Repetition and Renewal Parshat Vayakhel-Pekudei

Why repeat, as this week’s Torah portion does, all the details of the construction of the Mishkan after we have already heard them, when they were initially commanded? Would it not have been simpler to deal with the entire execution of external building, furnishings and priestly garb with the single verse: “And the People of… Read More

Be Ready to Forgive

It is difficult to imagine the profound disappointment and even anger Moses must have felt upon witnessing the Israelites dancing and reveling around the Golden Calf. After all of his teachings and exhortations about how G-d demands fealty and morality — and after all of the miracles G-d had wrought for them, how could the… Read More

A Nation of Priests

This week’s portion of Tetzaveh, wherein Moses’ name is not mentioned even once, exclusively belongs to Aaron, whose name appears more than 30 times. It is a portion devoted to the holy vestments and the consecration of Aaron’s priestly descendants. This is the week of the Kohen, but in actuality it is the week of… Read More

Significance of the Acacia Wood Parshat Terumah

Parshat Terumah begins the Torah’s extended discussion of the construction of the Tabernacle (Mishkan). Many of the materials required for its construction were not readily available in the desert and the commentators offer many explanations of how B’nei Yisrael acquired the dolphin skins, yarns, oils, precious metals, etc. for this task. One of the most… Read More

The Rich Man Is Merely the Poor Man’s Agent Parshat Mishpatim

How can we ensure that Jewish ideals — such as protecting the downtrodden and most vulnerable people in our society — emerge from the abstract and find expression in our daily lives? Our weekly portion, Mishpatim, in addressing the issue of lending, provides an insight to this question and sheds light on the core biblical… Read More

The Value of Humility Parshat Yitro

Ours is nothing if not a tradition of speaking truth to power. Abraham does it to God near Sodom and Gemorrah. Moses does so to Pharaoh in Egypt. And in this week’s portion, Jethro speaks truth to Moses in the wilderness. “The thing you are doing is not right,” Jethro admonishes Moses for hoarding his… Read More

Genealogy Only Goes So Far Parshat Bo

Why is the killing of the firstborn the final, and most significant, plague? True, it brought death into every household, rattling Egypt at its foundations, but certainly the plagues of hail — really, fire in blocks of ice falling from the sky — or total, crippling darkness for three days and nights were not inconsequential… Read More

The True Purpose of the Plagues Parshat Vaera

Parashat Vaera is all action: The first six plagues descend on Egypt and Pharaoh responds in kind, creating the dramatic and suspenseful story that will culminate in God redeeming the Israelite slaves from Egypt. The plagues are high drama, a fast-moving blockbuster film. Blood. Frogs. Lice. Insects. Pestilence. Boils. My skin crawls and my scalp… Read More

The Power of Women Parshat Shemot

In decreeing the destruction of the Israelites in Egypt, why does Pharaoh distinguish between the genders? Apparently afraid to keep the Israelite men alive lest they wage a rebellion against him, Pharaoh is confident that the Israelite women will not pose a threat, as they will presumably marry Egyptian men and assimilate into Egyptian society…. Read More

Righting a Wrong Parshat Vayechi

My parents always bless my siblings and me on Friday night. Unlike families in the Torah, they don’t do it in any special order. They just start with the closest child. In this week’s parshah, Vayechi, Yosef asks his father, Yaakov, to bless his children. Chizkuni, who lived in France in the 1300s, said that… Read More