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 […]

Parashat Korach (Numbers 16:1-18:32)

“And the Lord said to Aaron…I am your portion and your share among the Israelites.” (Numbers 18:20) An old joke says there are two types of people: those who divide the world into two types of people and those who don’t. Parashat Korach offers a stark contrast between two types. The first word in the […]

Parashat Sh’lach L’cha (Numbers 13:1-15:41)

“They went up and scouted the land, from the wilderness of Zin to Rechov, at Levo Chamat.” (Numbers 13:21) Sh’lach L’cha is a fateful parasha (portion). God tells Moses, “Sh’lach l’cha anashim, send for yourself men to scout the land of Canaan…” (Num. 13:1). They bring back positive reports but only two of the twelve […]

Parashat B’ha-alot’cha (Numbers 8:1-12:16)

“Aaron did so; he mounted the lamps at the front of the menorah, as the Lord had commanded Moses.” (Numbers 8:3) Parashat B’ha-a lot’cha describes the Israelites’ departure from Mt. Sinai to begin their desert trek. As part of the final preparations, God instructs Moses to craft two silver trumpets to signal the people when […]

Parashat Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89)

“The Lord bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace.” (Numbers 6:26) Yehuda Kurtzer (president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America) likes to say ancient texts are useful for the light they shed on contemporary society. Parashat Naso is a case in point. It includes the ordeal of the sota, the suspected […]

Parashat Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20)

“Those are the elected of the assembly, the chieftains of their ancestral tribes: they are the heads of the contingents of Israel.” (Numbers 1:16) Parashat Bamidbar opens the fourth book of the Torah (with the same name) and describes the preparations for the Israelites’ 38-year journey through the wilderness to Canaan. The opening verse describes […]

Parashat B’har-B’chukotai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34)

“I will remember in their favor the covenant with the ancients, whom I freed from the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God; I, the Lord.” (Leviticus 26:45) Parashat B’chukotai contains a list of blessings for following the Torah’s commandments and a (much longer) list of curses for failing […]

Parashat Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23)

“So Moses declared to the Israelites the set times of the Lord.” (Leviticus 23:44) Parashat Emor addresses issues of k’dusha, or sanctity. It focusses first on the priests (sanctified people) and then moves to Shabbat and the holidays (sanctified time). Emor describes Shabbat as a mo-ed, a fixed time, and as a mikra kodesh, a […]

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