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God

By Yonatan Dahlen | The Rabbinical School ('16), JTS

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I try to bless
When I wear Your stars as my blanket;
My winter coat when days are dark
When life is a knife
Resting on the altar of time.

I try to bless
Because my bread is warm,
And the salt at my table
Is my reminder.
Fine grains of labor and endurance.

When the smoke fills you
When the fat is burned
And the flour poured
I have to ask
Do you bless as well?

Your table is set
Widows and orphans, your guests.
If we could sit together,
I know, I am certain,
I would only be able to try.

By Rami Schwartzer | Student, The Rabbinical School of JTS (’16)

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For a story that began with the promise of intimacy, I had hoped for a happier ending.

Consider these verses near the end of Exodus (40:33–35):

וַיְכַל מֹשֶׁה אֶת־הַמְּלָאכָה:
וַיְכַס הֶעָנָן אֶת־אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וּכְבוֹד ה' מָלֵא אֶת־הַמִּשְׁכָּן:
וְלֹא־יָכֹל מֹשֶׁה לָבוֹא אֶל־אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד כִּי־שָׁכַן עָלָיו הֶעָנָן וּכְבוֹד ה' מָלֵא אֶת־הַמִּשְׁכָּן:

 

So Moses completed the work [of constructing the Divine Dwelling].

Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the Divine Dwelling.

And Moses was not able to enter into the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud

By Dr. Vivian Mann | Director of the Master's Program in Jewish Art and Visual Culture

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Parashat Terumah records God’s commission to Moses to build the Tabernacle as the spiritual center of the Jewish people, the place where God would dwell among them (Exod. 25:8). Set in the center of the Israelite camp, viewed from the surrounding tents, the Tabernacle was intended to be a physically imposing structure. Its specified height and size gave it a grandeur lacking elsewhere in the camp, and the sumptuous materials of which it was composed were outward signs of its special nature.

By Dr. Stephen Garfinkel | Associate Provost and Assistant Professor of Bible and Its Interpretation

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Parashat Yitro is a Torah reading of monumental ideas, foundational concepts, and widely-recognized importance. By all measures, this week’s portion must be considered a highlight of the entire Torah, since it includes no less (and a lot more!) than the Ten Commandments. This seems to be the right place to explore questions such as these: what did the actual revelation (Exodus 20) include? What were God’s commandments? Why were these statements singled out, especially given the amount of law scattered throughout the Torah? What gives these brief pronouncements their distinctive importance?

By Rabbi David Hoffman | Vice Chancellor and Chief Advancement Officer, JTS

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Lord, where will I find You?
Your place is remote and concealed.
And where will I not find You?
Your being fills the world.
                    —Yehudah Halevi (trans. Hillel Halkin)

His glory fills the universe.
His ministering angels ask each other, “Where is the place of His glory?”
                    —Shabbat Musaf Kedusha

There are a few texts that have helped me get through dark and difficult periods in my religious life, first amongst them being several paragraphs by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik buried in a footnote in his essay Halakhic Man. At another stage of my life long since gone, I

By Rabbi Abigail Treu | Director of Young Adult Engagement & Community Outreach, National Ramah Commission, JTS

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As legend has it, my great-grandfather quit school after the eighth grade. Apparently this decision had little to do with academics: my Grandpa Harry, z”l, was a smart man who went on to become a successful furrier with his own business in Manhattan. No, apparently it had everything to do with social pressure. As legend has it, he walked into school on the first day of the ninth grade, realized that no one at his new school knew him, and walked out.

I think of him every year as I encounter that powerful verse that launches the Exodus story: “A new king arose over Egypt who did not know

By Rabbi David Hoffman | Vice Chancellor and Chief Advancement Officer, JTS

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We Jews are not a religious lot. In fact, by a variety of metrics cited in the recent Pew report, Jews are less religious than any other religious group in America. For instance, only one quarter of Jews say religion is “very important” in their lives, compared with more than half of Americans overall. More to the point that I’d like to explore, a belief in God is much more common among the general non-Jewish public than among Jews. The latest Pew report tells us that amongst people who identify as Conservative Jews, (only) 41 percent said they “certainly” believe in God.

By Dr. Stephen Garfinkel | Associate Provost and Assistant Professor of Bible and Its Interpretation

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What a magnificent and rich Torah reading we have this week, Parashat Va’et-hannan! It’s as if the Torah wants to compensate the Jewish community for the week gone by, a week during which we commemorated Tishah Be’av, the putative anniversary of so many devastating events that have occurred throughout Jewish history. This week’s “reward” is a reading that incorporates a restatement of the Ten Commandments (Deut. 5:6-17) followed almost immediately by the first paragraph of the Shema (6:4-9).

Coincidentally, those two units were originally part of a basic prayer service as attested in the Nash

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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It’s not for nothing, this reputation God has for consuming anger. The Torah itself makes the case. Our parashah opens with yet another instance of God hovering at the brink. God is prepared to wipe us out in a rage over our incessant violations of the inviolable. We read in Numbers 25:10-15 that God grants Pinehas a “covenant of peace” for having leapt into action (at the end of last week’s parashah), publicly slaying two people who grossly violated sacred boundaries before the entire people.

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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A Distillation of Numbers 16:28-34

By this you will know
that all I have done
I have not done
of my own devising
but at God’s bidding:

If they cease to be
as all people cease to be
not God
has bidden me.

If that which has never been
(and which I now devise)
God brings into being
you will know
they have disdained God
(God has bidden me
do
all I have done).

If the earth eats them alive…

…the earth ate them alive.

And they were lost
from the people.

“The earth will swallow us whole.”

 

במדבר טז

כח וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה בְּזֹאת תֵּדְעוּן כִּי-יְהוָה שְׁלָחַנִי לַעֲשׂוֹת אֵת

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