When Rabbi Laura Geller learned that her father had Alzheimer’s disease, she struggled with the news. He was only in his 70s, after all, and it was painful for her to watch the man who had raised her — who she said had been “important and powerful and wonderful” in her life — lose his ability to perform daily tasks.
Rejoice! Spring has arrived, and Pesach is here. The time of our liberation is at hand. The Exodus from our narrow straits is re-enacted once more.
For Passover this year, Rizzoli has just released “The Bronfman Haggadah,” written by the businessman, philanthropist and Jewish community leader Edgar Bronfman Sr., illustrated by artist Jan Aronson, who is also Bronfman’s wife.
The name “Miriam” stems from the Hebrew word for “bitter” (mar), and Miriam has every right to feel that way.
For the last couple of years - and especially the last couple of days - my Jewish friends all over the world have expressed their concern over whether anti-Semitism is on the rise in Turkey. First of all Turkey has a population over 70 million.
There is an old midrash to explain how Moshe discovered his Jewish identity and woke up to his calling as a teacher and prophet. Yocheved, Moshe’s mother, used to sing him lullabies and feed him familiar foods.
For much of his life, Rabbi Elijah Schochet disliked the idiom “God willing,” an expression used by people trying to convey that their lives are subject to God’s discretion.
Consider the artichoke for a moment. It is an odd but instructive vegetable. An artichoke is prickly and surrounded by an armor of leaves protecting the soft center, the heart of the food. Boiling or steaming it loosens the protective leaves, permitting you to pick them off one by one, unwrapping the delicious gift that lies inside.
This week’s portion bears one of the Torah’s great enigmas. What exactly did Moshe Rabbeinu do that prompted God to bar him from crossing the Jordan into Israel? What was the infraction?
If only people understood why they shouldn't do it, then they wouldn't do it.
Jewish tradition instructs that young children should begin their Jewish education by studying the book of Leviticus. Even a cursory reading of the blood and gore that make up the sacrificial rites described in the third book of the Torah would lead most teachers to conclude that these verses would likely be the beginning of the end for a child’s Jewish education.
Parshat Ha'azinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52) It isn't nice to say, but if I were hanging out in the desert with my friends -- all excited about moving in to a land of milk, honey and great falafel -- and an old man with a stutter insisted on "speaking into our ears" a weird doom and gloom poem, my likely remark would be: "That dude's got issues."
Parshat Vayeilech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30) Didn't we just finish Pesach? How is Rosh Hashanah already here again? Another year has slipped away.
Parshat Vaetchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11) God tells Moses that although he's faithfully led His people through the desert these past 40 years, and although the Jews are now standing at the very border of the Holy Land, Moses himself will never be allowed entry, and will die and be buried outside of Israel.
Action figure recites a Christian version of the Top Ten Commandments
Parshat Matot (Numbers 30:2-32:42). But the question remains: What justification did Moses have that allowed him to denounce them so fiercely? How could he compare them to the scouts?
Dr. David B. Goldstein from Duke's Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy talks about tracking the genetic history of the ancient Jewish priesthood (kohanim) and the Lost Tribes of Israel, the focus of his news book, "Jacob's Legacy"
Parashat Chukat (Numbers 20:1-22:1) Who was Miriam? She is the only woman in the Torah who bears the title "Neviah" -- prophetess. So who was she?
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 Shelach Lecha (Numbers 13:1-15:41)
Why is there so much disillusionment, fear and unsettling behavior in this parsha? And what can we learn from the chaos?
"My sense is that people gathering in synagogue for all or part of the night is expanding," said Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. "A lot of great learning takes place in the Los Angeles Jewish community on Shavuot."
What prompted Agnon, a master of original writing, to create an anthology of rabbinic texts relating to Shavuot? As an author with a deep connection to his religious roots, Agnon related to the experience of Shavuot, a celebration of the centrality of books in Judaism.
This week's Torah portion, Ki Tisa, tells the ultimate cautionary tale about becoming enamored with things. Losing hope and patience as they wait for Moses to descend Mount Sinai, the Israelites build a Golden Calf and worship it.
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?
Yes, there is something natural, human and probably inevitable about complaining. As the people who raised murmuring to a high art during the desert trek with Moses, Jews may have more precedent to complain than others. I once invented a game called "alphabetical kvetch," and I have rarely had a problem getting Jews to play along.
Ask 10 Jews with a reasonable background in Torah the question, "Why did God not allow Moses to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land?" and nine of them would probably say: "Because Moses hit the rock instead of talking to it in order to bring forth water and failed to sanctify God, as God had commanded him."
It is too easy to label Korah evil and dismiss his claims. There is nothing in the pshat, the simple reading of the biblical text, to castigate Korah as the embodiment of evil. In fact, it is suspicious how ready everyone is to get rid of him. What are we covering up? What truth does Korah know?
Religious zeal is on the rise around the world. It can be a wonderful blessing, and it can be a horrible curse. It all depends on how humans with free will manage it.
Twenty-five years ago, Rabbi Harold S. Kushner wrote a book that changed his life and the perspective of millions,"When Bad Things Happen to Good People". Now, Kushner, 71, has written another practical guide of spiritual wisdom. His 10th book, "Overcoming Life's Disappointments," uses Moses' example to discuss ways of dealing with - and rising above - failure.
We love to play Jewish Geography. Whenever we meet a fellow Jew for the first time, we try to find mutual people or places we might have in common.
The Getty Center's upcoming exhibition "Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai" (Nov. 14-March 4) provides a great opportunity to ponder these religious confluences, while also coming almost face-to-face with some of the earliest, and most beautiful, images in Christian art.
Many Reform Jews express their connection with the divine through social action and tikkun olam, fixing God's world. While all of these are also part of my own life as a Jew, it is study that nourishes my rationalist-traditionalist soul and links me to another realm.
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.
Shavuot commemorates the Jewish people's grandest moment of revelation -- on a mountain, but definitely not in solitude. Absolutely personal, but not in the least private.
Letters to the Editor
Los Angeles hosted the national kickoff for LiveNetworks last weekend, bringing together about 75 of the program's 87 participants. Hailing from five regional "hubs," the participants will meet about six times throughout the year in their hub location. In the process, they'll meet with local leaders and philanthropists, attend seminars and receive individual coaching and mentoring.
The holiday of Passover celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, but the Haggadah doesn't mention. Nachshon ben Aminadav. Who was this man?
A new version of "The Ten Commandments," with its timeless themes of slavery and freedom, faith and doubt, adultery and fidelity, battles and miracles, has been shaped into a four-hour miniseries by ABC-TV.
Some things never change. We all know the storyline. Moses was expected back after 40 days in heaven where he was receiving the Torah. But he was late coming back on the 40th day: "And the people saw that Moses tarried [boshesh], in coming down from the mountain" (Exodus 32:1).
This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shirah and is named for the "Song of the Sea" sung by Moses and the Israelites after they experienced the redemption at the splitting of the Red Sea. What was it, the rabbis asked, that evoked shirah, song, at this point and not earlier when they actually left Egypt? What propels the song to burst forth from their lips? When are we motivated to truly sing the song in our hearts?
Amazingly, two-thirds of all the people who have ever lived past the age of 65 in the history of the world are alive today, according to Ken Dychtwald, author of "The Power Years: A User's Guide to the Rest of Your Life." This suggests that our way-beyond octogenarians in the Bible were the exception, not the rule.
This week we meet Moses, our new leader and adviser. Moses is commanded to go to Egypt, gather the people and demand their freedom from Pharaoh.
Your child comes home and says she wants to be a doctor someday. Your spouse or serious beau tells you he or she dreams of being something greater. And you douse the dream with a comment: "You aren't smart enough," "You don't have the skills needed to do that" or "No one will take you seriously."