Life on the Margins (Tazria, Leviticus 12:1-13:59)

By Rabbi Niles Elliot GoldsteinWhat does it feel like to live at the edge, on the margins of community?The Torah reading for this week, Tazria, seems to imply that it can be a very lonely experience. When someone from the Israelite community is found to have leprosy (“tzaraat”), a disease of the skin, that person is removed from camp and separated from the others (Lev. 13:46). While their physical affliction is not their choice, the social consequences of their condition are severe. Tho … [Read more...]

Jewish Memory Week: A Tale in Three Parts (Zachor, Deuteronomy 25:17-19)

By Dr. Yehuda KurtzerThe memory of the Holocaust today is vulnerable. Between the Diaspora and Israel the Jewish people are fighting about the meaning of the Holocaust, encoding in our ideological debates about who we want to be in the world our increasingly polarizing interpretations about our recent past. It is the nature of trauma that we become conditioned to act and behave in certain ways as a result of what we experience. But would it have been possible to anticipate how quickly and … [Read more...]

Situating God: Revisiting Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1-5:26)

By Dr. Erica BrownOpening the new biblical book Vayikra, Leviticus, likewise opens a new chapter in the lives of the Israelites. Their relationship with God would be expressed through the performance of set rituals in a physical structure. No doubt such changes also brought transformations in their spiritual lives and reoriented the way in which they approached the divine. Unmediated and direct conversation with God became formalized and more distant. Gershom Scholem (1897-1982) in “Major T … [Read more...]

Four Levels of Societal Transformation (Vayakhel, Exodus 35:1-38:20)

By Rabbi Lisa L. GoldsteinI recently had to report for jury duty. I had been summoned for jury service before, but this was the first time I did so in New York City. In the past I had found that, despite the hours away from my regular responsibilities, being an active part of the justice system was an inspirational and worthy thing to do. The framers of the Constitution were idealistic enough to envision that ordinary citizens could be trusted to hand down just verdicts. Of course, their … [Read more...]

Leadership and Confrontation: Lessons from Moses and God (Ki Tisa, Exodus 30:11-34:35)

By Rabbi Melissa WeintraubIt seems every few weeks a new round of headlines cover the latest eruption within the American Jewish community over Israel, the most recent including a panel-turned-spectacle at the 92nd St Y and communal storms over policies delineating who should and shouldn’t be allowed to speak at Hillels and JCC’s.While these moments of heat and escalation capture the most press and attention, they obscure and distract us from at least two far more common, subtle, and sys … [Read more...]