Finding the midpoint in the Torah has long been a matter of considerable debate. Some scholars say the middle of the Torah falls in this portion, Parashat Tzav. But the answer to the question, where is the middle of the Torah, depends on many mathematical, theological, and phylosophical factors.
The Torah reading for Chol HaMo-eid Pesach includes the 13 Attributes of God. The Eternal One passes before Moses and proclaims (according to the prayer book version of the passage): “Adonai, Adonai, a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, and granting pardon” (Mishkan T’filah, [NY: CCAR, 2007], p. 496). Here, God self-describes as an ethical being.
Jews are not ascetics – or at least, so we tend to think.... Parashat Naso gives us laws that lead us to focus on priestly rules and the purity of the Israelite camp. The adjacent appearance of laws on the sotah (adulteress) and the Nazirite invite us to consider the relationship between these two subjects.
Recently, my daughter and I had an exchange that felt like we were enacting an ancient script between parents and teenagers. It left me wondering where on earth this script comes from, and how I ended up with the parental role.This week’s parashah, B’haalot’cha, provides some answers. God and the people of Israel struggle: the people are tired of manna, yearn for the food of Egypt, and cry out for meat.
When I was speaking with a 95-year-old congregant this week, she shared with me the uncomfortable feeling of having her synagogue change around her. “We used to be properly Reform. Now, when I come, I see people wearing a tallit..... " For her, seeing fellow congregants wearing a tallit feels like a betrayal of the Reform principles she holds dear.... The commandment to wear tzitzit, the fringes on the corners of the tallit, comes from this parashah.
In Haazinu, Moses recites a poem telling the people of Israel that they must give glory to God and be true to God whose ways are just. He instructs them to consult their elders and “remember the days of old.”
The beautiful, melodious liturgy of Yom Kippur suggests a heavenly court in which God reviews each individual and decrees the destiny of each person for the coming year. This is powerful poetry that should make us stop and think about our lives and our behavior.
In Leviticus, we are commanded to dwell in a sukkah for one week every year “in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.” What does the sukkah teach us about the Jewish experience?