Torah Commentary

Re'eh: Fame! Remember My Name (for a blessing)!

Re'eh: Fame! Remember My Name (for a blessing)!
Why do we bury damaged or illegible Torah scrolls and prayerbooks?  And why is there a Jewish tradition of not writing out the word “G-d?”  Both practices derive from this week’s Torah portion, Re’eh.  In it, Mo... Continue Reading »

Ekev: Ask not what religion can do for you…

Ekev: Ask not what religion can do for you…
On your next visit to the mall, notice the advertising’s dominant theme: “Our product/service is all about you!”   Apparently, narcissism sells even better than sex appeal.  Presumably, advertisers are playing to a fund... Continue Reading »
Jul 26

Va-ethannan: The "Jewish Faith."

Va-ethannan: The "Jewish Faith."
Do you have faith in G-d above if the Bible tells you so?   American songwriter Don MacLean posed this question in his 1971 rock music ballad “American Pie.”   For many, perhaps most, Jews, this question does not resonate ... Continue Reading »

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