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.
The story of the Creation of the World is told with the utmost brevity: a mere 34 verses. Why take some 15 times as long to tell the story of the Sanctuary?
There are 613 commandments in the Torah. Why does Mishpatim, the first law code, begin where it does, concerned with slavery and freedom?
In parshat Yitro, Israel receives its first system of governance: a hierarchical structure of authority with Moses at the top. Why did this important development come, as it were, from outside?
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.
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,
Pesach represents the start of the great journey of Jewish history – from slavery to freedom, Egypt to the Promised Land.
When Moses asks, “Who am I?” He feels himself unworthy and uninvolved. He may have been Jewish by birth, but he had not suffered the fate of his people. How, then, could he become their leader?
Only a civilization based on forgiveness can construct a future that is not an endless repetition of the past. That, surely, is why Judaism is the only civilization whose golden age is in the future.
Jacob, Leah, Tamar and Joseph discover that, though they may never win the affection they desire, G-d is with them and that, ultimately, is enough. A disguise hides one from others, but not from G-d
he first 11 chapters of Genesis teach us many fundamentals of faith; Exodus to Deuteronomy is about revelation and redemption. But what are Genesis 12-50 about?
Jacob is someone with whom we can identify and understand. We can feel his fear, understand his pain at the tensions in his family, and sympathize with his longing for a life of quietude and peace
Laban’s behavior is the paradigm of anti-Semites through the ages. It was not so much what Laban did that the Haggadah is referring to, but what his behavior gave rise to, in century after century.
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?
Why the binding? Why put Abraham and Sarah through the agony of thinking that the son for whom they have waited for so long is about to die? We cherish what we wait for and what we most risk losing.
The most influential man who ever lived, does not appear on any list I have seen of the hundred most influential men in history. He ruled no empire, commanded no army, His name, of course, is Abraham
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 heart of Sukkot is to know that life is full of risk and yet to affirm it, to sense the full insecurity of the human situation and yet to rejoice in it. Chag Sameach!
The last two commands of the Torah, mentioned in this week's parsha-Hakhel and the command to write, or at take part in writing, a Sefer Torah-are about renewal, first collective, then individual.
We are what we remember, and the first-fruits declaration was a way of ensuring that Jews would never forget.
The opening three laws of this parsha- a captive woman taken in war, the law about the rights of the firstborn, and the “stubborn and rebellious son” – are all about dysfunctions within the family.
Judaism is a religion of compassion, for without compassion law itself can generate inequity. Justice plus compassion equals tzedek, the first precondition of a decent society.
In Judaism, joy is the supreme religious emotion. Moses says again and again that joy is what we should feel in the land of Israel, the land given to us by God.
There is something profoundly spiritual about listening-shema. It is the most effective form of conflict resolution I know.
Most people talk about what. Some people talk about how. Great leaders, though, start with why. This is what makes them transformative.