Parashat Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20)

“Those are the elected of the assembly, the chieftains of their ancestral tribes: they are the heads of the contingents of Israel.” (Numbers 1:16) Parashat Bamidbar opens the fourth book of the Torah (with the same name) and describes the preparations for the Israelites’ 38-year journey through the wilderness to Canaan. The opening verse describes […]

Parashat B’har-B’chukotai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34)

“I will remember in their favor the covenant with the ancients, whom I freed from the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God; I, the Lord.” (Leviticus 26:45) Parashat B’chukotai contains a list of blessings for following the Torah’s commandments and a (much longer) list of curses for failing […]

Parashat Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23)

“So Moses declared to the Israelites the set times of the Lord.” (Leviticus 23:44) Parashat Emor addresses issues of k’dusha, or sanctity. It focusses first on the priests (sanctified people) and then moves to Shabbat and the holidays (sanctified time). Emor describes Shabbat as a mo-ed, a fixed time, and as a mikra kodesh, a […]

Parashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim (Leviticus 16:1-20:27)

“You shall not render an unfair decision: do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich; judge your kinsman fairly.” (Leviticus 19:15) We read two parashot (portions) this week because of how the Jewish calendar is calculated. Months are determined by the moon’s cycle, but the year is determined by the sun’s. Therefore, […]

Parashat Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12:1-13:59)

“The priest shall order two live clean birds, cedar wood, crimson stuff, and hyssop to be brought for him who is to be cleansed.” (Leviticus 14:4) We read two parashot (portions) this week because of the way the Jewish calendar is calculated. Months are determined by the moon’s cycle, but the year is determined by […]

Parashat Sh’mini (Leviticus 9:1-11:47)

“And you must teach the Israelites all the laws which the Lord has imparted to them through Moses.” (Leviticus 10:11) Parashat Sh’mini is a bit of a shocker. After seven days of intense spiritual preparation, the kohanim (priests) begin to offer sacrifices on the newly consecrated altar in the mishkan (Tabernacle). When Nadav and Avihu, […]

Last Day of Pesach (Passover) (Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17)

“After eating unleavened bread six days, you shall hold a solemn gathering for the Lord your God on the seventh day; you shall do no work.” (Deuteronomy 16:8) The last day of Pesach falls on Shabbat so the regular parasha, or portion, is pre-empted by a special holiday reading. The selection describes a variety of […]

First Day of Pesach (Passover) (Exodus 12:21-51)

“You shall observe this as an institution for all time, for you and for your descendants.” (Exodus 12:24) Because the first day of Pesach falls on Shabbat, the regular cycle of parashot (Torah portions) is interrupted by a special holiday reading. Not surprisingly, it focuses on the night of the Exodus: God’s instructions to the […]

Parashat Tzav (Leviticus 6:1-8:36)

“A continuous fire shall burn upon the altar; it shall not go out.” (Leviticus 6:6) Parashat Tzav is a little bit of déjà vu, all over again. It describes the ritual duties of the kohanim (priests) for performing each of the sacrifices listed in last week’s parasha (portion): the olah (burnt offering), mincha (meal offering), […]

Parashat Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1-5:26)

“The priest shall turn these into smoke on the altar as food, an offering by fire, of pleasing odor.” (Leviticus 3:10) Vayikra, (and “____” called out) is the very first word of Parashat Vayikra and the entire book of Leviticus. It offers two mysteries. The first is grammatical: vayikra is a verb without a subject. […]

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