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Why Do We Count?
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Context In the midst of the Torah’s discussion concerning the festival cycle, immediately after the commandment concerning the Omer offering (a barley offering in the Temple which marks the beginning of the harvest and allows the use of that season’s grain), the following mandate is found: “And you shall count for yourselves – from the […]
Communal Confession
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Context The communal vidui, confession, recited by the Kohen Gadol over the se’ir hamishtaleiach is a central feature of this Yom Kippur Temple ritual: “And Aharon shall place his two hands upon the living he-goat and he shall confess upon it all of the iniquities of the children of Israel and all of their rebellious […]
Disease or Divine Reckoning?
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Context The bulk of the parshiot of Tazria and Metzora deal with a description of the dramatic effects of tzara’at, often defined (for want of a better term) as biblical leprosy. The Torah delineates in fine detail the specifics of this mysterious affliction – which affects individuals, clothes and dwellings – and the steps to […]
Simcha or Sin?
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Context Parshat Tazria opens with one of the strangest examples of biblical ritual “impurity”: tumat yoledet, tuma resulting from childbirth. The Torah relates that, following the birth of a male child, a childbearing mother enters a seven-day period of tuma, while following the birth of a female child, a fourteen-day period of tuma is mandated. […]
Sanctuary Sobriety
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Context In the shadow of Nadav and Avihu’s tragic death, God turns to their father, Aharon, and commands: “Do not drink wine or intoxicating beverage, you and your sons with you, when you come into the Tent of Meeting, and you will not die; this is an eternal decree for your generations. In order to […]
Manifest Destiny?
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Context As Parshat Tzav draws to a close, God commands Moshe to instruct Aharon concerning the laws of the shivat yemei hamiluim, the seven days of preparation that will lead to the inauguration of the kehuna on the eighth day. These events will launch the ongoing priestly role of Aharon and his progeny across the […]
Confronting Korbanot
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Context With the opening of the book of Vayikra, we enter the world of korbanot. In chapter upon chapter of text, God commands the newly formed Jewish nation, encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai, concerning the rituals that will define the sacrificial rite in the Sanctuary. Questions The very existence of korbanot creates a […]
A Retrospective: From Servitude to Sinai
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Context In retrospect, the book of Shmot reflects that the Jewish nation is born through a two-stage process, with the road to Sinai passing through Egypt. The Exodus and Revelation are both clearly portrayed in the Torah as critical components in the formation of our national character. Questions Why are the Exodus and Revelation both […]
Undersanding Shabbat
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Context As the curtain rises on Parshat Vayakhel, Moshe assembles the nation in order to convey God’s commandments concerning the construction of the Mishkan. Suddenly, however, he opens his remarks with the following directives concerning Shabbat: “Six days work may be done and the seventh day shall be holy for you, a Shabbat, a day […]