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What It Means To Be Prepared

In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Bo, the Israelites are given precise directions for how to prepare and eat the Passover sacrifice. The text describes what kind of animal to bring (a yearling lamb or baby goat without blemish) and who should eat it (each family, gathered together as a household). The Torah explains how the sacrifice should be prepared (roasted over an open fire, cooked or served with unleavened bread and bitter herbs). And it gives instructions for when the Israelites should eat the sacrifice (at night, leaving nothing behind until morning). The text not only describes how the Israelites should prepare the meat of the sacrifice, but also how they were to prepare themselves:

D'var Torah By: 
When It’s Good to Eat on the Run
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Ira Rosenberg

“This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly: it is a passover offering to the Eternal” (Ex.12:11). Why is tonight different from all other nights? This question that is brought forward during our Passover seder is central to this week’s parashah, Bo. ... Parashat Bo concludes with the commandment to “remember this day, on which you went free from Egypt, the house of bondage, how the Eternal freed you from it with a mighty hand; no leavened bread shall be eaten” (Ex.13:3).

What It Takes to Fulfill the Promise

There is a section of Parashat Va-eira that might sound familiar to those who have experienced a Passover seder: It's a list of five promises God makes to the Children of Israel: I will free you..., and deliver you...; I will redeem you...;  I will take you to be My people; and , I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob... (Ex. 6:6-8).

D'var Torah By: 
Why Were the Ten Plagues Necessary?
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Dan Ross

This week, we have two prophets on our minds: on Monday, we celebrated the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and on Shabbat, we pick up with the second episode in the story of Moses in Parashat Va-eira. As we consider the legacy of these two giants of justice, a notable difference between them is their mode of freedom fighting. While Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for leading the nonviolent resistance that defined the Civil Rights Movement, Moses kissed his chances for a ticket to Oslo goodbye the moment he commanded Aaron to hold his staff over the Nile and it turned into a river of blood.

How to Avoid Getting Stuck in Balak’s Trap

In Parashat Balak, King Balak and the people of Moab, central characters in the weekly Torah portion, are afraid of the Children of Israel. Balak tries to recruit the prophet Balaam to curse the Children of Israel in order to weaken them and save Moab from impending defeat. King Balak sends for his prophet twice and Balaam barely responds. Three times Balak attempts to force a curse on Israel out of Balaam's mouth and three times he fails. It is fascinating to try to understand what causes a king to attempt the same solution, and fail again and again, and despite this, to not change his strategy.

D'var Torah By: 
When We Fail to Learn from Our Mistakes
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Ben Zeidman

As I reflect on Dr. Ruhama Weiss’s words about Parashat Balak, I can’t help but think of this quote from Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World: “Flexibility is the ability to bend when we find ourselves in unworkable positions. A universal characteristic of insanity is inflexibly doing the same thing over and over while hoping for different results. ... “

It’s All About the Question Mark

My elementary school teacher believed the question mark was inspired by the curiosity of the cat....  At this season, Jews around the world will begin the holiday of Passover, the “holiday of questions.” Passover is known by many other names, but this association with questions is linked all the way back to the Torah. 

D'var Torah By: 
Encouraging Our Children to Be Curious on Passover
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Jen Lader

One of the things I love about having a smartphone is having an endless amount of information at my fingertips at all times....  For this Yom Rishon shel Pesach, Rabbi Ben Spratt speaks to the importance of questioning as we sit together at our Passover seders, encouraging our children to engage, to ask, to stay curious, to develop a sense of wonder in the world around them. But in a time and place when we can find answers almost instantaneously, how can we make the argument that questioning is essential to who we are?

The Challenge of Holding God Close While Keeping Fear at Bay

The poet Yehuda Amichai writes: I don’t want an invisible god...  I want a god who is seen... , so I can lead him around and tell him what he doesn’t see… ... In this week’s portion, Ki Tisa, we reconnect with this unfinished storyline at the beginning of Exodus 32. While Moses tarries atop Mount Sinai, the people down below are losing their patience:

D'var Torah By: 
Pray that I May Know Your Ways: From Anger to Intimacy
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Laura Rumpf

The divisive episode of the Golden Calf that erupts midway through Parashah Ki Tisa has God steamed! As Rabbi Greenvald illustrates above, a plurality of perspectives and confused motivations surround the construction of the Golden Calf. Common to each interpretation cited seems to be a misunderstanding of the ways in which the other, human or divine, needs to be acknowledged in order to trust in the covenantal relationship.

Honoring the Innocent Victims of Conflict

The drama of Parashat Bo is mostly terrifying. The mounting confrontation between the Israelites – represented by Moses and Aaron (but really God) – and the Egyptians – represented by an unnamed Pharaoh – reaches its crescendo with the last three of the ten plagues. We should strive to remember all of the innocent victims on both sides of every conflict.

D'var Torah By: 
Responsibility for the Mixed Multitude
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Rachael Jackson

In his commentary on Parashat Bo, I appreciate Rabbi Reuven Greenvald’s pointing out that the focus of Moshe, Rivka Miriam’s poem, is an innocent child. There are a great many innocent characters in this climax of the Exodus story. And Moses seems to know this, which is why he does not negotiate during the eighth and ninth plagues.

Learning Wisdom from a Beast of Burden

There is no doubt that the donkey is the star of Parashat Balak. In an episode that itself is unnecessary to the plot of the Book of Numbers, she is dispensable. And yet she leaps out of the text (as much as a donkey can leap) as one of the most unforgettable characters of the book.

D'var Torah By: 
Facing and Confronting Private Failings in Public Figures
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi David Wirtschafter

Rabbi Grushcow’s insightful, multilayered analysis of this passage in Parashat Balak imparts newfound urgency to age-old questions. Like the women of the #MeToo movement, her writing has called out the behavior of a powerful and well-known man for what it is: abusive. So, too, she takes the victim of the abuse seriously, as someone possessing thought and feeling, instead of a prop of no real importance or value.

Korach’s Challenge: The Balance Between Humility and Arrogance

Korach is easily caricatured. ... In the biblical text of Parashat Korach, and in much of the Jewish interpretive tradition, Korach is a jealous demagogue, stirring up rebellion against Moses and Aaron in the desert. 

D'var Torah By: 
The Quest of a True Leader: Hope and Renewal
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Gary P. Zola

This week’s Torah portion, Korachreminds us that the bitter partisanship and political infighting that typify the contemporary political scene are as old as the Bible itself.

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