Rebuilding the Temple Within

Rebuilding the Temple Within

Jul 16, 2021 By Eitan Fishbane | Commentary | Devarim | Tishah Be'av

With this parashah, we begin the book of Deuteronomy, the opening of a book of memory—a recalling of the forty years of desert wandering while simultaneously anticipating the entrance of the people into the Land of Israel.

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Retelling the Past

Retelling the Past

Jul 24, 2020 By Sarah Wolf | Commentary | Devarim

Since the wave of protests in response to the murder of George Floyd, Americans have begun to reckon with the narratives many of us have taken for granted about our national past. As part of this national awakening, the legacies of some formerly beloved past leaders are being revisited. Demonstrators in Portland, Oregon, toppled a statue of Thomas Jefferson, a “founding father” who also owned hundreds of slaves; the statue of Teddy Roosevelt in front of New York City’s American Museum of National History, which portrays him on horseback next to an African and a Native American man, has been removed. Although this is an unprecedented moment of introspection for the United States, we can turn to the Book of Devarim for some insight on what is at stake in telling and retelling the past.

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Hope Amid Destruction

Hope Amid Destruction

Aug 9, 2019 By Sara J. Bloomfield | Commentary | Devarim | Tishah Be'av

Tishah Be’av, which begins immediately after this Shabbat, is a moment on the Jewish calendar when we pause to reflect on the nature, impact, and significance of destruction. I’ve spent 33 years working at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, so naturally I’ve thought intensely about what the catastrophic destruction of European Jewry means for me, for Jews, and for humanity.

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Third Haftarah of Rebuke (Shabbat Hazon)

Third Haftarah of Rebuke (Shabbat Hazon)

Jul 20, 2018 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Devarim | Tishah Be'av

In this third haftarah of calamity or rebuke, the opening chapter of Isaiah, the once noble society has sunk to the level of Sodom and Gomorrah. Strikingly, there is no dearth of external piety (indeed, God is over-satiated to the point of disgust with the people’s offerings and prayers), nor is there any charge of sexual impropriety or impurity. Rather, the suffering of the people is caused by injustice, indifference to the cries of the vulnerable, oppression, systemic greed, and selfish and self-serving leadership.

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Taking Life’s Journey with Torah

Taking Life’s Journey with Torah

Jul 20, 2018 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Devarim

“Hear, O Israel,” the book of Deuteronomy proclaims over and over, the verb always in the second person singular. The Torah wants every one of us to listen carefully, whoever we are, at whatever stage of life. It knows that each person will hear its words somewhat differently—and will perhaps listen differently—this day than in the past.

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Judge Justly, Four Ways

Judge Justly, Four Ways

Jul 28, 2017 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Devarim

Most of us are rarely called upon to judge other people, so when we read in the first chapter of our parashah about how we ought to judge ethically, we may not ever expect to act on this mitzvah. Then the jury summons comes in the mail, and suddenly we’re in a jury pool of over 100 people, awaiting selection for a massive white-collar criminal case. The issues of power, influence, and impartiality come up early.

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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Aug 12, 2016 By Dave Siegel | Commentary | Devarim

Although I have learned from many amazing educators, the teaching that has probably had the greatest impact on me did not come from school, rabbinic literature, or even my parents. It came from Spider-Man. I can directly trace my desire to work in the nonprofit world to Spider-Man. Although there is debate about where the expression originates, the message of his origin story is clear: “With great power there must also come—great responsibility!” The idea that individuals who have the ability and opportunity to make a difference in this world are obligated to do so is the foundation of how many people try to live their lives.

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The Currencies of Justice

The Currencies of Justice

Aug 12, 2016 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Devarim

You shall not be partial in judgment: hear out low [katan] and high [gadol] alike. Fear no man, for judgment is God’s. (Deut. 1:17)

Philo, the great 1st-century Alexandrian Jewish thinker, was engaged in a project that in many ways was deeply modern. He sought to “translate” Judaism for the Greek-speaking world of his day, and to demonstrate to a highly educated and urbane population that the Torah was a philosophically serious work. Not only could one be a Jew and be a Greek, but in many ways a pious Jew was the truest of Greeks.

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Fulfilling Our Potential

Fulfilling Our Potential

Sep 28, 2012 By Jonathan Milgram | Commentary | Devarim

When the end of the week arrives and we settle into our Friday night routine of rituals, I often try to encapsulate in a few short sentences what I think is the main thought or idea in the parashah so that my children leave the table with a “takeaway” lesson.

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Constant Vigilence

Constant Vigilence

Aug 13, 2005 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Devarim

The Ninth of Av or Tish’ah Be’av occurs this coming Sunday. After Yom Kippur, this commemoration is the most significant fast day of the Jewish year. We remember not only the destruction of both the First and Second Temples, but also many tragedies which befell the Jewish people over the course of our history. In addition to fasting, mournful liturgy is interwoven into the observance of the day. Most importantly, we read the Book of Lamentations. This tearful, moving, and graphic text describing the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BCE is attributed to the prophet Jeremiah. The opening word of this scroll captures its essence — aikha — how.

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