This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Shirah, the Shabbat of Song. It is so named because the Torah reading this week includes Shirat HaYam, the “Song of the Sea,” the earliest example of shirah in the Bible. 

The Torah portion for this week, Bo, is filled with plagues (three, to be exact), darkness, laws of Passover, the commandment to sanctify the new moon, borrowed items and pidyon ha-ben — redemption of the first-born son. 

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This week’s Torah reading describes the first seven of the 10 plagues that were intended to demonstrate how the power of the God of Israel surpasses that of Pharaoh and a host of lesser Egyptian gods and goddesses. 

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After I graduated from college, I spent a year working for Facing History and Ourselves, an international organization whose mission is to use lessons of history to challenge teachers and their students to stand up to bigotry and hate.

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I write this message during a season of endings. The secular year is coming to its close, and this Shabbat we fittingly will read the concluding parashah of B’reyshit, the Book of Genesis. Our Torah Reading is Va-y’chi, Genesis 47:28-50:26, which depicts the ends of the lives of both our Pat…

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How much attention do you pay to your dreams? Clearly, the Pharaoh of Egypt (and his courtiers, as we heard in last week’s Torah Portion!) took their (and the Pharaoh’s!) dreams very seriously.  And in this week’s Parashah of Miketz, the Torah once again references the impact of dreams:

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Charan. He came upon a certain place and stopped there for the night, for the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of that place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. He had a dream; a stairway was set on the ground and its top reached to…

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Here we are in the Jewish calendar with no holidays. The month of Cheshvan that just ended is at times referred to as Mar Cheshvan, or Bitter Cheshvan, by virtue of the absence of any holidays.  

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Inter-generationality is the major theme of this week’s Torah reading, Chayei Sarah.  The narrative begins with the death and burial of our matriarch, Sarah.  It then continues highlighting the marriage of Isaac and Rebeccah, the inheritors of the teachings of father Abraham and mother Sarah. 

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When was the last time you had guests?  It’s been so long since we’ve had anyone over that I can’t even remember. And when someone does come into our house, even for a moment, we all suddenly put on masks: We all cover our faces, our noses, our mouths.  

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My own religious experiences and work as a learner-educator, tend to nudge me towards seeing the Holy Blessed One less as a judge or parent and more as the Artful Holy Pedagogue. In that spirit I never cease to be gobsmacked by the radical and profound beauty of the Tower of Bavel story we b…

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