Parashat Emor: What Is Our Role in Marking the Passage of Time?

Published April 29, 2021 by the JCC Association Since the pandemic, I’ve heard many people remark on how time itself feels different. Sometimes it feels that things that happened recently feel longer ago, and sometimes things that took place a year ago feel like they only just happened. Whatever markers we use for our sense of the passage of time seem not to be working as well for us as they were in the “before times.” There’s a passage in Parashat Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23) that can help us understand why we might feel this way. Leviticus chapter 23:1 talks of the annual holidays as both fixed in time and needing to be proclaimed by Israel Read More

Pesah 5781

Dvar Torah given at Ramah Darom March 29, 2021 Hag Sameah! It is so good to be here together! Two years ago, when those of us who were here at Ramah Darom said goodbye to one another we had little idea of what the past year would be like. Given everything, to be able to stand here, in this place, at this time feels miraculous. ברוך הטוב והמטיב- Blessed is the one who is good and who causes good to happen. Thanks also to the excellent staff at Ramah Darom who persisted in finding a way for us to be together. And thanks to each of you who for taking the decisions and following the protocols so that we could be part of this special Passover at Ramah Darom community  together. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the formative communal experiences that shape whole generations. I suspect that this time of pandemic is such an experience. For our ancestors, the experience of slavery in Egypt and the liberation of our people was another such experience for their generation and its influence has endured until today. As just one example, more than a couple dozen times in the Torah we

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The Torah of Large-Scale Projects

Published June 2, 2020 by The Jewish Theological Seminary Naso opens up with a census of the Levites, who will be responsible for transporting parts of the Mishkan. Num. 4:3 specifies that those who will be engaged in this work are to be between the ages of 30 and 50 and fit for service when the Mishkan is operating. At first glance, the details of which family is to carry which piece of equipment seem trivial at best. Read More

Beha’alotcha 5778

Dvar Torah given at Kehilat Hadar June 2, 2018 הָאִ֥ישׁ מֹשֶׁ֖ה עָנָ֣ו מְאֹ֑ד מִכֹּל֙ הָֽאָדָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הָאֲדָמָֽה׃ Now Moses was very humble, more so than any other person on the face of the earth. This verse from our parashah has always bothered me for a number of reasons: Why tell us this in context is when Moses’s siblings are gossiping about his Kushite wife? Moshe meets with heads of state and has face-to-face conversations with God. The theme of humility doesn’t really fit in here. The phrasing, most humble man on the face of the earth is particularly jarring. Even saying “very humble” feels at cross purposes with the idea of humility. If you believe that Moshe wrote down the Torah this feels even more incongruous. If Moses was actually humble, would he really have written this verse about himself? Is this even true? Was there no other person on the planet as humble as Moses? How would anyone know?

Bamidbar 5778 (Erev Shavuot)

Dvar Torah given at Kehilat Hadar Shavuot Retreat May 19, 2018 Parashat Bamidbar deals with counting the people. And oftentimes, this section is glossed over because counting and lists are boring. / Obviously, the Torah thinks there’s something of interest here, as do I, which is why I’m bringing it up. Looking at the relevent verses:

7th Day of Pesah 5778

Dvar Torah given at Ramah Darom Passover Retreat April 5, 2018 On seder night we experience leaving Egypt, on the 7th day of Pesah is the day of crossing the Red Sea. We tend to think of this as a celebration. Shirat Hayam, the poem glorifying God for performing this miracle is part of our daily liturgy. And it tends to be through this lens that we think back on this event. But in the leining that we just read we see that this is not exactly how it happened. The Israelites, at the shore of the sea saw the Egyptians coming after them what do they do? They complain:

Sukkot 5776

Dvar Torah given at Ohr Kodesh Congregation, September 28, 2015 Do you know the minimum size of a sukkah? What is the smallest a sukkah could be and still be kosher? What I find interesting about this question is that for many halakhot with physical parameters some of the minimum requirements are quite well known. What you need for a kosher lulav and etrog, how much matzah we have to eat or what constitutes the basic components of mishloah manot.

Yom Kippur 5776

Dvar Torah given at Kehilat Hadar, September 23, 2015 Throughout the liturgy of Yom Kippur we have recited line after line asking God to hear us, answer us. We ask in plural: משענה לרבקה בלכתה לדרוש הוא יעננו May the one who answered Rebecca when she went seeking answer us and in first person: ה׳ שמע בקולי- תהיינה אזנך קשובות לקול תחנוני God hear my voice, may your ears pay attention to the voice of my supplication. Over and over we cry out: