Make Yourself Heard

Ki Tetze – Judicial Sensitivity and Wisdom

A fascinating, yet little-known explanation ties the famous Mishpat Shlomo – King Shlomo’s most famous judgement – to this week’s Torah portion. The explanation the Meiri[i] offers to the story of Mishpat Shlomo [ii] reveals the “behind-the-scenes” manipulations and strategy of the two litigants and King Shlomo’s brilliant method of uncovering the truth. The story […]

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Turn Back

Elul: Transforming Transgressions into Merits

Reish Lakish said: “Great is תשובה (repentance) because it transforms זדונות (premeditated sins) into שגגות (inadvertent transgressions)”. Oh Really? Didn’t he also say? “Great is תשובה (repentance) because it transforms premeditated sins into זכויות (merits)”? There is no contradiction. The first one refers to “Teshuva Meyir’ah” (out of fear of G-d), the other refers to “Teshuva Me’ahava” […]

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10 Commandments Carved In Stone

Parshat Re’eh: Deuteronomic Statement of Torah Law

Deuteronomy, Sefer Devarim, presents Moses’ speech that reviews the historical memory of God’s contact with Israel in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. In the Torah’s three middle books, God is the speaker; Deuteronomy opens with the Johnny Carson-like introduction: “here’s Moses!” At his career’s beginning, Moses tries to avoid the divine call, arguing “I am not […]

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Searching For God

Parshat Va’etchanan: To Seek and To Find

In his “Varieties of Religious Experience,” William James identifies the “sad discordancy” of religious experiences in the secular world. “But they come seldom, and they do not come to everyone; and the rest of life makes no connection with them, or tends to contradict them than it confirms them.” This sentiment is succinctly captured by […]

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Change vs Same

Parshat Pinchas: Transition and Inheritance

Inheritance has always been a sensitive topic. Family ties frequently fray at the edges, as frustrations and expectations run headlong into the instability of a time of transition. As we approach the end of the Torah’s narratives, the issue of transition and inheritance rises to the forefront. We read of Tzelofchod’s daughters, who approach Moshe […]

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Lioness

Parshat Balak: Spiritual and Physical Power

This week, Israel was challenged again by another “Freedom Flotilla,” attempting to reach the Gaza strip. Internationally, Israel is often portrayed as the ‘Goliath’ – the side that has and makes use of its military power. In sharp contrast to this picture, throughout our long history, the Jewish people were associated with the lack of […]

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People Arguing

Parshat Korach: Korach’s Message for Today

My mother often asked me, “how might the uninformed layperson know which rabbi’s opinion is correct?” One rabbi rules that “ mixed gender seating at weddings is fine,” but others disagree.  After hearing all sides, we remain  beside ourselves. How might we measure who is correct? What can we cull from the Korach/Moses conflict? There […]

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Shavuot holiday

Shavuot: Beyond Symbols

The Torah teaches that upon completing the count of the Omer, the Festival of Shavuot is celebrated (Deut. 16:9–10). In addition to commemorating the conclusion of the counting of the weeks of the Omer, Shavuot also celebrates the wheat harvest (Ex. 23:16), and is therefore known as “Ḥag HaKatzir,” the Harvest Festival. The shetei haleḥem, […]

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Opposing forces

Parshat Bamidbar: Joy and Fear

Our parsha describes the encampment of B’nei Yisrael in the wilderness. Not a detail goes by unaccounted for: the number of fighting men and the layout of the camp, tribe by tribe; the Levites, their roles and encampment. By the end of our parsha we have received a detailed blueprint of the plans for the […]

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