Tag Archives: Torah Commentary

Seventy Faces of Torah Rabbi Nehemia Polen

The Virtuous Circle of Ethical Sensitivity

Parashat Mishpatim, Exodus 21:1-24:18 The set of community regulations collected in Exodus 21: 1- 23: 33, which make up the bulk of Parshat Mishpatim, shows many points of similarity with other ancient legal collections from the Ancient Near East, such as the famous Code of Hammurabi. But, as scholars such as Moshe Greenberg and Nahum Sarna have pointed out, there are significant differences as well, such as the avoidance of… Read Article →

Seventy Faces of Torah Rabbi Dan Judson, Director of Professional Development and Placement

I Thought Everyone Ended with “God Bless America”

Parshat B’shalach, Exodus 13:17−17:16 The political events of the past few months in the US have left me, like so many people, feeling at sea. What I thought I knew and believed about this country was not right. There is more misogyny, more racism, more anti-semitism, more debasement of the political culture than I imagined people would put up with. I have friends who have taken refuge and inspiration in… Read Article →

Rabbinical School Divrei Torah Rabbi Ma'ayan Sands

Moses, Exodus and Being a Messenger of God

Dvar Torah for Congregation Mishkan Tefillah, Parashat Bo, February 3, 2017* The Biblical teaching that we are created “b’tzelem Elohim”, in the image of God, is a cornerstone of Judaism. Often, we understand it to be a mandate of how we should act toward and treat each other. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik has another idea. He says is that each one of us is a messenger, created B’tzelem Elohim, in the… Read Article →

Seventy Faces of Torah Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman

Turning Back to the Center

Parshat Bo, Exodus 10:1-13:16 In our buildings and with our bodies, we strive to turn physically toward the holy. We orient synagogue buildings toward the ancient place of the Holy of Holies, the innermost part of the ancient Temple, and turn our bodies in that direction for prayer. Approaching and leaving the bimah, from which services are led and the Torah is read, we keep our faces toward the ark and… Read Article →

Rabbinical School Divrei Torah Rabbi Nehemia Polen

Tu Bi-Shvat: Nurturing the Tree of Life

To judge by our classical sources, Tu bi-Shvat barely counts as even a minor holiday. The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 2a and 14a) mentions the fifteenth day of the month of Shvat as the day which initiates a new agricultural year with respect to the tithing of fruit trees, but specifies no liturgy, ritual, or celebration. There is little reference to Tu bi-Shvat in the early medieval authorities, and even Rabbi… Read Article →

Seventy Faces of Torah Rabbi Lev

What’s Truth Got to Do With It?

Parshat VaEra, Exodus 6:2-9:35 A colleague calls me to vent: A congregant had told her angrily that she should not talk about climate change in her sermons, because climate change isn’t real. My mother-in-law tells us about a client who says that he voted for Donald Trump because Hillary Clinton is one of the worst mass murderers in history. 2016 brought America’s public discourse to a new, dangerous place. We… Read Article →

Seventy Faces of Torah shoshana-friedman

Going Toward Egypt

Parshat Shemot, Exodus 1:1-6:1 The other day while visiting my parents, I overheard my mom on a call. The woman on the other end of the phone had helped my parents with home decorating in the past, and they had called to ask her advice about an old couch. But within moments I heard my mom exclaiming, “Oh, sweetie! I’m so sorry. When will you be in Boston for chemo?”… Read Article →

Seventy Faces of Torah Rabbi Elisha Herb

Hope is the Thing We Can Do

(Parshat Vayechi, Genesis 47:28-50:26) Diversity can be an excruciating experiment. One person’s story can unravel another’s; our all-too-human desire to be able to narrate our lives in some coherent way can be profoundly challenged by someone else’s need for coherence. At times, diversity fosters a sense of chaos, and efforts to find coherence become especially challenging as our perceptions of difference come into focus. We may feel as if things… Read Article →

Seventy Faces of Torah Rabbi Ariel Evan Mayse

Remembering the Sacredness of Speech

Parshat Vayigash, Genesis 44:18-47:27 Our parashah is in many ways the peak of the dramatic Joseph story. Once cast into bondage in Egypt by his jealous brothers, Joseph has now risen, against the odds, and through his political acumen and remarkable ability to decipher dreams, has become the Pharaoh’s second-in command. A merciless famine in the land of Israel has driven his estranged family to come before Pharaoh’s minister in supplication for… Read Article →