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		                                    Thinking Torah Blog		                                </span>

04/11/2024 09:23:32 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

In the last few days, I’ve heard murmurings from members getting their seder cooking in order. Chicken soup and some of those side dishes are already made and being frozen. I don’t want to raise anyone’s anxiety; my own menu isn’t even set yet, but I know others do these things well in advance. Even if we prepare for Passover in the same old way we always have, we all know this Passover will be...Read more...

04/04/2024 09:53:37 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

There are many ways to categorize the mitzvot in the Torah, positive and negative, between people and God or people and people; commandments that apply only in the Land of Israel and those that apply everywhere are just some of the ways commandments are discussed in rabbinic literature. Another classic categorization is between Chuk and Mishpat. Both words mean “law,” but our sages distinguish...Read more...

03/28/2024 05:15:00 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

Parashat Tzav opens with two chapters regarding our ancestors' sacrifices at the Tabernacle and eventually at the Temple in Jerusalem. One of the sacrifices is called Zevach Shelamim and is often translated as a sacrifice of "well-being." This translation echoes ancient ideas of offerings made by kings of besieged cities to the commanders of the sieging forces. Our sages, however, often would translate this sacrifice as a "peace" offering. In...Read more...

Vayikra, וַיִּקְרָא, [God] Called Out

03/21/2024 09:50:21 PM



The Eternal One called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying: "Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When any of you presents an offering of cattle to the Eternal: You shall choose your offering from the herd or from the flock." - Leviticus 1:1-2

TORAH, Leviticus 1:1−5:26



03/14/2024 09:48:31 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

Last week I informed the congregation that I had signed a T’ruah letter supporting President Biden in his efforts to, among others things, free the hostages in Gaza and work toward a bilateral ceasefire. I began my statement to the congregation by affirming, “I am a Zionist.” The next day during Shabbat services I opened up a conversation about my public shift on ceasefire and engaged folks at services...Read more...

03/07/2024 09:46:22 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

I am a Zionist. I feel that more strongly today than ever before in my life. While living in Israel during the Second Intifada, I witnessed horrifying bus bombings and saw the carnage left at cafes after an attack. Yet, the intifada never instilled in me a sense of existential threat to Israel. However, everything changed on October 7th, leaving an indelible mark on my consciousness. My subsequent trip to...Read more...

Ki Tisa, כִּי תִשָּׂא, When You Take a Census

02/29/2024 09:44:31 PM



The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: "When you take a census of the Israelite men according to their army enrollment, each shall pay the Eternal a ransom for himself on being enrolled, that no plague may come upon them through their being enrolled." - Exodus 30:11-12

TORAH, Exodus 30:11−34:35



T'tzaveh, תְּצַוֶּה, [You] Shall Further Instruct

02/22/2024 09:03:58 AM



You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lamps regularly. - Exodus 27:20

TORAH, Exodus 27:20−30:10


• The children of Israel are commanded to bring pure olive oil for the ner tamid "a constantly burning light,"...Read more...

T'rumah, תְּרוּמָה, Gifts

02/15/2024 09:01:54 AM



The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: "Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved." - Exodus 25:1-2

TORAH, Exodus 25:1−27:19


• God asks the Children of Israel to donate gifts (t'rumah) for the building...Read more...

Mishpatim, מִשְׁפָּטִים, [These Are the] Rules

02/08/2024 09:10:52 AM



These are the rules that you shall set before them. - Exodus 21:1

TORAH, Exodus 21:1−24:18


• Interpersonal laws ranging from the treatment of slaves to the exhibition of kindness to strangers are listed. (21:1-23:9)

• Cultic laws...

02/01/2024 05:00:31 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

In this week’s Torah portion, Yitro, we encounter the Ten Commandments, a cornerstone of Jewish ethics and law. These commandments are not just historical relics but continue to guide our moral compass and religious practice today. Interestingly, our sages cautioned against the notion of hierarchizing these divine directives. They believed that the entirety of Torah is God’s word, making no one commandment inherently more significant than...Read more...

B'shalach, בְּשַׁלַּח, Now When [Pharaoh] Let [the People] Go

01/25/2024 09:35:16 PM



Now when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was nearer; for God said, "The people may have a change of heart when they see war, and return to Egypt." - Exodus 13:17

TORAH, Exodus 13:17−17:16


• The Children of Israel escape across...

01/18/2024 05:00:41 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

In this week's Torah portion, Bo, before the final plague in Egypt, the Israelites marked their doorposts with lamb's blood. In the Torah, blood was typically considered ritually polluting, but here it becomes a symbol of protection, keeping the Israelites safe from the final plague. Today, our community faces a different kind of plague – one of division and disagreement.

Last night, the Ann Arbor Board of Education and the...Read more...

Va-eira, וָאֵרָא, I (God) Appeared [to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob]

01/11/2024 09:26:52 PM



Rabbi Whinston encourages you to read over a summary of this week's Torah portion from the URJ and contemplate for yourselves.

Va-eira, וָאֵרָא, I (God) Appeared [to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob]

God spoke to Moses and said to him, "I am the Eternal." - Exodus 6:2



01/04/2024 05:00:33 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

In our culture, we love to lionize the hero. We tend to focus on the successful individual as the pinnacle example of being rather than the efforts of a group. We focus on the JJ McCarthy’s of the world rather than the defensive lines (who obviously won the game for Michigan). We love our heroes. In real life, individual heroes don’t exist. Life is a group effort. This fact is true even when it comes to our relationship with...Read more...

12/21/2023 05:00:18 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

In one of the most dramatic moments in the Torah, Joseph can no longer contain himself and hide his identity from his brothers. Joseph has been the viceroy of Egypt for some time, and his brother came to Egypt looking for food during the famine. They don’t recognize Joseph, though Joseph does recognize them. Eventually, Joseph reveals himself and says in Genesis 45:6-7, “It is now two years that there has been famine in the land, and...Read more...

12/07/2023 05:00:56 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

Anyone who reads these weekly emails knows I rarely veer away from the weekly Torah portion or current holiday when writing. Today, I am going to do that. The last two months have been excruciatingly painful for many of us. The shocking atrocities on Oct. 7th left many of us frightened for the future of Israel, and the war that Hamas started has been horrible as well. Seeing the images of dead or wounded Palestinian children is no less...Read more...

11/30/2023 05:09:16 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

In this week's Torah portion, Vayishlach, a poignant reunion takes place between Jacob and Esau, who have been separated for more than 14 years. As they prepare to meet, Jacob grapples with the haunting fear that Esau may seek revenge for past transgressions. His anxiety is so profound that he divides his camp, hoping that if one group is attacked, the others may escape unharmed. However, when the long-anticipated meeting finally occurs,...Read more...

11/23/2023 05:00:00 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

There are moments in our lives when everything changes, when our perception of the world undergoes a profound transformation. In this week's Torah portion, our ancestor Jacob experiences such a paradigm shift. He has a dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder, and in this dream, he hears God speaking to him. Upon waking, Jacob exclaims, "God is in this place, and I, I did not even know it." Rabbinic Judaism echoes this line when it...Read more...

11/10/2023 05:00:46 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

On October 7th, the Jewish world was changed forever. We all woke up to the reality of Israel’s security failure and the catastrophe of nearly 1,400 Israelis murdered and 240 people taken as hostages into the Gaza tunnels and bunkers. Most of the hostages remain unaccounted for.

Even in the midst of my father’s decline and death, my attention was pulled toward the East. Before me my father was dying and across the ocean so were my...Read more...

11/02/2023 02:00:03 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

We often refer to them as collateral damage, the unintentional casualties of war, but the Torah describes them as innocents. In this week's Torah portion, Vayera, we encounter a profound interaction between God and Abraham. God informs Abraham about the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham pleads with God to spare the cities. Abraham's approach is to advocate for the potential innocents in these cities. He initially asks...Read more...

10/26/2023 05:00:11 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

In this week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha, we encounter the beginning of our story. Up until now, the Torah has been telling a universal story, the story of all of humanity, with Lech Lecha we pivot to our particular story. As Abraham and Sarah take their place as the first matriarch and patriarch of our people, their future depends upon their progeny, children they do not yet have. God asking Abraham to step outside his tent to count the...Read more...

10/19/2023 05:00:26 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

Our hearts remain torn apart today as we continue to learn of the horror that befell our people in the land of Israel on October 7th. We continue to cry out for the return of hostages, innocent babies, children, women, men, all people who are being held hostage in dark tunnels and bunkers fearing for their lives. Party goers who last saw daylight at a rave in the desert, now ravaged by the inhumanity humans inflict on each other. We pray for...Read more...

10/12/2023 05:00:15 PM


Cantor Regina Lambert-Hayut and Rabbi Chelsea Feuchs

This week, we return to Parshat B’reishit, our creation story.

One of the many important lessons that we learn from this portion is that all humanity descends from one set of parents, Adam and Eve. We are all related and interrelated, we are all part of one human family.

Sadly, that family has suffered from tension, competition, and violence since its earliest days. Cain and Abel are the first brothers, and Cain kills Abel....Read more...

09/28/2023 05:00:09 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

The response to the High Holy Days has been overwhelmingly positive. We were able to meet the spiritual needs of so many members within our congregation and the wider community, making it a truly gratifying experience. Personally, I had an amazing time sharing the bimah with Cantors Hayut and Rose, along with Rabbi Fuechs. The inclusion of different voices in singing and reading greatly enhanced the prayer experience for everyone, including...Read more...

09/21/2023 05:00:55 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

Yom Kippur asks us to confront our mortality in dramatic ways. The most obvious way we do that is by refraining from 5 actions, eating, washing, anointing with oil (lotions and such), wearing leather shoes, and sexual relations. These 5 actions are all things that help many of us feel alive and invigorated. On Yom Kippur we try to look our mortality directly in the face in the hopes that we live a life more in line with our best self. During...Read more...

09/14/2023 05:02:29 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

On Rosh Hashanah, we say, "shanah tovah." While we often translate that as "Happy New Year," that isn't what shanah tovah means. Shanah tovah means have a "good year." Goodness may imply happiness, but not always. Happiness is transient. It is here one moment and gone the next; it can leave us in an instant when challenging moments arise, but goodness has more staying power. Goodness can exist even when we aren't happy at all. Goodness has...Read more...

09/07/2023 05:00:22 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

As much as I adore technology, I also have concerns about its impact on us. In anticipation of the end of my sabbatical, I decided to remove TikTok from my phone. It's one thing to get caught up in the TikTok vortex when I don't have meetings or writing tasks, but I didn't want this distraction upon my return. Whether it's TikTok, Facebook, or even Google ads, we're all being tracked by big tech. They gather information about us, even if...Read more...

08/31/2023 05:00:02 PM


Rabbi Chelsea Feuchs

This week's Torah portion, Parashat Ki Tavo, is a doozy! Moses, loquacious as ever, continues to advise the Israelites on how to behave when they enter the Promised Land. This part of his farewell speech begins nicely, with assurances of abundant harvests, a retelling of the Exodus story, and reminders about the importance of providing for the most vulnerable. But soon enough the mood shifts, as Moses outlines curses that will befall the...Read more...

08/24/2023 05:00:19 PM


Cantor Regina Lambert-Hayut

This week’s Torah portion is Ki Teitzei, yet another week of being lectured by Moses about how to live well and prosper. There is such a wide variety of laws ranging from doing the kind and ethical thing…well, under the circumstances of the times, to laws of how to deal with property and people and even the ways to behave regarding the spoils of war. It feels somewhat like Moses is free-associating about what to do in a wide variety of...Read more...

Fri, April 19 2024 11 Nisan 5784