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Ten Commandments

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.

Learning How to Respect the Covenant and Our Fellow Worshippers

The slogan for the Torah portion known as Yitro  should be “we’ve arrived.” The theophany on Mount Sinai – God’s Revelation of the Ten Commandments – is arguably the climax of the Torah (Exodus 20). But the story doesn’t end here – it is the post-Sinai textual journey where we learn that we exist in a perpetual state of arrival, constantly figuring out how to hear Torah as we walk through our daily lives.

D'var Torah By: 
Choosing to Be in a Covenantal Community
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Jade Sank Ross

Worrying that because of their similarities, Harry Potter might be destined for the same evil darkness as the villain, Voldemort, Harry Potter’s beloved mentor, Dumbledore, assures him, “It is our choices, Harry, that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. We are defined by our choices: This is the central theme of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. Choice is also a defining theme of the story of the Jewish people, as we see  in Parashat Yitro. 

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).

Learning About Life by Learning Torah

 “You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them ... ” (Deuteronomy 6:7). While we don’t agree on much, over time and space we religiously minded Jews do seem to agree on one central thing: the supreme importance of the study of Torah. As modern scientific fields of study and new Jewish movements have emerged, many ask, “Why study the Torah?’ I propose four answers to this question.

D'var Torah By: 
The Meaning of the Instruction, You Shall Teach Them to Your Children
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Ahuva Zaches

Using Deuteronomy 6:7 from this week’s Torah portion, Va-et’chanan, as her springboard, Rabbi Dr. Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi explored the ultimate question of Torah study above: “Why study Torah?” Regarding potential motivations, she described four essentials that a student of Torah may be seeking....I would like to add to this list a fifth motivation for Torah study, namely the sharpening of one’s intellect.

Aiming Higher for a Life of Human Holiness

Today, we hear a lot about power: military power, corporate power, and political power. We don’t hear as much about personal power. But, in this week’s Torah portion, Acharei Mot/K’doshim, a double portion, we learn about the potential for personal power. It follows Acharei Mot (“After the Death” of Aaron’s sons) and instructions about purity. In Acharei Mot, we follow the unfortunate outcome of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, who brought an alien fire into the Tent of Meeting, which was an affront to God and Moses. Personal power isn’t a sin, but the misapplication of it can lead to horrific outcomes. In K’doshim, we open with the Holiness Code and within it a credible means to personal power that also reflects God’s holiness. 

D'var Torah By: 
The Power of the Individual
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Diana Fersko

Individual power. In his commentary, Rabbi Lyon reminds us that Acharei Mot focuses on the immense power that individuals can possess. That emphasis could not be more timely. Day after day, we see teens, galvanized by the horrors of gun violence, raising their voices in rage and protest... While we don’t know their exact age, Nadab and Abihu were also young people. Like the victims of school shootings, their end was shockingly abrupt and profoundly tragic. They led lives cut too short without justification. Commentators have worked hard for centuries to create narratives of meaning around the deaths of these young people.

Finding Unique Blessings in Every One of Us

In the double portion, Tazria/M’tzora, we have the responsibility, even if it isn’t our pleasure, to investigate texts on birth and its aftermath, bodily afflictions and emissions, skin ailments, and leprosy. They were once taboos that raised fears in the community and turned priests of their day into guardians of purity.

D'var Torah By: 
Separation as a Path to Holiness
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Baht Weiss

A country road splits into two roadsRabbi Lyon begins

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. 

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.

When Imploring Fails to Give Us What We Want

In Parashat Va-et’chanan, Moses tells how he pleaded with God to let him enter the Promised Land and how that request was denied. In the passages that follow, Moses offers us an example of how to persevere despite the deep disappointment of not attaining one’s dreams.

D'var Torah By: 
Moses’ Final Lesson
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Ruth A. Zlotnick

In Va-et'chanan, Moses gazes on the Promised Land and comes to grips with the fact that he will not enter it. He uses his remaining time to confer instruction and blessing on the Israelites who will carry his teachings forward after his passing.

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