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.
By not destroying every instance of idolatry as commanded in Parashat R’eih, the people actually showed maturity and compassion.
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?
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.
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.
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.
In the words of the historian and public intellectual Julian E. Zelizer, "We no longer seek debate, nor do many shuls even allow it to happen. We are having trouble being tolerant of the other side" ("The Closing of the American Jewish Mind," Tablet, December 9, 2015). The same could be said in the hermetically sealed ideological chambers of American popular culture too.
We see the consequences of this kind of intellectual narrowness and the absence of civil conversation in this week's parashah, Korach.
Korah is one of the great villains of the Torah; the leader of a rebellion against Moses.
The quotation from "That Lonesome Road" reminds me of something I learned from Jewish meditation teacher Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg: The word "wait," she says, is an acronym for the phrase, "Why Am I Talking?" And that's not always such an easy question to answer.
Pausing during a dispute, we may realize that the superficial content of the quarrel isn't what's driving the fighting. Looking inside, we see that we (and our opponent) are angry, resentful, or fearful about something entirely unrelated. Our hostile words are a facade shielding us from that underlying hurt or fear.
A few weeks ago, in studying Parashat R'eih, I noted that the Torah gives us a great gift of joy—a command to celebrate with one's entire household—tucked into a long passage replete with
Within the Torah portion Ki Tavo there is a list of blessings and then curses that may fall upon one depending on her or his actions. According to the Torah these are given out by God.
Sometimes, I feel that a lot of people—including some Jews themselves—see Jews as a collective Eeyore. Take this quotation from A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh:
I know, I know. It can seem like we’re a depressed people, always focusing on the negative. You know what they say about every Jewish holiday: “they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!”
Chadeish yameinu k'kedem, "Renew our days as of old." (Lamentations 5:21)
How can we truly understand the slave mentality, we who have known nothing but gratuitous freedom in twenty-first century Western civilization?
God blessed the first humans, told them to multiply and increase, and then instructed them: "Look, I have given you all the seed-bearing plants on the face of the earth, and every tree that has in
Rabbi Milgrom beautifully shares her father's (z"l) teaching on biblical kashrut and reminds us that our generation also upholds value-based food choices, as today we raise concerns about
No advance in wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimeter nearer. (George Orwell)
When Korah challenged Moses, he crossed the delicate balance between authority and freedom into chaos.