Torah Portion

Articles on the weekly Torah readings, including inspiration and explanations.

Parashat Naso: Shalom - Peace

Why is peace such a fundamental component of a Jew’s life? And what is the ideal peace for which we yearn?

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
19/05/2021
A ladder stands in front of two paintings by Pablo Picasso at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem; Picass

Parashat Bamidbar: The two titles

There will always be people enchanted by the openness of the world, who neglect the necessity for order.

13/05/2021
MOSES HOLDS his staff at the Battle of Rephidim in this painting titled ‘Victory O Lord!’ (1871) by

Parashat Bamidbar: Ohel Mo’ed: Intimacy & modesty

God’s speaking to Moses – more than reflecting holiness, reflects the intimacy of direct communication and connection with the creator.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
13/05/2021

Parashat Behar-Behukotai: The power of ‘if’

The more we explore “if” the more lightning we find in the word.

06/05/2021

Parashat Behar-Behukotai: An answer of once in a half-century

In the agricultural context in which the Torah was received, land was the main source of income, and owning a lot of land was a source of wealth.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
06/05/2021

Parashat Aharei Mot-Kedoshim: Forgiveness and self-love

If you are not to hold a grudge, what ought one to do?

22/04/2021
Bronze bull idol unearthed at the archaeological site of Olympia

Parashat Aharei Mot-Kedoshim: Respect vs. power

The commandment that envelops this parasha throughout is “You shall be holy!”

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
22/04/2021

Parashat Tazria-Metzora: The school of solitude

Coming off a pandemic, when so many have been isolated, we might be inclined to view all isolation as punitive.

15/04/2021
LEPROSY, PLATE LXX from Prince Albert Morrow, 1889

Parashat Tazria-Metzora: Self-esteem and conceit

From the stories in the Torah of people with leprosy, we can infer what the social impairment is that leads to this impurity: gossip, slandering the name of someone else.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
15/04/2021
THE MISHKAN tent. (Wikimedia Commons)

Parashat Vayakhel – Pekudei: Supplying the stairs

Reading this week’s Torah portion reveals several different staircases connecting the Mishkan and Shabbat.

11/03/2021
‘MOSES WITH the Ten Commandments,’ Philippe de Champaigne, 1648: Why not read them every day?

Parashat Vayakhel – Pekudei: Who produces our medicine?

We notice a phrase that is repeated often while the Torah describes the execution of the directions: “As the Lord commanded Moses.” This phrase is repeated no fewer than 19 times.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
11/03/2021

Parashat Mishpatim: Optimism and pessimism square off

This story is yet another chapter in the battle between Amalek and the Jewish nation.

Mishkan, or Tabernacle in English

Parashat Terumah: Making space

The building of the mishkan did not change God, but it changed Israel. God may be the same everywhere, but we are not.

18/02/2021
MENACHEM MENDEL SCHNEERSON, the beloved Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Parashat Terumah: Who wants imperfect deeds?

How can one uphold both truth and peace, and then go so far as to claim that the world can only exist when both truth and peace exist?

Mishpatim: A continuum of doing and listening

Parashat Yitro and Parashat Mishpatim are seen as a continuum.

Parashat Yitro: The coming of Jethro

Moses shows true emotion upon seeing Jethro.

By NECHAMA GOLDMAN BARASH
04/02/2021

Parashat Yitro: What preceded the receiving of the Torah?

The parasha is called Yitro because it begins with the story of Jethro coming to the Israelites’ encampment.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
04/02/2021
Exodus from Egypt (Edward Poynter)

Parashat Beshalach - What do you carry?

All of us carry a great deal through life – memories, aspirations, relationships, burdens, natural gifts.

28/01/2021

Parashat Beshalach - Exodus from slavery to song

This Shabbat is termed Shabbat Shira for Shirat HaYam, the Song of the Sea, read in this parasha.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
28/01/2021
A MAN wraps fresh matza during Passover in Ashdod in 2016

Parashat Bo: Multiple meanings of matzah

There are (at least) three different reasons for eating unleavened bread; and together with a fourth, symbolic reason, all of them tie together in one of those mystical weaves.

21/01/2021
Exodus from Egypt (Edward Poynter)

Parashat Bo: Being ‘on the job’

The Jewish nation left Egypt to fulfill its Divine purpose: to receive the Torah, establish in the Land of Israel a state that will operate on the basis of the laws and values of the Torah.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
21/01/2021
THE FAMOUS Egyptian pyramids are a perfect example of ancient Egypt’s power and spiritual decay

Parashat Va'era: When power meets empathy

People often use power, and when it is employed, it is not easy to overcome it. The Midrash teaches us that when power is met with empathy, consideration and compassion, it collapses and retreats.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
14/01/2021
‘MOSES WITH the Ten Commandments,’ Philippe de Champaigne, 1648: Why not read them every day?

Parashat Va'era: Despair and destinations

The news of liberation comes to the slaves of Israel – but they are unable to hear it.

14/01/2021
THE PARTING of the Red Sea during the Jewish nation’s escape from Egypt, an illustration from a Bibl

Parashat Shemot: What makes a hero?

Moses’s personal struggles enable him to summon the strength despite his initial unwillingness.

07/01/2021
‘MOSES WITH the Ten Commandments,’ Philippe de Champaigne, 1648: Why not read them every day?

Parashat Shemot: An unglamorous leader

One of the skills a leader needs is the ability to make speeches and persuade the masses, and this was something Moses felt he could not do.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
07/01/2021
Tzipori Park (Israel Nature and Parks Authority)

What does the 'lech lecha' phrase mean?

What does 'lech lecha' mean, and how can we understand it as a calling to search for God?

‘JACOB WRESTLING with the Angel,’ fresco of Eugène Delacroix.

Parashat Vayeshev: The angel’s lesson

The drama of Israel – the selling of Joseph, the slavery and redemption – seems to hinge on an accidental encounter in the field with a stranger.

13/12/2020

Two names, two spiritual attitudes

The name of Jacob was given to him at birth but to understand it we must go back to the months prior to his birth.

Tu Bishvat

Vayishlach: The tree of tears

We are in the middle of the drama of Jacob’s life. Why does the Torah pause to note the death of a woman about whom almost nothing is known?

06/12/2020

Parashat Vayetzeh: Someone hears your crying

In telling us about Leah's ugliness, the Torah is helping us deduce why she merited marrying Jacob

Thanksgiving reminds us of the enduring power of Judaism to enrich the human condition.

Parashat Vayetzeh: Serving religion for Thanksgiving

Shabbat shalom and happy Thanksgiving!

By MOSHE TARAGIN
30/11/2020
'Two sisters,' Finnish National Gallery

The twinned relationship of Leah and Rachel

This sense of deep loyalty and connection finds its way into an extremely erotic and startling narrative

By NECHAMA GOLDMAN BARASH
30/11/2020

Parashat Vayetzeh: Transformation

Jacob has not learned to love

30/11/2020

Parashat Toldot: Courageous, conservative, or a survivor?

This week, we read the single parasha that describes the life of the Jewish nation’s second, middle, forefather – Isaac.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
19/11/2020

Parashat Chayei Sarah: Avraham Avinu’s wonderful death

‘And they did eat and drink, he and the men that were with him, and tarried all night; and they rose up in the morning, and he said: “Send me away unto my master”’(Chayei Sarah 24:54)

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
12/11/2020

Parashat Vayera: Divine revelation vs others’ needs‏

Abraham’s life was based on giving.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
08/11/2020
See yourself as responsible for repairing the world: "Make this world better"

Parashat Lech Lecha: The responsible one

This week’s parasha, Lech Lecha, opens with God’s instructions to Abraham.

Water flows furiously at Samach River during heavy rains, on the Golan Heights in January.

Parashat Noah: Two stories and one promise

What caused Noah to merit being the only survivor from whom humanity would continue after the flood?

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
26/10/2020

Bereshit: Repairing Humpty Dumpty

Was man created primarily good and virtuous or fundamentally evil and immoral?

By MOSHE TARAGIN
15/10/2020

Parashat Bereishit: Different and together

The solution to loneliness is the relationship between man and woman, the “helpmate opposite him” that God creates.

Yom Kippur: Decisions and tears

One aspect of these days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur can be defined as a “chance for appeal.”

Blowing shofar in Jerusalem's Nahlaot neighborhood

Rosh Hashanah: The year when hope is fulfilled

We must admit that the unknown is far greater than the known.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
17/09/2020

Parashat Nitzavim-Vayelech - A moment of honesty

Teshuva is primarily an emotional process that has practical implications.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
10/09/2020

Parashat Ki Tavo: A successful society’s foundations

Prohibitions that ‘merit’ being cursed are all acts that damage relationships between people.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
03/09/2020

Parashat Ki Tetze: A Jewish practical lifestyle

Why was the continuity of the story connecting the Jewish nation’s past and future broken so that the speech could review a succession of halachic directions on such a wide range of subjects?

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
27/08/2020

Parashat Shoftim: Kingship – for a fair justice system

The king is not a god and has no special rights.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
19/08/2020

What we can learn from the ‘Ir Nidahat’?

We will focus on the third offense, the ir nidahat, or an entire city that shows disloyalty to God and is condemned to total annihilation.

By NECHAMA GOLDMAN BARASH
13/08/2020

Parashat Re'eh: In what world are we living?

The words ‘abomination’ and ‘hates’ appear only once in the entire Torah.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
13/08/2020

Parshat Va’Ethanan: Innocent addition or destruction of a masterpiece?

Let us imagine someone taking a Rembrandt painting and adding a few of his own lines or drops of paint.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
02/08/2020
After a year of trial-and-error, the Hebrews built a Tabernacle – so that God could dwell within the

Inauguration of the Tabernacle first step in evolution of Judaism

THE INAUGURATION of the State of Israel on the fifth of Iyar is akin to the inauguration of the Tabernacle on the first of Nissan – the beginning of a new era of Judaism.

31/07/2020

Parashat Devarim: The values that give us the right to exist

The role of a judge is so sensitive and significant, there is no room for mediocrity.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
23/07/2020

Parashat Masei: Understanding Jews who don’t support Israel

It is tempting to dismiss these opponents merely as self-hating Jews, thinking, “What type of proud Jew could possibly be opposed to the Jewish state?”

By MOSHE TARAGIN
15/07/2020

Parashat Matot-Masei: What anger does to us

The entrance to the Land of Israel was replete with wars, and this week we read about the war fought against the five kings of Midian.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
15/07/2020

Parashat Pinhas: Psalm from within the earth

In this week’s portion, we read a long chapter that summarizes the census that took place in the Moab plains on the western side of the Jordan River.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
09/07/2020

The Israelites and Midianite women: What really happened in the tent?

At the beginning of next week’s Torah portion, God steps forward and validates Pinhas for turning back His wrath from the Israelites, and is granted a covenant of peace and the pact of priesthood.

By NECHAMA GOLDMAN BARASH
02/07/2020
WHY WAS Balaam so amazed when he saw the tents in the Israelites’ camp?

Parashat Balak: Loyalty to family and nation

Balaam understood that family values require effort and that marriage requires effort, restraint and loyalty.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
02/07/2020
‘IT WOULD be mistaken to think that God gives commands that are meaningless.’

Parashat Chukat: Logic and obedience

The description sounds foreign to our modern ears, but this does not mean Western culture is better than ancient rituals.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
25/06/2020
WE SEE money-hungry traitors versus a devoted and incorruptible leader. But when the story was unfol

Parashat Korach: Which side to choose?

How are we to know, in situations we encounter in our lives, how to make the right choices?

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
19/06/2020
USING WOOL to prepare the thread for the making of tzitzit.

Parashat Shelah: Reality and tzitzit

The commandment of tzitzit is one of the special commandments in the Torah whose purpose is clearly written in a manner that cannot be ignored.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
11/06/2020
DESERT WANDERINGS: The Jewish Nation’s beginnings.

Parashat Beha'alotcha: A story of humility and sensitivity

Eldad and Medad, two anonymous people who are never mentioned again in the bible, teach us of the importance of humility and sensitivity as a condition for spiritual distinction.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
04/06/2020
AN AMERICAN synagogue sanctuary adorned with greenery in honor of Shavuot.

Shavuot 5780: A holiday of process

Every day, we decide if we are receiving the Torah and adopting the worldview and lifestyle it proposes.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
27/05/2020
THE POWER of tzitzit: A haredi man gets dressed after immersing in a mikveh  near a water spring in

Parashat Bamidbar: The book of the holy nation

The commandment of tzitzit is for every Jew, and it teaches us that every Jew is part of a framework of identity and belonging, with a purpose and a role.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
21/05/2020
COLLECTING ONIONS in a field in the Judean Valley. The farmer must let his fields lay fallow during

Parashat Behar-Bechukotai: Humility as a condition for Torah

Every seventh year, farmers in the Land of Israel must let their fields lie fallow and surrender the harvest to society – Jews and non-Jews – and even to animals.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
14/05/2020

Parashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim: Partnership, faith and humility

Man has the choice of being passive, enjoying the world as a guest, or being active and creative.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
30/04/2020
LEPROSY, PLATE LXX from Prince Albert Morrow, 1889

Parashat Tazria-Metzora: What benefit is there to quarantine?

When we examine these Torah readings, we must start with a basic premise: These were not contagious illnesses, and the purification process did not include any acts that were hygienic or medical.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
24/04/2020
THIS IS a good time for strengthening deep family relationships: Gedalyahu family, 1948, Petah Tikva

Parashat Shmini: Clarity and lucidity of a spiritual leader

Clarity, lucidity of thought, and decisiveness are necessary to be able to distinguish between the sacred and the profane.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
16/04/2020

Parsha Vayakhel Pekudei: Quarantine, loneliness, and unconditional love

These are difficult times. We all send wishes for a speedy and complete recovery to all those who are sick, and condolences to the bereaved families. Our hearts are with you!

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
20/03/2020
‘THE ALTAR of incense.’  (Print from the Phillip Medhurst Collection of Bible illustrations;

Parashat Ki Tisa: turning a bad smell to a good aroma

One of the directives pertains to the making of the incense, a blend of herbs and balms placed on coals inside the Mishkan, which spread a pleasant smell

‘THE TORAH is a gate’: Old Jerusalem outer gate of the Istanbuli Synagogue, Jewish Quarter, Old City

Parshat Truma: Judaism is a gate to the real thing

We can’t help but wonder: Why do you we need to know all these details?

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
27/02/2020
‘THE TORAH is a book that establishes the status of the common man.’

Parashat Yitro - To whom is God speaking?

God spoke to everyone and wanted a partnership with everyone

PARSHAT BESHALAH: Being ‘God’s hand’

When we work toward positive goals, when we try to add holiness to human reality, we merit being the “hand of God.”

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
07/02/2020
The Jewish home

Parashat Bo: The Jewish home

The path to freedom and goals.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
31/01/2020

Parashat Emor: Great is human dignity

Judaism sees the proper and respectful treatment of a person’s dead body as an expression of human dignity.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
10/01/2020

Parashat BEHAR: Giving charity to guarantee dignity

The ‘highest level’ of charity per Maimonides is not to support the poor financially, but to prevent a person from becoming poor.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
10/01/2020

PARASHAT BEHUKOTAI: Jewish instinct

Although learning Torah is counted as one of the Torah’s commandments, it stands alone and unique above all the other commandments.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
10/01/2020

PARASHAT BEHA’ALOTCHA: Humility, trust and loyalty

Everyone is welcome to climb up and whoever makes the effort will attain results.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
10/01/2020

PARASHAT KI TAVO: Repairing relationships

This commandment expresses the farmer’s Jewish compassion that gives him the responsibility for others’ fate.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
10/01/2020
Ben Ezer - fruit gift boxes

Parashat Vayetze: Gratitude – acknowledging truth

Judah, of course, did not intend to express gratitude to Tamar for what she had done. He meant to admit the truth.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
10/01/2020
FAITH IN God allows us to see beyond the horizon

Parashat Vayishlach : The light at the end of the night

Faith in God allows us to see beyond the horizon; to see the light at the end of the tunnel, even when that light is still hidden.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
10/01/2020
‘JACOB WRESTLING with the Angel,’ fresco of Eugène Delacroix.

Jacob’s & Herzl’s struggle

Herzl’s interpretation of Jacob’s conflict also is indicative of his own.

10/01/2020

Parashat Kedoshim: What does it mean to be holy?

Every person in the community has the ability to attain this exalted status of holiness.

By NECHAMA GOLDMAN BARASH
10/01/2020
From left - Jon Boydon, Emma Hatton, Jenna Lee-James and Peter Eldridge soak up the applause before

The bohemian rhapsody of Queen Symphonic

The air was full of excitement and curiosity in Tel Aviv last night as the Ashdod Symphony Orchestra took the stage with cast members of the West End's We Will Rock You musical.

Joseph's coffin was indeed buried in the land of Israel: Joseph's Tomb, before 1899

Parashat Vayehi: Future goal and present existence

Jacob’s and Joseph’s life stories are also amazingly similar. They both find themselves in a foreign country following an altercation with their brothers; they both work for a foreign master, etc.

By SHMUEL RABINOWITZ
09/01/2020
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