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Covenant

A Continuity of Law that Values the Needs of the Community

The word for “and” in Hebrew is not a separate word: it is a one-letter prefix, the letter vav. Sometimes it is translated as and, other times it is best translated as “but”; sometimes, vav is a participle that doesn’t need to be translated. In the opening sentence of Parashat Mishpatimthe translation used in the Reform Movement’s Chumash discounts the vav that is attached to first word, v'eileh, "these" or "and these."

D'var Torah By: 
Laws that Unify the People
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Adam Bellows

As Rabbi Greenvald points out, the letter, vav, at the beginning of a Hebrew word can mean both “and” and “but.” It is astounding that one prefix can mean two disparate things. ...  The first word of Mishpatim is v'eileh, which can be translated as "these" or as "and these."

Learning How to Respect the Covenant and Our Fellow Worshippers

The slogan for the Torah portion known as Yitro  should be “we’ve arrived.” The theophany on Mount Sinai – God’s Revelation of the Ten Commandments – is arguably the climax of the Torah (Exodus 20). But the story doesn’t end here – it is the post-Sinai textual journey where we learn that we exist in a perpetual state of arrival, constantly figuring out how to hear Torah as we walk through our daily lives.

D'var Torah By: 
Choosing to Be in a Covenantal Community
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Jade Sank Ross

Worrying that because of their similarities, Harry Potter might be destined for the same evil darkness as the villain, Voldemort, Harry Potter’s beloved mentor, Dumbledore, assures him, “It is our choices, Harry, that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. We are defined by our choices: This is the central theme of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. Choice is also a defining theme of the story of the Jewish people, as we see  in Parashat Yitro. 

The Challenge of Letting Go of Children

“Lech L’cha: Heartbreak and Hopefulness as Children Go Off and Move On,” is spoken-word poetry to dramatize the wide array of thoughts and feelings that occur to Abram's parents.

D'var Torah By: 
Can You Go Home Again?
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Noam Katz

“Toil on, son, and do not lose heart or hope. ..." is a message in Thomas Wolfe's classic novel, You Can’t Go Home AgainThe same themes apply as Abram embarks on his own road to self-actualization in Lech L'cha.

Naming Naamah, Noach’s Wife (and the Other Torah Women Too)

In this week’s parashah, Noach, we hear from Noah’s unnamed wife. She reminds us that it is not easy being one of the women in the Torah. Although these women ensured the future of humanity and of our people Israel, too often they are unnamed, demonized, silenced, or forgotten.

D'var Torah By: 
Equal Parts of the Puzzle
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Zoe Klein Miles

In addition to the beautiful and powerful redemption of voices in Rabbi Kipnes’ teaching, there is something else that makes his piece on Parashat Noach deeply moving: a modern male rabbi calling out the historical silencing of female voices. 

On Adaptive Jewish Leadership and Embracing Change

The central leaders throughout the Bible share some important characteristics. While each one is appointed or finds him- or herself in positions of significant leadership in very different ancient contexts, each example models core elements of the complexity, potential, and importance of Jewish selecting and supporting of leaders today. A prime example of the multifaceted nature of selecting a new leader is best exhibited in Parashat Vayeilech by the appointment of Joshua as the leader of the Israelites as they prepare to enter the Land of Israel. 

D'var Torah By: 
Be Strong and Resolute: Believe that You Can Change
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Emily E. Segal

This brief and beautiful Torah portion, Vayeilech, is read this year on Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat of Return that falls between the High Holidays. Three times within this brief portion we find the words “Be strong and resolute,” as follows: Moses, standing on the cusp of his death, on the brink of ending his service to God and to the Israelites, lays the groundwork for his disciple and successor Joshua to lead the people into the Promised Land. 

The Depths of Human Agency and God’s Surprising Laughter

In this week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim, an aspect of the fundamental genius of Jewish existence is illuminated. In renewing the covenant God's intention is revealed: that human beings are intended to interpret and determine the meaning of Torah.

D'var Torah By: 
Yes, You Are a Good Jew
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Jeremy Gimbel

“I’m not a good Jew.” This is a phrase we hear far too often. But in Parashat Nitzavim, we learn that each and every Jew is valued as a part of the community.

Why the Past Isn’t Enough: The Need for a New Covenant

Relationships—even sacred relationships—are not static. Even the most profound covenants and commitments  sometimes need to be renewed or reestablished. But Parashat Ki Tavo asks, is this true even of our relationship with God? 

D'var Torah By: 
A Message of Hope in the First Fruits
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Karen R. Perolman

As the summer comes to an end, our Torah reading cycle mirrors the sense of longing for more time while simultaneously preparing for what is to come. In Parashat Ki Tavo, Moses continues his last speech before the Israelites, instructing them in the laws of the bikurim, the “first fruits” (Deut. 26:1-11). 

Learning About Life by Learning Torah

 “You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them ... ” (Deuteronomy 6:7). While we don’t agree on much, over time and space we religiously minded Jews do seem to agree on one central thing: the supreme importance of the study of Torah. As modern scientific fields of study and new Jewish movements have emerged, many ask, “Why study the Torah?’ I propose four answers to this question.

D'var Torah By: 
The Meaning of the Instruction, You Shall Teach Them to Your Children
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Ahuva Zaches

Using Deuteronomy 6:7 from this week’s Torah portion, Va-et’chanan, as her springboard, Rabbi Dr. Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi explored the ultimate question of Torah study above: “Why study Torah?” Regarding potential motivations, she described four essentials that a student of Torah may be seeking....I would like to add to this list a fifth motivation for Torah study, namely the sharpening of one’s intellect.

Learning from the Imperfection of Religion

Parashat Mishpatim offers a myriad of rules to guide us in how to treat other individuals and nations. It makes us wonder: Why is it easier to think and behave humanely when we consider individuals rather than nations? 

D'var Torah By: 
The All-Encompassing Nature of Responsibility
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Megan Brudney

Some of our instincts will easily align with our sacred texts; some will (and indeed should) be in stark contrast with our canon. Yet beyond the wrestling, it is important to note that there is also a reckoning — a moment of accountability for the action we ultimately choose to take. A good example is offered in Parashat Mishpatim, in Exodus 21. Here, we find a section concerning damages incurred by both people and animals: what might happen, who is held responsible, and what restitution is owed.

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