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.

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...

Cain & Abel…A Teaching on Generosity: Bereishit

Cain & Abel...A Teaching on Generosity: Bereishit Bereishit: Genesis 1:1-6:8 Abel was a Shepherd and Cain tilled the soil. And it was, after the passing of days, that Cain brought some of the fruit of the soil as an offering to the Eternal; and as for Abel, he too...

Kabbalistic Digging: V’Zot HaBrachah

Kabbalistic Digging: 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...

How to Find God: Nitzavim

How To Find God: Nitzavim Nitzavim: Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20 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

Let Your Heart Crack Open: Ki Tavo Ki Tavo: Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8 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...

Wrestling With The Uncomfortable: Ki Teitzei

Wrestling With The Uncomfortable: Ki Teitzei Ki Teitzei: Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19 Each year, when I meet Ki Teitzei – this week’s Torah portion – I come to realize again why so many people are moved to altogether abandon any kind of religious pursuit. Though we find...

The Unexamined Life: Shoftim

The Unexamined Life: Shoftim Shoftim: Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9   In the middle of this week’s Torah portion is one of the pithiest yet most powerful verses: “Tamim tih’yeh im YHVH Eloheicha – Be whole with the Eternal One your God.” [Deut. 18:13] We have noted...