Dawkins and a Deeper Level of Faith

Dawkins and a Deeper Level of Faith

Nov 18, 2006 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

In his introduction, Richard Dawkins articulates his goal in writing The God Delusion: “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down” (5).

Read More
The Distance to God

The Distance to God

Sep 14, 2009 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Hayyei Sarah

Uncertainty presents one of the greatest psychological challenges we face in life. The ancient Rabbis addressed ambiguities in the Torah and in life by seeking wisdom from connections between those worlds. This midrash reveals how they understood prayer as a cathartic response to the travails that test our faith and how such an outpouring can transform our reality.

Read More
To Dispense Love

To Dispense Love

Oct 30, 2010 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Hayyei Sarah

Sometimes our Torah─the Torah I teach, anyway─is very abstract. Sometimes, though, I feel called back to the basics. This midrash is one of those calls.

Read More
The Wisdom of the Wilderness

The Wisdom of the Wilderness

Nov 3, 2007 By Lisa Gelber | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

When I lived in Seattle, I set aside one day each summer to visit Mount Rainier National Park and hike some trails there.

Read More
Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

Nov 14, 1998 By JTS Alumni | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

By Rabbi Lawrence Troster

Psalm 24 asks: “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place?” The answer given is: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not taken a false oath by My life or sworn deceitfully (Ps. 24:3-4).” The medieval commentator David Kimhi of Provence (1160-1235) felt that the answer to the question lists three requirements: proper action—clean hands; proper thoughts—pure heart; and faith in speech—not swearing deceitfully. We might say that these characteristics constitute the complete person of religious integrity. In thought, action and speech, such a person is in harmony with God and the world.

Read More
Rebecca’s Veil of Independence

Rebecca’s Veil of Independence

Nov 22, 2004 By Lauren Eichler Berkun | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

In a traditional Jewish wedding, there is a beautiful and dramatic ceremony before the chuppah known as the “bedeken” (Yiddish for “veiling”). At this celebratory moment, a groom is escorted with song and dance to meet his bride as he lowers the veil over her face. One popular explanation for the custom of bedeken is that the groom is “checking” (from the Hebrew root b-d-k) to make sure that he is marrying the correct woman. Jacob was tricked by Laban into marrying Leah, instead of Rachel, because she was masked behind a veil. However, the origin of the bedeken, “veiling,” ceremony is found in this week’s Torah portion.

Read More
Repeating the Past

Repeating the Past

Nov 2, 2002 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

Ironically death pervades Parashat Hayyei Sarah, the parashah that is literally translated as “the lives of Sarah.” The Torah reading opens with the death of Sarah and closes with the death of Abraham. In between, we are privy to the negotiations between Abraham and Ephron over the Cave of Makhpelah (which would become the burial site for our ancestors) and the search for Isaac’s mate. Life is bracketed by death. Sadly, it is a fitting parashah given the circumstances confronting our brothers and sisters in Israel today. 

Read More
Athiests and the Torah

Athiests and the Torah

Nov 14, 2009 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

Oh, if the atheists read the Torah! During this week’s parashah, we encounter a text that could have been fodder for the atheist argument against prayer. Shortly before his death, Abraham calls his senior servant for one last assignment. The servant is to return to Abraham’s homeland to find a fitting wife for Isaac, and, after swearing that Abraham’s bidding will be done, he sets off.

Read More