Hearts, Eyes and Ears: Ki Tavo Prayer Links

The Torah portion Ki Tavo closes with a wonderfully disorienting perspective, as the reading cycle prepares to leave the Israelites on the banks of the Jordan, while we, as readers, prepare for the new year. Who experienced what in the desert years? Who is about to enter the Promised Land, with instructions for bringing the […]

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Remember: Ki Teitzei Prayer Links

Abraham Joshua Heschel’s challenge to explore the “soul” of words in our prayers (see last week’s post) suggests consideration of “zakhor [remember],” which occurs several times in the portion Ki Teitzei: Remember [zakhor] what HASHEM, your God, did to Miriam on the way, when you were leaving Egypt. — Deut./Devarim 24:9 You shall not pervert […]

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You Can’t Spend What You Ain’t Got: Eikev Prayer Links

In this portion, Moses presents the People with a jumble of sentiments — from sweeping promises to dire threats — which found their way into prominent roles in our prayers. And, while biblical context often has little to do with the use the siddur makes of the bible’s language, our prayers do reflect this portion’s […]

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[One Hundred Thirty-]Six Degrees of Separation: Devarim Prayer Links

The mighty kings Og and Sihon — mentioned in Devarim/Deuteronomy 1:4, with more detail in chapter 3 — were defeated while the Israelites were still in the wilderness (Numbers/Bamidbar 20, 21). But Og and Sihon provide a direct connection to several prayers as well as to contemporary debate about what, more generally, is a “morally […]

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Seeing You in 42 Familiar Places (Mattot-Masei Prayer Links)

“In that small cafe; The park across the way; The children’s carousel; The chestnut trees; The wishin’ well. “I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places… I’ll find you In the morning sun And when the night is new. I’ll be looking at the moon, But I’ll be seeing you.” The relationship described […]

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“…The Time That We Get Shabbat…”: (Pinchas Prayer Links)

The People’s time in the wilderness with God — “the love of your bridal days” (Jer. 2:2) — is coming to an end in the portion Pinchas. This is perhaps reflected in the portion’s “extras”: the additional sacrifice for Shabbat (Numbers/Bamidbar 28:9-10) and the eighth day “atzeret,” at the close of the festival of Sukkot […]

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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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Beha’alotekha and the Torah Service

Traveling with God did not make for a smooth trip through the wilderness, and prophecy seems to have engendered more conflict — in the community at large and within the leaders’ family — than clarity in this week’s portion. The Israelites appear in deep struggle with on-going revelation and with life together in the Presence….a […]

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