I made a serious, yearlong vow a year ago.
God-willing, I committed to exploring each week the nexus between the Torah portion and its companion in the Prophets, the Haftarah, and writing a blog on what I found. My goal was threefold: to be true to the texts and traditions, to be fresh in my own analysis, and to deduce and suggest lessons that might help guide us in our own times to better ways of living.
So, 50 blogs ago, I began on this WordPress website with a commentary on the parasha, Matot-Massei, and its related text in Jeremiah. And, here we are this week, returning to that very place in the cycle.
It has been a labor of love, and a labor of challenge and hard effort. I am very grateful for the journey – for all I have learned, for the inspiration from God to see important truths I had not understood as profoundly before, and for the opportunity to share all this with others.
I am grateful, too, for the time and conversation with my wife, Camille Kress, whose brilliance and extraordinary editing added greatly to my own knowledge and the quality of my writing. Finally, I am grateful to the many friends and followers who have responded to these pieces both with warm encouragement and profound insights of their own.
This matter of what links the Torah and Haftarah texts has long interested me. My curiosity was kindled back in my youth when I heard wise rabbis exploring this territory in sermons. Later, I turned to research to learn more from great sages and rabbis throughout time. Now, after having begun to devote my own time largely to the study and teaching of Jewish sacred texts, I concluded it was my turn to try, and to do so thoroughly.
Each week I spent Thursdays pretty fully immersed in study and writing, and Friday mornings in sharing the essays through emails and social media.
I will always have special memories of my “Thursday work” this past year, perhaps especially when the work was done on trips to California, New York, and elsewhere. There never was an excuse to avoid the commitment, and the reward is memories of those trips that are now richer for my having done this work.
I feel another “study and write” vow coming on. But, though I have a few ideas about possible topics, I want to rest a bit and think more about it. After all, vows should be made carefully!
Praised are You, O Lord our God, who has blessed us with knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, and the work of sharing and growing in Your words and ways.