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God

By Dr. Ismar Schorsch | Chancellor Emeritus of The Jewish Theological Seminary and Professor of Jewish History

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This past week, my two-and-a-half year old granddaughter spotted me one morning davening by the window in our living room. She recognized the telltale signs of the act, my tallit and tefillin. Spontaneously, she announced her intention to daven also, took herself over to the drawer where we keep some old JTS benchers (small grace books), removed one, and proceeded to strut about with the bencher in her face. Later, I found the bencher on the floor in another room, but for a few tender moments at least, I had a precious soul mate in greeting God that morning.

The scene reminded me vividly of

By Dr. Sarah Diamant | Administrative Librarian for Special Collections, JTS

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11 + 12 + 13 = 36

In blessing
are you blessed,
and in multiplying
are you multiplied,
eleven stars
become twelve tribes,
your dream of progeny
radiating
at the turning point,
where the thirteen ways
of God
are One.
 
And you,
upholder of the world,
are hidden
in the sum
of their completion,
concealed
in your answer
to the first question.

Echad Mi Yodea” is a traditional cumulative-number song found in the Haggadah. Each verse circles back to the Oneness of God.

The poem above is a play on verses 11, 12, and 13 of the song:

Eleven are the stars of Joseph’s dream.
Twelve

By Rabbi Craig Scheff | Adjunct Lecturer of Professional and Pastoral Skills, JTS

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Strengthsfinder 2.0 is a popular assessment tool for identifying and applying an individual’s strengths. The book is based on the premise that we should spend more time in our professional lives building upon our strengths than trying to overcome our weaknesses. The quote above refers to the person who possesses the “restorative” talent, the ability to resuscitate and rekindle the vitality of relationships. As many of our community’s graduates prepare to transition into new professional settings, their top priority ideally should be to match their strengths to the positions they seek.

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

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What kind of gift would you give a king? In the interests of both respect and self-preservation, probably the nicest thing you could afford! And if you’d give this to a human king, how much more would you give to the King of Kings of Kings? And yet the Torah prescribes that any grain offered in the Temple cannot contain either yeast or honey. That's right: the only appropriate grain offering for God is matzah—the tasteless cracker that is about to become the source of so much complaining on Passover! Why would the Torah tell us to do such a thing?

Let's sharpen the problem even further.

By Rabbi Lilly Kaufman | Director of the Torah Fund Campaign of Women's League for Conservative Judaism, JTS

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From October of last year until mid-February, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, in collaboration with Tate Modern in London, featured a comprehensive exhibition entitled Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs. It was a reassessment of Matisse’s colored paper cut-outs, which, according to the program notes, “reflect...a renewed commitment to form and color, and . . . inventiveness”. Matisse himself said, “For me, a colour is a force. My pictures are made up of four or five colours that collide with one another, and the collision gives a sense of energy.” (Sooke, Henri Matisse: A Second Life, pp.

By Professor Arnold M. Eisen | Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary

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It must have been a great comfort to Moses—and not only a disappointment—that God turned down his request to see God’s glory. The wind was presence enough, on top of the mountain, much of the time—the wind, and the voice in the wind. Every visit of divine speech exhausted him now. Even the words that did not demand that he do battle, climb higher, challenge Pharaoh, rebuke the Israelites yet again, or simply—on some days the hardest—endure.

Moses had long expected that his people would not satisfy their God. They needed to see what no one could see.

By Dr. Stephen A. Geller | Irma Cameron Milstein Chair in Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages

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Parashat Terumah begins the long section of the Book of Exodus that deals with the Tabernacle, its furniture and vessels, and the garments of the high priest. The only interruption in this mass of cultic detail is the narrative of the sin of worshipping the Golden Calf and its aftermath in Exodus 32–34. The ritual details continue into Vayikra with the list of sacrifices in the cult. The climax of the entire cultic section is Leviticus 9 and 10, where the Tabernacle is dedicated with elaborate rites.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the multiplicity of ritual details.

By Professor Arnold M. Eisen | Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary

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Rabbi David Hartman, in his book A Heart of Many Rooms, cites a midrash that draws a clear and (to my mind) profound connection between a major episode in this week's Torah portion and the Revelation at Sinai that follows next week.

Said R. Jose bar R. Hanina, “The Divine Word spoke to each and every person according to his/her particular capacity. . . Now if each and every person was enabled to taste the manna according to his/her particular capacity, how much more and more was each and every person enabled according to his/her particular capacity to hear the Divine Word.”

I’d like to

By Rabbi Joel Alter | Director of Admissions, The Rabbinical School and H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music, JTS

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“God said to Moshe: I am YHVH. I was seen by Avraham, by Yitzhak, and by Ya’akov by the name El Shaddai, but by my name YHVH I was not known to them” (Exod. 6:2‒3).

God’s name YHVH is the verb “to be” with the past, present, and future tenses folded into the same conjugation: Eternity or Being in a single word.

Rashi teaches that the name El Shaddai was associated with God’s repeated promises about what would be in the future—promises repeatedly affirmed but never fulfilled in the forefathers’ lifetimes. In Exodus 6:3, God doesn’t say, “I never revealed to them my name YHVH.” Rather, that God

By Dr. Mona D. Fishbane | director, Couple Therapy Training Program, Chicago Center for Family Health, and JTS Rabbinic Training Institute faculty member

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At the end of chapter two of Shemot, we find the Israelites groaning from their bondage in Egypt: their cry rose up to God. And, our text tells us, God heard their cry (vayishma), remembered the covenant (vayizkor), saw the children of Israel (vayar), and took notice or knew (vayeda). I want to explore with you the relational and ethical lessons we can learn from these verses in our own lives. In doing so, I am inspired by comments in the Kedushat Levi, the book written by the Hasidic Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev. I am grateful to Jonathan Slater and his new book, A Partner in Holiness,

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