we are commanded to build a Sukkah (Booth) using as building materials the "4 species" listed in Lev 23:40. Rabbinical tradition teaches that a bundle of these building materials must be ritually waved in the air during the festival. Continue reading

Ushpizin – My Favorite Movie

Ushpizin Movie

One Sukkot tradition I have developed over the years is watching the Israeli movie Ushpizin. This movie is really clever because it takes one of the classic Hollywood movie genres, the "Christmas Miracle," and transposes it to Israel. Of course, in Israel it would not make sense to have a movie about Christmas, so Ushpizin is about a Sukkot Miracle. Continue reading

The Most Important Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls

MasLev-b Mas1b (Proto-Masoretic Leviticus 10:17)In this Raw Stream of Torah Consciousness, Nehemia brings you the most important discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Following the bread-crumbs of history, he traces the origin of our modern Hebrew Bible from the caves of Qumran to Israel's Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem. Find out how a little-known Roman emperor helped bring back God's Word from captivity to the birthplace of the Masoretic Text. Continue reading

Prophet Pearls #53 – Ha’azinu (2 Samuel 22:1-51)

Prophet Pearls - Ha'azinu (2 Samuel 22:1-51)This week, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Haazinu which covers 2 Samuel 22:1-51. As Gordon and Johnson compare this portion to its parallel in Psalm 18, we learn more about the contexts of these living, breathing prayers and prophecies and the families of Levites who read and sang them in the Temple and in synagogues. Continue reading

Torah Pearls #53 – Ha’azinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52)

Original Torah Pearls - Ha'azinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52)This episode of The Original Torah Pearls is on the Torah portion of Ha’azinu (Deuteronomy 32). The song of Moses provides a lyrical backdrop for discussing the beauty and message of Moses’ last words to the people. Gordon explains poetic structure and rhythm as well as how poetic names are formed in Hebrew. The trio explores the repeated references to the “rock” in this song and clarifies who “they” refers to—Israel or the nations. Johnson expounds on the beauty inherit in the Tanach for Christians—with no retrofits needed—while Gordon highlights the passage equating “calling out the name of Yehovah” with “giving greatness” to the Name. The trio concludes with all the conviction of Moses—that there simply are not any other gods out there. Continue reading