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Women with a Voice

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Note from the author: This column, originally published in 2014, speaks directly to issues that have arisen this week regarding the right of women to serve in positions of religious leadership.

When Avraham charges his servant to find a wife for Yitzchak, the servant asks a strange question: “Perhaps the woman will not...

Dystopia

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I never thought that I would begin a discussion of the weekly Torah portion by referring to a person who was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church. Never, that is, until I sat down to write this week’s Person in the Parsha column.

The person in question is Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), the great jurist and counselor to the notorious King Henry VIII, who was beheaded because of his insistence that the Catholic Church was his supreme religious authority, and not King Henry.

I have long admired Sir Thomas because of his courage and also because of his wisdom. One example of the latter is the following quotation, which remains one of my all-time favorites: “The ordinary arts we...

One Day We Will All Be Together

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I picked him up at the airport. He was arriving in Baltimore, where I was then a rabbi, to deliver an address and then return home to New York.

The plane was late, so that when he came, I told him that we would have to hurry to be at our destination on time. He was already showing signs of age, so walking quickly was hard for him. We moved rapidly past the gates, at which other flights were disembarking, including one at which the arriving passengers were being welcomed warmly by friends and family.

That is where he stopped, transfixed. He could not take his eyes off the scene of the small crowds embracing and kissing each other tearfully and emotionally.

Reluctantly, he responded to...

The Essence of Ve-ahavta Le-re’acha Ka-mocha

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The most famous verse in Leviticus may be the command, “Ve-ahavta le-re’acha ka-mocha” (Lev. 19:18). But what exactly does it mean? For example, what is the meaning of the word re’acha here? Does it refer only to Jews or to all human beings?

According to some, re’acha refers only to Jews here. This view is supported by the context. The verse and its preceding verses read as follows (Lev. 19:17-18): “You shall not hate your brother in your heart... You shall not take revenge or feel resentment against bnei amecha; you shall love re’acha as yourself…”

On the other hand, at Exodus 11:2, the Israelites are instructed to ask their Egyptian neighbors for silver and gold...

Filling in the Blanks

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The Torah is replete with inspiring stories of its heroes. The lives of Abraham, Jacob, Moses and David, to name just a few, are narrated at great length and in vivid detail. Their noble acts and admirable accomplishments are described, and even their occasional faults or failures are not hidden from us.

It is, therefore, especially frustrating when the story is incomplete, and facts about their lives which we would love to know are glaringly omitted. Our curiosity gets the better of us, and not only do we wish to ascertain the facts, but we are additionally puzzled by why those facts were omitted in the first place.

In this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32), we...

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