Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is the Emanu-El Scholar at Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco. He is the author of several books on Jewish spirituality published by Jewish Lights Publishing in Woodstock, VT and a new novel, Kabbalah: A Love Story (New York: Morgan Road Books, 2006). 

This Light’s for You

D'Var Torah By: Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

May 29, 2015
"The Holy One spoke to Moses, saying: 'Speak to Aaron and say to him, "When you cause the lights on the menorah to ascend . . . "'" (Numbers 8:1-2). The image (and task) of causing light to "ascend" strikes us as so intuitively correct, so aesthetically appropriate, and so...

The "Business" with the Calf

D'Var Torah By: Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

March 3, 2015
"They exchanged their glory for the image of a bull that feeds on grass!" (Psalm 106:20) We Jews may have invented monotheism, but that doesn't mean we're monotheists. Indeed, for most of our history, it seems, we have all been idolaters. In Judaism, the maaseh ha-aygel (literally, "the business with...

Being Who You Are

D'Var Torah By: Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

December 4, 2014
Parashat Vayeishev is always read on, or near, the beginning of Hanukkah. Indeed, Jewish tradition frequently employs this week's story of Joseph's harrowing descent into Egypt as a refractive lens through which we might understand the Festival of Lights and its celebration of our people's triumph over the seductions of...

Berdichev on Creation

D'Var Torah By: Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

September 24, 2014
In his K'dushat Levi on Genesis 1:1, the third-generation Chasidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev (d. 1810) notices a curious grammatical inconsistency between the opening verse of Genesis, "In the beginning, God created. . . ," and the language of the Yotzer blessing, directly after the Bar'chu of the...

Balaam’s Talking Ass

D'Var Torah By: Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

June 20, 2013
The parashah for this Shabbat is a fundamentalist’s nightmare. This week we read the lollapalooza grand­dad­dy of all the off-the-wall Bible stories. It’s so preposterous it makes splitting the Red Sea look like child’s play. This week Balaam, the seer, is riding on his she-ass to deliver a paid-for-in-ad­vance imprecation...