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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Mattot-Massei

Mattot-Massei: Illusions

This week’s reading (Mattot-Massei) is full of challenges. It opens by placing restrictions on the behavior of wives and daughters. It continues with a divinely ordained war of retribution against Midian and its ugly aftermath. Frankly, these are the kinds of things that give the Bible (and organized religion) a bad name, and I have […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Pinkhas 2016

Pinkhas: Speaking and Listening

This week’s reading, Pinkhas, includes what may be the first recorded example of women publicly speaking out for more equitable treatment. At the end of the wilderness journey, Moses was instructed to allocate the land–as well as the right to inherit it–on the basis of a male-only census. Enter five extraordinary women: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah,  the […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Balak

Balak: Wisdom from a Smart Ass

How can you help but love a biblical story featuring a talking ass? This week’s Torah portion, Balak, includes such a creature and, as far as I’m concerned, she is the hero of the tale.  Let me explain. The setting is the conquest of the land of Canaan. The Moabite king (Balak, who gives his name […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Khukat 2016

Khukat: Even Rocks Deserve Compassion

This week’s reading (Khukat), includes an incident that has been the subject of seemingly unending speculation. YHVH spoke to Moses, saying: “Take the staff and assemble the community, you and your brother Aaron; speak to the rock so they can see you so that it gives forth its water. In this way, you will bring forth water for them from the […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Korakh 2016

Korakh: For the Sake of Heaven

This week’s reading focuses on a rebellion against Moses and Aaron leadership. Korakh, the leader of band of rebels, expresses his challenge with the following words: “…Too much you have taken for yourselves! The entire community–all of them–are holy and YHVH is in their midst. Why then do you exalt yourselves over YHVH’s congregation?” (Numbers 16:3) As […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Shelakh 2016

Shelakh: What Now?

This week’s Torah portion, Shelakh (Send), opens with the Israelite poised at the border of Canaan. God instructs Moses to scout out the land, and Moses sends them off with the following instructions: See what the land is [like] land it is, and the people who inhabit it: are they strong or weak, are they few or many? And […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Beha'alotekha 2016

Beha’alotekha: Raising Light

This week’s reading, Beha’alotekha, considers various aspects of the challenges of leadership. It begins with instructions for lighting the seven-branched menorah that had been constructed for use in the mishkan/temporary sanctuary: YHVH spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and say to him: “When you light (beha’alotekha) the lamps, let the seven lamps give light toward the front of […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Naso 2016

Naso: The Middle Way

This week’s Torah portion, Naso, includes the laws pertaining to an individual who voluntarily undertakes certain ascetic practices. Such a person is called a Nazirite. The Nazirite is expected to refrain from wine and grapes, forbidden to get a haircut and must refrain from contact with the dead. These practices, typically undertaken for a set […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Bamidbar 2016

Bamidbar: The Transformation of Identity

This week’s reading opens the Book of Numbers. Both the book and the first portion are known by the name Bamidbar, which means “in the wilderness”. It opens with a census: YHVH spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Mattot-Massei

Mattot-Massei: Stages of the Journey

This week’s reading is a double portion that concludes the Book of Numbers. Here, I want to focus on the opening of the second portion, Massei: These are the stages of the Children of Israel who went out from the land of Egypt, troop by troop, under the leadership of Moshe and Aharon. (Numbers 33:1) The reading […]

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