Eisen on Covenant at the Rabbinical Assembly

Eisen on Covenant at the Rabbinical Assembly

May 12, 2014 By Arnold M. Eisen | Public Event video | Short Video

Read More
Peacemaking and the Quest for Holiness

Peacemaking and the Quest for Holiness

May 9, 2014 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Behar

The book of Leviticus could not be clearer on the point that extraordinary action is called for as part of the Israelite’s calling to be “holy unto the Lord your God.” 

Read More
For Millennials and Their Families

For Millennials and Their Families

Apr 10, 2014 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol

I gathered six students from JTS’s undergraduate Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies in my office last week to talk about the ways in which family dynamics add meaning—and tension—to family Passover seders. I wanted to find out how these dynamics play out at the seders of my students, and share their insights with you here—millennials and college students, teens and tweens—in the hope that our discussion about the holiday will enrich yours.

Read More
A Dress Code for Judaism

A Dress Code for Judaism

Feb 4, 2014 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Tetzavveh

I received a valuable insight into this week’s Torah portion over lunch one day about 20 years ago at the Stanford University Humanities Center. Across the table sat a female professor from China, newly arrived on her first visit to America. I was the first Jew she had ever met, and at some point the conversation shifted from the books we were writing to how Judaism differed from other faith traditions and communities in America. That’s when she startled me with an observation I shall never forget. “You can’t be significantly different from anyone else in this country. You are dressed exactly the same as they are.”

Read More
Jacob’s Fear

Jacob’s Fear

Nov 13, 2013 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Vayishlah

The Torah wants us to identify with the ancestors we meet in the book of Genesis; indeed, Abraham and Sarah and their children become our ancestors when we agree not only to read their stories, but to take them forward. Abraham “begat” Isaac in one sense by supplying the seed for his conception. He “begat” him as well by shaping the life that Isaac would live, setting its direction, digging wells that his son would re-dig, making Isaac’s story infinitely more meaningful—and terrifying—by placing him in the line of partners with God in covenant. So it is with us.

Read More
Blessing and Curse

Blessing and Curse

Aug 21, 2013 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Ki Tavo

This week’s portion contains some of the highest highs and lowest lows in the entire Torah—or in any other work of literature, for that matter. At the start of the parashah, Israelites in the wilderness are asked to picture what it will be like to testify, from inside the Land of Israel, that they have seen God’s promises of blessing fulfilled. At the end of the parashah, those same Israelites are subjected to 54 verses of terrifying curses detailing the punishments awaiting them “if you fail to observe faithfully all the terms of this Teaching” (Deut. 28:58).

Read More
A People Dwelling Apart

A People Dwelling Apart

Jun 19, 2013 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Balak

Balak’s mix of poetry, narrative, and prophecy raises questions about Israel’s status as “a people dwelling apart” that are still with us today—questions that, in my view, make Balak one of the most troubling portions in the entire Torah.

Read More
In Solomon’s Temple: The Wisdom and Vitality of Solomon Schechter

In Solomon’s Temple: The Wisdom and Vitality of Solomon Schechter

May 8, 2013 By Arnold M. Eisen | Video Lecture

A special opportunity to study with Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen as he delves into the enduring wisdom and vitality of the legendary Dr. Solomon Schechter, rabbinic scholar and president of JTS from 1902 to 1915. Learn the core works of Dr. Schechter’s ideology in their 19th-century context, and explore their continuing importance to 21st-century Judaism.

Read More
The Spirit of Jewish Leadership

The Spirit of Jewish Leadership

Apr 23, 2013 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Emor

Two themes in this week’s Torah portion strike me with particular urgency and force: how Israelites should mourn the dead, and the qualifications required for the priesthood.

Read More
The Family Story

The Family Story

Mar 20, 2013 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol

I asked what part of the seder you most enjoy; whether any aspect of it bothers you; which piece of the Exodus story, if any, means a lot to you personally; and how, or if, you relate to the seder as a religious ceremony. Here’s what I learned from what you told me.

Read More
When God Said “No” to Moses

When God Said “No” to Moses

Feb 26, 2013 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Ki Tissa

It must have been a great comfort to Moses—and not only a disappointment—that God turned down his request to see God’s glory. The wind was presence enough, on top of the mountain, much of the time—the wind, and the voice in the wind. Every visit of divine speech exhausted him now. Even the words that did not demand that he do battle, climb higher, challenge Pharaoh, rebuke the Israelites yet again, or simply—on some days the hardest—endure.

Read More
How We Can Build the Synagogue of the Future

How We Can Build the Synagogue of the Future

Feb 13, 2013 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Terumah

If you care deeply about the present and future state of the synagogue, as I do, it’s difficult to resist the temptation to draw lessons from the remarkable vision of communal worship set forth in this week’s Torah portion. I do not intend to resist. Three aspects of the divine plan for the Tabernacle strike me as particularly relevant to our contemporary situation.

Read More
How Angels Make Us Better People

How Angels Make Us Better People

Nov 20, 2012 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Vayetzei

I’ve never thought much about mal’akhim (literally, angels), and I wonder if Jacob had thought about them either, before the encounter that took place when he departed the Land of Israel in flight from his brother’s wrath.

Read More
Doing Jewish Theology Today

Doing Jewish Theology Today

Oct 5, 2012 By Arnold M. Eisen | Public Event video

What does it mean to be a Jew in the modern world? Professor Arnold Eisen, Rabbi Julie Roth, Rabbi Gordon Tucker, and Rabbi Neil Gillman discuss this topic throughout the program, “Doing Jewish Theology Today: God, Torah, and Israel in Modern Judaism.”

Read More
Covenant

Covenant

Oct 4, 2012 By Arnold M. Eisen

We know that in the Torah, a covenant is made between God and Israel. But, how is this covenant still relevant today? Is it? And how does it relate to Conservative Judaism?

Read More
Peoplehood

Peoplehood

Oct 4, 2012 By Arnold M. Eisen

Judaism, especially Conservative Judaism sees the need for Jews to be a people, different from the rest of the community in which they live. However, Conservative Judaism is also inherently pluralistic, in that Conservative Jews can feel comfortable in a variety of services, whether they are Orthodox or Reform. What other ways can peoplehood benefit Judaism?

Read More
Continuing the Conversation

Continuing the Conversation

Oct 4, 2012 By Arnold M. Eisen

Chancelor Eisen has previously recorded three essays relating to Conservative Judaism. One on Covenant, one on Community, and one on Peoplehood. All of these essays received many comments, and such a debate is encouraged. Therefore, Chancellor Eisen now responds to a selection of the comments he received.

Read More
Learning

Learning

Oct 4, 2012 By Arnold M. Eisen

Judaism gives a lot of emphasis towards learning. Every generation of Jews engaged in learning, an activity that connets us to our past. How can we, as Conservative Jews learn Torah not only seriously, but also relatably with the modern world?

Read More
Joining the Conversation of Torah

Joining the Conversation of Torah

Oct 4, 2012 By Arnold M. Eisen

The basic requirements of Conservative Jewish learning, regardless of venue, level, or age group, follow directly from the movement’s distinctive vision. How can you and  your community engage in learning Torah with this vision in mind?

Read More
Mitzvah

Mitzvah

Oct 4, 2012 By Arnold M. Eisen

The modern world is one in which people are very individualistic. This continues to how many Jews practice their Judaism today. They see being commanded to do something to be dishonest to how they feel about that mitzvah. However, can mitzvot and the modern world work hand in hand?

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.