Lech Lecha

Lech Lecha

ABRAHAM’S PATH TO G-D Jewish history begins with G-d’s call to Abraham at the beginning of this week’s sidra, telling him to leave his land, his birthplace, and go to the land which G-d will show him. The Torah tells us that Abraham is seventy-five years old when this happens. What has taken place in Abraham’s life previously? The Torah is silent here but Jewish tradition fills in the gaps. Abraham is regarded as the first person who came to G-d as a result of his own intellectual questioning. Maimonides (Laws of Idolatry 1:3) provides the following narrative regarding Abraham’s...

Noach

Noach

DOVE TALES ON SHABBAT Whilst many of the Zemirot (Shabbat-table songs) were composed to be sung throughout the year, others were written with a particular Shabbat in mind. A classic example is the song composed by the great medieval Spanish poet, Judah Halevi (1075-1141), to be sung, especially,on this Shabbat. It is called: Yonah Matzah Vo Mano’ach – “the dove found rest on it (the Shabbat.)” The poem draws on the passages in the parsha where Noah sends out a dove on three occasions to see if the flood waters have subsided. The first time the dove returns not having...

Bereishit

Bereishit

WHAT ADAM LACKED When challenged by G-d as to how he could have eaten of the forbidden fruit, Adam replies, “The women, whom You gave to be with me – she gave me of the fruit and I ate.” (Gen 3:12.) Rashi, quoting the Talmud, tersely comments: “Here Adam shows his ingratitude.” If, in the biblical account, Adam is supposed to be the first man, created by G-d Himself, how could he display such an ungratefulness to G-d who had given him life and a wife? The Sefer Hachinuch (13th century) observes that qualities like gratitude are learned behavior. We...

Repentence

Repentence

The month of September seems to be totally overwhelming! Kids back to School, a new academic year at JFS, the Selichot and High Holy days in full flow and it feels like our foot is on the accelerator in full throttle! It has been quite intense. On Rosh Hashana, we proclaimed G-d as our King and recognized the awesome power He has over us. Then comes Yom Kippur. We remembered the fact that our King is actually our Father. We begged Him to take us back. On Yom Kippur, we spend the day, immersed in holiness, praying the entire day...

Vayelech

Vayelech

WHAT CHAPTER WILL WE WRITE IN THE BOOK OF LIFE? Judaism takes the simple things of life and makes them holy. Kashrut makes eating holy. Kiddush makes drinking holy. The laws of family purity make the physical relationship between husband and wife holy. Study sanctifies the intellect. Prayer reconfigures the mind. Constant acts of generosity and care sharpen our emotional intelligence, honing our skills of empathy. Judaism, as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik put it, sees creativity as the essence of humanity, and our greatest creation is our self. We forge our life in the fire of love: love of God, the...

Ki Tetzei

Ki Tetzei

THE WATERS OF NOAH Today, we read two Haftarot: the one for Ki Teitze, preceded by the one for Re’eh, which we omitted two weeks’ ago because it was Rosh Chodesh. The Haftarot comprise adjacent passages in the book of Isaiah and are the messages of consolation that we read between Tisha B’Av and Rosh Hashanah. In today’s message, Isaiah promises, in the name of G-d, that just as he had sworn in the days of Noah, not to bring another flood to destroy the world, so He will not punish His people again: “For this is to Me [as]...