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Vayishlach: The Ability to Prevail Through Struggle
10.12.2019, by Avital Hochstein
At the heart of our parashah we are presented with the arresting scene of Ya’akov wrestling with an unidentified ‘man.’ This puzzling scene is understood by Ya’akov in hindsight as an encounter with God: So Ya’akov named the place Peniel, meaning, ‘I have seen a divine being face to face, yet my life has been preserved’ (v. 31) read more>
Vayeitzei: From Dream to Prayer: When God Asked Not To Be Affected
01.12.2019, by Avital Hochstein
Yaakov chooses to encounter God through prayer and allows prayer to set the frame for meaning. Yaakov could have "just stumbled upon a place," but instead he meaningfully encounters the Makom, the Omnipresent read more>
Toledot: From Isaac to Esau
24.11.2019, by Avital Hochstein
Yitzhak is a complex figure: at times motivated by inter-personal ties and connected, and at times both an isolated and an isolating personality. I would like to explore the expression of both these aspects of Yitzhak in our parashah. read more>
Chayyei Sarah: When Did Humanity Begin to Age and What is the Value of Aging?
17.11.2019, by Avital Hochstein
It seems that in the Bavli, Avraham’s request is not a request solely for self respect, as apparent in Bereishit Rabbah, but rather it has a philanthropic side. The request for dissimilarity is not only a request for oneself but also for one’s offspring. It is in fact a universal request regarding progress. Avraham is asking to be able to change the future, a future he will not be a part of, and God’s response is to bless Avraham ‘with everything’ read more>
Vayera: Parents, Children, and Obedience in the Story of the Binding of Yitzhak
11.11.2019, by Avital Hochstein
This week, I would like to discuss two readings-essentially two interpretations-of the story of the Akeidah, the binding of Yitzhak. One of them emphasizes making the ultimate sacrifice for God, while the other sees the central moral of the story as focused on the value of relationships. read more>
Lekh Lekha: Betwen Seeing and Hearing in the Meeting of Hagar and the Angel
05.11.2019, by Avital Hochstein
Hagar teaches us that vision has tremendous power in relationships. Seeing causes the one being seen to feel that their existence has been acknowledged and accepted. This can lead those who are seen to become seers themselves, thus creating a kind of reciprocal seeing that is the key to deep knowledge of the others with whom we share our lives. read more>
Noah: The Great Confusion of Miscommunication
03.11.2019, by Jennifer Raskas
After the flood, all of humanity joined together to build a tower to the sky and revealed that unity isn`t all it`s cracked up to be (Parshat Noah) read more>
Noah: The First Covenant in Tanakh
31.10.2019, by Avital Hochstein
In Parashat Noah, God shows us that being in relationship with other people requires deep knowledge of ourselves and our own weaknesses, and a strong commitment to controlling our own impulses and our own behavior. God does not try to change the nature of humanity, to change the “inclination of man to good.” Instead God talks to Himself, talks to humanity, puts restrictions on Himself, and becomes able, thereby, to be bound to us. read more>
Bereishit: Two Models of Partnership and Marriage
27.10.2019, by Avital Hochstein
Parashat Bereishit raises fundamental questions about the nature, characteristics, and essence of humanity’s existence. Also find links to more content on Bereishit by Hartman scholars read more>
Nitzavim-VaYelekh: The Value of Forgetfulness in a Culture of Tradition
24.09.2019, by Avital Hochstein
No halakha can be introduced by prophecy, but the tools of Torah study are granted as ways of learning new halakhot throughout the ages read more>
Ki Tavo: ‘When You Enter the Land’: Land as a Place, Aspiration, or Outcome
19.09.2019, by Avital Hochstein
We, who live in a time of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel, are now faced with a great challenge: How do we live now? read more>
Shoftim: Where are the Orphans, Widows and Strangers? On the Audible Silence in the Parasha
04.09.2019, by Avital Hochstein
The absence of weakened members of society, alongside the persistent cautions regarding the need to stay on the path, are positioned as warning signs: when a society`s focus is on comparisons with the exterior and on fortifying borders, it is liable to replace concern for charity and justice, raising the danger of inner blindness which itself may lead off the path of righteousness read more>
Re’eh: A Place of Their Own - A Place of His Own
29.08.2019, by Avital Hochstein
God is the one who chooses God`s place, while in the midrash Israel choose a place for God. Perhaps Israel has a responsibility to find and keep not only the place of their own cultic ritual, but the ritual places of others as well read more>
Eikev: What the Manna Teaches about Life in the Land of Canaan
19.08.2019, by Avital Hochstein
Living in response to what comes forth from God’s mouth creates a reality of independence and maturity read more>
Va’Etchanan - Mapping a Relationship: Chapter 4 of Devarim
14.08.2019, by Avital Hochstein
This is the Torah: The exclusivity of the relationship with God, which includes a past, a particular place and particular behaviors, an understanding of the ramifications of betrayal, the possibility of teshuvah and the ability to hold those who sin and make mistakes read more>
Pinchas: Regarding Leadership and Spirit
21.07.2019, by Avital Hochstein
It is Moshe’s experience of God here that inspires him to turn to God as the God of spirits" read more>
Balak: Between Pinhas and Balaam
11.07.2019, by Avital Hochstein
We too learn of the simple nature of the relationship between God and his creatures; the relationship is a mutual one, one who chooses it is a part of it, whereas one who scorns the choice remains external to it read more>
Chukat: Death, Impurity, and the Pursuit of Life
04.07.2019, by Avital Hochstein
The demand to move on from death and to purify oneself transforms the encounter with death into one that affirms life through a dynamic commitment to act, to move forward, to become pure again read more>
Korah - On Illness: A Natural and Unnatural Phenomenon
27.06.2019, by Avital Hochstein
The Talmud ends up offering not just a fascinating reading of the Korah tale, but also a worldview regarding death that is the culmination of illness read more>
Shelah: The Story of a Developing Community - From Exodus to Exoneration
16.06.2019, by Avital Hochstein
The sin of the spies is also a milestone not only in the unfolding character of the Jewish people, but also in God’s willingness to grant them the tools to find atonement for the future sins both He and they know they will commit read more>
Naso: What Unites the People of Israel - Thoughts on Family and Otherness
04.06.2019, by Avital Hochstein
The Sages chose to read many verses in such a way as to place the kohen and God’s home on the side of the converts read more>
BeHar-BeChukotai: The Seventh Year: Sabbatical or Shemittah?
23.05.2019, by Avital Hochstein
Though, modern people in the Western world are, for the most part, removed from the land, we control so much property. Vayikra’s vision of the seventh year demands that we recognize the dependence in our lives. Yet Shemot’s paradigm of the seventh year also commands us to remove ourselves from ownership, to experience living without, perhaps as a basis from which to experience equality. read more>
Emor: Building Mutuality and Covenant Between People and their Leaders
13.05.2019, by Avital Hochstein
We envision a public sphere in which the leadership depends on the people-for nourishment, light, and even the organization and flow of time. In this way, God, the people, and their representatives construct, reflect, and preserve their joint covenant through their respective public roles and responsibilities read more>
Kedoshim: Keeping Holy in the Land
29.04.2019, by Avital Hochstein
Jewish sovereignty is a new phenomenon in the Jewish world; it reflects circumstances that we have not experienced in two-thousand years. These circumstances might shed light or reflect darkness, might clarify some things and call others into question. Regardless, they are significant. The Jewish conversation must consider the ways in which these circumstances matter, how the fact of a "post-inheritance and post-sovereignty" reality color the lives of Jews wherever they live. read more>
Tazria-Metzora: Subject, Object, and Reader
04.04.2019, by Avital Hochstein
The thirteenth chapter of Sefer Vayikra talks about tzara’at, among other surface afflictions of the human body and of physical property. read more>
Shemini: Regarding Mistaken Stringencies and Humanity that is Good in the Eyes of God
28.03.2019, by Avital Hochstein
Stringencies are not infrequently mistakes, and often gateways to them. People must confront and be present with what happens to them, even when they are engaged in ‘sanctifying through closeness,’ and despite an intuition that the way of the stoic is the pathway to intimacy with God read more>
Tzav: Turning Over a New Leaf? Two Models of Atonement
20.03.2019, by Avital Hochstein
Atonement is straightening that which was crooked and is a process of renewal, but there is no such thing as new beginning without a past read more>
Vayikra: ‘If He Does Not Give Information’
14.03.2019, by Avital Hochstein
Even if we have not willingly chosen the circumstances that turned us into people who know, our obligation to fix, to purify, and to alert is not dependent on those circumstances read more>
VaYakhel-Pekudei: Bezalel’s Leadership an Additional Step in Leaving Egypt
07.03.2019, by Avital Hochstein
The leadership model that Bezalel presents is an added step in the distancing from Egypt, a step from a reality in which Moshe the man of God is the leader, toward the possibility of human leadership of a different kind read more>
Ki Tissa: From the Burning Bush to Sinai
20.02.2019, by Avital Hochstein
At the sneh, God presented himself as one who sees suffering and is moved by it, but at Sinai Moshe asks not only to be seen but also to see God read more>
Terumah: The Receiving Giver
05.02.2019, by Avital Hochstein
God here is giving us one possible way of dealing with this danger, and that is to turn the tables by recognizing them and naming the need of the giver read more>
Mishpatim: Does the Majority Rule?
30.01.2019, by Avital Hochstein
The emphasis at the center of the story on this principle shifts from being a simple positive statement of following the majority, to one that carries with it echoes of the warning that sometimes one cannot and may not do or say what the majority determines. Even though it can be especially hard to stand up for your own opinion, stand up in the breach for what is right read more>
Yitro: Reflections on Divine and Human Voices at Sinai
23.01.2019, by Avital Hochstein
As long as in the formation of the covenant or relationship only one real actor is involved, it will be difficult for the other partner to feel whole in entering into the covenant, and to really hear it and respond to it read more>
Beshallach: Let Us Not Long for the Desert: Reflections on the Pillar of Cloud
17.01.2019, by Avital Hochstein
We need to grab the golden opportunity that leaving the desert awards us and demands from us as Jews, as a sovereign people, and as global citizens read more>
Parashat Bo: On Belonging and Otherness
10.01.2019, by Avital Hochstein
It’s not enough to expand or to include. We have an obligation to look at the way we go about including, how do we invite other people to join us, how we behave toward them when they do read more>
Vaera: On the Value of Stubbornness
03.01.2019, by Avital Hochstein
Stubbornness is a complex and harsh characteristic. It is no surprise, then, that Pharaoh who is considered to be one of the most wicked characters in the Torah is shown as being very stubborn. We see Pharaoh repeatedly refusing to engage with the reality that he is faced with, and stubbornly, over and over, refusing to send the Israelites out of Egypt. Pharaoh is the paradigmatic stubborn person in the Exodus story, yet Parashat Va’Era also points to other characters in the story who are not considered wicked in any way who are nevertheless portrayed with this characteristic of stubbornness. This implies that perhaps stubbornness is not all bad. What can we learn about this character trait from our parashah and when it might make sense to employ it? read more>
Shemot: The Slippery Slope from Fear to Evil
27.12.2018, by Avital Hochstein
The first chapter of Sefer Shemot contains an important lesson for society: Evil can be perpetrated more easily by a group than by an individual. The chapter sounds this warning: The evil of a decree doesn’t keep people from obeying it. To the contrary, a blanket permission to be evil is a lot easier to implement than one single point of evil. Moreover, an all-encompassing license is, by its very nature, difficult to control once it is released. On top of that, it often returns to visit itself on the people who unleashed it. read more>
Vayechi: Seeing in Genesis
17.12.2018, by Avital Hochstein
In the journey of seeing in the book of Genesis, God is not described as satisfied when He sees, He is described as longing and wanting mutuality, mutuality which is enabled when He is also being seen. The peak expression of this seeing is when it gives birth to a name, a name that is given to the divine from the one seeing Him. read more>
Vayigash: Yosef’s Cry of Disappointment
12.12.2018, by Avital Hochstein
Yosef teaches us that relationships require exposure. As long as we maintain our covers and masks, our relationships remain unsatisfying. An act of exposure requires courage, a courage which is necessary in order for relationships to become fulfilling and to bring us peace of mind. read more>
Mikeitz: On the Power and Danger of Groups
04.12.2018, by Avital Hochstein
One of the givens of Jewish tradition is that matters of holiness require ten people, as we see in the context of the minyan of prayer. Different Rabbinic sources try to locate the basis for this demand and many sources in the Rabbinic tradition of Israel connect the ten people needed for a minyan to the original, literal Sons of Israel, the ten of Ya’akov’s sons who went down to Egypt to get food due to the famine plaguing Canaan at the time. We will examine one midrash in Bereishit Rabbah and the way that it grounds the requirement for a minyan from the verses about the journey of Ya’akov’s ten sons in our parashah. read more>
Vayeishev: Different Models of Loyalty
25.11.2018, by Avital Hochstein
We often think of the story of Yehudah and Tamar as being about Yehudah and Tamar, but a closer reading yields that there is a third figure in the story, Hirah the man from Adulam. read more>
Ha’azinu: Human Existence in an Age of Divine Concealment
19.09.2017, by Avital Hochstein
We must view our characteristic, as Jews, as "children with no loyalty in them," as both a result and a possibility - and therefore as a reality which is not a necessary one read more>
Ki Teitzei: Were It Not Written, It Would Not Have Been Thinkable
31.08.2017, by Avital Hochstein
We are confronted with a surprising, complex and multifaceted Torah that challenges the reader at every turn and in every generation. This is a Torah that demands the attention and sensitivity of its readers as well as the constant search for hidden meanings, even those embedded between the words and the verses read more>
Devarim: Beginning the Jewish Interpretive Tradition
30.07.2017, by Avital Hochstein
A Torah interpreter must not only go over and repeat, and not only hear that which has not yet been heard, but must also try to answer the questions which the Torah and its previous interpreters have left unanswered read more>
BeHa’alotkha: Walking in the Footsteps of the Rearguard
08.06.2017, by Avital Hochstein
Boundaries exist not only for the sake of keeping foreignness out, but also for the sake of helping those who are internal to stay within read more>
26.05.2017, by Avital Hochstein
Reading this week`s parashah raises a number of complex questions regarding how to navigate the tension between the values set forth in the text and our present-day worldview in the context of women`s involvement in civil society. It is at this sensitive juncture that I would like to propose a few principles and methodologies for approaching traditional texts that seek to interpret the Torah. read more>
Tetsaveh: Discourses in Clothing: From Priestly Garments to Common Garb
08.03.2017, by Avital Hochstein
Clothing is about honoring and marking people, drawing attention to them, having their ‘sound heard’ when they ‘come and go’ read more>
Bereishit: Two Models of Partnership and Marriage
29.10.2016, by Avital Hochstein
Parashat Bereishit raises fundamental questions about the nature, characteristics, and essence of humanity’s existence read more>
Tanakh Teaching: An Introduction
01.02.2016, by Noam Zion
Subject matter and scholarly discipline define the critical thinking that the teacher wishes to develop in the study of Torah in its contexts read more>
Leadership and Confrontation: Lessons from Moses and God
13.02.2014, by Melissa Weintraub
Lessons from Parashat, Ki Tisa, Exodus 30:11-34:35 read more>

Rabbi Avital Hochstein is a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute.

In 2016, she was among the first recipients of rabbinical ordination from the Shalom Hartman Institute / HaMidrasha at Oranim Beit Midrash for Israeli Rabbis.

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