Sidrahs

Nitzavim-Vayelech

By Rabbi Rebecca Qassim Birk, August 29, 2013

When people ask me to summarise my approach to Jewish practice, I almost always direct them to Deuteronomy 11-14. This passages capture the audacious democracy that lays at the heart of Judaism. No one else — and certainly no rabbi — can negotiate it on behalf of another. No one can fulfil our obligations or responsibilities.

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Ki Tavo

By Rabbi Daniel Beller, August 23, 2013

Is serving God without joy reason enough for the warnings of the great rebuke (Deuteronomy 28:15-69) to be unleashed on the Jewish people? Evidently yes. But how are we to understand the gravity of this offence?

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Ki Tetzei

By Rabbi Michael Pollak, August 16, 2013

This verse is one of the few in the Torah which deals with the ethics of war in general and the status of enemy civilians in particular. It creates the unique category of the beautiful captive. We see in this instance that our behaviour during war varies from that of peace time.

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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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