Last week’s Torah portion (Terumah) called for community service to build a Sanctuary: V’asu li mikdash v’shochanti b’tocham / “And they will Make Me a Sanctuary, and I will dwell among them” (Ex. 25:8). What does it mean for God to “dwell among” the People? This week’s portion (Tetzaveh) reveals answers of transformation and opportunity.
After the Revelation at Sinai, after hearing the divine Voice and receiving the Ten Commandments, the people returned from the mountain to find the grind of imperfect human life waiting for them below.
This week’s Torah portion (Yitro) brings the Ten Commandments, the Revelation at Sinai in which the people directly heard the divine Voice. The Ten Commandments are wow, a first collective covenant that is our ongoing blueprint for ethical living: one God, no others, no images of God that might falsify or confuse, keep the Sabbath, honor parents, don’t murder, don’t cheat, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t covet.
In this week’s Torah portion (Bo), the final plagues on Egypt — ending with the tragic death of Pharaoh’s first-born son — wrested Israel from bondage. Israel went free with a command to honor Passover forever — which is why Jews re-live the Passover story every year. But just like we asked about the Joseph story, it’s apt to ask when the slaves’ journey to freedom began.
As we open Torah’s second book, we pivot into the bondage and liberation that forged a Jewish people and our ethical covenant. This week’s portion, Shmot (“names”), begins with names of 12 tribes — descended from Jacob’s sons and grandsons — now resident in Egypt where a new Pharaoh arose “who knew not Joseph.”
From history’s mythic dawn, civilization grappled with humanity’s first question that Cain asked with a haunting, guilty conscience: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” In this week’s Torah portion (Vayigash), Joseph gives us a resounding answer: “Yes.”
This week brings the once-in-a-lifetime Jewish-American spectacle of Thanksgivukkah (or maybe Chanksgiving?). This rare overlap of Chanukkah’s festival of lights and Thanksgiving’s day of gratitude comes during the week of Parshat Miketz, Torah’s pivotal telling of the Joseph story. These three cogs of the calendar – Chanukkah, Thanksgiving and Miketz – together turn an amazing spiritual confluence of consciousness.
The famous story of Jacob’s Ladder opens Parshat Vayetze with a dreamscape so poignant that its words resonate in Jewish consciousness. We encounter Jacob on the run from his twin brother, Esau, whom Jacob had tricked out of his birthright:
When I learned of Steve’s death, I was finishing an intensive course with Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan on foundations of Jewish philosophy from Biblical times through the Enlightenment. Like many philosophical realms growing out of faith communities, Jewish philosophy reflects on whether and how we know God, and whether and how God knows us.
This week’s Torah portion, Chayei Sarah (“the life of Sarah”), begins ironically with the death of Sarah, then recounts Sarah’s legacy via her husband (Abraham), their son (Isaac) and his new wife (Rachel).