Torah Reflections

Each week, Rabbi Olivier prepares a written reflection on the weekly Torah portion. These provide yet another way to discover the texts sacred to Judaism and to prepare for Shabbat each week.

Temples Within Temples Within Temples: T’rumah

Temples Within Temples Within Temples: T'rumah T'rumah: Exodus 25:1-27:19   We find, in this week’s Parashah the Divine injunction that adorns Bet Alef’s new ark: “V’asu Li Mik’dash, v’Shachan’ti b’tocham – Let them make Me a Sanctuary that I might dwell among...

How to Be Holy: Mishpatim

How to Be Holy: Mishpatim Mishpatim: Exodus 21:1-24:18   Both this past week and this week’s Torah portions speak of God’s desire for us to be holy. Last week, just before the Decalogue, God said: “… all the earth is Mine, and you shall be to Me... a holy...

The End of Belief: Yitro

The End of Belief: Yitro Yitro: Exodus 18:1-20:23 We finally reached Mount Sinai, ten weeks after escaping Egypt. There, Moses told us we had three days to purify ourselves and wash our clothing in preparation for our meeting with God. And as morning dawned on the...

Then!: B’shalach

Then: B'shalach B'shalach: Exodus 13:17-17:16 This week’s Torah portion has all the traits of a great adventure novel. We ran away, but they pursued us. We took an unexpected turn that brought us to the edge of an impassable sea; and they were closing in on us fast....

God Acts in Wondrous Ways: Bo

God Acts in Wondrous Ways: Bo Bo: Exodus 10:1-13:16   Our Torah portion opens, this week, with the last four plagues to befall Egypt. “Then the Eternal One said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh. For I have hardened his heart… so that I may display My signs among them,...

Worthy and Belonging: Va’eira

Worthy and Belonging: Va'eira Va'eira: Exodus 6:2-9:35 I am discovering a totally different facet of the personality of Moses this year. What has been present for me is Moses’ ongoing lack of trust in himself and in his abilities. At the end of last week’s portion,...

You Can Take Moses Out of Egypt, but…: Shemot

You Can Take Moses Out of Egypt, but...: Shemot Shemot: Exodus 1:1-6:1 This week marks the beginning of the Exodus story with Moses as its central character. At its core, this story is one of liberation. And beneath its literal level, it is about the inner spiritual...

Awakening to a Deeper Trust: Vayechi

Awakening to a Deeper Trust: Vayechi Vayechi: Genesis 47:28-50:26 Trust is a central tenet in our tradition. Judaism is not a creedal religion, by which I mean that no acceptance of a specific theological system, no adoption of dogma, is required in order to be...

Embracing Imbalance: Vayeishev

Embracing Imbalance: Vayeishev Vayeishev: Genesis 37:1-40.23 Vayeishev, the name and first word of this week’s Torah portion has caused much ink to be spilled. Vayeishev is translated in English to mean: “And he settled,” referring to Jacob finally settling down “in...

Under The Sheep Skin: Vayishlach

Under the Sheep Skin: Vayishlach Vayishlach: Genesis 32:4-36:43   This week’s Torah portion marks the end of a major chapter in Jacob’s life, culminating in his night-long tussle with a fierce angelic apparition. He has been struggling with a relentless scourge in his...

The Future of a Promise: Lech Lecha

The Future of a Promise: Lech Lecha Lech Lecha: Genesis 12:1-17:27 This week’s Torah portion marks the beginning of the Patriarchal story in the Book of Genesis. Abraham receives God’s call to leave his home and travel to an unknown land with the assurance of God’s...

The Holiness of Where we Are: Noah

The Holiness of Where We Are: Noah Noah: Genesis 6:9-11:32 The two main events of Parashat Noach draw our attention to the sacredness of Place (one of God's names in Jewish tradition). Both the Flood and the Tower of Babel are stories about God’s response to the...