Redeeming Relevance: Why House Clothes Simply Won’t Do

It might seem easier to pray alone to God, rather than with the various distractions of a communal setting. True, Jewish law actually recognizes this and tries to minimize these distractions by recommending a set seat, prohibiting holding objects, etc. Still, the many distractions are impossible to completely eliminate. Yet in spite of its drawbacks, we derive strength from doing things together with a group.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Vayakhel: Dr. Frankenstein’s Melacha

Perhaps in the midst of the great uncertainties created by the Coronavirus pandemic, it is all too easy to remember that we are not God. But the temptation to think otherwise still exists. And once the pandemic will be over and man will continue to build better and better tools to control his fate and his environment, that temptation will regain its strength

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Mishpatim: An Eye for an Eye and the Best of All...

The traditional understanding – that the Torah is referring to the monetary value of an eye – is not without its difficulties either

Redeeming Relevance: How Many of Moshe’s Children are on His Family Tree?

Though they share parents and ancestors, once the two lines diverge, the Torah tells us exclusively about Aharon’s descendants

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Vayechi: Like Reuven and Shimon?!?

Ya’akov’s mistake instructs us to understand that even if something appears to be good, that does not mean there isn’t a different way that might be even better

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Vayishlach: The Torah’s Mother

In one of the most mysterious verses in the Torah (Bereshit 35:8), we read about the death of Devorah the nursemaid, a character so minor that we have never really heard of her before

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Toldot: When a Son Confronts a Father and When a Father...

On the face of it, a conventional exchange between father and son, we see it nowhere else in Tanakh. Moreover both discussions take place at pivotal points in which the respective father-son relationships are tested to their limits.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Chayye Sarah: Avraham and Eliezer, Trust and Closeness Across the Gap

Avraham, saw a world where people can acknowledge a huge and intractable gap between them, know it will not go away, and also build a strong and trusting friendship across tbe gap.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Noach: A Death Penalty for Animals?

When Noach gets off the ark, there seems to be a whole new world order that surrounds him.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Haazinu: Why Did Yehoshua Repeat Haazinu?

“If God only commanded Moshe to present Haazinu, what was the need for Yehoshua to join in?”

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Nitzavim: A Nation of Yentas

Since we are taught that each person is like a universe, to casually dispense with one individual is like dispensing with an entire universe.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Ki Tetzeh: Levinas, Ammon and Moav – On the Neutral Neighbor

Many commentators wonder why not proffering bread and water is considered such a great crime. Because turning away goes from being a sign of neutrality to being an act of hostility.

Redeeming Relevance: Ending Poverty, the Torah Way: Parshat Reeh:

How does contemporary Judaism deal with the great challenge of Torah laws no longer practiced?

Guns Kill People AND People Kill People; American and Gilead

One of the more fruitless political debates in the United States is whether strict restriction of gun permits would add to public safety. One of the reasons it is fruitless is that both sides muster flawed analogies to other societies.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Pinchas: Are We All Sinners?

In Judaism, since sin is not a foregone conclusion, we hold ourselves fully accountable for it. Likewise do we hold others accountable – if not to us, then certainly to God. And so the daughters of Tzelophad put this out about their father – and about everyone else.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Chukkat: Are We in Israel to Eat Fruits?

In contrast to the previous generation – and as we will soon see more clearly – this generation was really saying, “Let’s get to our land already.”

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Korach: The Dangers of Delusion

We assume we know as well as our leaders less because they have failed to prove themselves or have shown deficiencies than because of our attachment to seeing ourselves a certain way. And, as was true of Korach and his group, we do so to our detriment.

Redeeming Relevance: The Mistake of Moshe’s Life

There are two more positive lessons that can be learned. The first is to always second-guess ourselves. The second lesson is that no matter how devastating events may be, we must muster the courage and strength to keep going.

Redeeming Relevance: How Not to Ruin a Perfectly Good Blessing

The priestly blessing in this week’s parsha begins with the famous request that God bless and keep/guard (shomer) the Jews. While the meaning of blessing is reasonably straightforward, the meaning of keeping or guarding is less clear.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Emor: The Challenge of the Rearguard Mother

Long before the Danites’ penchant for connection with gentiles would reach its climax in the days of Shimshon, the Torah warns them of its great dangers

Redeeming Relevance: The Mother’s Sin Offering and God’s Need for Darkness

The ethics of each new birth represents a microcosm of that debate. We have good reason to hope that the education and upbringing we provide our children will ensure that they bring more good to the world than evil. But there is not a single one of us who can bring up even the best of our children to never do evil. And given that this is the case, giving birth is also an act of responsibility for the evil that one thereby adds to the world.

Redeeming Relevance: Shmini: Fathers and Sons; Uncles, Cousins, Brothers…

Events that took place after the sin of Nadav and Avihu elucidate the real issue behind whatever sin or sins they actually committed: They challenged the traditional hierarchy of children following their parents and juniors following their seniors. It is presumably this issue more than any individual sin that the Torah wants to bring to our attention.

Redeeming Relevance: A Bad Sin and a Good Drash

For an interpretation to qualify as a good drash, it must present an insightful idea that is somehow enhanced by the original text.

Redeeming Relevance: Vayikra Avoidance Syndrome and the Torah on One Foot

Because sefer Vayikra is more difficult, we tend to look at it less. But because we look at it less, we also understand it less, which – in turn – keeps it difficult and less appealing. In a nutshell, that is what I call Vayikra Avoidance Syndrome.

Redeeming Relevance: Pekudei: Blessed Work

So what is melakhah, and how is it different than avodah? And why is that only Moshe sees it that way. Finally, why is blessing something that seems to flow directly out of it?


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