Va’etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11), Shabbat Nachamu

I used to find August depressing.  When I was a teenager, August meant summer was ending, and I always felt I’d wasted it.  In grad school, it meant yet another year that I wasn’t finished (Progress toward a doctorate in chemistry often does not proceed linearly – it’s more like a hockey stick, with most of the results toward the end.  Which is why it’s the end.  But I digress.).  August 6 was the day I joined The Company, so the anniversary was time for more introspection and, sometimes, depression.  The happiest part of August was clearly my wedding anniversary.  More recently (and more frivolously), I’ve been cheered by “Summer Under the Stars” on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), each 24 hours dedicated to the movies of a particular actor.  Now, I think I’ve made my peace with August.  No more regrets.  The summer has been calm and we’re going on vacation soon and I feel ready to gear up for September’s renewal of activities.

I feel similarly (i.e., like my current August, not the past) about the Torah portion and haftarah (how’s that for a segue?).  The first Sabbath after Tisha B’Av is called Shabbat Nachamu (“comfort”), after the haftarah, Isaiah 40:1-26, in which the Lord commands the prophets to comfort the people.  (The following haftarah verses are in Handel’s Messiah, BTW:  1-4, 5, 9, and 11 .)  This is the first of seven Haftarot of Consolation, which will take us up to Rosh Hashanah.  Only three of rebuke, but seven of consolation.  Kind of nice, isn’t that?

The Torah portion contains two major items:  The Ten Commandments again, more or less (5:6-18), and the first paragraph of the Shema (6:4-9).  I wrote a lot last year about the Shema, particularly the nuances contained in the word “shema,” namely, hear/listen/pay attention/ understand/obey/acknowledge; and the concept of “love” as including action, “heart” as the seat of mental processes, and “soul” as representing physical processes.   So you can read that here.

The Ten Commandments differ a bit from those presented in Exodus 20, mainly in the 4th (then: remember the Sabbath day, now: observe it, and there’s reference to being a slave in Egypt), 5th (added incentive to honor parents now), and 10th (now don’t covet neighbor’s wife comes before neighbor’s house, and neighbor’s field is now off limits too).  The mystical explanation for “remember” versus “observe” in the 4th is that the Lord actually said them simultaneously, shamor v’zachor b’dibbur echad, “observe and remember in one word” (Friday night service hymn, L’Chah Dodi, 16th c.).  Also in the 16th c., the Maharal of Prague (Tiferet Yisrael, chap. 43, cited here) sees the Deuteronomic commandments as Moses’s version, his emendations intended to make the commandments more relevant to the present generation and thus easier to absorb.  The 19th c. Italian scholar S. D. Luzzatto posits that a somewhat edited re-telling was needed because of the differences between the two generations and because some clarification was needed (e.g., a misunderstanding of the commandments led to the Golden Calf incident).  The nature of the emendations falls naturally from the text in his view.  In any event, when one refers to “The Ten Commandments,” it is to the set in Exodus 20.

After the grimness of Tisha B’Av, a happier minor holiday, Tu B’Av (15th of Av) occurs Monday.  Instead of the list of calamities that reportedly occurred on Tisha B’Av, six positive events happened on Tu B’Av (rather obscure in my view, but you can read about them at ).  As I noted here last year, Tu B’Av is “a holiday instituted during the Second Temple period, largely forgotten, and revived in recent years.  It marked the start of the grape harvest.  As described in the Mishnah (Taanit 4:8), ‘There were no better days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What they were saying: Young man, consider who you choose (to be your wife).’ (  It is also known as Chag HaAhava, festival of love ( ).  Sounds like fun.”
Shabbat shalom,


Excerpted from David M. Bader’s “How to Be an Extremely Reform Jew” (Avon Books, 1994)

The Ten Suggestions

1. I am the Lord thy God and thou shalt have not too many other Gods besides me.

2. Thou shalt make no graven images. This is a major religion, not a shop class.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of Adonai thy God in vain without the express written consent of Adonai thy God. The name “Adonai thy God” is the sole property of Adonai thy God. Any use of the name of Adonai thy God without the express written consent of Adonai thy God is unauthorized and illegal and shall be punished by Adonai thy God.

4. Remember the Sabbath, thy squash game and thy other appointments.

5. Honor thy single parent.

6. Thou shalt not kill a man just to watch him die.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery and then run for office.

8. Thou shalt not steal. (Note: Not really applicable to car radios.)

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor when appearing before Judge Judy.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, his servants, his flocks, or his power tools.


George Carlin Stand Up Jokes

The real reason that we can’t have the Ten Commandments in a courthouse: You cannot post “Thou shalt not steal,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and “Thou shalt not lie” in a building full of lawyers, judges, and politicians. It creates a hostile work environment.

Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?

When you think about it, attention-deficit order makes a lot of sense. In this country there isn’t a lot worth paying attention to.

Attention, This Is Your Captain Speaking. [from 2011]

Occasionally, airline attendants make an effort to make the “in-flight safety lecture” a bit more entertaining. Here are some real examples that have been heard or reported: [selected]

“There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane…”

“Smoking in the lavatories is prohibited. Any person caught smoking in the lavatories will be asked to leave the plane immediately.”

Pilot:”Folks, we have reached our cruising altitude now, so I am going to switch the seat belt sign off. Feel free to move about as you wish, but please stay inside the plane till we land… it’s a bit cold outside, and if you walk on the wings it affects the flight pattern.”

And, after landing:”Thank you for flying Delta Business Express. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.”

As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Washington National, a lone voice comes over the loudspeaker: “Whoa, big fella, WHOA!”

“Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the bag over your own mouth and nose before assisting children or adults acting like children.”

“As you exit the plane, please make sure to sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.”

“Last one off the plane must clean it.”

From a Southwest Airlines employee…. “Welcome aboard Southwest Flight XXX to YYY. To operate your seatbelt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seatbelt, and if you don’t know how to operate one, you probably shouldn’t be out in public unsupervised. In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with two small children, decide now which one you love more.

“Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but they’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Southwest Airlines.”


Corporate Listening

The company I worked for had an employee suggestion competition, the entire staff was asked to submit entries that would save money for the firm.

The winner was a man who suggested the company save paper by posting corporate memos on bulletin boards, instead of printing 200 individual copies for distribution.

He won a helium balloon with the company logo and one share of stock.

A memo announcing the winner went out to 200 people.


Quotes on Comforting

It gives me a deep comforting sense that “things seen are temporal and things unseen are eternal.”

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Interestingly, according to modern astronomers, space is finite. This is a very comforting thought — particularly for people who can never remember where they have left things.

Elitism – It’s lonely at the top. But it’s comforting to look down upon everyone at the bottom.

Larry Kersten quotes (American Sociologist and Author. )


The Dating Dictionary: Translating the Terminology (selections)
by from love and advice correspondent, Ahava Leibtag Posted: 07-19-2006(Viewed 1819 times)

Having lived through the Jewish dating scene and gone through my share of bad, and G-d awful dates, I thought it may be beneficial to bequeath some of my keen insights into translating dating terminology to the audience:

What they say: I have existential issues with Orthodox Judaism.
What they mean: I grew up frum (religiously observant), but quite frankly I think it’s oppressive and outdated. Plus, Burger King is hiring.

What they say: I really want to live in Israel.
What they mean: the shadchan (matchmaker) said you really want to live there, and I think you’re hot enough to take out again so I’m lying through my teeth.

What they say: Of course I’m going to cover my hair
What they mean: I’m going to make your parents spend $2,000 on a sheitel (wig) that I’m going to wear twice, and then decide that covering my hair just
isn’t for me.

What they say: You’re the most fascinating person I ever met.
What they mean: You’re a psycho and thank God this date is over.

What they say: I don’t think you’re religious enough
What they mean: I don’t think you’re attractive enough

What they say: I don’t think I’m religious enough for you.
What they mean: You will not fool around, hence, it’s over.

What they say: The Knicks are really good this year.
What they mean: This date is seriously the most boring experience of my entire existence.

What they say: Well, I really don’t watch TV anymore
What they mean: I’m religious, you’re not.

What they say: She’s outgoing and smart
What they mean: She has an annoying voice.

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1 Response to Va’etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11), Shabbat Nachamu

  1. Pingback: Va’etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11), Shabbat Nachamu | Torah Portion Humor Weekly

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