In our tradition, the Holy-Day of Shavuot, the middle of our Shalosh Regalim, our three pilgrimage festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, is unique in several ways. First, it is the only one not assigned a specific date by the Torah on the Jewish calendar (though now we observe the festiva…

With Parashat B’midbar, we begin reading Sefer B’midbar, the Book of Numbers, which recounts the stories of the people of Israel’s time living in the midbar, the desert wilderness. It is to the midbar that the Israelites go upon leaving Egypt, and it is where they face fear and uncertainty a…

Imagine that a disease breaks out in the community, actually a family of diseases, perhaps, because it presents differently in many cases. No one knows exactly how it is transmitted, and no one knows who patient zero is. 

“And Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, each took his offering pan, put fire in it, placed incense upon it, and brought before God a foreign fire, which God had not commanded. And a fire went forth from before God and consumed them both, and they died before God.  Then Moshe said to Aharon, “Th…

The Book of Leviticus, especially the first few portions, are filled with intricate details of the many types sacrifices God commanded the Israelites to make. In Hebrew, the word for sacrifice is korban, which comes from a Hebrew root, meaning “to draw near.” It was through the sacrifices — …

I hear Leviticus speaking. Leviticus and Dante got together in the form of a virus, a nonlocal reminder in the language of Leviticus – purity and impurity — that all of us are in this together. 

We have been reading this richly symbolic section of the Torah on the Mishkan, the mobile sacred dwelling place for the Divine Presence. As we complete the reading of the instructions in Parashat Ki Tissa, it is worth thinking about how we create the vessels for God’s Presence to dwell with us.

Is  every mitzvah, every commandment equally important?  In some sense, of course — if we understand God as the source of mitzvot, commandments, then every mitzvah is an equal opportunity to obey or disobey God and God’s will for us.  And plus, how are we to know which mitzvot are more or le…

Just two short weeks ago, in Parashat Yitro, we read of the revelation at Mt. Sinai. Each Israelite – rich and poor, young and old, female and male – experienced the reality of the Presence of God in their lives. Then last week, in Parashat Mishpatim, the Israelites were gifted with an expan…

As a child, I used to watch the Tennessee Ernie Ford show on television every week. I loved his deep, resonant, baritone voice, and the songs that he sang were about everyday people and situations. One of my favorite songs of his was “Sixteen Tons.” The chorus is:

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