Matot-Masei

Posted on July 17th, 2017

Numbers 30:2 - 36:13 


BY RABBI DOROTHY A. RICHMAN, Rabbi Martin Ballonoff Memorial Rabbi-in-Residence at Berkeley Hillel, for myjewishlearning.com


Creating Sustainable Freedom

 

All people must know that they have value.


Parashat Masei, the portion of journeys, begins with a recounting of the Israelites’ travels from slavery in Egypt to the borders of Israel. Yet within this re-telling of the Israelites’ trek comes a different journey: the path of a man-slayer into exile.

Powerful Priest and Accidental Killer
An entire chapter of the portion addresses the process by which an unintentional murderer is sent out of the community for his own protection. A person convicted of accidentally taking a life is sent to one of six cities of refuge. He lives there, guarded from his victim’s avenging relatives, until the natural death of the high priest (Numbers 35). If an exiled murderer wants to return home, his only recourse is to pray for the High Priest’s death.

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PINCHAS

Posted on July 10th, 2017

NUMBERS 25:10−30:1 


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


Heroic or Sinful?


Zealous acts are not always heroic.


Just before this Torah portion begins, Israelite men have begun sleeping with foreign women. These relations have brought the Israelites to worship foreign gods and have caused, in response, a Divine plague to break out in the Israelite camp. God and Moses then command the Israelites to slaughter the idol worshipers among the Israelites.

In the very next verse, we learn that Zimri ben Salu (an Israelite) and Kozbi bat Tzur (a Midianite) publicly display their relationship as Zimri takes Kozbi back to his tent to sleep with her. Our Torah portion opens with the conclusion of the bloody tale as Pinchas slaughters Zimri and Kozbi and ends the plague (Numbers 25).

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Balak

Posted on July 3rd, 2017

Numbers 22:2 - 25:9 

Judith Greenberg was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Reprinted with permission from Torah Topics for Today.


Saying No To Temptation


Not giving in to temptations helps us to clarify our values and stick to our convictions.


We are surrounded by things that tempt us. Unhealthy foods, video games, and gossip are just a few of the things enticing us. It’s hard to make the decision to eat healthily.  Or to not play “just one more round!” Or to keep from spreading a juicy piece of news. When confronted with a temptation, we know what the right decision is, but in the moment, it can be so hard to stay connected to our values, be they healthful eating, productive use of time, or not engaging in lashon hara or gossip.

In this week’s Torah portion we have one of the most famous – and fateful – examples of someone giving in to a temptation. In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and bad.  But the snake tempts Eve, and she eats from the tree. Eve was tempted because she forgot about consequences and saw that the tree was appetizing and a source of wisdom. Shortsighted, Eve fell to temptation because she thought only of immediate gratification.

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Chukat

Posted on June 26th, 2017

Numbers 19:1 - 22:1 

By Rabbi Bradley Artson, The following article is reprinted with permission from American Jewish University, for MyJewishLearning.com


Miriam: Water Under The Bridge?


Miriam's death should motivate us to recognize people today who provide nurture and support.


Careers of public figures take on a life of their own, ebbing and flowing with shifts in public opinion and the latest values. One Jewish figure whose popularity is at an all-time high is the prophet Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron.

While featured prominently in the Torah , Miriam’s claim to fame always paled in the face of her more visible brothers. After all, Aaron was the first Kohen Gadol (high priest), the link between the Jewish people and their religion, and Moses was the intimate friend of God, transmitting sacred teachings to the people.

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Korach

Posted on June 19th, 2017

NUMBERS 16:1−18:32 

Rabbi Marc Wolf is assistant vice-chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary


Jewish Texts: The Ultimate Self-Help Guide


Amidst seemingly mundane laws, valuable lessons emerge.


A colleague and friend who shares my fascination with golf as well as my plague of performing poorly, recently gifted me with a book entitled, Golf is Not a Game of Perfect.

It is another one of the ever-expanding genre of self-help books in sheep’s clothing in which the subject, in this case, golf, is viewed as a microcosm of life. Accordingly, the sport is given a philosophical reach that outdistances any drive from the tee. It is filled with pithy moral teachings such as “Golfers must learn to love the challenge when they hit a ball into the rough … the alternatives–anger, fear, whining, and cheating–do no good.” Through tangible advice on the game, it subtly links such challenges as hitting a 40-foot putt to reaching for personal and professional goals. Books like this one and others of this ilk by sports personalities like George Forman and Michael Jordan tend to see an ecumenical relevance in seemingly mundane activities.

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