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.

Read More
Seeking God’s Face

Seeking God’s Face

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

Read More
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).

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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?”

Read More
Naming Our Sins

Naming Our Sins

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

Read More
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.

Read More
From Choice To Privilege

From Choice To Privilege

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

Read More
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.

Read More
Creating The Light Of Hanukkah

Creating The Light Of Hanukkah

Dec 15, 2014 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Short Video | Hanukkah

Read More
Claiming Our Ancestors: The Case of Terah

Claiming Our Ancestors: The Case of Terah

Oct 31, 2014 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

For all of us, there is no going without leaving; and so it was for Abraham: “Go forth from your land, your birthplace, and the house of your father to the land that I shall show you” (Gen. 12:1) [emphasis added]. And when we leave places, we leave people as well. When Abraham departed for Canaan he left behind, among others, his father Terah. And it was always thus: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother” (2:24).

Read More
The Power of Words

The Power of Words

Jul 18, 2014 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Mattot | Yom Kippur

Are words important? This is a question that bedevils us as human beings.

Read More
Who Are You? A Question For All Of Us

Who Are You? A Question For All Of Us

May 21, 2014 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Short Video | Shavuot

Read More
“This Year We Are Slaves”: How and Why Do We Celebrate Freedom in the Face of Oppression?

“This Year We Are Slaves”: How and Why Do We Celebrate Freedom in the Face of Oppression?

Apr 18, 2014 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Pesah

What does it mean to celebrate Passover in the shadow of death?

Read More
Two Kinds Of Freedom

Two Kinds Of Freedom

Apr 8, 2014 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Short Video | Pesah

Read More
Life: Quantity Vs. Quality

Life: Quantity Vs. Quality

Oct 23, 2013 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

“And the span of Sarah’s life was 127 years—the years of Sarah’s life” (Gen. 23:1; my translation). Whenever I read this verse, I feel a deep sadness that is only intensified by the story that follows. Let me explain.

Read More
How We Believe in God

How We Believe in God

Jan 30, 2013 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Yitro

The Mishnah and the two Talmuds mostly address details of Jewish observance; they rarely discuss the purpose of individual commandments, nor how the mitzvot mesh to create an integrated religious ethos.

Read More
The Redeeming of Captives

The Redeeming of Captives

Nov 5, 2011 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

What does it mean to be someone’s brother or sister, beyond a biological fact? In Genesis, the answer seems to be: not much. Every story involving brothers is one of violence, discord, enmity, or deceit. Cain murders Abel; Ham shames his father and is doomed to serve his brothers. Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers—we all know how those relationships played out. In fact, the only brother who comes to his brother’s aid is not actually his brother: it is Abraham—then Abram—who rides to the rescue of his nephew Lot.

Read More
Israel, Evil Speech, and the Spies

Israel, Evil Speech, and the Spies

Jun 18, 2011 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

The other scouts had not in fact stated that it was impossible to defeat the peoples of Canaan, yet Caleb seems to have understood this as being the import of their words. Why so?

Read More
Reset Search

SUBSCRIBE TO TORAH FROM JTS

Our regular commentaries and videos are a great way to stay intellectually and spiritually engaged with Jewish thought and wisdom.