The Golden Crown of Parenting

The Golden Crown of Parenting

Feb 28, 2020 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Terumah

And you shall cover it with pure gold, inside and outside you shall cover it,
and you shall make for it a crown of gold surrounding it. (Exod. 25:11)

These are architectural details of the Ark of the Covenant, the central element of the Holy of Holies, where the tablets of the Ten Commandments will be held and carried. The Ark has a covering of gold, inside and out, and a crown of gold. Four gold rings are attached to it, two to each side wall, and through these rings poles of acacia wood are inserted, which remain in place, even when the Ark is at rest. To what may this Ark be compared? To parents. How so?

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Speaking God, Speaking Humanity

Speaking God, Speaking Humanity

Sep 20, 2019 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Ki Tavo

What makes the Jews God’s people? On Yom Kippur, when we sing Ki anu amekha ve’atah Elohenu (For we are Your people and You are our God), what are we talking about? Is this triumphalism, elitism, exclusivity? Or could it be an ethic of communal, legislated kindness?

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Fear and Faith at the Exodus

Fear and Faith at the Exodus

Apr 25, 2019 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Pesah

As they cross the Sea of Reeds and see the advancing Egyptian army behind them, the Israelites feel terror and cry out to God for help in Exodus 14:10. But in the next two verses they reject God’s wondrous efforts to bring them out of Egypt. The people ask for help and then reject it. Do they want God’s help or not? 

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Our Very Life

Our Very Life

Sep 21, 2018 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Ha'azinu

At the end of his life, with Joshua by his side, Moses begins his great, thunderous poem, Ha’azinu, summoning the heavens and the earth as witnesses to his powerful, angry message, as God commanded him to do in the preceding parashah, Vayelekh. And yet, in a one-verse reshut, a prayerful, wishful intention, preceding the central portion of his sermonic poem, he says he wants his words to land lightly: “May my discourse come down as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like showers on young growth, like droplets on the grass” (Deut. 32:2). Then suddenly, central angry theme emerges, and he calls the people “unworthy of [God], crooked, perverse” (32:5), “dull and witless” (32:6). 

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The Jewelry of a Master Teacher

The Jewelry of a Master Teacher

Feb 23, 2018 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Tetzavveh

Without using alchemy, the 16th-century Italian commentator Seforno (1470–1550) turned gems into gold. Writing a few short words about the gemstones that adorned the clothing of the High Priest, described in Parashat Tetzavveh, Seforno shares a truly fine insight about achieving greatness as an educator.

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Escaping a Toxic Relationship

Escaping a Toxic Relationship

Nov 24, 2017 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Vayetzei

Poor Jacob is triply triangulated in Parashat Vayetzei! His boss, Laban, is not only his uncle, Rebecca’s older brother, but also his father-in-law, Leah and Rachel’s father. Leah and Rachel are bitter rivals, Leah resenting Jacob’s love for Rachel, and Rachel wishing for children when God has blessed only Leah with fertility. Complicating this tangle of relationships is the fact that Jacob and Laban work together, and Laban is not a fair employer. 

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Judge Justly, Four Ways

Judge Justly, Four Ways

Jul 28, 2017 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Devarim

Most of us are rarely called upon to judge other people, so when we read in the first chapter of our parashah about how we ought to judge ethically, we may not ever expect to act on this mitzvah. Then the jury summons comes in the mail, and suddenly we’re in a jury pool of over 100 people, awaiting selection for a massive white-collar criminal case. The issues of power, influence, and impartiality come up early.

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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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Baalam’s Tents

Baalam’s Tents

Jul 22, 2016 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Balak

Tell me, where can I go today to see a deeply good community? How will I know it when I see it? Where can I go today and exclaim, Mah tovu?

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Speaking God, Speaking Humanity

Speaking God, Speaking Humanity

Sep 4, 2015 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Ki Tavo

What makes the Jews God’s people? On Yom Kippur, when we sing Ki anu amekha ve’atah Elohenu (For we are Your people and You are our God), what are we talking about? Is this triumphalism, elitism, exclusivity? Or could it be an ethic of communal, legislated kindness?

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The Artist’s Insight

The Artist’s Insight

Mar 13, 2015 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

From October of last year until mid-February, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, in collaboration with Tate Modern in London, featured a comprehensive exhibition entitled Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs. It was a reassessment of Matisse’s colored paper cut-outs, which, according to the program notes, “reflect…a renewed commitment to form and color, and . . . inventiveness”. Matisse himself said, “For me, a colour is a force. My pictures are made up of four or five colours that collide with one another, and the collision gives a sense of energy.” (Sooke, Henri Matisse: A Second Life, pp. 97-98.)

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A Blessing of Reconciliation

A Blessing of Reconciliation

Dec 19, 2014 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Miketz

In Parashat Miketz, the masterful Joseph, hashalit al ha’aretz (the sovereign of the land) engages in a series of tests of his brothers’ honesty. Also at stake is the resilience of their father Jacob’s legacies.

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The Potter Loves The Clay

The Potter Loves The Clay

Sep 9, 2014 By Lilly Kaufman | Short Video | Yom Kippur

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The Working Life

The Working Life

Jun 6, 2014 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Beha'alotekha

In my family, we are not the retiring type—although we do tend toward shyness.

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Wise And Simple: A Rabbinic Ideal

Wise And Simple: A Rabbinic Ideal

Apr 8, 2014 By Lilly Kaufman | Short Video | Pesah

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