Between Us

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  • Between Us: Let’s talk about the last word

    This week’s parsha is one of the most perplexing in the Torah. In Chukat, God forbids Moses and Aaron from entering the Promised Land. The reason, we are told, is that instead of instructing a rock to yield water with a rod as God had commanded, Moses struck the rock—twice—and did it himself rather than
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  • Between Us: Let’s talk about doing what’s right

    This week’s parasha is Korach, in which the protagonist by the same name challenges Moses and Aaron’s leadership. Along with 250 elders, he claims he has an equal right to lead the people. It ends rather badly for Korach and his followers, with God opening the earth to swallow them all up. More interestingly, however,
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  • Between Us: Let’s talk about risk tolerance

    This week’s parasha, Shelach, contains the famous story of the 12 scouts sent by Moses to explore the land of Canaan. They return, and all but Joshua and Caleb have dire warnings, including the famous line that the inhabitants of Canaan “were like giants…and we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have
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  • Between Us: Let’s talk about kvetching

    In this week’s parasha, Beha’alotecha, the Israelites—after being in the wilderness for what seems like an eternity—are hungry, thirsty and uncertain about whether they will ever reach the Promised Land. They criticize Moses and Aaron’s leadership. They even wonder out loud if they were not better off as slaves in Egypt. And finally, we read, “The
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  • Between Us: Let’s talk about humility

    This week’s portion, the first in the Book of Numbers, is called Bamidbar. The English title of this book comes from the census taken of the Israelites as commanded to Moses in this parasha. In Hebrew, the portion’s title means “in the wilderness,” an apt description of the spiritual and physical place in which the Jews
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  • Between Us: Let’s talk about being ready

    This week’s double parasha, Behar-Bechukotai, finishes up the Book of Leviticus. We are told repeatedly of the choice between following God’s commandments and disobeying. With the former, we will live well; the latter choice will lead to disaster. Some reject the notion of cause and effect in following the commandments and their lot in life. After all,
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  • Between Us: Let’s talk about portability

    This week’s parasha, Emor, focuses on the laws regulating the lives and sacrifices of the priests and the set times of the Jewish calendar for the Sabbath, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the Pilgrimage Festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. “These are My fixed times…which you shall proclaim as sacred occasions,” underscores the importance of time
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  • Between Us: Let’s talk about respect

    This week’s double parasha is Acharei / Kedoshim.  The concepts covered are considered by many commentators to be equal to the Ten Commandments, since laws of the Torah that regulate interpersonal human behavior are found here. These laws form the basis for an orderly society, establishing trust between the powerful and the weak, the rich
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  • Between Us: Let’s talk about welcoming

    This week’s double parasha, Tazria-Metzora, deals with skin diseases and the priestly procedures involved in checking for them, assessing them, declaring the sufferers healed and reintegrating the latter into the community. They are very difficult portions, filled with what we might today call “superstitions.” Viewed carefully, however, the readings offer insight into the role of the priest
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  • Between Us: Let’s talk about making distinctions

    This week’s parasha is Sh’mini in the Book of Leviticus. There are two main themes which, at first, do not appear to be connected.  We read of how the priest Aaron and his sons become purified to do God’s work, and then we learn about the laws of kashrut and which animals we are permitted—and not
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