Sidrahs

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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Tazria-Metzora

By Rabbi Chaim Weiner, April 23, 2009

“The owner of the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, ‘Something like a plague has appeared upon my house’” Leviticus 14:35

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Shemini

By Rabbi Daniel Levy, April 16, 2009

“I am the Lord who has brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God. So you shall be holy, because I am holy” Leviticus 11:45

Dayan Isidor Grunfeld, in his book Dietary Laws, explained that the three strongest natural instincts in man are the impulses for food, sex and the pursuit of material wealth. The strongest of these three impulses is food; it is no coincidence that the first prohibition given to Adam and Eve was not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge.

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Chol hamoed pesach

By Rabbi Nancy Morris, April 7, 2009

On Shabbat of Chol Hamo’ed Pesach, the British Reform Movement has chosen a different reading from the above, which is taken from the Orthodox lectionary. I can understand why Reform has chosen Exodus 13, where the discussion of the festival is far more extensive. The more common traditional reading is barely concerned with Pesach at all. But how much more sublime is this reading, containing within it the oft-repeated description of God, known as the thirteen attributes of God.

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