Species Purity and the Great Flood: Noah 5775

[Published as a JTS Torah Commentary] Omnicide is a dramatic move, on that we can all agree. But what causes the Creator to grow violently disgusted with the creatures that had just recently been praised as “good” and blessed with fertility? Last year in this space, JTS Provost and Bible Professor Alan Cooper suggested that it…

Shmini Atzeret/ Bereshit 5775: A Time to Laugh, a Time to Mourn

The celebration of two days of Yom Tov here in the diaspora is a decidedly mixed blessing. On the one hand, extending the holidays gives us more time to examine their meaning and to internalize their message. On the other hand, it can often feel like too much of a good thing, especially by Shmini…

Sukkot 5775: Is Being “Only Joyous” Achievable in this Life?

The mood swing from Yom Kippur to Sukkot is among the most dramatic of Jewish transitions (similar in a way to the less prominent shift of mood from the 9th to the 15th of Av, the saddest and most joyous days of the ancient calendar). From sobriety to celebration, from awe-struck fear to total joy,…

Yom Kippur 5775: Becoming Shomrei Yisrael

It was a perfect day at the beach. Early-July, late in the morning. Not too hot, nor too cold; sand stretching off to the horizon, the surf pounding pleasantly at my feet. After an hour of baking on the beach, I ventured into the cool water to play in the waves. First to the toes,…