Dual-Gendered God | Parashat Beha’alotcha

The four-Hebrew-letter name of God signifies a dual-gendered deity. That was Judaism’s best-kept secret until 1540, when kabbalists ruled that revealing esoteric lore was not only permissible but a mitzvah.

Lift up Your Heads | Parashat Naso

We have just celebrated the festival of Shavuot, which tradition tells us commemorates (in some ways re-enacts) the great event at Mt. Sinai. The Torah reading for Shavuot begins, Bayom hazeh (Ex. 19:1), on this day. Introducing the dramatic moment, the Torah declares that it is taking place not “on that day,” back then, a long time ago, but on this day, bayom hazeh — every day the Torah is being broadcast, waiting to be heard. An offering.

Welcome to the Wilderness | Parashat Bamidbar

A core teaching of Jewish spiritual practice is our readiness to read the Torah in many different ways. We find meaning and significance across entire books; or we zoom in, such that an individual letter or even an accent mark fills our field of vision and discloses sacred truth. The weekly parashah is, of course, the most common “unit” for informing our reading.

The Sound of a Driven Leaf | Parashat Behar-Bechukotai

My grandfather, Herman, zikhrono livrakhah, was born in Obodovka, a shtetl in western Ukraine, a little over a century ago. Stories of his youth there were bleak and often centred on Cossack or Russian government soldiers threatening the lives or livelihoods of relatives.

Scurvy, the Boughs of Leafy Trees, and Healing | Parashat Emor

If the portions in the Torah’s Book of Genesis spin timeless tales of complicated family dynamics, sibling rivalry, spousal jealousy, treachery, and reconciliation, Leviticus oozes with laws regarding sacrifices, priestly matters, and the festival calendar. Emor, this week’s portion, is a veritable kitchen sink (or perhaps more precisely, a tabernacle altar) of rules for the priests forbidding them from encountering dead bodies, offering guidance on beard trimming, and providing descriptions of appropriate life partners.

The Power of Water | Parashat Tazria-Metzora

The parasha of Tazria-Metzora has generally been disliked by B’nei Mitzvah and drash-writers for its difficult subject matter that seems far away from contemporary life. However, this is now the second time that we have read the portion in the context of our own world-wide illness, and with regard to how communities are trying to control the spread of Covid-19.

The Power of Silence | Parashat Shemini

Parashat Sh’mini contains the tragic and challenging story of the death of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu. These priests took their firepans, put fire and incense on them and offered “alien fire which God had not commanded them” (Leviticus 10:2). A fire immediately comes forth from Heaven and consumes them. The commentators struggle to determine precisely why their offering provokes such a swift and harsh punishment.

Finding Strength in the Small Aleph | Parashat Vayikra

Rabbi Becky Hoffman | Temple Ahavat Shalom, California, USA Some might say that this week’s Torah portion, Vayikra, is not the most interesting stuff we read in the Torah. As it is presented, it does not necessarily meet the sensibilities of modern progressive Jews. Sacrifice, as presented in this Torah portion, could be viewed as […]