A Progressive Jewish Congregation in Portland, Oregon
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Rabbi’s Shabbat Message

Rabbi Ariel’s Shabbat message is delivered to the congregation in our weekly e-newsletter. You can also use the links below to visit the Rabbi’s blog, Torah for the 21st Century.

Torah for the 21st Century

This too is Torah, and I need to learn it

Shabbat Re’eh: Blessing, and Curse, and Charlottesville

Posted: August 18, 2017, 4:39 pm
This Shabbat our parashah begins with words that are both simple and profound: רְאֵה, אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם–הַיּוֹם:  בְּרָכָה, וּקְלָלָה. Look, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: אֶת-הַבְּרָכָה–אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁמְעוּ, אֶל-מִצְו‍ֹת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתכֶם, הַיּוֹם. blessing, if you hold to the mitzvot of HaShem your God, which you are given … Continue reading

Voices From Charlottesville

Posted: August 15, 2017, 8:56 pm
I stood in a crowd while a mob advocating genocide pepper sprayed us and threw smoke bombs and rocks at us and the police stood by and calmly watched. They murdered people in my city today. They committed acts of terrorism. If I ever hear any of you try and derail this into a “free … Continue reading

Shabbat Ekev: Can You Hear the Footsteps?

Posted: August 11, 2017, 9:29 pm
Our parashat hashavua, the part of the Torah we study this week, is called Ekev. The word refers to a certain sense of causality: “it will happen that all will be well with you because you follow the divine law” says Moshe to the Israelites: as a result of your devotion to this path, you … Continue reading

Shabbat Nakhamu: Sometimes the Answer is No

Posted: August 4, 2017, 9:13 pm
This Shabbat we study the second parashah of Devarim, Deuteronomy, called Va’Etkhanan, “I implored.” The name refers to the pleading of Moshe Rabbenu, Moses our Teacher, to be allowed to enter the Land of Promise which has been his life’s dream and every day work. According to the Midrash (ancient Rabbinical literature which show us … Continue reading

Tisha B’Av: Beyond the Sadness – I Must Own This Evil if I Would Behold the Good

Posted: July 31, 2017, 7:07 pm
On Monday evening July 31, and all day Tuesday August 1, the Jewish world observes this year’s onset of the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av, called simply by that name in Hebrew: ט’ באב – Tisha B’Av, the great Fast Day of mourning for what was destroyed and will never be again. What shall … Continue reading

Shabbat Pinhas: Too Easy to Blame a Person

Posted: July 14, 2017, 11:48 pm
This parashat hashavua is troubling; in the last verses of last week’s parashah, a young man named Pinkhas (or Phineas in English) who serves as a kohen, a priest (grandson of Aaron the High Priest, no less) has murdered two people who were perceived to be publicly flouting the authority of Moshe. The parashah clearly describes … Continue reading

Shabbat Balak: the Holy and the Idolatrous

Posted: July 7, 2017, 7:50 pm
Mah tovu ohalekha Ya’akov, mishk’notekha Yisrael, “how beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel” – these words, which appear in the siddur at the very beginning of morning Tefilah, are part of our parashat hashavua, called Balak. The words are those of a mercenary prophet, Bil’am, hired to curse the people Israel by … Continue reading

Shabbat Hukkat: The World in a Word

Posted: June 30, 2017, 9:02 pm
This week’s parashah is called Hukkat, a word that can be translated as “statute,” “ordinance,”, or, simply, “law.” We often find it as half of the hendiadys hukkim umishpatim, which you might have seen translated as “laws and ordinances” or some such. Of course, one of the basic rules for Torah study is that there is … Continue reading

Shabbat Sh’lakh L’kha: Don’t Be Afraid, Together We Can Do This

Posted: June 16, 2017, 8:36 pm
We are learning, as a human family and as Jews, the price of fear, and of second-hand information. It’s a long road, stretching all the way back to our parashat hashavua. In Sh’lakh L’kha, we have crossed the wilderness, we are camped on the edge of the Land of Promise. Perhaps it’s only human that we do not go … Continue reading

Shabbat BeHa’alot’kha: Light the Way Forward

Posted: June 9, 2017, 10:08 pm
Our parashah begins with these words:   דַּבֵּר, אֶל-אַהֲרֹן, וְאָמַרְתָּ, אֵלָיו:  בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ, אֶת-הַנֵּרֹת, אֶל-מוּל פְּנֵי הַמְּנוֹרָה, יָאִירוּ שִׁבְעַת הַנֵּרוֹת. “Speak to Aaron, tell him: in your lifting up of the lamps, it is toward the front of the menorah [lamp stand] that the seven lights should illuminate.” (Num.8.2) This is difficult to understand without visualizing … Continue reading

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