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SERMON: Haggling over Hagel

January 28, 2013

The President spoke on Monday… the Israeli voters spoke on Tuesday … and now I speak on Saturday!  And all three are connected by a verse in this morning’s Torah portion, a verse that must be considered one of the strangest and most difficult to understand in the entire Torah.

Our Torah portion this morning described that glorious moment in time when the Jews, having been emancipated from Egypt, now cross the Red Sea in such a miraculous manner that it caused Moses and the Jewish people to break out in song …a song that gives this Shabbat the special name of “Shabbat Shirah” – the “Sabbath of song.”  It was a song of such significance that it is recited every morning in our Shacharit service.  The song begins with glorious words of praise to God.  The first verse tells us: “Ashirah l’Hashem ki goa gaaw – I will sing unto the Lord for He is highly exalted.” The second verse tells us: “Zeh keili v’anveihu – This is my God and I shall exalt him.”  But then comes the third verse with the jolting, almost incomprehensible words, “Hashem ish milchamah Hashem shmo – the Lord is a man of war, the Lord is His name.”  God is a man of war?  This seems to go counter to everything we traditionally say about God.  “O’seh shalom bimromov – May He who makes peace in the heavens above make peace for us and for all Israel.”  “Yevorecha Hashem v’yishmercha – May the Lord bless you and keep you … may He bless you with peace …”  Countless times, it is God who we turn to in the name of peace.  Indeed, in the Book of Judges and in the Talmud we are told that God’s name is Peace.  In fact, when in the bathroom you’re not supposed to greet someone with the word “shalom” because it is considered God’s name.  Hashem ish milchomo … God is a man?  Of war, no less? Read More

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