Sep 16, 2022 By Burton L. Visotzky | Commentary | Ki Tavo
Ki Tavo is a Torah portion with three parts of interest. First, there are the curses and imprecations with which God threatens the Jewish people if we do not do God’s will. As we do when we read the Torah in synagogue, we will quickly and quietly move past the scary stuff.
Second, we are commanded to bring our first fruits to the Jerusalem Temple once we have settled the land. And then we are commanded to offer them to the priest in acknowledgement of God’s beneficence. When we do so, we recite a fixed liturgy, reinforced, no doubt, by hearing the many Israelites ahead of us in the line reciting the exact same words as the priest prompts them. “Repeat after me . . .” he says.
Arami oved avi—My ancestor was a wandering Aramean.” (Deut. 26:5)
Apr 8, 2022 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol
The Passover seder—the most celebrated Jewish ritual—serves as a symbolic reenactment of the journey of the Israelites from slavery to freedom. The Haggadah commands us to experience it annually as a way of developing historical empathy for all who are oppressed, enslaved, displaced, and hoping for liberation; we have ritualized the recounting of our people’s enslavement and deliverance in part to cultivate a sense of moral responsibility toward those suffering in our own day.Read More
Mar 5, 2021 By Rachel Kahn-Troster | Commentary | Ki Tissa
I’ve been a human rights activist for more than a decade, beginning my work by organizing the Jewish community to speak out against torture. One of the first things I learned—a theme that resurfaces across many of the campaigns for human rights that I have been part of—is that when people act out of fear, when their sense of safety and security is challenged, they make unfortunate choices.Read More
Oct 23, 2020 By Yitz Landes | Commentary | Noah
It has never been easier to identify with Noah.
In a normal year, we would be reading this week’s parashah in an entirely different setting: after a summer of sun, camp, and trips, and following the long holiday season, we would be entering our homes and settling into the fall, saying goodbye to the physical togetherness that defines the summer and the holiday season, just as the day gets shorter and the month of Marheshvan commences.Read More
Aug 28, 2020 By Stephanie Ruskay | Commentary | Ki Tetzei
The Jewish master narrative hinges on retelling our own story of being enslaved and freed by God to become a holy people. We tell this story repeatedly, and it is meant to wash over our souls and permeate our brains. Enslavement should feel real, as should the taste of freedom.Read More
Jul 21, 2020 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video | Video Lecture
Our country currently faces a reckoning with structural racism. As Jews, we have faith that our tradition represents a moral voice for justice and equality. Yet we also recognize that we have often failed to fully heed that voice and so must confront the enduring influence of racial discrimination and white privilege in our community. JTS’s Hendel Center for Ethics and Justice presents a discussion with two leading thinkers on the issue.
Jul 17, 2020 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Masei | Mattot
What does restorative justice look like? The Torah pauses Israel’s journey toward the Land to consider this complex question. Forty years of desert wandering have come to their end, and only the thin ribbon of the River Jordan divides the Israelites from their promised land. As the distance remaining falls to footsteps, urgency mounts to establish values and norms for sovereignty and justice.Read More