Sidrahs

Tazria-Metzora

By Rina Wolfson, April 26, 2012

Tazria contains passages I have long struggled with. As the mother of baby daughters, it is painful to read that childbirth is somehow contaminating and that the birth of daughters is twice as contaminating as sons. Others share my discomfort. Abarbanel states flatly that the new mother "has committed no sin", while Nechama Leibowitz describes this ruling as "most perplexing".

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Shemini

By Dr Erica Brown, April 19, 2012

In the midst of verses about sacrifices and kosher and non-kosher animals, we find this incredible expression of unity and solidarity. When Aaron brought a collective sin offering, "the whole community came forward and stood before the Lord". Perhaps there is no other verse in the Torah that presents this expression of communal regret and communal accountability.

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Tzav

By Rabbi Dr Moshe Freedman, March 29, 2012

The thanksgiving offering was brought by someone who had (for example) survived great danger, escaped captivity or recovered from a grave illness. The offering was accompanied by 40 loaves of four different types of bread (Leviticus 7:12, Talmud Menachot 77b).

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Vayikra

By Rina Wolfson, March 23, 2012

Parashat Hachodesh begins with the first commandment directed to the Israelites as a nation. They are commanded to designate Nisan as the first month and thereby institute a lunar calendar.

Commentators ask why the commandment to sanctify the months is included in this special pre-Pesach reading, rather than focusing solely on the later verses dealing specifically with the paschal sacrifice.

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Vayakhel-pekudei

By Dr Erica Brown, March 15, 2012

We recognise these words from the very first chapters of Genesis. God spent six days creating heaven and earth, finished the work and then rested. He blessed the Sabbath day, made it holy and asked the rest of us to do the same.

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Ki tissa

By Rabbi Dr Michael Harris, March 8, 2012

In order to count the people, this week's sidrah famously states, each person is to give a half shekel and that is to be counted.

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Tetzaveh

By Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris, March 1, 2012

The haftarah tells the story of Saul's downfall, wrapped up in the package of the war against Amalek. The chapter begins by God telling Samuel to instruct Saul to take revenge against the Amalekites for what they did to the children of Israel after they fled Egypt.

The instructions are explicit: kill everyone, destroy everything, spare no one and nothing (not even the livestock).

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Terumah

By Rabbi Dr Moshe Freedman, February 23, 2012

The Aramaic translation attributed to Yonatan ben Uzziel, who lived at the turn of the last millennium, makes a rather obscure comment on this verse. He notes that the middle bar inside the planks, which made up the walls of the Tabernacle, was made from the wood of a tree planted by Abraham in Beersheba.

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Mishpatim

By Rina Wolfson, February 16, 2012

Perhaps the most distasteful aspect of the recession is the rise of loan companies charging exorbitant interest. So it is both disheartening and humbling to find the commandment prohibiting interest in this week's parashah.

Centuries ago, the rabbis were clear about the crippling effects of extortionate interest.

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Yitro

By Dr Erica Brown, February 9, 2012

This family reunion embodies everything one might wish for in a relationship with one's in-laws: respect, affection, concern and companionship. Jethro was more than a family member; he was one of Moses's most trusted advisors. As we feel heart-warmed by this meeting, there is someone who is notably absent.

Jethro brought his daughter Zipporah and grandsons from Midian as part of this reunion.

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