Tag Archives: Torah Commentary

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“If I Were a Rich Man”: A Sukkot Reflection

The great sage, Teviyeh, from “Fiddler on the Roof,” gives voice to the universal issues of poverty and wealth with humor and candor as he calls out to God: “It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. After all, with your help, I’m starving to death. Oh, dear Lord. You made many, many poor people. I realize, of course, it’s no shame to be poor … but it’s no… Read Article →


Inhabiting Vulnerability

Parshat Ha’azinu, Deuteronomy 32:1-52 “You may view the land from a distance, but you shall not enter it—the land that I am giving to the Israelite people” (Deuteronomy 35:52). This week’s Torah reading, Parshat Ha’azinu, ends with this devastating reminder to Moses that despite having led the people out of Egypt and through the trials and tribulations of wilderness for forty years, he will not be allowed to enter the… Read Article →


Write Your Own Song

I was sitting recently with some fellow teachers, discussing the challenge of getting our teenage students to study texts with the depth and attentiveness we think they deserve. One person pointed out that this was particularly difficult when it came to texts they had seen before; passages we thought were worthy of another look, such as verses of Torah, are often dismissed with, “But, we’ve read this before.” What is… Read Article →


Communal Return and Personal Renaissance: What Forgiveness Makes Possible

Parshat Nitzavim, Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20 The promise of profound renewal during the upcoming High Holy Days is tremendous, but whether or not we will merit the fulfillment of that promise depends largely upon us. It depends on what kind of a stance we have toward others, toward ourselves, and toward God. It depends on whether or not we find a way to turn simultaneously in all three directions with forgiveness, acceptance,… Read Article →


Telling Stories of Trauma for Healing and Compassion

The issue of immigration is capturing heightened attention around the world. A wave of immigrants, including many refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Libya, is finding its way through the Balkans into Europe. Others are crossing the Mediterranean in rickety boats, which all too often sink. In Austria, more than 70 bodies of dead immigrants were found in the back of a truck. In the United States, Donald Trump is seizing… Read Article →


Telling Stories of Trauma for Healing and Compassion

On the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, a group in Japan launched a project in which storytellers are training to retell the experiences of survivors. My grandfather participated in a similar project 20 years ago, the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which sought to collect testimony from survivors before the experience of the Holocaust was lost to the world. My family’s participation in this project instilled… Read Article →


Pursuing Justice, Pursued by Love

A few weeks ago, I went with a friend to a prayer service and march, protesting the building of a high-pressure fracked gas pipeline through a residential neighborhood in the Boston area. Standing in a soccer field with parents, kids, and dogs, we sang songs of hope and resilience, crying out against the building of new fossil fuel infrastructure, especially when the town government itself opposes the project. Marching for… Read Article →


Seeing Past, Present, and Future on the Road to Justice

“See”: This simple command opens this week’s parasha and gives it its name, Re’eh. “See: I place before you today the blessing and the curse.” This commandment introduces a moving teaching about how God’s commandments are set before us, and will lead to blessings if we fulfill them and curses if we abandon them. But the opening word is entirely unnecessary; the core message about blessings and curses is clear… Read Article →

Parshat Ekev, Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25

A Purpose-Driven Tribe

Parshat Ekev, Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25 “And now, O Israel what does God ask of you? Only this: to have awe for God, to walk in all of God’s ways, to love God, and to serve God with all your heart and soul, keeping God’s mitzvot and laws. All the heavens and earth belong to God…Yet it was to your ancestors that God was drawn in love for them, so that God… Read Article →