The Law of the King, in the Book of Deuteronomy sets out the rules for a constitutional monarchy for the nation of Israel. For over a thousand years, kings were judged by how well they followed its precepts. But in the writings of the later prophets, the Law of the King suddenly became applicable to individual citizens. What was behind this radical shift?
Elul is called “the season of reconciliation.” It is a time of quiet, when our crops have been planted and are nearing harvest. We are reminded that the deeds and thoughts that we have sown among each other are also coming to fruition.
This week’s parashah continues Moshe’s orations to the Israelites in the desert. The setting plays a crucial role in understanding what is going on: it is the eve of their transformation from a group of wandering tribes into a nation. It is no coincidence that this parashah is called “ekev”, literally “because of”. This parashah is about historical consequences.
Although the commandments—the contract between God and Israel—were written on stone, the voice of God never ceased speaking; it is heard to this day, if we will only listen.
Many in Israel wonder whether we should still mourn on Tisha b’Av, with Jerusalem rebuilt, surrounded by a thriving Jewish state. I would argue that especially now, in the midst of national rebirth, the lessons of Tisha b’Av take on a new urgency. For the past 2,000 years we were not in a position to repeat the mistakes of the past. Now we are.
We’re just past mid-summer here in Israel and the days are long and slow. It’s a good time to relax in the shade with a good book and a glass of something cold. Here are some recommendations from around the Jewish blogosphere.
Three times a day, we Jews praise God for “reviving the dead”. Some, following the prophet Ezekiel, like to think of this in metaphorical terms—the resurrection of Jewish national life out of the ashes of the past. Others see it in more literal terms. Dan Sofer presents an altogether different—and delightful—view of the rabbinical traditions surrounding the resurrection.
This week’s Torah reading includes the troubling story of how Moshe performed a miracle to provide water for his thirsty people, and how he was punished for it. But what did Moshe do wrong? Why was he punished for doing more or less what God had commanded him to do? The answer lies in a comparison of this story with a parallel narrative found elsewhere in the Torah.
Returning is a haunting and compelling exploration of the choices we make in a choiceless time, the terrifying strength and burden of the will to survive, and the power of the human spirit to transcend even its own destruction. This book will leave you changed forever.
A good story is a “constructed reality,” and this is no less true of non-fiction than of fiction. Getting this constructed reality from your head into the heads of your readers requires more than just a command of words. Two tools for conveying a sense of reality are structure and pacing. Structure works on the macro level of story, while pacing works on the micro level. Both together serve to carry the reader smoothly through the story like a whitewater rafter who has lost his paddle, and must trust you to get him safely through the rough bits.