This week’s sedrah, Shelach Lecha, ends with one of the great commands of Judaism – tzitzit, the fringes we wear on the corner of our garments as a perennial reminder of our identity as Jews and our obligation to keep the Torah’s commands.
In Judaism, monarchy had little or no religious function.
We must never forget that when Aaron was left to lead, the people made a golden calf. But never forget that Moses needed an Aaron to hold the people together. In short, leadership is the capacity to hold together different temperaments, conflicting voices and clashing values.
The Torah is telling us something very powerful. Never think of people as things. Never think of people as types: they are individuals. Never be content with creating systems: care also about relationships.
For too long, people have thought that religion and science are destined to be in conflict.
We are what we remember, and the first-fruits declaration was a way of ensuring that Jews would never forget.
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.
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
By now Moses had given 612 commands to the Israelites. But there was one further instruction he still had to give, the last of his life, the final mitzvah in the Torah: “Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be My witness against the people of Israel” (Deuteronomy 31: 19).
According to Maimonides there is not one model of the virtuous life, but two. He calls them, respectively, the way of the saint (chassid) and the sage (chacham).
Hidden beneath the surface of Parshat Chayei Sarah, for example, is another story, alluded to only in a series of hints. Here are three clues in the text...
There is a fascinating moment in the unfolding story of the plagues that should make us stop and take notice. Seven plagues have now struck Egypt.
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.
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
Vayakhel is Moses’ response to the wild abandon of the crowd that gathered around Aaron and made the golden calf.
Why was spontaneity wrong for Nadav and Avihu, yet right for Moshe Rabbeinu? The answer is that Nadav and Avihu were kohanim, priests. Moses was a navi, a prophet. These are two different forms of religious leadership. They involve different tasks and different sensibilities, indeed different approaches to time itself.
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?
Itzchak, having grown up in the household of Avraham and Sarah, had never encountered deception before, and was thus, in his innocence, misled by his son. Rivka, who had grown up in the company of Lavan, recognized it very well, which is why she favored Yaakov,
A pattern is beginning to emerge: Avraham was learning that there is a long and winding road between promise and fulfillment. Not because G-d does not keep His word, but because Avraham and his descendants were charged with bringing something new into the world
Judaism is a religion of love but also a religion of justice, for without justice, love corrupts.
A Jew is an iconoclast, born to challenge the idols of the age,whatever the idols, whatever the age.
t was not Joseph but Judah who conferred his identity on the people; Judah who became the ancestor of Israel’s greatest king, David; Judah from whom the messiah will be born. Why Judah and not Joseph? The answer undoubtedly lies in the beginning of Parshat Vayigash,
What kind of man was Jacob? This is the question that cries out to us in episode after episode of his life.
The terms of Jewish history were about to shift from Divine initiative to human initiative. This is what Moses was preparing the Israelites for in the last month of his life. This is the epic significance of Nitzavim
Leaders lead. They don’t conform for the sake of conforming. They don’t do what others do merely because others are doing it. They think outside the box. They march to a different tune.
Pagan prophets like Bilam had not yet learned the lesson we must all one day learn: What matters is not that God does what we want, but that we do what He wants.
Why not paint Jacob in more attractive colors? It seems to me that the Torah is delivering, here as elsewhere, an extraordinary message: that if we can truly relate to God as God, in His full transcendence and majesty, then we can relate to humans as humans in all their fallibility.
Sukkot's duality is that it's the most universalistic and the most particularistic of all festivals
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.
Could we understand the history of Israel without its prehistory, the stories of Abraham and Sarah and their children?