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Posts by David Ackerman

Parashat D’varim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22)

“On the other side of the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound this Torah, saying.” (Deuteronomy 1:5) Parashat D’varim opens the fifth and final book of the Torah (also called D’varim and known in English as Deuteronomy). It comprises five speeches by Moses, who recaps the desert wanderings and expounds on … Continued

Parashat B’har (Leviticus 25:1-26:2)

“Do not wrong one another, but fear your God; for I the Lord am your God.” (Leviticus 25:17) Parashat B’har describes the shmita as a shabbat shabbaton, a Sabbath of Sabbaths (Lev. 25:4). This is fitting because during the shmita, or seventh year, the land lies fallow (rests) and debts are cancelled. The 50th year … Continued

Parashat Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27)

“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him.” (Leviticus (19:33) Parashat K’doshim’s opening words are the whole ball of wax: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the entire Israelite community and say to them, ‘K’doshim t’hiyu, be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.’” … Continued

Parashat Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16:1-18:30)

“You shall keep My laws and My rules, by the pursuit of which man shall live: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 18:5) Parashat Acharei Mot’s opening verse states: “The Lord spoke to Moses achariei mot, after the death of Aaron’s two sons…” (Lev. 16:1) Those two words make it impossible not to think of Lori … Continued

Shabbat and Eighth Day of Pesach (Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17)

“For there will never cease to be needy ones in your land, which is why I command you: open your hand to the poor and needy kinsman in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11) Because the eighth day of Pesach falls on Shabbat, a special holiday reading interrupts the regular cycle of parashot (Torah portions). Surprisingly, it … Continued

Pesach (Passover) (Exodus 12:21-51)

“So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls wrapped in their cloaks upon their shoulders.” (Exodus 12:34) Because the first day of Pesach falls on Shabbat, the regular cycle of parashot (Torah portions) is interrupted by a special holiday reading. It includes God’s instructions to the Israelites to paint their … Continued

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

“And the priest shall pour of the oil into the palm of his own left hand” (Leviticus 14:26). Parashat Metzora opens by stating, “This shall be the teaching of the metzorah, a person afflicted with tzara-at, a skin disease” (Lev. 14:1). Seven sins trigger tzara-at: slander, bloodshed, false oath, incest, arrogance, robbery, and envy (Babylonian … Continued

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

“When the plague of tzara-at is in a man, he shall be brought to the priest” (Leviticus 12:9). Parashat Tazria declares a woman who gives birth to be t’mei-a, ritually impure. She may not touch anything sacred nor enter the mikdash, or sanctuary. After completing a waiting period (forty days for a baby boy, eighty … Continued

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

“On the eighth day Moses called Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel” (Leviticus 9:1). Parashat Sh’mini includes the first of two major collections of dietary laws in the Torah (Deuteronomy 14 is the second). The Torah gives no explanations for the laws, offering only the following rationale: “For I the Lord am … Continued

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

“This is the ritual of the reparation offering: it is most holy.” (Leviticus 7:1) Parashat Tzav describes the duties of the kohanim (priests) for performing each of the sacrifices listed in last week’s parasha, or portion. The instructions are quite detailed and the rituals are designed to inspire awe, reverence, fear, and reflection, to name … Continued