Episode 23: Behar-Bechukotai - You Shall Proclaim Freedom

In this week's Torah portion, Behar - Bechukotai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34)God tells Moses to speak to the Israelites and say to them when you enter the land that I assign to you the land shall observe a sabbath. God says that the Israelites can work the land for six years but on the seventh year the land gets a Shabbat of complete rest.

The Torah goes further: not only is every seventh year meant to be a shmita aka a sabbatical year but after seven-time seven years the 50th year "Jubilee," and that year too is a year of rest. 
During the Jubilee, all debts are canceled; slaves are released, and any land transactions which have taken place are annulled so that the land can return to its original caretakers
God says you shall proclaim freedom throughout the land
These are also the same words inscribed on our nation’s liberty bell and I think it’s important to remember Our country has made a lot of mistakes through the years but one thing is true we are constantly striving to live up to the ideals and values laid out by the founders of this country.

Episode 22: Emor - Be Kind

This week's Torah portion is Emor (Leviticus 21:1–24:23)and the Torah is reminding us to be kind. 
"And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I the LORD am your God."

Remember we are created in the image of God. We are not strangers we are all related.

Episode 21: Acharei -Kedoshim - Let’s talk about Love

Let’s talk about Love This week’s torah portion Acharei Mot Kedoshim. Is about love. And it contains what we often call the holiness code. A blueprint for how we as a people living in a society should strive to behave.

The opening words are: And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, speak to the people of Israel, and say to them: You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy.

Then God explains how people can be holy. God teaches us to Judge others fairly, to not hate our neighbors in our hearts, and to observe God’s laws.

And to love. The Torah says You shall love your neighbor as yourself . We are to love each other, what a concept. We often call this the Golden rule. There is a story in the Talmud. A non Jew comes to Rabbi Hillel and says I’ll convert to Judaism if you teach me the whole Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel replied “which is hateful to you do not do to another. That is the entire Torah and the rest is commentary, now go study

This week’s Torah portion insist that all people must be treated with love. If we can remember to love each other anyone can live a holy life. You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy.

Episode 20: Tazria-Metzora - The Importance of Health to Maintain our Closeness with God

This week’s Torah Portion is a double portion Tazria-Metzora and it is portion we love to hate because it’s all about skin diseases, bodily emissions, and other health conditions. These physical conditions make a person temporarily unfit to be close to God.

Question: What are some ways that you restore yourself when you feel sick, not whole or not close to God?

Episode 15: Vayakhel-Pekudei

This week we read a double portion Vayakhel-Pekudei. Moses assembles the people and tells them about the sanctuary they are to build but before that happens Moses tells them that God commands them to work six days but on the seventh day they shall rest. The seventh day is a holy day. The commandment to rest precedes the command to work. This tells us just how important it is for us to rest. God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. 
For many Jews today, many Jews Shabbat seems like a day of restrictions rather than an awesome day intended for rejuvenation. Shabbat is intended to be vacation from your workday world. Use it to reconnect with your family, spend time with your partner and or invite friends over to share a meal. Shabbat is God’s gift to us, every week of the year you are guaranteed a day off.

Episode 13: Terumah: God's Sanctuary

Today in our modern times we as Jews don’t have one Mishkan we have synagogues and we worship God not just in the Tabernacle but wherever we might be. And where we are located can have a significant effect on the spirituality we feel in that moment. Designing a prayer space is a sacred task to be done with great care. And so too must we take care to use that sacred space to nurture our personal and communal connections with God.

Episode 12: Mishpatim: Why Doesn't God Abolish slavery

Change is possible in human nature, but it takes time, maybe even a long time. We know now that slavery is morally wrong.
Part of our relationship with God is that God does not force us to change faster than we are able to do of our own free will. This week’s Torah does not abolish slavery, but it does set in motion a series of fundamental laws that will lead people, to abolish it of their own accord.

Episode 10: The 10th Commandment is the Key to Happiness

This week’s Torah portion is Yitro and this is the Torah portion where we finally get the 10 commandments. 
Let’s focus on number 10 Thou shall not covet..Anything that is your neighbor’s. In other words do not be envious of anything from your neighbor’s house. 
This is my favorite commandment because I believe this commandment is the key to happiness
Exodus 18:1–20:23.

Envy is the desire to have something belonging to someone else. This is an emotion, that brings out jealousy, resentment, bitterness the old green-eyed monster and makes people unhappy.

Why should we want something just because others have it. The remedy for envy is gratitude. If we remember to define ourselves in our relationship to God and not define ourselves in relation to others we will be happy and grateful.

Every morning we have built into our practice the Jewish blessing Modah ani Lefaneka...Thank you God. The prayer goes on to say thank you god for restoring my soul in me, You God are awesome. Taking on this daily practices has reminded me to be grateful for all that I have in the world and for all that God has given me.

Episode 8: Bo: Freedom for All

This week we are in Parsha Bo (Exodus 10:1−13:16)and we are at the climax of Israel’s struggle for freedom. Plague after Plague has hurt Egypt and Pharoah is willing to let some of the Israelites go free. Moses insist that none of them will go unless all of the Israelites can go. Moses wants freedom for all. He says We will go with our young and our old, we will go with our sons and our daughters. In other words, we ain’t leavin' anybody behind.

Episode 5: Shemot: Names are Important and I Am What I Am

This week as we enter the book of Exodus. In hebrew we call this book Shemot the book of names. The Torah portion starts out with the names of the Israelites who came down to Egypt. Then later we learn the name of Moses and when Moses encounters God for the first time he says to God tell me your name.

As I write this I can't help but remember the gay anthem of my youth the Gloria Gaynor song I Am What I Am

Episode 4: Shemot: Civil Disobedience and the Path to Redemption

This week we begin the book of exodus in the Torah Portion Shemot (Exodus 1:1–6:1). The Israelites are slaves and we follow them from slavery to freedom and then redemption. 
As we begin this journey through Exodus, Let us consider the midwives Shifrah and Puah The process of redemption does not begin with divine intervention, but with the first recorded act of non-violent civil disobedience. 
The Torah says that a King arose that did not know Joseph. This Pharoh did not like the increasing number of Israelites. He ordered the midwives, Shifrah and Puah to kill the Israelite male babies as they were born. Midwives did not comply. Their act of civil disobedience makes it possible for the next act and then another and then finally freedom and then redemption