My House, and His House Parshat Terumah

There is a well-known joke that is told about the Jews that I find particularly sad. The joke tells of a group of explorers who find a Jew who has been stranded on a desert island for years. As he takes them around the island and shows them how he survived, they find that he… Read More

On Gazelles and Pillars of Fire Parshat Beshalach

Traveling in Tanzania on safari, my husband pointed excitedly to a gazelle bending down in the tall grass. After a moment, I realized why he was so excited — the gazelle was standing over a wet, furry ball: a baby gazelle. Newborn gazelles are on their feet within a few days, but this calf was… Read More

Counting On Faith, Fortitude Parshat Bo

I have always been most fascinated — and confounded — by the ninth plague, the plague of darkness. How can darkness be ‘tangible,’ touchable? Yes, darkness can be oppressive, foreboding and forbidding. But darkness is not substantive; much the opposite, it is usually defined as the absence of light, a phenomenon more akin to nothingness… Read More

Living with a ‘Softened Heart’ D’var Torah - Parshat Vaera

The Torah portion Vaera describes a conflict between God and Pharaoh with Moses as God’s messenger. Moses asks Pharaoh to free the slaves. Pharaoh not only refuses, but increases the Israelites’ burden. God says to Moses that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and for this, Pharaoh and all of the Egyptians will be punished with… Read More

How Humble Is Too Humble? Parshat Shemot

When we open the Book of Exodus this week and turn to Parshat Shemot, we find that the Israelites are suffering under the tyranny of ego. Pharaoh, a despot who believes himself to be more powerful than God — indeed, he believes that he is a god himself — has enslaved the Israelites in order… Read More

The Yoke’s On Us Parshat Vayechi

We all have received blessings at one time or another. We have certainly received compliments. Over the course of time, we learn that sometimes the compliments are clearly flattering. But occasionally, ambiguous statements are made to us, leaving us confused and unable to determine with certainty whether we are being complimented or insulted. There are… Read More

The Importance of a United Front Parshat Vayigash

It’s not always easy to get along with your brothers and sisters, especially if they are younger than you.  They disturb you when you’re trying to do your homework. They interrupt you when you’re trying to have a conversation with your friends. They tease you about all sorts of things. They mess with your belongings…. Read More

The Distance Between Heaven and Earth Parshat Miketz

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The festival of Chanukah celebrates the military victory of the Judeans over the Hellenist  Syrians in the second century B.C.E., as recorded in the Al Hanissim thanksgiving prayer added to our daily prayers and Grace after Meals for the eight days of the holiday. The festival also celebrates the ideological victory of Judaism over Greek… Read More

Practice Positive Pessimism and Partner with God Parshat Vayeishev

Most of us have grown up with the power of positive thinking. We’ve been warned about negative outlooks and what popular psychologists call “catastrophizing.” To have a successful outcome when facing a problem, we’re told that we need to avoid the bad and focus on the good. But there is another point of view. The… Read More

Jacob’s Strategy: A Model for Jewish Leadership? Parshat Vayishlach

Regular readers of this column on the weekly Torah portion are familiar with my style. They know that I usually focus upon some early personal memory and connect it to the parshah. Within each parshah, I select a less-known incident or relatively minor personality for reflection and elaboration. I rarely deal with the major issues… Read More