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Pursuing Justice from the Torah

This week, for Parashat Shof’tim, Rabbi Jacobs is joined by Dahlia Lithwick, who hosts the podcast Amicus and writes about the courts and the law for Slate. They discuss Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, what the justice system looks like today in the U.S. and Israel, and what the American justice system might look like in the future.


How We Can End Poverty

Parashat R’eih includes two important statements about poverty. The first, “there shall be no needy among you,” addresses the core Jewish value that we should live in a society where everybody has the means they need to live. The second phrase, “there will never cease to be needy ones in your land,” acknowledges that no matter what, poverty will never be completely eradicated. How do these two ideas serve each other? Rabbi Rick Jacobs gives his take in this episode of On the Other Hand.


Reward and Punishment

Parashat Eikev contains the second paragraph of the Sh'ma, which is no longer read in many Reform communities. Rabbi Jacobs explains why in this episode of On the Other Hand, and explores the question: Do good things happen to people because of their obedience to sacred teachings?


The Future of Judaism

In Parashat Va-et'chanan, Moses prepares Joshua to take on leadership of the Jewish people. So, it’s fitting that this week, Rabbi Jacobs is joined by Rabbi Matt Green, the assistant rabbi at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, New York and director of Brooklyn Jews. They discuss new ways to engage young Jews, the importance of Judaism to young people, and why we shouldn’t be worried about the future of Judaism.


Why Tragedies Happen and How to Respond

Parashat D’varim is the first portion of the Book of Deuteronomy, and this year it is read just before Tishah B’Av – a day that, throughout Jewish history, has been one of tragedy and destruction. What does it mean that so many horrible events have taken place on this one particular day? Rabbi Rick Jacobs explores this question in this week’s episode of On the Other Hand.


Cities of Refuge

Double parsha of Matot-Mas’ei introduces the concept of cities of refuge. Today, as American lawmakers are using the bible as justification for the mistreatment of people who are seeking refuge, there is a lot to learn from Parashiot Matot-Mas’ei. In this episode of On the Other Hand, Rabbi Jacobs discusses what the Torah can teach us about welcome refugees.


Defeating Extremism With Acts of Courage

Parashat Pinchas is an intense parashah, one with an act of religious extremism—and just because it’s in the Torah, doesn’t mean it should be taken at face value. In this episode of On the Other Hand, Rabbi Jacobs discusses what we can learn from a Torah portion that goes in a different direction than what we believe today.


The Beauty of Humility

Parashat Balak’s accompanying Haftorah portion features the famous verse: “God has told you what is good and what the Eternal requires of you only to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” For many, if you wanted to distill Jewish tradition into one verse, this would be it. Specifically, what does this passage mean for Jewish people today? Rabbi Jacobs explains in this episode of On the Other Hand.


Remembering Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D, z"l

Parashat Chukat, we learn of the passing of two of the most inspired biblical teachers: Miriam and Aaron. In this episode of On the Other Hand, Rabbi Jacobs honors the life of Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D., z”l, who, like the biblical Aaron, was a remarkable leader. Rabbi Jacobs reflects on a few of the texts that speak to who Rabbi Panken was, and what made him such a great leader.


What Makes a Leader?

Korach, Moses’s cousin, proves to be a certain kind of leader: one who cares more about himself than the people he is leading. What can we learn from Parashat Korach today? Rabbi Jacobs gives his take in this episode of On the Other Hand: 10 Minutes of Torah.


Optimism and Hope

Parashat Sh’lach L’cha, the Jewish people are wandering the desert and doubting that they’ll ever make it to the promised land. So, they send 12 spies ahead to scout the land and report back. The spies come back with different takes—10 aren’t so sure the land will provide a comfortable home, but two return with excitement. Is their positive outlook a result of optimism or hope? Rabbi Jacobs gives his take on the difference between optimism and hope in this episode of On the Other Hand.


Don’t Kvetch

In Chapter 11 of Parashat B’haalot’cha, the Israelites are wandering through the desert, and they’re kvetching. They’re not happy about the cuisine, the amount of water, and everything they need to schlep. Even though most of us today aren’t tasked with wandering through the desert, we still find things to kvetch about. But what if, when we want to kvetch, we instead focus on building up our community? Rabbi Jacobs explores this question in this week’s episode of On the Other Hand.


Lifting Our Heads, One Year After Charlottesville, A Conversation with Charlottesville Rabbis

This week, Rabbi Jacobs is joined by Rabbi Tom Gutherz and Rabbi Rachel Schmelkin of Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, VA. They discuss Parashat Naso, their experience at Shabbat services during the white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, the current state of Charlottesville, and what it means to fight for social justice with an interfaith community.


The Torah’s Take on Respecting the Earth

Parashat B’har features an important teaching on environmental justice: that we are to be respectful of our land. Many Reform Jews express their respect for the environment with action, and many Reform congregations have gone zero-waste or are GreenFaith certified. In this episode of On the Other Hand, Rabbi Jacobs discusses why it’s so important that we respect the environment, and shares some easy ways to do so.


Unnamed Women

Tucked at the very end of Parashat Emor we meet Shlomit bat Divri, the only woman whose name we learn in Leviticus. But, why do we learn her name and not others? In this episode of On the Other Hand, Rabbi Rick Jacobs discusses the theories of different commentators, including, surprisingly, Elizabeth Cady Stanton.


Ethics in the Marketplace

Parashat Acharei Mot/K’doshim includes the holiness code, which, among the holy obligations about relationships and holidays, includes business ethics. These ethics aren’t just for folks who work in business—these ethics apply to everyone, and are some of the most challenging obligations that the Torah gives. In this episode of On the Other Hand, Rabbi Rick Jacobs discusses why it’s so important to consider ethics in every corner of life.


We Need to Talk About Anti-Semitism

Parashat Tazria-M’tzora includes teachings about the ancient disease of leprosy and those who were lepers, people who were were cast out of their communities. Their illness wasn’t seen as a cause of biology, but as punishment for sin. In this episode of On the Other Hand, Rabbi Jacobs describes how in many ways, the treatment of lepers in biblical times parallels the treatment of the Jewish people throughout time.


Never Again for Anyone

This year, we read Parashat Sh’mini, the same week that we observe Yom HaShoah. We’re still overcome with the extraordinary pain and loss of the Holocaust, and we ask: how do we commemorate? Rabbi Jacobs explores this question in this week’s episode of On the Other Hand.


Mindful Jewish Eating

Parashat Sh'mini details which foods are and are not kosher. And during Passover, there are even more rules to follow when it comes to food. What is there to gain from restricting what we eat? Rabbi Rick Jacobs gives his take in this episide of On the Other Hand.


Making Passover Personal

It’s almost Passover! One thing that makes Passover special is where you celebrate it—in your home, at the home of a friend or family member, or at a community seder. Across all of these different sedarim and celebrations, people have their own traditions and their own adaptions. In this episode of On the Other Hand, Rabbi Rick Jacobs discusses the new traditions and adaptations that he’s encountered which you may like too.