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 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

Standing Up Is Dangerous, Yet We Must Stand Up

Posted: May 30, 2017, 5:13 pm
Just before Shabbat entered the world last Friday evening, a tragedy occurred in Portland. Two men who tried to intervene in the harassment of two teenage Muslim women were murdered. By Shabbat afternoon, over a thousand people had come together to mourn, to comfort each other and to encourage each other and ourselves to continue … Continue reading

Shabbat BaMidbar: Fire, Water and Wilderness

Posted: May 26, 2017, 8:05 pm
The name of our parashah this week is the same as the name of the Book we are now beginning, once again, to study: BaMidbar, “in the wilderness,” the Book called Numbers in English. So far in our journey from Egypt toward that which is Promised, our Torah has recounted for us the escape itself, the … Continue reading

Shabbat BeHar/BeHukkotai: Taking Refuge in the PaRDeS of Learning

Posted: May 19, 2017, 8:14 pm
Yesterday I was on a conference call with a national social justice organization, during which we were told that “usually, we expect to operate with a six-month window. Lately we have revised that to six days.”  Such is the sense of frantic, non-stop chaos in the political sphere of our nation’s existence. Thank G*d that … Continue reading

May Day: Short Sighted Police Leadership

Posted: May 13, 2017, 12:48 am
I submitted this letter to the Oregonian but I can’t even find the responses they published to the “hot button” question regarding whether the police were too harsh on May Day at the rally and march downtown. I don’t think they published my response – so here it is. The actions of the Portland Police … Continue reading

Shabbat Emor: Why Bother?

Posted: May 12, 2017, 7:21 pm
“You shall not cause My holy Name to be hollowed out and meaningless.”  (Lev.22.32) This mitzvah from the parashat hashavua may seem obscure, especially when it is translated in the traditional way: “profaned.” But it’s actually a very relevant concept. A Jew causes the Name to be “profaned,” i.e. meaningless, when that Jew who is known … Continue reading

Shabbat Akharei Mot-Kedoshim: Choices Don’t Free You, They Distract You

Posted: May 5, 2017, 9:17 pm
On any given day, we are confronted with choices, and have to make a decision regarding how best to choose; that is, how best to live. In some ways we imagine that our lives are so much better than our ancestors, who, we presume, made their choices from a much narrower range of options, and … Continue reading

May Day Portland 2017

Posted: May 3, 2017, 2:47 pm
On Monday, some of us gathered at the Park Blocks at 1pm. We witnessed an hour of dancing – skilled indigenous dancers and drummers in beautiful costumes demonstrating their art in honor of the international workers’ day. Then at about 2pm we heard an hour’s worth of speakers: leaders and activists in communities such as … Continue reading

Shabbat Shemini: What’s Kosher and What’s Treyf

Posted: April 21, 2017, 10:12 pm
This week in parashat Shemini the Torah sets out the law of kashrut, the ancient Israelite guide to good eating. At first glance, you may assume that you will be given a list of what’s kosher and what’s treyf. What’s fascinating is that in all of chapter 11 of the book of Leviticus the word kasher, … Continue reading

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