Tag Archives: Torah

Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

No Guarantees for the Righteous

Parshat Vayishlach, Genesis 32:3-36:43 The Torah is famously laconic about the emotional lives of its central characters. We are left to imagine what Abraham was feeling as he walked up Mount Moriah with his son Isaac at his side, or what Rachel felt when she discovered that her older sister Leah had laid with Jacob in the marital bed intended for her. It is all the more striking, then, that… Read Article →


Prayer and Meditation in the Aftermath of the Paris Attacks

Last weekend, I served as a teacher at an interreligious peace conference in North Carolina, at a beautiful retreat center at the edge of the Great Smokey Mountains. As we wound down programming on Friday night, word spread throughout the assembled group about the terrorist attacks in Paris. The juxtaposition of our retreat theme and bucolic setting with the violence on the blood-soaked streets of the French capital weighed heavily on… Read Article →


“Good Old Age”: Living and Dying Well

Parshat Hayyei Sarah, Genesis 23:1-25:18 Last year this time, my Facebook feed blew up with an article in The Atlantic written by the physician and bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel. Emanuel argued that many Americans were unnecessarily extending their lives, sacrificing quality of life for quantity, spending the last years of their lives physically and mentally deteriorating, in hospitals and nursing homes for unnaturally long stretches of time. Instead of engaging in… Read Article →


Sound and Silence

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 I wonder: Why did the giving of Torah require so much noise? And if Mt…. Read Article →


Walking Through Cloud

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 with images of Icarus coming too close to the sun, his wings melting from the… Read Article →

Aaron Lichtenstein

A Memory of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, z”l

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 a few years earlier. I was an undergraduate at Yeshiva University in Manhattan. Late one… Read Article →


Learning From the Friendly Outsider

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 at which the souls of all Jews ever to exist are said to have been… Read Article →


Other Stories, Others’ Stories (Parshat Vayechi, Genesis 47:28–50:26)

Last November, I attended the inaugural conference of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom. Afterward, I posted on my Facebook page a picture of 100 Jewish and Muslim women — old and young; bareheaded, hijabi and a few in yarmulkes. One of my Jewish friends commented on the posting, “Did you discuss how Islamic women can win basic rights and freedom from abuse and oppression in their native countries?” In fact, we had… Read Article →


Prozdor Highlights: Iraqi Jewry, Composting, and Torah Tangles

It was another interesting day at Prozdor on November 16th; here’s just a taste of what was happening! Life in Baghdad Students in Norman Finkelstein’s class, Jews of Islamic Lands, heard from Dr. Sammy Shina of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell about his experiences growing up in Baghdad. Dr. Shina spoke about the larger history of Iraq and the artificial borders created in that region during the early twentieth century…. Read Article →


Resting Beneath the Tree

In Parshat Vayera, we meet Abraham resting near the entrance of his tent. He notices three weary travelers approaching, and he runs to greet them, with no regard for the intense heat of the day (as one midrash tells us)–or the fact that he is still healing after having circumcised himself as a part of his covenant with God. “Rest beneath the tree” (Genesis 18:4), Abraham implores the visitors, enjoining… Read Article →