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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.

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...

On Being Commanded

Ki Teitzei: Deuteronomy 21:10 - 25:19 "On Being Commanded"   This week’s Torah portion is the last in Deuteronomy to present us with a collection of laws. With this kind of portion, we find ourselves struggling with some aspects of the text and truly moved by...

The Unexamined Life…

Shof'tim: Deuteronomy 16:18 - 21:9 "The Unexamined Life..."   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...

Blessings & Curses: In the “I” of the Beholder

Re'eh: Deuteronomy 11:26 - 16:17 "Blessings & Curses: In the "I" of the Beholder"   This week’s Torah portion is close to my heart. It was the Torah portion of the week of my wedding, some years ago, and is called Re’eh, which means “See!” It begins:...

The Beautiful Life of Rabbi Moses

Pinchas: Numbers 25:10 - 30:1 "The Beautiful Life of Rabbi Moses"   There is a beautiful passage in this week’s Torah portion where God tells Moses to ascend a mountain and, from its peak, to gaze at the Promised Land before him. After that, God says to him, you...

Beating Life Into Submission

Balak: Numbers 22:2 - 25:9 "Beating Life Into Submission"   This week’s Torah portion retells one of the most peculiar stories in Torah; that of Balaam and his donkey. Balaam is a professional curser hired by Balak, king of Moab, to curse the Hebrew tribes...

Dust & Ashes Sprinkled by the Shechinah

Chukat: Numbers 19:1 - 22:1 "Dust & Ashes Sprinkled by the Shechinah"   A famous saying in the Talmud teaches: “These are things the fruits of which a man enjoys in this world, while the principal remains for him in the World to Come: Honoring one's father...

Battle at The Edge of The Promised Land

Korach: Numbers 16:1 - 18:32 "Battle at The Edge of The Promised Land"   We left the Israelites at the edge of the Promised Land last week. Twelve tribal leaders, who had gone to scope out the Land, had come back. Ten to two, they advised against entering into...

Why The Spies Were Wrong

Sh'lach L'cha: Numbers 13:1 - 15:41 "Why The Spies Were Wrong"   This week, in Torah, we meet again the story of the twelve elders, leaders of the Hebrew tribes, whom Moses sends to spy upon the Land of Canaan ahead of the Israelites’ invasion. Returning after...