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Influence & Power
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Knowing that he is about to die, Moses turns to God and asks him to appoint a successor: Moses said to the Lord, “May the Lord, God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring […]
A People That Dwells Alone
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One of the most profound and influential comments ever made about Jewish destiny was made by the pagan prophet Bilaam in this week’s sedra: As I see them from the mountain tops,  Gaze on them from the heights,  Behold it is a people that dwells alone,  Not reckoned among the nations. (Num. 23:9) To many – […]
Descartes’ Error
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In his recent bestseller, The Social Animal, New York Times columnist David Brooks writes: We are living in the middle of the revolution in consciousness. Over the past few years, geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, anthropologists, and others have made great strides in understanding the building blocks of human flourishing. And a core finding of their […]
A Lesson in Conflict Resolution
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The Korach rebellion was the single most dangerous challenge to Moses’ leadership during the forty years that he led the people through the wilderness. The precise outline of events is difficult to follow, probably because the events themselves were tumultuous and disorderly. The narrative makes it clear, however, that the rebels came from different groups, […]
Freedom Needs Patience
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Whose idea was it to send the spies? According to this week’s sedra, it was God. The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from […]
Leadership Beyond Despair
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Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, is remarkable for the extreme realism with which it portrays human character. Its heroes are not superhuman. Its non-heroes are not archetypal villains. The best have failings; the worst often have saving virtues. I know of no other religious literature quite like it. This makes it very difficult to use biblical […]
The Pursuit of Peace
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Bamidbar takes up the story as we left it toward the end of Shemot. The people had journeyed from Egypt to Mount Sinai. There they received the Torah. There they made the Golden Calf. There they were forgiven after Moses’ passionate plea, and there they made the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, inaugurated on the first of […]
The Ever-Repeated Story
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Bamidbar takes up the story as we left it toward the end of Shemot. The people had journeyed from Egypt to Mount Sinai. There they received the Torah. There they made the Golden Calf. There they were forgiven after Moses’ passionate plea, and there they made the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, inaugurated on the first of […]
Minority Rights
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One of the most striking features of the Torah is its emphasis on love of, and vigilance toward, the ger, the stranger: Do not oppress a stranger; you yourselves know how it feels to be strangers, because you were strangers in Egypt. (Ex. 23:9) For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of […]
Parshat Emor: The Duality of Jewish Time
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Alongside the holiness of place and person is the holiness of time, something parshat Emor charts in its deceptively simple list of festivals and holy days (Lev. 23:1-44). Time plays an enormous part in Judaism. The first thing God declared holy was a day: Shabbat, at the conclusion of creation. The first mitzvah given to […]