Noach - Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan

Posted on October 16th, 2017

Genesis 6:9 - 11:32 

Rabbi David Nelson for 

Flooded With Violence


Noah's response to the flood indicates that violence is an ingrained aspect to human nature that must be acknowledged and channeled for good.

The story of God‘s eradication of humanity with the flood is well known. The decision was based on God’s deep disappointment with humanity’s immersion in chamas, violence. God attempts to rectify the situation by regenerating humanity through a single tzaddik (righteous person)–Noah, and his family.

A midrash relates that God had created and destroyed several worlds before this one because all were flawed. Yet after the flood, God decides never to destroy the world (by flood) again. Why?

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Posted on October 9th, 2017

Genesis 1:1-6:8 

Prof. Joel S. Kaminsky for

Attaining and Forfeiting Adam’s Immortality at Sinai

The Jewish Version of the “Fall” 

Classical Jewish texts, such as Exodus Rabbah 32:1, which exegetically link the story of Adam’s sin and the golden calf episode, bear a strong resemblance to classical Christian readings of Genesis 2–3.

The Immortality of Adam and Eve:
What the Torah Does and Does not Say

God warns Adam not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and bad lest he die (Gen 2:17):

 וּמֵעֵץ הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע לֹא תֹאכַל מִמֶּנּוּ כִּי בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְךָ מִמֶּנּוּ מוֹת תָּמוּת.
But as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die.
A straightforward reading suggests he would die on the very day he violated God’s prohibition. This stands in tension with the lifespan of Adam reported in Genesis 5:5 of 930. Granted this is a Priestly source, but even in the non-Priestly Adam and Eve story, they do not die immediately upon eating the fruit. How might this problem be resolved?  

God describes to Adam the consequences of his sin by noting (Gen 3:19):

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Shabbat Chol Hamo'ed Sukkot

Posted on October 2nd, 2017

Exodus 33:12–34:26 


We All Will Die, But We Must Be Grateful

Only two weeks ago, the Jewish year-cycle began again with Rosh HaShanah, marking new beginnings with hope and anticipation for what is to come. The Jewish year-end and year-beginning is actually much more complicated and subtle than we might think, for as soon as we finish celebrating the beginning of a new year we experience a sobering day of anxious reckoning with Yom Kippur — a day of fasting, deep introspection, and atonement. It is worth pondering the juxtaposition of antiphonal emotions that is so much a part of our tradition — joy with uncertainty, hope with unease, expectation with apprehension — as we approach our future and confront our past almost simultaneously. This exemplifies the kind of "yin and yang" that typifies so much of Jewish life. Seemingly contrary emotions and forces actually end up being complementary.

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Torah and Haftarah Readings for Yom Kippur

Posted on September 25th, 2017
By Rabbi Richard Sarason for

On Yom Kippur, the Torah is read in both the morning and afternoon services.  This emulates the traditional reading practice on Shabbat (indeed, Yom Kippur is called shabbat shabbaton in Lev. 23:32 – literally, “a day of complete rest,” but understood homiletically to mean “the most important of Sabbaths”).1

The Mishnah (Megillah 4:5) lists Leviticus 16 (the description of the Yom Kippur ritual in the tabernacle/Temple) as the Torah reading for Yom Kippur (morning; there is no afternoon reading in the Mishnah).  This remains the traditional Torah reading for Yom Kippur morning down to the present.  The Tosefta (Megillah 3:7) lists as well the “concluding” reading as Numbers 29:7ff. (the description of the sacrifices made on Yom Kippur). Today this is read from a second scroll in traditional practice.2 The afternoon Torah reading is first mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud (Megillah 31a).  It is listed there as Leviticus 18, the enumeration of forbidden sexual relationships (forms of incest and adultery) that render the community unclean in the sight of God.  The relevance of this subject to Yom Kippur, in the view of the Rabbis, is that on the Day of Atonement, the community must stand before God in a state of purity.  The reading serves as a reminder and a warning about the larger impact of these acts of sexual impropriety.

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Shabbat Shuva - Ha’azinu

Posted on September 18th, 2017

Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky is Executive Director of Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute and the author of numerous books about Jewish spirituality.


A Life of Vision

We who are engaged in building Jewish communities must simultaneously look to the past and the future.

This week’s portion, which nearly completes the annual reading of the entire Torah , reflects on the past as it simultaneously offers a powerful vision for the future. As a result, the subtlety of this portion and the myth that has been perpetuated through its common retelling yearns for further exploration.

Moses will not be allowed into the Promised Land. The primary reason offered is his disobedience: he angrily struck the rock for water when he was merely supposed to touch it with his staff, gently coaxing the water from its source (see Numbers 20: 2-13.) Many read this as the explanation for his punishment.

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