Author Archive | Rabbi Jonathan

Balak: Mah Tovu – How Good It Is

Mah tovu ohalecha Ya’akov, mishkenotecha Yisrael How goodly are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel (Numbers 24:5) The Israelites are journeying toward the Jordan River, and pass through the territory of King Balak of Moab. Balak is terrified, and hires the prophet Balaam to lay a curse upon the Israelites. Three times Balaam climbs […]

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Chukat: Confronting Mortality

Va’yavo’u B’nei Yisrael kol ha’edah Midbar Tzin bachodesh harishon vayeshev ha’am b’Kadesh. Vatamot sham Miriam vatikaver sham. V’lo haya mayim la’edah. And all the Children of Israel arrived at the Wilderness of Tzin on the first new moon, and stayed at Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there. And there was no water for […]

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Korach: Demagogue

Vayikhalu al Moshe v’Aharon vayomru aleihem: “Rav lachem, ki chol ha’edah kulam kedoshim u’v’tocham YHVH – u’madua titnas’u al k’hal YHVH?” And [Korach and his followers] gathered against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! Is not the entire community holy, and is not YHVH in their midst? Why do […]

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Shlach Lecha: Healing the Crushed Spirit

Va’nehi b’eineinu kachagavim, v’chen hayinu b’eineihem We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, so we certainly must have looked that way to them. (B’midbar 13:33) The Children of Israel are preparing to enter the Promised Land. Moses sends twelve scouts, one from each tribe, to scout out the land and bring back a reconnaissance report. Forty […]

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Beha’alotcha: Are We There Yet?

Va’yehi ha’am k’mit’onenim ra b’oznei YHVH. The people took to complaining bitterly before YHVH (B’midbar 11:1) After more than a year encamped at Mount Sinai, the time has come for the Children of Israel to march to the Promised Land. Transformed from a throng of refugee slaves, they are now organized into tribes and troops, […]

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B’Midbar: Everyone Counts

Se’u et rosh kol adat B’nei Yisrael… Take a head-count of the entire community of the Children of Israel… (B’midbar 1:2) Sefer B’Midbar, the fourth book of the Torah, begins and ends with a census count. This is why the book is known in English as the Book of Numbers. The Hebrew name, B’midbar, means […]

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Behar: We Do Not Own the Earth

V’ha’aretz lo timacher l’tzmitut, ki li ha’aretz, ki gerim v’toshavim atem imadi The land cannot be sold in perpetuity, for the land belongs to Me, and you are but temporary residents on My earth. (Leviticus 25:23) Last week I argued for the importance of understanding the expansive evolution that Jewish law and practice has undergone […]

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Emor: An Eye for an Eye?

V’ish ki yiten mum ba’amito, ka’asher asah ken ya’aseh lo: shever tachat shever, ayin tachat ayin, shen tachat shen. Ka’asher yiten mum ba’adam, ken yinaten bo.  A person who inflicts injury on his fellow, as he did so shall be done to him: a fracture for a fracture, an eye for an eye, a tooth […]

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Tazria-Metzora: Body as Temple

Va’yedaber YHVH el Moshe leimor: zot tih’yeh torat ha’metzora b’yom tohorato. YHVH said to Moses: “This is the Torah (instruction) for a person with the skin affliction Metzora so that they may be restored to wholeness. (Leviticus 14:1) This week (and the next) we read a double portion of Torah. The extra reading is a […]

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