Sidrahs

Shoftim

By Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand, August 9, 2013

Like a low-budget horror movie, we watch the Jewish people in Deuteronomy beg God to place a king over them. Remember, this is the people who have recently left Egypt, where they suffered as victims of a culture that elevated their leaders to serve as quasi-gods. So we know that once a society starts to equate human beings with powerful divine beings, corruption and tragedy are inevitable.

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Re'eh

By Rabbi Jeremy Bruce, August 1, 2013

One of the most important questions for a society is how much freedom should people be given. Liberal theorists argue that people can only flourish if they are given maximum autonomy. But conservative philosophers assert that society functions most effectively if it is governed by clear rules and set hierarchies.

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Ekev

By Rabbi Rebecca Qassim Birk, July 26, 2013

Nelson Mandela lies critically ill in his hospital bed in Pretoria. But his spiritual strength is tangible, informed by his experience of struggle and hardship. It is universally acknowledged that his period of incarceration made him the leader he is.

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Devarim

By Rabbi Michael Pollak, July 11, 2013

“And it came to pass... that Moses spoke to the children of Israel” Deuteronomy 1:3

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Mattot-Massei

By Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand, July 4, 2013

The notion of cities of refuge has classically been understood as a safe haven for one who has unintentionally caused the death of another human being. No doubt, in the case of accidental death, an individual may have needed to seek sanctuary from those who might wish to enact revenge (similar to the sanctuary that a foreign embassy offers its nationals today).

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Pinchas

By Rabbi Jeremy Bruce, June 27, 2013

God informs Moses that he is about to die and therefore will not enter the Land of Israel. It is a measure of Moses’s greatness that his immediate concern on hearing these tidings is for the welfare of the people and their future leadership. God immediately responds to Moses’s request with an instruction to appoint Joshua.

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Balak

By Rabbi Rebecca Qassim Birk, June 20, 2013

So magical is the capacity of Balaam’s donkey to talk that it is listed in Pirkei Avot (5:6) as one of the wonders created at twilight on the eve of Shabbat, along with other mysterious things such as Miriam’s well or manna.

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Chukkat

By Rabbi Daniel Beller, June 13, 2013

In Parashat Chukkat, we suddenly find ourselves in the fortieth year in the wilderness. This is a period which witnesses the death of Miriam and Aaron. Moses, too, will be unable to enter the land due to his mishandling of yet another water crisis. Nor, does it seem, that the children of Israel have progressed from the cantankerous rabble that had left Egypt forty years earlier.

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Korach

By Rabbi Michael Pollak, June 6, 2013

And so ended the rebellion led by Korach, the eponymous villain of our parashah. Oscar Wilde commented on the degree to which “life imitates art”. We might elaborate on his thesis with the parallel proposition that at the moment “life is imitating the parashah”.

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Shelach Lecha

By Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand, May 30, 2013

Parashat Shelach Lecha begins with the spies forgetting their mission and ends with God giving us a tool, tzitzit, so we will always remember our mission. While the Torah does not explicitly make this connection, it seems a reasonable one to draw, as the failure of the spies’ mission stems from their lack of confidence and inability to view themselves, as God does, as a “treasured people”.

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