Vayikra 5777: Wholeness after Error

The world of Leviticus can be disorienting, especially in the chapters which focus on the details of the korbanot, the sacrifices with all of their bloody and smoky mess. Upon closer examination, each of these ancient forms of worship is recognizably connected to a modern mode of worship. We too approach God at times with…

Vayakhel-Pekudei 5777: Moses, a Successful Failure

Moses, as a leader, is a successful failure. His highlights reel is pretty impressive—liberator, warrior, logistics coordinator, judge and prophet. And yet many things that Moses seeks to accomplish are utter failures. He fails to reshape the liberated slaves into a dignified and free people; he fails to deliver them to the promised land; he…

Ki Tissa 5777: Show Me Your Glory

What is Moses asking when he demands that God show him the glory? The Torah already had reported in Ex. 33: 11 that in the Tent of Meeting, the Lord spoke to Moses “face to face, like a man to his friend.” That sounds pretty direct—shockingly so—and yet somehow, Moses isn’t satisfied. A few verses…

Purim 5777: Make Shushan Great Again?

Shittah Mishubeshet is a collection of medieval debates about the laws of Purim which exists only in manuscript form, and that in a single copy held by the venerable rare book collection of JTS. Unfortunately, the collection has been removed to a black site for the foreseeable future, leaving us unable to clarify its important…

Zakhor 5777: On the Road with Amalek

This Shabbat is both Titzaveh and Shabbat Zakhor—in addition to all the normal reasons to go to shul and hear the Torah, there is a special commandment to listen to the Zakhor passage and think about the continued danger of genocidal hatred in the world. The Torah states in Deuteronomy 25:17-19 that Amalek did something…

Terumah 5777: A Gift from Titus

The Arch of Titus in Rome is simultaneously one of the saddest and most exciting places for a Jew to stand. It is but a short distance from the Colosseum, the stadium made famous by its cruel sports, built with money plundered from the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE. Titus’s Arch celebrates the destruction of…