Rashi’s God and Ibn Ezra’s God

Rashi’s God and Ibn Ezra’s God

May 16, 2009 By Walter Herzberg | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

I am in the midst of reading Michael Fishbane’s recently published book Sacred Attunement: A Jewish Theology. Especially compelling, from my perspective, is the emphasis he places on experiencing the act of biblical interpretation which “is understood to foster diverse modes of attention to textual details, which in turn cultivate correlative forms of attention to the world and divine reality” (page xi). To quote my student Rachel Isaacs (rabbinical student in my Advanced Exegesis class), “Fishbane articulates most clearly the reason why rabbinical students are engaged in the types of learning they are. Close reading [of the Torah text] is not a useless skill or a rite of passage. It forces us to have an intimate, thoughtful, and challenging relationship with the text. As a result, we acquire new revelations through the process of encountering the text as much as we do from the content itself.”

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The Torah’s Lessons for Society

The Torah’s Lessons for Society

May 25, 2008 By Edward Feld | Commentary | Behukkotai

The concluding parashah of Leviticus, Behukkotai, centers on God’s enumeration of both blessing and curse—the blessings that will follow upon observance of the commandments and the curses that will result from violation of the commandments.

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Raising the King’s Sons

Raising the King’s Sons

May 19, 2012 By David Levy | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

In Parashat Behukkotai, God spells out a list of blessings that will come if the Israelites will follow God’s rules. This is followed by a harrowing list of curses that will ensue if the Israelites fail in this task. Finally, at the end of chapter 26, God foretells that even after the curses, when the Israelites repent, He will remember the covenants He made with our ancestors, and will remember the land. 

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Our Relationship to God

Our Relationship to God

May 10, 2010 By Lisa Gelber | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

As I chanted this verse from the end of Parashat B’har, over and over again, in preparation for reading Torah, it suddenly occurred to me how clear the Torah is about our relationship to God as slaves. Not so many weeks ago, we focused on our enslavement in Egypt. Think back to the Passover seder, where we sang Avadim Hayinu (We Were Slaves). Not to God; rather, l’Pharaoh b’meetzrayeem (to Pharaoh in Egypt). We know the story, and can name the oppressor. So if we were slaves to Pharaoh, and then God took us out of bondage—out of the narrow places, the straits of Egypt—what are we to do with this idea of our enslavement and servitude to God?

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Between Heaven and Earth

Between Heaven and Earth

May 16, 2014 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Behukkotai

Fertility of humans and of the land is the essence of divine blessing.

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Blessing From the Inside Out

Blessing From the Inside Out

May 21, 2011 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Behukkotai

One of the claims that seems to have been made at different moments in my Jewish education is that Judaism concerns itself with what a person does in the world and not with what a person thinks. The Torah demands we pursue a life rightly lived over beliefs rightly held. This argument underscores that the project of Torah is concerned with our behavior and not our internal life.

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The Promise of Security

The Promise of Security

May 1, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

Parashat Behukkotai opens with a dramatic quid pro quo.

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Blessings From the Inside Out

Blessings From the Inside Out

May 19, 2012 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Behukkotai

One of the claims that seems to have been made at different moments in my Jewish education is that Judaism concerns itself with what a person does in the world, and not with what a person thinks. The Torah demands we pursue a life rightly lived over beliefs rightly held.

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Walking Together with God

Walking Together with God

May 16, 2014 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Behukkotai

I saw a strange thing on my walk to minyan the other morning.

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A Little Black Mark

A Little Black Mark

May 15, 2015 By Rachel Bovitz | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin describes a personal practice that involved daily focus on 13 moral virtues. Franklin’s memoir, translated into several languages in the late 18th century, became widely influential, reaching even Eastern Europe, where Rabbi Menahem Mendel Lefin of Satanov wrote Heshbon Hanefesh, published in 1808. Rabbi Lefin included justice and most of the other virtues in Franklin’s list when he created his 13 primary middot (moral virtues) to be focused upon in mussar practice (the Jewish approach to cultivating these virtues). Rabbi Lefin’s definition of tzedek (justice) paraphrases a classic Talmudic teaching attributed to Hillel: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.”

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