Drawing close to holiness

This week’s Torah portion is Vayikra, Leviticus 1:1-5:26. This week, we begin the book of Vayikra. Its English title, Leviticus, comes from its Greek name, which was based on the fact that much of the book concerns rituals performed by the Levites. Since this the third of the five books, it traditionally was the first… Read More

The wise-heartedness of art

This week’s Torah portion is Vayakhel-Pekudei, Exodus 35:1-40:38. What is the value of art? This week’s Torah portion implies that Israel is not only a nation of priests, but also a nation of artisans. Vayakhel- Pekudei seems to be a reiteration of the portions of Terumah and Tetzaveh, lovingly repeating the details of the construction… Read More

God’s mercy through a magnifying glass

This week’s Torah portion is Ki Tisa, Exodus 30:11-34:35. The generation of Israelites that left Egypt and sojourned in the desert for 40 years has a notorious reputation. Though they were privileged to be redeemed from centuries of bondage, though they received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, they are known as Dor Hamidbar, the Generation… Read More

Notes from the inner sanctuary

This week’s Torah portion is Tetzaveh, Exodus 27:20-30:10. I’d like to challenge you to a little quiz. Which narrative in the Torah gets the most coverage? To be more specific, which narrative has the most verses devoted to it? Here are the obvious contenders: The Abraham saga The Joseph saga The Exodus story, from slave… Read More

The ancient discomfort of ‘the ask’

This week’s Torah portion is Terumah, Exodus 25:1-27:19. A number of years back at a seminar with American Jewish World Service, I attended a 30-minute session on fundraising. “What can you possibly learn about fundraising in 30 minutes?” I thought to myself. As it turned out, in that amount of time you can learn two… Read More

When slaves had rights

This week’s Torah portion is Mishpatim, Exodus 21:1-24:18. The events leading up to the revelation at Sinai include the 10 plagues, Pharaoh relenting to Moses and the exodus to freedom by the former Hebrew slaves. A shared experience seared into the souls of the people begins a transformation of slaves into a free nation. The… Read More

The wearying matter of justice

This week’s Torah portion is Yitro, Exodus 18:1-20:23. Although the main topic of this week’s Torah portion is the receiving of the Ten Commandments, it begins with Moses’ father-in-law, Yitro, insisting that Moses set up a legal system for the Israelite community. Yitro sees Moses handling all the legal decisions and cases by himself, and… Read More

What it takes to split the sea

This week’s Torah portion is Beshelach, Exodus 13:17 – 17:16. Growing up, I learned the words to Mi Chamocha as a prayer in the prayer book. It was not until I learned Torah that I discovered those words came from this week’s Torah portion. The words of the prayer are found in the section known… Read More

Is seeing really believing?

Special to WJW This week’s Torah portion is Bo, Exodus 10:1-13:16. While there is great truth to the phrase “seeing is believing,” we know that it is not a complete truth. For while it frequently takes witnessing something to integrate it into our psyche and believe in its authenticity, the belief doesn’t always kick in… Read More