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Torah

Family Across the Divide (Parshat Vayigash, Genesis 44:18-47:27)

Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman | Posted 12.21.2015 | Religion
Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman

The refugee stood before the government official and pleaded for mercy. His plight was desperate. He came with a large family, seeking asylum from conditions in his home country. Loved ones were still back home, awaiting word. Returning home without help meant death.

Surviving Family Trauma, Silence to Strength

Jonah C. Steinberg | Posted 12.18.2015 | Religion
Jonah C. Steinberg

Four of the rabbinic teachings regarding the part of the Joseph-story that we read this week have stayed with me since that retreat -- and they are worth considering in their own right, as acknowledging aspects of the experience of trauma in the family context, in ways that may be surprising in ages-old sources.

Why Bob Needed Two Bar Mitzvahs

Sandy Goodman | Posted 12.20.2015 | Religion
Sandy Goodman

Adult bar mitzvahs are not all that uncommon among American Jews these days. But two bar mitzvahs for a single person? That certainly doesn't happen very often. But here's one unusual, interesting instance when it did.

The Torah Is a Book of Immigrants and Refugees

Jonah C. Steinberg | Posted 12.16.2015 | Religion
Jonah C. Steinberg

For the community at Harvard, where I serve as a rabbi and chaplain, this is a time when thousands of students will be wending their ways from campus to family homes throughout the country and the world, for the winter academic recess.

On Joseph, Shaving and Being Human (Parashat Miketz, Genesis 41:1-44:14)

Rabbi Daniel Klein | Posted 12.10.2015 | Religion
Rabbi Daniel Klein

Current events have conspired to make Paris the moral heart of our world, calling us to reflect on where we are going as a world community.

Joseph, Hanukkah, and the Dilemmas of Assimilation

Arnold M. Eisen | Posted 12.09.2015 | Religion
Arnold M. Eisen

Ruminations about assimilation come naturally to Jews in North America at the winter holiday season. How much should a parent insist that Hanukkah is part of public school celebrations that give students a heavy dose of Christmas?

Finding a Seat at the Table

Rabbi Scott Fox | Posted 12.04.2015 | Religion
Rabbi Scott Fox

I love the feel of the Torah. The parchment that I'm not supposed to touch, but always seems to call to me with its black letters and hard skin. I recently opened up one of our storied scrolls for a religious school class.

The Same Body (Parshat Vayeshev, Genesis 37:1-40:23)

Or Mars | Posted 12.02.2015 | Religion
Or Mars

In this week's Torah reading, Parshat Vayeshev, we find ourselves positioned as voyeurs, watching a troubling family dynamic unfold. Jacob favors his 17-year-old son, Joseph, over all of his other children.

The Threat of Serenity

Rabbi Menachem Creditor | Posted 11.30.2015 | Religion
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

I've never skied, and I never intend to ski. In fact, I don't understand why anyone does. It seems to me that the things all skiers have in common are the bruises and broken bones inevitably acquired in the winter months.

No Guarantees for the Righteous (Parshat Vayishlach, Genesis 32:3-36:43)

Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld | Posted 11.24.2015 | Religion
Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

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.

Prayer and Meditation in the Aftermath of the Paris Attacks

Rabbi Or Rose | Posted 11.22.2015 | Religion
Rabbi Or Rose

Prayer is not enough, it must lead to concrete action in the world. But prayer and other contemplative exercises can serve as powerful vehicles for individual and collective reflection, illuminating our path to purposeful action.

Twins Are Very Different (Lessons From Jacob and Esau)

Rabbi Jason Miller | Posted 11.17.2015 | Religion
Rabbi Jason Miller

When we hear the term "twins," we often think of two things that are alike -- twin beds, twin turbo engines, etc. However, as the father of twins (who happen to turn ten-years-old today), I can attest to the fact that twins are most certainly quite different from one another.

Joy and Loss: Holding the Fullness of Possibility (Parshat Toldot, Genesis 25:19-28:9)

Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman | Posted 11.11.2015 | Religion
Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman

Being pregnant means holding the vast span of possibilities, each in the fullness of its fruition, all at once. The blue or pink "gender reveal" party holds no candle to the many variations of joy and loss that are possible in the span of a pregnancy or the life of a human being born.

'Good Old Age': Living and Dying Well (Parshat Hayyei Sarah, Genesis 23:1-25:18)

Rabbi Dr. Micha’el Rosenberg | Posted 11.04.2015 | Religion
Rabbi Dr. Micha’el Rosenberg

Until Avraham's request, this midrash tells us, a 90-year-old grandmother and a 20-year-old youth might look roughly the same; all of the telltale signs of old age with which we are so familiar -- the wrinkles, the creaking back, the slowed reflexes -- had not yet come into the world.

Migrants and Morals

Howard J. Curzer | Posted 10.29.2015 | Religion
Howard J. Curzer

A disorganized rabble consisting of thousands of migrants fleeing persecution and terrible living conditions stream out of a Mideast country. Their aim is a rich, fertile, sparsely populated land to the north. Their progress is slow and intermittent with detours and backtracks.

Listening to Women's Voices (Parshat Vayera, Genesis 18:1-22:24)

Dr. Sharon Weiss-Greenberg | Posted 10.28.2015 | Religion
Dr. Sharon Weiss-Greenberg

We are living in a great period in Jewish history, with women's Torah study, learning, and knowledge at an all-time high--and it is only growing. Women's voices matter, and men's voices matter. We are all invested in the Jewish people, and we should all be asked and heard in shaping its future.

The Most Revolutionary Part of the Ten Commandments

Rabbi Evan Moffic | Posted 10.23.2015 | Religion
Rabbi Evan Moffic

We tend to take them for granted. Even pastors or rabbis who teach and preach about them can forget how revolutionary they once were. We can begin to see them as a decorations in courtrooms rather than a sacred call to live by sacred values.

Becoming Like Prophets (Parshat Lech Lecha, Genesis 12:1-17:27)

Rabbi Dr. Michael Shire | Posted 10.21.2015 | Religion
Rabbi Dr. Michael Shire

We see here a paradigm shift, from a human endeavor that leads nowhere to a vision of a new society imbued with values of universal justice and a universal God. But can one man really change the world?

Beliefs of a Progressive Judaism

Rabbi Joseph Meszler | Posted 10.20.2015 | Religion
Rabbi Joseph Meszler

An Orthodox Jewish friend asked me, with some real perplexity in her voice, why I wasn't Orthodox. "You love Torah study. You davven [pray] regularly. What keeps you from being Orthodox? I don't understand it."

What if Cain Killed Abel in Self Defense?

Avraham Bronstein | Posted 10.13.2015 | Religion
Avraham Bronstein

To the rabbis, the story is less a historical event and more a meditation on the human experience. Throughout history, Cains and Abels have battled, and the rabbis force us to consider sometimes uncomfortable truths about the broader story of human relations.

Back to the Garden, and Forward (Parshat Bereishit, Genesis 1:1-1:8)

Rabbi Arthur Green | Posted 10.08.2015 | Religion
Rabbi Arthur Green

The holiday season has come and gone. Moses has ascended Mount Nebo, looked across the Jordan, and suddenly the world is created all over again. Here we are, back at Genesis 1:1, "in the beginning."

On Capital Punishment, SCOTUS Is Behind The Times -- And The Talmud

Avraham Bronstein | Posted 10.07.2015 | Religion
Avraham Bronstein

Justices Scalia and Alito argued that the death penalty must be constitutional. But Justices Breyer and Ginsburg countered that, as currently practiced, the death penalty in its totality may likely be cruel, unusual, and wholly unconstitutional.

Between Fragility and Protection (Chol haMoed Sukkot: Exodus 33:12-34:26)

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg | Posted 09.30.2015 | Religion
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg

My father-in-law was a warm-hearted man who took each day with good cheer and had a smile for everyone. The family therefore chose as the inscription on his grave, "Enjoy life for it is the gift of God."

Inhabiting Vulnerability (Parshat Ha'azinu, Deuteronomy 32:1-52)

Rabbi Adina Allen | Posted 09.23.2015 | Religion
Rabbi Adina Allen

This week's Torah reading, Parshat Ha'azinu, ends with this devastating reminder to Moses that despite having led the people out of Egypt and through the trials and tribulations of wilderness for 40 years, he will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land.

The Torah On the March From Selma

Richard C. Harwood | Posted 09.18.2015 | Religion
Richard C. Harwood

This past Monday, I sat in services for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, nervous about my task: to go to the front of the congregation and lift the Torah (Holy Scripture scrolls) above my head after it was read and before it was to be placed back in its Holy Ark, where it is kept.