We read about Amalek in Parashat B’shalach. As the first to attack the Israelites once we are freed from Egypt and wandering through the desert, Amalek gains some level of notoriety. In M’chilta D’Rabbi Yishmael, Rabbi Eliezer of Modi’in suggests this is due to the tactics Amalek used in the attack. “Amalek ‘sneaked’ under the edges of the cloud and snatched the souls of Israel and killed them,” (as the Torah hints later in Deuteronomy) — “When you were weary and worn out, [Amalek’s army] met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God” (M’chilta D’Rabbi Yishmael, Amalek, on Exodus 17:8).
Parashat Mishpatim offers a myriad of rules to guide us in how to treat other individuals and nations. It makes us wonder: Why is it easier to think and behave humanely when we consider individuals rather than nations?
Parashat T’rumah provides precise instructions on how to build the Mishkan and its contents. But those guidelines, like the design for the Temple menorah, have been interpreted in various ways throughout the ages. What does this teach us about the nature of communication?
Israel's declaration of independence states that the Land of Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish people. There is another point of view, expressed in this portion, Chukat, which indicates that the people's birthplace is in the wilderness.
In Parashat Balak, King Balak and the people of Moab, central characters in the weekly Torah portion, are afraid of the Children of Israel. Balak tries to recruit the prophet Balaam to curse the Children of Israel in order to weaken them and save Moab from impending defeat. King Balak sends for his prophet twice and Balaam barely responds. Three times Balak attempts to force a curse on Israel out of Balaam's mouth and three times he fails. It is fascinating to try to understand what causes a king to attempt the same solution, and fail again and again, and despite this, to not change his strategy.
This is exciting. This is a moment of courage and birthing. The birth of feminism: many years before the word feminism was invented and the idea behind it articulated, as we read in Parashat Pinchas, "The daughters of Zelophehad…. came forward." The daughers of Zelophehad asked to inherit their father's land, as he passed away and had no sons.
Who distinguishes between Israel and other nations?
The enormous ethical mission that the Reform Movement has taken upon itself in the last generation is the spiritual and practical strengthening of the belief that all people are created in God's image. This week's double portion tells of a battle in which the Israelites viciously vanquished the forces of the Midianites. Does their behavior reflect the image of God? Does ours?
In the very first line of Parashat D’varim we read, “These are the words (d’varim) that Moses addressed to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan…” (Deuteronomy 1:1). This portion consists mostly of Moses' historical review of events from the end of the Revelation at Sinai through most of the Israelites' journey in the desert.
In the realm of profound and fruitful parshiyot, Va-et’chanan looms large. In one stream of chapters, we both relive Revelation — the Ten Commandments — and receive the most succinct summary of our emerging theology — the Sh’ma. And yet, even before we reach these transformational texts, Va-et’chanan captures our attention.