Rabbi Richard Hirsh | Reconstructing Judaism

Rabbi Richard Hirsh

Assistant Rabbi, M'kor Shalom

Rabbi Richard Hirsh currently serves as assistant rabbi of M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ. He previously served as Executive Director of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association for sixteen years, and was on the faculty of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Rabbi Hirsh was the editor of the journal The Reconstructionist from 1996-2006. (Back issues are online here.) Rabbi Hirsh previously served congregations in Chicago, New York, New Jersey and Toronto. He served as Executive Director of the Philadelphia Board of Rabbis and Jewish Chaplaincy Service (1988-1993) and was on the staff of the Philadelphia Jewish Community Relations Council (1987- 1988).

Rabbi Hirsh received his BA in Jewish Studies from Hofstra University (1975), his MA in religion with a specialization in the New Testament from Temple University (1981), and was graduated as a rabbi from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (1981). Rabbi Hirsh was the chair of the “Reconstructionist Commission on the Role of the Rabbi” and the author of its report, The Rabbi-Congregation Relationship: A Vision for the 21st Century. His commentaries are featured in A Night of Questions, the Reconstructionist Haggadah, and the Kol HaNeshamah prayerbook series. He is also the author of the chapters “The Journey of Mourning,” “Welcoming Children,” “Conversion” and “Jewish Divorce” in the book A Reconstructionist Guide to Jewish Practice III: Lifecycle. His articles appeared regularly in the magazines The Reconstructionist and Reconstructionism Today, as well as in many other Jewish and general publications. For over a dozen years he contributed commentary on the weekly Torah portion for the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent and the New Jersey Jewish News.

Rabbi Hirsh was co-chair of the Clergy Task Force on Domestic Violence of Jewish Women International from 2011-2013; is on the Board of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia; and is on the editorial board of the magazine Sh’ma.

Shabbat Naḥamu

On the Shabbat after Tisha B’Av we read the first hafatarah of comfort. Despite its troubling theology, its message of hope and reconciliation is a powerful first step toward Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. 

D'var Torah

Shabbat Hazon

Rabbi Richard Hirsh examines the theology of reward and punishment: is it still compelling, and how might it be rethought in the modern era?

D'var Torah

The Importance of Re-reading Torah

How do we interpret, let alone accept, a Torah narrative whose message is at odds with our fundamental values?

D'var Torah

Ruth, The First Convert: A Model of Welcome

The story of Ruth, read on Shavuot, provides a powerful model for welcoming newcomers to the Jewish people. 

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Land

Parashat Behar is primarily concerned with rules and regulations pertaining to the land of Israel: the sabbatical years when the last was to lie fallow, and the Jubilee year when land reverted to its original owners. Although these laws may seem to be millennia out of date, they provide important teachings that remain keenly relevant.

D'var Torah

The Nazirite

In biblical times, Nazirites took on additional personal obligations to add to their holiness. Rabbi Richard Hirsh explores this institution and why it may have fallen by the wayside. 

D'var Torah

Who Has The Authority To Change Judaism?

Rebelling against Moses, Korakh says, “You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them, and the Lord is in their midst? Why then do you raise yourself above the Lord's congregation?” Is this question really out of line?

D'var Torah

Balaam Recognizes the One God

Parashat Balak is named after the Moabite king who sought to bring doom on the Israelites as they neared the end of their journey from Egypt to Israel. There are notable similarities between this story and the confrontation with Pharaoh a generation earlier. What can we learn from them?

D'var Torah

Transitioning Leadership

One of the most difficult tasks faced by a community is the orderly transition of power from one leader to the next.
As Moses's death draws near, the Israelites face this challenge.

D'var Torah

Can a Reconstructionist Sin?

Since Reconstructionist Judaism affirms a conception of God as a force, power or process — but not as a supernatural Being who can be addressed and can respond — what happens to the notion of sin? Rabbi Richard Hirsh argues that Reconstructionist theology makes it more, not less, important that we take on the responsibility for judgment, atonement, apology and repentance

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Making Seder and Kiddush More Inclusive

Wine is the traditional vehicle for prominent Jewish ritual moments. At the same, Jewish communities contain people who struggle with alcohol.  Rabbi Richard Hirsh outlines simple steps to recognize and support all in a community who wish to participate. 

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A Reconstructionist Exploration of Dietary Law

Rabbi Richard Hirsch reflects on his own evolving relationship with Jewish dietary law from a Reconstructionist perspective.

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