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Moshav Me'or Modiim, Israel
Rabbi Avraham Arieh and Rachel Trugman have over thirty years of experience in the field of Jewish education.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Masei - The Dynamics of the Journey

Masei, the last portion in the book of Numbers, marks the end of Israel’s forty year sojourn in the desert. The entire book of Deuteronomy takes place during a brief thirty-seven day period. Therefore, in Masei, the Torah summarizes the forty-two journeys that occurred during Israel’s wanderings in the desert, from the time the nation left Egypt to the current encampment in the plains of Moab across the Jordan River from Jericho.
    These journeys are introduced by a verse that creates a mirror image: “And Moses wrote their going forth according to their journeys at the command of God, and these were their journeys according to their going forth” (Numbers 33:2). The words “going forth” and “journeys” found in the first half of the verse occur in the opposite order in the second half of the verse. The ArtScroll Chumash quotes Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch on the significance of this inversion. The first half of the verse – “Their going forth according to their journeys” – is written from God’s perspective, as each time they went forth their journey had a specific purpose, while the second half of the verse is written from the people’s perspective. Since the people were often restless or dissatisfied, the journey itself is emphasized and not its purpose. As the verse makes clear, the journeys were more about leaving than about going anywhere – “their journeys according to their going forth.” 
    This point although subtle is so true. Oftentimes we have the forethought to map out our next moves in life in keeping with our long-term plans, with regard to a broader vision of where we are going in life. Sometimes though we really do not know what should come next but our intuition, at best, or our fears, at worst, compel us to make a move without fully knowing what the ramifications of such a move might be. The Sages actually suggest that in certain circumstances a change of physical location actually provides us with such a new perspective on our lives that it can either motivate us to change our fate, or, alternatively, that it can cause our fate to be changed on a metaphysical level (Rosh Hashanah 16). Although following a well thought out plan should be the ideal way to pursue what we believe is the Divinely inspired purpose of our lives, in retrospect, even acting intuitively or out of fear can also turn out to be, as the verse states, “at the command of God.” 
   One senses a dynamic pulsating energy in the summary of the journeys which is dramatically captured by the unique way the words are chanted during the public Torah reading. The only other time this unique melody is used is when the Song of the Sea is read in public. There too the energy is palpable as the Jews have just escaped from Egypt and seen their pursuers drowned in the Reed Sea. According to Chassidut, which teaches that the Torah provides each and every person in every generation with practical instruction, these forty-two journeys are an archetypal paradigm for every individual’s life journey. Each person, though, experiences these journeys in a fashion uniquely adapted to his or her soul and his or her lifework and purpose.

Shabbat Shalom!  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Orchard of Delights

Last month I had the great privilege to publish my sixth book – Orchard of Delights: The Ohr Chadash Torah Commentary. This book is based on thirty years of notes I had kept from classes given and insights that came to me at various times. Many of the insights came to me on Shabbat and right afterwards I would jot them down. In most cases the nortes were very brief but just enough to remember the main points of my thoughts. The folder got larger and larger till three years ago I decided the time had come to compile them. It was a labor of love and the results are what I consider my “life’s work,” as it contains, more than any of my other books, my overall world view, philosophy of life and my essential understanding of the Torah. The initial response has been overwhelmingly positive and it gives me much strength to work as hard as possible that this book should find its way into the most homes as possible.

I now quote from the back cover:

One of the primary goals of this book is to demonstrate that the “stories” in the Torah are not merely one-time occurrences, temporal incidents undergone by specific individuals long ago. Rather these “stories” are archetypal in nature, reflecting various physical and spiritual energies ever- present in all aspects of reality and within each and every person. “Orchard of Delights” attempts at every juncture to translate the underlying meaning of the Torah into contemporary language, bridging secular knowledge and Torah wisdom.

There is no end to the depths of the Torah, no limit to the spiritual delights awaiting those who feast on the tantalizing fruits growing in her orchard. From the rational to the mystical, the ancient to the contemporary, her secrets are many.
I hope you will not only buy the book but will assist me in helping to spread the word. The cover and the layout of the book are particularly beautiful and unique which certainly adds to its great appeal. I am also keeping the price very low in order that the most people will be able to afford it. It is priced way below its market worth. The book is now available in Israel in book stores and in the next few weeks will be in stores throughout USA and Canada. It also can be purchased through our website: www.thetrugmans.com I would also welcome your feedback so please let me know your thoughts about the book or any of the ideas presented.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rachel Trugman’s Hot Weather Cooling Soups – Beet Borscht an “Old Country” Recipe

I absolutely (bli neder) refuse to make cholent in the summer starting the day after Pesach. It’s just too hot to endure the hot plate going round the clock and the inevitable melt-down that implodes after the first bite of the heavy meat. Instead I’ve developed a list of chilled out soups to wake up the sluggish palate that only wants to eat watermelon all summer long. Starting with the first Yom Tov of Pesach lunch, mostly because I absolutely must have some butter on my matzo and partly because after eating an elaborate multi-coursed fleishig meal on Seder night I definitely need something lighter, I’ll serve my Russian Grandma Ida’s recipe for milchig beet borscht. Her family was one of the few Jewish residents of Petrograd aka St Petersburg, aka Leningrad. Her father gained that privilege by working as a gilder in the palace of the czar.  She escaped the Bolshevik Revolution by working her way across Europe with her brother in 1916 designing fancy feathered and beaded hats for the milliner trade. This recipe is authentically presented exactly how she served it to us growing up on Chicago’s South Side and to the many yeshiva students who my namesake Great Grandmother Ruchel would invite after standing out on the street corner on Friday night looking for guests back in the “old country.” Does that sound familiar?