Parashat Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89)

“The Lord bless you and protect you.” (Numbers 6:24) Reading from the Torah is an exacting skill because it must be precise; no errors are permitted. To ensure the reader’s accuracy, two gabbaim (an Aramaic term for community wardens; singular is gabbai) stand on each side of the shulchan, or table, and follow closely. If […]

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

“And with you shall be one man from each tribe; a man who is a leader of his father’s household.” (Numbers 1:4) If the first three books of the Torah describe the roots (Genesis), birth (Exodus), and commitment (Leviticus) of the Jewish people, Bamidbar (Numbers) chronicles the transition of the Jewish people. It connects the […]

Parashat B’chukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34)

“I will provide peace in the land, and you will lie down with none to frighten you…” (Leviticus 26:6) Parashat B’chukotai includes a list of blessings for following God’s commandments and a much longer list of curses for not following. The final chapter (which many scholars consider a later addition to the text) serves as […]

Parashat B’har (Leviticus 25:1-26:2)

“…When you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe a Sabbath of the Lord.” (Leviticus 25:2) Parashat B’har is the Occupy Movement’s Biblical prooftext. It describes the shmita (the seventh Sabbatical Year), when the land lies fallow and debts are cancelled. After seven cycles of shmita, the 50th year shall […]

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

“And Moses declared the appointed festivals of Adonai to the Children of Israel.” (Leviticus 23:44) The Book of Leviticus is known generally as Torat Kohanim, the Laws of the Priests, because of its many laws governing the sacrificial rites. Technically, Torat Kohanim refers to the first part of Parashat Emor, specifically, which focusses on issues […]

Parashat K’doshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27)

“Do not go about betraying your countrymen. Do not profit by the blood of your fellow; I am the Lord.”  (Leviticus 19:16) The book of Leviticus is considered the heart of the Torah because it’s the middle book. Parashat K’doshim is considered the heart of Leviticus and is the parasha (portion) you’ve been waiting for.  Instead […]

Shabbat Chol Hamoed Pesach (The Intermediate Shabbat of Passover)(Exodus 33:12-34:26)

“God descended in a cloud and stood with him there, and he called out with God’s name.” (Exodus 34:5) We read a special selection from the Torah on each day of Pesach (Passover). This custom interrupts the weekly cycle of parashot (portions) on Shabbat. The selection is an odd pastiche of topics: Moses’ request for […]

Parashat Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16:1-18:27)

“My rules alone shall you observe, and faithfully follow My laws: I, the Lord am your God.” (Leviticus 18:4) Parashat Acharei Mot begins with a lengthy description of the Yom Kippur ritual for purifying the mishkan (Tabernacle) and ends with a list of forbidden sexual relationships. The concept of k’dusha, or sanctity, connects these two […]

Parashat Metzora (Leviticus 14:1-15:33)

“And the purifying priest shall set the man to be purified, and those things, before God, at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.” (Leviticus 14: 11) Parashat Metzora describes what happens when someone has tzara-at (a variety of erupting skin diseases). The immediate response is to separate the person from the community. This makes sense, […]

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

“All the days that the affliction is upon him he shall remain contaminated; he is contaminated. He shall dwell in isolation; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.” (Leviticus 13:46) Parashat Tazria is a tough read for two reasons: the skin diseases it describes sound gross and the idea of someone being either tahor or […]

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