Posted on February 19th, 2018

Exodus 27:20 - 30:10; Maftir:  Deuteronomy 25:17-19 

By Rabbi Steven Nathan for Reconstructing Judaism

Why Moses Did Not Become A Priest

This week's parashah, Tetzaveh, begins with God commanding Moses “And as for you, you shall instruct the Israelites to bring you pure olive oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling the Eternal Lamp (Exodus 27:20).” At first glance it does not appear that there is anything unusual or extraordinary about this verse. It is simply God giving Moses another instruction concerning the Mishkan (Tabernacle), just as God instructed him last week on how he was to build it. However, it is precisely because God's instructions to Moses had been at the center of the preceding narrative that commentators have questioned why the verse begins “V'atah tetzaveh” (and as for you, you shall command) as opposed to simply tzav (command!) or tetzaveh (you shall command). After all, “and as for you” would seem to imply that the previous verses had been addressed or referred to someone else.

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Posted on February 12th, 2018

Exodus 25:1−27:19  

By Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben for Reconstructing Judaism

Wherever We Let God In

In a famous Hasidic saying, the Kotzker Rebbe was once asked: “Where does God dwell?” to which he replied, “Wherever you let Him in.” 

So this week as I read the Torah portion I have wondered about all the places where people let God into their lives, and the places where they keep God out. I spent time today talking with eleven-year-old Alex whose father has been lying in a coma in the hospital for a week, ever since a massive heart attack left him with little chance of recovery. Alex looked up at me through tear-filled eyes and had a message for God: “It sucks! And it isn’t fair.” 

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Shabbat Shekalim - Mishpatim

Posted on February 5th, 2018

Exodus 21:1 - 24:18 

Aviva Presser Aiden for myjewishlearning.com 

The Ban on ‘Tereifah’

Parashat Mishpatim includes a very curious law about eating meat.

Amidst the myriad commandments in Parashat Mishpatim, we find a curious law: You shall be holy to Me; therefore, you shall not eat any ‘tereifah’ in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.

This mitzvah is puzzling, both in its content and context. The first question raised is, of course, what does the verse actually mean? The meaning of the word ‘tereifah’ here can be derived from its context in the Joseph narrative. When Jacob sees Joseph‘s bloody cloak in the hands of Joseph’s brothers, Jacob cries out, “A wild beast has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!” The words Jacob uses to describe Joseph’s presumed demise at the teeth of wild beasts (tarof taraf Yosef) contain the same root as tereifah. This suggests that when the text forbids the eating of tereifah, it specifically refers to the carcass of an animal killed by predators.

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Posted on January 29th, 2018

Exodus 18:1 - 20:23 

Judith Plaskow for myjewishlearning.com 

Women and Revelation

When Moses altered the message given to him by God, he cut women out of the revelation at Sinai.

Read from a feminist perspective, Yitro contains one of the most painful verses in the Torah . At the formative moment in Jewish history, when presumably the whole people of Israel stands in awe and trembling at the base of Mount Sinai waiting for God to descend upon the mountain and establish the covenant, Moses turns to the assembled community and says, “Be ready for the third day: do not go near a woman” (Exodus 19:15). Moses wants to ensure that the people are ritually prepared to receive God’s presence, and an emission of semen renders both a man and his female partner temporarily unfit to approach the sacred (see Leviticus 15:16-18). But Moses does not say, “Men and women do not go near each other.” Instead, at this central juncture in the Jewish saga, he renders women invisible as part of the congregation about to enter into the covenant.

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Posted on January 22nd, 2018

Exodus 13:17 - 17:16 

BY RABBI ELLIOT R. KUKLA for myjewishlearning.com 

Nothing Is Unchangeable

If a sea can split, anything is possible.

For most of the past 3,000 years, civilization was shaped by smallpox. The disease decimated entire populations, destroyed cultures, swept across continents, and altered the course of human history. Smallpox killed five reigning European monarchs in the 18th century alone. For people born in previous centuries, the disease was a fact of nature, a part of life on this planet that appeared as impossible to prevent as natural disasters.

And yet, over the last decades, the facts of nature changed. Widespread vaccination campaigns throughout the 19th and 20th centuries worked. The disease was eradicated. In 1979 the World Health Organization certified the end of smallpox.

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