Sidrahs

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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Tzav

By Rabbi Yoni Sherizen, April 2, 2009

“This is the law of the sin-offering; in the place where you slaughter the elevation-offering, you shall slaughter the sin-offering, before God — it is most holy” Leviticus 6:18

Sharing with a student the section of our Torah which challenges me most, I received an unexpected response: “This may be difficult, but surely the elaborate sections about animal sacrifices are much more complex.” Indeed, the lengthy discussions of sacrifices that fill much of these weekly Torah portions are difficult to digest, but a closer look at one verse reveals a profound and eternal message.

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Vayikra

By Dr Leya Landau, March 26, 2009

“If a person will sin: if he accepted a demand for an oath, and he is a witness — either he saw or knew — if he does not testify, he shall bear his sin” Leviticus 5:1

The injunction in this week’s parashah not to withhold testimony from a court of law serves to underline the responsibility that Jewish law places on the witness to a crime in maintaining the strictest standards of justice. Yet the Torah understands that the obligations of a witness are complex and can be fraught with difficulty.

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