Monday, June 13, 2016

Naso - Conservative

Numbers 4:21−7:89

By Rabbi Bradley Artson, provided by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, for

Situational Ethics And God

The importance of preserving the relationship between a husband and wife provides an example of the Torah's use of relative morality.

Often, we define the moral position as the one that adheres to objective standards of right and wrong.  Consequently, someone who evaluates an action in the light of eternal, immutable values demonstrates a higher level of moral development than a person who uses other, more situational standards.  The roots of this perspective lie in ancient Greek thought, which associated the true with the eternal–what was perfect never changed.  Similarly, the highest level of morality would be immutable.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

B'midbar - Conservative

Numbers 1:1−4:20

By Rabbi Bradley Artson, with permission from American Jewish University, for

What Is Parenting?

Transmitting Jewish culture by embodying Jewish practice is part of the responsibilities of Jewish parenting.

One of the greatest mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah, the very first command given to humanity, is that of bearing children. “Be fruitful and multiply” is the necessary underpinning of any Jewish community, since without renewed Jewish people, there can be no Torah, nor any Judaism either.

But parenting is more than simple biology. Any animal can spawn, and most animals have the necessary instincts to guide their young through a relatively brief infancy before the new generation takes off on its own, guided by its own internal barometer. Humans are distinctive in the extraordinary length of our infancy and youth, the extreme degree of dependence of our young, and by a lack of instincts on which to fall back to guide us in raising our children.

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Monday, May 30, 2016

B’chukotai - Conservative

Leviticus 26:3-27:34

By Matthew Berkowitz, Jewish Theological Seminary

A Bridge Between Heaven and Earth

Fertility of humans and of the land is the essence of divine blessing. It is the theme of the first commandment of Torah - to be fruitful and multiply - the sacred wish of each ancestral pair in their desire to see the next generation, and the divine promise for the loyal observance of mitzvot. Parashat B'hukkotai opens in this vein, with a condition and the promise of God's blessing. The two opening verses of our parashah speak of the harmony between heaven and earth, the bridges between the two, and the necessity for each of us to view ourselves as a sacred link.

Leviticus 26:3-4 teaches, "If you follow My ordinances, observe My commandments and do them, then I will give rain at their proper season and the land will give its produce and the tree will yield its fruit." As one reads these verses, one is struck by the harmony of its content and the symmetry of its language. Note well that observance of the mitzvot is connected to the well being of not only ourselves but also the Land of Israel. Our environment responds to our spiritual behavior. If our spiritual lives are lived in accordance with the essence of Torah - according to the order of Torah - then the natural environment will reflect that same sense of order.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

B'har - Conservative

Leviticus 25:1-26:2

By Rabbi Joshua Heller. Provided by the Jewish Theological Seminary, a Conservative rabbinical seminary and university of Jewish studies, for

Economic Justice for Insiders and Outsiders

Biblical laws of business ethics.

Chapter 25 of Vayikra, which makes up the bulk of parashat B’har, deals with essential laws of economic justice in an agrarian society. No member of the Jewish people may be relegated to lifelong slavery or landless serfdom. Ancestral plots are not to be sold out of the family forever, but rather returned in the Jubilee year. Even though slavery is permitted, a Jewish slave must go free in the seventh year. One may not cheat another in selling or buying, nor earn a profit at the expense of one in need by charging him interest. And yet, there are troubling limits to the scope of this ethical tradition.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Emor - Conservative

 Leviticus 21:1−24:23

By Rabbi Bradley Artson, provided by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, for

The Pursuit Of Happiness

As identified Jews, our speech and actions reflect on our families and the larger Jewish people.

Ours is a culture that glories in individuality and autonomy. The foundation documents of the United States affirm the right of each individual to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Pilgrims fled England and Europe, so we are told, to practice religious liberty and to find individual freedom as well.

Justly proud of our national ideals of personal liberty and freedom, we cherish the ability to pursue happiness each in our own way. Even those Americans who came later came in search of economic freedom and personal expression. The ability to move wherever one chose, to work in any field one could, to rise as one’s talent could propel a career, speaks still to the core of our ideals as Americans.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Kedoshim - Conservative

Leviticus 19:1-20:27

By Rabbi Ismar Schorsch. Provided by the Jewish Theological Seminary, a Conservative rabbinical seminary and university of Jewish studies, for

Planting for the Future

Parashat Kedoshim teaches us to preserve our natural resources.

From our apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, we enjoy a glorious view of Riverside Park below and the Hudson River beyond. Overnight, it seems, the trees have once again donned a glorious green canopy of leaves. Gone is the drab garb of winter. Life has surged back with irrepressible vigor and astonishing beauty. Each year I marvel at the swiftness of the scenic change.

It is not for nothing that the Book of Proverbs speaks of wisdom (3:13-18) and the Rabbis later of the Torah as a Tree of Life for those who cling to it. Personal experience at tests that there is no more affecting symbol for continuity and renewal in all of nature!

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Ahare Mot - Conservative

Leviticus 16:1-18:30

By Rabbi Bradley Artson, provided by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, for

Threat And Promise Of Conformity

We can learn from and adopt only those practices foreign to Judaism that enhance and strengthen Jewish practice.

In the movie Zelig, Woody Allen portrays an individual who repeatedly rises to the pinnacle of success through his uncanny ability to become identical to those in power.  Time after time, Zelig is able to transform himself into the image of people around him, and those people reward his ability by offering Zelig influence, prominence and prestige.

The movie audience sees Zelig in photographs with Indian chieftains, Nazi generals and capitalist millionaires. In each case, he has become more like them than they are themselves.  Always in the center, always a passionate advocate, Zelig’s zeal and enthusiasm bear the mark of his insecurity. His very passion reveals his wish to belong.

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