Posted on June 18th, 2018
Numbers. 19:1−22:1 

Velveteen Rabbi

The red heifer, life and death, and the story

In this week's Torah portion, God tells Moses and Aaron how to cleanse the tum'ah, the "ritual impurity," which comes from contact with death. Take a red cow without blemish, on which no yoke has been laid. Give it to Elazar, the priest. Bring it outside the camp and slaughter it. Burn it there along with hyssop, cedar, and red thread.
The ashes from this fire, mixed with water, make a potion called mei-niddah, "waters of lustration." Anyone who comes into contact with a dead body must be cleansed with the waters of lustration. Otherwise that person cannot enter the Temple precincts, and will be cut off from the people.

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Posted on June 11th, 2018

Numbers 16:1−18:32 

Velveteen Rabbi

The need for justice to balance love

Earlier this week, David and I studied a fabulous text from the Hasidic rabbi known as the Kedushat Levi (R' Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev), to whom I was first introduced by R' Elliot Ginsburg, my teacher of Hasidut in rabbinical school. It's a short commentary on this week's Torah portion, Korach, and it packs a powerful punch. (Read it in the original Hebrew at Sefaria.)

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Sh'lach Lecha

Posted on June 4th, 2018

Numbers 13:1−15:41 

By Josh Fleet, The HuffTorah

“Send scouts, one from each tribe, distinguished leaders all of them, to explore Canaan,” God tells Moses.

So Moses selects Shammua, Shaphat, Caleb, Igal, Hosea (aka Joshua), Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Gemalli, Sethur, Nahbi and Geuel. He tells them to scope out the land: What kind of land is it? Who lives there? How many? Does it have good springs? What are the cities like? How’s the soil? Are there any righteous folk? He tells them: “Be courageous. Take some of the land’s fruit.”

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Posted on May 29th, 2018

Numbers 8:1 – 12:16 

By Rabbi David Stein for Reconstructing Judaism

Be Careful What You Wish For

It seems to come from nowhere: a craving—perhaps to devour ice cream, to gossip, to mindlessly watch TV, to have sex, or to make fun of another person. Ah, it's a long list—all the urges in our lives!

Sudden and strong impulses can be confusing. If what I long for may not itself be bad, then why deny it? Or, if my craving is in fact harmful, why do I feel like doing something I will regret later? On one hand, shouldn't I celebrate my true feelings? On the other hand, shouldn't I be ashamed of feeling this way?

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Posted on May 21st, 2018

NUMBERS 4:21−7:89 


Rabbi Toba Spitzer for Reconstructing Judaism

From Impurity to Blessing

A number of years ago, Pride Weekend in Boston fell on the Shabbat of Parshat Naso. Preparing my d’var Torah for Shabbat morning services that week, I wondered, what might this portion have to teach about GLBT pride?

At first glance, the answer appeared to be: not much.  Naso seemed to consist of a series of  wholly unrelated themes. Sandwiched between a census of Levite clans and a repetitive listing of tribal gifts for the dedication of the wilderness Sanctuary, we read about:

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