Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, z’l: Bamidbar The Sound of Silence

Bamidbar is read on the Shabbat before Shavuot, and the rabbis have connected the two. One interpretation is that since the Torah was given in the open, in a place that is not owned by anyone, then anyone may come and accept it. Another interpretation is that the wilderness is free, so is the Torah free. However, the most spiritual reason is that the desert is a place of silence, with no distractions. In Kings, Elijah heard the still small voice because he was listening. However, Judaism is highly verbal, and silence is frequently seen in a negative light. But not all silence is bad.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, z/l: Bechukotai The Rejection of Rejection

Rabbi Sacks describes the last parashah of Leviticus as a “rejection of rejection”. In this, he reminds us to the original basis for much of the anti-Semitic history of our civilization—that God rejected the Jews—Abraham’s physical descendants—for Christians—Abraham’s spiritual descendants. He quotes Lev. 26:44-45, which states that God will not cast away His people, nor break His covenant with them.

Rabbi Deena Cowans: Parashat Emor Parashat Emor and Disability Justice

Rabbi Cowans addresses the conflict over the different standards for people with “normative” bodies and people with “other” bodies, and how the text seems discriminatory and ableist. She raises the concept that sacrificial work in the Temple was physically challenging. However, she asks, ‘why shouldn’t the Torah be more inclusive?’ She continues to say that “the messianic future is not one without disability. It is one where inclusion is innate.”

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, z/l: Parashat Emor The Duality of Jewish Time

Holiness of time is the key essence of Emor in its list of festivals and holy days. Rabbi Sacks reminds us that the first thing God declared holy was a day: Shabbat. The first mitzvah was the command to sanctify time. The Prophets were the first people in history to see time itself “as the arena of the Divine-human encounter”. Rabbi Sacks continues to address the myriad was in which the holiness of time forms an essential aspect of Judaism.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, z/l: Acharei Mot Holy People, HolyLand

Rabbi Sacks explores the theme of why Jews need their own land. On the one hand, the Torah is based on the theme of the promised land, and the journey there. On the other hand, cannot Judaism be practiced anywhere? The text of the parashah stipulates exile from the land for defiling the laws. Parashat Bechukotai also makes the same stipulation. He raises the issue that “Jews never relinquished the dream of return.”