Angel for Shabbat

The Right Attitude: Thoughts for Shabbat Matot-Masei

Rabbinic literature includes the names and teachings of many great and well-known sages. Yet, the rabbi who is mentioned most often in our liturgy is Rabbi Hananya ben Akashya—an obscure figure about whom we know almost nothing. We quote him at the end of our Musaf service, before the kaddish; and after every public Torah study session, to introduce the recitation of kaddish.

Which Direction? Thoughts for Parashat Hukkat

In this week’s Parasha, we read of the Israelites’ complaint of lack of water; of God’s instruction to Moses to speak to the rock; of Moses striking the rock to bring forth water; of God informing Moses that he would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land.  Moses had erred; he and Aaron were told by God: “Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them” (Bemidbar 20:12).

Graduation: Thoughts for Parashat Shelakh Lekha

“And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun Yehoshua” (Bemidbar 13:16).


Before Moses sends out the delegation of leaders to spy out the Promised Land, he changes Joshua’s name from Hoshea to Yehoshua. By adding the letter “yod,” the message is that the Almighty should bring salvation. Moses wanted to attach God’s name to his protégé.

(Actually, the Torah refers earlier to Joshua with the name Yehoshua [Shemoth 33:11], but the formal name change seems to have occurred in the episode of the spies.)

Good People, Good Jews: Thoughts for Parashat Emor

In the midst of relating laws concerning the various festivals, the Torah portion includes a verse concerning gifts to be given to the poor. “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corner of your field, neither shall you gather the gleaning of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God” (Vayikra 23:22).

Not Somebody Else! Us!: Thoughts for Shabbat Behar-Behukotai

This week's Torah portion discusses the laws of the sabbatical year, when farmers must let their land lay fallow. This "rest" for the land is a demonstration that the land belongs to the Almighty, not to us, and that we depend on the Almighty for our sustenance. In relating the laws of the agricultural sabbatical, the Torah states: "And if you will say, what shall we eat the seventh year?