Hope and the Unknown

Hope and the Unknown

Jan 2, 2016 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Shemot

As legend has it, my great-grandfather quit school after the eighth grade. Apparently this decision had little to do with academics: my Grandpa Harry, z”l, was a smart man who went on to become a successful furrier with his own business in Manhattan. No, apparently it had everything to do with social pressure. As legend has it, he walked into school on the first day of the ninth grade, realized that no one at his new school knew him, and walked out.

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Consolation and Repair

Consolation and Repair

Jul 24, 2013 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Eikev

Here we find ourselves two weeks into the seven weeks marked ever so gently by their haftarot, the shiv’ah d’nehemata (seven haftarot of comfort or consolation)—seven weeks in which the haftarot have nothing to do with the parashiyot, and everything to do with where we are in the calendar year: heading from Tish’ah Be’Av into the season of teshuvah, and ultimately into a new year.

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Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Jun 25, 2013 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Pinehas

When we go to help someone—in times of mourning, illness, or just a basic potluck pitch-in—do we give them what we need to give, or what they need of us? How are we to know, if we are not explicitly told, what will please, comfort, or help someone else the most? And the religious corollary to this line of thinking: do our answers change when it comes to bringing an offering to please or comfort not our friends, but God?

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How Do You Measure a Year?

How Do You Measure a Year?

May 8, 2013 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Bemidbar | Shavuot

We are doing an awful lot of counting this week: we count the final days of the Omer, and, as our parashah begins, take the census of the Israelite community. What does all of this counting have to do with the ways in which we measure what really matters?

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Getting Out of Your Own Way

Getting Out of Your Own Way

Apr 16, 2013 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim

“You shall not . . . place a stumbling block before the blind. You shall fear your God. I am the Lord.” Taken literally, this is a verse about respecting the disabled. Taken figuratively—as the Rabbis give us ample precedent and license to do—it is about all of us.

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Meaning in Métier

Meaning in Métier

Mar 6, 2013 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

The midrash suggests that the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was given not because God needed such a thing, but to show the world—Israelites included—that the Israelites had been forgiven for the sin of the Golden Calf. It is curious, though, that such a gesture would be given as a do-it-yourself assignment.

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Parts of a Whole

Parts of a Whole

Feb 20, 2013 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Tetzavveh | Purim

A strange fact about being human: we never see any object in its entirety. We perceive in three dimensions, but see only in two so that our seeing is always at the mercy of our believing.

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Finding God in the Darkness

Finding God in the Darkness

Feb 5, 2013 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Short Video | Va'era

A video Torah commentary.

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Afraid of the Dark

Afraid of the Dark

Jan 16, 2013 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Bo

I cannot read the stories of the plagues without a knot in my stomach. What kind of God hardens Pharaoh’s heart so that the suffering of both the Egyptians and the enslaved Israelites increases? What kind of God comes up with the death of the firstborn as the “final straw”? What am I supposed to do with these stories as someone who wants to believe in the God of Redemption and Compassion and Justice; who wants to feel that God’s presence in my life?

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Forgetting to Remember for Posterity

Forgetting to Remember for Posterity

Dec 5, 2012 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Vayeshev

Remember the Sabbath day. Remember what Amalek did to you in the wilderness. Remember what God did to Miriam. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. Memory is integral to our identities as Jews and as individuals. What happens when we lose our memories, or our ability to remember altogether?

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Daydreaming Out the Window

Daydreaming Out the Window

Oct 17, 2012 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Noah

The ark’s window bothered the Rabbis. It is a technical problem: in Genesis 8:6, Noah “opened the window (chalon) of the ark that he had made,” but in the very thorough account of the construction of the ark earlier in the parashah, no window was ever made. “What window?” the Rabbis wonder. 

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Finding Holiness in the Wilderness of Life

Finding Holiness in the Wilderness of Life

Aug 18, 2012 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Masei | Mattot

That life is ever changing makes us curious, grateful, wary. How are we to navigate the ‎uncertainty in a way that makes us feel rewarded?

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The Journey Home

The Journey Home

Aug 18, 2012 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Re'eh

Why should I choose a Jewish life? And more than just a “Jewish” life—which might consist of nothing more than bagels, gefilte fish, and a penchant for Seinfeld reruns: Why should I choose a life of mitzvah, of Jewish commitment and action, when there are so many other compelling religions and spiritual paths?

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Living the Life Waiting for Us

Living the Life Waiting for Us

Jul 7, 2012 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Balak

Each of us has our version of the story: the infertility, the divorce, the toilet flooding before the Rosh Hashanah guests arrive. Mentsch trachtgott lacht: man plans, God laughs, as the Yiddish expression goes. Only, most of the time it really doesn’t seem so funny.

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In Memory of Sylvia Ettenberg

In Memory of Sylvia Ettenberg

Jun 30, 2012 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Hukkat

The week we read of the passing of Miriam is the week that our community mourns—among others—Sylvia Ettenberg, dean emerita at JTS for more than half a century.

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Aging with Vigor

Aging with Vigor

Jun 2, 2012 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Naso

I have always been curious about Pirkei Avot’s laying out of particular life-stage milestones according to age. What are the different stages of life about? What is “supposed” to happen to us when? What can we expect as we grow up and (God willing) grow old? Is there a point at which we are “disqualified,” turned away as less useful than before for service to our community?

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The Treasure of Inner Wisdom

The Treasure of Inner Wisdom

May 5, 2012 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim

The very sage pediatrician who examined my newborn son, my firstborn, asked me what his temperament is like. My husband and I exchanged looks, and out poured our utter dismay at how to handle our colicky little treasure. I will never forget the doctor’s words of advice: You know what to do. Listen to your gut instincts. You are already wise.

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Swallowed in the Ground

Swallowed in the Ground

Apr 7, 2012 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Pesah

Swallowed in the ground,
Saved from forces stronger than ourselves,
Hooves over our heads.
A miracle occurred.

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Living with the Divine Spirit

Living with the Divine Spirit

Mar 10, 2012 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Ki Tissa

How to blame the Israelites for the Golden Calf episode, when it seems that all they want to do is create something holy? 

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The Voice From the Burning Bush

The Voice From the Burning Bush

Mar 10, 2012 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Ki Tissa

Moses heard God’s voice as his own; each of us hears God’s voice as our own, hearing what we need to hear from the thunderous words of revelation that are each of ours and yet so difficult to discern.

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