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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.

Sin is a Divine Gift

Tazria - Metzora: Leviticus 12:1 - 13:51 "Sin is a Divine Gift"   Our weekly Torah reading begins laying out spiritual practices connected to human birth: “Ishah ki tazria… – When a woman conceives…” [Lev. 12:2] In his commentary on these three words, Rashi...

What is God’s Will for Me?

Sh'mini, Leviticus 9:1 - 11:47 "What is God's Will for Me?"   Growing up, I always had difficulties, with the concept of “doing God’s will” that my rabbis often spoke of. Somehow, I was supposed to do “God’s will” in all my daily actions. For them, doing God’s...

The End of The Universe

VaYikra, Leviticus 6:1 - 8:36 "The End of The Universe"   The early verses of this week’s Torah portion are translated by our mystics as follows: This is the Torah of the ascending-offering. This is the ascending-offering that stays on the flame, on the altar,...

How Will We Answer The Call?

VaYikra, Leviticus 1:1 - 5:26 "How Will We Answer The Call?"   “VaYikra el Mosheh vaYedaber YHVH elav me-ohel moed – He called to Moses. The Eternal One spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting.” [Lev. 1:1] Thus begins not only this week’s Torah portion, but the...

Our Spiritual Attitude Toward Work

VaYak'hel - Pekudei, Exodus 35:1 - 40:48 "Our Spiritual Attitude Toward Work"   This week’s double portion in our Torah reading marks the conclusion of the Book of Exodus. The construction of the Tabernacle begins in earnest, only preceded by Moses gathering the...

What if Moses Never Came Back?

Ki Tissa, Exodus 30:11 - 34:35 "What if Moses Never Came Back?"   When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, the people gathered against Aaron and said to him: Arise, make us a god who will go before us, for that fellow Moses—the...

You Are The Eternal One

Tetzaveh, Exodus 27:20 - 30:10 "You Are The Eternal One"   This week’s Torah portion speaks of the ordination of Aaron and his sons into the priesthood. Ornate garments are designed by the artists among the people for the ceremony, sewn together and decorated...

The Kabbalah of Our Beings

T'rumah, Exodus 26:1-27:19 "The Kabbalah of Our Beings"   Judaism sees each of us, every being, as a channel of the most sacred. As such we are called to make ourselves selfless compassionate servants of the greater good and allow Wisdom to infuse all our...

One With The One: Yitro

One With The One: Yitro Yitro: Exodus 18:1 - 20:23     Now Moses went up to God. The Eternal One called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob and declare to the children of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians,...

Why Did They Have to Drown?: B’Shalach

Why Did They Have to Drown?: B'Shalach B'Shalach: Exodus 13:17 - 17:16   The Song at The Sea with its archaic Hebrew style—when compared to the rest of Torah—is probably the most ancient text in the entire Jewish canon. It describes Moses and the Israelites,...

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...