Torah Pearls #4 – Vayeira (Genesis 18:1-22:24)

In The Original Torah Pearls, Vayeira (Genesis 18:1-22:24), the trio sheds light on interpreting the words and actions of “messengers” by comparing the three men who visited Abraham with other examples in scripture. They debate which of the many depravities of Sodom left it covered in salt to this day. With information about Abraham’s place and time, Gordon brings understanding to the more baffling events in this portion—particularly Lot’s approach to hospitality. Other Torah pearls include: the significance of Abraham bargaining with the number ten, Ishmael’s “mocking” of Isaac, and word puns that prove the Creator not only has a keen sense of humor but that he’s willing to work with us.  The trio ends by exploring the “blessing” that Abraham bequeathed to the world—the opportunity to be grafted in. Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

Original Torah Pearls - Ha'azinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52)In this episode of The Original Torah Pearls, 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. Nehemia 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

Torah Pearls #52 – Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30)

In this episode of The Original Torah PearlsVayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30), we discuss traditions we were taught concerning the Torah—a Law so simple ancient Israelites were expected to obey just by hearing it every seven years. They examine how religious traditions can stray from the intent of Torah—to hear, to learn, to fear, and to do. Regarding who “crossed over,” God or Joshua, Gordon discusses the Hebrew concept of dual causality—where the actions of the sender and the messenger are equal—a perk when partnering with the Creator of the universe. Gordon also provides Hebrew word studies that both boggle and thrill the mind—God “puts on” the suit on a man? All nations will be grafted in? The trio concludes by discussing the livability of Torah and the strength and courage required to keep it. Continue reading

Torah Pearls #51 – Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20)

Torah Pearls Nitzavim, alah, bitterness, choice of life or death, Circumcised, Circumcised flesh, Circumcised heart, Circumcision, covenant, curse, David, Deuteronomy, drunkard, exile, Ingathering, Joshua, kibbutz, mysterious, nehemia gordon, Nitzavim, oath, parashah, Parsha, parshas, parshat, prosperity, repentance and forgiveness, revealed, root, secret, secrets, sober, Torah Pearls, Torah Portion, wormwoodIn this episode of The Original Torah Pearls Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20), we revel in the five verses that sum up the entire Bible - the wonderful and terrible responsibility given to mankind to choose. But what qualifies one to choose the life-giving covenant? Social status? Being in the camp? Does the name of God provide a clue? And how is this covenant sealed—with a kiss or a curse? Is comprehension of the covenant too difficult for stiff-necked mortals? Whose name do we call on for help? Gordon concludes with a Hebrew word study that reveals what true prosperity looks like for those choosing Torah—a radiant bride with a loving and joyful groom. Continue reading

Torah Pearls #50 – Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)

In this episode of The Original Torah PearlsKi Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8), after revealing the identity of the “wandering Aramean,” we discuss the name commanded to be spoken seven times during the first fruits offering. A vivid picture is painted of the tribes standing on Mounts Ebal and Gerizim declaring the blessings and the curses across the bowl-shaped valley. But why are the curses so complicated and the blessings so simple?  Gordon lets us in on marginal notes that direct how some of the more graphic phrases in the Torah are to be read in public. He also proposes an explanation for the statistically insignificant Jew becoming a byword among the nations. Could the exile and its miseries be as much of a sign as the miraculous ingathering? And while our heavenly Father many times commands the whole hearts and souls of his people, to what one cause does he pledge his? Continue reading

Torah Pearls #49 – Ki Teitzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)

In this episode of The Original Torah PearlsKi Teitzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19), an uninformed reading of the archaic civil and domestic laws in this portion might leave one scratching the head, but the trio deftly removes cultural and language barriers so that the principles behind these pearls can be applied to the modern age. Discussions reveal what is at the heart of: Torah fashion statements, plowing with a donkey and an ox, installing parapets and taking millstones. Ki Teitzei underscores that the Torah is for all people, for all time—as its laws not only remedied ancient Canaanite traditions but also reached ahead to 20th century America when women’s rights finally began to get with the program. The portion concludes with the mind-bender of remembering to forget—and a reminder from Gordon that it’s a curse to have one’s name blotted out. Continue reading