Leaving a Legacy

Leaving a Legacy

Dec 18, 2010 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Vayehi

What kind of legacy will we leave when we die? Much of our fear of dying is similar to Jacob’s, as described in this week’s Torah portion and further imagined in the midrash above. We worry that our ideals and our values will not survive among the next generation.

Read More
A Job Well Done

A Job Well Done

Feb 26, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Vayak-hel

Who gets the credit for a job well done? The work of the Tabernacle was not a solo endeavor; indeed Exodus 31:6 tells us that Oholiab ben Ahisamach and “all who are skillful” were enlisted for the undertaking. The rabbis’ populist bent seeps through the midrash here and elsewhere as the work of the Tabernacle is discussed.

Read More
Now I Am Old

Now I Am Old

Aug 13, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Va'et-hannan

There was a time
You would never have said, “Enough!”
A time when your passion
Burned
For me

Read More
Speaking Truth to Power

Speaking Truth to Power

Jan 1, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Va'era

Might this midrash be intentionally ironic? Surely, the anonymous Sage who imagines this divine monologue would have acknowledged Abraham’s chutzpah in questioning God’s plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Even if that encounter only amounts to an implicit critique of God’s ways, it sets the stage for one of the most important acts of Moses’s career.

Read More
Different Kinds of Teshuvah

Different Kinds of Teshuvah

Mar 19, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Tzav

What does “a broken spirit,” let alone the return of animal sacrifice, have to do with preparing for Purim, the wildest holiday in our tradition?

Read More
Biblical PTSD

Biblical PTSD

Nov 1, 2010 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Toledot

Many centuries before the advent of modern medicine in general and care for mental health in particular, our Sages developed the symbolic language of angels’ tears to explain the hidden wounds impressed upon Isaac’s psyche in the aftermath of the Akedah, the binding of Isaac.

Read More
What Our Clothes Can Do For Us

What Our Clothes Can Do For Us

Feb 12, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Tetzavveh

I recall first grasping the wise adage that “the clothes make the man” in a dressing room at the Kennedy Center between acts of the Washington Opera’s production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride. After performing as a peasant child in the chorus, I needed to change quickly into the opulent regal attire for my other role as Tsareyvitch — the tsar’s son. Exchanging my drab brown clothing for a multicolored outfit of silk, sequins, and rhinestones completely shifted my sense of self and purpose.

Read More
Textual Transmission

Textual Transmission

Feb 5, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Terumah

In what font does the Torah need to be written?

A glance inside a Torah scroll reveals that the font is indeed different than what is printed in standard siddurim and other Hebrew texts. It is clearly a beautiful and highly stylized calligraphy, but as this midrash makes clear it is also part of the tradition handed down from generation to generation.

Read More
Birth, Both Spiritual and Physical

Birth, Both Spiritual and Physical

Apr 2, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Tazria

How can men understand something like pregnancy, which is so fundamentally foreign to the male experience? As contemporary Jews, we often raise questions about how our classical sources, compiled by men, portray “the other,” in this case, child-bearing women. We find in the midrash above an ancient rabbi’s attempt to understand childbirth, the opening subject of this week’s Torah portion, and identify men’s role in it.

Read More
Why We Rejoice

Why We Rejoice

Sep 23, 2010 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Sukkot

We are blessed with so much—until we are not. Which is why we don’t count chickens before they hatch or rejoice before the crops are in: it ain’t over till it’s over.

Read More