Rabbi Tal Sessler teaches Jewish Philosophy at the Academy for Jewish Religion in California. He is also the senior rabbi of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel. Born and raised in Tel Aviv, he moved to the United States in 2000, first earning his doctorate in philosophy, and then receiving rabbinical ordination. A published author and recognized scholar, Sessler has written three books focusing on philosophy and Jewish identity.
This week’s Torah portion – Parashat Nitzavim-Vayelech (Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30) – begins with Moses gathering the people of Israel to enter them into a covenant with God. Moses then warns of the great desolation that will befall them if they stray from the covenant, but he assures them that if they repent God will bring them back together again from the ends of the world. The portion continues to talk about free choice and repentance, and tells of Moses passing his leadership to Joshua. Our discussion focuses on the evolution of Moses as a leader as he approaches his death (parallel to our own process approaching Yom Kippur), his increasing acceptance of death as an inevitable aspect of life and his response, which is to express faith and confidence in the people and the “process” of God’s unfolding truth.
Previous Torah Talks on this parsha