Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Divrei Torah

Divine Judges: Mishpatim 5778

As a young and casual reader of Torah, I was always dismayed when we reached Mishpatim, this week’s Torah reading. After all, Bereishit and the first 20 chapters of Shemot are just so exciting and actually fun to read. It’s all fascinating stories and compelling characters. And

Versions of Limited Autonomy

Shemot 21;3 tells us about when a master sends free his

Ramesses and Raamses: What and Where Were They?

The term Ramesses, alternatively spelled Raamses, appears in two different usages in the Bible. First, we are told that Joseph settled his family in “the land of Ramesses” (Gen. 47:6, 11). The second usage occurs in Exodus 1:11, where we learn that Israelite slaves helped build

Changing History, by Redemption and by Sin

Nisan as the First Month

The first mitzvah commanded to the Jewish people as a nation was to make the month in which we left Egypt the first month of our year. Ramban to 12:2 says that it’s

Is Secular Music Kosher?

I. Extent of the Prohibition

Music, the Talmud says, is forbidden. How do we know this? The Gemara (Gittin 7a) answers with a few possible verses, including “Do not rejoice, Israel, to joy

Who Knows?

Va’era 5778

What do we really know? That’s not such an easy question to answer. Even when people are confronted with irrefutable

Complications of Seeing Hashem’s Hand

Last time, I pointed out that many of Ramban’s comments early in the book of Shemot challenge us to think about the Exodus from Egypt differently than we did until now. I reviewed some of those in my book “As If We Were There: Readings for a Transformative Passover

Under-Acknowledged Ways to Shape the Future

Since this is the last parsha in Bereishit, it seems fitting that Ramban takes one more opportunity to say that what happens to our forefathers prefigures our national history. On 47:28, he relates Yaakov’s actions in going down to Egypt to the exile we currently endure (and which in turn had been set

A Hope and a Prayer

Vayechi 5778

Why do we pray? Obviously, there could be many answers to that question. I think most people would say, “To get

The Israelites in Egypt: Settlement and Enslavement

In this column, I will discuss elements of the Exodus narrative that appear in parshiyot Vayigash and Shemot: when the Israelites came to Egypt, what may have caused the famine that drove them there, the possible location of the Land of Goshen, and who the “new king” who enslaved them may have been.

Living With the Enemy

Vayishlach 5778

Yaakov Avinu spent big chunks of his life outside of Israel. His last 17 years were, of

Ramban to Vayishlach: Stepping Right, Stepping Wrong

Ramban opens his commentary on Vayishlach (32:4) by telling us it’s meant to inform us that Hashem saved his servant from a stronger foe (Esav), and to teach us that Yaakov did not rely on his righteousness, but made all the attempts he could to save himself. His specific strategies are also a

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