God’s Tenuous Promise | Parashat Pinchas

Pinchas, a Torah Portion that paradoxically begins with God countenancing violence with a “covenant of peace,” a brit shalom. Pinchas is a priest that alone…

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Parashat Ki Tisa 5778

This Torah portion is known for its story of the Golden Calf, built when Moshe failed to return from the mountain on exactly the 40th day as expected. The people panicked, thought Moshe was dead, and that God had abandoned them. Aaron, ever the peace-lover, reasoned that the people needed a visible symbolic representation of God to reassure them.  The People were not denying the God of the first commandment, but rather broke the second commandment prohibiting the building of idols.  When Moshe returned with the tablets, he was indignant and smashed the tablets to show that the covenant between God and the Children of Israel had been shattered.

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Thoughts and Prayers: What’s In Those “Prayers,” Anyway?

[On February 14th] the town of Parkland, Florida made the news because of a school shooting that left 17 people dead—most of them teenagers. There are now about 5 such shootings each month in America. Since 20 first graders were killed in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, there have been some 239 school shootings, taking 138 innocent lives, injuring and traumatising countless more. That is, since I’ve been with you here in Sydney, 240 school shootings have taken place in America, and many more at large public venues, like music concerts and night clubs.

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Parashat Tetzaveh

My brother-in-law has many talents. In addition to playing the banjo, he’s a builder and carpenter; attorney specializing in environmental issues; and all around good guy. But his passion is olive farming…

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The Rules: Mishpatim 5778

After the thunder and the lightning, the blare of horns and the smoking mountain, after the chaos and the ecstasy and the fear and trembling of the revelation at Mt. Sinai, we get the rules. Parashat Mishpatim is where we begin to move from the sweeping narrative of the Book of Genesis and the first part of the Book of Exodus to the more granular, specific, some-might-even-say overly detailed descriptions of laws and ritual that occupy most of the rest of Exodus and all of Leviticus.

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What Makes a Good Leader | Parashat Yitro

But Moses’ father-in-law said to him: “The thing you are doing is not right. You will surely wear yourself out and these people as well. For the task is too heavy for you. You cannot do it alone.” (Exod. 18:17-18) People who criticize the Bible as being irrelevant to the present are usually the ones […]

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A Jewish View of Miracles: Parashah Beshalach

In the view of the rabbis, miracles were not interruptions of nature’s laws. At Creation, God had provided for them in advance as a part of the cosmic plan. To pray for a miracle would be wrong because God has already determined when miracles are to appear; they are not a product of human pleading. What can this tell us about our world today?

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There Is No Judaism without Jews | Parashat Bo

Go, worship the Lord your God! Who are the ones to go? Moses replied, “We will all go, young and old. We will go with our sons and our daughters, our flocks and our herds; for we must observe the Lord’s festival.” (Exod. 10:8-9) Jewish tradition declares that “God, Israel and the Torah are One.” […]

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On the Divine Name | Parashat Vaera

God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by my Name [Yod, Hay, Vov, Hay].” (Exod. 6:2-3)

Judaism has always shown its reverence for the name of God by the tradition of not pronouncing it. Thus, the letters Yod, Hay, Vov, Hay are combined with the vowels for Elohim and the pronounced word Adoshem or “Lord” is substituted for the vocalization.

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Us and Them: Divide and Misrule – Shemot 5778

It just takes a few divisive speeches, a few divisive decrees – and the entire society is doomed, even if may take a while, even if it does not realise it yet. Our problem is not the ”Pharaoh who knew not Joseph”, but the modern Pharaohs who ”do not know” of this one, and what he did, and the price that his country eventually paid. Can modern political leaders learn from these lessons?

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VaYechi

The Torah portion Va’yechi is the concluding parsha of the first book of Torah, B’reishit.  It ends the narrative of the founding mothers and fathers of our folk and faith, and also concludes the complex and compelling story of Joseph.  As such, it has many aspects of endings, including Jacob’s death-bed blessings given to his sons and grandsons plus explicit instructions regarding his burial. 

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