That Moses needed to resort to force was itself a sign that he had been dragged down to the level of the rebels. That is what happens when power, not truth, is at stake.
Part of what makes religion a force for honest and altruistic behavior is the belief that G-d sees what we do.
True humility means silencing the “I.” For genuinely humble people, it is G-d and other people and principle that matter, not me.
Judaism strongly believes that G-d is to be found in the midst of the physical world that He created that is, in the first chapter of Genesis, seven times pronounced “good.” It believes not in renouncing pleasure but in sanctifying it.
Because the law came before the land, even when Jews lost the land they still had the law. This meant that even in exile, Jews were still a nation.
Only one other nation in history has consistently seen its fate in similar terms, namely the United States. The influence of the Hebrew Bible on American history – carried by the Pilgrim Fathers and reiterated in presidential rhetoric ever since – was decisive.
What makes Judaism distinctive is its commitment to both freedom and equality, while at the same time recognizing the tension between them.
Having chosen to identify His Name with the people of Israel, G-d is, as it were, caught between the demands of justice on the one hand, and public perception on the other.
Expiation demands a ritual. Yet Maimonides does not explain why Yom Kippur demanded a rite not used on other days when sin or guilt offerings were brought.
Our best defence is not abstract principle but specific memory
It is one of the most counterintuitive acts in the history of leadership. Moshe did not speak about today or tomorrow. He spoke about the distant future and the duty of parents to educate their children.
According to the Sages’ interpretation, the law of tzara’at constitutes one of the rare instances in the Torah of punishment by shame rather than guilt.
Lena told the families with whom she was working that every day they must notice each member of the family doing something right, and say so – specifically, positively and thankfully.
The most fundamental mistake – the mistake of Nadav and Avihu – is to take the powers that belong to man’s encounter with the world and apply them to man’s encounter with the Divine.
Had G-d not told the first humans: ‘Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves in the ground’? That is why Abel brought an animal sacrifice.
The key element is not so much giving something up (the usual meaning of sacrifice), but rather bringing something close to G-d.
It is the mark of a good society that public leadership is seen as a form of service rather than a means to power.
How do you restore moral order – not just then in the days of Moses, but even now? The answer lies in the first word of today’s parsha: Vayakhel.
This is a totally counterintuitive truth: The more we believe that G-d punishes the guilty, the more forgiving we become; the less we believe that G-d punishes the guilty, the more resentful and punitive we become.
This week’s Torah portion marks the first time we encounter the idea of a hereditary elite within the Jewish people
That is why a society based on rights NOT responsibilities, on what we claim from, not what we give to others, will always eventually go wrong.
As the realization that he was a Jew began to change his life, it also transformed his understanding of the world.
The first three commands establish the single most important principle of a free society, namely the moral limits of power.
While it is true that the enemy always hates us for a reason, it is his reason, not ours.
In Judaism, the stories are not engraved in stone on memorials…. They are told at home, around the table, from parents to children as the gift of the past to the future.
Freedom in the deepest sense, the freedom to do the right and the good, is not a given. We acquire it, or lose it, gradually.
This is the first recorded instance in history of civil disobedience – refusing to obey an order, given by the most powerful man in the most powerful empire of the ancient world, simply because it was immoral.
Forgiveness does not appear in every culture. It is not a human universal, nor is it a biological imperative.
In order to choose between right and wrong, between good and bad – in order to live the moral life – we must make sure not only to look, but also to listen.
We became the people whose heroes were teachers, whose citadels were schools, and whose passion was learning and the life of the mind. The end result was that Judaism did survive and thrive throughout the centuries, whereas Ancient Greece … declined.