Shabbat Zakhor 5775: Confronting Today’s Amalek

I recently read Roz Chast’s memoir about the senescence and death of her parents entitled, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” The title refers to her parents’ strident refusal, even in their mid-90s, to discuss their failing bodies and to prepare for the inevitable. The book is a brutally honest memoir by their daughter…

Shabbat Terumah 5775: The Architecture of Holiness

There are few structures in America to match the splendor of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington. Built during the Great Depression at the urging of former President and then Chief Justice William Howard Taft for less than $10 million dollars, it is a Neo-classical temple of justice. Architect Cass Gilbert studied the…

Shabbat Mishpatim 5775: Bribery in the Torah and in NYS

With fifty-three mitzvot, 24 positive and 29 negative, Parashat Mishpatim is aptly named. Doubly so, in fact, since the word “mishpatim” can mean both “rules,” and “sentences,” and most of the rules are issued in brief units of a sentence or two. A striking feature of these rules is their apodictic nature. That is, they are for the most…

Shabbat Yitro 5775: It Takes Two to Get God’s Word

אַחַת דִּבֶּר אֱלֹהִים שְׁתַּיִם־זוּ שָׁמָעְתִּי Psalm 62 is a paean to divine power, culminating with the tantalizingly opaque statement, “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that strength is but God’s, and Yours, Master, is kindness, for You require a man by his deeds” (trans. Robert Alter). What does it mean that…