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The White Lie

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

Closeness And Distance

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.

The Power Of Dreams

From Joseph we learn three principles. The first: Dream dreams. Second: Leaders interpret other people’s dreams. Third: Find a way to implement dreams:

Improbable Endings And The Defeat Of Despair

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.

The Struggle Of Faith

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.

When The “I” Is Silent

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.

Esau’s Other Face

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.

The World’s Oldest Man

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.

The Space Between Us

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?

Yes, There’s Room For Israel

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.

The Universality Of Sukkot

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 Kippur Thoughts

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...

To Avenge Or Not To Avenge: That Is The Question

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.

Why Be Jewish

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 Limits Of Grief

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.

Philosophy Or Prophecy

At the heart of Judaism is a twofold understanding of the nature of God and His relationship to the universe.

A People That Dwells Alone

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.”

The Continuity Of Death And Life

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.

Leadership Beyond Despair

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.

Longing To Be A Saint

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

Why Civilizations Die

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.

The Sin Offering

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?

Encampments & Journeys

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.

The Sabbath: First Day Or Last?

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.

Who Is Honored?

In parshat Tetzaveh, for once Moses, the hero, the leader, the liberator, the lawgiver, is offstage. Instead our focus is on his elder brother Aaron who, elsewhere, is often in the background.

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