The many paths of communicating with God

This week’s Torah portion is Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26). We often teach and are taught that as long as there was a Temple in Jerusalem there was one, and only one, acceptable way of communicating with God: animal sacrifice. We often teach that today, in the absence of a Temple, we have developed many… Read More

And the women that were wise-hearted did spin

This week’s Torah portion is Vayakhel, in some congregations Vayakhel-Pekudei (Exodus 35:1-38:20). In Exodus 35:10 we find the Hebrew expression chacham-lev, which is translated as skilled, while literally meaning wise-hearted: “And let all among you who are skilled (wise-hearted) come and make what the Lord has commanded.” This includes the work of skilled craftsmen for… Read More

Moses shatters the tablets to teach us a lesson on counterfeit holiness

This week’s Torah portion is Ki Tisa, Exodus 30:11-34:35. In this week’s parsha, Moses smashes the Ten Commandments on the foot of Mount Sinai after seeing the Israelites worshiping the Golden Calf. Rashi, the great 11th-century Bible scholar, comments – on the last verse in the Torah – that God gave Moses a yasher koach for breaking the tablets. This… Read More

Jacob curses his sons to send us a message

This week’s Torah portion is Vayechi, Genesis 47:28-50:26. In this week’s parsha, Jacob sends an unequivocal message to his sons – and to all of us – against the use of collective punishment. On his deathbed, Jacob gathers his sons around him to hear his farewell words, and addresses each son individually. Jacob bestows prophetic… Read More

Joseph and Jewish brotherhood

This week’s Torah portion is Vayigash, Genesis 44:18 – 47:27.       “And Joseph could not hold himself back in front of all who were standing around him. … And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph; Is my father still alive?’” (Genesis 45:1-3) Why does Joseph suddenly wake up to his familial… Read More

Biblical family dysfunction

This week’s Torah portion is Vayeshev, Genesis 37:1-40:23. As we begin parshat Vayeshev, Jacob is settled. Literally and figuratively, he is comfortable and stable. Raised in a home of favoritism, Jacob continues this family tradition and expands on it. He gifts 17-year-old Joseph, a multicolored coat. Jacob’s gift was the opposite of discreet, it was… Read More

The power of names

This week’s Torah portion is Vayishlach, Genesis 32:4-36:43. My wife and I were lucky when we were deciding on a name for our potential adopted child. We planned on adopting a boy and, as he was to be the first of his generation in each of our families, we were able to take our pick… Read More

Enmity throughout the generations

This week’s Torah portion is Toldot, Genesis 25:19 – 28:9. “Rebecca [Isaac’s wife] conceived.  And the sons within her struggled (or agitated)…” (Genesis 25:21-22). The next three biblical portions deal with the jealousy, enmity and strife unto death between Jacob and Esau, the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca.  The “bad blood” that sullied their… Read More

The puzzling ‘Akedah’ story   

This week’s Torah portion is Vayera, Genesis 18:1-22:24. One of the most difficult narratives in our Bible is this story of the “binding” (akedah) of Isaac. How can the righteous God command Abraham to sacrifice his beloved and innocent child? And, secondly, how can a father ever think of carrying out such a command without… Read More