Why Noah is a story for grownups

This week’s Torah portion is Noach, Genesis 6:9 – 11:32. This week we read of a flood that covered a mountain (Ararat) nearly 17,000 feet high and a little boat capable of holding (and saving) every species of land animal and bird. The flood story is a fable, pure and simple. If it hints at… Read More

Quieting the mind to open it to God

This week’s Torah reading is Bereshit, Genesis 1:1–6:8. “After eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Chava’s eyes are opened and they perceived that they were naked …” The birth of self-consciousness. “And Elohim called out to the man and said to him, ‘Ayeka,’ where are you? … and they… Read More

Why Sukkot is like the love that glows

This week’s Shabbat Torah reading for Chol Hamoed Sukkot is Exodus 33:12-34:26. On the Shabbat during Sukkot we read of Moshe’s second trip up Mount Sinai. When he returns, something startling happens: Moshe’s face radiates. As he speaks, the people are so afraid that that he is obliged to put on a veil. We tend… Read More

A whale of Yom Kippur lesson for us

One of the highlights of the Yom Kippur experience is the reading of Jonah, a book containing profound lessons for the holiest day of the year. God calls upon Jonah to implore the people of the city of Ninveh to repent. Jonah refuses. He believes he can escape God by sailing out to sea. The… Read More

The Torah reviews its memories

Special to WJW. This week’s Torah portion is Nitzavim-Vayelech, Deuteronomy 29:9 – 31:30. As people age and realize they are nearing the end of their lives, they begin a process called life review. Life review is different for each person, but it involves a return to memories, such as our actions and the people we’ve… Read More

The long goodbye as a teaching moment

Special to WJW This week’s Torah portion is Devarim, 1:1-3:22. This Shabbat we begin the final book of the Torah, Devarim, in which Moshe begins his several-week-long farewell speech to the children of Israel. One explanation can be found in the Greek name of this book, Deuteronomy, or “Second Law.” While this translation is incorrect,… Read More

Why it’s the journey that counts

Special to WJW This week’s Torah portion is Matot- Masei, Numbers 30:2 – 36:13. The word masei, meaning journeys, refers to motion, travel and wanderings. These are profound religious and life themes, beginning with the creation of Earth which is moving, while we observe the change of evening to day, darkness and light, helping to… Read More

What’s on God’s mind?

Special to WJW This week’s Torah portion is Pinchas, Numbers 25:10-30:1. How do we know what God wants? I have struggled with this question for decades, despite studying Torah regularly, despite being a rabbi. Go back in time with me to Nov. 4, 1995. I was living in Israel on that fateful day. Prime Minister… Read More

Lighten up, Moses

Special to WJW This week’s Torah portion is Chukat, Numbers 19:1 – 22:1. Miriam dies, and after that there is no more water. Once again, the Israelites gather themselves against Moses and Aaron. The two ask God for help, and God tells Moses to take his staff and speak to a rock, which will then… Read More

Hateful words lead to hateful acts

Special to WJW This week’s Torah portion is Korach, Numbers 16:1 — 18:32. The rebellion of Korach is an explicit, notorious rebellion against Moses’ divinely mandated leadership — ultimately a rebellion against God. Jewish tradition sees it as the paradigm of an illegitimate controversy. The Mishnah tells us: “A controversy for the sake of heaven… Read More