Entries by Rachel Barenblat

From Tents to Dwellings

  Part of a yearlong Torah series on spiritual building and builders in Jewish life.   Parashat Balak introduces us to two non-Jewish figures: the titular Balak, a Moabite king, and the prophet Balaam. Balak, seeing the children of Israel encamped in his territory, becomes fearful that these strangers will overrun his country. (Echoes of […]

Water and Words

  Part of a yearlong Torah series on spiritual building and builders in Jewish life. Words have power. They have the power to create, and the power to destroy. Think of any human creation, from the Brooklyn Bridge to Harry Potter World: they were all created through words. On the other side of the coin, […]

Taking Pride in the Parade

Part of a yearlong Torah series on spiritual building and builders in Jewish life. Today is the Pride March marking 50 years from Stonewall and the beginning of the modern chapter of the LGBTQ liberation movement. So much has been achieved and still so much is left to do. As rabbis and allies we want […]

How to Scout Your Landscape

Part of a yearlong Torah series on spiritual building and builders in Jewish life.   Okay, you’re ready for spiritual building. As with a survey before building with a physical structure, first survey the landscape. How? Parshat Shlach asks that question directly, and some of our spiritual ancestors’ first answers went tragically wrong. Their lessons […]

Second Chances

Part of a yearlong Torah series about building and builders in Jewish spiritual life. Florida recently enacted a “Second Chance” law, repealing a lifetime ban on voting for 1.4 million convicted felons released from prison.  I thought about the impact on both individuals and society. While voting affirms the dignity of an individual voting also […]

The Power and Peril of Spiritual Role

Part of a yearlong Torah series on building and builders in Jewish spiritual life. As we all build the Jewish future, how sure should we be about what’s holy?  Asked that way, maybe the question answers itself: only one filled with hubris would proclaim knowing for sure what is holy. And yet, Jewish spiritual life – and […]

Coming out against hate for Shavuot

  This weekend we celebrate, with pride, G-d’s “coming out” speech – the Divine Revelation at Mt. Sinai. Our need to be seen and understood for who we are draws from that very highest of the High Truths of sacred tradition. The Jewish community and LGBTQ+ community share long experiences of being closeted, forced — in […]

Making Everyone Count

  Part of a yearlong Torah series on building and builders in Jewish spiritual life.   The book of Bamidbar (“In the Wilderness”) begins with instruction to take a census. Literally, the Hebrew instructs Moses to “Lift up the heads” of the whole community. (Well, sort of: the original instruction was to lift up the […]

Walking the Walk

  Part of a yearlong Torah series on building and builders in Jewish spiritual life.   This week’s Torah portion (Bechukotai) lists “blessings” and “curses,” “rewards” and “punishments.”  If we honor the mitzvot, Torah says, then “blessings” will flow.  If not, then we sign up for “curses.” This ancient theology may not necessarily hold up […]