seventy faces of torah

  In a time when many of us long to be able to “do something,” to repair even a small part of an increasingly broken world
By Rabbi Dr. Michael Shire It was only a few months ago that we saw graphic and horrific images of refugee children dying
Shabbat can function as a break from the unbearably real. We spend our week not only consumed by our personal struggles, large
The Hebrew Bible is not egalitarian or democratic in 21st-century terms. It is rife with violence, prejudice and patriarchy. And yet, we get glimpses, precious insights of what might be, what could be, as generations of living with biblical interpretation unfold.
As we read about and engage with the contentious issues that fill our Facebook feeds, and our other online and in-person conversations, we would do well not just to focus on factual disagreements, but to ask ourselves, "What are the values guiding this person's perspective?"
This week's Torah portion, Matot-Masei, contains violent passages from which most modern readers will want to disassociate ourselves. Many communities will choose to gloss over these passages cursorily, with discomfort if not embarrassment.
If God -- the ultimate Spirit -- can tolerate the shortcomings of human beings, designate a human leader who will do the same. As Rabbi Levi Yitzhak teaches repeatedly (including in his discussion of Moses' sin at Kadesh), a true leader does not beat people down.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the emotions of a moment, in our reflexive reactions to another person's behavior, that we forget the relationship we have with them. We become suspicious and angry, and then spin into a cycle of recrimination and mistrust.
In the Torah portion for this week, Shelach, the Israelites stand at the threshold of the Promised Land, the land of Canaan. Uncertain about what they will find there, scouts are sent ahead -- one from each of the twelve tribes -- to reconnoiter the terrain and assess its inhabitants.
As we recently marked the holiday of Shavuot, many of us in the wee hours between darkness and dawn marked our receiving of Torah on Mount Sinai by studying Torah all night. After 49 days of counting, we have finally reached the apex of the journey we began then.