Do you know which countries have the largest population of Jewish people? What about how many Jews serve in the United States Congress? As we begin the Book of Numbers with Parashat B’midbar, Rabbi Jacobs talks us through the numbers of the Jewish people today, as Parashat B’midbar does with the Israelites wandering the desert after the Exodus. Listen to this episode of On the Other Hand to learn what Rabbi Jacobs thinks about these numbers, and whether they matter.
For anyone who doubts that Judaism includes social and environmental justice, this week’s commentary on the double portion of B’har-B’chukotai sings forth that we have a fundamental responsibility to care for God’s Earth, and to be attentive to the neediest among us. How does this section of the Torah ask that we do that? Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, tells us how in this episode of On the Other Hand.
Parashat Emor lays out the sacred calendar of the Jewish people as we know it in the Torah, and there’s no one better to discuss this parashah with Rabbi Jacobs than Abigail Pogrebin, author of the book “My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew.” Pogrebin tells us about her year of studying, preparing for, and observing all 18 holidays on the Hebrew calendar, and what she learned about gratitude, obligation, and responsibility.
It’s another two-parashah week, and this time we’re reading about love. The phrase “love the stranger” appears in the Torah 36 times. Why is this phrase written so often, and who is the stranger? Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, gives his take in this episode of On the Other Hand.
Parashiyot Tazria and M’tzora are perhaps the most nerve inducing parashiyot in many Jewish circles, and it makes sense—most people aren’t typically eager to discuss leprosy. But if we know that illness can often be seen as a metaphor in Jewish tradition as punishment for sin, what is this case of leprosy actually about? Listen to Rabbi Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, explain why he thinks Parashiyot Tazria and M’tzora should transcend the dread.
In this special Passover episode of On the Other Hand, Rabbi Jacobs discusses empathy. The story of Passover asks that we put ourselves in the shoes of those who escaped slavery and travelled to freedom, and that we think about what it’s like to have nothing. But this year, it isn’t enough to discuss this type of tragedy as a thing of the past. Find out why Rabbi Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, thinks that this seder should be different from other sedarim in this week’s episode of On the Other Hand.
Parashat Tzav opens with a command to Aaron, the high priest. It’s a moment to think about leadership – who are our leaders and what do they do? Are our leaders born into the role, like Aaron, or are they called to leadership, like Moses? Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, discusses what it means to be a leader, and who among us should take a leadership role (spoiler alert: it’s all of us!)
Parashat Vayikra is filled with drama. It can be gory and, at times, inexplicable. To help us understand exactly what unfolds in this active and high-stakes parashah, Rabbi Jacobs is joined by award winning playwright Michele Lowe. They discuss the dramatic aspects of Parashat Vayikra and how we can make Torah come alive.
In Parashat Vayak’heil-P’kudei, the Israelites build the tabernacle in the middle of the desert, and because it is built from their heart, with their hands, the presence of God comes to dwell in that space. These days most of us don’t personally build our sacred spaces, so how do we make these spaces sacred? In this week’s episode of On The Other Hand, Rabbi Jacobs is joined by sacred space planner Father Dick Vosko. They discuss the past, present, and future of the places where we pray.
If you think about idolatry in the Torah, you might think about Parashat Ki Tisa, where in their restlessness, the Israelites built a golden calf. Many of us view idolatry as far from our contemporary Jewish sensibility, but is the sin of idol worship still alive in today’s Jewish world? Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, explores the difference between reverence and idolatry in this week’s episode of On the Other Hand.
In the opening of parashat T’tzaveh, the eternal light reminds us that as we construct our places of worship, we must honor our role as stewards of the earth, and offer a hospitality that allows all of us to participate with dignity. What makes our prayer spaces sacred? Rabbi Rick Jacobs suggests that being in the right relationship with the world around us is the starting foundation.
Parashat T’rumah presumes that we can ask people to donate and they will freely, lovingly, and generously give of themselves. What is the nature of generosity? Why are some people natural givers, while others are takers? Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism,raises questions about philanthropy and ideas about giving not just money, but of ourselves, and whether we can teach that behavior to others.
There’s a notable phrase in Parashat Mishpatim: “An eye for an eye.” Taken literally, this sentence makes it seem like valuing revenge as a substitute for justice is Jewish tradition. We know that’s not true, so what does “an eye for an eye” mean? Listen to Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism discuss what fairness means according to Jewish law.
In Parashat Yitro, Moses gains wisdom and insight from his father-in-law, Jethro. What Moses gains from Jethro changes the course of his leadership, and in turn, has an extraordinary effect on the Jewish people. But there's one important detail about Jethro that's important to mention: he's not Jewish. In this week's episode of On the Other Hand, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, talks to Evan Traylor, the URJ's first ever Presidential Fellow for Millennial Engagement. They discuss what it's like to grow up in an interfaith family, and why anyone who wants to be part of a community should be audaciously welcomed.
Did you know that instead of wandering in the desert for 40 years, the Israelites could have used a shortcut that would get them to their destination in only two weeks? But the decision to wander was an intentional one that lead to a deliberate, challenging, and critical journey. Listen to Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, discuss Parashat B’shalach, and the journey of the Jewish people from Egypt to Canaan.
This week’s parashah, Bo, tells the story of the ten plagues that convinced Pharaoh to “let my people go.” It’s an important story, but it often makes people wonder whether God really sent these ten plagues to Egypt. Listen to Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, describe that it may not matter whether or not these ten plagues really happened, because there is truth to the story regardless.
Moses isn’t charismatic. He doesn’t see himself as a great leader—he’s modest, humble, and he doesn’t speak clearly. But God insists that he lead despite this, because God sees an even more important quality in him: his ability to care for others. When Moses sees mistreatment, he has to intervene, no matter what the consequence might be. Listen to Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, discuss how Moses embodies the bedrock of our Jewish tradition in Parashat Va-eira, the Torah portion read on January 28, 2017.
This week we start a new book of the Torah, Sh’mot, or Exodus. The book opens with, “These are the names of the children of Israel,” but it’s misleading. We don’t actually go on to read the names of the children of Israel; we go on to only read the names of the boys. Sh’mot is a stunning moment where we are reminded that sexism dates back to biblical times. In this week’s On the Other Hand, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, takes the opportunity to remind us of the amazing women of Exodus, without whom there wouldn’t even be a Jewish people today.
Va-y’chi, the title of the last parashah of the book of Genesis, translates to “and he lived.” It’s an odd title for a parashah that details the death of Jacob and Joseph. But the thing about Jacob, Joseph, and many righteous people, is that their values and legacies continue to live on after they die. In this week’s On the Other Hand, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, tells us about those legacies, and more.
Do you ever wonder why Judaism is called Judaism? This week’s parashah, Vayigash, has an answer. This is the moment when Joseph and his brothers, including Judah, dramatically reconnect, and Judah demonstrates a deep caring for his people. Listen to Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, make the case for why we can all look to Judah for an important lesson in how we can come together, despite differences, in times of need.
Even though the miracle of the oil wasn’t an original part of the Hanukkah story, it has become one of the most enduring narratives in modern Judaism. Even when things seem dark, during Hanukkah we provide a growing light that goes out into the world, overcoming darkness and giving us direction. In this week’s episode of On the Other Hand, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, discusses the story of Hanukkah, and why it’s fitting that it falls during this week of Parashat Mikeitz.
Parashat Vayeishev is the first of four parashiyot that outline the story of Joseph. Perhaps more interesting than Joseph in this story, however, is the unnamed character who points Joseph in the direction that ends up defining the story of the Jewish people. Listen to Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, question what it means to really be in somebody’s life, and the kind of impact that we all can have without even realizing it.
Have you ever dreaded seeing a friend or family member that you don’t get along with, only to end up having a positive experience? After twenty years away from home, Jacob dreads his reunion with Esau, but our text teaches the two end up embracing and healing their tumultuous relationship. What can we learn from the story of Jacob and Esau? Find out from Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, on this week’s On the Other Hand.
Rabbi Israel Salanter wrote that it’s easier to learn the entire Talmud than to change one character trait in ourselves. Even Jacob, when he dreams of the ladder that connects heaven and Earth, is still on his path of growth and awakening. Listen to Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, discuss how we can see ourselves in Jacob, and how we, like him, can become our best selves.