November 5, 2013

By Shai Held It’s not often that a biblical character makes you want to cry, but if you pay careful attention to the matriarch Leah, she can break your heart.* Leah is married to Jacob, a man who does not love her — indeed, who barely notices her. According to the book of Genesis, Jacob arrives at his uncle Laban’s house and is soon smitten with Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel, who is, the text tells us, “shapely and beautiful.” As… Read more

October 21, 2013

By Rabbi Niles Elliot Goldstein The Torah portion for this week raises a critically important existential question, a query that writers, psychologists and seekers have asked for many, many years:  Can we ever really go home again? Hayyei Sarah, or The Life of Sarah, encompasses death and birth, ends and beginnings, and continuity. It offers a story about the polarity of mortal existence. It also highlights the cyclical, and sometimes paradoxical, nature of the human journey. The portion gets its… Read more

October 9, 2013

By Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer Jews tend to be nervous about the numbers of Jews in the world, with a demographic anxiety that has become a major cottage industry. This anxiety is in the air again and back in the news, with the just-released surveys of Jews in America from Brandeis University and the Pew Research Center. But I want to suggest that the roots of this concern are quite old, hinted to as far back as in the promises to… Read more

October 1, 2013

By Dr. Erica Brown In the midst of the post-flood re-creation stories in this week’s Torah reading, we find two different responses to the tragedy of the world’s destruction. The first, in chapter 10, is the rebuilding and repopulation of the world. Like God himself in the first chapter of Genesis, Noah is responsible for plant and animal life and the regeneration of his own species. Part of this is accomplished through the release of animals from the ark and from… Read more

September 24, 2013

By Rabbi Arthur Green Here we are again: parashat Bereshit, the Genesis story. Hang on, folks. The world is about to be created all over again! For more than a century now, Jews have not known quite what to do about creation. Genesis 1 is a lovely story. We enjoy reading it, even chanting aloud, “There was evening and there was morning, the first day… the second day,” and so on. The story leads up to Shabbat, and we retell… Read more

September 19, 2013

By Rabbi Toba Spitzer  You shall live in sukkot seven days; all citizens of Israel shall live in sukkot, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I YHVH your God. (Leviticus 23:42-43)   Building a sukkah, eating our meals in the sukkah, sleeping in the sukkah if the weather permits — all of these activities serve to remind us of some… Read more

September 19, 2013

By Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld In the rhythm of Jewish time, the festival of Sukkot is known as “z’man simchateinu,” or “season of our joy.” On Sukkot, joy is halakhically mandated; we are not only invited to be joyful, we are obligated to do so. I don’t know about other people, but I do not respond well to being commanded to be joyful. It’s sort of like being told to relax. Tell me I must be happy, and I begin to feel vaguely… Read more

September 11, 2013

By Rabbi Melissa Weintraub A decade ago I walked into my parent’s living room to discover my beloved grandfather, hunched over his walker and weeping while cranking nineteenth century romantic Russian orchestral music. No one ever accused my grandfather of emotional opacity– but I had never seen him crying like this before. When I asked what was going on, he said: “The title of my thoughts is: ‘I Never Got to Say Goodbye.’  Everyone – my father, mother, sisters, and… Read more

September 3, 2013

By Rabbi Mishael Zion On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur mornings, just prior to Musaf (the “additional” liturgical offerings for the Days of Awe), the prayer leader steps forth from the community to begin this special service. It is a moment of great drama, hearkening back to the days of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem when the High Priest would enter the inner sanctum of the Temple — the “Holy of Holies” — and beseech God on behalf of the… Read more

August 28, 2013

By Judith Rosenbaum This week’s (double) Torah portion, Nitzavim-Vayelech, opens with a scene of great collective drama: the entire community of Israel — men, women and children; leaders and strangers; woodcutters and water drawers — stand together before Moses and God, poised to enter the Promised Land. The 40 years of wandering since their exodus from Egypt has led them to this moment, in which they must reaffirm their covenant with God and take hold of the responsibility to follow… Read more

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