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Posts by David Ackerman

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

“You shall not plant for yourself an idolatrous tree – any tree – near the Lord your God’s altar, that you shall make yourself.” (Deuteronomy 16:21) Parashat Shoftim expounds with great forthrightness on the building blocks of a just society and identifies the qualities a judge, one of the four archetypic Biblical community leaders, must … Continued

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

“You shall not eat anything abhorrent.”  (Deuteronomy 14:3) Parashat Re’eh opens with a dramatic proclamation, “R’eih, see, I present before you today a blessing and a curse.” (Deut. 11:26)  It closes with instructions to observe Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot, the three pilgrimage holidays, commanding the Israelites (among other things) to eat matzah for seven days, … Continued

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

“Do not fear them! You shall remember what Adonai, your God, did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:18) In the Torah, the land is the mediator of God’s relationship with the Israelites. If they follow the Torah, the rain will fall, the land will produce crops, and they will thrive. If they … Continued

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

“Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead.” (Deuteronomy 6:8) Were Pixar to make a movie of the Torah with all the parashot (weekly portions) as characters it would be easy to imagine a scene in which they wonder and complain why Parashat Va-etchanan contains … Continued

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

“I said to you at that time, saying, ‘I cannot carry you alone.’” (Deuteronomy 1:9) Parashat D’varim opens the Torah’s fifth and final book. Moses no longer speaks with a “heavy tongue” (Ex. 4:10) and he now delivers five speeches, powerfully and poetically. He reminds the Israelites of their lack of faith and complaining during … Continued

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

“Moses, Elazar the Priest, and all the leaders of the assembly went out to meet them outside the camp.” (Numbers 31:13) July 9, 2018 is the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. Section 1 promises all people in the US (not just citizens) the right to both due … Continued

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

“These are the ones counted by Moses and Elazar the Priest, who counted the Children of Israel in the plains of Moab, by the Jordan, near Jericho.” (Numbers 26:63) God commands Moses in Parashat Pinchas to conduct another census of the Israelites (Num. 26:2). This will serve as the basis for the allocation of land … Continued

Parashat Balak (Numbers 22:2:5:9)

“Bilam raised his eyes and saw Israel dwelling according to its tribes, and the spirit of God was upon him.” (Numbers 24:2) Parashat Balak is one of only six parashot, or portions, named for a person. Balak is a Moabite king who fears the wandering Israelites and therefore hires Bilam, a local prophet, to curse … Continued

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

“And Moses did as the Lord had commanded; and they went up to Mount Hor before the eyes of all the congregation.” (Numbers 20:27) Parashat Chukat contains the fateful episode when Moses strikes the rock to bring forth water (Num. 20:11). Because God had commanded him only to speak to the rock, God decrees Moses … Continued

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

“Moses then brought out all the staffs from before the Lord to all the Israelites; each identified and recovered his staff.” (Numbers 17:24) Parashat Korach opens with Korach, a Levite, accusing Moses of vanity and of setting himself above the community (Num. 16:3). Despite Moses’ efforts to forestall the rebellion, Korach and his 250 grumblers … Continued