Matot-Massei: Prayer as Refuge, Cities of Shema

Matot-Massei: Prayer as Refuge, Cities of Shema
This week’s Torah portion mandates the establishment of cities of refuge for accidental killers: Among the cities you shall give to the Levites, shall be six cities of refuge, which you shall provide [as places] to which a manslayer can flee... Continue Reading »

Pinchas: Exercising our Privilege

Pinchas: Exercising our Privilege
(Given at Kehillat Moreshet Yisrael, Jerusalem) A few years ago, I read an “historical novel” by Howard Fast called My Glorious Brothers.  Its narrator – Simon ben Mattathias – tells how his father killed a man to prev... Continue Reading »

Balak: Better Depressed Than Dead!

Balak: Better Depressed Than Dead!
In this week’s Torah portion, King Balak of Moab hires the prophet Balaam to: “Come, curse Jacob for me and come invoke wrath against Israel.”  Balaam describes Israel as “a nation that will dwell alone, and will not be r... Continue Reading »

Chukat: Moses was Here!(?)

Chukat: Moses was Here!(?)
The entire congregation of the children of Israel arrived at the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people settled in Kadesh. … The congregation had no water; so they assembled against Moses and Aaron.  (Numbers 20:1-2). &... Continue Reading »

Jefferson and Korach: Is Rebellion "Good for the Jews?"

Jefferson and Korach: Is Rebellion "Good for the Jews?"
Discussing Shay’s Rebellion (an armed insurrection by Western Massachusetts farmers) in a 1787 letter to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson wrote: Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem.  (‘I prefer the tumult of l... Continue Reading »

Shelach: Cutting the Cord?

Shelach: Cutting the Cord?
When Jews recite the Sh'ma and V'ahavtah, our custom is to gather the tassels (tzizit) of our Tallit and recite aloud the following verse from this week’s parasha, Shelach, (among others):  דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְ... Continue Reading »

Behaalotecha: “Throwing the Book” at Our Enemies

Behaalotecha: “Throwing the Book” at Our Enemies
7,500 miles, and perhaps an even greater distance in liturgical philosophy, separate the two synagogues to which I belong.  One is a Conservative (Masorti) congregation in Jerusalem, a less-than 20-minute walk from where the Ark of the Covenant ... Continue Reading »

Naso: The Enzyme of Blessings

Naso: The Enzyme of Blessings
The night before I commenced rabbinical school, I opened my new copy of The Complete Artscroll Siddur, an assigned text for my first class in Jewish liturgy.  The introductory essay by Rabbi Nosson Scherman included this intriguing sentence... Continue Reading »

Bamidbar: Where do you teach?

Bamidbar: Where do you teach?
This week I attended a university professor’s retirement party.   The guests were mainly either his grey-haired colleagues and former students (now professors at other institutions) or his other-color-haired current students.   Hav... Continue Reading »
May 10

Behar-Bechukotai: Your Sabbatical Year

Behar-Bechukotai: Your Sabbatical Year
Forty years ago in college economics I learned the concept of “opportunity cost.” The cost of doing “x” is the foregone benefit of the best alternative action.  Although an economic principle, it applies to every kind of ... Continue Reading »
May 03
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A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.
Jewish Proverb