This week’s parsha is a double portion, Matot-Ma’sei, and with it we conclude the book of B’midbar (Numbers). This is the final account of the Israelites’ wanderings before Moses begins his farewell speech in Dvarim (Deuteronomy). The second portion we read this week, Ma’sei, begins with a review of the Israelite’s travels and some major events, and then moves on to preparation for the Israelites entry into the Promised Land, laying out the divisions of land between the tribes. It concludes with a return to the matter of the daughters of Zelophehad. These five women have already...Read More
As the global refugee crisis escalated, fear and misunderstanding of who refugees are inhibited refugee resettlement in the United States. These false perceptions of refugees mask the reality: refugees want to start a new life in a place where they feel safe. Most of them want the same things out of life that we want: to be safe, healthy and happy.
This summer, I have been interning with HIAS, the only Jewish organization solely focused on refugee resettlement and protection, in their community engagement department. HIAS has been around for over 135 years and began by resettling...Read More
This week’s parashah, Pinchas, addresses the census taken as the Israelites were poised to enter the Promised Land. With a few exceptions, the census lists only men. However, it does mention Zelophehad’s daughters, as he had no sons. The story of these five unmarried sisters—Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah—is somewhat amazing for the time. These women challenge the inheritance system, thereby allowing brotherless daughters to inherit parental property. In this process, these women create a legacy for future generations, as they change the course of community practice in their time...Read More
When my younger brother was about eleven, he decided he did not believe in God. My mother, being the supportive, inquisitive person that she is said, “Okay, that is fine, but out of curiosity, why don’t you?”
Jacob responded, in the plainest terms, “I cannot see God and you can’t prove that He exists.”
While it is certainly shocking for an eleven-year-old to make such a profound statement about his philosophical view of the world, what is not surprising is his reasoning. Many people share his skepticism of intangible, often inscrutable topics. Mental illness, being one of...Read More
Blessings and curses. Our lives are full of them, and our Torah is full of them. In Balak, this week’s parashah, we have the story of one of the most famous blessings, one that is incorporated into our liturgy and that we sing with gusto at every morning service. Mah tovu ohalecha, Yaakov.
We know the story that this blessing was originally supposed to be a curse. Balak, the king of Moab, commissions Balaam, a visionary skilled in blessings and curses, to curse the Israelites. This commission is prompted by Balak’s fear and alarm, having seen how numerous and strong the Israelites...Read More