Rebecca the Patriarch

Rebecca the Patriarch

Nov 18, 2022 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

This week’s parashah, Hayyei Sarah (Genesis 23:1–25:18), is about continuing the line, producing progeny. The parashah opens with a report of Sarah’s death at 120 years old. It closes with a list of Abraham’s children from concubines and Ishmael’s many offspring (25:1–18). But the central story of the parashah, the entire chapter of Genesis 24, is about finding a wife for Isaac.

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What Six Short Stories in the Babylonian Talmud Tell Us About Jewish Law and Life

What Six Short Stories in the Babylonian Talmud Tell Us About Jewish Law and Life

Aug 1, 2022 By Judith Hauptman

By reading six very short stories in the Babylonian Talmud, we discover that not just rabbinic pronouncements established Jewish law, but so did reports of rabbinic performance of the law. We will see Rabbis complying with, and sometime rebelling against, earlier stated rules. As we read these texts, we will tease out details of everyday life and relations between the sexes. Whether these anecdotes actually took place or not makes no difference. They are an invaluable source for understanding how the Rabbis viewed and modified transmitted traditions.

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Who Gets the Last Word?

Who Gets the Last Word?

Jul 9, 2021 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Masei | Mattot

Mattot and Masei, the last two portions of the book of Numbers (30:2–36:18), are usually read one after the other on the same Sabbath. Are these portions linked by something other than the quirks of the Jewish calendar?

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Some Unexpected Stories About Women in the Talmud

Some Unexpected Stories About Women in the Talmud

Jan 25, 2021 By Judith Hauptman | Public Event video

Although most Talmudic anecdotes feature men, some feature wives, mothers, and daughters of rabbis. These women learned Jewish law, and even, on occasion, helped formulate it. Join Dr. Judith Hauptman to study several of these short episodes and explore their significance, both historically and through the present day. 

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Matzah’s Majestic Meaning

Matzah’s Majestic Meaning

Apr 8, 2020 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Pesah

I don’t know why we ask the first of the four seder questions—“On all other nights we eat both hametz and matzah but on this night only matzah.” The Ha lahma anya paragraph that immediately precedes the questions already answers it. The opening words, “this is the bread of affliction (lahma anya in the Aramaic) that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt,” suggest that the Israelite slaves in Egypt, who presumably had no time to bake bread, ate matzah. And that is why we eat matzah on Passover. So why ask the first question?

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The Power of One

The Power of One

Jun 28, 2019 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

This week’s parashah, Shelah Lekha, opens with the famous episode of twelve scouts going on a reconnaissance mission to the land of Israel. As most of us know the story, upon their return, ten of them recommend returning to Egypt, whereas just two, Joshua and Caleb, encourage the Israelites to continue their journey to the Promised Land. When we look at the verses of chapter 13, we discover that that is not exactly what they say.

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Judah and Tamar: Writing the Story

Judah and Tamar: Writing the Story

Nov 30, 2018 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Vayeshev

One of the most gripping stories in the entire Bible appears in this week’s parashah. Chapter 38, a self-contained unit, interrupts the ongoing Joseph saga to tell the story of Judah and Tamar.

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Doing Shabbat, Together

Doing Shabbat, Together

Mar 17, 2017 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Ki Tissa

Following the instructions for preparing incense for future offerings, six verses speak of the Sabbath (Exod. 31: 13-18). Two of them appear in our siddur and are sung in most synagogues on Friday night and Shabbat morning (vv. 16-17). Probably because the words are so familiar, I have tended to overlook their precise meaning.

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Up All Night

Up All Night

Apr 13, 2016 By Judith Hauptman | Short Video | Pesah

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A Lesson for Abraham

A Lesson for Abraham

Oct 23, 2015 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Lekh Lekha was the first parashah I ever learned. As kids in Hebrew school, we were not taught Bereishit or Noah, probably because of the theological questions they would raise. We began Bible study with Lekh Lekha. I am happy to return to it as an adult and try to understand its message anew.

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Exercise Trackers And Mitzvah Motivators

Exercise Trackers And Mitzvah Motivators

Aug 31, 2015 By Judith Hauptman | Short Video | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

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Reclining For Equality

Reclining For Equality

Mar 26, 2015 By Judith Hauptman | Short Video | Pesah

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Finding the Larger Message

Finding the Larger Message

Dec 26, 2014 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Vayiggash

When kids in Hebrew School read the story of Joseph, he looks very good. He saves the lives of many Egyptians by storing grain in the fat years and dispensing it in the lean years. But when an adult reads the same verses, Joseph appears unscrupulous. We ask: when the hungry people come to him during the years without crops, does he have to make them sell him all their cattle? And when they come back a second time, does he have to make them sell him all their land and also offer themselves as slaves?

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How Holidays Of Light Make Hanukkah Brighter

How Holidays Of Light Make Hanukkah Brighter

Dec 15, 2014 By Judith Hauptman | Short Video | Hanukkah

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The Origins Of Avinu Malkenu

The Origins Of Avinu Malkenu

Sep 9, 2014 By Judith Hauptman | Short Video | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

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What The Rabbis Of The Talmud Learned From Naomi And Ruth

What The Rabbis Of The Talmud Learned From Naomi And Ruth

May 21, 2014 By Judith Hauptman | Short Video | Shavuot

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Men And Women: In The Kitchen And At The Seder

Men And Women: In The Kitchen And At The Seder

Apr 8, 2014 By Judith Hauptman | Short Video | Pesah

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Defining a Moral and Just Society

Defining a Moral and Just Society

Jan 22, 2014 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Mishpatim

Sometimes an article in the newspaper reminds you of something in the Torah and makes you think in new ways about verses you have read many times before.

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Pesah: A Liberating Experience for Women

Pesah: A Liberating Experience for Women

Mar 4, 2013 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Pesah

There is no festival more home- and family-oriented than Pesah. Sukkot may run a close second, but the seder places Pesah way ahead. Although celebrating at home with a lavish family meal should make this holiday a pleasure to anticipate, for many women this is not so. The painstaking conversion of the kitchen from leaven-filled to leaven-free status has turned the Festival of Freedom into an intense period of domestic labor rather than a celebration of personal and national liberation. That was not the intention of the halakhah.

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A Study in Redemption

A Study in Redemption

Jan 28, 2012 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Va'era

If you followed last week’s Torah portion closely, you are probably sensing that this week’s portion, in the words of Yogi Berra, is “déjà vu all over again.” Last week, in Parashat Shemot, we read an account of Moses’s lineage, of God’s announcing that He will take the people out of Egypt, of a staff turning into a snake and water into blood, of Moshe’s speech-impairment, and of God’s appointing Aaron as surrogate spokesperson for Moshe. Every one of these topics appears in this week’s parashah too.

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