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.

Freedom Through Compassion: Bo

Freedom Through Compassion: Bo Bo: Exodus 10:1 - 13:16   The verses of our weekly Torah reading focuses on the ten plagues that God inflicts upon Egypt as part of His liberation plan for us. Following each Divine strike, Moses is sent to plead with Pharaoh to let...

The Many Names of God: Va’Eira

The Many Names of God: Va'Eira Va'Eira: Exodus 6:2 - 9:35 This week’s Torah portion opens with a compelling affirmation: “God (Elohim) spoke to Moses and said to him: ‘I Am the Eternal (YHVH).’” [Ex. 6:2] I often wonder how people read this opening: “God spoke to...

We, Truly, Make a Difference: VaYeishev

We, Truly, Make a Difference: VaYeishev VaYeishev: Genesis 37:1 - 40:23   Reuben is a character that is mostly overlooked in these weeks’ Torah portions dominated by the stories of Jacob and Joseph. Reuben is Jacob’s firstborn son, from his first wife, Leah....

The Gorgeous Gift of Being Surrendered: VaYishlach

The Gorgeous Gift of Being Surrendered: VaYishlach VaYishlach: Genesis 32:4 - 36:43   One of the first revelations that meditation gifts us with is an encounter with the unbelievable noise that lies within us, right behind our closed eyes. As if by magic, as soon...

God Was In This Place!: VaYeitzei

God Was In This Place!: VaYeitzei VaYeitzei: Genesis 28:10 - 32:3   There is one verse in this week’s Torah portion which encompasses the entirety of the Kabbalistic endeavor: “Waking from his sleep, Jacob said, ‘Truly, the Eternal is in this place, and I did not...

Inward Bound: Tol’dot

Inward Bound: Tol'dot Tol'dot: Genesis 25:19 - 28:9   There is a popular ice-breaker I often use to start a workshop or a meeting. I ask the people present, as they introduce themselves to the group, to add before their name an adjective that reflects who they...

When Isaac Met Rebekah: Chayei Sarah

When Isaac Met Rebekah: Chayei Sarah Chayei Sarah: Genesis 23:1 - 25:18   This week’s Torah portion opens with Sarah’s death. After Abraham mourns her, he sets out to accomplish his last fatherly duty before he, too, makes his transition: finding a wife for his...

The Spiritual Aim of Circumcision: VaYera

The Spiritual Aim of Circumcision: VaYera VaYera: Genesis 18:1 - 22:24   The subject of circumcision has engendered much controversy over the past few years. Should we or should we not, as a Jewish people, continue to honor this millennia old tradition that is...

What We Are Called Upon To Do: Lech Lecha

What We Are Called Upon To Do: Lech Lecha Lech Lecha: Genesis 12:1 - 17:27   Ramban, Rabbi Moses Nachmanides (13th century Spain,) comments at length on a verse in the Torah which does not seem to hold much importance in the early unfolding of Abraham’s...

A Righteous Man in His Generation?: Noach

A Righteous Man in His Generation?: Noach Noach: Genesis 6:9 - 11:32   There is a thought-provoking Midrash about Noah from this week’s Torah portion that details a debate between two rabbis as to why the biblical author begins with introducing Noah as “a...

In The Image of God: B’reshit

In The Image of God: B'reshit B'reshit: Genesis 1:1 - 6:8   As the Torah scroll is open once more to its very first word, and the annual cycle of our Torah study begins again, we are immediately plunged into the grand story of creation of sacred space. In the...

A Kabbalistic Dig: V’Zot HaBrachah

A Kabbalistic Dig: V'Zot HaBrachah V'Zot HaBrachah: Deuteronomy 33:1 - 34:12   Several Chasidic Masters associate Moses with the Sephirah of Da’at of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. The Sephirah of Da’at is known as the hidden Sephirah, situated as the threshold...