When you teach, you learn. I spoke a few words at San Francisco’s Calvary Presbyterian Church two weeks ago. I’d been asked to invite the congregation to a joint study program with my synagogue, Congregation Sherith Israel. I told a story about Rabbi Hillel. Early this week, the lesson came back to me. Some background:…

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With the summer solstice on the horizon, we can’t help thinking about what the recent Arab spring has meant. Protests and revolutions developed from Algeria to the Persian Gulf. Some deposed tyrants—Tunisia’s Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. Others keep trying in Libya and Yemen, Bahrain and Syria, where Bashar al-Assad seeks to maintain…

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Mysteries abound in B’reishit, the Book of Genesis and name for the Torah cycle’s first weekly portion. Where, for example, does Cain’s wife (4:17) come from? Midrash—a story or comment that fills in textual gaps—provides answers. Cain, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 58b) explains, marries his sister. Okay, that’s cleared up. But questions remain. Like where did…

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