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About the Author

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Sacks is the former Chief Rabbi of the UK and the Commonwealth, philosopher and the author of 25 books.

Greatness and Humility

Greatness and Humility

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A sequence of verses in this week's sedra gave rise to a beautiful Talmudic passage - one that has found a place in the siddur. It is among the ...


Tzedek: Justice and Compassion

Tzedek: Justice and Compassion

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Shakespeare failed to realize that "justice" and "mercy" are indeed bonded together.


The Danger of Suspicion

The Danger of Suspicion

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It is a fascinating story and from it comes one of the great principles of Judaism. Two of the tribes, Reuben and Gad, see that the land east of the ...


On Parents and Teachers

On Parents and Teachers

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Just beneath the surface of today's this week's parshah is an exceptionally poignant story. It occurs in the context of Moses' prayer that God ...


The Hardest Word to Hear

The Hardest Word to Hear

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The story of Bilaam, the pagan prophet, begins with a bewildering set of non-sequiturs - a sequence of events that seems to have no logic. First, ...


Why Was Moses Not Destined To Enter The Land?

Why Was Moses Not Destined To Enter The Land?

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It is one of the most perplexing, even disturbing, passages in the Torah. Moses the faithful shepherd, who has led the Israelites for forty years, ...


Power Versus Influence

Power Versus Influence

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The Korach rebellion was an unholy alliance of individuals and groups unhappy with Moses' leadership. There was Korach himself, a member of the ...


Beyond the Fringe

Beyond the Fringe

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Our Torah portion ends with one of the great commands of Judaism - tsitsit, the fringes we wear on the corner of our garments as a perennial ...


Moses' Challenge

Moses' Challenge

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It was the worst crisis in Moses' life. Incited by the 'mixed multitude', the Israelites complain about the food: 'If only we had meat to eat. We ...


What Counts

What Counts

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This week's Torah portion begins with a continuation of the census begun in last week's - the act that gives the entire book its English name: the ...


Love as Law, Law as Love

Love as Law, Law as Love

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On the face of it the connections between the Torah portion and haftarah of Bamidbar are slender. The first has to do with demography. Bemidbar ...


The Chronological Imagination

The Chronological Imagination

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I want, in this study, to look at one of Judaism's most distinctive and least understood characteristics - the chronological imagination. The ...


Faith As A Journey

Faith As A Journey

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In its account of the festivals of the Jewish year, this week's Torah portion contains the following statement: You shall dwell in thatched huts ...


Of Love and Hate

Of Love and Hate

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At the center of the Torah is Vayikra. At the center of Vayikra is the "holiness code" (chapter 19) with its momentous call: "You ...


Fire - Holy and Unholy

Fire - Holy and Unholy

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The shock is immense. For several weeks and many chapters - the longest prelude in the Torah - we have read of the preparations for the moment at ...


Violence and the Sacred

Violence and the Sacred

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Judaism is less a philosophical system than a field of tensions - between universalism and particularism, for example, or exile and redemption, ...


Between Destiny and Chance

Between Destiny and Chance

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The third book of the Torah is known in English as "Leviticus", a word deriving from Greek and Latin, meaning, "pertaining to the ...


Three Types of Community

Three Types of Community

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A long drama had taken place. Moses had led the people from slavery to the beginning of the road to freedom. The people themselves had witnessed God ...


Two Types of Religious Encounter

Two Types of Religious Encounter

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Framing the epic events of this week's Torah portion are two objects - the two sets of tablets, the first given before, the second after, the sin of ...


Prophet and Priest

Prophet and Priest

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The portion of Tetsaveh, as commentators have noted, has one unusual feature: it is the only portion from the beginning of Shemot to the end of ...


In the Details

In the Details

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God is in the details.


Two Narratives of Creation

Two Narratives of Creation

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The Torah describes two acts of creation: God's creation of the universe, and the Israelites' creation of the mikdash or mishkan, the sanctuary that ...


The Politics of Revelation

The Politics of Revelation

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The revelation at Mount Sinai - the central episode not only of the parshah of Yitro, but of Judaism as a whole - was unique in the religious ...


To Be a Leader of the Jewish People

To Be a Leader of the Jewish People

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That day, God saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians ... The Israelites saw the great power God had displayed against the Egyptians, and the ...


Freedom's Defence

Freedom's Defence

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And you shall explain to your child on that day, 'It is because of what the Lord did for me when I went free from Egypt'. It was the moment for ...


Of Lice and Men

Of Lice and Men

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Throughout all Egypt the dust turned into lice. But when the magicians tried to produce lice by their secret arts, they could not. The lice attacked ...


Leadership and the People

Leadership and the People

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The sedra of Shemot, in a series of finely etched vignettes, paints a portrait of the life of Moses, culminating in the moment at which God appears ...


Altruism and Religion

Altruism and Religion

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Religion is the best antidote to the individualism of the consumer age.


Generations Forget and Remember

Generations Forget and Remember

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Lessons of assimilation, acculturation, and exile.


Choice and Change

Choice and Change

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The sequence from Bereishit 37 to 50 is the longest unbroken narrative in the Torah, and there can be no doubt who its hero is: Joseph. The story ...


Disguise

Disguise

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Joseph is now the ruler of Egypt. The famine he predicted has come to pass. It extends beyond Egypt to the land of Canaan. Seeking to buy food, ...


The Refusal to be Comforted

The Refusal to be Comforted

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The deception has taken place. Joseph has been sold into slavery. His brothers have dipped his coat in blood. They bring it back to their father, ...


Fear or Distress?

Fear or Distress?

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Jacob and Esau are about to meet again after a separation of twenty two years. It is a fraught encounter. Once, Esau had sworn to kill Jacob in ...


Encountering God

Encountering God

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A unique approach to prayer by the biblical Jacob.


Between Prophecy and Oracle

Between Prophecy and Oracle

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Rebecca, hitherto infertile, became pregnant. Suffering acute pain, "she went to inquire of the Lord" [vatelekh lidrosh et Hashem] ...


Hopes and Fears

Hopes and Fears

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The Torah portion of Chayei Sarah focuses on two episodes, both narrated at length and in intricate detail. Abraham buys a field with a cave as a ...


Even Higher Than Angels

Even Higher Than Angels

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It is one of the most famous scenes in the Bible. Abraham is sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day when three strangers pass ...


Making Space

Making Space

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The call to Abraham, with which Lech Lecha begins, seems to come from nowhere: "Leave your land, your birthplace, and your father's house, ...


True Grit

True Grit

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The secret of success is how we view failure.


True Morality

True Morality

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Is there such a thing as an objective basis of morality? For some time, in secular circles, the idea has seemed absurd. Morality is what we choose ...


A Living Book

A Living Book

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It is the most famous, majestic and influential opening of any book in literature: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the ...


Moses the Man

Moses the Man

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That very day the Lord spoke to Moses, "Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho, and view ...


The Heart, the Home, the Text

The Heart, the Home, the Text

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By now Moses had given 612 commands to the Israelites. But there was one further instruction he still had to give, the last of his life, the final ...


Why Be Jewish?

Why Be Jewish?

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In the last days of his life Moses renews the covenant between God and Israel. The entire book of Devarim has been an account of the covenant - how ...


Listening and Law

Listening and Law

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It would be reasonable to assume that a language that contains the verb "to command" must also contain the verb "to obey." The ...


Letting Go of Hate

Letting Go of Hate

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Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence ...


Greatness Is Humility

Greatness Is Humility

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There is a fascinating detail in the passage about the king in this week's parsha. The text says that "When he takes the throne of his kingdom, ...


The Politics of Freedom

The Politics of Freedom

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Having set out the broad principles of the covenant, Moses now turns to the details, which extend over many chapters and several parshiyot. The long ...


The Morality of Love

The Morality of Love

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Something implicit in the Torah from the very beginning becomes explicit in the book of Devarim. God is the God of love. More than we love Him, He ...


Why Is the Jewish People So Small?

Why Is the Jewish People So Small?

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Near the end of Va-etchanan, so inconspicuously that we can sometimes miss it, is a statement with such far reaching implications that it challenges ...


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