“And Make Yourselves a New Heart and a New Spirit”
BY: RABBI VERED L. HARRIS
Living in the Golden Mean
Parashat Chukat opens with a description of the parah adumah — often referred to as the red heifer. The ashes of this sacrifice were used for purification. The laws of the red heifer are a classic example of accepting the yoke of the commandments without explanation. The laws of the red heifer do not apply today, as they are specific to a time when the Temple is standing in Jerusalem. But those of us who rinse our hands upon leaving a cemetery or prior to entering a shiva house are observing a remnant of this law.1 Other laws for which the Torah does not give rational explanations but that are enmeshed in Jewish identity include the instruction not to wear garments that mix linen and wool, and many of the dietary restrictions. Without reasons given in the Torah, the most traditional rationale is: God said so.
This story in B’midbar Rabbah2 teaches about this law:
By Rabbi Vered L. Harris, RJE, for ReformJudaism.org
Learning How to Go from Stress to Empowerment
In Parashat Korach, Moses’ cousin, Korach leads a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, demanding, “All the community are holy ... Why then do you raise yourselves above the Eternal’s congregation?” (Numbers 16:3). Often, Korach’s actions are interpreted to be the jealous behavior of one who sees himself as entitled to power. But what if his behavior reflects something different — a feeling of helplessness and a fear of being disenfranchised?
By Rabbi Vered L. Harris for ReformJudaism.org
Hope in the Darkness of Fear
One summer as visiting faculty at Greene Family Camp, I made the mistake of flicking through news headlines on my phone. They were filled with terror, pain, and discord. On one hand, I felt safe and comfortable at camp, surrounded by happy, boisterous campers soaking up the sun, Judaism, and each other. On the other hand, the headlines planted a seed of fear in my gut because of the unpredictability of the larger world.
Numbers 8:1 – 12:16
Rabbi Philip "Flip" Rice for ReformJudaism.org
And Nun Shall Be Afraid!
hout for joy . . . for on that day many nations will attach themselves to God . . . (Zechariah 2:14-15)
Why is it so difficult to journey from a place of self to a place of other? Why are we so afraid as a society and as individuals to lower our shields and swords, and pick up pruning hooks in order to plant a world that overflows with grapevines and fig trees? Would that not make us all shout for joy? And if peace eludes our world, will you also allow it to elude you?
Rabbi Vered L. Harris for ReformJudaism.org
Justice and Mercy Are Jewish Love
When was the last time I made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself? Just asking the question, without even making a list or acting upon it, can cause some consternation. After all, who among us hasn’t crossed a line, fallen back, or hurt others with our choices? If I consider the ways I have sinned against others — those I love and those I don’t — how can I put myself back on track?