Created in the Image of God:Thoughts on Parashat Bereishith, October 2, 2010

In describing God's creation of human beings, the Torah teaches that we were created "in the image of God". Philosophers and commentators have pondered the meaning of this phrase, and have given various explanations. What does it mean for humans to be created in God's image since God is an eternal, incorporeal being? Some have defined "image" as referring to intellect or will.

The Noahide Laws: Thoughts on Parashat Noah, October 9, 2010

Rabbinic tradition teaches that Noah and his descendants were given seven basic categories of law, and that "Noahides"  fulfill their religious obligations through these Noahide laws. The Talmud (Yevamot 47a) states: "Our sages have said that seven commandments have been prescribed for the Sons of Noah: the first requires them to have judges; the other six forbid sacrilege, idolatry, incest, homicide, theft, and the consumption of a limb taken from a living animal."

University Network Update

South Africa's Chief Rabbi Speaks Up for Israel

Shalom members of the University Network of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.  In light of the ongoing efforts of Israel's enemies to demonize Israel, I thought it would be important for you to read this open letter from the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Warren Goldstein,  which he wrote to Archbishop Tutu.  Please feel free to share this letter with fellow students and family members.   Best wishes.



Essential Humility: Thoughts on Parashat Vayishlah, November 20, 2010

"I am not worthy of all the mercies and all the truth which You have shown unto Your servant." (Bereishith 32:11)

Jacob had a remarkable curriculum vitae. He was the patriarch of a large family. He possessed an impressive amount of livestock and was quite wealthy. By external standards of success,  Jacob had achieved a lot during his years with Lavan.

Halakhic Guidance for New Realities: Thoughts on Parashat Vayigash, December 11, 2010

When Jacob and family set out for the land of Egypt to re-unite with Joseph, the Torah informs us that Jacob sent Judah ahead "to show the way before him unto Goshen" (Bereishith 46:28). The Midrash offers an interpretation: Judah was sent ahead in order to establish a center for Torah study and "hora-ah"--a place for giving definitive halakhic rulings to guide the family in their new setting. This anachronistic interpretation (the Torah wasn't given to the Israelites until hundreds of years later!) reflects an interesting rabbinic insight.

Would that all the Lord's People were Prophets: Thoughts for Parashat Be-haalotekha

This week's Torah portion includes a strange episode. In response to Moses' request that others share leadership with him, God rested the spirit of prophecy on 70 elders. Two men, though, continued to prophesy after the others had stopped. " But there remained two men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad; and the spirit rested upon them...and they prophesied in the camp." When Joshua was informed of the irregular situation, he called upon Moses to arrest Eldad and Medad; he wanted them silenced. Moses responded: "Are you jealous for my sake?