Author Archives: Aryeh Bernstein

The Scouts as Stubborn, Old Guard Leaders: The Torah’s Warning Tale — D’var Torah for Parashat Sh’lach-Lekha

This week’s parashah focuses on the second of the Israelites’ two most devastating moments of collective failure in the desert — the mass breakdown after the scouts overstepped their jurisdiction for reconnaissance by insisting that the land was uninhabitable for … Continue reading

Social Dysfunction born from Careless Communication: Understanding Yitro’s Departure — D’var Torah for Parashat BeHa’alotekha

The book of Bemidbar/Numbers can be fairly neatly broken into two radically different sections. The first 9 ⅔ chapters depict perfect order: a census, camp architecture, clear delineation of roles for different groups — the perfectly ordered community ready to … Continue reading

Are We Responsible for the Sins of Our Ancestors? The Torah Case for Reparations, Part 2 — D’var Torah for Parashat Behukotai

A few years ago, in the midst of a heightened national discourse around reparations for descendants of enslaved people in America and other exploited parties, and standing on the shoulders of moral thinkers and organizers many steps ahead of me, … Continue reading

A Time for Obedience, A Time for Spontaneity: Why did Nadav and Avihu Die? D’var Torah for Parashat Shemini

The last two shabbatot were filled with so much excitement, through our annual Pesach excursion into the exodus story, that we may forget that when last we left our regular, weekly journey through the Torah, we left on one of … Continue reading

Singing Each Other to Freedom from the Trapped Cleft of the Rock: D’var Torah for the Last Days of Pesach

This Shabbat is also the 7th day of Pesach, which, in addition to being the end of the Biblically-mandated, seven-day, “Festival of Matzot”, is also the date, according to Rabbinic tradition, of the Israelites’ crossing of the Sea of Reeds, … Continue reading

You Must Testify, but if You Snitch, You’re Excommunicated — D’var Torah, Parashat VaYikra

What is a citizen’s duty in upholding a responsible, criminal justice system? Our parasha addresses that question head-on with a seemingly clear commandment: “Any person who sins, having heard a public imprecation and is a witness, having seen or known, … Continue reading

Mirrors in the Mishkan: Centering the Tools of the Marginalized — D’var Torah, Parashat VaYakhel-Pekudei

This week’s double-parasha is a verbose carnival of the mundane in service of the spectacular, of the grind of minutia in service of liberation. The Israelites bring abundant raw materials and the gifted artisans guide the construction of God’s traveling … Continue reading