Joyful “Seeing”

(Parashat Re’eh, Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25) By Rabbi Adam Lavitt, Rab`12, MJEd`12 A few weeks ago, the largest glacier everbroke off the Antarctic ice shelf. As global temperatures soar and shorelines shrink at an accelerated rate, we become more aware of ways in which our resources are limited. This is compounded by our reactions to these realities. We fear the instability we are witnessing around the world and feel compelled to hold onto whatever resources might help us maintain our sense of… Read more

Signs Upon Our Hands (Parshat Eikev, Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25)

By Rabbi Gray Myrseth In early July, I sat in a room at a retreat center in Northern California, listening with rapt attention to a group of queer elders telling stories. It was the second to last night of Queer Talmud Camp, a weeklong Talmud-study intensive for LGBTQ people and allies, put on by SVARA, a traditionally radical Yeshiva based in Chicago. “Elder” was a relative term in this context, with panelists ranging from their 40s to their 70s, but… Read more

Wisdom for Crossing Over

Parashat Va’etchanan/Shabbat Nachamu, Deuteronomy 3.23-7:11 By Rabbi Elisha Herb From the top of Mount Pisgah, Moshe surveys “the good land that is beyond the Jordan, that goodly hill-country and the Lebanon.” (Deut. 3:25) The land on which he would never set foot; the land that had been the collective Israelite destination for forty years; the land of their ancestors. Now 120 years old, Moshe entreats God to allow him to cross over. Surely, this cannot be all that Moshe seeks…. Read more

Lifting Each Other Up: Preparing for Tish’a B’av with Joy as well as Sorrow

Parshat Devarim / Shabbat Hazon (Deuteronomy 1:1-3.22) By Cantor Ken Richmond The Talmud says that when the month of Adar with its manic Purim holiday begins, joy increases, and conversely, when the current Hebrew month of Av arrives, with its impending ninth day, Tish’a B’av, which commemorates the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem, joy is diminished. I wonder annually how seriously to link my personal emotional fluctuations with our cycle of communal ones, and ponder what to do when… Read more

How Pure Does the Coalition Have to Be? (Parshat Mattot/Massei, Numbers 30:2- 32:42)

How pure does the coalition have to be? This is the question of the moment. Within the Jewish community, as well as in the broader political world—groups on both sides of the aisle are looking at the people standing next to them, working with them for a joint cause, and wondering how much room there is for difference when it comes to vision and goals. We recognize the need to work together and the need for participation and support from… Read more

Wonder Woman and Pinchas: The Persistent Appeal of Zealotry

(Parashat Pinchas Numbers 25:10 – 30:1) In the film Wonder Woman (2017), the heroine, played by Israeli actress Gal Gadot, intervenes in World War I on the side of the Allies. She zealously seeks the destruction of Ares, the god of war (the gods are almost Greek, but seem not to be immortal). Along with her multicultural group of allies, she determines that Ares has incarnated himself as the supreme German commander, General Erich Ludendorff. She expects that once she has killed… Read more

Covering the Eye of the Land (Parashat Balak: Numbers 22:2-25:9)

By Rabbi Emma-Kippley-Ogman Parashat Balak opens with a fearful king dreading the arrival of the Israelite desert wanderers to his land of Moab. When he speaks to the leaders of neighboring Midian, Balak’s fear refigures the approaching Israelites as grazing animals — he says (Numbers 22:4), “Now, this assembly will nibble away everything around us as the ox nibbles the grass of the field.” In a single verbal gesture, the king paints the migrants as both harmless ruminants and a destructive… Read more

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