June 2009

Shabbat: Parsha Korach

Shabbat Shalom and welcome to Judeo Talk. The Torah portion for this week is Parsha Korach, Numbers 16:1-18-32.

The story in the Five Books of Moses reminds us that the Israelites' journey through the desert was a time of great turmoil. In this parsha alone they face plague, natural disasters and political upheaval. To read these documents is to get a glimpse into the state of mind of a people lost in the desert, ignorant of the greater forces that drive them.

Person of the Week: Eli Wiesel

In the examination of the human rights atrocities committed during World War II, there are many pitfalls. Growing up, I witnessed practically all of them. I recall the woefully incomplete, out-of-context Holocaust literature unit in my 8th grade English class when a school full of young people who, except for me, had never known a Jew, were asked to process the articulated anguish of Anne Frank and Eli Wiesel. In the entire district we had maybe two Jewish teachers and they certainly weren't at my school. Given no means to comprehend those well-documented horrors, my classmates took nothing from the experience.

Shabbat: A Special Message About Our Friends In Iran

Shabbat Shalom, to my American readers and to everyone else around this stunning, ever-transforming globe of ours. I have decided to use this Shabbat entry to discuss something different than the Torah portion. The greatest lesson we can learn from the Torah is that, as Jews, we are citizens of the world. We seek shalom, peace, and its advancement wherever it is lacking. That is why I would like to take this time to talk about our fellow pursuers of peace in Iran.

Shabbat: Parsha Behaalotecha

Shabbat Shalom and welcome to Judeo Talk. The Torah portion for this week is Parsha Behaalotecha, Numbers 8:1-12:16.

Behaalotecha is one of the darkest parshiot in the entire Torah, full of wrath, suffering and mistrust. At the core of the parsha is a overarching commentary about family, and more specifically how we can all get on the nerves of those we love. Some of the scenes in this portion seem disproportionately harsh or graphic, but even the intense punishments visited on the Israelites have a narrative purpose. In the middle of the parsha, Moses numbers the men of Israel at over 600,000, meaning that an estimated two million people travel with the camp. If the punishments are to have a significant impact on an entire nation, they must be on such a grand scale.

Person of the Week: Abraham ibn Ezra

The term "dark ages" is rather Europe-centric. While many of those territories formerly under the control of the Roman Empire saw several hundred years of lost knowledge, troubled governments and failing health, other parts of the world thrived. The Muslim world was particularly active in that period. From Persian, Arab and Moorish territories such innovations as algebra, advanced architecture and modern poetic forms arose. In the Muslim world's Jewish threads, some of the greatest thinkers traveled and wrote extensively during this time. Among them, few were as important as Abraham ibn Ezra.

Shabbat: A Return to Parsha Naso

Shabbat Shalom and welcome to Judeo Talk. Because of Shavuot last week, the Torah readings are a bit staggered, so Naso is this week's portion as well. That suits me just fine because there is a very interesting segment in Naso that we just didn't have time to cover last week. Two things, actually, though the two are placed back-to-back in the same chapter, so there is a likely link between them.