WRJ's Blog

As a rising third-year Cantorial student at Hebrew Union College: Jewish Institute of Religion, life has certainly been a wild ride since graduating from my undergraduate studies. Just three weeks after getting my degrees from the University of Michigan, I had a one-way ticket to Tel Aviv and a plan for the next five years of my life in an incredible program filled with intense academic learning, rigorous vocal and musical studies, and the opportunity for spiritual growth and expansion.

On top of the rigors of the program itself, we are encouraged to garner experience out in the...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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