Sidrahs

Chukat-balak

By Rabbi Chaim Weiner, July 2, 2009

This odd juxtaposition of these verses suggests a connection between Miriam’s death and the people’s thirst for water. The Midrash explains that as long as Miriam was alive, a well accompanied her, bringing water to the people in the desert. When Miriam died, the well dried up and disappeared. Like many things in life, as long as the well was there, no one paid attention to it. Only after it dried up did they realise how dependent they were on it. Until then, no one realised that it was Miriam who sustained the people during their long journey.

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Korach

By Rabbi Daniel Levy, June 25, 2009

With a quick reading of the sidrah, one can miss the real hero of the story — the wife of On ben Pelet. On ben Pelet starts off following Korach in his rebellion against Moses and Aaron but later disappears from the scene.

The Midrash elaborates that whereas Korach’s wife had fired her husband up against Moses, On’s wife saved hers. She implored him, “Why do you want [to be part of] this argument? If Aaron is the High Priest, you will be his pupil; if Korach is the High Priest, you will be his pupil.” She continued, “The entire congregation is holy”.

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Shelach

By Rabbi Nancy Morris, June 17, 2009

The last paragraph of the Shema concludes a dramatic parashah that begins with Moses sending 12 spies to scout the land of Israel. It is not clear why they are being sent, but judging from God’s furious reaction on their return with negative reports, God may have been expecting something more positive. The people are condemned to wander 40 years and only the children of the generation liberated from Egypt will enter Israel.

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Beha’alotecha

By Rabbi Yoni Sherizen, June 10, 2009

It has often been said that there is one sport our community has mastered since its earliest days— the sport of complaining. We love to complain about everything from food to politics and everything in between but why have we mastered this seemingly Jewish skill? Michael Wex argues, in his entertaining book Born to Kvetch, that we have unprecedented experience in complaining since it’s been core to our people since biblical times.

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Naso

By Dr Leya Landau, June 4, 2009

Like the extended genealogies listed in Genesis, the 72 verses in Naso devoted to the painstaking itemisation of the gifts brought by each of the twelve tribes of Israel for the dedication of the sanctuary can make for challenging reading. Each tribe brought its gifts on a different day, but in each case, the 35 items — down to the weight of silver dishes and bowls — were identical.

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Shavuot

By Rabbi Chaim Weiner, May 28, 2009

“And all of the people saw the thunder” Exodus 20:15

The deep lessons of the Torah text are conveyed in the seemingly most insignificant details. Here we are — the verse following the revelation at Sinai — and there is a big mistake. You don’t see thunder — you hear it.

This is not the only time that the Torah confuses its use of senses. At the momentous moment when Isaac blesses his son Jacob he comments: “See the smell of my son is like the smell of a field” (Genesis 27:27).

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Bemidbar

By Rabbi Daniel Levy, May 21, 2009

“The Israelites shall camp with each person near the banner having his paternal family’s insignia” Numbers 2:2

We count what we value. We check it again and again to see how much we have, thereby showing how dear and precious it is to us. God counts us, His people, because He thereby shows how dear we are to Him. The Jewish people are counted a total of three times in the Torah.

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Behar-bechukkotai

By Rabbi Nancy Morris, May 14, 2009

“It shall be a jubilee for you: each of you shall return to his holding and each of you shall return to his family” Leviticus 25:11

The laws of the jubilee year were more than likely a glorious failure, probably never practised. Release of the land from hard labour, release of all debts, return of all landholdings to their original owner in the fiftieth year, especially immediately following the 49th, sabbatical, year — evidence is scant to prove it was ever followed.

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Emor

By Rabbi Yoni Sherizen, May 7, 2009

“And you shall count for you from the morrow after the day of rest, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall they be complete” Leviticus 23:15

Does your Jewish living centre on fulfilling prescribed practices or seeking an ethical end? This ritual v ethical debate divides many of us today but, as two conflicting commentaries remind us, the argument is not new.

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Acharei mot– keodshim

By Dr Leya Landau, April 30, 2009

The main subject of Acharei-Mot is the instructions given to Aaron, the High Priest, concerning the Yom Kippur service. This is preceded by its opening verse which revisits the death by fire of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu.

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