Other nations, says Moses, will recognize the miraculous nature of the Jewish story.
The sedra of Shemot, in a series of finely etched vignettes, paints a portrait of the life of Moses, culminating in the moment at which G-d appears to him in the bush that burns without being consumed. It is a key text of the Torah view of leadership, and every detail is significant. I want here to focus on just one passage in the long dialogue in which G-d summons Moses to undertake the mission of leading the Israelites to freedom – a challenge which, no less than four times, Moses declines. I am unworthy, he says. I am not a man of words. Send someone else. It is the second refusal, however, which attracted special attention from the sages and led them to formulate one of their most radical interpretations.
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.
“We received Torah from Moses” or “from our parents” isn't enough. We must write our "own" scroll
Joseph had, in double measure, one of the necessary gifts of a leader: the ability to keep going despite opposition, envy, false accusation and repeated setbacks.
During The Three Weeks between 17 Tammuz and Tisha B’Av, as we recall the destruction of the Temples, we read three of the most searing passages in the prophetic literature, the first two from the opening of the book of Jeremiah, the third, next week, from the first chapter of Isaiah.
In the Torah, God summons His special people, Israel, to take the first steps towards what might eventually become a truly egalitarian society – or to put it more precisely, a society in which dignity, kavod, does not depend on power or wealth or an accident of birth.
For the first and only time, Moses invokes a miracle to prove the authenticity of his mission
It would be reasonable to assume that a language that contains the verb “to command” must also contain the verb “to obey.” The one implies the other, just as the concept of a question implies the possibility of an answer. We would, however, be wrong. There are 613 commandments in the Torah, but there is no word in biblical Hebrew that means “to obey.” When Hebrew was revived as a language of everyday speech in the nineteenth century, a word, letsayet, had to be borrowed from Aramaic. Until then there was no Hebrew word for “to obey.”
When Jacob was chosen, Esau was not rejected; G-d does not reject.
To understand the power of this anti-climax, we must remember that only since the invention of printing and the availability of books have we been able to tell what happens next merely by turning a page.
Evil speech destroys relationships. Good speech mends them. This works not only in marriages and families, but also in communities, organizations and businesses. So: in any relationship that matters to you, deliver praise daily
Both said chattati, “I have sinned.” But their fates were radically different.
The last two commands of the Torah, mentioned in this week's parsha-Hakhel and the command to write, or at take part in writing, a Sefer Torah-are about renewal, first collective, then individual.
The test was not whether Abraham would sacrifice his son but whether he would give him over to G-d.
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.
So as we celebrate Chanukah, spare a thought for the real victory, which was not military but spiritual. Jews were the people who valued marriage, the home, and peace between husband and wife, above the highest glory on the battlefield. In Judaism, the light of peace takes precedence over the light of war
And so Moses dies, alone on a mountain with God as he had been all those years ago when, as a shepherd...
He did so for the butler and baker in prison and, in this week’s parsha, for Pharaoh. His interpretations were neither magical nor miraculous.
Rebecca, hitherto infertile, became pregnant. Suffering acute pain, she went to inquire of the Lord – “vateilech lidrosh et Hashem” (Bereishit 25:22). The explanation she received was that she was carrying twins who were contending in her womb. They were destined to do so long into the future.
Of Chukkim “Satan and the nations of the world made fun.” They may appear irrational & superstitious
For each of us G-d has a task: work to perform, a kindness to show, a gift to give, love to share, loneliness to ease, pain to heal, or broken lives to help mend.
Keriat haTorah, properly understood, is a performative act. It is a weekly recreation of the revelation at Mount Sinai. It is a covenant ratification ceremony like the one Moshe performed at Sinai:
Science deals in causes and effects, not purpose and meaning. In the end, he concluded that only religious faith rescues life from meaninglessness.
For me, one of the gifts of this strange, difficult time has been the ability to slow down the prayers so that I am able to listen to them speaking to me. Praying is as much about listening as speaking. And faith itself is the ability to hear the music beneath the noise.
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?
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.
We have moral duties as individuals, and we make political decisions as nations. The two are different.
In the sanctuary, the specific domain called “the holy” is where we meet God on His terms, not ours. Yet this too is God’s way of conferring dignity on mankind.
The biblical covenant has the same literary structure as ancient near eastern political treaties.