By: Sara Brandes | May 12, 2019

By: Genevieve Greinetz, Rabbinic Intern


In scouring over Parshat Emor, I found myself skipping over the horrendous parts of it.  The parsha begins by relaying that all people who “have a defect” are not allowed to offer sacred food offerings to Gd. The text then offers a list of conditions that disable someone from offering food.  At first, I skipped over it; labeled it painful, inappropriate, shameful, not to be spoken of.

My instinctive reaction to the darkness in this parsha parallels my initial reaction to pain and difficulty within, to render it invisible.  But when our goal is self-love and acceptance, we must see the whole gamut of who we are.

As Art Green writes, “We are Jews and this is (our) Torah. The text will not s...

By: Sara Brandes | April 25, 2019

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With Pesach ending and the Counting of the Omer beginning, it might feel as though the last thing we need is for this week’s parasha to introduce another major holiday into the mix. However, the repentance ritual which is the heart of Yom Kippur, described in Parashat Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16-18) offers a powerful metaphor for how we often relate to those parts of ourselves we might prefer were otherwise.

We read there:

“When he has finished purging the Shrine, the Tent of Meeting, and the altar, the live goat shall be brought forward. Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities and transgress...

By: Sara Brandes | April 19, 2019

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Each week, we’ll explore a practice theme that arises in the weekly Torah portion. This week’s parasha “Tazria" is all about life, how its made and the magic and messiness of being sensual beings.

To make sense of this weeks parasha, we need to hold two things in mind. First, when the Torah says “ki tazria v’yalda zahar” it hopes that the first chapter of the Torah will immediately come to mind for us, “esev mazriah zera etz pri asah pri limehu,” as the women is “with seed” just as the earth too was with seed at the moment life burst forth in creation. Second, we have to remember that the parasha is unfolding with in the world of Sefer Vayikra (Leviticus) which claims t...

By: Sara Brandes | April 19, 2019

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If you’re plugged into Jewish consciousness, then this week house-cleaning is on your mind, as both the weekly Torah reading (Parashat Metzora) and the Jewish calendar take the messiness that can arise in our homes as their subject. Parashat Metzora (Leviticus 14-15) offers us the mysterious dynamics of a form of leprosy that attacked the walls of the home, just when we are scrubbing kitchens to rid them of any last traces of glutenous crumbs before Passover. Both invite us to consider how our attention impacts our environment and how our environment can support or hinder our practice.

Hassidic Judaism turns the process of cleaning for Pesach inward, inv...