Communion and Closeness

Communion and Closeness

Jun 17, 2006 By JTS Alumni | Commentary | Beha'alotekha

By Rabbi Jay M. Kornsgold

I have always been intrigued when reading the Torah by the out of the ordinary occurrences in the text itself such as dots above words and larger or smaller letters. Often, discussions in my congregation become focused on these anomalies. In the portion of B’ha·alot’kha the Hebrew letter nun is reversed before and after the following passage: “When the Ark was to set out, Moses would say: Advance, O Lord! May Your enemies be scattered, And may Your foes flee before You! And when it halted, he would say: Return, O Lord, You who are Israel’s myriads of thousands.” (Numbers 10:35 36)

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The Meaning of the Shabbat Candles

The Meaning of the Shabbat Candles

Jun 1, 2002 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Beha'alotekha

If you have ever spent a Shabbat in Jerusalem, you have surely noticed that its imminent arrival is announced by the blowing of a shofar. The stores that are still open then close and the traffic left on the streets virtually halts. The atmosphere of Shabbat increasingly pervades the city. There is no artifice to the shofar; its harsh sound embodies an ancient practice.

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How We See God

How We See God

May 28, 1994 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Beha'alotekha

The choosing of an epitaph for someone we love is excruciatingly difficult. That is, in part, because our minds are no longer stocked with literary associations and, in part, because we are humbled by the task of identifying the essence of a human life. Mercifully, the unveiling of the tombstone is customarily delayed till the first Yahrzeit, which gives us time to choose wisely.

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A Backstory for Moses

A Backstory for Moses

Jun 17, 1995 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Beha'alotekha

For all the grit and grandeur of his character, Moses could never be the biographical subject of a commercially successful book. We don’t know enough about his private life. New books on Franklin Delano Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King sell because they slake our thirst for the salacious. By illuminating their private lives, their authors presume to deepen our understanding of their noteworthy public careers. But by now the quest has become an unedifying end in itself.

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JTS’s Eternal Light

JTS’s Eternal Light

Jun 11, 2005 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Beha'alotekha

Forty-five years ago my marriage to my wife Sally coincided with the weekly Torah portion of Beha’alotekha, “When you (Aaron) mount the lamps, let the seven lamps give light at the front of the lampstand” (Numbers 8:2).

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What Hands Teach Us about Religion

What Hands Teach Us about Religion

Jun 13, 1998 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Beha'alotekha

My father liked to study hands, not to predict the future but to judge character. An amateur graphologist, he had concluded that our hands are an even more revealing extension of our personality than our handwriting. The interest was a great ice–breaker. He would often ask guests visiting our home for the first time to show him their hands, palms down and held together in a triangle. After a brief gaze, he would offer a few comments about their personality type, talents and values. He was rarely way off. Though I failed to acquire his expertise, I remained ever sensitive to the expressiveness of hands.

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How God Leads

How God Leads

Jun 9, 2001 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Beha'alotekha

Abraham Joshua Heschel writes eloquently that the supreme aspiration of religion is to inspire each one of us, in the words of the psalmist, ‘to lift up your eyes and see.’ Heschel explains: “The grand premise of religion is that man is able to surpass himself; that man who is a part of this world may enter into a relationship with God who is greater than this world; that man may lift up his mind and be attached to the absolute; that man who is conditioned by a multiplicity of factors is capable of living with demands that are unconditioned.” The challenge, then, is to identify one’s path toward a meaningful and sanctified life, guided by one’s relationship with God.

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Rabbi Akiva’s Adult Bar-Mitzvah

Rabbi Akiva’s Adult Bar-Mitzvah

Jun 21, 2003 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Beha'alotekha

One of the most compelling new rituals in the Conservative synagogue is the adult bat–mitzvah. The impulse is egalitarian, the result religious empowerment. The women who participate enjoyed no bat–mitzvah ceremony in their youth. Years later they seek to fill the void. Usually in small groups of up to a dozen, they study with their rabbi and cantor for a period of at least two years. The practice is so widespread today that the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism has produced a carefully articulated curriculum to enhance the meaningfulness of the experience. Learning to read Hebrew is required. Biblically based yet religiously encompassing, the study period culminates in the preparation of a specific parashah and haftarah to be chanted in the synagogue on a Shabbat morning. There is definitely comfort in numbers. Doing the bat–mitzvah as a group lessens the tension of performing in public. Each participant must master only a part of the whole.

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