In June 1848, among a set of sixteen definitions printed by a New Orleans newspaper (The Daily Crescent) was one for ‘happiness’: “A butterfly, which when pursued, seems always just beyond your grasp; but if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” This metaphor suggests it isn’t only the pursuit that is problematic, […]
When Rabban Gamliel was the head of the Yeshiva, he used to say that any student whose inside was not like their outside, was not allowed to enter the house of study (Berakhot 28). However, it is difficult to establish what this sentence really means and how a gate keeper could possibly identify […]
We will do and we will hear: Making a Jewish Road by Walking
This week’s parashah – Mishpatim – invites us on a journey as Progressive Jews to consider our relationship with the complexities of Jewish law in the Torah. To what extent is that relationship shaped by contemporary critical approaches? And how does it […]
During my last visit to Milan, I had to go to the Palazzo di Giustizia. It is a huge building built during the fascist regime in ‘Stile Novecento’, an architectural style created by Jewish art critic Margherita Sarfatti. An imposing stairway leads to the main entrance. On its frontispiece a Latin inscription welcomes the […]
B’shalach gives us the first two accounts of Shirat Ha-Yam, the prayer of exultation that also features in our daily liturgy and is usually sung. In Exodus chapter 15, verse 1, we read:
“Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song to the Almighty: I will sing to the Almighty who has risen […]
Blood that brings freedom
As we read the story of the Exodus in parashat Bo, we celebrate our freedom.
Avadim hayyinu le-far’oh be-mitzrayim
Our ancestors were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. But now, we are free.
There is little that is more central to our lives than freedom. The miraculous exodus from Egypt is nothing less than […]
What is the most common phrase in Parashat Va-eira? The true answer is probably something like “And God spoke to Moses,” but among the less generic phrases, one strong contender might be surprising. Each time a miracle or plague occurs, we hear a this: “vaya’asu khein hachartumim b’lateihem, they did the same with their […]
The second chapter of Shemot ends with a promise; the enslaved Israelites cry out to God for help and liberation, and: ‘God heard their moaning, and God remembered the covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them’ (Shemot 2:24-5).
And scene change — we cut […]