Ki Teitzei

Posted on August 20th, 2018

Deuteronomy 21:10–25:19 


RABBI PROFESSOR MARC SAPERSTEIN for ReformJudaism.org


When a Debtor Does Not Repay


Parashat Ki Teitzei is a treasury of Jewish legal and ethical literature. I would guess that more pages of the Talmud are devoted to the discussion of verses from this parashah than any other in the Torah. Many basic principles of marriage law and of civil law find their sources here — generally in verses that are by no means self-explanatory but require extensive discussion, interpretation, and application. The parashah is truly an embarrassment of riches that makes selection of a single topic very difficult.

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Shoftim

Posted on August 13th, 2018

DEUTERONOMY 16:18–21:9 


RABBI PROFESSOR MARC SAPERSTEIN for ReformJudaism.org


Set a King Over Yourself


Don Isaac Abravanel (1437–1508) was one of the towering figures of late medieval and early modern Jewry. He held ministerial-level positions in three different royal courts: Portugal, Spain, and the Kingdom of Naples, and he was recognized by contemporary Jews as one of their most important and influential leaders because of his access to the top levels of government. At the same time — and this is what makes him so different from modern Jews who have held important political positions — he was one of the most prolific Jewish writers in history. Especially impressive are his monumental commentaries in Hebrew on the Torah and early and later prophets, an encyclopedic exposition of Jewish thought, especially in the Sephardic ambience, produced at the historic moment when this great culture was experiencing a massive disruption. Because of their length, only a miniscule percentage of his commentaries have been translated.

Not surprising because of his professional career, Abravanel’s commentaries are filled with fascinating ventures into political theory. One of the most important is linked with the verse pertaining to the Israelite king in Parashat Shof’tim:

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Re'eh - Rosh Chodesh Elul

Posted on August 6th, 2018

DEUTERONOMY 11:26–16:17 


D'VAR TORAH BY:  RABBI RACHEL SABATH BEIT-HALACHMI, PH.D.


Identity and Ethics: Knowing Who and Whose You Are
 


If someone tells you that Judaism is X or Y, you should never believe them. Judaism is such a complex civilization: it is made up of religion and culture, language and land, and a particular kind of peoplehood. In every context different aspects of Judaism have been lived out in countless different ways. Judaism is not only complex, but also filled with contradictory opinions, so that any single view will — by definition — fail to offer a full sense of all the possibilities. (This, I admit, is what I most love about being Jewish!)

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Eikev

Posted on July 30th, 2018

DEUTERONOMY 7:12–11:25


By RABBI PROFESSOR MARC SAPERSTEIN for ReformJudaism.org


Not by Bread Alone: Strange Food from the Sky


Several years ago, I saw in London an extraordinary play entitled “Not by Bread Alone.” The eleven actors, from an Israeli company called Nalaga’at (meaning “please touch”), were all deaf and blind. As the audience entered, they were sitting at a long table on the stage, each one kneading dough that would be baked during the course of the performance. At the end, the audience was invited to come to the stage to taste the bread. But the main purpose was not for us to eat the delicious warm bread, but to communicate on some level, by touch, with the actors who could not hear our applause or see our smiles.  


Deuteronomy 8:3, a long and rather complex verse near the beginning of our parashah, Eikev, contains one of the most familiar phrases of the Bible: “Lo al halechem l’vado yich’yeh ha-adam ... ”


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Va’et-chanan - Shabbat Nachamu

Posted on July 23rd, 2018

Deuteronomy 3:23–7:11 


BY:  RABBI PROFESSOR MARC SAPERSTEIN for ReformJudaism.org


When Imploring Fails to Give Us What We Want


The verses at the very beginning of Parashat Va-et’cḥanan record a searingly poignant incident of hopes shattered and prayers denied.


Years before, Moses had heard the words that must have filled him with immeasurable sorrow. Because of a failing described by the Torah only as a vague sin of omission — that on one occasion he had failed to sanctify God in the presence of the Israelites — he was told that he would not be permitted to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:8–12).


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