A Model of Jewish Leadership Parshat Beshallach

This Shabbat we read Parshat Beshallach and the “Song of Devorah” from the Book of Judges. The haftarah focuses on Devorah, a prophet and judge, and Barak, a general. They lead the Jews in a battle against the Canaanites. Devorah asks Barak to gather 10,000 men and go up to Mount Tabor and fight the… Read More

Can You Be Free and Torah-Observant?

Moses told Pharaoh that the G-d of the Jews said: “Let My people go, and they will worship Me.” While the Torah narrative is often portrayed as us leaving the bondage of Egypt to be free to do whatever we want, the truth is that the Torah asserts that “My people” were let go so… Read More

Plagued by the Plagues

This week’s Torah portion  has always troubled me. The plagues, with their collective punishment caused by the sins of Pharaoh, always seemed unnecessarily cruel to the Egyptian people. Perhaps some of the Egyptians were complicit in Pharaoh’s enslavement scheme, but we can assume that the ordinary people were not. It is they who suffered the… Read More

Sleepless Nights, Enlightened Days

Can you sleep at night? There is so much trouble in the world. Violence, wars large and small, natural disasters, disease. We all personally know many who are suffering at this very moment. Some are friends and acquaintances living in plain sight. Others are individuals in the media, people whose pain we see portrayed daily… Read More

How Shall We Bless Those Who Come After Us?

According to Jewish tradition, on the eve of Shabbat and holidays, before reciting Kiddush, parents bless their children. You can find these blessings in your siddur. There you will see that sons are blessed with these words: “May God inspire you to live like Ephraim and Manasseh.” Rashi teaches that the blessing for boys is… Read More

The Bond of Brotherliness

Why does Joseph suddenly wake up to his familial ties and reveal himself as the long-lost son and brother? Apparently, he was inspired by Judah’s stirring speech that opens our Torah reading. How did Judah strike such a responsive chord in a Joseph, whose heart had previously been so impervious to filial and sibling sensitivity?… Read More

But by My Spirit

It is a common scene in the United States at this time of year. The shopping malls, television commercials and all public venues are transformed visually. As Dec. 25 approaches, we see the evidence that we do indeed live in a predominantly Christian country. Images of Santa Claus and his reindeer, evergreen trees with dazzling… Read More

Clothes Make the Story

To Paraphrase Mark Twain, “Clothes make the [story].” Throughout the course of this week’s Torah portion, references to clothing accentuate and propel the unfolding drama. As the parshah opens, the tension between Joseph and his brothers reaches its boiling point. They conspire to kill him out of jealousy, for he is their father’s favorite son,… Read More

Our Jewish Birthright

The biblical kashrut laws for Jews have always been a powerful tool in keeping us a “nation set apart.” We left Jacob last week leaving Laban and Laban-land behind, heaven-bent on returning to the land of Abraham and to the house of Isaac. Jacob understands that his inner self has been overtaken by the deceitful… Read More

Opening the Well of Interpretation

In Jewish tradition, wells give life by providing not only water, but also a meeting place for our ancestors to find their mates. In this week’s Torah portion, Jacob meets his beloved Rachel at a well. Emboldened perhaps by love at first sight, he rolls away the heavy stone covering the mouth of the well… Read More