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.



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.



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."


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.


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.



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?



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”.



By Rabbi Natan Levy, July 28, 2010

As I wrote this, the oil was continuing to ooze into the Gulf of Mexico and Egypt could have been to blame. Not the modern Egyptian state, but the ancient biblical nation.

Our parashah provides a damning statement against those who dig the earth in hubris. Ancient Egyptian agriculture was elegantly simple. Each summer the Nile would overflow it banks, spilling sediment onto the shore. The farmers would sow the rich earth, and irrigate their crops via water-channels from the Nile. Yet there is a flaw.



By Rabbi Yisroel Fine, July 22, 2010

The Jewish calendar juxtaposes Shabbat Chazon and Shabbat Nachamu, the former with its message of doom and destruction, the latter with the hope of redemption and return.

Is this merely because these Sabbaths straddle the Fast of Tishah b'Av, one before and one after, or is there some thematic link between suffering and salvation?



By Rabbi Brian Fox, July 15, 2010

Philo of Alexandra was one of many who realised that there are different types of journey. One can travel in one's mind and have one's body stay still. For Philo, Abraham's journey was just of this type. How often have we as a Jewish people changed our place, changed our style and changed our practices. There has always been the pull of Israel on us. The Zionist dream did not start with Herzl.