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Matt Fidel

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Corner of census form and a pen atop stars and stripes of the American flag

In Ki Tisa, God commands Moses to conduct one of the first censuses in the Torah, but rather than instructing Moses simply to count the Israelites, God suggests using a different method. Collect half a shekel from each man, God says, which will then be recorded to calculate the number of Israelite men who can be counted upon to fight in the army.

At first glance, this seems like a strange and inefficient way to determine the battle readiness of the Israelite army. Why didn’t God just command Moses to count the men?

The Talmud suggests that God employs this method because...

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Each year, the Reform Movement honors the legacy of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by commemorating the Shabbat nearest to MLK Day as Shabbat Tzedek. On this Shabbat, we remember the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and celebrate the hard-fought victories of the civil rights movement. It is also a time of reflection and recommitment as our movement renews its efforts in the struggle for racial justice in North America.

In this week’s Torah portion, Va’era, God instructs Moses and Aaron to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. The brothers approach Pharaoh to demand...

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Prisoner's hands and arms coming through jail cell bars

At the start of this week’s Torah portion, Miketz, Joseph is sitting in an Egyptian jail, wrongfully imprisoned by Pharaoh for refusing the advances of his wife. It is one of the Torah’s first examples of unjust incarceration.

After learning about Joseph’s dream-interpreting abilities, Pharaoh demands that Joseph interpret his dreams. Astounded by Joseph’s explanations, Pharaoh sets Joseph free from jail and appoints him to be his chief lieutenant.

Suddenly, Joseph the prisoner – who had been Joseph the slave – becomes Joseph the royal prince, illustrating an important...

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