Parashat B’har


This week’s Torah double-portion, B’Har-B’Chukotai, begins: “And the Lord spoke to Moshe at Mount Sinai, saying. . . . .” (Vayikra 25:1). At the end of our reading, we conclude the Torah’s third Book with: “These are the mitzvot that the Lord commanded Moshe for the children of Israel at Mount Sinai.” (27:34)

What exactly do we understand happened at Mount Sinai?

This question was posed to me forty years ago when I was an undergraduate at Columbia University. The Religion Department ...

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Parshat B’ha’a’lot’kha

Not many people among Irvine’s pedestrians and shoppers wear yarmulkes — yet.

The city’s Orthodox Jewish community indeed has expanded in recent years to four Orthodox congregations — including our own Young Israel, two Chabad congregations, and a fourth where I previously served — as well as an eruv (a wire boundary that allows Jews to perform tasks in public on Shabbat that would be otherwise forbidden) and a forthcoming mikvah (ritual bath). Even so, not many ...

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Parshat Sh’lach-L’kha

I first saw night-vision goggles when I watched Harrison Ford in Tom Clancy’s “Patriot Games.”

The bad guys were prowling in a dark bedroom. Suddenly, a good guy switched on the room lights, practically blinding them.

The technology was featured again in “The Silence of the Lambs,” and then came the War in Iraq, showing us green-tinted footage unfolding amid the dark of night. All thanks to those night-vision goggles.

In this week’s Torah Portion, ...

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Parshat Korach

Every time I meet a rabbi or pastor who now is a full-time stock broker, a realtor, an entrepreneur with a storefront business or an export-import firm (not to mention a lawyer, an accountant, or even a therapist) — and I ask why they left the rabbinate — the answer typically is the same

Rabbi Sidney Applebaum of Cong. Beth Judah in Brooklyn, the shulwhere I grew up, used to say from his pulpit that he ...

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Parashat Korach (Commentary 2)">Parashat Korach (Commentary 2)


Korach is a fascinating Torah Portion because, as happens so often when the Torah narrates real-life events, the characters “ring incredibly true” to our own life experiences.  We all know superficially good people, who have so much going for them, yet who propel themselves down an horrific course of self-destruction, driven solely by unabated jealousy or incomprehensible animus. That intense jealously, often born of an overwhelming inferiority complex, frequently finds its nearest convenient outlet when ...

Parashat Korach (Commentary 2)"> Continue Reading →

Parshat Chukat

This week’s Torah portion bears one of the Bible’s great enigmas. What exactly did Moses do that prompted the Divine to bar him from crossing the Jordan into Israel?

What was the infraction?

Most students are taught that Moses’ misfeasance was that he hit the boulder even though the Lord told him only to speak to it. If Moses and ...

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Parshat Pinchas

We ended last week’s parasha with the Jewish nation crying as quasi-leaders sinned publicly with Midianite women, who had come into our camp at the Moabites’ behest.

We would have no rest from these Midianites, nor from their Moabite agitators. God ultimately would warn us to avoid such nations utterly — not even to wish Moabites or Ammonites well (Devarim 23:7).

The Moabites and Ammonites stemmed from Lot, Avraham’s nephew. The Midianites were our “cousins,” ...

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Parshat Matot-Mas’ei

In our combined Sedra this Shabbat, the Jewish Nation’s unity seemingly faces its toughest test since Chet haM’raglim (the sin of the Spies) just as we are about to embark on the culmination of forty years’ hopes and dreams.  Eretz Yisrael is within sight, just across the Jordan.  We have waited four decades, amid peregrinations marked so far by 41 distinct journeys through the Sinai, and now comes the pay-off: we all are about to enter the Promised Land ...

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Parshat D’varim

I primarily do two kinds of teaching: Torah classes in a wide range of areas within my extended congregational community and California civil procedure and advanced torts at law school. As the terms wind down, my law students often ask whether I would mind devoting time in our last class of the term to reviewing material we have studied. And that is the way of teaching. One begins by explaining where she is going with her message ...

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Parashat Eikev

This summer’s “cultural news” has been dominated by the deaths of several particularly prominent celebrities: Ed McMahon, who entered our homes for years as Johnny Carson’s sidekick. Farrah Fawcett, whose pin-up poster sold more than 12 million copies in the 1970s and adorned the dorm rooms of a generation, and whose hairstyle sent millions of women to stylists pleading to “look like Farrah.” Michael Jackson, who was performing song and dance from as early as 5 years ...

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