Playing with Fire | Parashat Shmini

I have a love-hate relationship with this climactic passage in Parashat Shmini. The literary critic in me loves the spare wording, the way the story leaves so much to the imagination of the reader. I find Aaron’s silence in the face of literally unspeakable tragedy to be deeply moving. And there is the enduring mystery here: have Nadav and Avihu committed a crime so terrible that the only appropriate penalty is death?

Follow the Instructions | Parashat Shmini

When my children were younger I used to have pangs of anxiety around their birthdays and Hanukkah. I loved the celebration. I found great pleasure in their excitement. It was fun getting together with extended family for cake ice cream. My fear was related to the presents and three simple words: “some assembly required.” The […]

Torah from around the world #111

by Rabbi Stephen Berkowitz, Mouvement Juif Libéral de France , Paris T he midpoint of the Torah, in terms of the number of its words, may be found in this week’s paracha: Shemini. This word-center is located between דָּרֹשׁ- דָּרַשׁ ( darosh – darash) [Leviticus 10: 16 , “Then Moses inquired דָּרֹשׁ- דָּרַש about the goat […]

Torah from around the world #59

by Rabbi Matt Cutler, Congregation Gates of Heaven , Schenectady, NY A magician stands before a crowd. He warns the audience that he is going to suspend the laws of nature and rational logic. “Watch me pull a rabbit out of this hat!” he says and then waves a magic wand over the hat and […]

Torah from around the world #13

Parashat Shemini has special relevance for me as it was my bar mitzvah portion. Although a barmitzvah so soon after Pesach caused many headaches for my mother, who was already baking and cooking lunch for the guests several weeks in advance, I was determined that this was the portion for me. Well, when the alternatives […]

Priests, Rabbis and Clowns: The Illusive Search for “Authentic” Judaism | Parashat Tzav

The controversy over the recent Israeli Cabinet decision to affirm a pluralistic space in the southern area of the Kotel (Robinson’s Arch) continues to gain force, even threatening to bring down the present coalition government. Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) rabbinic figures have once again resorted to lambasting Reform Judaism and our rabbis with outrageous slurs: […]

Torah from Around the World #371

Recent Issues By: Rabbi Mark L. Winer, President of the Florida Democratic Party Caucus of American Jews and President of FAITH: the Foundation to Advance Interfaith Trust and Harmony We Jews live in a complicated, “BOTH/AND” world. We have BOTH never enjoyed more acceptance and freedom than at this time in history—AND yet the number […]

Torah from Around the World #265

Recent Issues By Rabbi Dr. Walter Rothschild, State Rabbi of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. We are still in the early parts of the Book of Leviticus, a book which many Reform Jews find rather mysterious, gruesome and, frankly, boring. This is a pity because it is full of fascinating details concerning means of communication with God – […]

Torah from Around the World #210

by Rabbi Stanley M. Davids, Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Emanu-El , Atlanta, Georgia, and past President of Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) It’s all about being different, about being ‘other’. Had such been chronologically feasible, our Sedra would certainly have endorsed Shakespeare’s non-gender inclusive statement that “apparel oft doth proclaim the man.” The text […]

Torah from Around the World 159

by Rabbi Gary M. Bretton-Granatoor, Vice President, Philanthropy, World Union for Progressive Judaism When I was growing up, I was a member of what might now be called a “Classical Reform” congregation. The clergy was robed in clerical vestments; an organ rang out loud enough to shake the rafters (which were seemingly miles high). A […]