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Tag: Rabbi Efrat Zarren-Zohar

Jul 22, 2022

The Crown All Can Wear

Moses was in sight of the Angel of Death. Miriam had died. So had Aaron. And God had told Moses “you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was.” (Num. 27:12–13), so he knew he was not fated to live long enough to cross the Jordan and enter the land. Who would be his successor? Did he have any thoughts on the matter?

Jul 15, 2022

Not Seeing Is The Sin

This week’s Torah portion is mostly the story of Balak, the king of the nation Moab, who hires the prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites, whom he perceives as a threat. Balaam then discovers that the power of blessing and cursing is God’s alone.

Jul 8, 2022

Shrouded In Mystery

This week’s Torah portion, Chukat (Numbers 19 - 21), begins with a detailed description of the ritual of the red heifer... the Torah calls this ritual a chok - a decree, meaning a law, which defies human logic... the procedure is shrouded in mystery and is enigmatic. The intention is to purify those that are ritually impure. In the process, however, the individuals who facilitate the ritual of purification become impure themselves!

Jul 1, 2022

Korach Leadership: Taker or Giver?

This week's parashah, Korach, begins with the words "Korach took / vayikach Korach." Since the verb is not followed by a direct object, the commentators wonder what it is he took. Furthermore, Korach did not take alone -- Datan and Abiram are subjects in that sentence, as well; yet the verb וַיִּקַּח is in the singular…

Jun 24, 2022

The Big Lie

Twelve scouts are asked to go stealthily into the Land of Israel and look around. They return with samples of its rich produce: clusters of grapes, pomegranates, and figs and set them down in front of Moses and Aaron and the assembly. And then, instead of describing all that they had seen, an alternative reality is delivered as described in B’Midbar / Numbers 13:26-33

Jun 17, 2022

G!Ds Spirit Rests On You

This week's parsha, Beha'alotcha, recounts a curious incident, recounts a curious incident... the Holy One tells Moshe to gather 70 elders, Joshua and himself and enter the Tent of Meeting so that G!D can deliver a message. Then "[t]he Lord came down in a cloud and spoke to Moshe and took of the spirit that was on him and put it on the 70 elders. And when the spirit of G!D rested upon them, they began to prophesy." (Bamidbar/Numbers 11:24-25) So what does it mean they began to prophesy?

Jun 10, 2022

We Need Blessing!

One of the most exciting parts of Parashat Naso, this week’s Torah portion, is the inclusion of the three-part blessing recited by the Cohanim… These blessings have become central to many parts of our liturgy and are included in the repetition of the Musaf Amidah either by the Cantor, or in some traditional synagogues, by Cohanim (descendants of priests) themselves, to bless the people using this ancient biblical ritual…

Jun 3, 2022

Naomi and Ruth: The Vulnerability of Women & Immigrants

On all of the Festivals, the custom arose among Jews that various biblical scrolls (megillot) are read in keeping with a particular overlapping theme echoed in the holiday and the chosen piece of writing. On Shavuot this coming weekend, Megillat Rut / the Scroll of Ruth is read, ostensibly because the barley harvest is a key plot line...

May 27, 2022

Why Do Bad Things Happen?

Why do bad things happen to good people? Parashat Behukotai posits it's a quid pro quo from G!D: "If you follow My laws and faithfully observe my commandments...[Good things happen to you (as a people)]. But if you do not obey Me...I will wreak misery upon you..."

May 20, 2022

Expanding Our Circle of Caring

The small holiday of Lag BaOmer (the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer) occurred this week. It’s a break in the semi-“Lenten” time period between Passover and Shavuot when tradition forbids weddings and celebrations and asks Jews to adopt the custom of not shaving or cutting one’s hair as an act of mourning.

May 13, 2022

Brokenness: The Path to Growth

Over the centuries, most of humanity responded to the disabled in others ways, by turning their backs to them, preferring to blame them in some ways for their disabilities rather than make the effort to strengthen the human connection that binds each to all.

May 6, 2022

When Loving Is Difficult

The name of the parsha is taken from the first important word at the outset of the portion (which is how all parshiot get their name)—Kedoshim Tehiyu/ Be holy! No one is entirely sure what the word Kedusha / Holiness means, but at bare minimum, it implies the elevation of human beings and our actions from animal-like to G!D-like.

Apr 29, 2022

The GOAT That Isn’t So Great

The term "scapegoat" was apparently coined by William Tyndale, the first great English Bible translator, and has come to mean "someone whom people blame for their own misfortunes and even for their faults and sins--though the original notion of a scapegoat included the public acknowledgement by the community of its own transgressions."

Apr 21, 2022

Counting the Omer: The Next Phase of Our Spiritual Journey

This week, at the conclusion of Havdalah, we will bid farewell to Shabbat and the festival of Pesach, and begin a new journey, a spiritual ascent to Mt. Sinai. On the second night of Pesach, we began counting the omer, a spiritual exercise, as we prepare to receive the gift of Torah.

Apr 15, 2022

Slavery: Inside and Out

One of the more challenging questions about the seder - How do we make it relevant today? Here is one suggestion. Let’s start by discussing a well-known statement found in the Haggadah: “In every generation a person is required to see oneself as if he personally went out of Egypt.” How is it possible to do this? And why is this necessary?

Apr 8, 2022

Pesach: How to Preserve Our Freedom

The Pesach seder is an event filled with symbols that have dual and opposite meanings; likewise, there’s a subtext of argumentation. It’s ‘organized’ argumentation - like the Talmud - but built into the Haggadah (the “script’ of the seder) is debate and even conflict among the participants.

Apr 1, 2022

The Slap

When I was 12, a few weeks before my Bat Mitzvah, I went in to meet with one of the rabbis of my synagogue. At the time, the synagogue newsletter included a “pasuk of the week,” a verse from that week’s Torah portion that was particularly interesting or thought provoking. However, as the rabbi confessed to me, the week of my bat mitzvah was to be the end of that custom. He just couldn’t find anything that fit the bill. That week’s parashah? Tazria.

Mar 25, 2022

Igniting The Fire Within Ourselves

While there is an ocean of difference between pagan Greek myth [of Icarus] and our Torah, often cross-cultural comparisons can be enlightening. Interestingly, the very hubris that motivated Icarus’s downfall is reflected in a different way in this week’s parashah (Shmini) in a story, which has troubled many.

Mar 18, 2022

Purim Redux: Jew vs. Haman Once Again

As I write these words, I have just watched a young 44-year-old former comedian in an olive drab t-shirt address the Congress of the United States and indeed the world. It is a Churchillian moment, although he is speaking in Ukrainian, and this young political novice within weeks has not only become the voice of his people but has embodied the consciousness of the world.

Mar 11, 2022

How Do We Make Jewish Learning Relevant?

One of the main challenges of Jewish education in the twenty-first century is finding relevance in Jewish learning... This week’s Torah portion is Vayikra, the first portion in the book of Vayikra, translated [from Hebrew to Latin] as Leviticus. It discusses aspects of the korbanot or sacrifices that were made in the Tabernacle and later the Temple, but it is hard to find meaning in the detailed ancient practices.