Lech L'cha

Posted on October 15th, 2018

Genesis 12:1−17:27 


By Rabbi Stephen S. Pearce, Ph.D. for ReformJudaism.org


Searching Oneself on the Way Forward


After World War II, the birthrate for Shoah survivors of childbearing age living in displaced persons camps was one of the highest ever recorded anywhere. Although these parents had witnessed Nazi atrocities, they were so imbued with optimism and an unshakable faith in the future that they began families in record numbers even before they knew how or where they would live. 


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Noach

Posted on October 8th, 2018

Genesis 6:9−11:32 


By Rabbi Stephen S. Pearce, Ph.D. for ReformJudaism.org


Finding Wholeheartedness in Your Life


In Parashat Noach, the designation of Noah as an, ish tzaddik tamim, a “blameless” or “wholehearted person in his age” (Genesis 6:9) provides an opportunity to focus on a biblical model for a behavioral ideal. Although Noah’s inner life does not match his behavior. Commentators frequently criticized his conduct, including a lack of compassion and incest.1 Nevertheless, the designation of Noah as wholehearted provides grist for understanding the biblical view of ideal behavior.


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Bereshit

Posted on October 1st, 2018

Genesis. 1:1−6:8 


By Rabbi Stephen S. Pearce, Ph.D. for ReformJudaism.org


Eden Defines the Truth About Responsibility


What could have possibly have been so bad about taking just one bite from a piece of fruit? But in Parashat B’reishit, the fruit Eve served to Adam was not just any fruit; it was fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and bad. Adam ate and did not ask any questions about where that delectable morsel came from. Consequently, that feast turned out to be Adam and Eve’s last supper, their last free meal, because they were expelled from the Garden of Eden immediately following dessert.


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Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot

Posted on September 24th, 2018

Exodus 33:12-34:26; Maftir Numbers 29:17-22


Rabbi Professor Marc Saperstein for ReformJudaism.org


The Sukkah and the Jewish Experience


The biblical explanation for the sukkah is that the Israelites were commanded to dwell in these habitations for one week during the year “in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the Eternal your God” (Leviticus 23:43). This dwelling in “booths” is not just a historical fact that has to be learned, like the account of the binding of Isaac as read on Rosh HaShanah, or the bravery of Mordecai and Esther as read in the M’gillah on Purim. It is more like matzah and maror eaten on Pesach, a message so important that it must be not only learned and memorized, but also experienced, year after year. And the reason for this is that it is not simply part of the distant past. It is a lesson with ongoing experience. Let us focus on two aspects of the sukkah as a symbol of Jewish experience not just millennia ago, but bearing a message of ongoing significance.

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Haazinu

Posted on September 17th, 2018

Deuteronomy 32:1–52 


By Rabbi Professor Marc Saperstein for ReformJudaism.org


Remember the Days of Old


Haazinu is powerful poetry, often difficult both in its language and in its message. The verses near the beginning of the parashah seem less a farewell address from Moses than a prophetic diatribe and fearsome warning. The basic pattern is clear: it speaks of the unmerited, beneficent gifts God gave to the people of Israel, their insensitive lack of gratitude and betrayal of their Benefactor, and the resulting divine anger leading God to a promise of frightful punishments, stopping just short of annihilation (Deuteronomy 32:8–26). The message is that in times when things seem to be going well, when the Jewish people are prospering, thriving economically, comfortable with their lives, they are most likely to forsake the Eternal and turn to false gods that begin to demand their loyalty and allegiance. Each generation may indeed draw a message for themselves about the implications regarding their own society.

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