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.

Honoring Our Fears

Vayishlach: Genesis 32:4 - 36:43 "Honoring Our Fears"   In the previous Torah portion we read about Jacob’s vision of the ladder that came to him in a dream. At the end of that vision God appears to him to say: “And here I am, with you. I will guard you wherever...

Vision Quest

Vayeitzei: Genesis 28:10 - 32:3 "Vision Quest"   It is undeniable that some stones in Jerusalem radiate a certain energy. We, as Jews, come to pray at the Western Wall that supported the ancient Holy Temple built on Mount Moriah. We touch the stones of the Wall...

Breaking Free From the Great Teachers

Toldot: Genesis 25:19 - 28:9 "Breaking Free From the Great Teachers"   At the opening of our Torah portion, we find Isaac pleading with God, in the presence of his barren wife Rebecca, that she might— after twenty years of waiting— finally bear a child. God hears...

Seeing Through the Veil of the Mind

Chayei Sarah: Genesis 23:1 - 25:18 "Seeing Through the Veil of the Mind"   The unfolding of the biblical narrative brings us to the close of one chapter—that of Abraham and Sarah’s journey—and the opening of a new one—that of their son Isaac and soon-to-be wife:...

Beyond our Ego’s Idea of Justice

VaYera: Genesis 18:1 - 22:24 "Beyond our Ego's Idea of Justice"   In his life's storyline, Abraham did not always rise to the occasion of his ethical challenges. Yet this aspect of his story is worthy of praise: his standing up to God in the episode of Sodom and...

Heading Home

Lech lecha: Genesis 12:1 - 17:27 "Heading Home"   Lech Lecha marks the beginning of the Patriarchal story in the Book of Genesis. We have traveled through the confusion of Creation and the Flood, and now we are about to embark on our spiritual journey as the...

A World Filled with Violence

Noah: Genesis 6:9 - 11:32 "A World Filled with Violence"   Our, then, 10-year-old daughter, Amalya came home one day from the Jewish day-school she attended, with an assignment: to write a short essay about the first verses of Noah, this week’s Torah portion....

The Kabbalah of Creation

Bereishit: Genesis 1:1 - 6:8 "The Kabbalah of Creation"   I love the esoteric interpretation by Nachmanides—Rabbi Moses ben Nachman, born in Spain (1194-1270)—on the first verse of Genesis: In a beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Nachmanides helps us...

The Chutzpah of the Separate Self

Ha'azinu: Deuteronomy 32:1 - 52 "The Chutzpah of the Separate Self"   Chutzpah. Whether Jewish or not, most everyone knows this Hebrew/Yiddish word. The dictionary defines it as “unmitigated effrontery or impudence, gall, nerve, courage bordering on arrogance.”...

Giving up the Future

VaYelech: Deuteronomy 31:1 - 30 "Giving up the Future"   Moses went and spoke these things to all Israel. He said to them: “I am, today, a hundred and twenty years old. I am no longer able to go forth and enter. And the Eternal has said to me, ‘You are not to...

How to Find God

Nitzavim: Deuteronomy 29:9 - 30:20 "How to Find God"   The three letters, tzadi, vav, vav, form the root of the word Mitzvah, usually translated as “commandment.” Yet the Hebrew, or the Aramaic in this case, has much more granularity than a one-word translation...

Let Your Heart Crack Open

Ki Tavo: Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8 "Let Your Heart Crack Open"   This week’s Torah portion begins:             When you enter the land that the Eternal your God is giving your as a heritage, and you possess it and settle in it, you shall take some of every fruit of...