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School’s Out
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Sometimes – unexpectedly, despite the best plans, things go terribly wrong. Parashat B’haalothcha finds the Jews who left Egypt on the way to the Promised Land, but something goes awry, although it is difficult to place our finger on the precise problem or the exact moment it occurred. The first ten chapters of the book of B’midbar seem focused and purposeful; the path from Sinai to Israel appears to be charted, and the trip should not be a […]
Value Judgments
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The gift of holiness creates a challenge. Holiness has, if not by definition then at least by connotation, an element of “separateness;” what makes something holy is its “differentness,” its uniqueness, its separateness. The new Mishkan, therefore, creates a challenge, and perhaps the most appropriate time to address this challenge is the moment when the […]
A Leap of Love
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All new beginnings are charged with hope; the beginning of a new book of the Torah is no exception. As the book of Bamidbar opens, there is hope that the journey upon which the Jews embarked as they left Egypt would finally bring them to the Promised Land. The book of Vayikra did not document […]
Irreplaceable Theology
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As the book of Vayikra moves towards its finale, several outstanding issues are clarified. A retrospective overview shows us that although it began as a book focused on Temple and ritual, it gradually turned to a discussion of other, more general types of holiness, emphasizing kosher food, “kosher” sexual relationships and, finally, other types of […]
Seasons in the Sun
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Shabbat is a day of rest. The Torah teaches us that just as people need to rest one day in seven, so, too, the land of Israel, which is sensitive in more ways than we might have imagined, must rest for one year in seven. This sabbatical year, known as shmittah, is referred to as […]
Sanctify Life
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Sometimes life is simple; sometimes it is terribly complex. Simplicity is when the choices presented are clear; good and bad are easy to identify, and good is an easily accessible choice. Sometimes, though, we are forced to choose between two goods, or alternatively, to choose the lesser of two evils. It is in these situations […]
Put a Little Love in Your Heart
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Perhaps one of the most famous verses in the Torah is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”(Vayikra 19:18) This is not an isolated instruction; it comes as the concluding statement at the end of a list of commandments, all designed to create harmony, to create a just, functional, perhaps even utopian society. In his comments on […]
A Holy, Delicate Land
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Perhaps reading the parasha from a post-Pesach perspective impacts what we see, but there are one or two comments in this week’s parasha that are particularly apt for this time of year – after the seder, when all of us felt as if we had been redeemed from Egypt. The book of Vayikra is almost […]
In Search of Chametz
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I. Pesach and Matzah While the seven day festival commemorated each year in the spring is now known as Chag haPesach (Passover),[1] the Torah consistently refers to this holiday as Chag haMatzot – the holiday of matzah. The biblical name for the evening prior to this seven day holiday, the day on which the Paschal […]
Ignoring the Signs
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Perhaps it’s human nature: You see something on your skin you hadn’t noticed before. Has it always been there? Did it suddenly appear? You could have it checked by the doctor, but why make a fuss? You can just wait for your next regularly-scheduled visit – if there is one… Modern man grapples with many […]