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.
January 20, 2022
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.
January 13, 2022
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.
January 06, 2022
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.
December 23, 2021
"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.
December 16, 2021
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.
December 09, 2021
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.
December 02, 2021
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.
November 25, 2021
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.
November 18, 2021
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.
November 11, 2021
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.
November 04, 2021
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.
October 28, 2021
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.
October 21, 2021
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.
October 14, 2021
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.
October 07, 2021
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.
September 30, 2021
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.
September 09, 2021
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.
September 02, 2021
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.
August 26, 2021
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.
August 19, 2021
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.
August 05, 2021
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
July 29, 2021
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.
July 22, 2021
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.
July 15, 2021
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.
July 08, 2021
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.
July 01, 2021
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.
June 24, 2021
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.
June 17, 2021
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.
June 10, 2021
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!
June 03, 2021
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.
May 27, 2021
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.
May 20, 2021
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.
May 13, 2021
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.
May 06, 2021
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.
April 29, 2021
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.
April 22, 2021
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.
April 15, 2021
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.
April 08, 2021
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.
March 25, 2021
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.
March 19, 2021
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.
March 04, 2021
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.
February 25, 2021
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.
February 18, 2021
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.
February 11, 2021
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.
February 04, 2021
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.
January 28, 2021
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.
January 21, 2021
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.
January 14, 2021
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?
January 07, 2021
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.
December 23, 2020
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.
December 17, 2020
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.
December 10, 2020
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.
December 02, 2020
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.
November 26, 2020
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.
November 18, 2020
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.
November 13, 2020
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.
November 05, 2020
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.
October 28, 2020
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.
October 22, 2020
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.
October 15, 2020
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.
March 26, 2020
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.
March 18, 2020
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.
March 12, 2020
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.
March 05, 2020
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.
February 26, 2020
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.
February 20, 2020
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.
February 12, 2020
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.
February 06, 2020
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.
January 30, 2020
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.
January 23, 2020
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.
January 16, 2020
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.
January 09, 2020
December 23, 2019
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.
December 18, 2019
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.
December 12, 2019
Climbing a Ladder to Heaven and Back Down: Exploring the Meaning of Yaakov’s Dream
December 05, 2019
Chayei Sarah 5780
"Moving On" and the Pain of Grieving
November 21, 2019
What can Avraham teach us about Radical Welcoming?
November 13, 2019