The Ethics of Memory: Religious Amnesia and Social Justice Parshat Bemidbar and Shavuot

According to Scripture, Shavuot is not the holiday of matan torah, the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people, but rather a national festival. Deuteronomy 26 describes the ceremony performed on Shavuot by citizen-pilgrims offering up their bikkurim — first fruits — at the Temple. When you come in to the land that God… Read More

Importance of Heritage Parshat Behar-Bechukotai

This week’s parshah is a double portion, beginning first with Behar. It describes the Jubilee, a time every 50 years when property owners return to their leased land and, in turn, get it back. Some explanations for this law are that it was for economic fairness and for wealth being returned to those in need…. Read More

Words for the Next Generation Parshat Emor

When the rabbis divided the Torah into its 54 parshiyot, they generally arranged for each portion to begin with a unique or otherwise significant word that would in some way summarize major themes of the entire section. Such is the case for most of the portions we have studied in Leviticus — until we come… Read More

Good and Religious

It is a debate that goes back to the time of Plato. I have personally been discussing this issue for much of my life, particularly in my conversations with colleagues in the field of psychotherapy. It can even be argued that this debate has its origin in one of the two Torah portions we read… Read More

Making a Difference

The haftarah reading for this week’s parshah is about four lepers who were rejected from the Israelite city that they lived in. During this biblical time, there was a war between a nearby Aramean army camp and the city. The city was under siege and was running out of food. The four lepers were also… Read More

Kosher Laws Connect the Generations

This Shabbat, we read Parshat Shemini. In this parshah, Moses speaks to Aaron and the Israelite people, saying, “These are the animals that you may eat.” The Torah indicates the specifications for land animals, fish, birds and swarming things. In addition to the subject of kashrut discussed in this parshah, I find the topic of… Read More

A Diet of Holiness

The second half of Parshat Shemini begins with a discussion of the offerings that Aaron and his remaining two sons are to eat — including the goat for a sin-offering. When Moses hears that the goat already has been burned on the altar rather than eaten by Aaron and his sons within the holy space… Read More

Imagine That!

There was a time when I would only go out of my way to listen to speakers who were older and more experienced than I. Recently, however, I have changed my preferences and have begun to seek out speakers, rabbis and teachers who are young and relatively inexperienced. I find their ideas fresh and often… Read More

The Exodus Mind Pesach

There is one line in the Haggadah that captures the entire essence of what the Seder and Pesach are all about: “B’chol dor vador chayav adam lir’ot et atzmo k’ilu hu yatzah mimitzrayim” — in every generation we are obligated to see ourselves as though we personally came out of Egypt. It’s a very powerful… Read More

Unlikely Holiness: Pancakes, Trash and the Priest’s Big Toe Parshat Tzav

This week’s portion continues the outline of the korbanot, the “sacrifices” begun last week in Parshat Vayikra. Its title, Tzav, is an imperative meaning “command,” and while the previous portion was addressed to the person bringing the offering, this week’s parshah is addressed to the priest assisting with the offering. The priest is God’s agent… Read More