Marc Zvi Brettler


Let the Boredom Begin

By Marc Zvi Brettler

This week’s reading begins: “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts…” (Exodus 25:1-2) The rest of the book of Exodus deals with the construction of the Tabernacle, a portable temple, from these gifts, with a short reprise for the production of the golden calf, and a few pronouncements about the importance of the Sabbath. We have detail upon detail concerning the structure of the Tabernacle and its accoutrements, down to pails, scrapers, basins, flesh hooks and fire pans. And in case that isn’t enough, most information is narrated at least twice: once as God commands Moses, and again as the command is executed. These 16 chapters try the patience of even the most ardent student of the Bible.Read More


Of Salvation - and Destruction

By Marc Zvi Brettler

This Torah portion contains some of the best-known, and most moving, stories in Genesis. Toward its beginning, Vayera narrates the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and it concludes with the akedah, the binding of Isaac, a very troubling episode. These accounts are often juxtaposed, as readers try to understand why Abraham bargained on behalf of the sodomites, insisting, “shall not the judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18:25) while he was unwavering and unquestioning in his willingness to slaughter his son. In part, this question shows a misunderstanding of both biblical texts.Read More


Israel’s Patron Deity

By Marc Zvi Brettler

Most of the portion Ha’azinu comprises a long poem that is very schematic, emphasizing God’s great care for Israel, Israel’s rebellion, its punishment, and its ultimate rehabilitation. The language of the poem is more difficult than typical biblical poetry. Some scholars label it as “archaic” — that is, ancient — while others consider it to be “archaistic,” that is, pretending to be ancient. Dating such texts is beyond the ability of biblical scholarship, but its possible early date may explain why it is so hard to understand: We lack many other such early texts, and thus it is difficult to contextualize this poem; and the earlier a text is, the more likely that it has changed both accidentally and intentionally over time, making it much harder to uncover its original words and their meaning.Read More


Doing It by the Book

By Marc Zvi Brettler

Deuteronomy is often singled out as the book of the Torah that cares most about social institutions. It is the only one that contains legislation concerning kings and prophets — both found in this week’s portion, Shoftim. A careful look at these texts suggests that this legislation is trying to curb the power of these individuals.Read More






    Find us on Facebook!
    • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
    • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
    • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
    • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
    • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
    • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
    • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
    • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
    • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
    • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
    • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
    • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
    • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
    • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
    • from-cache

    Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















    We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

    Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.