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By Dr. Barbara Mann | Simon H. Fabian Associate Professor of Hebrew Literature, JTS


The centerpiece of this parashah is undoubtedly the elaborate and materially rich description of the Mishkan, designed and constructed by Bezalel Ben-Uri. Bezalel, in whose honor the renowned academy of arts was founded in Jerusalem in 1906, is generally viewed as an artisan—a figure of visionary imagination whose hands crafted wood, fabrics, animal skins, and all manner of fine metals, stones, and gems to create the sacred, portable site of the Tabernacle. In modern Hebrew literature, Bezalel’s aesthetic achievements have haunted the figure of the tormented artist in S. Y. Agnon’s Agunot (

By Rachel Smith | Student, Gershon Kekst Graduate School and William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, JTS


Sociologists and cultural theorists have long recognized the relationship between fashion and power. In his pioneering 1979 study of British postwar youth subcultures, Dick Hebdige explores the power relations embedded in and expressed through fashion. Clothing becomes implicated in social power relationships, shaping the ways in which subcultures define themselves alongside and against one another.

Parashat Tetzavveh lists in great detail the garments of Aaron the high priest, complete with robe, tunic, vest, headdress, girdle, shoulder-pieces, and a breastplate of fine gemstones, the urim

By Tobi Kahn | Artist-in-Residence, JTS


Arks in contemporary sanctuaries are spiritual descendants of the Ark whose construction and purpose is described in this week’s parashah. The ark above was created for Congregation Ohr Shalom–The Summit Jewish Community Center, in Summit, New Jersey. The congregation’s rabbi, Avi Friedman, writes:

If one looks straight on at the beautiful aron kodesh designed and created for us by Tobi Kahn, one sees two solid, beautiful doors—just like the two Tablets of the Covenant.

By Rabbi Reuven Greenvald | Director of Israel Engagement, JTS



I spread out the names of my God before me
on the floor of my chilly room.
The name by which I called him when he blew breath into me.
And the name by which I called him when I was still a girl.
The name by which I called him when I was given over to a man.
And the name for when I was again permitted to all.
The name by which I called him when my parents were my roof. And the name when I had no ceiling.

--Rivka Miriam, “I spread out the names of my God before me”, Said the Investigator: Poems (2005, translated from the Hebrew by Reuven Greenvald)


By Allison Kestenbaum | Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor, JTS


When I read Toledot, I can’t help but have in mind a painting called “Jacob and Esau” by Jose de Ribera. I studied this painting while taking an art history class at the Prado Museum in Madrid many years ago. It is so vivid in my imagination that not only can I recall most of the details, I also can remember the exact location of the painting in the museum. The painting is known for its lifelike depiction of fabrics and the sheep skin on Jacob’s arm used to trick his father. Having this vibrant, detailed portrayal enriches my reading of the text.

Yet having an image so fixed in mind also

By Rabbi William Friedman | Co-Director and Rosh Yeshivah, Nishma: A Summer of Torah Study in the JTS Beit Midrash


In Parashat Yitro, the command to “remember” Shabbat (Exod. 20:8) is observed in order to recognize the eternal sanctity of the day on which God rested on the seventh day of Creation. This command is recapitulated in Deuteronomy with significant revision: the Israelites are to “observe” Shabbat (Deut. 5:12) in order to ensure that slaves (i.e., workers) are given an opportunity for rest. What are we to make of these dual aspects of Shabbat, one in which we reenact God’s primordial resting; the other in which we attempt to achieve a measure of protection for the economically vulnerable?



Listen to the students of the H. L. Miller Cantorial School sing the opening verses of the Song at the Sea.

The centerpiece of Parashat Beshallah is the Song at the Sea. The song gives this Shabbat on which it is read the name Shabbat Shirah, the Sabbath of Song. It is interesting to note that this is the first recorded instance in the Torah where praise of God is specifically sung rather than spoken. Dr. Joseph H.

By Rabbi Noah Bickart | Assistant Professor of Talmud and Principal, Rebecca and Israel Ivry Prozdor High School, JTS


Joyce’s Ulysses is the only text that rivals the Babylonian Talmud in both its complexity and its stream-of-consciousness–style, jumping from topic to topic. In many ways, Joyce designed his masterpiece to be a Jewish book. Its main character, Leopold Bloom, was modeled on the assimilated Jews who were Joyce’s companions in his exile from Dublin in Paris, Zurich, and Trieste. In the book, Joyce’s characters quote the Bible frequently, sometimes even in Hebrew.




This panel, featuring Daniel Jones, editor of "Modern Love," Dr. Mona Fishbane, couple therapy specialist, and Rabbi Aaron Brusso of Bet Torah, Mount Kisco, New York, focuses on the challenges within contemporary marriages and relationships in our society and particularly in the Jewish community. Rabbi Mychal Springer, Helen Fried Kirshblum Goldstein Chair in Professional and Pastoral Skills and director of the Center for Pastoral Education at JTS, moderates.