Torah Pearls #7 – Vayeitzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3)

Torah Pearls Vayeitzei, Genesis 28:10-32:3, Bethel, dream, dreams, Jacob’s ladder, mandrakes, nehemia gordon, parashah, Parsha, parshas, parshat, stone of scone, Torah Pearls, Torah Portion, vayeitzeiIn this episode of The Original Torah PearlsVayeitzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3), everything old is new again in as Gordon and crew release the vacuum-seal and allow the fresh air of language, history and context to inform Jacob’s time in Haran. Jacob’s servitude to his trickster father-in-law smells sadly familiar even in English, but the echoes of reciprocal justice appear most poignant in Hebrew. Continue reading

Torah Pearls #6 – Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9)

In this episode of The Original Torah Pearls, Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9)God’s desire and ability to establish a universal and eternal plan within three generations of a mere human family comes to the forefront. Discussions include: Are three related nations depicted among these generations? What is the symbolic significance of Isaac’s wells? Word studies include: “red,” “heel,” “trembled,” and how the KJV back-tracked to render a personified view of “satan.” We see familial patterns continue as Isaac echoes, “she’s my sister,” and Rebecca steps away from the daily grind to “seek Yehovah.”  The trio explores Jacob and Esau’s differences—a shepherd with a plan and a hunter in the moment—as well as the defining difference that altered their destinies. As Jacob sets off with the double portion, God’s mixed-multitude plan is set in motion—a plan to bring his covenant to all mankind. Jeannette wrote: “The discussion was amazing as usual. So many good Torah pearls today.” Continue reading

Torah Pearls #5 – Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18)

In this episode of The Original Torah Pearls Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18) learn about love, romance, marriage, death, laden camels, and the power of specific prayers. Chayei Sarah unfolds dramatically as the trio examine its many pearls. The portion begins with Abraham securing a burial place for Sarah and ends with his death. In between, we get to relive one of the world’s best stories, not once, but four times, as Abraham’s servant makes a match for Isaac. But far from stale repetition, Gordon explains that being able to analyze word choices in a repeated story is pay dirt for the linguist. Continue reading

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)

In this episode of The Original Torah Pearls,   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 inaugural episode of The Original Torah Pearls, Bereshit (Genesis 1:1-6:8), 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 #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 inherent 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 of 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