By Rabbi Bradley Artson, provided by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, for MyJewishLearning.com
Abram and God's Mutual Faith
As Abram and God demonstrate, Judaism understands faith as deep trust despite doubt, confusion, and suffering.
At a ripe old age, Abram receives a message from God, telling him that he will yet produce an heir, and that the child will inherit not only Abram's property, but also his father's covenant with God. Surely God's promise would strain the credulity of even the most devoted follower. Sarah had been barren throughout her life. Now, her body no longer surged with the monthly cycle of women-childbearing wasn't even a possibility. And she herself testified that her husband was far too old to father children. Yet, despite biological reality, God tells Abram that he will have a child, and that his descendants will outnumber the stars in the sky!
In response to God's astounding promise, the Torah states simply that "because he put his trust in the Lord, he reckoned it to his credit." In that one ambiguous sentence, the Torah contrasts the rich complexity of biblical faith and the flimsy superficiality of the contemporary notion of faith.
Noach - Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan
Genesis 6:9 - 11:32
Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger for myjewishlearning.com
The Children Of Noah
As the children of Noah, we are challenged to follow his example.
Creation is not off to such a good start: the earth is filled with violence and corruption, and so God decides to flood the earth and start over, choosing Noah to build an Ark to save himself and his family and at least one pair of every kind of animal. After the flood, God establishes the Rainbow covenant with every living creature. Humans decide to challenge God by building the Tower of Babel, so they become dispersed, and the portion ends by introducing us to Avram and Sarai, who will later on become Abraham and Sarah, the First Family of the Jewish nation.
Dr. Rabbi David Frankel for thetorah.com
Did God Bless Shabbat?
Can time be blessed?
Sanctifying and Blessing the Seventh Day
The creation story ends with the statement (Gen 2:3):
וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹהִים אֶת יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתוֹ
And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy.
To consecrate or sanctify a day means that the day is to be dedicated to divine worship and not to be put to profane use. Many days in the Hebrew calendar are said to be מקראי קדש, days of holy convocations, when profane activity is strictly forbidden (see Leviticus 23). The fact that Gen 2:3 speaks of the sanctification of the seventh day is clearly why this passage is traditionally included as the introductory passage for the Friday night Kiddush, which sanctifies the day in preparation for the Shabbat meal.
What, however, might it mean to “bless” the seventh day?
Shabbat Chol Hamo'ed Sukkot
Exodus 33:12–34:26; Maftir: Numbers 29:17-22
By: Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, AJU Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies
The Crack is How the Light Gets In
I was travelling with my family to Independence Hall, the Philadelphia locus of the American Revolution. In the middle of this storied courtyard stands a large bell. The entire world knows that bell. It was hung in the Philadelphia State House in 1753, and it sounded to summon the pre-Independence Colonial Legislature into session, and it was used after the Revolution for the Pennsylvania State Legislature as well.
The intriguing idiosyncrasy of this bell is that when it arrived, it cracked right away. Not once, but twice, American craftspeople repaired the bell by filling in the crack with new metal. And yet it cracked again, and then it cracked again. Apparently the bell wanted to be broken; it had something to say. In the 1830s the Abolitionist Movement was gaining steam; Americans were awakening to the realization that slavery was economically harmful and morally repugnant. Some bold Americans started to organize against slavery as an ethical and political imperative. The Abolitionists were the very first to label this bell the Liberty Bell, and they elevated it as a symbol of American independence and personal freedom.
BY MATTHEW BERKOWITZ, DIRECTOR OF ISRAEL PROGRAMS, JTS
The Discipline of Atonement
This coming Shabbat culminates the period of aseret yamei teshuvah, the ten days of repentance, as we commemorate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is the Sabbath of Sabbaths in which we seek to successfully complete our journey toward making amends and recall the ritual of purification that unfolded in biblical times. This particular ritual is detailed during the Musaf service of Yom Kippur. We read that the high priest would set aside his elegant garments and don the garb of a regular priest as he entered the Holy of Holies. There he would atone for his own sins, the transgressions of his family, and the sins of all of Israel. Subsequently, two goats were selected—one for God and the other designated for “Azazel.” While the former goat would be offered as a sacrifice, the latter animal would be led into the desert wilderness to this mysterious place. How can we better understand this intriguing ritual of the scapegoat?
Nahmanides (13th-century Spanish commentator Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman, or Ramban) sheds light on the significance of the goat and of Azazel. Regarding the latter, Ramban surveys the beliefs of other commentators: