Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16:1-16:34)

“It is a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you shall afflict yourselves; an eternal decree.” (Leviticus 16:31) The Torah reading for Yom Kippur describes the ritual for purification of the mishkan (tabernacle).  The Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, takes two identical goats, and casts lots to determine their fates.  One goat is sacrificed […]

Parashat Ha-azinu (Deuteronomy 23:1-32:52)

“The Rock! His deeds are perfect, yea, all his ways are just.” (Deut.  32:4) The most frequently uttered phrase this past week in the Jewish world is probably, “I can’t believe it’s Rosh Hashana already.”  This, despite hints like the daily blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn) and the addition of Psalm 27 to the […]

Parashat Nitzavim-Vayelech (Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30)

“See, I set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity.”  (Deut. 30:15) We read two parashot (portions) this week because of the way the Jewish calendar is calculated.  Months are determined by the moon’s cycle, but the year is determined by the sun’s. Therefore, a Jewish year (including leap years, which add […]

Parashat Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)

“Therefore observe faithfully all the terms of this covenant, that you may succeed in all that you undertake.”  (Deut.  29:8) Parashat Ki Tavo, like many of the parashot (portions) in the book of D’varim (Deuteronomy) lists the blessings the Israelites will receive by following the Torah and the curses they will receive if they don’t. […]

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

“You shall not have in your house alternate measures, a larger and a smaller.”  (Deut. 25:14) Parashat Ki Teitzei contains more laws than any other parasha (portion) in the Torah.  Mostly, they address ethical norms and communal behavior (marital and family life, lost and found, personal safety, workplace obligations, etc.).  In some cases, a law […]

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

“You must be wholehearted with the Lord your God.”  (Deut. 18:13) California recently announced it was closing 77 courthouses in small towns, due to budget constraints.  Apparently, state governmental officials do not read the weekly parasha (portion). Parashat Shoftim opens with the admonition to appoint judges in all the Israelite settlements (Deut. 16:18) and continues […]

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

“You shall not do like everything that we do here today- rather, every man what is proper in his eyes.”  (Deut.12:9) Parashat Re’eh opens with a dramatic proclamation, “See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse.” (Deut. 11:26).  Many commentators use this verse to explore the question of free will (what will […]

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

“And now, Israel, what is it that God requests of you, but to fear God?” (Deut. 10:12)   Parashat Eikev includes a set of verses that present the classic reward and punishment view of Jewish life:  follow the Torah and the rain will fall and the land will support you.  Abandon the Torah and the […]

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

“But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you will see.”  (Deut. 3:28) I once heard somebody say, “If you want to know the history of the Jewish people, read the Torah.  If you want to […]

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

“The Lord your God has multiplied you until you are today as numerous as the stars in the sky.” (Deuteronomy 1:11) Parashat D’varim opens the fifth and final book of the Torah (also called D’varim and known in English as Deuteronomy).  It comprises Moses’ five last speeches to the Israelites during the last five weeks […]

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