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Weekly Shabbat Message

Shabbat Aharei-Mot 5779

  • Posted on May 3, 2019
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We know the ritual of the scapegoat, the seh la’azazel, from the Torah reading for Yom kippur morning, and it comes from this week’s parashah, Aharei-Mot. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest designates two goats for different roles. One is to be offered as the sacred day’s sacrifice on the altar; let’s call him the Continue Reading »

Shabbat/Eighth Day of Pesah 5779

  • Posted on April 25, 2019
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We refer to Pesah as zeman heruteinu, the time of our freedom. Maybe that’s why this is one of the most observed holidays among American Jews, as liberty is a core American concept. But are the Jewish and American versions of freedom/liberty one and the same? And if they are not, are they even compatible? Continue Reading »

Shabbat/First Day of Pesah 5779

  • Posted on April 18, 2019
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The best books are the ones with pictures, especially Haggadot. One of our family’s favorite Seder traditions is comparing the pictures or drawings of the Four Children. Some of the Haggadot we use have collections of drawings and artistic images depicting the wise, rebellious, simple and unable-to-ask children.   The agenda and biases of a particular artist or editor can Continue Reading »

Shabbat Tazria’/Rosh Hodesh/HaHodesh 5779

  • Posted on April 4, 2019
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For the next couple of weeks, our Torah reading will attest to an ancient fascination, maybe even an obsession, with ritual purity–the Hebrew terms being tohorah and tumah. We see it this week in Parshat Tazria’, first in the context of childbirth, and then at length in terms of dermatological conditions. There’s something profoundly egalitarian about these laws, archaic Continue Reading »

Shabbat Shemini/Parah 5779

  • Posted on March 28, 2019
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This has been a painful and traumatic week for our entire community, as we are left reeling by the tragic passing of our rabbi and teacher, Rabbi Kessler. In my eulogy on Tuesday morning, I referenced the story from this week’s Torah reading, Parshat Shemini, of the sudden deaths of Nadav and Avihu, Aharon’s two Continue Reading »

Shabbat Vayikra/Zakhor 5779

  • Posted on March 14, 2019
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This is the fourth year that we have spent the Shabbat prior to Purim studying a chapter of Megillat Ester at a lunch and learn, so by my count we should be on chapter 4. I enjoy this annual tradition because while we read the megillah every year, and we think we know the story of Purim well, many Continue Reading »

Shabbat Pekudei 5779

  • Posted on March 7, 2019
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For the fifth Shabbat in a row, our Torah reading features the details of the building of the Mishkan. It is as if the house committee has monopolized the agenda of five consecutive board meetings! I can imagine the complaints from the hesed, ritual and education committees: “What about our reports? Isn’t there more to this space Continue Reading »

Shabbat Ki-Tissa 5779

  • Posted on February 21, 2019
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Some of the best narratives are the ones where no one comes out looking good. House of Cards was certainly one of those stories full of entirely unsympathetic characters. It’s possible to read the Golden Calf narrative the same way. Aharon (weak leader) loses control of an impatient Israelite community (ingrates). Moshe has to talk a hypersensitive Continue Reading »

Shabbat Terumah 5779

  • Posted on February 7, 2019
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The instruction manual for the building of the mishkan occupies the majority of our Torah readings for the next two weeks. Although one doesn’t usual find great moral guidance in instruction manuals, the brilliance of our interpretative tradition is its ability to find meaning in even the materials and measurements. For example, consider what this week’s portion, Terumah, Continue Reading »

Shabbat Vayehi 5779

  • Posted on December 20, 2018
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As he learns that Ya’akov is ill, Yosef rushes to his father’s bedside, bringing along his sons Menashe and Ephraim. When Yosef arrives, Ya’akov sits up in bed and launches into a rather long speech, especially considering that he is apparently gravely ill. Here is that speech in its entirety:   “El Shaddai appeared to Continue Reading »