Abraham sends his servant, Eliezer, to find a wife for his son Isaac. He is to choose a woman of good character. How does he determine that Rebecca is the one? The Midrash helps us understand the character that was revealed to Abraham’s servant: More
This week’s portion points to an important Jewish institutional value, “Welcoming the Stranger.” Abraham, in a new home, not even settled, invites three strangers in and provides a wonderful meal for them. Hospitality is not only a physical reality, but a spiritual one as well. Rabbi Freehof, may his memory be for a blessing, said we should be conscious of three types of hospitality: More
Lech l’cha literally means “Go for” or “to yourself” (perhaps, “within” yourself). As Rashi says, “Go for your own benefit, for your own good.” A spiritual quest is often one made alone, away from the comforts and influences found in one’s home. Avram begins a journey of religious awakening away from the possible objections of his father, taking a road that is at once unfamiliar to him and foreign to his family. More
Adam and Eve are cast out of tranquility. Civilization is set in motion. Very soon thereafter, things go awry. Humanity becomes corrupt and lawless. The Holy One decides to begin anew by wiping out life on earth with a great flood. Noah and his sons build an ark, and his wife, Na’amah, and her daughters-in-law make it habitable. They fill it with pairs of animals from every kingdom of life. More
God creates the universe from nothingness over six days, concluding with the creation of Shabbat on the seventh day (yes, God works on Shabbat, but only for a millisecond). Day One: Light; Day Two: Separation of the waters above and below the earth; Day Three: Seas, Dry Land, Vegetation; Day Four: Sun, Moon, Stars; Day Five: Sea Creatures and Flying Creatures; Day Six: Land Creatures and Humans; Day Seven: Shabbat and rest. More
Rabbi Jonathan E. Blake’s commentary from the Reform Judaism website:
In today’s reading, Sukkot is nothing more than Chag HaAsif, “the Feast of Ingathering,” one of three annual pilgrimage festivals (Pesach and Shavuot are the other two).
There exist embellishments of the Sukkot observance over the course of the Torah. From these we can infer an important Jewish teaching that applies not only to Sukkot, but also to our lives. That teaching is known as hidur mitzvah. More
You neglected the Rock that begot you, you forgot the God who brought you forth (Deuteronomy 32:18).
Jacob ben Wolf Kranz taught, You neglected the Rock that begot you – remember that God is the Creator of you and all things. You forgot – God gave you the ability to “forget” so that you would be able to put out of your mind all the sufferings that may come your way. But you have mis-used your God-given ability to forget, because you keep forgetting the One who created you and gave you this particular skill. More
שׁ֚וּבָה יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל עַ֖ד יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ כִּ֥י כָשַׁ֖לְתָּ בַּֽעֲוֹנֶךָ
O Israel, return to the Eternal your God; for you have stumbled in your iniquity.
Take with you words and turn to the Eternal and say, Forgive all iniquity and accept the good and we will offer the fruit of our lips (Hosea 14:2-3).
The notion of t’shuvah means that the transgression does not contain an ineradicable stain from straying from the right path. At the same time, we find here that “your iniquity” is addressed to the individual and not to the entire community. More
Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it (Deuteronomy 30:11-14).
At this season, I pick up Rabbi Alan Lew’s book, This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared. This book bears the subtitle, “The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation.” Rabbi Lew writes, “Look. Pay attention to your life… Everything depends on our seeing our lives with clear eyes, seeing the potential blessing in each moment as well as the potential curse, choosing the former, forswearing the latter” (p 67). More
The Talmud in its very first Tractate, Berachot, instructs, if a man sees that painful sufferings visit him, let him examine his conduct (The question is asked, “Are your sufferings welcome to you?”). We can expand this verse to mean that when we are witness to the sufferings of others, one’s own conduct should be examined. More