The Naked and the Damned: Stripping in the Bible

The Naked and the Damned: Stripping in the Bible

Mar 11, 2012 By Lewis Warshauer | Public Event video

Dr. Amy Kalmanofsky and Rabbi Lewis Warshauer examine the image of the body in biblical texts and biblical art. Part of the What to Wear event held at JTS on March 11th, 2012.

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Succeeding Moses

Succeeding Moses

Jul 10, 2004 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Pinehas

The Five Books of Moses bears this title because of the prominence of the man, Moses. Those who accept the traditional view of the origin of the Torah, also accept this nomenclature as a matter of course. Moses transmitted the Torah to his people and taught it to them. However, not accepting this view of the Torah’s origin does not in any way diminish the role of Moses in telling the narrative of the Torah. He is the central human character in every book, starting with Exodus.

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Why Was This Time Different?

Why Was This Time Different?

Jun 12, 2004 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

The Torah’s telling of the Israelites’ journeys in the wilderness is in many ways a story of shortage: shortage of food (at least, desirable food) water – and hope. One commodity was rarely in short supply: fear.

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The Hardest Mitzvah?

The Hardest Mitzvah?

May 15, 2004 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Behar

Which of the mitzvot of the Torah is the most difficult to observe? The prohibition on coveting? Or, perhaps, being forbidden to gossip? Each of those choices represents a never-ending challenge. One is supposed to avoid ever coveting or gossiping. When viewed in terms of frequency, the mitzvah that begins this week’s parashah could be seen as easier to perform. The sabbatical year, or shmittah, falls only once every seven years. Yet it could be the most difficult. During that year, farmers must not plant or harvest. Refraining from planting or harvesting for an entire year seems highly risky. If there is not enough reserve food from prior years, people will starve; surely the Torah does not want people to endanger their lives.

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Fiery Zeal

Fiery Zeal

Apr 17, 2004 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Shemini

The Bible presents an idealized picture of life – how good it could be – but tempers that picture with frequent intrusions of tragedy. The creation story itself sets that pattern. The Garden of Eden is perfect, but human beings do not live there for long. Adam and Eve disobey God, and are banished into a world increasingly gripped by cruelty.

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How We Wear Our Judaism

How We Wear Our Judaism

Apr 6, 2004 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Tetzavveh | Purim | Shabbat Zakhor

The more we know about animals, the more they seem to have what we consider to be human capabilities. Beavers build dams and porpoises communicate in sophisticated ways, while apes use tools and may even reason on some level. But, human beings are the only species to make their own clothes. The wasp’s nest has no garment district.

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A Nation Comes Together

A Nation Comes Together

Mar 20, 2004 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

The Torah is the epic of the founding of the Israelite nation. The Book of Genesis charts the development of the Abraham-Isaac-Jacob family into a small clan; the Book of Exodus shows the development of that clan into a nation. At the end of Genesis, Jacob calls to his sons together to hear his final words:

Come together and hearken, O sons of Jacob
Hearken, O sons of Israel (Genesis 49:2)

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Making a Vision into a Reality

Making a Vision into a Reality

Feb 21, 2004 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Mishpatim

Words can be similar but carry different connotations. “Legal” has a good connotation. “Legalistic” does not. Judaism is often accused of being too legalistic. This charge has been leveled not just at the Judaism of the Talmud and subsequent law codes, but also against many of the laws enumerated in the Torah itself. Too often, there is a tendency to take the Ten Commandments (found in last week’s parasha) as the only commandments.

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“My voice in everything”

“My voice in everything”

Jan 17, 2004 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Shemot

The Bible came to Broadway years ago. The hit musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat presented a rollicking and hummable version of the Joseph story with a happy ending. Musical theater has not, however, figured out a way of featuring someone whose story is even more important than that of Joseph: Moses. Yet what musical theater has been unable to do, its close relative, opera, has done. Arnold Schoenberg’s opera Moses und Aron is rarely performed (it was featured in New York this season) but makes an important statement.

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Opera’s Interpretation of Moses

Opera’s Interpretation of Moses

Jan 17, 2004 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Shemot

The Bible came to Broadway years ago. The hit musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat presented a rollicking and hummable version of the Joseph story with a happy ending.

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Longing for Our Homeland

Longing for Our Homeland

Dec 20, 2003 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Vayeshev | Hanukkah

Mrs. Matsunaga looked at me with a puzzled face. She was the local English teacher in a village in Northern Japan. Moments before, she had bustled into the house where I was staying. It had come up in conversation that I was Jewish and she was trying to figure out what that meant. Suddenly, her face cleared. “You are from Israel,” she exclaimed. I laughed and said: “Yes, but that was a long time ago.”

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True Power

True Power

Dec 13, 2003 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Vayishlah

Power – who has it, how it’s used, and what it results in, is a major theme in the Bible. In an early example of the use of power, Cain overpowers Abel and kills him. The first murder is immediately preceded, though, by a non-use of power. God warns Cain:

Surely, if you do right, there is uplift. But if you do not do right, sin couches at the door; Its urge is toward you, yet you can be its master. (Genesis 4:7)

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Patriarchs and Matriarchs

Patriarchs and Matriarchs

Nov 8, 2003 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

The central prayer of Jewish prayers, the Amidah, begins by identifying to whom one is praying: the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. This identification serves not only to say who God is, but also to specify who the Jews are: the descendants of those patriarchs. At the same time, the Jews are also descendants of the matriarchs, and here’s the rub: though God’s promises are recorded in the Torah as given to the men, they would not have been achieved without the women.

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Dialogue with the Past

Dialogue with the Past

Oct 4, 2003 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Ha'azinu | Shabbat Shuvah

Among all the societies where Jews have lived, America has been least conducive to maintaining a sense of the past. A building from thirty years ago can be a historic landmark; kitchenware from forty years ago qualifies as antique. Objects from the past are allowed to have a fashionable revival but ideas, stories, and concepts from the past are considered outmoded.

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Before the Geneva Conventions

Before the Geneva Conventions

Sep 6, 2003 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Ki Tetzei

Yitzhak Rabin, in his acceptance speech on the occasion of receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1994, said:

At an age when most youngsters are struggling to unravel the secrets of mathematics and the mysteries of the Bible; at an age when first love blooms; at the tender age of sixteen, I was handed a rifle so that I could defend myself. That was not my dream. I wanted to be a water engineer. I studied in an agricultural school and I thought being a water engineer was an important profession in the parched Middle East. I still think so today. However, I was compelled to resort to the gun.

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Love vs. Chaos

Love vs. Chaos

Aug 16, 2003 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Eikev

It is often said that Judaism emphasizes doing, not believing. Actions are what matter. This is only partially true. It has long been recognized that intention and emotion, while not sufficient for the practice of Judaism, are necessary to it.

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The Attributes of a Leader

The Attributes of a Leader

Aug 2, 2003 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Devarim

Much of the Book of Deuteronomy is taken up with Moses’ farewell address to the Israelite nation. He has served his people as their leader in every sphere: military, administrative, judicial and spiritual. Now, he reviews the events of the forty wilderness years, and presents, from his own perspective, a report of how he has led the nation.

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History Does Not Repeat Itself

History Does Not Repeat Itself

Jul 26, 2003 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Masei | Mattot

History does not repeat itself. The experience of the past is valuable not so much for its similarity to the present as for its differences.

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The Book of Quarrels

The Book of Quarrels

Jul 5, 2003 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Korah

The fourth book of the Torah, which we know by the title Book of Numbers or, in Hebrew, Bemidbar (“in the wilderness”) might also be called the book of quarrels. It tells of recurring arguments and rebellions by the Israelites against Moses and God. The most serious of these is the rebellion of Korah, a cousin of Moses and Aaron who questioned their leadership of the nation.

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Wilderness into Lakes

Wilderness into Lakes

May 31, 2003 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Bemidbar

Eden was a well–watered place. The Bible and science agree that in the beginning, the world was moist and fluid. Unlike science, the Bible is literature, and literature with a message. It embodies themes and concerns itself with the interplay of those themes.

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