Charting a Way Back

Charting a Way Back

Apr 12, 2024 By Ayelet Cohen | Commentary | Tazria

The book of Vayikra can be understood as an exercise in transition; if one imagines the Torah as the lifecycle trajectory of Israel, this The book of Vayikra can be understood as an exercise in transition; if one imagines the Torah as the lifecycle trajectory of Israel, this book represents adolescence/early adulthood. The Israelites are still transitioning from being an enslaved people toward becoming a free people. With their newfound autonomy, they must learn responsibility to one another and service to God. They struggle with faith, patience, ethical behavior, interpersonal relationships, and boundaries—in short, all of the things that are hard about maturation and adulthood.  book represents adolescence/early adulthood. The Israelites are still transitioning from being an enslaved people toward becoming a free people. With their newfound autonomy, they must learn responsibility to one another and service to God. They struggle with faith, patience, ethical behavior, interpersonal relationships, and boundaries—in short, all of the things that are hard about maturation and adulthood.

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Honoring Aaron’s Tragic Sacrifice in the Laws of Mourning

Honoring Aaron’s Tragic Sacrifice in the Laws of Mourning

Apr 5, 2024 By Shira Billet | Commentary | Shabbat Hahodesh | Shemini

Shemini begins on the eighth and final day of inauguration week. The ceremony narrated in Leviticus 9 culminates in a felicitous and ecstatic moment of response from God to their carefully orchestrated sacrificial rites: “Moses and Aaron then went inside the Tent of Meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the Presence of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came forth from before the Lord and consumed the burnt-offering . . . on the altar. And all the people saw, and shouted and fell on their faces” (Lev. 9:23-24).

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Prayer as Resonance

Prayer as Resonance

Mar 29, 2024 By Luciana Pajecki Lederman | Commentary | Shabbat Parah | Tzav

According to sociologist Harmut Rosa, the main role of rituals is to produce axes of resonance, through which we not only affect but also open ourselves to being affected by God, people, and even things around us. In conceiving of Jewish prayer, our ancient rabbis indicate a concern with creating resonance, by balancing “affecting” and “being affected.”

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Amalek and the Torah of Purim

Amalek and the Torah of Purim

Mar 22, 2024 By Yitz Landes | Commentary | Purim

The Purim most of us celebrate is one that marks a moment of redemption – when a descendent of Amalek tried and failed to destroy the Jews. It is the holiday that best encapsulates the sentiment “they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat”. And yet, Jewish thinkers have also understood Purim as a day that touches upon the cornerstone of Judaism itself: the covenant between God and Israel via the acceptance of the Torah. How is this connection formed? What is the relationship between Torah and Purim? And, in a calendar already chock full of holidays celebrating the Torah, what place is left for Purim?

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Playing Hide and Seek with God

Playing Hide and Seek with God

Mar 15, 2024 By Cecelia Beyer | Commentary | Pekudei

Our quest for the Divine is not a new one; we’ve been playing “hide and seek” with God since we left Egypt. In Parashat Pekudei, our ancestors also strove to come close to the Divine Presence, through assembling and dedicating the Tabernacle as a place for encountering the Divine: “When Moses had finished the work, the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of Adonai filled the Tabernacle” (Exod. 40:33–34). The dedication of the Tabernacle, God’s “dwelling place” on earth, was completed as God’s Presence filled and rested upon it

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The People Step Up

The People Step Up

Mar 8, 2024 By Robert Harris | Commentary | Shabbat Shekalim | Vayak-hel

By this point in the Book of Exodus, the story outlines are probably familiar: the people—having been redeemed from Egypt and covenanted with God on Mt. Sinai, and having already sinned a terrible sin by building the Golden Calf—respond to God’s detailed instructions to build a Tabernacle by donating so generously that the collection of the material with which to construct the sanctuary has to be stopped midway, even as the people are still in the process of donating.

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The Desperate (and Comprehensible) Project of the Golden Calf

The Desperate (and Comprehensible) Project of the Golden Calf

Mar 1, 2024 By Ilana Sandberg | Commentary | Ki Tissa

After the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, the Torah focuses on the project of how they could ensure God’s immanence, or retained presence, within their world. God instructs the Israelites to build the Mishkan, or Tabernacle, and establishes the sacrificial system to insure God’s continued presence. The episode of the Golden Calf seems like a grave error in this process that demands interpretation. Why would the people violate the second commandment they had just received and turn to idolatry?

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The Jewelry of a Master Teacher

The Jewelry of a Master Teacher

Feb 23, 2024 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Tetzavveh | Purim

Without using alchemy, the 16th-century Italian commentator Seforno (1470–1550) turned gems into gold. Writing a few short words about the gemstones that adorned the clothing of the High Priest, described in Parashat Tetzavveh, Seforno shares a truly fine insight about achieving greatness as an educator.

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