By Rabbi David Shanah tovah. May 5781 dawn bright for you and your beloveds. Last night we introduced our High Holy Day theme of love to power our journey of teshuvah – returning to our best selves, each other and a world urgently needing repair. We explored how love‘s core impulse …
Shoftim includes one of Torah’s most famous lines (and, to a Jewish judge, the most pivotal): צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף לְמַ֤עַן תִּֽחְיֶה֙ (tzedek, tzedek tirdof) / “Justice, justice you must pursue, so you will live” (Deut. 16:20). While early tradition read this phrase as a call to honor court decisions (so we don’t take the law into our own hands), later generations read it philosophically, sensing in its repeat of the word צֶ֖דֶק (justice) two separate levels of justice – one human commended to our hands, another divine beyond human grasp.
The Book of Deuteronomy and this week’s portion (Devarim) open with Moses’ second telling of Israel’s journey. The name Deuteronomy hails from the Greek for “second law,” which begs why Moses repeats himself at all.
Kedoshim (“Holiness”). Its familiar callings are timeless. We must be holy “for I, YHVH your God, am holy” (Lev. 19:2), and love a neighbor as ourselves” (Lev. 19:18). As Rabbi Hillel famously said in Talmud (Shabbat 31a), the call to love others as ourselves – to love the holy Godspark within – is Torah’s very essence. So vital is this “Golden Rule” that we revisit it each Yom Kippur, as reminder and clarion call.
assover approaches, and this week’s Torah portion (Acharei Mot) recounts a long list of laws to follow that seemingly have nothing to do with Passover. What gives?
Perhaps no malady worried our purity-focused ancestors more than tzora’at – perhaps leprosy, or another skin disorder, or a hybrid spiritual-physical affliction. …
This week’s second portion of Leviticus (Tzav) continues Torah’s journey through the ancient rituals of sacrifice – for guilt and sin, healing, love of God, and installation of priests. The instruction about the ritual altar offers deep wisdom about the soul and the nature of spiritual community.
Before ritual prayer, ancient Israelites journeyed spiritually by ritual offerings of animals, grains and oil. For an agricultural society riding the Mediterranean cycle of rain and drought, these offerings were the currency of life itself.
This week’s Torah portion (Vayakhel) narrates the building of the Mishkan, the Ten Commandments’ ornate container and physical indwelling place of the Divine Presence. The portion’s opening words, however, invite us into the Mishkan that is Shabbat.
Holiness and spirituality can unfold in a flash, as at Sinai, but sometimes they need time to ripen. In this week’s portion (Ki Tisa), we recall that temptations of impatience are mighty, but our capacities for patience and penitence are mightier still.