Balak 2005 (Numbers 22:2-25:9)

Sometimes one of the hardest things in life is not to care about what other people think of me. When I was growing up throughout elementary school, I was the smallest kid in my class. We used to take class pictures by height, and I always stood at the end of the line. As a …

Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9)

It was watching that lovely sixteen-year-old with both legs in bandages, struggling to take a few painful steps down the hallway of the hospital in Tel Aviv with her walker that got to me first. There I was last Monday afternoon, the first of four intense days in Israel on a “Fact Finding Solidarity Mission” …

Pinkhas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

I keep thinking about my trip last week to Israel. It reminded me of those t-shirts that I see from time to time (usually on African Americans who seem to have the largest families), which proudly announce: “Johnson Family Gathering – Hattie, Mississippi, July 20-24, 1998.” My whirlwind, four-day visit to Israel felt the same …

Shelakh 2 (Numbers 13:1-15:41)

The signs of a spiritual renaissance are all around us.  Candidates are increasingly running for public office while openly touting their religious pedigrees as “believers” and even “born again” men and women.  The shelves in bookstores throughout the country are filled with the latest books on finding your spiritual path, discovering the meaning of life, …

Shelakh (Numbers 13:1-15:41)

I can’t help it. I’d like to write about something else, but I can’t. I wish I could just share your basic, run of the mill inspirational Torah commentary this week, but my heart isn’t in it. I don’t really want to burden you with my own personal sorrow, but I have to talk about …

Hukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1)

This week we read of the death of both of Moses’s siblings, Miriam and Aaron. According to Jewish tradition, throughout the forty years of wandering in the desert the Children of Israel were blessed with a miraculous well of water that followed them wherever they went. It was called “Miriam’s Well,” for it existed due …

Korah (Numbers 16:1-18:32)

Moses faces the most serious challenge to his leadership in his entire career this week. It comes from a man named Korah who was himself part of the leadership elite of the Israelites and a member of Moses’s own tribe. Korah accuses Moses of the sin of acting as if he is holier than (read …

Behaalotkha 2006 (Numbers 8:1-12:16)

I was witness to a miracle last week. Really. It was one of the most powerful and profound moments I have ever been privileged to experience and it touched me so deeply that it brought tears to my eyes. I was reminded of what the great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides once said about the nature …

Behaalotkha-2 (Numbers 8:1-12:16)

I was witness to a miracle last week. Really. It was one of the most powerful and profound moments I have ever been privileged to experience and it touched me so deeply that it brought tears to my eyes. I was reminded of what the great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides once said about the nature …

Naso 2005 (Numbers 4:21-7:89)

One of my favorite passages in the Talmud, is the phrase, “More important than reciting blessings, is to be a blessing.” In many ways it sums up for me the Jewish attitude about the role of human beings in the world. Our job is to be a blessing to others, not only to our family …

Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89)

I remember the day of my rabbinic ordination, some 26 years ago, as if it were yesterday. I had spent five years studying at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, first in Jerusalem, then in Los Angeles and finally in New York. There I was after all those years of study standing …