Vayakhel-Pekudei 5781-2021

“The Original Jewish Renewal Movement”
(Updated and revised from Vayakhel-Pekudei 5762-2002)

On the Sabbath prior to the new month of Nissan, a portion known as Parashat Hachodesh is read, announcing the arrival of the new month of Nissan, the first month of the calendar year. Nissan is the month of redemption and salvation. It is a time when the Jewish people burst forth from darkness and despair to allow the glory of G-d to shine forth. This is the original Jewish renewal movement.

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Kee Tisah 5781-2021

“Reverence for Learning in Jewish Tradition”
(updated and revised from Kee Tisah 5763-2003)

Immediately after the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses distances himself from the sinful people. Moving his tent outside the camp, he proceeds to hold court from that location. Scripture tells us that, despite the peoples' rebelliousness, when Moses went out to his tent, the entire nation would stand at the entrance of their tents as a sign of respect. From this gesture of respect, an entireritual of behavior emerged that continues to this day, reflecting the uncompromising reverence for learning that is the very essence of Jewish educational success.

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Tetzaveh 5781-2021

“The Korban Tamid--a Lesson in Consistency”
(updated and revised from Tetzaveh 5762-2002)

The Tamid, the perpetual offering, was brought every morning and afternoon of every day of the year. Unfortunately, we no longer have a Temple and can no longer offer sacrifices. All we have is prayer. Now we must show our consistency and faithfulness to G-d through our prayers.

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Terumah 5781-2021

“The Mishkan and the Sanctity of the Jewish Home”
(updated and revised from Terumah 5763-2003)

The fact that the Mishkan--the Tabernacle--and its central furnishings so closely resemble the Jewish home, underscores the sanctity of the Jewish domicile. By analyzing each of the Tabernacle's furnishings, we uncover the invaluable symbolic meanings of these furnishings that deserve to be found in every Jewish home.

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Mishpatim 5781-2021

“‘An Eye for an Eye’ in Jewish Law”
(updated and revised from Mishpatim 5762-2002)

If an "eye for an eye" in the Bible does not literally mean an eye for an eye, but rather monetary compensation, why then does the Torah use this expression?

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Yitro 5781-2021

“Structural Secrets of the Decalogue”
(updated and revised from Yitro 5762-2002)

The Torah contains some very powerful subliminal messages that may not be articulated in the text itself, or written in the letters and the ink, but may be found instead in the white spaces. That is why there are many lessons to be learned from simply studying the structure of the Ten Commandments.

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B’shalach 5781-2021

“G-d: The Source of Sweetness”
(updated and revised from B’shalach 5762-2002)

Immediately after the great miracle of the parting of the seas, the Jews arrived at a place called Marah, where the water had turned bitter. G-d instructs Moses to throw a bitter branch into the water, and miraculously the waters become sweet. Our commentators suggest that the Torah wishes to convey the message to humankind that ultimately there is really no such thing as "bitter or sweet." Whatever we experience is merely a reflection of G-d's will.

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Bo 5781-2021

“The Slave Mentality”
(updated and revised from Bo 5761–2001)

The Mechilta tells us that what a simple maidservant saw at the Red Sea even the greatest prophets of the future were not to see. If G-d was so close and so palpable to the ancient Israelites, how then was it possible for the Jewish people to lose faith so quickly?

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Va’eira 5781-2021

“Mesmerized by the Subtle Slavery”
(updated and revised from Va’eira 5761-2001)

The Torah tells us that Pharaoh literally had to chase the Jews out of Egypt, not only because Egypt was the country that they knew as their home, but because Egypt embodied values from which they were not prepared to separate. It is this “subtle slavery,” reflected in our admiration for, and indeed worship of, “alien” cultures and values, that is a cause of concern for Jews, even today.

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Shemot 5781-2021

“The Not-So-Obvious Process of Hebrew Enslavement”
(revised and updated from parashat Shemot 5761-2001)

The message of parashat Shemot is that the Jewish people probably became slaves long before the Egyptians enforced slavery upon them. Long before the back-breaking labor, the Sons of Israel had probably become slaves to Egyptian culture, Egyptian fashion and Egyptian values. It was inevitable that these committed Jewish-Egyptian “patriots” would become so deeply dedicated to Egypt politically, civically and emotionally that they would ultimately be unable to extricate themselves.

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Vayechi 5781-2021

“Revealing the Time of the Coming of the End of Days”
(Updated and revised from parashat Vayechi 5761-2001)

Parashat Vayechi is the only Torah parasha that has no empty spaces between the beginning of the new parasha and the end of the previous week's parasha. Vayechi is consequently considered a "sealed" parasha. The rabbis say that the reason the parasha is sealed is because Jacob wished to reveal when the end of days would be--when the Messiah would arrive. G-d, however, did not agree that Jacob should reveal this information. The frequent contemporary attempts to calculate the Messiah’s arrival raises many questions. The Malbim offers an engaging response.

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