Power and Gender in the Wilderness

Power and Gender in the Wilderness

Jun 15, 2018 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Commentary | Korah

Last month’s volcanic eruptions in Hawaii are just the most recent example of the violent displacement and destruction that natural disasters can cause. Looking at the photos, I was grateful to learn that no lives had been lost, but I couldn’t help thinking of the fate of Korah and his followers for spurning the Lord: “The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with their households” (Num. 16:32). This strange parashah has always puzzled and disturbed me. What exactly did Korah and his followers do to merit such swift, cruel divine judgment?

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Women of Faith

Women of Faith

Nov 3, 2017 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Vayera

Abraham passed God’s litmus test of faith. God commands Abraham to take his beloved son Isaac to the land of Moriah and kill him. Faithful Abraham does not hesitate. Genesis 22 may be the most loved and hated story in the Torah by every reader, no matter what their faith. Certainly, generations of Jews have struggled to make sense of this story, and of the father and God it portrays. 

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From Sarah to Mrs. Portnoy

From Sarah to Mrs. Portnoy

Oct 10, 2017 By Marjorie Lehman | Commentary

From Sarah in the Bible to Philip Roth’s Mrs. Portnoy, images of the mother have been a hallmark of Jewish culture. Hallowed by some, excoriated by others—mothers have been depicted, on the one hand, as all that is good and sacred in the Jewish family, and, on the other, and far more frequently, as overbearing, guilt-inducing, and interfering.

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I Will Get Back Up Again

I Will Get Back Up Again

Jul 14, 2017 By Stephanie Ruskay | Commentary | Pinehas

“What does your dad do at Google?”

One of our JustCity Leadership Institute pre-college program students explained that her mother works at Google in a significant leadership position. Yet each time she wears a Google T-shirt, people ask her what her father does there.

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Fearless Women

Fearless Women

Jul 14, 2017 By Meredith Katz | Commentary | Pinehas

Many narratives coalesce in Parashat Pinehas, and it is challenging to review without connection to the current political and social climate. The daughters of Zelophehad make a proposal to inherit their father’s portion, as part of a land division framework aiming toward equality: “to the more thou shalt give the more inheritance, and to the fewer thou shalt give the less inheritance.” The daughters raise their claim with Moses et al. as women, demanding their right to inherit in the absence of any sons, a significant step for women in ancient times that is then added to the canon.

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Gender Inside and Outside the Camp

Gender Inside and Outside the Camp

Apr 28, 2017 By Joy Ladin | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria

The idea that others would examine and report on intimate details of our bodies—that such things would be of communal concern, and subject us to institutional regulation—may seem archaic. But as transgender people know, when it comes to gender, this kind of surveillance is alive and well.

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The Emergence of Praise

The Emergence of Praise

Dec 9, 2016 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Vayetzei

Our parashah begins with Jacob’s profound, life-changing encounter with divinity: his dream of the ladder; his vision of God promising that his descendants will multiply and be blessed; and his vow that “if God remains with me…the Lord shall be my God” (Gen. 28:20-21). But our parashah includes another profound, life-changing moment of connecting to God—a less famous one—experienced by Leah. After giving birth to three sons and naming each of them in accordance with aspects of her life experience, Leah gives birth again and says hapa’am odeh et Adonai (Gen. 29:35)—this time I will praise/thank/acknowledge the Lord—and names her son Judah (Yehudah, from odeh).

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<em>Hesed</em> Depends on Saying No

Hesed Depends on Saying No

Nov 25, 2016 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

Of all the lessons that Parashat Hayyei Sarah teaches us about hesed (kindness), perhaps its most important lesson can be summed up in the word “no.”

Rebecca, the heroine of the parashah, is both physically and ethically strong. She can lift a heavy water urn with ease, and she possesses a deep graciousness called hesed. When she gives water to Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, and his camels, she fulfills Eliezer’s eloquent prayer, in which he appealed to God moments earlier to find a fitting wife for Isaac. He names the value of hesed twice in this brief prayer (Gen. 24:12, 14), and his prayer is answered so rapidly and completely by Rebecca’s action that Eliezer is stunned (Gen. 24:21).

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