Category Archives: Learning

Jewish Spirituality as a Life of the Law: Halakha and the Jewish Left — D’var Torah for Parashat VaEthanan

In our parasha, Moshe, in his final charge to the Israelites, completes the recapping of their story which occupied last week’s parasha and moves into his review of the mitzvot (commandments) and multiple exhortations not to abandon them upon entering … Continue reading

Civility, Assuming Good Will, and the Threats of Powerful Saboteurs: D’var Torah for Parashat Devarim & Tisha B’Av

This week we begin the book of Devarim, Moshe’s great, booklong speech to prepare the people for liberated, responsible, landed civic life after his imminent death. At the beginning, he recalls desert history (Devarim/Deuteronomy 1:6-13): “YHWH our God spoke to … Continue reading

“Then You Shall Be Clean Before God and Before Israel”: Public Service, Privilege, and the Place of Popular Opinion in Moral Judgment — D’var Torah, Parashat Mattot-Mas’ei

How do we know whether we are doing the right thing? Should we care what other people think of us as long as we’re doing what we understand to be moral and just? This week we read two Torah portions, … Continue reading

“But Korach’s Children Did Not Die”: On the Perils of Guilt by Association: D’var Torah for Parashat Pinchas

Our parasha shows the Israelites pivoting toward preparations, finally, for proceeding to the Holy Land to inaugurate civic life. In the context of a census taken after two brutal acts of Divine carnage for national insurrections, the Torah matter-of-factly claims … Continue reading

More on Vigilante Justice When the Justice System Enables Abuse of Power: D’var Torah for Parashat Balak

A few months ago, for Parashat VaYehi, we addressed the violent, vigilante justice carried out at the end of this week’s parasha by Pinhas the priest, a short narrative I described then as “the Torah’s signature episode of political violence”. … Continue reading

Leaning into Conflict to Nurture Love — D’var Torah, Parashat Chukat, 5781

In the most obscure verse in this week’s parasha, Chukat, perhaps the most obscure in the whole Torah, Scripture catalogs Israel’s journeys in the desert and describes the geography of one of their pit-stops:  “…they set out and encamped beyond Arnon, that … Continue reading