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Gratitude

Liberty and Freedom From Religion in America

This week's double portion, B''har/ B'chukotai includes this famous phrase that appears on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia: "Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof" (Leviticus 25:10). The bell holds specialy significance for Americans, especially American Jews.

D'var Torah By: 
Steadying the Hand of Our Neighbor
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Craig Axler

The phrase on the Liberty Bell is just one of the many maxims woven throughout B'har/B'chukotai that promote the establishment of a just society.Another, is Leviticus 25:35: "If your kin, being in straits, come under your authority, and are held by you as though resident aliens, let them live by your side." 

Finding the Strength to Look Beyond the Horizon

Here's one of the few facts I remember from my high school physics class: Because the surface of the earth is curved, the farthest distance a person can see is about four or five miles. Everything beyond that, even with the best telescope, is obscured from view.

Four to five miles! For some people (not me) that's a short, early morning run. Our vision is so limited! Our perspective is so circumscribed. So much lies beyond our horizons at any given moment.

The same is true in our daily lives. So often we become accustomed repeated patterns and habits of mind that help us tread water, but move us no further. We tacitly accept the idea of inexorable fate — it's our lot to struggle, we can't change it. The weight of the present prevents us from imagining alternative futures. We lose sight of alternatives — of a different world beyond our present circumstances — a world just around the corner, beyond the horizon.

Moses appears to fall victim to the same trap in this week's Torah reading, Parashat B'haalot'cha.

D'var Torah By: 
How Can We Vanquish Fear to Make Way for Positive Emotions?
Davar Acher By: 
Geoff Mitelman

From an evolutionary perspective, fear makes a lot of sense. If you're not at least a little scared that a saber-tooth tiger might eat you, you're probably not going to survive long enough to pass on your genes. Aggression, too, is pretty obvious - we want to defend our territory and our precious resources from other people who might take them from us.

So negative emotions, which trigger the "fight or flight" response, are easy to understand. A harder question is why we have positive emotions. What's the role of happiness or play or joy?

Love Is Not Enough: The Demands of Relationship with God

Another name for this week's Torah portion is Parashat HaToch'chah — the portion of reproach. It contains a list of curses so terrible that traditionally the Torah reader chants them quickly and in a hushed tone so as not to call attention to them. And no one wants that aliyah! The curses are the punishment for disobedience, and they must have truly struck fear in the hearts of our ancestors.

The curses come just after the promise of blessing — if we follow God's ways. Rain in abundance, good crops, peace, victory, and fertility are all ours if, as the portion begins, ". . . you walk in my statutes and guard my commandments and do them" (Leviticus 26:3). We might mistakenly feel the parashah is about the classic "reward and punishment." But I see it differently. I see it as an apt closing for the Book of Leviticus, which began with a call to relationship — Vayikra — and ends again with a call to relationship. God's message can be interpreted as, "If you are a true partner with Me then our relationship will be healthy, but if you ignore Me, spite Me, hurt Me, and leave Me, how can we possibly go on together?"

D'var Torah By: 
Finding an Enduring and Absolute Relationship with God
Davar Acher By: 
P.J. Schwartz

The Book of Leviticus, the shortest Book of the Torah, comes to a close in this week's parashah, B'chukotai. While previous chapters in Leviticus painstakingly outline various laws and rituals that are essential to the newly formed Israelite community, the final chapters of Leviticus provide us insight into the relationship our ancestors had with God. As readers, we learn that following God's commandments would result in various blessings for our ancestors, while disobedience would result in harsh punishment. Biblical scholars describe this as retribution — obedience and faithfulness would lead to the promises of land, progeny, and wealth God established with Abraham, while straying away from God's commandments and being unfaithful would "wreak misery" upon the people (Leviticus 26:16).

Everything Old Can Be New Again

A few weeks ago, in studying Parashat R'eih, I noted that the Torah gives us a great gift of joy—a command to celebrate with one's entire household—tucked into a long passage replete with

D'var Torah By: 
How We Can Create Blessings
Davar Acher By: 
Steven W. Engel

Within the Torah portion Ki Tavo there is a list of blessings and then curses that may fall upon one depending on her or his actions. According to the Torah these are given out by God.

In Which the People and the Land Are Redeemed

As we have made our way through the Book of Leviticus, we have often noted how boundaries have been crossed—between the inside and outside of the body in issues of

D'var Torah By: 
Redemption in Our Land in Our Time
Davar Acher By: 
Greg Weisman

The journey through the Book of Leviticus, which comes to a close this week with the double portion B'har/B'chukotai, is one that prepares the Israelites to dwell in the Land of Israel.

Reflection in Multiple Ways

Parashat B'chukotai is the final Torah portion in the Book of Leviticus.

D'var Torah By: 
Turning the Mirror Around
Davar Acher By: 
David Locketz

Bob Tornberg, RJE, presents a beautiful image of how we, by choosing life, can become a blessing. Indeed, as Lawrence Kushner1 has taught, the Torah is a mirror.

Crossing the Threshold

"As soon as you have crossed the Jordan into the land that Adonai your God is giving you, you shall set up large stones.

D'var Torah By: 
Giving Thanks
Davar Acher By: 
Aviva Davids

The Book of Deuteronomy contains three recurring themes. First, we are reminded repeatedly of the centrality of the tabernacle, which is to be located in Jerusalem.

It is Good to Give Thanks to God

Most of us are better at getting gifts than giving thanks. The first eleven verses of this week's parashah are a veritable model for the Jewish way of thanksgiving.

D'var Torah By: 
The Heart and Soul of the Matter
Davar Acher By: 
Cheri Ellowitz Silver

On a recent Friday evening, I experienced a delightful Shabbat celebration. My children and I were visiting my brother and his family on our summer vacation.

Ain't No Room

In this week's parashah, Ki Tavo, we read: "You shall go to the priest and say to him, 'I acknowledge this day before Adonai your God that I have entered the land that Go

D'var Torah By: 
Dust or Angels? Humility or Pride?
Davar Acher By: 
Betsy Dolgin Katz

And God has affirmed this day that you are, as God promised you, Adonai's treasured people who shall observe all God's commandments; and that God will set you, in fame and renown and glory

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