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Death

Where Was Sarah During the Akeidah (the Binding of Isaac)?

In Parashat Chayei Sarah (the life of Sarah), we learn that our biblical matriarch Sarah lived 127 years, she died, and Abraham purchased her burial cave in Hebron (Gen. 23:1-20). Sadly, the only Torah portion named after a woman provides few hints about her life or final days.

D'var Torah By: 
How an Enduring Legacy Can Prolong Our Life From Generation to Generation
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Frederick Reeves

Rabbi Kipnes and Ms. November start their discussion of Parashat Chayei Sarah with Dr. Och’s observation that modern readers feel disappointment when a portion named “the life of Sarah” begins with her death. Commentators going back as far as Rashi have tried to expand on the details of her life. 

Grappling with Death and the Need to Mourn

“The whole community knew that Aaron had breathed his last” (Numbers 20:29). ... Parashat Chukat is in the middle of the Book of Numbers, and its narrative spans 38 of the 40 years in the wilderness. It is also full of death, and the human struggle to comprehend it.

D'var Torah By: 
Evolving Traditions Around Death and Mourning
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Amy Scheinerman

Our emotional responses to death and loss, discussed so beautifully by Rabbi Grushcow in her d’var Torah on Parashat Chukat, are as varied as we are, and therefore evolve as sensibilities change. But not all changes truly meet our inner needs.

When We Seek God as a Partner

In Parashat Sh’mini we read of the death of Aaron’s sons who offered “alien fire” to God and were consumed. While commentators throughout the ages have tried to make sense of this tragedy, the text also guides us to appreciate the power of the choices we make.

D'var Torah By: 
Heartbreaking Silence in Response to Tragic Loss
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Lisa Delson

In the aftermath of the deaths of Nadab and Abihu, Parashat Sh’mini offers us a glimpse into the humanity of Aaron. Our hearts break when we read that Aaron’s response to his sons’ death is silence (Leviticus 10:3). 

How the Living Serve the Dead

In Va-y’chi, we hear the final requests of Jacob, and then Joseph, to bring back their remains to be buried in the land God promised to their ancestors. In carrying Joseph’s bones, Moses moves draws closer to his progenitor, giving us the opportunity to reflect on our connections to our forebears. 

D'var Torah By: 
The Importance of Planning Ahead
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Ethan Prosnit

In this week’s Torah portion, Va-y'chi, both Jacob and then Joseph ask the children of Israel to carry their bones back to be buried in Canaan. Both men teach us the value of planning and sharing our wished with the next generation.

Struggling With a Deceitful Heart

The inner turmoil that marked Jacob’s life of deceitfulness as well as his struggle with his father, brother, and sons are exposed in Vayishlach. After many years of separation, Jacob, about to meet his estranged brother, Esau, slept in a dream-like state of wakefulness on the shore of the Jabbok River where a man wrestled with him until the rise of dawn. 

D'var Torah By: 
Confronting Mistakes in Order to Grow
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Sarah Mack

Growth often comes from the things we wish most to avoid. In Vayishlach, that is just what Jacob discovers on that dark night on the banks of the Jabbok river. He confronts his mistakes and in the process transforms from his former self, Ya-akov, which can mean “usurper” or “birthright stealer,” to Yisrael a name meaning “one who struggles with God.” 

Adding Life to Years

Chayei Sarah begins with the recording of Sarah’s death. But the fullness of Sarah’s and Abraham’s years and accomplishments leads us to appreciate the varied possibilities of living with purpose and dignitiy in old age.

D'var Torah By: 
Seasoning Wisdom with Reason and Good Sense
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Jonathan Blake

As we contemplate the accomplishments of an aged Abraham and Sarah, we reflect on the words of a commentator to Pirkei Avot 5:21 who suggests that the word for "old," zakein, means a wise person who knows how to season wisdom with reason and good sense.

Living in the Golden Mean

Parashat Chukat opens with the law of the parah adumah — the red heifer. It is a classic example of a commandment for which the Torah offers no explanation. How are we to understand and grapple with laws such as this that we do not understand? Perhaps we need to start not with the question, why, but with the question, why not.

D'var Torah By: 
Empathy for the Refugee at Border Crossings
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Ann Landowne

In Parashat Chukat we are reminded of the difficulties that our ancestors encountered during their passage through the wilderness. We learn that Miriam has died (Numbers 20:1) and Moses has little time to mourn. Immediately he must deal with the thirsty Israelites clamoring for water and complaining about their fate. In our tradition, the Exodus from Egypt has solidified our strong identification with the stranger and their need for protection. Here in Chukat, this story of wandering in the wilderness also increases our empathy for the refugee, separated from family, desperate and in need of assistance. It is hard for us to imagine what they have experienced on their journey but our Torah teaches us to let them in.

The Formation of a People

Parashat Vayak’heil/P’kudei is a double Torah portion that concludes the Book of Exodus. The paired Torah portions describe the building of the Tabernacle and the anointing of the priests. The parashiyot are primarily contain many verses of detailed plans and descriptions of rituals, some of which are hard to visualize sitting in such a different world today. 

D'var Torah By: 
Finding Humanity and Divinity in the Other
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Linda Bertenthal

Parashat Vayak'heil/P'kudei describes the process of building the Mishkan (Tabernacle), which serves as a model for building Jewish community. The cherubim on the kaporet (ark cover) of the Mishkan that faced each other remind us that we should face one another and listen. 

The Power and Protection of Angels

For as long as I can remember, I have believed in guardian angels.

D'var Torah By: 
Striving to Be More Like Angels
Davar Acher By: 
Daniel N. Geffen

For as long as I can remember, I have not believed in guardian angels. Whether it is the result of hyper-rationalism or simply a lack of imagination, I am sadly not a believer.

A Biblical Text of Terror

In the midst of this week’s parashah, most of which focuses on Jacob’s return to the land of Canaan with his wives, maidservants, and children, is a lengthy story about Jacob’s only daughter, Dina (Genesis 34). While Jacob briefly appears in this story, he plays a surprisingly insignificant role. Indeed, after Jacob hears that Dina has been raped by Shechem, a local Hivite prince, he neither tells anyone nor takes any action, choosing to wait until his sons, who are in the fields tending to the livestock, return home (Genesis 34:5). 

D'var Torah By: 
Using Our Inheritance to Save and Not Destroy
Davar Acher By: 
David Ariel-Joel

After raping Dina, Shechem, who was in love with Dina, offered to marry her. Four books later we will find out that Shechem is the paradigm of the biblical law. In Deuteronomy 22:28-29 we read that if a man rapes a virgin he has to marry her and pay 50 shekels to her father. Shechem offers much more than that.

So what does not make sense in the story of Dina?

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