Weekly Shabbat Message

Shabbat Ki Tissa/Parah 5783

Posted on March 10, 2023

As the Torah tells it, the tablets that Moshe brought down from the mountain were unlike any other writing sample ever. They were “inscribed on both of their surfaces: they were inscribed on one side and on the other” (Exodus 32:15). Rashi, the great commentator from the 11th century, said that “both sides” doesn’t mean Continue Reading »

Shabbat Terumah 5783

Posted on February 23, 2023

Beginning this week and continuing for several more, the Torah’s attention turns to the Mishkan. God commands Israel to build a sanctuary, the first major fundraising project in Israelite history. Several of the Mishkan’s items are to be built with gold and silver. If you wonder where the Israelites got those precious metals, recall that Continue Reading »

Shabbat Yitro 5783

Posted on February 10, 2023

One of the most provocative teachings in all of rabbinic literature describes the conditions under which Israel received the Torah. The key word in that sentence is “under.”   In our Torah portion, Yitro, we read of the preparations for Revelation, for experiencing God and receiving commandments. Moshe positions the people, the Torah tells us, “at Continue Reading »

Shabbat Beshalah 5783

Posted on February 3, 2023

As soon as the Israelites emerge from the miracle at the Sea of Reeds unscathed, they face an entirely new set of challenges. Firstly, they journey three days from a body of water unable to find potable water. The waters they do find are bitter–hence the place is called Marah. Next, they enter the Wilderness Continue Reading »

Shabbat Bo 578

Posted on January 26, 2023

What was the nature of the plague of Hoshekh, darkness, the ninth calamity that God brought on the Egyptians? The Torah describes a darkness so thick it was tangible. What’s more, it prevented Egyptians from any and all movement. “People could not see one another, and for three days no one could move about” (Exodus 10:23). Continue Reading »

Shabbat Shemot 5783

Posted on January 12, 2023

When we first meet Moshe as a grownup, we are introduced to a man of action. He goes out, ostensibly from his sheltered life in the palace, among his People. He sees an Egyptian man beating a Hebrew. “He turned this way and that and, seeing no one about, he struck down the Egyptian and Continue Reading »

Shabbat Vayehi 5783

Posted on January 5, 2023

“What the magic word?” We probably know this expression from our childhood, when we were taught to say things like “please” and “thank you.” Or maybe we think of mythic tales with words like “abracadabra,” which, by the way, has an Aramaic origin (avra kedabra–I will create as I speak”).   As we arrive at the Continue Reading »

Shabbat Vayigash 5783

Posted on December 29, 2022

As we reach the height of narrative drama in the Yosef story, we encounter the longest speech in Sefer Bereshit. At the end of last week’s Torah portion, Miketz, Yosef’s “stolen” divining cup has been found in Binyamin’s backpack. Despite Yehudah’s commitment that all the brothers shall remain in Egypt as slaves, Yosef in his continuing concealed Continue Reading »

Shabbat Miketz/Rosh Hodesh/Hanukkah 5783

Posted on December 23, 2022

My go-to resource for all things Hanukkah is the pair of books edited by Noam Zion called A Different Light. These volumes are full of the history and big ideas of what is probably Judaism’s best-known holiday. There is no doubt that this holiday is meant to give a boost to Jewish pride; the placing of Continue Reading »

Shabbat Toledot 5783

Posted on November 28, 2022

This past Monday, we had the first topical session of our adult education class on Jewish ethics. Using the book Modern Musar: Contested Virtues in Jewish Thought, we explored a variety of attitudes in modern Jewish thought to the topic of honesty and love of truth. And the timing couldn’t have been better, since this is Continue Reading »