Sidrahs

Emor

By Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, April 28, 2010

Does it matter what the rest of the world thinks of Israel and the Jewish people or should we just do what we think is right regardless of world opinion?

At first glance, it might seem that Judaism only requires us to follow its laws, oblivious to other people's views. But our religious obligations include the duty to avoid any act which will reduce respect for God and the Jewish people and to strive to "sanctify God's name"; bringing credit to our religion and its adherents (Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah 5: 10).

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Acharei mot–kedoshim

April 22, 2010

Parashat Kedoshim begins by outlining one of the most important mitzvot in the Torah without specifically defining what it is: for the Israelite community "to be holy".

This injunction is immediately qualified by the statement "for I, the Lord your God, am holy". We can surmise from this that we are to be holy because God is holy and this means that we should act in His image, b'ztelem Elohim.

What does this mean? What are God'' expectations when He commands such an undefined yet powerful law? How are we to be holy?

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Tazria-metzora

By Rabbi Natan Levy, April 15, 2010

I was turned away from the hospital the other day on a visit to one of my congregants. Winter-virus had contaminated the ward and non-essential visitors were asked to leave. Sickness can be lonely. Before modernity, illness had purpose. It could cleanse one from sin, sign-post a fault in the soul, lead to a higher spiritual plane. The Talmud relates that when Rabbi Yochanan enters to heal his student, Rabbi Hiyya, he begins with the question: "Are your afflictions beloved to you?" (Berachot 5b).

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Shemini

By Rabbi Yisroel Fine, April 8, 2010

That Moses summoned Aaron and his sons to officiate at the dedication of the Tabernacle is understandable, but for what purpose did he call on the elders? We do not find them performing any function whatsoever.

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Shabbat chol Hamoed Pesach

By Rabbi Brian Fox, April 1, 2010

In their different readings of Torah this Shabbat, both Orthodox and Reform traditions make serious statements about God's nature and how it is reflected in the Exodus. For the Orthodox, who read Exodus 34:6, there is a direct connection between the Thirteen Attributes of God and this Passover season. God has certain qualities. Out of those qualities came the Exodus. We therefore praise God.

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Tzav

By Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, March 25, 2010

Would you like to see a miracle, something to convince you beyond all doubt of the presence of God?This week, the priests are commanded to light a fire each day on the altar in the Temple. This is strange since a miraculous divine fire consumed all of the sacrifices. What was the point of the human conflagration?

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Vayikra

By Elaine Robinson, March 18, 2010

The prohibition against chametz is not limited to the festival of Pesach but has a wider application to the Temple sacrifice: no leaven may be offered on the Temple altar (with one exception, at Shavuot). In next week's sidrah of Tzav, the priests are told they can eat the remains of the grain offering but "not baked leavened".
What is it that disqualifies leaven? Why is it forbidden? One answer that the Rambam gives is that leaven is the medium that other religions use in their sacrifices, and therefore we must separate ourselves from those practices.

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Vayakhel - pekudei

By Rabbi Natan Levy, March 11, 2010

Humans began to write over 5,000 years ago in order to count. They began to count because the advent of agriculture brought surplus. And someone else wanted to know how much surplus they had produced.

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Ki Tissa

By Rabbi Yisroel Fine, March 4, 2010

The sin of the Golden Calf presents us with difficulties on two levels. How were the people, inspired by the events of the Red Sea and Sinai, capable of becoming idol worshippers? What is perhaps more puzzling, however, is the manner and the speed of the transformation which overwhelmed them. Why so quickly? Temptation was no sooner presented than they succumbed. Not for them the slippery slide into wrongdoing which befalls most who are ensnared by the “evil inclination”.

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Tetzaveh

By Rabbi Brian Fox, February 25, 2010

We all need light in our lives. Light to illumine our path. Light to help us find our way when we are lost.

The light of the ner tamid (the everlasting lamp) was not in its present elevated position in ancient times. In the beginning, it was in a secondary niche (the sidrah simply contains the instruction to place it "outside" the ark curtain).

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