A Bridge Between Heaven and Earth

A Bridge Between Heaven and Earth

May 28, 2005 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Behukkotai

Fertility of humans and of the land is the essence of divine blessing. It is the theme of the first commandment of Torah – to be fruitful and multiply – the sacred wish of each ancestral pair in their desire to see the next generation, and the divine promise for the loyal observance of mitzvot. Parashat B’hukkotai opens in this vein, with a condition and the promise of God’s blessing. The two opening verses of ourparashah speak of the harmony between heaven and earth, the bridges between the two, and the necessity for each of us to view ourselves as a sacred link.

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The Value of Human Beings

The Value of Human Beings

May 24, 2003 By Lauren Eichler Berkun | Commentary | Behukkotai

The final chapter of the Book of Leviticus deals with voluntary contributions to the Sanctuary. In dedication to the Temple, one might pledge the value of one’s life or the life of another person. The beginning of Leviticus 27 addresses the question of how to determine the value of a person in order to fulfill such a vow.

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Mindfulness of God’s Image

Mindfulness of God’s Image

May 4, 2002 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

Though Judaism is distinguished by a this–worldly ethic, the acquisition of material possessions is not a high priority. The singular adage of Ben Zoma from the early days of rabbinic Judaism (second century), became normative: “Who may be deemed rich? Those content with their lot” (Pirkei Avot 4:1). We need far less than we want. To take comfort in what we have is to derive pleasure in values other than wealth.

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How We Strengthen Each Other

How We Strengthen Each Other

May 17, 1995 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Behukkotai

From the messianic vision of a society where divine sovereignty preserves economic equality for all, we descend to the mundane subject of funding the sanctuary. The book of Leviticus ends where it began, with the Tabernacle as a sacred institution that needs to be maintained annually. It is a subject that arouses my sympathy. I can readily testify that the holy lacks the capacity to sustain itself. It depends on the commitment and generosity of many in society who appreciate its unique value.

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The Man Who Challenged Exile

The Man Who Challenged Exile

May 31, 1995 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Behukkotai

The greatest Jewish historian in America of the last generation was Salo Wittmayer Baron, who died in 1989 at the age of 94. Born in Galicia and trained in Vienna, he became the first professor of Jewish history at an American university in 1930, when invited to join the prestigious history department of Columbia University. With unmatched erudition and energy, Baron wrote authoritatively on nearly every aspect of Jewish history. In 1937 he published a highly original three–volume synthesis of all of Jewish history, which he called by the balanced title of A Social and Religious History of the Jews. After the Holocaust he transformed it into a second edition that would grow to 18 volumes by the time of his death, without going beyond the middle of the seventeenth century.

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“Dear Mr. Prime Minister…”

“Dear Mr. Prime Minister…”

May 28, 2005 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Behukkotai

This past Sunday, New York Jewry greeted the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, at a Leadership Assembly at Baruch College sponsored by UJA-Federation of New York, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and United Jewish Communities.

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Ethics in Business

Ethics in Business

May 23, 1998 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

When in Israel last, I needed to buy a pair of tefillin as a bar–mitzva gift. Deep inside Mea Shearim, my son and I finally found the shop that had been recommended to us, a hole in the wall on the main street, that specialized in tefillin. The space was musty and untidy and cluttered with religious books and artifacts. Behind the counter presided an elderly and diminutive couple, whose vigor belied their years. They bounded from one end of the counter to the other to serve an unending flow of customers.

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Behukkotai’s Challenge to Us

Behukkotai’s Challenge to Us

May 27, 2000 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Behukkotai

Blessing comes to fruition through journey. The journey may be as simple as lighting Shabbat candles or it may be as complicated as leaving the comfort of one’s home to discover new worlds. Either way, that which is familiar is left behind and a new reality challenges one to grow and thus to earn God’s Blessing. Such is the challenge of this week’s parasha.

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The World-to-Come

The World-to-Come

May 24, 2003 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Behukkotai

The penultimate chapter of Leviticus consists of a divine plea to heed God’s commandments. It takes the form of inducements and intimidations, promises of agricultural bounty and national tranquility and threats of defeat, chaos and exile. The future of ancient Israel in its homeland will depend entirely on its adherence to the revelation at Sinai. Aside form the poetry of the passage, its rhetoric pulsates with a tone of urgency. Free will has its risks; people may choose to put themselves in harm’s way. Rebellion against the strictures of God is the persistent evil that endangers society.

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Our Lives in Exile

Our Lives in Exile

May 20, 2006 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

Recently, while studying with a student, the concept of exile surfaced, and my student bristled when I nonchalantly commented that we live in a state of exile.

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