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

The Victorious Victim Parshat Vayikra

I always experience a sense of excitement when I begin a new book. I am convinced that most avid readers feel the same way. This Shabbat gives us an opportunity to experience that excitement as we begin a new book, the Book of Leviticus, with Parshat Vayikra. Leviticus has historically had mixed reviews. On the… Read More

Sanctifying Time and Space, Shabbat and the Building of the Mishkan Parshat Vayakhel-Pekude

At the beginning of Parshat Vayakhel, Moses convokes the entire community and reiterates the commandment on Shabbat observance: “These are the things that the Eternal has commanded you to do. On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you have a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Eternal; whoever does… Read More

A Different Moses Emerges for All Time Parshat Ki Tisa

101014_riskin_sholmo_rabbi

What is the significance of the dazzling radiance of Moses’ face and why did it not attain this shining glow until he received the Second Tablets on Yom Kippur? And, perhaps the most difficult question of all, why did Moses break the first tablets? Yes, he was bitterly disappointed, perhaps even angry, at the Israelites’… Read More

The Stigma of Fame Parshat Tetzaveh

People are motivated by many things. The search for pleasure is certainly one of the great motivators of human beings. So are the search for power and the search for riches. There are also those among us who seek to be liked by others, to the extent that the search for adulation is their primary… Read More

Bringing Light Into Lives Parshat Terumah

This week we read from Parshat Terumah. This parshah describes the construction of the tabernacle, which is the traveling place of worship for the Israelites during their travels in the desert. The word terumah means donation or gift. The Israelites were asked by Moshe to bring gifts for the mishkan, the tabernacle, which was the… Read More

Rules and Regulations Parshat Mishpatim

After the Revelation at Sinai, after the giving of the Ten Commandments, after the thunder and lightning and the mountain covered in a cloud of smoke — what could possibly come next? What could follow that spectacular event? Rules and regulations: ordinary, mundane, everyday rules about how to live in a society. The contrast between… Read More

Becoming the Best Person I Can Be Parshat Yitro

In this week’s parshah, God hands down the Ten Commandments to the Jewish people. With these laws, the group of tribes finally becomes united as a nation, establishing a covenant between themselves and God. Essentially, this is a contract: If the Jewish people follow the commandments, God will protect them and provide for them. But… Read More

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