Sidrahs

Acharei Mot

By Maureen Kendler, May 5, 2016

This is the origin of the idea of the scapegoat. There were two goats as part of this ritual, one for God and one to be sent away called "Azazel". The Azazel goat that is sent away to absolve all the sins of the people in this compelling and strange ritual is a very powerful, and almost sinister, symbol.

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Eighth Day

By Rabbi Mark Solomon, April 27, 2016

One of the things that unites Jewish communities around the world is that we read the same passage from the Torah each week. Chanted in full, in Orthodox synagogues, or read more slowly, abridged and translated in Progressive ones, we keep in step as we make our yearly way through the Torah.

When Eighth Day Pesach falls on Shabbat, however, the unity frays a little.

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First day Pesach

By Rabbi Daniel Roselaar, April 21, 2016

Pharaoh had remained steadfast in his refusal to release the Israelites, despite the disarray that must have existed in his country in the wake of the first nine plagues.

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Metzora

By Dr Lynndy Levin, April 14, 2016

The parashah deals with the laws of impurity (tumah) and purity (taharah) in relation to the metzora - the tzara'at sufferer.

Mishnah Taharot states that the most severe form of tumah is conveyed by a human corpse. Similarly, the white lesion on the skin of the metzora signals something has died or gone subtly wrong in the micro-systems of the body.

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Tazria

By Rabbi Larry Tabick, April 7, 2016

Most of Tazria deals with a variety of skin complaints. In each case, a priest was to come, make a diagnosis and then take action to isolate the diseased part or individual, if required. Of interest perhaps to dermatologists, the rest of us - me included - struggle to find some spiritual meaning in this.

But then I remembered the enigmatic Sefer Yetzirah, "Book of Formation".

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Shemini

By Maureen Kendler, March 31, 2016

I am sorry I can't eat a hoopoe. I don't know what it is, but I would have enjoyed asking for it in the supermarket.

The categories for forbidden animals and fish are laid out in this sidrah but the criteria for birds is less clear. There are just lists of what can and cannot be eaten and the rabbis had to work out the connective factors.

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Tzav

By Rabbi Mark Solomon, March 23, 2016

The concluding verses of this week's haftarah also conclude the greatest work of Jewish philosophy, the Guide of the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides, completed in 1190.

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Vayikra

By Rabbi Daniel Roselaar, March 17, 2016

The classical commentators suggest several reasons why one of the sacrifices introduced in this sidrah known as a shelamim (peace-offering).

According to Rashbam, the word shelamim is not related to the Hebrew word for peace, shalom, but to the word which means to make a repayment, leshalem.

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Pekudei

By Dr Lynndy Levin, March 10, 2016

"And the glory of God filled the Mishkan" Exodus 40:35

Pekudei is the final parashah in the Book of Exodus. It sharply contrasts the minutiae of construction with the infinite nature of the structure, individual passion with collective transcendence and the loftiness of God anchored in the midst of the people.

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Vayakhel

By Rabbi Larry Tabick, March 3, 2016

Superficially, after the opening verses on Shabbat, most of Vayakhel is (frankly) boring. Sorry. It's the record of all the things that Bezalel and other craftsmen and craftswomen made for the Tabernacle, the portable temple the Israelites built in the wilderness at God's command under Moses' direction.

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