Ezekiel, Exodus, and Babylon

Exploring Babylon Chapter 17 Recent scholarship concerning the prophet Ezekiel touches on some fascinating questions about the extent to which Judeans in Babylonian exile were acculturated and how cultural contact between Babylon and Israel might have affected Jewish sacred text. Much of the discussion revolves around links between the Book of Exodus and Ezekiel’s visions. […]

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Opening and the Ark

What does it mean to open the Ark? In my experience the Torah service exhibits more diversity than any other part of a Jewish service. Reading length varies across denominations. General approach ranges from informal circles embracing Torah to formal, long-standing choreography. And the Torah service is one spot where women’s absence on the bima, […]

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The Power of Tzitzit

“Something Borrowed, Something Blue,” posted last week, mentions a 30-day grace period before a four-cornered garment requires tzitzit [ritual fringes]. This ruling is attributed to Rav Judah. It appears in his name in tractate Chullin (110a-110b) within a story that appears to be challenging strictures that serve as barriers to observance. The same ruling is […]

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Psalm 27 for the season (4 of 4)

“If you’re not 20 minutes early, you’re late,” my ballet teacher, Marie Paquet, used to tell her adult students: Without time to leave behind the outside world and prepare to focus, warm up physically and mentally, class could be frustrating, even dangerous. Over the years, I’ve realized that her adage also applies to worship services. […]

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“The Jews Welcome…

…God” Each Sukkot morning, many of us stand momentarily with God’s name across our chests, facing away from us, like so many tour guides awaiting the same unfamiliar customer.

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High Priest’s Prayer for Those on Fault-Lines

As the ancient Jewish community added a prayer on Yom Kippur for those in an especially vulnerable spot, let us consider doing the same: May this year that is coming be one of abundance, building, compromise, dialogue, respect and understanding, a year in which all realize their interdependence and work together for the common good. […]

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Awaiting the Harvests: Re’eh Prayer Links

“You find three verses [two in this week’s portion] that command you to rejoice in the Feast of Tabernacles….For Passover, however, you will not find even one command to rejoice. Why not?” Several explanations are offered in the commentary for the variations of joy-related commandments (there is one command to rejoice for Shavuot). Each explanation […]

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Then Israel Sang: Leadership Variation

“Then,” after safely crossing the Sea of Reeds, the Egyptians’ pursuit thwarted, “Moses and the Israelites sang…Miriam took her timbrel…and all the women followed her” (Exodus/Shemot 15:1, 20-21). “Then” — forty years later, after God tells Moses: “Assemble the people that I may give them water” (Numbers/Bamidbar 21:16) and without apparent prompting or leading — […]

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Be Not Afraid: Community and Challah

Two of the most iconically gendered concepts in Jewish prayer — that “tenth man” for a minyan, on the one hand, and taking challah, one of three “women’s commandments,” on the other — come from this week’s portion. But gender issues can, I think, distract from other prayer ideas suggested by these same verses.

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