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This week's parsha
Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the website.  We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given.  For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website.  If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the website.

The Kabbalah of the Ecosystem PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rochel Holzkenner   
Monday, 18 August 2014 00:00

What is the single most important factor that differentiates Homo sapiens, human beings, from animals?

My sixth grade biology teacher began one morning lesson with that question. An argument erupted in the classroom. Communication? Higher order reasoning? An awareness of right and wrong? We were tossing around ideas and spewing sixth grade philosophy. Like a good scientist, my biology teacher challenged all of our ideas. Animals have sophisticated reasoning skills. The US Navy studied the communication of dolphins and discovered that they effectively notify other dolphins of imminent danger with a whistle from across the ocean. Primates may have even demonstrated an awareness of right and wrong. Our teacher had stumped us. Finally, she came to the climax of our lesson that day. Humans are animals, and there are no basic differences between us and them. Our naive sensibilities were shattered.

Transforming Our Desert PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lazar Gurgow   
Monday, 11 August 2014 00:00

Miraculous Oasis

The desert that our ancestors traveled was arid and infertile, inhospitable to all forms of life. Despite their forty-year sojourn in the desert, our ancestors survived and even thrived. G-d provided manna, fresh water and a protective canopy of clouds, thus creating a miraculous oasis, a rare climate for life.

Two Questions

Transforming the desert climate to create a climate hospitable to life was a deliberate miracle. It is an axiom of Jewish faith that G-d does not perform a miracle in vain. Was this forty-year transformation of the natural order really necessary, when G-d could have simply led our ancestors directly into the Promised Land and thus obviated the need for a miracle?

Why is the Jewish People So Small PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks   
Monday, 04 August 2014 00:00

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 the impression that has prevailed thus far in the Torah, giving an entirely new complexion to the biblical image of the people of Israel:

The L-rd did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you are the fewest of all peoples.

This is not what we have heard thus far. In Genesis, G-d promises the patriarchs that their descendants will be like the stars of the heaven, the sand on the seashore and the dust of the earth, uncountable. Abraham will be the father not just of one nation, but of many. At the beginning of Exodus we read of how the covenantal family, numbering a mere seventy when they went down to Egypt, were "fertile and prolific, and their population increased. They became so numerous that the land was filled with them."

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