• Justice for the Land and Its Inhabitants

    Commentary on Parshat Behar (Leviticus 25:1 - 26:2) In Leviticus 25, the Torah famously explains the practice of the sabbatical year (shmitah) and the jubilee year (yovel), in which those who work the land refrain from farming in order to let the land rest. It’s not hard to see a connection between the ancient practice of…
  • Praying With Our Feet

    “Praying for freedom never did me any good ‘til I started praying with my feet.” – Frederik Douglas “On the seventh day there shall be a Sabbath of complete rest, a sacred occasion.  You shall do no work.” – Leviticus 23:2-3 (Parshat Emor) We are blessed to live in a thriving democracy.  Though American and Israeli…
  • Ritual and Regulation: A Priestly Corrective to Prophecy

    Commentary on Parshat Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1 - 20:27) In the Bible, there are two traditions, the prophetic and the priestly, both of which aim at building a good society, but do so taking very different approaches. In the Haftarah read on Yom Kippur the prophet Isaiah famously demands: “Is such the fast I desire, a day…
  • Living by Our Values

    Commentary on Parshat Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16:1 - 18:30) When my pluralistic Jewish school’s 11th- and 12th-grade students visited a nearby Roman Catholic school for our annual “Friends in Faith” program, they finished the icebreakers and the lively Quiz Bowl game, and then they walked towards the chapel for a mid-morning visit and explanation of the…