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.
The most important commandment | Parashat Yitro
One of the most common and interesting “exercises” in contemporary religious education invites participants first to read and study the “Ten Commandments” or, as they are known in Hebrew, “Aseret Hadibrot” – “the ten utterances.” Once familiar with these ten statements, students brainstorm their own individual or collective “Ten Commandments for Our Time.”
Manna: miracle and lesson | Parashat Beshalach
In the chapter Bshalach we learn how God interrupts the natural order to establish relationship between divine and human. One of the ways of relationship, after the rescue at the sea from Pharaoh and Egyptians, was the Manna, which played the role of everyday food and certain lesson to the children of Israel.
Hope even in darkness | Parashat Bo
Although the winter solstice is behind us and the days are slowly getting a bit longer, we in the Northern Hemisphere, are still in the dark time of the year. Darkness – choshech– is a common image in Torah and in our liturgy. In fact, in Torah there are 51 references for the word choshech […]
Naming the Unnameable | Parashat Va’era
To paraphrase Charles Dickens, Va’era is the most Jewish Parasha and the least Jewish Parasha. Why the least Jewish? Because, unlike some other religious traditions, Jews do not talk often or easily about G-d. We are not fundamentally constituted by our theology. But when we come to this Parasha, we cannot address it without talking […]
A Good Name | Parashat Shemot
Jewish genealogy is a particularly powerful tool that can help strengthen the Jewish people and our Jewish stories. I have heard of so many families reuniting especially post Shoa that didn’t know a branch had survived at all and they re-discovered one another because of Jewish genealogy, some sleuthing, and asking questions!
End of life poetry and blessings from the deep in Genesis’ final portion | Parashat Vayechi
Less than 24 hours before my mom spoke her final words, my children, husband, and I gathered around her hospital bedside. At 83, with a constellation of health challenges, she had appeared to be recovering from a recent stroke.
The Soul Bound up with Mine | Parashat Vayigash
How do we describe the relationship between parents and children? How do we refer to the bond that exists? This week in Vayigash, our Torah text gives us language that many might find compelling.