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Friday Shabbat Shalom

Words for Good or Words for Destruction

Aug 2, 2019

Words for Good or Words for Destruction

This week's Torah portion is not necessarily what it first appears to be. Parashat Matot opens in Numbers 30 with Moses conveying to the heads of the Israelite tribes certain laws pertaining to oaths. The whole of chapter 30 discusses these laws and how they manifest in Israelite society. What is unusual here is not that certain mitzvot are passed on to the Children of Israel, but rather their location in the text.
The Hallmark of a Just and Righteous Society

Jul 26, 2019

The Hallmark of a Just and Righteous Society

This week we study the portion known as Pinchas. In this portion we read a wonderful account of the five daughters of Tzelofhad. This account is very important as Judaism once again shifted the world’s paradigm on how to treat people, especially women. Apparently Tzelofhad dies without any sons or male heirs. After much perseverance the 5 daughters are granted an audience with Moses to address a very critical question. What to do with his estate and with his potential inheritance in the land to which they are going to live?
Believing is Seeing

Jul 19, 2019

Believing is Seeing

We start the story (BeMidbar chapter 22) being informed that Balak, the King of Moav, saw what Israel had done to the Amorites. A few verses later the story with the female donkey happens. While Bil’am sees nothing, the donkey does! And not only once but three times – “When the ass caught sight of the angel of the Lord…” (v. 23); “seeing the angel of the Lord…” (v. 25); “When the ass nowsaw the angel…” (v. 27). A few verses later, we read: “Then the Lord uncovered Bil’am’s eyes and he saw the angel of the Lord…” (v. 31). Ten verses later, Bil’am reaches Bamot-baal, from where “he could see a portion of the people.” (v. 41).
Spring Up, O Well

Jul 12, 2019

Spring Up, O Well

This parasha is dedicated to Rabbi Fred Klein and Miriam Rafael in celebration of their recent marriage in Israel Then Israel sang this song: “Spring up, O well—sing to it— The well which the chieftains dug, Which the nobles of the people started With maces, with their own staffs.” Then from Midbar to Mattanah [or from the desert—a gift!] (Numbers 21:17-18)
Consumption and Kedushah

Jul 5, 2019

Consumption and Kedushah

The portion of Korach is named for the rebellious Levite Korach who started a dispute over the issue of kedushah. The concept of kedushah is central in Judaism, and its meaning can have profound impact on the environment today. Kedushah or the corresponding adjective, kadosh, are usually translated obscurely as “sanctity” or “holy”; its real meaning is: devotion to a sublime ideal.
Slowly Healing the World

Jun 28, 2019

Slowly Healing the World

In Parashat Sh’lach, we are told the story of the spies who investigate the Land of Israel before the people enter and settle there. They return and report that though the land is bountiful, the people who dwell within it are strong, terrible, and cannot be overcome. Despite the lone protests of Caleb, who insists that the Israelites can indeed possess the land, the people of Israel are paralyzed with fear, begin to weep and defame God, and then insist on returning to Egypt. It is this rebellion that is punished by 40 years of desert wandering.
Ceding Control & Seizing It

Jun 21, 2019

Ceding Control & Seizing It

We often translate d’var torah to mean, “a teaching,” but it literally means, “a word of Torah.” In this d’var torah, let’s examine an actual word, just one: “ruach.” The word ruach in the literal sense means, “wind,” but it also can mean “spirit.” And in this week’s portion, Beha’alotcha, we surprisingly find both meanings, in distinct contexts.
The Spirituality of Eye Contact

Jun 14, 2019

The Spirituality of Eye Contact

There are few texts from the Torah more ubiquitous, more universally invoked than Birkat Kohanim: the Priestly Benediction. We Jews use it all the time. At weddings. And bat mitzvahs. At preschool graduation ceremonies. At the Shabbat dinner table. Indeed, it has become an integral element of our liturgy incorporated into the conclusion of the Amidah as part of the Birkat Shalom, the prayer for peace. And within the non-Jewish world, the three-stanza blessing has come to be such a central part of the service that most worshipers presume it is indigenous to the Christian tradition. But it is not. It comes right from Parashat Naso.
The Book of Our Life

Jun 7, 2019

The Book of Our Life

Jewish time is a beautiful thing. This week, we welcome Shabbatby opening a new book of Torah, Numbers, with the reading ofParshat Bemidbar. As Shabbatconcludes on Saturday evening we begin the festival of Shavuot,celebrating the receiving of Torahat Mt. Sinai. Shabbat begins with opening a new book, and as it concludes we find ourselves at the base of the mountain ready to renew the covenant with the Divine. The Torah contains within it the story of how we came to be and the essence of what we strive to become. Within the pages, and verses are the stories of our ancestors and the guiding principles of what it means to be Am Yisrael, the people of Israel. At Sinai, we became a link in a chain of tradition extending from generation to generation. We recall the stories, teach the values, and guide our lives by the precepts.
Chosen to be Choosers

May 31, 2019

Chosen to be Choosers

Parshat Bechukkotai opens with a conditional statement: If you faithfully follow in God’s ways, then you will be blessed. If you reject God’s ways, then you will experience punishment and curse. These consequences are referred to by the rabbis as tochecha/ rebuke, and it is customary for the Torah reader to read the passages outlining the curses quickly and quietly as if to protect the congregation from the uncomfortable nature of the curses.