Holy Bling

Holy Bling

Mar 12, 2021 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

I loved rummaging through my grandmother’s jewelry. To my child’s eye, her jewelry box was a treasure chest filled with sparkling gems, pearls, and gold. All “paste,” I learned, but to me they were the crown jewels.

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Esau’s Primal Scream

Esau’s Primal Scream

Nov 20, 2020 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Toledot

Sometimes words fail us. When they do, depending on the cause and our own propensities, we resort to song, dance, or other forms of wordless expression. And sometimes we scream. Primal screams that communicate an agony beyond verbal expression resound throughout the Torah.

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Ruth’s Torah Matters Now

Ruth’s Torah Matters Now

May 28, 2020 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Shavuot

Like every Jewish holiday, Shavuot has seasonal and historical components. It celebrates the gifts of Torah and of the spring harvest. Both bounties manifest God’s glory, sustain Israel, and are captured masterfully by our liturgy. 

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Spiritual Poetry Makes the Good Book Great

Spiritual Poetry Makes the Good Book Great

Jan 17, 2020 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Shemot

For many readers, the Torah is more than the good book. It is a great book. The Torah’s greatness can be attributed to its literary uniqueness (there really is no other book quite like it) and to its remarkable place at the foundation of three major religions.

For me, the Torah’s greatness comes from the way it integrates artistry and meaning. 

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Prophets of Faith

Prophets of Faith

Sep 6, 2019 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Shofetim

I often distinguish between faith and belief and consider myself to be a person of faith. Whereas belief implies a degree of certainty that I am uncomfortable with, faith embraces doubt. To my ear, the statement that I believe something to be true communicates that you know something is true. The statement that I have faith that something is true suggests that you desire or suspect something is true. Belief seems restrictive to me—confined by only what is known or can be known—and is at risk of dogmatism.

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Opt-In Judaism

Opt-In Judaism

Feb 1, 2019 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Mishpatim

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” may be the most well-known line of any movie. Spoken by Don Corleone to Johnny Fontane in The Godfather, it communicates the chilling reality of doing business with a mobster.

The Talmud suggests that God made a similar offer to Israel at Mount Sinai (BT Shabbat 88a). The Torah’s description that Israel stood under the mountain (תחתית ההר) to receive revelation in Exod 19:17, inspires the Rabbis to imagine God holding the mountain over the people—threatening them to accept the Torah . . . or else.

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Metaphorically Speaking

Metaphorically Speaking

Sep 14, 2018 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Shabbat Shuvah | Yom Kippur

I am sometimes surprised at how literal liberal Jews can be. Many wonder whether they can refer to God as מחיה מתים, Restorer of Life to the Dead, if they do not believe there is life after death. Many wonder whether they should recite the blessing which praises God for choosing Israel from among the other nations, אשר בחר בנו מכל העמים, if they do not believe that God chose Israel.

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Body Language

Body Language

Jun 1, 2018 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Beha'alotekha

Jews love words. We love to talk and we love to read. It is telling that we celebrate our holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, by gathering and reading aloud a 250-page book.

Parashat Beha’alotekha reminds us there is more to religious observance than words. There is profound power in body language—in nonverbal rituals that involve, even mark, the body.

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Kept by Shabbat

Kept by Shabbat

Mar 2, 2018 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Ki Tissa

Ahad Ha’am famously said: “More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” Pretty remarkable coming from the founder of cultural Zionism!

Parashat Ki Tissa either supports or challenges Ha’am’s words. This week’s parashah relates one of the lowest moments in Israel’s story—the sin of the golden calf—in which Israel dances before a god of their own making. Coming down Mount Sinai with the stone tablets inscribed by God’s finger (Exod. 31:18), Moses sees Israel’s frenzy and smashes the tablets. Moses spends the rest of the parashah picking up the pieces and working to restore Israel’s relationship with God.

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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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Women of Value: Is the Bible a Patriarchal Text?

Women of Value: Is the Bible a Patriarchal Text?

Oct 27, 2014 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Public Event video

Is the Bible a Patriarchal Text? Dr. Amy Kalmanofsky presents this topic at the opening plenary session of the Jewish Women’s University for a Day, an adult learning program hosted by JTS on Sunday, October 27, 2013 at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

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