David Curzon


The Characteristics of a Mensch

By David Curzon

This week’s portion contains the revelation on Sinai and the Ten Commandments, but it starts with Jethro, the Midianite priest who was the father-in-law of Moses, and as a consequence is named after Jethro. Why has the rabbinic tradition organized the reading in this way? To my mind, we are being told to pay close attention to Jethro’s character, and to take as much notice of him as Moses did when Jethro was giving him advice on how to govern: “So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father-in-law, and did all that he had said.” (Exodus 18:24) A few verses further on, in Exodus 19:5, God is telling the Israelites through Moses to hearken (same verb in the Hebrew) to His voice and in effect do all He says and be “a kingdom of priests.” It’s hard to escape the implication that the priest Jethro is a model, a human embodiment of the intent of the commandments given on Sinai.Read More


The Moments That Still Live

By David Curzon

When Joseph introduces Pharaoh to his father, Jacob, Pharaoh asks him, in the 1917 Jewish Publication Society translation of Genesis 47:8, which is here, as is often the case, much closer to the Hebrew than more recent translations: How many are the days of the years of your life?Read More


Mirth and Mourning

By David Curzon

The Book of Ecclesiastes (in Hebrew, “Kohelet,” the Assembler or Preacher) is a compilation of proverbs traditionally attributed to and worthy of Solomon. Its opening in the King James translation is instantly memorable.Read More


Is God Just?

By David Curzon

The portion read on the intermediate Shabbat of Pesach, Exodus 33:12-34:26, contains some of the most extraordinary passages in the Torah. Moses asks God to “show me now Thy ways, that I may know Thee” (Exodus 33:13) and gets the comforting response, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” But five versesRead More


Techniques Of Understanding

By David Curzon

What are we to make of the sacrifices central to the Israelite cult described in Leviticus in such detail? The offering of “an ephah of fine flour for a meal-offering” to God can be dismissed in our mind as un-troubling, but the slaughter of animals as part of a religious ritual is much more disturbing: “In the place where theyRead More



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