Israel in the Parasha – Bechukotai


Bechukotai: The Dignity of Freedom

The final chapters of Leviticus cast two possible futures for the Jewish people as they settle in the Land of Israel. In one scenario, Israel remains committed to her covenant with God. The results of that commitment are described in the most moving and beautiful evocation of peace and divine intimacy to be found in the Torah (Lev. 26:3-13). Continue reading

Memory and Independence – The Transition from Yom Ha-Zikaron to Yom Ha-atzma’ut

Memory & Independence


One year ago my friend Chana was visiting my family in Massachusetts. Recently released from the army, she was spending a few months with loved ones in the U.S.

We spent the day at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. A normal thing to do with a visitor to our city, except: it was Yom Ha-Zikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. And Chana told me that precisely at 12:55 pm she needed to find a quiet place in the museum. She had to call home, to get her mother on the phone, so that she could hear the siren. Continue reading

Israel In the Parasha – Acharei Mot

Acharei Mot: The Land of Israel—Holy or Not?

ancient Israel landascape Negev

אַל־תִּֽטַּמְּא֖וּ בְּכָל־אֵ֑לֶּה כִּ֤י בְכָל־אֵ֙לֶּה֙ נִטְמְא֣וּ הַגּוֹיִ֔ם אֲשֶׁר אֲנִ֥י מְשַׁלֵּ֖חַ מִפְּנֵיכֶֽם׃ וַתִּטְמָ֣א הָאָ֔רֶץ וָאֶפְקֹ֥ד עֲוֺנָ֖הּ עָלֶ֑יהָ וַתָּקִ֥א הָאָ֖רֶץ אֶת־יֹשְׁבֶֽיהָ׃ וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֣ם אַתֶּ֗ם אֶת־חֻקֹּתַי֙ וְאֶת מִשְׁפָּטַ֔יוְלֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֔וּ מִכֹּ֥ל הַתּוֹעֵבֹ֖ת הָאֵ֑לֶּה הָֽאֶזְרָ֔ח וְהַגֵּ֖ר הַגָּ֥ר בְּתוֹכְכֶֽם׃
כִּ֚י אֶת־כָּל־הַתּוֹעֵבֹ֣ת הָאֵ֔ל עָשׂ֥וּאַנְשֵֽׁי־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לִפְנֵיכֶ֑ם וַתִּטְמָ֖א הָאָֽרֶץ׃
וְלֹֽא־תָקִ֤יא הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ אֶתְכֶ֔ם בְּטַֽמַּאֲכֶ֖ם אֹתָ֑הּ כַּאֲשֶׁ֥רקָאָ֛ה אֶת־הַגּ֖וֹי אֲשֶׁ֥ר לִפְנֵיכֶֽם:

24Do not defile yourselves in any of those ways, for it is by such that the nations that I am casting out before you defiled themselves. 25Thus the land became defiled; and I called it to account for its iniquity, and the land spewed out its inhabitants.  26But you must keep My laws and My rules, and you must not do any of those abhorrent things, neither the citizen nor the stranger who resides among you; 27for all those abhorrent things were done by the people who were in the land before you, and the land became defiled.  28So let not the land spew you out for defiling it, as it spewed out the nation that came before you. (Leviticus 18:24-28) Continue reading

The Western Wall Agreement: What is at Stake?

The Western Wall Agreement: What is at Stake?

 Egalitarian Section of Western WallPreviously we discussed the background to the Western Wall Agreement. Now understand what is at stake if the Western Wall Agreement falls through

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The Western Wall Agreement: What You Need To Know

The Western Wall Agreement and What You Need to Know:

The Western Wall Agreement

The Western Wall Agreement refers to the recent decision to add to the Egalitarian section at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Israel. Yet, the historic agreement has come under fire and there are threats to undo the progress made by the momentous and progressive Western Wall Agreement. Understand the background here.

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Israel in the Parasha – Parashat Metzora

Metzora: Don’t Slander the Land of Israel

by Rabbi Jack Luxemburg

(Parashat Metzora, Leviticus 14:1-15:33, is read during the week that ends on Shabbat, April 16, 2016.

זֹאת תִּהְיֶה תּוֹרַת הַמְּצֹרָע, בְּיוֹם טָהֳרָתוֹ: וְהוּבָא, אֶל-הַכֹּהֵן

This shall be the law concerning the metzora on the day of his/her cleansing: S/he should be brought before the priest… –Leviticus 14:2

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Parashat Tazria: Who’s in, Who’s out?

Tazria: Who’s in, Who’s out?

(Parashat Tazria, is read during the week that ends on Shabbat, April 9, 2016 – 1 Nissan 5776.)  Tazria: Leviticus 12:1 – 13:59 2nd Reading: Parshat HaHodesh, Rosh Hodesh: Numbers 28:9-15 Haftara: Ezekiel 45:18 – 46:15; Isaiah 66:1; Isaiah 66:23-24; Isaiah 66:23

ָּ(ל־יְמֵ֞י אֲשֶׁ֨ר הַנֶּ֥גַע בּ֛וֹ יִטְמָ֖א טָמֵ֣א ה֑וּא בָּדָ֣ד יֵשֵׁ֔ב מִח֥וּץ לַֽמַּחֲנֶ֖ה מוֹשָׁבֽוֹ׃ (ויקרא יג:מז

All the days wherein the plague is in him he shall be impure; he is impure, he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. (Lev 13:46)

As Jews, we do not revere solitude.  The Torah tells us early on that “it is not good for a person to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), and later the Mishna instructs us “not to separate ourselves from the community” (Avot 2:4). We place a high value on community and even invented the concept of “peoplehood.”

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Parashat Tzav: Every Jew Has a Stake in Jerusalem

Parshat Tzav: Every Jew Has a Stake in Jerusalem

Parashat Tzav outlines the priests׳ responsibilities in preparing and offering the different types of sacrifices in Temple times. But what about people who couldn’t get to the Source in Jerusalem? The Mishnah describes a remarkable (and startlingly relevant to us) system that brought distant communities close to Zion.

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