Parashat Ki Teitzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)

“You shall make tassels on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself.” (Deuteronomy 22:12) Parashat Ki Teitzei includes a long list of seemingly unrelated laws: war brides, rebellious sons, honoring the dead, gender-based clothing, home security, forbidden mixtures of fabrics and seeds, tassels, interest rates, escaped slaves, and more. Rabbi Michael […]

Parashat Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9)

“When you approach a town to attack it, you shall offer it terms of peace.” (Deut. 20:10) JCC leaders consistently identify hachnasat orchim, or hospitality (literally: bringing in guests) as a signature value of the JCC Movement. The Biblical precedent is Abraham’s response to the three strangers: he greets them, feeds them, and escorts them […]

Parashat R’eih (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:12)

“Together with your households, you shall feast there before the Lord your god, happy in all the undertakings in which the Lord your God has blessed you.” (Deut. 12:7) Parashat R’eih ends with a reminder to observe Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot, the three pilgrimage festivals and commands, “You shall rejoice before the Lord your God […]

Parashat Eikev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25)

“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill.” (Deuteronomy 8:7) Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907–1972; one of the leading Jewish philosophers and theologians of the 20th century) is famous for his statement following the 1965 civil rights march […]

Parashat Va-etchanan (Deut. 3:23-7:11)

“Or what great nation has laws and rules as perfect as all this Torah is set before you this day?” (Deuteronomy 4:8) Parashat Va-etchanan opens with Moses recounting his pleading (Va-etchanan) with God to enter the land of Canaan. God stands firm, but allows Moses to climb up the mountainside to see the land once […]

Parashat D’varim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22)

“You shall not be partial in judgement: hear out low and high alike…” (Deuteronomy 1:17) “…The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” is arguably one of the most famous phrases of 20th century rhetoric (from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inaugural address on March 4, 1933). It is recognized instantly by any American […]

Parashat Mattot-Masei (Numbers 30:32-36:13)

“Instruct the Israelite people and say to them: when you enter the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as your portion…” (Numbers 34:2) Chalutzim is the word we use to describe the early Zionist pioneers who drain the swamps, build the roads, and establish kibbutzim, or collective communities in […]

Parashat Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

“Say, therefore, ‘I grant him My pact of friendship.” (Numbers 25:12) Parashat Pinchas includes the fourth instance in the Torah of Moses turning to God for a legal ruling. The question is whether Tz’lafchad’s five daughters can inherit his portion in Canaan, since he has no sons. God says and changes the law yes (If […]

Parashat Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9)

“And the children of Israel set forward, and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of Jordan by Jericho.” (Num. 22:1) Everybody loves Parashat Balak. It’s got a bad guy (Balak, the Moabite King), high stakes (Balak hires Balaam, the local soothsayer to curse the Israelites), high drama (God keeps putting different words […]

Parashat Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1)

“The Israelites then marched on and encamped in the steppes of Moav, across the Jordan from Jericho.” (Numbers 22:1) The ancient Greeks believed hubris is the source of human tragedy. Parashat Chukat shows even Moses, considered the most humble of men, is not immune. Chukat contains the fateful episode of the rock: the Israelites complain […]

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