Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
The Politics of Freedom
Having set out the broad principles of the covenant, Moses now turns to the details, which extend over many chapters and several portions. The long review of the laws that will govern Israel in its land begin and end with Moses posing a momentous choice. Here is how he frames it in this week’s Parshah:
See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse -- the blessing if you obey the commands of the L‑rd your G‑d that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the L‑rd your G‑d and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.
And here is how he puts it at the end:
Uniformity: The Key to Uniqueness
The Biblical commandment of prayer is worded as an enjoinder to serve G‑d with "all our hearts" -- which the Sages understood to be a commandment to pray. Originally, everyone offered personalized prayers, employing words which expressed their unique feelings. And as feelings fluctuate, so did every individual's personal prayers fluctuate on a daily basis. Eventually, the Men of the Great Assembly instituted uniform prayer for all Jews, creating the basic text of the prayer book which is used to this very day.
But can a person's relationship with his Creator be scripted? Is it possible to dictate the feelings one should be expressing to G‑d?
The Second Consolation
"The average woman's facial expressions," Sharon read, "change remarkably in the course of a conversation, to reflect happiness, frustration, concern, anger, joy, sorrow, worry and bewilderment.... On the other hand," the report claimed, "men's facial expressions did not undergo the same degree of open change, and often remain nondescript or static."
Sharon wondered about this. Were women more openly demonstrative of their empathy? Had men perhaps learned, through nature or nurture, that the best way to help in a situation was to transcend it? Did "acting like a man" mean rising above the circumstances and viewing them objectively, from afar, while to be a woman is to see them empathetically, from within?