Monday, September 20, 2010

V'zot Habrachah

We rarely look carefully at this parasha, as it comes in the midst of the Fall holidays - and there is so much else to think about and study.  But let's consider the last Torah reading of the entire year.

Big Idea #1:
The conclusion of a book/story/narrative/movie often attempts to wrap up loose ends so the reader/viewer/listener has a sense of what the whole thing is about.

Some Questions to consider:
  • What is there in this parasha that helps you understand the whole of the Torah?
  • If you were writing a concluding chapter for the Torah, would it look like this?  Explain your answer.
  • In what way are you satisfied or not with this ending?
Big Idea #2:
If you know your life is coming to an end, there are things you might want to do or say that you had not done or said before.

Some Questions to consider:
  • What do you think was going through Moshe's mind in this parasha?
  • Most people don't know exactly when they are going to die.  What difference does that make?
  • Why do you think Moshe said what he did on this occasion?
Big Idea #3:
The Torah as a whole is the foundation of Judaism
  • Why is the Torah so important to the Jewish people?
  • What does our tradition mean when it says that "the study of Torah is equal to everything else?"
  • Professor James Kugel says the following in his book, How To Read The Bible, on page 362:
The Pentateuch was now viewed, as Ben Sira and other sages attest, as nothing less than divine wisdom in written form, one great book of legal and ethical instruction.  As a result, the Pentateuch as a whole came to be radically transformed:  its etiological narratives now became moral exempla, and its ancient laws became an up-to-date guide for daily life today.  Rather than a record of the past, the Pentateuch became, like all wisdom writings, a set of instructions for the present.  
Agree or Disagree:  No matter how you understand the origin of the Torah, whether you believe it was dictated by God to Moshe or written over time by wise people, as Jews its significance is as Kugel states, "a set of instructions for the present."  Whether you agree or disagree, be prepared to support your opinion in a discussion.

Be sure to look at my other post on this parasha to see some more detailed ideas for studying it with your students or study partners.
Hazak, Hazak, V'Nitchazek!!

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