Sigal Samuel

Sigal Samuel

Sigal Samuel is a writer and editor at the Jewish Daily Forward. Her work has also appeared in The Daily Beast, The Rumpus, BuzzFeed, Tablet, and The Walrus, among other publications. She is the author of the novel "The Mystics of Mile End," forthcoming from HarperCollins this year. Sigal can be reached at sigal.s.samuel@gmail.com.

Bereshit

If we were asked to identify the world’s most powerful movers and shakers, storytellers probably wouldn’t make it to the top of our lists. But stories wield tremendous power, shaping our perceptions of others for better or worse. In a fascinating TED Talk entitled “The Danger of a Single Story,” Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says that “Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize.” She warns that if we are exposed to only a single story about another people, we risk a critical misunderstanding. “This is how to create a single story: show a people as one thing—as only one thing—over and over again, and that is what they become.”

Read More

Vayakhel-Pekudei

As a teenager, I used to groan when it came time to read Vayakhel-Pekudei each year. Privately, I referred to this as the “interior decorating” section of the Torah, and the detailed descriptions of the mishkan bored me to no end. Who cared about the exact height, width and depth of every vessel in the Tabernacle? Who cared what materials, colors and patterns were used? But the Israelites revel in every lush detail, thrilled at the prospect of having a visible—and Divinely sanctioned—sign of God in their midst. Years later, I can see why.

Read More

Vayakhel-Pekudei

As a teenager, I used to groan when it came time to read Vayakhel-Pekudei each year. Privately, I referred to this as the “interior decorating” section of the Torah, and the detailed descriptions of the mishkan bored me to no end. Who cared about the exact height, width and depth of every vessel in the Tabernacle? Who cared what materials, colors and patterns were used? But the Israelites revel in every lush detail, thrilled at the prospect of having a visible—and Divinely sanctioned—sign of God in their midst. Years later, I can see why.

Read More

Beshalach

In the lead-up to Parashat Beshalach, ten plagues hit the Egyptians, destroying their land and decimating their population. And yet, Pharaoh stubbornly blinds himself to the suffering of his own people: the more their situation worsens, the more he hardens his heart, refusing to liberate the Israelite slaves. His frustrated advisors cannot understand his behavior, which victimizes the Egyptians at every turn. Finally, they plead: “Let the people go, so that they may serve the Lord their God! Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?

Read More

Ki Tetze

Parashat Ki Tetze contains 74 interesting and illuminating commandments—including one that, at first glance, gets my hackles up: “A man’s apparel should not be on a woman, and a man should not wear a woman’s clothing, for whoever does these things is an abomination before Adonai your God.” For many of us—and especially for those of us who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming—this apparent prohibition against cross-dressing feels problematic. Why should wearing clothes that are not “gender-appropriate” earn the harsh title of abomination?

Read More

Vayeshev

Anu Mokal was four months pregnant the night policemen brutally assaulted her at a bus stop in Satara, India. They beat her so severely that she suffered a miscarriage. When she later filed a complaint against them, no investigation took place, despite the presence of witnesses. Why? Because she was a sex worker, and the policemen—who had charged her with soliciting clients at the bus stop—were just ‘doing their job.’

Read More

Vayeshev

Anu Mokal was four months pregnant the night policemen brutally assaulted her at a bus stop in Satara, India. They beat her so severely that she suffered a miscarriage. When she later filed a complaint against them, no investigation took place, despite the presence of witnesses. Why? Because she was a sex worker, and the …Read More

Read More

Ki Tetze

Parashat Ki Tetze contains 74 interesting and illuminating commandments—including one that, at first glance, gets my hackles up: “A man’s apparel should not be on a woman, and a man should not wear a woman’s clothing, for whoever does these things is an abomination before Adonai your God.”[1] For many of us—and especially for those …Read More

Read More

Matot-Masei

In Parashat Matot-Masei, the tribes of Reuven and Gad come to Moses with a strange request. Instead of settling in Canaan with the rest of the Israelites, they wish to settle on the east side of the Jordan River. Their stated rationale is purely pragmatic: the trans-Jordan pastures are perfect for raising livestock, which Reuven …Read More

Read More

Matot-Masei

In Parashat Matot-Masei, the tribes of Reuven and Gad come to Moses with a strange request. Instead of settling in Canaan with the rest of the Israelites, they wish to settle on the east side of the Jordan River. Their stated rationale is purely pragmatic: the trans-Jordan pastures are perfect for raising livestock, which Reuven …Read More

Read More