World's Shortest Torah Commentary

07/28/2016 02:31 pm ET Updated Jul 28, 2016

 

For people who want to study Genesis through Deuteronomy but are short on time...

Genesis

  1. Creation: Everything was here before us. Till it and tend it.
  2. God begins all humanity with one human being: Whether you like it or not, we are all related to each other.
  3. We are made in God’s image: People are born with inherent worth.
  4. Shabbat: Even God isn’t a workaholic.
  5. Adam and Eve: Once you have sex, it changes everything, and there is no going back.
  6. Cain and Abel: It doesn’t matter what your reason is; murder is wrong. Yes, you are your brother’s keeper.
  7. Tower of Babel: Build for the good of society, not for ego.
  8. Noah: Normal is not the same thing as right. Build your boat with God’s help. Include a window. And have faith in a dove and a rainbow.
  9. God calls Abraham: No one likes change except a baby in a dirty diaper, but when it’s time to move, you have to go. Be a blessing.
  10. Sodom and Gomorrah: Challenge authority; God wants you to ask questions. No one is above justice.
  11. Abraham and the almost-sacrifice of Isaac: Give your kids to God, but that doesn’t mean kill them.
  12. Isaac: Sometimes we just have to dig out the wells of those who came before us.
  13. Rebecca helps the servant: “Luck” or “divine providence” looks like initiative, hard work, and compassion.
  14. Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Esau: What would have happened if they had just talked to each other rather than slugged it out through their kids?
  15. Jacob’s ladder: First you have to dream big, then you can negotiate.
  16. Jacob and Laban: No job is forever. Stay when you have to stay, but leave when you have to leave.
  17. Jacob wrestles the angel and becomes Israel: Everyone struggles. There is blessing to just holding on. Personal transformation is possible.
  18. Joseph and his brothers: You don’t have to tell everyone everything. Usually you can avoid trouble by just keeping your mouth shut.
  19. Judah and Tamar, Joseph and Potiphar’s wife: Don’t put yourself in temptation’s way.
  20. Joseph and Pharaoh’s dreams: It’s not about you. Elevation comes through service.
  21. Joseph and his brothers: Yes, you are your brother’s keeper. (See 6.) And you don’t choose your family.

Exodus

  1. Pharaoh orders a genocide: It didn’t happen all at once. Stop genocide before it starts, not after.
  2. Shifra and Pu’ah: The “little people” have power, too.
  3. Moses looks right and left, and sees no one: When you think, “Someone ought to do something about this,” it is probably you.
  4. Moses and the burning bush: Look for spiritual moments in your life and let your life be shaped by them.
  5. Moses and Pharaoh: Keep telling the truth to stupidity. Over and over again.
  6. Pharaoh: Playing God brings plagues and eventually darkness and death.
  7. The splitting of the sea: Don’t sit and pray when you should move. And sometimes it takes the patience of a wind blowing all night long to break through in the dawn.
  8. Amalek: There are evil people in the world. Just because you are not looking for trouble, sometimes trouble comes looking for you. Watch your behind.
  9. Standing at Sinai: You were there. You heard it. You should know better.
  10. The Ten Commandments: It begins with acknowledging God and ends with not coveting what is your neighbor’s.
  11. The Golden Calf: When the boss is away, don’t mess things up.
  12. Building the Tabernacle: Just as God creates and blesses, so can we create and bless.

Leviticus

  1. Sacrifices: Sacrifice is always necessary. And everyone’s sacrifice counts and can’t be measured from the outside.
  2. Be holy: Hold yourself to a higher standard. Holiness isn’t a sit-in-a-sanctuary-all-day thing. It’s an everyday-on-the-street-thing. Go to the sanctuary to learn and pray and then go to the street to do.
  3. Love your neighbor as yourself: Remember your neighbor is no longer just your fellow tribesman; it’s everyone.
  4. Holidays: Mark time religiously. You only get one trip and then it’s over before you know it.
  5. The Sabbatical and Jubilee years: You don’t own the land. The LandLord does. The land has rules. Obey them.

Numbers

  1. Count your tribes: Where you come from and loyalty matter.
  2. The spies: Fear can warp your vision.
  3. Moses and the rock: Don’t hit when you can speak. And if you yell, you lose.
  4. Korah: Some people will say anything to get ahead. Don’t get sucked down with them.
  5. Balak: It doesn’t matter what kind of PR you hire; the truth will come out.
  6. Balaam and the donkey: Don’t be more of an ass than an ass.
  7. Pinchas: Being a zealot means that no one learns your name in Religious School.
  8. Joshua: You don’t have to be as talented as the person who came before you. You just have to be strong and courageous.

Deuteronomy

  1. One God: Praying to a single god is not the same as saying God is One. One God means we aspire to unity. It’s followed up by love.
  2. The commandments are not in heaven or beyond the sea: Inconvenient doesn’t mean impossible. It’s in your mouth and your heart.
  3. Before you is blessing and curse, life and death, so choose life: Your life is the sum of your choices. Be personally responsible. What you do next really matters.
  4. No one knows where Moses is buried to this day: You don’t need a monument for your life to matter. Your actions and words are your legacy.
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