We are told that Pharaoh was punished harshly for enslaving the Israelites. But why does the Torah sanction slavery? And how am I supposed to respect the weaker strata of society — such as the converts, the sojourners, the widows and orphans — if I allow myself to enslave another human being and treat him as my property?
The ancient Romans were known for their wild and weird rituals, but one of them, recorded in the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 11b), is of special interest to us. It is said that once every 70 years, Romans would have a healthy man, wearing the legendary garments of Adam, ride on the back of a limping man, who wore the mask of a Jew as he walked through the streets of Rome. At the head of the parade an announcer would repeatedly say: “Our master’s brother is a forger. Whomever sees this parade let him enjoy, because there will not be another for 70 more years. Forgery has not benefited the forger nor deceit benefited the deceiver!”
“Of the blue, purple and crimson yarns they also made the service vestments for officiating in the sanctuary ... they hammered out sheets of gold and cut threads to
be worked into design among the blue, the purple and the crimson yarns and the fine linen.” (Exodus 39:1-3).
The Exodus was made possible because of the merits of the righteous women, say our sages. Some interpret this statement as a patronizing approach to women in the spirit of the famous dictum: Behind every great man there is a great woman. But this relegates women to the sidelines and renders them nothing more than hidden tools, helping pave the way for their husband’s success.
You are driving, looking for an address, when your wife tells you to ask someone. You refuse, but you finally make it to your destination — two hours late. Are you familiar with this scenario?
Numbers, this is the English name of the Book of Bemidbar. Whoever chose the name must have been overwhelmed by the meticulous descriptions of the multiple censuses of the Israelites, the Levites and the firstborn.
Parshat Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)
Parshat Vayetze (Genesis 28:10-32:3) Men equate the inability to solve a problem with weakness, so when men are in the same situation they feel that they must solve the problem.
Parshat Ki Teitze (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19) Wouldn't it be better to ban the practice of capturing women for marriage and to find a way to settle the differences of the rebellious son and his parents without using the electric chair?
Parshat Korach (Numbers 16:1-18:32) Moses could have stayed in the palace and enjoyed royal privileges, but he chose to commiserate with his brothers and, indeed, tried to save one of them by killing the Egyptian taskmaster.
Parshat Shemini (Leviticus 9:1-11:47)
One of the events that undoubtedly shocked and reshaped Judaism was the destruction of the Second Temple almost 2,000 years ago. For nearly 300 years...
I am a Jew of Islam. Not an Arab Jew, mind you, since that term makes as much sense as Slavic or Baltic or Arian Jew, but a Jew of Islam. It is not only because in my family's veins runs the blood of people who lived in Iraq, Syria, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey, nor because among my congregants there are natives of Bahrain and Indonesia.
If you were paying attention during Genesis, the opening statement of this week's parsha may be perplexing: "And God (Elohim) spoke to Moses and told him: I am Adonai, I have appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make myself known to them by my name Adonai" (Exodus 6:2-3).
How can that be possible? All through Genesis, God speaks to the patriarchs using the Tetragrammaton; the Ineffable Name; the Name written with the four quiet, almost mute letters Y, H, V and H but spelled Adonai, the Master. How can He tell Moses now that he never revealed this name to the patriarchs?
The most fascinating, intriguing and philosophically engaging book of the Tanakh (if we are allowed to indulge in ratings) is undoubtedly the first one -- Bereshit, or Genesis. It tackles questions of creation and destiny, society and government, as well as the different facets of human behavior, sibling rivalry, envy and miscommunication.
This is exactly the lesson the Torah wanted to teach us as well as the wandering Israelites. They had to realize that they stood to receive blessing or cursing, Divine abundance or wrath, not according to the prophetical prayers of Balaam but according to their conduct.
Hearing a familiar tune carries us back in time to a special moment, to our childhood realms and to the innermost chambers of our heart. Jewish mystics wrote that our souls are violins playing the music of creation; when we play these violins, the divine realms reverberate with it and are fine tuned according to it.
The message that no action goes unnoticed or unaccounted for and that communication is essential to a healthy family and society.
If you are willing to inflict physical pain upon yourself as a service to your god, why not treat others to the same spiritual experience? Paradoxically, they will be killed or harmed because of your love for them.
The benefits of the seven-year cycle are immeasurable. First, the land recovers the trace minerals it needs without using ammonium-nitrate-based fertilizers, which endangers the aquatic ecosystems. Second, the social structure is corrected every seven years; the differences between the classes are eroded and a sense of unity and togetherness takes over. Lastly, the seventh year provides an opportunity to stop the insane race for provisions, power and glory. It allows people to reconnect to the precious gifts of their family and their inner self.
Immediately following the Ten Commandments, we read a series of instructions that seem a little out of place: You shall not make gods of silver alongside me, nor shall you make yourselves gods of gold. You need make for me only an earthen altar and bring your sacrifices there, and I shall come and bless you wherever my name is mentioned.
Man's quest for a perfect form of government started at the dawn of civilization and is still far from conclusion.
The message is a universal one and it is directed to all mankind. How much better would the world be if we looked at people and thought first of what we have in common with us instead of analyzing how they differ from and are therefore inferior to us?
As the train pulled into the Iraqi border police station, the lanky Jewish boy at the window became more and more nervous. The bulging package under his robes felt heavy like lead.
Torah: parah aduma, which is the ritual of purifying a person who has come into contact with a dead body. During the ritual of parah aduma, the Kohen slaughters a red cow that has never born a yoke and then burns the carcass along with cedar, hyssop and a crimson substance until it has been reduced to ashes. The ashes are then mixed with water and sprinkled on the person who has come in contact with death, thus rendering him pure.
This is the story of Peh Ra. All his life, Peh Ra felt like a cattle owner, walking among his animals and marking them with a red-hot branding iron. Peh Ra had a nice collection of branding irons. Some people he branded "losers," others were marked "nerds" or "geeks" and, of course, there were those who fell under special categories.
The Ten Commandments are one of the most fascinating documents in the history of mankind. Hundreds of books and thousands of articles and commentaries were written around them. They decorate, in different forms and media, almost every synagogue and public Jewish facility, and recently they were in the center of a fiery debate regarding the separation of church and state. But from all discussions and debates of commentators and scholars throughout the ages, one question stands out: What is the logic behind the division of the commandments on the Tablets of the Law?
We are all familiar with Jacob, the refugee who returns to his homeland to the dreaded encounter with his vengeful brother Esau. I believe most of us read the story through Jacob's eyes, but is it the only way? What if it were possible to unearth these biblical heroes' diaries? What would they say? Here are the events of our parsha as described by the two brothers: