What if…

Get your SKINNY on in less time than it takes to figure out what’s up with BoJack Horseman.


(the pitch)

Last week, we finished reading Bamidbar (bah-meed-bar), the fourth of the Torah’s five books. This week, we’re starting the fifth and final book, Devarim (deh-var-eem), which means: The Words. The names of the weekly Torah sections (aka the Torah reading or portion) and the names of the Torah’s books are derived from the first distinct word(s) of each section. What’s more, the first section of each book shares the same name as that book, so this week’s Torah reading, which is the first in the book of Devarim, is also called Devarim. [Read this SKINNY for a refresh on the books of the People of the Book(s).] The Torah reading this week (and most of the book of Devarim) are a step-and-repeat banner repetition of the Torah. This week, Moshe (moe-sheh), whose playa name was Moses, gave a tech briefing of some of the Torah’s highlights to our peeps, who were camping out on the edge of the Land of Israel after their 40 year journey in the desert.  
Moses told our peeps the story about the previous generation’s exodus from slavery in Egypt. He reminisced about our peeps’ family trips through the desert and showed them a YouTube video of the scouts who were sent in advance to survey the Land of Israel. It showed our ancestors who were afraid of going to the land after hearing the scouts’ negative report. And, it featured God decreeing that the entire generation of naysayers would pass away in the desert and not be able to enter the land. Next, Moses encouraged our peeps to observe the Torah and mitzvot (meets-vote) – commandments – when they got to the Land of Israel. He then recalled how he appointed judges to help him govern the people. And, he remembered the wars that were waged against the people we met on the desert road who wouldn’t let us pass through their backyards to get to the Land of Israel. Moses then told our peeps that that he would be retiring as their CEO (uh, dying) and that Yehoshua (y’who-shoe-ah; Joshua in English) would be succeeding him to take them into the land. Then, Moses reassured our peeps that they shouldn’t be afraid of their enemies because God would always be on their team.


(the over think)

We’re starting the final lap of the Torah’s five books. Torah means: teaching or instruction and it’s the guidebook for how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. Each week, we read a section of the Torah’s five books and it takes a year to get through the whole thing. We start the annual cycle in the fall, coinciding with the holiday of Simchat (sim-chaht – scratch it) Torah, which aptly means: Celebration of the Torah. When we’re done, we read the Torah all over again from the beginning. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.


(to be in-the-know)

Marathon SKINNIES have been reading the weekly Torah chapters since last fall. If you’re too tired to recall the twists and turns, here’s a recap:

1. Genesis | Bereisheit (beh-rey-sheet) | In The Beginning
Bereisheit focuses on the stories of creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, and the Jewish start-up nation’s matriarchs and patriarchs. The book is called Genesis in English from the Greek word for origin. (Start here if you’re origin deficient.)
2. Exodus | Shemot (sheh-mote) | The Names
This book begins with a nameless, enslaved people and ends with our named-identity as a proud Jewish people. It includes our slavery in Egypt and miraculous “exodus”, receiving the 10 Commandments, the Golden Calf, and building the portable sanctuary. (Start your exodus here.) 
3. Leviticus | Vayikra (vie-eek-rah) | And God Called
The third book is called Leviticus in English, which comes from Latin and Greek words meaning: relating to the Levites. Although the tribe of Levites got the book named after them, most of the chapters consist of God’s speeches to Moses, which Moses then reposts to the Israelites. (If your Levi’s have faded, start reading here.)
4. Numbers | Bamidbar (Bah-meed-bar) | In the Desert
This book is called Bamidbar in Hebrew, which means: In the Desert. It gets its name from its opening verse: “And God called to Moses in the desert of Sinai . . .” and it’s called the book of Numbers in English because it begins and ends with a detailed census of our peeps. (Start reading here if you’re already packing to go to the Black Rock Desert.)
5. Deuteronomy | Devarim (deh-var-eem) | The Words
Devarim means: The Words because it contains Moses’ last words to our peeps before he passed away. In Devarim, Moses recounts many of the events and laws that were covered in the previous four books. Because of that, Devarim is called Deuteronomy in English from the Greek word for: second law.


(bookmark. reflect. share)

With this week’s Torah reading, desert-wandering SKINNIES know that the generation of Israelites who were at the starting line of the desert journey, have died out. Similar to today’s millennial generation, the mainstream media in Torah-land thought the younger gen was narcissistic, entitled, selfie-lovers. But, the truth is – and was – far from that. The new generation of hipster Israelites in Torah-town displayed unique traits that made them different from their predecessors and Moses wanted them to have all the intel they needed to be successful in the Land of Israel. Team SKINNY wonders: What if we took Moses’ words to heart?  

When Moses gathered the people together on the edge of the Land of Israel, he knew he was going to die and not enter the land with them.
What if we lived each day knowing what the outcome of tomorrow would be? Would we act differently?
Moses reminded our people of our master story.
What if our daily actions personified the ethics and values of our family members who have passed away?

Moses recounted our people’s slavery in Egypt and their jubilant exodus to freedom.
What if we truly appreciated that we have freedom on steroids?
Moses reminisced about our ancestors who believed the scouts’ negative report of the land and reminded our peeps that their ancestors feared opportunity.
What if we embraced opportunity and innovation in every aspect of our lives?

Moses encouraged our peeps to observe the Torah’s teachings and to do mitzvot.
What if we measured our days by the barometer of ethics, values, and good-doing?
Moses recalled that he appointed judges to help him lead.
What if we collaborated more, were better teammates, and relied on the advice of others?

Moses repeated the stories of the battles that our peeps had to fight on their journey.
What if we believed enough in ourselves to stand up for our needs and to find creative solutions to get around the obstacles that block our paths?

Moses told our peeps that Joshua would be their next leader?
What if raised our children to be independent and empowered them to take on leadership roles in our families and communities?
Moses reassured our peeps that they shouldn’t be afraid because God would be on their team.
What if we weren’t afraid because we trusted that God (or read: our friends and family) had our backs?
What if… (fill in the blank).


(to chew on)

Tisha (tea-shah) B'Av (b’ahv) means: ninth day of the month of Av and it’s a mournful day on the Jewish calendar. The holiday commemorates various tragedies in Jewish history, primarily the destruction of the first Temple in 586 B.C.E. and the second Temple in 70 C.E. (More on the Temples in an upcoming SKINNY.) Observant Jews refrain from eating, drinking, working, having sex, or wearing fancy clothes on Tisha B’Av. This year, Tisha B’Av begins at sundown on August 13 and ends after sunset the following day.



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