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The Light in the Ark
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Amid all the drama of the impending Flood and the destruction of almost all of creation, we focus on Noah building the ark, and hear one detailed instruction: Make a tzohar for the ark and terminate it within a cubit of the top. (Gen. 6:16) There is a difficulty understanding what “tzohar” means, since the […]
The Genesis of Love
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In The Lonely Man of Faith, Rabbi Soloveitchik drew our attention to the fact that Bereishit contains two separate accounts of creation. The first is in Genesis 1, the second in Genesis 2-3, and they are significantly different. ​In the first, God is called Elokim, in the second, Hashem Elokim. In the first, man and […]
Let My Teaching Drop as Rain
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In the glorious song with which Moses addresses the congregation, he invites the people to think of the Torah – their covenant with God – as if it were like the rain that waters the ground so that it brings forth its produce: Let my teaching drop as rain, My words descend like dew, Like […]
The Torah as God’s Song
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At the end of his life, having given the Israelites at God’s behest 612 commands, Moses gave them the final mitzvah: “Now therefore write down for yourselves this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be My witness against the people of Israel” (Deut. […]
Not Beyond the Sea
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When I was a student at university in the late 1960s – the era of student protests, psychedelic drugs, and the Beatles meditating with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – a story went the rounds. An American Jewish woman in her sixties travelled to north India to see a celebrated guru. There were huge crowds waiting […]
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 […]
Animal Welfare
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Ki Teitse is about relationships: between men and women, parents and children, employers and employees, lenders and borrowers. Strikingly, though, it is also about relationships between humans and animals. Descartes thought that animals lacked souls. Therefore you could do with them as you pleased.[1] Judaism does not believe that animals lack souls – “The righteous […]
The Ecological Imperative
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In the course of setting out the laws of war, the Torah adds a seemingly minor detail that became the basis of a much wider field of human responsibility, and is of major consequence today. The passage concerns a military campaign that involves laying siege to a city: When you lay siege to a city […]
Collective Joy
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If we were to ask what key word epitomises the society Jews were to make in the Promised Land, several concepts would come to mind: justice, compassion, reverence, respect, holiness, responsibility, dignity, loyalty. Surprisingly, though, another word figures centrally in Moses’ speeches in Deuteronomy. It is a word that appears only once in each of […]
The Politics of Memory
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In Eikev Moses sets out a political doctrine of such wisdom that it can never become redundant or obsolete. He does it by way of a pointed contrast between the ideal to which Israel is called, and the danger with which it is faced. This is the ideal: Observe the commands of the Lord your […]