“The rivers of his hands [נהרות ידיו] poured into his good deeds,” reads the Yehuda Amichai poem “My Father.” The Hebrew Poetry group at Temple Micah discussed this poem on Shabbat, and I later recalled some background which seems related. Rabbi Meir says in Pirkei Avot: Anyone who involves himself in Torah for its own […]

The Torah portion Toldot (Gen. 25:19 – 28:9) illustrates the struggles of nations and individuals. We are simultaneously the inheritors of this mess and the participants – all of them – in the heart-breaking. So, I want to look at the sad state we’re in and see if we can find a way through by […]

“This is what travelers discover: that when you sever the links of normality and its claims, when you break off from the quotidian, it is the teapots that truly shock. Nothing is so awesomely unfamiliar as the familiar that discloses itself at the end of a journey.” This week, I’ve been hearing Psalm 137 among […]

In this week’s Torah portion, two of the central characters receive new names: Abram becomes Abraham (Gen 17:4), and Sarai, Sarah (17:15). God announces this to Abraham as part of a statement of the covenant between them. Both Abraham אַבְרָהָם and Sarah שָׂרָה now have a “ה” (hey) in their names. Thus, each now carries […]

Sandwiched in a Torah portion packed with narrative is “the war of the kings” with Lot’s capture and rescue (Gen. 14). It begins, really, with Abraham and his nephew Lot separating to avoid quarrel over land for cattle herding (Gen. 13). YHVH spoke to Abraham “after Lot had parted from him,” promising “descendants like dust […]

An angel encounters Hagar in the wilderness (Gen. 16:7). At this point, she has been introduced to us as maid to Sarah, who has been married to Abraham for ten years without producing a child (16:1). We are told that she was given by Sarah “as wife” to Abraham, that she became pregnant, and subsequently, […]

Curse and Covenant The “curse of Ham” — with related ideas about slavery and race, unsupported by the the text itself — emerged over the centuries from the biblical story of Noah. Regardless of our particular faith community’s approach to this curse concept, there is no denying the damage done by what one author calls […]