Nachshon Moments, on Land as on Sea

The Israelites are on the move in this week's Torah portion, Beha'alotcha, as they pick up their journey through the Wilderness to the Promised Land. It is quite a logistical ordeal, moving that many people along with all of their belongings, not to mention all of the communal property, primarily the Tabernacle, their central sanctuary …

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Why We Get Sick

Recently on one of my rabbinic listservs, a colleague asked about this week’s Torah portion of Metzorah. The portion speaks of tzara’at, the biblical affliction commonly translated as leprosy (but not really connected to what we consider leprosy). This portion and last week’s, named Tazria, both deal with this issue. In fact the two portions …

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If a Tree Talks in the Forest, Does it Make a Sound? (On Tu Bishvat)

Today is Tu Bishvat, the new year of the trees. Originally an ancient holiday used to determine the age of trees and the fitness of fruit for Temple offerings, the day in contemporary times has become an opportunity to reflect on Jewish views of nature. Adopting a mystical tradition, we hold a Seder (as on …

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Rosh Hashanah Day 5776: “Heeding the Call–Both Papal and Jewish–For Environmental Justice”

This summer, I had the opportunity to head off to Camp Kalsman, a Jewish camp in Arlington, to spend a week as a member of the faculty. A rotating group of educators and rabbis and cantors spends a week to 10 days teaching, leading services, tutoring b’nai mitzvah and providing support alongside the full-time staff. …

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Suffering is Precious

When I was preparing for a text study on the closing chapters of 2 Kings, I came across the following midrash (found in the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 101a-b): Our masters taught: When R. Eliezer fell sick, four elders--R. Tarfon, R. Joshua, R. Eleazar ben Azariah, and R. Akiva--came to visit him. R. Akiva spoke up …

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