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. […]

Parashat Vayakhel-P’kudei (Exodus 35:1-40:38)

“In the first month of the second year, on the first of the month, the Tabernacle was set up.” (Exodus 40:17) 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 the sun’s. Therefore, a Jewish […]

Parashat Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35)

“The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing.” (Exodus 32:16) Parashat Ki Tisa is either the beginning of the end, or merely the continuation of an ongoing process. The Israelites are edgy because Moses is late returning from the top of Mt. Sinai and they implore Aaron to fashion something for them […]

Parashat T’tzaveh (Exodus 27:30-30:10)

“And there I will meet with the Israelites, and it shall be sanctified by My Presence.” (Exodus 29:43) Parashat T’tzaveh is the only parasha, or portion, in the Torah that does not include Moses’ name (since his introduction in Exodus 2). Moses’ presence is felt, though, because T’tzaveh opens with three commands directed specifically to […]

Parashat T’rumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

“Note well, and follow the patterns for them that are being shown you on the mountain.” (Exodus 25:40) Parashat T’rumah introduces the many detailed instructions for building the mishkan, or Tabernacle. God tells Moses to tell the Israelites, “…Make me a mikdash v’shachanti b’tocham, a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” (Ex. 25:8) The […]

Parshat Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:18)

“You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:20) Parashat Mishpatim includes the first set of specific “Torah” laws beyond the general principles of Aseret Hadibrot (The Ten Utterances) and is referred to as Sefer Habrit (the Book of the Covenant). It closes with […]

Parashat Yitro (Exodus 18:1-2:23)

“Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, yes, by the result of their very schemes against the people.” (Exodus 18:11) Parashat Yitro contains two stories. The first is a family reunion, when Yitro (a Midianite priest and Moses’ father-in-law) joins the Israelites. The second is the revelation at Mt. Sinai. Aviva […]

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