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Plague

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.

The Power of God as Torah

The Torah reading for this Shabbat from the Book of Exodus tells of the Israelites’ successful flight from slavery in Egypt. As we hear the chanting of the exultant Song at the Sea recalling that triumphant escape, let us continue to draw strength from Torah in facing challenges today.

D'var Torah By: 
The Spiritual Joy of Song
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Ben Zeidman

The Torah portion for Yom Rishon shel Pesach tells us that the night the Israelites prepared to leave Egypt, "was for the Eternal a night of vigil." The vigil continues, and our Festival begins with the seder to retell the story of our redemption. Our seders are usually full of singing. Even so, may we look for opportunities to sing more often. May we more regularly allow song to inspire us to have hope and faith.

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. 

Thinking Big and Failing Fast

In Parashat Bo, the plagues continue with increasing intensity. As the Egyptians and the Israelites learn to recognize God’s power, is it possible that God, too, is learning to make each successive plague more effective?

D'var Torah By: 
How the Plagues Recall Creation
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Lydia Medwin

With the increasing severity of the ten plagues in Bo, God is teaching the Egyptians, the Israelites, and us, an important lesson. Through an understanding of God’s power, we can see the inextricable link between nature and collective morality. As our planet and so many people all over the world suffer from the weight of our collective decisions as humankind to consume without regard to consequences, we are called in this parashah to reexamine our own relationship with God and our humble place in the cosmos, and to realign ourselves with goodness and life for the sake of all Creation.

Shortness of Breath, Shortness of Spirit

In Va-eira, Moses tries to speak with the Israelites, who cannot listen due to their kotzer ruach, which can mean “shortness of breath” or “crushed spirit.” Both are results of debilitating work that prevents the Israelites from looking up to see new possibilities. 

D'var Torah By: 
Suffering from the Plague of Spiritual Inertia
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Jeffrey Ableser

In Va-eira, we learn that the Israelites suffer from spiritual inertia. They are not the only ones. Pharaoh, too, hardened his heart during the first five plagues, after which it became difficult for him  to change. We, too, can get stuck in a pattern of behavior that makes it hard to change. One small lie begets a second lie, and then a third and a fourth, until we’re no longer even sure where the truth lies.

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