Torah Pearls #3 – Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

In The Original Torah Pearls, Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27), we revel in the extraordinary drama of Abraham’s epic: a call from heaven, famine, war, plagues, dreadful and great darkness, bisected animals, flaming torches, battles with vultures, sister wives and kings. Then the cliffhanger—the God-who-sees promises to make an everlasting covenant with a yet-to-be-conceived son, and to make him the father of 12 princes. Continue reading

Hebrew Voices #79 – The Truth About the Seven Noachide Laws

In this episode of Hebrew Voices The Truth About the Seven Noachide Laws, Nehemia Gordon talks about how the Noachide Laws are actually a Rabbinic construct, how in-fact we see in Isaiah 56 that there is one law for the native born and the sojourner, and the incredible number of people around the world who are joining themselves to Yehovah. Daniel wrote: “I really appreciate you explaining the origins of these noachide laws. Blessings to you Nehemia!!!” Continue reading

Prophet Pearls #2 – Noach (Isaiah 54:1-55:5)

In this week's Prophet Pearls,  Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Noach covering Isaiah 54:1-55:5Gordon and Johnson revel in the glorious promises to Israel and explore the various ways the Tanakh allegorizes her: as a barren and abandoned woman, a maidservant, a slave, an owned animal, and yet, wholly and eternally a beloved wife. Original language brings insight to the following words: “foaming” anger, Yehovah of “hosts,” mercy, kibbutz, and “brief” moment. Despite differing views on some issues, Gordon and Johnson stand firmly on common ground concerning the messianic promise as Yehovah connects his eternal covenant with Israel to the seed of David. Continue reading

Torah Pearls #2 – Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32)

This episode of The Original Torah Pearls is on the Torah portion of Noach (6:9-11:32). The trio discusses the following questions and more: While Noah was a righteous man—relatively speaking—what spiritual disease was the rest of the world infected with?  Is doing what comes naturally the best answer for our bad selves? Does the post-flood diet really include the “all”-you-care-to eat buffet?  What was the sign of the curse and what is the sign of the covenant? When the whole earth spoke one language, what language was it? What are the implications of the 70 nations that sprung from Noah’s three sons? In closing, Gordon discusses the belief that Adam was a Talmudic scholar as well as other historical views concerning what we knew and when we knew it. Continue reading

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

Prophet Pearls Bereshit (Isaiah 42:5-43:10)In this episode of Prophet Pearls, 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

Hebrew Voices #30 – Nephilim and Demons in the Book of Enoch

Hebrew-Voices-Nephilim-and-Demons-in-the-Book-of-EnochIn this episode of Hebrew Voices, Nephilim and Demons in the Book of Enoch, Nehemia talks with Dr. Miryam Brand about the Book of Watchers, which is another name for the first 36 chapters of 1 Enoch. The intrigue begins in Genesis 6:1-4 when “sons of God” got together with “daughters of men” and “Nephilim” seem to have been the result—a passage Nehemia considers the most difficult in the Tanakh. The Book of Watchers is an attempt by ancient Jews to explain this mysterious passage in the Torah.

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

Torah Pearls Bereshit (Genesis 1:1-6:8)This 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

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

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