Is interrupting kosher? | Parashat Tazria-Metzora

When you hear that someone has lung cancer, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? I am embarrassed to admit it, but my mind leaps to, “Were they a smoker?” It is natural for us to want to “blame the victim.” I think that assigning blame is a self-defense mechanism. If we can identify the cause of the illness and we can avoid that behavior, then we hope we can protect ourselves from the same fate.

Kosher Kraziness | Parashat Shemini

…following kosher guidelines for the holidays help us add another level of holiness to our lives. It connects us back to our history, to our people and ultimately to god.

Don’t get stuck in Egypt | Chol Hamoed Reading

For years I prayed with Rabbi Irwin Wise at Adath Israel Congregation in Cincinnati, and each year Rabbi Wise would implore his congregants to attend weekday yom tov services with the same joke. He reminded them that the people did not cross the Red Sea until the seventh day of Passover, and so “you have to come back” for weekday morning chol hamoed Passover services. After all, “You don’t want to get stuck in Egypt.” 

The sacred pause | Parashat Tzav

Parashat Tzav features one of the most significant moments in the book of Leviticus – the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests. The ceremony includes the sacrifice of two rams – the first a burnt offering, and the second, a ram of ordination.

VAYIKRa – Calling out vs merely happening | Parashat Vayikra

What book would you use to begin teaching Judaism to a child? According to tradition, it is none other than “Leviticus.” This middle book of our Pentateuch, Vayikra, is known as the Torat Kohanim, the Torah of the kohanim or priests, and of the Levites from which we get the English name of the book, Leviticus.

A single whole | Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei

As I was reading this week’s parashah about the construction of the Tabernacle, I found that one repeated detail caught my attention: “And he [Bezalel] made fifty gold clasps and coupled the curtains to one another with the clasps, so that the tabernacle became one whole,” and then just a few verses later we are told again that, “He made fifty copper clasps to couple the tent together so that it might become one whole” (Exodus 36:13,18).

What if Moses had taken Valium? | Ki Tisa

The late Leo Steinbach, a Jewish immigrant to the United States, was a pharmacologist who discovered in 1963 the anti-anxiety drug, Valium. This medication calms our nerves, reduces agitation and suppresses anger. When utilized appropriately, it can be a life saver. It is fitting to remember Steinbach’s discovery on this Shabbat which is so much about uncontrollable emotions. Our parasha is about aggression, loss of control and anger.

Cloths maketh the person | Tetzave

‘Clothes maketh the man’ [sic] so the old saying goes, to which Mark Twain added ‘Naked people have little or no influence in society.’ [More Maxims of Mark]. The author/s of the Torah would likely agree, as we discover in Parashat Tetzaveh, in which the details are given for the sacred garments that the Cohen Gadol, the High Priest, would wear when performing his sacred duties in the Tabernacle.

What are your precious gifts? | Teruma

A few weeks ago, my synagogue hosted a wonderful artist/scholar-in-residence, Daniel Abramson, for the weekend. One of the goals of the weekend was to strengthen the sense of community bonds through the creation of a community tallit. This was an intergenerational large-scale, painting on silk art project that began on Friday afternoon and was completed by Sunday at noon.

After Torah, now what? | Parashat Mishpatim

In the wonderful world of midrash, the rabbis portray the letters of our Hebrew alphabet as agents in dialogue with the Divine, each pleading their case as to why the holy Torah should begin with them. In this week’s parasha however, I imagine an entirely different dialogue taking place. Here the dialogue is not between the Hebrew letters and God, but between the parasha of Mishpatim, and God.