Only later did I discover the real significance of Elijah’s cup, and found, as so often, that the truth is no less moving than the stories we learned as children.
How moving it is, therefore, that the first recorded instance of civil disobedience – predating Thoreau by more than three millennia – is the story in this week's parsha of Shifra and Puah, two ordinary women defying Pharaoh in the name of simple humanity.
Is it permitted to tell a white lie? Not only is it permitted to tell a white lie to save a life; it is also permitted to do so for the sake of peace. And we learn this in this week's
For perhaps the first time in his life, Judah came close to his brother Joseph. The irony is, of course, that he did not know it was Joseph.
From Joseph we learn three principles. The first: Dream dreams. Second: Leaders interpret other people’s dreams. Third: Find a way to implement dreams:
Parshat Vayeshev has the form of a Greek tragedy. Judaism is the opposite of tragedy. It tells us that every bad fate can be averted and that despair is never justified; today’s curse may be the beginning of tomorrow’s blessing.
Why not paint Jacob in more attractive colors? It seems to me that the Torah is delivering, here as elsewhere, an extraordinary message: that if we can truly relate to God as God, in His full transcendence and majesty, then we can relate to humans as humans in all their fallibility.
More than prayer changes G-d, it changes us. It lets us see, feel, and know that “G-d is in this place.” That is why, and where, Jacob, established Ma’ariv, the evening prayer.
Rav Kook believed that just as in the Torah, Jacob and Esau and Isaac and Ishmael were eventually reconciled, so will Judaism, Christianity, and Islam be in future. They would not cease to be different, but they would learn to respect one another.
Abraham and Holocaust survivors shared the commitment to first building the future and only then allowing themselves to remember the past. That is what Abraham did in this week’s parsha.
Abraham was acting on both occasions--the banishment of Ishmael and the sacrifice of Isaac--against his emotions, his paternal instincts. What is the Torah telling us about the nature of fatherhood?
The premise of the Torah is that G-d must be found somewhere in particular if He is to be found everywhere in general. As Shabbat is holy time, Israel is holy space. That is why, in Judaism, religion is tied to a land, and a land is linked to a religion.
On the one hand, Sukkot is the most universalistic of all festivals with the sacrifices brought by the 70 nations; on the other, it is the most particularist of festivals, the festival of a people like no other, whose only protection was its faith in the sheltering wings of the Divine presence.
Yom Kipper, the Day of Atonement, is the supreme moment of Jewish time, a day of fasting and prayer, introspection and self-judgment. At no...
The search for perfect justice is not for us, here, now. It is – as Moses taught the Israelites in the great song he sang at the end of his life – something that faith demands we leave to G-d, who alone knows the human heart, who alone knows what is just in a world of conflicting claims, and who will establish perfect justice at a time, and in a way, of His choosing, not ours.
The sages believed with great force that an agreement must be free to be binding. Yet we did not agree to be Jews. We were, most of us, born Jews. We were not there in Moses’ day when the agreement was made. We did not yet exist. How then can we be bound by the covenant?
The more we learn about the psychology of bereavement and the stages through which we must pass before loss is healed, so more the wisdom of Judaism’s ancient laws and customs becomes ever more clear.
At the heart of Judaism is a twofold understanding of the nature of God and His relationship to the universe.
Where then does Jewish singularity emerge? The clue lies in the precise wording of Bilaam’s blessing: “Behold it is a people that dwells alone.”
In the Torah, law and narrative are intertwined for the very profound reason that G-d’s law is not arbitrary. It speaks to the human condition, arising out of human history.
We identify with the heroes of the Bible because, despite their greatness, they never cease to be human, nor do they aspire to be anything else. Hence the phenomenon of which the sedra of Beha’alotecha provides a shattering example: the vulnerability of some of the greatest religious leaders of all time, to depression and despair.
Maimonides holds there is not one model of the virtuous life, but two. He calls them, respectively, the way of the saint and the sage. It is this deep insight that led Maimonides to his seemingly contradictory evaluations of the nazirite
Judaism survives due to Divine Providence and the foresight of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai who resisted cognitive breakdown, created solutions for tomorrow's problems, who did not seek refuge in the irrational, and who quietly built the Jewish future.
Why should unintentional sins require atonement at all? What guilt is involved? Had the offender known he would not have done what he did. Why then does he have to undergo a process of atonement?
In the sanctuary, the specific domain called “the holy” is where we meet God on His terms, not ours. Yet this too is God’s way of conferring dignity on mankind.