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Festival

The Climax of Sukkot and the Profound Joy of the Journey

More than any other Jewish holiday or ritual, I love the audacity of Sukkot. After the many profound words and seemingly endless prayers of the High Holidays, Sukkot offers a very different holiday mode. The main theme and ultimate goal of the holiday is to achieve climactic joy throughout the holiday, including the intermediate days, which are known as Chol HaMo-eid Sukkot.

D'var Torah By: 
How to Experience God’s Wonders Anew
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Benjamin David

On the Shabbat that falls amid the holiday of Sukkot (Chol HaMo-eid Sukkot) we turn our attention to two distinct sections of Torah.... In the Exodus reading, taken from Parashat Ki Tisa, Moses asks to see God’s face, saying: “Oh, let me behold Your Presence!” (Ex. 33:18). While Moses cannot see God’s face, God reminds Moses (and us) that God can be felt, if not seen, in the “wonders” that God enacts for us and those around us (Ex .34:10).

Identity and Ethics: Knowing Who and Whose You Are

If someone tells you that Judaism is X or Y, you should never believe them. Judaism is such a complex civilization — it is made up of religion and culture, language and land, and a particular kind of peoplehood. ...  The Israelites’ preparations both to enter the Land and to create an ideal society are central motifs of Deuteronomy, and a particular focus of the extensive Parashat R’eih

D'var Torah By: 
Ruined with Greed
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Brent Gutmann

This past spring, I along with many Reform Jews participated in the revival of the Poor People’s Campaign. We sought to address the growing wealth gap in our country and its associated effects. For me, participating in this campaign was a primary Jewish act, as we read in this week’s Torah Portion, R’eih, “There shall be no needy among you” (Deut. 15:4).

Determining Which Traits Are Important for Leadership

As we come towards the end of the Book of Numbers, Moses is constantly reminded that he will not be the one to lead his people into the Promised Land – along with the vast majority of the Israelites who left Egypt. In Parashat Pinchas, we find the second census of the people by the Jordan River before their crossing; those named in the first, at the beginning of the book, have almost all died in the wilderness. Joshua, one of two sole survivors, will be the one who leads them forward.

D'var Torah By: 
Lessons in Solidarity and Taking a Stand
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein

I offer this word of Torah in honor and memory of my teacher, Rabbi Dr. Aaron David Panken.... In the Talmud we read, “Know before whom you stand.” Standing before God and standing up as a leader call us to take risks. Parashat Pinchas provides us with the story of the daughters of Zelophehad, who also “stand” (ta-amodna) up....

The Educational Value of Repetition

Leviticus, a priestly book, has as its primary focus an emphasis on the cleanliness of the community and its adherence to ritual matters for the sake of God’s blessings. … In the portion called, Emor, a significant redundancy occurs in the Hebrew text. We read that God said to Moses: Emor el hakohanim b’nei Aharon, ve-amarta aleihem… “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and you shall say to them…” (Leviticus 21:1).

D'var Torah By: 
Who Is Responsible to Teach the Next Generation?
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Brigitte Rosenberg

Rabbi Lyon in his commentary, beautifully discusses the double use of the verb emor/amarta as an injunction for parents to teach their children the ways of Torah and mitzvot. It’s a wonderful lesson, but what happens when parents fail to do so? 

Can We Have a Relationship with God?

In Ki Tisa, Moses, begs God to let him understand the Divine. And yet, we see Moses as having more access to God than any other man. If Moses cannot comprehend God, how can we hope to understand God’s ways?

D'var Torah By: 
Shabbat: The Intersection Between Time and Practice
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Michael E. Danziger

In Ki Tisa, when God says to Moses, Hinei makom Iti, "Here is a place with me," God may have been pointing Moses to the perfect spot in the cleft in the rock. For the rest of us, spread across the earth, who might wish for a place by God, Ki Tisa directs us, as well. For us, Shabbat can be this place. 

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.

The Sukkah and the Jewish Experience

In Leviticus, we are commanded to dwell in a sukkah for one week every year “in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.” What does the sukkah teach us about the Jewish experience?

D'var Torah By: 
Connecting to the Holiness Within
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Lisa Silverstein Tzur

In preparation for the festival of Sukkot, we construct temporary structures, called sukkot, in which we honor the fragility and impermanence of life, and celebrate our devotion to God. We build these sukkot with love and ardent attention to detail, only to deconstruct them one week later. The temporal nature of the sukkah forces us to take advantage of the fleeting opportunity to rejoice in its shelter.

Tear Down Their Altars

Parashat R’eih begins with a set of instructions for the Israelites to tear down the altars of other gods once they enter the Promised Land. By today’s standards, these instructions may appear to be harsh.

D'var Torah By: 
The Challenge of Growing Up
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis

By not destroying every instance of idolatry as commanded in Parashat R’eih, the people actually showed maturity and compassion.

Their Father’s Sin Is Not Their Own

In Parashat Pinchas, we learn the intriguing fact that “the sons of Korach did not die.” This conflicts with an account about Korach in an earlier chapter, which states that the ground opened up and swallowed him, his household and his followers. What does this discrepancy mean?

D'var Torah By: 
Extending Kindness to the Thousandth Generation
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Jared H. Saks

The fact we are told in Parashat Pinchas that Korach’s family does not die tells us that we always have the opportunity to perform t’shuvah as described in Babylonian Talmud, Rosh HaShanah 17b.

From Blasphemy to Blasphemous: An Instructive Transition

In Parashat Emor, the Torah reports that a man born of mixed Israelite-Egyptian descent “blasphemed the Name [of God],” was placed on trial, and was stoned to death. A law was then enacted that anyone, Jewish or gentile, who blasphemes the name of God shall be put to death. Over time, in communities throughout the world, laws against blasphemy were put in place to address curses leveled at God as well as perceived slights against some religions. 

D'var Torah By: 
A Free People Receives Its First Holiday Calendar
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf

In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Emor, we receive a framework for what will become the Jewish calendar. The holidays identified there are still observed today: Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot, Rosh HaShanah, and Yom Kippur. Each of these holidays, as described in Emor, brings the community together, allows us to remember important events, and creates the opportunity for communication with God.

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