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Mitzvah

Not by Bread Alone: Strange Food from the Sky

Parashat Eikev gives us the familiar phrase, “man does not by bread alone.” Does it mean that spiritual sustenance is more important than bread? Or was it meant to teach ancient Israelites to trust in God and not stores of food? It all depends on the context.

D'var Torah By: 
The Opportunity to Enjoy What We Have
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Marc Katz

Parashat Eikev tells us that manna was created to test the Israelites by hardships (Deuteronomy 8:16). What were the hardships? Was the manna too scarce to fully satisfy a person’s hunger? Or was the uncertainty of whether the manna would fall the next day the main hardship for the Israelites? Was the manna ugly or unpleasant to eat? Ancient Sages debate this question.

What Judaism Says About the Golden Rule

For the last few years, I have been a member of a local hospital’s ethics committee.

D'var Torah By: 
Working Toward a Shared Goal of Holiness
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Aimee Gerace

In these turbulent political times, it may sometimes feel easier to withdraw, to choose to not engage with our community members around difficult topics — particularly those community members who d

On Repentance and Seeking Peace Above and Below

"And Moses went (Vayeilech) and spoke these words to all Israel" (Deuteronomy 31:1). This opening marks the beginning, not only of the parashah, but also of the long death scene for Moses that will not be completed until the very end of the Torah two portions hence. Traditional commentators noticed an unusual locution. Usually the Torah reads "And Moses spoke … " Only here does it say "And Moses went and spoke … "

D'var Torah By: 
God Goes with Us On the Road to Repentance
Davar Acher By: 
Sarah Weissman

Dr. Firestone beautifully suggests that vayeilech Moshe, "Moses went," means that Moses went to the Israelites before his death and spoke words of t'shuvah, encouraging the people to repent, and to pursue peace between each other and between each of them and God. Just a few verses later, the word "to go" appears again, only this time it is God who "goes."

If Then, You Really Listen and Heed My Commandments

"V'haya im shamoa — If then, you listen, yes, you really heed My commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving the Eternal your God and serving [God] with all your heart and soul, I will grant the rain for your land in its season. . . . " 

This section of our Torah portion is known as V'haya im Shamoa, and is included in the daily and Shabbat morning service in traditional prayer books right after the Shema and V'ahavta prayers. Reform siddurim omit it, perhaps it because it feels a bit simplistic. The message seems to contradict our understanding of nature and weather: if you obey God's commandments nature will be good to you, but if you stray and serve other gods the Eternal will punish you through acts of nature.

D'var Torah By: 
Have Your Fill, Yet Remain Hungry
Davar Acher By: 
Amy Ross

Rabbi Firestone offers a beautiful understanding of V'haya im shamoa, "If we truly listen . . . " If we do God's will, follow God's commandments, nature will be good to us. As our modern understanding of weather contradicts this theology, Firestone suggests we read the text as a call to sustain and protect nature.

Protection seems all at once an easy and a daunting task. The course is clear — reduce, reuse, recycle, carpool, minimize your carbon footprint — yet changing our lifestyles proves far more difficult. Why do we struggle so with the tasks essential to the survival of our world, our children, our way of life?

The Complex Commandment To Be Holy

The Eternal spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal your God, am holy. (Leviticus 19:1-2)

Parashat K'doshim places before us one of the most difficult commandments in the whole Torah. It's not kashrut or Shabbat, or even the rules of sexual conduct, but rather, the admonition and the expectation to "be holy." Throughout the Torah, we are given rules and statues that tell us what to do. Here are we told what to be. A similar statement is found in Exodus 19:6, where we are commanded to be a "kingdom of priests and a holy people." But what does it mean to be holy? The parashah does not define what holiness is, nor does it tell us what it means to be holy. The guidance it gives us is in the specifics: the who, when, why, and how of the injunction.

D'var Torah By: 
The Limits on Our Pursuit of Holiness
Davar Acher By: 
Gregory S. Marx

What is the definition of chutzpah? It is believing that you are better than you really are or expressing a sense of entitlement. Maybe that's not a perfect definition, but we certainly know it when we see it.

We are living, psychologists tell us, in the "age of narcissism."1 More and more people express a sense of entitlement and privilege. In America we hear of so many speaking of their rights as citizens, while fewer and fewer vote2 or serve their country in the military3. In the synagogue community, so many leaders observe a precipitous decline in volunteerism and service. Far too many seek membership in order to receive services. We expect our clergy to bless our children and officiate at various life cycle events, but all too rarely see our belonging as a way to contribute to the greater good.

Hiding from Ourselves

The Chasidic tradition brings us the following story:

D'var Torah By: 
Asking Questions with Eyes Wide Open
Davar Acher By: 
Jason Fenster

Something felt different this year. Tragedy after tragedy opened our eyes to injustice in new, heartbreaking ways.

Getting What We Deserve

A baby boy born with a defective heart has multiple surgeries before his first birthday and will suffer from physical and cognitive impairments for as long as he lives.

D'var Torah By: 
Open to the Present: A Response to Life’s Surprise
Davar Acher By: 
Greg Wolfe

Rabbi Korotkin deftly explores the challenges of how we might understand, today, the system of rewards and punishments that are laid out so matter-of-factly in this week's Torah portion, Eikev

Yom Kippur All Year Long

In the first part of this week's parashah, Acharei Mot/K'doshim, the Torah's fullest description of Yom Kippur appears.

D'var Torah By: 
Repentance and the Wilderness
Davar Acher By: 
Scott Hausman-Weiss

Rabbi Sherman offers us eternal lessons for the long-lasting effects that Yom Kippur can and should have on us throughout the year.

Nakedness and Vulnerability

In Leviticus 18:3, in Acharei Mot, it is written, "You shall not copy the practices of the land of Egypt where you dwelt, or of the land of Canaan to which I am taking y

D'var Torah By: 
Vulnerability and Accountability
Davar Acher By: 
Amy L. Memis-Foler

Rabbi Zoë Klein interprets a verse from Acharei Mot (Leviticus 18:6) teaching us not to uncover or reveal the vulnerabilities of the people who are closest to us.

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