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

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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on2045_03

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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3189

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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Building Devotion

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tabernacle

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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Purim-Mask-2

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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d1

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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rose heart

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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