Torah Commentary

Balak: The Satan Within Us

Do Jews believe in Satan?  For many of us, “Of course not!” is the likely answer.  Indeed, the question itself may seem entirely non-Jewish.   Except that this week’s Torah portion (Balak) states:  “The angel of the Lord pl... Continue Reading »

Chukkat: Not for the Sake of Argument

It’s a cliché about Jews with which we can’t argue: we argue. But that doesn’t mean we’re good at it.  That when arguing we are either fair or persuasive.  It’s ironic, because we should be good at it – not primarily through constant pract... Continue Reading »

Korah: G-d vetoed democracy. If necessary, so should Israel.

Which form of government is best?  Although most of us would likely immediately answer “Democratic,” the better response would be to first ask several clarifying questions. Best for whom?  Best for what purpose?  Under which circumsta... Continue Reading »

Shelach-Lecha: Half Your Cup Runneth Over.

Are you a “glass is half full” person or a “glass is half empty” person?  And if the latter, is that anyone’s business but your own? American law does not seek to govern attitude, but Jewish law certainly does. Jewish law's aim is much more tha... Continue Reading »

Be-Ha'alotekha: A Humble Request

Dear Friends, As is my practice, I surveyed several compendia on Jewish ethics to choose this week’s D’var Torah topic -- humility.  I then checked to see whether I previously posted about it and was reminded that I have, twice, ["Take Your Lea]... Continue Reading »

Naso: Shalom Bayit Not Worth Spit?

According to Jewish law, the Divine Name must be treated with great care.  We may not use it improperly, nor obscure nor destroy it when it is written on any object.  How, then, are we to understand the apparently sacrilegious judicial pro... Continue Reading »

Bamidbar: Torah Study Not Required?

Surprisingly, the Torah does not explicitly command us to study Torah!  The King of Israel was required to write for himself two copies and read one his entire life. (Deut. 17:19).  Moses decreed that a copy be placed aside the Ark of the ... Continue Reading »

Behar: People Are Astounded by What's in This Dvar Torah!

“Puffing” refers to advertising and other selling activities that exaggerate the quality or benefit of goods or services.  Under American law, puffing is legal, so long as it can be reasonably construed as a matter of opinion.  But Judaism... Continue Reading »

Emor: Would You Wear a Yarmulke in Public?

I read with interest this week’s Reform Movement “Ten Minutes of Torah,” entitled, “How to Decide About Wearing a Yarmulke.”  The article, written by Rabbi P. J. Schwartz, appears to refer to wearing a yarmulke in public.    I gr... Continue Reading »

Important Lessons of the Touro Synagogue

This week, I depart from discussing the weekly Torah portion in order to share some thoughts on our history as American Jews.  This departure is prompted by my recent visits to Recife, Brazil and to synagogues in Barbados and Newport, Rhode Isla... Continue Reading »
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If charity cost nothing, the world would be full of philanthropists.
Jewish Proverb