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?



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.


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.


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”.



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).



By Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, February 18, 2010

A beautiful passage in the Talmud records that when Jewish families made pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem, they would be ushered in to see the two cherubs which covered the ark. Their guide would invite them to look at the image of these embracing figures with the gentle reminder, “See how your love before the Almighty should be as the love of a man for a woman.”



By Elaine Robinson, February 11, 2010

This verse is one of my favourites in the Torah. The command not to oppress a stranger appears, according to Talmud Baba Matzia 59b, at least 36 times and, in my opinion, is at the heart of Judaism.

What does this mean practically? Rashi explains why there is a need for the text to use two verbs: to wrong and to oppress. He claims that they each have a different practical application: not wronging means to not taunt them with words; and not to oppress means not to rob them of their money. Thus we are told not to verbally abuse or shame, or to economically deprive the stranger.



By Rabbi Natan Levy, February 4, 2010

At last, the giving of Torah at Mt Sinai. That singular moment where divine touches human, and the Jewish purpose becomes manifest. Yet, the sidrah opens with the rather pedestrian tale of Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, coming with Moses’s wife and sons to the encampment of Israel.



By Rabbi Yisroel Fine, January 28, 2010

This week’s sidrah contains some of the most exciting and uplifting moments in our history; the crossing of the Red Sea, the miracles of the manna and our victory over Amalek.

Yet it is this sidrah which begins with the word “vayehi” — which, according to our sages, is an expression of sadness. How can we possible explain this?

When God summons Moses to announce to Israel that they will go free, their unenthusiastic response is ascribed by Targun Yonatan to their unwillingness to leave behind those gods which they worshipped together with their Egyptian neighbours.



By Rabbi Brian Fox, January 21, 2010

While one might go along with medieval commentators and limit this verse to proselytes or to Passover laws, for many that is just not good enough. We see this in the context of the Holiness Code of Leviticus 19 (verse 34): “The strangers who reside with you shall be to you as your citizens.”