Standing at the Gates

Standing at the Gates

Mar 19, 2021 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Vayikra

In Kafka’s cryptic parable “Before the Law,” a man stands before a gate seeking entry into the Law. The gate is open, but at its side is a gatekeeper who refuses his request to enter. The man uses every stratagem that he can think of to gain the gatekeeper’s permission, but every attempt fails. This stalemate continues until the moment of death arrives. 

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Demanding or Disengaging: How to Respond When We Feel Abandoned by God

Demanding or Disengaging: How to Respond When We Feel Abandoned by God

Jan 12, 2021 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Public Event video

Part of the series, “Hope in the Time of Covid” at B’nai Torah Congregation, Boca Raton, FL.

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We are All Sukkah-Dwellers

We are All Sukkah-Dwellers

Oct 2, 2020 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Sukkot

Since the accidental discovery of X-rays by Wilhelm Röntgen in 1895 and the subsequent creation of X-ray machines, we have been able to view our bodies through two different lenses. The first is what we see in the mirror—a body of flesh, which takes various forms and distinguishes one individual from another. The second is not visible to the naked eye; it is the skeletal structure that supports the flesh and organs that surround it. Though both are necessary constituent elements of our physical being, we are generally much more conscious of our outer being than our inner one. And yet, our bones are more durable than our flesh. Long after we die and our flesh has wasted away, our skeletal structure continues to exist.

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The Ten Commandments in 20/20

The Ten Commandments in 20/20

May 26, 2020 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Public Event video | Video Lecture | Shavuot

The Ten Commandments, read on the first day of Shavuot, are a foundational text of Judaism. But their prominence is also a puzzle. Why were these statements singled out from all other mitzvot to be publicly proclaimed to all Israel? What gives these brief pronouncements their distinctive significance?

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To Fulfill a Mitzvah

To Fulfill a Mitzvah

Dec 20, 2019 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Vayeshev

There is an interesting moment in this week’s parashah during Joseph’s search for his brothers. Initially, Joseph seeks them in Shechem, where Jacob supposes them to be. As Joseph fruitlessly seeks his brothers, a man who perceives that Joseph is wandering aimlessly asks Joseph the purpose of his search. When Joseph replies that he is seeking his brothers, the man tells him he has heard that they are headed for Dothan. Joseph then follows his brothers there, and the story unfolds of his sale as a slave and his descent to Egypt.

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Do Not Turn Away—Then and Now

Do Not Turn Away—Then and Now

Sep 9, 2019 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Ki Tetzei

In 1861, as a great conflagration spread across our nation, the Bostonian abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Samuel Joseph May published a slender tract entitled The Fugitive Slave Act and Its Victims, an impassioned polemic against the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This federal law, born of the Missouri Compromise of the same year, required all federal, state and local authorities, including those in free states, to return fugitive slaves to their masters, while also criminalizing any attempt to aid and abet a slave seeking to escape bondage.

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Hearing the Scream

Hearing the Scream

Dec 7, 2018 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Miketz

Perhaps no scream is more famous than the one portrayed in Edvard Munch’s painting popularly known simply as The Scream. The irony is that almost none of us is aware of the scream that Munch intended to portray.

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First Fruits, New Thoughts: A Pilgrim Reflects on the First Fruits Ritual

First Fruits, New Thoughts: A Pilgrim Reflects on the First Fruits Ritual

Aug 31, 2018 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Ki Tavo

Peace be with you, friend! My name is Micah; I hail from Anav. And you? Shemaryahu, from Jericho, you say; a Benjaminite, then. Well, if you don’t mind sharing the road with a Judahite let’s walk together.

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The Give and Take of Strength

The Give and Take of Strength

Mar 9, 2018 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

Rituals of closure are common in both the secular and religious realms. An example of the first is the sounding of retreat and the lowering of the flag marking the end of the official duty day on military installations. An instance of the second is the siyyum, a liturgical ritual and festive meal that is occasioned by the completion of the study of a Talmudic tractate. Closure rituals relate not only to the past but to the future as well. On the one hand, the temporal demarcation of a past event facilitates the emergence of its distinct identity, internal coherence, and significance, thereby providing insight, understanding, and, at times, a sense of accomplishment. At the same time, by declaring an end, a closure ritual creates space in which one can—and must—begin anew; the past is to be neither prison nor refuge.

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Leaving Home

Leaving Home

Nov 10, 2017 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

To the best of my knowledge, Hayyei Sarah contains the only instance in Tanakh of a parent asking his child’s wishes. Laban and Betuel cannot come to an agreement with Abraham’s servant—who we’ll call Eliezer—about whether Rebecca should remain in Haran for a time or depart immediately to Canaan. And so, they ask Rebecca to state her preference. Contrary to her family’s express wishes, Rebecca decides to leave immediately.

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Law, Compassion, and Justice

Law, Compassion, and Justice

May 12, 2017 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Emor

In the fall of 2012, I taught a course at the Princeton Theological Seminary entitled “An Introduction to Rabbinic Literature.” I saw my mission as twofold. My stated goal was to familiarize my students with the intellectual and spiritual world of the Rabbis through the study of representative texts from each of the genres of rabbinic literature: Mishnah, Tosefta, the Talmuds, and the halakhic and aggadic midrashim.

However, my study of text had a subtext: to disabuse my Christian students of the pernicious stereotypes of rabbinic Judaism that, some would argue, were first fostered by the apostle Paul and that persist to this very day in many Christian circles.

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Seeking God’s Face

Seeking God’s Face

Mar 7, 2017 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Short Video | Purim

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Pictures at a Benediction: Envisioning Jacob’s Blessing of his Sons

Pictures at a Benediction: Envisioning Jacob’s Blessing of his Sons

Jan 13, 2017 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Vayehi

The Tanakh is notoriously parsimonious when it comes to providing visual details. They are supplied only when they are germane to the biblical narrative. Was Isaac good-looking? We are not told. But we are told that Joseph was, because it explains why Potiphar’s wife cast her eyes upon him. Was Moses bald? We will never know. But it is made clear that the prophet Elisha was; because of this, he was taunted by jeers: “Go away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!” This is the beginning of the brief but horrifying story in which Elisha curses the children who mock him, who are then mauled by bears emerging from the forest).

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Our Eyes Did Not See

Our Eyes Did Not See

Sep 9, 2016 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Shofetim

The history of murder begins with Cain’s slaying of Abel. That murder itself has a prehistory. When Adam and Eve ate forbidden fruit, God called them to account, and gave them the opportunity to acknowledge their sin and seek forgiveness. Instead, they chose obfuscation and recrimination. Adam shifted blame to Eve, who in turn argued that the serpent was culpable. As when they ate the fruit (Gen. 3:7), their eyes again were opened; each now saw that the other was capable of sin without remorse, and indifference born of self-interest.

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Taste: Sweet in our Mouths

Taste: Sweet in our Mouths

Jun 6, 2016 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Short Video | Shavuot

From the 5776 Receiving Torah with All Our Senses series.

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A Tale of Two Dreamers

A Tale of Two Dreamers

Dec 18, 2015 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Vayiggash

Shortly after Jacob arrives in Egypt Joseph—undoubtedly eager to introduce his father and his patron to each other—arranges an audience with Pharaoh for his father. Following the time honored traditions of polite conversation, Pharaoh asks a prosaic question: “How many are the years of your life?”

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Naming Our Sins

Naming Our Sins

Aug 31, 2015 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Short Video | Yom Kippur

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The Afterlife of Our Actions

The Afterlife of Our Actions

Aug 7, 2015 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Eikev

Will Israel receive all the rain it needs this coming year? It depends on whether we are faithful to God’s word. At least that is the claim made in a biblical passage that we recite twice a day as part of the Shema:

If, then, you obey the commandments that I have enjoined upon you this day, loving the Lord your God and serving Him with all your heart and soul, I will grant the rain for your land in season, the early rain and the late. . .Take care not to be lured way and serve other gods and bow to them. For the Lord’s anger will flare up against you, and He will shut up the skies so that there will be no rain. . . (Deut. 11:13-14, 16-17, NJPS translation)

Many of us are uncomfortable reciting these verses.

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From Choice To Privilege

From Choice To Privilege

Feb 26, 2015 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Short Video | Purim

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The Bite of Desire

The Bite of Desire

Feb 6, 2015 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Yitro

Do you covet? I do, and it makes me sad. Perhaps I’m too hard on myself. We all see things that we want, don’t have, and wish we did. There is too much in the world that is bright and shiny—offering pleasure and excitement—not to see it and feel the ache of its absence in my life. And I speak not only of the ephemeral delights that beckon. Even more difficult to contemplate are my fellow human beings whose personal and professional lives leave me despondent when measuring myself against them: scholars who have written books that I haven’t, friends who seem to be better spouses or more successful parents, people who have paid off their mortgages, men who still have all their hair. In short, the list is endless.

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