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The Light We Make
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The great moment has come. For seven days – beginning on the 23rd Adar – Moses had consecrated Aaron and the priests. Now, on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the time has arrived for Aaron to begin his service, ministering to the people on behalf of God: It came to pass on the eighth day, that Moses called to Aaron […]
Why Civilisations Die
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In her recent “The Watchman’s Rattle”, subtitled ‘Thinking our way out of extinction’, Rebecca Costa delivers a fascinating account of how civilisations die. Their problems become too complex. Societies reach what she calls a cognitive threshold. They simply can’t chart a path from the present to the future. The example she gives is the Mayans. […]
The Sin Offering
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Vayikra is about sacrifices, and though these laws have been inoperative for almost 2000 years since the destruction of the Temple, the moral principles they embody are still challenging. One set of sacrifices, set out in detail in this week’s sedra, warrants particular attention: chattat, the ‘sin offering’. Four different cases are considered: the anointed […]
Encampments & Journeys
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Right at the end of the book of Shemot, there is a textual difficulty so slight that it is easy to miss, yet – as interpreted by Rashi – it contains one of the great clues as to the nature of Jewish identity: it is a moving testimony to the unique challenge of being a […]
The Sabbath: First Day Or Last?
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In the immensely lengthy and detailed account of the making of the Tabernacle, the Torah tells the story twice: first (Ex. 25:1 – 31:17) as Divine instruction, then (Chs. 35 – 40) as human implementation. In both cases, the construction of the building is juxtaposed to the command of the Sabbath (31:12-17; 35:1-2). There are […]
Who Is Honoured?
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Tetzaveh is the only sedra from the beginning of Exodus to the end of Deuteronomy, that does not contain the word “Moses”. For once Moses, the hero, the leader, the liberator, the lawgiver, is offstage. Instead our focus is on his elder brother Aaron who, elsewhere, is often in the background. Indeed virtually the whole […]
The Architecture of Holiness
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From here to the end of the book of Exodus the Torah describes, in painstaking detail and great length, the construction of the Mishkan, the first collective house of worship of the Jewish people. Precise instructions are given for each item – the Tabernacle itself, the frames and drapes, and the various objects it contained […]
God’s Nudge
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First in Yitro there were the Aseret Hadibrot, the “ten utterances” or general principles. Now in Mishpatim come the details. Here is how they begin: If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything . . . But […]
Justice or Peace?
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The sedra of Yitro, which contains the account of the greatest Divine revelation in history, at Mount Sinai, begins on a note that is human, all too human. Yitro, priest of Midian, has come to see how his son-in-law Moses and the people he leads are faring. It begins by telling us what Yitro heard […]
The Power of Ruach
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In September 2010, BBC, Reuters and other news agencies reported on a sensational scientific discovery. Researchers at US National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Colorado have shown through computer simulation how the division of the red sea may have taken place. Using sophisticated modelling, they demonstrated how a strong east wind, blowing […]