WRJ's Blog

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...

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What do the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia have in common? In the aftermath of the landmark case Shelby County v. Holder, all of the aforementioned states implemented harmful electoral changes; altercations previously prevented in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Section 5 of the VRA ensured certain states and local governments must obtain federal preclearance heretofore executing any changes to their voting laws...

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In this Torah portion, the Israelites lose two of their leaders: Miriam and Aaron. When Aaron dies, the people are prepared – they observed Moses, Aaron and Eleazar ascend Mount Hor. Later, when only Moses and Eleazar (wearing Aaron’s vestments) descend from the mountain, they realize that Aaron has died. They mourn him for 30 days before continuing on their journey.

Miriam’s death seems to come without warning. It is at the very beginning of the parashah that her death is recounted, naming the place of her death and burial. No official mourning period is mentioned.


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On Friday, June 23, we celebrated 45 years since the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex under any education program or activity that receives federal funding. Title IX is most commonly known for its application to the fight for gender equality in collegiate athletics, but I have come to know it intimately for a different reason. 

In recent years, the term “Title IX” has become closely associated with student activism around sexual violence in schools, particularly on college campuses...

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This week’s Voices is written by Jennifer Mager who is a 2nd year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR in New York. Jennifer is one of 6 students who are receiving YES Fund scholarships this year from WRJ.

In this week’s parashah, Korach incites rebellion, rallying the Israelites against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Korach, Dathan, and Abiram, together with 250 leaders of the community, rise up against Aaron’s exclusive right to the priesthood and criticize Moses’ leadership. The parashah unfolds with the terrifying details of their punishment; the earth opens its mouth and swallows...

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