Shabbat Shoftim: How To Be Judgemental

“Whoever studies the Torah for its own sake [l’shmah] merits many things…[among other things] it gives the individual sovereignty and dominion and the ability to judge.”  – Pirke Avot 6.1 By an interesting coincidence, it was on this week of Shabbat Shoftim (“judges”) that our weekly Talmud study class contemplated this teaching. At first glance we are, perhaps, notContinue reading “Shabbat Shoftim: How To Be Judgemental”

Shabbat VaYekhi: Your New Day’s Resolution

Taking advantage of what is, interestingly enough after all, only an arbitrary way of calculating a turning point in the counting of our days (why not solstice?), this is the time of year when our society focuses upon the idea of making new year’s resolutions. Jews practice a variation of this idea on Yom Kippur,Continue reading “Shabbat VaYekhi: Your New Day’s Resolution”

Shabbat Shoftim: Yes, Be Judgmental – Justly

Parashat Shoftim begins with the description of the necessary supervision of an ideal community. First one must have judges, then those who carry out judgments. And of course, judgements must be just – as just as human beings can manage to be. Nuances of law, circumstances of context, and our own internal biases must allContinue reading “Shabbat Shoftim: Yes, Be Judgmental – Justly”

Shabbat Zakhor: Remember? then Do Something

This Shabbat, on which we read the first words of the book VaYikra, called Leviticus, is also called Zakhor, “remember”.  For Jews, to remember is to do. This assumption – that the mental act prompts a physical one – is encoded in the ancient Hebrew:  וַיְהִי בַיָּמִים הָרַבִּים הָהֵם, וַיָּמָת מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם, וַיֵּאָנְחוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל מִן-הָעֲבֹדָה, וַיִּזְעָקוּ;Continue reading “Shabbat Zakhor: Remember? then Do Something”

Shabbat Ekev: Seeing What Is Being Born

איזהו חכם? הרואה את הנולד – Ayzehu hakham? HaRo’eh et haNolad, “who is wise? One who sees what is being born.” (Pirke Avot 2.9) So few of us, then, can think of ourselves as wise. We try in so many ways to affect our future, would give anything to know our future, to affect it inContinue reading “Shabbat Ekev: Seeing What Is Being Born”