Rosner’s Torah-Talk: Parashat Va’etchanan with Rabbi Gary Pokras

July 31, 2015

Our guest this week is Rabbi Gary Pokras, Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth Zion in Buffalo, NY. After being ordained at the Hebrew Union College Campus in New York, Rabbi Pokras served as associate rabbi at Temple Beth Zion from 1999 to 2002.  He then left to assume the pulpit at Temple Judea in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, returning to Beth Zion as Senior Rabbi in 2011. Before entering the rabbinate, he was a professional guitarist specializing in classical and jazz music. Rabbi Pokras studied economics and guitar at Northwestern University and also received masters' degrees in guitar performance and music theory from The Meadows School for the Arts at Southern Methodist University. In Western New York, Rabbi Pokras is known beyond the walls of Temple Beth Zion for establishing “Mitzvah Day” in 2002 as a community response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The event continues to draw Jews, Christians and Muslims together each year to perform volunteer projects on behalf of others.

This Week's Torah Portion – Parashat Va'etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11) – continues to present Moses' review of the Torah. Moses tells how he implored God to let him into the Promised Land and how God refused. He recounts the story of the Exodus from Egypt, declaring it an unprecedented event in human history. He predicts how in the future the people of Israel will sin, worship other gods, get exiled, and return to obey the lord outside the Promised Land. The portion also includes a repetition of the Ten Commandments and of the verses of the Shema. Our conversation focuses on the idea of being commanded to love God and on the difficulties that it entails.

Our Previous discussions of Parashat Va’etchanan:

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld on the connection between Tisha B’Av and parashat Va’etchanan

Rabbi Terry Bookman on Moses’ plea to God and on the idea of not getting what we want despite our earnest prayers

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