Category Archives: Torah Study

Torah: The Torah’s Call for Radical Egalitarianism

Peoplehood functioned as a placeholder and a worldview that upheld and solidified the core movements, institutions, and practices of twentieth century American Jewry. Jewish identity appears to be slowly but steadily moving away from a paradigm of Jewish peoplehood toward one of Jewish meaning. In this new paradigm, texts, ideas, values, and practices that answer the question “Why be Jewish?” become the primary portals for Jewish identity.

The Trope: Korach

Torah: Numbers 16:1 – 18:32 Click here.

Haftarah: I Samuel 11:14 – 12:22 – Click here.

Torah: People and Land in Relationship (Shelach 2018)

The People of Israel’s relationship to the Land of Israel is often compared to that of lovers. At times this relationship is romanticized and idealized, immune to everyday realities. Other times, the relationship is defined by frustrations and a sense of hopelessness. In this week’s Torah portion, Shelach Lecha, both paradigms are presented.

The Trope: Shelach

Torah: Numbers 13:1 – 15:41 Click here.

Haftarah: Joshua 2:1 – 2:24 – Click here.

Torah: Embracing Our Complicated Selves (Beha’alotcha 2018)

The Midrash tells of the angels on high frustrated with God’s decision to give the imperfect Children of Israel the Torah. Moshe confronts the angels: Who then will observe it (the Torah)? You angels? Only man can assume the Law and live by its precepts.
(Elie Wiesel)

No. Moses lives fully, embracing his complicated human self. For this we say Lo Kam b’Yisrael k’Moshe Od, no one human can replace, replicate, the greatness of Moses. The prophet is human, after all.

The Trope: Beha’alotcha

Torah: Numbers 8:1 – 12:16 Click here.

Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14 – 4:7 – Click here.

Torah: Creating Communities of Meaning (Bamidbar 2018)

In the institutional American Jewish world, over the past half century, there has been what scholars call a Theology, a Halacha of Demographics: How many people registered for our program? Who is affiliated and with whom? Who is engaged with Israel and why?  This has become the bulk of the conversation, the Halacha of American Jewish life.

But the problem, the challenge, isn’t demographics or not giving Hitler a posthumous victory. Rather it is about creating communities of meaning. Communal systems cannot flourish where their only narrative are numbers and rules. For true vibrancy, communities require human stories –- of suffering and triumph, conflict and euphoria, humor and love –- to ensure that a community understands its own depth and complexities.

We are here to serve each other. To answer the question, “Why remain Jewish?” To teach each other how a commitment to Jewish life will, as Jay Michaelson writes, revive our spirit, rekindle our passion for living, and infuse our lives with joy and with meaning. Satisfy our need to touch the transcendent in the world. Express our very humanity.

The Trope: Bamidbar

Torah: Numbers 1:1 – 4:20 – Click here.

Haftarah: Hosea 2:1 – 2:22 – Click here.

Torah: The Jubilee Year — Meshing Human to God and Human to Human Relationships (Behar-Bechukotai 2018)

At the very heart of our tradition is the notion that there is holiness in the world and that we are responsible, accountable, to God, for having such holiness realized.  That the way in which you and I behave in the world ultimately helps to shape and repair our universe. That God charges us with the responsibility of contributing to the repair of the world, to the completion of a Creation.

The Trope

Behar: Leviticus 25:1 – 26:2 – Click here.

Bechotai: Leviticus 26:3 – 27:34 – Click here.

Torah: It’s About Separation, Not Morality: Rethinking Homosexuality in the Torah — Acharei Mot / Kedoshim 2018

The Torah was given in the desert, to emphasize its universal availability. This is a trope of pluralism, universalism, and tolerance, regardless of who someone has sex with or, for that matter, whether they like eggplant or not.

The Trope

Acharei Mot – Lev. 16:1 – 18:30Click here.

Kedoshim – Lev. 19:1 – 20:27Click here.