Search URJ.org and the other Reform websites:

Spies

The Most Radical Book of Torah and the Necessity of Interpretation

The Book of Deuteronomy is radical in every way. Initially, it seems that it’s “just” a review of key events, lots of criticism of the Israelites, and repetition of the core values encountered in previous books through the lens of Moses. But in fact it is wildly radical--different from all the other books of the Torah in both form and function.... Much of the book, especially its first Torah portion, D'varim, highlights the major events that have formed the Jewish people, from Moses' view point.

D'var Torah By: 
Determining Who Is Qualified to Interpret the Torah
Davar Acher By: 
Audrey Merwin

It’s no accident that Deuteronomy, meaning “second law” in Greek, is a name given to the Book of D’varim. For centuries, commentators have regarded the Deuteronomy as different from the other books of Torah in that it is Moses’ repetition of the law. No other book of Torah begins by clearly asserting, “These are the words that Moses addressed to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan” (Deuteronomy 1:1). And, as Rabbi Sabath teaches above, Deuteronomy differs from the other books in another significant way: as he retells the story, Moses becomes the first commentator.

The Evolving Role of the Tallit

When I was speaking with a 95-year-old congregant this week, she shared with me the uncomfortable feeling of having her synagogue change around her. “We used to be properly Reform. Now, when I come, I see people wearing a tallit..... " For her, seeing fellow congregants wearing a tallit feels like a betrayal of the Reform principles she holds dear.... The commandment to wear tzitzitthe fringes on the corners of the tallit, comes from this parashah

D'var Torah By: 
A Practice That Helps Us Find the Right Path
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Jill L. Maderer

Whoredom. Our text chooses an intense and potentially problematic symbol to illustrate deviation from the right path!... I am interested in the way Rabbi Grushcow links two very different situations in the portion that use the term (zenut, "whoredom"). The first circumstance — scouting the Land — is a rare event. Whereas the second circumstance — the ritual of the fringes that remind us to observe the mitzvot — is an everyday occurrence.

Does God Command Going to War?

In Parashat D’varim, Moses recalls that a military encounter with the Amorites was a response to a divine command. But in the Book of Numbers, a passage about the same encounter does not mention God. What accounts for this difference?

D'var Torah By: 
Telling and Retelling Our Stories
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Julie Wolkoff

In Parashat D'varim, Moses begins retelling the story of the Israelites' sojourn in the wilderness. Our stories, like our lives, are ever changing. Like Moses, retelling the experiences of the Israelites in the desert, we emphasize different facets, see patterns we didn’t see before, and create a narrative out of the disjointed jumble of everyday life.

Hope in the Darkness of Fear

In this week’s Torah portion, Sh’lach L’cha, 12 scouts are sent into the Promised Land to bring back a report to the former slaves in the wilderness. Ten of them report that the Land flows with milk and honey, but it will be difficult to conquer. Two spies present a different point of view, projecting an energizing sense of hope over a paralyzing sense of fear.

D'var Torah By: 
The Positive Aspects of Fear
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Joshua Herman

The story of the spies in this week’s Torah portion, Sh’lach L’cha, does reveal that most of the spies were guided by their fear in their assessment of the Land. Yes, fear is a powerful emotion. But sometimes our Torah tells us that fear can be a positive emotion as well.

Victim and Perpetrator - Reflecting on Our Role

This week's Torah portion, D'varim, occurs this year as it often does, on Erev Tishah B'Av — the ninth day of the month of Av. While not observed in many Reform communities, it is a day on which Jews throughout the world commemorate collectively all the tragedies experienced by our people. It was on this day, according to tradition, that both of our ancient, sacred Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed, the first by the Babylonian Empire in 586 BCE, the second by the Roman Empire in 70 CE. Many more horrific acts committed against Jews have been associated with this date as well.

D'var Torah By: 
What Is Hateful to You Do Not Do to Others
Davar Acher By: 
Charles A. Kroloff

As Rabbi Firestone notes, we Jews have a strong tradition of feeling victimized and with good reason. We've had a rough history, culminating with the Shoah, which decimated and devastated our people. Tishah B'Av captures that sense of victimhood and enshrines it in our Jewish psyches.

Now if we combine that with our D'varim text which — as Rabbi Firestone suggests — offers us divine permission "to commit genocide against our enemies," we do indeed appear to have license to behave as both victims and perpetrators.

What Happens When We Just See What We Want to See?

On July 2, 2014, the prestigious science journal Nature retracted two heralded papers in the field of stem cell research, papers it had published only a few months earlier. The articles described a revolutionary process called STAP, where biologists subjected mature adult cells to physical stresses and transformed them into stem cells. Yet, in the editorial announcing the papers' retraction, Nature's editors reported that the "data that were an essential part of the authors' claims had been misrepresented" and that the authors' work was marred by "sloppiness" and "selection bias" ("Editorial: STAP retracted," Nature, vol. 511, no. 7507, July 2, 2014). All told, as the journalist Dana Goodyear has written, "a far-reaching and sensational conjecture" was "defeated by flaws that were at best irreparable and at worst unconscionable" ("The Stress Test," The New Yorker, February 29, 2016, pp. 46-57).

D'var Torah By: 
Facing the Complex Realities of Controlling a Land
Davar Acher By: 
Michael G. Holzman

I can accept Rabbi Skloot's argument, citing Shimon Bar Yochai, that the scouts led a biased journey from the start, but I question the nature of that bias. Rather than a predisposition against the Land itself, I see a bias against the entire idea of possessing the Land.

Moses and the Twice-Told Tale

For a guy who described himself to God at the Burning Bush as "slow of speech and slow of tongue" (Exodus 4:10), it seems that Moses now has an awful lot to say. Honestly, can you blame him?

D'var Torah By: 
Torah as Trial and Transformation
Davar Acher By: 
Geoffrey Dennis

Unlike Rabbi Korotkin, I am not surprised that Moses is more loquacious at the end of his term than at the beginning; after all, it is written, "the Tree of Life [Torah] heals the tongue" (Proverbs

Spiritual Authenticity

I think it's fair to say that just about everybody knows that the Israelites were condemned to wander in the wilderness for forty years, a biblical generation.

D'var Torah By: 
Unfamiliar Territory
Davar Acher By: 
Ariana Silverman

At an intergenerational leadership conference, we were split into small groups and asked to articulate a vision for the Jewish future.

Deuteronomy: Becoming the Master Storytellers

The Passover Haggadah famously distinguishes between the wise and wicked children by the singular choice of the wise child to ide

D'var Torah By: 
Writing Out, Drawing In
Davar Acher By: 
Steven Moskowitz

There is great power in language, in our words. It draws us in. Every time we recite the words, Adonai Eloheinu, "the Eternal our God," we write ourselves into the Jewish story.

Lemmings Be Gone!

Recently, I sat with one of my congregants, a beautiful, smart, and funny 12-year-old girl who told me about the social challenges she is having in school.

D'var Torah By: 
“Yes! A Hill!”
Davar Acher By: 
Barry M. Lutz

The daughter of friends became a championship cross-country runner in high school. This was a great surprise to all of us as she had never been a runner before.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Spies