The Context of Violence

The Context of Violence

Oct 9, 2015 By Alisa Braun | Commentary | Bereishit

This past week we were again confronted with horrific acts of violence across the globe, followed by a host of attempts to explain why and what should be done. Over centuries, the story of Cain and Abel became a central text through which this reality of violence was explored: how do we account for violence in our world? Can we control our rage, or are we doomed to act on our impulses? With its paucity of detail and conspicuous narrative lacunae, Bereishit’s description of the first murder, when Cain killed Abel, inspired countless visual artists—from the Old Masters to modern expressionists—to respond creatively to these questions. 

Read More
The Torah and Its Clearly Ambiguous Message

The Torah and Its Clearly Ambiguous Message

Oct 17, 2009 By Robert Harris | Commentary | Bereishit | Simhat Torah

There is a verse that I love to invoke whenever I teach about “the poetics of biblical narrative,” and it doesn’t come from this week’s portion (but who’s keeping score, anyway?). Instead, it is found in the first extended legal section, Parashat Mishpatim (Exod. 21–24). Loosely translated, this is the text: “In all charges of misunderstanding . . . whereof one party alleges, ‘This is it!’—the case of both parties shall come before God” (Exod. 22:8); the Hebrew phrase underlying the words “this is it!” is: כי הוא זה (ki hu zeh). The verse seems to be addressing a case in which no one side has a total claim on the truth; in such a case, then, one is bidden to consider both possibilities.

Read More
Mastery = Harmony

Mastery = Harmony

Sep 22, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Bereishit

This coming Shabbat, we return to the beginning of Torah with Parashat Bereishit.

Read More
On New Beginnings

On New Beginnings

Oct 5, 2002 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Bereishit

As a teacher for JTS Kollot: Voices of Learning, I hear many voices of Torah that open my eyes to creative ways of reading the texts of our sacred tradition.

Read More
The Gift of Shabbat

The Gift of Shabbat

Oct 25, 2003 By Rachel Ain | Commentary | Bereishit

In Parashat Bereishit, we are told that “God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27).

Read More
Between Creation and Revelation

Between Creation and Revelation

Oct 21, 2006 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Bereishit

Creation and the act of creating stand at the essence of Parashat Bereishit.

Read More
The Universal and Particular Nature of Creation

The Universal and Particular Nature of Creation

Oct 22, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Bereishit

Shortly after Rosh Hashanah this year, Jewish extremists torched a mosque in an Arab-Israeli village in the Galilee, damaging the building and destroying its holy books. Two days later, a rabbinic statement condemning this desecration of a house of worship on Israeli soil garnered the signatures of more than a thousand rabbis of all denominations within 36 hours of the document’s publication. One of my former JTS classmates, however, explained with great disappointment why he did not add his name to this effort.

Read More
The Myths of Creation

The Myths of Creation

Oct 12, 2012 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Bereishit

With the celebration of this coming Shabbat, we return to the beginning—specifically, to the narrative of Creation.

Read More