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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Leprosy’s Haunting Relevance

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Tazria-Metzora

Tazria-Metzora, Leviticus 12:1-15:33
April 22, 2015

This week’s double Torah portion, Tazria-Metzora, contains a lengthy disquisition on how the priests in the times of the ancient Temple were to deal with people presenting a large range of luridly coloured spots and sores associated with tzara’at (usually translated as leprosy); understandably, it has a reputation as the portion about which rabbis least […]

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Revisiting the Holy and the Ordinary

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Shemini, Leviticus 9:1-11:47
April 15, 2015

This week’s Torah portion includes, in the words of anthropologist Mary Douglas, a “hoary old puzzle from biblical scholarship.” As Douglas put it, “Why should some locusts, but not all, be unclean? Why should the frog be clean and the mouse and the hippopotamus unclean? What have chameleons, moles and crocodiles got in common that […]

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Getting Unstuck

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Break-Chains

Instructor, Parenting Through a Jewish Lens
April 8, 2015

For the second Shabbat of Passover. There have been many times in my life when I just felt stuck. Stuck in a job, stuck in my family’s circumstances, stuck in a particular emotional state. It just didn’t seem like anything was ever going to change. We all feel that way at some point or other […]

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Behold, the Table is Set

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March 31, 2015

The publication of the Venice Haggadah of 1609 was a grand event. One of the first-ever printed books to accompany the Passover seder, it boasted intricate woodcuts framing every page, illustrating the story of the Exodus as well as the domestic scenes of men and women, preparing for Passover (mostly women) and celebrating it (mostly […]

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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

Parshat Vayikra, Leviticus 1:1-5:26/Shabbat haHodesh
March 19, 2015

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 and friends that no longer […]

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