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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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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A Sabbath Song for Parashat Noah

A Sabbath Song for Parashat Noah

Oct 29, 2011 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Noah

It is a lovely Jewish practice to sing songs at the Shabbat table. The little booklets that contain grace also provide the words of many zemirot, Sabbath songs. If we look at two of the more popular ones, Yah Ribbon and Mah Yedidot Menuhatekh, we find that their common theme is a plea to observe the Sabbath in the present, and a hope for a future in which God redeems the People Israel. But there is one song that differs from all the rest. It makes reference to this week’s Parashat No·ah. The name of the song is “The Dove Found a Place to Rest on the Sabbath (Yonah Maz’ah Bo Manoah).”

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In the Shadow of the Twin Towers

In the Shadow of the Twin Towers

Sep 10, 2011 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Ki Tetzei

As we approach the 10th anniversary of this tragedy, we can search in Parashat Ki Tetzei for a way to respond to it. The parashah ends with the verses about Amalek’s attack on the Israelites, shortly after they left Egypt (Deut. 25:17–19). The Torah says, “Remember what Amalek did to you . . . when you were famished and weary, [they] cut down the stragglers in your rear” (v. 18). According to the JPS translation, the words v’lo yarei Elohim (and not fearing God) at the very end of this verse refer not to the Israelites, as one might think, but to Amalek. The enemy did not fear the Divine, and so they attacked. The paragraph goes on to say that when the people of Israel reach their own land and are at peace, they should blot out all memory of Amalek itself, but always remember what Amalek did.

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Kedoshim in Context

Kedoshim in Context

Apr 30, 2011 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Kedoshim

Chapter 19 of Parashat Kedoshim contains some of the loftiest statements in the entire Torah. Consider, for example, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (verse 18) and “Light up the faces of the old” (verse 32). It is strange that this high-minded set of directives finds itself sandwiched between two chapters that focus on forbidden sexual liaisons: chapter 18 lists the bans and chapter 20 the punishments.

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Singing about Sacrifice

Singing about Sacrifice

Apr 16, 2011 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Pinehas

When I attended junior congregation as a child, one of my favorite Shabbat morning songs began with the words uv’yom haShabbat. We kids used to belt it out. I remember the same thing happening when I spent summers as a camper at Camp Ramah in the Poconos. But why sing today about slaughtering and offering up lambs on the altar in the Temple? An answer can be found in this week’s Parashat Pinhas, where these words, or rather these verses, originate.

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Who Counts?

Who Counts?

Jul 3, 2010 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Pinehas

We all filled out census forms this year, as stipulated by the United States constitution. The closing date was March 31. My twin sons, who were born on March 30, 1980, were included in that year’s census as one-day-old babies. I sometimes joke that they burst out of the womb seven weeks early just so that they could be counted. The Bible, however, does not count children.

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