From Moses to Einstein, this week we take a tour of Jewish thought throughout the ages, and try to pick up on themes that we have been grappling with throughout time.
This week,the Torah goes Dr. Seuss on us. The language that the Torah uses to describe Moses crafting a copper snake seems almost deliberately playful. What is the meaning of this unusual poetic device, and who stuck it in there?
This week, Moses uses a new name for God, "The God of the Spirit of All Flesh." It is a name used only one other time in the Torah. We'll take a look at both contexts, and see what they have in common, and what they tell us about the kind of God Moses wants to believe in.
This week, we return to a classic story from the Torah, the "Sin of the Spies," only to discover there are no spies there at all.
Forgive the poor sound quality this week, folks! The Parsha Nut is traveling, and away from his regular recording studio. But since we're revealing the secrets of the universe this week, I guess it's fitting that they be a little hard to hear.
Who were these princes that appear in this week's parsha to present tributes to the Tabernacle for their tribes? And how did they claim their titles? It turns out there is quite a backstory, but it must be carefully reconstructed from fragments spread out across the Torah.
The Book of Numbers, in Hebrew is called, "Bamidbar," or, "In the Desert." This week we explore the deeper meaning of that name with the help of a very, very old commentator: The Prophet Hosea.
This week, a deep dive into one wild and beautiful piece of commentary by the master, the great Rashi.
Some lines in the Torah just seem like dealbreakers. Like, what do we do with this:
For the Children of Israel are slaves to Me, they are My slaves. (Lev. 25:55)
Now what kind of God wants slaves? And is there any way of redeeming the religion after it declares a thing like this? Our valiant commentators give it their best try!
This week we look at a different model for celebrating holidays - not the classic resting experience of Shabbat, but a more anxious kind of observance suggested by the lesser-known holiday, Shemini Atzeret. What could be the virtue of worry? Plenty, says 15th-century Italian commentator, Rabbi Ovadia Seforno.
Of all the forbidden idolatrous practices, the very worst is the Cult of Molech. For that god is to be pacified with child sacrifice. The Torah hates Molech, and anyone who dares to follow him is to be excommunicated forever! But there's one big problem with this law... Molech isn't the only one who asked for a child offering.
What is cultural judaism, exactly? So many Jews today identify as culturally Jewish, but would be hard-pressed to say exactly what they mean by that. Surprisingly, the Torah is also concerned with the question of cultural Judaism. A deep dive into one verse in this week's parsha reveals that, according to commentators, it isn't enough to just be religious; a Jew must also defend Jewish culture.
What's the connection between gossip and skin disease?
This week we explore how a condition in Leviticus often translated as 'leprosy' came to be understood as a punishment for speech crimes. Along the way, we compare 'textual' and 'conceptual' modes of Biblical interpretation.
The first person God created was a hermaphrodite.
I think that's all the preview you need for this one.
Something is wrong with the High Priest. He's seeing things. Are they visions from God, or demons from his past?
This week we follow one of the greatest of the Medieval commentators, Moses Nachmanides, down a path of investigation that will reveal both the inner workings of Aaron the Priest, and the riches of parshanut.
This week's parsha is more of the same from last week. Details, details, details of animal sacrifices. Not the most pleasant read.
But there is one unique thing in Parshat Tzav: a "shalshelet."
What is a shalshelet, you ask? Take a listen and find out.
Can God smell things? If not, then why does the Torah describe the sacrificial offerings as having "a pleasant scent to the Lord"? Our attempt to grapple with this question will take us back to Marcel Proust, Moses Mendelssohn, and Noah.
Welcome to the Book of Leviticus!
We've reached the end of the Book of Exodus, the Tabernacle is complete, and the presence of God has entered into it. But there's a problem. That presence so fills the space that Moses cannot actually enter into it to meet with God. How will he figure out a way in? The answer will take us on an intricate journey, into the heart of one of Judaism's great theological debates.
Once there was a man named Hur, a great leader in Israel. He was there on the battlefield with Moses and Aaron. He judged the people when Moses was on the mountaintop.
But then, suddenly, he disappeared. After Moses came back from Mount Sinai, we never heard about Hur again. Who was Hur, and what ever happened to him?
This week, we find out.
Moses comes down from the mountain and his face is radiating light. The people see it and are a little freaked out. In fact, it's so intense that he has to start wearing a mask to contain it.
So... what happened up there?
The recent passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has reignited a national conversation around his distinct constitutional legal theory. In this post, we take up some of these issues as we explore the relationship between the clothing of the High Priest and some famous works of Jewish Law.
This week, the Children of Israel receive the commandment to build the Tabernacle - the portable altar for the desert journey. The question is, where did they get all the wood to build it, out there in the desert? As we search for an answer, we come across important new questions about the nature of religion.
This week's podcast was put together in support of the Hebrew Free Loan Society of San Francisco's Parshat Mishpatim Project. Check out that great organization out at: https://www.hflasf.org/ and support their good work.
But first, take a listen and learn about the Jewish value of lending.
Nobody reads the Bible literally.
They may think they do, but the greatest of the Torah commentators explains why this cannot possibly be so. And his answer will help us better understand that most mysterious of Biblical events: The Revelation on Mount Sinai.
The miracle at the Red Sea, the parting of the waters, is usually remembered for allowing the Israelites to cross over to the other side. But we sometimes forget to mention that the waters came back and drowned all the Egyptians behind us.
Well, all but one.