All Articles Tagged Torah Commentary

 

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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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, 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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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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