Jewish Teaching

Shabbat Message for Ki Tavo: Ready, Aim, Live!

Posted on August 27, 2021

The Dubner Maggid told a parable that speaks poignantly to this moment in the cycle of the Jewish year: A champion marksman was passing through a tiny village when he saw a hundred circles drawn on the side of a barn – and in the center of each circle was a bullet hole. The man Continue Reading »

The Battle of the Human Heart: Don’t Be Indifferent

Posted on August 20, 2021

This week’s Torah portion, Ki Teizei contains more laws than any other parashah in the Torah — 72, to be exact. The purpose was not to provide a code that the average Israelite would carry around to consult at any given moment; rather, it was to cultivate a certain sensibility, awareness, and attitude. Nowhere is Continue Reading »

Due Justice

Posted on August 13, 2021

The following verses resonate loudly to me from this week’s Parsha, Shoftim, from the book of Deuteronomy (16:18-20): (18) You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice. (19) You shall not judge unfairly; you Continue Reading »

Shabbat Chazon — Vision

Posted on July 16, 2021

This Shabbat, the Shabbat preceding Tisha B’Av, is called Shabbat Chazon, named for the chazon, the vision of the Prophet Isaiah that is the Haftarah for this day. It is a dark and menacing vision of the impending doom the Israelites are bringing upon themselves. They are guilty of spiritual hypocrisy, says Isaiah, for they Continue Reading »

Parashat Matot-Masei: Learning as We Go

Posted on July 9, 2021

This week we have a double portion: Matot, meaning Tribes, and Masei, meaning Journeys. We are at the end of B’midbar, the book of Numbers, and in the fortieth year of wandering in the desert. This portion addresses diverse topics and makes for interesting reading. It begins with a list of laws relating to the Continue Reading »

Parashat Balak: The Premise of the Story

Posted on June 25, 2021

There is much to unpack from this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Balak.  It is a well- known story of a man sent to curse our people only to have the curse turned into a blessing, and it is a story seemingly out of place.  It is a story to which neither Moses nor the Israelites Continue Reading »

We Must Pray in a Room with Windows

Posted on June 18, 2021

In Talmud Berachot 34a, Rabbi Yochanan teaches that one may pray only in a room that has windows. His prooftext is from the book of Daniel, where we learn that while he was in exile in Babylonia Daniel prayed in a space that had a window facing Jerusalem. The message of this text is twofold. Continue Reading »

Shabbat Message: Faith Will Bring us to the Promised Land

Posted on June 4, 2021

A certain anecdote comes to mind when I think about this week’s Torah portion, Sh’lach Lecha. I have shared it before, but it is so apropos that I can’t resist sharing it again. Two shoe salesmen from Britain went off to Africa in the early 1900’s to seek new markets for their wares. After a Continue Reading »

Shabbat Message: Go and Enjoy — With God’s Blessing!

Posted on May 21, 2021

After a year of many deprivations, and much fear and anxiety, we come to a teaching in the Torah that prescribes a practice of self-denial. It is the path of the Nazirite, described in Parashat Naso, and it involves a spiritual exercise based in abstinence. Any Israelite could choose to embark on this practice by Continue Reading »

It Is Time to Make Our Alef Small

Posted on March 19, 2021

The Book of Leviticus opens with a curious scribal anomaly. The letter alef at the end of the first word, vayikra, is tiny. It probably began as a scribal error, but it was embraced as a “tradition” by our rabbis, who taught that Moses himself wrote it this way when he received the Torah at Sinai. He did Continue Reading »