Unleashing the Haftarah

Unleashing the Haftarah

Jul 13, 2018 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Tishah Be'av

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Tanakh is its self-critical character. Like the narratives of the Torah, the “former” prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) feature only flawed heroes. The “latter” prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the twelve minor prophets) raise the stakes. Soaring and searing, they rail against the injustices and failures of society, holding a mirror to structural inequities that create poverty and oppression. The prophets lay bare the systemic corruptions within even biblically-created institutions—the priesthood, monarchy, and nation—revealing hypocrisies, false pieties, and breaches of the public trust.

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First and second haftarot of rebuke

First and second haftarot of rebuke

Jul 6, 2018 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Masei | Mattot | Pinehas | Tishah Be'av

Chapters 1 and 2 of Jeremiah constitute the first two haftarot of “calamity” or rebuke. In them, the prophet anticipates disorienting but necessary societal upheaval; he is called “to uproot and pull down, destroy and overthrow,” and also “to build and to plant.” 

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It Passes and We Stay

It Passes and We Stay

Apr 20, 2018 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period—
When March is scarcely here

The double parashiyot of Tazria and Metzora are devoted in their entireties to the Biblical notion of tumah, usually translated as “impurity.” In them, we learn three of the major sources of tumah: childbirth (Lev. 12); a condition known as tzara’at, which can manifest on skin, clothing, or the walls of one’s house (Lev. 13–14); and bodily secretions (Lev. 15). The two other primary sources of tumah are touching or carrying the carcasses of certain animals (Lev. 11) and contact with a human corpse (Num. 19).

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The Antidote to Korah

The Antidote to Korah

Jun 23, 2017 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Korah

How to deal with a demagogue? Parashat Korah offers a case study in what works and what doesn’t.

The parashah begins with a dramatic confrontation. Korah gathers together with Datan, Aviram, On, and 250 community leaders, and hurls accusations at Moses and Aaron.

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Dreaming of Being Balaam

Dreaming of Being Balaam

Jul 22, 2016 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Balak

The story of the heathen prophet Balaam—hired by Moabite king Balak ben Tzippor to curse the people Israel—is altogether strange. It concerns events happening outside the Israelite camp and seemingly unknown to them, characters we’ve not yet met, and a talking donkey. Its tone ranges from burlesquely funny to surreal.

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Touch: Beyond the Mountain’s Edge

Touch: Beyond the Mountain’s Edge

Jun 6, 2016 By Jan Uhrbach | Short Video | Shavuot

From the 5776 Receiving Torah with All Our Senses series.

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Words Fail Me

Words Fail Me

Jan 8, 2016 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Va'era

This common idiom—so casually tossed off in a moment of surprise—expresses a deep truth. Words do indeed fail us, sometimes to tragic effect. 

That is the way the Zohar (the foundational text of Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism) understands our exile in Egypt: as the exile of speech, a failure of words. In this reading, the breakdown of speech is both cause and effect of our enslavement, while healing and redeeming speech—finding our voice—is both the process and hallmark of redemption. 

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Amalek

Amalek

Feb 27, 2015 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Purim | Shabbat Zakhor

The Shabbat prior to Purim, known as Shabbat Zakhor, takes its name from the first word of the special maftir (additional Torah reading) for the day, which retells the story of the first post-enslavement attack against the newly freed Israelites:

Remember (zakhor) what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt . . . You shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget! (Deuteronomy 25:17-19)

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The Comfort of Prayer

The Comfort of Prayer

Aug 8, 2014 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Va'et-hannan

Parashat Va’et-hannan contains some of the most inspiring and sweepingly grand passages in the entire Torah, and some of the best known, including the Ten Commandments and the first paragraph of the Shema.

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Kollot Rabbinic Literature, 2022-23

Kollot Rabbinic Literature, 2022-23

By Jan Uhrbach

Download Sources Download Sources: Yiftach’s Daughter | Shoftim Download Sources Download Sources

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