Divrei Torah by Portion

Be-Ha'alotecha: Miriam, Isaiah: We've Got Your Backs

This article first appeared in the IRAC newsletter

"Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Kushite woman whom he had married: for he had married a Kushite woman." --Numbers 12:1

Torah as Metaphor, Example Text: Torah Portion Chukkat

Numbers 19:1- 22:1

There are many approaches to Torah study. My favorites are Remez - finding hints to meaning and Sod (samech daled in Hebrew, pronounced Sohd) - when the text becomes a portal of expanded, seemingly mystical, awareness.

Shir haShirim - Finding and Keeping Love

Last week my husband and I went to spend a day with a psychologist who has made a career of helping men and women have more loving and lasting relationships. The room was filled with hundreds of people—some single, some young marrieds, some who had been married for twenty or thirty years. All had come because they found it hard, if not impossible, to sustain the intense feelings of romance that had pulled them together in the first place.

Book of Ruth - The Torah of Ruth and Naomi

The year after my Bat Mitzvah at age 36, I longed to study as much about Judaism as I could. In those days, there were no "Introduction to Judaism" classes in almost every synagogue, as there are now. The only class that met my needs was one offered to prospective converts— "The Conversion Class," it was called. In that class, no question was too simple, or too naïve. All questions were welcomed. I felt at home.

Simchat Torah - Endings and Beginnings

Simchat Torah is the one of the happiest days in the Jewish calendar, but for me it has an undercurrent of sadness, because my beloved father passed away three days after, in 1990. The weeks before his passing were also painful, and my body remembers this year after year, as I spend one day weeping for no conscious reason, usually between Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur.

Ki Tavo - My Mothers and Father Were Wandering Arameans

Ki Tavo- My Mothers and Father Were Wandering Arameans

People are always asking me about my background. “Where did you grow up? What were your parents like? Were they religious?” It seems to be part of a getting-to-know-you ritual. This sense that roots matters seems to be programmed into us, like a spiritually genetic piece of DNA. Judaism understands this well: in fact it commands us to remember our origins—in our daily prayers, in our Shabbat and holiday prayers, and through our rituals.

Ekev - You Shall be Satisfied

Deut. 8:10
V’achalta v’savata u’vayrachta
And you shall eat
and you shall be satisfied
and you shall bless …
 

Last week I was teaching at a Jewish retreat center, Elat Chayyim, where the food was abundant and every meal was buffet style. Sure enough, when I returned home I had gained 4 pounds. Not only had I gained spiritual nourishment, I had gained water and fat!

Va-Etchanan - Unending Love

This Shabbat we begin the cycle of love; seven special Torah readings leading up to our New Year, Rosh
HaShannah, seven weeks in which we open to the experience of G-d’s love for us, and G-d’s yearning to have us draw closer.

This week we also commemorated the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, Tisha B’Av, which marks the destruction of the First and Second Temple, as well as other tragedies for the Jewish people.

Devarim - The Spiral Journey

Summer is a time of travels, and it reminds me of what I learned at my father’s feet-- to be a good map reader. You find where you are, you locate where you are headed, and you try to figure out the best way to get there. Usually, it’s the shortest road, or the one with the most highway, the fastest way.

B'haalotecha - Torah: The Mirror on the Wall

"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" That famous line from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" spins through my mind. The wicked queen had a daily practice, a meditative practice you might say. Each day she peered into her magic mirror to see how she was doing in life.