Prayer, Good Deeds and Sacrifices? Explaining The Role of Sacrifices in Judaism


The most read book in human history, the Bible, spends much of its time concerned with the construction of a special sanctuary, a Tabernacle, in which animal (and grain) sacrifices were performed regularly. We may have grown up on the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah and the Great Deluge, the Twelve Tribes and the Exodus from Egypt but the majority of the text of the Five Books is dedicated to a set of rituals that have not been performed in the last two thousand years.How do we explain the … [Read more...]

Living Life With The GPS Off

lost road

When is the last time you got lost? I don't mean you missed a turn that you should have taken and you experienced a short inconvenience. I mean genuinely seriously lost, as in stuck on a back mountain road with no idea where you were and the sun was quickly setting.I can remember the last time I got lost.I was on my way to visit my then fiancee, now wife. She was working for the summer in a camp near some small town in Pennsylvania. I was working at an internship in Chicago. I printed … [Read more...]

Religious Conservatives: Let’s Celebrate Marriage!


I am an Orthodox rabbi. In my faith community we do not perform same-sex marriages. We believe that the Torah and subsequent rabbinic tradition rule out the possibility of two people of the same sex coming together in marriage. Yet, we are called upon to be welcoming, to be embracing and to be inclusive of all people. A growing list of Orthodox rabbis and leaders have added their names to a Statement of Principles first published in July of 2010 affirming the inherent dignity of all people who … [Read more...]

Between The Parts: The Liminal Space Between Continuity and Assimilation


In the great epic story of humanity there has always been the forces that compel us to assimilate amongst each other and those that urge us to maintain our differences and to hold up the uniquenesses within the human family. The desire to blend in is strong and indeed is admirable. The unity afforded by blending in, by assimilating, cannot be overstated. When we collapse the contours that are the map of the human family into one straight path our journey becomes simple and uncomplicated. Yet, … [Read more...]

Got Religion? The Challenge of Religion in 21st Century America


The first synagogue to take root in North America more than 350 years ago was Congregation Shearith Israel. This community of Sephardic Jews hailing from the Spanish-Portuguese community came with their deeply held beliefs of how the world works, how communities are formed and how they are maintained and began to earnestly set out to repeat that pattern on the shores of the Atlantic. Yet, something was very different here than it was in any other context that the Jews had lived in before. The … [Read more...]

Abraham and Biblical Intertextuality


Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot has published a remarkable new book Mikra and Meaning (Maggid Books, 2012) in which he demonstrates his tremendous fluency with the Biblical text and his mastery of the rabbinic tradition surrounding it. Each chapter takes the reader on an adventure exploring the intricate and varied ways of understanding the narratives presented in Tanach and plumbing the depths of the tradition for layers upon layers of meaning.I had the distinct privilege of studying under Rabbi … [Read more...]