Covenant & Conversation

  • Two Versions of the Moral Life (Naso 5775)

    The parsha of Naso contains the laws relating to the nazirite – an individual who undertook, usually for a limited period of time, to observe special rules of holiness and abstinence: not to drink wine or other intoxicants (including anything… read more
  • Law as Love (Bemidbar 5775)

    One of the most amusing scenes in Anglo-Jewish history occurred on 14 October 1663. A mere seven years had passed since Oliver Cromwell had found no legal bar to Jews living in England (hence the so-called “return” of 1656). A… read more
  • The Politics of Responsibility (Behar – Bechukotai 5775)

    The 26th chapter of Vayikra sets out with stunning clarity the terms of Jewish life under the covenant. On the one hand, there is an idyllic picture of the blessing of divine favour. If Israel follows God’s decrees and keeps… read more
  • The Economics of Liberty (Behar 5775)

    The most surprising best-selling book in 2014 was French economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century[1] – a dense 600-page long treatise on economic theory backed by massive statistical research: not the usual stuff of runaway literary successes.… read more
  • Sanctifying the Name (Emor 5775)

    A President guilty of sexual abuse. A Prime Minister indicted on charges of corruption and bribery. Rabbis in several countries accused of financial impropriety, sexual harassment and child abuse. That such things happen testifies to a profound malaise in contemporary… read more
  • The Scapegoat: Shame and Guilt (Acharei Mot – Kedoshim 5775)

    The strangest and most dramatic element of the service on Yom Kippur, set out in Acharei Mot (Lev. 16: 7-22), was the ritual of the two goats, one offered as a sacrifice, the other sent away into the desert “to… read more
  • The Circumcision of Desire (Tazria-Metsora 5775)

    It is hard to trace with any precision the moment when a new idea makes its first appearance on the human scene, especially one as amorphous as that of love. But love has a history.[1] There is the contrast we… read more
  • Fire: Holy and Unholy (Shemini 5775)

    The shock is immense. For several weeks and many chapters – the longest prelude in the Torah – we have read of the preparations for the moment at which God would bring His presence to rest in the midst of… read more
  • Violence and the Sacred (Tzav 5775)

    Why sacrifices? To be sure, they have not been part of the life of Judaism since the destruction of the Second Temple, almost 2,000 years ago. But why, if they are a means to an end, did God choose this… read more
  • Why Do We Sacrifice? (Vayikra 5775)

    The laws of sacrifices that dominate the early chapters of the book of Leviticus, are among the hardest in the Torah to relate to in the present. It has been almost 2,000 years since the Temple was destroyed and the… read more