Torah Portion - Conservative

Mikeitz - Shabbat Hanukkah

Sun, 12/10/2017 - 11:00pm

Genesis 41:1−44:17

By Rabbi Bradley Artson, provided by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, for MyJewishLearning.com

Two Kinds Of Intelligence

 

To be fully educated and human we must study a range of disciplines--humanities and sciences, secular and Judaic.

 

 

Pharaoh has endured a night of terrible dreams. To make matters worse, neither he nor any of his ministers understood what the dreams were about. The only person able to interpret those dreams is a Hebrew prisoner in an Egyptian jail. That person is Joseph.
Seven Years & Seven Years

After hearing the dreams described, Joseph announced that Egypt would enjoy seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of universal famine. In advance, Joseph argues that Pharaoh should appoint someone "navon ve-hakham," discerning and sage, who will store enough food to ensure the survival of the population.

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Vayeshev

Sun, 12/03/2017 - 11:00pm

Genesis 37:1−40:23



From Pride Comes Loneliness


Joseph's experience in prison teaches him, and us, that we succeed and flourish when we support those around us.


By Rabbi Bradley Artson, provided by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, for MyJewishLearning.com

In the development of Joseph’s character and the events of his life, the Torah portrays a bittersweet lesson about the loneliness of pride. On the surface, there is no reason for Joseph to be lonely. He is, after all, the favorite child of his father, surrounded by 11 brothers, in the midst of a bustling and energetic family.

Joseph has the potential to fill his life with friendship, family and love. Yet his need to be preeminent, his need to belittle the gifts and experiences of this family in order to glorify his own talents, isolate him from his own kin. We get a clue about the extent of Joseph’s pride from the very start.

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Vayishlach

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 7:17am

Genesis 32:4 - 36:43 


Rabbi Justin Goldstein for myjewishlearning.com 


A Tale of Two Jacobs

 

This biblical patriarch’s life is marked by an unresolved conflict with his dark side.


One reason the figures in Torah are so compelling is that they are not paragons of perfection; quite to the contrary they are complex individuals who struggle with the human condition. And no figure in Torah embodies this dichotomy more than Jacob. He is, truly, a broken man, his struggle for self-discovery marred by what might be described as a split personality. Perhaps one indication of this split is the fact that he receives a second name, Israel — Hebrew for “God Struggler.”

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Vayeitzei

Sun, 11/19/2017 - 11:00pm

Genesis 28:10−32:3

By Rabbi Bradley Artson, provided by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, for MyJewishLearning.com

Children And Deferred Dreams

 

Reflected in the names of her children, Leah grows to recognize her own worth, independent of Jacob's feelings for her.

 

We all dream about our lives, our families and our destiny. Born into a world we did not create, motivated by hope, energy and drive, we spend our childhood and adolescence absorbing wonderful stories of adventure, heroes and fantasies.

And we dream. We dream of achieving the highest ideals of our fantasy life…of being president, landing on the moon or becoming a star. We imagine ourselves as wealthy, or famous or wise. Venerating a galaxy of admired adults, we imagine ourselves as one of them, as one of the best of them.

In the fantasies of children, life has no end; possibilities, no limit. And we are not alone in spinning those dreams. Children may aggrandize themselves, but they do so with the active consent and encouragement of their parents, grandparents, teachers and a supporting cast of thousands.
 
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Toldot

Sun, 11/12/2017 - 11:00pm

Genesis 25:19-28:9

By Rabbi Bradley Artson, provided by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, for MyJewishLearning.com

 

John Wayne Meets Jacob

Jacob inspires us to overcome our Esau-like desires for instant gratification and physical power.

 

Esau is surely one of the most tragic figures of the Bible. He is a simple man, whose robust nature leads him to exult in his own health, strength and energy. Esau loves to hunt. He revels in the outdoors and in bursting limits. Esau is a man of impulse. Like Rambo or John Wayne, Esau thrives on his tremendous power, his physical courage and his own inner drives.

Modern America admires that. We distrust the intellectual. Someone who thinks too much, or who is too sensitive to the feelings of others (or to his own feelings) is held in disdain. We prefer a man who can impose his own will through a show of determination and strength, someone who doesn't plan in advance, someone who can relish the moment and trust his own passions.

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Chayei Sara

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 6:50am

Genesis 23:1 - 25:18 


BY RABBI ADINA LEWITTES for myjewishlearning.com 

 

The Miracle in Sarah’s Tent

 

How the matriarchs' homes resembled and inspired the Temple.


In this week’s Torah portion we encounter Isaac deep in mourning for his mother, Sarah. The Rabbis suggest he was inconsolable until he met his future wife, Rebecca.

In a scene that starts off like a Monty Python movie — “And Isaac went out walking in the field toward evening, and looking up, he saw camels approaching; raising her eyes, Rebecca saw Isaac and fell off the camel,” it quickly gets more serious:

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Vayeira

Sun, 10/29/2017 - 11:00pm

Genesis 18:1-22:24

By Rabbi Joshua Heller. Reprinted with permission of the Jewish Theological Seminary for MyJewishLearning.com.
 

Balancing the Needs of Home and Community

 

Why did Abraham beg for mercy for the city of Sodom but not for his son Isaac?


Ever since I was a child, I've struggled with a fundamental question about Abraham's personality, a question which is posed by this week's parashah, Vayera. When God comes to Abraham to inform him that the city of Sodom is to be destroyed for its wickedness, Abraham responds aggressively by shaming God into agreeing to spare the city if 50 righteous can be found within it, saying,"Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?" (Genesis 18:25). Then, with a bargaining style that would be the envy of any used-car buyer, teenager, or trial lawyer, he lowers the number to 45, to 30, to 20, to 10.

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Lech L'cha

Sun, 10/22/2017 - 11:00pm

Genesis 12:1-17:27

By Rabbi Bradley Artson, provided by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, for MyJewishLearning.com

 

Abram and God's Mutual Faith

As Abram and God demonstrate, Judaism understands faith as deep trust despite doubt, confusion, and suffering.

 

 

At a ripe old age, Abram receives a message from God, telling him that he will yet produce an heir, and that the child will inherit not only Abram's property, but also his father's covenant with God. Surely God's promise would strain the credulity of even the most devoted follower. Sarah had been barren throughout her life. Now, her body no longer surged with the monthly cycle of women-childbearing wasn't even a possibility. And she herself testified that her husband was far too old to father children. Yet, despite biological reality, God tells Abram that he will have a child, and that his descendants will outnumber the stars in the sky!

In response to God's astounding promise, the Torah states simply that "because he put his trust in the Lord, he reckoned it to his credit." In that one ambiguous sentence, the Torah contrasts the rich complexity of biblical faith and the flimsy superficiality of the contemporary notion of faith.

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Noach - Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 11:00pm

Genesis 6:9 - 11:32 


Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger for myjewishlearning.com


The Children Of Noah


As the children of Noah, we are challenged to follow his example.


Overview

Creation is not off to such a good start: the earth is filled with violence and corruption, and so God decides to flood the earth and start over, choosing Noah to build an Ark to save himself and his family and at least one pair of every kind of animal. After the flood, God establishes the Rainbow covenant with every living creature. Humans decide to challenge God by building the Tower of Babel, so they become dispersed, and the portion ends by introducing us to Avram and Sarai, who will later on become Abraham and Sarah, the First Family of the Jewish nation.

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Bereshit

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 11:00pm

Genesis 1:1-6:8 

Dr. Rabbi David Frankel for thetorah.com


Did God Bless Shabbat? 


Can time be blessed? 


Sanctifying and Blessing the Seventh Day

The creation story ends with the statement (Gen 2:3):

וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹהִים אֶת יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתוֹ
And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy.


To consecrate or sanctify a day means that the day is to be dedicated to divine worship and not to be put to profane use. Many days in the Hebrew calendar are said to be מקראי קדש, days of holy convocations, when profane activity is strictly forbidden (see Leviticus 23). The fact that Gen 2:3 speaks of the sanctification of the seventh day is clearly why this passage is traditionally included as the introductory passage for the Friday night Kiddush, which sanctifies the day in preparation for the Shabbat meal.

What, however, might it mean to “bless” the seventh day?

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Shabbat Chol Hamo'ed Sukkot

Sun, 10/01/2017 - 11:00pm

Exodus 33:12–34:26; Maftir: Numbers 29:17-22


By: Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, AJU Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies


The Crack is How the Light Gets In


I was travelling with my family to Independence Hall, the Philadelphia locus of the American Revolution. In the middle of this storied courtyard stands a large bell. The entire world knows that bell. It was hung in the Philadelphia State House in 1753, and it sounded to summon the pre-Independence Colonial Legislature into session, and it was used after the Revolution for the Pennsylvania State Legislature as well.

The intriguing idiosyncrasy of this bell is that when it arrived, it cracked right away. Not once, but twice, American craftspeople repaired the bell by filling in the crack with new metal. And yet it cracked again, and then it cracked again. Apparently the bell wanted to be broken; it had something to say. In the 1830s the Abolitionist Movement was gaining steam; Americans were awakening to the realization that slavery was economically harmful and morally repugnant. Some bold Americans started to organize against slavery as an ethical and political imperative. The Abolitionists were the very first to label this bell the Liberty Bell, and they elevated it as a symbol of American independence and personal freedom.

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YOM KIPPUR

Sun, 09/24/2017 - 11:00pm
BY MATTHEW BERKOWITZ, DIRECTOR OF ISRAEL PROGRAMS, JTS


The Discipline of Atonement


This coming Shabbat culminates the period of aseret yamei teshuvah, the ten days of repentance, as we commemorate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is the Sabbath of Sabbaths in which we seek to successfully complete our journey toward making amends and recall the ritual of purification that unfolded in biblical times. This particular ritual is detailed during the Musaf service of Yom Kippur. We read that the high priest would set aside his elegant garments and don the garb of a regular priest as he entered the Holy of Holies. There he would atone for his own sins, the transgressions of his family, and the sins of all of Israel. Subsequently, two goats were selected—one for God and the other designated for “Azazel.” While the former goat would be offered as a sacrifice, the latter animal would be led into the desert wilderness to this mysterious place. How can we better understand this intriguing ritual of the scapegoat?

Nahmanides (13th-century Spanish commentator Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman, or Ramban) sheds light on the significance of the goat and of Azazel. Regarding the latter, Ramban surveys the beliefs of other commentators:

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Shabbat Shuva - Ha’azinu

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 8:15am

Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52 


Adam Rosenthal received rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in May of 2007 and is now serving as rabbi of Peninsula Sinai Congregation in Foster City, California. 


Remember the Days of Old


The Torah describes an earlier time, when lands were distributed fairly by God.


Among the major contributors to suffering around the world is the inequitable distribution of land and resources. The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth. On a more concrete level, in El Salvador, where I volunteered for 10 days on the AJWS Rabbinical Students’ Delegation, though the land was nominally redistributed in 1992, it was done far from equitably: The poorest people got the lowlands, which are prone to flooding, while the wealthiest held the fertile country, perpetuating the country’s economic inequalities.

In Parashat Ha’Azinu, the Torah poetically describes an earlier time, when lands were apportioned by God to each nation:

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Shabbat Shuva - Ha’azinu

Sun, 09/17/2017 - 11:00pm

Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52 


Adam Rosenthal received rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in May of 2007 and is now serving as rabbi of Peninsula Sinai Congregation in Foster City, California. 


Remember the Days of Old


The Torah describes an earlier time, when lands were distributed fairly by God.


Among the major contributors to suffering around the world is the inequitable distribution of land and resources. The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth. On a more concrete level, in El Salvador, where I volunteered for 10 days on the AJWS Rabbinical Students’ Delegation, though the land was nominally redistributed in 1992, it was done far from equitably: The poorest people got the lowlands, which are prone to flooding, while the wealthiest held the fertile country, perpetuating the country’s economic inequalities.

In Parashat Ha’Azinu, the Torah poetically describes an earlier time, when lands were apportioned by God to each nation:

Continue reading.

Nitzavim-Vayeilech

Sun, 09/10/2017 - 11:00pm

Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30 

Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels teaches Jewish thought and mysticism at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.


The Song of Humanity


Song can remind us of our authentic selves and our genuine power.


We often read Parashat Vayelekh on Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Fittingly, this Torah portion deals with sin and repentance, with becoming lost on our way and returning to our true selves.

In the portion, God foretells Israel’s future sins and their consequences, how they will turn to other gods and then be overtaken by suffering, leading God to say, “anokhi haster astir panai–I will surely hide my face (Deut. 31:16-18).” The hidden face of God, the classic theological expression of the presence of suffering and evil in the world, here seems to be a response by God to the sins of Israel, a punishment for their misdeeds.

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Ki Tavo

Sun, 09/03/2017 - 11:00pm

Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8


Rabbi Dorothy A. Richman is the Rabbi Martin Ballonoff Memorial Rabbi-in-Residence at Berkeley Hillel.


Affirming Responsibility


The power of "Amen."


There is a striking scene imagined in Parashat Ki Tavo (Deut. 27:11-26): Upon crossing the Jordan, the 12 tribes of Israel will divide into two groups. Six tribes will stand on a southern mountain facing the other six tribes on a northern mountain. The Levites will then scream a catalogue of 12 sins, each beginning with the phrase “Cursed be the one.” After each articulated sin, the other 11 tribes call out: “Amen!”

Solid Commitments

The tribes answer the curses in unison — what is the power of the word “Amen”?

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Ki Teitzei

Sun, 08/27/2017 - 11:00pm

Deuteronomy 21:10 - 25:19 

 

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is Vice-President of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and Dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies.

 

Judaism and the Human Body


The commandment to remove a corpse from the stake on which it is impaled teaches us the importance of respecting the holiness of the body.


The definition of what is “religious” shifts throughout the ages. In antiquity, being religious meant offering sacrifices (of children, women, prisoners taken in war) and making regular gifts to the gods. In biblical Israel, it meant being aware of God’s presence, by bringing animal sacrifices to the Temple in Jerusalem at the designated times.

By the Second Temple period, a new emphasis, one of ritual purity, ethical rigor, and obedience to a growing oral tradition became the defining feature of pharisaic religiosity, which the Rabbis of the Talmud extended into an emphasis on the performance of mitzvot (commandments) and study as religious acts.

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