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Life Imitates Torah

Life Imitates Torah

By Maharat Ruth Friedman

Join Maharat Ruth for a weekly podcast: "Life Imitates Torah," as she explores relevant topics in the weekly Parsha to enhance our lives.
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Matot-Masei 5782
Matot-Masei 5782
Parashat Masei opens with a long and detailed recounting of all of the Israelites' journeys throughout the wilderness. This list takes up 49 verses, which prompts us to ask the basic question of why God felt that this should be included in the Torah. In this week's episode we contrast Rashi's opinion with the Seforno's, and what they can teach us about the beauty of relationships.
08:46
July 28, 2022
Pinchas 5782
Pinchas 5782
Parashat Pinchas contains the beginning of the story of B'not Tzlofchad, and then the conclusion is at the end of Parashat Masei. In each of these places the 5 daughters' names are mentioned, but they appear in a different order. In this week's episode we discuss a gemara in Bava Batra that explains why they appear in different order, and consider the implications for how we classify others with kindness and compassion.
11:27
July 21, 2022
Balak 5782
Balak 5782
The story of Balak and Bilaam is oddly out of place in the Torah; it doesn't concern the Israelites, nor does it affect them. This forces us to ask the question of - why is this story in the Torah? What does it come to teach us? In this week's episode we consider one possible answer to this question. 
12:30
July 14, 2022
Chukat 5782
Chukat 5782
Parashat Chukat contains the brief story of Israel's encounter with Edom as they marched through the wilderness. In this week's episode we discuss this interaction and its significance in the story of Yaakov and Esav. 
13:05
July 07, 2022
Korach 5782
Korach 5782
Parashat Korach tells the incredible story of a man who led an uprising against Moshe and Aharon's authority. In this week's episode we take a careful look at what the complaints were, and what the story can teach us about toxic leadership.  This week's sound effects are brought to you by Cocoa the dog, and my two kids.  If you would like to follow along with Rabbi Leibtag's analysis of the story you can do so here https://tanach.org/bamidbar/korach/korachs1.htm
15:09
June 30, 2022
Behaalotcha 5782
Behaalotcha 5782
Parashat Behaalotcha is wonderfully rich with short incidents that happened to Moshe and the nation in the midbar. One of them is the story of Eldad and Medad, which strikes us as a tense exchange between Moshe and Yehoshua. In this week's episode we discuss the story of Eldad and Medad in context, and consider the interpretation of the Kli Yakar, who sees it in a much different light.
15:37
June 16, 2022
Nasso 5782
Nasso 5782
Parashat Nasso is named for the opening command to count the members of the family of Gershon, Levi's oldest son. The commentators ask why Gershon is counted second, when he is the first born. In this week's episode we study their responses, and explore how this process serves as a corrective for the sibling rivalry that abounds in Breishit. 
10:08
June 09, 2022
BaMidbar 5782
BaMidbar 5782
Parashat BaMidbar is largely devoted to getting the nation organized on what is supposed to be the eve of their entering the land of Israel. Part of this process involves dividing up the camp by tribe, each with a corresponding banner (or flag). In this week's episode we examine three explanations for what these banners looked like, and what these three explanations can teach us about how we bring our personal histories with us into new experiences.
11:12
June 02, 2022
Bechukotai 5782
Bechukotai 5782
Parashat Bechukotai is one of two parshiyot in the Torah that contains the tochecha, or God's warning to the people about the numerous ways that God will afflict them if they do not heed God's commandments when they enter the land of Israel. One of the key words in this section is קרי, a word that appears nowhere else in the Torah. In this week's episode we examine multiple interpretations of this mysterious word and what it can tell us about how societies fall apart.
14:49
May 26, 2022
Kedoshim 5782
Kedoshim 5782
The 5th pasuk of our parsha tells us that a sacrifice can only be offered to God if there is a רצון, or a will. This opens a big question - is it according to God's will, or our own? In this week episode we consider three different opinions, and what this can teach us about the true meaning of holiness.
08:22
May 05, 2022
Acharei Mot 5782
Acharei Mot 5782
In the first verse of our parsha, God speaks to Moshe after the death of Aharon's two sons. However, the Torah does not actually tell us what they discussed. In this week's parsha we look at these verses more closely through the lens of Rashi and the Kli Yakar, and consider what the connection is between the laws in Acharei Mot and the death of Nadav and Avihu.
08:25
April 28, 2022
Metzora 5782
Metzora 5782
Chapter 14 of Parashat Metzora details the purification process for the metzora, including the application of blood to the right ear, right thumb, and right big toe. In this week's episode we consider the meaning of this process and how it affected the psyche of the metzora.
10:59
April 07, 2022
Tazria 5782
Tazria 5782
Parashat Tazria opens with the laws of purification for a woman after childbirth. These laws differ between boys and girls, and clearly favor boys over girls. In this week's parsha we contrast these attitudes with contemporary American society, and consider the fragility of women and childbirth. 
13:18
March 31, 2022
Shemini 5782
Shemini 5782
In the beginning of parashat Shemini, Aharon has the opportunity to offer an egel, or calf, as part of the inauguration of the mishkan as a means of closing the chapter on the sin of the golden calf. However, as soon as that situation is resolved, he is thrust into another tragedy - the loss of his two sons. In this week's episode we consider the parsha from Aharon's perspective and what it can teach us about how to navigate challenges in our own lives. 
10:11
March 24, 2022
Vayikra 5782
Vayikra 5782
There is a classic debate between the Rambam and the Ramban regarding the significance of sacrifices; are they a way to worship God in concert with how other nations worshipped at the time, or is there a greater meaning behind slaughtering an animal to atone for your sins? This week we discuss this debate and what the Ramban can teach us about cultivating empathy for each other.
12:34
March 10, 2022
Pekudei 5782
Pekudei 5782
After Moshe assembles the mishkan at the end of our parsha, Hashem's presence fills the space. As the Torah explicitly tells us, once Hashem's presence filled the mishkan, Moshe was not allowed in. In this week's episode we discuss the significance of this and what it teaches us about how the people perceived their relationship to Moshe.
09:01
March 03, 2022
Vayakhel 5782
Vayakhel 5782
One of the mysteries of the mishkan is where all of the rare and expensive materials used to build it actually came from. In this week's episode we study a machloket between Rashi and Ibn Ezra and discuss the tension between fantasy and reality in our interpretation of the Torah. 
10:30
February 24, 2022
Ki Tisa 5782
Ki Tisa 5782
At the end of our parsha Moshe comes down from the mountain with the two tablets. The torah says קרן עור פניו, or literally that the skin of his face was horned. In this week's episode we discuss three different interpretations of this perplexing description, and the different religious attitudes they have reflected over history.
11:06
February 17, 2022
Tetzaveh 5782
Tetzaveh 5782
Parashat Tetzaveh details the instructions to make the special clothing for the kohanim. God describes the garments as being for "kavod and tiferet," or "honor and glory." In this week's episode we study three rabbinic interpretations of these two words and what they can teach us about the complicated relationship we have with clothing and status in our society.
11:11
February 10, 2022
Mishpatim 5782
Mishpatim 5782
Parashat Mishpatim opens with the laws of the Hebrew slave. Coming right after the Exodus, these laws can be uncomfortable to study. In this week's episode we look at the experience of the Hebrew slave in greater detail and consider a way to view it not as a situation of submission, but of empowerment.
12:51
January 27, 2022
Yitro 5782
Yitro 5782
The commandment not to covet our neighbors family and property is a fascinating commentary on human nature. In this week's episode we study three rabbinic understandings of this commandment, and what they can teach us about society and ourselves. 
15:03
January 20, 2022
Beshalach 5782
Beshalach 5782
In chapter 14 verse 8 the Torah tells us that the Israelites left Egypt ביד רמה, or with a raised arm. In this week's episode we study different interpretations of this phrase and why it is significant for our understanding of power and victimhood.
13:16
January 13, 2022
Bo 5782
Bo 5782
In Parashat Bo God gives the Israelites the mitzvah of the korban Pesach in "real time" - as they are preparing to leave Egypt. In this week's episode we explore the mitzvah of placing the blood on the doorpost of the house and discuss the practical and emotional effects this had on the Israelites as they prepared to leave Egypt.
13:42
January 06, 2022
Shemot 5782
Shemot 5782
The 8th pasuk of the Book of Shemot represents the turning point in the Israelites' story in Egypt - A new king arose in Egypt who did not know Yosef. In this episode we discuss this pasuk in detail and what the gemara in Sanhedrin can teach us about the significance of memory in Egypt.
11:56
December 23, 2021
Vayechi 5782
Vayechi 5782
"Vayechi" means "and he lived." This seemingly innocuous statement is actually profound, given that until now Yaakov has focused his life's legacy around his death. In this episode we discuss the role of death and life in the parsha and what this can teach us about how we craft our life narratives.
13:21
December 16, 2021
Vayigash 5782
Vayigash 5782
Parashat Vayigash is named for the manner in which Yehuda approaches Yosef to reverse the terrible course that the previous parsha left us with. In this week's episode we study the word "vayigash" in great detail to understand the significance of Yehuda's intervention, and what this can teach us about how to heal damaged relationships. 
17:12
December 09, 2021
Miketz 5782
Miketz 5782
Last year we studied Yosef's ascent into the highest echelon of Egyptian power and how this ascent reflected on him. This year we examine this ascent in greater detail and discuss what it meant for both the Egyptians and the Israelites, and the eventual dismantling of the fantasy of life in Egypt.
17:35
December 02, 2021
Vayeishev 5782
Vayeishev 5782
Parashat Vayeishev tells the the first chapters of the disastrous story of Yosef and his brothers. In a curious scene in the second aliyah, Yaakov instructs Yosef to go down to Shechem and see how his brothers are doing. In this episode we consider the Seforno's interpretation of Yaakov's instructions, and what this can teach us about the importance of confrontation and being honest with each other. 
13:24
November 25, 2021
Vayishlach 5782
Vayishlach 5782
The first half of Parashat Vayishlach provides a detailed account of the preparation for, and then the actual scene, of the final encounter between Yaakov and Esav. The last time they have seen each other is 20 years ago, when Yaakov stole the blessing and Esav vowed to kill him. Though the scene in our parsha is detailed, there are multiple ways to interpret Yaakov and Esav's behavior. In this week's episode we review the scene in detail, and consider the dynamic through the use of the word "brother" throughout the text.
21:27
November 18, 2021
Vayeitze 5782
Vayeitze 5782
When Yaakov arrives in Haran he finds a group of shepherds at the well. They give him the impression that removing the stone from the well to access the water is a serious process that requires multiple people. Much to our surprise, Yaakov then seems to easily remove the stone himself to water Rachel's flock. In this week's episode we discuss rabbinic interpretations of this scene and what it teaches us about finding our own strength in new challenges.
13:44
November 11, 2021
Toldot 5782
Toldot 5782
Parashat Toldot contains the iconic scene of Yaakov stealing the blessing from his brother Esav. This scene is emblematic of their family's dysfunction, and can be analyzed through many lenses. This week we center our study around the word ציד, or hunt, to help us understand the sources of Yitzchak's favoritism of Esav and what this favoritism can teach us about ourselves and our own relationships. 
15:54
November 04, 2021
Chayei Sarah 5782
Chayei Sarah 5782
Right before Avraham appoints Eliezer to go find a wife for Yitzchak the Torah tells us that God had blessed Avraham "bakol" - in everything. In this week's episode we study different interpretations of what it means to be blessed in life, and what we are supposed to do with these blessings.
15:45
October 28, 2021
Vayera 5782
Vayera 5782
Parashat Vayera opens with the iconic scene of Avraham waiting for guests at the entrance of his tent, in the heat of the day. This scene becomes the model for welcoming guests, which is a key value in Jewish life. In this episode we consider this story with a more critical lens, and discuss how we can take the lessons from it to adapt how we view hosting in a post-covid era.
13:34
October 21, 2021
Lech Lecha 5782
Lech Lecha 5782
Parashat Lech Lecha introduces us to Avraham, yet the Torah does not actually provide any clues as to who he was. In this week's episode we consider Avraham's mysterious identity, and why God chose to leave out any background information.
13:52
October 14, 2021
Noach 5782
Noach 5782
In parashat Noach God makes the radical decision to destroy the world because "the earth had been corrupted and was filled with lawlessness." In this week's episode we discuss the different interpretations of what was so egregious about humanity's actions, and study a fascinating midrash about human behavior.
12:29
October 07, 2021
Breishit 5782
Breishit 5782
On the surface, the story of Kayin and Hevel seems like a simple story of ruthless murder, and punishment. However, upon close examination of the language and rabbinic sources, the moral ambiguity of the story becomes clear. In this episode we touch on the points of moral complexity, and study a midrash that portrays Kayin not as the first murderer, but as the first person to do teshuva.
17:35
September 30, 2021
Vayeilech 5782
Vayeilech 5782
Moshe opens Parashat Vayeilech by reminding the nation that he will not be able to join them on the next step of their journey to the land of Israel. The mefarshim ask why the verse first says "vayeilech," or "Moshe walked," before he shares this message. In this week's episode we study three different interpretations of "vayeilech" and explore the different ways loved ones say goodbye.  This episode is dedicated to the memory of the 2,996 victims of 9/11, in advance of the 20th anniversary this Shabbat.
10:47
September 09, 2021
Nitzavim 5781
Nitzavim 5781
When Moshe speaks about the covenant between God and the Jewish people he refers to it both as a brit and as an alah. In this week's episode we examine the word alah and its connection to Sotah, and discuss why Moshe chose to portray the covenant using this word. 
11:12
September 02, 2021
Ki Tavo 5781
Ki Tavo 5781
One of the blessings in Parashat Ki Tavo is that, if the Jewish people listen to God's commandments, we will be like the head (rosh) and not the zanav (tail). In this week's episode we study different rabbinic interpretations of this verse, and what it means for our second High Holiday season during the pandemic. 
13:29
August 26, 2021
Ki Teitze 5781
Ki Teitze 5781
Parashat Ki Teitze teaches laws about maintaining the dignity and sanctity of the camp when Israelite troops go to war. In this week's episode we study these verses in detail. We then discuss the Ramban's interpretation of these laws, and what they can teach us about the importance of maintaining respect and proper conduct within an army during a time of war. 
17:00
August 19, 2021
Re'eh 5781
Re'eh 5781
In Chapter 12 of Devarim Moshe provides a series of rules and regulations regarding sacrifices and meat consumption. In this week's episode we review these in detail, and discuss how they prepared the Israelites for a life of meat consumption in the Land of Israel. 
16:30
August 05, 2021
Eikev 5781
Eikev 5781
In Parashat Eikev Moshe continues to implore the Israelites to continue in God's path when they enter the land of Israel. He portrays the Israelites' future security and success as a system of meritocracy; if they listen to God's commandments, God will reward them and they will flourish. In this week's parsha we discuss the merits and harm of portraying the world as a meritocracy, and connect it to current events in America. CW: sexual abuse
17:32
July 29, 2021
Vaetchanan 5781
Vaetchanan 5781
Parashat Vaetchanan opens with Moshe's plea to God to reverse the decree and allow him into the Land of Israel. We can feel Moshe's despair and sadness as he details God's angry refusal, and the compromise of Moshe being able to go up and see the land from afar. In this episode we study this scene and ask why Moshe shares this intimate moment with the nation.
17:11
July 22, 2021
Devarim 5781
Devarim 5781
Sefer Devarim is a series of Moshe's speeches to the Israelites before he dies and they enter the land of Israel without him. In this week's episode we introduce the book, and discuss two of the stories in the parsha - the spies, and the Edomites - to help understand the psychological tools Moshe uses to impart his messages onto his nation. 
16:25
July 15, 2021
Matot-Masei 5781
Matot-Masei 5781
The end of the book of BaMidbar is an epilogue to the story of Bnot Tzlofchad that is found in Parashat Pinchas. This epilogue serves as an important modifier of the original story. In this week's episode we study both components of the story in detail, and challenge ourselves to think about our own comfort (and discomfort) with social change.
16:07
July 08, 2021
Pinchas 5781
Pinchas 5781
Pinchas is the first קנאי, or zealot, featured in Tanach. Though Pinchas is rewarded for his behavior, the text is ambiguous about whether zealotry was a positive or negative. In this episode we explore that question further through a study of the word קנא in the Torah, and consider the common toxicities between jealousy and zealotry.
16:01
July 01, 2021
Balak 5781
Balak 5781
One of the mysteries of the story of Balak is why it is in the Torah at all; it does not involve any of the Israelites, nor does it have an impact on their lives, so its impact is unclear. In this week's episode we discuss the major themes of Balak and Bilaam's story, and its connections to Pharaoh and the failed strategy of trying to oppress outsiders into submission. Our learning is dedicated to all of the victims of the building collapse in Miami. May they be found speedily, and safe.
12:40
June 24, 2021
Chukat 5781
Chukat 5781
The ritual of the parah adumah, or the red heifer, is one of the best examples of a chok, or a ritual law that we do not understand. In this week's episode we examine two opposing rabbinic approaches to the concept of chok, and discuss the human experience of grappling with the unknowable. 
14:58
June 17, 2021
Korach 5781
Korach 5781
The story of Korach is unequivocally a story of disaster. In this week's episode we examine this story in greater detail to ascertain exactly why the factions of rebels were complaining, why their punishment was so severe, and what this teaches us about how we treat each others in moments of crisis. 
15:50
June 10, 2021
Shlach 5781
Shlach 5781
In this week's episode we consider the Israelites' true fear of the Land of Israel and why the scouts' report struck such a strong chord with them. Recorded from Jerusalem!
06:02
June 03, 2021
Behaalotcha 5781
Behaalotcha 5781
Chapter 11 of BaMidbar opens with the first of the Israelites' complaints in the book. They complain about missing the variety of foods that they ate in Egypt, and that they're sick of the mahn. God responds by punishing them with a plague and eliminating the complainers from the nation. In this week's episode we discuss why this complaint warranted such a strong reaction, and what this can teach us about the dangers of nostalgic thinking.
11:36
May 27, 2021
Nasso 5781
Nasso 5781
As the Ramban articulates, the ritual of the Sotah is entirely unique to the Torah, for it is the only ritual that relies not on fact but on a miracle from God. In this week's episode we consider why this unique magical ritual exists, and what role it served in the context of a marriage. We also discuss the disparity in its treatment of the husband and wife, and why this disparity led to its being discontinued. 
16:09
May 20, 2021
Bamidbar 5781
Bamidbar 5781
This week we start the 4th book of the Torah - Bamidbar in Hebrew, and Numbers in English. Though they refer to the same book, these names are vastly different in meaning. In this week's episode we use these differences as a frame for understanding the book as a whole, and discuss the significance of each of us spending time in the midbar at some point in our lives.
13:46
May 13, 2021
Behar-Bechukotai 5781
Behar-Bechukotai 5781
Parashat Behar teaches the laws of shemittah from an agrarian perspective; farmers work the land for six years, and then take a complete break for the 7th. Devarim's version of shemittah focuses on the financial components of shemittah, specifically the remittance of loans to fellow Jews every 7 years. In this week's episode we examine these two forms of shemittah in greater detail, and discuss the implications for American society and alleviating the vast wealth gap.
22:13
May 06, 2021
Emor 5781
Emor 5781
Parashat Emor ends with a short story about a man referred to as the blasphemer. The pshat of the story is vague and withholds a lot of detail. In this week's episode we study the story, and then read it through the lens of a midrash in Vayikra Rabba. We then use the understanding of the midrash to address questions of welcoming and belonging, and how communities should properly support outsiders. 
17:13
April 29, 2021
Acharei-Mot/Kedoshim 5781
Acharei-Mot/Kedoshim 5781
The ritual of the 2 goats to be performed by the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur is a striking departure from our normative model of sacrifice and sin cleansing in the Torah. In this episode we discuss the ritual of sending a goat off to the wilderness to Azazel, and how the rabbis reinterpreted it. We then use this model to frame how we think about justice and redemption from sin in our society today. 
12:20
April 22, 2021
Tazria-Metzora 5781
Tazria-Metzora 5781
Tzara'at was a mysterious, serious skin condition that completely altered the afflicted person's existence until it was healed. It is unclear what exactly tzara'at was or what might cause someone to contract it. In this week's episode we consider whether it was a result of sin, or simply circumstantial, and what these opinions can teach us about shame and community.
14:27
April 15, 2021
Shemini 5781
Shemini 5781
The death of Aharon's two sons Nadav and Avihu is both a personal tragedy for Aharon, and a national tragedy for the Israelites. However, it is unclear exactly what Nadav and Avihu did to warrant their deaths. In this week's episode we study the story and the midrashic opinions on Nadav and Avihu's sin, and discuss the ramifications for how communities grapple with finding meaning in tragedy. 
16:08
April 08, 2021
Tzav/Pesach 5781
Tzav/Pesach 5781
As we study the korbanot we notice an interesting contradiction - most korbanot are not allowed to have chametz, but a couple of them require it. In this week's episode we address this contradiction, and consider a metaphoric explanation that can help bring meaning to Pesach this year. 
11:38
March 25, 2021
Vayikra 5781
Vayikra 5781
Chapters 4&5 of Parashat Vayikra place a heavy emphasis on the sin offerings and the different situations that warrant them. The case in 5:17-18 is particularly striking because it provides instructions for when someone commits a sin and doesn't even know it. In this week's episode we explore this case in conjunction with Rashi's commentary to gain insight into how the rabbis grappled with a sin-centered text and transformed it into a more positive outlook on human behavior. 
12:59
March 19, 2021
Ki Tisa 5781
Ki Tisa 5781
The sin of the golden calf is one of the two most significant sins in our history as a people (along with the incident of the spies in Numbers.) In this episode we explore the story from four perspectives - the nation, Aharon, God, and Moshe - and consider what we can learn from God and Moshe's tense exchange about the real source of confusion in this story. 
15:34
March 04, 2021
Tetzaveh 5781
Tetzaveh 5781
In Parashat Tetzaveh God instructs Moshe to have detailed clothing prepared for the Kohen Gadol, or High Priest. As many scholars have noted, it is the only parsha during Moshe's lifetime in which his name is not mentioned. In this week's episode we consider Moshe's absence and what it can teach us about true leadership and representation.
13:56
February 25, 2021
Terumah/Zachor 5781
Terumah/Zachor 5781
This Shabbat is Shabbos Zachor, where we gather together in shul to hear the commandment to remember what Amalek did to us in the desert, and to blot out their memory from the earth. In this week's episode we look at this commandment in detail and discuss what was so egregious about Amalek's actions, the Ralbag's explanation of how Israel could have been better protected from their attack, and what this means for a post-covid society.
17:26
February 18, 2021
Mishpatim 5781
Mishpatim 5781
Parashat Mishpatim contains a series of civil and criminal laws. In this week's episode we examine the strategy that God uses to communicate these laws to the Israelites by using both 2nd and 3rd person, and the role that the word "רשע" plays in communicating human free will. 
14:28
February 11, 2021
Yitro 5781
Yitro 5781
Parashat Yitro concludes with God's instructions to Moshe about the proper way to construct altars for worship. At first glance, these verses appear to be randomly situated here, and lack a connection to the rest of this parsha. In this episode we study these verses in greater detail and discuss the role that they play in comforting the Israelites and allaying their fear of God.
14:56
February 04, 2021
Beshalach 5781
Beshalach 5781
The Crossing of the Sea and the destruction of the Egyptian army serves as an epilogue to the story of the plagues and the Exodus from Egypt. In this week's episode we discuss Egypt's final moments, and what and why the Israelites witnessed when the waters closed in on their abusers and God hurled them into the sea.
13:28
January 28, 2021
Bo 5781
Bo 5781
The plague of חושך, or darkness, is mysterious. It isn't a source of destruction like the other plagues, and also occurs after the Egyptians realize that their society has already been destroyed. What, then, is its purpose? In this week's episode we consider a few possible explanations and what they can teach us about our own societal values and the value of human life. 
16:41
January 21, 2021
Vaera 5781 - Grand Old Pharaoh
Vaera 5781 - Grand Old Pharaoh
The story of the plagues raises one of the biggest theological problems in the book of Shemot - how could God harden Pharaoh's heart and remove his free will? In this week's episode we look at the beginning of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart in greater detail, and discuss the consequences of Pharaoh's unwillingness to confront the limitations of his own power. 
15:29
January 14, 2021
Shemot 5781
Shemot 5781
When God appears to Moshe at the burning bush, God tells Moshe that "I have seen the suffering of my nation." Strikingly, God is the 4th being to see suffering in our parsha, preceded many decades earlier by Moshe's mother, Pharaoh's daughter, and then Moshe himself. In this week's episode we consider the implications of God's delay through the lens of a midrash cited in the Malbim, and consider the question - was God late, or were the others too early?
12:20
January 07, 2021
Vayigash 5781
Vayigash 5781
It is impossible for the reader of this parsha not to feel joy and relief at the reunion of Yosef and his brothers after decades of separation and emotional strife. Intriguingly, in Chapter 45:16 the text makes a point of telling us that Pharaoh and his courtiers were also pleased by this reunion. In this week's episode we study three different explanations for the Egyptians' approval, and what these explanations can teach us about selflessness, selfishness, and what it means to be happy for other people. 
14:32
December 23, 2020
Mikeitz 5781
Mikeitz 5781
After Yosef correctly interprets Pharaoh's dreams, Pharaoh rewards him with power and responsibility. However, Pharaoh makes it very clear to Yosef that though Yosef will have the power to make decisions, Pharaoh will retain the title of King. In this week's episode we explore this scene in greater detail and consider the implications of Pharaoh's decision on society today.
13:58
December 17, 2020
Vayeishev 5781
Vayeishev 5781
Parashat Vayeishev opens with the statement "Vayeishev Yaakov", or "Jacob settled," followed by the story of Yosef and his brothers. In his robust commentary on the two opening verses, Rashi cites a midrash that Yaakov wished to settle in shalvah, or tranquility, but was prevented from doing because of the dramatic story of Yosef and his brothers. In this week's episode we delve deeper into this midrash and consider what this midrash teaches us about rest and self care. 
16:30
December 10, 2020
Vayishlach 5781
Vayishlach 5781
This week's parsha tells the deeply painful, and ethically challenging, story of Dinah. In this week's episode we will examine two common understandings of exactly what happened to Dinah, and the ramifications of these two explanations have on our understanding of sexual assault and punishment.  Please be advised that this episode discusses sexual violence and rape, and may be difficult for victims and survivors of sexual assault. If you are a victim of sexual assault and need help there are many resources available, including here https://www.rainn.org/about-national-sexual-assault-telephone-hotline. 
18:41
December 02, 2020
Vayeitze 5781
Vayeitze 5781
In this week's parsha Yaakov finds refuge in the home of his uncle Lavan. Over the course of his time in Lavan's home, Yaakov slowly learns that Lavan is not actually a generous paternal figure but rather someone who seeks to profit off of Yaakov's work and cheat him out of money he deserves. In this week's episode we explore Lavan's character in greater detail and what he can teach us about living an honest life.
16:24
November 26, 2020
Toldot 5781
Toldot 5781
Parashat Toldot is the first in a series of parshiyot that tell the story of Yaakov's life. Yaakov's character becomes more cunning and daring as our parsha progresses, culminating in his appearing before his father dressed as Esav and stealing the blessings. In this episode we consider the different approaches to Yaakov's actions in our religious tradition and what they can teach us about sin, vindictiveness, and forgiveness. 
16:06
November 18, 2020
Chayei Sarah 5781
Chayei Sarah 5781
At the end of this week's parsha Avraham marries a woman named Keturah. Rash cites a midrash that Keturah is actually Hagar, and not a new person. In this week's episode we explore the ramifications of this midrash on Avraham's life, and what this explanation can teach us about regret and resolution. 
12:38
November 13, 2020
Vayera 5781
Vayera 5781
Both Avraham and Sarah are told that Sarah will have a biological child. They both react with laughter, צחוק. And yet, God reprimands Sarah for her laughter but not Avraham. In this week's episode we will analyze the difference between Avraham and Sarah's reaction, and what this can teach us about how we approach challenging scenarios and mediate conflict.
15:14
November 05, 2020
Lech Lecha 5781
Lech Lecha 5781
In the beginning of Chapter 15 of Breishit Avraham expresses his frustration to God over not having any biological children. God assures Avraham that he will indeed have biological children, and in verse 6 the scene concludes with a short verse that is difficult to translate. In this episode we discuss the possible translations of this verse, and what this verse teaches us about how to live a life of trust in God.
18:51
October 28, 2020
Noach 5781
Noach 5781
Though his story is one of the most famous stories in the Torah, we know remarkably little about Noach. In this episode we analyze his father Lamech's naming of him and consider what exactly made Noach worthy of saving humanity. 
17:19
October 22, 2020
Bereishit 5781
Bereishit 5781
The two creation stories in Bereishit have challenged rabbis and scholars for millenia. In this episode we discuss the content and structure of these two stories, and explore what they can teach us about the role of humanity in the world. 
14:29
October 15, 2020
Vayikra 5780
Vayikra 5780
The korban mincha in Chapter 2 of Vayikra follows the animal korban olah in Chapter 1, yet has some distinct differences. In this week's episode we examine the unique properties of korban mincha and what they can teach us about generosity and community building.
14:01
March 26, 2020
Vayakhel-Pekudei 5780
Vayakhel-Pekudei 5780
The aron served as the focal point of holiness in the tabernacle. On the kaporet, or cover, we were instructed to place winged keruvim made of gold. In this week's episode we will examine how rabbis over history have defined the keruvim, and what this teaches us about how we are supposed to feel when in the presence of God's holiness.
14:27
March 18, 2020
Ki Tisa 5780
Ki Tisa 5780
The sin of the golden calf is one the most egregious sins that the Israelites commit. And yet, the exact nature of the sin is unclear; Rashi claims that it was idolatrous, but the Ramban vigorously disagrees. In this week's episode we examine this debate in further detail and offer an additional interpretation of this famous story.
15:50
March 12, 2020
Tetzaveh 5780
Tetzaveh 5780
Parashat Tetzaveh provides the instructions for the Kohen Gadol's garments. In Chapter 28 verse 15 we are commanded to build the choshen mishpat (breastplate of judgment) and place the Urim v'Tumim inside of it. In this week's episode we explore different interpretations of what the Urim v'Tumim were, and what it means to live in exile without them. 
11:21
March 05, 2020
Terumah 5780
Terumah 5780
In the beginning of our parsha God explicitly commands that the people whose hearts move them to give should contribute materials to the construction of the mishkan. As the commentators note, the language of the verse is a bit strange. The literal translation is "they should take for me a gift" - ויקחו לי תרומה. In this episode we explore various explanations for this linguistic oddity, and what they can teach us about the nature of partner relationships.
14:23
February 26, 2020
Mishpatim 5780
Mishpatim 5780
Parashat Mishpatim contains a number of civil laws, including capital crimes. Exodus 22:17 teaches us that "we may not allow a sorceress to live," which is an unusual formulation for a Biblical capital crime. In this episode we examine four different understandings of this verse and what they teach us about the limits we place on society.
09:60
February 20, 2020
Yitro 5780
Yitro 5780
After the crossing of the sea, Moshe's father-in-law Yitro arrives to find Moshe judging the people's legal cases from morning until evening. He immediately recognizes that this system is unsustainable, and he advises Moshe to create a judicial system to help alleviate his burden.  When Yitro expresses his concerns in Exodus 18:18 he tells Moshe that both he and the nation "navol tibol," an unusual phrase that commentators disagree over how to translate. In this episode we explore the various understandings of this phrase, and what it can teach us about maintaining and equal and just legal system.
14:17
February 12, 2020
Beshalach 5780
Beshalach 5780
Shemot Chapter 16 introduces us to the mahn, the mysterious edible substance that sustained the Israelites each morning on their journey through the desert. In this episode we will consider multiple commentators' understanding of the meaning of the mahn, and what these meanings can teach us about how we express suspicion, wonderment, and gratitude. 
14:40
February 06, 2020
Bo 5780
Bo 5780
The 8th plague of locusts represents a major shift in both the physical expression of the plague, and the greater meaning behind it. This week we will examine arbeh in greater detail and consider what it teaches us about Egyptian beliefs, Torah values, and the real tragedy of Pharaoh's leadership.
15:53
January 30, 2020
Va'era 5780
Va'era 5780
Our parsha opens with God's impassioned promise of redemption of the Israelites. However, when Moshe delivers the message to the Israelites they cannot hear it because of "shortness of spirit and hard labor." In this week's episode we explore a range of commentaries on this phrase, and consider what caused the breakdown in communication between the Redeemer and the redeemed.
13:39
January 23, 2020
Shemot 5780
Shemot 5780
Moshe's mysterious name raises many questions and becomes the subject of extensive scholarship. Is it Hebrew, or Egyptian? Is it circumstantial, or prophetic? In this episode we explore the possible origins the name of our future redeemer and consider what it teaches us about the personality of his adoptive mother, Pharaoh's daughter.
12:47
January 16, 2020
Vayechi 5780
Vayechi 5780
The book of Breishit concludes with a stunning scene between Yosef and his brothers. In this episode we will explore the significance of their final encounter as a family unit, and how Yosef is able to redeem his family's painful past.
13:26
January 09, 2020
Miketz 5780
Miketz 5780
Miketz 5780
14:13
December 23, 2019
Vayeshev 5780
Vayeshev 5780
The first four verses of Parashat Vayeshev paint a troubling portrayal of Yosef's relationship to his brothers, and raises questions about Yaakov's role in this challenging sibling dynamic. This week we explore the Toledot Yitzchak's understanding of what went wrong and what we can learn from Yaakov's mistake.
13:18
December 18, 2019
Vayishlach 5780
Vayishlach 5780
Parashat Vayishlach contains the famous scene of Yaakov wrestling with an unnamed figure. Join us as we explore two different approaches to understanding why God sent the angel to wrestle with Yaakov and what this teaches us about the fear of God, the fear of others, and the fear of change.
11:47
December 12, 2019
Vayetzei 5780
Vayetzei 5780
Climbing a Ladder to Heaven and Back Down: Exploring the Meaning of Yaakov’s Dream 
10:44
December 05, 2019
Chayei Sarah 5780
Chayei Sarah 5780
"Moving On" and the Pain of Grieving
12:51
November 21, 2019
Vayera 5780
Vayera 5780
What can Avraham teach us about Radical Welcoming?
10:20
November 13, 2019