D'var Torah By Rabbi LANCE J. SUSSMAN for ReformJudaism.org
Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Navigating the Book of Leviticus
If we were to compare the Book of Exodus to a “rock” (as in Mt. Sinai) and the Book of Numbers to a “hard place” (as in the “wilderness”), then the Book of Leviticus would be somewhere “between a rock and a hard place.” My sense is that for most Reform Jews, reading the third book of the Torah, Leviticus, is more a function of calendar than choice: a tough, unavoidable literary landscape with only a few rest stops or scenic overlooks. It’s just a territory we must traverse in order to get to the next major site on our annual pilgrimage through the Five Books of Moses.
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Shabbat HaChodesh - Vayak’heil/P’kudei
D'var Torah By Rabbi Ana Bonnheim for ReformJudaism.org
The Formation of a People
Parashat Vayak’heil/P’kudei is a double Torah portion that concludes the Book of Exodus. The paired Torah portions describe the building of the Tabernacle and the anointing of the priests. The parashiyot are primarily composed of many verses of detailed plans and descriptions of rituals, some of which are hard to visualize sitting in such a different world today.
I want to take a step back and reflect on Exodus as an entire book, with Parashat Vayak’heil/P’kudei as the penultimate culmination of a lot of action. Genesis ended long ago with the movement of Joseph’s family from Canaan to Egypt. It was the story of a single family, rapidly expanding, with many relatives and growing generations. This particular family was exceptional, because this was the family with whom God created a relationship. Abraham’s personal relationship with God is passed down to his son, grandson, and great-grandson. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph all encounter God in different ways, due to the varying trials and circumstances of their lives. But still, Genesis is the composite of stories of personal relationships between God and individual men.
Shabbat Parah - Ki Tissa
Exodus 30:11−34:35 and Numbers 19:1 - 19:22
D'var Torah By Rabbi ANA BONNHEIM for ReformJudaism.org
A Concrete Relationship with God
At this point in Exodus, in Parashat Ki Tisa, the Israelites have seen a lot of action: the great drama of the plagues, the earth-shattering Exodus itself, and the transcendent moment of Revelation at Sinai. But now, it is as if the rushing scenes have been paused in favor of, well, waiting. The Israelites are somewhere in the desert, they have had these communal, transcendent experiences, and now, … now they are killing time until Moses returns to them.
Shabbat Zachor - Tetzaveh
Rabbi Laura Geller for ReformJudaism.org
For Honor and for Beauty
Can I wear a pants suit when I am leading services? How long should my skirts be? Do I have to wear a black suit when I am officiating at a funeral? What should a woman rabbi wear under the chuppah?
Early in my career, when there were so few women rabbis that we all knew each other, questions like these were part of the conversation. I still won’t wear a pants suit on the bimah, though most of my women colleagues do. It took me many years before I would even wear pants to work. Part of my hesitation probably has something to do with the era in which I was ordained, when it was still a struggle for women rabbis to be taken seriously by many within our community. But part might also be related to this week’s Torah portion, T’tzaveh.
Exodus 25:1 - 27:19 96
D'var Torah By Rabbi BETH KALISCH for ReformJudaism.org
Finding God in Large and Small Spaces
Anyone who has lived in New York City is familiar with the challenges of "small-space living." When I was apartment hunting in New York, I looked at one apartment where the kitchen was so small, the refrigerator was placed directly in front of the kitchen sink. In order to wash your dishes, the real estate agent explained, you could just stand off to the side and reach in. In the apartment I ended up taking, one of the bedrooms could only fit a bed — no other furniture at all. Luckily, my roommate was short enough to be able to stand underneath a loft bed to access a desk and a dresser.