Jewish Journal

Rabbi Mordecai Finley

  • Reflections on the Charleston murders from Berlin: A conscience

    June 22, 2015 | 1:35 pm

    I was sitting at the lunch tables yesterday here at the language school in Berlin, checking the news, when I read of the massacre at Emanuel AME in Charleston. My heart stopped in grief, thinking of the horror in that church. A very deep sadness came over me, for the victims and...

  • Palestinians and Israel as the ‘Jewish State’: Symptoms of neurosis

    March 19, 2014 | 11:28 am

    Two more views on the issue of calling Israel the Jewish State:
    The problem won’t go awayTwo definitions, two implications

    Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, in an interview quoted in The New York Times, repeated his objection to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state:...

  • Thanksgiving and Chanukah part two

    November 28, 2013 | 3:55 pm

  • Emek Ha-Hodayah: The Valley of Gratitude

    November 27, 2013 | 11:17 am

    Chanukah and Thanksgiving don’t line up very well for me. Chanukah celebrates an unlikely military victory, of the “few against the many.” The closest rough equivalent to Chanukah in the American tradition is probably the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown on Oct. 19, 1781. Had...

  • Happiness, Addiction, Training

    September 18, 2013 | 5:54 pm

  • Atheism, mysticism and ladders

    September 16, 2013 | 6:41 pm

  • Peace and protection

    November 29, 2012 | 1:01 pm

    I have tried to figure out why Rabbi Sharon Brous’ thoughts left me empty when I read them. As Rabbi Daniel Gordis has written, there is nothing objectionable in them. In fact, as I read her e-mail word-for-word many times, I found that I agreed with her completely regarding...

  • 5 theories you meet in heaven

    September 12, 2012 | 2:42 pm

    What is the singular essence of Rosh Hashanah?

    The core meaning of Rosh Hashanah is the sovereignty of the divine. By sovereignty of the divine, I don’t mean any particular level of Jewish practice. Jewish pietistic literature is well aware that anyone can go through the motions...

  • The inner dimensions of Passover and spiritual liberation

    March 24, 2010 | 2:35 pm

    I do two types of Passover seders — the public ones and a private one.

    The public ones are the first two nights of Passover — the first night with as many people as will fit into a given room in our house, and the second night with as many as will fit into our snug synagogue....

  • Our place in this world

    May 8, 2008 | 6:00 pm

    The ancient rabbis were astute psychologists. They reflected on the inner life, not through theories, but through narratives, especially their analyses of and speculations on the narratives in the Torah.

    Let's take a look at a bit of rabbinic commentary on one brief, strange and...

  • Before and after

    January 24, 2008 | 7:00 pm

    While studying this Torah portion several years ago, I enjoyed one of those peculiar delights vouchsafed to those who learn to study great Jewish texts in the Hebrew original -- the discovery a great mistranslation. The concept is "ein mukdam u'm'uchar ba'Torah" -- usually...
  • Final lesson

    December 20, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    In this week's Torah portion, Vayechi, we have the most intimate description of a deathbed scene and the most elaborate description of a le'vayah (funeral) contained in the Torah.

    As I read through this portion in preparation for writing this column, I found myself struggling for a...

  • To Hear or Not to Hear

    March 15, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    If your life could change in a moment, what would you want it to be?

    Most of us quickly consider what we'd want from the world or from another person: more love, more money, more respect, more health, more learning, more time.

    Now, instead of changing factors outside of your life,...

  • Discovering the Name

    January 11, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    The first Torah portion in Exodus is Shemot, Hebrew for "names." "These are the names of the Israelites coming to Egypt..." (Exodus 1:1).

    That might be where we got the name of the parsha, but that is not where the parsha takes us. Namings take place throughout Shemot. Moses gets a...

  • When the Dust Settled

    July 13, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    Last week's portion ends with a ferocious battle; this week's begins with the after action report and the distributing of medals. We learn the names of those killed and those rewarded and then all the troops are mustered and counted, to see who remains alive from the fighting.


  • Your Inner Joseph

    January 12, 2006 | 7:00 pm

    Each of us lives a spiritual journey. One of greatest tasks in life is to know our journey, to understand its contours and what it demands of us. The Torah teaches us these journeys, these paths into our center.

    As Genesis ends this week with Vayechi, Jacob pronounces blessings for...

  • Amalek Within

    March 17, 2005 | 7:00 pm


    What is the origin of evil? Or, more precisely, why do people do evil things?

    We Jews often pose these questions in terms of biblical narratives. Torah is understood as the soul's code of the Jewish people; its characters, images and events are not just historical, they are...

  • Dialogue of Truth

    August 19, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    For many, perhaps most, American Jews today, the words that open this week's Torah portion stand at the center of the their understanding of Judaism. "You shall judge the people with righteous judgment" we are taught; "Justice, justice, you shall pursue." If one pursues how these...

  • Untamed Order

    May 20, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    The Midrash on this Torah portion contains a fascinating note. When the question is raised, why God chose to give the Torah in the desert (and not, for example, on Mount Zion in the land of Israel), one classic rabbinic interpretation given is that the locale is to teach us a lesson...

  • Personal Liberation

    March 4, 2004 | 7:00 pm

    How does one prepare for freedom?

    One Jewish answer is found in the reading of the four special portions read along with the regular Torah portions in the weeks before Passover. This coming Shabbat, for example, not only do we read Torah portion Tetzaveh, but we also read three...

  • Final Lesson

    January 8, 2004 | 7:00 pm

    In this week's Torah portion, Vayechi, we have the most intimate description of a deathbed scene and the most elaborate description of a le'vayah (funeral) contained in the Torah.

    As I read through this portion in preparation for writing this column, I found myself struggling for a...

  • Fill in the Blank

    October 16, 2003 | 8:00 pm

    When I began to study Torah seriously as a college student, I was introduced to its spiritual depths. I found that the meanings of the holidays went beyond the agricultural and historical sources, and often had complex spiritual teachings woven in. I remember that, back in those...

  • Choosing Judaism: My Father’s Story and My Own

    December 16, 1999 | 7:00 pm

    At a recent Shabbat, a guest at our services asked the person staffing our welcome table, "Is the rabbi here Jewish?" What the person meant was, "Is the rabbi a convert?" Many have shared with me over the years, as our congregation has grown, that acquaintances of theirs have told...