Parashat Vayera (Genesis 18:1-24)

“Then an angel of the Lord called to him from heaven: “Abraham! Abraham! And he answered, “Here I am.” (Genesis 22:11) Parashat Vayera includes the powerful and difficult story of the akedah (the Binding of Isaac).  Most commentators focus on Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a demonstration of his great faith in […]

Parashat Lekh Lekha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

“For I give all the land that you see to you and your offspring forever. “ (Genesis 13:15) “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again” describes God’s situation this week. The ideal of the Garden of Eden is a bust and the plan to partner with all humanity ends in failure, too. Still, […]

Parashat Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32)

“This is the line of Noach.  Noach was a righteous man; blameless in his age; Noach walked with God.”  (Genesis 6:9) Parashat Noach tells the story of the end of one world and the beginning of another; it is the bridge connecting the two.  God destroys the pre-Noah world because it is immoral.  This destruction […]

Parashat B’reishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8)

“A river issues forth from Eden to water the garden, and from there it is divided and becomes four headwaters.”  (Genesis 2:10) Volume VII of The Melton Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora’s series in Jewish Education explores the origins of Jewish educational institutions.  It is instructive to know how things begin and often […]

Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot (Intermediate Shabbat of Sukkot) (Exodus 33:12-34:26)

“You shall make the festival of weeks with the first offering of the wheat harvest and the festival of the harvest shall be at the changing of the year.”  (Ex.  24:22) Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi (1932–2009; professor of Jewish History at Harvard and Columbia University) asserts the Jewish people remembers through re-enactment.  So on Sukkot, we […]

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 […]