When looking for biblical themes on the importance of community, one needs look no further than those portions at the end of Exodus that deal with the construction of the mishkan (Tabernacle). This special structure represents the collective spiritual power of the Jewish people,...
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Tag: Torah Portion
March 1, 2011 | 6:00 pm
February 22, 2011 | 6:19 pm
As Jews, our character and faith are defined essentially by the story of our ancient liberation from slavery in Egypt, informing our concern for the welfare of those who are similarly oppressed. But as a minority often vulnerable to the whims of tyrannical victors, we are also keenly...
February 16, 2011 | 10:42 am
Idolatry. Sexual immorality. Murder. The description of the events of the Golden Calf in this week’s portion sounds like the outline for a new cable television series. By the end of the portion, the main characters of Aaron and the Hebrews are forgiven and allowed to keep going on...
February 8, 2011 | 3:36 pm
It is written that Rabbi Simeon asked Elijah: “What does the Holy One, blessed be God, study in the firmament?” Elijah said to him: “God studies the sacrificial offerings.”
The bulk of our Torah portion, Tetzaveh, is devoted to rituals concerning sacrifice. A vast amount of the 613...
February 2, 2011 | 11:41 am
Parashat Terumah is the first of the weekly Torah portions with a narrative that fails to excite. We have been reading about the world’s creation, the Flood and its diluvial ramifications, the stories of our matriarchs and their husbands, the Great Exodus from Egypt that brought us...
January 25, 2011 | 5:55 pm
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...
January 19, 2011 | 9:39 am
Who is wise? Where is wisdom? It is easy for us to answer simply and elegantly, “Wisdom is in the Torah.” Perfect! Because the Torah, in this week’s parasha, offers the wisdom that all of God’s creations, particularly our friends and neighbors, can be a source of great...
January 11, 2011 | 6:28 pm
Last month, an 85-year-old Jew from Queens, N.Y., proudly joined other invited guests at the White House as President Obama signed into law the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” paving the way — finally — for gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces....
January 5, 2011 | 1:48 pm
Nature abhors a vacuum. And so do biblical stories.
If we take a minute to read the story of the Exodus not from our point of view — that of the liberated
victims — but from the objective view of an outside mediator, we will likely find ourselves asking the following...
December 22, 2010 | 12:26 pm
At the beginning of Shemot, when Jacob’s offspring were enslaved, oppressed and abused, where were the people who dared to speak truth to power? Where were theconsumers who demanded that Egyptian products be free from slave labor?
Alas, the world didn’t work that way then. Few...
December 14, 2010 | 11:29 pm
“Gather, assemble yourselves and let me tell you what will become of you in the end of days,” Jacob says to his sons. These are the closing moments of the book of Bereshit (Genesis), and of all the portions in Bereshit, none is more poetic and none more opaque than Vayechi....
April 13, 2010 | 5:20 pm
Pulling the Tazriah-Metzorah card in the divrei Torah lottery is not considered a lucky draw, but I seem to get it every time. I am repeatedly assigned the task of commenting on this double parashah, which elaborates on skin eruptions, bodily secretions, contact with dead bodies and...
March 16, 2010 | 4:30 pm
This week’s portion begins a new book of the Bible, Leviticus. It is fascinating to look at the first and last words of each of the books of the Torah:
Genesis: When God began to create the heavens and the earth ... in a coffin in Egypt.
Exodus: These are the names of the...
September 2, 2009 | 4:02 pm
No catchy intro, no fancy hook this week. We are almost at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We are deep in the month of Elul, the time when we prepare our minds, bodies and souls for the upcoming days of prayer, teshuvah (repentance) and renewal. Now is the moment to ask hard questions,...
August 25, 2009 | 8:12 pm
Why shoo away the mother bird before taking her eggs or chicks? The Torah doesn’t say why we are commanded to do this. There is a major school of Jewish thought that regards this omission as being quite deliberate. This is the school that produced the Mishnah’s teaching...
April 22, 2009 | 2:02 am
A number of years ago, when my two daughters were 8 and 6, we had the pleasure of spending a family summer vacation in Israel. We stayed at my mother-in-law’s home right near Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. One day while eating breakfast we heard a truck pass outside with a...
October 29, 2008 | 10:35 pmYou Can't Ask a Rabbi THAT...
Asking your rabbi a question about your period or your sex life might seem odd, but couples who observe the laws of family purity -- where they refrain from sexual contact during and after a woman's menstrual cycle -- occasionally need to provide...
June 12, 2008 | 2:33 pm
May 29, 2008 | 2:30 pmWhat are the ingredients for a successful marriage? A great medieval sage once suggested the following four:
- Commit to permanence: We are in this forever, no matter what adversities enter into our marriage, and no matter how bored we may get with each other over time. So long as...
January 11, 2007 | 7:00 pmThe 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...
June 22, 2006 | 8:00 pm
A man was on a business trip, driving from one city to the next. Struck by the tranquility and open space of a small town en route to his destination, he pulled up to a farmer at a nearby cornfield and asked, "What are the people like in this area?"
"What are people like where you...
June 8, 2006 | 8:00 pm
A number of years ago I was invited to spend Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, in Germany. I fell asleep on the outbound Lufthansa flight, and somewhere over the Atlantic I woke up as the sun began to shine through my window.
With tallit and tefillin in hand, I began my walk to...
June 16, 2005 | 8:00 pm
Our teachers come in many forms and shapes. Many of mine have, over the years, appeared somewhat similar both in regard to gender and profession. The ones that never cease to surprise me, demanding of me to think beyond myself, are my younger students. Clearly, the younger -- the...
May 19, 2005 | 8:00 pm
An international dealer in high-end fabrics once visited with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson. As an active member of the Chabad community in England, the businessman was quite familiar with how the Rebbe's advice and blessings had impacted many people's lives in...
May 5, 2005 | 8:00 pm
There are many questions that I want to ask God face to face. Some clustered in theology, others in theodicy. Some have to do with His/Her sense of humor (often biting and dry, although quite creative). Some question evil, pain and suffering. At times I simply want to check in to...
March 3, 2005 | 7:00 pm
This week's Torah portion, Vayakhel (meaning "and he gathered"), is about the community of Israelites building the Mishkan. Think about the communities you belong to: your school, your neighborhood and your synagogue. How can you be a bigger part of your...
February 17, 2005 | 7:00 pm
Presidents Day is on Feb. 21. And in this week's Torah portion, Tetzaveh, it describes what would be a tipe of presidential inauguration for Aaron and his sons as the high priests of Israel.
Answer this quiz correctly for a presidential prize!
February 10, 2005 | 7:00 pm
Often, when sitting with my students, I find myself asking them, "What do you want?" and then "What do you need?" The answer to both these questions inevitably is not the same. I have learned this the hard way, like many other lessons. While I may have wanted something from...
January 27, 2005 | 7:00 pm
Many Jews who live their lives in a traditional Jewish way will often punctuate their remarks with the term, "Baruch Hashem,"
which means "Blessed be Hashem." The words are used as a response to so many situations, both good and bad. It is a way of recognizing that the power and...
January 6, 2005 | 7:00 pm
For the last several years I have had a relationship with a man in prison, and I have seen how his soul has become anguished and diminished by sitting in that cell.
I met William after he was released from prison the first time, and I helped him get back on his feet. Now I write...