Patriarchs in Search of Peace: Lekh Lekha 5775/2014

One of my favorite songs by the late great Arik Einstein is called אוהב להיות בבית (listen here; lyrics below). He describes the heroic adventures of many people who go off climbing mountains and riding horses, and then says that he, however, prefers to be at home, “with my lemon tea, old books, the same…

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…

What’s in a Name? Lekh Lekha 5774/2013

What’s in a name? Quite a lot, but you need to know the story. My family name, Nevins, is now five generations old, chosen by my paternal great-grandfather Haskell Neviadomsky at the time of his naturalization. He came to this country in 1896, fleeing the czar’s draft, and apparently decided that he would never make it…

Protecting the Image of God: Noah 5774

Following the flood, the Torah returns to a theme that we encountered in the first chapter, צלם אלהים, “the image of God.” We are accustomed to reading this expression metaphorically, since we believe God to be disembodied—אין לו דמות הגוף ואינו גוף God has no body image nor body, as our prayer “Yigdal” puts it. But…

Bereshit 5774: The Painful State of Responsibility

One afternoon during Sukkot we took a walk on a country road near the farm where we were staying. Chatting away, we barely noticed it–a brown snake winding across the dirt road in front of us. It was a little snake, not particularly frightening looking, so we took a closer look. I saw that it was…