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		                                    Thinking Torah Blog		                                </span>

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...

08/17/2023 05:00:13 PM


Rabbi Chelsea Feuchs

This week we turn to Parashat Shoftim, which derives its name from the Hebrew word for judges. Unsurprisingly, a central focus of this Torah portion is how to build a fair society governed by the rule of law. We read many verses here that align with our modern sensibilities: judges may not take bribes, the king is not above the law, and even in the heat of war we must not destroy the environment. If only leaders at home and around the...Read more...

08/10/2023 05:00:11 PM


Rabbi Chelsea Feuchs

This week's Torah portion, Parashat Re'eh, takes us on quite a journey through a wide range of topics. It opens by instructing the Israelites to utterly destroy the symbols worshipped by other nations and violently root out idolatry in their midst. Given that these other religions were said to endorse child sacrifice and self-harm, perhaps we can understand some of the anxiety and anger they caused the biblical author. Still,...Read more...

08/03/2023 05:00:02 PM


Cantor Regina Lambert-Hayut

This week’s Torah portion is called Eikev, which means consequence or reward. Moses speaks quite a bit about the rewards that the Israelites will receive by way of a good life on the land, good harvests, increasing herds, etc. if they can only follow God’s commandments.

Much of what is alluded to is thanking God by remembering what was done for the Israelites through the wilderness in relative safety and...Read more...

07/28/2023 05:00:00 PM


Cantor Regina Lambert-Hayut and Rabbi Chelsea Feuchs

This week’s Torah portion, Va’etchanan, contains two poignant texts from our tradition: the Sh'ma & V'ahavta and a repetition of the Decalogue (i.e. the 10 Commandments). Even before getting to these most famous words, Moses speaks at length about the importance of following God's instructions, articulating the rewards and consequences depending on the Israelites' adherence to the rules. For instance, Deuteronomy 4:40...Read more...

07/20/2023 05:04:33 PM


Cantor Regina Lambert-Hayut

I don’t know about you, but I can definitely do without reminders of my experiences that were less than positive. I can remember too many times in my younger life when my mother would ‘remind’ me of all the things that I’d really love to forget. It is not pleasant when someone brings up difficult memories of behaviors that could and should have gone differently and we could have done better. While harsh, it was her way of offering a...Read more...

07/13/2023 05:03:24 PM


Rabbi Chelsea Feuchs

This Shabbat, we read the double portion of Matot-Masei, which covers various logistical concerns as we bring the book of Numbers to a close. The Israelites tie up loose ends with enemies, attain some territory, and make plans for the future settlement and administration of the Promised Land. Included in this parasha is a battle with the Midianites, which the Israelites win. Win is actually an understatement; they emerge so overwhelmingly...Read more...

07/06/2023 05:04:43 PM


Cantor Regina Lambert-Hayut

I am sitting in front of the news, completely stunned that there were more than 20 mass shootings that were reported over the July 4th weekend alone. That brings the total to date to nearly the number of days in the whole year, and we are only half-way through it. We the people should know that this is absolutely not normal! There is nothing sensible or reasonable about the amount of carnage that ensues from the plethora of these random acts...Read more...

06/29/2023 05:00:09 PM


Rabbi Chelsea Feuchs

The story of Balak and Balaam is one of the better-known narratives in the Book of Numbers. After all, the names of the two main characters are fun both to say and to mix up! In addition, Balaam blesses us with the opening line of a favorite prayer, Mah Tovu. But as much as we may love to sing those words, ask any kiddo who knows about this week’s parashah and they will tell you the real reason for its fame: the talking...Read more...

06/22/2023 05:00:28 PM


Rabbi Chelsea Feuchs

Parashat Chukat opens with a full chapter on the slaughter of a red heifer and various ways to contract and address ritual impurity. On its face, this part of the Torah portion is much less engaging than the narrative sections that follow, in which Moses loses his siblings, his temper, and his ability to cross into the Promised Land. I would wager that everyone in this community has experienced grief, anger, and personal limitations. I would...Read more...

06/15/2023 05:00:49 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

In this week’s Torah portion, Korach, there is a beautiful image of Aaron’s staff sprouting almond blossoms. The stick he’s been using for support miraculously shows signs of life, and those blossoms even turn into almonds. In the context of the Torah portion, the almonds are a sign of God’s choosing Aaron as the religious leader of the Israelites in the face of rebellion from some other Israelites. However, I can relate personally to...Read more...

06/08/2023 05:00:08 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

In this week's Torah portion, Sh'lach, we encounter the Israelites nearly reaching the promised land. They've traveled from Sinai and are about ready to enter. Moses sends in scouts, and most come back with a negative report. They tell the people they look like grasshoppers compared to the giants that live in the land. Our sages tell us this is the great sin that kept the Israelites from the land for 40 years. No, it wasn't their refusal to...Read more...

05/25/2023 05:00:29 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

Chag Shavuot Sameach! Tonight, we celebrate the festival of Shavuot. As you may know, Shavuot is the second of three harvest festivals we celebrate. We began with Pesach (Passover), we’ll have Shavuot tonight and tomorrow, and finally, we’ll reach the third festival this fall when we celebrate Sukkot. Shavuot is probably our least observed festival as it lacks a seder, a sukkah, and fun lulav shaking, but it is undoubtedly just as...Read more...

05/18/2023 05:00:00 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

When I stand with students as we pass the Torah from one generation to the next at our B'nei Mitzvah services, I always bring up the idea that we receive so much from our elders. Many of the values, likes, dislikes, and even favorite phrases each of us have come from our parents and grandparents. These things are part of our family's cultural DNA. Our families set our course in so many ways. There are many beautiful ways this plays out...Read more...

05/11/2023 05:00:09 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

We come to the end of Leviticus this week as we read the double portion, B’har-Behukotai. As in other places in the Torah, we find in Behukotai a section that tells us what we will gain if we keep God’s commandment (a place in the land and bountiful crops) and also what we lose if we fail to keep God’s commandments. The Torah says failure to keep the commandments will result in our people being scattered among the nations, and God...Read more...

04/20/2023 05:00:09 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

When we talk about Leviticus being a difficult book of the Torah, it is for mainly two reasons; the litany of sacrifices and the focus on disease. This week’s double portion, tazria-metzora, focuses on the disease section. The condition is often translated as leprosy, but as I have said in years past, this is not the Hansen’s disease we know today as leprosy. The portions discuss an ailment closer to psoriasis than Hansen’s...Read more...

04/05/2023 05:00:37 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

Life has a tendency to feel obvious, as though our present circumstances were always meant to be. Yet, we often overlook the countless opportunities that could have shaped
our lives differently. What if our ancestors had made different choices or if our parents had made different decisions about our upbringing? Truly, nothing about our existence is guaranteed. The fact that each of us is here, living the life we have, with our...Read more...

03/30/2023 05:00:00 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

While not the primary objective of making sacrifices, accountability was undoubtedly an outcome of the sacrificial system for our ancestors. In many cases, bringing an offering to the Tabernacle or the Temple meant that our ancestors needed to take responsibility for their mistakes. Sacrifices allowed them to take responsibility but not dwell on those mistakes. Once they made their offering, the cosmic equation was balanced, and all would be...Read more...

Tue, December 5 2023 22 Kislev 5784