Lust and Other Emotions

Parshat Tzav: Thoughts of Sin

This week’s Torah portion opens with a description of a sacrificial offering called olah, which is entirely consumed by fire. The Sages have a tradition which explains the purpose of this offering: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai taught: The olah is brought for hirhur halev, “contemplation of the heart.” (Vayikra Rabbah 7:3) This idea is further […]

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Body and Soul in Balance

Parshat Vayikra: The Animal Within Us

People are often offended when they are compared to animals. Practically speaking, however, even one who does not believe we evolved from monkeys, recognizes that we are not different from animals in every regard. In each of us there resides an animal side. Sifra D’tzinuta – one of the oldest and most important sections of […]

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Woman Lighting Shabbat Candles

Parshat Vayakhel: Shabbat Here and Now

Six days shall you do your work and the seventh day shall be holy unto you, a Sabbath of resting to God. (Shmot 35:2) Sleeping and Waking Up If the goal of the spiritual journey is to awaken the self, then it would seem that, spiritually speaking, many people go through life “asleep.” We live […]

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Silhouettes of People Waving the Flag of Israel

Parshat Vayakhel: Connecting Jews to Judaism

I’m sure you’ve suffered it many times before: you’re at a Shabbat meal, enjoying the company of others, and then, it comes to a “pause” when someone announces: “Let’s hear a D’var Torah” / “Time for a speech” and so forth. I can’t think of anything more annoying, let alone out of place, then hearing […]

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Questions and answer

Parshat Ki Tisa: Questions About God

The Zohar (Bereshit 1b) teaches that belief in God in its essence contains unanswerable questions, and God’s very name “Elohim” hints at this. The word “Elohim” (אלוהים) is made up of the words “mi” (מי – who) and “eleh” (אלה – this). These two words express two different facets of our relationship to God: The […]

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Purim Sameach

Taanit Esther and the Message of Purim

Unlike the other “minor” fasts that are enumerated and discussed by the Talmud (Taanit 29a), Taanit Esther is not mentioned anywhere in the Mishna or Talmud. In fact, the earliest reference to Taanit Esther appears in the eighth-century geonic work Sheiltot DeRav Aḥai (Parashat Vayak’hel 67), authored by Rabbi Aḥai Gaon. Nevertheless, the fast is […]

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The Power of Words

Parshat Tetzaveh: The Good Words

Clothes Make the Man As Mark Twain says, “clothes make the man.” Clothes can indicate social status or community affiliation, and can even have an impact on our own self awareness. Parshat Tetzaveh describes the special outfits that Kohanim wore while carrying out their service in the Mishkan. According to the Midrash, the clothes of […]

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Controlled Puppets

Parshat Terumah: The Puppet Theater of God

Parshat Terumah opens with the verse “Speak to the people of Israel and take [for] Me a contribution from every person whose heart moves him…” Sefer HaBahir, an ancient kabalistic work, offers a bold interpretation of this pasuk. On the simplest level, it is a command to contribute toward the building of the mishkan. But […]

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Scales of Justice

Parshat Mishpatim: Who Deserves Justice?

Everybody is talking about peace, nobody is talking about justice.” Contrary to the Israeli rock singer Muki’s complaint, the Torah, at least, is very concerned with justice. Parshat Mishpatim is dedicated to the values of justice and law, and its location in the biblical story indicates the subject’s centrality and importance. The previous parsha, Parshat […]

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Israeli Lawyer

Parshat Mishpatim: Does Halakha Permit Recourse to Israeli Civil Courts?

In recent years, the relationship between segments of the religious community and Israel’s civil courts has been fraught with tension over rulings by the Supreme Court perceived by some as antagonistic to religious values or institutions. This friction stems partly from those in the judiciary who are determined to preserve the democratic nature of the […]

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Ten commandments in Marble

Parshat Yitro: The Balancing Act

The encounter with the Divine is often frightening and awesome (in the original sense of the rather than its use in modern day teenager slang). As described in the Bible, it often overwhelms the person physically, emotionally and psychologically. Similar descriptions of divine encounters are found in other cultures and in the literature of religious […]

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