Chayyei Sarah: A Modest(y) Proposal

Chayyei Sarah: A Modest(y) Proposal

 

Why do Jewish brides veil their faces? In this week’s Torah Portion, Chayyei Sarah, Rebecca, who has never met Isaac, agrees to travel to his home and marry him.  When she first sees him from afar, she takes her veil and covers herself.  (Gen. 25:65).  This biblical story is the source of our “bedecken” wedding veil ritual. But why did she do it? ... 

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Yayera: Tell a Friend!

Yayera: Tell a Friend!

The supermarket chain Alpha Beta used to end its TV and radio commercials with the tagline “Tell a Friend.”  Its marketing department knew that, both for good and ill, our friends greatly influence us.   ...

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Nov 01

Lech L'cha: Set Your Preferences?

Lech L'cha: Set Your Preferences?
Watch/hear this 3 min D'var Torah: http://youtu.be/iXk3x7fsVTw  Throughout Jewish history, our sages have commented on the strange phraseology of G-d’s command to Abraham: Lech L’cha to the land that I will show you.&nb... Continue Reading »

Noah: G-d's Failed Policies?

Noah: G-d's Failed Policies?

 

During this election season, the candidates and parties hotly dispute the wisdom of leadership policies.  Judaism has a long tradition of challenging even Divine policies, both contemplated and implemented (the Book of Job being the preeminent example), though always stopping short of rejecting or dismissing G-d. How then might we judge G-d’s most dramatic and violent policy: wiping out virtually all life on earth?

 

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Oct 18

B'reishit: Divine Et-iquette

B'reishit: Divine Et-iquette

 

Some months ago on Jeopardy! a seminary student appeared as a contestant.  During his brief on-air interview, he offered, and was invited, to recite the first verse of the Bible in Hebrew. ...

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Oct 12

Vzot Habrachah: Jewish Views of G-d

Vzot Habrachah: Jewish Views of G-d

For this Shabbat, an intermediate day of the joyous Sukkot festival, our sages assigned a special holiday reading from Exodus and Leviticus.  The final Torah portion, Vzot Habracha, will be read on Tuesday for Simchat Torah, whereupon we will begin the Torah anew with B’reishit next Shabbat.  This, therefore, being my only opportunity to share thoughts about the final Torah portion, I’ll jump ahead and do so now.  ...

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Oct 05

Ha'azinu: Our life -- what legacy?

Ha'azinu: Our life -- what legacy?

 

Where I grew up and still spend much of my time -- Orange County, California -- special effort is needed to come face-to-face with any conspicuously “historical” tangible object, such as a building more than a century old or a museum artifact. How different elsewhere!  Over the past two months I’ve spent in ...

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Sep 27

Jewish British Mudslinging at Israel

Jewish British Mudslinging at Israel

 

This week I depart from my Torah commentary to describe two upsetting, related incidents in connection with my Rosh Hashanah visit to a Liberal Judaism movement congregation in the UK.  They both involved Israel. In the first ... 

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Sep 21
Posted in: Israel

Nitzavim: The Pink Ostrich of Life

Nitzavim: The Pink Ostrich of Life

 

This week I heard an intriguing radio short story.  A travel writer narrated his visit to a strange land populated by two peoples.  One lived entirely to serve the other.  The servant-people were neither slaves nor employees; they were motivated entirely by religious faith.  Their god was a great pink ostrich that they believed was pleased with their devoted altruism to the Others.  These Others regarded the notions of any god and of altruism as equally absurd.  Yet, since the arrangement suited the interests of both groups, their society functioned harmoniously.  ,,,

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Sep 14

Ki Tavo: An Authentic Non-Torah Judaism?

Ki Tavo: An Authentic Non-Torah Judaism?

 

Every Passover – our ancient and most conspicuous celebration of Jewish history -- I can’t help but notice something extraordinary about the summary historical narrative that comes right out of this week’s Torah portion: “My father was a fugitive Aramean...."  

 

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He who guards his mouth preserves his life
Proverbs 13:3