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An (Un)Necessary Book
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As we begin reading the fourth book of the Torah, we cannot help feeling somewhat unsettled. Each of the chapters of B’midbar (Numbers) follows in logical sequence; no particular word or sentence causes us unease. Rather, the entire book, as a whole, gives us pause: At face value, this book should never have been written. […]
You Can Get Satisfaction
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Most of Parashat Bechukotai deals with the disastrous consequences of rebellion. If the Jewish People fails to obey God’s commandments, pain, death and exile will follow. However, this stern warning is prefaced by a description of the utopic existence that awaits us if we fulfill the laws of the Torah. This bright future, and the […]
Living and Loving
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As the contours of life and law in Israel’s new agricultural society emerge, it becomes clear that the economy outlined by the Torah is designed not only to support farmers and their clientele. Jewish law creates a structure through which even the poor and disenfranchised are provided for and protected. Throughout this parasha, we find […]
An Extension of Holiness
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Centuries ago, a major argument shook the Jewish world. The argument centered around the omer offering, specifically regarding the interpretation of the Torah passage commanding that the omer ceremony be performed “after the Shabbat.” In context, the word Shabbat clearly refers to the Passover holiday, which is also a sabbatical day – a day of […]
Creating Holiness
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As Parashat Kedoshim begins, Moshe is instructed to assemble the entire community for a public reading of a specific set of laws. The stated purpose of this assembly is to achieve holiness. This exercise should be considered in light of a statement found in the previous parasha which serves as the backdrop or background for […]
Rectification
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  The parasha begins with an ominous frame of reference: “After the deaths of the two sons of Aharon.” The deaths of Nadav and Avihu are recounted earlier in the Book of Vayikra, although some five chapters, laden with commandments, separate the tragic events of day of the Tabernacle’s consecration from the Torah’s response to […]
Feeling Kinship
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As the Torah continues its discussion of spiritual “leprosy,” we learn that this strange malady can affect not only one’s person, but also their clothing and their home. Though the laws in the Torah are taught in that order – person – clothing – home, rabbinic tradition teaches that the outbreak would take place in […]
Seclusion
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  Tum’ah is a word that is not easily defined. While we use the word “impurity” to translate the concept of tum’ah, modern man has very little grasp of ritual purity and impurity. Although we share the dread caused by the most feared source of impurity – death – it is death itself we fear, […]
Separations
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As it becomes operational, the Mishkan (Tabernacle) engenders new responsibilities: Aharon is commanded to abstain from intoxicating beverages as he is called upon to function as kohen.  At first glance, this prohibition appears to be a practical precaution against the debilitating effects of alcohol and the diminished capacity often associated with drinking. There are, however, […]
Impetuousness
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As the Mishkan (Sanctuary) is about to become operational, one last detail must be addressed: Aharon and his sons must go through a process whereby they will become kohanim (priests). In addition to various rituals that will prepare them for their new position, a seven-day period of confinement is commanded, during which time the initiates […]