Nitzavim-Vayelekh (Deut. 29:9-31:30)

[If you’re looking for the jokes, they follow the commentary]       

       This week’s musings are written in memory of my cousin David, who passed away last week.  He actually read what I wrote, occasionally responded, shared my emails, and sent along additional jokes.  I’m glad the web enabled us to be more connected over the last several years.  

        We are coming to the end of the Torah, the Israelites are near the end of their journey, and it is almost the end of the year according to the Hebrew calendar.  Yes, Rosh Hashanah is less than a week away, which means this is the final edition of Torah Portion Humor (if any of you can think of a snappier name, let me know) for the year 5771.  Tishrei is the only month that we do not announce with a special blessing for the new month.  I guess the (week)daily shofar blasts all during the month of Elul provide enough of a signal.  And of course for the clergy, this time of year is the parallel to April for accountants.  And tomorrow night, traditionally close to midnight, Selichot services are held at which prayers asking for forgiveness (selichot) are chanted.

        This week, we read a short double portion.  No, that’s not an oxymoron. Nitzavim (Deut. 29:9-30:20) and Vayelekh (Deut. 31:1-30) together encompass only 69 verses, maybe half of a normal single portion.  No, I don’t know why – maybe because the message is so focussed?  Nitzavim is all about entering the covenant with the Lord.  Everyone in Israel must do this – leaders, men, women, children, “strangers” (resident aliens), young, old, all professions – everyone, now and all future generations.  They will need to study the law, because they will have to follow it, enforce it, and teach it to the generations to come. The most basic requirement is to worship no other gods. If they willfully turn away from the Lord, they will be punished and uprooted from the land.  At the end of the portion, Moses presents the bottom line: 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life — if you and your offspring would live — 20 by loving the Lord your God, heeding His commands, and holding fast to Him. For thereby you shall have life and shall long endure upon the soil that the Lord swore to your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give to them.”

        Vayelekh at first appears to be little more than taking care of administrative details. Moses presents Joshua to the people as his successor, assures the people they will do well in battle, writes down the Law and gives it to the Levites for safekeeping, and arranges for the Law to be read aloud in public every seven years so every generation will be reminded and will learn (that must have been one loooong lecture).  That seems to be a reasonable stopping point.  But then, the Lord tells Moses that (1) he will soon die, (2) the people will start worshipping other gods, (3) the Lord will then abandon them to their enemies,  and so (4) Moses is to write down and teach them a long poem that can be shown them to remind them of their broken covenant.  Moses writes the poem, which we’ll read after Rosh Hashanah, finishes his tasks, and tells the people (31:29), “I know that, when I am dead, you will act wickedly and turn away from the path that I enjoined upon you”.  One might ask, why did the Lord have to tell Moses that aspect of the future, and why did Moses tell the people?  Doesn’t this inject a note of hopelessness into Moses’ last days?

        The haftarah, Isaiah 61:10-63:9  has one answer: The seventh and last haftarah of consolation, it is filled with images of joy (lots of wedding imagery) and redemption.  The abandonment is only temporary.

Shabbat shalom,

Which Leader To Choose

It is time to elect a world leader, and your vote counts. Here are the facts about the three leading candidates:

Candidate A: Associates with crooked politicians, and consults with astrologers. He’s had two mistresses. He also chain smokes and drinks 8 to 10 martinis a day.

Candidate B: He was kicked out of office twice, sleeps until noon, used opium in college and drinks a quart of whiskey every evening.

Candidate C: He is a decorated war hero. He’s a vegetarian, doesn’t smoke, drinks an occasional beer and hasn’t had any extra-marital affairs.
Which of these candidates would be your choice?

And the candidates are: [in case you haven’t guessed by now…IGP]

Candidate A is Franklin D. Roosevelt
Candidate B is Winston Churchill
Candidate C is Adolf Hitler

So…what makes a leader a good leader??

Political Choices
How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?  ~Author Unknown

There are always too many Democratic congressmen, too many Republican congressmen, and never enough U.S. congressmen.  ~Author Unknown

Do you ever get the feeling that the only reason we have elections is to find out if the polls were right?  ~Robert Orben

We would all like to vote for the best man but he is never a candidate.  ~Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard

Don’t vote, it only encourages them.  ~Author Unknown

Idol worship?                Thursday, 15 July 2010  Submitted by IN SEINE  

A teacher asked her students what religious objects they had in their homes. One boy answered, “We have a picture of a woman with a halo holding a baby and every day my mother kneels in front of it.”

The next little boy said, “We have a brass statue of a man seated with crossed legs and a Chinese face, and every day my parents burn an incense stick before it.”

Then a third boy piped up, “In the bathroom we have a little platform with numbers on it. Every day my mother stands on it first thing in the morning and screams, “OH MY GOD!!!”

Apologetic Parrot

A woman bought a parrot for a pet. All the parrot did was treat her bad. It insulted her and every time she tried to pick it up, it would peck at her arm.

One day she got fed up with the parrot and as it was insulting her she picked it up, it continued with the insults..”you’re ugly! I can’t stand you!” and it pecked at her arm as she carried it.

She opened the freezer door and threw him in and closed the door. From inside, the parrot was still going on for about 5 seconds and then it was suddenly quiet.

She thought, “Oh no, I killed it!” She open the door and the parrot just looked at her. She picked it up.

Then the parrot said:  “I’m very sorry. I apologize for my bad behavior and promise you there will be no more of that. From now on, I will be a respectful, obedient parrot.”

“Well OK” she said. “apology accepted”.

The parrot said “Thank you”. Then he said, “Can I ask you something?”

She said, “Yes, What?”

And the parrot looked at the freezer and asked, “What did the Chicken do?”


Fun Things to Do During a Boring Lecture (selected)

1.        Bring a small chalkboard to class. Ask the professor if you can borrow his chalk to take notes.
2.        If it’s a math lecture, claim that the professor misspelled pi.
3.        Get up to go to the bathroom five or six times during the class. Change clothes every time.
4.        While taking notes, write vulgar words every few lines. If anyone asks, say you have Tourette’s syndrome.
5.        Buy a watermelon. Give it to the professor. If he/she asks, say “They were out of apples.”
6.        Bring a fishing rod. Try to catch things on the professor’s desk.
7.        Bring a tape player and a tape of a thunderstorm. Keep it hidden. Sometime during the lecture, start the tape, stand up, claim that the professor has angered the gods and leave. Watch to see how many students follow you after the tape starts playing.
8.        Claim that you are the new student teacher, and that you are to give the lecture for that class. If the professor agrees, lecture on a subject completely opposite the to subject of the class. If the professor objects, say that the students should have a wide range of knowledge.
9.         Switch the professor’s lecture notes with your history notes from last term.
10. Sneeze very loudly. Then, have the person next to you sneeze, then the person next to him, and so on. See how long it takes before the professor sneezes.
11. Write your assignment on Plato on your little sister’s modeling clay.
12. When the professor comes in, suddenly scream, “NOOOOOO! Not him! Not professor Johnson! They let him teach again! Noooooooooo!” then run out of them room. See how many people follow you.

I’m going to a lecture

The man was in no shape to drive, so he wisely left his car parked and walked home. As he was walking unsteadily along, he was stopped by a policeman.

“What are you doing out here at 2 A.M.?” said the officer.

“I’m going to a lecture.” the man said.

“And who is going to give a lecture at this hour?” the cop asked.

“My wife.” said the man.


The Power Of Prayer

Johnny had been misbehaving and was sent to his room.

After awhile he emerged and said to his mother that he had thought it over and said a prayer.

“Fine”, said the pleased mother. “If you asked God to help you not misbehave, He will help you.”

“Oh, I didn’t ask him to help me not misbehave”, said Johnny. “I asked him to help you put up with me!”


Submitted by Donna, Emmitsburg, Md.

One day God was looking down at earth and saw all of the rascally behavior …

… that was going on. So he called one of his angels to go to earth for a time. When he returned, he told God, “Yes, it is bad on Earth; 95% are misbehaving and only 5% are not.”

God thought for a moment and said, “Maybe I had better send down another angel to get a second opinion.”

So God called another angel and sent him to earth for a time, too.

When the angel returned he went to God and said, “Yes, it’s true.

The earth is in decline; 95% are misbehaving, but 5% are being good.”

God was not pleased. So he decided to email the 5% who were good, because He wanted to encourage them, give them a little something to help them keep going.

Do you know what the email said?


Okay, just wondering. I didn’t get one either.

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