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Cohen

Rabbi Howard Cohen

Rabbi Howard Cohen

Contributions

Title
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Preparation Guide, Congregation Beth El (Bennington, VT) This guide outlines the process of becoming a bar/bat mitzvah, including the necessary preparations and responsibilities.
Religious School Parent Handbook—Congregation Beth El (Bennington, VT) This handbook provides an overview of Congregation Beth El's Judaism school. The school charges no tuition; all costs are covered by general membership dues and pledges.
Symbolism of Rainbows In this week's parasha our attention is focused on Noah and his family's experience in the ark. The flood has subsided and the doors of the ark have opened. God has commanded Noah ...
"Ger" (Stranger/Convert) "Leh Leha, get yourself out of your country, away from your kin and out of your father's house". Much has been written about the order of these words. Why does it not ...
Being a Member of the Jewish People Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of the Reconstructionist movement, taught that before a person chooses to practice Judaism, that is live Jewishly, she must first desire to belong to, to be a part of, the ...
The Divine Plan This parasha covers the length of time that Yaakov spent in exile from his home in Canaan. It opens with his awakening to the realization that his journey is more than just a matter of ...
Reconciliation and Change As always, it is helpful to read the weekly Torah portion to understand what the rabbis wished to comment on through the haftorah selection. Not surprising, rich and complex Torah portions evoke many responses. Evidence ...
First Born Sons This week's reading introduces us to Joseph and his adventures in Egypt. The parsha opens with telling us that Joseph is seventeen, he is his father's favorite child and that he (Joseph) has ...
United We Stand The major theme of Parshat Vayigash is the reunion of Joseph and his father. It is this reunion that ostensibly motivated the selection of Ezekiel 37: 15 - 28 for the haftarah. Ezekiel lived around the time of the ...
Two Prophets on Self-Deification This week's Torah reading focuses on the first eight plagues God delivers unto the Egyptians because of Pharaoh's refusal to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt. Pharaoh's arrogant defiance of the word ...
Defining Boundaries Defining boundaries is one of the persistent challenges the Torah puts before us. Lines of delineation are constantly being drawn. Some lines of distinction, like circumcision, are literally cut in the flesh, while others are ...
"Hearing" the "Voice" of God What does it mean to "hear" the commanding "voice" of God? A key word in this week's portion suggests that this is not necessarily all that clear. Moreover, one particularly ...
Ordering Chaos The presentation of the text found in parshat Mishpatim represents a significant departure from what we've encountered so far in the Torah. Up to now most of what we've read has been narrative, ...
Building the Tabernacle This parsha begins a detailed study of the construction of the "Tabernacle", the symbolic sign of God's dwelling among the Israelites. The significance of the "Tabernacle" to the ancient Israelites ...
God is the Architect, We Are the Builders Parshat Terumah is full of details about the construction of the Mishkan, or portable Tabernacle, which will serve as God's particular dwelling place among the Israelites. The haftarah is a description of the construction ...
Purification Before Performing Rituals This week's Torah portion, Tetzaveh, includes the description of an unusual ritual. As part of the process of preparing Aaron and his sons' for their sacred duties at the sacrificial altar the Torah requires ...
Dualism Why did God command Moshe to "carve two tablets of stone" (Exodus 34.1)? Why not carve the divine message into one large tablet? Was it because there were too many words to render readable ...
Insights from Leviticus This Shabbat we begin reading from Leviticus, the third book of the Pentateuch. The Book of Leviticus probably causes modern Jews more consternation and discomfort than any of the other 38 books of the Hebrew Bible. ...
Shabbat HaGadol The Shabbat before Pesach is known as Shabbat HaGadol: The Great Shabbat. The special nature of the day is highlighted with a haftarah selected from the prophet Malachai. The words of this anonymous prophet (the ...
Respecting Boundaries This week's haftorah selection is concerned with the process of returning the Aron haElohim, the Ark of God, from its temporary quarters outside of Jerusalem to its new home within the City of David. ...
Tzara'at and Selfishness Parshat Metzora deals with a peculiar condition called tzaraat that afflicts skin, surfaces of walls and clothing. This condition has long been erroneously translated into English as leprosy. However, tzaraat is not Hansen's Disease, ...
Warnings Aharey Mot, "after the death of..." (as it means in translation) is a stern and foreboding portion of the Torah. It begins by evoking the tragic deaths of Aaron's two sons (see ...
Poverty In the middle of Parshat Behar we read about our obligations towards our fellow Jews when they are reduced to poverty. The Torah uses the term "Collapsed" or "Clowered" (mem, vav, ...
What is 'Herem" (Proscribed)? During our Shabbat morning Torah discussions we have often struggled over the meaning of certain words. Four, in particular, that have attracted our attention are "tamei" (ritually unclean), "tahor" (ritually clean), &...
"If You Follow My Laws..." Parshat Behukotay opens with the statement "if you follow my laws..." (Leviticus 26:3). The verb "follow" is the same word that literally means "go by foot" (hey, lamed, khaf). It ...
Marriage This Shabbat immediately precedes Shavuot, the day designated as the anniversary of the revelation of Torah at Mt. Sinai. During Shavuot we read the Book of Ruth. According to a midrash Shavuot is like the ...
Holy Isolation In this week's Torah portion, Naso, we learn about the Nazir, the person whose chooses a life style even more disciplined than that of the Kohanim (high priests). "God to spoke to Moshe: ...
The Hidden Meaning In this Torah reading there are two passages which serve to obfuscate something else. The first example is the description of the cloud by day and fire at night that covered the Tabernacle when God ...
What is "community"? In this week's Torah portion we encounter a confusing array of references to "the community". In Hebrew the word throughout Parshat Korah for community is 'edah' (spelled ayin, daled, hey and pronounced ...
The World of Silence Silence in the world of verbal communication can be as complicated to interpret and as deliberate as any word choice. We are often as careful (or should be) about when we choose to remain silent ...
"It Reached No Further" This week we listen in as Moshe continues his farewell address to the Israelites. His focus shifts to what the people must remember and honor as their foundational principles, namely the numerous laws, edicts and ...
What is the purpose of observing mitzvot? This sedrah continues Moses' second address to the Israelites. It contains mainly social laws. Interestingly, this week's reading contains the most mitzvot. Seventy two, by RaMBaM's enumeration! For this reason I am interested ...
Standing Together in Covenant This week's double Torah portion opens with the words "You stand this day, all of you, before the Lord your God..." (Deuteronomy. 29:9). A covenantal moment is too important to be trusted only ...
Three Reasons Along with selecting special haftorot for each week to highlight an aspect of the Torah portion, the rabbis also chose special readings for the holidays. For the first Shabbat of Hanukah the rabbis selected Zechariah 2:14 -4:7. ...