Devarim. "Low and High Alike!"

This Shabbat, in advance of Tisha B'Av, we read a powerful Haftarah from Isaiah ch.1. It doesn't, as we might expect, talk about the Temple's destruction. It depicts a Jerusalem that has become corrupt, like Sodom and Gomorrah (1:9-10): How the faithful city has become a whore, she who was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers. … Your ministers are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow's cause does not come to them (1:21-23) Jerusalem has become "a whore" because it is filled with corruption and bribery – its leaders sell themselves for money. Ministers attend to

Mattot-Massei. Vows - The Power and the Danger

The concept of a vow, the topic with which our parsha opens, is quite radical. As an ordinary civilian, I can take on a new obligation, or utter a ban for myself, and by combining my commitment with God’s name this vow has real and binding legal force: “If a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath imposing an obligation on himself, he shall not break his pledge; he must carry out all that has crossed his lips.” (Bamidbar 30:2) Our words have enormous impact. Or maybe more accurately, the power of our intention when coupled with the divine name, create a binding commitment. But why would a person do this? Why would I want to invoke God’s name in an oath? For what purpose? I would like to

Pinhas. Fire and Passion

A few years back, my teenage daughter introduced me to the poem, “Two Elements”, by the Israeli poet Zelda: TWO ELEMENTS The flame says to the cypress: “When I see how calm, how full of pride you are, something inside me goes wild – How can one live this awesome life without a touch of madness, of spirit, of imagination, of freedom, with only a grim, ancient pride? If I could, I would burn down the establishment that we call the seasons, along with your cursed dependence on earth and air and sun, on rain and dew.” The cypress does not answer. He knows there is madness in him, and freedom, and imagination, and spirit. But the flame will not understand, the flame will not

Balak. Learning the Hard Way

We humans have the choice. But we also bear the consequences of our choices. God leads us the way we want to go, but he might not agree with

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