Tag archive for "Parashat Hashavua"

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: Come a little closer

No Comments 22 May 2017

In this time when both Jerusalem Day and Shavuot are upon us, Rabbi Noa Mazor explores in her dvar Torah to Parashat Bemidbar who is included in our gatherings, who is left out— separated by borders or by laws — and who is invited in. 

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Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: But tenants of the Lord

No Comments 16 May 2017

To whom does the land belong to? Is living here a natural right of practicing a specific religion or belonging to a group, or must it be earned through merit? In his dvar Torah to Parashat Behar-Bechukotai, rabbinical student Raanan Mallek questions the nature of ownership of the Holy Land, and explores how  such can be a force of unity and justice. 

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Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Parasha: Ensuring a Fine Harvest

No Comments 10 May 2017

In his dvar Torah to Parashat Emor, Rabbi Uri Ayalon discusses the importance of the caring for the weak and vulnerable – not just for their sake, but also for our own.

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Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: How (Much) Do We Want To Live? Questions We Ask Now More Than Ever

2 Comments 03 May 2017

Our tradition teaches us to love our neighbours as ourselves. In his commentary this week to Parashat Acharey Mot-Kedoshim, Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom wonders if we can take on the full implications of such a deceptively simple commandment. Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: In the spirit of the Torah

No Comments 25 April 2017

As Jews, it is customary to circumcise a newborn male baby. In Rabbi Rodman’s dvar Torah to Parashat Tazria-Metzora, we learn how the significance of circumcision can be applied to all of  us, female and male, seeking to live a life of justice true to the spirit of the Torah. Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: On Religious Innovations

No Comments 20 April 2017

In his commentary to Parashat Shemini, Rabbi Mordechai Goldberg examines what motivates us to action.  We must always check ourselves to ensure our motivations come from a place of honesty. Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Dvar Torah: This too is G-d’s work

No Comments 13 April 2017

In this week’s Dvar Torah for Shabbat of Passover and seven of Passover, Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann lays out the calendar of Jewish and Israeli observances following in the weeks after Passover. Many  are commemorated by events with strong nationalistic and triumphalistic overtones. As Jews and Israelis, how can we mark these meaningful days while also remembering our past as former slaves and our responsibility to seek freedom and dignity for all those living in our midst?

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Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Parasha: Inclusive Universalism in the Passover Haggadah

No Comments 05 April 2017

In his dvar Torah for Shabbat Hagadol (the Shabbat just before the start of Passover), Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom calls on us to remember the universalist aspects of the Passover Haggadah. In what concrete ways can we ensure this aspect of Judaism is honoured in everyday life in Israel?   Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: A Holy Code for 2017

No Comments 29 March 2017

The Book of Leviticus, with its chapters upon chapters of intricate laws and rituals,  clearly lays out a code of the permitted and the forbidden. In this week’s dvar Torah to Parashat Vayikrah, Rabbi Naamah Kelman challenges us establish a similar code of ethics and morality, as relevant to our current day and age. How does our Holy Code for 2017 instruct us to live?


Priests offering a sacrifice by Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing, CC BY-SA 3.0

By Rabbi Naamah Kelman

The book of Leviticus/Vayikrah is often called the “Priestly Code” — over 27 chapters, the intricate and detailed laws and functions pertaining to the Priests’ duties are set out. Laws relating to the system of sacrifices brought to the Tabernacle in the wilderness and then the Temple in Jerusalem are described in chapter after chapter. Sacrifices, animal, foul, and grain, are brought for the entire spectrum of the human condition: Sacrifices for forgiveness, expiation, absolution, healing, thanksgiving, criminal offences, and ritual offences.  No less detailed are the laws specifying rites of purification from diseases and other forms of impurity including menstruation, contact with the dead, and other bodily dysfunctions.

Leviticus contains laws of purity and purification for a myriad of afflictions and conditions. Laws pertaining to forbidden foods are part and parcel of these laws of sanctification.  The priest serves as intermediary, vessel, bridge to God. The Hebrew word korban sacrifice, literally means “to get closer.” These rites are intended to bring the Children of Israel closer to God. Unlike other Near Eastern traditions, the Israelite priest worked among the people for all to see. Their duties were for the people and among the people. Yet despite this emphasis on ritual and rites, there is an undergirding of spiritual significance to these rites.

According to Professor Jacob Milgrom (Fortress press, 2004):

“Values is what the book of Leviticus is all about…The book of Leviticus and many of its sometimes contradictory laws can be understood as the various manifestations of the Ten Commandments or Decalogue. The kernel of the Decalogue is terse. Without penalties, it reads more like directions or principles than laws; Do not murder, Honor your mother and father. Do not steal. On the other hand the quotidian details about how life should be lived-like many laws that fill the book of Leviticus- are nowhere found in the commandments at Sinai. They must be derived from the broad principles of the Decalogue, but delicately, so that the core of the Ten Commandments is respected, even as new laws emerge.”

Holiness according to many traditional Jewish sources is concerned with ritual and sexual purity. Kadosh is often understood as separate. In traditional readings this is the separation of pure from impure, and indeed Jew from idolater, men from impure women. In our reading we focus on the idea of ethical purity and responsibility. As Milgrom says: “ethical prescriptions alongside ritual as determinants of holiness.” This is the underpinning of the commandments and regulations. Holiness, then in the Israelite tradition, is this fusion of ritual and ethics. In other words, we observe the Sabbath for its ritual implications as well as the ethical. We rest, we refrain from using fire (ritual) but we make sure our servants rest too (ethical).

We must ask ourselves today what ethical principles need to be reinforced through ritual. With racism and xenophobia rampant in our society, along with misogyny and homophobia, it is time to make the rites on our lives reflect our battle with these impurities, diseases and profanities in our midst. What sacrifice will we bring tomorrow to fight hatred, what offering to combat humiliation of the other? Our Holiness Code must be a daily reminder to act against today’s chilul ha’shem, the desecration of God’s presence in the world.

According to Vayikra Rabba 2:7: When a “man” (adam) presents an offering, may one be like the first Adam, even though everything “belonged” to him, Adam only offered what was his, what he toiled for and what he rightfully possesses. And the Midrash emphasizes what it means to be an “Adam”:

“Be a mensch a good person, meaning, as defined by care and unity and friendship. As God said to Ezekiel, be a ben-adam, a person amongst the righteous, those who act in ways of  lovingkindness; be among those who humble themselves for God and the People Israel.

Our Holiness Code of 2017 is clear as always: Fight what degrades the other; what repossesses the other, what humiliates the other. Spread holiness, each person was created in God’s image, act to affirm and empower those who are hurt, marginalized and discriminated against; otherwise our offerings will be empty rites.

Kelman, NaamahRabbi Naamah Kelman is a member of Rabbis for Human Rights and a descendent of ten generations of rabbis, becoming the first woman to be ordained by the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem in 1992, where she is currently the Dean.

Read previous Torah commentary here

General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly Parasha: Between our aspirations and our realities

No Comments 22 March 2017

In honoring Shabbat, many of us help to build “sanctuaries in time.” In her commentary below, Rabbi Miri Gold helps us understand how we can also contribute to building sanctuaries of justice and righteousness in our every day, earthly reality.  Continue Reading

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