Not Adding nor Taking Away, but Assuring its Continual Relevance | Parashat Vaétchanan

This week’s parashah, Va’etchanan, continues Moses’ first address to the people of Israel as they are encamped on the east side of the Jordan River, preparing to enter the Promised Land. This portion contains the repetition of the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:6-18) and the first paragraph of the Sh’ma (6:4-9), but it also includes many other significant teachings that deserve our attention.

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D’varim, Tisha B’Av and Jewish Resilience

or longer than I have been alive, the State of Israel has existed. The borders have changed over the years, but I have never known a world where Israel did not exist. Orthodox liturgies pray for the coming of the Davidic Messiah, the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the re-establishment of the sacrificial cult. Among non-orthodox Jews, even if our liturgy contains references to “moshiach ben David” the call to rebuild and re-establish ancient sacrificial rites is often deemed as little more than symbolic. So, what does Tisha B’Av mean to post-enlightenment Jews who may not believe in a personal messiah, have never known a world without Israel, who do not see themselves returning to animal sacrifices?

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Parashat Mattot-Mase’ei

For the last number of years, the summer edition of our synagogue magazine has focused on the Jewish travel experiences of our members. As well as boasting as a member, Cathy Winston, the travel editor for the British Jewish Chronicle, congregants wrote about Crete and Corfu, Dubrovnik and Copenhagen and the Judah Hyam synagogue in New Delhi. Numbers 33, the opening chapter of the sidrah, Mase’ei reads like a travel itinerary, the stages of the Israelites wanderings in the wilderness.

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Pinchas, Leader by Birthright | Parashat Pinchas

Step by step, the Torah introduces us to a new generation of leaders of Israel. Often, when we speak of new leadership, we use to project great hopes: that the new one will be correct, ethical, that he/she will leads us to a time of justice, prosperity and optimism. But not always the new is […]

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Parashat Balak

Parshat Balak was the Torah portion read on my first Shabbat as rabbi of the congregation I would go on to serve for 35 years.  I observed then that there must be something instructive — and maybe cautionary — to be gleaned from the coincidence of assuming this new pulpit on the Shabbat when we read a Torah portion that prominently features a talking ass. My new congregation laughed – with me rather than at me, thankfully.  But the truth is, that among the insights found in this complicated Torah portion, is this:  what we say reveals a great deal about who we are.

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Water for the Next Generation | Parashat Chukkat

In this week’s Torah portion, Chukkat, we read: “The community was without water and they joined against Moses and Aaron”. This reaction from the community is not a big surprise. After Miriam’s death earlier in the chapter, finding water became one of the greatest concerns for the people of Israel.

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Set Aside for Faith Based Living | Parashat Korach

“And the LORD said unto Aaron: ‘Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any portion among them; I am thy portion and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.” — Numbers 18:20
You are set aside, for a special purpose and destiny. Your “portion” now and forever more shall be the Eternal. Which really means your portion is 100 percent rooted in your faith that God and the people will care for you and your family.

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Parashat Shelach Lecha

Twelve men, representative from each tribe, have been sent to reconnoitre the land of Israel, and they come back with the same report but with two different conclusions. The land is very good and fertile, but the inhabitants are strong. Ten believe that it would be impossible to take the land and it is better not to try, two insist that trusting in God and refusal to be afraid will mean that they will indeed succeed.

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A Woman Accused | Parashat Naso

I am an avid reader. I enjoy most genres and love to get suggestions from my colleagues and friends. I will start a novel just because a trusted friend recommended it, without researching its topic or other reviews. I also enjoy rereading the classics. Occasionally, when rereading a story, an image or a plot twist will seem different or raise a conflict which feel new to me. When I have that reaction to the new information, I push myself to continue and figure out why.

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Rewards for Those Who Don’t Seek the Limelight | Parashat Behaalotcha

Finding good leaders for our congregations is an ongoing challenge, one that exists whether you are in Alaska or New Zealand. This week’s portion offers us guidance in finding the right leaders, in the story of two very minor characters.

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1937 Columbus Story: Universalism v Particularism | Parashat Behaalotcha

The rabbinic conference in Columbus, Ohio 1937 must have been fraught and tense – the Reform movement in the United States was on the edge of redefining its relationship to a personal God and to Israel – and some rabbis felt that the core values of Reform Judaism were on the chopping block.

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When it Rains, it Pours: Parashat Behukotai

With Pesach the rain in Israel generally ends. But this past week we had quite a storm! The Hebrew language has multiple words for rain. Geshem is the most general word. Yoreh refers to the early rain. And malkosh the late rain. This week’s Torah portion, Behukotai, is one of many traditional Jewish sources that views rain as a reward to the Jewish people for obeying the commandments:

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