Nearing The End

Wow! We are about to complete the yearly cycle of reading the entire Five Books of Moses, The Torah, with only 2 more parshiot (portions) until we get to the very end of the scroll. But between now and the very last verses of the Torah, there are a bunch of holidays — Rosh HaShanah […]

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Coming In… and the Planet?

Last week, we were “going out” (“Ki Tetzei“) and this week, we are “coming in.” In the first words of this week’s parasha, Ki Tavo (“When You come In [to the land of Israel]”), we find Moses/Moshe continuing his long valedictory address to the people. He wants to cover all bases, since he isn’t coming […]

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Something Doesn’t Make Sense…

As the storyteller (and others) point out, this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tetzei (“When You Go Out”), has more commandments (mitzvot) than any other parasha in the entire Five Books of Moses. We are smack dab in the middle of the book of D’varim (Deuteronomy), the last discourse of Moshe/Moses as he prepares the Children […]

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See the Blessings (and Curse)

To think about as you read: When do you clearly see and acknowledge the blessings in your life? What do you think it means to be cursed? What tempts you away from doing the right thing? “Re’eh” — “See”! The Torah portion this week opens with this command by the God of Israel to “see” […]

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Vulnerability of the Heart and Land

The name of this week’s parasha, Ekev, is kind of a hard word to translate precisely into English. Here are 3 renditions of the first phrase (Deuteronomy 7 verse 12): “And if you do obey these rules and observe them carefully…” (Jewish Publication Society) “And it shall come about in consequence of your heeding these […]

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Crossing Over To The Other Side

The parasha this week, Va’etchanan (“And He Pleaded”), refers to how Moshe/Moses pleaded with God to cross over into the Promised Land, along with the People of Israel. Interesting how when we look back on incidents in our lives, and we re-tell the story of what happened, some of the more difficult facts have a […]

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Deuteronomy, Here We Come!

This week we begin the 5th of the Five Books of Moses: Devarim, which literally translates to “The Words” even though we usually hear “Deuteronomy” as the English (Greek! more on this later below) name. Some like to say, “These Are The Words,” because the entire book amounts to a very long exhortation by Moshe/Moses […]

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The End of the Wilderness

As you read and watch, some ideas to consider… How do you reconcile difficult passages in Torah with your concepts of moral behavior? What do you think about creating physical spaces to protect those who have committed some awful wrong (like manslaughter)? What should those spaces be like? What would a contemporary city of refuge […]

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Wise Women, Leadership, and Zealotry

As you read about and watch this week’s Torah portion, some ideas to consider: Is zealotry ever warranted? Why and why not? What do Zelophechad’s five daughters have to teach you about speaking truth to power? What do you think of Moshe’s reaction to being told he is going to die without going into Israel? […]

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A Prophet and His Talking Donkey

The Torah parasha this week is named after a non-Israelite king, Balak, who decides that the Israelite tribes are a threat to his people, the Moabites. So King Balak hires Balaam ben Be’or, a soothsayer and prophet, to go and deliver a curse on the Israelites (Numbers 22: 5-7). Balaam accepts the gig; he and […]

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A Red Cow, Water, and a Snake?

To think about as you read this week’s installment: What do you think about rituals surrounding purification around death/caring for a deceased person? How do you reconcile following laws that make no sense to you? Would you ever obey a law that you can’t understand? Why or why not? One might think that the way […]

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Showdown at the OK Corral

This week’s parasha (Numbers 16:1 – 18:32) is named after its key protagonist, a feisty fellow by the name of Korach, born into the priestly tribe of Levi, the same leadership tribe as Moshe/Moses and Aaron. The scene is the desert: the Israelites are complaining and want a change, wishing they were back in good […]

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Spies and Confidence

Nechama is on vacation, but wanted to make sure you didn’t miss a beat. No lengthy discussion or questions to ponder, but you still get to enjoy a video! Will the Promised Land be flowing with milk and honey, or giants and battles? This week’s guest narrator, Jay Michaelson, invites the spies of Parshat Shelach […]

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Is This a Healthy Relationship?

Nechama is on vacation, but wanted to make sure you didn’t miss a beat. No lengthy discussion or questions to ponder, but you still get to enjoy a video! Hold onto your hats, this is a really crazy G-dcast. One of the oddest, most thorny episodes in the Bible involves a man who suspects his […]

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Counting in the Desert

This week we begin reading the 4th of the 5 Books of Moses, which actually has 3 different names: Bemidbar (Hebrew for “In the Desert”), describing where the action takes place, and Numbers, because, following the early Greek translation of the Bible, the book begins with a census and close attention to counting. Finally, this […]

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Say, What?

Emor, the name of this week’s parasha (Torah portion), simply means “Say,” and this verb is in the imperative mode. Here in the depths of the forests of Leviticus we read about things that Moshe is commanded to say to the people of Israel as they are forming their social structure. This parasha also has […]

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Boston and “After the Death”

When tragedy strikes, what do you need to do to remain balanced and react in a positive fashion? What kinds of rules should we adopt to keep our society safe, healthy, and open? The parasha (Torah portion) this week, Acharey Mote/After the Death, opens with a reference back to the inexplicable death of two of […]

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The Power of Words

How do our words affect our physical lives — and the lives of those around us? This week we read a two Torah portions, a “double parasha,” Tazria (Leviticus 12:1-13:59) and Metzora (Leviticus 14:1-14:33). They are both relatively short and they are both concerned with pretty yucky details about skin diseases. As the G-dcast story […]

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No Good Reason

This week’s Torah portion (parasha) contains one of only two narratives in the entire book of Leviticus — the rest of Leviticus is made up of laws, rules, and instructions. The story this week is of the death of two of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, and appears at the beginning of chapter 10 and […]

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Ritual Then, Ritual Now

As we sit down at our seder tables, I invite you to talk about what rituals you treasure in your life, and why they are important to you. Are they something you inherited or something you made up? How do you feel when you do those rituals? The G-dcast storyteller tells us this week to […]

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Leviticus!

This week we began the third book of the Five Books of Moses, Leviticus. The English name comes from the Greek Levitikon, or things pertaining to the Levites, a tribe which includes the priests, who are the major actors in this book. The Hebrew name for this book is VaYikra (“And He (the Lord) called”), […]

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The First Successful Fundraiser!

To consider: What’s the relationship between beauty in the material world and the beauty of the spiritual world? When you are in a place of beauty, how is it easier to get in touch with the Divine, or doesn’t it matter? What about the beautification of the body — does it help to be dressed […]

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Sight and Smell, Bodies, and Losing Faith

To consider as you read about the week’s Torah portion, Ki Tissa: Which of your senses is the most important to you in understanding the world? Is this also the sense that helps you tap into your spiritual self? Why does the writer of the Bible use the human body when describing God? Why did […]

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Project Runway: Priest Edition

Last week, we read in some detail about the building of the Ohel Mo’ed, the Tent of Meeting, aka the Miskhan, aka the Dwelling Place of the Divine. In this week’s parasha, called Tetzaveh, we read the elaborate descriptions of the clothing that the priests must wear when they serve God. Our storyteller from G-dcast […]

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Who Dwells Where?

Our G-dcast storyteller this week correctly informs us that Parashat Terumah is all about the Israelites’ newest project: building a portable sanctuary (mishkan) for worshipping God, right there in the middle of the desert. God gives the instructions to Moshe/Moses, and then we, as readers, get the dozens of details as a kind of blueprint […]

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Sentences and Laws

Our G-dcast story teller this week, David Henkin, asks some pretty provocative questions about why it was that Moses/Moshe decided to write down the words he heard from God and record them in a book, that we now call the “Torah.” He ponders what happens when people have the capacity to read words rather than […]

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The Big Ten

As you read this blog post, some thoughts to consider: Sometimes others can offer advice on a particularly vexing problem you are experiencing. How is it that they can see solutions when you can’t figure things out for yourself? What do you think about offering advice to others? What do you make of the fact […]

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Come Darkness

To consider as you read and watch this week’s installment: How can a story change in meaning when its told from the perspective of a secondary character or witness? Can you think of an experience from your life that would benefit from a retelling through someone else’s perspective? Is there a habit you’ve formed that, […]

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Let My People Go!

For you to consider as you read this week’s blog post: Can you remember a time when you rejoiced in the pain suffered by someone whom you thought of as your enemy? What was that like? Did you feel justified or diminished? What would it take to set your joy aside? Why do you suppose […]

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Welcome to Exodus!

This is kind of exciting: we start a new (secular) year on the calendar and start a new book of the Bible, Exodus or Sh’mot which in Hebrew means “[These Are the] Names,” taken from the opening phrase of the book. The book begins with a very short history of how the Children of Israel […]

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The End of Genesis

We have gotten to the end of the book of Genesis, the book of Bereishit (Beginnings) — the beginnings of the world and of our people. This last parasha in Genesis is called Va-Yehi (And He Lived), commenting on the life of Ya’akov (Jacob) that we have been following for weeks. But just as the […]

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Jospeh’s Big Reveal

Last week, we left our hero, Yosef/Joseph, in a heated conversational exchange with one of his brothers, Yehuda/Judah, who speaks on behalf of all of the brothers and pleads with Yosef not to keep the youngest brother, Binyamin/Benjamin, as a slave. We were literally stopped in our tracks in the middle of the conversation! Now […]

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Joseph: The Good, The Bad, The Tricky

For the past few weeks, the names of all the parshiot (weekly Torah readings) have started with “Va, meaning “and.” There was Va-Yetze (And He Went Out), Va-Yishlach (And he sent) and Va-Yeshev (And he settled). I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s easy for me to get confused about what happens in each […]

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Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Drama

Last week, the parasha (Torah portion of the week) ended with a chronology, a long list of names of the descendants of Esav (Esau), the twin brother of Yakov (Jacob), with whom he struggled, even in the womb, before they were born. The brothers finally made peace with each other and the Torah honors Esav […]

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Brothers: Wrestling or Embracing?

Our story about the twin brothers who became mortal enemies continues. Of course, we know they are enemies partially due to their family dysfunction. This week, Ya’akov (Jacob) and his twin, Esav (Esau), are destined to meet each other after many years apart. The fabulous writer and novelist Dara Horn is the narrator for G-dcast […]

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“And He Went Out”

“And he went out” are the opening words of the parasha this week, continuing our cliffhanger from the end of last week’s portion when Ya’akov /Jacob fled his home to avoid incurring his twin brother’s murderous wrath. If I were reading this story for the first time, I sure would be mighty curious to see […]

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This Family Is Headed For Trouble!

When I sat down to write about Toldot, my husband said, “This is one of your favorite parshiot (plural of parasha – portion), isn’t it?” I laughed and said, “Yeah, it definitely ranks right up there with the best.” So, why do I like it so much? Well, for starters, the family trauma-drama continues: We […]

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Sarah’s Life and Rebecca’s Voice

Our parasha opens with the words, “The span of Sarah’s lifetime was…” indicating that Sarah, our first foremother, wife of Abraham and mother of Yitzhak, has died. We can know this only because now we can count her days. It is a statement filled with irony and sadness, because the text focuses on her death […]

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It’s Complicated

The name of each week’s parasha is typically the first Hebrew word of that grouping of chapters.  This week’s parasha, VA-YERA/And He Appeared, tells multiple stories about Abraham and his family. In 5 short chapters a lot of stories are offered. Here’s the run-down: Chapter 18:  TWO very fascinating sagas. Story #1: Abraham hears from […]

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Go To Yourself!

This week’s Torah reading (“parasha”) throws us smack into the middle of the nitty-gritty of the first Hebrew family, Avram and Sarai, whose genealogy we read last week at the end of parashat Noah. Terach (the idol maker) lived in Ur of the Chaldees and had 3 sons: Avram, Nahor and Haran. When they were […]

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Noah and The Flood: What You Don’t Know

What to say about this Torah portion, Noah (Genesis chapters 6 – 10)? There are just so many different ways to view this narrative.  Many people like to think of the story of Noah’s Ark, the flood and the rainbow as a children’s story, and that’s fine–as long as you don’t look too closely at […]

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Bereshit! Again!

On Simchat Torah this year (Tuesday Oct. 9) we finished reading the entire Five Books of Moses and rolled the Torah scroll back to the first of the Five Books, Bereshit/In the Beginning, more commonly known by its Latin name, Genesis.  This Shabbat, October 13, our parasha (weekly Torah reading) is called Shabbat Bereshit, and […]

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The Death of Moses and The Torah’s End

Every year, like clockwork, we get to the last chapter of the Torah on the very last holiday of the fall season, Simhat Torah (literally: “rejoicing with the Torah”) coming exactly 23 days after Rosh Ha-Shana (the new year.)   On Simhat Torah, we read Deuteronomy chapters 33 and 34, describing the death of Moses, the […]

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Sukkot’s Special Scroll

On the Shabbat of Sukkot, the harvest festival that the Pilgrims chose as a model for Thanksgiving, the scroll (or book) of Ecclesiastes or Kohelet (in Hebrew) is read in the synagogue. The scroll has 12 chapters and is considered part of the “wisdom literature” of the Bible, reflecting on the nature of the world […]

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The Rock wants you to listen

We are at the penultimate chapters of the entire Five Books of Moses; in fact, the entire book of Deuteronomy has been one very long speech that Moses gives before he dies. In Ha’azinu (Deuteronomy chapter 32—50 verses), we get his poetic conclusion. Ha’azinu literally means “give ear” and is addressed to the heavens and […]

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Yom Kippur

The most solemn and holy day of the entire Jewish calendar is the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, which starts the evening of September 25 and goes through nightfall on September 26. We pause for 25 hours or so to re-enact our death and re-birth by wearing white, not drinking or eating, reflecting on where […]

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Writing Our Legacy

Outside, even here in northern California, we feel the seasons changing — time to shut the windows at night. It’s the new month of Tishray, the month loaded with Jewish holidays. It’s officially fall, which signals the very end of the yearly cycle of weekly Torah portions. This week’s portion is VaYelech which means “And […]

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Rosh Hashanah: A Family Thing

OK, I admit it: I watched the recent Democratic convention in Charlotte, and Michelle Obamas’s speech stole my heart… and got me to thinking about how important it is to both presidential candidates to highlight their families. Some of the most intense feelings and experiences in our lives happen in the intimate spaces of family […]

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