Archive for category: Torah Commentaries

Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22)

24 Jul
July 24, 2015

“Life and death are in the power of the tongue,” declared our ancestors in Proverbs 18:21.  Furthermore they went on to say, “In the multitude of words, there is no lack of sin.” Proverbs 19:10 because they realized how easy it is to talk our way into trouble. In fact, we live in two civilizations […]

Beshalah 2007 (Exodus 13:17-17:16)

01 Mar
March 1, 2015

One of my favorite stories about parents and children is the one where a mother stands on her front porch watching as her young son struggles to lift a large stone that is obviously too heavy for him to manage. She watches in silence as he grunts and groans and strains to lift this heavy […]

Beshalakh (Exodus 13:17-17:16)

21 Feb
February 21, 2015

As you read these words Didi and I are sailing on the high seas off the coast of Australia on a cruise that will end in another week or so in the harbor of Hong Kong. It is an awe inspiring sight to visit so many diverse cities, countries and cultures (Australia, Bali, Borneo, Philippines […]

Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)

14 Feb
February 14, 2015

“How do you know when you have really grown up?” I remember being asked that question one evening by one of my 10th grade Confirmation students, and how it produced one of the most thoughtful and reflective discussions we had that entire year.

Haazinu (Deuteronomy 32)

07 Feb
February 7, 2015

One of my favorite things to do is write children’s songs. Over the years I have written lots of innocuous little ditties for kids as a way of teaching them about Jewish holidays and rituals, ethics and values, and how to treat families and friends. Long ago when I was just starting out as a teacher in religious school I realized that singing a song was an easy and relatively painless way to learn important Jewish lessons about life. So I wrote songs about everything I could think of – from “Hands Hold the Torah Way Up High,” and “Shabbat Shalom Comes to Our Home” to “Kibbutz is Not the Last Car on a Railroad Train.” Kids seemed to like them, and in the process of singing they learn some of the most important lessons about Jewish life.

Three thousand years ago Moses had pretty much the same idea. As he led that bedraggled band of ex-slaves out of four hundred years of Egyptian slavery, he sang them across the sea of reeds to quell their fears, bolster their spirits and teach them that what this invisible God of the Hebrews demanded perhaps more than anything else, was that people be free. Moses’s “Song of the Sea” became the first number one hit song in Jewish history, and we still sing some of its lyrics at every single service in the form of the Mi Hamoha.

Shuvah (Hosea 14:2-10)

28 Jan
January 28, 2015

This has been an incredibly difficult time for us all. We have gone through shock, sadness, anger, grief, calls for revenge, and attacks against Americans with Middle Eastern looks and Muslims both young and old. After the President’s speech to the nation earlier tonight, there emerged a clear sense of our collective resolve to do […]

A Commentary on the Torah and The Passion (Exodus 35:1-40:38)

21 Jan
January 21, 2015

Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan once taught that religious identity is based on the “three Bs” of believing, belonging, and behaving. Last week as I sat through two tortuous hours of Mel Gibson’s “Passion,” the bloodiest, most over-the-top violent movie I have ever seen, I was reminded like never before that Christianity is, at root, all about […]

Bereshit (Genesis 1:1-6:8)

14 Jan
January 14, 2015

“In the beginning…” These words have captured the imagination of countless generations since the beginning of time. Imagine in ancient times as the family sat around a fire at night marveling at the miracle of creation and wondering at the remarkable vision they had of the millions of stars in the heavens and the multitude […]

Noah (Genesis 6:9-11:32)

07 Jan
January 7, 2015

One of the great scourges of the human psyche, is that most of us spend our lives comparing ourselves to others. As a child I remember everything I did was either “good” or “bad” in my own eyes, in relation to how the same thing was done by someone else. Take sports, for example. I […]

Bereshit 2 (Genesis 1:1-6:8)

28 Dec
December 28, 2014

Every culture, every religion, every civilization has its own “creation story.” Ever since there have been human beings on the earth, we have wrestled with the fundamental questions of life, struggled to come up with a compelling narrative that will explain adequately to ourselves and our children where the world itself came from and what […]

Noah 2 (Genesis 6:9-11:32)

21 Dec
December 21, 2014

I am writing this commentary after just returning home from serving as the Master of Ceremonies for the annual “Tree of Life’ award dinner of the Jewish National Fund on Los Angeles. It was a very impressive and moving evening, especially as it brought home that Israel is facing a terrible crisis at the moment […]

Vayishlakh2 (Genesis 32:4-36:43)

14 Dec
December 14, 2014

I have three sisters. Two older and one younger. My youngest sister, Debbie, was born when I was eight years old. In the months leading up to her birth I remember clearly the anxiety I felt over the possibility that it might turn out to be a boy, and I might end up with a […]

Vayekhi (Genesis 47:28-50:26)

07 Dec
December 7, 2014

A woman in our congregation whose son will soon be celebrating his Bar Mitzvah came to see me today with a heavy heart. She told me a sad but unfortunately all too familiar tale of enmity and anger, silence and deep-seated hurt between members of her immediate family. How her mother hasn’t spoken to her […]

Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27)

01 Dec
December 1, 2014

When I was sixteen my family moved from Santa Monica to Sacramento. I had just finished my first year of high school and had been selected to play drums with the SAMOHI jazz band in the Hollywood Bowl (which I did the night before we moved). I was certainly not looking forward to leaving behind […]

Miketz (Genesis 41:1-44:17)

28 Nov
November 28, 2014

“All dreams follow the interpreter.” Talmud, Berakhot 55b Everyone has dreams. Some of us dream of heights we intend to scale, battles we intend to win, glories we intend to capture. Some of us dream of love, or riches, or fame, or the quenching of our deepest desires. Some dreams are vast, and deep, and […]