All Articles Tagged Torah Commentary

 

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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A Memory of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, z”l

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Aaron Lichtenstein

President, Hebrew College
April 20, 2015

I have a very poignant memory of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, a great rabbinic leader of modern Orthodoxy, who passed away today in Israel. I had the privilege of studying with Rav Lichtenstein for a brief period in Jerusalem as part of my rabbinical school studies, but my favorite memory of him came from an occurrence […]

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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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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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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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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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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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amalek

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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