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Camp and Congregation
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Covenant and Conversation Family Edition on OU Life The parsha of Beha’alotecha speaks about the silver trumpets – clarions – Moses was commanded to make: The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Make two trumpets of silver; make them of hammered work. They shall serve you to summon the congregation [edah] and cause the camps [machanot] […]
Sages and Saints
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Covenant and Conversation Family Edition on OU Life Parshat Naso contains the law of the Nazirite – the individual who undertook to observe special rules of holiness and abstinence: not to drink wine or other intoxicants (including anything made from grapes), not to have his hair cut, and not to defile himself by contact with […]
Leading a Nation of Individuals
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Covenant and Conversation Family Edition on OU Life Bamidbar begins with a census of the Israelites. That is why this book is known in English as Numbers. What is the significance of this act of counting? And why here at the beginning of the book? Besides which, there have already been two previous censuses of […]
The Birth of Hope
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Covenant and Conversation Family Edition on OU Life This week we read the Tochecha, the terrifying curses warning of what would happen to Israel if it betrayed its Divine mission. We read a prophecy of history gone wrong. If Israel loses its way spiritually, say the curses, it will lose physically, economically, and politically also. […]
Evolution or Revolution?
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Covenant and Conversation Family Edition on OU Life There are, it is sometimes said, no controlled experiments in history. Every society, every age, and every set of circumstances is unique. If so, there is no science of history. There are no universal rules to guide the destiny of nations. Yet this is not quite true. […]
Three Versions of Shabbat
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Covenant and Conversation Family Edition on OU Life There is something unique about the way Parshat Emor speaks about Shabbat. It calls it a mo’ed and a mikra kodesh when, in the conventional sense of these words, it is neither. Mo’ed means an appointed time with a fixed date on the calendar. Mikra kodesh means […]
From Priest to People
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Covenant and Conversation Family Edition on OU Life Something fundamental happens at the beginning of this parsha and the story is one of the greatest, if rarely acknowledged, contributions of Judaism to the world. Until now Vayikra has been largely about sacrifices, purity, the Sanctuary, and the Priesthood. It has been, in short, about a […]
Thinking Fast and Slow
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Covenant and Conversation Family Edition on OU Life If we put together recent discoveries in neuroscience with Midrashic tradition we may be able to shed new light on the meaning of the central mystery of Yom Kippur: the two goats, identical in appearance, over which the High Priest cast lots, sacrificing one as a sin […]
The Power of Speech
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Covenant and Conversation Family Edition on OU Life As we saw in Parshat Tazria, the Sages identify tzara’at – the condition that affects human skin, the fabric of garments, and the walls of a house – not as an illness but as a punishment, and not for any sin but for one specific sin, that […]
The Sacrifices of Childbirth
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Covenant and Conversation Family Edition on OU Life At the start of this parsha is a cluster of laws that challenged and puzzled the commentators. They concern a woman who has just given birth. If she gives birth to a son, she is “unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly […]