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Jewish Journal

Tag: Torah Portion

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  • First Fruits

    September 5, 2012 | 12:35 pm

    Earlier today I bit into a crisp, bright green plum. The plum, a new variety at my local farmers’ market, showed up for the first time this week. It is hard to believe

    that after months of stone fruit wonders, there are still different varieties appearing. In the simple act of...

  • Conditionally unconditional

    August 29, 2012 | 5:06 pm

    Dear Mom: It’s been a long time coming, but I owe you an apology. There have been simply too many jokes at your expense, like the time you told your friends I was such a devoted son that I spend $150 on you every week — talking to my therapist. Or, when you and Dad proudly...

  • “Ayeka? Where are You?” -  A D’var Torah for Parashat Shoftim

    By Rabbi John Rosove

    August 24, 2012 | 7:33 am

    This story is told by Howard Schwartz who based it on the tale by Zevulon Qort from Ben Zion Asherov of Afghanistan (I have edited his original telling):

    “There was once a Jew who went out into the world to fulfill the Biblical commandment – Tzedek tzedek tirdof [Deut. 26:20]...

  • Pagan inspiration

    August 15, 2012 | 1:31 pm

    “Beware of being lured into their ways ... Do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did those nations worship their gods? I too will follow the same practices!’” (Deuteronomy 12:30).

    I am struck by this verse from our parasha, because I have benefited greatly from other...

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  • Circumcise your hearts

    By Rabbi Dan Moskovitz

    August 8, 2012 | 11:59 am

    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...

  • Moving toward possibility

    By Rabbi Lisa Edwards

    August 1, 2012 | 12:03 pm

    Moses is 120 years old when, in this week’s Torah portion, Va’etchanan, he recalls his recent request of God: “I pleaded with the Eternal at that time, saying, ‘O Eternal God, You who let your servant see the first works of Your greatness and Your mighty hand, You whose...

  • Lessons from a prophet on Tisha b’Av

    By Rabbi Elazar Muskin

    July 25, 2012 | 2:28 pm

    A man visiting from Manhattan introduced himself after finishing a Shabbat afternoon class in Jewish ethics and told me the following story: In the early years of Lincoln Square Synagogue, when Rabbi Shlomo Riskin was the rabbi, he always wanted a certain leading member to serve as...

  • Ritual of Return

    By Rabbi Anne Brener

    July 18, 2012 | 3:43 pm

    This double parasha brings us to the end of the book of Bemidbar. The Israelites stand at the edge of the Promised Land, following Moses’ last military campaign. Before the people can leave the wilderness, the soldiers must go through rituals of purification. They must stay “outside...

  • Finding balance

    By Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater

    July 11, 2012 | 11:25 am

    Popularized by Harry Belafonte in one generation and by the Grateful Dead in another, the song “Man Smart (Woman Smarter)” comes to mind for me as we read Parashat Pinchas, which contains the transformative and important story of the daughters of Zelophechad. Starting in biblical...

  • A new kind of heroism

    July 5, 2012 | 12:41 pm

    The dilemma faced by families in today’s health care environment when it comes to making end-of-life decisions is captured vividly in a June 24 article in St. Louis, Mo.’s daily online newspaper, STLToday.com. It tells the story of an 89-year-old woman who died two years ago...

  • Rhyme and Reason

    By Rabbi Dov Fischer

    June 27, 2012 | 2:00 pm

    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?

    Most students are taught that Moshe’s misfeasance was that he hit the boulder even though...

  • Bury Korach

    By Rabbi Laura Geller

    June 20, 2012 | 12:56 pm

    This is a tough Torah portion. It’s the story of Korach, the man who led a revolt against Moses. He gathers 250 of the most important leaders and challenges Moses:

    “You take too much upon yourself, Moses. Not just you, but all the congregation is holy, every one of us. Why do you...

  • Call to war

    By Rabbi Daniel Bouskila

    June 6, 2012 | 2:11 pm

    There are powerful moments when life’s experiences bring deeper meaning to the Torah and her classic commentators.

    It was Shabbat, June 5, 1982.

    I was nearing the end of my first year abroad in Israel, and I spent that Shabbat in Haifa with my family. A few days earlier, on June...

  • Shine a light

    By Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky

    May 30, 2012 | 12:01 pm

    The words of the priestly blessing are among the most resonant and familiar to us in all of Jewish tradition. Whether they are being pronounced by the kohanim themselves in synagogue, or invoked at the Friday-night table, or at a baby naming or wedding, they generate as much emotion...

  • When your brother will be low

    By Rabbi Lisa Edwards

    May 15, 2012 | 9:04 pm

    He flopped down on the couch in my study, looking pale, upset.

    “What is it?” I asked, imagining a bad diagnosis.

    “I had to lay off one of my workers today,” he said, fighting tears. “The poor guy says he only has two mortgage payments in his savings account.”

    “Any...

  • How to be a priest

    May 9, 2012 | 12:04 pm

    Leviticus is the biblical book rabbis do not want you to read. Saturated with sacrificial minutiae and unsettling descriptions of ritual impurity, its countless sheep and goat offerings seem a more effective salve for insomnia than any woe that pains the heart. After all, what do...

  • Don’t worry, be happy

    May 2, 2012 | 12:32 pm

    Each year on Yom Kippur, we read lines from this week’s Torah portion that teach us about appropriate observance during this High Holy Day. And within this reading we find the defining line, “It shall be a Sabbath of Sabbaths for you, and you shall afflict yourselves [v’initem...

  • More than skin deep

    By Rabbi Dan Moskovitz

    April 25, 2012 | 12:03 pm

    Yuck, skin disease! This has been the cry of many a bar and bat mitzvah student when informed that this week’s Torah portion will be their Torah reading on their big day. I empathize with them, for I have had the same reaction in preparing this column. But as is so often the case...

  • Lessons My Grandfather Taught Me

    By Rabbi Elazar Muskin

    April 11, 2012 | 11:18 am

    Every Passover, as I sit with my family at our seder, I inevitably think of my paternal grandfather, after whom I was named. I never met him. He died five years before I was born, and I was born on the anniversary of his burial. But from earliest childhood, I felt that my grandfather...

  • Learning to live with Leviticus

    March 29, 2012 | 5:54 pm

    Growing up, I related to the book of Leviticus and its sacrificial cult with indifference (what’s this got to do with me?) or embarrassment (does God really need us to kill animals, sprinkle their blood and burn their carcasses for ritual purposes?). But over time, I’ve learned...

  • Make the Old New Again

    March 21, 2012 | 1:50 pm

    At the ripe age of 8, I learned the Peter Allen song “Everything Old Is New Again.” It may have been an unusual choice for an 8-year-old to crave hearing over and over. But for me, this song was synonymous with dance class, doing the soft shoe that landed me on stage for the...

  • A place for being

    March 15, 2012 | 3:33 pm

    Imagine, amid the detailed planning, frenzied gathering of precious objects, painstaking construction and growing sense of anticipation, Moses stands before the people and says, Enough! “Let no man or woman make further effort toward gifts for the sanctuary!” (Exodus 36:6).

    I...

  • Ultimate Truths

    By Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater

    March 8, 2012 | 11:22 am

    Do you consider yourself an idolater? I ask the question in a serious manner, for one of the main aversions, according to the Torah, is the path of idolatry, a path we witness in our parasha this week, Ki Tisa, with the Golden Calf. Yet, in today’s modern world, what does it mean...

  • Holy Sanctuaries or Golden Calves

    February 23, 2012 | 9:48 am

    As human beings, can we know precisely what God wants from us? It might seem, from the beginning of this week’s parasha, that we can: “Bring Me gifts. You shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is willing. And these are the gifts you shall accept from them”...

  • Protecting the innocent

    By Rabbi Yonah Bookstein

    February 16, 2012 | 1:01 pm

    “You shall not take up a false report” (Exodus 23:2).

    Steve Leaderman, 38, was on trial this month for failing to disperse, having been arrested on Nov. 30 during the final stand of the Occupy L.A. protest at City Hall Plaza. Tried before a jury, these criminal cases carry up to...

  • A love story

    By Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky

    February 9, 2012 | 6:41 pm

    Many of us are familiar with the rabbinic image in which God lifts Mount Sinai above the heads of the Israelites, threatening them with death if they refuse the Torah. Less familiar but no less prevalent in rabbinic literature is a strikingly different take on this scene. In the...

  • Hillel’s voice is back, and she sounds great!

    By Rabbi Daniel Bouskila

    February 3, 2012 | 6:08 pm

    This week I write to you from Jerusalem, inspired by the headline story from this past Tuesday ‘s Ha’aretz. On the first morning of my trip, here is the headline I woke up to: “New Orthodox Rabbinical Group Puts Israeli Women at Its Head – Hopes to Counter Creeping Religious...

  • Discordant disappointment

    February 1, 2012 | 5:56 pm

    Parashat Beshallah is a symphony beautifully played, until the orchestra flubs the finale. It is a prima donna nailing the high note of the aria, just to blow out her voice three bars before the close.

    The parasha certainly starts with high grandeur and suspense. B’nai Yisrael...

  • Israel at the Academy Awards… again

    January 30, 2012 | 11:08 am

    Most 43-year-old film directors/screenwriters cannot say that half of the films they have made were nominated for Academy Awards. Joseph Cedar is an exception to that rule. The 43-year-old Cedar, born in the United States but raised in Israel, just secured his second Oscar nomination...

  • Silence of the dogs

    January 26, 2012 | 5:31 pm

    We read two puzzling statements as God prepares to exact the plagues in this week’s parasha. “And I will pass through Egypt ... and I will smite every first-born ... and I will exact judgments against all the gods of Egypt. I am God” (Exodus 12:12). Moreover, on that night,...

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