Imagine living under the tutelage of a master teacher, preparing for your profession. You are perhaps unsure that you are suited for the job, but with enough coaching, you gain the confidence needed to be the leader that those around you assure you that you are. You gain a following. You put aside the humility that you once had, and you assume leadership and convince thousands of people that you will lead them to a brighter future. You conduct your own campaign, going door to door to talk to the people about the future.
This Torah portion provides the instructions on five types of sacrifices to be offered in the Tabernacle for God. The Hebrew word korban, literally meaning “bring near”, is most often translated as a “sacrifice” or an “offering.” In English these are two different things. A “sacrifice” is something you give up for God or for some greater good. An “offering” is a contribution, a gift, a presentation made to God or another person. For the modern reader (you all qualify), bringing an “offering” would seem to be a more “whole-hearted” gift. More
Congregations are an expression of God’s presence in the world and an expression of God’s love and care for all humankind. Congregations are places of beauty and simplicity, openness and acceptance, justice and peace. Can we do all that and be all that without belonging to a synagogue? Of course you can; but you would miss one key element. More
And God spoke to Noah and said, “In one year, I am going to make it rain and cover the whole earth with water until all flesh is destroyed, but I want you to save the righteous people and two of every kind of living thing on earth. Therefore, I am commanding you to build an Ark.”
In a flash of lightning, God delivered the specifications for an Ark. In fear and trembling, Noah took the plans and agreed to build the Ark. “Remember,” said God, “You must complete the Ark and bring everything aboard in one year.” More
I announced with a bit of fanfare a few days ago that I needed to provide a religious response to the tragic violence and death that occurred over the weekend in Charlottesville, VA. In the days that followed, I spoke to a colleague in California and to my friend and colleague who is here this evening, Sat Bir Kaur Khalsa. From our prayerbook this evening, we shared that “we need to purify our hearts to serve God in truth.” I understand two things about my thoughts you will hear this evening: 1) They come from a deep spiritual place; and 2) They certainly are incomplete. With that in mind, I plan in the coming weeks to create the opportunity for other religious leaders in our community to join together and share our doubts and wisdom with each other. As a result of such conversations perhaps some deeper thoughts will prevail. More
This commentary is entirely based on the Terumah commentary from:
“On the Other Hand: Ten Minutes of Torah” with Rabbi Rick Jacobs podcast
Tell the people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him. (Exodus 25:2)
How can a building project work like this? For those of us involved in any building project, be it a home, a business, or in this case, a sanctuary, after the designs are created, you know where the money for the project is coming from. This desire by God to have the Mikdash in the desert built according to all the very specifications with the assurance that the people’s “gifts of the heart” seems at best crazy! More
Then the Eternal One said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh. For I have hardened his heart… so that I may display My signs among them, and that you may recount … how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I displayed My signs among them—in order that you may know that I am the Eternal” (Exod. 10:1-2).
Though our text says that God is the One Who hardens Pharaoh’s heart, I suspect that we know the truth here. Pharaoh, again and again, is doing this to himself. His obsession with his own power over the people and his belief in his own ideas as being true – these are what harden his heart. More
This past Monday, we all missed an opportunity to hear a leading modern orthodox rabbi provide the invocation for the Republican National Convention. Members of his religious community, alumni of the yeshiva he formally directed, and individuals and members of Jewish organizations from around the country pressured Rabbi Haskel Lookstein not to lend his voice to the Convention. All I can say is shame on everyone who participated in preventing this religious scholar from offering prayer, from allowing him to create a connection between the political world and the world of divine values. More
In this week’s Torah portion, Sh’lach-L’cha, we relive the events of the 12 spies sent to reconnoiter the Promised Land and report back to Moses what they have discovered.
We came to the land you sent us to; it does indeed flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit (grapes, pomegranates and figs). However, the people who inhabit the country are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large (Numbers 13:27 ff.).
(Quotes in this sermon are not direct quotes but implied by the speaker)
This week, Moses sends scouts in to survey the land. At the end of forty days, they returned and went straight to Moses and Aaron to report:
Indeed it is a land filled with milk and honey but the people in the cities are powerful and all of their cities are fortified and large.