<i>Vaetchanan</i>: A Universal G-dTwo of the most famous passages in the entire Bible referring to G-d are: "I am the Lord your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage," the first of the Ten Commandments, and "Hear O Israel the Lord our G-d the Lord is one," the opening verse of the <i>Shema</i>, the watchword of our faith.
<I>Pinchas</I>: Jewish Power, Jewish InfluenceIn this <i>parasha</I>, we see the ?passing of the guard,? the succession of leadership from Moses to Joshua. Embedded within the three different actions G-d commanded Moses to perform, we may begin to define three different forms of traditional Jewish leadership.
<I>Behar-Bechukotai</I>: Slavery and Indentured ServitudeIf indeed Judaism gave the world the idea and the ideal of freedom - "I am the Lord thy G-d who took thee out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage" - how can we justify the fact that our Bible accepts the institution of slavery and even legislates proper and improper treatment of slaves?
The First Flowering of RedemptionWe must remain eternally grateful for the initial signs of freedom and the Divine promise that we will ultimately attain it - witness our Passover celebration; and we must even take heed of, and even celebrate, our days of preparation for the eventual redemption, and attempt to purify ourselves for that eventuality religiously and politically.
<I>Shemini</I>: Fire-WaterThe <I>midrash</I> is teaching that Nadav and Avihu were given this capital punishment because they had brought a fire unto G-d that had not been commanded while having become intoxicated with wine.
Redemption and OptimismThe Talmud at the conclusion of the Tractate <I>Makkot</I> records how five rabbis, almost the very same five mentioned in the Hagaddah, passed by the Temple Mount after the destruction and saw foxes emerging from the ruined Holy of Holies. Four rabbis wept and Rabbi Akiva laughed.
<I>Vayak'hel-Pekudei</I>: Cherubic Love, Marriage and SexWhat was the symbolism behind the cherubs? The sages of the Talmud gave an interpretation fraught with significance regarding the rabbinic attitude towards marriage and sex, an attitude which is especially crucial for our Age of the Internet.
<I>Ki Tisa</I>: The Hidden Face of G-dThe joys (and hang overs) of Purim are still lingering in the air, and the Biblical portion of <I>Ki Tisa</I> arrives to teach us the secret to the most agonizing question of the religionist, the origin of one of the most important lessons of Jewish theology: Why is the Divine face so often hidden from our sights?
<I>Beshalach</I> and Tu BeShevatThis week's Torah portion, also known as the Sabbath of Song since it features the song of the Israelites at the Splitting of the Reed Sea, always falls very close to the semi-festival of Tu BeShevat, known as the New Year for Trees (<I>Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah</I> 1:1).
<I>Vaera</I>: Grandfather's WordsIt is fascinating how both the Bible and the Talmud emphasize the third generation, the relationship between grandparent and grandchild. The fact is that Abraham is the first Jew - not Adam and not Noah - because Abraham communicated G-d's teaching to three generations.
<I> Sh'mot</I>: A Model for MosesWho was the real model for Moses, the great liberator of his people who waged a successful revolution against one of the mightiest autocrats in history, Pharaoh, king of Egypt?