Moses’s Journey, and Ours

Moses’s Journey, and Ours

Sep 9, 2021 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Commentary | Vayeilekh | Shabbat Shuvah

Whenever I read the opening verse of this week’s parashah, I recall the other parashah that opens with the same verb: לך־לך (“Go forth”). Told to go, Abram heeded God’s call, uprooting his life and journeying—both physically and emotionally—first to Haran and then to the land of Israel. And now, as we near the end of the Torah reading cycle, Parashat Vayeilekh begins by attributing that very same action of journeying to Moses, as he nears the end of his life. What can we learn from the parallel acts of journeying that these two great leaders of our people undertook?

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The Value of Doubt

The Value of Doubt

Oct 4, 2019 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Rosh Hashanah | Shabbat Shuvah | Yom Kippur

The more one invests in trying to have a meaningful and genuine High Holiday prayer experience, the more one stands to lose if the words of the mahzor fall short of one’s aspirations. The mahzor is conceptually and theologically dense. If one takes the time to meditate upon the assertions of the prayers as they go by, one is sure to eventually encounter a text that rings false, problematic, or even alienating.

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Metaphorically Speaking

Metaphorically Speaking

Sep 14, 2018 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Shabbat Shuvah | Yom Kippur

I am sometimes surprised at how literal liberal Jews can be. Many wonder whether they can refer to God as מחיה מתים, Restorer of Life to the Dead, if they do not believe there is life after death. Many wonder whether they should recite the blessing which praises God for choosing Israel from among the other nations, אשר בחר בנו מכל העמים, if they do not believe that God chose Israel.

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High Holiday Insights

High Holiday Insights

Jul 17, 2018 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Collected Resources | Rosh Hashanah | Shabbat Shuvah | Yom Kippur

A curated listing of High Holiday resources on JTS Torah Online

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The Blessing of Curses: A Rosh Hashanah Puzzle

The Blessing of Curses: A Rosh Hashanah Puzzle

Sep 20, 2017 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Ki Tavo | Rosh Hashanah | Shabbat Shuvah

Here’s a puzzle for us to think about as we consider the spiritual work that we need to engage in over the remaining days until Yom Kippur: The Talmud tells us—in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar—that Ezra the Scribe decreed that, for all time, the Jewish people would read the blessings and curses in Leviticus (Parashat Behukkotai) prior to the holiday of Shavuot and those of Deuteronomy (Parashat Ki Tavo) before Rosh Hashanah (BT Megillah 31b). This decree is strange. Reading these graphic and threatening chapters, which detail the good that will come if we are faithful to God and the suffering that will be wrought if we forsake our relationship with God, is difficult at any time. Why insist that we read them publicly as we ready ourselves to celebrate these joyous holidays?

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The Bluebird Inside Our Hearts

The Bluebird Inside Our Hearts

Oct 7, 2016 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Commentary | Shabbat Shuvah | Yom Kippur

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
you.

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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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Psychotherapy as a Lens for Conceptualizing <em>Teshuvah</em>

Psychotherapy as a Lens for Conceptualizing Teshuvah

Sep 26, 2009 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Rosh Hashanah | Shabbat Shuvah | Yom Kippur

I have always thought it interesting that Maimonides places so much emphasis on words in the process called teshuvah, even for transgressions not against other human beings. After quoting the verse from the Torah that speaks about the importance of confession (vidui) as part of the process for repairing a wrong enacted in the world (Num. 5:5–6), Maimonides emphasizes that this must be done with words. Teshuvah cannot be limited to an internal process of reflection. Maimonides stresses that any internal commitments must ultimately get expressed with words and counsels that the more one engages in verbal confession and elaborates on this subject, the more praiseworthy one is (Laws of Teshuvah 1:1).

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The Journey of Life

The Journey of Life

Oct 4, 2008 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Vayeilekh | Shabbat Shuvah

There is so much fundamentally wrong with the world today. As Chancellor Eisen wrote in his High Holiday message this year, “On bad days, the problems seem utterly beyond managing. On good days, they call for a degree of judgment, sacrifice, and national unity seldom seen in our country or our world.” My fear is that we have actually become too accustomed to calamity; too proficient at responding to disaster.

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The Poetry of Forgiveness

The Poetry of Forgiveness

Sep 30, 2006 By Stephen P. Garfinkel | Commentary | Shabbat Shuvah

Poetry is the soul of religion.

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