Dying a Good Death, and Getting ‘There’

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Parshat Hukkat, Numbers 19:1-22:1
June 24, 2015

Dedicated to Rami Wernik z”l, cherished Jewish educator. How do you want to die, and what are you doing to get there? In the world of real estate, the message is: “Location, location, location.” Somehow, it also seems an appropriate message when reading so many biblical stories, including (in Parshat Hukkat) that of Miriam’s death. […]

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Remembering Bonna Devora Haberman

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President, Hebrew College
June 23, 2015

Bonna Devora Haberman, who tragically passed away from cancer last week, was a profoundly powerful personality. She had the uncanny capacity to contain seemingly contradictory qualities with a distinctive grace, elegance and whole-heartedness. She was deeply rooted in Jewish texts, language and thought, and yet professed a radical vision of social, political and religious transformation […]

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Guarding the Mishkan: Peril and Possibility

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Parshat Korach, Numbers 16:1-18:32
June 17, 2015

As depicted in the book of Numbers, the task of creating holy community is truly daunting. Journeying through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land, the Israelites stumble from crisis to crisis, none more toxic than the one in this week’s Torah portion. A Levitical chieftain named Korach accuses Moses and Aaron of […]

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The Terrors of Transition

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Parshat Shelach, Numbers 13:1-15:41
Director of External Relations, Center for Interfaith Engagement
June 11, 2015

In the Torah portion for this week, Shelach, the Israelites stand at the threshold of the Promised Land, the land of Canaan. Uncertain about what they will find there, scouts are sent ahead — one from each of the 12 tribes — to reconnoiter the terrain and assess its inhabitants. It is a point of great […]

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Changing the Rules of the Game

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Parshat B’ha’alot’kha, Numbers 8:1-12:16
June 4, 2015

It’s no fun playing a game with someone who changes the rules in the middle. We said win by three, right? Well, you can’t go and cut it by a point just because you threw up a clunker that somehow hit the backboard and rattled the rim and put you ahead by two. What’s the […]

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The Morning After

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Parshat Naso, Numbers 4:21-7:89
May 27, 2015

Last week, as we marked the holiday of Shavuot, many of us in the wee hours between darkness and dawn marked our receiving of Torah on Mount Sinai by studying Torah all night. After 49 days of counting that began on the second night of Passover, we have finally reached the apex of the journey […]

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Sound and Silence

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Parshat B’midbar, Numbers 1:1-4:20, Shavuot, May 23-25
May 21, 2015

Shavuot, the holiday that celebrates the gift of Torah, begins on Saturday night. The Torah itself describes this occasion as being accompanied by dramatic and terrifying noise and spectacle: thunder, long shofar blasts, earthquake, fire and smoke. As I write these words, I am listening to the jackhammers and sirens on the street below, and […]

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Torah Gone Wild

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Behar-Behukotai, Leviticus 25:1-27:34
May 13, 2015

I am standing in weeds past my knees, tasting young mustard seeds. Mustard, with its small bright-yellow flowers reaching up on spindly stems, has moved into our backyard. Each small seed pod — pointy and narrow and fuzzy — bursts on my tongue. First, there is nothing, and then a tiny explosion of unmistakable mustard flavor. I am […]

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A Priesthood of the Imperfect

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Parshat Emor, Leviticus 21:1-24:23
Rector, Rabbinical School; Irving Brudnick Professor of Philosophy and Religion
May 7, 2015

Parshat Emor begins with a discussion of taboos around priestly purity, forbidding members of the priestly tribe to have contact with the dead or to engage in certain mourning practices. The rabbis read the verses to exclude the situation of a “met mitzvah,” an abandoned corpse, one for whom there is no one else to […]

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Walking Through Cloud

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Parshat Acharai Mot/Kedoshim, Leviticus 16:1-20:27
April 30, 2015

The beginning of this week’s double Torah portion opens with a warning to Aaron that, in addition to not approaching the altar in a state of intoxication, he should be on his guard in the presence of God in the actual sanctuary, lest he expose himself to holiness with too much intensity. The verse resonates […]

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