An Exercise in Time Travel

AvodahThis week, in our Torah, we read of the High Priest’s service in the ancient Temple of Jerusalem.  On the other side of the summer, when – with heaven’s help – we arrive at our Day of Atonement, we will read these verses again, and our traditional liturgy will give us the opportunity to walk through the Temple-service...

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What's Kosher in a Complex World?

“These are the instructions concerning animals, birds, all living creatures that move in water, and all creatures that swarm on earth, for distinguishing between the unclean and the clean, between the living things that may be eaten and the living things that may not be consumed.” (Leviticus 11:46-47)

By legacy, by history – by divine decree, if you like – we are a people of discernment. 

Our tradition gives us such binary categories as pure and...

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Freedom for Love and Law

Seder PlateThe story of Passover is one of the world’s oldest and most influential accounts of liberation, the transit of a nation “from ignominy to celebration,” in the words of the Mishnah, “from servitude to freedom, from mourning to holiday, and from gloom to great light,” in the words of the Seder’s Haggadah.

Freedom enables...

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Come Inside

This week, from Israel, and the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City to be precise, as we begin to consider our ancestors’ earthly portal to the heavens, in our cycle of scriptures starting to read the ritual manual of the ancient Temple, the book of Leviticus – in Hebrew, Vayikra – “Then the Eternal One called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting” (Leviticus 1:1) – which Rashi, (Rabbi Shelomo Yitzchaki, 1040-1105, the essential commentator, who digests the ancient legacy of Midrash into concise notes upon the verses) calls “parlance of endearment,”...

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Housing Day!

Housing Day“Thus all the work that King Solomon did building the House of the Eternal One was completed...” (I Kings 7:51)

If, as according to Rabbi Simeon ben Gamaliel, “Israel had no greater days of joy than the fifteenth of the month of Av and the Day of Atonement,” (Mishnah, Ta’anit... Read more about Housing Day!

Who Knows?

"Who knows...?"  says Mordecai to Esther in the story of the Megillah that we have just read this past week, on Purim.  

The question resonates with our reading from the Torah this Shabbat.  Here, reprinted, is a talk I delivered on this week's scriptures at Morning Prayers in Harvard's Memorial Church two years ago:


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More Light!

Lights“And now,” says the Divine to Moses, in our reading from the Torah this week, “tell the Children of Israel to bring you clear oil of beaten olives, for light, to kindle an eternal lamp.
In the tent of meeting, outside the curtain,
there shall Aaron and his descendants set it,
to burn from evening to morning before the Eternal One,

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What Lights Our Fire?

oil lampAmong the contributions the Children of Israel are instructed to bring forward for constructing a sanctuary, in this week’s reading, is “oil for lighting” (Exodus 25:6).

“With what are we to light, and with what are we not to light?” asks the Mishnah, the earliest...

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