WRJ's Blog

Teach your children well. This is what Moses did after God answered his pleas to enter the Promised Land with a resounding “no.” Moses spoke to the Israelites, most of whom were born during the years of wandering in the wilderness, framing his final speech to the community as if they all had experienced leaving Egypt and had stood at Sinai (or Horeb) and received the Law. Va et’chanan is rich with shared memory and the promise that God will not forget the covenant with the Israelites as long as they follow the laws and rules that were handed down to them. 

This parashah suggests a...

Read More

This week’s Torah portion D’varim (The Words) opens with Moses, a once reluctant leader, beginning his farewell address to the Israelites at the threshold of Canaan. He reviews their 40-year journey and retells the stories of great battles and encounters with foreign nations. He is focused on preparing the people to enter into the Promised Land as a civil society with good core values. He discusses the appointment of judges and leaders, the allocation of land and of course, the importance of observing the laws of Torah.   

As I read through this portion, I couldn’t help but think...

Read More

When I study Torah, I read the story of a people creating their own community structure. There is plenty of material to consider in this week’s double Torah portion, Matot Mas’ei. Double portions are read in non-leap years, and I am glad that this is one such year. This portion is the last in the Book of Numbers and the narrative tells of the end of the Israelites’ journey. They are poised to enter the Promised Land.  It begins and ends with issues of concern to women.

Matot begins with instructions regarding the rights of women to make and keep vows. The vows of women who lived...

Read More

Parshat Pinchas is a very rich portion with a wealth of things to talk about. The Israelites have wandered in the desert for close to 40 years, Moses learns he is not going to the Promised Land, a successor needs to be chosen to guide the Israelites, another census needs to be taken (males only of course!), and rules for sacrifices that relate to current holidays are explained.

With all that, there is still the story of the five daughters of Zelophohed: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milccah, and Tirzah. These women feel that they should have their father’s land since he died in the...

Read More

It is ironic that a famous cigarette commercial directed toward women decades ago touted “We’ve come a long way, baby” as it became “more acceptable” for women to smoke cigarettes! The meaning was that women were now independent and could make their own choices to smoke if that’s what they wanted. Is that really coming a long way? I think not; instead it was a pitch to encourage women to smoke. And so I pose the question: Have we truly come a long way? Why are we still questioning whether women should be able to make their own decisions about their own bodies despite the fact that they can...

Read More