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Posts by David Ackerman

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

“You must not hand over, to his master, a slave who has taken refuge with you from his master.” (Deuteronomy 23:16) The chuppah, or Jewish wedding canopy, represents the household the couple is establishing. The open sides evoke Abraham’s tent and the midah, or measure, of hospitality (Gen. 13:1-3). The customary b’racha, or blessing, offered … Continued

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

“Then the Lord said to me, ‘“They have done well in speaking thus.’” (Deuteronomy 18:17) Parashat Shoftim focusses on the centrality of law in a just society. Each of the identified leaders (judge, king, priest, and prophet) must be moral exemplars and committed to promoting and preserving the law. Embedded within two innocuous sentences, though, … Continued

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

“For there will never cease to be needy ones in your land, which is why I command you: open your hand to the poor and needy kinsman in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11) Parashat R’eih presents reward and punishment as a straightforward proposition: follow the Torah and receive blessings, don’t follow the Torah and receive curses. … Continued

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

“Do not be terrified of them, for God, your God in your midst, is a great and awesome God.” (Deuteronomy 7:21) Parashat Eikev commands “You will eat and you will be satisfied and bless the Lord your God, for the good land that He gave you.” (Deut. 8:10) This is the proof text for the … Continued

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

“Let me, I pray, cross over and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan, that good hill country, and the Lebanon.” (Deuteronomy 3:23) Last week, Moses reminds the Israelites to follow God’s military orders to conquer the land. This week, in Parashat Va-etchanan, Moses reminds them to follow God’s laws to … Continued

Parashat Chukat-Balak (Numbers 19:1-25:9)

“As Balaam looked up and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the spirit of God came upon him.” (Numbers 24:2) We read two parashot (portions) this week because of how the Jewish calendar is calculated. The moon’s cycle determines the months, but the sun’s cycle determines the year. Therefore, a Jewish year) can have from … Continued

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

“And your uplifted donation shall be regarded by you as the grain from the threshing floor and the fullness of the wine press.” (Numbers 18:27) Imagine: a wealthy member of the elite class, whose personal fortune was not earned, challenges the established hierarchy by posing as a populist and lying about the current leadership. No, … Continued

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

“May the Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.” (Num. 6:25) “No justice, no peace!” is being chanted across the land this week, providing an unsettling soundtrack to this week’s parasha, or portion. Parashat Naso (Hebrew for “lift up”) includes b’racha ham’shuleshet, the three-fold blessing, three of the Torah’s most recognized verses: … Continued

Shabbat and Shavuot (Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17)

Because Shavuot falls on Thursday and Friday, the cycle of weekly Torah readings is interrupted by a special holiday selection. Akdamut Milin, an 11th century mystical poem in Aramaic is read on the first day. The Book of Ruth is read on the second day. Pirkei Avot teaches, “Make a fixed time for study, say … Continued

Parashat B’midbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20)

“The Children of Israel did everything that the Lord commanded Moses, so did they do.” (Numbers 1:54) Parashat B’midbar opens the fourth book of the Torah, also called B’midbar, in the wilderness. The wilderness is both a physical space (the territory the Israelites must traverse to reach Canaan) and a metaphor for a state of … Continued