Shakespeare is expressing the medieval stereotype of Christian mercy (Portia) as against Jewish justice (Shylock).
Only in Judaism was God’s self-disclosure not to an individual or a group (the elders) but to an entire nation.
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.
Vayakhel is Moses’ response to the wild abandon of the crowd that gathered around Aaron and made the golden calf.
The name Bezalel was adopted by the artist Boris Schatz for the School of Arts and Crafts he founded in Israel in 1906, and Rav Kook wrote a touching letter in support of its creation. He saw the renaissance of art in the Holy Land as a symbol of the regeneration of the Jewish people in its own land, landscape and birthplace. Judaism in the Diaspora, removed from a natural connection with its own historic environment, was inevitably cerebral and spiritual, “alienated.”
One passage in this week’s sedrah shows how differences in interpretation can lead to, or flow from, profound differences in culture. Ironically, the subject concerned – abortion – remains deeply contentious to this day.
The life-changing idea of Chukat: we are dust of the earth but there is within us the breath of God. We fail, but we can still achieve greatness. We die, but the best part of us lives on.
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.
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 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.
It's not difficult understanding why Rebecca loved Jacob, the real question's why Isaac loved Esau?
Judaism believes it’s a religious duty to teach our children to ask questions.
Sharing influence is like lighting a candle with another: it doesn't mean having less; you have more
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you fail. Such is life.
Sukkot's the only festival sharing the pilgrimage cycle & part of Tishrei sequence-hence, double JOY
Rambam: Eating blood's forbidden because connected to idolatry;Ramban: We're affected by what we eat
First in Parshat Yitro there were the Asseret Hadibrot (the Ten Utterances, or general principles). Now in Parshat Mishpatim come the details.
Moral dilemmas are situations in which doing the right thing is not the end of the matter. The conflict may be inherently tragic. Jacob, in this parsha, finds himself trapped in such a conflict: on the one hand, he ought not allow himself to be killed; on the other, he ought not kill someone else; but he must do one or the other.
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).
God’s “name” is therefore His standing in the world. Do people acknowledge Him, respect Him, honor Him?
Jewish history may seem to signify irretrievable loss, a fate that must be accepted. Jews never believed the evidence because they had something else to set against it – a faith, a trust, an unbreakable hope that proved stronger than historical inevitability
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
The Song at the Sea was one of the great epiphanies of history. The sages said that even the humblest of Jews saw at that moment what even the greatest of prophets didn’t. For the first time they broke into collective song – a song we recite every day.
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 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.
God was saying, “From My perspective, seeing the future, it would have been better to send women, because they love and cherish the land and would never come to speak negatively about it. However, since you are convinced that these men are worthy and do indeed value the land, I give you permission to go ahead and send them.”
When Jacob was chosen, Esau was not rejected; G-d does not reject.
The revelation at Mount Sinai – the central episode not only of parshat Yitro, but of Judaism as a whole – was unique in the religious history of mankind.
"When a king dies his power ends; when a prophet dies his influence begins" & their words echo today
Judaism is a religion of love but also a religion of justice, for without justice, love corrupts.