Parashat Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1–17:27) – features Abram’s Journey to the land of Canaan, his forced departure to Egypt, his covenant with God, the birth of Ishmael, Abram’s circumcision, and the changing of his name to Abraham.
Rabbi, Benjamin D. Sternman is the spiritual leader of Adat Chaverim in Plano, Texas. Rabbi Sternman received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell, followed by his MBA. He entered the world of corporate finance and soon found that while he loved solving the mathematical puzzles required for his work, he didn’t feel it was completely fulfilling. He finally decided to trade the world of high finance for the life of a Reform rabbi – and he has never looked back. Rabbi Sternman joined Adat Chaverim in 2012 and is thrilled to have found his own spiritual home within the congregation.
In Parshat Noah, G‑d instructs Noah to build a large wooden teivah (“ark”). A great deluge, wipes out all life from the face of the earth; but the ark floats upon the water, sheltering Noah and his family, and two members of each animal species.
Rain falls for 40 days, the waters churn for 150 days more. Then the ark settles on Mount Ararat, and Noah dispatches a raven, and then a series of doves, “to see if the waters were abated from the face of the earth.”
Noah builds an altar. G‑d swears never again to destroy all of mankind because of their deeds, and sets a rainbow as a testimony of His new covenant with man.
The people defy God by building a great tower to symbolize their invincibility; G‑d confuses their language, causing them to abandon their project and disperse across the face of the earth, splitting into seventy nations.
Named one of the 500 Most Influential People in Los Angeles in 2016 and again in 2017, Most Influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek and one of the 50 Most Influential Jews in the World by TheJerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple. Rabbi Wolpe previously taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, Hunter College, and UCLA. A columnist for Time.com, he has been published and profiled in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post’s On Faith website, TheHuffington Post, and the New York Jewish Week. He has been featured on The Today Show, Face the Nation, ABC This Morning, and CBS This Morning. In addition, Rabbi Wolpe has appeared prominently in series on PBS, A&E, History Channel, and Discovery Channel. Rabbi Wolpe is the author of eight books, including the national bestseller Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times. His new book is titled David, the Divided Heart. It was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Awards, and has been optioned for a movie by Warner Bros.
In Parshat Bereshit God creates the world in six days – then adds a Shabbat for rest. HE forms the human body from the dust of the earth, and blows into him a “living soul.” Adam and Eve are placed in the Garden of Eden, and commanded not to eat from the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.” A serpent persuades Eve to violate the command, and she shares the fruit with Adam. Both are banished by God from the Garden. Eve gives birth to two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain quarrels with Abel and murders him, and becomes a rootless wanderer. A third son, Seth, is born. His eighth-generation descendant, Noah, is the only righteous man in a corrupt world.
Rabbi Eric Solomon shares the leadership of Beth Meyer Synagogue in Raleigh, NC with his wife, Rabbi Jenny Solomon. He began his rabbinic career as the Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Rabbinic Fellow at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York City. He is a graduate of the Shalom Hartman Institute Rabbinic Leadership Initiative, serves on the national board of Truah: The Rabbinic Call For Human Rights, and will travel this winter to Guatemala with American Jewish World Service as a 2018 Global Justice Fellow.
Vayelech recounts the events of Moses’ last day. “I am one hundred and twenty years old today,” he tells the people.” He transfers the leadership to Joshua, and concludes writing the Torah in a scroll which he entrusts to the Levites for safekeeping. The mitzvah of Hakhel is given: every seven years, during the festival of Sukkot of the first year of the Shemitah cycle, the people gather at the Temple, where the king should read to them from the Torah. Vayelech concludes with the prediction that the people of Israel will turn away from G‑d, causing Him to hide His face from them, but also with the promise that the words of the Torah “shall not be forgotten”
Rabbi Suzanne Singer joined Temple Beth El of Riverside CA in 2008. She has been actively engaged in social justice work, serving as a member of the Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC) Clergy Caucus and as a commissioner for the City of Riverside’s Human Relations Commission. She is the recipient of the Champions of Justice Award, 2010, from the Riverside Fair Housing Council. Two of her essays have been published in The Torah: A Women’s Commentary.
Prior to attending rabbinic school (HUC), Rabbi Singer spent twenty years as a television producer and programming executive, primarily for national public television (PBS) and primarily in news and public affairs. As executive producer of a national documentary series, POV , she won two national Emmy awards.
Parashat Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20) – begins with Moses gathering the people of Israel to enter them into a covenant with God. Moses then warns of the great desolation that will befall them if they stray from the covenant, but he assures them that if they repent God will bring them back together again from the ends of the world. Our discussion focuses on the idea of acknowledging our human imperfection and choosing life.
Previous Talks on Nitzavin (and Nitzavin-Vayelech)
Rabbi Abby Jacobson received her rabbinic ordination, along with a Master’s degree in Hebrew Letters, from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York City, in 2009. Rabbi Jacobson has been a proud member of the Emanuel Synagogue in Oklahoma City since August 1, 2009. She is also the current president (and long-time board member) of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma.
This week’s Torah Portion – Parashat Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8) – begins with Moses instructing the people of Israel to bring the first fruit they reap in the holy land to the Holy Temple in gratitude to God. The portion continues to state the laws concerning tithes given to the Levites and to the poor. Moses then gives the children of Israel instructions on the blessings and curses they must say at Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal (the “Mount of the Blessing” and the “Mount of the Curse”). At the end of the portion, Moses gives lists of good and bad things that will happen to the people of Israel if they follow or stray from the Torah. Our discussion will focus on the pasuk “Arami Oved Avi” (My father was a wandering Aramean) and on its role in forming a historically conscious people and national identity.
Aaron Shub is the rabbi of Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh and Director of Jewish Life and Learning at Levey Day School, Portland, Maine: Shub is originally from Los Angeles. While he received a BA in Theater Arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an MAEd from the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, he has spent much of his life living and working abroad. Aaron began his rabbinic training at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies before enrolling at YCT. He is a trained and experienced chaplain, having served in trauma, behavioral health, oncology, and cardiac care units at major hospitals around the US, as well as in hospice, home care and assisted living settings. His spouse, Dr. Abbie Yamamoto, is a translator, US-Japan cultural consultant, and independent scholar of Japanese literature. They are raising their two children, Aryeh and Mina, in both Hebrew and Japanese. In addition to his love of languages and cooking, Aaron is a dedicated martial artist.
This Week’s Torah Portion – Parashat Ki Tetize (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19) – features a vast number of laws and commandments, including inheritance laws; judicial procedures and penalties for adultery, rape, and for husbands who falsely accuses their wives of infidelity; laws concerning credit and debt; rules on the treatment of escaped slaves; and Divorce laws. Overall, this week’s portion contains 74 of the Torah’s 613 commandments. Our discussion focuses on the command to remember Amalek and on the role of remembrance in the Torah in general.
Rabbi Elaine S. Zecher is Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel of Boston. She has served the congregation since 1990 and was the first female rabbi in the history of Temple Israel. Rabbi Zecher’s work extends beyond the congregation as she sits on the New England Regional Board of the ADL. She has been instrumental in the development of Mishkah T’filah, the Reform Jewish Movement’s prayerbook for Shabbat, weekdays and festivals and the new Machzor, Mishkan HaNefesh. She is a Vice President for Leadership of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and serves as the Chair of the Machzor Advisory Group. She served on the Board of a new Jewish startup called Tzedek America-a gap year program based in Los Angeles. Rabbi Zecher received a Doctor of Divinity (honoris causa) from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2013 and was ordained from HUC-JIR in 1988.
This week’s Torah Portion – Parashat Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9) – begins with instructions concerning the appointment of Judges and law enforcement officers. Moses commands the people of Israel to pursue Justice and to avoid corruption and favouritism. The portion also includes prohibitions of sorcery and Idolatry; rules concerning the appointment and the behaviour of Kings; and many laws of war, including the demand to offer terms of peace before going out to war. Our discussion focuses on the importance of “Shoftim ve Shotrim” (judges and police) and the importance of justice, Law and order in Judaism.
Today we present a collection of past Torah Talks on Re’eh. Five rabbis – five viewpoints.
In this Week’s Torah Portion – Parashat Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17) – Moses continues speaking to the people of Israel right before he passes away and before they cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land. Moses asks them to recite certain blessings and curses on Mount Grizzim and Mount Ebal after they enter Israel. He demands that they destroy all remnants of idolatry from the Promised Land and asks them to choose a city which will host the Holy Temple. The Parasha also discusses false prophets, kashrut, the sabbatical year and charity. Our discussion focuses on the imperative to “open your hand,” “not harden your heart” and “lend whatever is sufficient to meet the need.”
Parashat Re’eh with Rabbi Bradley Artson
Parashat Re’eh with Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
Parashat Re’eh with Rabbi Ben Elton
Parshat Re’eh with Rabbi Deborah Silver
Parashat Re’eh with Rabbi Baht Yameem Weiss
Rabbi Steven Abraham is the Rabbi of Beth El Synagogue in Omaha, NE. Steven graduated from the rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary in May of 2011, where he also received a M.A. in Jewish Education. Prior to attending JTS, he earned his B.S. in Business Management from the University of Baltimore. Most recently Steven earned a Certificate for being part of the Inaugural Interfaith Families Engagement program at Hebrew College.
In college and rabbinical school Steven was actively involved with USY as a group leader on multiple summer programs, including USY on Wheels and Summer in The City as well as staffing NATIV. Rabbi Abraham currently sits on multiple boards including the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands and the national board for United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. He is married to Shira J. Abraham, from Highland Park, IL. They have two children, Naama (7) and Leor (4).
In this Week’s Torah Portion – Parashat Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25) – Moses continues his address to the people of Israel, promising them that they will prosper in the land of Israel if they obey God’s commandments. He reminds them of their sins, but stresses God’s forgiveness. Moses describes the land of Israel to the people, demands that they destroy the idols of its former dwellers, and warns them of thinking that their power and might, rather than the lord, have gotten them their wealth. Our discussion focuses on Moses’ retelling of the Golden Calf story and on the reasons behind God’s forgiveness toward the people of Israel.
Rabbi Cantor of Temple Beth Shalom believes in Judaism as a vision of the good life, a way of bringing meaning into all that we do, a gift to be shared with all who choose to join in the destiny of the Jewish People, no matter what their calling.Rabbi Cantor holds bachelor degrees in Arts and Laws from the University of Manitoba, and Masters Degrees in Hebrew Letters and Rabbinic Studies from the American Jewish University. He received his ordination as a Rabbi in 2000 from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, and has served congregations in Manitoba, Maine, Connecticut, and Tennessee.
This Week’s Torah Portion- Parashat Va’etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)- continues to present Moses’ review of the Torah. Moses tells how he implored God to let him into the Promised Land and how God refused. He recounts the story of the Exodus from Egypt, declaring it an unprecedented event in human history. He predicts how in the future the people of Israel will sin, worship other gods, get exiled, and return to obey the lord outside the Promised Land. The portion also includes a repetition of the Ten Commandments and of the verses of the Shema.
Rabbi Michael Wolk grew up on Long Island and studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University. He attended rabbinical school at JTS and has been the rabbi of Keneseth Israel Congregation in Louisville since 2012. As someone who spent his formative years in the large Jewish community of NY, he has enjoyed learning about the deep roots of and being part of a smaller Midwestern community. Rabbi Wolk is an avid fan of European cantorial music and is proud of having learned Nusach HaTefillah in classes at JTS, HUC, and YU; the schools of three different denominations.
This week’s Torah Portion – Parashat Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1) – begins with Pinchas being rewarded for his problematic act of killing the Israelite and his Midianite paramour in the previous portion. A census is then conducted and God tells Moses how to divide the land between the tribes and people of Israel. The five daughters of Tzelafchad ask Moses to grant them the land of their father, who died with no sons, and God accepts their claim and adds it to the Torah’s laws of inheritance. Moses names Joshua as his successor, and the Parasha ends with a detailed list of daily offerings and of offerings brought on different holidays. Our talk focuses on the leadership transition from Moses to Joshua.
Our guest this week is Rabbi Elissa Sachs-Kohen. Rabbi Sachs-Kohen has served for 14 years as one of the rabbis at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. She is the Director of BHC Cares and advises the Social Justice Team, concentrating in recent years on racial justice, immigration, poverty, and environmental issues.
Rabbi Sachs-Kohen annually leads Rosh Hashana Under the Stars at Oregon Ridge Park, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation’s Erev Rosh Hashana service which is free and open to the public. For the past 11 years the service has attracted as many as 6000 participants and has continued to grow.
Before coming to Baltimore, Rabbi Sachs-Kohen served for 5 years at Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, CT. She was ordained in 1999 from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati. She earned her BA in theater and drama at University of Michigan. She currently learns with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality in the Clergy Leadership Program.
We read two parashot this week: The reading of Vayakhel-Pekudei – (Exodus 35:1-40:38) – begins with Moses commanding the people of Israel to observe the Shabbat and continues to tell us in great detail about the building of the Tabernacle. Pekudei, the last reading from Exodus begins with an audit of how the contributions for the Tabernacle (the Mishkan) were used. The portion goes on to describe the completion of the Tabernacle and its assembly and concludes by depicting the glory of the lord entering it. Our discussion focuses on the similarities and differences between the Mishkan and the temples of today.
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?