Losing Miriam

What made this trial different? Why did Moshe momentarily lose control? Why then? Why there? He had faced just this challenge before.

How To Argue

The story of Korach remains the classic example of how argument can be dishonored. The Schools of Hillel and Shammai remind us that there is another way.

Fear Of Freedom

The spies were not afraid of failure, he said. They were afraid of success.

Many Jews, One People

Our task as a people of destiny is to bear witness to the presence of G-d – through the way we lead our lives (Torah) and the path we chart as a people across the centuries (history).

Sages And Saints

A society takes all types... Shabbat Shalom!

A Nation Of Indivduals

In Judaism taking a census must always be done in such a way as to signal that we are valued as individuals. We each have unique gifts. There is a contribution only I can bring. To lift someone’s head means to show them favor, to recognize them. It is a gesture of love.

The Birth Of Hope

Hope is one of the very greatest Jewish contributions to Western civilization, so much so that I have previously called Judaism “the voice of hope in the conversation of humankind.” Without this, Jews and Judaism would not have survived.

Free At Last

The Torah is based, as its narratives make clear, on history, a realistic view of human character, and a respect for freedom and choice. Philosophy is often detached from history and a concrete sense of humanity. Revolutions based on philosophical systems fail because change in human affairs takes time, and philosophy has rarely given an adequate account of the human dimension of time.

Three Versions Of Shabbat

What does Parshat Emor tell us about Shabbat that we do not learn elsewhere?

Yaakov And Eisav: Reason Vs. Instinct

Who then were Esau and Jacob? What did they represent and how is this relevant to Yom Kippur and atonement?

Education: The Key To Success

Jews became the only people in history to predicate their very survival on education. The most sacred duty of parents was to teach their children. Pesach itself became an ongoing seminar in the handing on of memory.

A Religion Of Holy Words

The Sages say, it's as bad as all three cardinal sins together – idol worship, bloodshed, and illicit sexual relations. Whoever speaks with an evil tongue, they say, is as if he denied G-d. Why are mere words treated with such seriousness in Judaism?

The Sacrifices Of Childbirth

he sacrifices a woman brings on the birth of a child, and the period during which she is unable to enter the Temple, have nothing to do with any sin she may have committed or any “defilement” she may have undergone. They are, rather, to do with the basic fact of human mortality, together with the responsibility a parent undertakes for the conduct of a child

Taking On Tragedy

In this exchange between two brothers, a momentous courage is born: the courage of an Aharon who has the strength to grieve and not accept any easy consolation, and the courage of a Moshe who has the strength to keep going in spite of grief.

Self-Destructive

The contemporary world continues to be scarred by violence and terror. Sadly, the ban against blood sacrifice is still relevant. The instinct against which it is a protest – sacrificing life to exorcise fear – still lives on.

The Pursuit Of Meaning

From the perspective of eternity we may sometimes be overwhelmed by a sense of our own insignificance. We are no more than a speck of dust on the surface of infinity. Yet we are here because G-d wanted us to be, because there is a task He wants us to perform. The search for meaning is the quest for this task.

On Jewish Character

There is a fascinating feature of the geography of the land of Israel. It contains two seas: the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The Sea of Galilee is full of life. The Dead Sea, as its name implies, is not. Yet they are fed by the same river, the Jordan. The difference is that the Sea of Galilee receives water and gives water. The Dead Sea receives but does not give. To receive but not to give is, in Jewish geography as well as Jewish psychology, simply not life.

Beauty In The Service Of God

The idea that one might worship “the work of men’s hands” was anathema to biblical faith. More generally, Judaism is a culture of the ear, not the eye. As a religion of the invisible God, it attaches sanctity to words heard, rather than objects seen. Religious art is never “art for art’s sake.” Unlike secular art, it points to something beyond itself.

A Stiff-Necked People

How can Moses invoke the people’s obstinacy as the very reason for G-d to maintain His presence among them? What is the meaning of Moses’ “because” – “may my Lord go among us, because it is a stiff- necked people”?

Brothers: A Drama In Five Acts

For once Moses, the hero, the leader, the liberator, the lawgiver, is off-stage in the only instance where the name of Moses is not mentioned at all in any parsha since the first parsha of the book of Shemot. Instead our focus is on his elder brother Aaron. The story of Aaron and Moses, the fifth act in the biblical drama of brotherhood, is where, finally, fraternity reaches the heights

A Portable Home

The very concept of making a home in finite space for an infinite presence seems a contradiction in terms. The answer, still astonishing in its profundity, is contained at the beginning of this week’s parsha: “They shall make a Sanctuary for Me, and I will dwell in them [betokham]” (Exodus 25:8).

Not So Strange

Whichever way we look at it, there is something striking about this almost endlessly iterated concern for the stranger – together with the historical reminder that “you yourselves were slaves in Egypt.” It is as if, in this series of laws, we are nearing the core of the mystery of Jewish existence itself. What is the Torah implying?

Parshat Yitro: Mount Sinai and the Birth of Freedom

With the revelation at Sinai, something unprecedented entered the human horizon...the politics of freedom was born

Splitting The Sea – Natural Or Supernatural?

We have here two ways of seeing the same events: one natural, the other supernatural. The supernatural explanation – that the waters stood upright – is immensely powerful, and so it entered Jewish memory. But the natural explanation is no less compelling. The Egyptian strength proved to be their weakness. The weakness of the Israelites became their strength.

The Necessity of Asking Questions

Judaism believes it’s a religious duty to teach our children to ask questions.

The Many Names of G-d

In this week's parsha, the Torah is preparing the ground for one of its most monumental propositions: In the darkest night, Israel was about to have its greatest encounter with God. Hope was to be born at the very edge of the abyss of despair.

Pharaoh’s Daughter Risked It All

About Batya Chazal said “The Holy One, blessed be He, said to her: ‘Moses was not your son, yet you called him your son. You are not My daughter, but I shall call you My daughter.’ ”

Changing The Past

We can only change the world if we can change ourselves. That is why the book of Genesis ends with the story of Joseph and his brothers.

The Unexpected Leader

The stories of Judah and of his descendant David tell us that what marks a leader is not necessarily perfect righteousness. It is the ability to admit mistakes, to learn from them and grow from them. The Judah we see at the beginning of the story is not the man we see at the end.

Speaking To Non-Jews About God

Judaism was and remains unique in its combination of universalism and particularism. We believe that God is the God of all humanity. He created all. He is accessible to all. He cares for all. He has made a covenant with all. Yet there is also a relationship with God that is unique to the Jewish people. It alone has placed its national life under His direct sovereignty

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