Sidrahs

Noach

By Sally Berkovic, October 7, 2010

With cramped living quarters, poor sanitation and no television, perhaps it was inevitable that Noah favoured some animals. Consider his special relationship with the dove. On her first mission to see if the waters had receded, the Torah says, "He sent the dove from him", intimating that Noah would suffer at her departure. When she returns, the text says, "She returned to him, to the ark…and he sent out his hand, and he took her and brought her to him, into the ark."

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Bereshit

By Rabbi Benjamin Rickman, September 28, 2010

We all enjoy a challenge, as did the ancient rabbis. When asked to propose the most important verse in the Torah, we might suggest the first line of the Shema or the first of the Ten Commandments.

The great sage Rabbi Akiva advocated "Love your neighbour as yourself". His colleague, Ben Azzai, however, chose the verses from Genesis quoted above. Ben Azzai is telling us that the creation of man is the main principle of the Torah.

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Shabbat chol Hamo'ed Succot

By Rabbi Brian Fox, September 21, 2010

In a world where a leading scientist questions God's role in creation, the concept of a personal God who cares about human beings is at best quaint. The context of these words reveals their meaning. Moses appeals to God: he does not want to live in a world where even though he would be made into a great nation, the Israelites would be destroyed. It is the same as saying today, "I don't want to live in a world without Jews." On many occasions in Jewish history, Judenrein existed as a possibility.

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Yom kippur

By Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, September 16, 2010

Repentance is one of Judaism's most uplifting concepts. The Rambam teaches that a person could be despised and hated by God one day and be loved by Him the next. All it takes to make the difference is a sincere process of repentance.

On my recent trip to South Africa, I witnessed an exhilarating example of national repentance. Just a few years ago, the country was governed by a brutal, racist regime, making it a pariah state. Now, it has transformed itself into a highly respected democracy.

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Ha'azinu

By Elaine Robinson, September 7, 2010

The poem that forms part of Moses's farewell to the Israelite nation summarises the themes of the Book of Deuteronomy: the greatness and generosity of God and the stubbornness of the nation.

But this parsahah is one of the most devastating to read. At the end of the section, God takes Moses up Mount Nebo to show him the beauty of the Land of Canaan and then tells him that he will not enter into the land because of his sin in hitting the rock rather than talking to it as God had commanded him. We hear nothing of Moses's response on hearing this news.

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Nitzavim-vayelech

By Rabbi Natan Levy, September 2, 2010

Moses is dying. With his final breath he calls everyone forward. "You are standing today, all of you" (Deuteronomy 9:9). Leaders and old men, women and children all come to hear these last words. Moses utters a strange phrase: "Not with you all alone do I seal this covenant... but with whomever is here, standing with us."

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Ki tavo

By Rabbi Yisroel Fine, August 26, 2010

Ma'aser, the tithe, was a far more substantial sacrifice than bikkurim, the first-fruits offering, amounting - as the Hebrew word indicates - to one-tenth of the farmer's income.
For the bikkurim, on the other hand no specific measure was fixed in Jewish law, yet it is the mitzvah of bikkurim that requires the ceremony of the carnival-like procession to Jerusalem and the ceremonious declaration of the farmer in the presence of the priest.

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Ki Tetsei

August 19, 2010

The outstanding Women's Commentary on the Torah rightly stresses Judaism's moral stance in caring for "the stranger, the fatherless and the widow" (Deuteronomy 24:19). Professor Judith Plaskow emphasises Judaism's sensitivity to those in the margins of society so that the weak and the hungry are protected.

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Shoftim

By Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, August 12, 2010

If a murdered body was found in Israel, the elders of the nearest city were held responsible. Accompanied by the priests, they were obliged to take part in a complex ritual; taking a calf down to a barren valley, slaughtering it there and swearing an oath in which they denied any responsibility for the tragic death.

The rabbis of the Talmud were stunned by this law. It seemed inconceivable that our religious leadership would be suspected of cold-blooded murder. So why the ritual and why the oath?

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Re'eh

By Elaine Robinson, August 9, 2010

According to Rashi, some people agonise when faced with the decision whether or not to give to the needy; therefore he says that we are specifically told “you shall not harden your heart”, in order to direct us towards giving.

Explaining the second part of the sentence, he says that some people stretch out their hand to give, but then close it; therefore the text says: “nor close your hand”.

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