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21 Elul 5779 -
? Saturday, September 21, 2019


A Nation Of Storytellers

A large part of what Moshe is doing in the book of Devarim is retelling that story to the next generation, reminding them of what G-d had done for their parents and of some of the mistakes their parents had made. Moshe, as well as being the great liberator, is the supreme storyteller. Yet what he does in this week's parsha, Ki Tavo, extends way beyond this.

Does The Torah Care About Animal Welfare?

Animals are part of G-d’s creation. They have their own integrity in the scheme of things. This would not have been news to the heroes of the Bible.

The Torah As Environmentalist

Areligious vision is so important, reminding us that we are not owners of our resources. They belong not to us but to the Eternal and eternity. Hence we may not needlessly destroy-even in war

Why Is The Jewish People So Small?

Israel defies the laws of history because it serves the Author of history. Attached to greatness, it becomes great. Through the Jewish people, G-d is telling humankind that you do not need to be numerous to be great. Nations are judged not by their size but by their contribution to human heritage.

The Teacher As Hero

Your life seems to be coming to a tragic end, your destination unreached, your aspirations unfulfilled. What do you do? WWMD?

Priorities: Parshat Matot

Moses’ implied rebuke to the tribes of Reuben and Gad is not a minor historical detail but a fundamental statement of Jewish priorities. Property is secondary, children primary.

Following Moshe

Dignity is not a privilege of birth. Honor is not confined to those with the right parents. In the world defined and created by Torah, everyone is a potential leader.

Not Reckoned Among The Nations

Tanach is perhaps the least self-congratulatory national literature in history. Jews chose to record for history their faults, not their virtues.

In Judaism, Religion and Nationhood Coincide

Why did God choose that Israel be blessed by Bilaam? Surely there is the principl “Good things come about through good people” (Tosefta Yoma 4:12). Why did this good thing come about through a bad man?

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.

The Religious Significance Of Israel

Whatever the subplots and subsidiary themes of the Chumash, its overarching narrative is the promise of and journey to the land. Jewish history begins with Avraham and Sarah’s journey to it. The four subsequent books of the Torah, from Exodus to Deuteronomy, are taken up with the second journey in the days of Moshe.

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”?

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