All Articles Tagged Torah Commentary

 

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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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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Learning From the Friendly Outsider

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Yitro, Exodus 18:1-20:23
Rector, Rabbinical School; Irving Brudnick Professor of Philosophy and Religion
February 6, 2015

I always find it strange that this Torah portion is named for Yitro (Jethro), Moses’ father-in-law. In this passage, we are about to approach the mountain to partake as we are able of Judaism’s innermost “insider” event, the revelation at Sinai. This is the eternal moment around which all of Judaism is constructed, the event […]

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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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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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The Power of the Powerless

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Vayeshev, Genesis 37:1-40:23
December 9, 2014

One aspect of the Torah that has always intrigued me is the way in which its authors recognize the constraints of the society in which they live, and push against those constraints, even if they cannot imagine doing away with them altogether. Embedded within this week’s Torah portion, Vayeshev, is just such a story, plunked […]

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I and I

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Vayishlach, Genesis 32:4-36:42
December 4, 2014

Jacob’s struggle in this week’s Torah portion is framed by revelations about the meanings embedded in places and names. Nothing surprising there — who gives a name, what that name means and how a place becomes known for the transformative moments occurring upon it, all define much of the biblical story. Vayishlach begins with our […]

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Gates of Tears

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Student, The Rabbinical School of Hebrew College
November 25, 2014

In this week’s parsha, we are deep in a difficult family story. Yitzhak and Rivka struggle to conceive and after she conceives, the struggle continues in her womb. It gets no simpler once their sons are born. Esav emerges first, hairy and red, followed closely by Yaakov, clinging tightly to Esav’s heel. The boys are […]

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