Sidrahs

Balak

By Rabbi Daniel Glass, July 11, 2008

“What have I done to you that you struck me this three times?
Numbers 22:28

Children have a sense of wonder at the ordinary. Why the wind blows, what thunder actually is, the way the spores of a dandelion fly.

Great artists and scientists often possess the rare ability to retain this child-like wonder. Van Gogh could look at a flower as if he had never seen a flower before. Einstein wondered what it would look like if you could travel on a beam of light.

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Chukkat

By Maureen Kendler, July 4, 2008

“And Jephthah vowed a vow to the Lord”
Judges 11:30

One of the Bible’s most tragic incidents is recounted in this week’s haftarah. Jephthah, a judge, makes a vow promising God that if He surrenders the Ammonite enemy into his hands, whatever comes out of his house to welcome him on his return shall be sacrificed to Him as a burnt-offering.

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Korach

By Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz, June 27, 2008

“Moses became distressed and said to the Lord, ‘Do not accept their offerings. No donkey of any one of them did I take, nor did I harm any one of them’”
Numbers 16:15

The great leader Moses is faced with rebellion. It is clear that he is disturbed, but why does he find it important to emphasise that he took “no donkey”? It seems he was not the only leader who makes this claim.

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Shelach Lecha

By Dr Diana Lipton, June 20, 2008

“And we looked like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and so we were in their eyes”
Numbers 13: 33

This week’s parashah contains what may be the Bible’s only example of meta-empathy. The spies sent to scout out the land of Canaan do not merely put themselves into their enemies’ shoes and consider how the world must have looked from their perspective (empathy), but they imagine how they themselves must have appeared to their enemies (meta-empathy): “And we looked like grasshoppers in their eyes.”  

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Beha'alotecha

By Johnny Solomon, June 13, 2008

“If any man becomes contaminated through a human corpse or on a distant road, whether you or your generations, he shall make the Pesach offering for God in the second month on the fourteenth day”

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Naso

By Rabbi Daniel Glass, June 6, 2008

“One silver bowl, one silver basin”
Bemidbar 7:13

In Judaism, legislation governs everything from how you wage a war to how to tie your shoelaces. Where, then, is the space for self-expression? This week’s portion suggests a pathway into this issue. As a text, the Torah concentrates intense, immense meaning into all of its words and even letters — it takes only 31 sentences to describe the entire creation of the universe…

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Bemidbar

By Maureen Kendler, May 30, 2008

“Take a census of the entire assembly of the children of Israel according to their families”
Numbers 1:2

The sidrah begins with a detailed census of the people, tribe by tribe, as they prepare a military campaign to take the land. Rashbam suggests that the purpose of this census was to count the men over the age of 20  for military service.

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Bechukkotai

By Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz, May 23, 2008

“I will turn my face towards you and you will be struck down before your enemies” Leviticus 26:17

The Torah’s powerful words warn us of the punishment the Jewish people will receive if we abandon the mitzvot. Saadia Gaon interprets the beginning of this verse to mean that God will turn His anger towards us.

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Behar

By Dr Diana Lipton, May 16, 2008

“You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property for all time. Such may you treat as slaves. But as for your Israelite kinsman, no-one shall rule be’parech over the other”
Leviticus 25:46

Describing Israel’s slavery in Egypt, Exodus uses a term, be’parech, that occurs elsewhere only in this week’s parashah. Be’parech is equated with ruthlessness: “The Egyptians made the Israelites work ruthlessly” (Ex: 1:13).

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Emor

By Johnny Solomon, May 9, 2008

“You shall not profane My holy name, that I may be sanctified in the midst of the Israelite people”
Leviticus 22:32

According to the Talmud, there is only one sin that cannot be forgiven even if the sinner repents, fasts on Yom Kippur or is afflicted with suffering. This is the sin of chillul Hashem — profaning God’s name (Yoma 86a).

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