Our Guide and Our Light

This week’s Haftarah is a poem from the Book of Isaiah. It is the sixth of seven “Haftarot of Consolation,” meaning that six weeks ago was Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the Second Temple. What sets this Haftarah apart from the other readings preceding it is that it goes beyond just being comforting…. Read More

Everything Old Can Be New Again Parshat Ki Tavo

A few weeks ago, in studying Parshat Re’eh, I noted that the Torah gives us a great gift of joy — a command to celebrate with one’s entire household — tucked into a long passage replete with warnings of failures and curses literally shouted from the mountaintops. This week, in Parshat Ki Tavo, our tradition… Read More

Kohanim and Kings Parshat Shoftim

Did you ever argue politics with an anarchist? How about theology with an atheistic communist? Well, I’ve done both and have learned a lot in the process. It all goes back to a bench in Hester Street Park, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, near the Rabbi Jacob Joseph Yeshiva, where I attended high… Read More

The Covenant of Life Parshat Re’eh

EFRAT, ISRAEL — “Behold I give before you this day a blessing and a curse. The blessing, when you will hearken to the commandments of the Lord your God … and the curse, if you will not hearken to the commandments of the Lord your God and you swerve from the path …” (Deut. 11:26-27)… Read More

All You Need Is Love? Parshat Ekev

“All the world needs is love.” We hear that refrain in our music, in our theologies, in conversations prosaic and profound. While there is no denying the power of love as the essential and irreplaceable core of our lives, there are also other things we need: a home, sustenance (food), and meaningful work — among… Read More

Answering Unanswered Prayers Parshat Va’etchanan

Did you ever really pray for something you wanted? I mean, really fervently, desperately pray hard for something that was vitally important to you? If you did, and I think we all pray this way at moments of urgency, you violated an anonymous piece of wisdom: “Be careful what you pray for, because you just… Read More

A Sublime Autobiography

There is a biography. And then there is an autobiography. Our biography is the way others see us. Our autobiography is the way we see ourselves. Typically, there are sharp differences between the two. Others see us from their own perspectives. Some biographers can be boldly objective, confronting us with facts about ourselves which we… Read More

I Act, Therefore I Am Parshat Pinchas

Are you feeling depressed? Then dance! Feeling lazy? Work! Angry? Smile! Hostile? Act friendly! These are not merely glib bits of advice when there is nothing better to say. Rather, they reflect a deep common wisdom that teaches us that our behavior influences our emotions. When we feel down in the dumps, the best thing… Read More

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Curse the Children of Israel

The use of comedy in Jewish storytelling is a very powerful tool for conveying the serious wisdom of our tradition. Often, the Torah introduces us to a wide range of colorful characters — intriguing men, women, and creatures — in order to infuse the stories of the Torah with wit and humor. These personalities have… Read More