Shelach Lecha

By Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, June 3, 2010

Is it ever right to criticise Israel? It is a question that we confront every year as we read about the spies who went to investigate the Promised Land. They all reported that the country was beautiful, but most of them claimed that conquering it would be impossible. Their pessimism led to a national rebellion, leading God to ban that entire generation from entering Israel and condemning them to death in the desert.



By Elaine Robinson, May 27, 2010

The Israelites can be heard murmuring and grumbling about their situation pretty much from the beginning of their experience of freedom. They complain about the lack of water to drink, the standard of their food, and appear to harp back to the "good old days" of slavery in Egypt. Is this a profound case of Stockholm Syndrome, or was something else praying on the minds of the people at the time?



By Rabbi Nathan Levy, May 21, 2010

No one likes to hear the same thing twice. No one likes to say the same thing twice. So the end of this week's sidrah is perplexing, even downright dull, with its twelve-fold repetition of the princely offerings to the Tabernacle. Each leader brings the same litany of gifts, each recorded in minute detail. What can we learn from repetition?



By Rabbi Yisroel Fine, May 13, 2010

There are societies in which personal freedom and aspirations are abrogated, human dignity and the value of human life are disregarded. By contrast there are those built upon personal freedom where human life and dignity are cherished as inalienable rights.
Yet individual freedom and choice may sometimes be abused at the expense of others. Where do we strike the balance? The command of Moses to count the heads of the Jewish people and take a census the Torah indicates the proper balance to be struck.



By Rabbi Brian Fox, May 6, 2010

The change that takes place in biblical Hebrew from one generation to another is a fascinating process. Words like "Israel", "holy" and even "God" have gone through a metamorphosis. Battles have been fought. Life and death have often revolved around the change in meaning. An example of this is the word dror (release), which occurs at the beginning of this week's Torah portion.



By Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, April 28, 2010

Does it matter what the rest of the world thinks of Israel and the Jewish people or should we just do what we think is right regardless of world opinion?

At first glance, it might seem that Judaism only requires us to follow its laws, oblivious to other people's views. But our religious obligations include the duty to avoid any act which will reduce respect for God and the Jewish people and to strive to "sanctify God's name"; bringing credit to our religion and its adherents (Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah 5: 10).


Acharei mot–kedoshim

April 22, 2010

Parashat Kedoshim begins by outlining one of the most important mitzvot in the Torah without specifically defining what it is: for the Israelite community "to be holy".

This injunction is immediately qualified by the statement "for I, the Lord your God, am holy". We can surmise from this that we are to be holy because God is holy and this means that we should act in His image, b'ztelem Elohim.

What does this mean? What are God'' expectations when He commands such an undefined yet powerful law? How are we to be holy?



By Rabbi Natan Levy, April 15, 2010

I was turned away from the hospital the other day on a visit to one of my congregants. Winter-virus had contaminated the ward and non-essential visitors were asked to leave. Sickness can be lonely. Before modernity, illness had purpose. It could cleanse one from sin, sign-post a fault in the soul, lead to a higher spiritual plane. The Talmud relates that when Rabbi Yochanan enters to heal his student, Rabbi Hiyya, he begins with the question: "Are your afflictions beloved to you?" (Berachot 5b).



By Rabbi Yisroel Fine, April 8, 2010

That Moses summoned Aaron and his sons to officiate at the dedication of the Tabernacle is understandable, but for what purpose did he call on the elders? We do not find them performing any function whatsoever.


Shabbat chol Hamoed Pesach

By Rabbi Brian Fox, April 1, 2010

In their different readings of Torah this Shabbat, both Orthodox and Reform traditions make serious statements about God's nature and how it is reflected in the Exodus. For the Orthodox, who read Exodus 34:6, there is a direct connection between the Thirteen Attributes of God and this Passover season. God has certain qualities. Out of those qualities came the Exodus. We therefore praise God.