Dr. Dennis C. Sasso has been the Rabbi of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, Indianapolis, Indiana since 1977. He is a native of the Republic of Panama, and a descendant of Sephardic (Spanish-Portuguese Jewish) families who settled in the Caribbean during the 17th century. More about him here.
This week’s Torah portion – Parashat Yitro (Exodus 18:1-20:23) – begins with the advice given by Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, to the people of Israel, and continues to tell us about the gathering of the people of Israel at Mount Sinai and about the giving of the Ten Commandments. Our discussion tries to find out how many commandments there really are in the Ten Commandments.
Rabbi Jason Kleinwas born in New York City and mostly grew up Montclair, NJ before returning to the City for college at Columbia, where he majored in religion focusing on Orthodox Christianity. After receiving rabbinic ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2002, he became the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Emeth on the South Shore of Long Island. He completed seven years of service as Executive Director with Hillel at UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) before coming to the JewishCommunity Project of Lower Manhattan (JCP Downtown) where he has been for nearly five years, currently serving as JCP’s rabbi and the director for JCP’s Center for Jewish Life. He recently finished serving for two years as President of the ReconstructionistRabbinical Association. He lives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
This week’s Torah portion – Parashat Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16) – features the people of Israel being led out of Egypt by pillars of cloud and fire, the dramatic parting of the Red Sea, the song of Miriam, the bread from heaven, Moses hitting the rock, and Israel’s war with Amalek. Our discussion focuses on the fearful moment the people of Israel experience when the Egyptian army are closing in on them and on the deep effect this moment has on their liberation process.
Rabbi Craig Marantz is the senior Rabbi at Emanuel Congregation in Chicago. Rabbi Marantz has over 17 years as a Jewish educator and congregational leader. A native of Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Marantz has Master’s degrees from Stanford and The Reform College.
The week’s Torah portion- Parashat Va’era (Exodus 6:2-9:35)- features Moses and Aaron’s appearance before Pharaoh, their showdown with Pharaoh’s sorcerers, and the first seven plagues of Egypt. Our discussion focuses, among other things, on the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart and on the enigmatic question regarding God’s role in it.
You can watch previous conversations on this parsha with:
Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel is the rabbi of Temple Beth Am in Framingham, Massachusetts. Her career has extended from leading congregations to leading national organizations. She served as Executive Director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Canadian Council for Reform Judaism and ARZA Canada for over 9 years. Later, as Judaic Consultant for the York Region of the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, Rabbi Sobel was responsible for developing and enhancing spiritual life in the York region, the fastest growing Jewish population in all of North America.
This week’s Torah Portion – Parashat Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1) – features the beginning of the epic story of Moses and the exodus from Egypt. The portion features a description of the oppression of the people of Israel by Pharaoh, the birth of Moses, his flee to Midian and Moses’ return to Egypt. The burning bush is the focus of our conversation.
Parashat Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26) is the final portion of the book of Genesis. The portion describes the final days of Jacob, the blessing given to his sons, Jacob’s death and burial, and the death of Joseph.
Our Guest this week is Rabbi Elisha Friedman, leader of the Kesher Israel congregation in Harrisburg, PA. Rabbi Friedman, the son of a Rabbi, is a graduate of Yeshiva University’s (YU) Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and is completing a doctorate in Modern Jewish Philosophy at YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies.
This Week’s Torah portion – Parashat Mattot-Massei (Numbers 30:2-36:13) – begins with Moses presenting the heads of the tribes with rules concerning the annulment of vows. War is waged against Midian and the Torah lists the different spoils Israel took hold of in their victory and describes how they are distributed. The tribes of Gad, Reuben and half of Menashe ask Moses for the territory East of the Jordan as their portion of the promised land, and Moses eventually agrees on the condition that they first help conquering the west part West of the Jordan. The boundaries of the Promised Land are stated, and cities of refuge are designated as havens for people who commit inadvertent murder. The portion ends with the story of the daughters of Tzelafchad marrying men of their own tribe (Menashe) in order to keep the estate which they inherited from their father within their own tribe. Our discussion focuses on the curious story of the two and a half tribes.
Our guest this week is Rabbi Brett Krichiver, Senior Rabbi of the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation in Indiana. Rabbi Krichiver, an alumnus of UCLA, is a Wexner Fellow and a Bronfman Alum. He is a founding clergy member of IndyCAN, a community organizing group partnering with religious institutions city-wide. He also serves as a Board Member at Second Helpings and Planned Parenthood. He participates in the Northside Clergy Group, creating interfaith programming throughout Indianapolis, and serves on the Advisory Committee for Goldman Union Camp Institute, his childhood camp. He is currently co-chair of the Indiana Board of Rabbis.
This Week’s Torah portion – Parashat Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9) – features the famous story of the prophet Bilaam, who was sent by the Moabite king Balak to curse the people of Israel. On his way, Bilaam is berated by his Donkey who sees an angel of God blocking the road. Bilaam tries to curse the people of Israel three times (from three different vantage points) and each time ends up blessing them. He then continues to prophesize on the end of days and the coming of the Messiah. Our discussion tries to examine Bilaam’s odd story, its message, and its special status in Judaism.
Our guest this week is Rabbi Raysh Weiss, spiritual leader of the Shaar Shalom congregation in Halifax, Canada. Rabbi Weiss was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary and served as a rabbinic intern in Brooklyn, Long Island, and Tel Aviv. Rabbi Weiss also founded and helped lead a Jewish spiritual community in Minneapolis during her years as a doctoral student in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Minnesota. In 2001, Rabbi Weiss was a Bronfman Youth Fellow in Israel; in 2006-2007, she was a J. William Fulbright research fellow in Ethnomusicology in Berlin; and, throughout her years in rabbinical school, Rabbi Weiss was a Wexner Graduate Fellow and served on the board of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. Rabbi Weiss has contributed numerous essays and articles pertaining to Jewish culture, values, and history, including pieces for www.myjewishlearning.com, www.jewschool.com, Tablet Magazine, and Simon Schama’s The Story of the Jews (PBS).
This week’s Torah Portion – Parashat Korach (Numbers 16:1-18:32) – tells the dramatic story of a mutiny incited by Korach against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Korach is joined by Datan and Aviram as well as by 250 distinguished members of the community who offer incense to prove they are worthy of the priesthood. The earth opens up and swallows the mutineers, and a fire kills the incense offerers. Aaron subsequently stops a plague by offering incense of his own and his staff then brings forth almonds, proving that his designation as high priest is divinely ordained. Our discussion focuses on the purge of Korach’s followers and on Moses and Aaron’s reaction to the episode.
Will American Jews resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Our guest this week is Rabbi Rick Winer of Temple Beth Israel in Fresno, CA. Rabbi Winer was ordained from Hebrew Union College in 1995, and he has been serving congregations ever since. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and is married to Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, an expert consultant in Jewish youth engagement.
This week’s Torah Portion – Parashat Beha’alotcha (Numbers 8:1-12:15) – begins with the lighting of the menorah and then goes on to describe the cleansing of the Levites and the first celebration of Passover in the desert. The Torah subsequently describes a series of bitter complaints made by the people of Israel about life in the desert, and the portion concludes with Moses’ sister Miriam speaking slander about Moses to their brother Aaron and getting punished for it with a terrible skin disease. Our discussion focuses on the family of Moses and on Miriam’s curious punishment.
The Questions of no Consequence Department: Is Gal Gadot white?