Category Archives: Jewish Texts – English

Celebrating #Torah on Twitter

As I type this blog, we enter the final hours before the onset of Shavuot. In the hours to come Jews around the world will celebrate receiving the written and oral Torahs thousands of years ago on Sinai. The revelation continues to this day, as each generation makes the decision to accept, wrestle with, engage with and embrace Torah.

Throughout time we have studied and learned Torah with the tools at hand – our minds, our bodies, scrolls, books, computer screens and social media. Over the past 24 hours Jews throughout the world have tweeted about Torah. Read some of the tweets by clicking this link which searches for Torah related tweets.

May your celebration be sweet and filled with the miracles of Sinai.

See You at Sinai

A common practice when Jews meet one another is to play “Jewish geography,” a process in which we find people we know in common.  On the face this may seem like a Jewish version of 6 degrees of separation, but it goes deeper.  It is a means of finding connection.  The game often succeeds, but even when it doesn’t we sometimes have the feeling that we have met before.  When we cannot figure out how we know one another, we say that we saw each other at Sinai.

Jewish tradition teaches that all Jews throughout time stood at Sinai thousands of years ago and received the Torah.  Tomorrow night we begin celebrating Shavuot, the day G-d gave the Torah to our people.  Each of us stood there and experienced this great gift .  In remembrance of the gift of Torah (and the teaching that our people overslept the morning we received it) we will study all night tomorrow night.

I invite you to think about the place of Torah in your life.  Perhaps Torah resonates in ideas, in family, in friends, in your work, in your life decisions, in your passion to change the world or in your religious practice.  Where is Torah today and where might it be tomorrow or the next day?

Tomorrow night, wherever you are, I look forward to seeing you at Sinai.

Rashi's Daughters

Today I finished reading the third in Maggie Anton’s series Rashi’s Daughters.   The series of three historical fiction weave the lives of our ancestors in 11th century France with the study of Talmud and the incredible lives of Rashi, his three daughters, his sons-in-law, grandchildren and community.  The popular volumes read accurately to me considering that outside of Rashi’s writings and responsa of the time we have little documentation of life in Troyes, France at that time.

If you haven’t read them, I encourage you to visit your local library or bookstore, open one of the volumes and start reading. I imagine that you will end up taking the book with you.

Maggie Anton is not the only contemporary author writing about Rashi.  Elie Wiesel recently wrote a mini-bibliography about Rashi which has gotten good reviews.  You can read Maggie Anton’s review on the Mixed Multitudes blog (from My Jewish Learning).

Have you read the books by Anton or Wiesel?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Read and enjoy!

Torah Commentary – Parashat Vayeitzei

Parashat Vayeitzei, this week’s Torah portion, includes Jacob’s famous dream of angels going up and down ladders. During the dream he speaks with G-d and upon awakening says, “Surely G-d was in this place and I, I did not know.”

Have you ever wondered about Judaism and angels? If so, take a look at the short commentary on this week’s portion “Angels Around Us”.

Wishing you a week of health, learning, and joy.
May you ever be surrounded by the angels.

Timely Torah Portion – Justice and Roberts

This week John Roberts may begin testimony to become the next Cheif Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

As we form or solidify our own opinions and pay attention to the hearings (to begin after proper honoring of the late Cheif Justice Renquist), we can turn to this week’s Torah portion for some ideas on what justice means.

Shofteim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9) includes the famous and important exhortaition tzedek, tzedek tirdof – justice, justice shall you pursue. The rabbis teach us that no repetition is meaningless. Repetition adds emphasis, depth and urgency. Many have commented on the text throughout the ages, examining this text for connections and applicablilty to their lives.

Rabbi Marc Israel writes about the application of justice, read his fine words in a commentary titled Pursuing Justice for All.

Go and learn.
May our learning bring justice and peace to the world.
Shalom, salaam, peace.

The Radiance of Torah


One of the things which I love about my work is the chance to literally and metaphorically bring people close to Torah. I love teaching and empowering men and women of all ages to chant from Torah, bringing to life the words, grammar, nuances, feelings and radiance from the text. As we breathe the texts into our lungs and out through our vocal cords the text comes live. A challenge, a blessing and a guide for our lives.

The ability to express the text is connected to the art of clearly and beautifully scribing the words of Torah onto parchment. It is such a loving, intense, beautiful task that it is only done by soferim/soferot who radiate Torah and study the art.

Today while reading Velveteen Rabbi’s blog day post I learned of a female soferet named Aviel Barclay-Rothschild. She blogs about her work, describing it as follows:

As the only living certified Soferet (female Jewish ritual scribe) & the first woman to practice sofrut (creation of sacred Hebrew texts) in over 200 years, I feel an obligation to blog about my experiences of The Work.

You can learn more about her in her blog and her website, Soferet.

May words of Torah, words of world wisdom, and words of your faith dance on your tongue and radiate through your body with every breath.

Salaam, my friends.

Weekly Torah Portion – Mattot

This week’s Torah portion is Mattot, the penultimate portion in Numbers. Mattot includes instructions on and lists of vows. The vows we utter, the words we say all have power. How does Judaism encurage us to think about our words? Here are links to commentaries which address this question as it resonates from our parashah (portion).

My Word by Rabbi Andrea Lerner of the University of Wisconsin Hillel Foundation.

Rabbi Rebecca Gutterman examines vows Broken & Made.

Rav Kook writes about vows and their impact on our emotions and intellect in his drash Mattot, Keeping Vows.

Go and Study!
Wishing all shalom, salaam, peace.