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Holy Vessels
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Parashat Tzav includes very detailed instructions for the sacrificial rites of various types of offerings (korbanot). At a certain point in the text, as the intricacies of the sin offering are enumerated, the text veers slightly off center, and makes some comments regarding “housekeeping:” Any clay pot in which [the sin offering] is cooked must […]
Fallibility
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People make mistakes. Great people make mistakes; not-so-great people make mistakes. Imperfection is part of the human condition. As a species, we are perfectly imperfect, and we provide new evidence of this condition every day. The Torah is well aware of human shortcomings. We might say that the entire book of Bereishit is a case-study […]
The Dangling Conversation
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Moshe was the greatest teacher the Jewish People ever had, and that was his lasting legacy. He has been known for millennia as “Moshe Rabenu,” Moshe our Master Teacher – not Moshe the king, or the redeemer; he was, above all the other roles he filled, the quintessential teacher – even though he led our […]
No Embarrassment
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In Parashat Terumah, which was read last week, the instructions to build the Mishkan were given to Moshe, and through him, to the entire nation. But the Mishkan would have to be staffed and maintained. Who would serve in the holy tasks that the Mishkan was intended to fulfill? Who would do the actual work, […]
Divine Dialogue
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As we ended last week’s parashah, Moshe had ascended Mount Sinai in order to receive the Tablets of Testimony – which means that we begin this week’s parashah with a simple, technical problem that must be solved: What are we to do with a gift bestowed upon us from Heaven? Where shall we place the […]
Upwardly Mobile 
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Every society seems to have its “desirables” and “undesirables,” mainstreamers versus outliers. Sometimes it is the “haves” and the “have-nots;” rich as opposed to poor; upper class, working class, or criminal class; natives as opposed to newcomers or strangers. For most of history, people were labeled at birth; more often than not, you were born […]
A Holy Detour
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Six weeks after leaving Egypt, the Jews arrived at Mount Sinai.  In retrospect, this destination seems obvious. But how obvious was it to those who made the trip? Did they know there was a planned stop along their route to the Land of Israel? Did they fully understand the purpose of this stop? We may […]
Songs of Freedom
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The transition from slavery to freedom is sudden. As the parashah begins, the emancipated slaves take up arms (13:18), and brace themselves for the inevitable showdown with their erstwhile masters. Their arms are primitive; from a logical perspective, they stand little chance against the mighty Egyptian war machine. Pharaoh and his army bear down on […]
The Steps of Freedom
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Leaving Egypt was not a quick fix; it was a slow process, made up of many stages. While each plague made Pharaoh more defiant, more stubborn, the Jews, who looked on in awe at the humbling of Egypt, were strengthened in their belief in the God of their fathers and mothers. God’s sudden involvement in […]
Pointing a Finger
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It begins: As God had promised Avraham hundreds of years earlier, the Jews will be extricated from Egypt – but the exodus will not be instantaneous. Rather, it will unfold slowly, deliberately: Moshe is sent to “negotiate” the release of the Jewish slaves, but Pharaoh denies any knowledge of the God of the Jews (Shmot […]