Tefillah Tuesday: Reward and Punishment

The second “paragraph” of the Shema [והיה אם שמוע, Deuteronomy 11.13-21] repeats the themes of the first section – loving and heeding [literally: “hearing”] God and teaching to the Torah to future generations – and uses the same vocabulary, of inscribing the Torah on our doorposts and upon our heads and arms. This second paragraph… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: א’ל מלא רחמים

On this week of the horrifying massacre at Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh, I will devote this Tefillah Tuesday post to א’ל מלא רחמים/El Malei Rachamim, the Ashkenazi memorial prayer, to honor those who were murdered: Joyce Feinberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein,… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: The Yoke of Heaven

The recitation of קריאת שמע/Keriat Shema is built from three bible passages: Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the Shema+Ve’ahavta itself; Deuteronomy 11: 13-21, which begins והיה אם שמוע/Vehaya im shamoa; and Numbers 15:37-41, which includes the command of wearing tzitzit and the memorial of the Exodus. Why do the texts come in this order? According to Mishna Berakhot… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Full Vessels

It’s Tuesday again, and the autumn holidays are passed, so it’s time for Tefillah Tuesday, once again. Let’s turn to the second “paragraph” of the Shema, Deuteronomy 11:13-20, which begins: והיה אם שמוע תשמעו אל מצוותי/ve’haya im shamo’a tishme’u, “now, if you will indeed heed my commandments …” This verse employs a common Biblical Hebrew… Read more »

Reflections on Family “Ghettos of Two”

In May, at the Hebrew Union College commencement, the novelist Michael Chabon encouraged the new Reform rabbis on a revolutionary path. They should “knock down the walls” that confine Jewish community in self-built ghettos, “eruvim of intolerance.” Not just ethnic distinctions between Jew and gentile, but the whole system of sacred boundary-drawing must go. No… Read more »