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Naso

Mon, 05/21/2018 - 12:00am

NUMBERS 4:21−7:89


Rabbi Vered L. Harris for ReformJudaism.org


Justice and Mercy Are Jewish Love


When was the last time I made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself? Just asking the question, without even making a list or acting upon it, can cause some consternation. After all, who among us hasn’t crossed a line, fallen back, or hurt others with our choices? If I consider the ways I have sinned against others — those I love and those I don’t — how can I put myself back on track?

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Bamidbar

Mon, 05/14/2018 - 12:00am

Numbers 1:1−4:20 

 

Rabbi Lisa Grushcow for ReformJudaism.org


Containing Lives in the Open Wilderness


The Book of Numbers — in Hebrew, B’midbar, “In the Wildnerness” — seems to begin with great promise. Our setting is the wilderness of Sinai. It evokes broad universalism and deep spirituality. As we read in the Midrash (B’midbar Rabbah 1:7), just like the wilderness is free to all, so too is Torah; and only those who open themselves up like a wilderness can access its wisdom.

The openness of this book of wilderness reminds me of the beautiful closing words of the novel, Leo the African:

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Behar-Bechukotai

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 12:00am

Leviticus 25:1-27:34 

 

Rabbi Lance J. Sussman for ReformJudaism.org


Liberty and Freedom From Religion in America


The Liberty Bell holds special fascination for American Jews, especially those of us who live in Philadelphia. For years, we lived happily with the knowledge that the Liberty Bell had been cast in England and brought to America in 1752 on a ship called the Myrtilla owned by two local Jewish shippers, Nathan Levy (the founder of the Philadelphia Jewish community) and David Franks (later one of the city’s leading Tories during the American Revolution). For better or worse, recent scholarship has changed all that and we now know conclusively that the bell was aboard a different boat, the Hibernia, captained by William Child but of unknown ownership. Moreover, the Hibernia’s docking was recorded on September 1 and the Myrtilla did not drop anchor until the end of the month.

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EMOR

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 12:00am

Leviticus 21:1−24:23 


BY RABBI LANCE J. SUSSMAN for ReformJudaism.org


From Blasphemy to Blasphemous: An Instructive Transition


On January 24, 1656, Jacob Lumbrozo, a Portuguese-born doctor and businessman, became the first documented Jew to settle in the Catholic colony of Maryland. Two years later, under provisions of the colony’s ironically named Toleration Act of 1649, which extended freedom of religion exclusively to Trinitarian Christians, Lumbrozo, himself a litigious person, was charged with blasphemy. He faced both severe economic sanctions and even punishment by death. Ten days after his trial began a general amnesty on such matters was proclaimed in England by the government of Richard Cromwell. The proceedings in Maryland were immediately terminated and the doctor was allowed to go free.

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Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 12:00am

Leviticus 16:1-20:27 


RABBI LANCE J. SUSSMAN for ReformJudaism.org


What Judaism Says About the Golden Rule


For the last few years, I have been a member of a local hospital’s ethics committee. The hospital is part of a university-based system and the committee’s chair is a scholarly pulmonologist with a propensity to pick cases involving life and death choices. Other members include nurses, medical specialists, administrators, and social workers. I am the only clergy member of the group. The literature we review is mostly derived from case histories written by medical doctors and generally balances such diverse factors as medical practice, hospital liability, economics, patient rights, and culture. Our purpose is not to advise but rather to review past cases, many with close parallels in our hospital.

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Tazria - Metzora

Mon, 04/16/2018 - 12:00am

Leviticus 12:1-15:33 

BY:  RABBI LANCE J. SUSSMAN for ReformJudaism.org


Judaism, Medical Science, and Spirituality: A Brief History


It rarely fails. B’nei mitzvah families come to me three, four, five years in advance. “Is it possible,” they ask, “that our child not be assigned the portion in the Torah on leprosy? We’re just not sure,” they continue somewhat disingenuously, “it will be meaningful.” So, we talk about leprosy as metaphor and explore questions like, “what is the leprosy of our era?” and the parental anxiety slowly relaxes. By contrast, only twice in 30 years families came to me and actually asked to be assigned the portion that discusses leprosy, Tazria. “Why?” I ask them. Both times either one or both parents were dermatologists eager to accept the portion, and equally ready to disprove the biblical diagnosis and suggest an alternate skin disease.

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Shemini II

Mon, 04/09/2018 - 12:00am

Shemini II, LEVITICUS 10:12–11:47

 
BY:  RABBI DAVID A. LYON for ReformJudaism.org


The Dietary Laws: Fitness for a Life Well-Lived


The dietary laws presented in the Book of Leviticus are intended to draw us closer to God. But even I, as a rabbi, sometimes have difficulty understanding how the Torah intends for this to happen.

The second part of Sh’mini (Leviticus 10:12-11:47) takes up the subject of food. Everything from taboos to general permissions are commanded forming the foundation of later, Talmudic, legal interpretations on what is kosher (fit for consumption) and what is t’reif (unfit). Reform Judaism has gone around the block on the subject of kashrut. Notwithstanding biblical and Talmudic rules, and laws about what is “fit” for personal consumption, Reform Judaism has sought an authentic response to expectations for kashrut that would meet individual and contemporary norms.

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Shemini 1

Mon, 04/02/2018 - 12:00am

Leviticus 9:1-11:47


D'VAR TORAH BY:  RABBI LANCE J. SUSSMAN for ReformJudaism.org


You Are What You Eat: The New World of Kosher Food

 

 

Thousands of years before the 19th-century saying, “you are what you eat” came into being, Judaism recognized the essential significance of food in the Jewish and human experience. Originally, without explaining “why” we should eat some, but not all types of different foods, the Torah in this week’s portion, Sh’mini (Leviticus 11), laid down a lengthy list of culinary dos and don’ts, the textual foundation of kashrut, Jewish dietary practice and law. Subsequently, the laws of kashrut were greatly expanded by the Rabbis to include food preparation in general and, especially, on the Sabbath, the full separation of milk and meat products, methods of slaughter, and a whole range of food regulations during Passover.

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Sunday, May 20, 2018, 10:30 AM

 

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