Evan Wolkenstein

Evan Wolkenstein

Evan Wolkenstein is the Director of Experiential Education and a Tanach teacher at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco. He views working with teenagers as a pathway to helping students understand the world around them. Evan holds a Masters Degree in Jewish Education from Hebrew University and a Certificate of Advance Jewish Study from the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem. He has a passion for learning about world music and dance, the sublime short story, and how to brew the perfect cup. Evan can be reached at matthewevan23@yahoo.com.

Vayikra

Reading the book of Vayikra is, for me, like looking at photos of my great-grandparents: recognizable and yet strange. Certain features distinguish the figures as my family, but the likeness ends there—dressed in brimless caps and caftans, with unsmiling expressions, they are clearly from another place and time. In many ways, I have more in common with a stranger today than I do with them. Likewise, the book of Vayikra is also both familiar and strangely foreign.

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Terumah

In Parashat Terumah, the Israelites receive the blueprints for a majestic tent—the mishkan—that will eventually house the magnificent Ark of the Covenant. As we read the vivid description, we can picture its grandeur. During the Israelites’ journeys through the desert, the mishkan serves as a portable temple, with the home of God’s indwelling, the Ark, at its center.1 The Israelite tribes camp around it, placing it at the heart of the nation.

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Ki Tetze

A criminal is surrounded by a ring of townspeople in the town square and under the orders of the court, he is executed: death by stoning. To be sure, any execution is an upsetting scene, but this particular episode in Parshat Ki Tetze stands out for its deeply troubling nature: the criminal charges are gluttony, …Read More

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Chukkat

In Parshat Chukkat, the people, angry about living conditions in the desert, gather against Moshe and Aaron to demand water. God instructs Moshe to order a rock to give forth water. The people’s thirst is thereby quenched, but God punishes Moshe, declaring, “You will not bring this community into the land I have given them.”[1] …Read More

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Balak

In Parshat Balak, a distinguished entourage knocks at the humble door of Bilaam, the soothsayer. Bilaam’s eyes fall on the silk-robed emissaries of King Balak. The King, they say, requires Bilaam’s services to curse Israel. Bilaam asks them to spend the night while he inquires as to God’s direction. God prohibits the mission and Bilaam …Read More

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Korach

This Hitler has only one objective, justice for his own people, sovereignty for his people, recognition of the independence of his people, and their right to their resources. If that is Hitler, then let me be a Hitler tenfold.[1]                           -Robert Mugabe In Zimbabwe in 1979, Robert Mugabe was a symbol of national pride, …Read More

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Naso

“Is that the law?  Now?”  These were the words of Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf when he learned, six years ago, that a woman named Zafran Bibi had been sentenced to death by stoning.[1]  Under the Hudood ordinances, fundamentalist interpretations of Islamic law, a woman convicted of adultery can be executed with only circumstantial evidence against …Read More

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Acharei Mot

A student approaches me, red in the face. “Please explain this,” he says. I look at his report card. I’ve given him a low grade for class participation. Over the course of the semester, he has repeatedly scoffed at the comments of classmates. This has brought tension and distrust to the class. When I remind …Read More

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Vayikra

Reading the book of Vayikra is, for me, like looking at photos of my great-grandparents: recognizable and yet strange. Certain features distinguish the figures as my family, but the likeness ends there—dressed in brimless caps and caftans, with unsmiling expressions, they are clearly from another place and time. In many ways, I have more in …Read More

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Terumah

In Parshat Terumah, the Israelites receive the blueprints for a majestic tent—the mishkan—that will eventually house the magnificent Ark of the Covenant. As we read the vivid description, we can picture its grandeur. During the Israelites’ journeys through the desert, the mishkan serves as a portable temple, with the home of God’s indwelling, the Ark, …Read More

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