Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Triennial Cycle of Torah Readings at WRT

At Westchester Reform Temple, we study 1/3 of each week's scheduled Torah reading, completing the Torah according to this ancient Jewish custom over the course of three years, and allowing ourselves the ability to explore a shorter set of verses more deeply, week by week.

I am working on posting a link to our Triennial Table for the next six months.

In the meantime, you can find complete Triennial reading information here.

Offering Criticism: Our Difficult Obligation - Reflections on Leviticus 19:17 - Parashiot Acharei Mot - Kedoshim

The Torah tells us that it's our obligation to "reprove our fellow" even as it instructs us "not to hate our fellow in our heart." What does all of this mean? This week's video lesson explores Leviticus 19:17, from Parashat Kedoshim, one segment of this week's double Torah portion (Acharei Mot-Kedoshim).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Reflections on Parashiot Tazria-Metzora: Leprosy, Genocide, and the Jewish People

What do dreaded Biblical skin diseases have to do with the Holocaust?
Listen to this week's message.
Yours with shalom,
Rabbi Jonathan Blake

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Four Children and What They Teach Us about Encountering God: Reflections for Chol Ha-Mo'ed Pesach

What does Pesach teach us about how we might encounter God in our lives?
This video offers a few reflections linking the Torah reading for Chol Ha-Mo'ed Pesach (the Intermediary Days of Passover - Ex. 33:12 - 34:26) to a famous passage from the Passover Haggadah.

The official Reform Movement's commentary on this week's portion has been posted here.

Chag Sameach!
Rabbi Jonathan Blake

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Torah Study Etiquette

Dear Friends,

I've just updated the settings for our blog to accept postings from anyone, both registered and unregistered users of this site. Of course there are advantages to registration: by removing anonymity, you can become part of an interacting community.

On the other hand, I believe that removal of the registration requirement will encourage people to join our conversation and post their thoughts on the weekly portion.

As the moderator of this blog, I will be monitoring any posted comments and have editorial ability to delete comments if I see fit. Instead of waiting for offensive or inappropriate remarks to surface, I thought I could offer a few guiding principles for our online conversation that I hope you'll consider before posting.

Naturally, these commandments number 10.

1. AVOID OFFENSIVE CONTENT: Content deemed offensive or inappropriate will be deleted.

2. STAY ON TARGET: Please keep your comments and questions related to the original video posting in which I'll offer a few reflections and questions about the weekly parasha, or to issues raised in the user commentary. We're certainly accustomed to veering off-topic on Saturday mornings at WRT, so save your discursive digressions for Shabbat!

3. GIVE KAVOD. Kavod is the Hebrew word for "respect." Aretha Franklin wanted it and so do we. Honor your fellow posters with thoughtfulness and appreciation for their contributions.

4. CITE YOUR SOURCES. Those of you who know me know that I'm a stickler for citation and will call upon you to name your sources. If you wish to cite a tradition that you've heard but that is unfamiliar to you, you can ask if anyone can provide a source; but please attribute any sources you cite. I'm not just talking about textbooks or sacred literature; I also am asking you to cite any other websites from which your comments might be taken.

5. DON'T EXPECT IMMEDIATE ANSWERS FROM THE MODERATOR. There'll be plenty of time on Shabbat to go deep. The online forum is really just meant to keep things lively throughout the week and to set us up nicely for Shabbat. Besides, I much prefer to see what you have to say.

6. DON'T BLIND GOOGLE. If you're searching around for material on the parasha, go to a trusted Jewish site like www.myjewishlearning.com or www.urj.org. Links to these sites and more are posted at the top of this page.

7. BE BRAVE. Don't worry that you have the "wrong answer." Put your ideas out there with the confidence that the Torah is big enough and deep enough to contain your perspective, too. We want to hear what you have to say, so don't be bashful.

8. INTERACT WITH EACH OTHER. This forum is not meant to be a rabbi's seminar, but rather an online chavurah in which everyone interacts with everyone else (very much like our study on Saturday mornings).

9. DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP. If you're having trouble figuring out how to use this site, just ask. We'll make it work for you.

10. USE BOTH YOUR HEAD AND YOUR HEART. Be prepared to justify your thinking and defend it. Also feel encouraged to comment on the parasha from an emotional or spiritual perspective.

Remember that the Talmud speaks of "arguments for the sake of Heaven." It's a way of saying that in Jewish tradition, a debate can serve a sacred purpose. May our efforts here bring blessing.