Posted on February 11th, 2019

Exodus 27:20–30:10

By Rabbi Sarah Bassin for ReformJudaism.org


High Moral Standards for Our Leaders, and Ourselves

We all know the danger of turning people into symbols. Every one of us has our own story of a hero who let us down: when we learned a favorite athlete doped his way to victory, how we unknowingly laughed at the comedy of a rapist, or when we supported a politician who only feigned monogamy. We barely find ourselves shocked by these examples anymore.

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Posted on February 4th, 2019

Exodus 25:1–27:19

By Rabbi Sarah Bassin for ReformJudaism.org

The Limits of Communication

As with any good architectural design, this Torah portion offers precise instructions. Parashat T’rumah lays out a manual for building our place of worship in the desert (known as the Mishkan) along with all of the instruments contained within. It details exact measurements, materials, and methods of construction. The instructions were intended to be foolproof and impossible to misinterpret. But there appears to be some daylight between the original concept and the final product — at least with one very important element: the menorah.

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Mishpatim - Mahar Chodesh

Posted on January 28th, 2019

Exodus 21:1−24:18

By Rabbi Sarah Bassin for ReformJudaism.org


Learning from the Imperfection of Religion

Religion is the source of most atrocities in the world. Religion makes us better people.

Well, which is it? You can look to almost any sacred text in any tradition, and find those passages that condone and even encourage violence. And you can also find those that compel us to strive to help others, and live more compassionately. Religious apologists often pretend that the texts of terror don’t exist. New atheists1 often pretend that the texts of compassion don’t.

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Posted on January 21st, 2019

Exodus 18:1–20:23 


By Rabbi Sarah Bassin for ReformJudaism.org

Encounters That Can Make Us Become Better Jews

Jews are good at nostalgia. We remember with fondness the tenements of the Lower East Side when our community was tight knit and intact. We remember the quaintness of shtetl life untouched by outsiders. We yearn for the sovereignty of Ancient Israel where we controlled our own fate, unmolested by other nations.

But as Rabbi Rachel Adler reminds us, “there never was a time when ancient Israelite religion or the Judaism that succeeded it were not being influenced by the cultures and religions they encountered.”1

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Shabbat Shira - Beshalach

Posted on January 14th, 2019

Exodus 13:17-17:16 

By Rabbi Sarah Bassin for ReformJudaism.org

How We Win Is Important

If we as Jews believed in a hell, Amalek would have a special place in it.

Since we don’t, we take care in every generation to blot out Amalek’s name. It’s a level of disdain we retain for the worst of the worst. Amalek makes it to the top of our list of enemies. So who was Amalek and why is he the focus of all our ire?

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