Sidrahs

Rosh Hashanah

By Dr Leya Landau, September 17, 2009

The Torah reading for the day of Rosh Hashanah opens with a moment of connection. After years of being unable to bear children, God remembers Sarah. She conceives and gives birth to Isaac. Rashi’s comment on this verse draws attention to the ambivalent verb “remembered” in this context. If God remembers Sarah now, are we to infer that there was a lapse, an empty desolate interim, during which she had, indeed, been forgotten?

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Nitzavim vayelech

By Rabbi Chaim Weiner, September 9, 2009

This is the point in the Torah narrative when Moses hands in his resignation and steps down from his role as the leader of the Jewish people. Why now? Rashi suggests three different explanations.

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Ki Tavo

By Rabbi Daniel Levy, September 2, 2009

Tzedakah, according to Rabbi Yisrael Lipschitz (1782-1860), should act as a safeguard to protect a person from arrogance: instead of people thinking they are wealthy through their own endeavours, regular giving will instil in them a sense of humility, in the recognition that it is God who has blessed them and they are purely a hired hand who must pay rent in the form of tzedakah.

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Ki Tetzei

By Rabbi Nancy Morris, August 24, 2009

The parashah of Ki Tetzei contains the largest concentration of mitzvot of any portion. One of these is the basis of the law of negligence. In Torah times, houses had flat roofs which could often be trod upon by animals or people. A parapet would be a simple way of ensuring that no one fell off the roof.

A key element of negligence law is proving a duty of care between the parties involved. What is so novel about this Deuteronomic law is that the Torah recognises any owner of a new house to have a duty of care to ensure the safety of any visitor to that house.

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Re’eh

By Dr Leya Landau, July 30, 2009

A verse near the beginning of this week’s parashah instructs the Israelites to seek out God’s Presence in the place that He will choose as the site of the Holy Temple – Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.

The tension implicit within this verse – between the Temple as a divinely designated place for an entire people, and the different journeys undertaken by individuals seeking a closer relationship with God – has been noted by many Torah commentators.

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Devarim

By Rabbi Nancy Morris, July 23, 2009

The more I am exposed to other cultures, the more I am convinced that we Jews are a group peculiarly partial to words. Non-Jewish friends have sometimes confessed a certain discomfort in the presence of Jewish families— ok, with my Jewish family — and the apparent constant bickering that prevents anyone of a more timid disposition to get in a word edgewise. To us it is just normal discussion.

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Mattot-Massei

By Rabbi Yoni Sherizen, July 16, 2009

This week we read a story which identifies a more nuanced form of criticism which plagued our ancestors and still exists in our community today. Just after collecting their spoils of war, the tribes of Reuben and Gad approach Moses with a request to remain on the east side of the Jordan along with their wealth. Moses objects, immediately reminding them that staying behind would be to abandon their brethren as they cross into the Promised Land to begin a new life and face real dangers.

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Chukat-balak

By Rabbi Chaim Weiner, July 2, 2009

This odd juxtaposition of these verses suggests a connection between Miriam’s death and the people’s thirst for water. The Midrash explains that as long as Miriam was alive, a well accompanied her, bringing water to the people in the desert. When Miriam died, the well dried up and disappeared. Like many things in life, as long as the well was there, no one paid attention to it. Only after it dried up did they realise how dependent they were on it. Until then, no one realised that it was Miriam who sustained the people during their long journey.

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Korach

By Rabbi Daniel Levy, June 25, 2009

With a quick reading of the sidrah, one can miss the real hero of the story — the wife of On ben Pelet. On ben Pelet starts off following Korach in his rebellion against Moses and Aaron but later disappears from the scene.

The Midrash elaborates that whereas Korach’s wife had fired her husband up against Moses, On’s wife saved hers. She implored him, “Why do you want [to be part of] this argument? If Aaron is the High Priest, you will be his pupil; if Korach is the High Priest, you will be his pupil.” She continued, “The entire congregation is holy”.

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Shelach

By Rabbi Nancy Morris, June 17, 2009

The last paragraph of the Shema concludes a dramatic parashah that begins with Moses sending 12 spies to scout the land of Israel. It is not clear why they are being sent, but judging from God’s furious reaction on their return with negative reports, God may have been expecting something more positive. The people are condemned to wander 40 years and only the children of the generation liberated from Egypt will enter Israel.

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