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The Dramatic Effects of Sound and Silence

In the story of Elijah, this classic text describes the prophet’s encounter with God: “... the Eternal was not in the fire. And after the fire—a soft murmuring sound [kol d’mamah dakah]” (I Kings 19:11-12). The sound of silence—or close to it. The power of the soft whisper, the energy of the absence of sound. Jewish tradition, and the Torah specifically, uses many examples of the drama that can be achieved with sound, 

D'var Torah By: 
The Call to Listen, the Gift to Hear

While the Sephardi Jewish community starts adding penitential prayers to services at the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul, the Askenazi Jewish community formally enters into High Holiday period as the sun sets on Saturday, September 21, 2019, with the recitation of Selichot poems and prayers for Divine forgiveness. For Ashkenazi Jews, the first night of Selichot holds immense spiritual power and weight. This period of time helps Jews enter the Yamim Nora-im, the Days of Awe, with a full heart and an open soul. This may also be the first time we hear the sounding of the shofar since the end of N’ilah last Yom Kippur. It is the wake-up call of our sidrah, Ki Tavo.

Balancing Between Anarchy and Self-Actualization

In the litany of rules and regulations found in Parashat R’eih, we read two commandments that at first glance seem to propose conflicting sentiments. The first is a reproach against personal anarchy. The second promotes the idea of self-actualization. How do we reconcile the two? 

D'var Torah By: 
The Tension Between Individualism and Community
Davar Acher By: 
Cantor David Frommer

Cantor Sacks beautifully outlines the tension in Parashat R’eih between collectivism and individuality, and urges us to balance the two. It’s no easy task, but we can aid ourselves by noticing the different cultural values around us and how they might affect these two divergent impulses.

Why the Past Isn’t Enough: The Need for a New Covenant

Relationships—even sacred relationships—are not static. Even the most profound covenants and commitments  sometimes need to be renewed or reestablished. But Parashat Ki Tavo asks, is this true even of our relationship with God? 

D'var Torah By: 
A Message of Hope in the First Fruits
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Karen R. Perolman

As the summer comes to an end, our Torah reading cycle mirrors the sense of longing for more time while simultaneously preparing for what is to come. In Parashat Ki Tavo, Moses continues his last speech before the Israelites, instructing them in the laws of the bikurim, the “first fruits” (Deut. 26:1-11). 

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).

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.

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.

Learning How to Go from Stress to Empowerment

In Parashat Korach, Moses’ cousin, Korach leads a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, demanding, “All the community are holy ... Why then do you raise yourselves above the Eternal’s congregation?” (Numbers  16:3). Often, Korach’s actions are interpreted to be the jealous behavior of one who sees himself as entitled to power. But what if his behavior reflects something different — a feeling of helplessness and a fear of being disenfranchised?

D'var Torah By: 
The Importance of Listening to Dissenters
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer

While Korach’s actions are often interpreted as jealous power-seeking behavior, his behavior may also reflect feelings of helplessness and being disenfranchised. Even in our own day, we see the destructive consequences of not taking seriously the concerns of those who feel disenfranchised. Perhaps, if we all listen more and assume less, we will find our shared divinity and harness our collective power to create the world we want to live in.

Torah and Taliban: Is There Something in Common?

In a particularly graphic moment, one of the instructions received in our weekly reading is "...to destroy all the sites at which the nations you are to dispossess worshiped their gods, whether on lofty mountains and on hills or under any luxuriant tree. Tear down their altars, smash their pillars, put their sacred posts to the fire, and cut down the images of their gods, obliterating their name from that site" (Deuteronomy 12:2-3). This is a clear directive to destroy all the sites at which the native Canaanites worshipped throughout the sacred Land of Israel.

D'var Torah By: 
Following Difficult Instructions with a Goal to Pursue Peace
Davar Acher By: 
Suzy Stone

One of the most troubling aspects of this week's Torah portion is the commandment cited above in Deuteronomy 12:2-3, which requires the invading Israelites to destroy all forms, and places, of foreign worship.

As Rabbi Firestone notes, this commandment was limited to Land of Israel, which in turn limited the scope of this harsh decree. Additionally, I appreciate Rabbi Firestone's suggestion that this commandant was meant to mollify the temptation felt by a young nation coming into its own spiritual, and physical, home.

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