Making Meaning of the Ashes in Our Lives

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Tzav, Leviticus 6:1-8:36
March 26, 2015

“…This is the Torah of the burnt offering… let the priest wear his cloth garments…and lift the ashes from the fire that consumed the burnt offering… and place them near the altar” (Leviticus 6:2-3). When we think of sacrifices and gifts to others, we think of important things: objects of beauty and value, gestures that […]

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The Importance of “Calling”

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effective communication

March 19, 2015

(Parshat Vayikra, Leviticus 1:1-5:26/Shabbat haHodesh) We live in a busy, noisy world of multimedia overload, fast-paced online communication and expectations of increased personal and professional productivity. Technology and social media have revolutionized how we communicate and what we expect of one another. I have grown accustomed to short, pithy email and text exchanges with colleagues […]

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Building Devotion

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Vayakhel/Pekudei, Exodus 35:1-40:38
March 12, 2015

Judaism is often described as a religion of law, an identity that it shares with Islam. But it is perhaps more accurate to consider Judaism as a religion defined by its commitment to embodied practice and experience. This is abundantly clear in the final chapters of Exodus, which concludes with a series of intricate laws […]

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More Than One Thing: Purim and Reflections of the Image of God

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Ki Tissa, Exodus 30:11 - 34:35
Dean, Rabbinical School
March 4, 2015

Megillat Esther, which we read on the holiday of Purim this week, is a flamboyant, even farcical tale of good and evil. Its characters on the face of it are caricatures of human virtue and vice: Achashueras, the foolish king who sits on the throne but exercises no true leadership or authority; Haman, the sinister power […]

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Remembering the Future: Memories of the Heart

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Tetzaveh, Exodus 27:20-30:10
February 25, 2015

This Shabbat, the weekly Torah portion, Tetzaveh, embraces the consecration of the priesthood to God, and the special designated Torah reading for the Shabbat prior to Purim, known as Shabbat Zachor, commands us to remember/not forget our encounter with Amalek, who sought to destroy us. A kaleidoscope of voices and texts construct and reconstruct our […]

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Compulsory Love: What the Building of the Tabernacle Can Teach Us About Valentine’s Day

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Terumah, Exodus 25:1-27:19
February 19, 2015

I have a fraught relationship with Valentine’s Day. Perhaps this is because I cringe, as a Jew, at observing what was first a pagan and later a Christian holiday; Valentine’s Day originated from a pagan mid-February fertility celebration called Lupercalia and was transformed into St. Valentine’s Day by Pope Gelasius. Perhaps it is because of […]

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Is Law a Kind of Love?

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Mishpatim, Exodus 21:1 – 24:18
February 11, 2015

In an implicit polemic against Judaism, some strands of Christian theology suggest that Jesus replaced law with love, supplanting countless rules from the Torah with an all-encompassing love as expressed in God’s incarnation. But we do not need to shy away from this critique of Jewish law entirely, even if it is also associated with […]

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Religion and the Enemy

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B’Shalach, Exodus 13:17-17:16
January 29, 2015

Common wisdom has it that much violence in the world is driven by religious passion. Though there is good reason for this claim, deeper reflection reveals a more complex picture of what religions have to say about relationships with the enemy. This week’s Torah portion brings us one of Judaism’s core texts on the paradigmatic […]

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Power, Oppression and the Hardened Heart

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Bo, Exodus 10:1-13:16
January 21, 2015

This week’s Torah portion begins with God instructing Moses: “Come to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart” (Exodus 10:1). The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is one of the most confusing aspects of the Exodus story, but has perhaps the most to teach us about freedom and oppression in our world today. Before Moses ever […]

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In the Name of God: The Possibility of Passion and Tolerance

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Vaera, Exodus 6:2-9:35
January 13, 2015

And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, as God Almighty (El Shaddai), but by My name LORD (YHVH) I was not known to them. — Exodus 6:2-3 . . . “My name is Alice, but — ” “It’s a stupid name enough!” […]

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