Emor-The Ironic Act of LoveIn this coming Sabbath Torah reading, we read of the blasphemer in the desert. The punishment he received had a purpose.
<I>Yitro</I>: Piercing the Veil of EarthIt appears that the angels raised a valid question that Moses deflected brilliantly, but failed to answer. The angels argued that a mystical, sacred and divine Torah belongs in the heavenly abode. Its place is with angels, who would cherish her appropriately and revere her inherent value.
<i>Beshalach</i>: A Momentary, Eternal RevelationThe Torah doesn't tell history for the sake of story telling. As readers of this column know, every Biblical episode holds relevance to our modern day. What is the modern significance of this ancient story?
Bo: Linking to the DivineThe Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, is a double entendre. It means Egypt, but it also means confinement. Our world is a world of confinement. We cannot imagine, let alone comprehend what lies beyond us. It is truly beautiful, infinitely meaningful, eternally noble, and yet completely unknowable.
<I>Vayechi</I>: Is Judaism Dogmatic?Judaism encourages us to think for ourselves and to question everything. We are not meant to blindly accept, but to explore, analyze, debate and conclude. True or false?
<I>Vayigash</I>: Jewish LeadersThe Jewish nation lost its pride nearly two thousand years ago. I'm not talking about religious pride, I'm talking about national pride.
<I>Vayetze</I>: The Bond of LoveThat Jacob knew about <I>tefilin</I> does not surprise us, as our sages taught that our patriarchs and matriarchs studied the Torah and observed its commandments.
<I>Toldot</I>: Clutching the Hairy HeelNot to be outdone, the next baby wasted no time in arriving. Seemingly furious at having been outpaced, he followed closely behind, his little fist tightly wrapped around his brother's heel.
<i>Chayei Sarah</I>: The MatchmakerDid they love each other on their wedding day? No. They barely even knew each other. It was only later, after the wedding, when they moved in together, that they discovered their admiration for each other and finally, their love. Dispassionate? Unromantic? Maybe, but let's take a closer look at the <I>shidduch</I> system.
<I>Lech Lecha</I>: What is Judaism?The moment you say that you are Jewish, you have distinguished yourself from every non-Jew on the planet. By what right do we distinguish ourselves?
<i>Noach</I>: The Gravity of PietyWhen the world is filled with unscrupulous men, what could one righteous person accomplish? Well, that would depend on what he set his mind to do. Abraham motivated and uplifted those around him. Noah.... Well, what did Noah do? Noah let them die. Actually, he didn't just let them die, he brought about their death.
<I>Bereishit</I>: Introducing TemptationIf G-d didn't want them to eat of this fruit, why did he place it in their garden? Parents who don't want their children to eat candy don't place them in front of the candy dish.
Simchat Torah: Circular LogicAs we approach Simchat Torah, the culmination of the High Holidays, we reflect on the holiday season that just passed. The High Holiday season began on the seventeenth of Tammuz, the day that marks the beginning of the destruction of the ancient Jewish Temple.
Sukkot: Where is G-d?I sit in the <I><I>sukkah</I></I> and breath in the sweet scent of pine, mingled with the rich aroma of bamboo, and I contemplate a time when less was actually enough.. It is then that I notice the gleaming candlesticks and fine china that adorn my simple table.
Yom Kippur: Infinite PatienceOur daily quest for forgiveness implies that we sin every day. But do we deserve to be forgiven today if He forgave us yesterday and we sinned again today?
On Rosh HaShanah: Why We Are HereThe High Holiday liturgy marks Rosh Hashanah as the anniversary of creation, a good time to ponder the meaning of creation and life. Was there a purpose? Does this purpose endow our life with meaning?
<i>Shoftim</I>: Dying for LifeThe priest has just bolstered the morale of the troops and the officers now set out to demoralize them by thinning their ranks?
<I>Re'eh</I>: Greater Than LifeThe name Moses means "drawn" in Hebrew. Moses was thus called because he was drawn from the waters of the Nile as an infant. The mystics saw water as a symbol of divinity. That Moses was "drawn from water" indicates that his soul was from a transcendental, spiritual realm, far beyond our scope of comprehension.
Tisha B'Av: Can We Still Be in Love?The Diaspora has lasted nearly two thousand years; throughout, Jews have largely remained loyal to G-d and Judaism. What is the secret ingredient of this relationship?
<I>Devarim</I>: Torah in ChineseHave you ever attended a service in a language you did not understand? I have, and I must tell you that it left me uninspired. Why did Moses teach the Torah in languages his students didn't understand?
<I>Matot-Masei</I>: Unity in Good Times and BadAs our ancestors approached the promised land, two tribes requested permission to settle in the fertile, but foreign, lands outside of Israel. Rather than encourage them to join their brethren in the Holy Land, Moses quickly acquiesced, with only one stipulation. He asked that they join the Jewish army in times of war.
<I>Balak</I>: The Driven LeafDoes Mother Nature dictate to G-d or does G-d dictate to Mother Nature? Let's turn to this week's Torah portion to glean inspiration.
<I>Korach</I>: The EnvironmentalistWhichever way we turn, we are forced to choose. For humanity to thrive, the environment must pay a price. For the environment to thrive, humanity must pay a price. In its final form the question is, does Man belong to nature or does nature belong to Man?
<I>Shelach Lecha</I>: Loyal to Whom?In the desert, our ancestors lived an idyllic life. They were not distracted by economic burdens or social entanglements. They had no worldly worries or mundane concerns. Their every need was bountifully provided by G-d.
Shavuot: You Can Do ItThe day that Jews commemorate receiving the Ten Commandments is the day to remember an empowering oath. The name of the holiday, Shavuot, is symbolic of this oath.
<I>Bamidbar</I>: Celestial FormationsThey traveled together, a single mass of two million people moving slowly through the sands. Each tribe precisely positioned, each group in perfect formation, their footsteps marked the desert.
<I>Emor</I>: The Dancing JewWith whom shall we dance the Hora and with whom The Inspired Dance? This is also the question we must ask ourselves as Jews. Which of these two do we dance with G-d?
<I>Tazria Metzora</I>: Circumcision - The Mark of TruthYou quickly call the <I>mohel</I> to ask if he will be available in eight days. Nine days won't do; neither will seven. It must be eight. Why eight? Because the Torah insists that circumcision be performed on the eighth day. So, why is the Torah in such a rush?
Whose Torah is it Anyway?"Some people actually keep these laws, but you don't really need to. That's just for the Orthodox." Really?
Passover: A Wise MeditationIf he is indeed ignorant of the Torah's laws and traditions, why is he worthy of the appellation of "wise son"?
<I>Vayikra</I>: Every Jew is CrucialA king cannot reign unless there is a nation over whom he might reign. The very existence of subjects enables the king to ascend to the throne. Even the subject who does not obey the king's law is a member of the nation and contributes to the legitimacy of the throne.
<I>Ki Tisa</I>: The Money TrapAaron was shocked. A new god? It was barely forty days since G-d, the creator of heaven and earth, instructed them at Sinai to believe only in him. He expressly forbade any worship of false gods. Had they so quickly forgotten?
Tetzave: Every Jew CountsThey reminded the Kohen that he was not only anointed for celestial service but that he also represented his brethren in worship. A Kohen, enraptured in personal inspiration, who abandons his brethren during the service, forfeits his status of priesthood.
Yitro: The Confident ApproachWhen our ancestors arrived at Sinai they left Refidim behind. They focused on their positive traits and their confidence was bolstered. We too must learn to leave our Refidim behind. We too must learn to focus on the positive. We too must learn to light a candle rather than fight our darkness.
<I>Chayei Sarah</I>: When the Inner Sarah DiesWe each have an inner Sarah, an inner commitment to Torah values. While we often live up to our commitment and keep our Sarah alive, there at times when we renege on it and allow our inner Sarah to expire. This is when Abraham, a metaphor for the soul, arrives to negotiate.
The Perfect BondTo understand the concept of repentance we must, by way of analogy, consider an onion. The outer layer often grows rotten, and we peel it away and reveal the layer that lies beneath. Sin corrupts our ability to behave . To repair the damage, we simply peel away the outer layer.
Emotionally DisengagedThe catchphrase in the Jewish world today is the word "disengagement". Some are in favor, others opposed, but everyone is talking about it. Should Jews voluntarily disengage from portions of the Holy Land, or are our ties to our country too deep to easily disengage?
Absolute FaithAbandoning portions of the Jewish homeland is tantamount to amputating a limb from the collective Jewish body. The government views this move as a painful concession, but one that is crucial to Israel's continued existence. Frankly, this is the only concern that could motivate a Jew to abandon these holy lands.