Sidrahs

Shelach Lecha

By Dr Diana Lipton, June 20, 2008

“And we looked like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and so we were in their eyes”
Numbers 13: 33

This week’s parashah contains what may be the Bible’s only example of meta-empathy. The spies sent to scout out the land of Canaan do not merely put themselves into their enemies’ shoes and consider how the world must have looked from their perspective (empathy), but they imagine how they themselves must have appeared to their enemies (meta-empathy): “And we looked like grasshoppers in their eyes.”  

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Beha'alotecha

By Johnny Solomon, June 13, 2008

“If any man becomes contaminated through a human corpse or on a distant road, whether you or your generations, he shall make the Pesach offering for God in the second month on the fourteenth day”

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Naso

By Rabbi Daniel Glass, June 6, 2008

“One silver bowl, one silver basin”
Bemidbar 7:13

In Judaism, legislation governs everything from how you wage a war to how to tie your shoelaces. Where, then, is the space for self-expression? This week’s portion suggests a pathway into this issue. As a text, the Torah concentrates intense, immense meaning into all of its words and even letters — it takes only 31 sentences to describe the entire creation of the universe…

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Bemidbar

By Maureen Kendler, May 30, 2008

“Take a census of the entire assembly of the children of Israel according to their families”
Numbers 1:2

The sidrah begins with a detailed census of the people, tribe by tribe, as they prepare a military campaign to take the land. Rashbam suggests that the purpose of this census was to count the men over the age of 20  for military service.

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Bechukkotai

By Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz, May 23, 2008

“I will turn my face towards you and you will be struck down before your enemies” Leviticus 26:17

The Torah’s powerful words warn us of the punishment the Jewish people will receive if we abandon the mitzvot. Saadia Gaon interprets the beginning of this verse to mean that God will turn His anger towards us.

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Behar

By Dr Diana Lipton, May 16, 2008

“You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property for all time. Such may you treat as slaves. But as for your Israelite kinsman, no-one shall rule be’parech over the other”
Leviticus 25:46

Describing Israel’s slavery in Egypt, Exodus uses a term, be’parech, that occurs elsewhere only in this week’s parashah. Be’parech is equated with ruthlessness: “The Egyptians made the Israelites work ruthlessly” (Ex: 1:13).

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Emor

By Johnny Solomon, May 9, 2008

“You shall not profane My holy name, that I may be sanctified in the midst of the Israelite people”
Leviticus 22:32

According to the Talmud, there is only one sin that cannot be forgiven even if the sinner repents, fasts on Yom Kippur or is afflicted with suffering. This is the sin of chillul Hashem — profaning God’s name (Yoma 86a).

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Kedoshim

By Rabbi Daniel Glass, May 2, 2008

“You shall have correct scales, correct weights... I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt”
Leviticus 19:36

Sometimes it seems that, aside from a tiny minority of the brilliant, the outstanding and the famous, most of us are part of the vast sea of humanity, living out an unexceptional and insignificant existence.

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Seventh day Pesach

By Maureen Kendler, April 25, 2008

“Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her in dance with timbrels”
Exodus 15:20

This is clearly Miriam’s moment! It is the first time in the Torah Miriam is referred to as “a prophetess” and named in her own right, not as adjunct to her family members.

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Acharei Mot

By Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz, April 18, 2008

“You must not act in the manner of the people of the land of Egypt”
Exodus 18:3

Rashi comments that, of all nations, Egypt had the worst moral decay. The Jewish people that dwelt in their midst were drawn to their decadent way of life. Thus, the Exodus is to be seen not only as a physical redemption but as a spiritual one as well. Had Israel remained a minute longer, the nation would have been spiritually lost.

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