Judaism is not a religion of blind obedience. Astonishingly of 613 commandments, there is no Hebrew word that means “to obey.” Judaism is the rarest of phenomena: a faith based on asking questions,
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 other time are we so sharply conscious of standing before God, of being known by Him. But it begins in the strangest of ways.
Sukkot is the most universalistic of all festivals. At the same time, however, it is the most particularist of festivals. When we sit in the sukkah, we recall Jewish history
The drama of younger and older brothers, which haunts the book of Bereishit from Cain and Abel onwards, reaches a strange climax in the story of Joseph’s children. Jacob is nearing the end of his life. Joseph visits him, bringing with him his two sons, Manasheh and Ephraim. It is the only scene of grandfather and grandchildren in the book. Jacob asks Joseph to bring them near so that he can bless them. What follows next is described in painstaking detail:
One of the more unusual aspects of being a chief rabbi is that one comes to know people one otherwise might not.
According to Maimonides there is not one model of the virtuous life, but two. He calls them, respectively, the way of the saint (chassid) and the sage (chacham).
There was an ongoing debate between the Sages as to whether the nazirite – whose laws are outlined in this week’s parshah – was to be praised. Recall that the nazirite was someone who voluntarily, usually for a specified period, undertook a special form of holiness. This meant that he was forbidden to consume wine or any grape products, to have a haircut, and to defile himself by contact with the dead.
Why did God command Israel to make a sanctuary for Him? Shouldn't it be unnecessary? The Golden Calf
The very act of learning in rabbinic Judaism is conceived as active debate, a kind of gladiatorial contest of the mind.
The Sanctuary as a human construct, mirrors the Divine creation of the universe. Each creation culminates in the Sabbath placing the sanctity of place in subordinate position to the holiness of time.
Vayakhel is Moses’ response to the wild abandon of the crowd that gathered around Aaron and made the golden calf.
God is found in this world, not just the next. To grow spiritually, first satisfy material needs.
For the first and only time, Moses invokes a miracle to prove the authenticity of his mission
Having set out the broad principles of the covenant, Moses now turns to the details, which extend over many chapters and several parshiyot. The long review of the laws that will govern Israel in its land begin and end with Moses posing a momentous choice.
The parshah of Va’eira begins with some fateful words. It would not be too much to say that they changed the course of history because they changed the way people thought about history. In fact, they gave birth to the very idea of history. Listen to the words:
What happens at the sea is poetic justice of the most exquisite kind. The powerful are now powerless, while the powerless have made their way to freedom.
What is the difference between philosophy and the political vision at the heart of Tanach? The answer lies in their different understandings of time.
It is not what G-d does for us that transforms us, but rather what we do for G-d. A free society is best symbolized by the Tabernacle. It is the home we build together. It is only by becoming builders that we turn from subjects to citizens. We have to earn our freedom by what we give. It cannot be given to us as an unearned gift.
It would be reasonable to assume that a language that contains the verb “to command” must also contain the verb “to obey.” The one implies the other, just as the concept of a question implies the possibility of an answer. We would, however, be wrong. There are 613 commandments in the Torah, but there is no word in biblical Hebrew that means “to obey.” When Hebrew was revived as a language of everyday speech in the nineteenth century, a word, letsayet, had to be borrowed from Aramaic. Until then there was no Hebrew word for “to obey.”
Sharing influence is like lighting a candle with another: it doesn't mean having less; you have more
“Jacob was very afraid and distressed.” His fear was physical-fear of death. His distress was moral.
Neither Abraham nor Sarah had an easy life. They faced trials testing their faith, yet Rashi says Sarah’s years were equal in goodness and the Torah says Abraham had been blessed with everything-Why?
By any standards it was a shocking episode. Jacob had settled on the outskirts of the town of Shechem, ruled by Hamor. Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, goes out to see the town. Shechem, Hamor’s son, sees her, abducts and rapes her, and then falls in love with her and wants to marry her. He begs his father, “Get me this girl as my wife.”
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.
Despite the Divine anger, the people were not condemned to permanent exile. They simply had to face the fact that their children would achieve what they themselves were not ready for.