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The Genesis of Justice
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There are words that change the world, none more so than two sentences that appear in the first chapter of the Torah: Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over […]
The World’s Most Enduring Moral Voice
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Judaism entered the world as a moral voice. It did so from the beginning, from its account of creation itself. There we read, almost like a litany, “God said, Let there be … and there was … and God saw that it was good.” The emphasis is on the word good. This is the language […]
Sukkot: The Dual Festival
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The sedra of Emor outlines the festivals that give rhythm and structure to the Jewish year. Examining them carefully, however, we see that Sukkot is unusual, unique. One detail which had a significant influence on Jewish liturgy appears later on in the book of Deuteronomy: “Be joyful at your Feast . . . For seven days […]
The Leader’s Call to Responsibility
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When words take wing, they modulate into song. That is what they do here in Haazinu as Moses, with the angel of death already in sight, prepares to take leave of this life. Never before had he spoken with such passion. His language is vivid, even violent. He wants his final words never to be […]
Consensus vs. Command?
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What do you say to your successor? What advice do you give him or her? Vayelech is the place to look for the answer, because it is here that Moses finally handed the reins over to Joshua, and he and God both give him a blessing for the future. But they gave different blessings. Listen […]
Defeating Death
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Only now, reaching Nitzavim-Vayelech, can we begin to get a sense of the vast, world- changing project at the heart of the Divine-human encounter that took place in the lifetime of Moses and the birth of Jews/Hebrews/Israel as a nation. To understand it, recall the famous remark of Sherlock Holmes. “I draw your attention,” he […]
A Nation of Storytellers
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Howard Gardner, professor of education and psychology at Harvard University, is one of the great minds of our time. He is best known for his theory of “multiple intelligences,” the idea that there is not one thing that can be measured and defined as intelligence but many different things – one dimension of the dignity […]
Against Hate
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Ki Tetzei contains more laws than any other parsha in the Torah, and it is possible to be overwhelmed by this embarrass de richesse of detail. One verse, however, stands out by its sheer counter-intuitiveness: Do not despise an Edomite, because he is your brother. Do not despise the Egyptian, because you were a stranger […]
Learning and Leadership
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The parsha of Shoftim is the classic source of the three types of leadership in Judaism, called by the sages the “three crowns”: of priesthood, kingship and Torah.[1] This is the first statement in history of the principle, set out in the eighteenth century by Montesquieu in L’Esprit des Lois, and later made fundamental to […]
Defining Reality
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One of the gifts of great leaders, and one from which each of us can learn, is that they frame reality for the group. They define its situation. They specify its aims. They articulate its choices. They tell us where we are and where we are going in a way no satellite navigation system could. […]