Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie is the founding spiritual leader of Lab/Shul NYC and the creator of Storahtelling, Inc. An Israeli-born Jewish educator, writer, and performance artist, he received his rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 2016.
In Parshat Behaalotcha, Aharon is commanded to light the menorah. A Second Passover is instituted. The people demand that Moses supply them with meat. Moses appoints 70 elders to assist him in the burden of governing the people. Miriam speaks ill of Moses, and punished.
Rabbi Burt Siegel was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
His first position was Rabbi Of Riverdale Temple in New York City. his lifelong passion for understanding the essence of spirituality grew during his years in Riverdale, and he decided to create a synagogue that was founded upon the teachings of classic and contemporary Jewish spiritual wisdom. The synagogue is The Shul of New York – A Synagogue for Jewish Spirituality. He was the Rabbi for 25 years. After leaving the Shul of New York, Rabbi Burt founded JEWISH LIFE EXPERIENCE, an organization for Jewish culture and arts. With the teachings of Chabad as his spiritual base, he continues his spiritual quest with an open and free mind.
Our parsha in Naso, and our conversation focuses on Birkat Kohanim, the blessings of the priests.
Rabbi Benjamin Weiner has been the spiritual leader of the Jewish Community of Amherst, for almost a decade. Before that, he worked for a time as a translator of Hebrew and Yiddish, and also wrote occasionally for publications including the Forward, Religion Dispatches and Pakn Treger. He lives with his wife, Cantor Elise Barber, and their son, Efraim, on a three-acre family homestead in Western Massachusetts, along with several dairy goats and chickens.
Our conversation focuses on the holiday of Shavuot, and covers topics such as the giving of the Torah, Ruth the Moabite and having Goats.
Rabbi Levi Welton is a speaker and author. He was ordained as an Orthodox Rabbi by the former Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Rav She’ar Yashuv Cohen Z”L, he is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and is also a Captain in the United States Air Force. Additionally, he has completed degrees in science, medicine, film and education.
Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin is the founder and director of The Biblical Museum of Natural History. He received his rabbinic ordination from Ohr Somayach Institutions, graduated from the Lander Institute in Jerusalem with an MA in Jewish Thought and Law, and received a PhD in Jewish history at Bar-Ilan University, with a dissertation on rabbinic encounters with zoology.
In parshat Shemini: Following the seven days of their inauguration, Aaron and his sons begin to officiate as kohanim (priests). Aaron’s two elder sons, Nadav and Avihu, offer a “strange fire before G‑d” and die. Aaron is silent in face of his tragedy. G‑d commands the kosher laws, identifying the animal species permissible and forbidden for consumption. Also in Shemini are some of the laws of ritual purity.
Rabbi Jill Jacobs is the Executive Director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. She is the author of Where Justice Dwells: A Hands-On Guide to Doing Social Justice in Your Jewish Community and There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice through Jewish Law and Tradition.
This week we speak about Purim and the story of the Megillah. Is Esther a feminist, should we feel uncomfortable about Jews killing their enemies, is the King a villain?
Rabbi/Cantor Diane Offenberg-Rose is a Jewish Universalist Rabbi serving the Los Angeles region. She was a music teacher and conductor before becoming a Cantor and then a Rabbi, with a Bachelor’s in Music Education and a Master’s in Conducting. Her work is focused on stepping back from Jewish teachings to find the Universal lesson within that can help all people (Jewish or not, religious or not, spiritual or not) lead more peaceful lives. She was ordained as a Cantor through the American Seminary for Contemporary Judaism and as a Rabbi through Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute. She is the spiritual leader of Cool Shul (Kehillah Sababah) in Los Angeles, where most people call her “Rantor” (Rabbi/Cantor).
This week’s Torah Portion – Parashat Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1-5:26) – is the first portion of the book of Leviticus. The portion introduces the sacrificial service and describes five different kinds of sacrifice. Our discussion focuses on the relevance of the sacrifices described in the parasha (and of the book of Leviticus in general) to our lives today.
Our guest today is Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum of Hertzl-Ner Tamid synagogue, in Mercer Island Washington. Rabbi Rosenbaum has been HNT’s spiritual leader since 2002. With degrees from NYU (1972), Rutgers University (1974) and Jewish Theological Seminary (1980), Rabbi Rosenbaum has more than thirty-six years of rabbinical experience.
In Parshat Pekudei, the Mishkan is completed and all its components are brought to Moses, who erects it and anoints it with the holy anointing oil. Aaron and the priests are given their clothing for work in the Sanctuary. A cloud descends upon the Tent of Meeting, and God’s presence fills the Mishkan.
Rabbi Ari Dembitzer has been senior rabbi of Beth Israel Synagogue in Ohama, NE, since 2015. Rabbi Ari is from New York and has lived in Israel for the past several years in both Jerusalem and Kfar Adumin in the Jedean Desert. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from New York University’s Wagner School of Public Affairs. He received rabbinic ordination from Mesivta Tefret Jerusalem, the yeshiva of Rabbi David Feinstein, son of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. Since 1997, Rabbi Ari has worked at Camp Simcha. The camp, that operates under the umbrella organization called Chai Lifeline, is for children with cancer and different chronic illnesses. Camp Simcha provides a happy and magical environment for children so they can confront their challenges with increased strength and willpower.
Rabbi Howard A. Berman is Founding Rabbi of Central Reform Temple. He is also Rabbi Emeritus of Chicago Sinai Congregation, Chicago’s historic center of liberal Reform Judaism, having served as Senior Rabbi from 1982-2002. He was born in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, where he received his early religious and general education. After attaining his undergraduate degree in European History from the Universities of Cincinnati and London, England, he studied for the Rabbinate at the Leo Baeck College in London, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, where he received the degree of Master of Hebrew Letters and was ordained in 1974.
This Week’s Torah Portion – Parashat Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35) – begins with the census of the people of Israel and with further instructions concerning the Tabernacle and the Shabbat. The portion then proceeds to tell the story of the Golden Calf, Moses’ plea to god, the splitting of the Tablets into two, and the giving of the second tablets. Our discussion focuses, among other things, on the role of aesthetics in religion.
Rabbi Mendy Hecht is the rabbi of Orchard Street Shul in New Haven, CT.
This week’s Torah Portion- Parashat Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10) – continues giving us the instructions concerning the tabernacle, focusing on the role of the priesthood. Our discussion examines lighting of the Menorah and the detailed description of the lavish garments worn by the priests.
Rabbi David Wolkenfeld is the rabbi of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation in Chicago’s Lakeview neighbourhood. He grew up in Manhattan, has a B.A. in History from Harvard University and has completed graduate coursework in Medieval Jewish History at Yeshiva University. He studied at Yeshivat Hamivtar in Efrat and also at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shvut. He has semikhah (rabbinic ordination) from Rabbi Zalman Nehemiah Goldberg, and Rabbi She’ar Yashuv Kohen in Israel, and from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York.
In parshat Trumah the people of Israel are called upon to contribute to the building of the temple – gold, silver, copper, dyed wool, animal skins, and more. On Mount Sinai, Moses is given detailed instructions on how to construct this Temple. In the Sanctuary’s inner chamber, was the ark, containing the tablets with the Ten Commandments. In the outer chamber stood the seven-branched menorah. Outside the sanctuary stood the copper-plated altar.
On the one hand, we do not have a new guest this week. On the other hand, we do have an opportunity to assemble all our previous talks on Parshat Mishpatim.
In this parsha G‑d legislates a series of laws for the people. These include the laws of the indentured servant; the punishment for murder, kidnapping and theft; civil laws pertaining to redress of damages, the granting of loans; the rules governing the conduct of justice by courts of law. Also included are laws warning against mistreatment of foreigners and the observance of the festivals (such as Sukkott).
Here is Rabbi Peter Berg, speaking about a person who strikes of curses his father or mother.
Rabbi Daniel Weiner is speaking about how spirituality in Judaism manifests itself by the things we do every day.
Rabbi Brigiitte Rosenberg is speaking about equality before the law:
Rabbi Daniel Greyber is speaking about the moment after Sinai.
Israel’s Election Handbook: Is the Rise of Gantz for Real?
Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin is the chief rabbi of the town of Efrat, and the founder, chancellor emeritus and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone.
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 guest this week is rabbi Josh Whinston of Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor, MI. Rabbi Whinston was ordained at the Hebrew Union College/Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles; he has earned master’s degrees in Hebrew Letters and Jewish Education and a doctorate in Pastoral Ministry. He served congregations in Connecticut, California and Washington state before arriving at Temple Beth Emeth in 2016.
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 why the people can’t yet have more trust in God.
Our guest is Rabbi Dr. Jenny Solomon from Beth Meyer Synagogue in Raleigh, NC. Rabbi Solomon received her undergraduate degree from Brown University, was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and completed a doctorate in counseling from the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health. Solomon spent extensive time studying in Israel and was awarded a Wexner Fellowship. She currently chairs the Wexner Alumni Coordinating Committee and remains active in the larger Wexner community. Rabbi Solomon is also active in the Institute for Jewish Spirituality community (known as Hevraya). As an alumna of their clergy cohort program and a participant in their Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training program, Rabbi Solomon considers contemplative practices to be at the center of her rabbinate.
In parshat Vaeira, Moses and Aaron repeatedly come before Pharaoh to demand “Let My people go”. Pharaoh repeatedly refuses And God then sends a series of plagues upon the Egyptians.The waters of the Nile turn to blood; frogs overrun the land; lice infest people and beasts. wild animals invade the cities; a pestilence kills domestic animals; boils afflict the Egyptians. Fire and ice descend from the skies as a devastating hail.
Rabbi Richard Rheins is the Senior Rabbi of Temple Sinai in Denver, Colorado. He is in his thirtieth year as an ordained Rabbi. He has served as the President of the Rocky Mountain Rabbinic Council (Colorado), President of the Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association, and President of the Monroeville (PA) Interfaith Alliance. In addition, Rabbi Rheins continues to serve on many organizational boards including the National Executive Council of AIPAC. More about him here.
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, the story of the burning bush, and Moses’ return to Egypt. Our discussion focuses on Israel leaving in the Diaspora of Egypt.
Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi is the rabbi of Congregation Chevra Thilim, the oldest Orthodox synagogue in San Francisco. He comes from a Hasidic family of rabbis that goes back many generations. Growing up in Brooklyn, he studied Kabbalah and Hasidic thought. He is one of the foremost experts on the Kabbalah on the West Coast and is a frequent lecturer.
This week’s Torah portion- Parashat Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26)- is the final parsha of the book of Genesis. The parsha describes the final days of Jacob, the blessing given to his sons, Jacob’s death and burial, and the death of Joseph. Our discussion focuses on the centrality of the Land of Israel, and how come Jacob still had his best days in Egypt.
Rabbi Zvi Romm. is the rabbi of the historic Bialystoker Synagogue on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the Administrator of the RCA-affiliated Manhattan Beth Din for Conversions, and an Instructor of Talmud in the Isaac Breuer College of Yeshiva University.
In parshat Vayigash, Judah approaches Joseph to plead for the release of Benjamin. Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers. The brothers rush back to Canaan with the news. Jacob comes to Egypt and is reunited with his beloved son after 22 years. Joseph gathers the wealth of Egypt by selling food and seed during the famine.
Dovid Bashevkin, Director of Education for NCSY, studied in Ner Israel Rabbinical College and completed his rabbinic ordination at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS). While in Yeshiva University, he completed a Master’s degree in Polish Hassidut, focused on the thought of Rav Zadok of Lublin, under the guidance of Dr. Yaakov Elman. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in Public Policy and Management at The New School’s Milano School of International Affairs, focusing on crisis management. He also teaches a course a Yeshiva University about religious crisis. Recently, he published a rabbinic work entitled B’Rogez Rachem Tizkor (trans. In Anger, Remember Mercy), which is a discussion of sin and failure in Jewish thought and law. Dovid has been rejected from several prestigious fellowship and awards.
Parashat Miketz (Genesis 41:1-44:17) – features the second part of the story of Joseph and his brothers. The parasha begins with Joseph interpreting the Pharaoh’s dream and continues to tell us about Joseph’s rise to power, about the seven years of famine, and about Joseph’s first re-encounter with his brothers who come to Egypt to purchase grain. Our discussion focuses on family trauma and healing.
With an Modern Orthodox, Sephardi background, Rabbi Olivier Benhaim has been a student of Torah and of the Jewish way for most of his life. He lived in Israel for close to 10 years, where he studied in Jerusalem with many teachers of the Jewish spiritual path, both in Yeshivas and scholarly circles. Rabbi Olivier is the Rabbi of Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue in Seattle. He received a B.A. and a Masters Degree in Jewish Studies from Hebrew College in Newton, MA. He was ordained as a Rabbi in 2009.
This week’s Torah portion — Parashat Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23) — features the first part of the story of Joseph and his brothers. It begins with Joseph’s dreams and continues to tell us about how he was sold into slavery by his brothers, about the affair with Potiphar’s wife, and about the beginnings of his career as an interpreter of dreams. Our discussion focuses on Joseph’s journey.
Rabbi David Lazar has been a spiritual leader and activist in Israel Sweden and the United States for 30 years. He has led the way as an active rabbinic supporter of LGBTQ causes as well as interfaith study and prayer. In Israel, he founded and directed RIKMA, and organization devoted to Spiritual Community Leadership Training, served congregations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and was rabbinic chaplain for the Israel AIDS Task Force. His interest in Jewish Folk Art is documented on-line at www.rabbidavidlazar.com. He currently serves as rabbi of Temple Isaiah in Palm Springs.
This week’s Torah portion- Parashat Vayeitze (Genesis 28:10-32:2)- features the story of Jacob’s dream and Jacob’s ladder, Jacob’s first encounter with Rachel at the well, and his marriage with her and with her sister Leah after being cheated by their father Laban. Our discussion focuses, among other things, on the objectification of women – and men – in this parsha.
Ari Hart is the rabbi of Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob, an orthodox synagogue in Skokie Illinois. As a thought leader, he has contributed to leading secular and religious publications, including the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, The Hill, Patheos, NY Daily News, The Jewish Daily Forward,and more. Rav Ari was selected by The Jewish Week as one of the 36 “forward-thinking young people who are helping to remake the Jewish community.” He is also a founder of Uri L’Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice and co-founder of the Jewish Muslim Volunteer Alliance. Rabbi Hart received smicha (rabbinic ordination) from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York City in 2012.
This week’s Torah portion — Parashat Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18) — features the death of Sarah, Isaac’s marriage to Rivka, and the death and burial of Abraham. Our talk focuses on Lavan – and other enemies of the Jewish People.
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.