Shabbat Mishpatim/Shabbat Shekalim: True Judgement

A Jewish congregation is formally known as a kehillah kedoshah, a “holy community.” Such a community lives up to its name when all of us within it find ourselves off balance. That seems a strange statement at first glance. Yet it is true: as the Israelites begin to define their lives at the foot of MtContinue reading “Shabbat Mishpatim/Shabbat Shekalim: True Judgement”

Shabbat Yitro: Jewish Revelation – It’s Not What You Think

Long before either the People of Israel and G*d are ready, they meet at Sinai in this week’s parashah, called Yitro. This parashat hashavua recounts the ultimate Jewish moment of Revelation. This a moment that will be foreverafter enshrined in song and story and liturgy. Yet in our people’s cultural memory we find that there isContinue reading “Shabbat Yitro: Jewish Revelation – It’s Not What You Think”

Shabbat BaMidbar: Fire, Water and Wilderness

The name of our parashah this week is the same as the name of the Book we are now beginning, once again, to study: BaMidbar, “in the wilderness,” the Book called Numbers in English. So far in our journey from Egypt toward that which is Promised, our Torah has recounted for us the escape itself, theContinue reading “Shabbat BaMidbar: Fire, Water and Wilderness”

Shabbat Yitro: Community comes from Sinai

On this Shabbat Yitro our parashat hashavua describes the moment of standing at Sinai, that moment that made us a community. Close readers of the Torah such as our ancient and modern commentators and interpreters have long noted that the Torah speaks of those who came out of Egypt as an erev-rav, a “mixed multitude,”Continue reading “Shabbat Yitro: Community comes from Sinai”

Shabbat Nitzavim: What We Owe

Our parashat hashavua (Torah reading of the week) begins with quite a compelling scene: the entire Israelite community, gathered together on just the other side of the Jordan River from the Land of forty years’ struggle and search. The parashah begins with “you are standing this day, all of you, before G*d….to enter into theContinue reading “Shabbat Nitzavim: What We Owe”

Shabbat Naso: Lift Every Face

I have been away, even away from media, on a month sabbatical to mark my twenty-fifth year as a Rabbi. This is my first opportunity to seek with you some sense of response to the tragedy that occurred in my hometown on Sunday. That day was Shavuot, the spring Festival of the Harvest. We should haveContinue reading “Shabbat Naso: Lift Every Face”

Shabbat Yitro: What Makes a Jewish Leader?

Our parashat hashavua is Yitro. This parashah, in which we find described the revelation of the Jewish path symbolized by the Ten Words, is not named “Great Moments At Sinai” but Yitro [usually vocalized as Jethro in English], which is the name of Moshe’s father in law. Yitro is a Midianite priest – and so our parashahContinue reading “Shabbat Yitro: What Makes a Jewish Leader?”

Shabbat Yitro: What Do You Hear When You Hear the Voice of G-d?

What do you hear when you are in the presence of that which matters most? This week we read of G-d’s gift of the Aseret haDibrot, the “Ten Utterances”, to the People of Israel. The Torah text describes thunder and lightning, fire and smoke, on top of Mt. Sinai. But the midrash, teachings of the ancientContinue reading “Shabbat Yitro: What Do You Hear When You Hear the Voice of G-d?”

Shabbat BeHa’alot’kha: G-d is my GPS

In this third parashah of the Book BaMidbar, we are finally on the move; after over a year camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai, after receiving the Torah, constructing the Mishkan, organizing the priestly sacrificial system, and learning a lot of halakhah on how to maintain the appropriate atmosphere for the Mishkan in ourContinue reading “Shabbat BeHa’alot’kha: G-d is my GPS”

Shabbat Mishpatim: Equality Before the Law – For All of Us

Last week in parashat Yitro we stood together at Sinai, and entered into the covenant with our G-d as a community, all equally necessary, equally precious. The text itself expresses this in unspecific language: And Moses brought forth the people [et ha’am] out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the nether partContinue reading “Shabbat Mishpatim: Equality Before the Law – For All of Us”