Torah Reflections: Conversations on the Weekly Parshah
Integrating Torah into one’s life through reflection and conversation can be an incredibly fun and engaging experience. It’s a journey of discovery, where ancient wisdom and timeless teachings come to life in our daily experiences. Through reflection, we have the opportunity to dive deep into the rich tapestry of Torah, extracting profound insights and lessons that resonate with our modern lives. The joy lies in the ‘aha’ moments, those instances when a Torah verse or story suddenly connects with our personal challenges, aspirations, and values. And when we engage in conversations about Torah with others, it becomes an interactive exploration, where diverse perspectives and interpretations enhance our understanding. These dialogues often spark excitement and intellectual curiosity, making the learning process both enjoyable and fulfilling. Torah becomes a vibrant and dynamic part of our lives, offering not just guidance but also a source of endless fascination, connection, and growth.
NOTE: Don’t feel obligated to go through every source or answer all the questions—unless you want to. Even one source, or one question will give you plenty of material for discussion and meditation. Enjoy this!
Some thoughts about Parshat Va’era
We know that the different names of G-d mentioned in the Torah refer to the way He appears in a given situation. In this parsha, G-d talks to Moses, revealing Himself as “the L-rd.” He reminds Moses of the promise to give the land of Canaan to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. G-d sees the suffering of the Israelites in Egypt and promises to remember the covenant. Rashi explains that when G-d says, “I am the L-rd,” it means He’s faithful to reward the good and punish the wrongdoers. Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler adds that G-d’s Name is glorified when He rewards the good or punishes the bad, showing His constant involvement in the world.
Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzatto (Ramchal) explains, in simpler terms, that when G-d punishes the wicked, it’s not to be mean but to show His presence and remind people Who’s in charge. The Midrash says that E-lokim* represents G-d’s strict justice, while the four-letter name Y-K-V-K* represents His compassion. When Moses asks why things are tough, G-d responds with His compassionate name, reminding us that even in hard times, His kindness is always there. The verse “you have profaned the Name of your G-d, I am the L-rd” (Leviticus 19:12) tells us to remember G-d’s true compassionate nature, even when things seem tough.
*These Divine Names are written differently than they appear in the text to safeguard their holiness and so that they are not improperly disposed of.
Questions for discussion and personal reflection:
- How does recognizing G-d’s faithfulness in both rewarding goodness and punishing wrongdoing influence your understanding of divine justice in your own life?
- Reflect on moments in your life where you experienced challenges or difficulties. How might the concept of G-d’s compassion being always available offer a different perspective on those situations?
- Consider times when you’ve witnessed or experienced the consequences of actions, either positive or negative. How does this reflect the idea of G-d’s constant guidance and involvement in the world?
- In moments of adversity, do you tend to view the world as ruled by divine judgment or divine compassion? How might acknowledging G-d’s compassionate nature even in tough times impact your perspective?
- Think about the concept of glorifying G-d’s name through both rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked. How does this idea shape your understanding of the purpose behind challenges and difficulties in life?
By Rabbi Tani Burton
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