General, Justice in Israel, Occupied Territories, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: On the connection between the war on poverty and the war on Hamas

No Comments 23 July 2014

Human life in war and peace is intertwined, just as negligent decisions by the High Priest can cause loss of innocent life. Rabbi Kobi Weiss on the causes of war and destruction: Continue Reading

General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: Another word about revenge and vengefulness

No Comments 15 July 2014

In this week’s parasha, Rabbi Shmuel Reinter explores the concept of revenge in the Torah, showing us that such things are only within the domain of God Himself.  For the rest of us, it is our responsibility to surpass our natural, vengeful desires and instead choose humility.  Continue Reading

General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Parasha: The Gift of Strength & Contradiction

No Comments 10 July 2014

This week Rabbi Yehoshau Engelman offers a profound look at zealotry and peace, revealing to us the wholeness that only the truest of love can bring us, the loyalty and comfort that the dangerous passion of zealotry offers, and the final, ultimate gift of strength and contradiction that peace bestows. A fascinating, radical new read on Parashat Pinchas:

the rebel

“And yet, as Albert Camus elucidates in his book The Rebel, every rebellion is, always and inevitably, consciously or not, done in the name of a value and an ideal” CC: Harpercollins

By: Rabbi Yehoshua Engelman

Pinchas seems to be a natural leader, rising from virtual anonymity to do what needs to be done, at the right time.  At the conclusion of last week’s portion we read how he stayed the plague which smote Israel who were clinging to the idol’s and the Midianite women of Baal-Peor, driving a spear through Zimri the prince of the tribe of Simeon who, whilst retribution was being meted out to the sinning heads-of-the-people, brought  his consort princess of Midian “near before the eyes of Moses and the entire community of the Children of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance of the tent of appointment” (Num. 25: 4-9). It seemed to have needed Pinchas’ taking the law into his hands, he certainly is the man-of-the-day, saving Israelites from the plague . God, this week, rewards him with His “Peace covenant” of eternal priesthood “because he was jealous for his God” (ibid 13).
Till now – all is clear, as written in the Torah. I would like to share another reading, admittedly radical, based on various commentators: Continue Reading

General, Occupied Territories, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Parasha: Follow Faithfully in the Path of Micah

No Comments 04 July 2014

This week Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann examines the Haftorah traditionally read alongside Parashat Balak. A reading from Micah, Rabbi Grenimann shows us that although shockingly little has changed in certain ways in the region of Shomron, the transformative vision of peace laid out by Micah is still attainable if we only follow faithfully in his path.

Continue Reading

General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Parasha: From Miracle to Action

No Comments 25 June 2014

There comes a time when every human must stop relying on their leaders, parents, and teachers and start taking personal responsibility for the world they live in. In this week’s Torah portion, Rabbi Dov (Dubi) Haiyun examines the significance of the loss on the Children of Israel. Once entirely dependent on the miracles of their leaders, the loss of Aaron, Miriam and Moses signifies the need for the Children of Israel to “grow up” and learn the ultimate importance of taking action.


Continue Reading

General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Parasha: Korah & The Intention Behind Disputes

No Comments 17 June 2014

Judaism cherishes a good argument– so why is Korah punished so harshly in his dispute with Moses?  In Parashat Korah, Rabbi Ehud Bandel shows us the intent that must be at the heart of all disputes– the serving of God and heaven, and the honest pursuit of truth. Korah reminds all of us who question the world around us that we must always do so for the sake of heaven, and never for the sake of power.
Continue Reading

General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Parasha: Milk & Honey, Anxiety & Reality

No Comments 10 June 2014

In Parasha Shlach, Rabbi Dalia Marx navigates the troubling paradox between the longing for the fertile promised land, and the threats inherent within it. How can those who live in this oft-dreamed of land live meaningful, free lives while building a future?

By Rabbi Dalia Marx


IMAGE: Mosaic in Or Torah synagogue, photo by Dr. Avishai Teicher CC-Wikipedia Continue Reading

General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: On Moses, Zipporah and the Rights of Every Wife

No Comments 03 June 2014

In Parashat Beha’alotcha, Rabbi Yehonatan Chipman offers a different explanation for Aaron and Miriam’s criticism of their brother Moses’ marriage, and reminds us of the rights that every married woman has. 


IMAGE: Miriam Shut out from the Camp circa 1896–1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot CC-Wikipedia

By: Rabbi  Yehonatan Chipman

The final section of this week’s parasha describes how Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses “because of the Kushite woman he had taken” (Num 12:1), Miriam’s subsequent punishment, and Moses intervention with God on her behalf.

At first glance, contemporary readers might think that their criticism had to do with the fact of his marrying this specific woman, and may even have had racist overtones (the term “Kushite” refers to the inhabitants of Ethiopia, who are dark-skinned). But Rashi reads this text otherwise: the criticism relates to his behavior towards his wife, specifically the fact that he had ceased having sexual relations with her (an intimate fact which Zipporah had told Miriam “woman to woman”). This is reflected in Rashi’s reading of the subsequent verses in the chapter, based on the midrash.

It seems to me that, even though Miriam and Aaron were guilty of lashon hara (slander), in speaking critically of Moses, it was not without justification: it seemed to them that Moses had arbitrarily deprived their sister-in-law of her conjugal rights. Even if Moses had the best of reasons for doing so, as we shall see below, Zipporah was also entitled to her rights as a wife. We thus find that Miriam and Aaron were acting out of concern for the woman, and her expectation that her own needs be fulfilled within marriage.  

250px-14440_The_mikve_in_besaluMoses’ abstinence was rooted in the fact that he was a prophet, who might be called upon to speak with God face-to-face at any given moment; hence it would be inappropriate for him to have had sexual relations, which would generate impurity and require immersion in the mikveh before speaking with God. Thus, Rashi comments on verse 3, “And God spoke to Moses and Aaron suddenly” {פתאום) — that when God addressed them unexpectedly they cried out in a panic: “Water! Water!” This is also the reason for the verses, which might otherwise seem to be non sequitur, explaining the nature of Moses’ prophecy:

“[Ordinarily] if there shall be among you a prophet, the Lord shall speak to him in a vision or a dream; not so my servant Moses… I speak with him mouth-to-mouth [i.e., face to face]; appearing directly and not in riddles” (vv. 6-8).

We are accustomed to thinking of Judaism as holding a positive attitude towards sexuality, and frowning upon celibacy; indeed, this is a common theme of modern Jewish apologetics. Marriage and childbearing are seen as among the first mitzvot, not only in terms of their chronological position in the Humash (Torah), but also in terms of their importance per se. Hence the practice of Roman Catholicism, in which the clergy are required to be celibate, is seen as contrary to the Jewish way of thinking, if not to human nature generally.

But at least in this case — the admittedly exceptional case of Moshe Rabbenu, who was a prophet of the highest order, if not uniquely so—separation from woman is seen as a virtue, and his siblings’ criticism thereof as reflecting a fundamental misunderstanding of why he behaved as he did.


IMAGE: Old Mikve in Besalu, Spain CC-Wikipedia


General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: Human Rights with Love

No Comments 27 May 2014

To many, the work of a human rights organization seems like an endless stream of criticism of a country. But what if we told you that it was actually a blessing, that the help we offer comes from a place of profound love? In parashat Naso, Rabbi Gideon D Sylvester reflects on the complexities of human rights work and reminds us all that it must always come from love. Continue Reading

General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Torah portion: On Placement and Displacement

No Comments 21 May 2014

In Parashat BaMidbar, Rabbi Gail Diamond meditates on the often overlooked human factor surrounding the placement and displacement of mass numbers of people. We read records, are told how the people are sorted into groups and alliances, and trace where they went and how many arrived,  but what about the personal story behind each individual? Continue Reading

Reflections from our rabbis & staff on the war

Join Us »

Share Online

© 2014 Rabbis for Human Rights. Powered by WordPress.